Humility

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July 2

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

There are several sayings and ideas that flash through my head from time to time. You see, there have been times I’ve thought about going back to school.  Not anymore though because at 67 I’m not sure there would be much of a return. 🙂 Unless, of course, it would be for counseling.  But then again… (I could write a whole lot about that).

Anyway,  about those sayings.  Here are a few of them:

  • “Much learning doth make thee mad.”  (No one ever accused me of that)
  • “He’s so smart, but has no common sense.”  (Ditto, especially on that first part)
  • “His head is so far up in the clouds he doesn’t know how to relate to people.”  (I know I’m tall but having that said about me would kill me).

Stuff like that. Then there’s the pompous idiots who think because he/she has a degree they are much better than everyone else.

I don’t want either. There has got to be a balance between knowledge and the ability to minister (and to be seen as a normal person). I don’t want to spend so much time learning that I forget the practical. It used to be said that Bible college was not the place to go if you want to have an intimate relationship with Jesus.  The idea was you spend so much time studying about Jesus and very little time getting to know Jesus.

That’s a danger for anyone…period. Proverbs 4: 20-23 are verses well worth keeping in mind.  “My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” Emphasis on the last verse. The NLT puts it this way: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  I like that. Where my heart is = the direction of my life. My course in life is not more education. My course in life is to be more intimate with the Father and to pursue that intimacy. “Go there heart. Go there.”

“Father, may that be my deep desire. Not to worry about more education for the sake of education or to have letters after my name (who really cares anyway?).  I like being called “Bill” or “Pastor Bill.”  May my greatest desire be to know You.”

July 1

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Have you ever boasted? To my way of thinking, boasting and pride are like two children from the same mother. Pride is a false perception of oneself; boasting is putting that pride to words. Pride is sinful. Boasting is dangerous.

This hit me today as I read the Scriptures this morning. Jesus had just spoken to His disciples in the Upper Room and had prayed what I consider “The Lord’s Prayer.” No, not the one in Matthew 6 (The Model Prayer), but the one found in John 17, also known as the High Priestly Prayer. But in Mark 14:26-31 we have an account of Jesus and His disciples heading out to the Mount of Olives and the Garden. On the way Jesus tells them they would all fall away (Gk word stumble). Peter boldly and brashly confronts Jesus and says that if everyone else falls away he will not. To which Jesus reassures him that “Oh yes you will.” Peter replies, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” (14:31).  ‘Course we know how that ends.

Boasting is dangerous. I think some of the most dangerous words a Christ-follower can utter are “I will or would never do that” or some variation of that. Using those words is like a set up, a challenge to the enemy to make it happen. When I used those words I can now picture him licking his chops and rubbing his hands together with a silly grin on his face. Be careful making boasts in the heat of passion that you may not be able to back up. All the best intentions in the world do not stop susceptibility. Nor does it take the target off your back.  It probably makes it larger and harder to miss.

“Father, help me to be strong without boasting. Help me to endure in Your strength not in my bravado.”

June 25

Thursday, June 25th, 2020

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him. He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He was in charge of the purse strings and John tells us he was dishonest. He often questioned what Jesus did-not out of concern or awe-but out of selfishness. Somewhere along the line he got angry/frustrated/humiliated/greedier…who knows? The Scripture tells us he made a deal with the devil religious leaders to betray Jesus.  30 pieces of silver. That’s all. In the Upper Room Jesus exposed his duplicity although the others didn’t get it. Go out…deed done…betrayal kiss…reality hits…life ended by his own hand.

What was it like to be him? Jesus chose him.  He was one of the 12. He spent 3 years with Jesus. He left all to follow at the drop of a net. Brash. Bold. Mercurial. Speak first; think next. He often openly challenged Jesus. Luke 22 and John 13 record a prediction: denial was in his future. Supper observed…denial happens (3 times)…reality hits…remorse and repentance…restoration.

What is it like to be me? I would never do either of those! I mean, how could they? Surely not me. They were with Him every day for 3 years. Watching Him love, heal, speak, confront, forgive, show compassion, play no favorites, raise the dead. They did. Judas betrayed; Peter denied. So do I…more often than I care to admit. Which will I choose? The way of Judas or the way of Peter? Betrayal and death or denial and forgiveness?

“Father, may my heart always be sensitive to the way of Peter. May I always pursue a right relationship with You.”

June 24

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

A towel. That’s what he used to give the students. I knew of a college president who, when presenting their diploma, also gave each graduate a towel. The ensemble would have been complete if could have given them a basin…but I guess that would have seemed a little impractical. 🙂

Why? Well, all you have to do is read John 13 and the answer jumps out at you. The setting is clear. Jesus and His disciples are in the Upper Room preparing to commemorate the Passover with a meal. But He does this really weird thing. He removes his outer robe, dons a towel around his waist, and proceeds to wash His disciples’ feet. Of all the way out, surprising things Jesus could have done, this is one of them.  And totally unexpected.  Some church groups get this wrong. Not that washing feet in wrong. But to make it a ritual part of worship was not Jesus’ intention. He even says so in verse 7: “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”  “Of course we do Jesus. You’re washing our feet.” Key to remember: “You do not understand now, but afterwards you will.”

They saw foot-washing; Jesus showed humility. They saw a very common act; Jesus showed servanthood. That college president had it right. Graduation was a high point; they must reach a low point. We are saved to serve. Not thinking of yourself less, but thinking less of yourself. Peter missed the point…then. He got the point…later. Jesus’ words in verse 7 fulfilled.

Being a servant is a calling-a high calling. But it is not a high position where we can exalt ourselves.  It is a high that lowers itself. It’s a high that takes a towel, wraps it around your waist, and serves. Being a servant is a place of high standing.

“Father, let me be one of Your servants.  Help me not to consider myself above anyone else. Help me to don my towel and serve.”

June 18

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

I’ve been out of touch for a couple of days as I visited my daughter and grandson in Ohio.  Except for his team losing (they didn’t do that bad with only two practices under their belt), we had a great time.  Here is my devotion for today:

Have you ever met a know-it-all? I’m sure you have. They have an answer to everything and for everything. Even if… they have no clue.

There is nothing wrong admitting you don’t have the answer to a question. I remember an old TV show-I think it was called Room 222-which had a Student Teacher (I think her real name was Karen Valentine) as one of the stars of the show. She was the student teacher and in one of the episodes I can remember her being asked a question and even though she did not know the answer, she faked one. Bad move. It came back to haunt her and her mentor was able to teach her a valuable lesson. I can’t remember the question or her “answer.” Or even the consequence. But I do remember the lesson she learned. There is nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know.” It is better to say Idk than to make up an answer which proves to be untrue.

How many times have you or I been stumped by a question concerning God, Jesus, the Bible, something within the Bible, or some theological question and you tried to bluff your way through? The Trinity. God became flesh. The Sovereignty of God. Predestination/Election. The Second Coming. And so many more.

Seems it would be better to say, “I don’t know the answer to that” or “I’ll try to find the answer” than to try to bluff and be found out to be a Pharisee.

“Father, teach me humility and the willingness to admit I don’t know the answer to a tough question. I’m not expected to know it all anyway. Help me to keep seeking You and Your Word.”

June 12

Friday, June 12th, 2020

One of the sayings which was used ad infinitum, ad nauseum during the COV”ID-19 crisis was “we are in this together.” While that is true to some extent (it is affecting all of our lives), it is also not true to some extent. It is hard to be in something together where the other person-or I myself- is belligerent and hard to get along with. I’ve seen it happen in sports, government, marriage, and yes, in churches.

When I pitched in Little League baseball, I once pitched a no-hitter. I would be foolish to think I did that all myself. I had 8 other players all pulling together to win 8-0. When I averaged 20 points/15 rebounds per game as a Junior in college, I’m a fool if I think for a moment it wasn’t a team game and I didn’t need the other four guys who were on the court the same time as me.

If you read Our Daily Bread today you will read the story of a pastor and a father (injured in a house fire) take turns running and carrying the father’s daughter to a hospital 6 miles away. When one tired of carrying her, the other took his turn. Together they made the journey together. Together they made sure the daughter and father were both treated.

Churches rely on people working together. When a leader or an individual or a pastor goes rogue, all kinds of trouble can break loose. Unless…it is checked by those who work together. One of the hallmarks of a church should be unity. Unity is not all thinking alike, but it is thinking with the common goal in mind. Jesus once said that all people would know we are His disciples if we love one another.

“Father, help me to be one who works together with others. Help me to be a catalyst for unity not division.”

June 10

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

We talk a lot about lifting Jesus up. A song says, “We want to see Jesus lifted high/ A banner that flies across the sky.”  We might say or pray or sing for Jesus to be honored and glorified and lifted up, but do you know how hard that is? (‘Course you do). Have you given any thought to how hollow that sometimes sounds because of ineptness at doing that? Before I say why I think that is the case, let’s review.

In Number 21 the people became impatient with God. They were tired of and began to complain about the lack of water, food, and eating manna. So He sent fiery serpents among them that bit the people and many died as a result of it. They cried out about the sin so God had Moses fashion a serpent and put it on a pole and lift it up. All those who looked upon it would live. (21:4-9)

Fast forward a couple thousand years (give or take) to John 3:14 where Jesus said, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” Verse 15 tells why: “That whoever believes in Him may have eternal life.”

Later in John (chapter 12) Jesus is told some Greeks were seeking Him. In verse 32 He says, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

Three places where a distinct reference is made to Jesus being lifted up. The obvious understanding is that He will be lifted up on the cross.  In salvation, He is to be lifted up. In the daily expression of my faith, He is to be lifted up. Now to the original question; why is that so hard? The answer is easy really. I tend to be in this for myself way too much. To lift Jesus up means to point people to the cross and to lower myself in my eyes and in the eyes of others. No more “I’m in this for me.” No more “What can I get out of this?” I am to lift Jesus up because only by seeing Him will life and hope and salvation be found.

“Father, may I lay aside myself and lift Jesus up-in all things, at all times. As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, may the cross of Christ be looked upon and give life.”

June 8

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

June 5/Weekend

Friday, June 5th, 2020

I learned something new today. There is a saying: “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” There are some in the Christian world-in their faith- who take a dim view of learning new things. When a person has been a Christ-follower for many years, it is easy to get a “glaze over.” A crust develops which is hard to penetrate at times. So people who have been Christ-followers for any length of time almost have a “I-dare-you-to-teach-me-something-new” attitude. I once had a man who was just a few years older than me tell me I couldn’t teach him anything new because I was younger. It all started because I confronted him about his visits to the Playboy Club in another city and what he was expecting out of his wife. (She had come to see me). He saw nothing wrong with it and since he was the man she had to do what he demanded. I told him he was wrong. That was not being a servant husband or a loving husband. He then told me he would do what he wanted to do and there was nothing I could teach him. He was right. A closed mind is hard to penetrate. (Note: the marriage didn’t last much longer either).

I went off on that tangent to make a point: we are never done learning. Case in point: today’s Scripture. In Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus denounces the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Why? I think the key is in verses 21-22. Their sin wasn’t hostility. Or outright rejection. Or protesting. Or wanting to throw rocks. No. Their sin was indifference. The message came and they did absolutely nothing. Jesus did mighty works there and did nothing.  For the first time I actually know what this passage is about. I can’t say I have before now.

Can there be any sin more devastating to God’s work and God’s message than indifference-than not caring- on the part of His people? Let’s be pointed: looking at today’s world, how can you not care? How can we stand by and be indifferent? How can we stand by and do nothing?

“Father, help me not to be indifferent to the message of Jesus. Help me not to stand by and do nothing.”

June 1

Monday, June 1st, 2020

I’m in Ohio for the first part of this week so I will say right up front that I wrote this Saturday night. Sunday has not happened yet (obviously) 🙂   So as I write this I have no idea what tomorrow (Sunday) will bring. I am cautiously optimistic since that tends to be my nature.  But here is what I wrote Saturday night:

Costi Hinn is Bennie’s nephew. Several years ago he broke away from the health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel Bennie preaches (and still does) to follow Jesus. In a recent blog he wrote, Costi wrote the following (referring to navigating the COVID-19 crisis and getting back to assembling together):

If there is one word to describe how we must navigate re-assimilation it’s this: grace.

I can see that. Even among the three of us (Ryan, Diana, and me) we have different ideas. I’m more eager to get back together and if I had my druthers go full bore. I agree with the man in my congregation who said, “Bill, I am so tired of hearing certain words: masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer (and others I can’t remember).” Even though Jim is in a highly volatile business (grocery store), I can’t argue.  Ryan is tired of the whole mess and has seen his plans for the summer go up in smoke and new ones will have to be developed. Diana is the cautious one of the three. Always has been. But we agree to disagree and move on. We worked on putting a plan in place we all agreed on and we will continue doing that.

  • I am the spur ahead, but sometimes careful, optimist.
  • Ryan is the contemplative direction (he likes spreadsheets) and thinking- things -through -logically guy.  🙂
  • Diana is the cautious realist. (She is female after all).

Blend all three together and you have our doable, well-researched, cautious reopening plan. We need all kinds of people and grace is needed.  I haven’t always liked the slow moving, but it is necessary to tone me down from time to time. If I was a betting man (which I’m not), I probably irritated the two of them somewhere along the way.  I despise the idea of wearing a mask and social distancing.  Our people spoke through the survey we sent out and so in deference to them I will do what needs to be done.  Oh yeah, and the governor of Indiana, whom I respect for the way he has tried to handle this mess.  🙂

Anyway, here’s what Costi says:

  1. Optimistic people are a blessing to my life.
  2. Cautious people are a blessing to my life.
  3. Different gifts and approaches make us all more effective.
  4. People matter more than my opinion.

So…what will it be? Grace or bull-headedness?

“Father, help me to choose grace, to choose love over my own desires and wisdom.”