I need to get over myself.

I don’t think he ever sent us a thank you note for that gift we gave him.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

He was recognized, but they didn’t say anything about all that I did for them.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Hey, let’s take a selfie and show everyone what we’re doing to serve others.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Why didn’t more people like my most recent social media post?” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Ah, shoot! They took my parking spot.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Look – someone is sitting in our seat.” That is narcissism. I need to get over myself.

Narcissism is an excessive interest and/or admiration for oneself. It is vanity and high esteem for oneself, loving oneself most and selfishly putting oneself first. Narcissism results in a sense of entitlement.

And, narcissism is evil. I need to get over myself, and maybe you do, too.

There is a reason Jesus said that the second greatest commandment, behind loving God with your entire being, is to love your neighbor as yourself. “All the Law and the Prophets,” Jesus said, “depend on these two commands” (Matthew 22:40).

Loving God most and loving your neighbor as yourself are the opposite of narcissism.

In talking about God’s will for unity in the body of Christ – unity that is impossible when we are self-entitled narcissists – Paul said, “For by the grace given to me, I tell everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he should think. Instead, think sensibly, as God has distributed a measure of faith to each one” (Romans 12:3).

Yet, we are constantly comparing ourselves to others and constantly wanting more for ourselves, rather than obeying the command: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).

Narcissism does not have to be taught, as self-centeredness is part of our sinful nature, is it not? We see this with small children refusing to share their toys. We see this with temper tantrums when things do not go their way. We see this with kids running to get to the front of the line, cutting off others in the process. We see this when a child hits another child because a toy was taken. We do not teach our children these things. They do these things because they are sinners.

Oh, if only we adults were better, but are we? Surely, narcissism is not a problem in the church, right?

Sadly, our selfishness is on full-display every week in church activities…

How often do you arrive early for worship services but take the farthest parking spot, so that others can get the best spots? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you sit toward the front of the sanctuary and in the middle of a pew, so that others who arrive after you do not awkwardly have to walk past you and ask if they can get by you? “Well, I got here first, so I deserve this spot.” Narcissism.

How often do you do the things no one else wants to do, even when no one is watching? “That’s disgusting (or hard or miserable).” Narcissism.

How often do you volunteer to serve in the church nursery or in some other area of great need, even without being asked? “I’ve done my time, so it’s someone else’s turn now.” Narcissism.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing a short sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. If you consider the life of King Saul, you might realize that he had lots of problems, but did not narcissism seem to be the ultimate sin that destroyed him? His self-love led to his jealousy of God’s blessings on someone else.

So often with children, we see our own narcissistic nature shining through. If I am honest with myself and with you, I need to get over myself. I am a selfish sinner who needs God’s help every single day. My children are no different than I.

As they learn to trust in Jesus, though, and as He begins to change their lives for His glory, we see results. The Holy Spirit begins to change their hearts, which results in changed attitudes and changed behaviors.

Praise the Lord! If He can change selfish children and give them a desire to get on the floor and play a less-desirable game with their younger siblings without being told to do so, then He can change you, too.

Narcissism destroys lives, so pray for God’s help to live a life of humility and to have contentment in Him. This is only possible in and through a relationship with Jesus Christ.

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All or Nothing

After the recent winter storm that brought us 18 inches of snow, our furnace stopped working. Actually, it worked just enough to confuse us. If I messed with the thermostat a little or manually reset the ignition switch to light the burners, the furnace would kick on for a little bit. Still, the actual temperature could not rise to the set temperature.

I was baffled. Talking with some trustees from our church (we live in the church parsonage), we thought maybe it was the thermostat. Then, we thought it must be something with the furnace itself.

Finally, we called a professional to take a look, and after he did some diagnostic tests, he realized the furnace was not getting the air intake necessary to allow the burners to ignite for more than a few minutes.

Why was that the case? Well, there was so much snow on our roof that the air-intake pipe was sucking up snow rather than air, causing the furnace to malfunction. Above, you can see a picture of our roof at the time and how the snow around the white gooseneck pipe was starting to break away.

Thankfully, just enough snow melted that same day, so I did not have to get up on our metal roof. The problem is solved. Our furnace is working again.

When it was only working part of the time, though, were we satisfied? No. What did we say? That our furnace was not working. First world problem, I know, but people are not content with a furnace that only works part of the time.

Much more importantly, God is not satisfied with an individual who only submits to part of His Word. God does not want just part of your heart. God is not calling you to serve Him part of the time.

All or nothing. Jesus is Lord of all, including Lord of your life and Lord of my life. Not part of our lives but the entirety of our lives.

So, just like every other person in all of human history, you have a decision to make. Will you daily surrender yourself to Jesus Christ and submit to His Lordship? Or, will you pick and choose when and how to obey Him?

King Saul wanted to pick and choose. He had everything but had the kingdom torn away from him because he decided full submission to God was not necessary. Lord willing, I will be preaching from 1 Samuel 15 on Sunday morning – “Villains Refuse Submission” (from our Becoming the Villain series).

King Saul began as God’s chosen man to lead God’s chosen people, but he became a villain – an enemy of God. Do not let the temptation to only partially submit to the will of God and the Word of God cause you to become a villain, too.

I have no desire for a partially working furnace, and God has no desire for a partially committed disciple. Surrender your all to Him today and every day. Trust Him to change you, equip you and enable you, as you surrender to Him.

This picture of Zoe has nothing to do with this post, but I love her afro and wanted to share this great picture, which is a fitting representation of her fun personality, too.

Fear must not win.

When we spent time at Marsha’s parents’ house last week, I was able to help her dad take down an old antenna from their yard. Thankfully, he did most of the work, including the final removement of the antenna with his tractor (in picture below, which only includes the bottom half of the antenna).

Before getting to that point, though, he had secured a couple long ropes to the antenna going out from a couple angles to keep the antenna from falling into the house. One rope was securely fastened to the tractor, while I was pulling the other rope in a similar direction.

That antenna is much heavier than a couple men can handle. Otherwise, there would have been no need for a tractor and ropes. Praise God for tractors and ropes!

After some necessary cuts had been made and we had everything set and ready, Marsha’s dad began pulling with the tractor while I pulled my rope, and we were, at this point, only pulling down the top half of the antenna!

Was I afraid that the antenna would hit the house or crush me? No. Why? Well, certainly not because I am strong enough and certainly not because I am smart enough. Rather, I was not afraid because I was at a safe distance, was pulling on a good rope, knew the tractor was also pulling a good rope, and trusted that my father-in-law made a good plan to accomplish the task.

Faith filtered out any fear I had that something would go wrong. If not for faith and knowledge, when that antenna started to fall, I would have ran away for cover. That would have been an act of foolishness, though. Faith protected me from fear and folly.

Unfortunately for King Saul in 1 Samuel 13, his faith (or lack thereof) was defeated by fear. He feared what others would do, rather than trusting God and His promises. Thus, King Saul made a very foolish decision to deliberately disobey the commands of God, and the consequences were devastating.

Fear must not win. Fear is an enemy of faith.

During our morning worship service Sunday, Lord willing, I will be starting a new sermon series on the downfall of King Saul – Becoming the Villain. In the passage I’ll be preaching through Sunday – 1 Samuel 13:5-14 – we learn through the beginning of King Saul’s downfall that “Villains Follow Fear.”

That may sound harsh, but everyone is in only one of two camps. You either follow Jesus Christ, or you do not follow Jesus Christ. In the end, then, you are either a redeemed servant of Jesus, or you are a villain in rebellion against God.

Don’t become a villain, which happens if you think you can do things your way or any other way than God’s way. Turn to Him in faith, and trust Him to take away your fear of anything that will pull you away from following Him.

Remember, too, that it is not the strength of your faith that gives you victory over fear, sin and death. Rather, it is the object of your faith who has already won that victory. Jesus Christ is the key. He is the Victor. He must be the object of your faith, or your faith will prove to be folly.

Christmas is not just about what was.

Often times, what gives us comfort and joy is our present situation. When my kids are getting to play outside on a beautiful afternoon (like Silas and Micah above), for example, they are happy. They are enjoying life in the present.

We can also find joy, though, when we ponder great things that happened in the past. The other day, Silas was walking around our house polling Marsha, the kids and me: “Is Christmas about presents or about Jesus?”

Of course, Marsha and I have tried to teach our kids from the time they were able to talk that Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am not sure if Silas was genuinely curious if everyone understood that message, if he was trying to trap one of his siblings in falsehood, or if he was trying to impress his parents. Regardless, I am thankful that he has at least learned and embraced the basics.

What we often fail to remind our children and ourselves, though, is that Christmas is not just about what was. Christmas is not just about what happened over 2,000 years ago. Christmas is also about what will be.

Why did Jesus come? What did His coming accomplish for us? What does this mean for our future?

Sure, we can find great joy in what happened. We can find great joy in what is happening. That joy would be futile and fleeting, though, if not for what will be.

Christmas is as much about the Second Coming of Jesus Christ as it is about His birth. He was born, after all, to fulfill the Messianic promises, live a perfect life, die on the cross for our sins and rise again for our salvation. It is at the second Advent, though, when all of His promises, including the salvation of all who know Him, will be fully realized.

The ultimate joy of this season is found when we embrace the truth of the gospel – the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for our salvation – experiencing new life now and placing our hope in the perfect life that is to come.

If Christmas is not also about what will be, it is not a great story because it is not a life-changing story. Thankfully, however, Christmas is also about what will be.

I am looking forward to celebrating this with our church family and guests this coming Sunday, when I will be, Lord willing, preaching on “Immanuel Crowned” (Revelation 21:1-8). I hope to share three truths about the future because of Jesus Christ.

Do you want to have the joy of Christmas today and every day? Do you want to rejoice in the past but especially in the future? Look to the One who is the Author of both.

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Prominence is not preeminence.

A couple weeks ago on a beautiful Saturday morning, our three youngest kids went outside to play and noticed that there were worms all over the church parking lot because of a heavy rainfall we had overnight. They then decided to go on a rescue mission of picking up the worms and putting them in the grass.

Afterall, if left on the asphalt, the worms would have fried and died in the sun. I am not sure how many worms were rescued or what compelled our kids to go on this mission, but they sure seemed to enjoy it. And, they acted as if it was an important mission.

Ultimately, though, this task our children prioritized that morning was just one of many things they did that day. It was not what they woke up to do, and it was not their first priority. Rather, it was something they found to be fun. Sure, they got their hands dirty, as seen in the picture below, when they proceeded to play in the dirt. Again, though, that was just a fun benefit of this activity.

Unfortunately, there are many people today who treat their relationship with Jesus like those worms. When convenient and enjoyable, they will “get their hands dirty” in the name of religion. Are they really passionate about Jesus, though? Is He preeminent (of utmost importance) in their lives, or is He simply prominent (important but not first place)?

Prominence is not preeminence.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be preaching my third message in our Advent series: Immanuel to Richland Baptist Church. Preaching from Colossians 1:15-20, I want to challenge those listening to consider the supremacy of Christ and, as a result, surrender to Christ.

Jesus Christ is preeminent, and He is the only One worthy of the place of preeminence in our hearts. Does He have that place in your heart? If not, please consider calling out to Him today.

Surrender is a necessary humble response of repentance (turning away from your sins) and faith in Jesus, but surrender is also a daily decision to put Jesus first in all things. He is not just one of many priorities; He is the priority.

Silas, Zoe and Micah showing off the dirty hands

Are you impressed?

Thanks to a great internship with KIMT in 1999, I had the opportunity to stand on the sideline with a sports reporter for the Minnesota Vikings vs. Detroit Lions game on January 2, 2000. While I have been to NFL, NBA and MLB games before, standing on the sideline of a Vikings game has to be my favorite professional sports memory.

In fact, not only did I get to stand on the sideline and help that reporter, I got to go into the Vikings’ locker room after the game! I literally rubbed shoulders with Hall-of-Famer Cris Carter, my all-time favorite Viking, and got to hold a microphone in the face of Hall-of-Famer Randy Moss. I remember just being in awe of all of these superstars. No doubt I was starstruck.

Not surprisingly, though, none of those players ever hung out with me after that day. None of them invited me over for supper or came to my parents’ house for a visit. They continued their lives as if they had never even met me. Why? Well, because they did not and do not know me. We have no relationship.

Yes, I was quite proud of that day and have told many people over the years how I saw John Randle’s gargantuan arms up close and stood within a few feet of Randall Cunningham and Jeff George. I bragged about that day as if I had actually accomplished something, even though I had really done nothing of any significance.

Now, if some of those players had proceeded to visit me and become my friends, I would have really been able to impress people. Well, at least some people would have been impressed. It is highly improbable this will ever happen, though. Not only will I likely never see any of those players in person again, but they will likely never align themselves with me. They have no reason to do so.

Have you ever considered how amazing it is, however, that the God of the universe promises to be with those who know Him?! One of the names of Jesus the Son of God is Immanuel, which means “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23).

While you would likely be impressed if a famous football player regularly came to my house for supper, you are likely not impressed that God is with me all the time. He never leaves me, just as He promised. The reason this does not impress you is two-fold:

  1. I have done absolutely nothing to earn God’s presence. Rather, it is by His grace and mercy in and through His Son that I (or anyone) can know Him and experience His resulting presence.
  2. Experiencing God’s presence is available for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation.

So, while this ought not impress you that God is with me, you certainly ought to be amazed and in awe of the fact that God would choose to be with any of us, me included. We are sinful people incapable of getting to God on our own, and so He came to us. This is the Christmas story, and it is the exciting message of Immanuel we are going through as a church on Sunday mornings.

Are you impressed? You certainly are not and should not be impressed with me, but I pray you are awe-struck by God and His love for you.

To WHOM is your thanksgiving?

No doubt the vast majority of Americans are, in some way or another, celebrating Thanksgiving today. We are giving thanks for various people and various blessings, whether we talk about them while we sit around the table together, share about them through social media, or remind ourselves of them in our own hearts and minds.

When you “give thanks,” though, to whom is your thanksgiving? Sure, you might be thankful for your spouse, for your family, for your friends, etc., but to whom are you thankful?

Generally, we give thanks to someone who has done something beneficial for us. For example, on a typical evening I certainly ought to give thanks to my wife for a delicious supper, for a clean house, and for the seemingly constant care she provides for our children. All of us ought to be able to think of people not only for whom we are thankful but also to whom we give thanks.

Most importantly for followers of Jesus Christ, of course, is our thanksgiving to God. Everything good we have is from Him and for His glory.

On Thanksgiving (and always) we ought not only to say, “I am thankful for ________.” We also ought to be saying, “Thanks be to God for ________.” And, at the top of that list should be resurrection life.

Lord willing, during our worship service with Richland Baptist Church Sunday morning, I will be preaching on “The Victory of Discipleship” from Mark 16:1-8. As I have been studying this passage of Scripture this week, I cannot help but think we do not rejoice and give thanks to God nearly enough for the victory that was and is won by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

If not for this victory of discipleship, my grief over the physical death of my dad (seen in the picture above teaching my sister Steph how to cut the turkey in 2013) would be too much to bear. If not for this victory, our lives would be hopeless. If not for this victory, we would ultimately have nothing for which to be thankful.

The victory over sin and death is the most important thing that has ever happened, and so God is the most important One to whom we need to give thanks.

Is your mind set on truly seeking and thanking Him, or are you more set on yourself? Are you intent about honoring Him, or are you more concerned about getting honored?

Seems like I have heard multiple people say (and I agree completely): the more life is all about you, the more miserable you are. May the Lord help us have the right focus and the right thanksgiving!