Humility

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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.

March 22

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2022

I cracked open an old friend the other day. No, not the Bible! 🙂  Years ago, 1994 to be exact, I read a book-a fiction book-which literally changed my life. I read it once and thought it was good as an addition to Christian fiction reading at the time. A year later I went away for a 3 day retreat of prayer and fasting. I took the book with me. At the time, I am not sure why. I soon found out it was a God-thing. I started reading the book during some self-imposed down time at the retreat and was blindsided by it. I found myself weeping-not because it was an emotional book of tear-jerking love stories-but because I saw me. And I didn’t like what I saw.

Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur is the story of Jason Faircloth, an authoritarian, legalistic, know-it-all pastor whose life was turned upside down by two catastrophic events. These events led him to abandon his “pastor calling” and go on a search for wisdom and truth.

I can relate to Jason because I, too, was an arrogant, pompous, know-it-all. God used that book to dig deep into my heart with a pick-axe. The only ones Jesus had trouble with in His ministry were the religious, know-it-all, legalistic Pharisees. I didn’t want that anymore. I wanted to be open to His Word, to His leading, to the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and to being taught new and exciting truths.

I’m there again. Not the legalistic, pompous (least I hope not), know-it-all. I want to learn more. I want an insatiable hunger and thirst for God’s Word. I want to “know Him and the power of His resurrection” as Paul puts it in Phil. 3:10 (that word “know” literally means “to know intimately”). I’m not anywhere near the legalistic pastor I was back then (I NEVER want to go back there again), but I do want to crave a relationship with the Father and seek His wisdom.

I’d appreciate your prayers for me.

{Note: It is very possible the next couple of devotions will include some thoughts from the book that especially touched me…then and now).

March 15

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

“My dad can beat up your dad.”  “My dad is smarter than your dad.” “My mom is prettier than your mom.”

Remember those days? (I have a hard time because they were so long ago. 🙂 ) That game is still played by kids…and adults. The comparison game.

It never stops. Sports. Academics. Opposite sex attraction. Jobs. Friends. Physical stature (“I’m taller/stronger/faster than you are now.”) Church size (“We had x number of people this past Sunday.”) Sin.

Sin? Back the truck up!! Yes sin. When was the last time you heard someone say, “My sin is so much greater than yours so I deserve a much greater punishment”? On rare occasions…maybe…you might hear someone who is truly humble and will admit their sin. Most often it is more common to hear someone say their sin is not as bad as that person over there. “I don’t do this or that.” “I haven’t committed adultery.” “I haven’t left my spouse.” On and on the “I haven’t” goes.

Only when we see our sin in light of God’s unrelenting grace and the sinless Son of God will we see a more truthful picture of who we really are. When I think I am more righteous than I am I become a Pharisee like the one in Jesus’ story of the Pharisee and tax collector in Luke 18: 9-17.

God sees me for who I am. He is infinitely smarter than me. It would be much better for me to approach Him as a tax collector than a Pharisee. Comparisons pushed aside.

“Father, may I see myself as You see me…as I really am.”

March 9

Wednesday, March 9th, 2022

“I want to be dirt poor. I want to have nothing,” said no person ever.

In fact, we do our very best to not be poor. We trade. We invest. We save.  No problem here. The converse to that is that we buy to impress. We want people to not see us as poor. So to prove we aren’t poor, we buy things which give the impression we are doing okay. Ironically, it is these very things which sometimes take us down.

It seems strange then that Jesus calls us to be poor. “Blessed are the poor in spirit” is how He put it. True that is taking life and looking at it differently, but think this through with me. It is Week #1 of Lent. I confess to you right here that I did not say, “I’m going to give up (fill in the blank).” Sadly, the only things we tend to give up are the things we are better off without anyway: sugar, candy, pop, alcohol, etc. Here is an idea to think about! I have never heard someone say, “I’m going to give up always having to be right.” “I’m going to give up my arrogance and pride.” “I’m going to give up watching TV from…say…7-8:00 and use that time to pray and read my Bible.” 

Poor in spirit has nothing to do with money. It has everything to do with humility. It has everything to do with the realization that humility is the pathway to a richer, fuller life. It is remembering the One of whom it was said, “He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)

Lent reminds us to honor the One who gave up so that we might become rich. Perhaps what we should be giving up should actually be used to benefit someone else.

“Father, help me to follow the example of Jesus, in that He was willing to become poor so that I might become rich by knowing the wealth of His salvation.”

March 2

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2022

Just a short thought this morning.

Today is what is called Ash Wednesday by the religious world.  It is considered the “kickoff” to Easter. 40 days lie between today and Resurrection Sunday.  This 40 day period is called Lent. I was raised in a church tradition that did not observe, teach or practice Lent. I remember being in a high school study hall and seeing a teacher, Mr. Bano, with a smudge on his forehead. I was clueless and almost- ALMOST- said something to him about the smudge of dirt on his forehead. Yeah…like I said…clueless.

Fast forward many years. Probably 35+. I was still fairly clueless about Lent. A little study showed me it was more than 40 days of doing without. My first foray into that fray was doing without Diet Dr. Pepper. I thought I would try it. I succeeded. Some do without coffee. Some do without pop. Some do without sugar (candy). Some do without (fill in the blank). I’m still not sure why doing without meat, etc is a sign of “spiritual awareness.”

Lent is supposed to be 40 days of reflection on God’s holiness and grace. It is supposed to be a time when we focus on the suffering and sacrifice of Jesus. Whether you do without something or continue as is, may the next 40 days bring you and me a new awareness of all Jesus did for us, culminating in the cross and His resurrection.

You may be wondering what I am going to be doing without over the next 40 days. Doing without sin would be really nice, but that would be an effort in futility.  🙂  I have no plans to do without anything in particular. I just want the next 40 days, the rest of my life really, to be a testimony of God’s goodness, forgiveness and grace.

March 1

Tuesday, March 1st, 2022

Have you ever noticed that sometimes simple is best? You go into a restaurant and you are hungry for a cheeseburger. But many restaurants don’t have just a cheeseburger. They have a double cheese with bacon, avocado, onion, BBQ sauce…okay the whole kitchen sink. Its so sloppy you spend more time wiping your hands and mouth and beard (if applicable), or your shirt that you can’t even taste the cheeseburger.

I like wings-boneless- thank you very much. I don’t like them hot. I know one restaurant with so many sauces one can’t make up their mind. And to top it off they have a 3 or 5 alarm sauce. No thank you. I want to enjoy my wings. Carolina Gold with some Ranch on the side sounds really good about now.  Oops its only 5:15 a.m. 🙂

The book of Philemon-which I read this morning- is like that. Simple. To the point. People love Romans and the prison epistles that Paul wrote. I do too. But sometimes a simple message is enough. Philemon had a slave named Onesimus who ran away.  Somewhere along the line he was converted under Paul’s ministry and Paul wanted to honor Philemon by doing what was right-he offered Onesimus back to him. He could have ordered Philemon to take him (v.8), but instead he appealed to him as a friend and a lover of Jesus (v.9). If Philemon didn’t want Onesimus, Paul did!  But he wanted Philemon’s consent (v.14).

Simple. Direct. Loving. Respectful. Paul shows us how it is done. Friendship is worth preserving no matter your lot in life. No matter your likes or dislikes.

“Father, friendship is so important. Thank you for this postcard by Paul to show us how it is done. May I be a friend who is loving and respectful in all things.”

February 17

Thursday, February 17th, 2022

There is a story of a father who watched his son struggle with trying to remove a boulder. It was way too heavy for him to do so. He grunted. He groaned. He tried to pick it up. He tried to push it. When he finally stood defeated his father asked him if he had tried everything. He said, “Yes.”  That’s when the father said, “No you haven’t. You haven’t asked me.”

Okay…so that may be a bit cheesy or even hokey. I will grant that. But it isn’t that far off either. There is ingrained in each one of us this “I-can-do-it-by-myself” attitude. Whether it is something as simple as moving a stone or something as monumental as a seemingly immovable mountain in life, we all struggle with showing weakness.

Whether with people, and especially with God, we tend to want to take the “bull by the horns” and show we are strong.

Paul speaks to that attitude in 2 Cor. 12: 9-10. He writes, “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in distresses, in persecutions, in difficulties, in behalf of Christ, for when I am weak, then I am strong.”  It is not easy to admit I need help. Paul David Tripp wrote these words in New Morning Mercies:

Weakness is not the big danger to be avoided. What we need to avoid is the delusion of strength.

I’m convinced that we are afraid to admit our weakness. We don’t want others to perceive we are needy, we just can’t do something. We think there is more virtue in having this tough exterior and “can do” attitude, than saying, “I need help.” Sure, there are times we need to be strong; we need to not give up so easily. But we can also be so stubborn that we miss out on God’s grace gift of help.

Are you one of those who is afraid to show a weakness? Or to ask for help is a sign of weakness? Lay it aside. God never takes us on a journey where He leaves us to rely on our own strength and abilities. He always gives us the strength to accomplish what He has set before us…even if it means asking for an extra hand.

“Father, help me not to be so stubborn or foolish so as to think I need no one else, especially You.”

February 16

Wednesday, February 16th, 2022

I listened to someone yesterday. You might say, “That’s not unusual. I listen to people every day.” And I suspect you are right. But when I say I listened to someone, I mean I L.I.S.T.E.N.E.D. to someone.

Let me explain. In wanting to do something, and unsure of what direction to go in, I gave multiple options. That’s not bad except the way I presented it was confusing (so this person said). It was too many options. And confusing. After doing something one way, I was thinking of shifting gears. Did I say it was confusing? The other person thought so anyway. I can honestly say I was seeking the multiple persons’ opinions when I gave the options, but I was muddying the waters.

There is more to the situation that I have been able to describe but I won’t bore you with the details. My point in all of this rambling is the importance of listening. Really listening. Taking advice. I’ve not always been the best at doing that (and I suspect I am not alone). I often shoot from the hip and think later. I also have pieces to pick up sometimes. I could have saved a lot heartache, headaches, and wounded bodies if I had sought advice first.

Taking advice is not easy. I’m reading a book right now on Don’t Blow Up Your Ministry by Michael Mackenzie and one of the common threads of those who do so is the failure to listen, to take advice, to be accountable. Ego enters the picture. A know-it-all attitude. An air of invincibility. A superhero complex.  Pr.12:15 says, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a person who listens to advice is wise.” Listening to advice separates the wise and the fool. “A wise person is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is arrogant and careless.”

I’m not sure how this situation will turn out, but for me, at least it was a step in the right direction.

Do you listen to advice or do you tend to be deadset in your own ways and in you own agenda?

“Father, continue to teach me to listen and learn.”

Note: All Scripture is from the NASB2020.

January 26

Wednesday, January 26th, 2022

Flashbacks before my eyes. Bad, ugly memories. Remembering with horror what I almost did. No, it’s not a drug trip. The strongest drug I’ve ever taken has been Lortab after a dental surgery and I passed out after taking it.  🙂  You know how they say, “Now, there’s a person who can’t hold their liquor”? They would say, “Now there’s a person who can’t take a drug.” 🙂 🙂

Anyway, I read this verse: “Like a city that is broken into without walls, so is a person who has no self-control over his spirit.” (Pr.25:28-NASB2020) Then I read Phil.2: 5-11 about Jesus humbling Himself to the point of death. Paul tells me to have the same mind of Christ-humble.

I was a freshman in college on the basketball team and had been going through a rough patch with another player…over a girl of all things. He had been playing dirty the past couple of practices and I’d had enough. I knew he was behind me so I went up for the rebound, cupped the ball in my left hand/elbow, cocked my right elbow and let it fly. I missed his nose by inches. The coach (rightly) sat me down to cool off. I cringe now when I think how close I came to rearranging his nose and face if I had connected.  It is like a nightmare that revisits me from time to time.

It is also a lesson I learned. Long before I knew of Proverbs 25:28. Solomon is describing me-a person with broken walls. I didn’t want that to follow me. God used that episode to bring me clarity and conviction, as well as a resolve to never lose control like that again.

“Father, help me to control my temper, my emotions, so that I exhibit Christ in all I say and do.”