Humility

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June 13

Thursday, June 13th, 2024

I read in the past, and again recently, the following story:

A fisherman who caught crabs would keep them in a bucket without a lid. Someone noticed this and asked him, “Don’t you have to keep a lid on that bucket?”

He said, “No, they never get out.”

“Why? Because they can’t get out?”

“No,” he said. “When one crab tries to go over the side, the others reach up and pull him back down.”

When I read that I thought, “How much like humans that is.” We can’t hardly stand to watch someone, especially a rival, get ahead of us. We turn green with envy and jealousy and begin to think, “Hey! I deserve that. Not him. Not her. I put forth a lot of effort to get that.”

Envy is one of those things that we shoot at someone else and end up wounding ourselves.

Listen to these verses:

“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

“There are six things the Lord hates-no, seven things he detests: haughty eyes…” Pr. 6:16-17a

“Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Pr. 11:2

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble…Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” Js. 4:6,10

There are tons more where those came from! Simple truth: God wants us to put the needs of others above our own, to love one another, to and care for one another.  Envy, and its sister, jealousy are listed as works of the flesh in Galatians 5 and really have no place in the life of the Christ-follower. Let’s stop it before it takes root.

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

June 11

Tuesday, June 11th, 2024

Truth disclosure: I am writing this on Monday afternoon.  You will see why in just a moment.

I just spent an incredible couple of hours with some inspiring people. I met Gavin probably close to 10 years or so ago at the Y.  Just a few days prior to that he had just lost his sister when a box truck mowed her down while cycling.  Until then I did not know him or his sister.

Fast forward to the middle of 2023 and in walk Gavin, Jenna and their children to a church service. I knew they were going to another church and my philosophy/policy is never to be accused of being a “sheep stealer.” They were accompanied by their other children who immediately went to our children’s department and loved it! In their arms was a little girl they named Gigi. Oh, I forgot to tell you that they have three biological children (all boys), adopted two children they had fostered, were fostering another cute little girl and were also fostering Gigi. The one was given back to mom within the past month, but Gigi was a special child. In more ways than one. She is one of most smiling children I have ever seen with the brightest blue eyes you will lay eyes on (pun intended). Those bright blue eyes have a special trait which identifies her as a child with Williams Syndrome (I encourage you to look it up on your own).  Thanks to Jenna’s fighting for her, Gigi was given a fighting chance to live. And live she does! She is two years old now-a little small for her age but quickly developing a personality all her own and slowly learning to walk and talk. When Gavin and Jenna began attending the church I pastor (Owen Valley Christian Fellowship) we immediately began praying for her and for them.

This morning at 10:00, Gigi officially became Gloria Jane (_____). “Gloria” because she is a light to the world. “Jane” because that is her birth mother’s middle name. What a joy it was to be there and to witness the love they have for her, but also her sibling’s love for her. They asked if I would support them in prayer since Gavin’s mother, who is a medical doctor and the pastor of a local church, could not be there. I was honored to do so. And then I noticed she was able to make it and whether they had asked or not, I would have gladly stepped aside for her to pray. Afterwards, Jo and I were invited to a cookout at their house. It was fun meeting some of their friends and extended family.

Gavin and Jenna are perfect examples of Christ-followers who feel about children the way Jesus feels. There is no doubt that Jesus had a warm, tender heart toward children that knew no bounds. The way we treat children today has to truly break His heart. To see children thrown away as unwanted has to make Him cringe. And weep. To see them abused and mistreated surely makes His blood boil. Thank you Gavin and Jenna for showing Jesus by loving children and making them your own.  I’m glad I was able to be a witness to this act of love.

June 5

Wednesday, June 5th, 2024

One of the hardest things for most of us to do, i.e. yours truly, is to surrender. Coming in first is so ingrained in us that coming in second is not seen as an option. Athletes are taught to win and most often, win at all costs. I have no doubt that type of thinking is behind the use of performance enhancing drugs (PEDs). We want to win! No, we HAVE to win!

This battle doesn’t even have to play out on the baseball field or basketball court or at an Olympic event. It can be seen in the classroom. A home. While driving (can anyone say road rage?). Even a store. It is seen in a battle of wills. “I will not bend to your rules.” Is that not what temper tantrums are all about? I was in a grocery story last week and I saw this fleshed out in front of me. I watched a mother and son battle it out. He could not have been older than 3.  He wanted. She said no. He still wanted and she still said no. He knocked things off the shelf in defiance. She bent to pick them up. He took off with the cart and she went after him. I saw some fire in her eyes. (I also know the solution to that but I’m guessing that would not have been a good time to tell her. 🙂 ). I wonder if she was trying gentle parenting? Aaaah but that is a story for another time.

In Genesis 32 (take a moment to read verses 22-32) we have a titanic-type battle-a wrestling match between Jacob and God. What a classic story worth taking a closer look at. Perhaps tomorrow.

Until then, yours and my best reaction to the battle of wills is surrender. To stop fighting God for supremacy. Jacob was a head-strong, conniving, devious man. That’s the story of his whole life up until the wrestling match. Only a surrender to God will change that.

Sounds familiar.  

May 30

Thursday, May 30th, 2024

I cheated. I wrote this post ahead of time just in case I did not make it back home Wednesday and we decided to stay the night somewhere. Here were the thoughts I postponed from yesterday’s post to give an update on Janna.

WHAT DO YOU THINK CONSTITUTES A GOOD FAMILY?

Of course, the answers are many. Here are a few: Empathy. Sympathy. Teamwork with teammates. Honesty. Taking responsibility. Accepting responsibility.  Forgiveness. Space to allow for mistakes. The freedom to make mistakes and admit them. Love (obviously). Faith. Prayers. Shared shoulders. And the list goes on.

Now…consider the church as a family. The very same characteristics of a blood family are also to be there for a different kind of blood family.

In Isaiah 1 the people of Judah were acting very “unfamily-like.” Their outward actions were blatant displays of disrespect.  Yeah…that happens in real families. To put it very bluntly, their outward actions did not show the state of their heart.  Or maybe they did?

How easy it is to put on a show at home and with our church family. Jesus said the religious leaders’ lips said one thing but their hearts were far from Him.  It is called “going through the motions.” Family members do that.  Church family members to that also. They act like they like you, but what they do and say behind your back hurts like fire.

Frankly, self-concern replaces other-concern. It destroys families. It devastates church families. Arguing and fighting, even over petty things, plays havoc on a family’s unity. It does the same for a church family.

Don’t be a “ruiner;” be a builder.

May 23

Thursday, May 23rd, 2024

“Of course I’m a responsible person!”

Perhaps you have heard the comedic exchange:

“Are you a responsible person?”

“Yes, I am. My wife tells me I’m responsible for everything that happens.”

I’m sure it isn’t quite that bad, but consider this: Do be a responsible person. Now, before you get all ballistic and huffy think this through with me.

We live in a culture today of what I will call “blame-shifters.” We would rather blame than take responsibility. In fact, Proverbs 24:12-13 is surprisingly contemporary, especially for those who want to say the Bible is an antiquated and outdated book. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, ‘Look, we didn’t know.’ For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul and knows you know.” (NLT) (Emphasis mine)

Shifting blame is nothing new. It is as old as…well…the Garden. After Adam and Eve ate the fruit and knew things had changed, they hid from God who had come for their daily walk. When Adam replied, “I heard you walking in the Garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.”

God: “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I told you not to eat”

(WAIT FOR IT)

A: “It was the woman you gave me.”

G: (to Eve) “What have you done? Have you eaten from the tree whose fruit I commanded you not to eat?”

(WAIT FOR IT)

E: “The serpent deceived me.”

Not a sliver of taking responsibility, bu they both were good at shifting blame. “The woman.” “The serpent.”

And we haven’t changed or stopped. We still shift blame.  “It wasn’t my fault. He or she did it.” Don’t you think it is time to start acting like men and women and assume responsibility for our actions? Growth can happen when we accept responsibility instead of pointing our finger at someone and say, “It’s his or her fault.”  Well…what do you say?

May 21

Tuesday, May 21st, 2024

SIZE REALLY DOESN’T MATTER.

I’ve come to that settled conclusion. Now, lest someone get the very wrong idea that saying is a risque’ comment, let me correct you from the get-go.  Some can accuse me of clickbait with that comment, but let no one think I’m being off-color. Not even close.

For years I lived and breathed size. Church size. The bigger the church, the better it looked for me. Man, how wrong I was!! Obsessed with having a big church, I attended all the church growth seminars/conferences. I heard “How to break the 200/300 barrier” or “How to grow to this size” more than I care to admit. I heard, ad infinitum ad nauseum, how I needed to move from being a pastor to being a vision-casting, rule-making, control-freaking, domineering-leaning, take-it-or-leave-it pastor. Oops, I mean CEO. The title “pastor” no longer meant shepherd; it meant “I’m the boss and you’ll do it my way, accept my vision, agree to follow or don’t let the door hit you on the way out” kind of leader.  Can I scream now or later?

To my shame, I bought into that, BUT FORTUNATELY God knew my heart and personality better than I did at that time and knew I would NEVER feel comfortable sitting in an elevated chair of pomposity. The Scriptures also had a devastating effect on me: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (Js. 4:6).  “Haughty eyes, a proud heart, and evil actions are all sin.” (Pr. 21:4) And here is one that came true: “No human wisdom or understanding or plan can stand against the Lord.” (Pr. 21:30)

As I said that latter one came true. It’s called being fired or in softer terms: Being strongly encouraged to move on.  God knew where my heart was. It was not in riding herd on sheep; it was not in trying to “beat them” into submission; it was not in threats or ultimatums; it WAS in being a shepherd. In loving the people in my care. In caring for them. In crying with them. In laughing with them. In doing life with them. In praying with and for them.

“Thank you Lord, that no one can stand against Your plans, especially me. I’m satisfied with a small church and people I love.  I would much rather be in a small church contented and knowing I am in Your will than in a much bigger church where I sound like a noisy gong and a clanging cymbal. I will forever be grateful for your reality check over 20 years ago.”

{Note: All Scripture is from the New Living Translation}

May 16

Thursday, May 16th, 2024

There are a lot of ways to destroy a church, a business, or even a friendship. Since my job is the pastor of a church, let me focus on that.

First, it is really important to clarify a term. By church I am NOT referring to any physical structures. A physical structure can be destroyed any number of ways (like many around the world are today), but the church can go on…and does. A natural disaster.  A mob bent on destruction. A vengeful act. An act of hatred. Houses of worship can be leveled.

But a more insidious type of destruction is one from within. A wolf in sheep’s clothing can sneak in and spread false teaching. A leader can “ride herd” on a church and bring it to its knees (check out 3 John 9-10 and the story of Diotrephes). There is one type I think that brings more churches to its knees (not in a good way) than just about any other. This verse from Proverbs 16:28 says all that needs said: “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends.” (NLT)

It’s easy to see. You want to destroy a church? You want to destroy a company? You want to destroy a friendship? Gossip. Be a troublemaker. Or let them go unchecked. Let it go unchecked and watch the dominoes fall. Little by little. Piece by piece. All that will be left is a pile of ashes or rubble. If the enemy can get the people inside bickering, talking smack, spreading poison or something as ugly, he will have found the way to bring the church down. It is the most effective way and he didn’t need a bulldozer to accomplish his feat.

Don’t be part of the problem; be part of the solution. Stop the gossip and the gossiper.

May 2

Thursday, May 2nd, 2024

“You are getting too big for your britches.”

Back when I was young (and yes, that was a long time ago), one of the favorite expressions of people-and my parents were no exception- was the above statement. It usually preceded some type of discipline- a spanking when I was younger, an exclusion from an activity, a grounding, or something else. It’s not hard to know what it means.

I’ve been reading a book by Katelyn Beaty entitled Celebrities for Jesus. It is subtitled “How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are hurting the church.” I’m two years past when it was first published and first hit crashed on the scene.  I’m just under halfway through and it has exposed the ugly underbelly of the “celebrity culture” the church has found itself in, particularly in the megachurch world. Sadly, we have embraced (and enabled)-wittingly or unwittingly- the whole “the pastor is a celebrity and can do no wrong” thought process. Walking hand in hand with that idea is the inability to confront, challenge, or question said celebrity pastor. Ms. Beaty speaks highly of Billy Graham and his attempts to safeguard himself from any moral scandal by his complete transparency. (It was known as the “Billy Graham Rule” which simply said he would never be alone with a woman who was not his wife). His Modesto Manifesto called for complete honesty, accountability, and transparency. Ms. Beaty contrasts that with the shortfalls of some megachurch personalities. 

I was reminded of my reading of the book when I read the following from I Timothy 4:11-13 this morning: “Teach these things and insist that everyone learn them. Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them.”  That highlighted section is important to remember.

No way would Paul embrace or be on board the “celebrity culture train.” Read his words-not just here, but elsewhere. Integrity, transparency and HUMILITY were big in his eyes.  But here is an important fact to remember- Megachurch Pastor, CEO, Owner, Manager, Worker- integrity, honesty and humility are essential to all and cannot/should not be dismissed.

No one has any business getting too big for their britches.

May 1

Wednesday, May 1st, 2024

“Being a leader is not about you, it’s about the people you’re serving.”  (Quote from Lead Like Jesus by Ken Blanchard and Phil Hodges. Quoted in Living With Hope by Michael Panther-p.143)

Leadership, in my view, is sometime a tenuous position. While the goal of leadership should always be to enrich the lives of others, every leader fights the draw of the flesh.  As the quote says, as a leader my #1 priority should be the care and well-being of others. But far too often the primary target is me. How will this make me look? How will this benefit me? How will this advance my name or cause? Not that those questions are totally bad or wrong, but most often they are totally self-serving and self-focused.

As a pastor I have to ask myself on an almost daily basis, “Is this advancing me or the kingdom?” Even if you aren’t a pastor but consider yourself a Jesus-follower, you must ask yourself the same question.

Let’s take it away from that completely. Every leader, every manager, every shift foreman, must ask themselves the question, “Is what I’m doing or suggesting or planning going to advance this company or just me?”

We have heard a lot down through the leaders about servant leadership. Religious or “secular.” I’m unable to count the number of times I have been told or heard a speaker say, “Remember leader: the greatest thing you can give your people/coworkers/employees is to be a servant who seeks their good.” Of course, it should be a given that integrity and honesty should be a quality every leader exhibits, but being a servant is the cornerstone.

Follow the example of the Greatest Leader ever: Jesus. Be a servant, not so you can get back or advance, but because true leadership looks out for the good of others.

April 23

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2024

Maiden voyage = sore and achy muscles

So yesterday I was able to do what I have been chomping at the bit to do for several weeks months.  To get outside and ride my bike. I’ve been riding all winter on my inside trainer. Several words come to mind when I think of that: Not the same. Very little challenge (except to keep going). One big one: B.O.R.I.N.G. I don’t have the fancy ZWIFT or any other type of trainer that allows one to hook up and then program a simulated ride. One word for that: $$$$$. So to ride a trainer inside is about exciting as watching grass grow or in my case to stare at it looking for some confounded mole activity. Riding outside is the ideal scenario (even given the crazy drivers). But weather, time, and the need for new tires and some maintenance slowed my getting outside to ride.  Until yesterday…

It was still a bit chilly, especially with the wind coming out of the west at about 12-15 mph. But I have clothes for that so I was toasty warm (except for the side of my face the wind hit). I rode 11 miles in exactly one hour. I refueled properly when I stopped. I used a roller to help get the lactic acid out of my muscles, but at the end of the day I was still a bit on the achy side. But it is a good ache and sore because I got it doing something I love to do.

I’m sure you have experienced that as well. Your first hike. Your first canoe/kayak effort after being cooped up all winter. Your first run after the treadmill.  That first ball practice. Stretching and using muscles which had, for the most part, laid dormant for too long. But even as I worked out at the Y all winter, I used different muscles and found sore spots last night that I forgot existed. 🙂

The Bible speaks often about flexing our muscles. Not in a power grab sense but in following Him. In fact, Paul encourages us to “Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong…” (Col. 2:7). Each time I ride it will get easier with a little less soreness as I establish a base and foundation. The soreness will leave and the distance and riding time will increase.

Sounds like a recipe for growth, strength and a whole of fun on and off the bike.