Humility

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June 8

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other. 

June 5/Weekend

Friday, June 5th, 2020

I learned something new today. There is a saying: “It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.” There are some in the Christian world-in their faith- who take a dim view of learning new things. When a person has been a Christ-follower for many years, it is easy to get a “glaze over.” A crust develops which is hard to penetrate at times. So people who have been Christ-followers for any length of time almost have a “I-dare-you-to-teach-me-something-new” attitude. I once had a man who was just a few years older than me tell me I couldn’t teach him anything new because I was younger. It all started because I confronted him about his visits to the Playboy Club in another city and what he was expecting out of his wife. (She had come to see me). He saw nothing wrong with it and since he was the man she had to do what he demanded. I told him he was wrong. That was not being a servant husband or a loving husband. He then told me he would do what he wanted to do and there was nothing I could teach him. He was right. A closed mind is hard to penetrate. (Note: the marriage didn’t last much longer either).

I went off on that tangent to make a point: we are never done learning. Case in point: today’s Scripture. In Matthew 11:20-24 Jesus denounces the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida. Why? I think the key is in verses 21-22. Their sin wasn’t hostility. Or outright rejection. Or protesting. Or wanting to throw rocks. No. Their sin was indifference. The message came and they did absolutely nothing. Jesus did mighty works there and did nothing.  For the first time I actually know what this passage is about. I can’t say I have before now.

Can there be any sin more devastating to God’s work and God’s message than indifference-than not caring- on the part of His people? Let’s be pointed: looking at today’s world, how can you not care? How can we stand by and be indifferent? How can we stand by and do nothing?

“Father, help me not to be indifferent to the message of Jesus. Help me not to stand by and do nothing.”

June 1

Monday, June 1st, 2020

I’m in Ohio for the first part of this week so I will say right up front that I wrote this Saturday night. Sunday has not happened yet (obviously) 🙂   So as I write this I have no idea what tomorrow (Sunday) will bring. I am cautiously optimistic since that tends to be my nature.  But here is what I wrote Saturday night:

Costi Hinn is Bennie’s nephew. Several years ago he broke away from the health/wealth/prosperity (un)gospel Bennie preaches (and still does) to follow Jesus. In a recent blog he wrote, Costi wrote the following (referring to navigating the COVID-19 crisis and getting back to assembling together):

If there is one word to describe how we must navigate re-assimilation it’s this: grace.

I can see that. Even among the three of us (Ryan, Diana, and me) we have different ideas. I’m more eager to get back together and if I had my druthers go full bore. I agree with the man in my congregation who said, “Bill, I am so tired of hearing certain words: masks, social distancing, hand sanitizer (and others I can’t remember).” Even though Jim is in a highly volatile business (grocery store), I can’t argue.  Ryan is tired of the whole mess and has seen his plans for the summer go up in smoke and new ones will have to be developed. Diana is the cautious one of the three. Always has been. But we agree to disagree and move on. We worked on putting a plan in place we all agreed on and we will continue doing that.

  • I am the spur ahead, but sometimes careful, optimist.
  • Ryan is the contemplative direction (he likes spreadsheets) and thinking- things -through -logically guy.  🙂
  • Diana is the cautious realist. (She is female after all).

Blend all three together and you have our doable, well-researched, cautious reopening plan. We need all kinds of people and grace is needed.  I haven’t always liked the slow moving, but it is necessary to tone me down from time to time. If I was a betting man (which I’m not), I probably irritated the two of them somewhere along the way.  I despise the idea of wearing a mask and social distancing.  Our people spoke through the survey we sent out and so in deference to them I will do what needs to be done.  Oh yeah, and the governor of Indiana, whom I respect for the way he has tried to handle this mess.  🙂

Anyway, here’s what Costi says:

  1. Optimistic people are a blessing to my life.
  2. Cautious people are a blessing to my life.
  3. Different gifts and approaches make us all more effective.
  4. People matter more than my opinion.

So…what will it be? Grace or bull-headedness?

“Father, help me to choose grace, to choose love over my own desires and wisdom.”

May 27

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020

When I was a kid I used to love watching a lot of different cartoons. Mighty Mouse. Popeye. Hercules. Road Runner (I always felt sorry for the coyote). ‘Course that was the early days of Mickey Mouse, et al. Yosemite Sam. Deputy Dawg. I remember seeing one cartoon that had a lion whose favorite phrase was “I’m the king!” Then another character said, “Then I’ll crown you!” Then he would hit him over the head with something and a crown would appear as stars circled the lion’s head.

I know. Silly. Cartoons were supposed to  be. But it was also pointed. A point I missed then but can’t now. Have you ever noticed how some people want you to know- or is that want you to think?- they are important? They puff out their chest, turn up their nose and look down on you. Or they make sure you know their pedigree. Or they inform you of the price of what they are wearing. Frankly, I could care less. To say it another way: I’m not impressed. I’m really not. I’m nobody special and feel really comfortable around people who feel the same.  I’m a jeans and t-shirt kind of guy.

Someone has said, “Exceptional people are very capable people who are not yet full of themselves.” I’ve met them. At one time I suspect I was a blowhard. The truth is to be full of ourselves prevents us from seeing ourselves as we truly are. Many find themselves in “heady” positions. The key to real success in my eyes is not getting puffed up; it is not in a position or a title; it is being willing to see ourselves as a servant who washes the feet of another. Hmmm. Sounds like Someone else I know…the greatest person who ever lived.

“Father, help me not to become too full of myself. Let me follow in the footsteps of Jesus- don a towel and wash another’s feet.”

This song should help bring the point home as well as make your heart feel good.

April 29

Wednesday, April 29th, 2020

I recently finished reading the book The Gift of Struggle by Bobby Herrera. It is a book on leadership and how the struggles a leader has can actually be good for him/her. No leadership can be without struggles. That’s the nature of the beast. I don’t remember who said it but it is a wise saying: “The sure way to failure is trying to please everyone.” Just the very nature of leadership will lead to struggles; tugs-of-war; jealousy; competition within and bad-mouthing without; a desire to fudge the truth; and a whole lot more. Even failure. But leadership learns from struggles, even failures, and moves on.

No one likes to fail. Let me rephrase that. Speaking personally: I can’t stand to fail. I cringe knowing that something I proposed or believed in bit the dust. Not that everything I propose is good or fulfilling or right. But I don’t take pride in failing. I don’t have a plaque that says #1 Failure. And yet it happens. History is dotted with failures. Edison. Bell. McCormick. Einstein. Luther. Lincoln. Washington. The list is endless. And yet, we remember them for their place in history

The one thing I’ve learned along the way and Herrera’s book reinforced is Weakness is the stuff of true greatness. How much better it is to be brought low in humility-and to learn from it- than to be arrogant and proud and miss the lesson(s). One more thing: Someone already showed us the way to true greatness. What looked like a failure was actually His greatest triumph. Check out Romans 5:8-11

“Father, help me to see failure does happen but doesn’t have to bring defeat. Help me to rise up out of the ashes and learn from my struggles.”

April 14

Tuesday, April 14th, 2020

Continuing in the Sermon on the Mount this morning. We ended yesterday’s devotion talking about living our lives to the letter of the Law or living it free, i.e. doing our actions out of love. Continuing on to the next section, Jesus doesn’t totally shift gears but He does change motives. Why we do what we do.

He begins Matthew 6 with talking about practicing our righteousness before people. All for the purpose he says, “to be seen by others.” One of the characteristics of a Pharisee was doing what they were doing to be seen by others. Be nice to that homeless person? Watch me! Give that little extra in the offering plate? Watch me! Pray or sing in public worship? Watch me! It was all about see me, watch me, be impressed by me.

Jesus puts them in their place. Sound no trumpet. Don’t let your right hand know what your left one is doing. Pray in secret. Pray pointedly not with extra words. Don’t let people know you are fasting. That reminds me of the story I read years ago and have seen off and on down through the years. Some young ones were setting up a club house but couldn’t agree on who was to lead. They finally came up with some rules: 1. Nobody act big. 2. Nobody act small.  3. Everybody act medium. In other words, there are no big shots;  there are no little shots; we are all medium shots.

Jesus would concur. Maybe He would even say, “Everybody be a servant. Everybody be small.” I know one thing He would say: “Whatever  you do, do it for others. Not for applause. Not to be seen. But because you are Mine and you want people to see Me.”

“Father, may that be my prayer today. Help me to be all in for You and for people to see You in me.”

April 13

Monday, April 13th, 2020

I took last week off. No, I don’t mean from work. I don’t mean from my Quiet Time. I diverted my attention from where I had been reading about the life of Jesus to read about the last week of His life. It started with His ride into Jerusalem and culminated (not ended) with His resurrection. So this morning I was back where I left off. The Sermon on the Mount (SoM).

One of the most compelling passages in the teachings of Jesus and a standout in the SoM is the section that starts in 5:21 and goes until 5:48. I say compelling because it is here where Jesus lays out His approach. Let me explain. Each teaching begins with “You have heard” and follows up with “But I say to you.” Here you go:

  • 5:21- “You have heard you shall not murder…But I say to you…”
  • 5:27- “You have heard you shall not commit adultery…But I say to you…”
  • 5:31- “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces…But I say to you…”
  • 5:33- “You have heard you shall not swear falsely…But I say to you…”
  • 5:38- “You have heard an eye for an eye…But I say to you…”
  • 5:43- “You have heard to love your neighbor and hate your enemy…But I say to you…”

The point I see is Jesus was always taking it one step further. Whereas the Law taught “this;” Jesus taught “this.” His teaching was always counter to what had been taught in regards to limits. The Law required such-and-such but Jesus’  idea was to go beyond the letter of the Law and check the motive and the heart.

I believe He still expects the same today. We could live our lives in such a way that we keep the letter of the Law but miss the boat. We could possibly never see the love behind our actions, actions born out of a desire to follow  Him with His kind of heart. 

“Father, help me to see that life is more than keeping the Law. Love goes beyond the letter to the heart of it all.”

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.”