The Holiness of God

HolinessWhat comes to mind when you consider the holiness of God?  A.H. Strong in his treatise on Systematic Theology argues that holiness is the fundamental attribute of God (Systematic Theology, p. 296).  A.W. Tozer skillfully writes about the uniqueness of God’s holiness,

Until we have seen ourselves as God sees us, we are not likely to be much disturbed over conditions around us as long as they do not get so far out of band as to threaten our comfortable way of life. We have learned to live with unholiness and have come to look upon it as the natural and expected thing. We are not disappointed that we do not find all truth in our teachers or faithfulness in our politicians or complete honesty in our merchants or full trustworthiness in our friends. That we may continue to exist we make such laws as are necessary to protect us from our fellow men and let it go at that.  (The Knowledge of the Holy, p. 138).

The holiness of God is a prominent theme throughout the Bible.  When Moses encountered the presence of God in the wilderness, God warned him,

Then He said, “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.”  (Exodus 3:5)

When the prophet Isaiah witnessed the holiness of God he was undone,

Then I said, “Woe is me, for I am ruined!  Because I am a man of unclean lips,  and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”  (Isaiah 6:5)

The Apostle John in the New Testament had a similar encounter when confronted with God’s holiness.

When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last,”  (Revelation 1:17)

The Hebrew word for holy, קָדוֹשׁ (qadowsh ), means “marked off” or “withdrawn from common, ordinary use.”  The Greek word for holy, ἅγιος (hagios), fundamentally signifies that which is “separated” and in the Scriptures it emphasizes separation from sin and therefore consecration to God.

Since God is absolutely holy, he cannot tolerate wickedness or evil.  An implication of His holiness is God’s abhorrence of sin.  When we see the phrase “the wrath of God” in the Bible it may make some people uncomfortable – isn’t God a God of love?  That is true but He is also a holy God and He does not tolerate sin.

We cannot cannot atone for our sin – that’s why the Gospel is called the “good news.”  Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins by His atoning work on the cross,

For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; (1 Peter 3:18)

If Christ has come into your life, then Jesus has made you holy by changing you on the inside.  Our responsibility is to work out what God has worked in.  We are to reflect the holiness of God to the world around us.  Oswald Chambers reveals  God’s perspective,

We must continually remind ourselves of the purpose of life. We are not destined to happiness, nor to health, but to holiness. Today we have far too many desires and interests, and our lives are being consumed and wasted by them. Many of them may be right, noble, and good, and may later be fulfilled, but in the meantime God must cause their importance to us to decrease. The only thing that truly matters is whether a person will accept the God who will make him holy. At all costs, a person must have the right relationship with God . . .  God has only one intended destiny for mankind— holiness. His only goal is to produce saints. God is not some eternal blessing-machine for people to use, and He did not come to save us out of pity— He came to save us because He created us to be holy.

The Apostle Peter cites the book of Leviticus as he enjoins His fellow disciples,

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16)

May you walk in holiness for His glory.

 

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

Get Out of the Boat!

Walking on the waterDo you sense that God has a great task for you to accomplish?  I find that many people have a desire to make a God given difference in this world.  If we have a desire to make a difference, then why do we at times feel stuck?  A primary reason is that we don’t want to leave our comfort zone (see Comfort Zones and Learning).

Peter learned this lesson in a dramatic way.  Jesus had finished teaching His disciples and He sent them away in a boat to go ahead of Him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  Has you ever been sent on a mission by Jesus?   Sometimes we don’t understand why He is sending us away and sometimes we don’t want to go, but the disciples obeyed.

So what was their reward for obedience?  The Gospel writer reveals the challenges they encountered,

But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.  (Matthew 14:24)

Notice the hardships the disciples were facing for listening to Jesus,

1. We see that the boat was already a long distance from the land and it was night time – that can be a lonely feeling.
2. We see that they were battered by the waves – they were tired and wet.
3. To make matters worse, the wind was contrary. They were probably not very happy about this trip. If the song Sloop John B would have been recorded no doubt they would have been singing, “This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on.”

If you encounter adversity it may not indicate you’re out of God’s will – it may mean God wants to teach you a deeper lesson (although Peter would discover that this lesson would be over his head).  The disciples learning would be intensified as a figure was walking toward them in the middle of the sea and they became terrified.

But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”  (Matthew 14:27)

The phrase “take courage” comes from the word θαρσέω (tharseō), which occurs seven times in the New Testament and is spoken only by Jesus and it is used only in the Imperative Mood.  What is a situation that you’re facing and you sense that God is asking you to take courage and overcome your fear?

Casting fate to the wind,  Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”   Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  Can you imagine his reaction?  Peter had been a fisherman all his life and now he was doing the impossible.  He took his eyes off Jesus however,

But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”   (Matthew  14:30)

Now that was a heartfelt prayer – can you identify with Peter?

Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”  (Matthew 14:31)

There are times in our lives when we take our eyes off Jesus and it’s a comfort to know that He is there as we cry out to Him.  Peter learned that if you want to walk on water then you’ve got to get out of the boat and keep your eyes on Jesus.  The disciples learned that Jesus was more than an ordinary man,

When they got into the boat, the wind stopped.  And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”  (Matthew 14:32-33)

Have you learned the lesson that nothing is too difficult for Jesus?  If He calls you to get out of the boat keep your eyes on Him – He will be there for you.

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

2015 Global Leadership Summit

GLS2015-SummitWe had a great time at the 2015 Global Leadership Summit this past week.  Here is an overview of the speakers with a key thought from each session:

Session 1
Bill Hybels – The Intangibles of Leadership

Self-sacrificing love always has been and always will be at the very core of leadership.

Session 2
Jim Collins – Seven Questions: Beyond Good to Great

Will you settle for being a good leader, or will you grow to become a great leader?

Ed Catmull – Creativity, Inc: One on One with Ed Catmull

Art isn’t about drawing. It’s learning to see.

Session 3
Adam Grant – Give and Take: A New Perspective on Leadership

It’s nice to have the right people on the bus. It’s critical to keep the wrong people off the bus.

Brene Brown – Rising Strong

What transformational leaders share in common – first, they do discomfort.  I’ve never met a powerful leader who was not okay with discomfort.

Session 4
Sallie Krawcheck – Leadership and Ethics on Wall Street

The retirement savings crisis in this country is a women’s crisis.  80% of the people in retirement homes are women.

Albert Tate – Leading with Leftovers

You don’t have to to leave it all on the field because Jesus left it all on the cross.

Session 5
Horst Schulze – Creating World Class Service

I select people not to fulfill a function, but to join me in my dream.

Sheila Heen – Thanks for the Feedback

“What’s one thing you see me doing that you suggest I change?”

Session 6
Brian Houston – Resilience: One on One with Brian Houston

I love what I do. I love the Lord. I love the church. I love people ultimately. That motivation has never left me.

Session 7
Sam Adeyemi – Crushing the Power Chasm

I took the attention off myself. I put the focus on the people. I was able to ask, “What are their needs?  What are their issues?”

Liz Wiseman – Rookie Smarts: Why Learning Beats Knowing

It’s not what you know. It’s how fast you can learn.

Session 8
Craig Groeschel – Expanding Your Leadership Capacity

Talent can get you to the top. Only character will keep you there.

What was your favorite thought from the Summit?  Bill Hybels reminds us, “When a leader gets better then everyone wins.”  I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend the Summit and to gain information, inspiration, and ultimately transformation!

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

LET’S PRETEND WE’RE NORMAL

Lets pretend were normalHow to Be a Family  by  Tricia Lott Williford chronicles her life in raising two young boys after the tragic death of her husband.  If you want to have the background and read the account of his death you can click here .  Tricia gives this caveat to the account of her husband’s death:

My husband died on the morning of December 23, 2010. The following is my personal account of his final hours, the story I must write. Please be advised, these paragraphs are graphic, detailed, personal, and mine. Read with caution, respect, and care.

This is a heart felt story written with authenticity, humor, and lessons learned in the crucible of life.  She understands the perspective of a single parent and honestly faces the challenges of parenting, “Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint, and one must measure it in decades, not days”  (p. 26).

She shares her struggles as a young mom, “The hardest thing I’ve ever done is learning to live and be happy again after Daddy died” (p. 93).   She provides however, humorous anecdotes throughout the book.  One of my favorite was when she was explaining that she writes for an adult audience and she accidentally told a roofer that she writes adult novels (p. 143).

As she chronicles the life of a widow raising two young boys she provides hope in the midst of the challenges.  “And then I am reminded that I am not their only parent.  Their Creator knows their hearts.  Their Counselor knows their worries.  Their Father holds them close.  I am their mom.  l  And I am not alone”  (p. 29).

Adversity can be a great teacher if we keep our eyes on God.  Tricia writes, “I used to think I was half.  Then I learned I’ve been whole all along” (p. 183).  The Apostle James writes of this lesson,

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various  trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.  (James 1:2-4)

You may think this book is specifically for single moms but I highly recommend this book for anyone who knows a single mom.  It will give you an appreciation for the challenges they face.  My mother was widowed when I was seven and my daughter was recently widowed with five children so I have a heart for the unique challenges that single moms face.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

SET APART FOR THE GOSPEL

Romans-1_17What do you believe is Jesus’ plan for your life?   This is an important question that unfortunately may be ignored because of the urgent demands of everyday life.  The Apostle Paul provides a succinct answer in his letter to the Romans,

Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,  (Romans 1:1)

Paul’s description reveals that he had a clear understanding of Jesus’ plan for his life.  He describes himself as a bond-servant which literally means a slave.  His life was completely abandoned to Jesus.

Paul, then uses the word “apostle” which literally means one who is  sent forth.  Paul had the privilege of having met the risen Christ on his journey to Damascus and his life was dramatically altered.

Finally, Paul writes that he was “set apart” for the Gospel.  The word “set apart” denotes the idea  to appoint or set apart for a specific purpose.  In our family, we have a colorful plate that is set aside for special occasions to honor a family member.  It’s not for everyday use, it’s “set apart” for a specific purpose.

Do you realize that you are set apart for a special purpose for God? God’s desire for you is that you will abide in Him and bear much fruit.   Your responsibility is to know God and as you get to know God, He will reveal His plan for your life.  You are responsible for the depth of your ministry and God will take care of the breadth of your ministry.

You may be wondering, “How do I experience a life that is set apart to God?”  Paul gives us practical advice later in his letter to the Romans,

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  (Romans 12:2)

God wants you to have a fruitful life and you will experience that fruitfulness as you are “set apart” for His glory.   Believe what God says is true about your identity,

 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;  (1 Peter 2:9)

You have been “set apart” for a great purpose!

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

THE NAVY SEAL ART OF WAR

navy-seal-art-of-warThe Navy SEAL’s are considered some of the best special forces in the world.  The Navy SEAL Art of War by Rob Roy reveals the values that make them elite warriors.  This book is patterned after Sun Tzu’s classic, The Art of War.

Rob Roy shares the principles that guide Navy SEAL’s to assist you in your personal life and business.  The book is comprised of short chapters highlighting a key theme or principle.  The author makes application of the lessons from the battlefield to the boardroom.  This book enables you to learn from a seasoned warrior who has excelled as a Navy SEAL and as an entrepreneur in the business community.

The principles in this book will benefit anyone seeking to live a more effective life.  Here is a brief sample:

No plan survives contact with the enemy.  (p. 22)

We think in terms of possibilities not limitations.  (p. 38)

We put it all on the table today, right here, right now; yesterday is history and tomorrow may never come.  (p. 58)

If it were easy and pain-free, everyone would be doing it.  (p. 85)

If you quit every time you feel pain, you’ll never succeed at anything.  (p. 87)

If you embrace the suck, you can overcome almost any obstacle or difficulty.  (p. 108)

Pain is temporary, but quitting will last forever.  (p. 126)

The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire.”  (p. 136)

If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.  (p. 168)

This book is filled with principles as listed above and is motivational in its style.  Unlike many other books that contain “salty” language this book is suitable for all ages without causing a cringe factor for parents.  Rob Roy provides excellent counsel for everyday life,

For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.  (Proverbs 24:6)

I highly recommend this book.  (I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review).

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5

EMBRACING YOUR BROKENNESS

psalm-34What comes to mind when you think of the word brokenness?  We often view brokenness as a pejorative term.  The reality is brokenness is our true condition before a holy God.  If there is any doubt to our brokenness, as we compare ourselves to God’s standard we see that we often fall short.  I don’t always love God as I should or my neighbor as myself.

Brokenness is not something we need to deny or to seek after, it’s part of who we are.  Jesus says there is a blessing to those who realize their brokenness,

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:3)

The word for poor describes one who is utterly destitute and dependent upon others.  God understands your condition and He extends grace to the poor in spirit and the humble ,

But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.”  (James 4:6)

Do you want to experience the grace of God in your life?  Humility is the door that enables grace to come into your life.  Not only does God give grace but He also brings healing,

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  (Psalm 147:3)

Are you lamenting your brokenhearted feeling?  God is with you and He is for you,

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  (Psalm 34:18)

RickAssociate Pastor – Discipleship.  The Church at LifePark

Professor of Discipleship, Columbia International University

Follow me on twitter:  rickhiggins5