Friday, May 26, 2017

Intoxicated With Success

The photo above is from my little local county fair, specifically the photography department of which I am in charge of. Over the week of the event, I dealt with various frustrations while setting it up. The biggest of these frustrations was the skepticism from our county fair director, who almost always had some criticism for how I was arranging my area each time I encountered her. When all was said and done, however, it all was a huge success. My immediate thought afterwards? "Ha, in your face! I KNEW the little changes I made were improvements!"

A few weeks later, my pastor brought up Zechariah 10:7 - "
The Ephraimites will become like warriors, and their hearts will be glad as with wine. Their children will see it and be joyful; their hearts will rejoice in the LORD." and noted that "it is easy to become intoxicated with our own success" and that we ought to be rejoicing in the Lord for His provision and kindness. After church, my mind wandered back to the county fair. What did I do just a few weeks ago? I reveled in my own accomplishment, forgetting God entirely for the time. Thankfully, I had one of my best friends at my side, who reminded me several times throughout the week that "God is good" and "He is in control."

Looking back on it all, what have I learned?

I have learned two main things:

1.) It matters who your friends are. It truly is important to form close relationships with those who will glorify God and invite you to do the same when your mind isn't on the path to praise Him.

2.) I don't know about you, but I am very susceptible to becoming obsessed with my own success. I focus so hard on what I am doing that I forget what God is doing.

Let's remember who God is, what He can do, and try to keep close company with those who remind us of such truths in our weak moments.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Being Alone

Recently I was house-sitting for my neighbors and enjoying some much needed time on my own to study the Bible and re-charge after having had a friend visit for the prior two weeks. Just out of curiosity, I did a keyword search in the Bible for "alone". I had to admit, I was slightly surprised at my findings.

The American culture in which I live tends to idolize autonomy and encourages the "every man for himself" mentality. The Bible goes in the opposite direction. The very first mention of "alone" states "it is not good for man to be alone" (Genesis 2:18). That theme seems to hold true throughout scripture, as the only positive mentions of people being alone are in reference to times when someone is away from people in order to have intimate personal communion with God (see Daniel 10:7-8, Matthew 14:23) or in order to flee from that which God doesn't want, as Jesus did when the people wanted to force him to become their earthly king (John 16:15).

The only other times the word "alone" shows up as a positive thing is when the Bible talks about God. Unlike man, when God is alone, he is glorious, powerful, and doing great works (Isaiah 37:16, Psalm 136:4, Psalm 86:10, Nehemiah 9:6).

What does this mean for us? We ought to be mindful of how we use our time alone. Peace and rest are healthy, but let us remember that even those activities ought to be done in a way that causes us to love, honor, and be thankful towards God, rather than treating ourselves as idols.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Get Rich Quick Schemes

"A faithful man shall abound with blessings, but he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent." - Proverbs 28:20

There are no working "get rich quick" schemes. Not financially, and not spiritually. We work hard for our wages; even the rich who don't appear to be working hard at the moment worked very hard to get to where they are. 

The same is true in spiritual life; you can't just say a quick prayer and then be good to go. You learn God's word, you study, you obey, you trust, and you pray. You stand up to challenges, you learn, you act on what you know, you use lots of time to learn and grow.

The difference between working for riches and the work it takes to grow our faith in the Lord is this:

In the end, financial life dies when we do. Spiritual life (or possible lack thereof) will cause us to go on forever, whether in Heaven or Hell. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Better Than The Pharisees

"Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.' But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
-Luke 18:10-14

It's easy to look at this passage and roll our eyes at the Pharisee. “What a self absorbed jerk!” We might think. His lack of humility is clearly visible. We then turn to the tax collector in this parable, nodding and agreeing. We’ve all had the Sunday school lesson- we know we too are sinners. We close our Bibles smiling, thankful that we aren't like those people.

What’s wrong with this picture?

I don't know about you, but I’ve done it. I've heard of the sins of others and silently judged them and/or felt proud of myself for being such a “good” Christian. I've inwardly smiled as I felt immune to certain temptations. But is this really what we are called to? Is this what “newness of life” looks like- focusing on what's wrong with the people around us while self-righteously thinking we’re doing relatively decent?

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
-Romans 3:23