Striking Out On Humility

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My Musings – In my humble opinion…just kidding.  But actually, I’m not sure I can blog about humility without violating the whole concept. At any rate, I guess I’ll risk it.

In the dictionary I consulted, the first two definitions of “right” fit the above quotes nicely:

Humility (What Is Right) –  Morally good, justified, or acceptable.

Pride (Who Is Right) – True or correct as a fact.

In today’s sermon, I copied down this quote from my Pastor.  “Christianity is not about getting everything right, it’s about a change of heart that causes us to desire [have a passion] for what is right.”  Of course, we will never get everything right (we still have a sin nature), but we can have a desire for what is right (we also have a “Son” nature).

If we focus too much on being right, we plant the seed of pride – a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements.  If we shift the focus to what is right we cultivate a harvest of humility – freedom from pride or arrogance.

Another danger, perhaps even more dangerous than pride, is false humility.  This can manifest itself in a couple ways. One is to act humble in order to call attention to how “right” we are.  “A man is never so proud as when striking an attitude of humility” – C. S. Lewis.  Another less subtle way is self-deprecation.  This is self-humiliation, not self-humility.  “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” – C. S. Lewis.

One final quote form today’s sermon.  “Our pride blinds us to all but ourselves.  Our humility allows us to see others.”

My Advice – When I looked for the definition of righteousness, there was only one definition – the quality of being morally right or justifiable.  Let’s seek quality (always seeking what is morally right) over quantity (always having to be factually right).  Do not “strike an attitude of humility,” imitate the (Jesus’) attitude of humility.  This should be our passion.  This should be our purpose.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Fueled Worship” on September 29, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you too.

 

And It Was So

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My Musings – Perspective.  It’s easy to lose sight of it amongst all the scientific jargon and mumbo jumbo.  But if you step back to get a better perspective of the big picture it is beyond awesome (a much overused word).  And yet, “these are but the outer fringe of His works; how faint the whisper we hear of Him!” (Job 25:14).  Outer fringe?  Faint whisper?  Now that’s perspective for you.

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Beginning – That “singular point” that scientists call “The Big Bang”, in which all matter, energy and time “sprang” into being, was God speaking it all into existence. This was the beginning of time (for us), a period of remote and unknown antiquity, hid in the depths of eternal ages, before the world began.  After all, what is 13.8 billion years (more or less), to a God that was preexistent (to exist beforehand, before time) for all of eternity past (infinite)? And if this all preceded, and was in preparation for, what occurred on the seven “days” of creation that followed, there is no controversy in the aging of the “building materials” that God created, whether is was 13.8 billion years ago or 6000 years ago. “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began.” (Proverbs 8:22-23, emphasis added).

Created – The Hebrew word is “bara,” which in the Old Testament is used exclusively for divine activity (Yahweh is always the grammatical subject). This implies that people cannot create in the way God creates [true], and no lesser “god” can claim to be creator. The term also conveys the idea of ordering and determining function (e.g., underlying physical and thermodynamic laws and principles) to the cosmos. While it always describes the divine activity of fashioning something new, fresh, and perfect, it does necessarily describe creation out of nothing (for example the creation of man), it often stresses forming a new, reforming, renewing (initially the earth was void and without form). Clearly the initial “big bang” was creation out of nothing, but not from nothing. It was from God. After all, what is creating something out of nothing to a God who is omnipotent (having unlimited power; able to do anything)? “By faith we understand that the universe was formed (had a beginning) at God’s command (caused), so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (began to exist).” (Hebrews 11:3)

Heavens and Earth – This expression is frequently employed to denote the world, or universe, for which there was no single word in the Hebrew language; the universe consisting of a twofold whole. The opening (heavens) and closing parentheses (earth) that encompassed the entire creation (cosmos). From God’s perspective (the heavens) to man’s (the earth). From the one sending the revelation to those receiving it. Keeping in mind that those originally receiving the message had not developed scientifically and could not be expected to understand any of that. God was attempting to communicate what, not necessarily the details of how, because the details at that point in time were not necessary. It is, however, interesting to note how man’s advancing scientific “big bang” theory of the beginning (previously the claim was there was no beginning, the universe always existed), has drawn closer to that rudimentary description God originally provided. Interesting, but not surprising. After all, what is the entire cosmos to a God that is infinite (has no boundaries or limits, not confined to the universe He created in time or space)? “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you.” (1 Kings 8:27).

Formless and Empty – In the more poetic King James Version, “void and without form.” What else might one expect from the “letting loose” from a single point of origin and in the “blinking of an eye” of all matter and energy to form a universe that stretches to an observable edge of 45.34 billion light-years in radius? After all, what is 45.34 billion light years (times two) to a God that is omnipresent (present everywhere)? The two words (formless and empty) designate a state of material devoid of order, prior to God’s meticulous work on it. There was nothing in it desirable to be seen, for it was “confusion and emptiness,” an alternate translation. It was shapeless, it was useless, it was without inhabitants, without ornaments. Not even the shadow or rough draft of things to come (other than in the mind of the Creator). First, He created the building materials, then He set to building and furnishing it. “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalms 8:3-4)

Darkness – Scientists surmise that until around a few hundred million years or so after the Big Bang, the universe was a very dark place, with no stars and no galaxies. God did not create this darkness. Light was not necessary until something was made that might be seen by it. For what is light, to a God’s whose glory and holiness is so bright that no living creature can gaze upon it and live? “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5).

Over the Surface of the Deep – The Hebrew word is tehom, which refers to the primordial or primeval sea—the cosmic waters of chaos. The coincides with the scientific theory that in its beginning, the earth was a giant, red hot, roiling, boiling sea of molten rock – a magma ocean. As the earth began to cool, water vapor began to escape and condense in the earth’s early atmosphere. Clouds formed and storms raged, raining more and more water down on the primitive earth, cooling the surface until it was flooded with water, forming the seas. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41).

Spirit of God Hovered Over the Waters – In the darkness of this chaos (darkness, formless, emptiness) the Spirit of God moved to prepare for the effectual creative Word of God. The Hebrew translated as “hovered” or “moved” means “to brood over; to incubate.” How much of that sense might be attached here is hard to say, but the verb does depict the presence of the Spirit of God moving about mysteriously over the waters, presumably preparing for the acts of creation (Days one through seven) to follow. The earth was formless, so God formed what He wanted. The earth was empty, so God filled up what He had formed. Regrettably, scientists, in general, have no place for the Holy Spirit in what precedes or what follows. Science on the other hand, as we will someday fully appreciate, welcomes its Creator. “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6).

My Advice – Simply this, praise God!

References

  1. All Scripture references, unless otherwise indicated are from the New International Version, 1984.
  2. https://www.space.com/25126-big-bang-theory.html
  3. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 1, p. 17). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
  4. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:1). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  5. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:1). Biblical Studies Press.
  6. Keil, C. F., & Delitzsch, F. (1996). Commentary on the Old Testament (Vol. 1, p. 29). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson.
  7. https://www.businessinsider.com/size-of-the-universe-2016-8.
  8. Hamilton, V. P. (1995). Genesis. In Evangelical Commentary on the Bible (Vol. 3, p. 11). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
  9. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 4). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  10. https://jwst.nasa.gov/content/science/firstLight.html
  11. Henry, M. (1994). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible: complete and unabridged in one volume (p. 4). Peabody: Hendrickson.
  12. Barry, J. D., Mangum, D., Brown, D. R., Heiser, M. S., Custis, M., Ritzema, E., … Bomar, D. (2012, 2016). Faithlife Study Bible (Ge 1:2). Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
  13. http://www.extremescience.com/earth.htm.
  14. Ross, A. P. (1985). Genesis. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 1, p. 28). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  15. Biblical Studies Press. (2006). The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Ge 1:2). Biblical Studies Press.
  16. Wiersbe, W. W. (1993). Wiersbe’s Expository Outlines on the Old Testament (Ge 1). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Who Wants To Be A Millennium Heir?

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My Musings – Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?  It was a crazy popular game show for awhile.  There were levels (questions to answer) you had to work (win) your way up, in order to win the million.  Each level more difficult than the one before.  If you got stumped, you had ” lifelines” you could use for help.  But use them wisely, because you want to save all you can for the more difficult questions.  Answer incorrectly, and you could lose some of what you had already won.  Remember?

Just for the fun of it once, I came up with a version of the game called “Who Want’s To Be A Millennium Heir?” that I used for a “final exam” in my adult Sunday School class.  It went like this.

MILLENNIUM “HEIR MILE” REWARDS

7  MILLENNIUM HEIR
6  GOLD
5  SILVER
4  COSTLY STONES
3  WOOD
2  HAY
1  STRAW
0  FOUNDATION

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, NIV 1978)

MILLENNIUM HEIR RULES

1. You must build upon the foundation – Jesus Christ.

2. If you don’t build upon this foundation, it won’t matter how many “heir miles” your works might otherwise earn you. You can never earn your way to becoming a millennium heir.

3. Each time you answer correctly, your “good works” will advance you to the next “heir mile” reward.

4. If you answer incorrectly the quality of all “heir miles” earned will be tested by fire. For some you may suffer loss. Some may survive and you will receive those rewards.

5. However, even if you suffer the loss of all of your “heir miles” you are still a millennium heir if you built on the foundation Jesus Christ.

MILLENNIUM HEIR LIFELINES

Fellowship – With this lifeline you may poll the “audience,” (the Sunday School class) for their input.

“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews10:25, NIV 1978).

Prayer – With this lifeline you can phone “home” for guidance. In answer to your “prayer”, you gain discernment (as moderator I took away two wrong answers).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7, NIV 1984).

The Word – With this lifeline you can look up your answer in the Scriptures (better bring your Bible to class).

“For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NIV 1978).

Accountability – With this lifeline you may ask a fellow-believer (select a class member) for their help.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17, NIV 1984).

We had fun with it (well, at least I did).  Here is a sample of one “game” of Millennium Heir we played.

Foundation Question

According to Ephesians 2:8&9, salvation is obtained by what?

A. Good Works.
B. Grace.
C. Wealth.
D. Accident.

Straw Question

The tenth commandment, found in Exodus 20:17 is?

A. Thou shalt not talk out loud in a convent.
B. Thou shalt not convict without two or three witnesses.
C. Thou shalt not covet.
D. Irrelevant.

Hay Question

According to 1 Timothy 6:10, what is the root of all evil?

A. Gingivitis.
B. Money.
C. The ACLU.
D. The love of money.

Wood Question

A fundamental point about wealth in the parable of the rich fool is?

A. It should be hoarded, because we never know when we’ll need it.
B. It should be wasted, there is more where that came from, God has deep pockets.
C. It should be spent on pleasure and comfort. Eat, drink and be merry.
D. Material possessions cannot provide real or lasting security.

Costly Stones Question

In the parable of the sower, found in Matthew 13, greed is represented by which seed?

A. Seed sown along the path.
B. Seed sown in rocky places.
C. Seed sown amongst thorns.
D. Seed sown on good soil.

Silver Question

The parable of the rich fool teaches?

A. Nothing, it’s just for entertainment.
B. We must be careful about our attitudes concerning God’s blessings.
C. All rich people are evil.
D. Remodeling old barns is hazardous to your health.

Gold Question

The proper response to material blessings is?

A. I want more.
B. Be thankful and be a good steward.
C. I’ll keep them all to myself.
D. Now I have all that I need to be happy.

Millennium Heir Question

In the parable the rich fool’s responses to material blessings was?

A. Right on target.
B. The real problem.
C. A symptom of an underlying problem.
D. His final answer.

My Advice – Okay, so the game is a bit corny.  But it makes several key points.  The “game” we are playing in this life is really “The Game of Life.”  What happens in this life determines whether we become a millennium heir.  We must accept Christ as Savior.  That’s foundational.  If we don’t get that right, we will go directly to hell, we will not pass the pearly gates, we will not collect eternal life.  There is no get out of hell free card.  Christ it the only way, meaning He has the “Monopoly.”  Take the chance, you won’t be “Sorry.”

 

 

Continue In Faith

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My Musings – So then, just how did we receive Christ?  Did we work for it?  No, that would be earning our salvation, like receiving wages.   The only “wages” we earn are for our sins.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23, NIV 1984).

We may think that our sins are not that bad, at least not compared to some, but that would be the wrong comparison.

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”  (Romans 3:23–24, NIV 1984).

The correct measure, or standard, is God’s glory, and all have sinned, which means all fall short.  All means all.  No exceptions.

But there is a “flip side” to both of these passages.  “The gift of God is eternal life,” and “we are justified freely by His grace.”  The “gift” is “freely” given.  That is what makes it a gift and not a wage (something earned).

One does not earn a gift.  One receives a gift.  Which brings us back to the original question: just how did we receive Christ?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”  Ephesians 2:8–10, NIV 1984).

By grace, through faith.  We received Him by faith, and that is how we are to “continue to live (walk) in Him.” We walk by faith.  We live out our faith.  As a result we are:

Rooted – To establish deeply and firmly.

Built Up – To develop in magnitude or extent.

Strengthened – To become stronger or more difficult to break.

We are established, developed and made stronger for a reason:  “created in Christ Jesus [born again] to do good works.”  This is where works come in.  They do not result in salvation, they are a result of salvation.

My Advice – If you have not received Him, put your faith in Him and receive His free gift: the forgiveness of sin and eternal life.  If you have already received, continue to live in him and walk by faith.

 

Sheep’s Clothing

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My Musings – In banking, tellers are taught the best way to spot a counterfeit – you study the genuine article.  By being familiar with the “real deal” you can more readily spot the fake.  This similar principle can be applied to identifying false teachers.  You look to what they are saying and doing, and you place it alongside what is truth – God’s Word.

Feed Only Themselves – We’ve all seen them, enriching themselves while the flock is starving for the truth.

Clouds Without Rain – They look and sound impressive, but in reality lack the substance of the truth.

Autumn Trees Without Fruit – You expect the fruit in the Autumn, and you would expect spiritual leaders to bear real fruit.  Yet the false ones pander to big crowds in this age of “consumer Christianity.”  Give them what they want to hear, not what they need to hear.

Wild Waves Foaming Up – Stirring the pot, when they should be building up the body in unity of the Spirit.

Wandering Stars – Abandoning the flock that they have been entrusted with, seeking greener pastures for themselves, while their sheep are left shepherd less.

For Whom Blackest Darkness Has Been Reserved Forever – Their just reward.

My Advice – Stay in the Word.  You’ll know who measures up and who does not.  Here are a few pointers.

1. Is the teaching from a well-known and trusted source?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures.” (2 Timothy 3:14, 15)

2. Is the teaching consistent with what you have learned from the well-known and trusted sources?

“I urge you brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned.” (Romans 16:17)

3. Is the teaching clear from the texts or is the interpretation strained?

You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel.” (Matthew 23:24)

4. Is the teaching exclusive or nearly exclusive?

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20)

5. Is the teaching necessary to support a questionable position or lifestyle?

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.” (2 Timothy 4:3)

6. Does the teaching direct society to follow God’s moral standards or does the teaching encourage others to follow the world’s social mores?

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Romans 12:21)

7. Is the teaching’s emphasis on grace and freedom too permissive?

You my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature.” (Galatians 5:13)

8. Is the teaching’s emphasis on morality and obedience too repressive?

Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by the oath.’ You blind fools!” (Matthew 23:16, 17)

9. Does the teaching deny the power of God to enable His children to overcome sin and temptation?

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 6:11)

10. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of masquerading as an angel of light?

For such men are false apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.” (1 Corinthians11:13, 14)

11. Does the teaching follow Satan’s pattern of deceit by calling God’s Word into question?

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say….” (Genesis 3:1)

12. Does the teaching call right wrong and wrong right?

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” (Isaiah 5:20)

Mark Twain is credited with saying that “in religion and politics people’s beliefs and convictions are in almost every case gotten at second-hand, and without examination, from authorities who have not themselves examined the questions at issue but have taken them at second-hand from other non-examiners, whose opinions about them were not worth a farthing.” We must never be too lazy (or too naïve) to blindly accept every “wind of doctrine” that comes along. In the final analysis, even when the source of information seems trustworthy, like the Bereans, we must lay what is being said alongside the Word of God to see if it is true. However, in order to do this effectively we must be sufficiently familiar with the Bible to know how to use it. Possessing a tool is not much good if we do not know how to use (“rightly divide”) it properly.

 

Wishes and Works

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My Musings – What happens in fairytales stay in fairytales.  In real life, we cannot wish (desire) or work (effort) our way to Heaven.

You can whistle while you work or even wish upon a star,
but without God’s grace and mercy you won’t get very far.
Many that went before us, had credentials that were so fine,
But still not nearly good enough, to cross Heaven’s finish line.
Makes no difference who you are, no sin is too extreme,
Salvation is God’s free gift, not a wage, a wish or dream.
But anytime your heart desires, the Master will come to you,
To seek and save His lost sheep, when nothing else will do.

No you know why I stick to prose.  The following are just a few who had “credentials that were so fine.”

Adam & Eve – Created in God’s image. Genesis 1:26
Noah – The last righteous man. Genesis 6:9.
Job – A man that God boasted about. Job 1:8.
Abraham – A man of great faith. Galatians 3:9.
Moses – He spoke to God face-to-face. Deuteronomy 34:10.
David – God called him “a man after My own heart.” Acts 13:22.
Mary – The mother of Jesus, highly favored by God. Luke 1:28.
John The Baptist – None greater born of woman. Matthew 11:11.
Peter – The man on whom Jesus built His Church. Matthew 16:18, 19.
Paul – He fought the good fight. 2 Timothy 4:7.

None of these were saved by their own “desire or effort.” It took God’s mercy.

My Advice – What about you and me.  Are we any better than these.  Does our desire and effort surpass theirs?  No.  It will take God’s mercy.  It’s not what we do, it’s what God has done.  Accept His free gift.

Jesus – The way and the truth and the life. God’s mercy comes only through His desire for us and His effort on our behalf. John 14:6

Do not set aside the grace [mercy] of God, for if righteousness [salvation] could be gained through the law [religion, good works], Christ died for nothing! (Galatians 2:21, NIV 1978). Why would He die if He did not have too?

Times and Exact Places

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My Musings – To what extent will God go to save us?  He gave His only Son, what more could we possibly expect?  Though the cost was high, He doesn’t force Himself on us.  He gives us freedom to choose for ourselves.  Yet, He wants that choice to be an informed choice.  So much so, that “He determined the times set for them and the exact places they should live.”  Why? “So that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him.”  And that’s not all.  He stays close.  By our own efforts He is beyond our reach.  So He stays close to us and reaches out to us.  But we still have to “reach our for Him.

There is a parable called the prodigal son.  It is more aptly called the prodigal’s father.  For “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  (Luke 15:20, NIV 1984).  That’s our father.  He’s waiting and watching while we are “a long way off,” “though He is not far from each of us.

My Advice – Don’t question why you are where you are and the time that you are.  There is a reason.  You are in the most likely time and place for you personally to find Him.  Seek Him. Reach out for Him. He is not far off, even though you may be.