When in Trouble…

I pour out my complaint before Him; I declare before Him my trouble. When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then You knew my path. Psalm 142:2-3a

In February 2015, the world was shocked to see video of the wholesale massacre of 21 Coptic Christians by the Islamic State. The Copts would not recant their faith. In the video, the Christian men can be seen praying, on their knees, as they awaited their grisly death. What would it feel like to not only be hunted by one’s enemies but actually captured and threatened with death?

Surely it would be a lonely feeling. But even in the loneliest of moments, there is one who is there: God Himself. The Coptic Christians did exactly what David did when he was pursued by his enemy, King Saul. They, and David, poured their hearts out to God (1 Samuel 22:1; 24:1). We have David’s very words recorded in two psalms he wrote while hiding from Saul in a cave: Psalms 57 and 142. No one has ever prayed more honestly than David. He “pour[ed] out [his] complaint” to God and “declare[d] before Him [his] trouble.” The point is not whether God delivers or not, but whether God is there (Daniel 3:16-18). And He always is.

If you are lonely, remember: You are not alone. Pour out your heart to God and know that He hears.

Days of trouble must be days of prayer.  Matthew Henry

What Is Guilt?

Romans 5:6-11

Guilt is something with which we’re all familiar. Oftentimes, Christians wear it like a badge of honor, in some misguided effort to demonstrate humility. But this is a misunderstanding that poisons the church and steals the joy of Christ from believers. It’s worth taking the time to stop and ask the question, “What is guilt?”

When we see the term in English translations of the Bible, we tend to apply a worldly interpretation of the passage. In the context of the world, guilt refers to feelings of remorse, depression, or rejection over some event from the past. Scripturally speaking, however, the word is used only to denote responsibility. The word is not associated with feelings of shame or rejection; instead, it is more of a legal term, as when a court finds an offender “guilty.”

What does this mean for the believer? Well, we should already know that we have been found guilty—we all have an enormous sin debt that we could never pay. However, Jesus Christ took that guilt upon Himself at the cross, and He paid our debt in full. We need to realize that if He has already paid our debt and released us from liability, then we are no longer guilty. Yes, we have been tried, but we’ve been declared forgiven.

The Lord doesn’t want us to hide the joy of our salvation beneath a smothering blanket of guilt. Rather, we are called to rejoice in the glorious redemption that Christ’s sacrifice made possible. For this reason, we can proudly proclaim, “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Go, and be free today.

God’s Boldness

“When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.” (Psalm 27:2-3)

The wicked were ready to “eat up” the flesh of David. Whatever may be in view as the setting of this psalm, it surely warns of a pending catastrophic event in David’s life. The use of this poignant phrase in the Old Testament often relates to physical destruction of a people at the hands of a military conqueror (Numbers 24:8; Psalm 53:1-5; Jeremiah 5:15-17).

In the New Testament, however, the emphasis seems to be on spiritual, mental, and character destruction (Galatians 5:15; 1 Corinthians 3:3; 2 Corinthians 12:20). The biblical message is consistent. No matter whether the Scriptures record an actual event or they use the examples of history to illustrate a spiritual truth, the results are the same. At the apparent peak of the enemy’s power, the enemies of God “stumbled and fell.”

All godly soldiers should be aware of their own insufficiency. As the conflict is building and the strength of the enemy becomes known, only a foolish braggart assumes that his own resources are enough to bring about victory—especially so when we face the great Adversary and “accuser of the brethren” (Revelation 12:10).

Observation that the host is surrounding and war is rising demands that the child of God not casually enter into Kingdom affairs in ignorance of the enemy or of his potential. Rather, David rests “in this [God’s strength] will I be confident.” The bold warrior is bold because he is focused. HMM III

Adapted from Treasures in the Psalms, Henry M. Morris III, 342.

Cleanse me from my sin

Psalm 51

How bitterly David lamented his great sin may be seen by the penitential psalms which he composed. Among the most memorable of these is—Psalm 51.

It has been often called The Sinner’s Guide.

Psalm 51:1

He appealed to the sweeter attributes. Penitence has a quick eye for the loving and merciful qualities in the divine character. Let us appeal to them.

Psalm 51:2

He could not bear to be defiled, he longed for complete pardon.

Psalm 51:4

The essence of sin lies in its opposition to God, and its impudent defiance of his holy presence. David had wronged Bathsheba and Uriah, but his greatest misery was that he had offended his God. Graceless men care nothing about this.

Psalm 51:6

His outward act of evil led him to look within, and there he found his inmost nature and his first original to be impure. When our falls lead us to discover and mourn over our inbred sins, we are on the sure way to recovery from them.

Psalm 51:7

This is a glorious utterance of faith. The humbled soul, while mourning in the dust, yet confides in the blood of sprinkling, and believes that it can remove all stain. Foul as I am yet I am not too filthy for the precious blood of atonement! All manner of sin and of blasphemy the blood of Jesus can remove.

Psalm 51:10

Sin destroys, and therefore grace must re-create. Sincere penitents are not content with pardon, they desire to be made holy for the future.

Psalm 51:11-13

None teach so well as those who know the power of forgiving love by personal experience. Pardoned sinners are the best preachers to their rebellious fellowmen.

Psalm 51:17

Deep experience led David away from mere forms into the spirit of the gospel. A real sense of sin will never allow men to be content with ordinances, they want the Lord himself to be revealed to them in spiritual worship, as accepting their contrite cries.

Psalm 51:19

Thus he would fain undo the mischief he had wrought and build up the church whose walls he had pulled down by his ill example. The Lord grant that his cause and people may never suffer through our fault. Amen.

 

My soul lies humbled in the dust,

And owns thy dreadful sentence just;

Look down, O Lord, with pitying eye

And save the soul condemn’d to die.

 

Then will I teach the world thy ways;

Sinners shall learn thy sovereign grace,

I’ll lead them to my Saviour’s blood,

And they shall praise a pardoning God.

 

Do You Esteem Others Better Than Yourself?

Philippians 2:3

When I was a young university student, I attended a small church where many college students worshiped. One day while attending a leaders’ meeting where several issues were being discussed, I began to express my views about the subject under discussion. I didn’t realize how long I had been talking until a fellow leader, who was older than I was, stopped me and said, “Rick, would you please be quiet? No one else can get a word into this conversation because you have been talking nonstop. It may be hard for you to believe, but you are not the only person who has an opinion and who knows something. We all have ideas and opinions that are just as valuable as yours, and we’d like to express them.”

In my eagerness to provide input in the conversation, I didn’t realize that I had inadvertently dominated the entire meeting. Finally, this leader had heard enough of me and kindly spoke up, telling me to be quiet so other people could express themselves. When I looked around the room at the other leaders, I realized they were all breathing a sigh of relief that someone had finally told me to be quiet. I was so embarrassed!

In retrospect, I realize that because I was the youngest in the group, I was unconsciously trying to prove I had something to contribute that was as important as what everyone else had to say. But in my efforts to prove my worth in the sight of those other leaders, I nearly took over the discussion, making it appear as if I wanted to “hog” the whole conversation. Of course, this was not the greatest way to show that I had respect for other people! I didn’t intend to give this impression, but that was the impression I gave to the others in that group.

After that incident, I remember turning to Philippians 2:3 and reading the words of the apostle Paul. It says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.”

When I saw this verse in light of the stern rebuke I had just received, I decided I wanted to understand clearly what it meant to “esteem” others better than myself. But first I decided to study those words “strife” and “vainglory” so I could completely comprehend what Paul was referring to in this verse.

When Paul writes about “strife” and “vainglory,” he uses two very strategic Greek words. The word “strife” is the Greek word eritheia, which is the picture of a person who is jockeying for some kind of position. This is a person who is trying to make himself look powerful, insightful, or significant in the sight of other people. But Paul then mentions “vainglory,” which is the Greek word kenodoxia. This is an interesting Greek mixture of concepts that describes the utter futility of such jockeying and positioning. The word kenodoxia is a compound of the words kenos and doxas. Kenos describes something that is hollow or empty, and the word doxas is the word for glory. But when these two words are compounded together into one word as in this verse, it portrays a hollow or empty boasting—a kind of self-glory that echoes of self-promotion.

 

These words could thus be interpreted to mean:

“Do not jockey for position or try to prove your importance to others with a lot of hollow, empty boasting and self-promotion….”

Paul says that instead of acting in this manner that is so wrong in God’s sight, we are to act in “lowliness of mind.” This phrase comes from the Greek word tapeinoprosune. The first part of the word is the Greek word tapeinos, which describes something that is lowly, humble, or base. It pictures the attitude of someone who is unassuming and not self-promoting. It suggests a person who is modest, unpretentious, and “without airs” about himself, even if he knows that he is more intelligent, gifted, or talented than others. The second part of the word is phronos, which means to think. When these two words are compounded together, the new word means to think lowly; to think in an unpretentious way about oneself; or to think modestly of oneself.

A person who fits this description doesn’t jockey for a position of importance, “hogging” every conversation and trying to prove how great he is. Instead, he has learned to “esteem others better than himself.” The word “esteem” comes from the Greek word hegeomai, which means to lead or to consider. This word and its related forms referred to outstanding and resplendent leaders who were worthy to be recognized and honored. These leaders held a noteworthy and superior position in the eyes of others, commanding people’s respect, honor, and silence when in their presence.

 

If you add these Greek word meanings to the interpretive translation above, the entire verse could be interpreted to mean:

“Do not jockey for position or try to prove your importance to others with a lot of hollow, empty boasting and self-promotion. Instead, have a modest opinion of yourself, and learn to recognize the outstanding contributions that others have to impart.”

By using this word, Paul is telling us that we must learn to quit promoting ourselves and learn to respect the outstanding, resplendent gifts and ideas God has given to others. Rather than incessantly talk and “hog” every conversation, we must learn to make room for the gifts that lie resident in other people. Their talents and ideas are just as important as ours are. However, if we constantly demand everyone’s attention and never allow others to have an opportunity to express themselves or to use their gifts, we create a situation in which others go unrecognized and are thus dishonored.

When I was a university student, on fire for God and eager to fulfill God’s call on my life, I didn’t realize how self-consumed I was with my own vision and calling—so consumed that I ignored the outstanding gifts God had placed in the people around me. Although it was right for me to be completely committed to my calling, I had to be taught that it was wrong to be so self-projecting and negligent to recognize the gifts, callings, and dreams of others. In my youthful attempts to prove I had something valuable to contribute, I dishonored those who also had insights just as worthy as my own. I had to learn to think lowly of myself, to keep my mouth shut, and to recognize that I wasn’t the only one in any given setting who had something to say.

If you’ve inadvertently fallen into the habit of constantly talking and promoting yourself with a lot of vainglorious self-talk, it’s time for you to let the Holy Spirit teach you to respect and make room for the contributions of others in the group. If you’ll sincerely ask the Holy Spirit to help you, He will begin to teach you how to esteem others better than yourself!

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, forgive me for the times I was so engrossed in my own ideas and convictions that I “hogged” entire conversations and didn’t give others an opportunity to express what was on their hearts. I am truly repentant for giving people the impression that I thought I was the only one in the group with something worthy to say. Forgive me for being so self-absorbed and for not recognizing the other outstanding people with gifts, talents, and ideas that were just as valuable as my own. Please help me learn to think more highly of others, to keep my mouth shut more often, and to genuinely appreciate the gifts, talents, and ideas You have placed in other people.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I confess that I am very respectful of other people and that I recognize the gifts, talents, and ideas God has given them. I need the insights and gifts that God has put in other people. Because they are just as important as I am, I always give them time to express themselves and to let their gifts function as God intends. I am a part of a God-gifted group, and every member is filled with gifts and ideas that I need. Therefore, I make room for them to let those gifts and ideas flow!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Do you esteem others better than yourself? Do you treat people like they are valuable, unique creations of God who deserve the highest respect? Or have you inadvertently focused only on yourself, giving others the impression that you think you are the only one who has something to contribute?
  2. Have you ever had to work with someone who “hogged” every conversation and didn’t give anyone else an opportunity to express himself? How did it make you feel toward that person?
  3. What can you do to show others that you value them and their opinions? What visible actions can you take to demonstrate your appreciation for others in the group you belong to?

Do not jockey for position or try to prove your importance to others with a lot of hollow, empty boasting and self-promotion. Instead, have a modest opinion of yourself, and learn to recognize the outstanding contributions that others have to impart.

 

Doing It God’s Way… Or The Hard Way

Yesterday while enplaning, I spotted a young Christian businessman whom I had attempted to influence a couple of years ago toward growing spiritually. At that time, he gently nudged me aside, explaining that the pressing demands of his newly formed consulting firm left little room for spiritual matters.

 

An hour later, as we deplaned, he commented on the current economic crisis in Asia and the extreme stress he was under. As we waited to go through immigration, I asked him if he was spending regular time with God. The answer was no.

 

Within minutes after clearing immigration, George, a friend who heads a mid-sized firm, picked me up. For some time now, he and I have been working together on developing his consistent walk with God. As we headed for the city the subject of the severe state of the economy again came up. Immediately I was struck, by way of contrast, with his calm response to the grave situation. God, he assured, would give wisdom in seeing him and his company through the downturn.

 

It was apparent to me that because he had been hiding the Scriptures in his heart during his daily times of prayer and meditation, he was indeed prepared to trust God through the current period of financial stress.

 

As George was sharing, several passages came to mind from my own time with God that very morning:

 

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; He delivered me from all my fears… ”

 

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; He saved him out of all his troubles… ”

 

Fear the Lord, you his saints, for those who fear him lack nothing… ”

 

A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all… ”

 

I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.” (Psalm 34:4, 6, 9, 19; 37:25 )

 

QUESTION: So, what do you do when everything in the economic picture seems to turn sour? Tighten your stomach muscles and power through it? Invent new schemes for survival? Peddle faster? Panic?

 

Or rest? Trust? Wait? And quietly seek His direction?

 

I guess the answer depends upon to whom you have been looking to supply your daily needs: Yourself or God. If it is you, then you ought to be in a state of panic, because I doubt if any of us are that good!