The Evil “I”

by The Mad Preacher                                                                                                    Rod Davis

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. (2 Corinthians 1:8)

Many times I’ve felt much like the Apostle Paul. I’ve had my share of pain and rejection in my life, and I’ve often had to face them without any human comfort. Yet, hardships are just part of life. We all face struggles from time to time. None of us are immune. We have no choice over the cards that life deals us. However, we can choose how we play those cards. Do I sit in the corner, licking my wounds, buried in bitterness and self-pity, or do I adopt Paul’s attitude? For he went on to say:

Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us. (Vs. 9-10)

It’s so easy to look at what we don’t have and let that overshadow the many ways that God has so abundantly blessed us. He’s the “friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24) He’s the one who told His followers, “I’ll never leave you are forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5) God’s the one who said, “I’ll supply all of your needs.” (Philippians 4:19) He’s the one who has saved me completely. (Hebrews 7:25)

God has blessed us beyond measure. Everything else is icing on the cake. So, the choice is mine as to what to do when troubles beset me. Do I choose anger and bitterness or do I choose the hope and peace found in God’s Word? It’s not an easy choice and it costs you something, but anything worthwhile always cost us something. What is the price? Simple, it’s our pride. It’s the evil “I”.self-centered

Psychiatrists call it the ego. It’s that part of our psychological makeup that believes it must fight for itself in the world. Left unchecked by the Holy Spirit it devolops into a dog eat dog mentallity that leads to destruction.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)

The ego is the basis of pride and pride is the source of all sin. It’s the starting place of all negative human behavior. Not only is it the root of such things as arrogance, self-importance and religious bigotry, it also gives birth to things like fear, anger, self-debasement, self-pity and shame.

I spent most of my younger years unaware of the fact that I was full of pride. I had a wicked mixture of religious arrogance and self-loathing. Thus, most of my life was spent lamenting over how cruel life seemed to me. I was focused on the evil “I”. Then one day God expose my pride to me in the form a woman in a church I use to attend.

This lady was in a terrible emotional condition. Nearly every worship service found her at the alter having one of the pastors praying with her over the same things. Then one night, after worship, I overheard her bellyaching to someone about her life. “I’m afraid of what my husband and children would think if I ….” “I’m afraid to try that because I might fail”, on and on she went voicing the same theme. As I listened the Lord revealed to me the true source of her problem.

In the past, everyone was trying to treat the symptoms—fear, self-pity, poor self-image, faithlessness, est., rather than treating the problem. “I know what your problem is.” I told her. “What?… What?!” she asked, eyes wide open and filling with tears. “It’s pride.” I answered. “PRIDE?!” she exclaimed, “PRIDE?! Oh, no! What do you mean?!” “Well, it’s evident in the things you say. ‘I’m afraid of this.’ ‘I’m afraid of that.’ ‘I’m afraid of what my family will think.’ Then I asked her, “What is the middle letter in the word sin?” “I”, she responded. “What’s the middle letter of the word pride?” I continued. “It’s ‘I’.” she responded. Her eyes were now like water fountains. Streaks of mascara ran down her glistening cheeks.

“You see,” I continued. “All pride is self-centeredness. Your focus is on you and your feelings of inadequateness.” That hit home with her. “Oh, no!” she cried. “What do I do?” I answered, “Repent. Recognize it as sin and, once for all, repent of it. Then study The Bible and see what God thinks of you as his child.” I prayed with her and walked her through as she asked for God’s forgiveness for her pride.

Its pride, that evil “I”, which also causes us to loose our cool with others, be it at home or in traffic. It’s pride that makes us think that everything’s supposed to go or way. Then, it is pride that gets us all bent out of shape when things don’t go our way. It’s pride that drives us to fear, worry and a sense of inadequacy. It all boils down to one thing — self-centeredness. The choice is ours to make. I can’t blame anyone but myself for the bad choices I’ve made and the bitter aftermath that followed. I made my bed. I must now sleep in it. You reap what you sow and so forth.

I wasted so many years wallowing in bitterness and self-pity. I’m now choosing to do otherwise. Theses days I’m letting God’s Word be my mirror. With God’s help, I’m keeping my pride in check… ah… must of the time. Am I always successful at it? No. Do I still battle bitterness and feelings of inadequacies? Oh yes, often! However, as time goes by and my relationship with God grows stronger it becomes easier to defeat the evil “I”.

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

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The Oblong Box

by Rod Davis                                                                                                               ~The Mad Preacher~

funeral-48You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. (Psalms 39:5)

 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. (James 4:14)

 “Did you observe, captain, how suddenly they sank? Was not that an exceedingly singular thing? I confess that I entertained some feeble hope of his final deliverance, when I saw him lash himself to the box, and commit himself to the sea.” [1]

A young country pastor was asked to conduct a funeral. This was nothing new to him. As a pastor he had helped many of his parishioners say “Goodbye” to cherished loved ones. However, this funeral would be very different from those of the past. Always before the dearly departed had been active church members and were known for their piety and religious zeal. He could, therefore, comfort the sorrowful with words that celebrated the deceased loved one’s life that was dedicated to God and family, as well as the impact they had on lives. With gladness he could offer them the calm assurance that there will be a “glad reunion day.”

However, this funeral would be the most difficult he had ever conducted. In the coffin was a young man of poor reputation named Danny. He came from a family who could not name one devout Christian anywhere in their linage. They never darkened the door of a church except for weddings and funerals. They displayed no fondness for Christ or His Church. If any hapless church member came to their door with a Bible or a pamphlet, they were politely but abruptly dismissed with a “We’re not interested.” Now, the product of their distain for anything remotely religious was lying in an oblong box. Their 22-year-old son—their only child—was gone.

Danny grew up in a home without God, without a moral compass and without hope. He lived his short life like someone who had nothing to live for. At first, he got into trouble in school―fighting, doing drugs and pursuing all kind of mischief. Finally, after dropping out of high school, he took his discontentment to the streets and soon found himself at odds with the law. Then a lethal combination of alcohol, a suped-up car and a high-speed chase brought a brutal end to Danny’s unhappy, short life. So here he lay, twenty-two years of shattered hopes and dreams deposited in an oblong box.

How could the pastor possibly find anything positive to say about this senseless loss? As he got up from his seat to speak, he silently prayed in desperation. “God give me the right words to say that will bring something good out of this boy’s death.” He then slowly approached the podium and gripped the sides. After a moment, he raised his eyes and scanned the sorrowful faces of the small group of relatives and friends. He stood silently for what seemed an eternity, then the Holy Spirit fell on his heart and he began to speak.

“Friends, I have wrestled long and hard over what to say to you. After much thought and prayer, I have come to this conclusion. There are no words known to man that could dispel the grief and the awesome sense of loss that you feel right now. So, it would be more than foolish for me to attempt the impossible. Therefore, other than trying to offer vain words of comfort, I would like to say this:

“God’s WORD says this about a person’s life, ‘You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.’[2] It further says that ‘Each man’s life is but a breath.’[3]  My friends, your life, whether short or long, is a gift from God. How we live that life… is our gift to Him. One day, it could be today, next week, or 50 years from now, none of us know for sure, we will all be called-on to give an account to Almighty God as to what we did with this wonderful gift of life.

“It pains me to say this, but your Danny is giving an account right now. There’s nothing anyone can do for Danny, now. He made his choice. He chose to go his own way rather than God’s way. My friends, I do not wish to add any more grief on to what is already unbearable. Indeed, in this time of great sorrow I want to honor Danny’s memory by speaking truthfully and with as much kindness as possible. I believe that he would want me to tell you the truth that he missed out on during his brief stay on this planet. I may not have another occasion to speak to all of you as I am right now. So, please indulge me.

“I’m certain that you’ve all cried out to God for answers in the midst of your deep sorrow. ‘Why, God? Why take Danny? What good could come out of something so terrible?’ Please, know that your confusion is understandable. But also know that your questions are answerable. You see, my friends, Danny’s death came about as the result of bad choices―bad choices that he readily made. Perhaps if he had chosen differently he would still be among us. God only knows.

“In light of this consideration, the question set before us is this; did Danny die in vain? The answer to that question is completely up to you. It’s up to you, his family and friends, to choose whether or not he died in vain. For you see, Danny’s death doesn’t have to be in vain if you make the right choice today. Your choice will determine if anything good comes from Danny’s death. Let me explain.

“You see, God deeply desires that Danny’s death not be in vain. He wants it to count for more than his life ever did. How is this possible? Well… Danny’s time for choices is over. But for now, your time for choices is not over. However, a day is coming when others will gather around another oblong box, only this box will be yours. You, however, will not be there. You will be standing before God giving your own account of your life. God will present you with this all-important question. It will be the last question you’ll ever have to consider. God will ask you, ‘What have you done with my Son?’

“How will you answer God? Will you be able to say that you made the right choice―that you chose to serve Jesus and love Him above all others? Will you be able to say that you repented and surrendered your will to His? Or will you sadly have to admit that you chose the same way that Danny chose? Will you have to confess that you chose to ignore Jesus and go your own way as Danny did? If Danny were here today, my friend, I’m sure that he would tell you which choice to make. I’m sure that he would cry out, ‘Choose Jesus! Surrender your life to Him! Please, don’t make the mistake that I made!’”

 “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation. — God  (2Corinthians 6:2)

In a very real sense we are all lashed to a box. For if the LORD tarries, there’s an oblong box awaiting us all. Now, is the time to make your choice. Not tomorrow but now. Today is your day of salvation. There’s no salvation offered in that oblong box. Please, make the right choice before it’s too late.

Before there was time You counted the hairs on my head                                            You knew all the words I’ve said                                                                                   And You purchased me back from the dead                                                             Before I was made You searched me and knew my ways                                             You numbered all my days And You set forth the steps                                                     I would take You saved me, You raised me You saved me,                                          You pulled me from the grave [4]

[1]The Oblong Box by Edgar Allan Poe, 1850                                                                 [2] James 4:14                                                                                                                 [3] Psalm 39:5                                                                                                                  [4] Before There Was Time by Caedmon’s Call from their album, In the Company of Angels: A Call to Worship

Just in case you’ve forgotten…

Rom 5-8by The Mad Preacher

I’m not certain why I’m saying this to you. Maybe it’s that God feels you need to be reminded of something. It’s a singularly wonderful and liberating truth. God loves you, my friend. He loves you with an eternal, unchanging, passionate, unfailing love. If you’re a follower of Jesus I’m sure that you know this by now, but hey, we’re human and need reminding from time to time. Therefore, I’m praying that God will remind you of just how lovely you are in His eyes. I pray that God will comfort your heart and help you to, once and for all, arrive at this established truth.

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love. (Psalms 48:9 NIV)

I am so convinced of the sincerity and the scope of God’s love for you that I’ve come to this astounding conclusion; God’s love for you is so pure, so intense that if you were the only person who ever lived God would still have come to this earth in the person of Jesus Christ. He still would have somehow climbed up on that splintery cross and endure the wounds in His hands, feet and side. Then he would bleed and die for you. That’s the Master’s awesome love for you!

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39 NIV)

Paul was saying that not only is God’s love for you eternal and all sufficient, it’s also steadfast and dependable. No matter what you may do in life—be it good or even bad—God’s love for you will remain unchanged and unending. It would remain alive and passionate. Furthermore, his love for you never cools down with the passing of time, as often happens is with the love of people. God’s passion for you continually burns brighter than the sun deep in the recesses of God’s loving heart―24/7.

Its flames are unquenchable even during those times when your love for him seems less than fervent, during those times when you don’t feel so loving. God’s love for you remains constant during the good times and even during the bad times. It doesn’t change. It doesn’t end. His love for you will always remain alive and powerful. It’s there for you when you’re at your best, and, praise God, it watches over you when you’re at your worst.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.( Romans 5:8 NIV)

God’s love is the driving force behind everything he does for you. It’s the sustaining factor that knits your heart to God’s heart, and causes him to unswervingly stand by your side, no matter what the world may dish out or how many times you may fall.

And I just wanted to remind you of that… just in case you’ve forgotten.

Praise be to the LORD, for he showed his wonderful love to me when I was in a besieged city. (Psalms 31:21 NIV)

Well like I said, you already know this. Yet, perhaps you’re like the rest of us. We all need a little reminder from time to time of just how much God adores us.

How precious is your loving kindness, God! The children of men take refuge under the shadow of your wings.(Psalms 36:7 NIV)

I am loved, I am loved, I can risk loving you,                                                                  For the one who knows me best loves me most.                                                               I am loved, you are loved, won’t you please take my hand?                                           We are free to love each other, we are loved.                                                                     I said, “If you knew, you wouldn’t want me;                                                                    My scars are hidden by the face I wear.”                                                                        He said, “My child, my scars go deeper;                                                                            It was love for you that put them there.”*

*I Am Loved Performed by: Bill And Gloria Gaither – Composed by: William J. Gaither, Gloria Gaither and Don Wyrtzen – © 1978

Death Becomes You

By the Mad Preacher

For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his lifVictory Tshirte may be revealed in our mortal body. (2Corinthians 4:11)

The 11th Chapter of John relates an incident that has puzzled many. It tells of the death and subsequent resurrection of Lazarus. Often we want to focus on the glorious resurrection, and that’s good, but what about his death

As you recall Mary and Martha sent word to Jesus to come quickly; their brother was gravely ill. Verse 6 says, “Yet when he (Jesus) heard that Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was two more days.” Why would Jesus do such a thing? He loved Lazarus and his sisters. Why in the world would he delay? Why didn’t Jesus immediately respond to the urgent call of his friends? Didn’t Jesus know how worried they were?!

Let’s bring this closer to home, shall we? Why hasn’t God responded to your urgent call? Why is He waiting? Doesn’t God know how desperately you need him to intervene in your situation? Why does God delay?!

What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. (1Corinthians 15:36)

Have you ever been disappointed with God or even downright angry with Him? “Lord, why didn’t you come to my rescue?” Martha shared your disappointment and confusion as she cried, “Lord, if you had only been here my brother would not have died!” (Vs. 21) Why does God sometimes postpone rescue? Could it be that he’s waiting for something to…die? Could it be that God’s waiting for something in your life to die, so that he can resurrect new life in you?

 “I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” — Jesus (John 12:24)

One of the great paradoxes of the spiritual life is this: something must die in order for it to live. In our case we have a lot of bad habits and unhealthy attitudes to which we need to deal a deathblow. However, we keep trying to resurrect what God’s trying to kill. Rather than following Paul’s admonition to put to death the misdeeds of the body, [so that] you will live.” (Romans 8:13) Still, we insist on keeping that old nature on life support and busy ourselves trying to prevent God from pulling the plug.

We’ve got to give in to the process and let God have his way in our lives. There’s victory in death, my friend. I wonder, what needs to die in your life?

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with him, we will also live with him.  (2Timothy 2:11)

Mold and make me with your fire                                                                                   And consume me with your love                                                                                   Until Your will is my desire                                                                                               All that I have and hold on to                                                                                          Surrender                                                                                                                         All that I am I give to you                                                                                                     I give to you *


 

*Surrender by Mark Harris, Brent Bourgeois as recorded by 4Him

Shutting the Door in God’s Face (Having a Samaritan heart)

Girl closing doorBy The Mad Preacher

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. (Luke 9:51-53)

Have you ever been ostracized by others because they didn’t like where you were going? Have you ever been ridiculed, shunned, or simply ignored because people around you disliked the spiritual direction you’re your life was going? If so, you’re in extremely good company.

The Samaritans, in this village, rejected Jesus for one main reason—religious pride. They were prejudiced against anyone who didn’t believe like them, and their elitist attitude caused them to miss out on a move of God in their lives and in their city. It’s sad when you consider what could have happened in their town had they welcomed Jesus. The blind would have received sight, the lame would have walked, various kinds of terrible diseases would have been cured and the Good News would have been preached to many needy souls. Yet it was not to happen. Their religious pride kept Jesus away. They slammed the door in the face of God!

 “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.” —Jesus (Revelations 3:17)

How about you? Is your heart open to Jesus doing a something different in your life even though you may not like where He wants to take you? Or do you have a Samaritan heart? Are you allowing a religious elitist attitude rob you of experiencing all that God has for you? Are you full of religious pride? Do you think that you have it all together and those “other churches” have nothing to offer you? After all, “we do not need a thing”. Besides, they don’t have the real truth like our church does.

We must understand that none of us has the market cornered on truth, although many of us act like we do. When we start thinking that we’ve arrived at some exclusive spiritual plateau, and no one outside our group of religious elitists can teach us anything. That’s when we’ve shut the door in God’s face. Our religious pride then declares, “I have arrived! There’s no need for me to go where you’re going. I’m already here. See-ya…wouldn’t want to be-ya!!!” SLAM!!!

Yet they did not listen or pay attention; they were stiff-necked and would not listen or respond to discipline. (Jeremiah 17:23)

This describes the way I use to be. Everyone else was wrong. I was right! I was blind to the fact that my religious pride was crippling me. I would only travel within the parameters of my particular denomination. Oh, I had friends that were from other churches (the poor deceived things), but I was constantly sparking off a debate with them. It wasn’t for the purpose of engaging in a polite exchange of ideas. Oh no! I had to change their minds (the poor deceived things). I didn’t like where they were going and I had to point out how wrong they were and help them go the right way. You know… my way

It turns out that I was the poor deceived thing. I was the one who didn’t know how wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked I was. The denominational sign on my church had become a STOP sign. I didn’t travel beyond it and judged anyone who dared to do so. Indeed, I was wretched beyond words and didn’t know it.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand. (Romans 14:4)

However, God eventually got my attention and broke through the religious veneer covering my heart. I repented of my religious pride and He forgave me. That started me on an incredible spiritual journey that has taken me to new heights I never dreamed of before. My heart is now open to whatever God wants to do in me.

How about you? Do you have a Samaritan heart? Have you been slamming the door in God’s face? If so now is the time to repent and get yourself ready, for Jesus is coming to your town.

Embracing Your Thorn

by The Mad Preacher

thorn-in-fleshTo keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. —Paul  (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NIV)

Arguably, the Apostle Paul was Christianity’s first theologian. God revealed to him some of the deepest truths recorded in the Bible. In fact, God divulged things to him that simply astounded the other apostles. His teachings were considered so radical that many of the Jewish “believers” joined the opposition of non-believing Jews in their effort to destroy Paul and his ministry

“Revelation carries fire with it.” — Pastor Roy Cantrell, City Gate Church Chattanooga.

I believe this is what Paul meant when he spoke of having a thorn in his flesh. It was a fiery assault that was custom designed for him. So, it wasn’t long before Paul discovered that revelation carries a price. He found that it would cost him something if he really wanted God to open the recesses of His heart to him.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” — Jesus (Matthew 13:44-46 NIV)

Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. (Proverbs 4:7 NIV)

These “surpassingly great revelations” to which Paul was made privy carried an expensive price tag. He called it “his thorn.” What was Paul’s personal thorn? He clearly showed us what it was in 2 Corinthians, Chapter 11.

“I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?” — Paul (Verses 26-29)

Paul wasn’t whining or complaining. He was describing his thorn. Considering the sacrifices the Apostle Paul endured, why would anyone want to embrace such a cruel thorn? And furthermore, is it really worth the cost? The answer to that is simply a matter of mathematics. The more willing you are to give, the more God will be willing to give you. The more willing you are to embrace your God-given thorn, the more willing God will be to release His wisdom and power in your life.

 …my cup overflows. ─ David (Psalm 23:5b NIV)

God earnestly desires to fill your cup with a deeper revelation of His Word and hidden purpose for your life, but He wants to do this for something other than academic reasons. God wants to impart much more than knowledge. First, He wants us to intimately know Him. Next, God wants to infuse us with divine power and authority so that you can successfully do the work of the Kingdom. Ephesians, Chapter 1 explains it this way:

 I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe… (Verses 17-19a)

 Buy the truth and do not sell it; get wisdom, discipline and understanding.         (Proverbs 23:23)

Paul personally knew the price of surpassingly great revelations. His thorn was very demanding. In spite of that, what was Paul’s response to its demands? He wholly embraced his thorn.

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. (2 Corinthians 4:17)

“Afflictions make the heart more deep, more experimental, more knowing and profound, and so, more able to hold, to contain and beat more.”—John Bunyan

What’s your thorn, my friend? Do you have one yet? Better yet, are you willing to accept a thorn should God offer one? The price of revelation power, wisdom, authority and, ultimately, intimacy with God is indeed costly. However, the dividends are way beyond measure. In this new year, Are you ready for God to open up the portals of Heaven and divulge His plans, His heart and purposes for you, your family…the world? If so, then, be prepared to embrace your thorn.