Pride

Judges 9:53
“But a certain woman dropped an upper millstone on Abimelech’s head and crushed his skull.”

Not every story recorded in Scripture is a positive one. In this case, we find a self-centered man with a drive for power and a taste for blood, fight his way to the top, where he can rule over the people of God. Abimelech was a strong man with many gifts, but he was also an ungodly man who took things by force, and was responsible for the death of many innocent men and women. His ungodly passions and unrighteous principles got him what he wanted, but only for a very short season. He found that no matter who you are, your sins will surely find you out, and you will give an account before God.

Perhaps there are many lessons we could derive from his life, but one that seems to stand out, is the fact that it was pride that drove Abimelech, and ultimately pride that stopped him. He led an army to put down an uprising and his thirst for blood caused him to ignore a basic principle of warfare. His troops drove the enemy back into a city stronghold, where they huddled together in a tower. It would only be a matter of time before they were defeated, but pride drove Abimelech to come too close to the tower, where a woman saw him standing below, picked up a large stone and dropped it on his head. The great and mighty Abimelech was defeated, not by a giant, a mighty army, or a brilliant military strategist, but by a woman who happened upon a heavy stone, at just the right time.

Pride is like that, it will always lead us to think we can do more than we actually can. It will take our eyes of the Biblical principles of spiritual warfare that keep us from falling, and will cause us to compromise. Pride has been the downfall of some of the greatest men who ever lived. Pride led Samson to toy with Delilah, pride led David to let his guard down with Bathsheba, pride led Peter to ignore the warnings from Jesus, and deny him three times. We all need to realize, that apart from the Lord we have very little strength. We need to learn to look to Him, array ourselves in the armor of God, and trust in His ability not our own.

Proverbs 16:18
“Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Pastor Jim

 

Meekness 

Zephaniah 2:3
Seek the Lord, all you meek of the earth, who have upheld His justice. Seek righteousness, seek humility. It may be that you will be hidden In the day of the Lord’s anger.”

Many things that are highly esteemed in our world have little value in the kingdom of God. We put such a high price tag on appearance, when God tells us that He looks past our temporal frame and into the heart. It use to be, countries were assessed financially by the amount of gold they had in reserve, but God uses that for asphalt in the new Jerusalem. Conversely, much of what is lightly esteemed by man is of the highest value to God. Here we are told of the great emphasis He places upon meekness and humility, two character traits that are not highly valued in our world today.

Meekness is often defined today as a form of weakness. In fact, one dictionary defined it as “spineless”, while another referred to the meek as “lacking strength or courage.” Biblical meekness is not a character flaw, but a strength exemplified in the life of Christ, and developed in the believer, as a fruit of the Spirit. It is perhaps best defined as strength under control. A few years ago I heard a friend of mine illustrate meekness this way. He described a time when he was sitting on a ferry, and across from him sat a man with a Great Dane. This massive creature was sitting quietly at his masters feet, watching him eat an ice cream cone. The man offered it to the dog and its massive tongue consumed the entire thing with one lick. A few moments later a woman approached carrying a little dog in her purse. No sooner had she sat down when the dog jumped out, ran toward the larger dog, and began to yip incessantly. Without a sound the Great Dane, whose head alone was larger than the other dog, leaned forward and blew in the face of the intruder, who turned, ran and hid under the safety of its owners purse. Certainly, in that case, strength was kept under control. We exercise meekness when we do not let our emotions control our lives, but keep them in check by doing the right thing.

Humility comes from a word that means low. It is choosing to take the low place by exalting others above ourselves. It is thinking of the needs of another, above our own. In our world we are told to follow our dreams and not to let anyone stand in our way. I recently saw a post that read “19 reasons to follow your dreams and ignore everyone else.” In the economy of God we are encouraged to do the exact opposite and look out for the interest of others by exalting them above ourselves. This is one of the chief traits seen in the life of Jesus. The Son of God was ever the servant of man. Whenever we see Jesus in the gospels, He is lowering Himself for the sake of others. It is not even surprising that He gets down on the ground and washes the feet of the twelve. By the time we read that story, it is almost expected.

Let’s seek to follow the pattern of Christ and have lives marked by meekness and humility. Certainly those traits will make us stand out in a culture which glorifies self above all else.

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.”

images.jpeg
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

 

Where Credit Is Due

Isaiah 39:1-2
“At that time Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered. And Hezekiah was pleased with them, and showed them the house of his treasures—the silver and gold, the spices and precious ointment, and all his armory—all that was found among his treasures. There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.”

Imagine the scene in the ancient world where nation after nation had been defeated by the Assyrian army. No matter how strong their defenses were or who they allied themselves with, no one was a match for the that ruthless nation, who not only defeated their enemies, but humiliated, tortured, and displaced them as prisoners of war. Then suddenly a tiny little country not much bigger than a large U.S. county, struck Assyria with such a devastating blow that they retreated to their homeland, and their king was assassinated for his failure. This would certainly get the attention of the nations around Judah. It did not take long before word spread to Babylon and delegates were sent to king Hezekiah to see how they had accomplished such a feet. It is interesting that he takes them to the storehouses and shows off his treasures, instead of taking them to the temple and showing off his God.

Hezekiah’s failure is a very common one. We often find ourselves aided by God, yet failing to give Him the credit or the glory. We don’t want others to see our weakness, and at times, desire to be held in high esteem. The reality is, we deserve no more credit for the successes in our lives, than Hezekiah did for the victory of Assyria. I am reminded of the words of the apostle Paul who wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:6-7,

“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

“What do you have that you have not received?”

A proper view of life is to see things through the filter of the grace of God. Instead of boasting or exalting ourselves above one another, we should humbly exalt God for His goodness, guidance, care and provision. Why not take a few minutes to thank God for all He has done for you?

Pastor Jim

 

Pride Before A Fall 

Isaiah 14:13
“For you have said in your heart:
I will ascend into heaven,
I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north; . . . ”

Here, in Isaiah, we are given the details behind Satan’s fall. Before his ruin, Scripture describes the devil as the mighty angel Lucifer, who served Jehovah loyally. Isaiah explains it was pride that turned Lucifer away from God in rebellion. This pride manifested itself in exalting his desires above the desires of God. That same sin has been stumbling the servants of God ever since.

Eve sat alone one day in the shade of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’. Her whole life had been spent enjoying the benefits of being in a relationship with the Lord. All that changed when she began to desire that which was forbidden. It was not long before that desire led her to exalt her ways above the ways of God.

David, staring out the palace window, was struck by the beauty of Bathsheba. Years of faithfully following and serving Christ, were suddenly in jeopardy, as his heart began to long for the wife of another. Once his own ways were exalted above the Word of God, it was only a matter of time before desire became action, and his life took a downward turn.

Achan is not nearly as well know as Eve or David, but his life similarly illustrates the danger of exalting our ways above the ways of God. Achan dwelt alongside Joshua as Israel entered the Promised Land. Upon entering the city of Jericho, God gave instructions concerning the spoils of war; Israel was not to loot the defeated city. Achan however, saw three items God had forbidden, and desired them for himself. Once his desire took root, it was not long before he took hold of that which was forbidden, and it cost him his life.

We could go on and on with story after story, of those who chose to exalt their own ways above the ways of God, only to find their lives were destroyed as a result. It is worth noting, Eve, David and Achan, not only brought ruin to their own lives, but also negatively impacted the lives of their loved ones. Perhaps the words of James best expresses the danger of placing our own desires above the Word of God,

James 1:14-15
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death.”

Every time we sin we are exalting our way above he ways of God. It is for this reason Jesus declared that in order to follow Him, we must deny ourself. Instead of doing what seems right in your eyes, or what your emotions are driving you towards, take time to consider the ways of God and exalt His word above your ways.

Pastor Jim

 

Puffed Up 

1 Corinthians 4:6-7
“. . . that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”

Paul warns of the danger of pride. He refers to it as being puffed up; a term that has withstood the test of time, and is still used today. When we see someone who is filled with pride, we might say they are filled with self, puffed up, or even that they have a big head. Paul reminds us of the folly of elevating ourselves above one another, by exhorting us that what we have, we received from the Lord.

This passage reminds me of the story of Absalom, the son of King David, whose life was marked with pride and whose death was fitting. We are told, in the heat of battle, while fleeing from Joab, he rode under a low hanging tree branch and his head was stuck. Moments later, Joab arrived and slew Absalom. He literally died because his head was too big. Absalom was a man born into privilege. He was the son of the king, raised in the palace, given the best education and upbringing available at the time. His palace life would afford him connections with the most prominent people of the day, and provide him with a life of influence. In addition, the Bible describes him as an extremely good-looking man. He was praised throughout the nation for his looks. No doubt women were wooed by him, and men envious of him. But rather than looking at these as gifts from the Lord, and opportunities to be useful for the kingdom of heaven, Absalom was filled with pride. We are told, he was so in love with himself, that at the end of every year he would get a haircut, weigh his hair and publish the results. Of all the things we take pride in, that has to be one of the most ridiculous.

What have you done to determine the amount of hair that you have? The answer is nothing, it is hereditary. If you are bald or if you have a flowing mane, it is not because of something you accomplished, it is like being proud that you are tall. Paul reminds us, “what do you have that you did not receive? Now, if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Everything we have is an evidence of the grace of God. Rather than thinking of ourselves as better than another, we should use the gifts, privileges and opportunities we have been given, to serve one another, and to further the kingdom of heaven.

Pastor Jim