The One Who Understands

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14

John Babler is the chaplain for the police and fire departments in his Texas community. During a twenty-two-week sabbatical from his job, he attended police academy training so that he could better understand the situations law enforcement officers face. Through spending time with the other cadets and learning about the intense challenges of the profession, Babler gained a new sense of humility and empathy. In the future, he hopes to be more effective as he counsels police officers who struggle with emotional stress, fatigue, and loss.

We know that God understands the situations we face because He made us and sees everything that happens to us. We also know He understands because He has been to earth and experienced life as a human being. He “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” as the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14).

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14

Jesus’s earthly life included a wide range of difficulty. He felt the searing heat of the sun, the pain of an empty stomach, and the uncertainty of homelessness. Emotionally, He endured the tension of disagreements, the burn of betrayal, and the ongoing threat of violence.

Jesus experienced the joys of friendship and family love, as well as the worst problems that we face here on earth. He provides hope. He is the Wonderful Counselor who patiently listens to our concerns with insight and care (Isa. 9:6). He is the One who can say, “I’ve been through that. I understand.”

Dear Lord, thank You for caring enough to humble Yourself and come to earth as a human being.

God understands the struggles we face.

By Jennifer Benson Schuldt 

Freedom From Enslavement

Colossians 3:5-10

Sin cannot dominate believers who throw themselves upon the Lord’s mercy—the Father is faithful to restore fellowship with His beloved children. He does this by breaking down walls that were built up through disobedience.

However, it is our job to confess the specific bondage that holds us, since denial blocks the healing and freedom God offers. Whatever the nature of our sin, the root of the problem is ultimately spiritual, not simply a weakness or social ill. Treatment meant to ease our emotional, mental, or physical discomfort will not be fully effective until we acknowledge the spiritual aspect of our difficulty.

Though sin is uniquely spiritual in nature, the reasons behind wrong behavior are often emotional. Emotions trapped deep within the believer—like insecurity, inadequacy, or lack of self-worth—drive the individual to search out ways to satisfy or escape the feelings. What results is often some form of unhealthy behavior. For instance, at one time in my own ministry experience, I allowed myself to be overextended. Out of a sense of inadequacy, I was driving myself to succeed in “God’s work,” which turned out to be the responsibilities He gave me plus anything else I thought needed doing for Him. I discovered that freedom from bondage is a choice.

As Paul explains, Jesus’ followers must lay aside their sin. For me, that meant putting away my misguided drive to succeed and taking a long rest. Through the Holy Spirit, we voluntarily surrender our chains in order to gain freedom in Christ.

Deliverance from Fear

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

There are many things in such a world as ours that can bring fear into human hearts—fear of want, fear of war, fear of rejection, fear of the dark, and a multitude of others. Some fears are rational, some are foolish, but all are very serious to those who experience them.

The good news of the gospel, however, can set us free from every fear. Remember that fear entered the world when sin entered the world. “I was afraid,” Adam explained when God found him hiding in the garden after eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:10). The second reference to fear in the Bible, on the other hand, was when “the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). The Lord protects us and provides for us; we have His Word and need “fear no evil” (Psalm 23:4).

At least 19 times in the New Testament we hear the words “fear not” or “be not afraid” on the lips of Christ. Whenever phobias beset us or fears discourage us, deliverance is ours when we seek the Lord. Then “we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:6). Even if we must sometimes “suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled” (1 Peter 3:14).

Perhaps the greatest fear of all is the fear of death, but the Lord delivers us even from this fear, for He has conquered death. In His glorified body, He has said, “Fear not; I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Revelation 1:17-18). HMM

“Tell it not in Gath.”

2 Samuel 1:17-27

2 Samuel 1:17, 8

The book of Jasher was probably a collection of national songs and records of heroic acts; it is now lost, for it was not inspired and therefore no special providence preserved its existence. David not only mourned over Saul and Jonathan personally, but he composed an elegy to be sung by the whole nation, and especially by his own tribe. This he entitled “The Bow,” in allusion to the skill in archery for which Jonathan was famous, which is alluded to in the dirge itself David in thus lamenting over the discarded house of Saul, reminds us of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, whose house is left desolate because it knew not its day.

2 Samuel 1:19-27

Dr. Krummacher, in his “David, the King of Israel,” has the following excellent passage, “David did not in his lamentation speak too highly in praise of the King. Was not Saul truly a valiant hero? Did not also that which was gentle and tender oftentimes find an echo in his soul? Did not Jonathan and his other sons shew themselves towards him true and faithful children even unto death? All this at that time hovered before the mind of David. With such recollections as these there was associated a deep, sorrowful compassion for the sad fate of the king. And thus it was David’s genuine feeling and sentiment to which he gave full outspoken expression in his lamentation for the dead. These words of the song—’Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon,’ have, since that time, become a proverb in the circles of the faithful. It is frequently heard when one of their community has failed to take heed to his ways, and, therefore, has given rise to a scandal. Would that the call were more faithfully observed than is usually the case! Would that the honour of the spiritual Zion lay always as near to the heart of the children of the kingdom as did that of the earthly to the heart of David! But how often does it happen that they even strive to disclose before the world the weakness of their brethren, and thus, by a repetition of the wickedness of Ham, become traitors to the Church which Christ has purchased with his own blood. They make themselves guilty of bringing dishonour upon the gospel, by opening the gates to such reproach through their talebearing, and to their own great prejudice they disown the charity which ‘believeth all things and hopeth all things.'”

 

Love Vaunts Not Itself, Is Not Puffed Up, And Does Not Behave Itself Unseemly

1 Corinthians 13:4, 5

When Paul wrote First Corinthians 13:1, he alluded to “super-spiritual” people in Corinth who boasted of great spirituality but who exhibited very little love in their lives. He said they were like a “sounding brass” and a “tinkling cymbal.”

As noted earlier (see September 9), these particular phrases indicate that these people talked incessantly, annoying and aggravating others with their never-ending, self-consumed chatter. In fact, the words “tinkling cymbal” were the very Greek words used to depict the clashing of cymbals that announced the onset of a war. This gives us the impression that the ceaseless talking and bragging of these “super-spirituals” often made their listeners fighting mad!

Could this be the reason Paul makes his fourth point on the characteristics of agape by saying that love “… vaunteth not itself…”? The word “vaunteth” has lost its meaning in today’s vernacular, but in Greek it is very powerful! This word comes from the Greek word perpereuomai, which means a lot of self talk. In other words, it describes a person who endlessly promotes himself and exaggerates his own virtues. His self-promotion is so outrageous that he is usually prone to exaggeration that borders on lying. One Greek scholar has said that the word perpereuomai pictures a person who is full of hot air. Another expositor has said this word refers to a windbag!

 

The word “vaunteth” is Paul’s strong warning to let us know:

“… Love doesn’t go around talking about itself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts to make it look more important in the sight of others….”

Even as I write, my thoughts have turned to an individual who fits this description perfectly! If you know anyone like this, you’re probably thinking of that person as well, because people like this are such an annoyance that it’s hard to ignore or forget them.

Regarding the man I’m thinking of, people who see him coming in their direction immediately begin to look for a way to escape. They know that once this man gets hold of them, he’s going to start talking endlessly about himself, his projects, his ideas, and his accomplishments. He boasts to such an extreme degree that it is outright obnoxious. The problem is, he doesn’t seem to be aware how full of his “self” he is!

Once a mutual friend asked him, “Why don’t you ever ask about anyone else? All you ever talk about is yourself and your own feats. Don’t you think it would be good to show at least some interest in what others are doing? Do you know how selfish you seem to be to other people?”

The man answered, “Is anyone else besides myself doing anything that is worth talking about? I’m the only one doing anything significant.” He was so self-consumed that he couldn’t even recognize the fact that there are other hardworking high achievers in the Kingdom of God!

Coming from a terrible, insecure foundation in his own life, this man somehow feels that he must stretch the truth to a ridiculous extreme and brag about his own accomplishments. He has sung his own praises so long that no one close to him wants to hear those songs anymore! His total lack of concern for others and his complete preoccupation with himself have become offensive and disgusting to nearly everyone who knows him.

Often people exaggerate and boast endlessly because they have a hidden agenda they want to promote or because they want to gain some higher position or place of authority. Other times they are hoping to make the kind of impression that might give them special status or recognition in the eyes of others. Finally, they may just feel driven to prove their worth. Regardless of the reason that people boast about themselves, this kind of behavior does not demonstrate the way that agape love behaves!

Agape love is so strong, so sure, and so confident that it doesn’t need to speak of itself or its accomplishments, even if those accomplishments are greater than anyone else’s. Real agape love would never flaunt itself in this way; instead, agape love wants to focus on the accomplishments of others in order to build them up and make them feel more valuable and secure. Remember, agape isn’t a self-focused love—it is focused on giving of itself in order to meet other people’s needs.

Paul gives the fifth characteristic of agape love when he tells us that love “… is not puffed up.” These words are based on the Greek word phusio, which means to be proud, to be swollen, or to be inflated. Thus, this word vividly paints the picture of a person who is filled with pride.

Paul warns that agape is never phusio. This means agape love is never deceived into thinking too highly of itself nor does it arrogantly claim that it is better than others. Making this word even more significant is the fact that the word phusio also carries the notion of a person who has an air of superiority and haughtiness or a person who is snooty or snobbish in his dealings with other people.

Paul uses the word phusio in First Corinthians 4:6 to denote the pride and arrogance that was developing between wrangling members of the Corinthian church, each of whom believed that his or her particular leader was more important than other leaders. In First Corinthians 4:19, Paul uses phusio again as he warns these believers to change their behavior; otherwise, he will come to rebuke those who are “puffed up.” This arrogance involving leadership was the primary source of division, contention, and rivalry in the Corinthian church.

In First Corinthians 5:2, Paul uses the word phusio yet again. After boldly confronting the Corinthian church for tolerating a grossly immoral situation among its members, Paul expresses his amazement that they could be “puffed up” in light of the ungodly relationship that was thriving right before their eyes. Then in First Corinthians 8:1 (nkjv), Paul uses the word phusio when he tells the Corinthians, “… Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies.”

 

When you consider the Greek meaning of the words “puffed up,” it becomes evident that Paul was letting us know:

“… Love does not behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner.”

After Paul tells us that love is not puffed up, he proceeds to give us his sixth point. He writes that love “doth not behave itself unseemly….”

The Greek word for “unseemly” is aschemoneo, an old word that means to act in an unbecoming manner. It suggests a person who is tactless or thoughtless. It also expresses the notion of a person who is careless and inconsiderate of others. Both his actions and words tend to be rude and discourteous, and he exhibits bad manners in the way he deals with people. His language is harsh and brutal, revealing that this person is uncaring insensitive, and unkind. In short, we would say that this is a person who “acts ugly.”

 

Because of the word “unseemly” in First Corinthians 13:5, it explicitly means that the Holy Spirit is telling us:

“Love is not rude and discourteous—it is not careless or thoughtless, nor does it carry on in a fashion that would be considered insensitive to others….”

So how do you fare when you look into the mirror of God’s Word today? Do you pass the love test, or have you come up short again? If you see that you have fallen short of the high-level love God wants you to possess and exhibit in your life, it’s time for you to go back to the Lord and talk to Him about it again! Never stop going to Him until you know that you are walking continually in the high-level love He wants you to demonstrate in your life!

 

When all these Greek words and phrases are translated together, an expanded interpretive translation could be as follows:

“… Love doesn’t go around talking about itself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts to make it look more important in the sight of others; love does not behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner; love is not rude and discourteous—it is not careless or thoughtless, nor does it carry on in a fashion that would be considered insensitive to others….”

Is the Holy Spirit speaking to your heart? Is He showing you areas where you have:

  • Exaggerated the truth to make yourself look better to others?
  • Acted in a prideful, haughty, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner?
  • Permitted yourself to act in a way that is not acceptable for someone who is striving toward excellence in God?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, it’s time for you to take immediate action! You need to spend some quality time with Jesus. Ask Him to forgive you, and let His blood cleanse you; then ask the Holy Spirit to start the process of transforming you into the image of Jesus. Don’t stop until you think, see, and act like Jesus Christ—every moment of every day!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, I ask You to help me live my life in a way that glorifies You. You are my Lord, and I am Your servant and child. I don’t want to do anything with my life that brings disrespect or dishonor to Your precious name! Help me to not exaggerate or embellish the truth. I ask You to correct me when I am lured into snobbery or pride and to lovingly rebuke me when I “act ugly” toward others. I want to be like You, Jesus, and I’m not going to stop pressing ahead until I demonstrate Your life and Your nature in my life!

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I am never going to stop until I have attained the high level of love Jesus wants me to have in my life! I don’t go around talking about myself all the time, constantly exaggerating and embellishing the facts. I don’t behave in a prideful, arrogant, haughty, superior, snooty, snobbish, or clannish manner. I’m not rude and discourteous. I’m not careless or thoughtless. As I spend time with Jesus, I am being changed into His image—and I demonstrate His life and His nature to other people!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Have you been guilty of exaggerating or embellishing the truth to make yourself look better in front of other people? Would you feel comfortable telling those same stories if you were face-to-face with Jesus?
  2. Have you ever been guilty of acting in a snobbish or clannish manner? Are you and your friends so tight that others might view your group as an exclusive little clique?
  3. Have you been acting in a fashion that glorifies the name of Jesus? Or are there certain ways you behave that are too “ugly” to be representative of Jesus?

Agape love is so strong, so sure, and so confident that it doesn’t need to speak of itself or its accomplishments, even if those accomplishments are greater than anyone else’s. Real agape love would never flaunt itself in this way; instead, agape love wants to focus on the accomplishments of others in order to build them up and make them feel more valuable and secure.

 

Some Guys Are Just Lucky

“Some guys are just lucky, I guess.”

 

Not according to Solomon:

 

He whose walk is blameless is kept safe, but he whose ways are perverse will suddenly fall.” (Proverbs 28:18)

 

Bill is a sincere, and plodding hard worker, who in his school days never made an athletic team or served on student government. Today, he heads the second largest accounting firm in town and is known for his integrity and godliness.

 

Richard exploded onto the business scene some years ago, highly leveraging other people’s money in the volatile property development business. “It’s God’s blessing,” I was informed. Today, he faces 42 lawsuits, the bank has foreclosed on his upscale estate, and he and his wife split a duplex with relatives.

 

He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” (Proverbs 28:19)

 

Dan is a high school graduate, who met Christ while in the military. Upon discharge, he went to work as a farm hand for a widowed woman. After years of diligent service, the lady bequeathed her sizable holdings to Dan. Over these many years he and his wife have substantially impacted scores of students for Christ at a nearby private university for the rich and famous, while faithfully tilling their land.

 

Gene inherited a sizable business from his father, and within a decade managed to reduce it to red ink. Recently over lunch, he excitedly spoke of an enterprise half way around the world that would soon make him rich. “It is God’s will,” he disclosed to me. Meanwhile, his wife struggles to feed and clothe their children.

 

A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.” (Proverbs 28:20)

 

Sheldon grew up in foster homes, too poor to attend college. At age 21 he met Christ and taught himself the machine repair business. Successful in business, Sheldon and his wife choose to live on a portion of his income, giving the remainder to missions. On the side, he raises millions for the Gospel.

 

Forrest is actively involved in his church, while chronically struggling to meet his financial obligations. Every bit the executive — if appearances were the determinant — Forrest maintains a posh office, waiting for “The Break”. Meanwhile he declines employment opportunities that offer modest, but steady income.

 

QUESTION: In dealing with our own, or others’ rationalizations, are we willing to get down to gut issues, calling a spade a spade? If not, what do you think are the long term consequences?

 

 

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