Humility

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March 27

Friday, March 27th, 2020

It is not uncommon to hear a husband or wife, a parent, or someone else lament the fact that the other person won’t change. I have heard both husbands and wives say, “I keep praying that he/she will change.” Now obviously, I’m not against change, especially when it’s a spiritual change.  Let’s look at it another way though.

I remember a little boy who was having one of those days. He was on his mom’s last nerve until she had had enough. “Go to your room.” A short time later he came out and said, “Mom, I’ve been thinking about what you said about my behavior and I said a little prayer.” Expecting an apology or at least an admission of guilt or sorrow she said, “And what is that prayer? Did you ask God to help make you good?”  The little boy didn’t miss a beat. “Nope. I didn’t ask Him to make me good. I asked Him to help you put up with me.”  (Please understand that is not a true story because I never got sent to my room). 🙂

Sometimes when God wants change it is not the other person who needs changed; it is us. God desires our hearts to change. For that to happen we have to heed the Scripture. In Psalm 51 we have David’s confession following the exposure and conviction of his adultery. He did not blame Bathsheba or his circumstances. He took the blame and prayed for his heart to be cleansed (v.10) and for joy to be returned (v.12).

It’s time to pray for change…in myself. Let’s start looking into our own hearts and putting God’s searchlight upon us.  “Father, may I change as you want me to change. Help me to look into my own heart and not expect others to change, but be the one who changes inside.”

 

March 13

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Sometimes I just don’t like the Bible. Sometimes I just don’t like the Holy Spirit. Now…hang on! Don’t leave me just yet thinking “I can’t listen to that heresy or heretic anymore.” I have an explanation.

This past week I sinned.  A surprise I know. 🙂  But it’s true. I passed along to someone something I’d heard. It’s called gossip if you want to put a handle on it. I had been told something that I had not verified and I told someone else.  And I passed it along as though it were fact.

And here is why I said what I did at the beginning of this devotion: CONVICTION.  The conviction of the Holy Spirit. The conviction of God’s Word. Neither would leave me alone.  Even after I found out it was partially/mostly true,  I knew what I did was wrong. And it put the other person on the spot. Yesterday I did the only thing I could do (at least in my heart): I called and apologized for gossiping and putting him on the spot. No accolades please of “good for you.” I would not have had to even do that nor would it have been an issue if I had kept my blasted mouth shut to start with.

What prompted this devotion? How about when I read this verse this morning: “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” (Pr.13:3) Need I say more?

“Father, help me to keep my mouth shut when it doesn’t need to be opened. Help me to guard my mouth and lips.”

February 17

Monday, February 17th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Essential vs Nit-Picking.

There is an old adage that I learned in college and has been reinforced in me lately: “In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; but in all things, love.”

I read recently of two struggling churches in a small town who decided a merger was needed. They talked but it never happened. Why? They could not agree over a phrase in the Model Prayer. One wanted “Forgive us our debts” while the other wanted “Forgive us our trespasses.” Seriously? The local paper reported one church returned to their debts and the other went back to their trespasses.

I once read awhile ago about two churches in a small town on opposite street corners. One had the name “The Original Church of God” and the other had the name “The Original Church of God #2.” Again. Seriously?

There are certain essentials we must all agree on. God: Almighty; Creator of all; Omnipotent; Omniscient; Omnipresent.  Jesus: God’s only Son; Born of a virgin; Fully God/Fully man from birth. Savior of the world who died on a cross and rose physically from the grave. The Holy Spirit: third member of the Trinity; Christ in me, the hope of glory; purpose is to draw attention to Jesus not Himself. We are all sinners and need salvation. We are saved by grace through faith.  Jesus is returning someday. That is a scaled-down version.  Those are essentials.

Opinions are those things which are not related to salvation. Clothing. Music. Tattoos. Many others. Those things the Bible does not speak for or against directly. People pick fights over the silliest and often the stupidest things. Things that don’t and won’t amount to a hill of beans in the grand scheme of things. “In opinions, liberty.”

But to split and leave a church or a friendship or to split over an opinion? To pout and whine and rally the troops over an opinion? “In all things, love.”

It is one thing to hold to the truths and major issues set forth in Scripture. It’s another thing to pick fights over every jot and tittle or personal preference. Maybe its time we look deeper inside our heart and see if we are one of those who majors in minors and minors in majors. Maybe it is time for us to revisit the words in Ephesians 4:1-3: “I therefore, a prisoner of the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

“Father, help me not to be one who nit-picks. Help me to know what is true in Your Word-an essential. Help me to allow for different opinions. And in that, to always show love.”

January 29

Wednesday, January 29th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Acceptance vs. Rejection.

Just to get this out of the way early: I am 67 years old (b. 10/1952) and am not ashamed of that. Do I wish I was younger? Sure. Do I wish I could talk to my younger self and give him advice? Most definitely. Do I begrudge getting older? Yeah…sort of. Do I see myself as done, part of the over-the-hill-find-a-chair-to-sit-in gang? No.

Several things have brought my thoughts to this topic today besides the obvious physical discomfort (knees, back, neck, etc) brought on by “arthur’s residency.”

  • I read an article yesterday on church trends for 2020 and one point was about active, growing and alive churches are being led by younger men (<50 y/o).  Many churches fail to grow and stay active because the aging senior pastor fails to recognize his ineffectiveness. So I asked, “Is that me?”
  • I started reading a book of daily thoughts entitled A Good Old Age by Derek Prime. It’s an A to Z of loving and following the Lord Jesus in later years. (In fairness I started this last year but failed to finish it so I thought I would start over again and read one a day).

I struggle with aging-not because I dread old age or because I need to retire but can’t- but because I feel I still have much to give.  I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant. I’m certainly not a “I know all things because I have been a pastor for over 45 years” kind of guy. Sure, I’ve been around the block a time or two; made my extra share of mistakes; caused heartache; opened my mouth and inserted foot more than I want to admit; and made life h*** for some.  But I also know I’ve helped many; loved many; been a good husband and father and now a grandfather; been faithful to the Word in my preaching; loyal to my friends; tried to take care of myself physically (I think all surgeries have been cycling related) 🙂 ; and followed Jesus. I also know I still have energy and still feel I have much to offer the church.

I’m also aware the clock is ticking. No one lives forever (unless you count heaven/hell). But Derek reminded me of three truths I need to remind myself:

  1. The amazing forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus.
  2. The glorious truth of God’s Fatherhood and His promises to His children.
  3. The wonderful hope of heaven.

Great reminders! For. all. ages!!! Sure, as one ages he becomes more aware of his mortality, but those are good for everyone of every age to remember. If we do, we won’t have to tell our younger self anything.

“Father, You have made me, me. You have granted me 67 years on this earth so far. How many are left only You know. And I’m content with that. But it is not time to roll over and give up. Challenge me to keep growing. Keep reminding me of those three truths.”

January 28

Tuesday, January 28th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Kind vs Malicious.

I was corrected yesterday. Confronted with a concern. One I was unaware of. But I was a better man when it was over. What it was about is not important to you or this devotion. HOW it was done is everything.

You see, we all know there are different ways to approach people who need talked to or even corrected/confronted. There are those who are like a bull in a china ship. They come in all holier-than-thou with both guns blazing. They don’t care who they blow up or how many holes they put in a body. They’ve said their piece and that’s all that matters. Certainly not the feelings of the person they have just blown away. I’ve even seen it where a person comes in, blows someone away, and then turns and leaves before any response can be given.

Then there is the one who lovingly confronts. You can tell it is an uncomfortable situation. There is no pride or arrogance in that person. There is almost a hesitation in doing what needs done.

I’ve been the recipient of both in my years as a pastor. The one I was privy to yesterday was the latter. I knew it was not easy for this person to say something to me. In fact, it was totally out of character. But I respect the man even more for his willingness to do the “dirty deed.” It wasn’t something huge but given time it could have become more.

Proverbs speaks of “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” This man is a friend. A friend who kindly and without malice or a maliciousness bone in his body confronted me.

“Father, thank you for my friend. Thank you for the gentle rebuke that came my way. May I-may we all-be kind if we need to confront and be open and sensitive to You if we need to be confronted.”

January 27

Monday, January 27th, 2020

My title for this devotion is Closed vs Open Book.

Proverbs 27:19 says, “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.”

Jesus once said, “It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.” (Mt.15:11) A few verses later He said, “But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. These are what defile a person.” (18-20a).

It’s not easy being an open book. Even though these verses show us that virtually we are, we do our best to cover up, we do our best to close up shop.

Transparency is not an easy thing to do or be. I tend to be a bit more open than I should sometimes because that is my personality. But, all in all, we try to guard as much as we can from seeing the light of day and the light of peoples’ eyes. Why? Because being transparent makes us vulnerable. It sort of lays us open before people. It says, “Here I am people!” It’s almost like the old saying, “What you see is what you get.” While that originally was often an “excuse” for “Here I am. If you don’t like it…tough!” it can be used as words for transparency. Chuck Swindoll once wrote,

Vulnerability means being willing to express personal needs, admitting one’s limitation or failures, having a teachable spirit, and especially being reluctant to appear the expert, the one with all the answers, the final voice of authority. (“Good Morning, Lord”…p.26)

I must choose to be transparent, to be vulnerable (for the right reasons). In reality, it’s being honest with who I am, with whom God sees. Besides, who am I trying to kid?  My mouth lets people know anyway.

“Father, to you I’m an open book. You see into the deep recesses of my heart. Help me to be ‘real’ to people, not a fake. Let them see me as being honest and truthful, not hiding things away.”

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.”