Let all my life be motivated
By the love You demonstrated
And oh Lord let it never be
Desire for my works to be seen
That provokes me to perform
What should be the Christian norm
Of acts of love and charity
That really are hypocrisy
That spring not from a love of God
But rather seeking men’s applause
For You Lord know the heart of man
Before You no dead work will stand
Observing rites of piety
But careless towards humanity
The outside of my cup is clean
But You know what remains within
Let Your truth destroy deception
That has escaped my perception
For to myself I seem upright
But You see what eludes my sight
So make me true outside and in
Remove from me my hidden sin
And Lord please let it never be
That I live in hypocrisy
In February of this year a good friend of mine died from cancer. He was also my boss and a brother in the Lord. He had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma 5 years ago and I was able to witness up close his journey through chemo, remission, chemo again, transplant, return of cancer, another transplant, and then a final downturn that he didn’t recover from.
Charles was a remarkable person in many ways, but the one thing that stands out above all others is his remarkable love for people. He was interested in the details of their lives. And not just the people he knew. His wife recently shared a story with me about Charles striking up a conversation with a man putting flyers on cars in our office parking lot. He gave the man a Bible and shared some words of encouragement with him and just genuinely showed interest in this man’s life. This man still remembers Charles and carries that Bible with him in his truck. The fact that a total stranger cared about him made an impact on his life.
But what I carry closest to my heart are these words that Charles was known to speak in response to those who became frustrated with others – Love the people.
Over the past 6 months I have reflected back on the 10 years I knew Charles. I suspect that there are many wonderful things about him that I never knew. But one thing I do know – Charles was a man whose heart’s desire was to demonstrate the love of Christ. And he did it. He did it.
And I am forever changed. And learning to love the people.
It happened after this that Nahash the king of the people of Ammon died, and his son reigned in his place. Then David said, “I will show kindness to Hanun the son of Nahash, because his father showed kindness to me.” So David sent messengers to comfort him concerning his father. And David’s servants came to Hanun in the land of the people of Ammon to comfort him. And the princes of the people of Ammon said to Hanun, “Do you think that David really honors your father because he has sent comforters to you? Did his servants not come to you to search and to overthrow and to spy out the land?” Therefore Hanun took David’s servants, shaved them, and cut off their garments in the middle, at their buttocks, and sent them away. 1 Chronicles 19:1-4
Hanun was an inexperienced leader who followed the recommendation of unwise advisors. When he realized that his treatment of David’s envoys had offended David, rather than sending a humble apology to the King of Israel for his error in judgment, Hanun instead employs the services of Syria to assist him in battle against David – a battle that David had not even commenced. Hanun’s expectation of retaliation demonstrates that he knew he was wrong and had offended a king who had previously been an ally. So he prepares for battle.
This is the strategy of pride. It will not bow, so it must fight, oftentimes drawing others into the battle. For not only is Ammon forced to flee in battle, but Syria suffers losses as they flee as well. Needless losses, as the whole thing could possibly have been avoided by an admission of fault by Hanun.
What is more humbling than to admit you were wrong? This is a thing hard enough to admit to ourselves in the secrecy of our own heart, much less to expose our error before the onlooking eyes of others. We fear the loss of respect, the criticism, the perception of ourselves as being weak. So we draw our shoulders back, with chin firmly lifted in defiance, and map out our battle plan….only to end up fleeing.
The Word of God has much to say about pride; none of it good. While we live in an age that promotes self-esteem, self-pride and self-reliance, the Bible still says “without me you can do nothing”. Nothing. How’s that for an ego crusher? But the Lord God does have a way of getting to the heart of the matter.
To eliminate the stronghold of pride in our lives is no easy task, but it is a necessary one. The struggle to be free of it will put us at odds with a society that cannot understand the blessing of a life of brokenness and humility.
For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4
When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom . Proverbs 11:2
The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Psalm 34:18
Jesus seems to have acquired a reputation for not following protocol. From not washing His hands correctly, to healing on the Sabbath, to associating with sinners. He just didn’t seem to follow the religious etiquette of the day.
And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men. Matthew 22:16
At first glance this seems to be a compliment, but the Pharisees were notorious respecters of persons and expected others to be respecters of their persons. This was not a comment concerning their pleasure in Christ’s impartiality. They despised this about Him, and how He continually snubbed them – choosing instead the company of prostitutes, tax collectors and all manner of sinners.
Jesus would not conform to the religious norms of His day that violated the heart of the law of God and this infuriated the religious elite. While Jesus did not purposely stir up dissention and discord, it did seem to erupt most places He went. And almost every time it was because he violated someone’s idea of proper religious protocol.
Romans 12:2 tells us not to be conformed to this world. That includes the religious world.
May the Lord strengthen us in our desire to be conformed into the image of Christ, even should it mean incurring the disdain of those who are expert in the letter of the law but void of the Spirit of it.
Every Saturday morning we have prayer at my church. Although it is a large church, relatively few people show up for Saturday morning prayer. It is usually the same people each week. I am accustomed to the familiar faces.
Today there was a new face. As soon as he walked in he stood out. He was a bit disheveled in appearance. He didn’t bring a Bible, but had a newspaper in his hand. Several times during the prayer service, he walked uncomfortably close to the platform where our worship leader was sitting. It was disconcerting. I was not the only one that noticed.
I stayed around for a few minutes after the prayer meeting. Others had gone into a pastoral ministry training session. As I walked out to my car I noticed that the man had gone out to his vehicle and was coming back into the church. I passed by him on my way out.
As I drove home, I wondered what this man’s story was. He seemed so out of place. Why was he at our church that morning? Did he know Jesus? And I will never know because I didn’t bother to find out. My scheduled religious activity had been completed and I had other things to attend to. This man and his needs did not make it to the top of my list of priorities. To be honest, he didn’t make it onto the list at all.
I drove home completely ashamed, aware that sharing only a few minutes of my time with this man may have made an eternal difference. I can only pray someone else this morning reached out to the man. But I fear that they may have been too busy receiving training on how to care for people.
Have you ever looked around your church on a Sunday morning during the worship service? If you have, you have probably noticed two distinct groups of people. There are those who seem to be so caught up in the presence of God, so focused on Him that they are oblivious to the things around them. And then there are those who are standing with their hands in their pockets, or arms folded across their chest or looking at their watch. What is the difference between these 2 groups? I believe the difference is in the extent to which the knowledge of who God is has gripped our hearts.
Too often we have allowed the holy things of God to become familiar and common. Or we have not really experienced a personal revelation of His greatness. God is to us some being living in a distant place who we sing songs to once a week. Maybe He hears, maybe He doesn’t. In any case, there seems to be no need to really “engage” in worship. But yet we leave church saying that we have worshipped God. How can you worship One that you do not know? How can you adore or praise One whose praiseworthiness you are unaware of? This at best is mere flattery of God, not worship; an attempt to perform some religious duty that we feel God requires. We may say the right words, but we remain unconvinced. Is God honored in this?
Let us fall to our knees before Him and confess that we have not known Him and have been unable to truly worship Him. Knowing that the Lord is seeking those who will worship Him in spirit and truth, let us seek to be among that group.
PRAYER: Father, too often my worship of you has been mere attendance at a service in order to soothe my conscience that I have performed my duty toward you. But I know that you desire worship that comes from a heart that has experienced a revelation of Your glory. So I ask that You destroy every false idea of You that I have held onto in an attempt to make a god that was appealing to me, and teach me who You are in truth.
Could you do it? If you knew it was God’s will, could you pay the hit man to kill you? Tie yourself to the railroad tracks? Buy the poison that someone would put in your next meal?
Seems a bit ridiculous to even ask these questions because thinking that God would require something like this of us is quite outlandish. But this is exactly what Jesus did.
As Jesus announces that He will be betrayed by one of His disciples, He is asked by His disciples to identify the traitor.
“Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give a piece of bread when I have dipped it.” And having dipped the bread, He gave it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. Now after the piece of bread, Satan entered him. Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:26-27.
With these words the final sequence of events that would lead to His crucifixion is set in motion. And as Judas walks out the door on his malevolent mission, the next words of Jesus are – “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him.” John 13:31
NOW! Not only at the resurrection, not only at the cross, not only at the ascension, but now – in this moment of surrender and yieldedness to the will of the Father.
How beautiful our life becomes and how radiantly the glory of God shines through our lives in the act of laying our own plans, goals and agenda on the altar and bringing down the knife, preferring rather to have God’s will than the things by which we have sought to gratify ourselves.
May we daily lay all things down at His feet as an offering of surrender that He may be exceedingly glorified in us.
Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. John 1:35-37
John the Baptist was a unique man in history. When I think of him, I get images of Michael York in “Jesus of Nazareth” – a wild eyed, wild-haired man, on fire with a message of repentance. But when I read about him in the gospel of John, I get a picture of a man entirely unconcerned with his own status or “ministry”. Each time John opens his mouth, he is pointing people to Jesus. Whether it is those in authority that have come to discover who he is, or whether it is his own followers, John consistently points to Jesus.
And who can forget this verse – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30) Not only does he speak these words, he lives them by pointing people away from himself and toward Jesus.
In this age of self-promotion and ministry-itis, it seems discouragingly rare to encounter a believer whose SOLE concern is pointing people to Jesus. We point people to our church, our pastor, the latest Christian book or song, and all too often to ourselves. But what about the Lamb of God??
Make no mistake – our words and actions are pointing. Where are yours pointing?
Are You God only on our mountaintops? Are You not also God in our valleys? Have You not chosen, O God, to draw us into a deeper place of love and dependence in these very desolate times of our lives, when all other means of support and comfort have been withdrawn? How quickly we look to other people and other things for our help. But Your love for us is too great, Your desire for a people too strong, to allow us to continue to place our trust in any other. And so we come to the valley of the shadow of death and you will not allow us to run through quickly to the other side, but You insist that we walk through. And there in the valley, as our hearts are stripped of independence and pride, we see that when all else is gone, You remain. Oh the wisdom of God! We would never willingly choose the valley, but You have set times that You have ordained it for us. How we murmur and complain as we begin to traverse it. How we pity ourselves and our miserable condition. Until that moment when You still our hearts and reveal to us the blessing of the wilderness.
Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
Will bring her into the wilderness,
And speak comfort to her.
I will give her her vineyards from there,
And the Valley of Achor as a door of hope;
She shall sing there,
As in the days of her youth,
As in the day when she came up from the land of Egypt.
“And it shall be, in that day,”
Says the LORD,
“That you will call Me “My Husband,’
And no longer call Me “My Master,’
For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals,
And they shall be remembered by their name no more.
In that day I will make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
With the birds of the air,
And with the creeping things of the ground.
Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth,
To make them lie down safely.
“I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the LORD. Hosea 2:14-20
In the dry desert places of our lives, may we find You Oh God. And let our hearts sing in that wilderness place as we discover that in You we have a love that is sufficient for all things.