Category Archives: Pride

The Making of a Recording and the Molding of a Man

As many of you know who follow this blog, Christ Community Worship will release its first CD this Sunday. We will have a celebration event to praise God for what He has done in and through this project. We will also ask God to use it for His glory and the spreading of the gospel. I won’t talk about the event more here. If you want more information, go to the CCW Facebook page (like us on Facebook!) or the CCW website.

The project was a long journey. It started with some music. It involved the suggestions, encouragement, and vision of several people. Then, add in the gifts and talents of many others, who have a heart for God and a desire to use these gifts for the glory of God and to tell of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Generosity of time, resources, and money also helped pave the way. Then, there was the work of getting the project completed. Hundreds, and probably thousands, of combined hours of work went into the completion of the project.

And it was work. I must confess, there were times when I wanted to be done with it. If I heard my voice one more time, I thought I would scream. Every glitch and variance would stand out to me. There were times that it was not an enjoyable experience. Then, there times when I would stand back in disbelief at what God had done and was doing through the process. I still can’t believe we have come to this point. Amazing!

The times that were not enjoyable were mostly those times when I think I was focused on the wrong things. And there were plenty of opportunities for me to focus on the wrong things. It’s funny. So many of the lyrics of the songs were speaking to me what I needed to hear, if I would have been listening. But along the way, there were times when I was listening for the wrong things. I would focus my physical and emotional energy on miniscule details that were far less important than what I could have been doing. Loving God. Serving and loving those I was called to serve and love. Praying for God to work in and bless their lives. Trusting God to accomplish His perfect will in our lives and in our ministry. Loving God (yes, I meant to say it twice).

The marvelous thing, though, is that God can take all of our successes and failures and weave them into something beautiful. There is no such thing as a lost cause or moving beyond the love and reach of God. God takes us where we are and works in us to complete the journey He has for us. He will make us complete. He will fulfill His purpose in us. He will bring us into glory.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14

We press on, but God is the one Who molds and shapes us into the image of His Son. He is the one Who works in us and through us to accomplish His purpose, for His glory, and for our joy. I have a lot of molding and refining that still needs to take place in my life. I saw glimpses of this over and over during this process. I am thankful for that. For while it reveals my flaws and weaknesses, it reveals the great mercy and grace of our God and Savior.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Together for His glory…

Two Copper Coins

“Jesus looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the offering box, and he saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. And he said, ‘Truly, I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’” Luke 21:1-4

The world looks at outward appearances. No doubt that the eyes of many people were focused on the large amounts of money that were being placed in the offering boxes that day. They were likely impressed by the size of the gifts to the temple. No one probably noticed the widow as she placed her two small coins into the box. If they did, they may have scoffed or even been embarrassed by her. As we go about our daily lives, trying to live for the Lord, the world will not usually be impressed with us. They judge by earthly standards and, most often, miss the most important things. God never misses anything.

God looks at the heart. Jesus singled out the widow, as an example for his disciples. She had given a very small gift in the eyes of most. It was worth almost nothing and would have had no impact on the ministry of the temple if she had not given it. But Jesus knew her situation and He knew her heart. He knew this was all that she had to live on. Yet, she gave it anyway. It was not much, but she gave it all. Jesus told His disciples that she had given more than anyone else that day. She gave with a heart for her God.

No person or gift is too small for God to use. In our culture of newer and bigger and better, we judge everything by appearances. This leads to many people, organizations, and things being considered insignificant or meaningless because they don’t measure up to the standards of the culture or world. Even our churches have fallen prey to this mindset. You would think we are actually competing against each other, rather than working together to build the kingdom. I think that it is very possible that the greatest work of God is being done by those that no one even notices. People who pour themselves out behind the scenes, doing the work no one else want to do or does not even think to do. In addition, it is often the people who have the least financial resources who give the most. And in the eyes of heaven, two copper coins were more valuable than buckets of money brought by others. Remember, God chooses to use those who cannot boast in their own abilities or resources (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

God can be trusted. This widow trusted God. She was placing her life in the hands of her Creator. When she gave those two coins, God was all she had left. Unfortunately, we usually have too many things we can place our trust in. We also rely on our own strengths and abilities, rather than trusting in God. Very few of us would risk it all, like this widow, completely abandoned to the provision of God. Her God was a big God, not the puny god we place so often believe in. But our God is the One Who holds all things in His hands. He spoke and they became. And in any circumstance, He can and will do whatever is needed to accomplished His purposes. The widow must have believed this. She truly knew her God, and she trusted Him with her life.

In comparison to the eternal God, all of our abilities and resources are small. God is able to accomplish His purposes without anyone or anything. Anytime we start to think too highly of ourselves or what we have to offer, we have completely lost sight of Who God is. If we combine all that we are and all that we have, we are but two copper coins compared to the magnitude of the Almighty God. And yet, He treasures us and chooses to use us to accomplish His glorious purposes. And in His hands, He will do more with two small coins than what could be accomplished with all the wealth and resources the world can offer.

Together for His glory…

I’m Better Than You

The alternate title for today’s edition was “My Sins Are Not As Bad As Your Sins.”  We will rarely utter either of these statements out loud to anyone. However, if we examine are thoughts, I think they are very prominent in our way of thinking. As such, it reflects a misunderstanding of Who God is, who we are, the seriousness of our own sin, and the radical nature and magnitude of God’s mercy and grace.

As we become entrenched in the political season, we are confronted with many issues that frequently divide our nation. They can also divide the church, the body of Christ. Pick your issue. These are things that we feel very strongly about, and if a candidate or someone we know does not think the same way we do, we malign or belittle them. How can they think that way? What is wrong with them?

It is no different in the church. Again, pick your issue. Jesus said that the world would know that we are His by the way we love each other. And yet, on any given Sunday, in any given church, you can probably find gossip spreading in various corners of the building or right out in the open, as we express our “concern” over someone or some situation. “Did you hear what he said?” “Did you see what they wore to church?” “Did you hear what the leadership did?” “You know what I heard?” I could go on for a long time. The list is endless.

In Luke 18:9-14, Jesus told the parable of two men who went to the temple to pray. One man, a Pharisee, was very sure of himself. He thanked God that he was not like other people, like the tax collector standing near him. He bragged about how wonderful he was. Can you imagine the nerve of this guy? Who would ever brag to God about how great they are? However, when we compare ourselves to others, tear them down, or gossip about them, aren’t we doing the same thing? We are basically saying that we are better than they are.

On the other hand, the tax collector would not even look up to heaven. He beat on his chest and cried out to God for mercy, because he knew he was a sinner. He knew his standing before God. Apart from God’s mercy, he knew that he was without hope. And Jesus said that he was the one who went home justified. “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)

Friends, every single one of us is like this tax collector, whether we realize it or not. We have no standing before a holy God. If we try to stand before God in our own goodness or abilities, we will be utterly rejected. And yet, somehow, we seem to raise ourselves above others. We look at the lives of others and think to ourselves, “Well, at least I am not like them.” Really? Have we forgotten the price that was paid for our sins? Each of my sins nailed Jesus to the cross. Even if I had been the only person who ever lived, my sin would have nailed Him to the cross. And it is the same with you. Our sins, every single one of them, are a rebellion against our holy Creator.

When we look at someone else and malign them for their particular sin, it reveals pride in our lives. This is the pride of the Pharisee, forgetting that he needed God’s mercy just as much as the tax collector. Now, I think it is important that you don’t misread me here. I am not saying that the issue of sin should not be addressed. Issues of sin within the church should be addressed in a biblical manner (for the record, this does not include gossip). When sharing the gospel of Christ with others, it must include the seriousness and consequences of sin. Otherwise, what are we being saved from, poor self-esteem? Hardly!

In the end, I think most people know they are sinners, unless their consciences have been completely seared by sin. The Word tells us this in Romans 1:18-32. God makes it known to them. In my wife’s testimony, she tells of growing up without knowledge of the Bible or Who Jesus Christ was. But she said that when she would go outside and look up at the night sky, she said she knew that there was a God, that He was mighty and holy, and that she was not. When she heard the gospel, she knew she needed what Christ was offering to her.

The problem with us Christians is that we can forget we need the gospel, just as badly as those “sinners” need it. And we need it every day, not just on the day of our salvation. Our need of the gospel never ends. It is the very work of God to transform us from the enemies of God to being welcomed to His table, as His very sons and daughters. It is the righteousness of Christ that brings us to God and holds us as His very own possession, for all eternity.

So, as we live each day, we should remind ourselves that we have been given a gift so much greater than we deserve. We deserve the judgment of God. If we are in Christ, we have been given a glorious inheritance that is beyond our imagination.

And as we view the world’s events and conditions, we need to remember that there is only one thing that will bring true change. It is not economic growth and prosperity. It is not more money in our bank accounts. It is not political change, with the correct candidates or parties or policies. It is not in the education system. In the end, it is not in anything that we can create, build, or legislate. True change will come only through the transformation of individual lives, families, and communities through the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we are called to demonstrate this and live it out regardless of the circumstances in the world. We are called to live it out to those who need a Savior, just as badly as we do.

Together for His glory…

My Idolatrous Heart: Approval of God or Others

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23-24

In this week’s journey, I want to look into one of things that many of us, or all of us, struggle with, if we are honest. I think everyone appreciates being told that they have done a good job. When I have worked hard on some project, it is gratifying to know that someone else recognizes the value of what I have done. I also appreciate knowing that my life and ministry have positively influenced someone’s life and helped them grow in their relationship with Christ.

Feedback, whether we are giving or receiving it, is an important part of our lives and growth as individuals and followers of Christ. We see numerous examples of feedback, both encouragement and criticism, in the pages of Scripture. Yet, we also see warnings against seeking the approval of others or placing too much value on what others perceive or say. How do we navigate this path without allowing what others say to us, or think about us, to become an idol in our lives? Here are some things that can help us to accomplish this.

Work for the Lord, regardless of whether our efforts are recognized by others. The passage in Colossians 3:23-24, shown above, is interesting in that the apostle Paul is addressing slaves with these verses. Slaves may rarely, if ever, have been shown any respect. They could perform their work each day with no response of gratitude or appreciation from their master. They could have been mistreated, even when doing everything they were asked to do. Yet, whether they are treated poorly or whether they are recognized for their work, Paul instructs them to work as if they are working for the Lord, not for men. As we live out our lives and conduct the work the Lord has provided for us to do, we should do our work for the Lord, not the approval of others. The Lord will reward us. And if no earthly reward or acknowledgement is ever received, we can know that God will reward us for our faithfulness and obedience.

Consider criticism, when it is received from a trustworthy and godly source. When we are involved in life and ministry, we don’t always receive the type of response that we want. We want positive feedback. When someone comes to us with some advice, exhortation, or challenge, our first response can be to be indignant or offended. However, it could very well be that God is using this person to bring some issue to our attention. Or maybe we don’t get any response, from anyone! We thought we did a good job on something, but no one seemed to notice. Do they all think I did not do well? Was my contribution not important? Again, God may be using this situation to remind us that we called to live for Him and not the approval of others. The Lord disciplines those He loves (Hebrews 12:3-11). When criticism or silence come our way, we should be willing to evaluate our lives and motives. Consider the source of the critique and seek the Lord for wisdom. The Lord may be trying to tell us something.

Thank God for the encouragement we receive. When someone praises something we have done, we should thank them and give acknowledgement to God for His work in our lives. We need to remember that it was not us who did this alone, but it was God working in us (Ephesians 2:8-10). Apart from Christ, we can do nothing of eternal value (John 15:1-5). It is also important to remember that God chooses the weak and foolish (all of us) to accomplish His purposes, so that no one can boast (1 Corinthians 1:23-31). Thank God that He has graciously allowed us to serve Him and to be a part of what He is doing in the world.

Do not place too much value or importance on praise we receive. Jesus did not entrust Himself to those that followed and even believed in Him for the wonders He did among them (John 2:23-25). This is because He knew the hearts of all people. We are all sinners. If we determine our value or commend ourselves because of the praise we receive, we are basing it on the opinion of those who are fallen, just like us. Yes, godly feedback and encouragement can spur us on to continue pursuing Christ. However, those who praise us today can curse us tomorrow. It happened to Jesus. It will happen to those who follow Him. In addition, when we pursue the praise of others, Jesus said that we have received all of the reward we will get. There is no eternal reward because have coveted the approval of others, rather than God (Matthew 6:1-18).

Above all, seek God’s approval, not that of others. In the end, the only one whose opinion really matters is God. Our desire should be to please Him and to pursue His desires for our lives. When we are in glory, the praise we received from others will count as absolutely nothing. While we can be thankful for the generosity and encouragement of others, our pursuit is to be for God’s approval. Ultimately, God’s approval of us comes only through being clothed in the righteousness of Christ, having received the salvation provided through His sacrificial atonement (Romans 3:21-26; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Beyond that, we can find our joy and satisfaction in knowing Christ and allowing Him to work in us and through us to accomplish His purposes (Philippians 3:7-11).

Praise received from others can be a source of encouragement to us in our walk of faith and ministry. However, it can also become an idol that we crave and pursue after. It can become the driving force behind our lives, our work, and our activity within the church. When this happens, our pursuits are based on what we get out of it rather than the glory and purposes of God. In the end, we will not obtain what we really want, for the praise of others is often tainted and it is fleeting. The approval of God is eternal and brings joy and satisfaction for this life and for eternity.

Together for His glory…

My Idolatrous Heart: Self-Righteousness

“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” Luke 18:10-13

It was the late 1980’s. I was emerging from a long journey through confusion and spiritual emptiness. I had a newfound desire for the Word of God. I was growing in my walk with God. I was learning and had a passion for ministry again. The long descent had taken several years and now I had swung around and was quickly heading in the other direction. I was consuming all of the Bible teaching I could get my hands on. I was on a roll. I had gone from being confused to confident. But all was not well.

I began to issue edicts for our family. I was determined to banish any traces of harmful influences from the world and culture in which we lived. We were going to be a household that served the Lord (Joshua 24:15). There was no discussion. I decided, and it was. Now, my poor wife not only had whiplash from my rapid reversal of convictions and worldview, she was having treasured family traditions yanked from her life without any discussion.

The impact of my new approach spilled over into the church. I stood in the pulpit, as I had opportunity, and railed against the idolatry and lack of purity in the church. I challenged church leaders, telling them that they and the church needed revival. I wrote songs that lashed out against all of the compromise that I saw. I confronted the pastor and he responded by suggesting that I needed counseling. So, I left that church, taking my family with me.

The next few years were tough, but growing times. I would like to say that I fully learned my lesson at that time, but it is a lesson I continue to learn. God began to teach me about His grace. I learned, but still fell.

I can remember my early days in worship ministry. I thought I knew God’s plan and agenda for worship in the church. I had it figured out. How foolish I was. Today, I feel like I know less than I did then. God is so much bigger than He was then. Obviously, God did not change, but He has graciously worked in my life and revealed Himself to me through the years.

Were all of my convictions about the church, spiritual life, and worship wrong? No. At least, I don’t think so. In fact, I still hold onto most of the same convictions and, in many cases, I hold them more strongly today. So, what is the difference? Over the years, by God’s grace, I have learned to view myself more like the tax collector in the passage above. I understand a little better how absolutely depraved and hopeless I am without Jesus Christ. I don’t have all of the answers. In fact, I don’t have any of them. God does. God and His Word alone are alone infallible. So, I have learned to hold things a little more loosely. And, I have a long way to go. I still have a lot of Pharisee in me.

Self-righteousness is a symptom of pride, which I discussed last week. At its core is an exalting of ourselves, our lives, our convictions and opinions to the level of the Almighty God. Of course, we don’t see it that way, but if we honestly evaluate things, that is what it is. When the Pharisees and teachers of the Law added all of their additional requirements to those in the Word of God, they were placing their wisdom on the same level as God’s. They condemned others for not upholding these additional laws and clarifications, just as they would the Law, or even more so. And we do the same thing.

How? When we judge others for not holding the same convictions as us, even though they are not mandates of Scripture. When we make minor, debatable or extra-biblical issues into major issues, on the level with doctrines like the inerrancy of Scripture or the deity of Christ, we become just like the Pharisees, exalting our rules and convictions to the level of Scripture. When we criticize or demean others for their lack of conviction in these areas, we put ourselves in the place of judge. However, there are many issues where orthodox, godly Bible scholars have differing opinions. Maybe our positions are valid. Maybe they aren’t. This is where we learn to major on the majors and minor on the minors. This is where we can encourage and challenge each other to dig deeper into the Word and together we will grow (Proverbs 27:17).

Self-righteousness shows itself when we stand outside someone’s life and make judgments about how they are conducting their lives or raising their families. This, of course, is the easy thing to do. It is much harder to invest ourselves in their lives, seeking to help them grow in their faith and learning together. It is much harder to love others like Jesus did and get involved in the messiness of their lives. Maybe we are afraid. Maybe we are lazy. Or maybe we are too proud and it is easier to lob judgments at them from afar. Ironically, if we did get involved with their lives, we might find they have a greater understanding of God than we do. The tax collector in our passage knew exactly where he stood before God. The Pharisee did not (Luke 18:13-14).

When we criticize or judge those who God has placed in leadership in the church, we are not only demonstrating self-righteousness, we are putting ourselves in opposition to God. Ultimately, church leadership is not accountable to us. They will be held accountable to God, for they are called to watch over those in their care (Hebrews 13:17). I am not saying this just because I am a church staff member. I have been on both sides of this relationship. I have been the receiver and the giver of criticism. I have been critical and judgmental of leadership. And I needed to repent.

Regarding the pastor I challenged many years ago, I had to go to him and ask for forgiveness, even though I still held to my convictions. In fact, I still think I was right, but my heart was wrong and my actions were not godly. I should have prayed for him and worked with him. I should have brought my concerns to him in a humble manner. Things could have turned out differently. In the end, maybe no change would have occurred and we would have had to leave the church because of our convictions. However, I would have been obedient to God and not guilty of rebellion, gossip, slander, and undermining the work of the church. Ironically, as it turned out, I became the custodian of that church. So, I ended up cleaning this pastor’s toilets. I am pretty sure God was humbling me through that.

We need to remember that God does not need our help to make sure things go right. God is sovereign. He will accomplish His will for His church and the spreading of the gospel with or without us and our great convictions and ideas. We need to remember how desperately we need a Savior, and that apart from God’s unbelievable grace and mercy, we stand absolutely condemned, without hope or salvation or forgiveness.

It is important to remember that Jesus was condemned and handed over by religious people, not “pagans.” He challenged their self-righteousness, superiority, and wicked hearts, and they killed Him for it. Jesus is not calling us to be religious. He is calling us to a radical relationship with Him, with the realization that all we have is in Him. Our greatest joy comes from being filled and satisfied in Him.

Jesus demonstrated humility through His incarnation, life, ministry, and sacrifice (Philippians 2:1-11). We should do the same. We should remain humble and flee pride and self-righteousness. If we humble ourselves before God, He will exalt us. And if our cause is from Him, He will honor it and bring it to pass (James 4:6-10; 1 Peter 5:5-6).

Together for His glory…