Humility

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January 23

Thursday, January 23rd, 2020

Update: Alexander did have surgery. The doctor said they would do nothing if they found no way to do the surgery. We are praising the Lord for this! The surgeon said he was optimistic. Thank you for praying and please continue.

My title for this devotion is Lesson Learned vs Lesson Ignored.

Have you noticed how often we have events happen to us but we ignore the obvious lesson? We go on our merry way as though what happened has no significance to us.

Take, for example, my reading this morning. King Nebuchadnezzar has already seen how God blessed Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. It started with their “education.” Then he had seen S, M, & A survive the fiery furnace. But still it was not enough. He even made a decree that anyone who speaks against the God of S, M, & A would be torn limb from limb and their house laid in ruins. (3:29) He even praised God to the people. (4:1-3)

Please tell me then what possessed him-after having a dream and Daniel interpreting it for him (unfavorably for the king)-to arrogantly get up one morning and proudly proclaim his state of mind (“Look at all I have”). He ignored all the lessons along the way and thought that he was all that and more. The dude got too big for his britches!

But what would posses him to do this- besides the fact the Scripture says, “The heart is desperately wicked”? For the same reason I do: I think I know better. Or I simply forget. OR I don’t want to learn! I become oblivious to the lessons. Proverbs 23:12 says, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to knowledge.” There are lessons to be learned in all things, but I have to be willing to see them. I have to be willing to see them, apply them, and take heed.

No lesson-good or bad-should ever be wasted. They should never go unheeded. They are in front of me not to ignore but to learn.

“Father, each day lessons come from You. Sometimes they are good; sometimes they are warnings. But good or bad they are never to be wasted. Help me to apply my heart and hear Your words.”

January 14

Tuesday, January 14th, 2020

My title for this devotion is First vs Second.

I recently purchased a book and a T-shirt through an organization called I Am Second (IAS). I have followed IAS for years-have watched their “White Chair” videos and read their material-and have always come away inspired and moved. Their most familiar presentations are on video and feature the celebrity/individual/couple sitting on a white chair while sharing their story. It is usually a testimony of how God moved in their life. The topics are as diverse as the people but one thing is in common in all videos: they say I Am Second to Jesus.

I realize years ago Gail Sayers, a former football player, wrote about his friendship with a white football player named Brian Piccolo. Brian died of cancer and the book was about how Mr. Sayers put himself 3rd-behind God and Brian. IAS is not in argument with that. Their approach is based on God’s work in their life, how He intervened, and even radically changed them.

I. AM. SECOND.

I once read where Composer Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What is the hardest instrument to play in the orchestra?” Almost without hesitation he answered, “Second fiddle. Without it there is no harmony.”

I thought about that-about how many times I wanted to be first. I’m currently reading several books on being a Small Church Pastor. I fought that for so long and look back and now realize how much I missed out on because I was always reaching for the next rung, trying out the next big thing, instead of finding contentment in being in a small church. Perhaps that is why I find great contentment where I am right now. I am a Small Church Pastor in a relatively small town (2500-3000) and absolutely love it! I have come to realize that being second is not a bad place to be. It’s not a “bad gig.” 🙂 Hear the words:

Don’t be selfish, don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Phil.2:3-5  (NLT)

“Father, You are first.  You are to be my priority. I am second to You. Only when that is right will my relationship with others be right. Be first.  Let me fall in step behind You.”

January 8

Wednesday, January 8th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Left Behind: Worthy vs Temporary.

Am I that far off in saying that we all want to leave something behind for which we will be remembered? I don’t think so. We all (or most of us anyway) want to leave behind a legacy, a point of reference where if our name is mentioned people says, “Oh yeah. I remember (such and such) about him/her.”

In the media world, for example, actor Tom Hanks was recently honored with the Cecil B. DeMille award. In his craft, that may be the highest honor to be bestowed. Known for his body of work, he will now be known for another (higher) honor.

The Sports world has its honors also. Hall of Fame. MVP. Super Bowl champs. Stanley Cup. College football #1.

Music. Stage. Lifetime Achievement. The list is seemingly endless. People want to be remembered-hopefully for good and not for bad. Think Al Capone. Bonnie and Clyde. Elliott Ness. Billy the Kid. And others.

In the OT is the book and story of Job. I’m pretty sure we all know that story. Everything is taken away from him but his life, but Job still said, “I know my Redeemer lives.” When everything he loved was wiped out, Job’s response was, “The Lord gives; the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (1:21)  When encouraged by his wife to curse God and die he said, “Shall we receive good and not evil from God?” (2:10)  (He also called her a foolish woman but we won’t go there! 🙂 ) In Job 19:32-24 he wished “his words were recorded, engraved in rock forever.” Funny thing is? They are. In the pages of THE BOOK.

What is it I want to be known for? Kindness? Generosity? Giver of grace? All the above. All are well and good. But the greatest? He was a Lover of Jesus. Yeah. I like that.

“Father, may the legacy I leave behind not be one of fleeting memories and temporary awards. May it be that I loved you first and foremost, above all, and that you were the reason I lived.”

 

January 2

Thursday, January 2nd, 2020

My title for this devotion is Servant vs Celebrity.

It’s that time of the year again! Sometime late last year-I think around Nov/Dec we were deluged with “The Sexiest Man Alive” garbage.  (I mean, like who really cares?) Then over the past week or so-with the end of one year and the beginning of another-we hear all kinds of “Ten Best” lists. And to top it off we are starting a new decade so we are inundated with “Ten Best” or “20 Best” of the decade. May I be very open and honest? I. don’t. care. Seriously. I really don’t. I don’t really care who society thinks the Sexiest Man or Woman is. Not only  is it purely subjective, in the grand scheme of things it changes nothing. It raises some to celebrity status and lowers some to “has been” or  secondary status.

How unlike Scripture. In Mark 10:45 Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” As I’ve said how unlike the Scripture is our culture! I just can’t see Jesus campaigning for the front cover of a magazine. Or relishing His choice as “Most Rugged Man of the Year.” Or applauding His award as “Humanitarian of the Year.” Or basking in the glow of “Top Influential Evangelical of the Year.” Nope. Not Jesus. His greatest joy was not to be a celebrity, but being a servant. How many times did He tell people not to tell others “but go show yourself to the priests?”

Accolades come and go. I threw away my college basketball trophies long time ago. Praises are fickle. But what really matters is being a servant. There’s a Maranatha chorus we used to sing: “Make me a servant humble and meek/Lord help me lift up those who are weak/And may the prayer of my heart always be/Make me a servant/Make me a servant today.”

“Lord, that is my prayer today. Let me be a servant for You. Help me not to seek the accolades or applause of men.”

January 1

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

My title for this devotion is Transformation: Real vs Imagined.

What I’m about to write may cause you to question my maturity/sanity.  Maybe both!! 🙂  I like fantasy movies like the Back to the Future trilogy (my all-time favorite) and Lord of the Rings. One that my grandson got watching with him and is now one of my favorites are The Transformers. These shape-shifting cars and trucks are fascinating to me. (Told you my maturity and sanity would be called into question). On the way home yesterday from Ohio I saw a Hummer with two logos of Optimus Prime (OP) on his rear door and art work up front that highlighted him.  OP is the lead Autobot in their ongoing battle against the Decepticons. That is a good word since their whole deal is deceiving and acting like Autobots but always against them.

So what does my childlike (not childish) interest have to do with my real world? They are called Transformers because they “transform” from a car/truck to a fighting robot and then go back again to their original shape.  2 Cor. 5:17 says we are “new creations,” i.e. transformed. Romans 12:2 says we are not to be “conformed to this world but transformed by the renewing of our mind.” But Romans 8:29 also says we are “to be conformed to the image of His Son.” Transformed to be conformed.

Transformation is real when our greatest desire becomes the desire to be conformed to the image of Jesus. That is my prayer for this year. I don’t do resolutions. I don’t do “one word.” I want to have this hungering drive to be transformed in all ways so that I may be conformed to the image of Jesus.

“Father, make that my yearning this year. May that be what gets me up in the morning and let’s me lay my head down at night. Transform me to conform me.”

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In my post here I mentioned the tough decision I was having to make about whether to continue the “Shadow” blog. After reading some comments, and pondering and praying, I have decided to continue offering this blog. I have a selfish reason: I need it! I need the daily discipline to journal my Quiet Time thoughts. Second, Diane said it well. Numbers don’t really matter. I guess I ought to take it that as long as someone folks are reading and listening and learning, it would be good to continue it. I’m not sure I will post on the weekend unless I do a “Weekend Extra” type of thing.  But I will try (with God’s help) to present a devotion that helps you through your day. Thanks for caring enough to respond.  My prayer is that I will say something that will help you in your day.

December 30-31

Tuesday, December 31st, 2019

I wrote this the morning of Monday, the 30th, but just now was able to get to a computer to post it.  It’s not all I want to say but I found my time to write rather short. Hope it makes you think some of your own response.

My title for this devotion is Shortage: Good vs Bad.

I find myself contemplating 2019 and wondering about 2020. Not unusual I’m sure. Also, my contemplation is not in a bad way either.  I know I can’t change what has happened. And I know I can’t even begin to guess what will be, so there is no need to concern myself. I’m thinking instead about lack, about shortages.

By that I am not in any way referring to money. I’m referring to those things that are missing or lacking my life. And to take it one step further: what am I going to do?

My thoughts along this line were piqued by a reference to the water of Jerusalem. There was only one source and it was outside the city walls. The way to defeat Jerusalem was to either divert it or dam it. In 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles we have the story of King Hezekiah building a tunnel through 1750 feet of solid rock to divert the water to a cistern. (As an aside: can you imagine the feat they accomplished without modern earth-moving machinery?). Anyway, Isaiah 22 says he did it without regard “for the one who made it.” (translated: G0d).

That got me thinking. How often do I act without regard to God? How often do I just “do” without seeking God’s input, His guidance? Admittedly, too often. I move; I act; I disrupt; without ever seeking God’s thoughts. Instead of seeing something as a handicap, perhaps it is time to embrace my limitations and allow God to use them for His glory.

“Father, any shortage I have is a tool for you to use. Please help me to “bend” to your way and will instead of always moving first and then expect your action or approval.”

December 26

Thursday, December 26th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Acceptance: God’s vs man’s.

Christmas 2019 is history.  Well, at least the day itself. I’m sure there will be some still doing the Christmas thing over the next few days with family and friends. But, for me, it is time to turn my eyes toward 2020.  Over the next week or so I will (personally) be looking back over 2019 and looking ahead to 2020. Even as I say that, I have no intention of bemoaning my mistakes and failures of 2019 (which were many) nor do I have any intention of worrying about 2020. Why?  Because I can’t change either!! Past or future. No DeLorean here (rats!)

There is one lesson I’ve learned this past year and one I’m planning on implementing more in 2020. I’ll ask it in the form of a question: whose approval did I seek and will I seek? I was speaking  with someone just the other day and that was our topic: approval of men. As a pastor I craved the approval of others. Decisions were made/not made/reneged on/changed sometimes based on the approval of others. Young and impressionable, I depended way too much on men’s approval. Approval to me = Acceptance. God Himself only knows the lives that were affected by my waffling and indecision.

I guess in some ways my thinking now is I’m too old for this, too old to care what people think. But that’s not true. What is true is that God’s approval of me is far more important than what any one person thinks. His acceptance and approval of me is all that matters.

Now…if I can just keep remembering that…

“Father, thank You for accepting me into Your arms as one of Your children. Help me to remember that is really all I need. I don’t have to live for the approval of others. Only Yours.”

December 19

Thursday, December 19th, 2019

My title for this devotion is More vs Less.

One verse that may seem to have nothing or very little to do with Christmas has been one of my favorite verses for as long as I can remember. I have a plaque in my office with this verse on it. The verse is John 3:30. When John’s disciples are offended that Jesus is garnering more attention than John, he answers their statement with the words: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Other translations might say, “He must become greater; I must become less.” No matter how you shake it, they all the same thing: Jesus must become more; I must become less.

Can anyone think of a time in the Bible where the greatness of Jesus is seen any more than at His birth and at His death? Why? His greatness is shown by his humility. First, the whole incarnation miracle (truth) blows me away. Second, to realize the humility He displayed for that to happen is mind-boggling! Sorta makes our petty jealousy and one-upmanship seem childish and silly. Here was the King of all laying down His pride, His status, His desire in order to display a humility that is unmatched. How can I insist that my agenda is the one that’s right? How can I insist that I do this or that? How can I be jealous when someone else gets to sing, play, speak, whatever and I don’t?  (You did notice the emphasis on the previous questions did you not?)

Humility-Jesus becoming greater and me becoming less-is where I need to be. It’s a trait that needs to be more common in my life. John 3:30 needs to be more than a verse in the Bible or on a plaque; it needs to be written on every page of my heart.

“Father, may You become more in my heart so there is less of me there. And may you become more in my thoughts and actions so people see less of me and more of you.”

I’m taking some folks to the Indianapolis airport for their yearly trek to Disney so I “cheated” a little by using a good part of my #ChristmasChallenge at my other blog as my daily devotion today. I needed to save a bit of time since I am leaving fairly early to take them.

Dear friends: I have made a grave error in this post. I have since made the correction. Diane’s comment pointed it out. I did not mean “reincarnation” but “incarnation.” My sincerest apologies. That was one ugly heresy I put out there by accident.

December 17

Tuesday, December 17th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Burning vs Heeding.

One of the more comically sad sections of Scripture is found in Jeremiah 36. It is one those places where as you read you don’t know whether to laugh at the image conjured up in your mind or be sad by its reality.

Okay, so Jehoiakim (J from here on) is king. He has fallen far from his father Josiah’s status as king. According to 2 Chronicles 36:5 it says, “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God.” In fact, J was one of the last kings to rule in Judah before Nebuchadnezzar (Neb) captured Jerusalem and sacked it for good. He was, in fact, one of the kings taken captive by Neb. Anyway, Jeremiah was told to write down the words J needed to hear and to deliver them. Jeremiah had his scribe, Baruch, do both.

Baruch did as he was told and when asked where the scroll came from and how he came to write those words, he was honest and told them they were dictated to him by Jeremiah. And now comes the comically sad part. The king sent Jehudi to get the scroll and then as he read them to the king, the king would cut them off 3 or 4 columns at a time and burn them. I see it comically sad because of the picture conjured in my mind of the king hearing but then basically saying (by burning the words), “Out of sight; out of mind.” It is like two pictures developing. One, of pure obstinence and disrespect for Jeremiah’s (and by proxy God’s words), and the other of him burning up the scroll as though that will make it all go away.

Then it hits me how that is sometimes a picture of people as they read the Word. They blatantly discard the teaching of the Word and even at times like to pretend its not there. They go on to live their life in rebellion or disrespect for God’s truth and His Word.

And lest I point a finger at “they,” I must remember there is a finger pointing directly at my own heart as well. Knowing what God’s Word says but pretending it doesn’t exist should not even be part of me.

“Father, help me not to be Jehoiakim in spirit or in action. Help me not to disrespect You, Your true messengers, or Your Word. And most definitely help me not to pretend Your Word doesn’t speak truth.”

December 16

Monday, December 16th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Real Value vs Underestimated Value.

Several years ago by brother used to sing a song written by Tim Sheppard. It was based on the Scripture/Jesus’s words where He asked what can a man give in exchange for his soul. Some of the lyrics were: “What can a man give in exchange for his soul/Can you name a price to give for your life/Can you be bought or sold?” I’m afraid there are far too many who are selling their souls cheaply.

We seemed to have lost sight of the value of the human soul. We sell ourselves to the lowest bidder: alcohol, drugs, sex, laziness, gambling, etc.  You name it. Sorta reminds me what Judas did to Jesus. 30 pieces of silver. In Zechariah 11:12, after having lovingly shepherded His people, God laments that all He was worth to them was 30 pieces of silver.  The price of a slave. According to Ex.21:32 the exact price an owner was to be paid should their slave be accidentally killed was 30 pieces of silver. God didn’t take that slight kindly! He had Zechariah throw the money away!

Many years later God’s Son was also sold for 30 pieces of silver. Judas himself realized his folly and threw the money at the feet of the religious leaders declaring he had betrayed innocent blood. They used it to buy a cemetery.

Our world today is divided. We have those who totally devalue human life.  They buy and sell people like they are cattle-often for less than 30 pieces of silver. We put down people-their jobs, the contributions-all to make ourselves look more valued.  On the other end of the spectrum are those who tell people they can have their best life now; can have all the nice things in life; they deserve the best-all because they over-value the temporary and put more value on a man’s “place” than his soul.

My value is not in what I have. It’s not even in what you or others think of me. My value is found in Jesus. It’s what he thinks of me that is important. One word comes to mind: INVALUABLE.

“Father, may I see my true worth is found in You. It’s not dependent on my status, stature, or what others think. It is dependent on what You think.”