The Proud Impostor: Who Are You, Really, Behind that Mask?

On Halloween, many of us wear masks, don’t we? The Beatles’ song, “Eleanor Rigby” describes her as “wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door”. Have you ever “put on a happy face” when you didn’t feel like it? Have you ever been an Impostor in your own skin? Jesus understood that all of us sometimes take refuge behind a public persona, and that all of us allow an impostor to represent us at one time or another.

“Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14, NIV)

If you are reading this, you have probably exalted yourself at some time or another. It’s human nature. You have looked in the mirror and thought, “I look good!” You have spent money that didn’t HAVE to be spent on some personal treat. When you have confessed your sins, maybe you are relieved that there are other folks who are far worse. Perhaps you have merely taken pride in an accomplishment, or perhaps (like me) your pride has subtly exercised itself in less edifying ways. Maybe you have been secretly glad that you were not like someone more evil or less principled than you; maybe you shake your head at someone else’s rude behavior, and are glad that you aren’t like that.

At some time or another, all of us hide behind a persona that presents us to the world as someone who appears better than we actually are—much like the Pharisee who prayed his very public self-congratulatory prayer…

In the wonderful book “Abba’s Child”, Brennan Manning says our proud public self is actually someone called the Impostor, who offers a presentable image but hides our flaws and our true, broken self. He says: “The impostor is the classic co-dependent. To gain acceptance and approval, the false self suppresses or camouflages feelings, making emotional honesty impossible. Living out of the false self creates a compulsive desire to present a perfect image to the public so that everybody will admire us and nobody will know us. The impostor’s life becomes a perpetual roller-coaster ride of elation and depression… The impostor is a liar.” (pp. 34, 35)

impostor mask

My good friend Mark Krimm and I were accountability partners for several years, and one of the things we discovered was that we not only had an Impostor, but we even  have an Impostor to HIDE the Impostor. He’s the guy who humbly acknowledges his sin and brokenness 1) without sharing all of it, and 2) is secretly proud of how humble and transparent he is. He looks good on the outside, but his priorities are messed up and he’s really not doing business with God where it counts.

impostor face

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as external spirituality, and it hurts to realize sometimes that I have the capacity to portray a humble but broken Pharisee, even though I am an unfaithful dirty rotten sinner. On the other hand, the tax collector had no such pretense. He didn’t even deserve to be in church, but he was there, praying an honest prayer.

Israelites despised tax collectors because they worked for the hated Romans, and were considered traitors at best, extortionists and thieves at worst. They were social pariahs, the lowest of the low. In the gospels, they are often mentioned as synonymous with sinners, as in “tax collectors and sinners”. No Pharisee worth his salt would even go into the same room as a tax collector, and yet Jesus called one (Matthew) to be his disciple, and had several notable encounters with them.

This story about prayer and confession would have offended and enraged the Pharisees, but it gives hope to the honest sinner who 1) is so convicted and downcast that he is absolutely humbled before God (he couldn’t even raise his eyes towards heaven); 2) is passionate and truly sorrowful about his sin (he beat his breast in anguish); and 3) is honest and repentant before God (he begged for mercy).

The question that arises from this story is, which category are you in? A proud Impostor who feels self-righteous, or a humble sinner begs for mercy? Every day we choose one of those attitudes or the other. Both of those folks will be surprised by God’s response; but only ONE of those folks will be justified.

Two Prayers

Two men went to church one day,
Where they could take some time to pray.
The sinner and the Deacon stood,
And one felt bad, while one felt good.
The Deacon proudly walked the aisle;
His tie was straight, he had a smile
And stood down front for all to see:
“I thank you, Lord, for blessing me!
I’m glad I’m in your Holy plan,
Unlike this other, sinful man…
I thank you I don’t drink or cuss!
I come to church without a fuss,
And tithe from all that I possess,
While other people love you less.”
The sinner stood way back in place,
While streaming tears ran down his face,
Anguished, hoping none could see,
He beat his breast and made his plea:
“Oh Lord, be merciful to me!”
He humbly prayed with no disguise–
He couldn’t even lift his eyes…
The God of Grace, the God who cares
Will listen well to both these prayers,
And both these men will be surprised,
When only one is justified.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

A Different Kind of Kingdom for a Different Kind of World

There are many different kinds of rulers in the world, and if you look at the shape our world is in, what with poverty, wars, corruption, genocide, nuclear weapons, taxes, etc., you could ask, like Dr. Phil, “How’s that working out for you?” Perhaps a different kind of Kingdom would result in a different kind of world…

“For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bond-woman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bond-woman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise. But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so it is now also.” (Galatians 4:22-23, 28-29 NASB)

According to the Bible, Abraham had a son (Isaac) born to fulfill a spiritual purpose according to the promise of God, and a son born according to the flesh (Ishmael). Isaac was a miracle, born out of time to a 99-year-old man whose 90-year-old wife was also well past the age of child-bearing; Ishmael was the result of Abraham’s own effort to jump-start the promise by impregnating his servant girl. Ishmael, the son born according to the flesh, later bullied Isaac, and there was conflict between them and their offspring that persists to this day. This dichotomy between the flesh and the spirit is a common Biblical theme, and it applies to us individually just like it applied to Abraham’s sons.

In John three, Jesus told Nicodemus that everyone is born of the flesh but that you must also be born of the Spirit. He said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’” This conversation was popularized during the Carter administration when the phrase “born again Christian” was used to describe Jimmy Carter and other evangelical Christians. When writing the introduction to his gospel, John said that “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (1:12-13)

kingdom of God

If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a child of God who has been adopted into His family. You are also part of a spiritual Kingdom with new potential and new possibilities. Christians hope for a redeemed and perfect world, achieved not through evolution or progress or science or technology, but through the Spirit of God. It is God’s Spirit that will bathe the world in love, that will be present in heaven, and will power the kind of kingdom where “the lion will lay down with the lamb”. It won’t be built on any kind of earthly power, but on the Graceful presence of God’s Holy Spirit.

Paul says here in Galatians that everyone born of the Spirit is a child of the promises to Abraham. In Romans 7 and 8, Paul describes the natural conflict that exists between man’s fleshly nature and God’s Spirit. Romans 8:5 says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”

One of the things that makes Christianity unique is its reliance upon the Spirit of God as opposed to the works of man. Hindus believe in cause and effect; Karma teaches that what goes around, comes around. Islam proscribes keeping the law (efforts of the flesh) to be acceptable to God. Anyone who tries to achieve righteousness in the flesh will always be at odds with those who accept grace. The kingdom of the flesh will always be opposed to the spirit. Based on the human logic of getting what you deserve, grace will never seem fair to those who work according to the flesh…

Jesus’ kingdom was spiritual, not physical. It confused Pilate, and it has confused lots of folks ever since. It seems logical that we should work our way to God, but He has confounded that logic. Two takeaways: 1) it might be a good thing to depend upon God’s spirit, rather than your own effort; and 2) don’t expect a cessation in persecution anytime soon. It’s been going on for 3000 years, and “so it is now also”.

Abraham was a shepherd man
Without much wealth and without a plan,
But God told him to start afresh,
To walk in faith, but not in flesh.
So Abram started, not by sight,
To walk with God both day and night,
Beginning a spiritual family that actually changed history,
And somehow the genealogy was opened up to you and me…

Sometime later in history, two men discussed a mystery:
Nicodemus–a Pharisee–went out at night and tried to see
If he and Jesus could agree on how God’s plan was meant to be.
Jesus said,
“Nick, the problem is sin.
To live, you must be born again!
And Nicodemus sat in his room,
and said, “I can’t go back in the womb!”
Jesus said, “not that kind of birth!
I’m speaking of heaven, and not of earth!
As a teacher, you should be smart–or near it–
So understand this: Be born in the Spirit.
Only by being born again
Can you free yourself from the power of sin.
(Like Pilate he couldn’t see the worth
Of a spiritual kingdom that’s not of this earth.)

What Jesus told Nicodemus to do
Is still correct and still holds true,
And is still the best option for me and you:
Like Abraham, just start anew, like Jesus told Nicodemus to do,
Not of this world, and not of men, just this: You must be born again.
Spiritual birth makes all things new
If that is something you’re willing to do.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Flesh is Flesh, and Spirit is Spirit; Are You Listening? Can You Hear It?

“That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:6 KJV) Do you ever notice the spiritual dimensions of life? Out of all the animals on the planet, only man concerns himself with spiritual things. Animals don’t debate morality, they don’t pass laws, they don’t worship God, and they just really don’t pay attention to spiritual things. They have emotions, yes, and they can even love after a fashion; but they’ll never understand spiritual things. Like it or not, the spiritual dimension is clearly around us humans all the time, even when we don’t notice, or even when we just flat-out ignore it…

flesh vs spirit

Now, that doesn’t mean that a man HAS to notice spiritual things. He can stay as carnal (fleshly) and as practical as he wants to; in fact, millions of people disregard spiritual things because they require empirical evidence or they just choose not to see them. But the spiritual dimension is always there, waiting to unveil its power and beauty, pointing to something more profound and moving than the empirical facts suggest.

flesh or spirit

A sunset can merely be a cosmological array of physical properties—flesh—but the way it moves you with its beauty speaks to something deeper (perhaps an artist of the highest caliber)—spirit. A history book can be a bunch of dry facts—flesh—but when we find ourselves motivated by the gallant acts or lofty notions from those who have gone before, well then—spirit! And a kiss can be merely osculation, which is the physical contact of two curved surfaces between a common tangentflesh—or it can be—well, you know… It can take your breath away, and speak to the passion and love behind it!

It’s interesting to me that if you live in the flesh you will minimize the Spirit, and lose its enhanced perspective and all of its attendant blessings. But if you live in the Spirit, you can actually elevate the experience in the flesh and complete it by allowing it to be all that it was intended to be. A kiss can merely be the exchange of saliva, it can even be limited to lust, OR it can be—LOVE (pointing to something more profound and moving than the empirical facts suggest)! The more we stay in the flesh, the less we experience the spiritual aspect of things. And the more we live in the spirit, then…That’s right! The more life means, and the more we see and experience the true meaning behind everything.

Jesus didn’t encourage Nicodemus to be born of the Spirit so he could live a life of drudgery and self-flagellation. He was encouraging him discover who he was made to be. God’s purpose for us is not to live like animals but to discover another dimension to life above and beyond mere flesh. The question is, have you found it? Are you discovering something more than mere flesh?

Flesh or Spirit?

Are we merely carnal creatures?
What can set mankind apart?
Is it instinct? Are there features
That transcend the human heart?

When I live in stress or tension,
When I limit how I feel,
There’s a spiritual dimension
Where God’s love is fresh and real!

Let me walk in realms of glory,
Even with my feet of clay;
Help me see salvation’s story
Every ordinary day.

Into Thy hands I commend my Spirit,
More than just in words or talk;
Make my heart like Yours—or near it;
Help my feet to walk the walk.

As I sense the world around me,
Let me see you, Lord, afresh;
Let your loving heart surround me
In the Spirit, and the flesh.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

You Want the TRUTH? Well Maybe You Can’t Handle THIS:

“Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, ‘If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32 ASV)

In a world where tons and tons of slanted opinions are tossed at us (read: Facebook, Twitter, CNN vs Fox, TV commercials, politics), the truth is becoming a rare and precious commodity. Every day you are presented with tons of information; how much of it is factual and how much of it is questionable? How do you know what is authentic and true versus what is twisted and spun? I still remember being encouraged several years ago because Congress declared that they were giving us a tax cut. Naturally I assumed that my taxes would therefore be lower. When my tax bill came, I found I was paying MORE in taxes! I actually called a congressman’s office to ask what happened to the tax cut. I wanted the TRUTH!

truth

Their answer was classic congressional double-talk: they told me that even though my total tax bill was higher, I was paying “less” in taxes because they had reduced the amount my taxes were scheduled to go up!

The art of prevarication is more sophisticated and subtle today than it has ever been in history. Over a century and a half ago, Mark Twain said “A lie will make it halfway around the world before the truth has had a chance to put its boots on.” And that was before we even had the internet. What is spin and what is factual? As Bill Clinton once said, “That depends on what your definition of the word “is”, is… In our politics and in our culture, deception has been raised to an art form, and it is far more common and pervasive today than it was when Mr. Twain made his observation.

How do we know what is true and what is not? I have heard it said that when the Treasury Department trains agents how to detect counterfeit bills, they don’t waste time studying every possible variation. They invest time in knowing the original backwards and forwards. They are so attuned to the true original that they develop sort of an inner “truth meter” that detects flaws and irregularities in the counterfeit script. This sounds a little simplistic, to be honest, but the principle makes sense. By being intimately familiar with the real thing, they can then detect the phony variations of it.

Most people remember Jesus said “the truth shall make you free.” What they forget is that he prefaced that remark not by saying, “read lots of men’s opinions”, or “watch the nightly news”, and certainly not, “get on Social Media”… He said to abide in his word. Give that a try. Know who Jesus really is. Bask in his words. Be intimately familiar with the truth. Then when you hear a variation of it your Truth Meter will go off like crazy!

The truth, I’ve said, and I’ll say it again
Is harder find than “A Few Good Men”,
When our culture tries to dismantle it,
And Jack Nicholson says, “You can’t handle it!”
It gets to be so strenuous, detecting the disingenuous
When things reported by the press
are not the truth, but something less.
Of all the things that come at you,
how can you tell which ones are true?
Things can be fake, if digital, so study the original:
Whether mature or just a youth, get to know the solid truth–
Know Jesus. Get to know His word, and out of everything you’ve heard,
Of everything that you can see, know this: The truth will set you free.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

The Redeemer Who Could, For the People Who Couldn’t

In order for someone to be redeemed, they need a redeemer. In ancient times, a military prisoner needed someone to buy them back from slavery. It was such a common occurrence in Biblical days that it was a theme everyone would have understood and related to. The story of redemption actually follows logic and makes perfect sense, and yet people today don’t always relate to the fact that mankind needs a redeemer.

Maybe we are just fine without one, but the Bible says this about that: “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that he might be the redeemer of them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5 ASV)

Here’s how it relates to us: We were condemned under the law and estranged from God because Adam and Eve questioned God’s plan and chose to follow their own will. No matter how much the Father loved us and wanted our good, He could not tolerate the presence of sin; when mankind became sinful, it separated them from a Holy God. Under the logic of the law, all men lived under the law’s curse because of Adam and Eve’s choice. In effect, mankind was thrown out of the family because of sin, and could not be allowed back in until the sin problem was taken care of. Our will got us thrown out of HIS will…

So why couldn’t God just snap his fingers and provide restoration? I’m sure He would have if it were that easy, but redemption from sin is apparently a cosmic issue, a life or death matter, and not just anyone could rectify Adam and Eve’s fatal choice. Only a redeemer uniquely positioned to fulfill the law on our behalf could change our status.

After The Fall, if there was to be redeemer, he would need to meet some very unique qualifications. Since Adam and Eve accepted the curse, he would need to be descended from them in order to reject it on their behalf. He would have to live a sinless life in a sinful world. Because sin was transmitted in the process of procreation and birth, he had to be born of a virgin and the circumstances of his birth would have to be supernatural. He couldn’t be tainted by the carnal, sinful nature that wanted nothing more than to break the law.

redeemer Jesus

Since the law was broken, he needed to be not only subject to the law but free from its penalty. He would need to suffer death at the hands of the law, since the only sentence for sin is death—but he had to live in such a way that he did not deserve that sentence.

He would have to have not only the humility to live under the law, but the authority to countermand it. He would need to represent the Father as the righteous judge, and he would need to be an advocate for those who were standing trial. Such a Redeemer would have to be uniquely qualified to mediate a settlement between Heaven and earth. He needed to be intimately connected in the Father’s family, since he was arranging the adoption of those who would be redeemed…

Unfortunately, no man who had ever lived had satisfied the criteria for being a redeemer, so all men who ever lived were affected by the curse of sin. Paul puts it this way (Romans 5:18): “Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.” The Redeemer had to be a sinless man, a man who satisfied the law, and who was not subject to the penalty for sin. Jesus was that one redeemer, and you can join God’s family, not by being “good enough”, but by being adopted. It’s a logical progression that requires faith to accept, but if you evaluate the Redeemer’s qualifications and decide to accept his payment for your penalty, then there’s Great News! You’re back in the will!

Mankind exercised his will, and ate an apple, or took a pill,
Or chased a thrill, said “I’m King of the Hill!”,
Ate more than his fill, made another kill,
Or stole from the till–you know the drill–
And ran up one hellacious bill…
The Lord said, “Man, what you’ve done today
Is left the family and gone astray,
And for that sin, you have to pay.”
And mankind said, “There’s just no way”.
So the Lord looked down, and He didn’t think twice,
He sent a redeemer to pay the price.
It couldn’t be just anyone, so He chose to send his only Son,
Uniquely suited to be the one to ensure redemption’s job was done.
The requirements had big shoes to fill,
Like a cross on top of a deadly hill;
But he carried that cross and He paid your bill,
And destroyed the sin that could only kill:
Great News! You’re adopted, and back in the will!

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Good Is the Enemy of Great: The Man Who Liked His Stuff

“As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:17-21, NIV)

good vs great

There are several subtle things about Mark’s portrayal of this man’s encounter with Jesus that make it my favorite. Each of the three synoptic gospels offers the same story but include slightly different details. (Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the synoptic gospels, which means they were “seen with the same eyes”). Scholars agree that they used common source material, or were perhaps aware of whichever gospel was written first (most think it was probably Mark) and borrowed from it to reach their own intended audience.

In this story, all agree that the man had great wealth, that he approached Jesus sincerely asking about what he needed to inherit eternal life, and that he went away disappointed. Matthew 19:20 notes that the man was young; Luke 18:18 identifies him as a ruler. Only by combining these details are we informed that this is the story of “the rich young ruler,” perhaps one of the best known stories about Jesus during his ministry.

A few observations taken from Mark’s account: 1) The man ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees. There was a sense of urgency about his quest, and he exhibited humility in front of Jesus. Is there anything in your life that should prompt the same type of approach? Should you have a sense of urgency about taking a question to the Master, or hearing his response? Should you humble yourself before him?

2) He called Jesus good, and Jesus challenged him to evaluate where goodness came from, reminding him that God alone is good and that accepting his compliment was tantamount to accepting equal status with the Almighty. All goodness springs from the character of God, and while Jesus did not deny the truth of the man’s declaration, he did point out exactly WHY he could be considered good.

3) Jesus lists the “horizontal” commandments—the ones dealing with other men—and omits ONE. It’s interesting, because the one he omits is “Thou shalt not covet”, which happens to be precisely where this man’s heart issue lies. When the man answers, he is portrayed as honest and sincere, but perhaps he noticed what Christ omitted and could see what was coming next… Before you feel too smug about this ruler’s weakness, what commandment do you think Jesus might have omitted if he was talking to YOU?

Would it have been coveting, or murder, or adultery, or lying, or committing fraud, or disrespecting your parents? No matter how moral we act, and no matter how good we have been, there is always a place or two where we are vulnerable, or that we put ahead of God on our priority list. What is your weakness? What do you love more than God?

4) “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Jesus didn’t look at him in judgment, and he didn’t look down his nose at him in self-righteous condemnation, but he offered him a heartfelt invitation in sincere love. That’s a telling part of the story because it applied to Jesus then, and it applies to him today. In the midst of our sin, Jesus looks at us exactly the same way.

5) When Jesus invited the man to follow him, Mark says, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” If you are an American Christian, you are at least somewhat in the same position. Compared to the rest of the world, you have great wealth. According to the New York Times, “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants.” Each of us who is fortunate enough to have the kind of stuff we take for granted in this country should ask ourselves, truly, do I love God more than I love my stuff?

In the rich young ruler’s case, “he went away sad because he had great wealth.” Don’t be that guy. Think carefully about what you have and what you COULD have; and go away happy instead of sad.

All possessions, all your stuff
Will never ever be enough
To fill the place inside of you
That asks “Oh Lord, what must I do?”
Jesus looks into your eyes,
And pauses before he replies:
“There’s only one thing that you lack,
One thing that you are holding back;
If you will give that thing to me,
My child, then I will set you free.”
You hear the love in Jesus’ voice.
You realize you have a choice
To measure treasure differently–
On earth, or in eternity.
For just a moment, time stands still;
It’s time to exercise your will:
What choices will you make today?
How will you feel when you walk away?
It’s time to speak. What will you say?

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Worship Might Just Be Better Than a Trip to Walley World

How often do you experience the thrill of true worship? In the Psalms there were references to anticipation, joy, and gratitude: “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.” (Psalms 100:4-5 KJV)

The 100th Psalm was probably part of the liturgy in the temple at Jerusalem, something familiar to all who worshipped there. Also, as people made their pilgrimage from surrounding towns to worship in Jerusalem, they sang or chanted Psalms 119-133, which are called the “Song of Ascents” or “Songs of Steps” because they were walking uphill towards the Holy city, anticipating the things they would experience there.
Today, those kinds of behavior–road trips, music, and joyous anticipation are reserved more for athletic events, or maybe the Griswold’s excitement about going to Walley World…

worship walley world

To make a true comparison, picture how excited sports fans or families planning their Disney World extravaganza can get. Well, the pilgrims’ anticipation sung about here in the Psalms would have been even greater than the Griswold’s! If you have ever looked forward to a vacation, or planned a journey, then you know they were thinking about things they would see, points of interest, good things to eat, and new experiences. But there was an added dimension as well: these pilgrims were also thinking about worship.

They were going to the temple to worship Almighty God, and experience the hustle and bustle of the temple courts, the sights and sounds of sacrifice, the songs of other pilgrims, and the mystery and pageantry of the Levites performing their office. For those pilgrims, it was memorable, perhaps the experience of a lifetime. That is why they could say that they entered the gates with thanksgiving, and came into God’s courts with praise!

They would affirm in that worship everything they believed, and they would experience a depth of communion with the Lord that would stay with them in their daily lives from that moment on. Can you think of any worship experience that has done that for you? Are there moments of reverence or communion that sit as touchstones in your heart, reminders of what true worship is?

In most temple services, they would sing this Psalm, a hymn of thanksgiving. As they sang about being thankful, they were reminded of God’s goodness. They would bless his name. They would recall His mercy, and they would reflect upon His truth. I bet in days following, perhaps on the trip home, they would hum this song and remember all that God had done for them…

How often do we just go to church, ho-hum, without any anticipation or expectations? Have you ever thought about starting, today, and getting ready for your next worship experience? What are you thankful for today? Are you basking in the Lord’s mercy? Does His truth mean something to you? What song is in your heart? “For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endures to all generations.” That included the pilgrims. It includes OUR generation as well. Take a moment now and anticipate your next opportunity to worship, and give thanks! Enter into His courts with praise!

Enter His courts with gladness; come into His house with praise!
Worship the Lord with all your heart and walk in all of His ways.
Sing to the Lord a new song; shout, and lift your voice!
Exalt the Lord and His Holy name, and let your heart rejoice!
His mercy is everlasting; His word is alive and true;
The Lord of hosts has come to redeem all things and make them new!
Worship the Lord with gladness, and enter His gates with praise:
Humble yourself before the Lord, and follow Him all of your days.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Which Way is Right? Don’t all Paths Lead to the Same Place?

In college I had a bumper sticker that was an index finger pointing upwards that said, “One Way”. Today, many people would dispute that claim as preposterous! Is there only one way to heaven? Do Christians have any right to be exclusive about heaven? The Bible says this: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12, KJV) This is a singular statement that was made to explain a radical event.

one way

In Acts 3 Peter and John healed a beggar who had been lame from birth, telling him in words that have been memorialized in a well-known children’s song, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” The Sanhedrin (whom Peter addressed as the “rulers of the people and elders of Israel”) arrested them and held them overnight. Then they questioned Peter about how they had healed this man, and he said (vv 9-10), “If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.” Peter then concluded that salvation could also only occur through Jesus.

Now, if Peter’s statement was just the ranting of a religious zealot, the Sanhedrin could have dismissed him; but since the man who had been healed was standing by and watching the proceedings, they didn’t know what to do. They held a private council.      (v 16-17) “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.” Of course Peter and John refused to do such a thing. Luke says, “After further threats they let them go. They could not decide how to punish them, because all the people were praising God for what had happened.”

Three things: 1) What have you seen God do in your life that you cannot help but speak of it? Don’t give in to social pressure, don’t hesitate because you might feel too pushy. Talk freely about what God has done for you. Your perspective is legitimate testimony about who God is, and how He has impacted your life. Testify!

2) Giving financially is good thing; but don’t ever let silver and gold take the place of personal ministry. When you let God work through you, it will bless others, and it will bless you. And to contradict Jerry Maguire, it has nothing to do with money. Show me the LOVE and you can show me the WAY.

3) There is no other way to salvation other than Jesus. He either is the real deal or He isn’t. Let that sink in for a minute. The world around you will try to bend that truth, water it down, and replace it with possibilities that seem more inclusive and less restrictive. In our current climate of cultural and intellectual relativism, we are being told that whatever you feel or believe is ok, as long as it works for you. I think that’s a great philosophy as long as you can ignore the person and work of Jesus Christ; but if he was real, and if what he taught was true, there is no other way.

which way

The world will offer substitute salvation through doing good, following a charismatic or powerful leader, attaining Nirvana, obeying the law, or achieving spiritual enlightenment. All of those approaches have some merit, but none of them provide salvation. They are cheap imitations of the real thing. Am I being narrow-minded by rejecting those other beliefs? Yes.

If you were honest, you’d admit that sometimes you HAVE to be narrow. You can’t just ignore traffic laws and remain safe while driving. Yes, the laws restrict you from racing through red lights or driving the wrong way onto the freeway, but they are designed to keep everyone safer on the road. It is only by giving up your freedom to drive however you want to that you can drive safely. Go the wrong way down a one-way entrance ramp, and you can get yourself killed! One way is safer.

If you were dying from a tumor that required a delicate and life-threatening operation, would you prefer a surgeon who said, “Oh, there are lots of ways we can treat your symptoms, and we can perform a number of medical procedures on you that will be good for you. They all provide help, and really they all end up at the same place.”

Or do you want a surgeon who says, “We have located the problem and I am going to perform surgery to remove it. Now, we have to exclude all of these other treatments because, while they might provide some benefit, we have to address this life-threatening disease in a radical way.” Being narrow-minded is a good thing when there is adequate proof to exclude other alternatives.

4) The Sanhedrin had proof standing right before their very eyes, but were blinded by their own assumptions and positions of power. Don’t be that guy. These other alternatives have various ways they sell their solutions, but only Christianity has Jesus. If someone can come up with something better than Jesus, I’ll follow it. But the more I know him, the more I know he was right when he said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by me.” One Jesus. One way.

I was the guy who sat and begged
With shriveled, useless twisted legs,
Hoping passers-by would see
And throw a coin or two at me...
But Peter stopped amidst the crowd
And turned to me, and said real loud,
With words that boomed out big and bold:
"I have no silver coin, nor gold,
And nothing from the world of men,
But this: Rise up and walk again!
The power of God has been revealed;
In the name of Jesus Christ, be healed!"
And thus this fisherman proclaimed, 
That I, who had from birth been lame,
Can stand before you and avow
That I am proudly walking now!
The leaders told them once or twice 
To stop proclaiming Jesus Christ,
Because it caused them an affront.
But they would not; I hope they don't!
And As for me, I know I won't.

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Knowledge Puffs Up, So Here’s What You Really Ought to Know:

“And if any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.” (1 Corinthians 8:2 KJV) A long time ago I chose this as my life verse, thinking that having an arbitrarily closed mind is not really a Christian attribute, that knowledge in itself has limited value, and that life should be a constant opportunity to learn.

Socrates may have contributed to Paul’s logic when he taught that “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.” It is sometimes challenging to try to stay intellectually open as a Christian when there are certain bedrock truths that are non-negotiable, and the idea of being dogmatic is probably seen as a negative by most folks in our culture. But being dogmatic is not necessarily a bad thing. Without bedrock, there is nothing to build upon. Perhaps it is the WAY some people are dogmatic that can be objectionable.

knowledge puffs

Paul was right when he said that “knowledge puffs one up” and contributes to pride and self-aggrandizement. It is only by allowing for our own possible ignorance that we access the opportunity for wisdom. You can’t put more treasure into a buried chest; a full Xmas stocking holds no more gifts; a sprung trap captures no more game; you can’t put ten pounds of… Well, you get the idea.

And really, if you look a little deeper, the point of our spiritual lives is not knowledge, but love. The verse right after this one says, “But if any man loves God, the same is known of him.” Paul knew that it is not knowledge but LOVE that transforms us. What fun would a friendship or a marriage be if we limited our relationship to only rational thought and knowledge, without any emotional connection? And yet we often treat God that way. It is not knowledge that completes us, but love. Paul reminded us about that in 1 Corinthians 13:13, when he said, “these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

As humans our very nature is not based on knowledge, but on loving relationships that actualize us and enable us to be who we were created to be. I don’t follow the rules just because I know them, but I follow them because I care about breaking them. Timothy Keller connects the dots like this: “The secret to freedom from enslaving patterns of sin is worship. You need worship. You need great worship. You need weeping worship. You need glorious worship. You need to sense God’s greatness and to be moved by it — moved to tears and moved to laughter — moved by who God is and what he has done for you.”

knowledge worship

How much have you been moved by God lately? You may be reading your Bible, and you may be increasing your knowledge, but when is that last time you were so moved by God that you fell in love with Him all over again? If you are in love with God, your worship will transform you and people will notice. And isn’t it a much cooler thing for someone to say, “Wow, that person really loves God!” rather than, “Wow, that person really thinks he’s smart!” Love God. Be known for it.

Go to College, get more knowledge; it will help you win debates.
Just beware and be aware that ego sometimes self-inflates.
Find your mind some worldly wisdom, it will make you self-assured;
But realize you’ll be surprised at some things wisdom does not cure.
You can’t earn and you can’t learn this truth no matter where you go:
Just Love God. That’s all you need to live, and all you need to know.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Consider This: The Best Arguments Have Nothing to Do With Words…

“For consider him [Jesus] that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” (Hebrews 12:3 KJV) The uniqueness of Jesus is often overlooked, believe it or not. His parables and teachings have a timeless quality, and have been woven into the common wisdom of many of the world’s cultures. Most people credit him with being a prophet or a great teacher, apparently without knowing anything else about him; but when you truly consider what he said and taught about God’s love, he is unique among all the rabbis, teachers, and wise men who ever lived. The writer of Hebrews touches it here.

Two things about him stand out in this verse. First, there are only two groups mentioned here: 1) sinners; and 2) Jesus. He is not listed with the sinners, but he is in a different category, listed as the one who endured their contradictions against himself. He stands apart from sin, the man who broke no law. Consider our leadership today and even those who lived in all past generations. Can you think of another public figure from history that meets this criteria? Who even comes close? It’s not just the author of Hebrews who makes this assertion; so did Jesus’ best friend, John! So did Peter, Matthew, Mark and Luke. So did a Jewish zealot named Saul. The fact that everyone close to Jesus claimed that he was sinless is pretty unique, and sets Jesus apart from, well… everyone.

consider leaders

Would my wife or any of my close friends claim I was sinless? (Quit laughing!) How about yours? Would they say YOU are sinless? (Ha! Who’s laughing now?) And yet men who were around Jesus every day for years comment upon his behavior in ways that haven’t applied to any other man or woman. In fact, they COULDN’T apply. But consider this: In 1 Peter 2:22 Peter says of Jesus, “He committed no sin”.

John says  “In him [Jesus] was no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

Paul, who originally persecuted followers of Jesus as heretics, says this about him in 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He knew no sin.”

Even the man who sentenced him to death (Pontius Pilate) said, “I find no fault in Him”. The fact that eyewitnesses, friends and even enemies claim he was sinless make Jesus very unique indeed.

consider Christ

Second, there is power in his being an example. The writer of Hebrews says, “Consider him.” The motivational power of a good example is huge in life, and it’s natural that we think about Jesus’ life and find encouragement when times are tough, “lest we be wearied and faint in our minds”. Are you stressed? Can the world be rude and uncaring at times? Don’t you hate driving with all of those careless, distracted, selfish people on the road? Consider him.

Consider the man who blessed the children, healed the sick and caused the lame to walk. Consider him who spoke wisdom and taught us that we should love one another. Consider him who bore the cross to Calvary, “lest you be wearied and faint in your mind”. Does anybody dispute that if you meditate and reflect upon the example and teachings of Jesus Christ, it will make you a better person? Who in this world can disparage his life and teachings, or the example that he set? After all, he gave his very life so that we might live.

But don’t forget that being an example creates a legacy and a standard for followers to live up to. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, you should also love one another.” He used himself as an example of how to love! And then he told us to do it ourselves! Not only did he present himself as our example, he challenged us to BE one as well. So here’s the question: What are you doing that’s exemplary? And who might be watching you, encouraged by your persistence, your habits, and your attitude? Consider them, too.

The greatest sermon ever heard
Had no alliteration;
You didn’t hear a single word
Of grand pontification.
There weren’t three points, a poem, a prayer–
Perhaps some teaching here and there,
But this: a life of love to share,
A cross that He alone could bear,
A servant’s heart beyond compare
Who counted the cost, who saved the lost,
Who stills the storms for the tempest-tossed,
Who lived without a sin or vice to be a perfect sacrifice;
He gave himself so we could be secured:
Consider Christ, and all that He endured…

 

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread