Tag Archives: Humility

Knowing You Don’t

The man with the money turned out to be a con-artist and a crook.  And when everything came crashing down, I thought I’d been ruined.  After months of negotiations, we were about to close on the sale of our business.  Mentally, I was already spending the money.  The night before the closing, the whole deal evaporated – in the space of one phone call.  Poof!  Gone!  That happened 30 years ago.  Now, I can look back, grateful for how it worked out. What seemed like a setback actually directed me down the road to a most satisfying and life-changing career.  But at the time?  Ouch!  Would that I had known these words:

” Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.”” (James 4:13-15)

My wife and I have experienced more than one of those sudden detours.  We have figured out how little we truly know or control what tomorrow holds.  In response to that truth, James basically says, understand these two things:

  • There is a God
  • You are not Him

But he also adds this insight: “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  Not only do we not know what tomorrow holds, we also don’t know if tomorrow will exist for us!  What do we do in the face of that reality?

“As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. “ (James 4:16-17)

In short:

  • Be humble
  • Since life is short, instead of building yourself a paradise you can’t keep, do good while you have the chance!

Chew on that…

 

 

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

The Mousetrap Question

Jesus did something that scared the living daylights out of His critics.  Do you know how?  Was it with a startling miracle?  A demonstration of mighty power?  Neither.  He did it with a question!  Jesus asked a question that frightened them and shut them up for good.  Like all good mousetraps, Jesus’ question seemed safe and simple at first.

“While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” “The son of David,” they replied.” (Matthew 22:41-42)

This looked like an easy volleyball lob for a return spike.  These guys were experts on the Scripture.  They knew all the answers.  And this one was easy.   They all knew that the Christ would be the son, or the descendant, of David.  You can almost see the cynical and triumphant look on their faces as they easily answered Jesus’ question.

But then Jesus’ trap was sprung!

“He said to them, “How is it then that David, speaking by the Spirit, calls him ‘Lord’? For he says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” ’ If then David calls him ‘Lord,’ how can he be his son?” No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions. “ (Matthew 22:43-46 – my emphases)

Whap!!!   Question is, what was it about this seemingly innocuous exchange that was so frightening to them?  Maybe this:

  • These self-proclaimed experts in the Scripture suddenly saw that there is more going on in God’s Word than they understood.  They didn’t know all the answers.  The Scriptures were written from God’s vantage point, not the limited and comparatively ignorant vantage point of humans.  To be confronted with this is humbling and frightening.  Especially for “scholars.”
  • Jesus trusted the actual words written in the Bible.  He didn’t pick and choose, as they did, according to what seemed right.  He accepted the words as they were written, even when those words didn’t conform with human, common sense.
  • Jesus knew that when the Scriptures were written, the human authors were “speaking by the Spirit” of God.
  • Because they could not refute what He said, the Pharisees began to suspect that the One with whom they were speaking was:
    • The Lord
    • The Messiah or Christ
    • Qualified to sit at the right hand of God
    • Would ultimately dominate all His enemies

When the rug is pulled out from under the things we think we know, it can be very scary.  Even more so when you cannot explain away the new insights.  The smart thing to do, despite your fear, is to re-evaluate your assumptions, looking carefully and thoughtfully into the things that have frightened you.  Such as what it says in the Bible.  That’s not what Jesus’ critics did.  They decided to kill Him.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Be a Real Tomato

Ever picked a tomato out of your garden and chomped down on it right away, letting the juice run down your chin?  Remember the incredible explosion of taste?  I challenge you to repeat that experience with any tomato you find at the store.  The primary motive of those who grew tomatoes for the store was making money not developing taste.  In the eyes of business, it takes too long to let a tomato grow naturally.  It’s too expensive to grow tomatoes for deep rich taste.  They work for tomatoes that look good, don’t bruise and survive lengthy warehousing and shipping.   That’s why store-bought tomatoes aren’t tasty.

There’s an illustration there about the difference between living by the ways of the world and living by the ways of God.  The world’s ways are all about making money and having stuff.  The world is more concerned with looks than it is with taste.  God intends for us to live and grow in His garden, receiving His provision on His schedule – all the things Jesus meant by “daily bread.”  The ways of God may seem inefficient to the world, but God’s ways develop “tasty” people.  When we grow and develop in harmony with God’s ways, life is better – it just is.  If you understand that, this quote from James doesn’t seem as harsh as it otherwise would:

“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

At first glance, that sounds like the angry utterance of someone who thinks it is sinful to enjoy life!  But what James is really saying is, “Be a real tomato!”  Live and grow in God’s garden in step with His ways and in harmony with His rhythms.  Receive your daily bread with gratitude and joy.  If you go chasing after beauty, riches and fame you just may achieve those things.  But you’ll miss out on the tastiest life.  Instead, look to your Father with humility and thankfulness.  Be a real tomato.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

Real Wisdom

See if  you can identify who said this:

“Every one who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that a spirit is manifest in the laws of the Universe-a spirit vastly superior to that of man, and one in the face of which we with our modest powers must feel humble.”

That’s a quote from Albert Einstein.  Arguably one of the most intelligent scientists to have ever lived, Einstein was humbled by his awareness of a vastly superior “Spirit.”  It’s been said that those who know the most are humble because they realize just how much they don’t know.  People who know less, frequently become cocky with the idea that they’ve got it all figured out.  Real wisdom comes packed in a life that is free of arrogance.

” Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)

Bible Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Einstein Quote: http://www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/einstein/

An Important Person

He’s brilliant but has always suffered from mild brain damage.  He reads and retains books on lofty, intellectual subjects far beyond my capacity but works as a busboy in a nursing home.  I bumped into him at the store and he was telling me about one of the patients who has Alzheimer’s.  She helps herself to everyone else’s leftovers while he is bussing the tables.  He stopped and thought deeply for a moment and then said, “You know, she is every bit as important as either of us…”

I love it when God speaks through His people. He reminds us that His ways are not like the ways of the world.  Like this:

” My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4)

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Tell and Show

In truth, it’s not what you say that matters; it’s what you do.  That’s the test.  It’s not enough to sound religious, to say a bunch of holy things about God and stuff.  It’s what you do that shows if you are spiritually alive.

“If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. “ (James 1:26-27)

At first glance it sounds like James is saying, “Hey, watch your language around here, buddy…” But really, he is warning people not to sound religious to impress others or maybe even God.  People may be fooled by that, but God isn’t impressed with lofty tones of voice and holy vocabulary.  He cares about what He sees us do.  Don’t misunderstand: we can’t earn our way into God’s favor with good works.  But when we have His Spirit alive within us, we will show it as we tend to help others in distress.  Even those like widows and orphans who, in that day, didn’t count for much.  “Being polluted by the world,” in this context, means caring more about my own reputation among the influential people than I do about someone else with real needs.

These two verses drag me across coals of regret. I wince to read about keeping a close rein on my tongue.  But that’s why I need these verses.  And why I need grace.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Wise Up

She was alone and afraid.  The night before, she had made a tough but courageous medical decision but now, as early daylight began to seep into her hospital room, fear came with it.  She prayed, asking God to send her something to encourage her.  Almost immediately a doctor came into her room and sat by her side.  “I was not scheduled to see you until later today, but something prompted me to come now,” he said.   He was literally Heaven-sent!

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5)

There are times when it is appropriate to pray for rescue, for healing, for money, for material things.  It is always appropriate to pray for wisdom.  When we ask God for wisdom, He gives generously, not grudgingly and He doesn’t hold it against us that we need to ask.

But what is wisdom?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.” (Psalm 111:10)

Fear of the Lord is not like fear of spiders.  This kind of fear is an attitude of profound respect and reverence, combined with humility.  The captain of a nuclear submarine isn’t afraid of the sub, but must “fear” it; he must maintain a humble awareness of her power and a respect for doing things the right way.  Or else!   Fear of the Lord is similar.  It’s a profound respect for the power, sovereignty of God, a humble attitude that acknowledges His unlimited understanding.  When you come with that attitude before God, asking Him for wisdom, it is a prayer to understand what He sees, a prayer for guidance to do things the right way.

God hears a prayer like that and answers it generously, without finding fault.  Sometimes He simply shows us, giving us new insight and peace.  Sometimes He sends a doctor.

Quotes:  The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

What to Look For

If there is a puddle under a used car, don’t buy it.  Same thing with suspicious-looking paint jobs.  But how can you “kick the tires” on a church?  How can you tell if a church really represents Jesus in a true way?  You have heard horror stories about dysfunctional churches; how can you avoid the bad ones and find the good ones?  Here is one thing to look for:  How high and mighty is the pastor?  How closely does the pastor live by these words of Jesus?

“Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”” (Matthew 20:25-28)

Jesus not only commanded His followers to adopt the heart of a servant toward one another, He demonstrated this attitude by His own act of sacrifice.

If you notice a pastor who expects to be treated with special privilege, who struts about with an air of superiority, you can be pretty sure that church is in bad shape.  It may look all nice and shiny, but there is something essentially wrong at its core.  Pastors who know Jesus and follow him will show it by their humbleness and readiness to serve.  The same is true for the rest of the congregation, but it is easier to notice by observing the pastor.

Sadly, this one test is one many, many churches would fail.  But, when you shop for used cars, most of those should be avoided, too.  Not every church is a place Jesus attends.  Don’t overlook this telltale sign.

Quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Hand in Hand

You have seen him: He’s just caught the game-winning touchdown pass and now he stands in the end zone, his arms raised and his hands lifted up to receive the adulation of the crowd.  His face says, “That’s right, I’m the greatest!”  Picture him.  Now compare ???????????????????????????????him with this little boy, also with his arm extended, but this time with his hand holding tight to the hand of his father because the waves are so high.  (http://annmareebeaman.com/)

You’ve seen him, too, perhaps as he goes into the schoolyard for the first time, or approaches the lions’ cage at the circus, holding onto Dad’s hand.  Two boys with their arms held high: Who is the greatest?

” At that time the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” He called a little child and had him stand among them. And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-4)

In our world, we think that the greatest is the strongest, the most gifted, the richest, the coolest, the most famous, the most powerful, the guy with his arm raised up in the end zone.  Jesus said that guy doesn’t even make the cut for the Kingdom of Heaven – that is, unless he changes and becomes like a little child!  But like a little child in what respect?  In humbling himself.  

A child knows he needs help, that he can’t succeed on his own, so he reaches up and takes the hand of his father.  When it comes to entering the Kingdom of Heaven, becoming a child of God and attaining eternal life, we need to begin by realizing we cannot do this on our own. To do so on our own would require absolute perfection, from the moment of our birth until we die.  Impossible.  We need to reach up and take hold of the Hand of the Only One Who can accomplish it, Who can open the door to the Kingdom of Heaven.  When we reach out for His hand, we change from the world’s “can-do,” arrogant attitude, and adopt the humility of a child – trust and dependence.  In that position of weakness and trust, we hold on to His strength and competence.

Like Elvis sang:

Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea
Take a look at yourself
And you can look at others differently
Put your hand in the hand of the man
From Galilee

(Put Your Hand in the Hand – by Gene MacLellan)
Bible quotes: The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

No Elvis Eyes

Picture Elvis.  The sparkles of his sequined, high-collared costume, the swagger, the hair, the sweat…   He takes a scarf and bestows it on one of his adoring fans.  Look at his eyes.  Can you see them?  He had Elvis eyes because he was “The King.”   Everywhere he went, he was treated like royalty.  But Elvis was only “The King” for lovers of that kind of music.  What would it feel like to be the King of a growing, strong and influential country?  What would the look in his eyes be like?

King David was all of that.  True, he also played music, but David was the King of everybody, not just those who liked his music.  Imagine how powerful and privileged he must have felt.  On a whim, he could send out hundreds of warriors.  He literally had the power of life and death over his subjects.  And yet, here is what he said about his eyes:

“My heart is not proud, O Lord, my eyes are not haughty…”  (Psalm 131 1a)

It intrigues me that people can tell what you really think by looking at your eyes.  I can’t describe haughty eyes, but I know when I see them.  David, the King of the whole country (which was at that time, a major player in the Middle East) says “my eyes are not haughty…”   No Elvis eyes on David.  I’ve seen books written about how to dress in a way that intimidates others.  No doubt, someone has written a book about how to succeed by showing arrogance in your eyes.  But David, who must have surely been tempted to think he was something special, confessed, “My heart is not proud…”  Why not?

David didn’t look down on others because he was too busy looking up to God.

“I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” (Psalm 131:1b-3)

What do you suppose this world would be like if our leaders looked up to God and not down on us?  What if they humbly admitted that there were “great matters [and] things too wonderful for [them]?”  Things that filled them with wonder and awe, things that reminded them of God’s position and power?  How would the world be different if its leaders all “stilled and quieted” their souls before God, resting in Him like a weaned child with its mother?

Do you yearn for a world like that?  I do.  If so, start with this:  Check your eyes.  God will “…save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty” (Psalm 18:27b).  And pray: “Thy Kingdom come…”