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What does it mean to be spiritually poor?

Do you know what it means to be spiritually poor?
Do you know what it means to be spiritually poor?

Last post laid a foundation for understanding the Beatitudes. Now we can discuss the first one on the spiritually poor.

Jesus said, “Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God” (Luke 6:20).

Jesus presented values that were completely contrary to the thinking of the day. This is a perfect example—the world says the poor are cursed.

But the Bible also doesn’t say the poor – at least financially – are blessed: “[Do not] give me poverty…lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Pro 30:8-9).

Poverty can tempt people to steal or curse God. If it were a blessing, God wouldn’t have given wealth to people, i.e. Abraham, David, and Solomon. Being financially poor isn’t a blessing, any more than being financially rich is a curse.

Jesus’ words only make sense if we understand He’s discussing spiritual poverty. The parallel account in Matthew 5:3 says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” This means recognizing you’re a sinner who’s spiritually bankrupt, with nothing of value with which to purchase salvation. Continue reading What does it mean to be spiritually poor?

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4 Reasons Jesus Would Choose You

Would Jesus choose you?
Would Jesus choose you?

The twelve disciples give us insight into the people Jesus would choose.

I taught elementary school before becoming a pastor. During that time I also did some coaching: high school and middle school wrestling, and elementary school boys’ flag football and girls’ basketball.

As much as I disliked losing, the one thing I disliked even more was tryouts; I hated having to choose some kids and not others. I think about this when considering Jesus’ “winning” team:

  • They were sent out with the Gospel (Matt 10:5-15).
  • They laid the foundation for the church (Eph 2:20).
  • They will sit on thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel (Matt 19:28).

It wouldn’t be too much to say few people have ever been more important than these men. So of course the Lord would choose men who: Continue reading 4 Reasons Jesus Would Choose You

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Do you delight in a quiet life?

Do you delight in a quiet life?
Do you delight in a quiet life?

A quiet life might not sound attractive, but consider there were two disciples named Judas. The lesser known – or almost completely unknown – is “Judas the son of James” (Luke 6:16, Acts 1:13) or “Thaddaeus” (Matt 10:3, Mark 3:18).

The only time he’s mentioned outside of the above mentioned four lists of The Twelve is John 14:22, which says: “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?’”

That’s it! His claim to fame is asking Jesus this question.

If asked which of the disciples they identify with, most people will say Peter for two reasons:

  1. Peter is known for opening his mouth when he shouldn’t, which we can all relate to: “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man” (Jam 3:8).
  2. People don’t identify with the other disciples, because there’s so little said about them. You can’t identify with people you don’t know.

Continue reading Do you delight in a quiet life?

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Responding in Anger

Responding in Anger After King Jeroboam set up his golden calves and introduced the nation into idolatry (1 Kin 12:25-33), a prophet was sent to rebuke him and give him a sign that the altar he’d recently built would split apart (1 Kin 13:3). At that point Jeroboam faced the same two choices we face when we’re confronted:

  1. Be humble and repent.
  2. Get angry at the person confronting us.

You can probably guess his choice…

1 Kings 13:4 When King Jeroboam heard the saying of the man of God [he said], “Arrest him!” Then his hand, which he stretched out toward him, withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself.

Proverbs 9:8 says, “Do not correct a scoffer or he will hate you” and that’s exactly what happened with Jeroboam.

When we’re confronted we might all feel like pointing at the person and saying, “Arrest him!” but the verse shows how God felt about Jeroboam responding the way he did, and I believe it’s instructive regarding how God feels when we respond angrily when we’re confronted.

1 Kings 13:5 The altar also was split apart, and the ashes poured out from the altar, according to the sign which the man of God had given by the word of the Lord.

Jeroboam’s anger didn’t change anything: the prophecy still came true. And the same is true for us: getting angry doesn’t change anything. Usually it just makes things worse. This is exactly what happened with Jeroboam:

  • He continued with his wickedness: 1 Kings 13:33 After this event Jeroboam did not turn from his evil way.
  • His lack of repentance led to his death and the death of his descendants: 1 Kings 13:34 [Jeroboam’s sin] led to the destruction of his house from the face of the earth.
  • Jeroboam’s son Nadab became king, he was murdered by Baasha who took the throne in his place, and that was the end of Jeroboam’s dynasty (1 Kin 15:25-33).

If Jeroboam had repented instead of getting angry, he and his descendants could’ve been spared judgment, but he’s an example of what Proverbs clearly shows: responding poorly to correction always leads to terrible consequences…

  • Proverbs 13:18a Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction.
  • Proverbs 15:10b He who hates correction will die.
  • Proverbs 15:32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul. Why does it say this? Because the consequences of getting angry when corrected are so severe it’s almost like punishing yourself.
  • Proverbs 29:1 He who is often rebuked, and hardens his neck, will suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.

The next time you feel yourself getting angry, remember your anger won’t improve anything. It will probably just make things worse: James 1:20 the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

The situation with Jeroboam can serve as an example…

When we’re confronted and we feel ourselves getting angry – we want to point at our husband or wife or children or parents or friends or coworkers – picture Jeroboam pointing at the man of God and having his hand wither as a result.

  • Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, wrath, anger…be put away from you.
  • Colossians 3:8 Put off all these: anger, wrath, malice…9 since you have put off the old man…10 and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him.

When we respond in anger we’re forgetting who we are in Christ and we’re living as the old man instead of the new one.

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Rules for the Classroom…or Life

Rules for the Classroom...or LifeIn a recent sermon I mentioned my “Team Expectations” (aka classroom rules) from when I taught. Katie shared them on Facbook saying “They could also be rules for the home or life in general.” In response to some requests for them, here they are exactly as they were posted in the back of my classroom with brief explanations below each…

MR. LaPIERRE’S TEAM EXPECTATIONS

1. Be honest – don’t ever lie for any reason.

The world acts like lying is no big deal. Lying is even expected in some circles (politics). But lying is one of the six things God hates according to Proverbs 6:17. I wanted my kids to know that.

2. Be humble – don’t brag or be prideful.

Also included in this rule is what I called, “subtle brags” or bragging when you’re acting like you’re not. In real life it looks like being the hero of your own stories, and on Facebook it looks like:

  • I’m so glad there are still nice people in this world. An old man just came up to me and said, ‘You sure are beautiful!’”
  • I’m so completely exhausted, but what a blessing it was to spend the entire day helping my friend move.”
  • Posting shameless selfies. If the majority of your profile pictures are just your face…from a few inches away…and you swap that picture out for another picture of just your face from a few inches away then this is probably you.

Proverbs 27:2 Let another else praise you, and not your own mouth, a stranger and not your own lips.

3. Be nice – say and do things that help your teammates: compliment, encourage, clap and cheer for them.

Kids are naturally competitive and jealous. The solution is to encourage them to rejoice when others succeed.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Encourage one another and build each other up.

4. Do not say or do anything that might hurt someone’s feelings.

Usually this is worded like, “Do not say anything mean.” The problem with that is the word mean is subjective. All year you’ll have to listen to kids saying, “I didn’t say anything mean” or “I didn’t mean to be mean.” But when another kid is crying they can’t say, “I didn’t hurt his feelings.”

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any abusive language come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.

5.    Apologize if you hurt someone’s feelings…

  • even if it was an accident
  • even if someone hurt your feelings too, because you still need to apologize for your actions
  • and do not use the word “but” or make any excuses when you apologize.

I could write a completely different post about apologizing (and maybe I will), but for now I’ll just say most people don’t know how to apologize. If your apology sounds like, “I’m sorry BUT…” or “I’m sorry YOU…” it’s not an apology; it’s an excuse disguised as an apology.

I wanted to start teaching kids early the right way to apologize. If people have hurt you and you were looking forward to an apology but heard, “I’m sorry you’re mad” then you probably wish that person had a teacher with this rule.

James 5:16 Confess your sins to each other.

6. Do not shift blame to someone else for your actions – YOU are completely responsible for all of YOUR actions.

99% of the time when kids get in trouble, the first word out of their mouths is the name of another student or the pronouns he, she, or they:

  • “Brian pushed me first.”
  • “She was talking to me first.”
  • “They told me I could.”

It began at The Fall when Adam and Eve were confronted:

  • Adam said, “The WOMAN whom YOU gave me, gave me the fruit” (Gen 3:12).
  • Eve said, “The SERPENT deceived me” (Gen 3:13).

In a few words, Adam blamed God and Eve, and with nobody else to blame Eve said, “The devil made me do it.” The moment sin entered the world and man received a sin nature, with it came the terrible habit we all have of shifting blame.

I wanted to try to prevent that in my classroom as much as possible.

7. Do not whine, moan, groan, complain or roll your eyes.

We all do this – myself included – and the people who say they don’t are breaking the first rule.

Philippians 2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing.

Classroom pic

classroom

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Paradoxes in the Bible

Paradoxes are statements that seem contradictory, inconsistent, or absurd, but are nonetheless true…and the Bible is full of paradoxes…

Here’s one of the most common: God exalts the humble and humbles the exalted:

  • 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time
  • James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

This principle is expressed in the Old Testament as well:

  • 1 Samuel 2:8 God raises the poor from the dust
    And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
    To set them among princes
    And make them inherit the throne of glory
  • Ezekiel 21:26 Thus says the Lord God, “Remove the turban, and take off the crown;
    Nothing shall remain the same.
    Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted.”

Here are a few more paradoxes:

  • In Matthew 23:11 Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be greatest, should be everyone’s servant.”
  • In Mark 9:35 Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first, must be the very last.”
  • In Luke 17:33 Jesus said, “Whoever tries to keep their lives will lose it, and whoever loses their lives will keep it.”
  • In 2 Corinthians 12:10 and 13:9 Paul said, “When we are weak we are strong.”
  • James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.

Other paradoxes are subtler. For example, Luke 1:50 says God’s mercy is for those who fear Him. People who are most afraid of God have the least to fear from Him, and people who don’t fear God have the most to fear from Him. This is a paradox. It doesn’t make sense: if you fear God you don’t have to be afraid of Him, but if you don’t fear God, you have a lot to fear from Him.

Think about Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were known for their cruelty and brutality. They mutilated people, resettled entire populations, and rejoiced over butchering their victims. They had absolutely no fear of God, and as a result had every reason to fear God: in Jonah 3:4 the prophet told the people, “In forty days God is going to destroy your city.” The people became afraid of God and dramatically repented. As a result, God’s mercy toward them became so great that when Jonah still wanted to see them judged, God rebuked the prophet for his lack of mercy saying, “Should I not pity these people?” (Jonah 4:11). The simple point is this: when they didn’t fear God they had everything to fear from God, but when they feared God, they had nothing to fear from Him.

I’d like to mention one more paradox, but there are three things I’d like to say about it first:

  1. While the previous paradoxes could be quoted, there isn’t one specific verse to capture this paradox.
  2. Even without one specific verse, this paradox is a truth maintained throughout the entire Bible.
  3. This is the most important paradox in the Bible as it determines where individuals spend eternity.

The paradox is this: people who think they’re righteous will be declared unrighteous by God, and people who declare their unrighteousness will be declared righteous by God.

Justification is the process by which God declares unrighteous sinners to be righteous. In other words, people are justified when God has declared them righteous. It isn’t about them being righteous; it is about God declaring them to be righteous. The Bible is very clear that there is only one way for individuals to be justified (or declared righteous by God), and that is by faith:

  • Romans 3:28 We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
  • Romans 5:1 Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Galatians 2:16 A person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ. We have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Individuals declaring their righteousness think they’re good, trust in themselves, do not seek the righteousness that is available by faith, and therefore will not be justified by God. Individuals declaring their unrighteousness recognize they’re not good, don’t trust in themselves, seek the righteousness that is available by faith, and therefore will be justified by God.

This paradox is most clearly seen in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

  • Of the Pharisee it says he prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” (Luke 18:11, 12).
  • Of the tax collector it says, “standing afar off, [he] would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13).

Then Jesus said, “I tell you, this tax collector went down to his house justified, rather than the Pharisee.” (Luke 18:13).

This is a paradox. The individual who – by all outward evidence – was exceptionally righteous shouldn’t be declared unrighteous and the tax collector – an individual the Bible identifies as terribly unrighteous (Matt 9:10, 11:19, Mark 2:16, Luke 5:30, 7:34, 15:1, 18:13) – shouldn’t be declared righteous. Those who believe they deserve heaven and are good enough to enter it will find themselves infinitely far from it, and those who know they don’t deserve heaven and could never be good enough to enter it will be welcomed.

These paradoxes are why God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8, 9).

And these paradoxes are why Paul can say, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how unfathomable His ways” (Rom 11:33).

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God Uses Humiliation

Thursday I went skiing. I can’t wait until I can move again. When I was growing up my friends and I had cheap snowboards and we used to climb local mountains and pretend like we actually had talent. At the mountain I was trying to remember – as I had lots of time to think lying on the snow looking up at the stars, wondering whether I wanted to get up and fall again – and I think I only went one time to a real park and snowboarded. I brought my cheap snowboard, but the bindings broke. I took it to the repair place on the grounds and they fixed it, but then I broke it again and had to rent a board. That summarizes my previous snowboarding/skiing experience; therefore, Thursday constituted my first time ever skiing. I hope that’s the case anyway, because I don’t think it’s possible to be as bad as I was on your second time.

You’re thinking, “You couldn’t have been THAT bad.” Let me put it in perspective: I fell getting off the lift. My ski came off. They had to stop the machine. Malyna was nice enough to get my ski for me so I could put it back on. I thought, “Maybe nobody from our church saw me.” Then I looked over and saw all the youth were waiting for me so we could go down together. That was cool. There are a lot of words I could use to describe my experience on Thursday, but the word I’d choose is humbling.

Humbling experiences are great for us. They destroy our pride and flesh, and they give us wonderful memories to help us in the future when we start to look down on others, become self-righteous, think more of ourselves than we should, etc. All we need to do then is think back about the time we fell off the ski lift, or the time we got pinned in wrestling in front of the whole school, or the time we forgot to print all our notes for the sermon and didn’t realize it until we were in front of the whole church, and the list goes on. These humbling and even painful situations allow us to sympathize with others and extend grace to them when they go through things. Paul said something along these lines that God comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Cor 1:4). In other words, painful and humbling situations helps us treat others as wonderfully as God has treated us.

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Jan 23rd, 2011 – Sunday Bulletin Letter

Hello Everyone,

I hope you all had a great week! I attended the high school lunchtime Bible study on Thursday and the highlight was spending some time with Mr. Ryan Close, the teacher whose classroom the students gather in. We talked some about the group and the direction it’s going and how to make it better. We have a meeting scheduled for this week to plan out what it’s going to look like in the future. Mr. Shoup the principal liked the idea of some of our home-school students attending the Bible study if they’re interested to establish relationships with the kids. Right now I’m not sure that would be beneficial, based on how the group is looking, but give it a few weeks and I’ll probably send out an invite with times.

The Bible presents some simple truths about spiritual gifts: we all have at least one, we should be using them, and they are for the edification (or building up) of the Body of Christ (Rom 12:3-8, 1 Cor 12:7, 14:12, Eph 4:10-13). By the way, when I say gifts, don’t think just tongues or prophecy. There are multitudes of gifts including encouragement, giving, showing mercy, administrating, etc. Recently I found out (thanks to John Ream, Jr) that Jamison is pretty gifted musically, having even led music before at his church in Las Vegas. So I was excited about talking to the leadership and to Mitch about integrating Jamison in a little on Sundays. They were on the same page, and so today we decided to try out having him play the closing hymn. Fortunately he accepted the invitation.

This is something we’re just trying that we’ll take week-by-week. Whenever we try anything new, it’s important for all of you to provide feedback. So please shoot me an e-mail and let me know your thoughts!

We always think of humility positively, and we should; however, it’s possible to let our “humility” be a detriment. What I mean is, sometimes we can think so little of ourselves that we’re afraid to step out and obey whatever God’s calling us to do. This morning we’re going to be looking at an example of “bad humility” and an example of good humility in Saul’s life.

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Why did Jesus call a woman a dog?

Marriage-Gods-Way-author-Scott-LaPierre little dogAn interesting – and possibly confusing – account took place between Jesus and a woman He called a “little dog.” Matthew 15:21-22:

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

The woman is a Canaanite, which makes her one of the Jews’ ancient enemies and a surprising person to seek Jesus’ help. When Israel entered the Promised Land they were supposed to destroy these people, because of their wickedness.

Matthew 15:23-24:

But He answered her not a word. And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.”
But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Why did Jesus say this?

  • God told Abraham, “And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Primarily this referred to the Messiah coming from Israel, but it also referred to Israel being the witness nation. The Jews would receive the Gospel first and spread it to the surrounding world.
  • Romans 1:16 says, “the gospel is…for the Jew first.”
  • When Jesus sent out the Twelve He said, “Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt 10:5a-6). Jesus didn’t forbid the disciples from preaching to Gentiles if they encountered them along the way, but they were to go first to Israel.

Jesus told the Canaanite woman the Jews had to have the first opportunity to accept Him. Matthew 15:25-26:

Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!”
But He answered and said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

The “children” are the Jews, and the “bread” is the spiritual food or Gospel.

The Greek word for “dog” is kyōn, and it is a derogatory term the Jews used for Gentiles. The word Jesus used for “little dogs” is kynarion, and it’s not derogatory or cruel. It can be used affectionately, even of a family pet.

Matthew 15:27-28:

And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”
Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

The woman accepted the situation, including who she was.

She couldn’t stop the Gospel from going to the Jews first, and she couldn’t change her ethnicity. But she could be persistent and demonstrate her faith. She even says, “I’m not asking for the portion that belongs to the Jews. I just want some of the crumbs.”

Jesus rewarded the woman. The irony is many Jews would miss out on God’s salvation, because they didn’t have this woman’s faith, persistence, or humility. Many Gentiles would find salvation. They received the crumbs the Gentiles rejected, or that “fell from the table.”

Consider the progression:

  1. Jesus ignores her in verse 23.
  2. Jesus tells her, “No,” in verse 24.
  3. She asks again in verse 25.
  4. Jesus says, “No,” again in verse 26.
  5. She asks again in verse 27.
  6. Jesus helps her in verse 28.

This is a great illustration of the persistence needed in prayer. See also (Luke 11:5-13 and 18:1-8).

C. H. Spurgeon said, “Dear friend, possibly someone has whispered in your ear, ‘Suppose you are not one of the elect.’ Well, that was very much what our Lord’s expression meant to her. She was not one of the chosen people, and she had heard Christ say, ‘I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ Notice that this woman does not battle with that truth at all, she does not raise any question about it; she wisely waives it, and she just goes on praying, ‘Lord, help me! Lord, have mercy upon me!’ I invite you, dear friend, to do just the same.