Humility

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January 30

Monday, January 30th, 2023

Several thoughts are swirling through my mind this Monday morning.

Primary is that today is the love my life’s birthday. As you may know, we took a quick trip to Ohio last week as an early birthday present.  Jo was able to see both Janna and Braden. Today I’m taking a good part of the day to spend it with her, which will include taking her out to eat to Olive Garden. We have a gift card and seldom eat there, but it is her desire to eat what she shouldn’t on her birthday. 🙂

But this “Shadow” blog is not about my family (although I do brag on them).

Another thought is a book I’m reading in possible prep for a sermon series later this year…possibly this summer. I might preach on the Model Prayer, aka The Lord’s Prayer. It is my belief that the real Lord’s Prayer is in John 17 but that is not a point worth making an issue about.  Be that as it may, one of the lines of Jesus’ teaching prayer has been a sticking point for me lately: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done.”

It is easy to allow my desires to become the expected desires of everyone else, including God. It is easy to get attached to “My kingdom come, my will be done.” The earth and all its happenings revolve around me and my desires.

You know what? That is a mighty small orbit! And as time moves on, the orbit closes in on us. I know it is cynical to say this, but everything becomes about us, and even when we pretend to care, our inward motive is “How can this benefit me?”

Something happens within us when we are no longer interested in looking out for #1 (me), but instead truly want to live our life saying, “YOUR kingdom come, YOUR will be done.”  When I/you can do that with all sincerity, life transforms. We find that orbit that was tightening, that orbit that was closing in, suddenly expands. We are no longer the focus.

And that’s a good thing.

Question: what was the last time you prayed, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done” and meant it?

Do it. Today.

January 19

Thursday, January 19th, 2023

The past few days I have been reading a book called The Roar Within by Brent Henderson. It is sort of a cross between Wild at Heart by John Eldredge and Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. 🙂 Brent’s ministry is really devoted to men and he loves to big game hunt, so references to that passion are many. Granted, it is a book for men-about men recognizing what trips them up and stepping up to be a man…God’s man.

He says that there are 5 dangerous sins which trip men up and he uses dangerous animals in an African safari to illustrate his point. Those animals are the rhinoceros, lion, cape buffalo, elephant, and leopard.  They are called man killers because of the difficulty in hunting them. But Brent compares the sins that take a man down to those five animals. It is not my purpose here to get into those sins or animals.

Instead, I have a question to pose to you: if someone asked you what animal would describe you-from all the animal kingdom-what one would you choose?

A lion? An eagle? A workhorse? A thoroughbred? A mole? A rabbit? A dolphin or a whale?

How about a sheep? No way you say. Sheep are dumb. They are easily scared. They are like the blind leading the blind (one goes off a cliff chances are good the rest will follow).  They are easily disoriented. They are defenseless. (What are they going to do? B-a-a-a-a at a threat?) You get the point.

And yet, what did Jesus compare us to? You guessed it…sheep.

“My sheep hear my voice and follow.”

“My sheep know my voice.”

“All we like sheep have gone astray.” (Is. 53:6)

We are like sheep.  They may not be the brightest light bulb or sharpest tool in the shed, but they know their Master’s voice. They stay close to the Shepherd and find Him to be all they need.

It’s not a putdown to be called a sheep. In fact, that just might be the best animal to be.

January 16

Monday, January 16th, 2023

Have you ever met someone who wanted you to think they had it all together? It’s kind of like the old commercial “Never let ’em see you sweat.” They never want you to see them wanting.

“I can’t let them see me like this. They might think I’m weak.”

“I can’t act scared. I’m supposed to be the leader. How could they ever follow if I did?”

VULNERABILITY.

UGH!!

Tragically, so many with the “can’t-show-them” attitude really need help. Most often they are insecure, little children. And I’m not talking chronological age.

Men tend to be the king of this attitude, but we certainly don’t have a corner on it. I’ve seen and met women who are just as hardened, just as cold, and just as calculating as their counterpart. Maybe they have been hurt by someone (and I’m not minimizing that)-a male- so no longer will they allow one to get close.

Consider what it does to a person spiritually. It hardens him/her.  They close off a part of their soul. Their heart gets hard, or at best, crusty.

The exact opposite of what God wants. Faith always expresses itself in love for others. But if we are closed off, how can we do that? I like what the late David Powlison wrote:

Loving those around you in the midst of your weakness can be as simple as sharing your weakness and need with someone else. (“Take Heart”- January 16)

Good food for thought. Maybe it’s time for us- men and women- to open our hearts and open our lives to others. We may never know whose life might be “saved”- ours or theirs.

January 11

Wednesday, January 11th, 2023

Several years ago-well over 20-I did a personal Bible study, then led several groups through the study as well. The study included a story of D.L. Moody. The story goes that someone approached Moody and said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him.” Moody was reported to have said, “Then I will be that man.” What I have read of Moody is that was his life’s goal.

That is an intriguing story…and an intriguing challenge.

For someone to issue that challenge with one simple statement to a man of Moody’s spiritual stature is pretty bold. (Then again, perhaps that is why Moody became the man of God he was). I sort of wonder what precluded him saying that to Moody and why.

But the greater impact was Moody’s willingness to say, “Here I am.”

That reminds me of Daniel who refused to be silenced for fear of a lion’s den.

That reminds of Shadrach, Meschah, and Abednego who refused to bow for fear of a furnace.

That reminds me of Jeremiah who found himself locked up because he would not stay quiet about Israel’s degradation.

That reminds me of Peter and John who were unafraid of the religious leaders and the consequences of continuing to talk about Jesus. “It is far better for us to listen to God than to man.”

That reminds me of Polycarp, the pastor of Smyrna, who refused to denounce his faith in the “One True King” in order to avoid being burned to death.

That reminds me of the early reformers who refused to be quiet about the Roman Church for fear of being burned alive at the stake.

That reminds me of persecuted Christians in China, North Korea, Iran, etc who face the loss of everything for converting to Christ.

That also reminds me to ask myself, “What about you Bill? Will you take that challenge to be the man willing to see what God can do with and through and in a man who is wholly committed to Him?”

And what about you?

December 28

Wednesday, December 28th, 2022

For the most part, except for a few vestiges of leftovers (people not food, although…), Christmas ’22 is history. At least the celebration of Christmas is over. 2023 is fast approaching and with it a year filled with uncertainty and challenges, none of which we have a clue about. 🙂

We have been hearing the Top 10 of everything. Top 10 sons. Top 10 grossing movies. Top 10 downloads. Top 10 news stories. The list goes on and on.

But here’s something novel! How about listing the Bottom 10. Bottom 10 songs. Bottom 10 grossing movies (the bombs). Bottom 10 TV shows. Etc.

Being on the bottom is not appealing at all. My blog, for example, could very well qualify for the Bottom 10 readers and those who respond. Sort of makes me wonder why I do this! 🙂

Anyway, I read the story of a man named John Woolman (ever heard of him? Yeah…me neither) whose commitment to Jesus influenced his tailor shop dealings. Out of his support for freeing slaves, he refused to by any cotton or dye supplies from companies that used forced labor.  He loved his neighbor and lived according to integrity and sincerity in all his dealings.  John was a Quaker who lived in the early to mid 1700s.

In 2 Cor. 1:22 Paul speaks of conducting ourselves with integrity and godly sincerity.  As we look back on 2022, what would your report card say in these areas? And as we look ahead to 2023, let’s make every effort to live with integrity and godly sincerity.

Let’s be the one who makes a difference.

December 6

Tuesday, December 6th, 2022

Have you ever noticed how we sometimes get caught up in the little things and forget that which is really important?

We have a saying:

“Remember to keep the main thing the main thing.”

I propose we do that for Christmas. There are those who want to talk about whether Christmas is a pagan holiday and therefore we should stay away. There are those who get wrapped up in talking about Christmas trees being a sign of pagan worship. There are those who want to discuss who the magi were-are they astrologers, stargazers, pagans, or those who remember the teachings of Daniel? And the star. Did it shine so bright the magi just knew to find it or did it literally lead them? When the magi came to see Jesus was He in the stable or a house?

Frankly, those are little things which do not affect the truth of the Christmas story in any way, shape, or form. You see…if our enemy can get us to focus on the side issues, he can get us from thinking about what Christmas is really all about: the holiness and love of God, the sin of man, the need for Jesus to humble Himself, and the salvation as a result.

Here is my suggestion: let’s put aside our peripheral issues and let’s really focus on why there was a need for a baby in the manger and why that has EVERYTHING to do with why we celebrate Christmas.

True fact: A baby born in a manger was God in the flesh who came to save us from our sin.

Therein should be our praise and our focus.

December 5

Monday, December 5th, 2022

I read recently about a woman named Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who was the first African American woman to earn a medical degree. During her lifetime (1831-1895), she was “ignored, slighted, and rendered insignificant.” However, she remained faithful to her calling and spent her life serving God by treating women and children and providing medical attention for freed slaves. It wasn’t until almost a century later she received her recognition.

Overlooked, devalued, and underappreciated. Sound like Someone you know? Born in an obscure, podunk village, the child of a peasant woman sums up the birth and early existence of Jesus. He flew under the radar of Herod (and would have been missed entirely if not for the wise men), the palace, and the religious “know-it-alls” who refused to acknowledge His birth…or His life for that matter.

Just like the example of Dr. Crumpler, Jesus never wavered from His reason for coming. He never wavered from “I came to seek and to save the lost.” He never wavered from freeing slaves (me and you) from an empty life.

In many ways, and to many people, His life was one of being overlooked, undervalued, and underappreciated. That is the way it started-as a baby in a manger-but may it not end that way because I was negligent.

He is not an obscure, forgotten child: He is the reigning King of kings who will soon return and will prove then and there He should not have been overlooked, undervalued, or underappreciated.

November 29

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022

In preparation for my series in 2023 on Revelation, I have been reading Revelation over and over in different translations. While they all offer the same yet different perspective, there is one overarching theme which comes through.

WORSHIP

Over and over we read of worship taking place. I challenge you over the next 22 days to read one chapter a day and mark the number of times you see worship or some description of Jesus.

There is probably no better depiction of worship than in chapters 4 & 5. If you read nothing else, take a moment to read and ponder those two chapters.

It got me thinking. How many times have you or I said or heard someone say, “That was a waste. I got nothing out of that worship service.” That is rather revealing in at least 3 different ways.

  1. It really was bad. The sermon misfired (it is possible you know?); the music landed with a thud and did not lead to worship; the whole experience was dead.
  2. The mindset and heart of that person (or me) was not in a “ready to hear” mode. But it is much more convenient to place blame elsewhere.
  3. Worship never happened because it involves a sense of expectancy on the part of the listener, as well as the willingness to offer ourselves. For lack of a better way to say it, we get out of it what we put into it. There needs to be some give and take.

Worship involves being involved-engaged. It means the worshiper puts his/her heart and soul into offering himself/herself to God in praise and adoration to the Father. The Father, the Source and object of worship, then meets His worshiper.

Check out the following verses:

  • 4:8-“They do not cease to say.”
  • 4:10-“saying.”
  • 5:9-“sang a new song.”
  • 5:12- “saying with a loud voice.”
  • 5:13- “saying.”

Sounds like engagement to me. You get the point. Worship involves engagement-me and you engaging with the Father.

When someone (or me) says, “I got nothing out of that today; what a waste!” unless it is false teaching or progressive (heretical) teaching, I’m more inclined to ask, “And what did you put into it?” I need to point the finger at my own heart.

What do you think?

November 28

Monday, November 28th, 2022

Thanksgiving 2022 is now history.  That is true if you only see thanksgiving as a one-day-a-year event. However, if you see thanksgiving-thankfulness-as part of your life as a follower of Jesus, then it is not over by any stretch.

The church I pastor has served a Thanksgiving meal to the community for years. I’m not exactly sure when we started it (I do remember the two ladies I asked to lead it), but except for 2020, we have offered it to the community. This past Thanksgiving was no exception.

We served, delivered, and did curbside meals for about 120 people this year. I say “about” because I’m in charge of deliveries and will sometimes miss people who come in to eat.

I’ve thought about this some. It takes a gang of people to pull something like this off: the initial set up team (five ladies who knocked it out of the park); the ones who cooked the food and brought it to the location; the ones who served; the ones who put the delivery meals together; the clean up crew; so many others. Why?

Here are my thoughts: you can choose to do something because you have/feel obligated to or you can do something because you cannot not do it.  Guilt vs want to. The latter is much more satisfying. I’m thinking of Paul’s words when he says, “The love of Christ compels me.” How much more satisfying it is to serve, to do, because your motivation is the love of Christ.

Christmas is just around the corner. Once again, we will be challenged to do for others. Ask yourself this question: “Why do I want to do this?” There is much greater joy and satisfaction because we want to than because we feel obligated to.

Your thoughts?

November 21

Monday, November 21st, 2022

It is going to be a short week here at the “Shadow.” I’m going to post Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and then take Thursday off to do what I have encouraged the church I pastor to do-give thanks.

Here is Post #1 for this Thanksgiving week.

It is not a secret than what is in our heart is what will spill out. Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what is in the heart.” Proverbs tells us that “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” In other words, what is in us will come out.

So…consider this scenario. You are walking along,, let’s say you have a glass of Dr. Pepper Zero in your hand. No lid. No straw. Then you get bumped, and when I say bumped I don’t mean tapped on the shoulder. What will happen to your drink? Most likely it will spill out-all over your hand and possibly onto the floor.

Let’s suppose that drink is you. Life gets tough. Someone bullies you, says something very unkind. Life throws you a curve. What comes out? Well, if we take what Jesus and Proverbs said, there is no question. Anger. Vitriol. Harshness. Jealousy. You get the drift.

But what if, instead of those ugly things, your heart is filled with gratitude to God for all He has given/blessed you with?

Big, big difference.

Thankfulness becomes the overflow of the song in our hearts. Instead of thinking how we got slighted, we focus on what we have.

My challenge for me-and for you-is to rid ourselves of all ingratitude over what we think God hasn’t given us or done for us, and allow gratitude to take up root in our hearts. then the overflow will be…

GRATITUDE