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Archive for July, 2008

Hypocrisy

Let all my life be motivated
By the love You demonstrated
And oh Lord let it never be
Desire for my works to be seen
That provokes me to perform
What should be the Christian norm
Of acts of love and charity
That really are hypocrisy
That spring not from a love of God
But rather seeking men’s applause
For You Lord know the heart of man
Before You no dead work will stand
Observing rites of piety
But careless towards humanity
The outside of my cup is clean
But You know what remains within
Let Your truth destroy deception
That has escaped my perception
For to myself I seem upright
But You see what eludes my sight
So make me true outside and in
Remove from me my hidden sin
And Lord please let it never be
That I live in hypocrisy

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In February of this year a good friend of mine died from cancer.  He was also my boss and a brother in the Lord.  He had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma 5 years ago and I was able to witness up close his journey through chemo, remission, chemo again, transplant, return of cancer, another transplant, and then a final downturn that he didn’t recover from.

Charles was a remarkable person in many ways, but the one thing that stands out above all others is his remarkable love for people.  He was interested in the details of their lives.  And not just the people he knew.  His wife recently shared a story with me about Charles striking up a conversation with a man putting flyers on cars in our office parking lot.  He gave the man a Bible and shared some words of encouragement with him and just genuinely showed interest in this man’s life.  This man still remembers Charles and carries that Bible with him in his truck.  The fact that a total stranger cared about him made an impact on his life.

But what I carry closest to my heart are these words that Charles was known to speak in response to those who became frustrated with others –  Love the people.

Over the past 6 months I have reflected back on the 10 years I knew Charles.  I suspect that there are many wonderful things about him that I never knew.  But one thing I do know – Charles was a man whose heart’s desire was to demonstrate the love of Christ.  And he did it.  He did it.

And I am forever changed.  And learning to love the people.

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It happened after this that Nahash the king of the people of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his place.  Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came to Hanun in the land of the people of Ammon to comfort him.  And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun, “Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you? Did his servants not come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?”  Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved them, and cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away.  1 Chronicles 19:1-4  

Hanun was an inexperienced leader who followed the recommendation of unwise advisors.   When he realized that his treatment of David’s envoys had offended David, rather than sending a humble apology to the King of Israel for his error in judgment, Hanun instead employs the services of Syria to assist him in battle against David – a battle that David had not even commenced.  Hanun’s expectation of retaliation demonstrates that he knew he was wrong and had offended a king who had previously been an ally.  So he prepares for battle.

This is the strategy of pride.  It will not bow, so it must fight, oftentimes drawing others into the battle.  For not only is Ammon forced to flee in battle, but Syria suffers losses as they flee as well.  Needless losses, as the whole thing could possibly have been avoided by an admission of fault by Hanun.

What is more humbling than to admit you were wrong?   This is a thing hard enough to admit to ourselves in the secrecy of our own heart, much less to expose our error before the onlooking eyes of others.  We fear the loss of respect, the criticism, the perception of ourselves as being weak.  So we draw our shoulders back, with chin firmly lifted in defiance, and map out our battle plan….only to end up fleeing.

The Word of God has much to say about pride; none of it good.  While we live in an age that promotes self-esteem, self-pride and self-reliance, the Bible still says “without me you can do nothing”.  Nothing.  How’s that for an ego crusher?  But the Lord God does have a way of getting to the heart of the matter. 

To eliminate the stronghold of pride in our lives is no easy task, but it is a necessary one.  The struggle to be free of it will put us at odds with a society that cannot understand the blessing of a life of brokenness and humility. 

For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4

When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom . Proverbs 11:2

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18

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Jesus seems to have acquired a reputation for not following protocol.  From not washing His hands correctly, to healing on the Sabbath, to associating with sinners.   He just didn’t seem to follow the religious etiquette of the day. 

And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.  Matthew 22:16

At first glance this seems to be a compliment, but the Pharisees were notorious respecters of persons and expected others to be respecters of their persons.  This was not a comment concerning their pleasure in Christ’s impartiality.  They despised this about Him, and how He continually snubbed them – choosing instead the company of prostitutes, tax collectors and all manner of sinners.

Jesus would not conform to the religious norms of His day that violated the heart of the law of God and this infuriated the religious elite.  While Jesus did not purposely stir up dissention and discord, it did seem to erupt most places He went.  And almost every time it was because he violated someone’s idea of proper religious protocol.

Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to this world.  That includes the religious world.

May the Lord strengthen us in our desire to be conformed into the image of Christ, even should it mean incurring the disdain of those who are expert in the letter of the law but void of the Spirit of it.

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Every Saturday morning we have prayer at my church.  Although it is a large church, relatively few people show up for Saturday morning prayer.  It is usually the same people each week.  I am accustomed to the familiar faces.

Today there was a new face.  As soon as he walked in he stood out.  He was a bit disheveled in appearance.  He didn’t bring a Bible, but had a newspaper in his hand.  Several times during the prayer service, he walked uncomfortably close to the platform where our worship leader was sitting.  It was disconcerting.  I was not the only one that noticed.

I stayed around for a few minutes after the prayer meeting.  Others had gone into a pastoral ministry training session.  As I walked out to my car I noticed that the man had gone out to his vehicle and was coming back into the church.  I passed by him on my way out.

As I drove home, I wondered what this man’s story was.  He seemed so out of place.  Why was he at our church that morning?  Did he know Jesus?  And I will never know because I didn’t bother to find out.  My scheduled religious activity had been completed and I had other things to attend to.  This man and his needs did not make it to the top of my list of priorities.  To be honest, he didn’t make it onto the list at all.

I drove home completely ashamed, aware that sharing only a few minutes of my time with this man may have made an eternal difference.  I can only pray someone else this morning reached out to the man.  But I fear that they may have been too busy receiving training on how to care for people.

God help us.

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When God seems silent could it be

That this is how He draws me near

And teaches me and trains my ear

To shut out the world and all it’s noise

And listen closely for His voice

 

When He speaks with thunderous sound

He has my attention then

But Oh! to hear Him when

He whispers

 

Be silent oh my soul and learn

In quiet and obscurity

To hear the Voice that speaks to me

For that sound my heart so yearns

Towards that Voice my ear does turn

 

Though waiting endlessly it seems

When just one word

From Him is heard

What joy!

 

His whispers – a delight to me

My God Oh may it ever be

That I may hear Your whispers

 

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John 4:22 “You worship what you do not know.”

Have you ever looked around your church on a Sunday morning during the worship service? If you have, you have probably noticed two distinct groups of people. There are those who seem to be so caught up in the presence of God, so focused on Him that they are oblivious to the things around them. And then there are those who are standing with their hands in their pockets, or arms folded across their chest or looking at their watch. What is the difference between these 2 groups? I believe the difference is in the extent to which the knowledge of who God is has gripped our hearts.

Too often we have allowed the holy things of God to become familiar and common. Or we have not really experienced a personal revelation of His greatness. God is to us some being living in a distant place who we sing songs to once a week. Maybe He hears, maybe He doesn’t. In any case, there seems to be no need to really “engage” in worship. But yet we leave church saying that we have worshipped God. How can you worship One that you do not know? How can you adore or praise One whose praiseworthiness you are unaware of? This at best is mere flattery of God, not worship; an attempt to perform some religious duty that we feel God requires. We may say the right words, but we remain unconvinced. Is God honored in this?

Let us fall to our knees before Him and confess that we have not known Him and have been unable to truly worship Him. Knowing that the Lord is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth, let us seek to be among that group.

PRAYER: Father, too often my worship of you has been mere attendance at a service in order to soothe my conscience that I have performed my duty toward you. But I know that you desire worship that comes from a heart that has experienced a revelation of Your glory. So I ask that You destroy every false idea of You that I have held onto in an attempt to make a god that was appealing to me, and teach me who You are in truth.

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