Humility

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January 26

Tuesday, January 26th, 2021

Have you ever looked back on something-the way you acted, the way you said something, the way you came across-and with shame admitted you handled it poorly? I suspect most of us, or all of us, could raise our hands and say, “Guilty!”

What particularly bugs me were the times I insisted I was right when- and this is the real rub- being right should never have been the goal NOR the attitude to have. Sometimes we get so carried away with being right we forget to be kind. Case in point: Back in the ’80s (yeah that far back) Jo and I and the family moved to a small town in Indiana to pastor what was nothing more than a storefront church. They had attended a church in town for years; then attended a church in another town for several years (a legalistic one); then came back to their hometown because (and I quote) “Jesus needed a church in town’s name.” I did not know that when I went and to be honest saw some yellow flags but I panicked. I had been fired from the previous church by the Sr. Pastor and there was a month left before I was no longer being paid. I had already begun studying and praying myself out of the legalism which engulfed my heart and teaching and I can honestly say that serving this church was the knock out punch. One incident stands out. After helping my brother, Rob, with several concerts while he was visiting, I was called on the carpet for helping at one of those concerts. It had been at the local Naz church and he sang for their Thanksgiving celebration.  They told me I was sanctioning and approving of the local Naz church and was NEVER do that again. I was have to admit I was dumbfounded and did say something initially, but after I settled down inwardly I looked at them and said, “I’ve been here a year. I’ve seen a lot of people on the street and in their homes. Do you know what the reputation of this church is in the community? ‘We are right, and you are wrong, and we will argue with anytime you want.’ Not only that, everyone is going to hell but us.” I was shocked to say the least when one of the men/”leaders” said, “Well, it is true. We are the only one’s right in this town and we will argue with anyone about that.” I went home that night and told Jo, “We gotta get out of here.”   4 months later…Bye. See ya.

As I said earlier: sometimes we get so carried away with being right that we forget to be kind. Jesus never asked us to have all the answers or need us to monitor everybody’s actions like we are the religious police. Even when we do we can still be kind. Proving we are always right-or in their case the only ones who are- is an effort in futility plus one of extreme arrogance.

There is nothing wrong with believing in your convictions but having to prove you are always right-and in many cases the only who is- gets tiring.

“Father, may my attitude be one of humility, not rightness. And when I am right, help me to be kind.”

January 13

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

I actually had two thoughts bouncing around in my head this morning and thought I would use them both. But I was unsure how to tie them in together. As you will see, that was not necessary. Maybe I’ll do the other one tomorrow.

My first thought was after reading Matthew 23. I’d encourage you to stop right now and read that chapter. If this is an “on-the-go” devo reading, I’ll summarize it for you. It is what is called the “7 Woe” passage, where Jesus pronounces 7 woes against the Pharisees. He’s blunt. He minces no words. I have a sneaking suspicion He wasn’t smiling trying to soften the blow of His words. I also have this feeling He didn’t look at the sky and drop His eyes and look at His feet. No, I can picture Jesus with eyes boring right through the chests and into the depths of every Pharisee’s heart and soul as He spoke.

He had enough of their hypocrisy. Let’s clarify that: self-righteous hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is one thing; self-righteous hypocrisy is a whole ‘nother level. I think we are all hypocrites to some extent. I know I am. Why do I say that? Because not always does my walk back my talk! Yep, that’s me. Saying one thing but doing another. I recognize that and can honestly say I don’t do it maliciously or purposely. That is the sinful nature, the old man in me, who wants to still make an appearance.

Self-righteous hypocrisy is different. It is doing something then trying to cover it up with self-righteous talk. Religious talk. It is looking down on someone but not acknowledging my own sin. That is Matthew 23 in a nutshell. The Pharisees could not see their own sin because of the self-righteous log in their own eye. Jesus called them whitewashed tombs. They were tombs and monuments that looked good on the outside but were fill with dead man’s bones. There is more, but you get the point. Time to stop being a self-righteous hypocrite and put the cards on the table.

“Father, help me to be real-to You, to myself, to others. You see me as I am. Help me to stop pretending.”

January 8

Friday, January 8th, 2021

It is my humble opinion that one of the hardest things to do is to accept blame-responsibility for something. As a younger pastor I can recall a number of times saying, “If this hadn’t happened” or “If this hadn’t been done” then none of what took place would have. I’m not as bad as I used to be, perhaps maturity has entered the picture (I hope) OR understanding God’s love and grace and plan more has made a change in me (my greater hope).

There is an old saying: “Remember, whenever you point a finger at someone there’s always 3 pointing back at you.” (I guess the thumb is a non-entity, an extra, but don’t cut it off!) Finger-pointing is nothing new. Do you remember the Garden story when God confronted Adam and Eve? What did they do? One thing they didn’t do was accept the blame. Nope, not them.

  • A: “The woman. It was her fault.”
  • E: “The serpent. It was his fault.”

That’s taking one for the team, isn’t it? Nope. And as you well know, nothing has changed. Like my feeble attempt to explain away, i.e refuse to accept responsibility for a failure or wrong action, we still do that. I suspect on a daily basis. Oh sure, we mature so we (hopefully) accept responsibility a little more readily, but I know within me there is still this little man pointing his finger at someone else. I wonder when that happens if that is a little bit of what Jesus was referring to in Mt.13:14-15. I realize that passage deals more with hearing the message but the same closed heart for the “seed” can be the same closed heart for hearing and accepting the truth. And responsibility.

Here’s a thought: For every time we accept responsibility and stop trying to pass the blame, perhaps grace has become more real to us. Grace helps us see ourselves as we truly are-definitely not as good as we think we are-but willing to accept responsibility for the mess.

“Father, help me to stop pointing fingers at someone or some thing and to start seeing ‘me’ as the culprit. Then help me to allow Your transforming grace to do its work.”

December 24

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

Caution: soapbox available and now in use. 🙂

There has been a saying which has gained an audience. When I say an audience, I mean an AUDIENCE. Bigger than a cathedral. Bigger than a stadium.  It has garnered the attention of the retail  establishment. You see it on mugs, posters, signs, church signs, billboards…you name it. I know what it is trying to say; I know what it is trying to do. The saying?

Jesus is the reason for the season.

Sounds catchy. Sounds so…right. But I don’t think it is. Sometimes I have felt like a lone wolf (probably because I don’t get out much) in speaking against it. And I know whoever made it up never intended a whole cottage industry to build up around it (then again maybe it was just a marketing tool). The one who made it up was trying to get us to focus-away from Santa Claus and to the real meaning for Christmas.

But they got it wrong. And this is what I’ve been trying to say for years. Jesus never was the reason for the season. We were. Want proof? Take a moment and read Phil.2:6-8 and then Isaiah 53: 4-6. That oughta do it. Jesus was never the reason for the season.  You were. I was. As the old song by David Meece says, “We were the reason He gave His life/We were the reason He suffered and died.” But…wait…that’s the rest of the story!! (And in case you are wondering it is called Easter).

Jesus is not the reason for the season; He is the one who is and who gives meaning to the season.

“Thank you, Father, for Jesus being willing to come for me. I was the reason He came and He gave the ultimate gift…His life.”

December 9

Wednesday, December 9th, 2020

I read something this morning that struck me. It struck me because is sounded strangely familiar. Here, let me give you the verses and see if you think the same thing:

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about you.” {Emphasis mine} (Titus 2: 7-8)

Do you see what I emphasized?

It sounds strangely familiar to this:

“Always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered those who revile your good behavior may be put to shame.”  {Emphasis mine} (I Peter 3:15-16)

It seems to be that the quickest way to shut someone up is to live a life of integrity, dignity, honesty, kindness and gentleness in front of others. Then when someone decides it is time to slander, bad-mouth, or spread lies, others will know the truth and not believe obvious lies. As Paul says elsewhere: “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received.”

“Father, the quickest way to shut up my naysayers it to live an exemplary life of integrity and purity in front of others. Let that be me.”

December 3

Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

When you think about it, Christmas is contrary to modern ideology. It goes against the grain of our normal way of thinking. Let me explain.

Up until a few years ago (I’m not able to pinpoint when exactly), our culture glorified and glamorized the strong. The man’s man was the rugged, western Marlboro Man…until, of course, we found out smoking was linked to lung cancer. We glorify the athletes, the strong men (and now women) of sport who personify to us healthy, vibrant, strong lives. You know…the superhero who can leap tall buildings in a single bound; fend off bullets; run with super speed; grow big or small depending on the need; escape any situation; and “live forever.” We see physical strength as the end all. Others see superior mental capabilities as worthy of praise. Logic is king. God? There is none.  And I could go on.

Enter Christmas. This whole story was not one of strength, but one of weakness. While Herod, the Romans, and the religious leaders were showing their strength (which actually was a weakness), God was showing His weakness and humility (which actually was strength). Who else would have thought a humble virgin from a backwater town would be the one suitable for and chosen to bear and bring the King into the world? Not me. Probably not you either. But God did. As was His MO, He chose the weak to shame the wise.

“Father, humility befits the season. Humility befits life all year ’round actually. Help me to be an example of humility and grace, following in Your footsteps.”

December 1

Tuesday, December 1st, 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 is history. Or is it? That’s like saying Covid 2020 is history or since January 1, 2021 is soon around the corner that all of 2020 will be history. (I wish. But I digress).

Let’s go back to my original statement: Thanksgiving 2020 is history. Or is it? For many it will be. It was a day off work for some. It was a time to get away and visit friends and family- in spite of what the government said. For me it was a time of reflection as we found our plans changed big time; a bike ride; a great meal with the three of us (me, Jo & Tami); a day to work on a jigsaw puzzle (my relaxing, mindless hobby); and doing basically nothing. It was a day of gratitude. 

But the Scripture passage I read today does 2 things: 1) It puts things in perspective; and 2) serves as a warning. Phil. 2:14 says, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing.” The word disputing can be translated as complaining. So we have the option of going from gratitude to grumbling and complaining. I daresay it seems the latter is much more common than the former. It also serves as a warning of how easy it is to slip into that mode of forgetting how good God is and all we have, to gripe and complain about what we don’t. That tends to be heightened with Christmas around the corner. If there is ever a time where we struggle with contentment it is this time of the year.

Let’s not forget gratitude. Let’s not slip, fall, go tumbling head first into grumbling and complaining. Let’s keep the gratitude going.

“Father, start with me. Remind me of the need to stay grateful.”

November 24

Tuesday, November 24th, 2020

In a recent Our Daily Bread (11/20/20), they had a devotion that struck me. Here it is in a nutshell:

Albert Einstein paid tribute to a colleague, the famous Dutch scientist, Hendrik A. Loventz.  He never mentioned their scientific disputes, only his “never failing kindness.” He inspired scientists to put aside political prejudice and work together, especially after WWI. Einstein said, “Even before the war was over he never set out to dominate but always to simply be of use.”

That phrase “never set out to dominate” really struck me. The work of reconciliation is good and the Father knows we need that, perhaps as much now as ever. But it is impossible if we set out to dominate another person. None of us like that. Whether it be a spouse, a parent, a coach, a pastor, an elder, or someone else. In school they are called bullies. Ephesians 5:21 says, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Submission is to be mutual, not one submit and the other dominate. This is especially true in the church. The Bible never gives a pastor, an elder, so-called leader, or patriarch/matriarch the right to claim “this church is mine.” Nor does is give that person permission to run it like they think it is.  I have seen and heard of people who were damaged, almost beyond repair, by a domineering individual in the church.  The way I see it being the pastor of the church DOES NOT give me the right or privilege to demand my own way or to run roughshod over people. That is so un-Christlike.  Can there be a worse example in the church than that?

“Father, help me to see submission is a state of my heart. Help me not to seek to dominate but to serve.”

November 9

Monday, November 9th, 2020

I read today’s devotion in Our Daily Bread and it was a really cool story of the author’s two grandchildren. They tried out for a play called Alice in Wonderland, Jr. and were set on getting the roles for two main leads. Instead they were chosen as flowers. Flowers! And you would expect them to be bummed…upset…jealous. But they were just the opposite. They were excited for their friends who got the leading roles. Their mother reported, “Their joy seemed greater cheering for their friends and sharing in their excitement.”

I thought about that. The Bible says, “Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sadly, way too many in the church “Weep with those who rejoice and rejoice with those who weep.”  Pastors, for example, have difficulty celebrating another pastor’s growing church. It is way too easy to be jealous and bemoan the fact the “my church isn’t growing like his.” That’s only one example.

Maybe it’s time you and I began to truly practice what these young girls exhibited: full-fledged joy at another person’s good fortune. Instead of competition, maybe we  ought to try teamwork and support.  While some bloggers seem to thrive and have countless readers, and others (like me) who struggle to get one or two, it is important for me to cheer them on (providing they are giving Scriptural truth). Jealous competition is so ugly.

“Father, help me not to get jealous or competitive, but to truly rejoice with others who excel at the same thing as me. Only then will Your church be seen as a healthy body.”

November 6

Friday, November 6th, 2020

I’m going to make a confession to you and I hope you don’t think less of me. Seriously. That is not a ploy to get you read further, one more “juicy” tidbit to pass along. It is not a headline to grab your attention and then hit you with a sledgehammer. Nope. This is something I want to be honest about.

There are times when I pray that 1) I find my mind wandering; and 2) I find myself lying. Say what? It’s true on both counts. On the first I know I’m not alone. A wandering mind is not unusual. It’s not good, but it’s also not unusual. It’s the second which bothers me more, but I often find it a by-product of the first.

Let me explain (or is that excuse myself?). When my mind wanders and I come back to reality, I find I have been repeating  a phrase over and over. “Lord, let me be what you want me to be.” Of course, the real problem is not the wandering mind; it is the insincere words. Hence, the lying. But, I don’t stop there. “Lord, let me be what you want me to be.” “Let me say what you want me to say.”  “Let me do what you want me to do.”  “Let me feel…let me care…” You get the point. Is that what I really want? Am I being sincere in my prayer or is it just a thought of a wandering mind? Strangely enough, they are good prayers to pray if I am sincere. But not if I’m not. In fact, it could be downright dangerous if God took me up on it.

Okay, now is the time for more honesty. Do you find yourself in this same boat?

“Father, may my prayers be sincere as I speak them, not just empty words of a wandering mind.”