Get Off Your High Horse

Horse
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

It can be a shock to the system when we allow the Lord to search us and expose the parts of us that do not align with the image of Christ.

Recently, I was asked “Would you be willing to make concessions for someone you love?”.

Specifically, if I had before me a potential Godly spouse, would I be willing to deal with their flaws, their baggage and give them the encouragement and support needed to help them grow in Christ. This is undoubtedly the kind of love I wanted but I wasn’t all too convinced about giving it, prompting a spiritual examination of self.

Saint Paul teaches in Philippians 2:3, do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.

Selfish ambition is when we are driven by an end goal that ultimately focuses on serving self, not others.  While I was open to considering relationship and then marriage, it would have to be to someone who was perfect (or close to!). The reasoning was driven by fear and focused on self. I was not trusting God to take care of my future so instead I thought “if I could find this perfect person, I would reduce the risk of disappointment, hurt and failure and increase the likelihood of achieving my own holiness, happiness and security”.  Not only was this inconsistent with the nature of God but this wrong attitude resulted in the putting off or driving away of potential courtships.

Out of conceit and absence of humility, I failed to regard others as better than myself. I was applying an impossible standard in desiring a spouse who was better than myself (i.e. perfect) indicating that I considered my own goodness to be just less than perfect.

If the Lord applied this measure to myself, I would be utterly devastated and destroyed because the reality is, apart from Christ and the blessed Virgin, we are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. Our righteousness is as filthy rags before God but the Lord does not discard us, instead He is helping us work out our salvation while giving us a love that is full of patience, grace, mercy and forgiveness. A love that we must extend to others.

The Lord would have been fully justified in knocking me down from my high horse but instead He gently showed me that I was developing a wrong attitude that was inconsistent with who He was and allowed me to redirect my heart back to His.

Prayer
Dear God,
I thank you for who you are. Thank you for your indescribable love that knows no bounds and chases me down into the depths of my soul. Help me to be selfless in my love and remain open to accepting your will for my life knowing you will take care of everything. Jesus, I trust in you. Amen.

Be BOLD

Strength
for God did not give us a spirit of cowardice, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

God has a great purpose for each life but that purpose cannot come to pass if we are unwilling to step out in faith and be bold. To be bold is to show a willingness to take risks, to be confident and courageous.

The opposite of being bold is to be a coward or to be timid. At its core, cowardice/timidity involves a lack of courage or confidence; a fear of the unknown/unfamiliar; or a fear of making decisions.

We have not been given a spirit of cowardice but of love, power and self-discipline. (2 Timothy 1:7)

So how can we become bold? Being bold begins with decision making.

Making a Decision

Before we can step into big situations, we must learn to make small decisions. If you’re generally an indecisive person then start by making small decisions and sticking to them. For example, choose the restaurant you will go to or the meal you will order. It’s easy to get distracted by everything around you but make a decision (even ahead of time) and stick to it.

This is important in our spiritual journey because we can make decisions in times of consolation (when we are feeling cheerful, assured, comforted) and become tempted to abandon those decisions in times of desolation (when we are feeling unhappy, lonely, empty). NEVER, I repeat NEVER, make a decision when you are in a state of desolation. Pray, seek help and hold on to the hope that consolation is coming.

When faced with situations that require us to be bold we can either take courage and act or we can cower away.

Before we act, we must first exercise our mind and free will to make a wise decision. Having an active prayer life is essential. Prayer is our channel of communication with God and we can better discern God’s nature and desires if we intimately know Him and spend time with Him.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. (Psalm 32:8)

Acting on our Decision   

Once a decision is made, we then use our body to act and move in accordance with that decision.

WARNING: It’s usually in the period between making a decision and then acting on it that we are most tempted to withdraw as a result of fear, because we are dwelling on discouraging thoughts or contemplating hypothetical worse case scenarios.

We are experts at coming up with reasons to excuse ourselves from acting so we need to carefully examine ourselves and check our TRUE motive in each instance.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

If our motive does not line up with what God would want, then it is likely that our will is conflicting with God’s will and we are in a state of disobedience. We must seek Christ to help us rise above the fear, pride or whatever weakness is holding us back so that we can act.

…but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10)

Don’t Worry

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

We may not always get the outcome we were expecting but we can trust that God will lead, direct and redirect our steps.

Quite often, even when a situation does not unfold how we were expecting, we have picked up and dropped off something along our journey. This could be offering and receiving prayer, gaining knowledge, wisdom and understanding, learning a lesson – all important things which God can use. Remember, God sees the bigger picture which we don’t so even if He closes a door He allowed to open then simply say “Thank you God, I trust you”.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

What we must not do is be still when God is calling us to act.  Sometimes, we must take that step that scares us and blindly free fall into the arms of a faithful creator and accept what comes of our decision.

We are living in a paralysed generation where we are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we make no decisions at all. As a result, we experience no growth and we are not progressing in the journey toward holiness.

Love should move us to act in ways that glorify and honour God, but fear should make us careful how we act. What fear should not do is prevent us from acting altogether.

Often, our hopes are on the other side of fear, none of which we can experience if we remain in our comfort zone or stay paralysed by fear.

PRAYER
Lord, please help me to know your heart and mind so that when I am called to be bold, I can recognise your presence. Give me the strength I need to rise above my fears knowing that you are the strength in my weakness and you will take care of everything. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Righteous Judge

The Righteous Judge
But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:3-5)

In a courtroom, when someone is under trial and found guilty, the expectation is that the judge will pass correct judgment and the criminal will be punished for their conduct which has hurt society in some way. The criminal is condemned by their own conduct. The judge is merely ascertaining and confirming the wrongdoing then communicating the consequence and punishment attached to that wrongdoing.

In a secular world, we have a sense of “justice”. If the judge were to overlook the judgment and allow the crime to go unpunished, there would be an upheaval in society and contempt for the judge who failed to act justly and with righteousness. His character and reputation, as one who must uphold justice, would be compromised and tarnished. Such a judge would no longer be trustworthy or dependable.

Why is it that God’s character is called into question when He is illustrated as the one who must pass judgment?

Bear in mind, God’s judgement is with exact accuracy and truth as opposed to that of a human judge often trying to ascertain truth.

We try to bypass God’s judgement by denying His existence or excusing even justifying our sin. This way we get to do whatever we want without any accountability…or so we think.

Can we really escape moral accountability by denying the existence or sovereignty of God? Perhaps for a short time but there is nothing hidden “that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known” (Luke 12:2)

Ignoring or rejecting God does render him non existent or make His impending judgment simply go away.  Just like a convicted criminal, God’s judgment is based on our own doing.  Scripture tells us

..on the day of judgment you will have to give an account for every careless word you utter;  for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37).

For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. (Matthew 16:27)

These are but a few illustrations to enforce the point that before God, we will stand guilty based purely on our own doing not because God so desires. It is not God’s desire for any to perish:

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

However, it is incumbent upon God’s character, as one who is equal love and equal righteous, to pass judgement else He could not render perfect justice.  If God does not judge, His character and reputation would be called into question.

We seem to have a moral compass and backbone to demand justice when someone does the breaks the law of this world, yet we elect to give ourselves a “free” pass when it comes to obeying God’s Law.

God created this world. This means He gets to set the rules by which we must abide.

When we go against God’s rules and knowingly disobey Him, it is called “sin”.

If a human judge is justified in passing judgment on a criminal, is the Almighty God and creator of this world not so much more justified in passing judgment on those who break HIS law?

Those who break God’s law are called “sinners”.

We have ALL sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). This means under God’s law (the Ten Commandments), we will all be found guilty as charged if we are judged by God’s law. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8). So what’s the solution?

Love.

God loves us.

Even though WE sin, God prepared a rescue plan to save the world from this judgment.

This came in the form of Jesus Christ.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life (John 3:16)

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.. (Luke 6:37)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).

Forgiveness and pardon of our sins through Jesus Christ reconciles us back to God. Jesus paid the price and suffered the sentence you and I deserve for our guilt.

We cannot repay this but we can honor it:

  1. Live for Christ
  2. Live like Christ
  3. Forgive and receive forgiveness
  4. Pray unceasingly that you might know the will of God

Perhaps you don’t feel repentant over your sins therefore ask God for a repentant heart or if you are struggling to forgive, ask God to step in and assist. Whatever area you might struggle in, pray and ask God for what you need. When your will aligns with God’s, He will deliver!

PRAYER
Thank you, Lord, for your indescribable gift! Please continue to purify me and engraft me further into the image of your Son. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Missing the Mark

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But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him.  (Luke 15:20)

In the Parable of Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), Jesus speaks of a father who had two sons. The younger son asked his father for his share of his father’s estate. This is quite a strange request as his father has not yet passed. Generally, an estate is only divided upon the death of the estate owner so in one sense, this son is not only seeking independence from his father but declaring his father dead to him by claiming his inheritance ahead of time.

Agreeable, the father divides his property between his two sons.

Next, this son sets off and wastes his wealth on wild, reckless and sinful living.

“Prodigal” means to spend money or use resources in a manner that is free, wasteful and reckless.

He loses everything. Desperate, he takes a job feeding pigs. He longs to eat the food of the pigs. But no one gives him anything to eat.

At this point in time, pigs were considered ‘unclean’ for the Jews so coming into contact with pigs would render one ‘unclean’ (Leviticus 11:7).  

The son is alone and perhaps at the lowest point of his life.

One thing is clear, his sin has caught up with him and he is suffering.

In the midst of this, he comes to his senses and says:

How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!

He wakes up to the reality of the situation and decides to go back to his father and tell him:

Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants

Here he is thinking, “Ok so I’ve stuffed up big time and I’m not worthy for my father to consider me a son but maybe, JUST MAYBE, if I ask for forgiveness, he will show me some mercy and take me back and let me work for him”. He is hopeful and broken. He makes up his mind and journeys back home.

While he is still far off from his home, his father spots him and is filled with compassion for him. The father doesn’t just stand there waiting for his little boy to arrive. No. He RUNS. He runs to his son, throws his arms around him and kisses him.

Imagine how long the father had been waiting for his son to come home.

Day after day, waiting and keeping watch.

Now the son begins the speech he had been rehearsing:

..Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son…

The father cuts him off and doesn’t let him finish the sentence. Instead, he calls to the servants:

Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet…Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

The father is ready to welcome him back as a son NOT a servant.

This is how your heavenly Father feels towards you. No matter how far you’ve strayed or how distant you have become from God, if you turn to Him, even in the smallest gesture, He will RUN to you and embrace you with the warmth of a loving Father.

This is the FREE gift of forgiveness and salvation offered through Jesus Christ.

Really, it doesn’t get better than that!

PRAYER
Father, thank you for the depth and breadth of your love that knows no bounds. I am nothing yet in your eyes, you exalt me as though I am everything to you. Thank you for your affections. Please help me to become more like you. In Jesus’ Holy name, Amen.

You Are Loved

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Your presence in this world matters. There is a purpose for your existence.

You are not merely a ‘cosmic accident’ birthed from nothing, out of nothing.

There is creative thoughtfulness and love embedded in your DNA.

You are very specifically and intentionally made for this generation.

As humans, we are created in love, for love, to love.

We know this because God is love and we are created in His image however we die in the image of our decisions.

When we fail to love, are not loved or abuse love then something goes wrong.

The ‘original’ love we were created to give and receive becomes corrupted, distorted and defiled.  Our original spiritual DNA falls away from our Creator and the essence of our being changes.

It is at this point that we begin to feel confused about our identity.

When we don’t know who we are in Christ, we will look for our identity in every other nook and cranny of this world.  We need love but if we are far from the creator, then we do not know where to go to receive it so each person looks to themselves to answer this question instead of to God, who is the author of love. Our understanding of love will then be shaped by people, movies, social media, music and it’s a mess. Accordingly, our definition of “love” will constantly change which is why we need our firm foundation, our rock.

We need the truth about love. God IS love AND truth. He does not change. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. His love stands firm so go back to the heart of your Creator. Get to know Him, get to know your true self in Him and let Him show you the plans He has for your life. It is guaranteed that He will exceed every and any expectation you have. Take a leap of faith into the arms of God and just let Him love you.

Prayer
Dear God,
I ask that you help me to know you more, to love you more and to seek you. Make your ways known to me. I am sorry if I have gone astray and played by the rules that suited me but from now on, I choose you. I want everything you are and I choose to follow you. Please teach me your ways. In Jesus’ name. Amen.