Friday, November 21, 2008

Matthew 23:11-12 (NKJV)

Matthew 23:11-12 (NKJV)-“But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Jesus was speaking this to the scribes and the Pharisees of His day. He was teaching the multitudes and His disciples that the religious leaders of their day were not all that and a bag of chips.

We like getting attention don’t we? We like it when someone notices something we’ve done, or acknowledges that we went out of our way, don’t we?

Even if we tell ourselves that we shouldn’t seek the accolades of other people, we do it anyway. On some level, we WANT those around us to notice us and tell us, “Thanks for doing that! You did a great job!”

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: we want mercy for ourselves and justice for everyone else.

We want others to pat us on the back. However, how often do we remember to turn the favor around and do that for someone else? How often do we tell those around us that we appreciate something they did for us?

How about someone in your family?

I don’t think this is more apparent anywhere than in our social groupings of family, whether they are close or extended. We expect everyone in our family to cater to us at times, but far be it from me to serve someone.

At work, you run around and do things and perform to the best of your abilities. Why? Ever hear of a little thing called a MERIT raise or a PERFORMANCE bonus? See, the world has conditioned us to raise the bar for our own standards, so that we can get more money out of it.

The more I work, the better I work, the more my raise will be; the bigger my end of the year bonus. You want that job? You’ve got to show your boss that you want it more than the other people in your department/division/group. You’ve got to perform! And the more people who see how well you perform, the better off you are in your workplace.

Jesus was radical. He suggested a different way. He says that if we want to get exaltation, we should submit ourselves not only to those perceived to be “above” us, but those who are on the same level as we are, and those “below” us.

Jesus wants us to follow a different standard; one that puts the needs of others out in front of our own. It’s a different way of doing life, and sometimes it stinks.

Come on; don’t look at this like I just wrote out the mother of all curse words there. You know in your heart of hearts that I’m telling the truth. We all do it. You are not gonna leave me alone to dangle in the wind on this one!

When we do stuff, we want to be acknowledged. Even if it’s just a pat on the back in affirmation, it helps. I want to know that my sacrifice has been noticed and accepted.

The only problem, in my opinion, is that the ultimate sacrifice has already been made. Nothing I do can even come close to that!

I realize, as usual, there are some of you that don’t wrassle with the same issues that I do, and I accept you in your perfection. Please don’t waste your time with correcting me and reminding me of how far I need to go in my Christian walk. I only hope that you can continue to be patient as God works out his righteousness through my life.

I need to remember that I am not the only person who feels the way I do. So, when I feel slighted when no one notices something I did, I need to step back and assess the situation. Am I upset because no one patted me on the head and gave me a treat because I performed a trick? Or am I hurt that my actions were noticed and obtained a rebuke or harsh word because I didn’t do it the way someone thought I should have?

If it’s the first part, I need to step back and ask myself, “Am I good at encouraging others? When was the last time I gave someone an uplifting word for something they did for me?”

If it’s the second, I also need to take a gander at my life as well. Only this time, I need to see how scathing a beat down I gave someone because they did something I didn’t ask them to in order to help me, and they did it in a completely different way than I would have.

Did I thank them for their effort, or did I chastise them because they obviously didn’t pay attention to what they were doing? Did I exalt their servant’s heart, or berate their lack of attention to detail?

It’s interesting how things look when compared in the lens of our own experiences. I want to believe that I do everything that I complain about everyone else not doing. I want to believe that everyone is just not as perfected as I am now. I want to believe….

Oh, hi Jesus. You want to talk to me? Umm, how did I get myself up on this pedestal like this? Uh oh, this could be bad…..

Be blessed in the Lord today.

Bo J.

Friday, November 14, 2008

1 Timothy 6:6-7 (NKJV)

1 Timothy 6:6-7 (NKJV)-“Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.”

Paul, the apostle, wrote this letter to his young disciple Timothy. Timothy was trying to steer the newly founded church at Ephesus, fighting against false teachings and devious ministers.

He also wrote this to me. I’ve been on a downer lately; so let’s see if we can spice things up a bit, shall we?

I have Jesus. I am saved, filled with the Holy Spirit, and blessed beyond measure. Am I happy? I think that is a resounding NO. Am I content? Ah….now that is the question we should be asking.

You see, we tend to get this confused at times. Happiness and contentment are two completely different animals. They are at opposite ends of the spectrum as far as our Christian walk is concerned.

Happiness is derived from our EMOTIONS. It comes from how we feel; and that can change day in and day out. If I am looking for happiness every day from my Christian walk, chances are that I’m not gonna find it.

Now hold on…don’t stone me yet! Let me finish. First of all, remember something; this is my OPINION. If you are receiving it, you asked for it. I’m not pushing this as gospel. I’m telling you the interpretation in my spirit from my walk with God.

Now, I can be happy without ever being content. Happiness, as I said before, is based on your emotions. It requires an external stimulus to evoke that response in your body. The only problem, as I see it, is that what makes you happy one day may be entirely different than what makes you happy the next day.

You may have some completely different experiences that bring you happiness from one hour to the next. You can be happy if you win the lottery, and then sad when you realize how much money your Uncle Sam is going to remove from your winnings. The same object (money) has brought about both feelings of happiness and sorrow.

You can be happy about having sexual relations with a good looking woman (or guy if you’re a girl). But that happiness, because it’s based on external motivations, will only last for so long. If you’re just looking for the “next, best thing”, there will always be one out there. You’ll always be comparing the one you’re with to the next one.

Contentment is completely different. It approaches from the aspect that life is fleeting. As the Scripture states, I didn’t bring anything with me, and I can’t take anything with me. I’ll leave the world exactly as I came in. The only question now is: will my life make a difference in the world?

God provides for my basic needs. Yes, I have a job and make a wage. However, it is God who gave me the talent to perform my job and allowed me to obtain the wage that I make. It is NOT me; it is Him working through me.

Beyond my basic needs, what do I have that is a requirement? My relationship with God, that’s what. God created me ultimately to bring Him glory. You can argue that all you want, but that’s how I feel. God doesn’t need me to keep Him company; He doesn’t need me to help Him run the universe.

He created me because it pleased Him to do so, and I bring glory to His name by the way I live my life. By the same token, so do you. We are all here to glorify God’s name in the universe.

Godliness is described as the characteristics of God as shown in our lives. Contentment is my acceptance of God’s will in my life. No matter what happens in my life, I should be content in God because He is my all in all. If all I am looking for God to do in my life is give me the next greatest thing, my faith is on shaky ground indeed.

Now, once again, I ask you to be patient with me.

This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t bless me with stuff. On the contrary, He flits about the world, looking specifically for things that He knows will set Willie Bo Jr. on fire. He knows I especially like techno gadgets and electronics and stuff….man!

He gets me things I never dreamed I could have. And he gives me understanding of their workings and designs. If you don’t believe me, ask my family. If I suddenly die or become incapacitated, every technological gadget in this house, from computers to iPods would fall into disuse and disrepair.

God blesses you and me with stuff; He just doesn’t want our stuff to be the basis of our relationship with Him. He wants us to be content with Him, and realize the stuff is just a blessing from Him to us. If the stuff becomes an idol that we worship instead of Him, He’ll repo it in a heartbeat, reminding you where you should be focused.

Oh, this is not something we are innately born to do; it’s something we have to learn. We immediately seek gratification for our every urge, instead of being content where we are in life. It’s something we all have, and it’s something we all have to learn to deal with.

I thank God for the help of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit in this fight. I know I can’t, and most likely wouldn’t, do it on my own. Being content means putting my life in proper perspective with relation to my God. It doesn’t depend on whether it’s sunny or cloudy; wet or dry; hot or cold.

It doesn’t depend on whether I have the latest and greatest or fastest or biggest or most ornate or loudest or any of that junk. It depends on how I view my God and His blessings.

So, let’s make a deal that we’ll start out trying to be content. Use verse 6, its short enough. If you find that you are slipping into selfishness or happiness or sadness or whatever EMOTIONAL responses remind yourself of this verse with promise. Tell yourself that your current situation doesn’t depend on what you have, but Who you know.

Remind the greed and self-centeredness (that we all have to deal with) that you serve a bigger God than stuff. And remind them that God can give and God can take away, but His name will always be blessed in your life.

Go ahead, try it. Circumstances come and go, but God is always right there and right on time.

Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Lamentations 3:25-26 (NKJV)

Lamentations 3:25-26 (NKJV)-“The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.”

Those are some hard verses to swallow sometimes, aren’t they? Come on; don’t be all heroic on me, we both know that this can be really tested in our lives.

And it’s not even the fact that I disbelieve that the Lord is good. I do believe that nugget. Yesterday, a friend of mine was having a really bad day and had received some horrible news relating to their job. I talked with this person and prayed with this person.

I said some things that really surprised me. One of the most poignant was that we really need to grasp that God really does love us. We are cupped in His hands at all times. And I said that to this person and then said that God just wants to know if we believe Him.

God has you cupped in His hands right now. Do you believe Him? I’m not asking you to believe me; I’m asking you to believe Him.

It’s hard to fathom, what with our lives the way they are right now, huh? I mean, we can spout off platitudes all day. At the end of the day, however, do you still hope and wait quietly for the Lord?

Who is your God? What is He capable of doing in your life? In my head knowledge, I know that God is sovereign. He is the Supreme Creator, and my Lord. He made a way for me to be reconciled back to Him because I’m flawed; imperfect. He took someone who was a sinner, and made him a saint.

He validated my life with His own Son.

In my head, I know this. In my heart, sometimes, life intrudes. The storm comes. I’m the man on the cork with a cross stuck in the middle of it, in the middle of a hurricane. And I hear the maddeningly still, small voice of God saying to me, “I have you cupped in my hands even now. Do you believe Me?”

Part of me wants to scream yes, just like part of you does right now. But another part, a part more like the scared animal, wants to scream NO! Not till you get me out of this.

The storms come to test the foundations. God could dismiss the storms with a thought. He could dissipate the hurricane with but a breath from His lips. But would you learn to trust in Him? Would you know that He has you cupped in His hands right now? Would you believe Him?

Those of you who have children know that sometimes the best teacher is experience. You can warn your child and warn them and warn them. But sometimes, as hard as it is to fathom, you have to let them stick the fork in there and realize that you’re not just whistling Dixie at them. It doesn’t mean you love them any less, does it?

Why then, when stuff comes and God says, “Trust Me,” do we feel the need to rush around and fix it? What happened to waiting quietly on the Lord?

We can’t even wait at a traffic light. How many times do you creep up on a red light in anticipation of it turning green so you can get through the intersection first? Don’t lie!

Our society has helped us to turn our faith in God into a microwave meal. We will be patient until our internal timer goes off. Then you’re done! If God hasn’t acted in 90 seconds, we have the assumption that He’s not gonna act at all.

Oh, don’t worry. This is only for a select group of people, including me. I’m sure the bulk of you have this patience thing under control, right? You can just whistle through anything. I see you at church just breezing through, telling everyone how joyous and great life is and all.

Does that penetrate from the outside to the inside?

I admit that I’m number one in need of this lesson; ask my wife. So I’m not asking you to do something that I have already mastered. We’re in this walk together. You see how it affects me-I can barely keep up with our e-mails anymore!

I figure I have one thing going for me, though. I can still hear that voice talking to me. “Bo, I have you cupped in My hands right now. Do you believe Me?”

There was a time when I didn’t hear the voice, and didn’t care. So, as long as I have something to strive toward, I’m doing well. I’m learning to wait quietly and patiently (yeah, I know, I REALLY need to work on the QUIETLY part) on the Lord.

Shhh….can you hear the mountains tremble? Can you hear the voice that sounds like thunder?

“I know what you’re going through. I have you cupped in My hands right now. Do you believe Me?”


Be blessed in the Lord today,

Bo J.