Humility

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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.”

March 15

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get hard? Three Dog Night had a song in the late 60s (1969) titled Easy to be Hard with the lyrics “Easy to be hard/Easy to be cold.” (From the musical Hair). 

It is easy to get hard toward people. Maybe you’ve worked with them and thought you had a pretty good relationship when suddenly they give you the cold shoulder. It is easy to think, “Well, if that’s the way they want to be.” Several years ago I had developed what I thought was a good friendship. We talked a lot.  Our families spent time together. We ate out together. He and I went to a Saturday morning Bible study together. Then Boom! He withdrew and wanted nothing to do with me. To this day I still don’t know what happened, although before I moved the relationship was restored.

It is more tragic when that happens with God. We are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit. but I know there are times I test those limits. I disappoint Him with my words and actions. The relationship which was so dear and so vital is now cool, even cold. My heart grows hard to the things of the Spirit. I have trouble hearing His quiet whisper, or even His loud shouts for that matter! It is easy to be hard, easy to be cold as the song said.

Don’t let that happen. Stay sensitive to the Spirit. If sin is there, confess it and get rid of it. If something else has crept in to take His place, renounce it! Ask Him to restore your heart to the love you once knew.

“Father,  You don’t move. It is me who gets cold and hard. Forgive me when that happens.  Help me to once again be sensitive to the voice of Your Spirit.”

Here is a song to get you to think some more about what I have written.

February 26

Friday, February 26th, 2021

As a young boy growing up, then as a young man, I was taught-not so much by words but by actions-that real men didn’t cry. I only remember seeing my dad cry once.  It was after I was married and we had our first child. My dad had a heart attack-a bad one-and Jo, Tami and I drove over 4 hours from where we lived in Ohio to see him in the hospital. The attack was a bad one. He was to be in the ICU for 2 weeks; a step down for 2 weeks; then a regular bed for 2 weeks. Keep in mind this was 1975. Things are much different today than they were back in the Dark Ages. My dad was 47. He was miraculously healed because we visited him in a normal room and he was discharged within 2 weeks, not the 6 they said.  We visited him one afternoon, spent the night at their house, then visited again the next morning before heading back to Ohio. When we left to go home, I saw my dad cry for the first time. Some might say it was the chemical change brought on by the heart attack.  Maybe so. But I saw my dad cry for the very first time!

A sign of weakness or so I’d been taught. As I was to learn, crying was not a sign of weakness; it is a sign of strength. A sign of confidence. A sign of humility. A sign of sorrow.

Of all people who wept, none were more manly, yet more confident and in control than Jesus. Several instances stand out:

  • In Matthew 23 Jesus weeps over Jerusalem. “How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings.” (NLT) He wept as He entered Jerusalem.
  • At the tomb of Lazarus we find the most familiar verse to those who hate memorizing anything, particularly Scripture: “Jesus wept.”
  • In Ezekiel 6:9 we find God grieving over His children.  “They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts.” The NIV says, “How I am grieved.” That is one strong emotional verse about God’s feelings!!

I have wept more than once. Many times. When I have experienced a loss. When I have said goodbye to a friend because of a move. When I’ve hurt my wife or girls. And most assuredly when I’ve been made aware of my sin and been driven to my knees in repentance and forgiveness.

“Father, tears are a language You understand. May genuine tears of love, repentance, remorse, and forgiveness flow freely from my eyes and heart as I yield to You.”

February 24

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP).  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words from the doctor, I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay.  (Here is that song link).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”