A Mile In Your Shoes

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:17-18)

One of the most awkward things we do in life is meeting new people. When you first meet someone, you don’t have any knowledge about them beyond a cursory visual inspection. First conversations can be strained or stilted, and we will often fall into typical conversational rhythms about the weather, jobs, sports or even the news. There is no established rapport, so it is difficult to know how to steer the conversation.

Eventually, though, you find some sort of common ground, a shared interest or experience, and this thing that you have in common gives you some insight into who this person is and how they think. Some relationships never develop beyond that initial acquaintance, but when you share several things in common with someone there is a greater potential to have a meaningful relationship with that person. I’m sure we can all think of a friendship that is especially close because of how much you share in common.

That is one of the reasons that I am so grateful that God sent Jesus to come to Earth and live as one of us. When I think about trying to establish a relationship with God apart from the Incarnation, it just doesn’t work in my head. What does a finite, ignorant, weak creature like me have in common with an infinite, all-knowing, all-powerful God? I know the Bible teaches that I am in some way made in God’s image, but from my perspective it must be a very poor, distorted reflection. He and I are so unlike, despite all my efforts to be more like Him!

But that’s where the genius of God’s plan for salvation shows.  Jesus came to live as one of us.  He was “made like his brothers in every respect.”  He learned to walk & talk…just like we do. He had family and friends who supported him at one time and disagreed with him the next…just like we do.  He experienced joy and sorrow, peace and turmoil, love and disappointment…just like we do. It’s true that all the details of his life do not match the specifics of our own, but that does not mean that he can’t relate to us. When we cry out to the Lord, he knows what we are thinking and feeling not because he is God but because he has been there himself.  He has walked that road.

God went out of his way to reveal himself to us throughout the Old Testament. Jesus willingly gave up his position and authority in Heaven to clarify that revelation and intercede on our behalf. The Holy Spirit has come to empower us and serve as our advocate and helper.  It seems that God will stop at nothing to reach us. So while we may go through times when God does not feel near, that doesn’t mean that it is true. God is near. He is willing and able to help.  So when you are being tested, tempted, and pushed to your very limit, know that Jesus has been where you now stand and is ready to show the way beyond the current circumstance to a place of victory! 

Prayer: Father, thank you for sending your Son to walk a mile in our shoes. Thank you for being willing to meet us where we are and show us the way beyond the hurt and temptation. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen!

I Had Heard, But Now I See!

(Job 42:1-6 ESV) 1 Then Job answered the LORD and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Many years ago, there was a commercial on TV that used the tagline, “Try Kelloggs Cornflakes again for the very first time!” It was an intelligent way to entice individuals to reevaluate a well known and very popular breakfast cereal. It worked. The commercial was well received and it accomplished its goal of increasing the sales of the product.

The book of Job is a laborious read. It is an extremely important document that reveals theology unlike any other book in the Bible. Job is not a book that can be quickly read and understood. It takes time, and scholarly commentary is often helpful. With that said, there are many obvious points of interest that can be understood even by a child!

Without rehearsing the whole storyline, let’s agree that Job’s experience with God was one that took him from the height of prosperity, to the depth of dispair, and back again to blessing. He was very rich. He had impressive flocks. A loving wife. Great kids. He was well known, greatly respected, and righteous in the eyes of the Lord. He lost it all. Even his health.

But the wonderful thing about this historical account is that through it all, Job remained faithful; he maintained his integrity. After this lengthy, and difficult trial Job declares that his former knowledge of God was based more on what he had been told rather than personal experience. He said, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear…”  In other words,… Daddy told me. Momma told me. The preacher said it was so. My Sunday School teacher reinforced it. Ooh, I heard through grapevine…

I have good news and bad news. Bad news first… Are you ready? God will allow you to be tested, sometimes severely, so you can know him as never before. There is some knowledge you can only obtain by experiencing difficulty. You must taste the bitterness of tears before you can enjoy the sweetness fo victory. That’s just the way life is. But the good news is, God reveals his strength during our weakness. And when we come through the hard times, we will have a new and exciting knowledge of God’s power.

Job finishes his thought by saying, “but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” Job now has first hand knowledge of God’s mercy. We often acknowledge that Job was blessed in his last days even more than in his younger years. But, I would suggest that the greatest blessing was the new revelation of God that came through overcoming his terrible circumstances. As faithful as Job was, God proved to be even more faithful.

PRAYER: I’ve been through many difficult things in my short lifetime. But you have always proven yourself faithful. With each victory I have experienced a new level of spiritual understanding. Thank you that I have seen you at your best! amen.

For They Are Worthy

(Revelation 3:4 ESV) Yet you still have a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.

The Book of Revelation begins with a very personal and direct message to the seven churches. The church at Sardis had a reputation for being alive, but in reality they were dead. The Spirit spoke to them and encouraged them to wake up and strengthen what remained before the damage became irreversible.

What a beautiful picture of grace! God had invited them to make the proper course corrections which would enable them to experience restoration. Even though the church was in a weakened state, the possibility still existed for them to conquer their sin by repenting and reestablishing the principles of God’s word.

The angel then pronounced two promises. First, they would be clothed in white, symbolizing their restored place in the Kingdom. Second, their name would be written in the book of life, never to be blotted out.

In the middle of this disciplinary action, the angel makes a declaration that caught my attention. He said, “Yet you still have a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” In the midst of this dying church, there were people who had remained faithful, and had kept their reputation spotless.

As a pastor, I feel that I have a pretty good pulse on the people in the congregation. I don’t always get it right, but for the most part, I can tell who the “shiny” people are and who the faithful ones are. Like the church at Sardis, the shiny ones have a reputation for being alive, but are rotten on the inside. They know all the phrases to say. They’ve got religion down to an art. They can impress with the best! But, upon closer inspection, their shiny rubs off to reveal hidden inadequacies. And, when the going gets tough they get going–as far away as possible; looking for a shiny new place where their shininess will be appreciated!

In the middle of the mess there are individuals who, like the tortoise in the old fairy tale, just keep walking. There’s nothing shiny about them, they’re just faithful! You can depend on them. They don’t have to have the spotlight and they will give themselves sacrificially for the sake of Kingdom expansion. They aren’t usually in the majority, but they are there. And the Lord said of them, “They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” Imagine that!

In closing, consider the two options. Jesus says He will come as a thief in the night and “come against” the unrepentant. But, the ones who conquer will have their names recorded in the book of life; they will be clothed in white, and will walk with the Savior. Why? For they are worthy!

PRAYER: Father, more than anything, I want to be counted worthy to walk with You in white! But, until then, help me walk with You right now through whatever circumstances I may face. In the midst of a dark and foreboding world, I desire to be faithful. I’m looking forward to our walk… Amen.

Too Stupid To Be a Man…

(Proverbs 30: 1-3 ESV) The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out. Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.

“I am too stupid to be a man.”

When I first read this Proverb, I was taken aback by the force of these words. While there may have been a few occasions when I uttered similar words about myself, it just seems harsh and unnecessary.

As I examined the passage more closely, I understood why the writer (Agur) may have felt that way. First, these words were uttered in a moment of extreme exhaustion. Notice, he didn’t just say it once, but 3 times! He declared, “I am weary” twice, and “worn out” once. This is the picture of an individual who has no energy left.

After declaring his exhaustion, He further explains the reason for his state of mind. He says, “I have not the understanding of a man.” And he continues, “I have not learned understanding.”

Finally, he discovers the most important reality when he writes, “Nor have I knowledge of the Holy one.” Aah! There it is! This man has just uncovered the root problem of so many people who feel totally unprepared to face life.

He confessed to trying to “do” life absent a knowledge of, and relationship with God. His frustration was so severe that he declared himself to be stupid. We will experience similar emotions if we repeat his mistake.

The good news is, God has been revealing Himself to mankind since Creation. In the Old Testament Scripture God provided bits and pieces, types and shadows that revealed His nature to mankind. When Jesus came, He gave even more information about the Father. He was constantly telling people, “The things you see me do are of the Father. The words you hear me speak are coming from Him.” Revelation is now being given to mankind regularly through the released manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Every moment. Every Hour. Every Day. Our responsibility is to identify it, accept it, and utilize it.

Many years ago, I was taught the difference between ignorance and stupidity. And, it’s a huge difference. Ignorance is a lack of information. Stupidity is willfully rejecting truth. One prevents a choice (ignorance) while the other is a choice (stupidity). Shania Twain use to perform a song with the lyric, “Don’t be stupid…” I would have to agree with her!

So, what about Agur? What became of him? Did he live out his life as an imbecile? I don’t think so. Because if you continue reading chapter 30 you will see that he started asking a lot of questions that would ultimately lead him to make this statement in verse 5, “Every word of God proves true; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.”

Now that, my friend, is a smart man!

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving me the opportunity to know you personally. It is not arrogant to proclaim, “I have the mind of Christ. I have supernatural knowledge and wisdom. I possess the ability to process information in such a way that I will be successful, and will have opportunities to help others be blessed as well. What a great way to live! Thank you Jesus! Amen.

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