Posts Tagged ‘Humility’

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SURVIVING SLIPPERY ROADS – Jan. 25

January 25, 2013

“This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.  By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith…” 1 Timothy 1:18-19

Icy Roads, Take Me HomeWe have experienced a prolonged inversion that has kept the temperature from surpassing 10 degrees F.  Then a storm blew through our area.  I had hoped that the storm-front would provide a little relief from cold temperatures by acting as an atmospheric blender. Unfortunately, the storm was like a fondant that encrusted our world in ice.

That made my commute into work an adventure.

I realized that the roads were bad when my greeting to the county highway was a car trunk awkwardly peeking out from the opposite shoulder of the road.  I am still questioning the wisdom of my decision not to turn around at that moment and head back to the safety of my home.  However, I did not turn around.  Rather, I put my pickup in four-wheel drive and cautiously pressed forward into a white landscape of questionable decision-making.

The road had my full attention on this morning; very excessive depression of the accelerator told me that I was traveling on ice.  There was no day-dreaming, working on memory verses, changing radio stations, or checking texts (which I would never do anyway). The road would periodically check if I was paying attention by giving my nerves a little jolt.  The road would give a slight tug on the steering wheel, followed by a strange floating sensation, followed by another slight jerk as the tires grab what little traction was available.

I don’t like that feeling.  I don’t like what that immediate shot of adrenaline does to me.  It is an electric pulse down the spine as your muscles all try to contract in an instant. It makes you momentarily wonder whether your flight response may have gone too far.

It was amazing how quickly my foot would unconsciously lift off of the accelerator.  I didn’t even have to think about it.  I was equally amazed at the unconscious resistance to placing my foot on the brake or jerking my arms to compensate for a slight misdirection.  I have learned from experience that either of those actions will immediately put me in a place I don’t want to be – the ditch.  It took all my experience of driving on icy roads to make it into work yesterday.  I made it but I don’t think it was the smartest decision that I could have made.   When you think about the consequences, it just wasn’t worth it.

This experience of creeping along dangerously slick roadways made me contemplate the equally dangerous and slick paths of our spiritual lives.  Most of the time, there is a decision before venturing down a particular path.  We will stand at a cross-roads and make a conscious decision to proceed with an activity or a relationship that has inherent dangers to our souls.

dentro al fosso - into the ditch

dentro al fosso – into the ditch (Photo credit: Uberto)

Is it wise to proceed down those roads?

Do you have the experience to navigate those slick pathways without putting your faith in the ditch?

Those are good questions to ask before you proceed.  I remember my first couple of years out of high school.  I was working full-time in a cabinet shop and going to a community college in the evenings.  It was my intention to take all my under division classes at the community college before transferring to the university so I needed to take some humanities classes.  At the time, my cousin was taking a philosophy class.  I could see that those classes represented a slippery road for me.  I decided that I was not ready for that experience and took some humanities classes where I felt I had better footing.

Subsequently, I did take several philosophy classes as part of my education and I am glad that I waited.  From my experience, the philosophy departments of the universities that I attended were dominated by professors who were more evangelists for their secular humanist beliefs than professors, but that is not limited to philosophy departments.  I have sat through classes in philosophy, biology, geology, and even economics where the professors were proselytizing their beliefs in a direct assault on my faith with a blatantly one-sided presentation – people of faith are ignorant.

Those were some slippery roads for me.  However, it was an experience that made my faith stronger.  I am very glad I took those classes but the timing needed to be right.  I needed my faith to be sufficiently mature so that my faith grew on those slick roads rather than put me in the ditch.  I did not have that maturity when I first got out of high school.  I praise God that He showed that to me at the time.

Car Crash - 1I have watched many a person put their faith in the ditch on similar slippery roads.  I have had theological discussions with folks who are tied into intellectual knots.  I wonder what slippery road caused their faith to land in a ditch without them even knowing it.  I have known brothers and sisters in Christ who have had a slippery road result in great detours in their sanctification.

I think that it happens more than we realize but it is not inevitable.

My experience is that pride and foolishness are the main reasons for the times that I have found my vehicle and my faith in a ditch.  Timothy was told to hold onto his faith.  There are many folks who are not holding onto their faith and I have been one of them.  I have over-estimated my maturity and I have under-valued my faith.  For too many, the implications to their faith is not even a consideration in their decision-making:

What is taking this job going to do for my faith?

What is going to this school going to do for my faith?

What is this relationship going to do for my faith?

What is this hobby going to do for my faith?

When we send our kids off, what are we allowing their young faith to be subjected to? 

The reality is that many don’t want their decisions to weigh the implications on their faith or their kids’  faith because their “good conscience” is already pushing them against it.  How many times have you pushed forward with something that you knew wasn’t good for you or your kids?  I have made decisions against my own “good conscience” where I was not valuing my faith, and it resulted in having to be dug out of a ditch.  It never works out well.

A part of navigating the treacherous roads of this life is assessing the ones you even need to be on.  All of the roads don’t have to be traveled.  Like a good general who picks his battles, the wise followers of Christ will carefully pick the roads they choose to travel.  There will be some roads we travel where we don’t have a choice but even then there are decisions we can make that will make those roads safer to our souls.  We need to humbly evaluate the conditions when we come to those forks in our spiritual paths.  We need to accurately assess our own experience and maturity before we blindly push forward onto roads that we are likely to lose hold of our most valuable treasure – the sanctification of our faith.  It is OK to say, “I am not ready for that.” It is wise to build a support team around yourself to keep you on the narrow road or to pull you back if you start sliding away.

Those decisions require you to acknowledge that you have not arrived, which is humility.  We all could use more humility.  Humility would have kept me from unnecessarily traveling dangerous roads to make it into work.  Humility would have kept me from taking paths that have rocked my faith.  Humility acknowledges who we are and the importance of our faith.  We must maintain the mindset of holding onto our faith, which makes our faith a player in all of our decision-making.

There is nothing in this world that we need to fear but that doesn’t mean we should act foolishly.  Safe travels my friends.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for protecting me from my own bad decision.  Thank you for placing my feet back on a sure foundation after I have so casually treated my faith.   Father, you are my all in all.  Give me wisdom and discernment to assess the roads ahead.  May the holding onto my faith be always at the forefront of my mind.  Father, keep me from making a shipwreck of my faith; keep me from putting my faith in the ditch.  Amen

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SORRY, BUT YOU REALLY DO STINK – Jan. 9

January 9, 2013

“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”  John 5:44

2012 BCS National Championship Game

2012 BCS National Championship Game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I watched the BCS National Championship game the other day.  Alabama put an absolute beat down on Notre Dame.  I think it is pretty clear this year that Alabama is the best football team in College Football.

We were talking in the office the next day about how this Alabama football team might be able to play a very competitive game against one of the “bottom feeder” teams in the NFL.  That may sound like I am disrespecting Alabama but I am not.  I am actually paying a very high complement to a college football team.

The reality is that the level of competitiveness between high school football and college football is similar to the difference between college and the NFL.  There will probably be less than ten players from this Alabama football team that will have a career in the NFL of any duration.  There are probably less than five that will actually start next year in the NFL.  Whereas, every player in the NFL would start on Alabama’s team.

Alabama’s players should enjoy their accomplishment of winning the National Championship but that achievement should also keep it in perspective.

That perspective is a hard one.  We all like to be the big fish and we want to forget about the size of pond that we are in.  This is evident when we spend any time observing people.

Go into any High School and watch the seniors strut around in all of their glory.  They are in for a harsh awakening in the coming year when they jump into the bigger pond of the work place or college.

There are poor managers who strut around their office giving orders like they are ruling a fiefdom.  This same manager would probably get flushed out of a quality organization.

There some fathers that rule their family with an iron thumb because that is the only place that they can demand respect.

There are some Christians that strut into Church with a piousness that appears to be ordained from God Himself.  They will only sit through a sermon that confirms how great they are.

It is human nature to want affirmation.  I like affirmation.  I need affirmation.  However, a steady diet of affirmation can sour our appetite.  However, the affirmation that we receive is praise for a “little fish in little pond”.  That is the caveat on every single encouraging word that we may receive.  Therefore, the wise among us are careful to watch that they don’t start strutting around thinking that they are something special.

This mentality is so dangerous in the Christian community.  We are so very good at patting each other on the back.  We are good at encouraging one another for the great things that we have done.  Now, I am all in favor of encouraging one another.  I wrote a whole blog about the importance of encouraging one another a while back.

The caveat on that blog is that we as believers should never start selectively reading the scriptures for only those passages that are encouraging.  We should never start selecting the Church we attend based on the Pastor only teaches encouraging sermons.  We should never select our friend based on the fact that they are encouraging without being confronting.

It is when we start seeking glory from others that we should be concerned that affirmation may have soured our appetite.  This is what happened to the Pharisees.  They missed their Messiah because they had become so accustomed to receiving flattery.

“… they were open to messianic claimants who used flattery or who panted after great reputation or whose values were so closely attuned to their audience that their audience felt they were very wise and farsighted; they were not open to the Messiah that Jesus was turning out to be, one who though the only doxa (glory/praise) worth pursuing was the glory of God.” D.A. Carson, The Gospel According to John

That is still a danger for us today.  We can miss Christ by becoming so attuned to hearing messages that flatter us or only come from those with a great reputation or messages that tell us what we want to hear.

How do we defend ourselves from that sort of danger?  You have to remember that:

YOU STINK!

Please don’t be overly offended if no one has ever told you that before.  If it makes you feel any better, I stink too.  In fact, every person who has walked this earth, other than Christ, has stunk.  That is the point; Christ did not.  That is why He is our standard.

We must remember that you are not the standard; I am not the standard; the mega-church pastors are not the standard; the people in the Bible are not the standard.

Christ is our standard.

Every time you receive some glory, compare yourself to Christ.

Every time you are affirmed, compare yourself to Christ.

Every time you are praised, compare yourself to Christ.

When we consistently compare ourselves to Christ, we will realize the futility of pursuing our own glory.  We are little fish in a little pond.  All the glory that we may receive has the caveat of  “but God is greater.”

Remembering that you stink should not discourage.  It should be humbling but not discouraging.  It leads us and teaches us how great our God really is.  He is the biggest fish in the biggest pond of all.  This is the foundation of true humility.

A mind-set of humility will inoculate us from seeking our self-esteem from the glory of one another.  An appetite for the praise of man can so easily distract and corrupt our motivations. Humility allows us to pursue our primary purpose – to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever – and not to be distracted by the praise of man.

Remember that it is because God is so great that He can use someone who stinks as much as you and I do.

PRAYER: Father, forgive me for getting my priorities so far out of whack.  Forgive me for seeking my glory while I am trying to convince myself that I am seeking yours.  Lord you are so far beyond me that any glory that I might receive in this world is pittance to the glory that is due you.  Lord, make my motivations clear to me.  Help be to glorify you in all that I do and to enjoy you all my days.  Amen

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