The Power of Pride

High school football player Isayah Muller.

He just led his team to a championship win.

He is dead now.

He was killed in New York after his father discovered a bottle of cologne missing from their car after a graduation ceremony.  When he noticed the bottle missing, he turned the car around and confronted the parking attendants.  The argument became violent, his son got involved, and was stabbed as a result.

Now we have one less 19 year old in the world, victim of a senseless murder because his father couldn’t live without a bottle of cologne.

Tell me America, that we don’t need a little more God in our lives, and a little less pride and conceit.

Tell me we don’t need to get on our knees and ask God to intervene in our lives.

Wake up America and start realizing what is important, before we destroy ourselves.

“Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. ”
–Psalm 73:6

The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.
–Proverbs 8:13


And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Mark 12:30-31

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Finding Strength

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? [shall] tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
–Romans 8:35-39

Last week, I wrote a post where I talked about the economic situation in America.  I talked about how things are getting worse.  I offered a way through the mess, through our faith in God.  Today I want to talk more about adversity and hard times.  I hope that through this post, I can reach someone who may be going through tough times, and encourage them to keep their faith in our Savior.

Pastor Greg Laurie recently told a stadium full of worshipers in New Zealand that he simply does not know why God allows suffering.  I don’t know either.  I mean I have my opinions, and I am sure many Christians do as well.  But I truly believe there are questions we simply won’t be able to answer on earth. We will have the answers one day, when we get to Heaven.  Until then, we have to look at the Bible, and do the best we can in this fallen world.

I have had my hardships in life.  No, I have not been at war.  No, I have not been in real poverty.  But the word hardship is such a relative term.  What is a hardship for one man is nothing for someone else.  With that said, I can tell you that I have had times in my life where I simply did not know how I could go on.  I spent many nights awake, pondering how to move on with life.  Yet I have never walked in the shoes of a homeless person.  I have never lived the life of a political prisoner, or a child of war.  So I consider myself truly blessed, knowing that my life has been relatively good.

My wife and I recently started sponsoring a child in Brazil through Compassion International.  The program offers help to children in need around the world.  For $38, we provide food, shelter, and help with education for a girl named Livia.  I don’t mention this to boast, although we are very happy to be able to help her.  I mention it because this experience is serving to humble us, and help us recognize the hardships others endure in this world.

Livia lives near a city named Recife.  If you follow my blog, you may remember that I posted a story about Recife, and the garbage dump people there.  This is the story of the people who live off the scraps of food and items they pick up at the garbage dump in the city.  Livia lives in a small town near this city.  Compassion International is helping to keep Livia from this situation.  They not only provide food and shelter, they educate her and her family, and teach her about Jesus, encouraging her in her faith.  Thousands of children just like Livia have been helped by Compassion International and have been able to get out the slums and ghettos of these countries as a result.

The reason I mention Livia, is because there are so many children just like Livia around the world.  Yet here I sit, in an air conditioned room, sipping on a hot coffee, typing on my computer.  Yes I have suffered hard times, but Livia has nothing.  She lives in a shack with a dirt floor.  I live in a two bedroom villa, with a fully stocked refrigerator.  So I have been thinking about Livia lately.  How is she expected to survive her situation?  How can she persevere, so that she can grow up and get out of that situation?  How can we survive our situation, and get out of our hardships as well?

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
–Philipians 4:11-13

Paul writes in Romans that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Poverty will not do it.  Sickness can’t.  God loves us no matter what our situation is.  It does not matter if we make mistakes.  God knows we are fallen creatures.  He knows that no matter what hardships we suffer, that He has provided a way out, a way of escape. In the verses from Philipians above, we are told that through Christ, all things are possible.  No matter who we are, where we live, or what we have done, there is a God who loves us unconditionally.  We are special to Him, and through our faith in Him, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.”
1 Peter 4:12-13

In this passage, we learn how we are to deal with adversity.  We are to rejoice.  Why?  Because by suffering, we come closer to our Savior.  Remember how our Messiah suffered on the cross? Remember how he was beaten and tortured?  He did that for us, to save us from our sins.  In suffering, we can remember our Lord, and what He endured on Earth, and we can know that our suffering, no matter how bad it may seem, is only temporary.

In my last post, and in many that I write, I make reference to us being spoiled in America.  I always try to make comparisons to others around the world, how much other people suffer compared to our relative prosperity in America.  I believe for most of us, it is a good comparison.  It helps us to realize that we have it pretty good in America compared to others around the world.

But the fact is, for the homeless, for those that have lost their jobs, for those who are suffering from illness, my comparisons do not make their situations any better.  I understand that.  No matter how much more someone else suffers, we are still burdened with our own suffering.  I have been there my friend, and I do understand.  But know that no matter what we suffer in our earthly lives, God is with us.  He is right there next to us.  As the passage from Romans says, nothing can separate us from His love, and our faith will be rewarded.

“And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast..”
–1 Peter 5:10

Again, we will never truly understand in this life why God allows suffering.  But we do know – through His word – that He will stand with us while we do.  Our suffering will strength us, it will make us wiser, and it will draw us closer to our Savior, who suffered on the cross for our sins.  We can know that our trials and tribulations are temporary.

For Livia, and  for us, our faith will carry us through.

“I can’t stop the rain, From falling down on you again
I can’t stop the rain, But I will hold you ’til it goes away”
–When the Rain Comes, Third Day

Breathe You In by Thousand Foot Krutch

Taking hold, breaking in
The pressures on, need to circulate
Mesmerized and taken in
Moving slow, so it resonates

It’s time to rest, not to sleep away
My thoughts alone, try to complicate
I’ll do my best, to seek You out
And be myself and not impersonate

I tried so hard to not walk away
And when things don’t go my way
I’ll still carry on and on, just the same

I’ve always been strong, but can’t make this happen
‘Cause I need to breathe, I want to breathe You in
Fear of becoming so tired of running
‘Cause I need to breathe, I want to breathe You in
I want to breathe You in

I’m going in, so cover me
Your compass will help me turn the page
The laughing stock, I’ll never be
Because I won’t let them take me

I tried so hard to not walk away
And when things don’t go my way
I’ll still carry on and on, just the same

I’ve always been strong, but can’t make this happen
‘Cause I need to breathe, I want to breathe You in
Fear of becoming so tired of running
‘Cause I need to breathe

Took awhile to see
All the love that’s around me
Through the highs and lows
There’s a truth that I know and it’s You

I, I’ve always been strong, but can’t make this happen
‘Cause I need to breathe, I want to breathe You in
The fear of becoming so tired of running
‘Cause I need to breathe, I want to breathe You in

I want to breathe You in, I want to breathe You in
I want to breathe You in, I want to, I want to
I want to breathe You in, I want to breathe You in
I want to breathe, I want to, I want to, I want to breathe
I want to breathe, I want to breathe, I want to breathe

What’s Happening To Us America?

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”
–1 John 2:15-17

Things are not getting better folks.  I am sorry.  I wish that I could write a really great, positive message about how wonderful the economy is bouncing back.  I wish I could tell everyone that the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, that the country will start to flourish and all of us will be back to work very soon.  But it just isn’t happening.

A CNBC article today announced that the Dow Jones Industrial Index was down considerably after the government reported that the recovery is stalling.  I am writing this in the middle of the day so it might bounce back.  However, the writing is on the wall.  Wall Street just does not have much confidence in our economy these days.  We have a housing market in collapse.  We have oil prices soaring due to crisis in the Middle East.  The Obama Administration announced they were releasing 30 million barrels of oil from our strategic reserve.

We hear it around us.  We see it in the news.  It is obvious to anyone who looks around.  Crime is increasing.  An article from a couple of years ago tells us what we know is true.  As economic problems increase, desperation sets in.  Some people turn to crime in search of staying afloat.  Others, taking advantage of the situation, use the economic down turn as an excuse to pursue illegal activity.  It then becomes a downward spiral, as the economy forces local governments to cut back, forcing police forces to work more with less, causing an even sharper increase in crime.

So why do I write such depressing words?

Am I trying to throw salt into an already gaping wound?

No.

But I am trying to offer a way to survive this mess.

Maybe, just maybe, money isn’t everything.  Maybe there is a way to survive without the constant pursuit of wealth and profit.

Maybe the answer is in a book.

“The Lord sends poverty and wealth; he humbles and he exalts.”
–Samuel 2:7

God has tried to tell us in many ways, through His word, how to humble ourselves and stay away from idolizing our possessions. For the most part – as a nation – we have not listened.  Life in our society is so much about what we own – the car we drive, the house we live in, the jewelry we wear.  We love our status symbols.  Yet what happens to us when those status symbols are gone? What happens when God allows those material things to disappear?  What are we really without the cars, the houses, the jewelry?

Sinners.

Imperfect, fallen creatures, now devoid of an identity because we chose to create an identity based on worldly possessions instead of based on the only thing that matters – God.  Yes this is a depressing post, but I feel it is an important one.

Think it about it for just a second.

The last time you were at the mall, didn’t you see plenty of people?  When you walk into many of the restaurants in your town, don’t you still see people there?  Yes we are in a recession, and things may be getting worse,  but if we need to keep things in perspective.  The United States is still the wealthiest country in the world.  Poverty in America means you still get a check from the government.  Most of the poor in our country still have a place to go for help. Contrast that with countries like Haiti.  Compare that with some of the poorer countries in Africa, where people literally starve to death.

Yet we are already seeing the panic in this country.  We see people in the news use expressions like “economic meltdown” and “economic depression”.  What will happen in this country if one day we truly see an economic collapse?  What will happen if the worse happens?

Maybe, just maybe – it is time for a change.

I am talking about real change here folks, not just lip service.  Maybe it is time to start realizing what is important.  God has a way of showing up in our lives whether we like it or not.  No I am not saying that God is causing the economic collapse.  I would never presume to know that.  But He sure is allowing it.  Is it possible He is doing it for a reason?  Is it possible it is a warning?

“There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
–1 Corinthians 10:13

God does not allow bad things to happen without cause.  What a temptation it can be to stray from His will in times like these, choosing to take matters into our own hands.  For some, the temptation is so great, the desperation so much, that they succumb to this fallen world, and do things they will regret. But He is faithful to us, and He loves us more than we know.  He allows us to suffer, but always offers a way out, a way of escape.

What could He possibly be telling us now?

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money”
–Matthew 6:24

I believe the Bible is clear as to how He wants us to deal with money and possessions.  We are not to serve them, but Him. The fact is that the cars we drive, the houses we live in, the jewels on our fingers and necks, the clothes on our backs – they are not ours, but His.  He owns everything.  We are simply stewards of those resources.  We can choose to manage them wisely, or He can simply take them away, to be managed by someone else.

Sometimes Christians in America like to think of our nation as such a great nation.  I think sometimes we tend to believe that God favors us, that he thinks of us as a great people, worthy of His praise.  But are we really?  Are we simply being foolish?  Is that God talking, or is it simply our pride?  Let’s remember that pride is the root of evil.  There are wonderful things to be very happy about in America.  There is no doubt about that.  But the day we consider ourselves to be so great that we don’t need a Savior,  may be the day He takes us down a notch or two.

Maybe it is already happening.

My hope is that as a nation, we find a way to humble ourselves.  America needs to spend more time on its knees in prayer than it spends bowing down to the almighty dollar. I hope that as a nation, we start to learn what is really important in life, and it isn’t accumulation of wealth.

It is about love.

It is about humility.

It is about faith.

But it all starts with God’s grace.

Trust in Jesus

One of these days we all will stand in judgment for
Every single word that we have spoken
One of these days we all will stand before the Lord
Give a reason for everything we’ve done
And what I’ve done is

Trust in Jesus
My great Deliverer
My strong Defender
The Son of God
I trust in Jesus
Blessed Redeemer
My Lord forever
The Holy One, the Holy One

What are you going to do when your time has come
And your life is done and there’s nothing you can stand on
What will you have to say at the judgment throne
I already know the only thing that I can say I

There’s nothing I can do on my own to find forgiveness
It’s by His grace alone I trust in Jesus
Trust in Jesus

Thanks Dad!

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”
–Proverbs 22:6

1978.

We had recently moved from New Jersey to Miami.  Our dad had bought a few chickens, and  was in the backyard, with a bunch of wood and other materials.

He calls out for me to come out.  He says he needs help.

“Son – come over here.  I need some help.”

He is standing there with a box of nails, hammer in hand.

“We are going to build a chicken coop.  Stand there and hold this box of nails.”

It is now three hours later, and I am still holding a box of nails while my dad is hammering away.  During those three hours, I have asked several questions about the chicken coop – how we were going to build it, where it was going to go in the back yard, which chickens would live there.  Yet during the entire three hours, I have done nothing but hold a box of nails. Suddenly I am not getting the whole “we” part of the equation.  Not feeling very helpful, and fidgeting about as frustration grows, I start to complain.

“Papi, I am not really helping here.  Can I go play?”

Dad is not pleased.  He gives me one of those looks that says I am venturing down the wrong path with my words or actions.  History tells me that this look is usually proceeded with consequences for continuing my bad behavior.

I stand quietly for the rest of the afternoon.

1982.

My grandfather has passed away, and we are at the funeral home.  My dad’s father was a very well loved man, and it is standing room only as we mourn his passing.  My father is a strong man.  I see him greeting people as they come in.  Many hug him, offering their condolences.  This is my first funeral, and it is confusing.  My grandfather helped raise me, and the loss is so hard to deal with for me, yet I see my father walking around like it is no big deal.  Sometimes I even see him smile and laugh with others as they engage in small talk.

Then it is time for the priest to say a few words.  I don’t remember what he said.  I just remember everyone standing around the coffin and praying.  My grandmother and aunt are crying now.  Then the coffin is closed, and my father finally breaks down.

“No!  I can’t do this!”

I see him run to another room, and we all look around at each other.  Before I realize what is happening, my brothers, my step mom, aunt, and a few others are in the other room, and we are huddled together around him, all sobbing and coming to grips with our loss.

It was the first time I can remember seeing my father cry.

2010

I am getting married.  This is my second chance at a covenant with God.  My first wife passed after a long bout with Diabetes and Kidney disease.  Throughout our battle with the disease, my dad was always there, offering whatever help he could.  But now, I had gotten a second chance at marriage with a wonderful woman.

My dad steps to the altar, and begins to read.  We had chosen John 3:1-17 for him to read.  I know that this is one of his favorite passages of the Bible.  Throughout the years, it had also become mine.  What a comfort it is to know that the man who led me to follow Christ many years ago, is present to remind me and those around us what being a Christian is all about.

The day I spent holding a box of nails was one of the most boring in my life.  I really did not understand what the point was.  What was this torture my father was putting me through?  What was the point of standing there with a bunch of nails?

There was a point.

He was teaching me obedience.  Through my obedience to my father, I was learning patience and humility.  I was learning that sometimes, we don’t have to understand they why’s of life, but that if we simply stand there and obey our father, we just may learn something, through patience, through listening, through observing.

The day of my grandfather’s funeral still plays out in my head.  We all miss him so much, even today.  He was such a great example for all of us.  That day at the funeral home, my father taught me more than he knows.  He taught me strength.   He taught me how to be strong in the face of trials and tribulations.  He taught me love.  His love for his father came through in a way no one could doubt.  It is the same love I hold for him as well.  Finally, I  learned how important family is, how valuable it is to have a family you can call upon at a moments notice.

The day I was married, I had both my mother and father present to view it.  How valuable it was to  be married in the presence of the two people who are responsible for making me who I am.  Hearing my dad recite the way to salvation confirms what Jesus was really about – love.  When I was young, I did not understand, so I put my trust in my earthly father.  His unconditional love for me guided me through a path in my life that led me to the unconditional love of my Heavenly Father and Savior Jesus Christ. Throughout the years, when I have needed him, my Dad has been there.

No he is not perfect.   Part of growing up is coming to understand that our parents are human.  As we become adults, we learn to have adult relationships with our parents, and part of that change is understanding that our parents are sinners.  We all are.  Yet there is strength in that understanding.  When we realize that our parents are not perfect, we also realize that they too have gone through the same trials and tribulation that we may be facing.  It is that wisdom they have from experiencing life that continues to benefit us as we go through this life together, as brothers and sister in Christ.

Thanks Dad, and Happy Father’s Day!

Christian Words, Part Six – Humility

Humility – from humble, not proud or haughty. not arrogant or assertive. reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference or submission

“You can have no greater sign of confirmed pride than when you think you are humble enough.”
–William Law

Humility is a concept that I am trying very hard to incorporate into my daily life. As difficult as it can be, the act of humbling yourself can be – well – humbling. I believe the essential part of the definition above is the first two words – not proud. We really cannot talk about this word without discussing its opposite – pride.

It is said that pride is the root of sin and evil As we discuss this topic, I think you will understand why I agree with that sentiment.

“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
–Psalms 10:4

What does the verse above mean? Well, it does not mean that the proud do not believe in God. What it means is the product of pride is distance from God. In essence, when we put our desires above God, we are trying to replace God with ourselves. Humility, then is the act of realizing how unimportant our desires are in the face of God’s will. It is a surrendering to His will, realizing that is not by anything we do, but by the grace of God that all things are possible.

Today we are inundated with ways to avoid humility. Think about our American culture and the ever present need for us to acquire material things. We all have to have the latest car, the latest smart phone, the biggest house. The phrase “keeping up with the Jones’” is a phrase invented by people who could use a little humility in their lives. Yet how often have we seen in the news the affect of money on some, who end up being consumed, committing fraud or other crimes in their pursuit of their idol. None of these people started out with these selfish desires. It grew step by step, as they strayed farther and farther from God and more into their sin, fueled by pride.

But money is not the only issue in our society. Sometimes the lack of humility leads to sin fueled by other evils such as conceit or vanity. Not too long ago I spoke about a mother who, seeking to live through her young daughter, was injecting Botox into her child, as part of her competition in beauty pageants. We also see many others in our culture that are driven by the pursuit of themselves, looking for ways to draw attention to themselves, rather than humble themselves and realize that the world does not revolve around them. Has this ever occurred to you? I am sure it has. How many of us pass the homeless man on the street, barely looking at him because he smells or looks bad? How many of us think ourselves better than someone else? We all do at one point or another. Since we are not perfect, achieving perfect humility in our lives is something we will constantly struggle with, yet it is the key to understanding what Jesus Christ was trying to teach us.

“Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.

After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, “Lord, are You washing my feet?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this.” Peter said to Him, “You shall never wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.”

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” Jesus said to him, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” For He knew who would betray Him; therefore He said, “You are not all clean.”

So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.”
–John 13:1-17

What a beautiful passage from the Bible. There are some passages I read that simply stand on their own. They teach us so much about how we should live our lives. Here Jesus teaches us better than anyone what humility really means. If Jesus, being the Son of God, can humble himself and wash the feet of his disciples, what excuse do we have? None. We are taught by our Savior that any of us should be ready to wash the feet of our neighbor. What does that mean for our daily lives?

Well, maybe it means that the next time someone at work comes to you with a problem, you don’t brush him aside because you cannot be bothered, or because he is a new employee and you believe helping him out is somehow beneath you. Maybe for someone else it means that when the homeless man asks you for a quarter, you give him a dollar, not passing him by because you think less of him. Maybe it means choosing a more loving and helpful way to correct someone who has done something wrong.

Before I close, I do want to address one part of humility, and that is how, within the church. we deal with our fellow brothers and sisters. All too often, we hear about people who have left the church. Many times, the answers they give have to do with how people in the church treated them. All too often, in the pursuit of “doing the right thing”, we end up driving people away, and that is a shame. We don’t do it purposely. Even though our heart is in the right place, we are sinners, and sometimes a lack of humility is our downfall.

Humbling ourselves is not something reserved only for others. We all need to make it a conscious point to humble ourselves everyday. We need to look at every person who walks through our door as someone worthy of our love and affection. We should be willing to wash their feet, willing to serve them no differently than any other brother or sister. Humbling ourselves is a necessary part of fellowship. We are not to condemn them in an effort to make comparisons between them and us. If Jesus could humble himself, as great a King as He is, there is no excuse for us to drive our fellow man away because we could not come down from our self-appointed throne, a throne we have no right to cling to.

Let us always remember who Jesus Christ came to save.

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”
–Romans 5:6