I have become a terrible forgiver

Daily Readings: Judges 9-10, Mark 11, Psalm 70

“Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. 

Mark 11:23-25

Every morning when I am about to do my readings for the day I always pray a simple prayer of, “God, what do you have for me today?”

Today the answer was not hard to discern. I have reverted to being a terrible forgiver.

This used to be an extreme weakness of mine, holding things against people. I have spent the majority of my life believing that there were almost no people in my life that I could count on in the clutch, that most people would take advantage of me eventually, and that few people truly cared.

I imagine I am not alone in this.

The challenging part of being surrounded by other human beings is that they are human beings. If we are waiting on the edge of our seat for them to disappoint us, we will never have to wait long. We all fall short.

If our first response is, “See, I knew it…” we live a life of keeping others at an arms length away to “avoid getting hurt”, we have our guard up at all times, and we search out the worst motives in others instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt.

God wants our reaction to be one of forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard.

Throughout the last 7-10 years, I feel like I had grown a lot in this area. I feel like giving grace and forgiveness had become strengths of mine over time. God had really worked on me in this area and I had so much more peace of mind in my relationships with others.

Forgiveness is a beautiful thing. Life is so much more peaceful when you forgive quickly. Life is so much more enjoyable when you don’t hold on tightly to every wrong someone does against you. Life is so much more rich and full when there isn’t a constant movie playing in your mind, replaying of every slight you have felt in the last year or imagining terrible conversations unfolding in the future with the person you are harboring unforgiveness towards.

Lack of forgiveness is exhausting.

Over the last 18 months or so, somehow, I have reverted to being a terrible forgiver.

When we turn to Jesus and ask him into our lives, we are called to forgive. This isn’t just a small asterisk or minor footnote when it comes to our faith. At the end of Jesus teaching his disciples how to pray he concludes with this in Matthew 6:14-15:

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. 

As a church we rarely think of “unforgiveness” as a sin that needs to be rooted out of our lives the same way we think about things like lying, violence, lust, drug abuse, etc. And yet at the end of teaching his disciples how to pray, this was the singular thing that Jesus decided to highlight that has the power of keeping us from receiving the full forgiveness of God.

Whenever I feel stressed, underappreciated, overlooked, taken advantage of, overwhelmed, angry, and generally just distant from God; there is a 100% chance that there is someone in my life I have not fully forgiven.

Always.

I am stewing in it. I am allowing that anger to fester. I am harboring ill will. I am not giving forgiveness freely the way Jesus commands us to and in return I don’t feel that closeness with the Father that we have access to.

Forgiveness.

It is hard, but it is worth it. It is worth the constant pursuit.

True forgiveness takes more than just 30 seconds of quick prayer. We frequently need to really come before the Father and absolutely plea for his help in forgiving others. Forgiveness is unnatural. It runs counter to every natural wiring we have as human beings. That is why we need God.

I am going to go back to living a life of forgiveness. I am going to go back to seeing the best in people and not waiting for the other shoe to fall. I am going to go back to loving people even when they may not “deserve it” because God first loved me when I certainly didn’t deserve his love! I am going to go back to living a life that has forgiveness at the center of it.

Thank you God for revealing this to me today. I needed the reminder.

Thought to ponder

Who am I currently withholding forgiveness from?

Heal my unbelief

Daily Readings: Judges 5-6, Mark 9, Psalm 68

I love the story of Gideon. The church I attend recently finished up a series on Gideon and the courage that it takes to follow God’s will in our lives. When his story popped up again today in our readings, I was reminded of another reason his story is so inspiring to me: His story reflects so many of our stories.

At the beginning of this story Gideon is met by and angel and we see the following encounter:

The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And Gideon did so. Then the angel of the Lord touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of the staff that was in his hand. Fire flared from the rock, consuming the meat and the bread. And the angel of the Lord disappeared. When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” 

But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

So Gideon built an altar to the Lord there and called it The Lord Is Peace. To this day it stands in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Judges 6:20-24

God had promised Gideon a victory over the Midianites. For 7 years God had allowed the Israelites to experience the ramifications of their actions. They had turned away from God, worshipped false idols, and broken their covenant with God. Now God tells Gideon he has come to save them.

At first we see Gideon following God’s instructions and removing the altar of Baal from his own household before leading the Israelites against the Midianites. But as the time to confront the enemy draws near Gideon grows nervous…

Gideon said to God, “If you will save Israel by my hand as you have promised—look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor. If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry, then I will know that you will save Israel by my hand, as you said.” And that is what happened. Gideon rose early the next day; he squeezed the fleece and wrung out the dew—a bowlful of water.

Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece, but this time make the fleece dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew.

Judges 6:36-40

Every time I read this series of events I look back at my own life and laugh. I would venture to guess that most of us truly are like Gideon.

There have been so many examples of God showing up in my life in incredible ways. On my occurrences I have strongly felt that God directed me down a certain path and walked that path faithfully despite obstacles that came my way.

However, frequently I have been Gideon. Frequently I have wanted to negotiate with God for just one more sign.

“Lord, I know you made this fairly clear already, but my normal human emotions are kicking in, so I am going to need you to confirm that one last time…”

“Ok, maybe just one more confirmation…”

“Ok, those were nice. Thank you for that. I am really nervous though, and at this point I need a borderline audible voice…”

I love that Gideon even realized he was being ridiculous as he was asking this of God. “Do not be angry with me…”

We see another story of unbelief in today’s readings as well.

“You unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

“From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Mark 9:19-24

This is a different type of belief in Mark 9. In the case of Gideon, he didn’t feel that he was worthy of being used by God to accomplish incredible works. Here in Mark, we see someone struggling to believe that they can be on the receiving end of God working a miracle in their life through no effort of their own.

I imagine we have all found ourselves relating to each of these two stories at times in our lives.

In some cases, God wants to use us to accomplish great things and our natural tendency is to say, “Are you sure you have the right person?” We then kindly inform God of all the reasons we are unqualified, incapable, and simply not enough. We have an identity issue. We see ourselves through our own lens and not through God’s lens. The good news is that virtually every major character throughout the entire Bible struggled with this same feeling! You are in good company!

In other cases we want to come before our father in Heaven and ask for something on behalf of another or ourselves. But that nagging unbelief lingers…

“Heal my unbelief!”

God knows that we struggle believing. God knows we struggle to accept his calling for our life. God knows every one of our human weaknesses.

I love Jesus showing us that part of him that is fully human and slightly annoyed in today’s story when he said, “You unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you?”

And yet our God is patient. He is loving. He wants to give us the chance to turn our unbelief into belief. He wants to give us the chance to step into our calling even if we begin that journey needing to be dragged into it a bit, kicking and screaming like a child. That nervousness, apprehension, and personal insecurity put us in good company when you read stories of all the major characters throughout the Bible.

The key is that we are willing to say, “Lord, heal my unbelief.”

I can point back to many times throughout my life where I prayed that prayer at some point along the way and God was there to greet me.

However, I sometimes wonder how many times I have missed out on something God had put in my path, whether it be an undeserved blessing or an opportunity to serve others, because I acted like Gideon one too many times. For every Gideon in the Bible there are also lots of periods of seven years leading up to Gideon where God had to say, “Alright, if you are going to be that stubborn…”

I know as a parent, I constantly have to think through this with my own children. Sometimes they make the right choice soon enough, but sometimes I have given them one too many reminders (my wife might argue three too many reminders) and there needs to be consequences for their disobedience.

I am a human father with imperfect judgment. Our father in Heaven’s judgment is perfect and just. Our human timeline is short, his timeline is eternal.

Today, this week, and this year my prayer will be, “Lord, heal my unbelief. Heal my unbelief on a daily basis that you want to work in my life. Heal my unbelief on the larger scale so that I might have the courage to be steadfast on this path you have put me on.”

Heal my unbelief.

Thought to ponder

When have I most recently been Gideon and constantly asked for “just one more sign” that I should walk down a path God has clearly laid in front of me? When have I have been the father in the story wanting to ask God for a miracle in my life or the life of a loved one and struggled with unbelief?

Thorns

Daily Readings: Joshua 19-20, Mark 4, Psalm 64

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”

Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. 

Mark 4:1-8, 13-19

9:30 PM: Check the current scores of a couple of games, respond to a text, check email one last time, click over to Facebook for two minutes, then Twitter, then back to ESPN. Put phone in airplane mode for the night.

4:30 AM: Out of airplane mode, check emails while getting a big glass of water. I would rather make sure nothing needs to be taken care of this morning before starting my God time that way I can maximize my time with God and with my kids once they wake up. I want to leave as late as possible for work knowing that there are no misc. things that need to be taken care of before my first concrete appointment. (Solid rationalization) Check final scores while here. Then Facebook briefly to see if there are any notifications…scroll down for 10 seconds while there before being mad at myself and stopping.

4:45 AM: Settle in for prayer, worship, and time in the word until 6:00 AM.

“Lord quiet my mind, help me focus on you…”

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain…

“I still need to get that project done today…and when I am going to finish my taxes that I already filed an extension on…and I really need to have that conversation with a coworker I have been putting off…”

“Lord quiet my mind, I want this time to be yours. Thank you so much for the incredible blessings you have put into my life that are so undeserved. Help me to be a light today…”

“I can’t believe my friend posted that on Facebook. Don’t they fact check anything? That is what is wrong with the world today…Lord help your world heal…Lord, quiet my mind. I want to be able to just enjoy your presence without feeling pulled in so many directions. Maybe I should write a post about that…”

Prayer…to do list…prayer…think about post…prayer…to do list…prayer…

“At some point I really need to fire off a few emails this morning before the day gets going. It is going to be a pretty full day. I have no idea when I am going to be able to call that person back…Lord quiet my mind.”

“I need to spend some time in worship.”

Pull out phone to cue up favorite worship music. Refresh email.

“Why the heck did I do that? It is 5:10 AM. There aren’t any new emails. I hate myself sometimes. I need to stop being such a slave to this thing.”

Attempt to worship along with playlist.

“God you are so good. Thank you for loving me and being patient even when I am being so silly. Your grace and love sustain me!”

To do list…worship…to do list…worship…to do list…worship…

Grab phone to do daily readings. Quick check of Twitter for 20-30 seconds to see reactions about the playoff game last night. Back to Bible Gateway app to start reading. Annoyed with myself…why did I do that?

“Lord, show me what you have for me today.”

Attempt to focus on reading the Bible and really taking in God’s word…

Thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn…

Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain…

I imagine some of you can relate.

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we cripple our own ability to be present whether with God, our family, or our friends? Why do we train our brains to desire anything other than what we are doing at the moment?

We live in a society where people don’t even allow themselves to relax and enjoy watching a basketball game, television show, etc. We need a second screen in front of us seeing what other people are saying about that shared social experience. We need a distraction from our distraction…wait, what?

The Lord said, “Be still and know that I am God.” –Psalm 46:10

And yet even when I carve out that beautiful time to be still, even when I wake up early, go with less sleep, and really strive to prioritize time to God, I frequently self sabotage for 30 seconds here and 30 seconds there. It is not the sum total of 5-10 minutes out of the first hour and a half of my day that I choose to spend on petty distractions that robs me of truly enjoying my time with God; it is the mental clutter I bring upon myself.

We fill our brains with an overwhelming amount of stimulus and then wonder why our minds feel full and why we feel overwhelmed. We spend the last 2 minutes before bed flipping between 6 apps, 4 websites, and 2 more apps, and wonder why we can’t seem to turn our brains off and fall to sleep well.

Thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn, thorn.

Some days, I am great about not doing this. Some evenings, I am as well. However, there are so many when I self sabotage and hate myself for it.

I want a change. I want to declutter mentally. I want to be fully present. At home, at work, with friends, and with God. I want to be where I am.

In life you always have to want better for yourself badly enough that it is worth the pain of change. That is why breaking any addiction is so hard.

I hate my cell phone. I am ready for a change. I wonder if anyone reading this is ready for a change as well?

30 day challenge.

  1. When you get home from work, put your phone on the charger in your room and just be present at home. Don’t check it every few minutes. There is nothing that can’t wait for at least an hour or two without the world burning down around us. Human beings used to survive somehow without cell phones.
  2. When you are at work, put it out of arms reach. Get that thing out of your pocket! If it rings, you can answer it, but put it far enough away that you don’t accidentally grab it as an OCD tendency to check something that does not need to be checked. Only pick it up when there is a specific productive purpose.
  3. Leave it on the charger throughout your entire morning routine. Use a different source for music. Read an actual physical Bible. Don’t come out of airplane mode until a preset time where you are actually going to begin work.
  4. Put it into airplane mode an hour before bed and don’t touch it from that point forward.

For 30 days.

I am ready to be good soil again, every day, not just some days. I am ready to ruthlessly weed out the thorns in my life and help my brain slow down so that I am able to appreciate the little things in life that go unnoticed frequently because of my addiction to technology.

Who is coming with me?

Thought to ponder

If it is not technology, what is my thorn? What in my life sometimes rises up and chokes the plant trying to grow when the seed falls on the soil? How can I remove those thorns from my life?

I think of you through the watches of the night

Daily Readings: Joshua 17-18, Mark 3, Psalm 63

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you;
I think of you through the watches of the night.

Because you are my help,
I sing in the shadow of your wings.
I cling to you;
your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63:3-8 

Even since I left college, I have never been a good sleeper. I always marvel at the concept of sleeping through the entire night. I cannot remember the last time I didn’t wake up at least 3-4 times throughout the night and then roll around attempting to get comfortable.

If this last more than 20-30 minutes, now my mind starts wandering, responsibilities start flooding in, the to-do list for the day, week, or month begin to keep me up, and falling back to sleep seems an insurmountable task.

In the middle of last October God did a wonderful thing for me and asked me to stop fighting it. He asked me to just abide in him in these moments. He asked me to use that time in bed to spend time with him, thank him, lift others up, and just enjoy the presence of my heavenly father in the comfort of my bed.

There have been some nights since then where I have completely forgotten this prompting from God and failed miserably at this, but there have been many other nights where I have chosen to turn those seemingly frustrating moments of not being able to fall back asleep because of a sore back and active mind into beautiful time with my father.

I have imagined being curled up in his lap the way my children snuggle up to me around bedtime when we are reading books on the couch. I have imagined his smile as he puts his arm around me and enjoys the time we have together with no agenda other than being with his treasured child.

I don’t always fall back to sleep immediately when I shift the posture of my heart to one of abiding in these moments, but I wake up refreshed.

Psalm 63 was a great reminder this morning to choose to abide more often. It was a great re-centering of my heart on praising him on my bed and not just with my waking moments.

When I embrace that his love truly is better than life, as David writes today, and use those quiet moments to allow my heart to sing his praise, glorify his name, and cling to him; I leave fully satisfied.

Thought to ponder

When are moments throughout the day or night when I allow my mind to be cluttered and heart to stray from God, where I can actively choose to imagine this physical manifestation of God right there with me as a loving father looking down on his treasured child?

Shelter beneath his wings

Daily Readings: Joshua 13-14, Mark 1, Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.

Psalm 61:1-4

Ever since our newest child, Andrew James, was born two and half months ago life his been a bit chaotic. The combination of bringing a fourth child into the world, 31 days in NICU, the normal lack of sleep that comes with having a new born after Andrew’s arrival home, and maintaining all of the normal family, ministry, and business obligations has left me stretched a bit thin.

There have definitely been many moments in the last couple of months where I felt like David when writing this Psalm and where my heart certainly felt faint.

God has been so good throughout and truly has been my refuge, but it has been a refuge I have not spent enough time turning to.

Earlier this week I had a moment when driving in my car that was not prompted by anything that had happened that morning where I just felt a deep sense of loss at how little time I had been spending with my heavenly father over the last two months. I began tearing up while driving and simply apologizing.

“I am so sorry that I have allowed ‘the season of life I am in with a new born’ to turn into an excuse to make my time with you cut short. I want more time with you father. I want more of you.”

When I read the last two verses above this morning, those same emotions welled up inside of me.

I want to dwell in his tent forever. I want to take shelter under his wings.

It is only by the grace of God that I have not completely collapsed the last two and a half months. I have been pulled in so many directions. It has only been because of those moments of prayer and worship where I remember to turn it all back over to him that I have had my strength maintained.

However, I have let my mornings slip away. I have allowed that private time every morning that had previously been devoted to our relationship to slip away in an effort to get a little more sleep or to self medicate by knocking one more item off of an ever growing to-do list, reading an article about the game the night before, or spending time on social media.

I have allowed sleep, work, and entertainment to dominate my mornings and take over the time formally reserved for God.

I want to go back to having my first and deepest desire of the day to dwell in his tent and seek shelter beneath his wings.

As human beings we are master rationalizers. It is easy for me to intellectually justify that this is simply a time of life where I need to keep my head above the water and may just need to spend a bit less time in God’s word and less time writing faithfully. I could tell you today that I have been spending time with God in other ways, which would be the truth, but would conveniently neglect the deeper truth. It would ignore the fact that my time in the word and writing is where I feel the most connected with God and where our relationship is at it’s fullest.

When life gets overwhelming, I want my default to be turning to MORE time with God, not less. I want my first response to be cutting out other items from my life, not allowing my time with God to be the first thing that is eliminated in busy times where I feel like there are not enough hours in the day.

I want my first desire to be for time beneath his wings. Today I will dwell in his tent.

Thought to ponder

When have you recently sacrificed your time with God because life got busy? What does true time with God look like for you and how can you guard that time better in this next week?

 

 

 

“My grace is sufficient”

Daily Readings: Joshua 7-8, 2 Corinthians 12, Psalm 60

But the Lord said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

My grace I sufficient for you.

On Sunday February 11th at 7 PM our family had just wrapped up a birthday party celebrating our amazing daughter Sophie turning 4 years old. Sophie is a cancer survivor that was diagnosed at just 2 months old with a rare form of cancer and, at this moment, is nearing 3 years cancer free.

Praise God!

It wasn’t more than 30 minutes after the last guest left that my wife called me upstairs and said we needed to go to the hospital. At the time we were 7 months pregnant and she had started bleeding significantly. We quickly called my parents, who only live a mile away, to come stay with our other three kids as we rushed to the hospital. The bleeding stopped by the time we got their, but the doctors told us they would be needing to keep Naomi there for observation for 5-7 days, because if it started again Naomi’s life and our unborn son’s life would be at risk at that point, and they would do an emergency cesarean section.

After being their several hours, they told me to go home, but to leave my phone on just in case. 90 minutes later, shortly after I had fallen asleep, the phone call came that I was desperately hoping to avoid, and I was driving as fast as I could back to the hospital, running inside, putting on scrubs, nervously waiting in the hallway, and finally entering the operating room with my wife.

Needless to say, it was an emotional several hours. That second drive to the hospital at 1:30 AM was the most scared I have ever been.

I threw out a group text at 8:08 PM when we were first heading to the hospital to a group of men that I do life with. Christian brothers in arms ready to go to battle with me and for me. The prayers began.

These are the moments earlier in my life where I would have waited until I knew more before sharing what was happening with anyone in my life.

“No point in worrying everyone. What if it is nothing? How will I look if I am just scared over something minor? Besides, they are busy, and I don’t want to burden them with something that might ultimately be no big deal.”

Lies crafted by an enemy with centuries of practice.

Satan wants us to do life alone. He wants you to believe that you are a burden to others, that no one really cares, that you are strong enough in your own power, and the power of prayer isn’t real anyway.

It isn’t until those moments in life where you have a child diagnosed with cancer, a wife being rushed into an emergency surgery, an infant taken up to the NICU, or any other extreme life event completely out of your control; that you realize what a complete illusion “control” is.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God has blessed our family with a fair amount of worldly success. We have an amazing family, I run a successful company, we have incredible friends, and by lots of worldly standards, we are a success story.

Rarely has any of our worldly success given us the ability to minister to others and speak about God’s glory in the same way we have been able to because of Sophie’s cancer. Already, in just a short week and a half, I believe that the experience spanning February 11th-12th has already allowed us to give glory to God more than any career accomplishment ever could.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Naomi is recovering well from her surgery. Andrew, as of Feb 23rd, is still in the NICU and will most likely remain there for another week or two, but is moving in the right direction faster than we could have hoped for.

God is good.

However, God is not just good because of this individual result. When I sat outside the operating room while they prepped Naomi my prayer over and over again was, “You are a good God. You are a good good father. Regardless of the outcome, I know this to be true.” I prayed that same prayer when we first got the news with Sophie.

God already knows this. This prayer was necessary for my own heart.

In a perfect world, I would rather not have our newborn need to spend the first 3-4 weeks of his life in the NICU. I would rather that his sisters (who are super excited to meet their baby brother!) not have to wait a month to meet the newest addition to our family because kids under 18 are not allowed in the NICU. I would rather everything had gone beautifully according to plan.

Our plan.

However, Paul said it perfectly today:

Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  

We have always said as a family that we want to live out James 1:2-4 when James wrote, Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

We decided about five months ago that our son’s middle name would be James in honor of this book in the Bible. We never expected he would live into his name so quickly!

However, we are considering it pure joy.

I know this trial will be far from the last we will face as a family as we journey through life, and this one is still not yet over, but his grace is sufficient and his power is made perfect in our weakness.

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!

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