Embrace Foolishness

pexels-photo-267709

Become a fool.

This command found in 1 Corinthians 3:18 seems absolutely ludicrous. Most of us spend our entire lives seeking to grow in wisdom but here in 1 Corinthians, Paul tells us to become fools.

If you study wisdom throughout Scripture you will discover that there are two types of wisdom. There is the wisdom of this world and there is the wisdom of God. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul tells us that we must become fools in the eyes of the world that we might become wise in the eyes of God.

1 Corinthians 3:18-20 says, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”

The wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  Likewise, the wisdom of God is foolishness to this world. As hard as we may try we will never be seen as wise by both our God and this world. We must choose between the two.

What is the wisdom of God?

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul contrasts the wisdom of this world with the wisdom of God. He begins by telling us about ministry that will last for eternity and ministry that will fade away.

1 Corinthians 3:10-13 says, “ According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.”

Paul then goes on to tell us that we are temples of God and that if anyone defiles the temple of God God will destroy him because the temple of God is holy. The idea behind the word defile seems to be to distract or draw away from devotion to Jesus. If anyone distracts or draws another believer away from devotion to Christ he has defiled the temple of God.

Paul seems to be saying that if your ministry points others to Jesus and causes them to focus on Him you are building with gold, silver and precious stones whereas if your ministry distracts them from Jesus you are building with wood hay and straw.

Finally, we come to our passage on wisdom. Paul tells us that if anyone seems to be wise in this age he should become a fool so that he can gain true wisdom. What is this true wisdom? It is Jesus.

Paul tells us that our lives and ministries ought to point others to Jesus. If we think that we have anything else to offer we are foolish. If we are trying to give people Jesus and something else we are foolish.

Jesus is the solution to human hurt. He is the answer to the brokenness and the pain in our world. A ministry that will truly make an eternal impact is a ministry that points people to Jesus.

The wisdom of God is Jesus. Anything that goes beyond Him or away from Him or distracts from Him is foolish in the eyes of God. Jesus—this is the wisdom of God. May we never get past Him. May our lives and ministries be focused on Him and consumed with Him.

 

Willing to be Spent

pexels-photo-247195

If God poured out the life of His Son why can He not pour out your life as well?

Many Christians believe that because God is good, their life should always be comfortable. A self-centered mindset permeates much of modern Christianity. Far too often we speak and act as if Christianity is all about us.

God’s greatest concern, however, is not our comfort and ease but rather the souls of men and women. Jesus suffered and died in order to bring people to Himself. His entire concern in coming to earth was the rescue of lost people.

1 Corinthians 10:24 says, “Let no one seek his own, but each one the other’s well-being.“

Jesus is the embodiment of this verse. He never sought his own well-being. He did not come to earth for Himself. He did not suffer and die for His pleasure. Jesus came seeking our well-being. He bled and died for us.

We are called to live as Jesus did, seeking the good of others. We are not to live self-protective lives. We are to give of ourselves.

When we come to Jesus we lay down our rights and relinquish control giving our lives to God to spend just as He spent the life of His Son.

On January 8, 1956, five young missionaries—Pete Fleming, Jim Elliot, Ed McCully, Nate Saint, and Roger Youderian—were speared to death while trying to reach a violent tribe in the jungles of Ecuador with the gospel. Some years later one of the widows, Barbara Youderian, was asked the question, “when you found out that your husband had been speared to death and you asked God why, what did He say?” Barbara replied, “It never occurred to me to ask God why.”

If we have surrendered our lives to Jesus we have given them to Him to spend in any way He might choose. Barbara understood this. She and her husband had surrendered their lives fully to Jesus. They were sure that he was leading them to reach out to the Waodani. They knew the danger but they trusted Him with their lives.

When her husband was speared, Barbara did not have to ask why. She had surrendered her own life as well as that of her husband to be spent by God. If God spent the life of His son why would he not spend Roger and Barbara’s lives and ours as well?

Are you willing for your life to be spent by God?

 

Weak Things

pexels-photo-634548

For 40 days Goliath had boasted. For 40 days Israel had trembled. For 40 days the name of the Lord had been blasphemed. Finally, on the 41st day, God raised up His chosen vessel to defeat Goliath—David, a little shepherd boy.

David was not the warrior that you would have expected. He was a youth, not a soldier. Yet he had tremendous faith in the power of his God. His brothers, King Saul and Goliath all doubted his ability to fight but through it, all his faith did not waver.

For Seven years Israel had been oppressed by Midian. They lost their crops to their enemies and suffered famine. They hid in dens and caves and strongholds. Finally, God raised up an army to fight for Israel and drive their enemies away—Gideon and a mere three hundred men.

This tiny army is not what you would have chosen to go against the Midianites and Amalekites. They were too few. They were too weak. But they trusted in the mighty God they served.

Our God uses weak things and foolish things. He uses little shepherd boys to take down giants and tiny armies to defeat mighty nations. When little David triumphed over Goliath and when Gideon and his 300 routed the Midianites and the Amalekites all of the glory had to go to God. It is clear that it was not Gideon and his men and David and his stone but rather their God who won their battles.

All throughout Scripture God used unlikely people—David, Gideon, Mary, Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Rahab, Ruth. He used fishermen, tax-collectors, prostitutes, and shepherds. He uses unlikely people because He receives glory. He chooses the foolish things and the weak things to accomplish His impossible plans.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says, “ For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.”

Often we are terrified to do anything that is bigger than us but we must remember that what is impossible for us is possible for God. He wants to call us beyond our own ability. He uses weak things and foolish things because He gets the glory. He calls us to do the impossible because He longs for us to depend fully on Him.

What is the impossible call of God on your life? Are you willing like David to step up and fight when everyone thinks that you are crazy? Are you willing like Gideon to send your troops home, purposefully putting yourself in a vulnerable position because God asks you to?

Too Busy to Pray?

pexels-photo-905873

We live in a fast-paced, noisy culture. We are always going someplace or doing something. We are constantly being bombarded with noise, the radio, the television, text messages, phone calls.

In the midst of all of our busyness, it can be difficult to find time to pray and study the Word of God.

As Christian’s, it is easy to spiritualize our busyness. We can become so busy with church and church activities, so busy serving God that we never spend time with Him.

This spiritualized busyness shows that deep down in our hearts we believe a lie. We believe that we, in and of ourselves, are capable of serving God.

In truth, we are not.

All effective work for the Kingdom of God is born out of absolute dependence upon Him. If we are not spending time in the Word of God and in prayer, if we are not abiding in Him and depending on Him, then although we may be busy serving Him we are not being effective in our service.

If we only knew how desperately helpless we truly are we would never let a day go by without spending time on our knees.

Jesus said in John 15:4-5, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.”

Apart from Christ, we cannot do anything. In Jesus, we must live and move and have our being.

Recently I was convicted of the fact that I had slipped away from spending time in prayer and in the Word of God. I was so busy serving God and doing good things for God that I did not have time to spend with Him. The Holy Spirit showed me that I can only serve Him well if I am spending time in His presence. I can only love others well if I am first loving Him well.

I know the power of prayer. I have seen God intervene in my life in glorious ways and yet there is such a temptation to neglect prayer.

I know that I cannot accomplish anything of value without the grace of God and yet there is such a temptation to do things on my own.

If we truly understood the spiritual realm we would realize that it is impossible to be too busy to pray. In fact, every single one of us is too busy not to pray.

We are helpless. We are insufficient. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. He is our sufficiency.

Our God is Able

lightning-storm-weather-sky-53459

Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,”

Do you believe that our God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think? If I listened to your prayers would I know that you believed it?

Often we pray very small prayers and if we are honest we do not expect God to answer them. Too many Christians pray because it is a good thing to do rather than because they expect God to respond.

Is our God too small?

Have we forgotten that we serve the God who parted the Red Sea, supplied bread and water in the wilderness and drove out nations before His people?

Do our prayers demonstrate faith in the power of our God or do they demonstrate a lack of faith?

Mark 4:35-41 says, “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Jesus rebuked His disciples for their lack of faith. Why? They did the right thing. They ran to Jesus. Doesn’t that show that their faith was in Him? Why did Jesus respond to them this way?

The disciples came to Jesus but what was it they were asking Him to do? I do not believe that they asked Him to calm the storm. Judging from their reaction it does not seem like the thought that Jesus might calm the storm ever crossed their mind.

Why then did they come to Jesus? Is it possible that they were asking Him to bail water with them?

The disciples went to the right place. They ran to the One who could save them but it seems that their request was too small.

What about us?

We go to the right place. But are we asking Jesus to calm the storm or are we asking Him to bail water? Do we have faith in our miracle-working God? He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or imagine. Do we believe it?

Living as a Spiritual Athlete

pexels-photo-601177.jpeg

During the 2016 Olympics, there was a commercial featuring a US gymnast—Simone Biles. In this commercial, Simone says that she could choose to hit snooze but she doesn’t. She could choose to take a day off but she doesn’t. She chooses instead to rise to the challenge. Simone is talking about the reality that if she is going to be the best gymnast that she can possibly be she must make sacrifices. Excellence is a choice.

This commercial caused me to think about my Christian walk. If Simone Biles takes gymnastics that seriously if she works that hard for medals that fade away, how hard should we as Christians be working for our imperishable reward, how seriously should we be taking our Christian lives?

It isn’t that there is anything wrong with hitting snooze or taking a day off. Simone merely understands that if she does those things she is saying no to time spent practicing and refining her skills as a gymnast. She has given herself to gymnastics and she is arguably the best gymnast in the world.

There is nothing wrong with hitting snooze but often that snooze button robs us of time spent with our God. As Christians, we should be fully given to God. Are we as committed to our Lord as Olympic athletes are to their sports?

We are called to live as spiritual athletes.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Are we living this way?

When it comes to our Christian walk it is far too easy to be passive. We do not see the urgency. The physical realm is so real that it is easy to get caught up in it and forget about the spiritual realm. In reality, the physical realm is merely a shadow of the much more real and important spiritual realm.

One day when we die we will see that this is true but it is my desire to see it now so that I can live for what matters. I do not want to get caught up in the fleeting foolish fancies of a fading world. I want to live to glorify and honor my King. I want to be a spiritual athlete, running hard for what truly matters, spending every breath for the glory of my King.

 

 

Jesus’ Priorities

pexels-photo-225017

How much do you care about the lost? Would you give everything to see one person come to know Christ?

Luke 8 tells us that once as Jesus was going on His way, He met a demon-possessed man. The people had tried to bind the man with chains and shackles but he had broken his bonds and gone into the wilderness where he lived in the tombs.

When the man saw Jesus he cried out, fell down before Him and said in a loud voice, “What do you have to do with Me Jesus you son of the Most High God? I beg you don’t torment me.”

The demons begged Jesus not to command them to depart into the abyss but rather, to let them enter a nearby herd of pigs. Jesus gave them permission. Coming out of the man, the demons entered the pigs and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

When the herdsman saw this they went to the town and told the people. The people of the town went to see for themselves. When they came to Jesus they found the man who had been demon-possessed sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed and in his right mind. Then they begged Jesus to leave their region.

Why did the whole town come out to Jesus and beg Him to leave?

Jesus just cast demons out of a man and restored him. Why didn’t the entire town rejoice and beg Jesus to stay with them?

It seems that the town had different priorities than Jesus. Jesus’ priority was the demon-possessed man. The town’s priority was their pigs.

In restoring this man, Jesus allowed an entire herd of pigs to be destroyed. Many of the townspeople’s livelihoods were likely lost. Those pigs were valuable to the people—more valuable than that man.

Rather than rejoicing that this man had met the Savior and been set free they mourned their own loss and sent Jesus away.

What about us?

We want people to come to know Jesus but how much? Are we willing to lose everything for one soul? If Jesus came to our towns and set someone free, destroying our property in the process, how would we respond? Would we send Jesus away?

Jesus has called us to go and make disciples of all nations. Very few people in the church today are actively seeking to fulfill this call. Why?

Is it possible that we, like this town, have found Jesus’ call to be too costly? Is it possible that we do not have Jesus’ priorities?

Let us search our hearts and repent of valuing our money, our time, our things, ourselves, above the lost souls of men. Let us seek to gain God’s heart and His priorities.

A Deceitful Guide

hearts-background-red-pink-190933

Follow your heart. Do what feels right. Listen to your emotions.

This is our culture’s message. It is everywhere, in movies and songs, even on candy wrappers. It sounds good and feels right but is it? What does Scripture teach?

Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”

Our culture tells us to listen to our hearts and trust our emotions but Scripture teaches us that there is nothing good within us. We are born in sin. Our hearts are warped and evil.

Apart from the grace of God, we are lost in darkness, hopeless to find light.

It is dangerous to listen to our hearts and trust our emotions. We must choose instead to listen to our God and His Word. Our hearts are deceitful but God’s Word is truth.

Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.”

Culture tells us that our hearts are good and that they will never lead us astray whereas Scripture teaches us that our hearts are evil and will, if followed, lead us to destruction.

As believers, we must choose to listen to and believe the Word of God. Our hearts and emotions will lead us astray but the Word of God never will.

When we make a choice of the will to listen to and follow the Word of God our hearts and emotions will come into alignment with truth.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.”

When we delight ourselves in the Lord and choose to follow His Word our hearts and emotions come into alignment with truth. It is dangerous to follow our hearts but when we walk in truth our feelings begin to agree with truth.

As Christians, we never follow our hearts. Instead, we follow the truth of God’s Word. We lead our hearts. By the grace of God, as we listen to, believe, and walk in truth our hearts and feelings begin to agree with truth.

Do not listen to your heart; it will lead only to death. Listen to God’s Word which leads to life. Give your emotions to God. Do not follow them. Follow Him and trust Him with them.

The Courage of Surrender

pexels-photo-635699

Come and die.

This is the call of the Christian life. Jesus gave everything for us. He purchased our very lives on the cross. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Jesus has purchased us. We are His possession. We must, therefore lay aside our own dreams and desires and live for His dreams and desires. Surrender. Pour your life completely out at the feet of Jesus and allow Him to use it in any way that He sees fit.

God does not ask that we would surrender. He demands it. All throughout Scripture we are commanded to lay aside our own desires, plans, and ambitions and live fully for our God.

Luke 9:23 says, “Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”

To deny in this passage literally means to lose sight of oneself and one’s own interests. A cross is an instrument of death. Jesus is calling us to die to our wants, our dreams, our desires. He is calling us to die to ourselves.

As Christians, we understand this and yet something often holds us back from full surrender. Fear. We are afraid to surrender.

It takes courage to completely surrender. It is not easy.  As Elizabeth Elliot said, “One does not surrender a life in an instant. That which is lifelong can only be surrendered in a lifetime.”

We can gain the courage needed to surrender today yet lack the courage to surrender tomorrow. We are called however to live surrendered lives—every day, every moment, every second fully at the disposal of Jesus Christ to use as He sees fit.

How do we gain the courage to live this way, the courage to surrender?

We must get to know our God. Surrender is only terrifying when we forget to whom we are surrendering. When we remember that we are giving our lives to a perfectly loving, always forgiving and completely unchanging God surrender is no longer frightening. Suddenly it becomes the safest and most reasonable thing to do.

As Corrie Ten Boom said, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

The Fifth Sparrow

pexels-photo-693984

God cares about the little seemingly unimportant things. He cares about the forgotten things, the unnoticed things.

God numbers the hairs on your head, He knows each star by name and He sees every sparrow that falls to the ground.

Matthew 10:29 tells us that two sparrows were sold for a copper coin while Luke 12:6 says that five sparrows were sold for two copper coins. It seems that when four sparrows were sold a fifth was thrown in. Worth so little, this fifth sparrow was merely given away with the four. Though it was of so little value that it was not worth taking into account in the sale, this fifth sparrow is seen, noticed and loved by God. God does not forget the fifth sparrow. Even for this little bird, He cares.

Do you have God’s heart for the little things, the forgotten things, the unnoticed things?

Do you care about the five-year-old girl in India who is being sold for a dollar? Do you care about the Down-Syndrom baby that is dying in an alley in North Korea, abandoned and forgotten? Do you care about the single mom in Haiti whose only means to support her family is prostitution?

In Matthew 10 and in Luke 12 Jesus tells us of God’s concern for the sparrow but then He goes on to tell us that we are worth much more than sparrows. We serve a big God who cares about the minutest detail of His creation yet first and foremost His concern is not for sparrows but for us, for people.

God is broken-hearted over the pain in this world. He is broken-hearted over all of the people that do not know Him. But God is also broken-hearted by the fact that we, His people, often do not share His burden.

We are too busy, too lazy and too comfortable. God is calling us, as His people, out of our ease and into the messiness of a lost world. He wants to share His heart with us. He wants to give us a burden for the forgotten places and the overlooked people.

This is not an option. We are Christians. This is who we are.

In Matthew 16:24 we are told that if we desire to come after Jesus we must deny ourselves which literally means to lose sight of ourselves and our own interests and take up our crosses and follow Jesus.

In our pampered American Christian culture we are used to having Jesus while still pursuing our own desires. Jesus calls us to give up our desires for His desires and our pursuits for His.

Jesus’ great concern is not for our comfort but rather for the lost souls around us. We must abandon our selfish pursuits to serve our God. He is looking for Christians who will share His burden and His heart for the lost and dying.

Will you open up your eyes and allow your heart to be broken by Him? God cares about the fifth sparrow. Do you?