Why Me? (A Good Friday Meditation)

cross 2I have always had the habit of saying: “Why me?” when things go wrong.  For some reason, deep in my heart, I feel that nothing bad should come my way. Why should I get sick? Why should my plane be delayed? Why should I have an expensive car repair?

Why is it that I don’t ever say: “Why me?” when I think of all the undeserved blessings that I have received. On this Good Friday, I need to say: “Why me?” in regard to Christ’s death on the cross. I don’t deserve the love of God. I don’t deserve my Lord Jesus Christ dying on the cross to take away my sin. Why does He love me? Why did He die for me?

A couple of years ago, I was able to spend twenty-four hours in Jerusalem. It was a whirlwind trip, but one of the things that stood out was my visit to the possible place where Jesus died. There is a road that passes outside the old city and the rock formation above the road forms into the shape of a skull. This sight was a serious reminder of all that Christ suffered on the cross for a world of lost sinners, of which I am a part.

The Place of the Skull (Golgotha or Calvary).

The Place of the Skull (Golgotha or Calvary).

Reflecting upon Christ’s death causes me to cry out: “Why me?” Christ suffered physically upon the cross, but more importantly He suffered spiritually. He took all of our sin upon Himself. For this reason, He cried out to God, the Father. “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Christ felt the full force of the Father’s wrath on the cross because He became sin for us; so that we could have His righteousness upon ourselves. The perfect Son of God took my place! “Why me?”

There are many other people in history who could say:”Why me?” They knew their sin before God. They knew that they deserved God’s wrath; yet they could say: “Why me?”

  • Matthew, the crooked tax collector, could have said: “Why me?”
  • The repentant thief on the cross could have said: “Why me?”
  • Saul (Paul), the persecutor of the church, could have said: “Why me?”
  • The Ethiopian Eunuch could have said: “Why me?”
  • Countless Christian slaves in the Roman Empire could have said: “Why me?”
  • Those who have died for their faith could have said: “Why me?”
  • Countless millions of believers through the centuries could say: “Why me?”

“Dear Heavenly Father, I still don’t understand: “Why me?” You sent Jesus Christ to die on the cross for me. You gave me your Word which showed me all that Christ did on the cross for me. You sent your Holy Spirit to convict me of my sin. Father, you adopted me into your family. You have promised me a place in heaven. “Why me?!!” Though I may never know the answer to this question, I thank you for your great, undeserved love towards me. Help me never to forget the question: “Why me?”

WHY SHOULD HE LOVE ME SO? By Robert Harkness (1925)
Love sent my Savior to die in my stead;
Why should He love me so?
Meekly to Calvary’s cross He was led;
Why should He love me so?

Nails pierced His hands and His feet for my sin;
Why should He love me so?
He suffered sore my salvation to win;
Why should He love me so?

O how He agonized there in my place;
Why should He love me so?
Nothing withholding my sin to efface;
Why should He love me so?

CHORUS
Why should He love me so?
Why should He love me so?
Why should my Savior to Calvary go?
Why should He love me so?

 

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Clinging to God

Kangaroos in Australia (Photo by: Mark j. Booth)

Kangaroos in Australia (Photo by: Mark j. Booth)

Do you remember as a child when you would cling to your dad or mom when you felt danger approaching? “My soul followeth hard after thee: thy right hand upholdeth me.” (Psalm 63:8) The words “followeth hard” have the idea of clinging unto the Lord. When danger, temptations and sorrows approach, the best response is to cling to Our Heavenly Father. He alone can carry us through the tough times.

The world is a dangerous place for every child of God. We face a variety of dangers, including temptations from Satan, the lusts of our own flesh, and pressures from the world to conform. Because of these dangers, we need to cling to our Lord each step of the way. When we let go of the Lord, we not only find ourselves being exposed to dangers from without, but also the dangers from within our hearts.

The first aspect of clinging unto the Lord is total dependence upon Him.  We know that within ourselves there is no hope to face the dangers and pitfalls of this life. When crossing a very busy street, I would cling to my Dad’s hand. I was completely incapable of crossing the many lanes of traffic alone. The cars were large and moving fast. I completely depended upon my Dad to navigate me to the other side of the street.

All through the Word of God, we see people who forsook their own ability and completely depended upon God. David when he battled Goliath totally depended upon the Lord. Like David, no matter how big the danger before us, we can cling unto our Heavenly Father.  He will never push us away.

Joseph continually faced pressure from Potiphar’s wife to commit adultery. The pressure was great to yield to this temptation, but Joseph continually depended upon God. Daniel could have compromised his faith several times while in Babylon; yet he depended totally upon God. Ruth could have lived a life of great despair, but she depended upon God in the midst of all the trials she faced. We have the same Heavenly Father that each of these had. We can and need to depend upon Him.

A second aspect of clinging unto the Lord is our complete love for Him. Peter’s denial of the Lord occurred when he placed his love for himself above his love for the Lord Jesus Christ. After the resurrection, Jesus emphasized this truth to Peter when He asked him three times: “Do you love me?” Jesus wanted Peter to know that there was great safety in clinging to Him in love.  Peter would face innumerable trials, but he clung to the Lord in love.

How close are we to God? Have we left our first love like the church at Ephesus did? When our love grows cold God seems distant. We don’t speak to Him with words of affection. We don’t open His Word with enthusiasm. We live our lives as though God is not there. This lack of love creates greater opportunities to fall into temptations, to doubt God’s love and provision, and to live a selfish life before others.

Loving God means that we need to stay as close to Him as possible.  We want to listen to His Word. We enjoy our times of communion with Him. We are not ashamed of Him, but we are proud to call God, Our Heavenly Father.

A third aspect of clinging to God is to recognize the dangers of this life. Last year, while in Australia, I came across a joey with its mother kangaroo. The joey was lying close to its mother; however when I came closer to the joey, the joey recognized danger.  He immediately leaped to its feet and jumped into his mother’s pouch. The joey found complete safety in his mother’s pouch.

Do we recognize the dangers in our life? Jesus constantly warns His followers of the ways of this world. He knows that we can easily become apathetic and careless in our spiritual lives. We don’t see the need of clinging to the Lord because we have become insensitive to the dangers around us and within us.

God is always there to uphold us, as long as we are always ready to cling unto Him. He holds His arms out as though saying: “Come unto me, I will protect you. I will love you. I will guide you through this situation.” We mustn’t let pride, self-will, ignorance, and busyness keep us from clinging to our Heavenly Father.

“Dear Heavenly Father, I have crossed many dangerous roads in my life. Sometimes, I have chosen to cross those roads without you. This has created difficulties for me and others. Thank you for the many times, that I have clung to you and you took me through those dangerous roads. I know that in the future I can depend upon you regardless of what happens. Thank you for first loving me; so that I can love you in return. Amen”

Parental Piety (An excerpt from a new book by David de Bruyn)

save-them-from-secularism2

Dear Readers, very rarely do I include writings from other sources in my blog; however, this new Kindle Book by David de Bruyn is a very worthwhile read for all parents and grandparents. The title of the book is: “Save them from Secularism: Pre-Evangelism for Your Children.”  This Kindle Book is presently being offered free.  Here is the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BWRDT7Q

I have known the author since he was a child attending our church in Johannesburg, South Africa. David presently is the pastor of New Covenant Baptist Church in Sandringham, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Enjoy this one chapter of the book. It is my prayer and desire that you will download the whole book.

Chapter 2:Parental Piety by David de Bruyn

The first and greatest commandment is followed by a commandment to teach children to do the same (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). Our goal as Christian parents should be nothing less than to help shape our children so that they will, by grace, become ardent lovers of God. We have said this happens not merely by telling our children to love God, but by shaping the child’s imagination.   Probably one of the first analogies the child’s imagination receives is the analogy of his parents’ piety. This provides him with a picture of what it is like to be in a relationship with God.

Before a child knows anything about justification, penal substitution, or the nature of God, he knows what a relationship with God is like. Or at least, he knows what his believing parents express it to be like. The religious imagination of child is shaped by being exposed to his parents’ piety, and it is their example that gives him his first introduction to how God is to be loved, and if God ought to be loved.

This is probably why right after telling Israel that they are to love Him with all the heart, soul and might, God tells them that these words about loving God ultimately “which I command you today shall be in your heart.” That is, these words are to be internalized and understood and practised by the parents themselves first. Following that, verse 7 kicks in. “You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.”

Certainly, this teaching will take the form of direct instruction. However, our concern in this book is how the non-discursive, non-cognitive faculty of knowing is shaped. Certainly then, part of the teaching is the fleshed-out example of love for God seen in the parents.

Loving God ultimately can be thought of as ultimate dependence, ultimate devotion and ultimate delight. When we love God ultimately, we regard Him as ultimately reliable, ultimately valuable, and ultimately desirable. We do not trust, commit to, or rejoice in anything besides God as an end. All else are means: He alone is the end.

In a family, this kind of love for God is seen in very tangible ways. When in the middle of a health or financial or emotional crisis, Dad says to the family, “We can be very thankful for what God has given us. Let’s turn to Him now in prayer, and ask Him for grace”, that lesson speaks to little hearts in powerful ways. Gratitude and contentment say more than 100 sermons. When Dad says, “We’ve barely got petrol in the tank, but we know God wants us to worship Him. We’ll trust that God will enable what He commands.” And do you know what God loves to do when those little eyes are watching that act of ultimate dependence? Provide. Supply. Protect.

When the child is groaning about a sore throat on Monday morning, and Dad says, “Get out of that bed, and get ready, you are going to school!”, he is teaching the importance of education. But when the child has the same groans about a sore throat on Sunday morning, and Dad says, “Well, just take it easy and rest this morning,” he has taught something else. He has taught that education takes priority over worship. He has taught that our devotion to education ought to exceed our devotion to God.

When Mom will drive from this side of the city for swimming to that side of the city for tennis or ballet, to the other side for extra maths, and back again for soccer, and finally home, racking up a good 100 kilometres in the process, the child might learn that Mom and Dad like him to have activities. But when they say, “We can’t go to the Wednesday Evening service, it’s too much driving, and petrol is getting more expensive”, he learns about priorities. Petrol costs and driving time aren’t an issue if it is extra-murals or education, but very high hurdles if it is church. He has just learned how committed one should be to God, and it is not an ultimate commitment.

Children know what we love. They see it when our eyes sparkle when we talk about what delights us. They see how we anticipate the things we really love. They see how we reminisce over the things we love. And they see how we connect those things to God, if we do. They see what our attitude is towards the things of God.

If Dad’s sighing heavily as everyone gets in the car on Sunday, but he’s cheerfully buoyant before the start of a rugby game on TV, he communicates which brings more joy. If Mom is humming away while she copies photos to Facebook and makes scrap-book albums, but looks like she’s eaten lemons during the singing of hymns, she communicates what brings her joy.

And make no mistake, those little eyes are on you in corporate worship – do you enjoy and understand those hymns, or do you just mouth them? Do you love God’s Word and read it with hunger? Do you communicate your relish for the Word before and after? They notice when you’re soaking in the Word, and they notice when you’re looking at your watch. And later on, they might remember that you don’t do that during a movie.

Before we tell them so, we show our children what we think is reliable, valuable and desirable.  God says there is only One who deserves that kind of love. That should be the day-in, day-out message of our homes.

The Exaltation of God or Man?

Flying over the Alps (Photo by: Mark J, Booth)

Flying over the Alps (Photo by: Mark J, Booth)

We love to exalt celebrities. We read about them, think about them, talk about them, and even pattern our lives after them. These celebrities do not know us personally. They have no interest in us, neither will they bring comfort, peace, and hope into our lives. Yet, we adore our celebrities.

It is interesting that our exaltation of sports figures, entertainers, and reality show participants never creates a hostile reaction in others.  Yes, others may not agree with our choice of an “idol”, but they don’t get angry. We choose to accept that one person’s “idol” may not be to our taste.

Our culture believes that exalting man is acceptable. Man has a need to exalt something or someone if they choose not to exalt God in their lives. Believers have trouble exalting God because they are fearful of the reactions of those around them. “Yes, you can exalt a man, but don’t exalt God in my presence!” Does this attitude affect our exaltation of God? Have we become fearful to exalt God before others?

God has called the believers to exalt Him, not only among believers, but also before the whole world. “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” (Psalm 46:10) “Exalt ye the Lord our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy.” (Psalm 99:5)

God commands His people to exalt Him in spite of the consequences. Remember Moses who exalted God before a rebellious nation. Stephen exalted God in spite of being stoned to death. David exalted God in spite of Saul’s persecution. Daniel exalted God in spite of the lion’s den. Paul exalted God in the midst of those who would put him to death. If the world can exalt its celebrities, we should never be embarrassed to exalt the True and Almighty God.

The word exaltation has the idea to elevate or to place above. God’s rightful place is above not only His people, but all people.  We tend not to exalt God in our lives for various reasons.

  • We exalt ourselves above God.  We feel that we are the center of the universe.
  • We allow sin to erode our elevation of God.  Remember Saul!
  • We are ignorant of the person of God.  The more we know Him, the more we will exalt Him.
  • We allow the world to frame our attitude about God. Notice how we no longer talk about the Justice, Holiness and Wrath of God.

Isaiah, the prophet, wrote in a time when people exalted their false gods above the true and living God. In Isaiah 25:1, he tells us why we should exalt God above ourselves and all others. “O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth.”

Isaiah had a personal relationship with God. He understood the attributes and the works of God.  Isaiah had also experienced God’s faithfulness in his life.  God’s truth was central in Isaiah’s life.  Isaiah’s exaltation of God was the result of his many years of serving God and communing with Him.  Do we see God as Isaiah saw God? If so, we will have no problem exalting our great God.

“Dear Lord, sometimes, I allow the world around me to influence me in my relationship with you. I see the exaltation of man going on all around me. My culture may not have wooden idols, but they have idols of flesh and blood.  Help me to climb above this culture and exalt you. You are worthy of my exaltation because of your salvation, your person, your works, your faithfulness and your truth. Give me the courage to exalt you not only privately, but before others.  Amen.

Am I a Spiritual Demolition Expert?

346-hudsonPano

On October 24, 1998, there occurred a very sad event in the history of Detroit.  On this day, the J.L. Hudson’s department store demolished. This landmark of downtown Detroit was, at one time, the second largest department store building in the nation.

The Hudson’s building was prepared for demolition by experts who knew what they were doing. In a matter of seconds, the building came tumbling down. The demolition experts had done their work.

In the spiritual realm, there are also demolition experts. These people have a talent to harm other believers and churches. They may do their work with a spiritual veneer, like the Pharisees did in the time of Jesus.  They may have a goal of “doing what is good”. They may be sincere or “mean well”.  Whether intentional or not, these demolition experts cause broken lives and churches.

We may not think that we are a demolition expert, but there is a demolition expert in all of us.  We have all caused harm to an individual or to a church fellowship. What are some of the qualifications of being a spiritual demolition expert?

One of the first qualifications of a demolition expert is pride. Pride causes us to feel superior to others. Because we are better than others, we have every right to condemn them and put them in their place.  Pride means that we are never open to correction, but we are always open to correct others. It also causes us to love self instead of loving others. We see this in the life of Saul when he became jealous of the acclaim that David received.  Saul’s pride caused his death, the downfall of his family, harm to the Kingdom of Israel, and great grief to the life of David.

Another qualification of a spiritual demolition expert is an uncontrolled tongue.  This person’s tongue can destroy a person or a church in various ways. They can speak words of slander about others. They also can create divisions among people through gossip. Angry words have also destroyed people and churches. These people are experts at welding their tongue to bring harm to many with whom they come into contact. James warned us of the danger of the tongue when he wrote: “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.” (James 3:6)

A third qualification of a spiritual demolition expert is the “Holy Spirit Syndrome”.  This individual feels like they have the answer for everybody’s situation. They know what others need to do and how they should do it. This doesn’t seem to bring harm to others. However, the person with this syndrome keeps others from developing their own personal walk with the Lord. Instead of looking to the Word of God or to the Holy Spirit for guidance and direction, many people look to the person who has become “their holy spirit”.

A fourth qualification of a spiritual demolition expert is a person who lives their lives to please themselves. This person hurts others because they don’t see the importance of their example. They may say: “I don’t care what other people think. It is my life.!” This person leads others down the path of sin, rebellion and destruction. They have forgotten what Paul said: “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

God has not called us to be demolition experts. He has called us to be builders. “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.” (Ephesians 4:11) A builder shows care, concern and sacrifice in producing a building.  We need to have this same concern and love for individuals as well as for the Body of Christ.

Let’s take a quick look at a few qualifications of spiritual builders.

  • They have a love for the Lord and others.
  • They have a humble spirit.
  • They use their tongue to build up others.
  • They encourage others to develop their own walk with the Lord.
  • They are sensitive to the needs of others.

“Dear Lord, I know that I have hurt others in my life, and that I need to forsake the qualifications of a spiritual demolition expert.  Help me, to have a ministry of building up others through my love, words and actions. Thank you for the people you have used in my life to build me up spiritually. Truly, you have blessed me with many spiritual builders. Amen”

Candid Thoughts About Crowds

The Presidential Inauguration, 2009 (Photo by the Sun-Sentinal)

The Presidential Inauguration, 2009 (Photo by the Sun-Sentinal)

I have never enjoyed being in the midst of a crowd. I like to have a bit of space. However, crowds are a fact of life. I have been a part of a crowd at churches, athletic events, airports, the streets of New York City, on a crowded expressway in Chicago, or a crammed subway in Lisbon. Crowds can make us lose our individuality. We seem to merge into the crowd as an unknown and unimportant face.

You can see this at an athletic event when somebody begins the wave. What do we do? We conform and stand up and wave our arms when it is our turn.  Also, I have noticed this when you see a subway train pass the opposite direction, the people look like one massive  block of humanity. The crowd seems to swallow up each person.

This crowd mentality has also filtered itself into our Christian faith.  We want to belong to a large group. We want to follow the new trend in Christianity. If the crowd says, we dress a certain way to church, then we dress that way.  If the crowd says a certain kind of music is better for today, then we follow the crowd.  If the latest Christian celebrity makes a pronouncement, then we follow his words like the rest of the crowd.

Churches are looking for a crowd. They want to emulate the mega church that is in their city or on the television.  A crowd equals success in the eyes of men. The church can easily lose sight of God and His working in the lives of individual people. The danger of this crowd mentality is that we can use people to build our ministries, instead of using our ministry to build people.

The Bible often shows the danger of the crowd. Joseph’s brothers were gathered together as their brother, Joseph approached. None of these brothers alone would have thought about killing him, but together they came up with their evil plan. Nobody was willing to speak out openly against the plan of the crowd. The crowd can make us commit evil deeds which we would not do alone.

When the nation of Israel was at the border of the Promised Land, the twelve spies had returned with their report of the land. The crowd said that it was too difficult and the people became disheartened. There were only three people who were willing to stand against the crowd, Caleb, Joshua and Moses. They were nearly killed for their courageous stand. The crowd can make a coward of us all.

In the time of Elijah, the crowd worshipped the false gods of the surrounding nations. The crowd had rejected the True God. Elijah went against this crowd in his great contest against the prophets of Baal.  The majority said that Baal was god. They were proven false by the God of Elijah. The crowd can cause us to turn our backs on the true God, to follow their false gods of materialism, fame, pleasure, and self-centeredness.

When Jesus walked on the earth, he would often attract a crowd, but the crowds were  very superficial in their dedication to Jesus.  After Jesus feeds the five thousand, he teaches the people about His deity. As a result. the crowd walks away because their faith was based upon what they could get out of Jesus. The crowd can cause our faith to become quite superficial, because we no longer see the need to develop a personal walk with the Lord.  Whatever our “crowd” says is what we believe. We become sheep following other sheep, instead of sheep following the Shepherd.

Jesus also warns us about the danger of the crowd when He says: “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14) The crowd has the idea that everybody is going to heaven. We can live as we please. The crowd has led many people to Hell because of their false notion of universal salvation.

Jesus walked upon this earth amidst many crowds, but he didn’t develop a crowd mentality. He kept His focus upon His Heavenly Father. If we are to fight the crowd mentality, we need to keep our eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ. “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:3)

“Dear Lord, I feel pressure to conform to the crowd. This is not only the crowd of the world which would turn me from my faith, but also the crowd within Christianity. This crowd would have me to conform to the latest trends and the latest pronouncements of some Christian celebrity. Lord, I need you. Help me to keep my focus upon you. Help me to walk with you and not worry about what others are doing or saying. Thank you for calling each of your sheep by name. Thank you that I can have a personal walk with you. Amen”