Monday, May 15, 2017

30. Why Humility?

     And thus, we come to the final chapter in the 30 week series of BELIEVE. Like many of the the elements included in BELIEVE and THE STORY, I have thought to myself, "I would not have included this story" or "I wonder why Randy Frazee and/or Zondervan did this."

     I wonder this morning "Why Humility?" "Hope" and "Humility" are two of the ten key virtues included in BELIEVE which are not found in the Galatians 5:22-23 listing of the fruit of the Spirit. Hope is a virtue similar to faith or belief and of course listed repeatedly in the New Testament, such as 1 Cor. 13, "faith, hope, love."

    But  again, I wonder why list humility compared to all of the other virtues of the Bible? Humility is listed as the polar opposite of "pride" found the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy and pride), contrasted within the seven heavenly virtues (purity, temperance, charity, diligence, patience, kindness and humility).

     Humility in this day is a virtue sadly lacking in politics, in friendships, in families, marriages, and even in religion. The Greek word (tapeinophorsyne) is so hard to pronounce, it would probably cause you a great deal pride if you were to learn to say it! It literally means lowliness of mind, not in the sense of stupidity, but in one's estimation of one's own importance.

     Humility is not low self-esteem, but rather a way of lifting others up, edifying those around us. It is a prerequisite for God to come then and be the one of lifts us up, instead of us trying to lift ourselves up. Often pride comes at the expense of us pushing others down to raise our own importance.

     Jesus said that the virtue of humility actually allows God to come and lift us up (see Matt. 18:4, "Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven," and Matt. 23:12, "And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

    We may question why humility but Christ certainly does not question it as a virtue. He requires it of us.

 The following devotional comes from Zondervan.

What does it mean to value others before myself?

Humility is a driving virtue in the Christian life and community. Choosing to esteem others above oneself encourages harmony and love. The opposite of humility is pride. Prideful people typically believe they are better than others. They strive to get their way at the expense of others or boast as a way of boosting low self-esteem. When a person possesses Biblical humility they draw from internal “God-esteem.” They have received God’s unconditional love and embraced their inherent worth as God’s child. From this belief they are capable of lifting others up.

Jesus is our supreme example of humility. The God of the universe could have ridden into our world on a white horse with a serious entourage and fanfare. Instead he came to us as a baby born in a stable to poor parents.

As Jesus was coming to the end of his time on earth, he wanted to impress upon his disciples the importance of humility. He does so in an unforgettable way. (See John 13:1-17.)

What does God require from us? Micah, a prophet to Israel and Judah in the eighth century BC, answered this question with convicting succinctness. What God required then, he still requires of us today.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Read more in Micah 6:6–8.)

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3–4)

I choose to esteem others above myself.

KEY APPLICATION: What difference does this make in the way I live?
The ultimate humility is found when we place our heart in the constant position of putting God’s glory first and seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness. The more we immerse ourselves into the ministry of Christ to others, the more we experience the abundant life he offers. Seeing him change lives through our obedience is humility at its finest hour.

For growing Christians, a strong sense of self-esteem flows from “God-esteem” on the inside, which frees us to focus on “others-esteem.” When they enter any conversation with a neighbor, the prayer is, Dear God, help me place this person above myself and draw them to you. As the world becomes increasingly self-absorbed, humility will not only be one of the most attractive and refreshing fruit of God’s Spirit to a searching and hurting world, but also a great blessing to our own lives in offering our hearts daily to the Lord, as we exalt him and him alone.

Friday, May 12, 2017

29. A Kinder, Gentler Nature

     As many of you may notice, we are getting our parking lot repaved. I was at first surprised and even incredulous that they painted stripes in a very obviously wrong and mistaken way, only to later find out that they did so based on the wrong and mistaken blueprints that I (yes me) had given them. 

    When I learned that the error was mine (mostly mine I might add) I was thankful that I was gentle rather than harsh when I told them of "their" error. It reminded me of the phrase I used a couple of weeks ago, "Lord, let me give the gentleness today that I will need to receive tomorrow." I was also reminded that anytime you point one finger at someone else's wrong, three are pointing back at you. 

    Do you believe that gentleness is a virtue that you really want to possess? Then why are we so quick to not practice it? The King James word for this is "meekness" which rhymes with "weakness" and we Americans, Christian or not, often do not truly value being gentle as a virtue. 

    Consider road rage. Is it really worth it to get so upset because some driver ahead of you is going to make you five seconds later? Or maybe not even that, as you pull up beside them at the light. 

    When George H.W. Bush coined the phrase, "a kinder, gentler nation," in his presidential acceptance speech, he probably did not realize how that phrase would be such a defining moment nearly 30 years ago. While ridiculed as idealistic, are there not many who wish our presidency, let alone our nation, were a little kinder, a little gentler? A nation becomes gentler when we collectively in our nature become gentler. 

     While there are a lot of things we may not be able to do, is it not true that all of us can be gentle? Gentleness may come more naturally to some than to others (and that is certainly true by the company we keep! Some people are harder to be gentle with than others). But all of us, especially those of us with the Holy Spirit's fruit living within us, ALL OF US can be gentler and kinder to one another. 

The following devotional comes from Zondervan. 


How do I demonstrate thoughtfulness and consideration toward others?

Nothing kills a family, a friendship, a neighborhood or even a church like pride, arrogance, anger, closed ears and raised voices. Since God is all about community, he calls his followers to be gentle. Of course, he teaches us by modeling this virtue right in our midst. Jesus offered up powerful insights and encouragement in the Sermon on the Mount.

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1–5)


Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:5)


I am thoughtful, considerate and calm in my dealings with others.


 What difference does this make in the way I live?

Think about this self-evaluation question regarding the virtue of gentleness: If you had plans with someone for Sunday evening, would they be dreading the time with you or excited about the visit? Would they be expecting you to be calm or abrasive? Would they anticipate you to be thoughtful and attentive or self-focused and distracted? Would they leave the time with you feeling encouraged or discouraged? Worn-out or refreshed?

The problem with this scenario, though, is that self-evaluation is deceptive. We cannot fully see and understand our lack of gentleness. If we want to know the true measure of our gentleness, we have to ask others.

Jesus extends the invitation: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). I want to be able to say this to the people God has placed in my life. How about you? With Christ in us, we can be gentle!