★ Back to the Basics – Does God Play Favorites? ★

In preparation for this post I stumbled onto this TIME Magazine Cover with this Tagline: “Why Mom Liked You Most” which I think many people could resonate with.  I know I always thought my brother and sister got the biggest slice of cake!  Hahaha!  In the post called ★ Thought for the Day – The Family Juggernaut ★ we talked about how our family of origin can have a serious effect on who we become.  I’d highly recommend you read it first because today’s Thought will build upon that foundation.  In the post I shared how my Family Juggernaut played a significant role in my development and that it was wrecked by neglect, alcoholism, drug use, adultery, verbal and physical abuse, all by the time I reached 5 years old!  Fast forward 41 years to April 2016, the day after my mom’s funeral when my brother and I had a conversation that would change the trajectory of our lives. But before I delve into that, I wanted to talk some more about Jesus’ Family Situation that we discussed in The Family Juggernaut post.  Last time we examined how Jesus’ brothers did not believe He was the Messiah and what that must have been like for Jesus to not have their support.  Today I want to look at the issues between Jesus and his brothers from their perspective.  I was watching this video clip from Michael Jr. called What if you were a younger sibling of Jesus?” and almost died laughing.

It’s a hysterical parody on what it might have been like for James to live with the Savior of the World and grow up as Jesus’ little brother.  Michael Jr. jested that:

“James had problems.  He would go to his parents and you know what they’d say…‘What would Jesus do?’  Then they gave him a bracelet.” 

Hahaha!  Now I did not grow up with the Messiah, but I am all too familiar with growing up in my big brother’s shadow.  He was always the life of the party, the one that was the center of attention.  Now I may be dating myself here, but have you ever seen the TV show “Everybody Loves Raymond?”  Although Raymond was the younger sibling, the comparison is identical to how I felt growing up, that my brother was center of our family just like Raymond was the center of the show.  But in that conversation with my brother I discovered how wrong my perspective was. Though I believed that he was Raymond and everybody’s favorite, he believed that the opposite was true!  His view of our family dynamic was that I was the favored son of our mother. Guess sibling rivalry is alive and well.  But that fateful day just a little over 2 years ago changed our relationship forever!  I am reminded of a quote from Steven Furtick’s book “Crash the Chatterbox”:

“The voice you believe will determine the future you experience.”

See my brother and I listened to the chatterbox (aka Satan), and completely bought into the lies that we are not worthy of our mother’s love as much as the other one was. I had preconceived notions of him and his motives, as he did of me as well.  That day though we were able to clear the air and God began a healing work through that one conversation!

It really is true what Theodore Roosevelt said:

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Absolutely nothing good comes from comparing ourselves to others.  It got me thinking about how we view our relationship with our Heavenly Father…Does God play favorites?  What do you think?  Do you think that He values some people over others?  Romans 2:9-11 (NLT) gives some insight…

There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile

10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 

11 For God does not show favoritism.”

Does this seem to be an oxymoron?  How does verse 11 go with verses 9 and 10 when Paul says “for the Jew first and also for the Gentile?”  At first I thought it was showing favoritism that the Jews were over the Gentles but I learned a valuable lesson after I sent this question to my Pastor and some buddies.  You cannot “a la carte” the Bible.  It is very dangerous to grab 2 or 3 verses and develop a belief system from a small passage.  Context is everything!  My pastor responded back with this great insight…

“After doing a little looking at the text.  Romans 2:1-16 is speaking of Gods judgment.  The statement “first for the Jew…then to the Gentile…” is not meant to imply a special consideration or favoritism.  But rather in light of God’s standard of impartiality, it emphasizes that the ENTIRE human race is dealt with by God.  In the way of His judgement both Jew and Greek (all humans) will be dealt with and there will be no favoritism shown.  The Jew would have thought that God may not have judgment on them…the same as everyone else because of they were much more “religious”.  But God is not partial in His judgment…all will be judged equally according to His Word.”

A light bulb went off for me when I read that because I know that God loves all people and that He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent,” (see 2 Peter 3:8-10,) and be with Him in heaven for all eternity.  So if we go back to verse 11, it cannot be any clearer… “For God does not show favoritism.”  Besides not picking and choosing a couple of scriptures to form an opinion from, I also was reminded that before I start down a “rabbit trail” of thought, I must look at the Bible in totality – BOTH Old and New Testament to see what the entire book has to say.  I recently heard Robert Morris say:

“Though the Bible was written by (39) men, it has One Author.”

That author of course being God Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth!  So let’s do some bible drilling…

Deuteronomy 10:17 (NLT) says:

“For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords.  He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.”

God is supreme above all and has no favorites, nor can He be swayed by anything we may say or do or how much we give to the church.  We cannot buy God’s love or our way into Heaven.  Another Old Testament passage comes from Job 34:19 (NKJV) which is especially poignant as the man Job who was referred to by God as blameless—a man of complete integrity who feared God and stayed away from evil” (see Job 1:1); BUT yet he went through unbelievable trials.  In verse 19 in speaking about God’s character, Job said:

“Yet He is not partial to princes,
Nor does He regard the rich more than the poor;
For they are all the work of His hands.”

We are God masterpiece (see Ephesians 2:10) and regardless of our material possessions nothing can separate us from the love of God or make Him love us more!  (See Nehemiah 9:17-20; Romans 8:35, 38-39; Ephesians 3:17-19).  I love how Acts 10:34-36 (NLT) proclaims this truth!

“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism.  In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right.  This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel—that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.”

This was a turning point for Peter as Acts 10:9-33 records, he was given (3) visions from God about eating animals that up until that time, the Jewish people held as unclean and taboo to eat.  This was God’s way of telling Peter that the Gentiles (or non-Jews) were worthy to receive the Gospel and that he was to go and minister to a Gentile man named Cornelius.  And in fact the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit for the first time (see Acts 10:37-48).  The Jews were the first to have faith in the One True God, the Gentiles are like the second born into the family to receive salvation.  The Apostle Paul reminds us in Titus 2:11 (NLT),

“For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.”

Unlike how my brother and I viewed each other, God is very clear all through the Bible that we are all worthy to receive the undeserved grace of God.  I told you at the beginning of this post that the trajectory of my relationship with my brother was changed by that one conversation.  God not only healed the hard feelings we held towards each other due to perceived favoritism, but we have grown closer together even though 1,069 miles separate us.  I shared in the post ★ Thought for the Day – Community That Matters ★ that I host bible studies in my house in Texas, Monday through Friday at 5:00 AM.  Since June of this year after my brother and his family visited and attended those studies, he has continued to participate in the bible studies through the use of technology, joining remotely multiple times a week from North Carolina!  And through that time, God is working a miracle in our relationship to eradicate the damage that the devil did over the past 20 years!  I will close with a passage that my brother and I recently read together from Romans 10:9-13 (NLT):

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced.’  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect.  They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on Him.  For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’”

I want to encourage you to do an honest self-evaluation about your relationships.  Are you like me, that you have a strained relationship with a brother, or another family member or friend?  Then reconcile it today!  You will not regret it!  I cannot tell you how blessed I feel that after being distant from my brother for so long, today we are closer than ever!  And secondly, if you are far from God, or never accepted Jesus, go back to Romans 10:9-13 confess that Jesus is Lord of your life and accept the free gift of grace that is available to everyone!

If you want to dig in deeper, check out:

★ “Back to the Basics” – Can 1 Conversation Change a Life? ★

★ Thought for the Day – Is There Such a Thing As a Free Lunch? ★

★ Thought for the Day – You Are Chosen! ★

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Honest Self-Evaluation ★

My pastor shared this quote fro102 - Daily Dependence - Billy Graham - A Good Fatherm Billy Graham last Sunday for his Father’s Day message…

“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.”

It was a great introductory quote to engage all the Fathers in the room for sure, (I know I was…)  He went on to say that we need to be intentional in our own spiritual growth, intentional in our instruction/discipline, and intentional in our affection towards our children.  He also said that we need to be “Marked by God’s Word!”  Now if you’ve been following our blog, you know we’ve been talking a lot about reading the Bible and pursuing God so it should not be a surprise to any of you that this resonated with me; but it also got me thinking about that statement…“Am I really marked?'”  I think that it’s a good thing to step back and do an honest self-evaluation when you are given a challenge like that.  I love what our 26th president Theodore Roosevelt said in regards to honest self-evaluation…

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn't sit for a month.”
“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.”

Amen?  I love that so much!!  Not only for the sarcasm but also the truth!! How would things be different if we would stop and take a moment to “think” before we “put our f102 - Daily Dependence - Self-Evaluationoot in our mouths” and make a mess of things?

In two months I will be required by my company to do a task that I absolutely hate…the dreaded self-evaluation.  I know that the purpose is to give my supervisor an understanding of what I believe I have accomplished in the past year but it feels so much like “tooting my own horn.”  Now don’t get me wrong, I do avail myself of the opportunity but I attempt to be honest in the evaluation which leads me to the muse for this Thought for the Day”…

Romans 12:3 (NLT) says…

“Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are.  Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.”

102 - Daily Dependence - X_ (1)It’s time to get honest…so what do you think of that?  Be careful how quickly you answer…Jeremiah 17:9 (NLT) sheds some light on how good we are at evaluating ourselves…

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked.  Who really knows how bad it is?”

When I think over my life and of all the mistakes I’ve made, the careless words and foolish choices that could have gotten me in much more than some hot water, it’s hard to believe that I am the same person.  There is so much I regret, but that makes me also so grateful for the life that I have as a born again believer in Jesus.  I truly am a changed man as 2 Corinthians 5:17 says:

102 - Daily Dependence - New Creation - 2 Corinthians 5-17 - New Creation - Copy

But even after walking with the Lord for the past 18 years, I still find myself saying and doing things I wish I wouldn’t.  It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:15 (ESV)

“For I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

That unfortunately is the human condition…we are all sinners and fall short of what God desires for our life, (see Romans 3:23).  The key is not to give up chasing after God, even after we fail to the right thing.  My wife an expression she always says that we need to 102 - Daily Dependence - Strive for Progress Not Perfection“strive for progress, not perfection.”  The reality is we can never achieve perfection this side of heaven but if we are always striving for progress, our life will be in an upward curve.  Even if we stumble, as long as we pick ourselves up and get back on track pursuing God’s desire for us, we will always be improving.  And we need to be very careful not to allow the enemy to get a foothold in our minds that we will never change.  Romans 3:24 (ESV) piggybacks on the fact that though we “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” with this beautiful truth that we…

102 - Daily Dependence - License to Sin“are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,”

Of course this is not a license to sin!  Too often people try to play the “Grace card” as a way to justify continuing to sin.  That is not what Grace is about!  Grace is a gift to overcome sin not to justify it!

102 - Daily Dependence - Grace is Not A License to Sin

Going back to my Pastor’s statement about being “Marked by God’s Word,” I was reading Romans 12:9-21 the other morning from the English Stand Version (ESV) Translation and it had this heading…“Marks of the True Christian.”  Check it out, it is a powerful list!  To paraphrase, a “True Christian” should be genuine in their love for others…Should hate evil and be on fire to serve the Lord even though they may go through trouble.  A “Marked Christian’s” mission should be to live in harmony with everyone regardless of what they may do to us!  Verse 21 wraps up “The Mark of a True Christian” with this…

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Not what the typical human response is though huh?  I know it’s certainly was not mine until I started walking with God in 1998.  Before that, I can testify that was not my attitude at all…I was self-centered, egotistical and lived my life with one objective…it was all about me!  If you hurt me that was it, I would cut you out of my life, regardless of your attempts to seek forgiveness…you were dead to me.  I never thought about helping others, I just wanted my needs met.  But everything has changed since accepting Jesus as my savior.  Now I look for opportunities to help others, to be an encouragement and look out for those God brings into my life.

There was a man in the early church that I endeavor to be like which Acts 4:36 (NLT) introduces us to…

“For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).  He was from the tribe of Levi and came from the island of Cyprus.”

What a name!  “A Son of Encouragement!”  He is described in greater detail in Acts 11:24 (NLT)…

“Barnabas was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith.  And many people were brought to the Lord.”

That is my prayer, to be “A Son of Encouragement and to be a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and strong in faith,” that many people will come to the Lord as a result!”  You see after all the “evaluation” is done and I realize I can never meet God’s standard of Holiness, I step back and realize despite all my shortcomings and failings, God loves me nonetheless!!!!

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

In Charles Stanley’s Life Principles Bible, he had this life lesson on this verse …

“Despite the Corinthian’s problems, Paul could see their genuine spiritual gifts, their repentance, and their love for God, and he wanted these things to encourage them to further growth. Likewise, we must always make sure we are maturing in our walks with Him by examining whether or not we are expressing His likeness and character in increasing measure (see also 2 Peter 1:3-8).

“We must always make sure we are maturing in our walks with Him!”  It’s a command!  But something I have  realize and I hope you gleam this as well, I can never meet God’s standard of Holiness, I just need to step back and acknowledge that despite all my shortcomings and failings, God loves me nonetheless!!!!  I will close with Acts 15:11 (NLT)…

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” 

You see there is nothing we can do to make God love us anymore or any less!  Matt Redman has this beautiful song called “10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)” that is a beautiful reminder of how important and loved we are regardless of what we do, nothing is beyond God’s ability to forgive, no matter “how unforgivable” we may feel that it is…It is by the undeserved grace of God that we are saved!

 

 

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★ Thought for the Day – Don’t Settle For First Place ★

As the winter doldrums are upon us, and frigid weather wreaks havoc across our nation, I think to myself, how can anyone work outside in such cold weather.  When the thermometer reads below freezing and it has been nothing but gloomy for weeks, it’s hard for me to get motivated to leave the house to go to my heated office.  As the stream of consciousness flows, I start to think about how incredible the athletes are who compete in the Winter Olympics.  I must confess, I don’t watch the Winter games as much as the Summer ones.  My personal favorite, (along with the rest of the world,) is American swimmer, Michael Phelps who holds the all-time record for Gold medals, and is the most decorated Olympian of all time!  My reason though is because I was a swimmer back in the day, and marvel at his superhuman skills!  But I digress…back to the Winter games…In looking for a “winner’s box” photo, I stumbled across this photo from February 12, 2014 of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia which really caught my eye.

The article that it was associated with was titled the “Best of Sochi: Day 5 at the Olympics,” (having not seen it, I will take their word,) but what got my attention was not the celebratory leap from Gold medalist Eric Frenzel of Germany, but rather the expressions and body language of silver medalist Akito Watabe of Japan (L) and bronze medalist Magnus Krog of Norway (R).  It is clear that Akito and Magnus were not as thrilled with their accomplishments as Eric was!  As each of these athletes stepped onto the winner’s box and received their medal, you know, a sea of emotions and thoughts were flooding their minds from “I can’t believe I placed” to…”How did I only come in second (…or third place).”  It is so easy for us to go from celebration to condemnation and that’s the pitfall of comparison!  One of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt is,

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”  

STOP!  Go back and read and ponder on that incredible truth!  “Comparison is the thief of joy.”  When we compare ourselves to others, we open ourselves to disappointment.  Have you ever felt like Akito Watabe that you are “Mr. 2nd Place?”  Are you tired of never making gold?  Though he is an incredible athlete, and has competed in two Winter Olympics, Akito has never brought home the gold!!  Are you always ending up second in line, playing second fiddle, or being runner-up?  Regardless of what you label it, second place can be very frustrating for sure, especially when you have put in the work!  For me, I have always finished 5th or 6th place…(out of 8), when I competed on the High School Varsity Swim Team; a very different league from “Mr. 1st Place” Michael Phelps..  Now before you start feeling bad for me, I am way over the agony of the defeat. Hahaha!  I learned long ago that nothing good ever comes comparing my accomplishments with others.

Do you know that there was one guy in the Bible who truly was “Mr. 2nd Place?”  This guy had a huge following, with many disciples and more and more converts coming to be baptized every day…but when the #1 guy showed up on the scene, people flocked to Him instead…that of course was John the Baptist, who very well could have been the originator of the “I Am Second” campaign…Just look at his response to the critics when the people left to go to follow Jesus…he said:
 65 - Daily Dependence - I Am Second - John 3-30
“He [Jesus] must become greater and greater,
and I must become less and less.”  John 3:30 (NLT)

See John the Baptist understood what his purpose was, that he was not the star…Jesus was!  Galatians 6:4-5 (MSG) says,

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”

I love how the Message Translation puts it, “make a careful exploration of who you are,” once you know who you are, then what other people do or say will not affect how you think about yourself.  But it is very easy to get sidetracked looking outward versus inward, as a result of Social Media.
65 - Daily Dependence - Social Media Summary
Though it has revolutionized our lives, allowing us to share our interests, lives, and make new connections, whether you Pin It, Tweet it, Facebook it, Instagram it, Google+ it, or Link In with people.  But with every great thing, there is always a flip-side.  Steven Furtick has a new book called “Crash the Chatterbox” which is all about hearing the voice of God over all the other voices in our mind that try to tear you down causing us to be discontent and insecure with ourselves.  He said,

"One of the main reasons we struggle with insecurity: we're comparing our behind-the-scenes with everybody else's highlight reel." Steven Furtick

Wow!  If you struggle with insecurity, this truth should set you free right now!!  Receive that today!

The next part of Galatians 6:4 says that we should make a careful exploration of “the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that.”  See just like John the Baptist knew who he was in God, he also set himself to the task at hand to “prepare the way of the Lord” in the desert, see Mark 1:1-8 for the full story.

Oh that we could “sink ourselves into the work that God has set before us.”  Francis Chan made this sobering statement what are we really succeeding at…

65 - Daily Dependence - Francis Chan - Our Greatest Fear

“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.”

Where are you at?  As you compare your lives to others, trying to “Keep Up With the Jones,” I urge you to make that careful exploration!

As Galatians 5 continues, “Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.”  You think if you were the forerunner to the Savior of the World, you would have a big head but, John the Baptist’s response that “I must become less and less” should be our modus operandi.  Jon Acuff made this profound statement,

65 - Daily Dependence - John Acuff - Comparison

Again, nothing good comes from comparison!  Finally the last portion of Galatians, “ Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”  I will go back once more to “Mr. 2nd Place” for fulfillment of this directive, in Mark 1:4, 6 (ESV) the gospel writer says this,

“John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.Now John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist and ate locusts and wild honey.”

Now that is creative indeed!  But you don’t need to go to the desert, clothed with camel’s hair, eating locusts and wild honey to be creative for Christ, but what I think Apostle Paul is saying in this passage is that we need o be BOLD FOR CHRIST!  Amen?

I close this Thought with this final point about the Bible’s “Mr. 2nd Place,” recognizing that Jesus Christ is the hero, the main character of the story, numero uno, will change everything. Humility is the key to everything.  In fact, Jesus Christ’s first character trait that he showed us, was humility when he was born in a manger. All through the bible it talks about how God opposes the proud and exalts the humble, and that is what happened for John.  ( I posted this blog recently, ★ Re|Engage – Humility ★ talking all about Humility if you want to read more about this.)  John the Baptist’s attitude of humility lead to the Son of God, the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ to say that John the Baptist was the greatest man who ever lived, (see Matthew 11:11 and Luke 7:28)…and that was because he knew his place and accepted it!

Can the same be said of you today?

So if you find yourself that you are always coming in second place or runner-up is your lot in life, consider yourself blessed to be in the same company of the greatest man who ever lived who also was second.  Don’t Settle For First Place!

“Comparison kills contentment in our lives.” Steven Furtick

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