Humility

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July 13

Tuesday, July 13th, 2021

Sometimes people say something or write something that rocks my world. Or at least stops me dead in my tracks.

Time for an honest confession: I put a lot into Sunday morning. Study. Research. Study. Reading. Prayer. Practice to an empty auditorium.  Study. Did I say study? 🙂 All for a short (but hopefully not too painful) 20-25 minute span of a Sunday morning. And I have to keep reminding myself that most, if not all, will not remember what I said.

That is why what Bob Goff wrote stopped me dead in my tracks:

Words will never move people the way love does. If our actions are motivated by love, we don’t have to worry about having big platforms or positions of power, because nothing holds a candle to love that has no agenda. (p.233)

Ouch!! I take his words seriously. All my yacking from the pulpit “ain’t worth spit” if I don’t love. Hmmm. Sounds a little like I Cor. 13:1 doesn’t it?

Recently I texted somebody and said, “It is one thing to say you love and another to live it. You live it.” I was dead serious.

I believe it is important to be ready for Sunday morning, don’t get me wrong. But I also think it is important to get to the point of hating the spotlight (it glows off my bald head anyway) and just be a light. To borrow a further thought from Bob: hate the spotlight and just be a light.

“Father, help me to love by living for you. That light will shine brighter than any effort I may make.”

June 4

Friday, June 4th, 2021

FOCUS. REMOVE. PUT ON. REPRESENT.

I read Colossians 3 this morning. That is how my mind worked and wrapped itself around my reading. In fact, it went into “preacher mode” (unfortunately) and actually did an alliteration. 🙂  I’ll share that with you at the end of this devotion.

FOCUSVerses 1-2

  • Seek the things that are above
  • Set your mind on things that are above

REMOVEVerses 5-9

The focused life-the one centered on Jesus- needs to be cleaned. Old garbage needs to go. Removed. Deleted actually. Killed. Buried. For good.  The list is very inclusive of what needs to be removed. It really brings to light the sins which lurk within.

PUT ON Verses 10-16

The old is removed-stripped off-and put to death. It needs to be replaced with clothes worth wearing. One wouldn’t strip of dirty work clothes, shower, then put those-or dirtier-clothes back on. No. New ones. Clean ones. Fresh-smelling ones. That is what the new nature calls for.  This list includes the gifts of the Spirit; the importance of forgiveness; and the exceptional quality of love. (I Cor.13 sure needs to be read at this point). The message overwhelms us, changes us, challenges us, makes us different so we can…

REPRESENT Verse 17

All of the stripping away and renewal (re-clothing) comes with a purpose-to represent Jesus in all things. That’s why it is so essential that the order be followed: Focus. Remove. Put On. Represent. 

And now for my “preacher mode” which likes alliteration: Rivetted. Remove. Re-clothe. Represent.

“Father, may I represent You clearly. No questions. No cause for sideways glances. No questioning eyes. Focus me. Strip me. Re-clothe me. Let me be a good representative of You.”

May 17

Monday, May 17th, 2021

I have been slowly reading Paul David Tripp’s book called Leadership. When I say slowly, I mean slowly. It is not one to bust through. I have read a chapter and had to stop. Sometimes for weeks. The latest has probably been a month.  Recently I read the following:

There is no doubt about it: servanthood is the thematic biblical description of every follower of Jesus Christ. How much more, then, is it true of those who are called to be leaders? (p.140)

But then a bit later he wrote this gem:

“Hypercritical theological arrogance is not the fruit of a servant’s heart. Looking for people to troll on Twitter is not what occupies the heart of a servant. Pride of accomplishment contradicts servant humility. Disrespect of the vital gifts of women to the health of the body of Christ fails to mirror the servant heart of Jesus. Treating your church or ministry as if it belong to you denies your servant calling. Resistance in the face of the loving advice, concern, watchfulness, and rebuke of fellow leaders is resistance against your servant position. Exercising your leadership position in a way that is more political than pastoral does not flow from a servant’s heart. Treating staff members as if they are there for you rather than together with you serving the Lord happens when you forget your servant calling. Any dismissive, disrespectful, impatient, angry, bullying behavior is a failure to joyfully embrace the lifestyle of a servant. Ministry leadership conversations that are regularly marked by complaint are the fruit of entitlement, not servanthood. To get mad at little ministry inconveniences when we have been called to follow our Savior in His suffering, demonstrates how easy it is to drift away from what our Master has called us to be and do. ” (pp.141-142)

I know that is a lot to take in.  Now you can see why I wrote about why I’m slowly reading this book. I know many of my readers are not pastors or “people in professional ministry.”  If you have been mistreated, bullied, or taken for granted, I am sorry.  I know I have done just that in the past.  I wish I could do a traveling “forgiveness show” and go back to all the churches and tell them I’m sorry for not being a servant. But I can’t. But I CAN change now.

Perhaps you can as well. Professional or not. We are all servants, not here for ourselves, but for others.

“Father, help me to be a servant. As I struggle with that, help me to change.”

May 4

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Yesterday’s Living in the Shadow devotion was on pride and arrogance.  God must have felt I needed to learn something more because I read 2 Cor. 12 this morning, particularly emphasizing verses 7-10. 

Background: It is Paul’s account of his “trip” or visit to the third heaven. He wasn’t sure if was in the body or in spirit but he did come to a very solid conclusion:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so  that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (7-10)

There is no question is Paul’s mind why that thorn was given to him: to keep him from getting proud. In fact, whatever the thorn was hit him hard. It brought him low. It took whatever pride was there and dumped it. Pride rears its ugly head…here comes the “reminder” thorn. It is humbling to be brought low or to be constantly reminded of our weakness. Such was Paul. Such is us.

What do you do about your weakness? How do you view them-as a curse or a blessing?

“Father, help me to keep a handle on my pride even it it means the thorn rears its ugly head. But, if it does, help me to run to You and see You glorified through it.”

May 3

Monday, May 3rd, 2021

I think one of the hardest traits to have as a Christ-follower is humility.  We have heard it all:

“It’s hard to be humble when you are as great as I am.”

Joe Namath is credited with saying, “I can’t wait until tomorrow.” When asked why he answered, “Because I get better looking every day.”

I’ve sometimes said (jokingly), “I’m proud of my humility.”

All those sound like innocent remarks, and for the most part they are. 

But humility is no joking matter.  When pride takes over, it is hard to stomach. A proud person is not one we enjoy being around.  An arrogant person wants to make us want to empty our stomach. Unless, of course, that proud person is me. Then I don’t see what all the fuss is about.

Jesus was the antithesis of pride. In John 13 we have the story of Jesus taking  off his outer cloak, taking a bowl and a towel and washing His disciples’ feet. When challenged by Peter, Jesus said that unless He does this he (Peter) would have no part in Him.

There are those who want to make a big deal about the washing of feet, like it is a command we are to do.  I believe that is missing the whole point. Jesus Himself said, ” What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterwards you will understand.” They saw Him washing their feet; He was actually showing them something much greater.  He was showing them what it means to be a servant and show humility.  His point comes out strongly-out of His own mouth-just a few verses later: “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

The whole principle is not foot washing but humility and being a servant.  The question which confronts me then is am I willing to submit to the Father and be a servant?  It will require humility. Not the fake kind but real, genuine humility.

“Father, it is a sign of submission to humble myself before You, which is then to translate to the people around me. Please teach me to be humble.”

April 23

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Sunday morning Jo and I drove to Maryland Community Church in Terre Haute. While Scot, Maryland’s Senior Pastor did not preach, the Discipleship Pastor, Nick Strobel, did an admirable job speaking about Greed.  Using the story of Elisha, Naaman and Gehazi found in 2 Kings 5, he brought some good thoughts to the table. {Please take a moment and read the Scripture}.  After Naaman went on his way with Elisha’s blessing, Gehazi chased him down and lied about Elisha wanting his money. Here are the three points Nick brought out: (Main thoughts his; commentary mine)

  1. Greed starts small. It warps our purpose. God’s ultimate purpose was that Naamen know and acknowledge God as the only God. But Gehazi’s greed warped that. Man will always pursue what we think will save us. We will not pursue things because we think it’s dumb.
  2. Greed warps our reality. Sin multiplies. Gehazi had to lie to Naaman to get what he wanted. God will never ask us to do something which is against His Word. N.E.V.E.R. When someone says or does something sinful or evil with the caveat of “God told me” you can pretty well guess He didn’t.
  3. Greed warps our understanding of salvation. God gave Gehazi what he wanted. The sin he chased became his death warrant. Greed can’t save. If you read the story, Naaman was healed of leprosy. Gehazi spent the rest of his life as a leper. Sad ending to what had been a promising future as the understudy/servant to Elisha.

“Father, help me not to be greedy toward what others may have. I don’t want my life to be warped because of my preoccupation with things I don’t have.”

April 22

Thursday, April 22nd, 2021

Have you ever wanted to say something but couldn’t find the words? That’s how I am when I’m talking to someone of greater intelligence than me (not that hard to find), smarter than me (neither is  this one), expresses his/her thoughts, and I’m not ashamed to say I’m lost. I have no clue what they are saying, nor how to answer, so I just clam up.

There have been other times when I’m free to talk about a subject because either a) it is something I know something about, or 2) it is something I’m comfortable talking about because I am familiar with it. It is then that what I may have studied or read in the past comes back to me.

I think that may fall in line with the idea Jesus left with His disciples when He spoke to them in the Upper Room about the Holy Spirit. He told them once not to worry about what they would say. When the time came for them to speak, it will be brought to memory by the Holy Spirit and He will tell them what to say. (Matthew 10:19). In Matthew 10:27 He said, “What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!”

What God speaks to us in solitude, we will speak in the light. I recall how Jesus went off by Himself to be alone with His Father. I would love to have been a little bird eavesdropping on those conversations. As He was preparing His heart for the day, His Father was speaking life to His Son’s heart.

What an intriguing image! Jesus preparing for His day as His Father speaks to His heart. What a vivid picture for us! For me!!  Preparing for the day by letting the Father speak to my heart. And yours. Just another reason for an Encounter Time with Him. Not a legalistic one but a necessary one-letting the Father prepare me for the day by speaking to my head and my heart.

“Speak, Lord, Your servant listens (or at least sincerely wants to).”

April 16

Friday, April 16th, 2021

One of the phrases we heard a lot of during the pandemic -ad infinitum, ad nauseum- was “we’re in this together.” I know. I know. It was supposed to be true. And yes, I know what it was supposed to mean.

But if I want to be cynical (Who me?) I would say this: if we were supposed to be in this together, why was 2020 a year of unrest and riots and upheaval and hate speech and vitriol? We may have been going through the scourge of the pandemic together, but we weren’t really together.

But I digress. The point I really want to get to is found in I Cor.12: 22-26. Take a moment, please, to read it. Several points stand out to me:

  1. Those who think they are the most important very often are not.
  2. We need to take special note of those who seem less important. I’ll call them the “behind the scenes” people.
  3. A real “in this together” body laughs and cries together. They experience life together.

This pandemic has done several things to the church. One has been to separate people. The church is a body, uniquely put together and made up of different people. We were designed to need each other and no amount of zoom meetings, or even cards or phone calls, can take the place of personal, in-person contact. I’m not delusional enough to think all will come back-at least not right away.  Maybe never. But when we do and when we do see each other I pray we will “honor” each other; know our place, and laugh and cry with each other.

I don’t think that’s asking too much. Do you?

“Father, may Your body- the church-truly be an example of being in this together.”

April 12

Monday, April 12th, 2021

I grew up in church. I think I was there from the earliest time mom could bring me. Back then doctors said, “Take your child to church, the grocery store, shopping. It’s not going to hurt them. In fact, it will be good for them.” Exposure to the outside was seen as a good thing since they felt it helped with immunity. I can only remember one shot (although I’m sure there were more)- the polio vaccine.

We had both our girls in church and the nursery the first chance we had. Today’s parents keep their child in and away from church for the first year then won’t let them alone in the nursery. Okay so that is a slight exaggeration (6 months maybe but not a year). 🙂

But I digress.

I learned a lot growing up in the church. Like how to pray. “We thank Thee, O most Mighty and Holy One. We thank Thee…” You get the point. The more flowery the better.  In one man’s case, the longer the better…even if he repeated himself several times.

I learned as I got older that God’s not interested in long flowery prayers punctuated by a lot of King James English. He is delighted in humble hearts that give simple prayers. Matt Redman wrote a song with the lyrics: “May my words be few.” I’m guessing that pleases God. A humble heart with simple words. Not a rehearsed speech. Not a copycat of someone else. Just me and Him. Just you and Him.

“Father, may I realize what you really want is a humble heart seeking You. No pretense. No hypocrisy. Just a heart wanting to speak to You.”

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.”