Humility

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February 15

Thursday, February 15th, 2024

“Lest we forget…”

I woke up this morning with that phrase running through my mind. “Lest we forget…” It’s not uncommon to hear that spoken at a commemoration service honoring men and women who have served our country. And we never should forget.

In I Corinthians 10 a phrase very similar to that is used not once, but twice. In 10:6 it says, “These things happened as a warning to us…” In verse 11 it says, “These things happened as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age.”

The gist? Lest we forget.

As a follower of Jesus, I must not forget the lessons learned or to be learned. I need to recall the lessons others learned and shared lest I fall into the same pit they fell into or possibly avoided. Nor should I forget the lessons I have learned from past experiences.

I say all this because of an incident people just won’t let go of. All the “rage” this week has been the Travis Kelce dust-up with his coach, Andy Reid. I didn’t watch the Super Bowl. I could care less if Travis was telling his coach about his latest escapade with his overly-hyped girlfriend. I don’t care if he was telling Coach Reid that he had heartburn from his pregame meal. I. SIMPLY. DON’T. CARE.  But since I wasn’t born yesterday nor is my head buried under a rock, I cannot escape hearing or reading about the pundits, especially other overly paid football players. I read an article where several of them said, “If that had been me I would have been…” Then one of them pulled out the race card (Isn’t that getting kind of old?). It is my understanding these players quickly forgot the grace shown to them by the NFL just a few years ago. One was convicted of choking his girlfriend in college and yet…wait for it…he is given a second chance and drafted because he can catch an odd-shaped ball.  Did he forget? Obviously.

My point is this: “Lest we forget.” As a Christ-follower we must never forget what we deserved versus what we received. The Israelites were given the examples in I Corinthians 10 (I encourage you to read the first 12 verses for reference and context) so they would not forget. They must not forget the damage and tragedy of sin and disobedience. But they also must not forget the goodness of God.

Good words for me to remember lest I forget.

February 14

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Have you ever noticed that there are typically two kinds of people dealing with Valentine’s Day? There are those to love it. They go all out-flowers, cards, eating out (or cooking a candlelight dinner…since when?). On the other hand are those who loathe the day. Love has left them high and dry. Disappointed. Broken.

Disregarding the love/loathe feelings, the idea behind the day-expressing love-is a good one (although it has become a tad bit too cheesy and commercial).

The very first date Jo and I went on was back in 1971, near the end of our freshman year in college. I borrowed a car and we were off to another town to see the movie everyone was raving about-Love Story-starring Ryan O’Neal and Ali McGraw. Without researching it I couldn’t tell you much about the movie except 3 things: 1) Ali was a beautiful woman; 2) I think she was dying; and 3) one of the stupidest statements about love came from that movie. That saying was “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

Say what? If that’s the case I’ve just wasted 50+ years of being married to the same woman! If I had a dollar for every time I have had to say, “I’m sorry” I could retire and live off the interest! I realize there are bullies and arrogant people who either blame others consistently or cannot look in the mirror and admit they make mistakes. But seriously? Never?

Love is an elusive definition. The Apostle Paul described love in perhaps the most recognized Scripture and description. He described love as being kind, patient, not jealous, not proud, not demanding, not a record-keeper, not a “rejoicer” in wrong but a “rejoicer” in truth. But even that falls short when you consider a cross on a hill when the perfect Lover gave His life for all people so sin can be defeated and death vanquished.

He never had to say, “I’m sorry.” But we who look at that cross should fall to our knees in tears and repentance with those two words flowing from our lips: “I’m sorry my sin put you there.”

After all, “No greater love has a man than this than a man lay down his life for his friends.” Happy real Valentine’s Day.

February 8

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

Something to think about: Someone has said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.”

There is most definitely some truth to that. Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility bring honor.” When speaking to the proud and spiritually, self-righteous, arrogant Pharisees, Jesus said, “The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Mt. 23:11-12).  And, of course, I think most of us are familiar with the words “Pride goes before a fall.”

Humility is not an easy virtue to see, nor is it an easy one to manifest. One can’t go around saying or thinking, “I’m humble” because that defeats the whole thing. 🙂 I read that the Hebrew word for humility literally means “being aware of and comfortable with your place.” I like that because it says, “Where I am, there I am. I’m content with my space and don’t want yours.”

In the book of Genesis we find the story of the tower of Babel. In 11:4 they say, “Come, let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous (emphasis mine). It made them famous alright, just not in the way they thought or wanted. They should have stayed content in their space.

Today’s challenge: Don’t think less of yourself. Think of yourself less. See how it turns out and let me know.

{Note: All Scripture verses are from the New Living Translation}

February 1

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

I read a heartwarming story of a college basketball star (no name given) who stayed behind after the game to help with the clean up of empty cups and food wrappers. A fan posted a video and more than 80 thousand people viewed it. One person commented, “[The young man] is one of the most humble guys you will ever meet in your life.” It would have been more expected of that young man to go out and celebrate rather than to do clean up work.

That young man learned two words which are rapidly becoming non-existent in our culture: humility and service. And they go hand in hand. While beating the chest and wagging hands and fingers as though asking for and collecting applause are what is seen (and expected from the player), humility and service paint a different picture. While “thug-ball” and “stop-em-in-the-ground ball” and “how-much-money-can-I-make” ball is all the rage, off to the side is the humble one quietly doing his/her job with an attitude of a servant.

Oops, I said that wrong. I’m not allowed to call myself or anyone else a servant these days. It is demeaning. It is a slap in the face. It is misogyny. My one word response? Hogwash. It is not demeaning to be a servant. In fact, I’ll venture so far as to say we need it more now than ever. We have gone so far…down I might add…when we consider being called a servant is demeaning or any of the other adjectives you can use.

Me? I want that. After all, the One I gladly serve and call Lord, the Greatest Man who has ever lived or ever will live (Jesus) once said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Call me a humble servant. Please. There is no greater compliment.

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Please don’t forget to check out my review of Granger Smith’s book Like a River at my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin.

January 17

Wednesday, January 17th, 2024

I used to have a haunting dream/thought. I felt like a failure. Not that I expressed it to anyone; it was something I kept to myself and, at times, brooded over. Since it was an internal musing and not expressed out loud, I’m not even sure Jo knew. In fact, I’m almost positive she did not.

Like many young men coming out of Bible college/seminary, I thought I had the world by the proverbial tail. I was going to accomplish great things. I would attend a conference and see and hear speakers/pastor/youth pastors of influence and dream that would be me someday. I would be the pastor of a big church, although I never saw myself as the pastor of a megachurch. I’m more designed by God to be a shepherd than a CEO. (I lost a job largely because of that mentality). But even though I knew certain characteristics of my personality probably held me back, I still had ambivalent emotions as I watched guys my age or younger “move up the ranks.” I know part of it was because I wouldn’t schmooze and play politics in the church world. Meanwhile, all my efforts to be a biblical, expositor preacher seemed to go unseen and unrewarded (in my mind at least). “Why not me?” reared its ugly head more than I care to admit. The twins, envy and jealousy, made their appearance, but fortunately didn’t stay very long because they were unwanted. While my friends we advancing, I was pastoring churches of 100-200, sometimes less. One was 35 which grew to 50 in 16 months but it about killed me spiritually.

Then one day, God got through to me. He didn’t make me nor want me in a big church. He didn’t care whether I broke the 200 or 300 barrier and did all that I was supposed to do to make that happen. Small churches need pastors too. Small churches need men who will love and lead them.  I broke. I realized God (almost) always does His work through ordinary people. I’ve stated it before: in God’s economy there are no little people (as the late Francis Schaeffer called them); there are just ordinary people God uses in extraordinary ways.

When I realized that, I found contentment in my work. I currently pastor a church that is less than 200. I have never been happier and more content that I have been for the past 18 years. No matter what you do-no matter how big or how small-be content and just be His. As martyred missionary Jim Elliott once said, “Wherever you are, be all there.” That includes that seemingly insignificant thing or job you do.

God is not interested in you being extraordinary. He simply wants to use the ordinary you in extraordinary ways.

January 16

Tuesday, January 16th, 2024

“I’m proud of my humility.”

“I’m humble and proud of it.”

“I can’t wait until tomorrow.” “Why?” “Because I get better looking every day.” (attributed to Joe Namath from many moons ago)

Those are just three of the statements we make about pride. We are, of course, saying them jokingly. Well…at least I think we are. 🙂

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a moment (if our pride will allow us). Pride is an issue most, if not all of us, struggle with in some way. There are those who are blatantly arrogant. They turn us off immediately. It’s sort of like “Do I strangle them now or later?” It’s all we can do to even be around them. If we are the arrogant one our eyes are closed to the way we turn people off. “It’s their fault,” we say. “I’m good at what I do so they are jealous.” No, they are sick of your arrogance.

There are also those who have a false humility. They shrug while refusing help when it is offered. Or there feign humility (but really want to hear more).

What brought me to this topic this morning? Reading Proverbs 16 this morning. “The Lord detest the proud; they will surely be punished.” (v.5) “Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness (arrogance) before a fall.” (v.18) “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” (v.23)  {All Scripture from the New Living Translation}

To counteract the ugliness of pride, there are some verses on humility also. But you can read the chapter and find them on your own. 🙂

That is not saying all pride is bad. Some is good. Doing a good job. Working hard. Playing your best. But even then we must be careful pride does not enter the picture by taking even that good pride too far. A phrase from my generation is still true: “Don’t let it go to your head.”

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For you who like to live on the “wild” side, Christian rockers, Stryper, did a song called Pride back in 2015. You can find it here (if you dare). 🙂 

January 9

Tuesday, January 9th, 2024

“Comparisons are odious”

I remember reading that years ago but I can’t remember where. It just stuck with me. I do know part of it was that “odious” was not a word I used in my vocabulary…like never. 🙂

In Bill-speak that saying would be “comparisons are stupid.” In Oxford-speak that word is defined as “extremely unpleasant, repulsive.”

We have a bad habit of comparing ourselves to others. “He is taller than me.” “He plays baseball or basketball better than me.” What teen girl hasn’t compared her looks, her hair, or her physical characteristics to another? Influencers (the bane of existence) are constantly telling us “How to…” Adults compare houses, cars, and even bank accounts.  There seems to be no end to our comparison.

It certainly happens in the church world. “He is a better preacher, teacher, singer, player, etc than me.” “He/she is wealthier than me so he gives more and what I give doesn’t matter.”

STOP!! HOLD THE PRESSES! SAY WHAT??? I have yet to see anywhere…ANYWHERE…that God’s Word makes that a criteria for serving Him. In fact, I read Luke 21 this morning and I love verses 1-4. It is the story of Jesus standing by and watching people give and a widow comes and gives her two mites (less than a penny in our currency). Pay particular attention to verses 3-4: “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.” (NLT)  Jesus put those “comparison-pickers” in their place. This widow gave all she had in comparison to the religious leaders who were mighty proud of themselves and thought they were all that and more. Looking down their noses at the “lesser givers” gave them a sense of being high and mighty. Jesus said, “Oh no. Not on my watch. This widow gave more.”

You see, it really doesn’t matter how much. It really does come down to your heart and the attitude in which you give. This widow gave all she had. Hang the comparison.

December 18

Monday, December 18th, 2023

Our world is filled with people who feel little. It could be because someone wanted to puff themselves up so their mode of operation was to put another down so that person felt “less than.” It could be a life circumstance led to a defeatist attitude. It could be a bully decided to exert his/her influence and beat the person down. And sadly, there are those whose personality is such that they are likely to put themselves down with words and thoughts like “I’m just a nobody.”

The late Francis Schaeffer once wrote a book called No Little People, No Little Places in which he attempted to defend that in God’s economy there are no little people, no insignificant people AND there is no place where a Christ-follower finds himself that is unimportant.

If there is anyone in the Christmas story that could fit that bill it was the shepherds. Among many other facts and quirks about them, one truth remains: they were considered the lowest of the low, the bottom feeders, maybe one tick above the leper. Their exposure to society was minimal due to their profession and all the baggage that went with it. We will call them outliers.

It should strike us then that the announcement of Jesus’ birth was not made in a palace, a Temple, or in front of the religious elite.  It was made on a hillside, in the dead of night, to a motley crew of unwanted men.  While it should strike us, it should not surprise us. Jesus once said, “I came to seek and to save the lost.” He also said that it wasn’t the well who needed the physician, but the sick.

Even at His birth, He showed that. No class distinction. No “I’m better than you.” No small people. I like it that way.

#RoleofaLifetime

Friday, December 15th, 2023

Victory

 Aspiring actors and actresses are everywhere. I went to high school with Jeff Goldblum. My senior picture is on the same page in our yearbook as his. I had no clue Jeff would leave our high school and head to New York for the stage and ultimately to a TV show named TenSpeed and Brownshoe, and then on to Jurassic Park, Independence Day, multiple other movies, and finally back to TV with Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

For every successful actor there are hundreds, maybe thousands who never make it. At best, they are two-bit players. Truthfully, some people are looked at that way. Many overlooked. Many seen as hacks. It happens all the time, in every profession. Sunday’s sermon will be dealing with two groups of people. One, is seen as little people. The others are seen as big people. Well…at least as the world looks at them that way. But in God’s eyes, there are no little people and there are no big people.

Shepherds and Wise men. The have’s and the have not’s.  The clean and the unclean.  The “welcome-to-my-world” versus those who are “not welcome anywhere.” The stories are familiar but I will be praying we all might learn something new this week. I look forward to seeing you in person at 9:00 and 10:45 or via live stream.

December 6

Wednesday, December 6th, 2023

When I was a young ‘un growing up, I will admit (now) that I looked forward to Christmas. I’d like to be spiritual and say that it was because of the focus on the birth of Christ, or I truly believed it was more blessed to give than to receive, but would not be telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I had no idea how cash-strapped my parents were; I just know it was a magical time of the year.

Part of that magic (before I knew better) was SC. No…not Scott Calvin. Santa Claus. The big guy. Part of Christmas Eve in the young Grandi household was watching an animated version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (15 minutes) followed by a 15 minute retelling of the birth of Jesus.  Later it was the Peanuts cartoon with Linus’ famous rendition of the Luke 2. I know…I’m really telling my age. 🙂

Anyway, SC was part of the magic. Stories abound in my head of scenes from my childhood of the ghost of Christmas past. SC is intriguing though. Little did I know, as a child, of the history and legacy of his coming to be. The person we know as Saint Nicholas (Saint Nick) was born around AD 270 to a wealthy Grecian family.  Tragically, his parents died when he was a boy, and he lived with an uncle to loved him and taught him to follow God. When he was a young man, legend says that he heard of 3 sisters who didn’t have a dowry for marriage and would soon be destitute. Wanting to follow Jesus’ teaching of helping those in need, he took his inheritance and gave each sister a bag of gold coins. Over the years he gave the rest of his money away feeding the poor and caring for others. Down through time he has been honored for his generosity and held up as a standard for giving.

Sadly, many today want to rail against the commercialization of Christmas (with some merit I might add) and SC, the symbol of that commercialization. Rather than rail, let’s refocus on what he represents-giving, and in a sense, the spirit found in Matthew 25:24-40. (Please take a moment to look it up).

It is much better to give than to receive, especially when it is for and to someone less fortunate.

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