What a Loser (Psalm 146:7-9)

We all know them and have worked with at least one person that the world would label as a loser.  The world labels them this way for many reasons.  Some get this label because of their looks.  Others because of their lack of intellect get called loser.  Others who don’t seem to fit in with the norm are cast out as losers.  If we are honest with ourselves, we may have viewed some people that way.  The bad news is, we may be viewed that way by some select group of people.  With all that said, a very important question needs to be asked.  What does God think?

Which executeth judgment for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The Lord looseth the prisoners: The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind: the Lord raiseth them that are bowed down: the Lord loveth the righteous: The Lord preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and widow: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down. (Psalms 146:7-9)

God is for the oppressed, the hungry, the blind, the depressed, strangers, the fatherless and widows.  In fact, you could label God as “The God of the Losers”.  Stop and think about it.  Isn’t that what you were when Christ found you?  When you cried out to Jesus for salvation, you were poor in spirit recognizing that you had nothing to offer God, your life was a mess and unless he would reach down from heaven and do a miracle, your life would be totally lost.  It was at that point that God came into your life and changed it forever.  What made it happen was a very simple formula: loser + God = fantastic salvation and a wonderful life.

Our society–many Christians included–has cast off the “losers” of this world.  They are so stuck on themselves and their agenda and could care less about the “loser” people who are hurting.  We need to make a difference and reach out to the cast aways.  We must demonstrate God’s love so that they can believe in God’s love.  Only then can they recognize that the Savior Jesus wants and accepts all that will come to him: especially those the world sees as losers.

So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. (Luke 14:21)

The Danger of Comparing (part 4)

Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Translated that would be it is God which energizes you to determine and do what he pleases to be.

God desires something to be done.  Because he is no longer physically present, he chooses to work his will through us. Remember how Jesus said that he is the light of the world?  We find that in John 8:12. He still is the light, but now he chooses to shine through our lives. (Matthew 5:14)

We are his vessels to be used for his honor and glory. As each of us have a different purpose for our lives, we also each have the Lord working differently in and through us. If we allow him, God will perform his will and work in our lives. He’s able to accomplish this by his Holy Spirit and through the equipping that he brings. Some of the equipping is gifts of the Holy Spirit. Other equipping comes through trials of life. James tells us that the trying of her faith will make us perfect or complete so that we will be wanting for nothing.

Each of our lives is different because the circumstances in them are different. Remember God intends for all things to work together for good. God uses each circumstance in our lives as it is coupled together with all of the others to perform that which is good.  The good that he is creating equips and enables us.

How many of you have buried a close family member? Because of it, you have an equipping to reach out to others who are experiencing the same and in fact, you may have a passion to reach out to them.

But at the same time, there may be other people who were only slightly moved by another’s great loss. Are they backslidden and cold? Of course not. The difference between the two is there equipping.

Many years ago, I had an earnest passion to serve in the bus ministry and to reach children for Christ. I was so earnest that I judge those who were not burdened for the bus ministry as being backslidden Christians. Sometime much later, I learned the error of my way. I also came to realize that the reason I was so burdened and faithful to the bus ministry was because of my equipping.

I cannot set a standard to which all believers should be measured and neither should anyone else. When they do as I did, they count themselves as one of the number and measure all people to themselves.

We must recognize that we are distinct individuals whose purpose for living will be determined by God. He will equip us for that purpose and empower us to accomplish his will.

Your life may look and be completely different than mine and that is okay.  You are distinctly different.  What you must not do is allow someone to set a standard of their imagination and expect you and everyone else to measure up to it.  You may hear and see people do this and if you fall for this trap, you are unwise.

God made you in your distinct way.  Seek his face.  Ask him if you are reaching the potential that he has set for you.  Thank him for the work that he is doing and has accomplished in your life and as you walk with God, yield to him and the work of grace that he wants to perform distinctly in you.

The Danger of Comparing (part 3)

Every man has his proper gift from God. (1 Corinthians 7:7)

What is a “proper gift” from God.  The word for proper comes from the word idios, which means private or separate.  We see this word as the root for the word idiosyncrasy, which means a mode of behavior peculiar to an individual.  

When I think of the word indiosyncrasy, it reminds me of a car that was given to me.  The previous owner said that before he would pass on the car, he wanted to show me the idiosyncrasies of it.  Because it had a Diesel engine, it had its own particular quirks.  Additionally, there was a problem with the side window whistling and he showed me how to stop that.  There were quite a few distinct issues with the car that needed to be deal with in particular ways.

Just as my car was particular, so are we.  God, who knows our beginning from the end, provides for us exactly what we need and when he does, he gives us our “idios” gift or a gift that is distinctly for us.  What is vitally important for us to know is that the private or separate gift that he gives us was done so according to the grace that he has given us.

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, … (Romans 12:6)

When we measure ourselves to others and seem to fall short, we try to demonstrate grace in our lives that God has not given to us.  Consider the following illustration.

Imagine a woman who does not have any artistic ability.  Her home is tidy and neat, but sparse with decorations.  She doesn’t knit, sew, or create crafts.  However, she begins to compare herself with the “Martha Steward” in the church.  When she does so, how do you think she will fair?  My guess is that she will compare rather poorly.

So, she beats herself up, goes to the altar and tells God that she is going to be a better wife and mother.  She buys items from the craft store and sets out to achieve her goal.  However, the items sit in the closet for about a month or so.  They seem to be calling to her and she runs in fear from their voice.  Eventually, she is back at the altar again making more promises.

She finally starts working on the project, but it is just one problem after another.  She eventually sits in tears–a failure and a lousy Christian mother.  Does this sound familiar? But let me ask you, “Is she a lousy Christian mother?  Let’s take a closer look.

Each night she sits at the kitchen table encouraging her child who has learning difficulties. Through all of the frustration and tears, she remains patient and supportive.  Her children–as all children–have their moments, but instead of lashing out and taking her frustrations out on the, when they disobey, she remains gentle and calm–even in times of discipline.

While at church, she doesn’t look down her nose at others.  In meekness, she encourages those that she sees struggling.  She does this because she recognizes that she too has struggles.

However, this woman does not see herself as a spiritual success because she fails to recognize all that the Lord is doing in her life and the work of grace that is evident.  Why does she continue to see herself that way?  She sees herself as a failure because she compares herself to others.

How Can I Help (Psalm 142:3)

The Psalmist had a distorted view of God.  Even though God was his source of hope and trust, he believed that his way was only revealed to God after he became overwhelmed.  

When my spirit was overwhelmed within me, then thou knewest my path. In the way wherein I walked have they privily laid a snare for me. (Psalms 142:3)

What his words failed to reveal is the belief that God knows the end from the beginning.  Before God created the heavens and the earth, he knew each step that the psalmist would take in his life and for every situation.  What can we do to help people like him?

The psalmist was overwhelmed because of the circumstance that surrounded him.  From his word, we can learn what a believer experiences and what we can do to help him.

There are six key words or phrases in this passage which are important for understand what he is experiencing and how to provide help.

Know – to scrutinize

Cared – to seek or ask, make inquest

Refuge – way to flee

Portion – inheritance

Brought very low – bring down, pull down push down

Prison – shutting up, fastener

The psalmist was stating that he was overwhelmed because nobody scrutinized the situations in his life.  They did not ask or seek about his condition nor did they provide a way of escape.  He felt alone, pushed down and shut up in that place.

What can we do?  We can observe people and ask the Lord to reveal to us the trials and difficulties that they are facing.  We can overcome our fears and reach out to them by speaking to them and asking questions directed at their needs.  When we understand what they are facing and how they feel, we can point them to God, who is their refuge and strengthen them in the understanding their right to claim God and his provision of refuge as their own.  Pray together with them and then continue on your own in your private prayers.

The Danger of Comparing (part 2)

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Psalm 139:14)

As we look at this passage we can see that there are keywords to be identified: praise, fearfully, wonderfully, and marvelous.  

Fearfully – to fear or to frighten. 

Wonderfully made – to distinguish, to put a difference or to set apart.

Marvelous – to separate, to be great, to make singular or to distinguish

Knoweth – to understand

Right well – vehemently (strong emotion), greatly, sore (knowing that affects you emotionally).

If you take these definitions and then use them in place of the words, you can paraphrase the scripture in your own words to help you better grasp the meaning.

I will praise thee, because it is frightening how I am distinctly set apart as a singular person and I am emotionally stirred by this understanding.

From this, you should recognize your distinctness.  You should see that because you are distinct, you have a distinct purpose.  Because you are distinct, you should not compare yourselves to anyone else because they are distinct with their own distinct purpose.  This should cause you to lift your heart in praise to God because of the distinct work that he has done and is doing in your life.

In 1 Corinthians 12:4-12, the Apostle Paul speaks concerning gifts of the Holy Spirit.  From this passage, we learn some important truths, which will aid us from falling into the trap of comparing.  Coupling these truths with what we have previously discussed, we can come to the following list of conclusions.

1. I am a distinct person.

2. I have a distinct purpose.

3. God has equipped me with gifts. (vs. 7)

4. These gifts match my distinctness.

5. God willed me to have these gifts and not me. (vs. 11)

6. God has declared that church members are not the same. (vs. 12)

7. God placed me in a church to fulfill a distinct purpose.

So, if God created you to be unique and equipped you with a gift or gifts to be used to fulfill his unique purpose for your life, why would you compare yourself to others?  Comparing yourself to others, would cause you to draw conclusions that would be wrong and that is why it is unwise.

For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. (II Corinthians 10:12)