Don’t Love Yourself

July 31, 2014 at 11:43 am | Posted in Galatians, Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Galatians 5:14

Contrary to the inane “Christian” song I heard my daughter listening to the other day, this verse does NOT command us to love ourselves, nor does it tell us that we can’t love if we don’t love ourselves. Our natural default setting is to love ourselves, which is sinful. God made an extreme correction to that perverse way of thinking when He commanded us to love Him with everything we have, and to love our neighbors in the way we are accustomed to loving ourselves when we are in the flesh. That’s the summation of the moral law of God in all its specific expressions.

For example, How can I idolize anything while loving others? For if I love them, I must want what’s good for them, and the only true good for them is to point them to the One True God. How can I steal from my neighbor, kill my neighbor, lie about my neighbor, take his belongings, sleep with his wife, if I love him “as myself?”

Look at how practical and realistic this is. Don’t say, “I can’t attain it. It just seems ‘right’ for me to love myself. What about my self-esteem?” Forget about your self-esteem. The last thing in the world you need is a boost to your self-esteem. When you “love yourself” you are stealing what God has entrusted you to give back to Him and others. If we surrender to the Spirit, He takes our self-love and redirects it off of self, and onto God and others. What freedom! No more “I’ve got to get mine;” “I’ve got to get at least as good as him or her;” “I’ve got to get ‘my’ share.”

But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Galatians 5:15

When we believe the lie that we have to love ourselves before we can love anyone else, we will become like a pack of wild animals. We’ll bite each other to bits, and we won’t even see the destruction in it – just as long as we get our fair share of bites.

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Galatians 5:16

Almost all Christians say that walking in the Spirit is a good idea, but hardly anybody does it. I suspect that few of us even know how. First, admit that your flesh is not redeemed, and it is very, very strong – stronger than your will.

For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.

Galatians 5:17

God is not going to share His glory with you – at least not in the battle against sin. If you’re going to fight your own battle, He knows you’re looking for a chance to boast, and He’s not going to come in and fight for you. So admit it. You don’t have anything in you that’s going to win the battle against the flesh. That’s a job for the Holy Spirit.

But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.

Galatians 5:18

Two, let Him lead. Go where He goes. How do you know if you are going where the Spirit goes? He does not go into sin, and He does not lead you close to sin. If you were going to hire a delivery driver, would you hire the applicant who interviewed for the job by showing off his skill in skidding to a stop inches from the edge of a cliff? Or the the applicant who parked 500 yards away because he didn’t want to risk the owner’s property? God is not interested in how close we can get to temptation and avoid it. He has given us His Spirit to lead us not into temptation and to deliver us from evil.

Poetry, Dancing, and the Wondrous Fear of God

July 29, 2014 at 3:24 pm | Posted in Exodus | Leave a comment
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And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.

Exodus 14:21

Neither Moses’s hand, nor the staff it held, had any intrinsic power. They were visible symbols of the power of God. The word translated as “sea” is used to describe a vast body of water, such as an ocean, not a marshy swamp or a shallow pool.

And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left.

Exodus 14:22

The word translated as “wall” is the same word normally used in the Bible to describe city walls, which were typically about 20 feet high.

For centuries God’s people had heard all about all sorts of gods in Egypt who were supposedly powerful and mighty, but none of those so-called gods had ever done anything like this!

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 15:11

This was rhetorical question – which in Hebrew (especially Hebrew poetry) – was used for emphasis. It was a way of extolling the true “holiness” of God. The answer was and is, “No one – and no thing – is like unto God in the slightest.” It is a rhetorical question which inspired the names “Micah” and “Michael.” The little g “gods” were a reference to the figuratively just-defeated Egyptian gods. They were nothing compared to the real God, Who is glorious in holiness. Possibly the greatest foundation of God’s glory is His holiness. It is so great that it forces all who consider Him to fear Him. Even His praises are fearful! The real God is not your buddy, your pal, your “co-pilot,” or “the man upstairs,” and what He does is “wonders.”

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances.

Exodus 15:20

Miriam, Moses’s sister, is revealed here to be a prophetess – meaning she spoke for God or revealed God’s truth or at least proclaimed God’s truth. She is referred to as the sister of Aaron rather than the sister of Moses in this context possibly because of Moses’s humility, or possibly in deference to Aaron as the older brother. It could also be because, as a singer, she is involved in a type of worship which later be part of Temple worship, which was to be the province of Aaron the high priest.

The timbrels were similar to what we would call tambourines, and there was definitely dancing involved, as uncomfortable as that may make some of us. The word translated as “dances” could include choreographed moves, rhythmic moves, or even spastic moves. (We can safely assume it was not “twerking,” however!) This was a celebration, but it was also meant to be “didactic” – teaching something about God – as well as glorifying Him for His character – Who He is and what He had done.

Catching My Breath in the Deep End

July 23, 2014 at 2:35 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I’m taking a short break for a week or so from posting on The Deep End, but since (believe it or not) I do have regular readers and subscribers, I didn’t want anyone to think I had gone under for good. By the way, if you are one of those regular readers or subscribers, or even an occasional passer-by, or someone who shares some of the posts here from time to time, let me say a big “thank you.” I really appreciate it.

Feel free to take this opportunity to catch up on some of the categories you might have missed, such as an especially relevant overview of the story of Naboth’s vineyard called Arise, the Quarterback Commandments (with football season just around the corner), some random rants called I’m Just Sayin’, or The S.H.A.R.K. Principle (in honor of “Shark Week”).

Any comments will most likely be held in moderation until next week. Enjoy!

Catechism Question 9

July 18, 2014 at 9:40 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | Leave a comment
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Question 6: What is wrong with you?
Answer: I was born a sinner, and I have sinned against God.
Prove it.
Psalm 51:5

Question 7: What is sin?
Answer: Sin is violating God’s law.
Prove it.
I John 3:4

Question 8: What is the punishment for sin?
Answer: The punishment for sin is death.
Prove it.
Ezekiel 18:4

Question 9: Since you are a sinner, how does God feel about you?
Answer: Even though I am a sinner, God loves me.
Prove it.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:8

When you ask question nine to your child, what you are hoping for here is an amazement – almost an incredulity that God could love a wicked sinner like me. You want your child to think or ask, “How can He forgive me when He has promised to punish all who sin?” You know you’re on the right track if you are getting those kinds of questions.

Do not gloss over the wickedness of sin. HOWEVER, you must not gloss over the richness of God’s love, either. Dwell on it here.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

II Peter 3:9

Why Is Marriage So Honorable?

July 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Biblical Marriage | Leave a comment
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Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; [and] them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body. Marriage [is] honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. [Let your] conversation [be] without covetousness; [and be] content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord [is] my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me. Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation. Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.

Hebrews 13:1-8

Marriage is honorable in all, but Hebrews 13:4 seems seems like a strange place for a principle about marriage. The surrounding passage is dealing with the difference between how Christians are supposed to live, and the way the ungodly, by default, live unloving lives. The word translated as “honorable” is usually translated as “precious,” and it reminds us that our marriages are very valuable things. They are to be cherished and cared for and never taken for granted – analogous to the effort that some people put into protecting a family heirloom or some great treasure that has come into their possession.

Sadly, most married Christians know more about the gadgets on their phones than about the intricacies of how our marriages are supposed to work and look. Marriage is supposed to be reflective of the love between Jesus and His Church. Therefore, adultery and whoremongering are things that are certainly antithetical to this relationship and image.

Marriage is supposed to be conducive to contentment, which is also reflective of Jesus and the Church. Therefore, covetousness would not accurately reflect that relationship.

Marriage is supposed to remind us to rely on God, not on our own faculties.

Marriage is where we learn headship and submission, authority and obedience. In the crucible of marriage we kill our selfishness and learn the joy of serving.

Finally, marriage is a good reminder that no one makes a good Jesus except for Jesus Himself.

Where Is Jesus in the Bible? (lesson 2)

July 14, 2014 at 1:59 pm | Posted in Biblical Teaching | 2 Comments
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In lesson one we learned that Jesus is everywhere in the Bible. Let’s look at just a few Old Testament examples.

When Adam and Eden sinned in the Garden of Eve, they ruined it for everyone. No matter how many times I read Genesis Chapters 1 – 3, I almost can’t help feeling a little surprised that they did the only thing they weren’t allowed to do. It shouldn’t surprise me, though. Sadly, I am more guilty than them in my regular disobedience to God. And it definitely did not surprise God. He told the serpent who had successfully tempted them to sin:

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Genesis 3:15

Somehow, one of Eve’s descendants would one day defeat the devil. That descendant turned out to be Jesus. In the Person of Jesus Christ God came into this world as a man born of a woman to reverse the curse which God had pronounced because of Adam’s sin.

Long before that, though (but still many years after Adam and Eve had been kicked out of the Garden), God decided to flood the earth and kill all the sinners – except for one sinner and his family. God chose one man – Noah – and He told him to build an ark, so that everybody that believed what God said through Noah would be spared.

And they went in unto Noah into the ark, two and two of all flesh, wherein is the breath of life. And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the LORD shut him in.

Genesis 7:15-16

That really happened. It’s not a myth or a fable. But why an ark? Why not put Noah on a mountain or in outer space? Because the ark is a picture of Somebody. It’s a picture of Jesus. Everybody who gets inside the safety of Jesus’s salvation is going to be spared when God destroys the world again (this time by fire, not by water). The story of Noah’s ark is true: a male and female giraffe really did get on a big ship with all the other kinds of land animals, and a big world-wide flood really did happen. But the key to truly understanding the message of this is to understand that it typifies important truths about Jesus.

Years after Noah (but still way before the New Testament), God found a man named Abram, and promised that he would be the ancestor of a great nation. God promised that through him would come the One who was promised in Genesis 3:15. Abram waited a long time, but he finally had a son named a Isaac, and here’s what God told Abram/Abraham to do with him:

And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.

Genesis 22:2

Isaac wasn’t Abraham’s “only son” in the sense that we think of it. God is using that language in a special way to denote that Isaac was Abraham’s special beloved son, and the son who would be the legal “firstborn” designated to carry on Abraham’s lineage.

And they came to the place which God had told him of; and Abraham built an altar there, and laid the wood in order, and bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar upon the wood. And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son. And the angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.

Genesis 22:9-13

This story is true and factual, but, again, it is also given to illustrate a message and to point to Someone else, because thousands of years later, God would send “His only Son, the Son that He loved” to be an offering, and He would not stop Him from being slaughtered. Jesus went to the Cross on what used to be Mount Moriah, and He was the Lamb of God – the Lamb who was not spared – the Lamb who was slain.

Do you remember when all God’s people wound up in bondage in Egypt, and God forced Pharaoh to let them go free? Almost as soon as he did, he changed his mind and came after them. They were trapped between the oncoming Egyptian army and the Red Sea.

And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the LORD caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the children of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground: and the waters were a wall unto them on their right hand, and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued, and went in after them to the midst of the sea, [even] all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen.

Exodus 14:21-23

This event really did happen, and God truly did deliver His people out of bondage, but the event was not just about Moses parting the Red Sea. It was also a picture of Jesus coming into this world where we were all in bondage to sin and Satan, and delivering us from that bondage, and leading us out, victorious over our enemies.

There are so many more true Bible stories we could go through. David slew Goliath, which is a picture of Jesus standing up to the mighty powers of this world and defeating them when they all thought He was dead. Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and went down into the sea, which is a picture of Jesus going down into the grave and coming back from the dead. Elijah and Elisha, Isaiah and Ezekiel and Jeremiah, and all the other prophets are types of our great prophet and priest, Jesus, about Whom they were prophesying. When Samson picked up the city gates, and carried them 30 miles away, the Holy Spirit gave us an image of Jesus picking up the burden of our sins and carrying them as far as the east is from the west.

The whole Bible from cover to cover is really about Jesus. He’s the hero, the main character, the protagonist, the reason for the whole thing. He’s the author and the finisher, and He is on every page and in every word. That’s exciting, but it’s also important to remember. When you read the Bible, look for Jesus. When you teach the Bible, teach it as though it is about Jesus. When you do your devotions, give your devotion to Jesus.

Mercy / Memory

July 11, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Posted in Two Sides to Every Comfort | Leave a comment
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Mercy

Mercy is an attribute of God. From our point of view – when we are thinking correctly – it is one of His most glorious attributes. We love mercy. Throughout the ages, God’s people – when they were thinking correctly – have loved Mercy. It is the withholding of what we deserve when we deserve punishment. It is a concept that is very prevalent in the sections of the Bible that contain poems and Psalms of praise to God. One of my favorite Psalms is built on the theme of God’s mercy: Psalm 136.

However, there is a flip side to mercy that we need to remember.

Memory

As Christians, the memory of who we were before Jesus saved us reminds us why mercy is so comforting.

Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

Psalm 136:23

Our estate was that of a sinner – an enemy of God. God justifies sinners who trust Christ, and erases their sins, but we have the comfort of remembering why we needed mercy.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

I Corinthians 6:9-11 (emphasis added)

The memory of what I’ve been forgiven is comforting because it reminds me how much God loves me. He who is forgiven much, loves much.

Beware the Full Focus

July 9, 2014 at 10:20 am | Posted in The Fives | 1 Comment
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Jerusalem was in a location chosen by God, yet surrounded by nations of people that did not believe what His people believed.

Thus saith the Lord God; This is Jerusalem: I have set it in the midst of the nations and countries that are round about her.

Ezekiel 5:5

This was a dangerous and precarious position, but it was also a great opportunity.

In a world of merchant trading and traveling, Jerusalem could profit from her role as a major trade route, and could benefit commercially. More importantly, however, Jerusalem could share the truth of the One True God with her visitors and surrounding neighbors.

The danger was also twofold. Being landlocked amidst hostile pagans, Jerusalem would have to remain vigilant on all sides. Again, though, more importantly, rather than influencing her neighbors with the truth, there was always the danger of lapsing into the idolatry and sinful culture that beset her on every front. Sadly, this is precisely what happened – to an even greater degree.

And she hath changed my judgments into wickedness more than the nations, and my statutes more than the countries that are round about her: for they have refused my judgments and my statutes, they have not walked in them.

Ezekiel 5:6

Christians today face the same predicament. We are ensconced in a world hostile to our Lord and skeptical of His ways. We are set forth with a mission to evangelize the unbelievers, but we are also a curiosity piece when we consistently practice what we believe. Will we succumb to the influence and wilt under the withering focus of those who think us old-fashioned, foolish, or judgmental? If we do, we are subject to embarrassing rebuke and public humiliation.

Therefore thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, am against thee, and will execute judgments in the midst of thee in the sight of the nations.

Ezekiel 5:8

Or will we shine brightly with the light of the Savior even as the darkness encroaches ever more tightly upon us? We will speak boldly and live with integrity so that we become a refuge for the heathens when they see the futility of fighting against the real God? If so, we will know the blessing of the presence of the Lord in our lives.

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.

Matthew 28:19-20

How Many Sermons about Purity Do Boys Need to Hear?

July 7, 2014 at 12:00 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | 3 Comments
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If you’ve been in or around much church “youth group” type ministry, you’ve probably heard these types of sniveling complaints once or twice from junior high or high school age boys:
-I’m tired of hearing about ‘purity’ all the time.
-I’m tired of being told that I’m a monster that only thinks about sex.
-Why don’t they preach to the girls instead? It’s their fault for being immodest.

So, do they have a point? Is there overkill going on when it comes to preaching about purity? Where would we look in the Bible to find out the right emphasis to place on the issue of avoiding sexual immorality for boys? I think Proverbs Chapters 5 – 7 would be a good place to start. Proverbs 5 starts off with a father imparting wisdom to his son. And what is the very first thing he addresses? The temptation and danger of sexual immorality. In Chapter 6 the father admonishes the son about the trap of laziness (vv.6-11), and stresses the importance of remaining focused on God’s Word (vv.20-23). But focused on God’s Word as a remedy against what? Sexual immorality (vv.24-35)! What about this kid’s self-esteem? What about his pride and honor and dignity? Why does his dad have to keep harping on the danger of sexual lust and temptation? Surely that’s enough! Not quite. Chapter 7 is a detailed and provocative account of the jeopardy that lurks for “youths” and “young men” who are “void of understanding.”

Now, that’s three whole chapters of God’s Word specifically aimed at boys, forcefully and repeatedly telling them what the Bible frequently makes clear:

Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.

I Corinthians 6:18

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

II Timothy 2:22

Now, someone might object and say that the chapters in Proverbs are a father’s instructions to a son, not a youth pastor’s or conference speaker’s sermons to other men’s sons. In response, I would say, if you are a father who Biblically teaches his son in the way outlined in Proverbs, good for you. I’m no huge fan of youth group ministry. Take your boy out of there and take the full responsibility for this type of teaching on yourself. But if you decide you want him in there, he needs to keep his mouth shut when the youth teacher or pastor is instructing the other boys whose fathers aren’t doing such a stellar job.

If you are a youth group aged boy, and you have been taught that immodesty on the part of women and girls is the real source of your sin, you need to go back to the Bible and think again. Nobody in his or right right mind would deny that one of the reasons for modesty among females is to assist men in avoiding temptation, but that is by no means an excuse for your own lust. And if you don’t like being told that – in your flesh, apart from Christ – you are a monster and a sexual deviant at heart, too bad. That’s what the Bible says you are.

I recently saw a post by a boy who complained that he had grown up in church and youth group and had heard untold numbers of sermons about purity. He said there was “one good one” out all those, and that was all he needed. Such a statement highlights the self-centeredness which lurks in the human heart. For how are preachers and Bible teachers, who preach countless messages to countless boys over the years, supposed to discern which one is the “right one” that does the trick? The Bible is where we learn what is to be preached, re-preached, and emphasized. Until you come up with a Bible reason as to why boys should not be told the truth about lust, temptation, and sexual immorality, keep your ears open, your mouth shut, your eyes guarded, and your pants on.

Pride is Everywhere

July 2, 2014 at 12:56 pm | Posted in Social Media Shares and Mass Emails | Leave a comment
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Pride is ubiquitous in a fallen world inhabited by fallen people. The Bible compares pride to leaven because leaven has a way of secretly working its way into a lump of dough, and affecting the whole thing.

Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:

I Corinthians 5:6-7

“Glorying” is another word for bragging. Could there be a simpler way to state it? Bragging is not good. Why not? Well, there are a variety of reasons, but, obviously, because God – our Maker and eternal Judge, the Author of life and truth – says it’s not good!

But bragging is what proud people are compelled to do. This phenomenon is especially prevalent on social media outlets such as Facebook. There is a certain (imagined) level of comfortable anonymity that comes from sitting in front of a keyboard or cell phone screen, which we would not necessarily feel standing face to face with an audience. This gives people the boldness to let everyone know just how pleased with ourselves we are, while at the same time giving us a chance to carefully craft our words before hitting “send” or “post” so that we don’t (at least we think we don’t) sound too obnoxious.

So, you get ridiculous statements like these:

“Y’all, I’m the most nonjudgmental person I know!” This statement mixes boasting with hypocrisy. How can you be the “most nonjudgmental” when you’ve just judged everyone else you know as being more judgmental than you?

“I’m one of the most humble people you’ll ever meet.” Really? Because you just bragged about your humility in front of everyone.

“I can honestly say that I don’t care what anyone thinks about me!” Except for everyone who reads this, right?

Then, there is the whole “role-reversal” of pride, where we have somehow redefined it to be a good thing. So we get folks who are proud of their country, proud of their kids, proud of the U.S. Soccer team, proud of their family or last name. And then we get upset when the blatant God-haters have a “Gay Pride” parade. At least they’re being honest about how their sins are related!

If you claim to be a Christian, try to think like a Christian for a minute. Christians are supposed to think Biblically, remember? God does not just frown upon pride or categorize it as “less than the best.” He actively hates it.

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.

Proverbs 8:13

A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.

Proverbs 29:23

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue…

Proverbs 6:16-17

Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden there has been something in our human hearts that wants to take credit away from God in order to give it to ourselves. We invent ways to glorify ourselves, and we disguise our boasting with cunning words, or we just say what we have heard, and we think it’s okay because it’s what everyone else says. God hates this, and we will give an account for idle words one day. The solution is to remember the truth that we have nothing at all to brag about it, if we really think about it.

For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?

I Corinthians 4:7

Let’s slaughter our pride on the altar of God’s glory, and stop speaking like fools.

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