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Psalms 131:1
“Lord, my heart is not haughty, Nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, Nor with things too profound for me.”

As this short psalm begins to unfold, David celebrates the condition of his heart. He is rejoicing that his heart is not haughty nor his eyes lofty. In other words he does not have an exalted view of himself. There is no indication within the psalm as to when it was composed. If it was written early on, David was a talented young man who was gifted as a musician and a shepherd. His musical talents had landed him a position as the private worship leader for the king. If it was written a little later, David had proved himself a valiant warrior and was in command of Israel’s forces and was the object of the attention of the young maidens in the land. If it was written in a later season, David had become king of the nation and brought Israel to the height of their success. Yet in all of his success he was careful not to become haughty or to have an exalted view of himself. It seems that David always saw himself as that young shepherd boy who sat among the sheep and fixed his eyes upon the Lord.

We live the age of self promotion. We do not need a press agent because we all have access to social media. Many of us spend hours each day coming up with just the right post for Facebook or image for Instagram. We want everyone to think we are the most creative parent, with the most talented children who go on the most imaginative vacations and accomplish the most extraordinary things. We are often guilty of not only have a lofty opinion of ourselves but wanting to make sure that everyone else has that same opinion. Perhaps it would do us good to consider how God views pride and humility.

Proverbs 3:34 “Surely He scorns the scornful, But gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

1 Peter 5:5 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

In the kingdom of God self exaltation is never the road the to take. If we want to experience the grace of God it is found by taking the low place and exalting the Lord and others.

Jim

 

He Humbles Himself 

Psalm 113:6
“Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?”

A few years ago my wife and I were window shopping at an outdoor mall in southern California when we stumbled onto a crowd of people huddled around a large telescope. We decided to stand in line and see what they were looking at. When our turn came to look through the view finder we were stunned. From the courtyard of the mall we were able to see the rings around Saturn. We took advantage of the moment and allowed the young man who owned the telescope to point out distant stars and even a distant galaxy. Technology has provided us with things that were unthinkable during most of human history, and there in the mall we were able to observe the heavens. I was struck both by the majesty of the heavens and by the advances of science that would allow the casual shopper a glimpse into the heavens. But I did realize that this was only possible because of the highest reaches of human development. Centuries of studying the stars had come together at that moment to provide a telescope that could view the heavens.

I often think of that when I read the Psalmists words;
“Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?”

What takes the height of human development to glance at, God has to bow to look into. As majestic as creation may ever seem the creator is much more magnificent. His glory is above the heavens.

Jim

 

Prayer Of The Broken

Psalms 102:17
“He shall regard the prayer of the destitute, and shall not despise their prayer.”

Sometimes the Psalms come with titles that give insight into the situation that stirred the author to write. In his case, we are not given the details of his life circumstances, but are told of the purpose behind this song. He writes,

“A Prayer of the afflicted, when he is overwhelmed and pours out his complaint before the Lord.”

Affliction is designed by God to drive us to Him, that we might receive His mercy and find the necessary comfort. Sadly, that is not always the way we react to difficulties. I recently attended an event where a group of people gathered in response to a tragedy that affected all of them. While I understand that difficulty often causes our emotions to speak for us, I was stunned by much of what I heard. Instead of realizing our mutual weakness and need for the mercy of God, I heard person after person speak of how they would not allow this tragedy to break them or to change them. It is as though, the hardship they faced gave them greater resolve and increased resistance against the Lord.

I do not think this was an isolated incident. In fact, in the final years of Judah, the people expressed this same stubborn rebellion against God. While the Babylonians conquered their land and began taking the children into captivity, we read of the leaders continuing with their wicked lifestyles. Instead of allowing the common tragedy to break them, they determined to stand strong in their opposition to God. It is as if they were saying, “You can’t break us and we will never bend.”

Perhaps you are facing a difficult season. Please keep in mind, that part of the reason for this hardship is to bring you to your knees, where you would allow the affliction you are facing, cause you to cry out to the Lord for His mercy.

Pastor Jim

 

Small Things

Numbers 16:9
“Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them?”

Korah and his disgruntled ministry team were upset with the leadership of Moses, and discontent with the opportunities they were given to serve the Lord. They soon formed a club and brought their complaints to Moses. They were hoping he would allow them to wear the priestly garments and enter the Tabernacle. Because ministry is based upon the call of God, Moses could not grant their request, but instead pointed out the folly behind their discontentment. They were guilty of considering what they did for the Lord as a small thing; as if some areas of ministry are big and others are small and unimportant.

This is a pretty common view. Almost all of us, if pressed would say that preaching the Gospel or leading the worship is a more important role than setting up the chairs or getting the children to church on time. We think this because in man’s economy certain tasks are regarded more highly than others. If a person runs a factory, he is given greater compensation than those who work in the factory. The economy of God is different. God rewards based upon faithfulness. It is not that everyone gets the same reward, but the rewards are given based upon how faithful we are to what God has called us to. A young mother who faithfully ministers to her husband and children will receive the same reward as a person who faithfully serves on the worship team, or the pastor who faithfully studies to communicate the Word of God to the people of God. The one who has the opportunity to minister to five people will be rewarded equally with the one who ministers to five thousand. The reward system of God is based, not upon accomplishment, but faithfulness. Instead of looking at what others are called to do and becoming discontent with the opportunities God has placed in you hands, why not be as faithful as possible with what God has given you.

Pastor Jim

 

The Coronation 

Zechariah 9:9
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!
Behold, your King is coming to you;
He is just and having salvation,
Lowly and riding on a donkey,
A colt, the foal of a donkey.”

A few years ago, during the height of the popularity of the tv show “American Idol”, I happened to be in a hotel room in Ghana. I turned on the tv and began  flipping through the channels. Soon I found a show I did not know existed. It was called “West African Idol.” The premise was the same as the American version, but without nearly the budget. Instead of renting out the Nokia Theater, it was held in what looked like a high school auditorium. Instead of millions of dollars in LED lighting and sound equipment, it had a banner and a few spotlights. Clearly, the more prestigious the event the more glamour it gets.

Kings have had coronation ceremonies for centuries. The more powerful the king, the more fanfare associated with his crowning. Here, Zechariah foretells of the coronation of Christ. The Bible calls Him the King of kings and Lord of Lords. His reign is eternal, righteous, and all reaching. Every creature will one day bow before Him, recognizing His authority and power. Yet when the time came for Him to be crowned, He rode into the city on a donkey and was celebrated with the waving of branches and singing by the common people; no bands, no  lights, no drama.

In many ways, this event perfectly reflects the reign of the King of kings. One of His chief characteristics, and perhaps the platform of His campaign, was humility. He stepped out of glory and into humanity by taking on the form of a man, and coming in the humblest of means. At Christmas we are reminded that Christ was born in a stable, laid in a manger, and greeted by shepherds. His ministry was marked with humility. He is constantly seen taking the lowest place and serving others. We find him washing feet, reaching out to the sick, noticing the neglected and caring for all. His death was the ultimate expression of humility, as the One who created the trees, hung upon a cross made from its wood. Willingly, and without resistance, He allowed men to beat Him, drive nails through His hands and feet, and hoist Him upon the cross. When taunted to prove His power and come down from the cross, He humbly remained, where He could finish the work of providing atonement for the sins of mankind.

Although Jesus is the greatest ruler who will ever reign, He aptly presented Himself with meekness and humility. The next time we see Him, things will be much different. The bible declares that the One who came like a lowly lamb will return like a wild lion. He will one day burst through the clouds with sound of a trumpet, and the the hosts of heaven at His side. At this time, He will set up His kingdom and righteousness will reign from sea to sea.

Pastor Jim

 

Big And Strong

Ezekiel 31:3
“Indeed Assyria was a cedar in Lebanon, with fine branches that shaded the forest, and of high stature; and its top was among the thick boughs.”

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At the time of Ezekiel’s writing, Egypt was one of the most powerful nations in the world. So great was their strength, many nations allied themselves with Egypt, in an attempt to withstand Babylonian occupation. Many in Judah still believed they could defeat Babylon, if they had the help of the Egyptians. Ezekiel wrote to warn Egypt of the danger they faced. This warning is one that every Christian ought to take to heart.

It illustrates the exhortation of Paul, who wrote,

1 Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”

In order to warn Egypt, Ezekiel takes us back in time to remind us of the once powerful Assyrian empire, which had been defeated and destroyed. He compares Assyria to a massive tree of the forest that provided lodging for the birds of the air and shade for the beasts of the forest. This tree was greater than any other tree in the garden of God; it was the desire of all the rest. Ezekiel explains, the secret to the strength of this tree, was an underground water source that provided what was necessary for its growth. Sadly, as the chapter unfolds, the tree weakens, falls, and becomes as much a picture of failure, as it had ever been of success. Ezekiel tells that the cause of the fall was lifting up it’s heart in pride; perhaps failing to understand the hidden source of its strength.

This should serve as a vivid reminder to every Christian, of both the secret to growth and the cause of collapse. Jesus compared us to branches. When connected to the vine, we will have a source of strength resulting in a thriving Christian life, full of fruit. He also warned of the danger of being cut off from the vine. This would result in losing the ability to bear fruit, taking the effectiveness out of our life, and hamper our witness for Christ. Just as Assyria was filled with pride and no longer saw their need for the hidden source of strength, it is common for the Christian to forget that daily time with Christ, His Word, and the fellowship of His body, is what really fuels our growth. When we neglect time with the Lord, we are cutting ourselves off from the very source of strength and growth.

Sadly, Egypt and Judah alike, failed to take to heart the warning, and found themselves defeated. Nations that once shone brightly upon the landscape, became a shell of what they  were. Let’s not be among the casualties. Take time to invest daily in your walk with Christ, abide in the vine, and bear the fruit of godly living.

Pastor Jim

 

I’ll Take The Low Road 

Ezekiel 17:24
“And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, have brought down the high tree and exalted the low tree, dried up the green tree and made the dry tree flourish; I, the Lord, have spoken and have done it.”

The Bible is filled with seemingly paradoxical statements. Here God promises to bring the low high and the high low. The context makes it clear that the low are those who willingly submit themselves to His ways, and the high are those exalt their own opinions above the teaching of the Word of God. James said essentially the same thing when he wrote,

James 4:6 “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:10 “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.”

In the economy of God, the way up is down. If we desire to experience the life God intends for us, it starts with being willing to humble ourselves under the authority of God and His Word. There is something about the fallen nature of man that causes us to resist authority. None of us likes to be told what to do. If we have given thought to something and determined the best way to accomplish a task, then someone “above us” comes in and tells us to do it differently, we become resistant. Our muscles tighten, our emotions rise, our hearts begin to rebel, and we may even lash out against them, as though somehow our character has been challenged. We not only do this with one another, but we do it with God. It is common for us to know what the Bible says, but to make exceptions for ourselves and our circumstances. We will never experience the life God intends as long as we are unwilling to submit ourselves to Him and His Word.

Deuteronomy 29:19

“. . . and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’—as though the drunkard could be included with the sober.”

We cannot follow our own ways and expect to receive the blessing of God. It is time for us to take the low road of submission to God, to reach the height of living.

Pastor Jim