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!

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?

Mind dulled or Spirit filled?

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 23-24, 2 Corinthians 3, Psalm 52

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to prevent the Israelites from seeing the end of what was passing away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:12-18

In this passage in Corinthians today Paul speaks directly to the trap of religious activity. It is so easy as a Christian in today’s world to fall into religion instead of relationship. It is easy to show up to church, maybe occasionally crack open the Bible, check those boxes, and then move on with the rest of our day without any real relationship with our father in heaven. It was not only Paul that warned against this mindset throughout his ministry here on earth, but heard this directly from Jesus as well.

In Matthew 7 Jesus absolutely eviscerates the religious leaders of that day:

Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition. You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you:

“‘These people honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
their teachings are merely human rules.’”

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.”

Don’t get me wrong; this is not anti-church. I adore the church I am a part of. I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a church that focuses on relationship with God, outreach to the community, and discipleship instead of simply religious tradition.

I would submit, however, that there are very few things that made Jesus angrier in his time on earth than religious hypocrites. You can commit a whole laundry list of sins, but if you are willing to admit them, repent, and turn your life over to Christ; Jesus is right there in your corner, arm around you, fending off your accusers and saying, “You who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

However, if you pretend to be righteous, are unwilling to admit to sins in your own life, adopt a religious persona, and lead other’s astray; that is a different story. Now Jesus is ready to walk into the temple and start turning over some tables.

So, the question becomes, are we “being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” or are we allowing our minds to be dulled? Do we stand up boldly, speak truth in the face of obvious wrongs, and follow leaders that are chasing after God and clearly spirit filled? Or do we allow ourselves to fall for the counterfeit, with veils over our faces and not truly going after the transformation that can only come through a genuine relationship with our father in heaven?

As we watch some of the events taking place in our world today, I think there is very little doubt what God would have to say on the matter. When we see leaders in the public eye wrapping themselves in the cloak of Christianity and yet behaving quite the opposite, how will we respond as Christians?

Will we be “very bold” as Paul describes today in 2 Corinthians? Or will we be on the other end of Paul’s message, minds dulled, faces veiled, and blindly following along any charismatic leader willing to claim Christ with their lips?

We see a similar message from David today in our readings in Psalm 52. I think this applies quite directly to several prominent political figures in today’s world that would claim to be Christian but look to use Christ as nothing more than a sales tactic. On both sides of the aisle.

Why do you boast of evil, you mighty hero?
Why do you boast all day long,
you who are a disgrace in the eyes of God?
You who practice deceit,
your tongue plots destruction;
it is like a sharpened razor.
You love evil rather than good,
falsehood rather than speaking the truth.
You love every harmful word,
you deceitful tongue!

Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin:
He will snatch you up and pluck you from your tent;
he will uproot you from the land of the living.
The righteous will see and fear;
they will laugh at you, saying,
“Here now is the man
who did not make God his stronghold
but trusted in his great wealth
and grew strong by destroying others!”

But I am like an olive tree
flourishing in the house of God;
I trust in God’s unfailing love
forever and ever.
For what you have done I will always praise you
in the presence of your faithful people.
And I will hope in your name,
for your name is good.
 

My sincere hope is that Christians throughout our country would stand up boldly, filled with the spirit, face unveiled, walking in true relationship with our heavenly father, and push back against any leaders in this world that would boast all day long, practice deceit, grow strong by destroying others, etc.

I want to live in a world where Christians claim Christ boldly, hope only in his name and not in a political party, and are like the olive tree flourishing in the house of God.

Let’s not allow our minds to be dulled. The stakes are eternal.

Thought to ponder

In the last year have I claimed Christ and stood up for what is right boldly? Have I been walking spirit filled and in a true relationship with Christ or have I allowed my mind to be dulled as Paul described?

“Physical healing, prophecy, hearing from God…really?”

Daily Readings: Deuteronomy 9-10, 1 Corinthians 12

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

1 Corinthians 12:7-20

When I read this passage this morning I was struck by the fact that I have discounted most of these gifts of the Spirit for my entire life up until the last 6 months. Whenever I have breezed through this passage in Corinthians in the past I have always lumped it together in my mind with Romans 12 where Paul said:

For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

In fact, embarrassingly enough, I always pictured these two verses together and didn’t fully internalize, until this morning, that they occur in two separate letters from Paul to two different churches. I always just skimmed through this verse in Corinthians, assumed that I had grasped the main point that we all have different gifts and should use those for the kingdom, and moved on.

This morning I realized why.

Throughout my life I have always been far more comfortable with the concept of people being gifted in serving, teaching, encouragement, giving, or leadership. These are easy to observe. Telling someone that they should focus on maximizing those particular gifts listed in Romans could just as easily be advice read in a secular personal development book on helping people utilize their strengths.

However if I ever turned my mind towards unexplainable physical healing, hearing the voice of God, speaking in tongues, or other miracles…now the skeptical side of my brain started began operating at full power!

Did that person actually get healing or are they just caught up in the moment?

Did he really hear that from God?

Did she actually speak in tongues or is there an explanation for that?

Did that miracle really occur or is this just a story that has grown over time like a spiritual telephone game?

It is far more intellectually comfortable for me to shrug my shoulders and think “maybe, maybe not, but I guess I will never really know”, and to turn back to appreciating the person who is using their gift of leadership, serving, giving, etc.

For the longest time these gifts scared me. I didn’t want to acknowledge the possibility that I could ever hear from God, receive physical healing, etc. What if I decided it was truly possible, put myself out there to God, and believed completely that God had given me a spiritual gift beyond things like leadership, teaching, or service…and then it didn’t happen? What if I prayed with all of my heart to hear from God…and was met by silence? What if I prayed over someone for healing…and it didn’t happen?

Now don’t get me wrong, gifts like leadership, service, teaching, etc. are absolutely spiritual gifts! The problem for me has always been the fact that these are the only gifts I was willing to accept in myself personally or truly recognize in others. Simply put, these gifts are far more comfortable to acknowledge in ourselves and in others, and can occasionally cause us to not be willing to ask the question, “Have I also been gifted in any of these other, less comfortable, areas?”

Throughout me life I “believed” that these spiritual gifts existed in theory and that God gave these gifts to some people in the abstract, just not anyone I could actually observe. Every time I heard about unexplainable miracles from someone I actually knew the enemy swooped in immediately and made sure that my mind went immediately to, “Really, though?”

Even Jesus said that, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” 

We all like believing in miracles, just not at the hands of the guy in the cubicle next to us, the teacher in the next room, the nurse that we work with, etc.

Miracles are far more comfortable in the abstract.

It wasn’t until a night several months back that I accepted that God might actually want to do the miraculous for me personally and not just in theory. It wasn’t until that night that I accepted that God might want to speak through me to others and not just in a far away church plant in a foreign country.

Since then I have had multiple instances of people in times of worship come up to me unsolicited, not knowing what I was praying about, and say something along the lines of, “I really feel like God wants me to tell you that…”

They have spoken such incredible words that went straight to what I was wrestling with at that moment, and that probably made no sense to them whatsoever. And they were anything but generic.

I have had God put on my heart several times in the last few months that I should go up to someone I barely knew, and in some cases didn’t even know the name of, lays hands on them, pray for them, and speak to them incredibly specific things that he wanted to tell them. I have seen men weep for joy that God would speak to them in this way and tell me afterwards that it was exactly what they needed to hear at that exact moment. Truth be told, my first thought on multiple occasions when the Holy Spirit leading was, “Really? Why that? What if I am wrong? What if this is not from God? What if I tell them this and it falls flat?”

There have also been several times where I felt God telling me to go lay hands on someone and pray for someone; and nothing specific came to me. However, I had no doubt that I was meant to be praying for them even if that prayer was simply a silent, “Father, you already know what they need. Wrap them up in your arms and let them know that you are here and that there are other people lifting them up to you.”

Going after the Holy Spirit is scary.

I am so much more comfortable writing, speaking, or mentoring.

Opening up to the possibility of the miraculous is not comfortable.

And like Paul wrote today, we all have different spiritual gifts. I have prayed over many people for physical healing in these last several months as well and, as far as I know, none of them have received it. That may not be my gift. However, I will keep on praying for healing for others with complete conviction. This spiritual gift may surface for me at some time in the future or it may not. However, I know others who absolutely have this gift and I no longer say that with the internal caveat of, “…maybe.”

Discovering whether God designed you to be an eye, a hand, a foot, or an arm starts with truly believing that these parts exist in the first place. It starts with accepting that our God is still a God of the miraculous, not just in theory in a far off land, but in today’s world with people you actually know.

I prayed desperately with tears streaming down my cheeks several months ago that God would heal my unbelief.

God is faithful. Gifts of the Spirit are real. We are all parts of the same body, simply with different gifts. Don’t be afraid to ask the question and really seek after all of the gifts God might have given you!

Thought to ponder

What is my default thought process when I hear about miraculous happenings close to home? Have I been open to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life and willing to truly seek out what Spiritual gifts I may have been given?

What governs our mind?

Daily Readings: Leviticus 9-10, Psalm 33, Romans 8

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

Romans 8:5-8

What is my mind set on?

This is a question that is so important for Christians to consistently ask themselves. We are all human and will have moments of weakness. Our inability to be perfect is why Christ had to come on our behalf in the first place!

However, moments of weakness are very different than a conscious decision to live our lives focused on the desires of the flesh as opposed to choosing every day to ask God to help our mind be governed by the Spirit. An intentional decision that we are going to pursue what we desire above the desires of the Spirit, a decision to rationalize sins in our lives, a refusal to accept Jesus as Lord over our lives; these are not the same as a moment of weakness.

These amount to living according to the flesh.

Back in Matthew 7, Jesus encouraged us to observe our own fruit. Do our lives reflect a life truly turned over to Christ? Would we say that we have “our minds set on what the Spirit desires”?

Or are we living the majority of our lives according to the flesh? Are we consumed by greed, pride, lust, envy, and anger?

Paul doesn’t pull any punches today when he says that, “a mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God”. Those are pretty strong terms. He doesn’t say, “A mind governed by the flesh isn’t ideal. That is something you should work on. But just make sure you are in church regularly and God will overlook it.”

He said, “hostile to God”.

He went on to say in Romans 8:9, “You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.

 Wow.

I kind of want to go back to that version of faith that only requires, “praying a prayer” and then living the exact life I want to live and waiting for heaven one day!

The world desperately wants us to live according to the flesh. We are bombarded by stimulus that encourages us to stop worrying so much about loving God and loving others, but instead to focus on our own status, wealth, appearance, social life, material possessions, etc.

Do we buy into consumerism or Christianity? Are we focused on the desires of the Spirit or our own desires of the flesh?

Tough questions.

Now, again, none of us are perfect. One chapter earlier Paul shared that he too is constantly fighting the battle of Spirit vs. Flesh. Paul said he frequently found himself not doing the things he wanted to do for God and instead found himself succumbing to the desires of his flesh. That is going to happen! God does not want us living out of shame, but out of a place of deep appreciation for the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf knowing that we would fall short over and over again.

The question we need to ask ourselves as Christians is this:

Are these simply moments of weakness because we are still human and still battle these desires of our flesh? Do we then repent and turn back to God to be the Lord over our lives? Is the ultimate focus of our lives on serving God and serving others?

Or…

Is this a conscious decision we have made to put ourselves on the thrown that belongs to God? Are these are not moments of weakness but rather a sign that we are unwilling to give our lives fully over to him? Are we simply living out of the flesh?

Big difference.

These are tough issues to wrestle with, but so critical for us to attack if we truly want to follow Jesus and not simply talk about following Jesus.

Once we truly give our entire lives over to Christ instead of simply dipping our feet in to test the temperature of the pool, I agree wholeheartedly with Paul in the way he wrapped up Romans 8:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Once we fully give our lives over, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God. Sign me up for that!

Thought to ponder

If I am being brutally honest with myself, do I have my mind set on the spirit or is my mind set on the desires of my flesh?

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