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Tag Archives: Pride

How Death Helps Us

As I approached 50 (and then hit it) this past summer, I more and more began to think about how many years I have left.  I’m not trying to be morbid, but I think this is pretty natural.  However, it is different than the way I used to think.

As a young child, I vaguely remember watching the evening news on the Vietnam War.  Back then, when I contemplated dying like all the young soldiers on the news reports, I thought maybe I would be able to escape death somehow.  First of all, I thought that maybe I wouldn’t have to go to war like them, and second, I thought some scientist might find a cure for dying by the time I got to old age.

But the years and their accumulated wisdom have shown me that death is coming, unless of course the Lord Jesus returns, which of course would be much, much better.

Now, of course, from a Christian perspective, death is the enemy. And thankfully, because of Christ, death is in its death throes; and I, like all other believers, will be very glad for the day when death finally dies.

And yet…there is something about death that I find, for lack of a better word, helpful.  Now, maybe I’m crazy, because I’m actually not sure that I’m supposed to think this way, so feel free to write me letters. And obviously, it’s not helpful to me in that I have lost loved ones, or could lose others.  For this, I hate death.

But…it is helpful to me personally in remembering who I am.  As Casting Crowns sings so wonderfully, “I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind.”

You see, without death, I think I might overestimate my own importance, like the nationally prominent pastor who was caught in sexual immorality sometime in the 80’s.  His denomination had a full, probably well-thought-through discipline and restoration process for him to go through, which through his national prominence he personally cut short after 3 months saying that his church needed him to come back, or lost people needed him to come back, or God needed him, or something.

And I thought at the time, “Nope, they actually they don’t need you.”  God didn’t need him any more than my church or the Lord needs me today. In fact, I, like everyone else, am quite expendable. And nothing teaches me this better than death.  It’s the old joke about the man who is working hard at his desk when Death with his hooded cloak and scythe shows up at the office door, and the man says, “I can’t die today; I’ve got too much on my to-do list.”  Right.  Don’t we all?

Death is the ultimate humbling experience. It speaks to the Hollywood star or the National politician or the self-important pastor: “I guess you weren’t so necessary after all.”

Paul knew this.  That’s right, even the Apostle Paul knew that he was replaceable…yes, expendable.  So when the prophet Agabus told him that he was about to be arrested and handed over to the authorities if he went to Jerusalem, and his friends subsequently urged him not to go, Paul replied…

“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13 (ESV)

How about that? For all he had accomplished, the Apostle Paul still didn’t think he was…necessary. He had a perspective on himself that came from God.  The work would go on without him quite well, thank you very much; and besides this, he had another understanding about the end of life that made his perspective on death quite palatable.  It is a truth he shared with the church at Philippi that made it possible to think about the end with both humility…and expectation:

“For to me,” Paul said with confidence, “to live is Christ…and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

 

For Wednesday, March 11th: Acts 22

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Two Ways to Live

There are two kinds of people in the world.

One kind of person is like Herod the Tetrarch. And the other is like this man we come to know and love in the gospels and Acts – Peter the Apostle. What is the difference? Well, in short, one is independent, and the other is dependent.

In a match of Herod versus Peter, we know where to put our money.  Herod wins in a first round knock-out, right?  But man’s ways are not God’s ways. And by the end of Acts 12, Herod is literally on the mat, in a very nasty way.  Peter is moving on to fight other battles.  It looks like dependence may be a better plan in life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – in this chapter, we see independent Herod making decisions, ruling territories, putting people to death (Both James and a squad of soldiers). Here we see the self-made man, the man of action, the get-it-done-and-take-no-prisoners kind of guy. He is the kind of man that makes others quake when he comes into the room (or speaks – “the voice of god and not of a man!”).

And then there is lowly Peter. Peter doesn’t really do much of anything in this chapter, and perhaps that is by Luke’s design. By contrasting the two, Luke is trying to show us something. Dependent Peter sits in prison and is rescued. And Herod? Herod exerts his great power and is actually the one who wickedly puts him in prison.

When an angel finally sets Peter free, he goes to a nearby house and get this, they don’t even let him in at first. I know it’s certainly not that he wasn’t welcome, but it does set up a fairly hilarious comedy of errors as the newly freed and seemingly powerless Apostle waits outside while nobody believes that God could have possibly answered their prayers.

And when Peter finally makes a report, well, of course, it’s God who gets the praise:

But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought them out of the prison. Acts 12:17 (ESV)

Glory to God…not Peter.

And then Herod. He accepts the praise of men and…

Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. Acts 12:23 (ESV)

You see, there is only one way to live – the prideful and independent person will meet his end, even if it doesn’t come quite like Herod’s – but the humble and dependent person not only shows us how to live; he also shows us how to be saved.

 

Tomorrow, Thursday, February 26: Acts 13

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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8 Ways the Pharisees Blew It (With Commentary)

Matthew 23 is Jesus’ scathing indictment of the Scribes and Pharisees.  What exactly was He so upset with them about?

1. They preached, but did not practice. (vs. 3) As a regular preacher of God’s word, I can say with authority that this is a great temptation, and that in small ways or large, preacher or no preacher, we are all guilty.

2. They did all their deeds to be seen by others. (vs. 5) Short-term payoff, long term foolishness. You gain man’s approval and lose God’s.  That strikes me as a bad trade-off (see Matthew 6:1).

3. They were full of pride. (vss. 6- 10) I introduced myself to a pastor in town once (he has since moved away) saying, “Hi, I’m Roger Knowlton, pastor at Edgewood Church.” And he said with a bit of superiority, “I’m Reverend (Last Name).” I wanted to say, “Hey, it’s okay – we’re all in the pastor’s club.” But I kept my mouth shut. Anyway, I think it’s fine to be called “Pastor,” though “Rog” is absolutely great too.  And my kids are still getting my attention with “Hey Dad!”  I’m pretty sure it’s not wrong to use titles; rather, I think Jesus’ point is the spirit in which the title is used.

4. They kept people from going to heaven. (vss. 13 – 15) Anti-love your neighbor as yourself.  Consider – could we do anything worse to a fellow human being?

5. They created extra laws to obey which were not from God. (vss. 16 – 22) We call this legalism. The owner’s manual says change your oil every 3,000 miles, but the Pharisees said, “Hey, if you really love God, you’ll do it every 1,000…and rotate your tires while you’re at it.”  Thus they made the people tired…and broke.

6. They disobeyed God. (vss. 23, 24) This tends to be the outcome of legalism. You create extra laws and in so doing, fail to perform the important ones.  You can’t say it better than Jesus: “Strain out a gnat – swallow a camel.”

7. They gave attention to outward appearance, and ignored the state of their insides, their souls. (vss. 25 – 28) From Tim Keller’s new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God: “If we give priority to the outer life, our inner life will be dark and scary…our lives will lack integrity. Outwardly, we will need to project confidence, spiritual and emotional health and wholeness, while inwardly we may be filled with self-doubts, anxieties, self-pity, and old grudges…In short, unless we put a priority on the inner life, we turn ourselves into hypocrites.” The application is undoubtedly a deep life of secret prayer.

8. They rejected the Prophet(s). (vss. 29 – 36) Look at the previous seven. I imagine we’ve all played the Pharisee at one time or another.  So go ahead, put on your phylacteries and fringes, but if you miss #8, there are no second chances.  For in shedding the blood of the Prophet Jesus, the Scribes and Pharisees failed to see that He had shed His blood for them.

 

Tomorrow, Tuesday, February 3rd: Matthew 24

 
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Posted by on February 2, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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