Today’s Scripture:  “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.”  Romans 12:3

Introduction:

Well.  I don’t know about you, but I really enjoyed yesterday’s message.  I re-read it this morning, and once I was able to get past some of the punctual, grammatical, and spelling errors…I found that it was really quite good…and though I’d certainly like to take the credit…I can’t.  God really took control yesterday…and had some outstanding things to say.

In just a brief glance at today’s scripture I can already see that there’s a couple of ways the Holy Spirit can go, and like we did yesterday…and like we should do every time…the best thing to do…is ask Him to take me out-of-the-way so that He can go in whatever direction He wants to…and takes over from this point on…so that we can have more messages given to us like the one He spoke to us yesterday…Amen!?!

Opening Prayer:

Lord God…I thank You for the gift that You have given  me, and I yield myself…and that gift Holy Spirit to Your leading, guiding, and ask You to take over.  I ask that I would write…Holy Ghost…only that which You would have me to write…and say that which You would have me to say.  I pray for the unction and utterance that comes only from Your supernatural supply…and I ask also that You would give the readers ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts that are receptive and ready to respond to that which You would have to say to us this day…through this message…In Jesus’ name…Amen & Amen.

Today’s Message:

The two directions I see the possibility of going with this message are talking more about what we got into yesterday about extending grace or getting into the denial and surrender of self.  Either way…I believe today’s message is going to be powerful…and I really hope that it’s something that’s challenging to our hearts…and changes our lives…Amen!?!

For those of you who have flown in an airplane, you’ll recognize the words, “In case there is a sudden loss in cabin pressure…” This is usually followed by them giving particular instructions about the oxygen masks that will fall from the ceiling should this sort of disturbance occur. They say and I (sort of) quote, “If you are traveling with someone who needs assistance, please place your oxygen mask on yourself first and then assist the person with you.”
What a novel idea.

I think the verse above is a great example that we are to think of ourselves. We’re just told not to do it too much! I mean, what good is the person on the plane next to us if we can’t assist them? And we can’t assist them if we don’t have our own oxygen mask on first.

But what happens so often is that we forget about caring for ourselves. So many people even forgo some of the basic necessities of life to take care of another! It is more blessed to give than receive, but if there is no refueling going on in our lives, there will be nothing there to give.

There’s a lot that we can say here, and breakdown isn’t there?  I think the first, and easiest point to get to is that we really need to stop thinking of ourselves as often as we do…and take some of that time that we take thinking about ourselves…and use it to realize that there really is a world out there…and it doesn’t revolve around us.  It doesn’t even revolve around other people.  The world revolves around God…and in all truth is all about Jesus.

You know.  I once heard of something that’s pretty cool.  It’s an acronym for the word JOY.  It was given this way:  The way to pure JOY is to do things this way:  Jesus…Others…Yourself.  It’s quite simple, but how many of us don’t have any joy in our lives simply because we put ourselves above others?  If we do that…then we have J…O….O…and that really isn’t a word…therefore Jesus…Ourselves…Others…really isn’t going to produce anything other than SELF…and any joy we may have from it isn’t pure and true joy at all.

I really like something that Pastor Curtis Holt of New Life Christian Centerhas preached and said a few times in some of his sermons about this issue of “dying to self”.  He has said:  “We spend a lot of time trying to fix what Jesus wants us to kill.”.

What’s the point that the Holy Spirit is getting to here?

The point is that Jesus talks about the whosoever’s that “hope to save their lives shall lose it, and those who lose their lives for His sake shall gain it.”  He also talks about people who are willing to die daily, pick up their cross, and that the greatest in the kingdom of God are those who are servants to others.  Jesus, Himself, gave us the example of this as He…the God of the universe stooped down in front of each of His 12 disciples (including Judas), and washed their feet.

Listen…Jesus surrendered more in His life in 33 years than many of us will surrender to Him in our entire lives.  He surrendered everything He had, He laid down all of His power, authority, and while He was God…He was fully man…and depended upon the Holy Ghost to lead, guide, and direct Him.  As we talk about “Living the Surrendered Life”…it’s obvious that the greatest and perfect example of everything we’re to aspire to be in the Christian walk is embodied in the body of Jesus Christ.

So…Jesus humbled Himself already to the point of becoming God trapped in a man’s body, and then He humbles Himself even further to the point of stooping in front of each of His disciples (including Judas the one that would betray and sell Jesus out), and performs a task that for many at that time would be considered to be almost degrading…and He washes all of His disciple’s feet.

Now…I don’t know about you, but when I think of that…and then I look at the pathetic way that I think and claim that I am surrendered to God…and have killed the self within me…I am quickly reminded that I’m no where near as surrendered as Jesus was…and there is so much within me that needs to die and come under the Lordship of Jesus Christ that it almost temps me to become discouraged.

However, the message yesterday comes back the point about grace and mercy that many of us miss, and frankly take for granted…which is why we have ministers of the Gospel running around saying that we can live our lives anyway we want to because the grace and  mercy of God cannot be stretched beyond our sin.  God’s grace will always abound more than our sin…because the Bible says it does.  The Word of God says where sin abounds grace abounds much more…yet there are so many who preach that you can sin your way out of the grace of God…that’s NOT Biblical.  God’s grace is always more abundant that our sin…but it’s not a license to go ahead and live how we want to…God’s grace is there as a covering for us (like the covering God made Adam and Eve in the garden).  God didn’t cover Adam & Eve so they could go on living how they wanted…he covered them because He loved them…and didn’t want them to focus on their sin…He wanted them to focus upon Him.  The grace of God is there so that we will not be so sin conscious and focused…but so that we can realize where our help comes from…and focus on doing the work He’s called us to do instead of our sin…and falling short of the glory of God.  None of us are perfect.  That’s what God’s grace, mercy and forgiveness is there for.

God’s mercy will always put Him in a place where He will extend forgiveness to us before judgment…and another truth is that if you teach grace correctly (as Paul points out) then people will ask you if that means you’re giving them a license to sin.  What does Paul say through the Holy Spirit about that?  He said “God forbid”.  In other words…Paul is saying that grace is NOT a license to sin, and live our lives any way we want to…but what it does do is allow for us to not be instantly put to death and separated from the very God that we’re sinning against.  This is a topic for another time, but if you need to know more…you can always check out our messages on Reconciliation.  In fact…I may go back and do that series again…how many of you know it’s good to go back and do teaching like that because the foundational truths are so vital and important to us as believers…to not only know what we believe…but why we believe what we do…Amen!?!  So…maybe at some point we’ll revisit the series on Reconciliation…and see if we get some new revelation from it.

However, getting back to today’s message…the point we’re getting back to is this:  God doesn’t expect us to be Jesus because while there are some that are so self-righteous, religious, and pious to believe we can…the truth is we can’t live like Jesus did.  There is never going to be a time in our lives where we can look around and say that we have no sin in our lives…because when we do that we sin anyways…because John says that if we say that we have no sin…we are liars, we make God a liar, and the truth is not in us.  Do you know what that makes us…a liar…and liars are sinners.  So…we can save ourselves a lot of heart-ache and religious mumbo jumbo by getting this point made very clearly…the reason we need the grace and mercy of God is because while we may strive as best we can to be more Christ-like…the simple truth is we all fall short of the glory of God on a daily basis…and that’s why we need the grace of God.

So…back to the killing of self.  Listen…I love what Cindy writes here, and I believe we’re going to be able to balance this out with the help of the Holy Ghost, but let’s first deal with the killing of self and not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought before we talk about being any good to help the person next to us…because the ultimate goal in the killing and humbling of ourselves (like we see Jesus do) is that we’re to recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around us…it includes us…and really we need to stop being so concerned about getting our needs met…and more concerned about meeting the needs of others…because by meeting the needs of others God is glorified…and our needs…well…God will meet our needs.

Matthew 6:33 anyone?  Hello!?!  Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things (the things that we need) will be added unto you.  What’s God saying?  He’s saying that if you’ll be all about taking care of His business (and His business is for you to be taking care of others) He would take care of your business if you’ll take care of His.

Listen…God does not bless us just so that we can reap the benefits and rewards of His blessings.  No…He blesses us so that we can in return become a blessing to others.  What was His rebuke for the man who built a bigger barn for his corn?  It wasn’t that he had access of corn…it’s that he had his needs met by the corn that he already had…and instead of living within the means he already had he decided to be selfish…and instead of sharing the surplus of corn he had with those who had nothing…he would heap it up for himself.

See…if Jesus is the ultimate example of what to do…then one of the greatest examples to me of what not to do is the man who  built a bigger barn for his corn.  Jesus gave us the example of what a surrendered life looks like, and part of that surrendered life is being willing to put the needs of others above that of your own…and that’s where I believe Cindy is going as she writes her devotional…and that’s the balance to this message.

You see.  I recognize that God is my provider.  He has met my needs.  I have the basic necessities, I have a decent job, I have a reliable vehicle, and that’s just the physical material things that He’s provided.  In short, what I am saying is that my wife and I are able to rest in what God’s already provided for us.  Now…when the increase comes…the challenge is always what to do with the surplus.  I believe that any surplus that comes our way is meant for us to use to bless others…and that’s the balance of what we’re talking about in today’s message.

There are two ditches that people usually get into.  I think you’ll like this ready…

  • One ditch that people tend to get into is the prosperity ditch where they believe that the greater amount of your excess the greater amount of faith you have and the greater amount of seed you have available to sow…and the more seed you sow the more excess you’ll receive…and the abundant life will be yours.  This ditch is the prosperity gospel that unfortunately only makes the one’s that are preaching the prosperity gospel richer.
  • The other ditch that people tend to get themselves into is the poverty gospel.  This ditch is where they think that the less they have of the world then the better they can be used of God.

I believe the middle of the road here is being practical.  I have shopped at thrift stores for years for much of the clothes I have for two reasons.  One…I can usually spend $20.00…and come away with a lot of really nice clothes to wear that people donate.  Two…I am giving that $20.00 to the particular thrift store I’m visiting to help them continue their mission.  I am blessed with new(er) cloths…they are blessed by me giving to their mission…and that’s just a small sample of what I’m talking about here.

For years now I’ve had this dream of having this awesome four-wheel drive machine of a pick up truck.  Right now, I drive an economy car that gets me where I need to go and back.  My wife has a similar vehicle to drive.  Nothing fancy or flashy…but it gets us around.  While we may dream of the day when we have a fancy car or four-wheel drive machine…the truth is we have our basic needs taken care of…our vehicles get us to and from our jobs, they’re running, they’re reliable…and in my case…my car was a definite provision of God…because the car I drive was a gift from my dad…we paid for the car was the cost to register the car in my name instead of his…God provided this vehicle.

My wife dreams of one day having a big house with an extravagant kitchen so that we can entertain people.  I’m not much into the big house.  I really just want to have a place where we have enough space where we’re not living on top of one another, and hopefully some day will have what I can only describe as the “man-cave” where it’s okay to watch sports, smoke cigars, but beyond that…as long as we have space for guests, spaces where we’re not on top of each other, and we’re able to live within our means…I’m happy.  I’m happy with the place we live in now.  Currently we live in a really nice two bedroom townhouse that has just enough space to not have us crowded (like our first home), but not so much that there isn’t any wasted space…again…it’s our basic needs that are taken care of…that have been provided for.  There’s more about the provision of this property…which is another blessing from God.  The people who are our landlords are people who were close friends of my wife’s late mother…and when we were looking for a bigger place to move to because we were getting married…and realized that we were out growing the place we were living in…by the grace and provision of God…the place we currently live became available…and was offered to us without credit checks or security deposits or anything else…God has provided us with a very nice home that has adequate space that meets our needs as a family.

Now…the truth is that at some point we wish to add a pet to our household, and one day…Lord willing maybe we’ll add a child to our home…but when that time comes I believe the Lord will have a place available to us that will be just big enough like this one that’s adequate space…but isn’t what we’d call “extravagant”.  I also believe that much like the place we have now…we’re going to come into exactly the right situation, with the right amount of space,  and will be comparable to our budget…and may very well be another situation like we walked into when we got our current home was made available to us…but the whole key to all of this is seeking first the kingdom of God…and trusting Him to provide for us all these things that shall be added unto us.

Do you see the point I’m getting at?  The prosperity gospel ditch would have you to believe that we all need to be living in million dollar homes, have least one Mercedes-Benz…Cadillac…or what ever kind of luxury vehicle of your dreams in the drive way, and wearing designer suits, dresses, and other name brand clothes.  However, you also have those within the poverty gospel ditch that would have you to believe that you need to be living in a rundown shack, riding the bus or a bike, and wearing clothes until they’re used up.  Living in a place that is just a little bit better than living in lack, but never having anything that’s brand new…or of earthly value because…well…those things will all pass away…and we can’t take any of them with you when you die.

Listen…I’m all for practical living.  and that’s where I find that I live life these days…the place of the middle ground is what I call being content with where you’re at.  My wife and I don’t have a million dollar home, but what we have is just right for our lives…and provides exactly what we need right now at this very moment in time.  My wife and I don’t drive expensive cars, but the ones we have are good, reliable and get us to where we need to go.  My wife and I don’t shop and buy expensive clothes…in fact a shopping spree to us is being able to go and buy clothes from Kohl’s instead of WalMart or thrift stores or getting clothes given to us from someone else.  What that is for us is God taking care of “all these things” so that we can be about taking care of His business.

Is this helping anyone?  I feel like this message has suddenly taken a very personal turn, but I guess if that’s what the Holy Ghost needs me to do in order to help teach this message then I am willing to open up my heart and life to make sure that He gets whatever point across He needs to make to us.

Oh yeah…the link to the man with all the corn.  Maybe it’s just me and my way of thinking that’s changed…and if it is then I can’t take any credit for it…but I most certainly have to give glory and praise to God for it.  But anyways…I don’t know about anyone else, but if it so happened that I was the man with all the corn, and I was able to realize that all of my family’s needs were being met by the corn I already store…then what I would do with the excess corn instead of building a bigger storage unit…is begin to give it away to bless others who maybe don’t have as much as I do…or don’t  have any at all.  Listen…if the corn I store up is already enough to meet my needs…and I have an excess and I choose to hoard it rather than give it away (and I mean give it away expecting nothing in return) then what good am I.

Cindy’s point is that what good are we to people if we don’t help ourselves first, but my point is that if we aren’t able to recognize that where we are right now is exactly where God wants us…and realize that anything that we receive above and beyond what is necessary for us to be provided for…what good are we if we don’t at the very least share the excess that we have?

I think the verse above is a great example that we are to think of ourselves. We’re just told not to do it too much! I mean, what good is the person on the plane next to us if we can’t assist them? And we can’t assist them if we don’t have our own oxygen mask on first.

I believe this is the first time I’m going to disagree here…and at first in writing this message I agreed with her, but the more I wrote…and the more the Holy Ghost began to speak to me…the more I find that I don’t necessarily agree with what she writes here.  Because in all reality and what I believe to be true Biblical service in that this instant is to make sure that the person next to you has their oxygen mask on first, and to take it a step further…make sure that others around you have their oxygen masks on…and here’s the bigger point…the 800 pound gorilla to get to…if someone else’s mask doesn’t work…then true surrender is to give your working mask to someone else…that’s what Jesus did on the Cross.

No greater love than this is to lay down your life for the well-being of someone else’s…even if in the end it means sacrificing your life so that someone else’s may continue.  That’s deep isn’t it?

Do you know where I am trying to get to in life?  I’m trying to get to the place in life where if I’m in the scenario that Cindy’s talking about here that I would have the ability to make sure that the person next to me had their oxygen mask on, and try to help as many people as possible.  But, beyond that…I want to get to a place where if there’s someone who has a mask that doesn’t work…that I would love God and that person who had the mask that didn’t so much…that I would be willing to sacrifice my working mask…even if my working mask is the only other mask that works…and that…my friends…is what Jesus did for us.

He laid down His life.  He washed His disciple’s feet.  He endured the Cross to make sure every single one of us had an oxygen mask…and that every single one of us had a working oxygen mask…at the expense of His life.  I don’t know about you, but like I just wrote…I can only hope that I would love and trust God enough to do the same thing.

We have to fuel ourselves. We have to feed not only our physical bodies to have enough energy to go about the daily tasks and goals that we’ve set before ourselves, but we also need to feed our spiritual, mental and emotional tanks, too.

See…I don’t really agree here because what I really have to do is rely upon God keeping His Word…and since God is not man that He should lie and the only thing the God exalts above Himself is His Word…then when the Bible says that I’m to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…and that all these things shall be added unto me…then I don’t have to worry about eating, I don’t have to worry about clothing, I don’t have to worry about shelter, and I have seen time and time again where it looked like we weren’t going to have enough to get by…but somehow God made away…and we did.

So…the truth is if I’m seeking first the kingdom of God then I don’t have to worry about taking care of myself…because God is my provider.  So, instead of worrying about myself…I can turn and look to meet the needs of others…because God’s taking care of my needs.  God’s provided for my family’s needs…He really does, has…and is.

Obviously…I need to make sure I’m getting rest, that I’m feeding my physical body, and so forth.  That’s all common sense.  Listen…we’re responsible for keeping ourselves clean, fed, clothed, and for fulfilling Proverbs 3:5-6 for each day.  We are responsible for studying and feeding upon the Word of God.  I agree with that part of what Cindy is talking about in this devotional message, and I also understand that I cannot help people with things I don’t have…but where I disagree is here.

When it comes to serving others…if my first instinct is to look inward…then I’m not doing anyone any good.  Going back to the oxygen mask I understand the point here that she’s trying to make.  However, true Biblical service is not making sure your mask is on first…but making sure that the people around you have theirs on before you put on yours…and then the even greater act of service is being willing to sacrifice your mask for someone else’s that doesn’t work.

My desire is that I get to a place where my first instinct is to look around me to see those who needs help putting on their oxygen mask on, and to go even further to the surrender of self of making sure that the masks of those around me are working…before I focus on myself…and that…my friends…is true biblical service, sacrifice and surrender.  That my friends…is not thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought to…it’s being willing to lay our lives down for the good and opportunities to help others before we help ourselves.

Points for Pondering:

  • Do you put on your oxygen mask before assisting others?
  • Have you ever found yourself completely depleted?

Be A Doer Not Just A Reader:

  • Spend some time thanking God for taking care of you so that you can take care of the needs of others…and also spend some time asking God how you can take care of your needs so that you can take care of the needs of those around you better.

Conclusion:

Spend some time making a plan of how you can take care of your needs so that you can take care of the needs of those around you better.

I agree that we all (myself included) need to learn to take better care of ourselves…however…I don’t believe that I need to make a plan on how to take better care of myself.  I believe that maybe I can take some steps like getting to see a doctor from time to time to monitor my health, and things to that nature…but as far as making a plan to better take care of myself so that I’m in a better position to better take care of those around me who have needs…I have a one step plan that I believe will put us all in a better position to help others around us better.

What’s that plan?

Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on…But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:25,33-34)

Leave the provision for your life up to God…and set your heart upon taking care of His business…Amen!?!

Well…we went in the direction of getting into the denial and surrender of self. I really hope that you got something out of this message, and that it makes sense to you. I know that my messages aren’t the greatest ever written, and some times they can be rather hard reads…and for that I apologize. I’m not a professional writer, and you’d think that the spell check would do a better job…but it doesn’t. I am trying to get better at writing, but the most important to me is the content of what I’m writing…as long as it’s good, sound biblical truth…and you’re getting some thing out of the messages I write…that above anything else is what is important to me.

Closing Prayer:

Father God, thank You for this practical message today.  Lord we know that we need a common sense approach to taking care of ourselves so that we are better able to meet the needs of people around us.  Lord…help us to see where You have provided, and help us to see areas that we have excess in that we can use to bless others.  For many of us, Lord God…it’s our knowledge and understanding of Your Word that we can share…and the truth is every one of us who has called upon the name of the Lord for salvation has that working oxygen mask that everyone needs…so teach us and help us Lord God not to be consumed with our own need…but the needs and welfare of those around us.  We ask this of You…Lord God…in the name of Jesus…Amen & Amen.