Humility

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March 23

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2021

Who said it is up in the air. It could have been President Reagan. It could have been Coach John Wooden. When you see the quote you’d probably chuckle because both of them would probably say, “Does it really matter who said it?” 🙂

The quote:

There is no end of the good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.

See what I mean about not really caring? And yes, there have been variations of that quote make its rounds.

I’ve noticed two things about most-not all-but most people. We are 1) quick to lay blame, and 2) quick to take credit. That could be worded a bit differently: We are slow to take blame and quick to take credit.  Big people give credit; little people lay blame.

Sometimes its hard to admit the need for help.  Maybe its pride.  Maybe its an “I can handle this” mentality. Maybe its the inability to look ahead. When I was a young pastor, my schedule was full. Too full as I now see it. Mornings in the office. Visitation in the afternoon and many evenings. Not any more. Age plays a part in that.  Wisdom plays a part in that. Even humility-if I can say that and not be seen as arrogant-plays a part. Admitting I can’t do it alone.

Truthfully, I can’t do it alone. But therein is the rub. If I say I can’t do it, am I willing to get help and maybe watch someone’s “star” rise? If not, then I need to continue wallowing in my inability to have more of an impact. Check out Numbers 11: 16-29 for Moses’ reaction. And do you remember when Jethro, his father-in-law, came to him and suggested he get help and divide up the workload?

Moses had to not care who got the credit. Now…am I? Are you?

“Father, help me to delight in the joy of others using their gifts to spread the impact of changing lives.”

March 15

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get hard? Three Dog Night had a song in the late 60s (1969) titled Easy to be Hard with the lyrics “Easy to be hard/Easy to be cold.” (From the musical Hair). 

It is easy to get hard toward people. Maybe you’ve worked with them and thought you had a pretty good relationship when suddenly they give you the cold shoulder. It is easy to think, “Well, if that’s the way they want to be.” Several years ago I had developed what I thought was a good friendship. We talked a lot.  Our families spent time together. We ate out together. He and I went to a Saturday morning Bible study together. Then Boom! He withdrew and wanted nothing to do with me. To this day I still don’t know what happened, although before I moved the relationship was restored.

It is more tragic when that happens with God. We are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit. but I know there are times I test those limits. I disappoint Him with my words and actions. The relationship which was so dear and so vital is now cool, even cold. My heart grows hard to the things of the Spirit. I have trouble hearing His quiet whisper, or even His loud shouts for that matter! It is easy to be hard, easy to be cold as the song said.

Don’t let that happen. Stay sensitive to the Spirit. If sin is there, confess it and get rid of it. If something else has crept in to take His place, renounce it! Ask Him to restore your heart to the love you once knew.

“Father,  You don’t move. It is me who gets cold and hard. Forgive me when that happens.  Help me to once again be sensitive to the voice of Your Spirit.”

Here is a song to get you to think some more about what I have written.

February 26

Friday, February 26th, 2021

As a young boy growing up, then as a young man, I was taught-not so much by words but by actions-that real men didn’t cry. I only remember seeing my dad cry once.  It was after I was married and we had our first child. My dad had a heart attack-a bad one-and Jo, Tami and I drove over 4 hours from where we lived in Ohio to see him in the hospital. The attack was a bad one. He was to be in the ICU for 2 weeks; a step down for 2 weeks; then a regular bed for 2 weeks. Keep in mind this was 1975. Things are much different today than they were back in the Dark Ages. My dad was 47. He was miraculously healed because we visited him in a normal room and he was discharged within 2 weeks, not the 6 they said.  We visited him one afternoon, spent the night at their house, then visited again the next morning before heading back to Ohio. When we left to go home, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Some might say it was the chemical change brought on by the heart attack.  Maybe so. But I saw my dad cry for the very first time!

A sign of weakness or so I’d been taught. As I was to learn, crying was not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. A sign of confidence. A sign of humility. A sign of sorrow.

Of all people who wept, none were more manly, yet more confident and in control than Jesus. Several instances stand out:

  • In Matthew 23 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” (NLT) He wept as He entered Jerusalem.
  • At the tomb of Lazarus we find the most familiar verse to those who hate memorizing anything, particularly Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
  • In Ezekiel 6:9 we find God grieving over His children.  “They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts.” The NIV says, “How I am grieved.” That is one strong emotional verse about God’s feelings!!

I have wept more than once. Many times. When I have experienced a loss. When I have said goodbye to a friend because of a move. When I’ve hurt my wife or girls. And most assuredly when I’ve been made aware of my sin and been driven to my knees in repentance and forgiveness.

“Father, tears are a language You understand. May genuine tears of love, repentance, remorse, and forgiveness flow freely from my eyes and heart as I yield to You.”

February 24

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP).  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words from the doctor, I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay.  (Here is that song link).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”

February 22

Monday, February 22nd, 2021

You have probably heard the saying, “You learn something new every day.” And that’s a good thing. Well…I can say that this morning. It’s probably not that I haven’t heard or read this before, but this morning something struck home. The lesson comes from Journey to the Cross by Paul David Tripp.

But first…you must stop and read Psalm 51 in its entirety. Not just one or two or five verses but all 19 of them. Go ahead. It won’t take you that long.

The story behind the psalm is familiar. David has a tryst with Bathsheba and gets her pregnant. When he found out he has her husband, Uriah, murdered. Adulterer. Murderer. Psalm 51 is his prayer of repentance. All that information I/we know. But what I learned anew this morning is David used 3 words to describe his sin. And this is worth its weight in gold.

  1. Transgression. A transgression is a willful stepping over of God’s boundaries. It is seeing the NO TRESPASSING sign and climbing the fence anyway because there is something you want to get to on the other side.
  2. Iniquity. This word means moral uncleanness. There is something more in me than even the spirit of rebellion (see #1). This is like water which is no longer pure.
  3. Sin. Falling short of God’s wise and righteous standard. It’s like the pole vaulters or high jumpers who-try as they will-cannot clear the bar. And just as the vaulter or jumper seeks answers/help, embedded in sin is a cry for help.

David’s prayer is sincere because he recognized his rebellion against God’s boundary (fence); that deep within him was the uncleanness/impurity; and no matter how hard he tried he would fall short. Psalm 51 is a cry for help and forgiveness.

That’s my story. Is it yours? I talked with someone the other day who relayed a story that he has a relative who doesn’t know of any sin that he struggles with.  He needs a heart check because I can think of one just by his statement: pride. 

But that’s not me.  I’m guilty.

“Father, David’s prayer is mine. Guilty on all three counts. But I pray with David that you will renew a right spirit within me and give me a new heart.”

February 18

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I’m thinking this morning of what I will call “attention grabbers.” We can call them by another name: “horn tooters.” You know the kind. They do all they can-“humbly” of course- to gain attention.

There are several thoughts that my mind wants to pursue today as I think about this. I’ll just give you my “seed thoughts” and then maybe you can pursue them on our own.

  1. The very first verse which comes to mind is Galatians 6:14- “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT) I really have nothing of which to boast. As I make much of God, I make less of me. That sounds like shades of John 3:30.
  2. “Pride goes before a fall.” (Pr.16:18) Be careful of getting too big for your britches. Britches that sag are tripping hazards. (I still wonder how some of those dudes can walk with their britches sagging to the crotches).
  3. Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the humble not the proud. I read this morning about His encounter with the man born blind. Check out John 9:39 for a reference. Those who think they see are blind, while those who realize their blindness will see clearly.
  4. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” (Mt.6:3)  There is no value in tooting your own horn. A gift given is best kept secret.

It is good to lend a hand to another, to further the kingdom by our actions, but it is best done with no accolades. God sees and that is all that is needed. No bright light needs to be shined down. The only light which needs shined is the one on Jesus.

“Father, let Your light shine down on You not me. May I never boast, may I never take credit, except in the cross.”

February 15

Monday, February 15th, 2021

Have you ever been mad? Not crazy mad. But hot-under-the-collar mad. So mad you couldn’t see straight. So mad you wanted God to do something…like oh…call-down-fire-from-heaven-mad.  You probably know where I’m going with this. It was the time in the ministry of Jesus they were heading to Samaria and the Samaritans said, “No way are you coming into our town. You aren’t welcome here!”

That’s a fine how-do-you-do. It wasn’t really Jesus they had an issue with; it was all Jews. So what do James and John suggest? A nice pow wow? Nope, not on your life. “Jesus, is it okay if we call down fire from heaven on them?” I suggest they might have wanted to add: “You know, make ’em toast like Sodom and Gomorrah. That will teach them a lesson.”

Jesus wasn’t going to allow that, thereby setting an example for us of what to do when we are rejected. There is another, perhaps deeper meaning happening here also. Not always will people agree with us. It might even get testy. We then have a choice: stick to our guns and blast away or lay our weapons aside for the sake of peace and love one another. Sometimes being dogmatic is not the way to go. Our greater purpose is not to (always) be right but to love. When we are challenged, love. When we are hurt, love. When we are proven wrong, love.

Let’s keep our eyes off people and their motives, reactions, rightness or wrongness, and keep our eyes on Jesus. “And that is my prayer this morning Father. Today, help me to keep my eyes on You.”

February 2

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2021

One of the hardest things for me not to do (and I suspect tons of others), and one of the things that Jesus was really good at was not drawing attention to Himself. As I began 2021 I decided to read the NT over and over as many times as I could in a different translation (I chose the NLT, the New Living Translation, which is recommended by Pastor Chuck Swindoll and Pastor Greg Laurie. I figure if it good enough for them it is good enough for me. It is also a break from the ESV which I have almost exclusively used since about 2001).  Oh, I’m not speed-reading by any stretch. I usually average 2 chapters/day, but some days one, and some days (like weekends) not even one. 🙁  But I’m taking my time. Here it is February 2 and I’m in Luke 13-14. But one of the things I’ve noticed in my reading is how often Jesus deflects attention and tells someone to say nothing. ‘Course its not like they pay attention and I can certainly understand that! I mean, come on! Jesus had just given them sight; raised them to walk; cured them of leprosy; made them sane; cast out a demon; given them hearing, as well as a myriad of other miracles and I’m not supposed to tell anyone? Seriously?

Yes. Don’t tell anyone. How unlike me most often. The little fan inside wants the applause. I want the attention. I want the “atta boys” which come from doing something good for someone. Not all the time, mind you. But way too often. And I don’t think I’m alone. Of course you know that doesn’t make it right, but it sure makes it easier to justify! 🙂

Don’t tell anyone. That was Jesus’ plan for self-promotion. Say what? But Jesus, how will Your name get out there? How will people know who you are and where to go to hear and see You? Tell no one He said. Jesus did His best work in secret. Remember those all-night prayer meetings with His Father?

“Father, help me to leave behind the need for applause. Help to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, only in this case to defer any applause His way.”

January 27

Wednesday, January 27th, 2021

It occurred to me recently in a renewed way that an intimate relationship with God is a 2-way street. All I simply mean is that God desires an intimate relationship with us; we should desire an intimate relationship with Him.  In Philippians 3 Paul was giving a litany of his achievements: circumcised the 8th; a pure-blooded citizen of Israel; a member of the tribe of Benjamin; still spoke the Hebrew language; a member of the Pharisees, the most legalistic of the two groups of religious leaders; zealously protecting the faith by persecuting, imprisoning and killing Christians; and blameless according the Law. But what is important is that he counts it all as nothing (his word is dung)- worthless- because of what Christ has done. He eventually says words that stuck with me since I first read them with a listening heart: “I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised Him from the dead.” (Verse 10 from NLT).

I.   W.A.N.T.   T.O.   K.N.O.W.   C.H.R.I.S.T.

And contrary to the surface relationship many have settled for with Jesus, Paul’s words fly in the face of that. The word know in the Greek is actually the word which means to know deeply, intimately. Paul’s sole desire was to know and experience Jesus deep in his core. Far deeper than the Barney-type of love: “I love you, you love me.”

Here is what struck me as I said at the beginning: God also desires an intimate relationship with us. Let’s say we have a husband and wife and they are both clicking on the same page. Their love is deep and true. Intimate. Transparent. It is obvious they love each other. We also have a couple who are married in name only. They live in the same house but live two separate lives. Something is missing. Or how about the marriage where one is really hungering for an intimate (I’m not talking just physical) relationship but the other is passive? Which one would you want? I know the one I want!!

God desires an intimate relationship with me; I should desire an intimate relationship with Him. How about you? What do you want?

“Father, I want to know You, to desire You, to hunger for You. I know You desire that with me. Let’s make it a reality.”

 

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.”