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Sunday, August 20, 2017

You Are What You ____

There is a saying that goes, "You are what you eat." The meaning behind this is that if you fill your body with healthy food, you will be healthy, but if you fill it with unhealthy food, you will be unhealthy. We can apply this saying to other things as well, such as what we think and what we love. Basically, we become like the things that we eat, think, and love. We take on their characteristics.

If we think about things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, or commendable, things that are excellent or praiseworthy, then we will display those characteristics in our lives and have God's peace (Philippians 4:8). But if we do not think about these kinds of things, we will not have those characteristics or that peace. What we put in our minds reflects in the way we live our lives.

If we love God, then we will be filled with God's love. We will have the love of the Father in us. But if we love the world, or the things of the world, then we will be like the world, filled with the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and the pride of life. Choosing to love the world over loving God and doing His will is choosing between that which is temporary and that which is eternal (1 John 2:15-17).

This concept also applies to what we worship. When we worship God, who is worthy, when we give Him the praise that He alone deserves, then we become more like Him. We become what He intended us to be, people created in His image (Genesis 1:26). But when we worship idols, things of the world, we become like them: worthless. In speaking of the Israelites and their stubbornness and refusal to listen to the words spoken by the prophets, Scripture says, "They worshiped worthless idols, so they became worthless themselves." (2 Kings 17:15, NLT)

The choice is ours to make. Just as we can choose to be healthy by eating healthy rather than unhealthy food, we can choose to be more like God, more like our Creator by worshipping Him rather than the idols of the world.

Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Practice Makes Perfect

Many years ago, I performed in the musical Godspell, singing the song All Good Gifts. When we started rehearsing the show, I was unable to hit all of the notes in the chorus, so the musical director changed the notes a bit so that I could sing the song. The theatre company I was working with ended up performing the show in several locations over the course of a year. During that time, I was also taking vocal lessons, practicing my craft so that my voice would become better and stronger. I soon learned the truth in the saying, "Practice makes perfect." After a few months of vocal practice and performing, those notes that had been too high for me became easy, as my vocal range had expanded.

In his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul encourages the believers to follow his example. He tells them to take all of the things that they have learned, received, and heard from him and to put them into practice (Philippians 4:9). He urged them to rejoice in the Lord. No matter what circumstances they found themselves in, they should rejoice. They should not be anxious about anything but, with prayer and thanksgiving, they should present their requests to God (Philippians 4:4-6). They should focus their hearts and minds on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and commendable.

I believe that Paul would have agreed with the saying that practice makes perfect. And, although none of us will ever be perfect, when we practice these things in our lives, when we follow the example that Paul set, not just for the Philippians, but for all of us, we will achieve something that is perfect. We will achieve the perfect peace that only God can give. In Philippians 4:9, Paul says that when we practice these things, the God of peace will be with us. When it comes to our walk with God, practice makes perfect peace.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Boast in the Lord

Muhammad Ali is regarded as one of the best heavyweight boxers of the 20th century. And, he knew it. While most fighters of that time preferred to let their managers do the talking for them, Ali basked in the spotlight and never held back in giving himself praise. He frequently boasted of his own prowess, often in poetic fashion: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. The hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see.” The man who often referred to himself as “the greatest” was once quoted as saying, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re as great as I am.”

God’s Word is clear that boasting of one’s abilities or deeds in a manner that shows pride or self-satisfaction is both arrogant and evil (James 4:16). Boasting in oneself is an expression of pride and one of the characteristics of unrighteousness (Romans 1:29-31). A person who boasts in his own abilities or deeds, who commends himself, is not one who is approved by God. Rather, it is the person commended by God who is approved (2 Corinthians 10:18). Boasting in oneself is improper boasting, but there is boasting that is not only proper, but also biblical.

Although it is not right for us to boast in ourselves, Scripture tells us that it is appropriate to boast in or praise other people (Proverbs 27:2). The apostle Paul boasted in the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 7:14), and Jesus commended six of the seven churches that He spoke to in Revelation. So, boasting in the accomplishments of others is proper, but the greatest boasting that we can possibly do is to boast in the Lord.

In both of his letters to the believers in Corinth, Paul points out that Scripture says that the person who boasts should boast in the Lord (1 Corinthians 1:31; 2 Corinthians 10:17). In Psalm 44:8, the sons of Korah state that, in God, they make their boast all day long. Boasting in the Lord, giving Him glory, is both the highest and most appropriate form of boasting there is. In fact, God is delighted when we boast of the things that we know about Him (Jeremiah 9:24). Clearly, boasting in the Lord is proper boasting.

The object of our boasting should never be ourselves. We can boast in others, but above all, the object of our boasting can and should be the Lord. As the psalmist says, “Some trust in and boast of chariots and some of horses, but we will trust in and boast of the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7, AMP*).


*"Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Psalm 37: He Will Not Forsake His Saints

A look at the newspapers or a glance at TV news these days is enough to cause anyone to worry about the condition of our nation and the world. Evil abounds and the wicked seem to be prevailing. Violence and hatred are rampant, terrorism is an almost daily occurrence, and immorality knows no bounds. It's disheartening, to say the least. So, how do we deal with all of this evil? How do we keep it from bringing us down? God has provided an answer to these questions in Psalm 37.

God tells us that we should not fret over those who do evil, for they will fade like the grass (Psalm 37:1). The evil will one day be cut off, they will be no more (Psalm 37:9-10). Although evil seems to be prevailing, one day it will be the righteous and the meek who will inherit the earth and delight in the peace that God provides (Psalm 37:11). And although the wicked may come against those who are upright, their evil ways will one day be turned against them (Psalm 37:14-15).

As we wait for the day when evil will no longer prevail in this world, there are several things that we can and should do. First, we should trust in the Lord, showing that trust by doing good and being faithful (Psalm 37:3). We should also delight in the Lord and commit our ways to Him. When we do, His Word promises that He will act by bringing forth our righteousness (Psalm 37:5-6). Rather than fret over the evil of this world, we should wait patiently and quietly for the Lord (Psalm 37:7). Finally, we must refrain from anger and avoid wrath. These things only lead to evil (Psalm 37:8).

God is in control. He hates evil but loves justice. And while the wicked will one day perish and be cut off, God will never forsake His saints. Those who walk in His ways, who turn from evil and do good, will dwell with Him forever (Psalm 37:27-29).

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Servant Leadership


Abraham Lincoln is considered one of our nation’s greatest leaders. As the 16th President of the United States, Lincoln provided an example of servant leadership, particularly in his actions during the Civil War. As president, Lincoln was faced with two difficult tasks, preserving the Union during this conflict that pitted brother against brother, and the emancipating of Southern slaves. It would have been very easy for President Lincoln to let the Union just dissolve, to allow it to split into two separate nations. It would have been just as easy to let slavery remain as it was. But that’s not the kind of leader that Lincoln was. Instead of choosing the easy road, the one that would have made his own life easier, Lincoln chose the hard road. Why? Because Lincoln believed his responsibility as a leader was to do what would be best for the people, best for the nation he served. Lincoln was a servant leader.

The greatest example of servant leadership, of course, is Jesus, who came to serve mankind by laying down his life for us. It would have been easy for Him to choose not to do so. But, Jesus taught that leaders are meant to serve. On the night before He died, He gave an example of this to His disciples when He went around the table and washed the feet of each and every one of them (John 13:1-5). The King of kings, the Son of God, washed the feet of ordinary, sinful men, setting the example for each of us to follow (John 13:12-16). After giving this example of servant leadership, Jesus gave the ultimate example when He went to His death on the cross, choosing our salvation over His own life.

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul gives a great explanation of what it means to be a servant leader. A servant leader does nothing out of his own selfish ambition or to make himself look better. Instead, in humility, he looks at those he leads as being more significant than himself (Philippians 2:3). A servant leader puts the interests of others, of the people he leads, ahead of his own personal interests (Philippians 2:4). And, most importantly, a servant leader models the mind of Jesus by not looking at his own power or his own status, but instead serving those who he leads. Jesus was the ultimate example of this (Philippians 2:5-8).

Whether you lead a ministry, pastor a church, supervise people on your job, or lead a family, strive to be a servant leader. As you lead, look to Jesus for the example of what it means to be a true servant leader.