The Falling of The Failing ‘Gods’

However, you will die like humans and fall like any other ruler.
-Psalm 82:7

There is a saying that goes, “He got too big for his britches”.  It means that a person began to live or function in an inflated unreality about themselves, which ended up causing their demise.

I listened to someone this week, who’s message is humility.  He said, ‘everything in life is about humbling us, so that we can be closer to God and obedient to him; and so that we can know God, serve God and go into a rewarding afterlife’.  I’m paraphrasing, but this guy’s message, who is also bold, but humbly bold for Jesus; is that life is all about being obedient to be who God made you to be.

Around 99% of us are called to be obscure.  You may have a thousand or more social media followers or a book or two out and still be pretty obscure.  And on the other hand, you might ‘catch fire’ and see big growth in sales, income, numbers, influence or fame.

In any of these scenarios, the goal for your life is humility. Our calling is to humbly walk in fame and fortune or failure and poverty, loving God and loving people.  Our problem in discontent, at whatever station or level we are in or at, and then corruption, whether we manage one person or are looked up to by thousands of people.

The message of Psalm 82, is to remember that you are human and to humble yourself.  On the world’s stage, we see people who have been given great authority blow it.  Instead of doing good, they basically do bad.

The writer of Psalm 82 saw a picture, a vision, of God coming to judge every judge and ruler.  God evaluates and judges the judges.  Part of God’s word to these people is, “You are human: you’re going to die”.

Why would God say that to anyone?  Because they are acting like they are above humanity, untouchable ‘gods’.  That is exactly how you do not want to be in your leadership.

Humility is the way of Christ, while pride is the other way.  Psalm 82 is a poem or song that was a rebuke or take down of judges.  These judges, who were rulers, had the opportunity to do the right and just things, with their power.  But they failed and instead did nothing.

People gain power and authority in various ways, but all of it is allowed by God and judged by God.  Having power is to be like God, who holds all power.  It is disastrous to think that because you have some power or authority, fame or a following, that you are a god.

But that is the way, oftentimes, outside of Christ.  We can marvel that God has given us or that we have certain power or authority.  But to think we are God or a god is a grave mistake.

There are people who have been given authority to make them ‘like gods’, who have operated like their own sort of ‘god’, who are misrepresenting God.  And God has a time when he shows up and takes over for those who have not been doing the job on the earth, that was given to them to do.

The rebuke or take-down is to say to them, “You are human and will die like everyone.  The power you were given made you ‘like gods’, not ‘gods’!”.

Men and women are given authority on the earth, which is like being ‘gods’.  The key word is ‘like’.  You have power and authority, like God does, except you are not a god, but human.

I like the way that The Message renders Psalm 82 and I will highlight verse 7:

God calls the judges into his courtroom,
he puts all the judges in the dock.
“Enough! You’ve corrupted justice long enough,
you’ve let the wicked get away with murder.
You’re here to defend the defenseless,
to make sure that underdogs get a fair break;
Your job is to stand up for the powerless,
and prosecute all those who exploit them.”
Ignorant judges! Head-in-the-sand judges!
They haven’t a clue to what’s going on.
And now everything’s falling apart,
the world’s coming unglued.
“I commissioned you judges, each one of you,
deputies of the High God,
But you’ve betrayed your commission
and now you’re stripped of your rank, busted.”
O God, give them their just deserts!
You’ve got the whole world in your hands!
The message here is that God is calling judges to account.  The Judge is judging the corrupt judiciary.
What does this verse, “However, you will die like humans and fall like any other ruler”, mean?  It means, remember that you are human and not divine.  There is one divine one, the three in one God.
We need to humble ourselves or face humiliation.  Everyone dies and we need to be reminded of that.
And God does come on the scene, if he chooses to, and strips leaders or judges of their power and authority, that is ultimately from him, when these people are blowing it.


The mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have briefly written above.

-Ephesians 3:3
Have you ever had an epiphany?  A epiphany is described as:

“a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you” (Cambridge dictionary)

“a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.” (

When we get an epiphany, we suddenly see something, hear something and know something; and we are catapulted into a different place.  And the natural response to an epiphany is prayer.  In prayer, we receive or take in the epiphany that we have been given and take possession of it, integrating it into our lives.

Our response to an epiphany, that becomes a prayer, is first awe.  Epiphanies make our jaws drop.  We say, “Oh, I see it now”.

The ‘it’ is the epiphany.  Many people have this experience, when they ‘get’ the gospel revealed to them.  You can have the best theological training, like Apostle Paul, and not get it, until it is revealed to you in an epiphany (Eph. 3:3).

We often do not understand what God is doing in a situation.  It could be in our individual lives or in our nation.  But the epiphany God gives us is intensely personal, because it impacts our individual heart to see as God sees.  We hear it, see it, know it and then pray about it; taking possession of the revelation.

Remember when God said, “This is my Son“?  Some heard it, but didn’t hear it.  Some got the epiphany and others did not.  Some just heard thunder.

Jesus himself is the revelation of God.  Since Jesus came, as a baby, many people have not known who he really is.  Some have heard and seen him, but not known.

An epiphany is a grace.  And God gives grace to the humble.  We can humble ourselves or be humbled.

We can bow our hearts and receive.  That posture says, “I don’t know and I am curious”, or “What I do know is so limited and I want to know more, so my eyes are open, my heart is open, and I am looking.”

We, as a people, need epiphanies.  We need revelations about what God is doing.

If we have an anti-supernatural bias about life, we are in deep trouble, as people of faith.  Because faith is completely dependent on revelatory experiences or epiphanies.

Being a believer is neither a social program nor an intellectual/philosophical/religious pursuit.  Being a believer is an ongoing, intimate, personal relationship with the living God, lived out in community with others who also have an ongoing, intensely personal relationship with the God who is alive and still speaks and reveals.

Epiphanies are not writing the Bible, but helping us to know the Bible.

A big and perhaps the biggest epiphany that God wants to give each believer is the revelation of seeing people as he sees people.

In the world, people have a perverse and ungracious way of seeing each other and words for people.  They see the worst, highlight the negative and are completely unloving.

We need, as a people, to get a revelation of how God sees people, what God says about people and to know God’s heart for people: believers and not yet believers.

God is ‘The God of peace‘.  The dark side is very unpeaceful.  We are peacemakers, “Happy peacemakers”, because we are daughters and sons of God (Matt. 5:9).

Have you ever had an epiphany, a time when you said, “I get it”?  Have you had your heart changed, by a revelation from God?  Have you heard something, then seen something, then known something and they prayed for the peace in yourself and for everywhere?

Do you know this Christmas song, written in 1962?

Do You Hear What I Hear? (Lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker)

Said the night wind to the little lamb,
do you see what I see
Way up in the sky, little lamb,
do you see what I see
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite
With a tail as big as a kite

Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy,
do you hear what I hear
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea
With a voice as big as the sea

Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king,
do you know what I know
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold
Let us bring Him silver and gold
Let us bring Him silver and gold

Said the king to the people everywhere,
listen to what I say
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
listen to what I say
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

Humbled But Happy

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth.
God blesses those who are humble, for they will inherit the whole earth.

-Matthew 5:5 (CEB, NLT)
The blessings of God are laid out sequentially, by Jesus.  They build upon each other.  Each one of these are called by him, ‘fortunate situations to be envied’: that is what ‘blessed’ or ‘happy’ means here.
We first agree with God that we are hopeless and poor without God and then begin living our lives as ‘happy mourners’.  We live in the kingdom of God, receiving its treasures.  And we live with broken hearts that are continually comforted by our Father.
After these fortunate states have been established in our lives, we are in a place where we have been humbled.  We now have a measure of humility from which to live.  And the reward for a life of humility towards God is inheriting the earth.
Jesus way and Jesus words are the complete opposite of the way of the world and the way that many in his first audience and today’s audience are expecting to do life.  There are several ways we say this today in Christian circles, but what it comes down to is an elevation of self, for the glory of God.
‘God loves a winner’, really is not the message.  ‘God loves loves losers’ or ‘God loves failures’, is a lot closer to the truth.  Jesus says, “Blessed are people who have been humbled by God”.  We are hopeless without God and we are mourning our hopelessness, and this has been profoundly humbling.
If you have not gotten in touch with your hopeless state and if you have not been grieving your hopelessness; then you probably have not been humbled and this saying of Jesus does not resonate with you.
If it is true that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble, where does that leave the Christian who is not humble?
The most powerful person, who had every reason to be proud, was also the meekest person to ever live.  Jesus is our example, our forerunner and the one who teaches us how to live and then lives that life out through us, as we yield to him.
To the ones who would say that we have to harness politics to get God’s way or that we somehow need military or political power to do God’s will, comes these words of Jesus:
  • Embrace your hopelessness and encounter the kingdom of God.
  • Mourn the hopelessness and be comforted by God.
  • Let these humble you (be humbled by God) and receive an inheritance of the earth.

Yes, we do get to receive from God.  But the one’s who receive are the humbled ones.  In other words, before ‘Carpe diem’ comes, ‘Be humbled by God’.

Most everywhere we look in Christianity and pseudo-Christianity and even in the cults, is this idea that we can do this and God will do that.  There are all sorts of teachings that do not necessarily agree with each other, but they have that same bottom line: do this and God will do that.
But, Jesus says something very different and the whole Bible is behind him.  Jesus says to trust God, follow God, give your whole life to God; because of who God is.  Then Jesus says that we are to stay in that relationship with God as God the God and God almighty, while God does not do what we want him to do, whatever it is, and to stay with God; and thereby be humbled.
Jesus says to let yourself be humiliated by God and to still follow him.  This is a hard saying and Jesus deliberately says these things to wake us up to the seriousness of following him and being his disciples.
I suspect that many Christians are not happy and are not content because they have not gone through the first steps of letting God humble them and have never gotten this message.  
What is this humility, this meekness that Jesus speaks of that we are to have?
  • Accepting God’s dealings that are contrary to what I want without complaining, resisting or rebelling.
  • Living in ‘Thy will be done’, from a bowed heart; toward God.
  • Believing that God is sovereign and has a way that often is not my way.
  • Not being provoked to ‘tit for tat’ payback.
  • Meeting evil with good.
  • Not being irritable, but being at peace, in God, no matter what people do.
  • Not demanding being, or feeling, entitled to being treated positively by others.
    • Always satisfied
    • ‘Having nothing, possessing everything.’
    • ‘All things are yours.’
  • You can not make yourself meek through a vow of poverty or becoming a monk.  
    • Only the Holy Spirit can make you meek.  
    • You can not do it on your own.  
    • All Christians have The Holy Spirit.
      • The Holy Spirit is our helper who helps us know our hopelessness and points us to the kingdom, and stands by our sides in our mourning, to receive comfort from God; and fashions meekness in our lives in the shape of Jesus.

Preparing For The Rain

You gave abundant showers, O God; you refreshed your weary inheritance.

-Psalm 68:9 (NIV)
The rain is coming.  But are we ready for it?  What can we do to get ready?
I would describe what we need to do is to have:
  • Open hearts
  • Outstretched arms
  • Eyes that are open
  • Shoes on our feet
  • Clean hands

Open Hearts
Be reconciled.  Get reconciled with God, with yourself and with others.  Do not have anything against anyone.
Forgive everyone, starting with God. Make sure you forgive yourself.  Get rid of, cleansed of all bitterness.
This heart work may require set aside portions of time now to become aware of your heart problems and get free, get reconciled and purge yourself of spiritual toxins, waste and obstructions.
You may have need of heart warming or palliative care from other people right now.  Your heart disease may be killing you or immobilizing you.  Find out how to reverse the disease and get well and be well and receive from God.
Some hearts are damaged and not functioning properly.  People with these hearts are barely living and walking slow, with chest pain at times.  If this is you, seek open heart surgery immediately, from the great physician.
Be honest about your heart.  Take time off of work and check yourself in for surgery.  Sign all the papers and give Jesus everything and then let him heal your heart.
There may be people you need to talk to or see for reconciliation.  You may need to write a letter to them.  Your being reconciled to them does not mean that things will suddenly be like they were in the past.  Do not insist on that or think you have failed when it does not.
The key is for you to be reconciled to all the people that you have had anything against.  Release them from charges you have held against them.  Cancel their debt to you.
Now you are free and they are free.  If they did want to be close to you again, but they are unsafe for you or are just on a whole different path in life, you can lovingly decline the offer, without there being anything negative about it.  
The matter of the heart is to be loving: love God, love yourself and then love others as you love yourself, based on God’s love for you.  In that picture, there are many people that we can not be close to, but we can be reconciled to and hold nothing against them.  
We can not be close to some people, even many people.  But we can be reconciled to them and be willing at any time to be closer to them,  if they become safer to be around, based on God’s love in their life.
The rain is going to fall on us, if we avail ourselves to being under it.  And the main place that the rain goes into is our hearts.  Our hearts are living reservoirs or aquifers for the rainfall.
A person who has a closed heart or a calcified, dry heart; may stand in the rain and even dance in the rain.  But they will have little lasting effect from the rain and will not be able to carry the rain to others for any distance.  
The main place where the rain has lasting impact and can be held to give to others is in the heart.  Our hearts must be ready.  Building a man made container to catch, hold and dispense the rain of God sounds like a good idea, but that is not what God wants and is wrong headed.
Get your heart ready.  Get your heart right.  Get your heart healed. 
The rain of God comes upon the whole body of each person.  But it only changes lives when it comes upon and into a person’s heart.  And it is through our hearts that we live out Christ’s life and share life with others.
Get your hearts ready.  Set aside the time now to get your heart right.  Stop being distracted and get real about your heart today.
There is a time when it is too late.  And you can miss it.  An opportunity for you is imminent and you can choose to miss it if you don’t get yourself ready.
Outstretched Arms
Begin today, if you are not already doing so, to be a person who reaches out.  Reach out to give and reach out to receive.  Be less independent and more communal.
Reverse your style of estrangement and isolation from others.  Sharing is a key component to the Christian life.  Share your needs and meet the needs of others.  
Stop being needless.  If you are ‘the minister’ in your family or community, start letting others minister to you.  You may be the most gifted one, but realize your need for others, for the life in them, for you to be cared for.
Humble yourself by asking for assistance.  Delegate things to others where you have been controlling.
The impact of the coming rain will be spread and multiplied through the web or matrix of our relationships.  This is God’s design.  Today, we can be prepared for being missionaries by just being connected to those around us, right under our noses.
Stretching out our arms to touch and be touched by others is preparing a network that God can build upon.  Many of us are like the little boy, who only had a small lunch in a basket; but he offered it to Jesus.  The Lord takes our small things and multiplies them.
It is a grave error to not honor the small things we have and participate in them, offering them to the Lord.  The person who does nothing and offers nothing is a person who has a heart problem and can not be used by God, transformed by God and blessed by God.
We must do business in our very small circles, with our very small provisions or influence now and bless people in tiny ways, if that’s all we have got.  All you might have is a smile.  Then give that smile.
We need to extend out arms now to others, so that they will be extended and in service, as bridges and aqueducts; when the rain of God falls.  When the downpour happens, we don’t want to then lower our bridges and open our aqueducts and figure out how they work.
Now is the time to stretch out your arms.  Now is the time to reach out to others.  Now is the time to become available.
Now is the time to figure out how your open door policy is going to work or function.  Now is the time to make a path to your door that people can walk on.  Now is the time to venture out of your hiding place.
Eyes That Are Open
After we have got our hearts right and are stretching ourselves to reach out and be available to be touched by others, we need to learn to see.  I grew up in a revival church, where we learned to close our eyes when we worshipped, to focus on God, undistracted.  I also learned to pray for people, hands on, with my eyes open.  I also learned to see with my spirit.
We need to live with God and others, with our eyes open.  Jesus is an eyes open person.  He saw people.
Jesus heart is always wide open to his Father and his eyes are always open to people.  We need to cultivate Jesus style in this.  Some of us do not see people.
Some of us are always struggling to see God and miss all the people.  Some of us are mostly preoccupied with seeing ourselves and with how others see us.  Many of us pass through life with our eyes closed, blocking out the people in the world.
To get ready for the rain, we need to cultivate and learn to live with our eyes open to other people.  We need to learn to be seeing God with our hearts and to be seeing people with our eyes.  We need to not just look at people, but see them with our hearts.
Meet people’s eyes.  Look into the windows to their soul.  Learn to do this.
Jesus can look people in the eyes and ask them, ‘What do you want?’, or, ‘What would you like me to do for you?’, and we can learn to do that too, as we walk with him in the world.
We so often see people as being in our way.  We so often see and look to see people who we want to get something from.  Instead of this, we need to cultivate Jesus style of seeing people and coming as servants and not to be served.
This is why Jesus said, “Open your eyes and see the harvest around you”.  That is what we all need to do right now.

Shoes On Our Feet
Many of us have the wrong shoes on our feet.  We each need to have our feet fitted with gospel shoes.  Many of us are walking through life in an angry rampage and completely misrepresenting Jesus and the gospel of peace.
Take an inventory of your shoes.  Are you wearing the shoes of Jesus or something else you have fashioned?  Do your shoes stomp and kick, allure and purr or are they functional for the bringing of good news to people?
Your shoes can be high fashion, open toed or closed, sandals or boots, athletic or dress up.  What matters is where are your feet taking you?  Your shoes are about where are you prepared to go and what are you prepared for.
One person carries the good news, wearing stilettos; while another person carries the message wearing flip flops.  God fits two people differently, but they have in common that they are prepared to share the good news.  We all need to take care to be ready to share the gospel every day in many different ways, just as we put shoes on when we leave the door of our homes.
Clean Hands
Many of us need to wash our hands.  We have lived lives where we have been doing all sorts of unholy, undignified and unchristian things with our hands.  Two big ones are what you type or text and your pointing your finger in judgement at others.
Christians also take part in many sinful activities that are participated in through using their hands.  The, ‘Cleanse your hands you sinner’, message of James 4:8, is a message to Christians.  It is not meant to condemn, but is a loving admonition to ‘Knock it off’.
Many Christians, from the first century to today, have lived double lives.  We have lived as Christians but not as Christians, in the same lives.  The word of the Lord to us is, the rebuke of, ‘Stop it!’
We must stop living on two paths and only cultivate the path of Christ in our lives.  Churches should stop having recovery groups and become recovery groups.
Many people disqualify themselves from being Jesus’ hand, because of their hands.  Some have shame and guilt and see no way out of double lives.  But there is grace for escape, deliverance and emancipation.  
Many people who name Christ also need deliverance.  Nothing to be ashamed of, but something to be glad of that is a blessing.  We shouldn’t be embarrassed about deliverance, but humbly receive freedom.
If our hearts get made right, if our hearts become cleansed, we will live a different way, exemplified by what we do with our hands and fingers.  Many people do not need deliverance, but need to just begin to learn to walk in Christ, and the naughty stuff, even addictive behaviors will change and just fall off their lives.
Jesus and critters can’t live in the same house.  Our job is to open up every room in the houses of our lives to God and welcome him to live there.  Even in the basements and the belfry.  

Identity: God’s and Your’s

Now the Israelites’ cries of injustice have reached me. I’ve seen just how much the Egyptians have oppressed them. So get going. I’m sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.
   But Moses said to God, “Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to bring the Israelites out of Egypt?
   God said, “I’ll be with you. And this will show you that I’m the one who sent you. After you bring the people out of Egypt, you will come back here and worship God on the mountain.”
   But Moses said to God, “If I now come to the Israelites and sat to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ they are going to ask me, ‘What’s this God’s name?’ What am I supposed to say to them?”
   God said to Moses, “I Am Who I Am. So say to the Israelites, ‘I Am has sent me to you.’” This is my name forever; this is how all generations will remember me.
-Exodus 3:9-15 (CEB)

Picture: Pixabay

Do you have an identity?  I mean a way that you identify yourself.  We might say that we are a self-identified _____.

Moses did not identify himself as a deliverer or even as a leader.  He was just a shepherd, had a family, and lived among a group of people.  In the very distant past, he was in Egypt and had a sort of career and lifestyle that did not work out.
When Moses is confronted by God and called, he asks, “Who am I?”  We might ask the same question.  Perhaps our identity puts us at odds with others and we don’t know how that opposition will work out.
Moses is perhaps coming from a place of humility when he asks, “Who am I?”  God is restoring him to his calling that did not work out and that Moses had probably given up on.  Instead of saying, “What took you so long?”, or, “You bet I’m your man”, Moses says, in a sense, “Who me?”
I reluctant leader is better than someone with a puffed up idea of themselves.
I don’t see God coddling Moses and explaining how he is the one to lead, to go, to confront Pharaoh.  What God does say is, “I will be with you”.  Your identity will come from God being with you.
That is the key to your identity.  Wherever you have come from, whatever your weaknesses, struggles, or disqualifying traits; your identity is that God is with you.  We get too wrapped up in or tied down with notions of this or that being our identity, and so we say we can’t be with these people and those people are opposed to us.
Like Moses, we might say and others might say of us, that we are  not qualified.  But, God’s says, “I will be with you”.  Imagine being ‘qualified’, but not having God with you.

So, I think that we get too caught up in identity that is outside of just being God’s vessel.  Only God qualifies and disqualifies, ordains and denies.  We need to view others with a spiritual point of view, instead of a worldly perspective (2 Cor. 5:16).

“Who am I?”, is the wrong question.  The real issue, is, “Is God with you?”  And I don’t mean, “God on our side.”  I do mean, “Are you coming in your ‘sent-ness’ by God?”

The better question is, “Who is this God?”  Is God your idea, your explanation, or your ‘teaching’?  Or is this God, the living, being, real God who is.  Not, ‘was’ or ‘will be’; but is.

God is “I Am” because God is being, God is, and God is active.  This is especially important to realize in situations where we have suffered long, and where we assume things will never change and will stay crooked.  It is not true, because of God; who is “I Am”.

God is always alive, always actively involved and knowing what is going on, and always attentive.  God today is the same God who did things in the past.  God does not change and is the same as when he was faithful in the past.

There is no special dispensation of unfaithfulness.

Every day is a new day and a day of possibilities.  Even if or when it does not happen, God is active.  God’s loving, compassionate mercy is always alive and active.

We are broken failures like Moses, but God is that God is, and God is faithful.  Some have given up and believe that bondage is permanent, but God is getting ready to deliver.

The story of God is that God is active and relentlessly alive.  God is always working, being, living; and caring for us.  We can turn away from God, close our eyes, ears, and minds; distract ourselves, delude, and deceive ourselves with things that are not true about God.

But, God is always there, always here, always near.  How close we are to God is our choice.  The cultivation of the relationship is our choice.

God is a living person, the I Am.  God is alive.

Your identity is wrapped up in God.  Each of us have personalities, talents, gifts, and destinies that differ.  But God is the same to each one of us as Father.

How to Receive Answers to Prayer or Gifts From God

God gives grace to the humble.
-James 4:6

Photo: Pixabay

We have learned how to wait until God comes or until our prayers are answered, but how we receive answers, gifts, or God’s move is also important.  The answer usually comes in a different way or form, than we expect.  Imagine spending a significant amount of time asking for something, but when it comes, you reject it.

This is tragic, seems absurd, and is a paradox.  How can this be?  The biggest example is when Jesus came.

Messianic expectation was great, by the time that Jesus was born.  The Messiah had been promised from Genesis through Malachi.  Yet, when Jesus came, he was mostly rejected.

I have a few thoughts or ideas on how we can prepare ourselves to receive God’s gifts and answers to prayer.  The first one is humility.  There is a Proverb that says that God resists the proud but gives grace or favor to the humble or the afflicted (Prov. 3:34).  Peter and James both cite this verse (1 Pt. 5:5, Js. 4:6).

It is a Biblical concept that humility is good and pride is bad.  Jesus says that the humble will be exalted, but those who exalt themselves will be humbled (Matt. 23:12), and that people have the choice to fall onto him and be broken, or he will fall on them and crush them (Matt. 21:44, Lk. 20:18).

We have a collection of Jesus’ sayings in Matthew 5, that have been called, “The Beatitudes”.  This word means, “state of bliss”.  Many translations have Jesus’ words as, “Blessed are …”, but another way to say it in English would be, “Happy are …”.  When they translated the Bible into Latin, they translated this word, that most translations in English have as Blessed, or as Happy, as Beatus in Latin.  That is where we get “Beatitudes”.  They went with Beatus, and the Greek word here does mean Happy, according to Greek dictionaries.

As is often the case, the Greek word has deeper and wider meaning than we can cram into one English word.  Blessed works really well because it carries with it the meaning of happiness and good fortune.  It makes perfect sense for Jesus to say, “Fortunate are you”.

In any case, I want to tell you that this word for “blessed” in Matthew 5:3, literally means “happy”, and that is what Young’s literal translation, the CEB, and a handful of obscure translations, including Phillips (1), and the Amplified Bible, parenthetically, has.

The collection of sayings from Jesus in Matthew 5 through 7 are about how to be his disciple.  And Matthew begins all of this teaching with these eight or nine (the ninth seems to be an amplification on the eighth (5:10-11)) beatitudes: “You are happy, blessed, very fortunate …”  All of these have the cord or chord, running through them of humility.  Jesus’ disciples are humble.

These are the beatitudes in the J. B. Phillips NT:

  1. “How happy are the humble-minded, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs! 
  2. “How happy are those who know what sorrow means for they will be given courage and comfort! 
  3. “Happy are those who claim nothing, for the whole earth will belong to them! 
  4. “Happy are those who are hungry and thirsty for goodness, for they will be fully satisfied! 
  5. “Happy are the merciful, for they will have mercy shown to them! 
  6. “Happy are the utterly sincere, for they will see God! 
  7. “Happy are those who make peace, for they will be sons of God! 
  8. “Happy are those who have suffered persecution for the cause of goodness, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs! 
  9. “And what happiness will be yours when people blame you and ill-treat you and say all kinds of slanderous things against you for my sake! Be glad then, yes, be tremendously glad—for your reward in Heaven is magnificent. They persecuted the prophets before your time in exactly the same way. 
I see humility in all these sayings.  Every verse in Matthew 5 has a sermon in it.  Disciples need to hear and assimilate these words of Jesus.

Check yourself against these words of Jesus.  The discipleship process, in Christ, is to become like him and let him live through you.  How are you doing in regards to these 8 or 9 check points above, from Jesus?

If you are very weak on these and don’t really care, you may not be his disciple.  There are people who say they are Christians, but are not disciples.  That is actually an impossible thing, an oxymoron.  And yet, people live in this deception.

Jesus never called and does not call people to church membership or attendance.  He calls us to radically change our lives by following him and learning to live through him.  Did you see that word I used, radical?  The statements above, the beatitudes, are radical.

If we fall short, if Jesus’ words bring us under conviction, then we repent.  Repentance is part of the life of humility.  Just like salvation, repentance is an event and a process.

And what was Jesus’ message when he preached?  It was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand”.  Do you think his message has changed?

Jesus followers are called to be radical, radically different from those who are not his followers.  There is radical love and a radical lifestyle.

That Love is certainly the marker of the Christians.  “They will know we are Christians by our love”.  And our love from God through Christ and by the Spirit, is not like the love that is in the world.  Our brand of love, that comes from God, is authentic and real.

And the way that we are able to operate in that love is only through Christ, living in Christ and by humility.  We grow in, develop in, humility; becoming more and more humble.  Jesus is our example of humility and our quest in life is to live humbly in him.

The life in Christ is able to receive answers to prayer and gifts from God gladly.  That is the message I am trying to get across.  I am saying that when we are not humble, we can not receive.

Pride has preconceived notions about God, other people and how things ought to be.  Pride has a narcissism that believes it is God and all others must bow to it.  Judgmental-ism is pride.  My way or the highway is pride.  Forcing others to do what you want them to do is pride.  Pride ends up deciding what God can and does do and what God thinks.  Pride stinks.

Pride despises, pride has contempt, pride leads to rebellion, pride rationalizes its sin and makes excuses.  Pride is unrepentant.  Pride is hard hearted.  Pride is selfish.  Pride is cruel.  Pride is not content, because proud people have no peace and are not satisfied and never will be.

Pride is actually not love of self but love of accoutrements.  Why did Satan fall?  Pride.  Why do people go to hell?  Pride.

The disciple has to always be letting God develop humility and purge pride in their lives.  Humility comes through humbling your self or being humiliated.  We may resist the former, but it is the easier way and if we do not humble our selves, we will indeed be humiliated.

The way to operate in real love, and real love for the brother or sister in Christ is the mark of the Christian, is through humility.  Godliness is love and humility with wisdom and grace.  People in this place can be trusted with power and prosperity.

Humble people are able to receive gifts from God and answers to prayer.

1. The Emphasized New Testament: A New Translation (J. B. Rotherman), The New Testament: An American Translation (Edgar J. Goodspeed), The New Testament in Modern English (J. B. Phillips), The New Testament in Basic English.

Taking Advice

Arrogance leads to nothing but strife, but wisdom is gained by those who take advice.
Arrogance only produces arguments, but wisdom accompanies those well advised.
-Proverbs 13:10 (HCSB, VOICE)

Photo: Pixabay

Question: Do you take advice?  Life is full of problems that need advice.  Arrogant people do not take advice.  And there is a side-affect to arrogance: it produces arguing and strife.

I am and have been an arrogant person.  I grew up, with an arrogant style.  But, when I was 24 years old, I shifted, when God came into my life in a profound way, and I became a person who sought advice or counsel.  I learned to listen and take it in.

Just the other day, I spent about an hour with an older couple and I told them about my plans and a problem.  They gave me a piece of advice that I had not considered, which perfectly solved my dilemma.  This has happened for me, over and over, as I have sought out advisers.

The arrogance of the proud person that argues in a quarrelsome fashion is that of a person that must have everything their own way, and “won’t be kicked around”(1).  The argumentative person, does not just express a difference of opinion, but presents an unyielding personality and a closed-mindedness symptomatic of pride(2).

If you have arguing and strife, you might have an inability to take advice or receive counsel, rooted in arrogance.  Arrogance is pride.  As the arrogance blocks out advice or counsel, it does it argumentatively.  

The arrogant person can not receive advice, but strives against it.  Arrogance argues and creates strife.  When we reject receiving counsel through arguing, we are displaying arrogance.

Wisdom comes through advice and counsel.  The arrogant person thinks that they already have wisdom.  The wise person listens to advice or counsel.  They still have to sort it out and “spit out the bones”, so to speak, but they listen and are open minded.  The arrogant one argues with advice and counsel, rejecting it, as it comes in, because their arrogance has blinded them to receiving.

Incidentally, there are many people who need help, need advice, or need deliverance; but there are few who want it.  What is tricky, is that people will come to you who need but don’t want, and still others will approach us who seem to say they want, but then they endlessly argue.

There are many people who have limited knowledge and even less wisdom, who are delusional.  In a Biblical framework, we need God and we need each other.  Part of needing others, is accepting advice.  Living as if you don’t need God or don’t need others is the delusion

We desperately need God and we strongly need others.  Accepting counsel: not arguing against everything that is different from you when it is said to you, is living in your humble need for others.

1. Derek Kidner, Proverbs, p. 90
2. Idid., p. 102

Bragging Rights

Graphic credit: Ron Mader (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Believers who are poor have something to boast about, for God has honored them.  And those who are rich should boast that God has humbled them. They will fade away like a little flower in the field.  The hot sun rises and the grass withers; the little flower droops and falls, and its beauty fades away. In the same way, the rich will fade away with all of their achievements.

-James 1:9-11 (NLT)
Did you know that you have bragging rights?  You can and should brag about how God has honored you, how God has given you dignity.  My Father in heaven is taking good care of me!  He is such a good God.

You should also know that you can brag about how God humbled you.  “Amazing Grace” should be our song.  Worship seven days a week includes bragging on what God has done for you.  He arranged for my humiliation so that I could call him Lord.

God’s desire is not to take the money away, as in “money is bad”, but to shift our dependency onto him.  I believe God wants to give believers huge amounts of money, but we can not handle it.

What does it mean that poor believers are honored by God?  It might mean that we get our esteem or dignity from God, from being God’s children.  Remember Jesus’ words, “Blessed are you who are poor”, or, “God blesses you who are poor”, “for yours is the kingdom of God”?

What it means is that the kingdom of God is the environment or organizing principal from which the believer lives.  The kingdom of God is the rule and reign of Christ.  The subjects of the king are honored to serve the king and be agents of the kingdom of God’s expansion on the earth.

Being “poor” is relative.  It is easier to be rich in the kingdom, if you are poor in the eyes of the world.  There’s nothing wrong with riches, but it is the heart that Christ changes.  Rich people have a challenge, to not depend on their riches for everything, whereas poorer people have the privilege of depending on God more and this is a more fulfilling life.

So, rich people have the challenge of crossing over to a life in Christ, where they find all their sufficiency in Christ.  The self-sufficient life is a life of pride.  God requires believers to be humble and embrace humility, which is the opposite of pride.

If you are used to being proud, it is radically different to be humble.  We humble ourselves or we get humbled through humiliation.  Sometimes it takes hitting bottom, then relapsing, hitting bottom again, and relapsing again; two, three, or four times, for a person to become humble.

God can arrange circumstances to humble you if you do not humble yourself.  God does this to discipline us, because he loves us as sons and daughters.  Pride is the core sin and God is going to help you get it out of your life. 

The rich people should boast that God has humbled them.  Some have experienced a rude awakening that riches do not bring happiness and that the false worship of comfort and prestige and the power that money brings is serious sin.
When the rich person gets saved they have to give up letting the trappings of wealth dictate their lives.  They come into the kingdom of God, where Jesus is all in all.  The sin of self-sufficiency has to go.
The rich person is humbled by the fact that they now realize that happiness can not be bought and they can not give themselves life through wealth.  They also need to repent, if necessary, of looking down on poorer people or using their wealth to get above poorer people in life.  
They are humbled by Christ to realize that the kingdom of God is flat.  The rich, the famous, and the well-heeled stand shoulder to shoulder with the poor, before Christ.  This is the way it is now, on earth as believers.  
To come down off that perch is a very good thing.  It is a very good humiliation.  It is a humbling to be celebrated.  That is what James is saying.
Your wealth is God’s, because you belong to God and everything you have belongs to God.  Like in the story of the rich young ruler (Matt. 10), God might call you to give up everything.  That is not “the rule” for rich people who come to Christ, but a principle that you have to be willing to give up everything.  
What we have, we are called to be good stewards of.  That does not mean being poor is more spiritual.

Everything about wealth that gets in the way of Christ and the kingdom has to go.  You can still have all your holdings, but you can not be invested in them at the core of your life.  The rich person has an adjustment to make, when they enter the kingdom.
They have you see and learn the kingdom life, which runs counter to the life of the world.  They can no longer serve money or love money.  They will learn kingdom stewardship.
The humbling is that you are not superior to others.  The rich person in the kingdom celebrates and boasts that God has awakened them out of this delusion, that the Bible calls, “The deceitfulness of riches”(Mk. 4:19).

James is filled with practical wisdom.  We need to be people who are not enamored with things that fade.  What fades?  Paint, metal, wood, fabric, food, electronics, and film are a few examples.

What does not fade?  Your relationships.  Your relationship with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Your relationships with family and friends.  Your relationships with sisters and brothers in Christ.

Wealth is a tool for relationships, under the reign of the kingdom of God.  Use your money for people.  What if you saw your money as being for the kingdom?

There are rich people all over with new cars, new clothes, nice houses, and wealth stored up.  In Christ, this all is not suddenly bad, but the rich person’s transformation makes them different.  They still have the stuff, but the stuff does not have them.

When the rich person gets this and sees the change, versus how they used to be; it is something to boast about.  Any rich person who is afraid to become a Christian does not understand the freedom because they are slaves.  Yes, rich slaves.  They are enslaved to their riches.

Generosity is a kingdom quality or virtue.  Christ’s followers are generous.  They are lovers who show their love through generosity.

The kingdom of God is not socialism or communism.  But, we are social and in communion.  Some might look at the book of Acts and believe that the model is for everyone to give all their money to the church leaders, who then use it to care for the poor and send missionaries to preach.

My reading of Acts 4:32 to 5:11, is that all of the generosity and selling things to help other church members and so forth, was voluntary.  Believers are generous and generosity is part and parcel to being filled with the Spirit.  What if I told you that the sign of being filled with the Holy Spirit is generosity?

If you choose to not be generous, you are not excluded or punished, but you missed out on the blessing.  The NT teaches generous giving, in joy, without pride, and with no strings attached.  

In the world, some people are sad that they are poor.  In the kingdom, God turns that around.  We now have “bragging rights” because God is taking care of us.

In the world, there is an idea that money buys happiness and that wealth gives you glory.  In the kingdom, that myth is not allowed and we are given sight and are no longer under that delusion.  We are humbled from that perch of pride we one inhabited.  We have “bragging rights” because it is a glorious thing that God has saved us from pride and humbled us to know his care for us, becoming our Lord and savior.

The Wise Life of Sufficiency in Christ

Photo credit: Pixabay

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind.Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.

-James 1:5-8 (NLT)

I am my own worst enemy when I come under the delusional belief that I need to take care of myself and that God is not taking care of me.

I still believe God is all-powerful, holy, to be worshiped, followed, and obeyed.  I believe that he cares and that I am have life through Christ.  I believe that God dispenses wisdom to live this life.  I also believe that the life I life is by the faithfulness of Christ.  I believe in growing up from being a babe in Christ, to a young man in Christ, and then a son and a servant or a slave in and to Christ.

I struggle with knowing and experiencing that he loves me, in not only words, but deeds.

The truth is that he cares for me in practical ways.  His care is not just spiritual, but incarnational.  This is the gospel message, that God came in Christ.  Christ who came is also with me.

Jesus came to show us what God is like.  He is the “On earth as it is in heaven”, God.  The Lord is like a hen that wants to gather up her children (Matt. 23:37, Lk. 13:34).  Jesus showed his love when he washed his disciples feet.  His love is practical.

So, when we participate with God in the life in Christ, self-sufficiency does not fit in; it is not only not how the life works, but is the opposite of the life, and a sin.  Remember how Jesus said, “As the father has sent me, so I send you”?  Was the Father with Jesus and did the Holy Spirit empower his life?  Yes and yes.

So, Jesus is saying that he will take care of us.  What he has assigned us to, he will pay for, sustain us for, empower us for, and provide for us to do.  His grace is sufficient.

Grace is unmerited favor and God’s empowering presence that enables us and provides for us, to live the life.  And Jesus taught us that the Father looks after all the little things, things we might think are too small for him.  Jesus taught us to know God’s care and seek God’s kingdom (Matt. 6:33, Lk. 12:31).

Self-sufficiency runs counter to the life in Christ.  The message never was, “Become a Christian, then tough it out until you die and go to heaven”.  We add things to that like, “Obey God’s laws and don’t forget to love your neighbor as yourself”.

These sound good because they are true.  But the big thing they leave out is, “I will be with you”.  This is a prophetic teaching that was applicable to believers in the OT (Isaiah 43:2), the last word of Jesus before his ascension (Matt. 28:20), and taught by the author of Hebrews, who takes God word from Deuteronomy 31:8, and applies it to now (Heb. 13:5).

The sufficiency of God’s grace (2 Cor. 12:9) in all of our lives is the Christian life.  To be self-sufficient is the way of the world.  We could accurately say that to be self-sufficient is to not be Christian.

The goal of the Christian life is actually more dependence on God, more surrender to God, and more of a willingness to let our lives be spent for God as worship.  We are stewards of God’s grace and all that he gives us.  We are God’s channels of generosity to a dying world (“As the Father sent me, so I send you”).

The way of the world is self-sufficiency.  The world says to God, “I’ll take it from here”, “I’ll manage my own life”, “I am in control”, or “I will create the life I want and get all my needs met”.  What is tragic is the Christian who lives like those four sentences, while claiming to be a Christian.

‘Christian’ people like that, live their lives on the stage of their theater.  They are poseurs, fakes, frauds, and hypocrites.  It is also a learned behavior, lifestyle, or culture; that people who do this were schooled or discipled in; by the generation that went before them.  These people often justify themselves by saying, “everyone else is doing it”, implying that, then, it must be ok.

Being a fake as a style (“fake it to make it”) is not ok.

To be sufficient in or by God, is to live a life in humility.  Pride is the core sin.  In our self-sufficient pride, we believe the delusion or deception that either, “God is like me”, or “I am God”.  We might never make these statements, but the way we live, and especially the way we treat others, gives our belief, or “rule of life”, that is not Christ, away.

Self-sufficiency is worse than other sins because of it is prideful self-righteousness that says it does not need God, or that it has God, when it does not.  The self-sufficient person says, “hands off my religion”.  The self-sufficient religious person either writes their own rules, or hypocritically writes rules for everyone else that they don’t follow.

We have Christians on the scene today who more accurately should be called “Biblians”, “Churchians”, “Theologians”, “Ecclesiologians”, or just “Sectarian”, in their “my way or the highway”, approach to the Christian life.  We are only called to be followers or Christ and that’s what a Christian is.

And Jesus is a person who loves people.  I only remember him getting mad at one group of people.  And he only called one non-believer a pejorative name (Lk. 13:32).

Before I close, I want to make the point that when you let go of self-sufficiency and let God care for you on all levels in your life, it does not mean that you are now set on being a “nobody”.  It does not mean that at all.  This is what C.S. Lewis says in chapter 31 of Mere Christianity:

We may be content to remain what we call “ordinary people”: but He is determined to carry out a quite different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it is not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.

God has a plan, a destiny, for each one of us, for his glory.  In humility, not in the pride of arrogance,  and narcissism; we get to let God develop us into uniquely gifted ministers, brothers and sisters, mamas and papas, and ambassadors of Jesus Christ for God’s glory, participating in God’s kingdom coming on earth.  Letting God disciple you into the life of the Son is obedience and faithful love to the one who loves you.

This is the wisdom that God calls us to.  The wise life is a life lived in, through, and by Christ; that is completely dependent on him for everything; including destiny development unto success in life in the kingdom of God.

The secret is that he does it.  The calling contains the provision, attached.  We obey the call to follow and let him, “make us to become”.  God is the best trainer ever.

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