True Humility

Daily Readings: Joshua 3-4, 2 Corinthians 10, Psalm 58

By the humility and gentleness of Christ, I appeal to you—I, Paul, who am “timid” when face to face with you, but “bold” toward you when away! I beg you that when I come I may not have to be as bold as I expect to be toward some people who think that we live by the standards of this world. For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

 You are judging by appearances.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you. We are not going too far in our boasting, as would be the case if we had not come to you, for we did get as far as you with the gospel of Christ. Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others. Our hope is that, as your faith continues to grow, our sphere of activity among you will greatly expand, so that we can preach the gospel in the regions beyond you. For we do not want to boast about work already done in someone else’s territory. But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

2 Corinthians 10:1-5, 7, 13-17

One of the biggest fears that hold most people back from fully living out the calling God has for all Christ followers is the fear of rejection. The fear of being judged, talked about, smirked at and dismissed. The fear of not being enough.

In 2 Corinthians today we see Paul dealing with this fear actually manifesting itself amongst the church he planted in Corinth. It is obvious from reading this portion of Paul’s letter that there has been some grumbling amongst the church about Paul. Certain people have been stirring up anti-Paul sentiments.

“Who does this Paul guy think he is anyway? His teaching is really pretty weak and timid. I didn’t find him all that compelling while he was here and now he is trying to be the ultimate authority? He sure is talking a big game now that he is gone!”

I know personally, this would be one of my greatest insecurities realized.

“This guy sure thinks highly of himself!”

It is a pretty tough critique to just shrug off, even for the most mature, grounded and centered follower of Jesus. None of us likes to feel judged and having our intentions be the very thing that is being picked apart is one of the worst feelings there is.

I don’t mind if someone wants to critique my knowledge, delivery, presence, etc. However, having my motives and integrity questioned, that stings…

I think we can all relate to how Paul probably felt when putting pen to paper at this moment. We have all been there at some point in our lives. In today’s world, the fear of coming off wrong in a world that is quick to label Christians as hypocrites, bigots, judgmental, etc. can be a bit overpowering.

“Maybe it is just safer to focus on my own relationship with Jesus, going deeper with friends who already know Christ, and just leave it at that!”

I love Paul’s response today.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

I can almost see him shaking his head with a smile and saying, “Look, as you are all focused on my delivery, I am going to be over here absolutely DEMOLISHING STRONGHOLDS of the enemy. I am just going to continue helping people find freedom from the things that have held them captive through saving faith in Jesus. You keep worrying about worldly concerns, I am going to keep breaking chains and setting captives free!”

The way he closed this section of his letter really spoke to me as well.

But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

People in today’s world are always going to question motives.

“Are they just trying to build their own brand? Are they just trying to get their own following? Are they just using ‘Jesus’ to advance their own agenda?”

Sadly, there are many times where the answer is yes. However, even Christians with the purest of hearts will have their motives questioned if they are confidently speaking about their faith long enough. It is inevitable.

We can’t control the thoughts that others are going to have about us, but how we choose to respond is up to us.

Paul says, “This really isn’t about me.”

Paul wasn’t out there trying to build “Paul’s brand”. He wasn’t basking in his fame and notoriety. He was focused on continually building the kingdom. He was focused on the harvest.

If we let the opinions of other people build our confidence too much, it is easy to make sharing the good news all about us. And on the opposite side, if we care too much about those opinions, we frequently never even get started.

C.S. Lewis said that, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.”

Striking that balance where we are unafraid to share about Jesus confidently, but not fall into the trap of making it all about ourselves is tough. However, true humility is not something we can obtain by chasing after it. In fact, if we are thinking about whether or not we are demonstrating enough confidence or enough humility, we should stop for a moment and laugh, realizing that we are still thinking too much about ourselves!

Both pride and under confidence are from the enemy. And he is incredibly good at his job!

We need to turn all of it back over to Christ, get out of our own heads, and just be in the present moment. The moment we are in is where the magic happens.

True peace comes from true humility, which only comes from completely turning our ego over to Jesus and focusing on his will instead of our own.

Paul demonstrates that for us today.

This is so incredibly challenging, but being self-aware enough to recognize when we are straying down the path of under confidence or pride, is the first step. When we are self aware, we can catch ourselves and immediately ask for God’s help at the moment it is happening, instead of asking for forgiveness later.

This true humility Paul models for us, and which C.S. Lewis so articulately describes, has immense power to impact others. An army of Christians demonstrating this true humility has the power to change the world.

Thought to ponder

What are warning signs I can be self-aware of that could signal to me that I am heading down the path of making things all about me? Knowing our typical triggers and what the first step down that path usually looks like has a huge impact on our ability to turn back to God in the moment when the enemy first starts to attack and tempt us to focus on ourselves!

Culture wars or radical generosity?

Daily Readings: Joshua 1-2, 2 Corinthians 9, Psalm 57

I will praise you, Lord, among the nations;
I will sing of you among the peoples.
For great is your love, reaching to the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches to the skies.

Be exalted, O God, above the heavens;
let your glory be over all the earth.

Psalm 57:9-11

Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift! 

2 Corinthians 9:6-7, 13-15

As a collective whole, the American church has gotten a pretty bad name in society today. The unfortunate reality in today’s world, where we have immediate access to information and where anyone who wants to speak out has a platform, is that the most sensational and polarizing voices have a tendency to rise to the top. Our society naturally gravitates towards the controversial. This results in more clicks on stories that enrage us than those that inspire us, longer viewing time on news segments that shock us than those that lift us up.

The overall effect is that we live in a world where Christianity would appear to only be a religion of hypocritical leaders of mega churches rushing to the defense of the indefensible, simultaneously condemning large groups of people for sins that they just finished defending when it was one of their own, engaging in truly divisive rhetoric and making statements that run counter to the message of Jesus; and lots of self proclaimed Christians blindly following along like sheep to the slaughter.

All of this is causing non-believers and agnostics throughout America to say, “Christians are so hypocritical! If that is Christianity, thanks but no thanks!”

This is not the message Jesus came to advance in his time here on earth. It is simply the image portrayed in the news because controversy sells. Outrage and division is a business model that has proven profitable and there will always be false profits seeking to capitalize on this dark side of our inherent human nature. The truth is, this is not most Christians. This is not the majority of pastors.

Unfortunately, it is not the incredibly small minority either, which leaves us a lot of work to do as Christians who truly want to embrace the truth that Jesus uttered when he said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” It leaves a large credibility gap that needs filling by Christ followers who have truly turned over their lives to Jesus and have been transformed.

We are all human and, therefore, we will all sin and fall short of the glory of God. Christ showed nothing but grace for those moments of human weakness throughout his entire time on earth. However, nothing aroused his anger more than hypocrisy. Momentary lapses in self-control that lead to sin are going to happen. Jesus was always there to say, “He who is without sin, cast the first stone & First remove the plank from your own eye.” However, when people began preaching or following a false doctrine that leads others astray and keeps them for finding a relationship with God; for this Jesus had no tolerance.

So how do we counter this image of Christ followers that other’s see on their televisions, talk about over water coolers, and observe on social media? How do we make the name of God exalted throughout the earth as we read about in Psalm 57 today, so that God’s glory shines throughout the earth?

Radical generosity.

Far too often we feel completely incapable of winning that debate, if we were to engage in it, and decide to simply sit on the sidelines. The power of Christ lies in his people going out to the world and helping those in need. The power lies in the American church meeting the needs of those who are struggling in this world.

It doesn’t have to be simply physical needs of the poor that are being met, although they are many and this is a great place to start! It can also be the emotional needs of those who are well off in the material sense, but struggling with demons that they cannot conquer alone.

In 2 Corinthians today Paul tells us that, “Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else.” 

If you notice, he spoke of the service and generosity provided along with our confession of the gospel. It takes both.

If we are extremely generous with our time and money, and no one knows we are Christian, they are incredibly thankful for our generosity, but don’t link that to Jesus in their minds. If we simply want to share the gospel, but don’t accompany that with acts of kindness, assistance and tangible help with whatever they are struggling with in their current life; more often than not we simply end up in a spiritual debate with a skeptic. We have not yet proven to them that we believe the gospel through our actions. It is still just words.

There is so much power in generosity. There is so much power in unconditional love. There is so much power in the gospel when it is truly lived out on a daily basis and not simply preached.

Jesus did not simply preach. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, brought a message of forgiveness instead of condemnation, and was a living example of radical love and grace for others.

His disciples did the same in the midst of incredible persecution. In today’s world, there is a tendency for us to feel attacked by the media and society, retreat to our corners, and complain about how they are all out to get us.

It is far more comfortable inside of our Christian circles.

The magic happens on the outside. The magic happens when we know that nothing the world says about us can impact our true identity and cannot shake our faith in who God says that we are. The magic happens when we are willing to step out boldly…to serve. Not to boldly rage against culture, not to boldly engage in the debate on social media, not to boldly condemn everyone who doesn’t already know saving faith in Christ; to boldly serve.

The magic happens when we are joyful givers to those who would speak out against us, who clearly do not deserve our generosity by the world’s standards.

We are called to give this undeserved, radical grace and love because it was first given to us. Jesus gave it all. He wants us to be willing and cheerful givers as well.

And when we do, the results can be incredible.

Debates don’t bring people to Jesus. Unexpected acts of grace, kindness, and generosity do.

And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

Generosity is capable of changing hearts and the impact is eternal.

Thought to ponder

Where is God calling me to demonstrate the type of generosity with my time and resources that would truly exalt him to those who do not yet know him?

Rich generosity & overflowing joy

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 33-34, 2 Corinthians 8, Psalm 56

And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. 

2 Corinthians 8:1-4

When we are walking with God on a daily basis, truly seeking after his will in the world, asking him to open our eyes to the needs of those around us, and joyfully obeying promptings of the Spirit; it is impossible not to see the extreme need in our world that the Church is able to meet if we are willing!

When this is the default position of our heart, we realize that helping those in need brings infinitely more joy than the latest and greatest toy that our consumerist society has convinced us that we need.

Whether in a time of abundance or a time of poverty, we give joyfully.

As a Christian parent, I hope that this is instilled in our children as well. I am so proud of our oldest daughter Elizabeth for so many reasons. She is an amazing kid. I think one of the things I love most is her spirit of generosity. She has, unprompted by us, donated her last two of birthdays to different charities. Just last week she asked me if she could donate her 10th birthday to Able Eyes, a non-profit that works to provide a virtual accessibility tool for individuals with disabilities.

Her birthday isn’t for 8 more months. I love this. I gave her a giant hug and told her how much I appreciate the compassionate heart God has given her.

It got me thinking, when was the last time I got excited 8 months in advance for the opportunity to donate to a cause?

(Side note: If you feel compelled, go donate to Able Eyes! They are an amazing organization!)

I want to be more and more like Elizabeth in that way. I want to get more excited about the opportunity to donate to a cause 8 months from now than the vacation I would like to take, new technology I have been wanting, that new movie that is about to come out, etc. I want to have a spirit that overflows with joy to the point where this joy cannot help but spill over into rich generosity!

More than anything, I want to have a relationship with my heavenly father that is so deep, so rich, and so full; that it would be impossible for me to have anything other than this spirit of compassion and generosity towards his creations! I so deeply desire to chase after him daily and fully accept the unearned, over the top, never ending grace and love that he has offered freely!

If we fully accept and embrace this unearned grace and love that has been showered on us as followers of Jesus, the only natural response is radical generosity!

It is amazing to think how different our world would look if the American church today operating like the early church in Macedonia.

The world would truly be changed.

Thought to ponder

How can I be more like the church in Macedonia that Paul spoke about today?

Speaking truth in love

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 31-32, 2 Corinthians 7, Psalm 55

I have spoken to you with great frankness; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. At every point you have proved yourselves to be innocent in this matter.

2 Corinthians 7:4, 8-11

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians he did not pull any punches. He was extremely blunt in telling the church at Corinth the ways in which their actions were counter to their proclaimed faith in Christ.

Reading this passage today made me start to think through my life and consider the times where I might have had the opportunity to be Paul writing back to the church at Corinth, but chickened out. I started to think about people in my life right now that could use some truth spoken into their lives, where I have the strength of relationship and credibility with them necessary to deliver the message in love, but where I am just more comfortable sitting on the sidelines, praying for change, but not wanting to rock the boat.

I have always strived throughout my life to be someone who is unafraid of speaking truth in love, but there are always people in my life, at any given time, where I feel myself pulling back. I don’t want to cause strife in the relationship. I rationalize that they are not at a point where they would be willing to hear the truth. I don’t want to cause sorrow.

…yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

So true!

True friends tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear. I want people in my life that are willing to be Paul and challenge me if they see me living a part of my life that is out of step with the life God has called me to live. And I want the courage to be Paul when necessary.

Being Paul starts with forming strong relationships. Paul spent significant time with the church at Corinth pouring into them. He built the church from the ground up. He knew the people and they knew him. There was a bond.

If we desire to be marketplace missionaries, in whatever profession God has called us, it starts with building genuine relationships and not just surface level ones. If we desire to have an impact for the Kingdom, it takes time and effort to build the type of relationship where you can grab coffee with someone and say, “Listen, I love you, and because I love you I have to tell you…”

Then we have to be unafraid to speak the truth in love even if it causes temporary sorrow, knowing that this temporary sorrow is frequently needed to bring long-term repentance.

Eternity is worth it.

In our moment-to-moment, fast paced world, not only is eternity impossible to comprehend, but it is frequently hard to even conceptualize five years from now! And yet, truth spoken in love can have a massive impact on that person’s life here on earth for the next 5, 10, 20, 50 years, as well for an eternity. And yet I occasionally find myself pulling back, unwilling to cause sorrow for a week, month, or six month period, in order to help a true friend gain lasting freedom.

Freedom is worth it. Freedom from the lies Satan tells us. Freedom from the bondage of the sin issue that we have fallen into and believed we are unable to kick. Freedom from the rationalizations we have told ourselves in order to believe that maybe, just maybe, God wasn’t all that serious in his word when he said _________.

I want to be surrounded by Pauls in my life and I want to be unafraid to be one as well. Without the willingness to speak truth in love, we also lack the ability to experience the overwhelming joy that comes from walking with a brother or sister in Christ as they come out the other side changed, free, and back walking the path they were designed to walk. While afraid to speak the truth, we lack the ability to have the full impact we were built to have here on earth for God’s Kingdom.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret.

I want no regrets, when thinking back on conversations that could have been had, when this life ends.

It is worth it.

Thought to ponder

What is one courageous conversation I have been conveniently avoiding with a friend that I can have this week? Do I value their friendship enough to have it?

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