10 December 2010

Pride & Conflict

Proverbs 13:10

Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

How much does your anger have to do with your pride? Probably more than you might think.
Scripture warns us about pride all over the place. Proverbs tells us much about pride; none of it good. Pride comes before the fall, A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them, Pride brings a person low, but the lowly in spirit gain honor, and Ecclesiastes says, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride” just to name a few.

It is one thing to be proud of something; it is another to be prideful of something. I am proud of my children, they are God’s gift to me. I am proud of my wife for all she does for the benefit of our family. I am proud of the spiritual growth I see n people no matter where that growth may find its source. I am also proud of the accomplishments I have made in my life, but the pride is based on an understanding that all that I have was provided for me by God. If I were to be prideful of any of those things, I’d be crossing the line into ungodliness. Or, if I allow pride in something to be misdirected believing that I was the source of that accomplishment through my own strength, not only would I be sinning, but I’d be opening the door for anger and bitterness as well.

Pride is like a disease or infection that has a long incubation period, or lies dormant until the right conditions present themselves. And unfortunately, those conditions present themselves frequently. The more prideful you are, the more frequently they will pop up.

Let’s say for example that you are prideful of your clothes. A person criticizes your dress, and the next thing you know, you punch them in the nose! Well, that may be extreme, but you get the picture. If you are prideful about something, whether it is your clothes or hair, or your car, your singing voice, your accomplishments in life, your wealth… whatever it might be, and someone criticizes that thing pride will cause anger and frustration.

Humility, a Godly trait, will cause introspection, and a desire to meet the standards that God has set before us; in every area of our lives. You need to seek God in all things and see if there is merit in any criticism you might receive. If there is, you need to be able to humbly receive that criticism and work to improve that issue in whatever way God might lead. But if you are prideful of that thing and criticism comes, it will cause you to be bitter, angry, hold a grudge against that person, or you’ll immediately begin to look for things to criticize in that other personas life, or use the failings of others you might know to justify your current state of pride.

Pride is at the root of every sin. In the end, your sin is just you deciding you know better for your life than god does. You choose your way over His. But where there is strife in your life, look for pride to be at the root. If it is there, the only way to remove pride it through humility in the Spirit. Look to God and remember that without him you are dead where you stand, but that through Him, all things are possible. Sometimes it is a good thing to be reminded of our place.

09 December 2010

Matthew 5:11-12

“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Have you ever had a bad day? A day when not only things go wrong, but as they go wrong people are yelling at you, calling you names, and if they are not yelling at you and calling you names, you know they WANT yelling at you and calling you names. I’ve had days like that before myself. God knows we have days like this too, and Jesus had a few of them Himself. No matter what you do, even if it is the proper thing to do and righteous before the Lord, someone’s angry. Well, rejoice and be glad!

Becoming a Christian is an awesome thing. With it comes forgiveness for all your sins, trespasses and wrings that you have committed, and a knowledge of peace in your salvation is part of the fruit of the joy of knowing you and the Lord are back on track. With this understanding of salvation comes another gift. The Holy Spirit, dwelling in us, showing us the Light of Jesus and leading our way.

But the leader of this world is not Jesus. It is His enemy the evil one, the devil, Satan himself. Because of him and sin entering into this world through him when mankind fell in the garden, our flesh is sinful and fights against our Spirit. We, as people, in our human nature are at enmity with God. Satan tells us we can do whatever we want, our Spirit reminds us that we have a responsibility to our Christianity, and a responsibility to live a life worthy of Jesus because of the price He paid to redeem our spirits. This battle can be a hard one. Nah, let’s just tell the truth here; that battle IS the HARDEST battle you’ll face your entire life.

The moment you are born again in Jesus, the tables are turned. You are now right with God and enemies of Satan. Satan knows he has lost the battle, but he is going to do everything within his power to make your life as miserable as possible. This, after all, is his job. And he’s good at it. Thankfully, we have Jesus, and we have the Father in heaven. Hearing our cries, and having watched His own Son live through the pain and suffering He did, God the Father can feel our pain like no one else. Because of this He has filled scripture with verses of encouragement like the one we read today.

If ever you feel like you are in a predicament alone, and without any comfort, know that you have the Father in heaven. Reach out to Him in prayer, and through His word. When we feel that low, God reaches out to us with His word and tells us, “You are my little children”, “You are children of God!” Allow Him to comfort you in your suffering, and know that in spite of the fact that He allows you to suffer in this world right now, seek to grow in your suffering and start by praising Him. Follow that with the realization that you are saved, and that your afflictions on this earth are simply dust in the wind in the grand scheme of things. You may be suffering real pain, but it can’t do you any eternal harm! You are covered, you are forgiven, you are saved, and Jesus awaits you with your reward in heaven that will make all this seem so trivial.

In the mean time, praise God for what He has done in all our lives. Rejoice and be glad. We are being richly blessed and rewarded.

06 December 2010

TRADITION: (or not tradition, thatis the question)

Mark 7:8,12-13

For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men…then you no longer let him do anything for his father or his mother, making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.”

Yesterday I began a sermon series on the understanding of Christmas. The idea is to focus for the next three weeks, with an Advent sort of feel, on two things: The true Spirit of Christmas and secondly, the true story of Christmas and its impact on the world. In the end, no matter how you paint it, the story of Christmas is the awesome and predetermined expression of God’s love for His people. This was accomplished by the Son leaving His perfect heaven and Father behind to become a man, in every way, just like you and me. I don’t want to spoil the rest of the messages, but you get the idea.

But my point today is that, to the best of my memory, this is only the second time in my nearly 6 years now as the pastor of Calvary Chapel Bonney Lake where I have left the comfort and regularity of teaching exegetically verse by verse through a book of the bible. That’s what we have always done. It’s a routine for me, for our church, it’s what the congregation is used to and longs for, and it is a staple of Calvary Chapels in general.

In the late 1960’s this style of teaching word for word, and precept upon precept was popularized by Pastor Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, CA, and as the church grew, and others were planted, this successful and spirit lead method became what Calvary’s were best known for. And for good reason. It is an effective way to simply teach the bible simply, and to allow God to set the agenda and man to get out of the way of the teaching of God’s Word.

While Chuck was certainly not the first person to use this style of teaching, his charisma and knowledge of the Word, as well as His intimate relationship with Jesus Christ caused this method of teaching not just to grow, but to really bring a light into the church community at large about the importance of everyone, laypeople especially, to know their bibles well. It refocused a generation of people and a generation of churches on the bible as the focal-point for all things related to their spiritual lives. The focus was to be put back on the bible and Jesus Christ,  and taken off of things like liturgical homilies, church tradition, the priesthood itself, the hierarchy of the church, and vainly repetitious prayers.

Calvary Chapel would generally call itself a ‘Protestant’ church. What I mean by that is that its doctrine and theology come out of a tradition drawn from what is commonly called the Protestant Reformation. This was an historic period of the early to mid 1500’s where the Christian church in general began to rebel against the Catholic church in defiance of its maintained authority over man and apparently, the bible as well. The church had to this point deeming itself and its priesthood as being the only men capable of properly interpreting the bible, in spite of the fact that one of their main goals was to keep scripture from ever being printed or made available to the general public in the common language.

Martin Luther, the much lauded (and rightfully so) Augustinian Monk who was a professor at the University in Wittenberg, Germany is most famously assigned as the leader of this movement. What Luther had planned was truly a reformation of the Catholic Church, its doctrine and practices, and not a defection from the Catholic Church. Rather than having his way, the reformation did became a defection, something that not only broke his heart, but much, much more.

While Luther is given such credit for the ‘Reformation’ movement, it should be noted that Luther’s ideas were not nearly as ‘reforming’ as many would have liked. The idea of church reformation was ripe and it filled the air in many places throughout Europe in that era coming out of the dark ages. While he has become the best known reformer, and certainly earned his stripes in a courageous battle against the Catholic Church with his life literally in the balance (the Catholic Church put a price on his head – naughty Pope!), clearly Luther was not the only church reformer. Today I want to bring up the little known Huldrych Zwingli.

Zwingli was a contemporary of Luther, but the two never had contact or correspondance, and it is fairly understood that Zwingli had never even heard of Luther let alone had been influenced by him. What causes me to bring Zwingli’s name to our devotional is that he was the Chuck Smith of his age. Zwingli, like Luther felt there was a clear need for reformation in the church. But Zwingli, fresh off a personal revitalization as a Benedictine Monk in his home country of Switzerland, had an idea for reformation that paralleled Luther’s in many ways, but went even farther.

Zwingli, again like Luther, felt that the bible NEEDED to be available to all people, and in the common language. This was critical. But more than that Zwingli put special emphasis on the Grace and Mercy of God found in the New Testament knowing that for a lost generation of people, God’s love needed not only to be told to them, but that they needed to read it for themselves. So, in part to bring the word to the people, and in part to encourage the people to seek out and demand that the bible be made available to every man, woman and child that wanted one, Zwingli did something awesome, and literally unheard of in its day.

While the exact date has been lost to history, Zwingli showed up to his church in Zurich one Sunday morning in 1519 and made a startling announcement to his congregation: He was prepared to deliver a continuous course of sermons on the gospel according to Matthew. ALL of Matthew! Not only that, but instead of relying on commentaries and tradition to lead his way and guide his doctrine, he would base his sermons solely and directly on the scriptural passage itself. Zwingli may well have been the first exegetical teacher of his age. His success was such the people themselves demanded reform, as they cried out for more of the bible, and less of religion.

The Christian church worldwide could use a great deal more bible and a lot less religion. This season as we look forward to Christmas day, let us all put a focus on the bible and on the real Christmas story and less on religion and religious tradition. Let us seek to know the true baby Jesus, and not only worship Him, but to recognize Him as a man spent a short lifetime breaking church traditions and the traditions of man, to show us that they need to be replaced with a relationship with Him, and a true knowledge of the Father. Let’s make this Christmas more about Christ and our relationship with his than ever. Let us refocus on His word, the bible, and He will reveal Himself to us. Let our reformation begin within.