Humility

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September 22

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022

This will be the last post based on The Trail by Ed Underwood. I’d suggest if you want to pursue this look at how to know and follow God’s will that you buy the book. It’s old enough now that you can find it for $5 or less. It obviously take a more in-depth look at God’s will and discerning it.

For this last entry, I’d like to “borrow” from the book the great recap that the author uses one of his characters to make. BTW this is written as a story of a couple who goes backpacking with a crusty, old firefighter turned pastor named Sam. Sam gives these lessons to them along the way. Anyway, here is the recap from pages 177-178.

#1- TRUST. God doesn’t need your strength to guide you, but you do need His strength to recognize His guidance.  Pr. 3:5-6

#2-RELATIONSHIP.  Make sure you’re all in for Jesus. Ps. 25:14

#3- INTIMACY. Stay within the circle of intimacy with God, and trust Him that you’re on the dot of His good and perfect will.  Ps. 139: 23-24

#4- TIMING. Live expectantly; God’s signature on events is timing. Eccl. 3:1

#5- PROTECTION. God’s will is a flashlight, not a crystal ball; walk to the edge of the darkness and wait.  Ps. 119:105

#6- ENCOURAGEMENT. When you wonder if you’re on the right path, ask God for a sign of encouragement.           Ps. 86:17

#7- COMMUNITY. Loners lose their way; trust the guidance of those who love you enough to tell you the truth. Pr.12: 15

#8- GRACE. All is grace; put one foot in front of the other. Pr.16: 9

My take? All is grace. If I follow Jesus with a heart that seeks Him, no matter what I do, He is there. I may bob and weave. I may totter. I may stumble as I follow. I may lose sight of the path. But He will be there for me and with me. He will protect me. He will encourage me when I need it. I need to surround myself with a community, a group/person I can count on to tell me the truth. And then trust that all is grace.

So ends the series of posts on The Trail. I pray it has helped you to clarify some things. I also pray it has challenged you to seek God’s desire (will) for you. I don’t need to say each of us are different, so one size doesn’t fit all. Carve out your own path in following Him.  And remember: All is grace.

The Trail: A Tale about Discovering God's Will

September 21

Wednesday, September 21st, 2022

The final principle is here. But before I give that to you, let’s stop here for a moment to think. Whenever the will of God is talked about, many tend to lean toward the mystical. They look for a “sign” or an “open door” or a “word of knowledge” (cringe), or a dream. Something. Anything.

Meanwhile, many figuratively sit in a chair, put their feet up on the desk, and say, “OK God. Lay it on me.” You know what I mean with that picture. It is way too common for people to simply “hold out” for God to WOW them. Rather than go about their daily business with a heart open to God’s leading, they just sit around and expect it to fall into their lap. It has been my experience that doesn’t happen.

Is that saying God doesn’t surprise us sometimes? No, not at all. But to sit and rely on that is wrong. Unless we are Zechariah who receives a visit from angel in the Temple; or a Mary who receives a personal visit from Gabriel to give her some phenomenal news; or a Paul who had an angel appear in his room and tell him he was to go to Jerusalem; or a Joseph who was warned in a dream to hightail it to Egypt, God simply shows up in our daily activities, a timely word while reading His Word, or some good advice from a friend.

Principle #8 is the final one:

All is grace; put one foot in front of the other.

I’m going to close out this study on God’s will tomorrow. See you then. Until then, remember: All in grace; put one foot in front of the other.

September 20

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022

Have you ever noticed how there are some people who seem to want to be left alone? They don’t need or want any help. They can do it on their own.

Even children.

Who of us has not seen a child rebuff a parent’s help? Moms try to dress their child only for them to say, “I can do it myself.” Not really, but how can one argue with a determined child?

That carries on as the person gets older. They don’t want any help with homework. With solving a problem. With a relationship.

There are also those who just want no human intervention or interaction. Granted, there are time we all need space. But I’m talking about those who prefer to be alone…most of the time, if not permanently. I visited an old friend the other day. I hadn’t seen or heard from him since he dropped off the planet in, I’m guessing, 8 years. I went to his house to say hi and his reaction was sort of rude, to say the least. When I said hi, his words were, “Bill, what are doing here?”  I said, “I was going through a file looking for some papers for a bike rack I was giving (_______) and I came across some papers for the bike hitch you bought for me back in 2012. Your address was there as well as your phone number and email address. I tried the phone and email and they both came back so I thought I would drop by and say hi. I have no agenda. Just to say hi.” His words? “I find that hard to believe (referring to me not having an agenda).”  I even sent him a note this past week reiterating that.

He prefers to live as a hermit with his brother. Sad.  Someday maybe he will realize his need for a friend. But truthfully, some want to be loners.

Tragically, there are Christ-followers who want to be left alone. They want to hide who they really are. Masks weren’t just for COVID. Loners cut themselves off from others, especially from fellow Christ-followers. Whether it is pride or fear or distrust, who knows?

But no follower of Jesus can survive on his/her own.

Principle #7: Loners lose their way; trust the guidance of those who love you enough to tell you the truth.

Are you willing to trust others?

August 11

Thursday, August 11th, 2022

I confess. I’m guilty. After reading Luke 12 I can only say, “I’m guilty.”

I’m guilty of misplaced priorities.

I’m guilty of teaching/preaching/saying one thing but doing the opposite.

I’m guilty of living for this world and not another.

I’m guilty of mismanaging the little. (How then can I be trusted with the much?)

I’m guilty of not seeking God’s kingdom first.

I’m guilty of being so “here-focused” that I am seldom “there-focused.”

I’m guilty of worrying about my future, sometimes dwelling on it too much and lamenting financial mismanagment and a lack of preparation for retirement.

I’m guilty of greed, of not being satisfied with what I have.  (Can anyone say vehicles?)

I’m guilty of a heart divided.

After all that guilt there is only one way to assuage it. Jesus put it succinctly: “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one is affluent does his life consist of his possessions.”  (12:15 NASB2020)

Keep my priorities where they belong. Focus on Jesus. Pursue Him and His righteousness. Leave the future in His more than capable hands.

“There you have it Father. My manifesto about my future. Guilty? Yes. Forgiven? Most definitely. Re-focused on You? My desire. May it be with your strength and direction.”

August 10

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022

As you read through Isaiah, there are some great passages. I’m about to hit some of them soon. but there are also some confusing ones-not confusing in the sense of “I don’t understand what it is saying”-but confusing in the sense of “How can this happen?”

A case in point is Isaiah 38-39. In chapter 38 King Hezekiah is on his death bed.  A boil seems to have ravaged his body to the point of death (39:21; 2 Kings 20:7). Hezekiah prays (more like wails) and God hears his prayer. He promises Hezekiah 15 more years of life (2 Kings 20:6).

But in those 15 years, two things happen which taint Hezekiah’s legacy.

1. He lets his head get too big. His pride is such that he opens his treasuries and shows the representatives from Babylon all he has (2 Chron. 32:25). Isaiah rebukes him and tells him that someday Babylon will come and carry away all his treasures.

2. Manasseh is born. One of, if not the most ungodly of kings, is born during the additional 15 years. A son like him is sure to taint a legacy.

Not all that happened during that 15 years is bad. For more on Hezekiah, I encourage you to read 2 Kings 20 and 2 Chronicles 32.

What a picture of contrasts don’t you think? A man who cries out to God for more time is given 15 more years. While he did some good things, Hezekiah is often remembered for his two missteps: pride gone awry and a wayward son.

What confuses me, of course, is his inability to acknowledge God’s answered prayer by a humble spirit. But I guess I should not be too shocked. I’m the same way. Blessed beyond measure, I sometimes fail to say thanks, but also take credit for my “state” and lose sight of where it came from. My pride rears its ugly head and I decide to do things my way. EPIC. FAIL.

“Father, may I humble myself before You and remember where it all came from.  Please help me to not lose sight of that truth.”

July 18

Monday, July 18th, 2022

During my Encounter Time this morning, I read from Mark 10. There were several “clumps” of verses that I highlighted:

1. 10: 6-9– God’s original intention of marriage being one man/one woman for life.

2. 10: 14-15- Jesus speaks about the heart of a child-their acceptance of His message and us becoming like one.

3. 10: 23-25– In His encounter with the rich, young ruler, Jesus talks about the difficulty of a rich person getting into heaven. It is not that they can’t or won’t. it comes down to who owns his/her life.

But the one which stuck with me this morning:

4. 10: 43-45– Jesus speaks about being a servant and then uses Himself as an example. Can there be any more telling verse about Him and His purpose/mission on earth than verse 45? “He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

Jesus shows what true servanthood is. He shows us what true humility is. He shows us that being #1 is not all its cracked up to be. There is greater joy and greater reward in being a servant, of being the one who gives her/her life away for others than to live for self and self-promotion.

“Father, may I be a servant to all. Help me to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.” 

July 14

Thursday, July 14th, 2022

The last couple of evenings I have been reading a book called A Rebel’s Manifesto by Sean McDowell. Sean’s dad is Josh McDowell, one of the very first apologists I ever heard of. He wrote the early classic Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Sean’s book is mainly geared to young people who must make decisions concerning life, worldview, etc, but I am learning it is a very valuable book for adults as well.

In chapter 4, which he entitles Think Christianly, Sean talks about his dad being his hero. He remembers his dad making a statement which still has a profound affect on him:

When you read an article or book always discern the assumptions of the person who wrote it. Their assumptions will shape everything they write.

That is so true! It is called a worldview. As I read Neil Shenvi’s book, Why Believe, (very slowly I might add), every quote, every idea, is coming from a specific worldview. Naturalism. Secular humanism. Existentialism. Atheist. Theist. How we look at the things of God all flow from our own worldview.

I have a Christian worldview (and won’t apologize for it), so everything I look at will be seen through that filter. I will navigate my world through that map. I will look at current events, everyday happenings, sickness, trials, etc. through that map. That is why it is so important for me-for you- to have the mind of Christ (Col. 3: 1-2). See things through the lens of Christ. Not only does it affect how I see things BUT it also affects how I interact with people who may or may not agree with me or my worldview. Moral differences come from different worldviews.

But here is another truth: each person has dignity and despite their worldview-different or the same-they are to be treated with respect and a listening ear. I can listen without compromise or without “dissing” them.

Hold fast. Listen well. Treat with respect. No compromise.

June 28

Tuesday, June 28th, 2022

After I finished Revelation and my analysis of it (It started with the April 18th post), I did what I always do. I started reading the NT again, beginning with Matthew 1. It will be a challenge to finish it on or close to December 31. I am now in Matthew 23. This will be my first of two posts from that chapter.

Matthew 23: 1-12

My first inclination was to comment on the “do as I say not as I do” scenario we find ourselves in as Jesus confronts the Pharisees with their hypocritical double standards. But as I read further with that thought in mind, I came to these words in verses 10-12: “And do not be called leaders, for only One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest of you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.”

Jesus is the Leader. My leader. The logical conclusion to that statement might look like this:

  • Jesus is the Leader.
  • Jesus is Greater than me.
  • Therefore, I am to be His servant.

Being a servant sounds simple, but it isn’t. It requires a dose of humility (for some of us more than a small one). It requires the willingness to raise others up and put myself down (not in false humility). My purpose is to make His Name great.

The Pharisees didn’t do that. They couldn’t! They were too busy promoting themselves and their own self-righteousness. That’s the whole gist of verses 4-7. Self-promotion can never promote the great Name of Jesus. Self-promotion can never honor, exalt, magnify, glorify and make great the Name of Jesus.

We are to live for the fame of His Name. I/we cannot do that when we are clamoring for the microphone.

MAKE GREAT HIS NAME!!

April 11

Monday, April 11th, 2022

A slight detour for this morning from my previous thoughts.

Yesterday, Sunday, was what is commonly called Palm Sunday.  It is considered the start of what is called “Holy Week,” i.e. the final week of Jesus’ life here on earth. As we know, it begins with Palm Sunday and ends with the crucifixion (called Good Friday) and culminates with the Resurrection on the first day of the week.

It is historically called Palm Sunday because it is the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people waved palm branches, laid them on the ground, and yelled, “Hallelujah! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!”  (Mt.21; Mk.11; Lk.19; Jn.12)

Luke’s is the longest account. Each gives his perspective. But there are some similarities. The one which stands out to me is Jesus riding in on a donkey. He is being hailed as a king yet rides in on a donkey.

No conquering king or general rode in on a donkey. Nothing less than a white charger would do! it was below a person of status to ride anything less. But here is Jesus-the King of kings and Lord of lords-riding into town on a donkey. A borrowed one at that.

What a picture of humility!! The accolades flow. The praise reaches a crescendo. The religious leaders get mad. But here is Jesus  riding, not a white charger, but a borrowed donkey.

Again…what humility! One act speaks volumes…for eternity.

“Father, may I exhibit humility like Jesus. When people praise me, may I accept it and act with humility and now allow it to go my head.”

March 28

Monday, March 28th, 2022

When I was in my teen years I was different. I had been raised to treat people with respect. To answer with “Yes mam” and “No sir.” Growing up in PA near Pittsburgh in the 50s and 60s the use of the “N” word was very common. But not to my mom. No sirree! I was taught not to use that word or to make fun of others, especially those who were handicapped.

I chose not to smoke, drink or chew for several reasons. I played sports. I was scared of my dad. And more importantly, my faith was important to me and I didn’t feel that represented Jesus in a good light. When the riots took place in the late 60s and black and white kids who used to be friends were duking it out, I chose to withdraw and not take part. I found there were others who were like-minded (Jeff Goldblum was one of them).

Peer pressure was there but was not a defining thing for me. Harder for me was when I “came out of the closet” spiritually and chose to leave my legalism behind. God had been working on me for awhile, but I resisted. It was when I found myself surrounded with a legalistic bunch that I finally gave up and surrendered my pride and my “legacy” to God. I went through some semblance of burnout as I struggled with leaving the comfortable and stepping into the unknown. It wasn’t over then. A new church said, “You’re done here” (I’m putting it nicely) after 3 years. The reason I was given was “I didn’t preach on water baptism and other mainstays of the Christian Church/Church of Christ enough.”

Strange. I was able to resist peer pressure but it took me longer to yield to the Spirit’s pressure because of the unknown than it ever did to peer pressure.  Pastoral peer pressure existed in a big way. I’m glad I finally said, “Goodbye” to that and submitted to the Spirit’s pressure.

At that moment (whenever it was), I went from Pharisee to tax collector. One of the best moments of my life.

My prayer is that I will continue submitting to the Spirit’s pressure and not worry about peer pressure and what others will think. That pressure to be liked is a far greater one that any peer pressure. But following the Spirit is so much more satisfying…even if it isn’t always popular.