Humility

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September 24

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

It is good to be self-confident. It is good to have self-confidence. It is not good to be too self-confident. It is not good to have too much self-confidence. Seriously, it isn’t bad to have self-confidence. We have to believe we can do something or we won’t. I was speaking with one of our teenagers the other day. She has developed into a pretty good golfer and as a senior will graduate with a high GPA (Valedictorian I think…or close to it) and is one of the finalists for what is called the Lilly Scholarship. (We actually have two young ladies who are finalists). This young lady was playing in the Regional golf tournament this week (Monday) and said, “I hope I do well, but I’m not sure.” I stopped her right there and pointed to her head and said, “Whoa! It’s all right there.” {Note: she had one bad hole and came in fourth}.

I was thinking of self-confidence when I read I Cor. 10:12- “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”  As a young pastor, and like many who are young, there was an air of invincibility surrounding me. “I will never do that” was said more than I care to admit. Can you hear the splat or the kerplunk as I do a face plant? I forgot the basic truth of this verse. I repeat what I said at the beginning: It is good to be self-confident; it is not good to be too self-confident. It is called arrogance, pride. It is also called “look out below!”

“Father, you have had to teach me humility big time, especially when I had the audacity to think I was invincible. Help me, in my old age, not to forget.”

{Note: Jo and I left for Ohio yesterday  to visit Janna and watch our grandson play football, even though we will have to watch outside the fence.  They are only allowing 2 people for each player inside the stadium. So I’m not sure I will post here tomorrow. I am not planning on taking my computer.}

September 14

Monday, September 14th, 2020

Taking credit. You see it in sports. Someone is full of him/herself and takes credit for the performance. You see it in business. “I did this” or “I did that.” That person tends to forget what I will call the “trenchers.”  They are the ones who work daily in the trenches-brainstorming, conceiving and executing ideas-the plan. You see it in movies, TV, or other “up front” activities. The actor get the accolades; the double or the bit actor or the one behind the scene is left behind. You see it in the pulpit. A pastor copies plagiarizes preaches a sermon almost word for word of someone else but doesn’t give credit where credit is due.

Giving credit.  Turning the tables.  Acknowledging those unseen players. The wife who hates the limelight and quietly supports her husband. (Can you say Jo?) The bit player whose idea spawned a movement. The teacher who week after week teaches in relative obscurity and is content to be in the background.

I could give example after example but I’m sure you get the point. Giving credit to others is not the product of over-inflated egos but of a humble heart.  Demeaning others in order to exalt oneself is not love; it is not Christ-like at all. I’m of the opinion (for what it’s worth) that God is not interested at all in our status, our position, our clout, or our standing in life. What I do believe is that He is interested in our willingness to be used by Him and to acknowledge His part in our lives. As someone has said, “May they forget the channel, seeing only Him.” (Kate Barclay Wilkinson)

“Father, may I simply be a promoter of You. Help me not to be one who takes credit, but one who gives credit where credit is due. May people forget me and see only You.”

September 11

Friday, September 11th, 2020

It is hard to believe 19 years ago today, 9/11/01, our country was the victim of a terrorist attacks. Two planes at the Twin Towers; one plane at the Pentagon; and one plane aiming for the White House that found itself crash landing in a field in PA.  I do not have the mind of a terrorist (thankfully) so I cannot conceive of that much hate dominating my thinking so completely that I have a careless disregard for over 3000 lives. All in the name of “religion.” Religion of peace my foot! It is a religion dominated by hate and fear which manifests itself in the careless disregard for life (even of their own). Sadly they will not find 7 vestal virgins awaiting them. Maybe the flames of hell but not peace and tranquility.  They are dominated by hate, fear and arrogance.  With that in mind, I write this devotion.

IMHO one of the greatest battles a Christ-follower faces is the battle with pride. It is so easy to get full of ourselves. So  full, in fact, that we are almost unbearable to be around. The Bible speaks to that in I Cor. 13 when it says, “Love does not boast.”

I read a wonderful story recently. It is from the book called Mauve…How One Man Invented a Color that Changed the World.  In the mid-19th century the color-dyeing of materials was a painstaking and expensive process.

All that changed in 1856 when William Perkin, an 18 y/o chemist, was working on a treatment for malaria in his little home lab, and “accidentally” made a dark oily sludge (instead of artificial quinine). But it turned out this sludge could turn silk into a beautiful light purple-mauve.

It soon became the most sought-after shade in the fashion houses of London and Paris, and earned Perkin both a fortune and knighthood.

Sir William Perkin was a Christian. When on his deathbed someone said, “Sir William, you will soon hear the ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ ” He began to recite Isaac Watts’ hymn “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross {Note: a personal favorite of mine}. At the one stanza it says, “And pour contempt on all my pride.”  After quoting that line Sir William commented quietly, “Proud? Who could be proud?”

Who could be proud indeed. This man who had every right to be proud and to cling to his earthly accomplishments refused to be choked by it. Humility was and is so much more Christ-like. “Nothing more to Him I bring, simply to the cross I cling.” That should be my sentiments. That should be the sentiments of every Christ-follower.

“Father, I have no reason to be proud. Strip me of my pride. Help me to follow the example of Sir William who followed the example of the Savior.”

September 4

Friday, September 4th, 2020

“Oh, it was nothing, really.” Have you ever heard someone use those words? They usually follow one person paying another person a compliment.  Trying to deflect praise, or trying (or not) to act humble, they might say those words. I think it is somewhat ironic that someone will use those words: “Oh, it was nothing, really” then go on and give an example of something else they had done.

But what if what they had done really was nothing? As in, NOTHING. Let me explain. In a passage familiar to most people, Paul uses these words: “And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.”  (Emphasis mine)

Those verses are pretty plain. Whether you want to say the prophecy idea mentioned here is either fore-telling or forth-telling (my preferred), the meaning is clear. If you do either without love you are NOTHING. The other part of that verse is just as convicting. If I have mountain-moving faith, but no love, I am NOTHING. That’s right. If I have this super-strong faith that does the impossible, that can move mountains, but don’t have love, I am zip. Nada. That’s not saying I don’t matter, but it is saying my gift is worthless. Any gift given is for the benefit of others. But if I use that gift either for self-promotion or show or to impress, then it is being misused.

“Father, no matter my gift, let me use that gift for others- taking no credit, no accolades-but deflecting praise to You. And help me do it with love.”

August 24

Monday, August 24th, 2020

I read these words this morning: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another.” Gal. 5:13-15 (Emphasis mine).

Such interesting thoughts. Paul tells us we have been called to liberty. Freedom in Christ. I am “free” to do what I want. But there is one caveat that goes along with that-and Paul mentions it: I am not free to indulge the flesh. Instead, I am to serve others. Freedom in Christ was never to be used for self-indulgence. It was never to be used to meet Bill’s agenda. As someone has wisely said: “Your freedom stops at the end of my nose.” (or mine stops at the end of yours).

I get that. And I get Paul’s next words that we are to serve another. As are you. But what really got me were the words he used next: “If you bite and devour one another.” Such a vivid word picture! I get the picture of a wolf pack attacking its prey, or worse, if they were to turn on each other. What an ugly picture of the body of Christ turning on each other.  Gossip. Slander. Shouting. Accusations slung. Heated arguments. Violent words spoken. None of which fulfills what Paul just said-serve one another. In this day of accusations, hot-heads, and vulgar rantings, be a voice of quiet and reason. 

Let’s not turn on each other, especially as the body of Christ.

“Father, let me enjoy my freedom, but not at the expense of someone else. Let me be a voice of quiet reason and loving words.”

August 20

Thursday, August 20th, 2020

Have you ever read or heard the story of someone and wondered “could I do that?”  For example, you read the story of someone wrongfully accused of a crime and spends years in prison, only many years later is found to be innocent. When that person is released he/she holds no grudge, no desire for vengeance, no animosity, and no anger. Then you read/hear that person has come to Christ while in prison and then you know the reason. But it doesn’t stop the “could I do that?” from going through your head.

Or how about this? You read the biography of someone who has an incredible life story. You are moved deeply by it and again wonder. For example, Joni, who has been a quad since a diving accident in her teens. It has now been over 50 years and along the way there has been two bouts with breast cancer as well. She holds no bitterness toward God.

Or how about George Mueller? He ran an orphanage for over 300 children. Often times his faith was tested. The story I read this morning was just such a story. He gathered his 300 children for breakfast…but there was no food for breakfast. So they prayed and thanked God for the food. What food? Oh, the bread a baker made when he could not sleep and delivered. And let’s not forget the milkman standing outside the door with milk from his broken down cart. He didn’t want it to spoil.

Talk about faith! Sometimes I’m just downright ashamed of my lack of it. Just the other night I laid awake a good part of the night wondering how I was going to pay for a dental procedure that is going to cost me close to $4k. Oh, me of little faith! I read the story of Mueller and I’m encouraged because His God is my God. The same one who owns the cattle on his hill owns them on mine. I still don’t know how that procedure will get paid for but it will. It’s not a want; its a need, a have-to. Maybe He’ll sell one of my cattle. 🙂

In I Cor. 10 (and I know I’m taking this out of context) it says, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” Perhaps that story of George Mueller was written down and read by me this morning just for me. For this time.

“Father, no lesson is ever wasted. No challenge is ever lost. Help me not to lose sight of that truth. Help me to keep my eyes open to lessons from You.”

August 19

Wednesday, August 19th, 2020

After yesterday’s post, I felt I needed to say something more. In all this talk about social justice, it is easy to forget what really is the task of the church-which is, in fact, tied to social justice.

We spent time last week with our grandson. Man, I love that dude and would gladly give my life for him. I’ve lived 67 very good years; he only 13 (soon to be 14). His mom and dad have split up and no reconciliation is in sight. At all. I/we have watched him grow from birth to be one of the lights in our world.  Our time with him is all too short, and I realize someday he probably won’t want to spend time with us. There are times I want to be closer but that is not to be. And I’m okay with that because I am in God’s will right now.

Children were loved but not really valued in Jesus’ day. He changed all that. When others were pushing them away, Jesus was saying, “Bring the children to Me.” He welcomed the lame, the blind, the deaf, the outcast, the demon-possessed, the diseased, and the poor with no qualms whatsoever. Who the person was or what his “deal” was, Jesus never shrunk away. He reached out. In that way, Jesus left us an example on how to treat others. In that way, He showed us what social justice was: doing for the “least of these.”

But notice what was missing? Protesting. Loud rhetoric. Inciting hate. Getting His message out for His cause. He wasn’t a warrior, least not as we think of one. He was an example of how it is to be done. All kinds of people fell under the loving eyes and touch of Jesus.

I find it interesting when reading about Paul’s life that I was directed to read Galatians. In Gal.2 Paul writes about seeing James, Peter and John where he and Barnabas were offered the right hand of fellowship.  They were sent out to minister to the Gentiles with one word of advice: “They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I was also eager to do.” (2:10) Hmmmm, social justice in action. The mission of the church to get the Good News of Jesus out. Our work with people is simply an outgrowth of that mission. It is not to be the only thing we do.  Social justice must never take the place of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not just helping someone; it also to be used as a springboard to present Jesus.

“Father, help me not to forget others, especially those in need. And help me not to forget why I do what I do.”

July 31

Friday, July 31st, 2020

As I write this, our country is on fire. Well, let me rephrase that: many of our major cities are on fire. Portland. Seattle. New York. Chicago. Others. I’ll not get into what political party the mayor of those cities is from. Or the governors. I want to take us to California where the governor has issued a mandate that no church can meet. Nada. In spite of masks, social distancing, etc.  The governor deems church non-essential.

However, there are some defying that order. One, Grace Community Church (GCC), is the home of Pastor John MacArthur and over 3000 souls. Last week, they respectfully submitted a letter to their people and also to the government officials why they were meeting, in spite of the mandate. It came down as Christ, not Caesar, is the Head of the Church. I agree with their decision. There is a concerted move in this country to stop, stifle and stymie churches from meeting, to push them aside. In Nevada, for example, casinos can open but churches can’t? So the elders of GCC made a bold statement: “Governor Newsom, you will not stop us from meeting.” I suspect in the days to come they will not be alone.  I saw an interview with Pastor John where he told how he preached to an empty auditorium for the first few weeks of the pandemic and then each week more and more folks came back until there were over 3000 there last week-no masks, hugging and shaking hands with each other.

This kind of civil disobedience is nothing new. Today I read in Acts 5 where Peter and John did just that. Told not to speak they did. Ordered not to speak they were at Solomon’s Porch (the part of the Temple that surrounded the Court of the Gentiles) speaking boldly. They were arrested and the religious leaders said, “We strictly charged you not to preach…” Strictly commanded. Did you catch those two words? Peter and John’s words? “We must obey God rather than men.” They were basically telling them, “You can tell us to shut up but we take our orders from a higher authority.”

Decently. Orderly. Respectfully. Their allegiance to God was plain to see. Just like GCC and others I am sure are soon to follow. Disrespect. Disorderly conduct. Out-of-control speech and actions. Those are not godly actions. Hmmm. Sound familiar?

“Father, it is far more important to listen to and be faithful to You. But help it to be done decently, orderly, and respectfully. There is no call for the opposite.”

July 28

Tuesday, July 28th, 2020

Have you ever been watching a movie or a TV show and thought “If I was writing this, I would do this or that?”  I’ve thought that, particularly when I have seen someone mistreated and the other person getting away with it. What kicks in is the “old justice routine.” I’m not about to let someone get away with something…not on my watch! I want to write the scenario that someone pays for their wrong.

I want justice. Now when I say that I’m not referring to the so-called justice our country just experienced with the BLM fiasco, the so-called justice (translated: lawlessness) over the George Floyd flap. Yes, wrong was done. But civility says let the court do its thing. Justice will be meted out the way its supposed to.

When someone does something against us it is a natural thing to seek vengeance. That’s why following Jesus is so unnatural. “Vengeance in mine. I will repay says the Lord.” That is why forgiveness is so important to and for a follower of Christ. To forgive means I give up the right to hurt back. Tell me that doesn’t go against everything in us and I’d have to show you the door. It’s not easy to lay aside the hurt and the desire for vengeance, but as a Christ-follower it is a must.

“Father, help me to lay aside my hurt and my desire for vengeance. Help me to see that I will never become what you want me to become until I do.”

July 15

Wednesday, July 15th, 2020

One of the characteristics of society today-truly of every culture-is selfishness. “Me first.” “It’s all about me.” “I’m worth it.” “As a matter of fact, I do own the road.” “I don’t care what you think. I’m going to do it my way.” Frank Sinatra even had a song where he bragged, “I did it my way.”

That selfishness oozes over into just about every aspect of our lives. In reference to possessions we call it hoarding. In reference to finances we call it “saving for a rainy day.” Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with saving. In fact, it is wise and biblical. But. to be miserly, to hoard, to close our eyes to those in need…now that’s wrong! That is being selfish.

I like being generous. I like giving things to people-books, taking people out to eat, etc. I don’t have much. I know when/if the time comes, Jo and I will be on the short end of the stick. Financially, that is.  But when it comes to generosity, we will be able to know we were. We will have to trust God to “reward” our generosity. I read a saying:

“Do your givin’ while you’re livin’, then you’re knowin’ where it’s goin’.”

I’ll never be able to say to myself, “Self, build bigger barns to contain all you have.” What I will be able to do is to know I have treasures laid up in heaven where rust and moth do not destroy and where thieves cannot break in and steal.  (Matthew 6: 19-20)

“Father, help me to be a generous person. Help me to never hoard or gather around me for the purpose of keeping to myself. Help me to follow the example of Jesus.”