Is Meek Weak?

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The meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord, and the neediest people shall exult in the Holy One of Israel. – Isaiah 29:19

I must confess that I’ve always thought of meek as weak.

And I’m a product of my culture. Our modern, Western view casts meekness as a weakness rather than a soaring virtue.

I mean, we ought to know it’s good if Jesus said that “the meek … shall inherit the earth” (Mt 5:5), Isaiah said, “the meek shall obtain fresh joy in the Lord,” and the Psalms say that “the desire of the meek [is] heard [by] God” (10:7).

In the West, we’re more familiar with humbleness – a synonym for meekness – being a good trait. Jesus, after all, humbled himself to come to this earth and die sacrificially upon a cross (see Phil 2:8). Yes, our Savior humbled himself to get down on his knees and wash his disciples’ feet (John 12).

Through the lens of Jesus, we Christians have been conditioned to see humility as strength. But as Westerners, we still often see meek as weak. But think of the alternative. Our typical response when circumstances are out of our control is frustration, bitterness, or anger. The alternative is pushing to regain control – sometimes through violence. Scriptures answer, instead, is meekness. Now, meekness is not resignation nor surrender. It is not passive. Nor is it helpless surrender.

Meekness is, rather, a hopeful, trusting endurance in spite of trying circumstances. A position of meekness – steeled by the confidence that “all things work together for good for those who love God” (Rom 8:28) – is a position of strength even in the face of trials. Meekness perseveres when others give up. Meekness is the confidence of the Apostle in Romans 5:3-5, “suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s determined

to make meek look strong

 

 

Greater Attention or Drifting Away

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Therefore we must pay greater attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. – Hebrews 2:1

To what level do you pay attention to God’s Word and “what we have heard”?

  • A little or a lot?
  • Some or just somewhat?
  • Sundays or daily?
  • Enthusiastically or bored?

The point here is obvious. God’s Word is life (see John 6:60-68), and “we must pay greater attention … so that we do not drift away from it.”

Well, since the point of this verse is so simple and clear, let me point out one further thing – the word “therefore.” Here’s a famous principle for Bible students: If you ever see a “therefore,” you need to stop and ask what it is there for!

Hebrews 2:1 follows Hebrews 1, and the point of Hebrews 1 is that “1 Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, 2 but now in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son.” The point: God is speaking – then and now. Hebrew people (to whom Hebrews is primarily addressed) knew that God spoke through prophets. Would they accept that God continues to speak through his Son, our Messiah? Hebrews 1 invites us to listen to the Son. Hebrews 2 invites us to listen – to, indeed, “pay greater attention” – lest we “drift away.”

So how is your faith? Are you …

  • Paying greater attention or drifting away?
  • Loving God more or loving the world more?
  • Listening joyfully or becoming listless?
  • Growing in faith or dying on the vine?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who’s glad you’re

reading this today! Thanks

for this act of obedience

that keeps you from

drifting away

The Treasure of Old and New

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Jesus said: “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” – Matthew 13:52

King and Kingdom are prominent themes as Spirit of Joy is making its way this year through the Gospel of Matthew.

The term “kingdom of heaven” is mentioned 31 times on Matthew’s pages, and eight times, Jesus explains the characteristics of the kingdom, saying, “the kingdom of heaven is like …”

  • A few times Jesus describes the kingdom as small but growing, like a yeast or a mustard seed (13:33, 13:31).
  • Other times our Lord defines the kingdom as being the most valuable thing on earth, like a treasure or a pearl of great price (13:44, 13:45).
  • Still other times in this set of parables, Jesus shows that his kingdom stretches beyond just Israel to now include the Gentiles. He describes it, for example, as a net which includes many fish (13:47). Indeed, the kingdom is small but growing.

Today’s parable and analogy is primarily of this last category. If I oversimplified this verse, it would say, “the kingdom of heaven is [made up of] new and old.” The old is Israel. The new – now included – is the Gentiles.

What struck me reading this passage this time is word “scribe.” When scribes are mentioned in the Gospels, they are generally cast in a negative light. They’re usually lumped into an unfavorable category along with Pharisees. Jesus says, ““Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth” (23:27). Indeed, instead of being part of the kingdom, Jesus says, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you lock people out of the kingdom of heaven” (23:13) In chapter 23, Jesus was painting with broad brushstrokes and the persecution of many Jewish leaders bore down on him. Indeed, within a few days of these statements, Jesus would be hanging on a cross.

But some Pharisees believed – Nicodemus, for example (see John 3 and John 19). And from this passage, clearly some scribes also believed – “every scribe who has become a disciple.” Scribes had a legal role within Israel. They intersected with religion, law, and people’s lives. They could write legal documents, contracts for marriages, divorces, and bills of sale. They also were scribes, copying the Old Testament. It was a significant culture position, and some believed, and what did Jesus say about them? They had a “treasure.” They were in the unique position of knowing, seeing, believing, and testifying to both “new and old.”

I love for example meeting good Messianic Jews. They are Jewish by heritage. They are also believers in Jesus as their Jewish Messiah, the Savior of the World. What I like about meeting such Jewish believers is that they know a richness from their Jewish heritage that most Gentile believers (like most of us) miss. For example, they’ve celebrated Passover all their lives, and suddenly they see Jesus as the true Passover Lamb and every part of this meal now has new significance. Jesus said: “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who wants to know

more about old and new –

which is one reason why I’m

glad I’m taking Pastor Conda’s

Bible Journey course

 

Best = Love + Knowledge + Discernment + Spirit

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The Apostle Paul writes … And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight to help you to determine what is best. – Philippians 1:9-10

The Apostle Paul’s heart goes out to his spiritual children in the city of Philippi. He’s praying for them. He wants them to keep growing in faith. He wants for them “what is best”; therefore, he’s praying that they gain spiritual discernment so that they may “determine what is best.”

And that’s the first spiritual point for today: To have what is best, we need the discernment to determine what is best.

Once God gave Solomon the opportunity to choose any gift, Solomon chose wisdom, discernment. That’d be a good goal for us too.

So … how do we become better at discernment? Well, let’s continue to work backward this passage: Discernment is first a supernatural gift of the Spirit. That’s why Paul is first praying for the Spirit to pour wisdom, knowledge, and insight into his spiritual children. But … knowledge is also the fruit of a disciplined Christian life. The more we study “what is best,” the more likely we are to trust in, know, and follow “what is best.” Therefore, we must seek to know, for example, the Word of God – “I treasure your word in my heart, so that I may not sin against you” (Ps 119:11).

There’s one more piece to learning to more frequently experience “what is best.” Just before Paul talks about us growing “more and more with knowledge and full insight,” what’s the spiritual characteristic he mentions first? Overflowing love! In 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul says, “if I … understand all mysteries and all knowledge … but do not have love, I am nothing.” Head knowledge about the Kingdom is good, but it’s nothing if we don’t first have love. I mean, if God is love, then we don’t know anything if our thoughts don’t eminate from a well-spring of overflowing love.

Indeed, Paul prays that our “love may overflow more with knowledge and full insight.” This is an important clarification. Love without knowledge of God’s ways is often cheap grace. Anything goes. On the other hand, a knowledge about God’s ways without love is often crushing legalism. That described the Pharisees. Rather, we must pray for a perfectly calibrated love that overflows with knowledge.

Conclusion: Do you want to experience more fully “what is best’?

  • Start first, like Paul, with prayer! You can’t grow fully on your own!
  • Second, ask the Spirit of supernatural discernment. You want him to start pouring wisdom and knowledge and insight into your head and your heart.
  • Third, be disciplined. Seek to keep growing personally, day by day, in your understanding of the Word.
  • Finally, love! Forgive others, so you may love others more fully. Be patient with others, so you may love them more fully. Ask again for the Spirit’s help, because some are hard to love on their own merits!

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who knows

“what is best”

because my wife

put it on a plaque

in my family room:

“God’s way is

the best way.”

For Whose Benefit did Elijah Pray?

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Elijah prayed, “Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again. – 1 Kings 18:37

An evil king ruled in the Promised Land. His name was Ahab. Worse he married a foreign queen, and Jezebel worshiped Baal (who was either Satan himself or perhaps one of his chief minions).

Jezebel brought hundreds of the priests of Baal to take over the capital city. This upset the prophet Elijah, so he challenged them to a duel. Setting up to altars, For the benefit of crowd gathered, Elijah pondered aloud whether the priests could entice Baal to set their altar on fire. Scriptures says these 450 pagan priest “26 limped about the altar that they had made. 27 At noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud! Surely [your Baal] is a god; … perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.’ 28 Then they cried aloud … They cut themselves with swords and lances until the blood gushed out over them. 29 As midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice, no answer, and no response.”

Finally, it was Elijah’s turn. Elijah basically did two things. First, he demanded that altar be drowned with water, making fire humanly impossible. Then, he prayed. Part of that prayer was, of course, today’s verse, “37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God.” And …

WHOOSH!

God is God! Instantly there was fire.

The part I want you to notice is the heart of Elijah’s prayer. It wasn’t for himself. It was for the glory of God … and … it was for the benefit of the people. Whether they knew it or not, they were dying. They were rejecting the Lord of Life and thus, they were dying. Do you remember how it said that the priests of Baal “26 limped about the altar”? Well, Elijah said to the people who were trying to worship both God and Baal, “21 How long will you go limping with two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

That alone is worthy of a devotion, but let’s stick with today’s verse: For whose benefit did Elijah pray? Elijah was joyfully fruitful in prayer, because he spelled J.O.Y. Jehovah, Others, You.

If you want to be more fruitful in your prayer life, focus on God’s glory and the blessing of others before you ever focus on yourself.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who writes

day after day

so God’s glory

may be known

and your faith

uplifted

Will we Trust the Lord to Provide?

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Paul wrote: My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

This Sunday our journey through the Gospel of Matthew brings us to chapter 4 and the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.

Jesus is physically weak.

He hasn’t eaten in forty days.

And Satan tries to lay his hooks into him. “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into loaves of bread.”

That’s the devil’s official message. “You’re God’s Son. You’re hungry. No problem.” Except it’s a big problem. It’s two truths and a lie. Yes, Jesus is truly God’s Son. Yes, he’s truly hungry. But the lie is that it’s no problem. Indeed, the problem is this: Will Jesus act to satisfy himself, or will Jesus trust in the Lord to provide?

That’s a temptation with which we are all tempted to struggle: Will we take matters into our own hands or will we wait upon the Lord? For example …

  • Do we trust God with our finances, or act fearfully or selfishly, wondering if we’ll have enough for what we want?
  • Do we trust God with our reputations when others gossip about us or defame us?
  • Do we trust God with our happiness, choosing His ways over our ways?
  • Do we trust God with our diagnosis? (It’s not that don’t occasionally worry or fear, but even deeper, do we dare to be confident that no matter what, we’ll be okay in his hands?!)
  • Will we, indeed, take matters into our own hands, or will we wait upon the Lord?

The Apostle Paul chose to wait upon the Lord. He forsook everything – often including his own comfort and safety – to proclaim the Gospel. And he learned through experience that God could be trusted to provide all that he truly needed. And he found joy, peace, and fulfillment in this. Indeed, he found joy, peace, and fulfillment in God!

In today’s verse, Paul goes on to urge us to find our joy, peace, and fulfillment by sharing his confident trust: My God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who has

fulfillment and peace

when he keeps his

eyes on Jesus

 

 

The Sun and the Shield

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The Lord God is a sun and shield.  – Psalm 84:11

Someone showed up at our house recently. They were beet red?

“What happened?” we said.

“Before I put the top down and went for a long drive, I bought generic sun screen. Apparently it didn’t work.”

Doesn’t it seem a little contradictory to say that “the Lord God is [both] a sun and shield”?! Well … I don’t think Psalm 84 is talking about sunscreen!

Calling God our shield is obvious. He’s a fortress, our strong protector. As we submit to his leadership, he keeps the evil one at bay. Though there’s free will and evil in this world, God surely protects us more than we sometimes see. And in the end, he promises the ultimate security of eternity to those who believe. God is, indeed, our shield.

But he’s more than protection. He’s light itself. And light is life. Light helps things grow! It chases away the darkness. God’s love quells the darkness of anger and depression, doubt and despair. God is the sun who turns night to day and warms troubled hearts.

Which image (or images) do you prefer for God?

In Christ’s Love,

a guy who would have been

redder than my beet red friend

(I would have forgot the

sun screen altogether,

and I have more surface

area on my head to burn!)