Christianity 201

November 11, 2017

Humility – Part Two – As We Are to Live It

Yesterday and today we’re doing a rare “Best of C201” and looking at a topic which appeared several times in 2014 with each containing a key passage from Philippians 2…

Some of you know that in the last two or three years my go-to portion of scripture has been the place in Philippians 2 where Paul breaks out into a section that translators set out from the text as poetry, leading many to conclude it was either a creed or something that had been set to music as an early church hymn. This is the passage I mentally recite when I can’t get back to sleep, and if you invite me to speak at your church on less than 72 hours notice, this is the passage I will speak on.

I’ve created my own version of it, but for sake of familiarity, this is the NKJV, which is usually not my default translation:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who,being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So in practical terms, how do you adopt that mindset, that attitude; or to put it another way, how do you get to be humble?

He took on the role of a servant

Of the four things the text states this is really the only one that is open to us. We have already entered into the human condition, and we will almost certainly taste death, even if it is not the excruciating form that Jesus endured. Since we have no options vis-a-vis three of the four things stated, what we must press into is the idea of adopting the towel and the basin as our personal symbols; to give up the stallion in favor of a donkey; to take a seat at the back, not the front; and to seek not be served, but to serve.

We need to remember our sin

When spiritual pride comes knocking at the door, we need to remember our sinful condition. Like David, our sin is ever before us. If you’ve mastered holiness, good for you; but I still live in the middle of two conditions, in the warfare of two wills, two natures battling for control of my mind and actions. Without making this a confessional, suffice it to say that, like my apostle namesake, I haven’t attained it, but press on to it. Remaining in Christian community will help keeps us transparent and accountable.

It’s a really big planet

We are also humbled when we consider not only our place in the universe, but that we are members of a tribe seven billion strong. No matter how large your Facebook friends list, or whether you take significance in being either a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond; on a global scale sense of personal importance fades dramatically. You may be a superstar in your local church, or your denomination, or you may have won public service awards in your community, but on an international scale you’re probably not such a big deal.

Identifying humility’s opposite

I wrote about this a few days ago and suggested that while we often name pride as the culprit that undermines a humble spirit, ambition can be equally deadly. Being able to name the players in the spiritual battle that’s always ongoing really helps us see the root of the problem. Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace wrote about how the larger society operates by the rules of un-grace. Probably most people equally operate by the laws of un-humility. Timothy spoke of the last days being characterized by people who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…” We certainly do see a lot of that. When I remember how contagious these attitudes are I recognize the need to guard myself from trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

I have a good example to follow

The whole point of this passage is comparison. Let the attitude or mindset that was in him also be in you. Three months ago, I wrote about the classic CCM song Understudy that uses Hollywood imagery to describe us apprenticing to the one with the starring role. No wonder the early followers of Jesus were called “little Christs.” Or, if you prefer, you can think of the students of who “walk in the dust of the rabbi;” doing everything their teacher does.

What other aspects of Christian living can serve to keep us humble?

April 30, 2015

Dying to Self

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Gal 2:20

I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…
Phil. 3:10

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.”
Luke 9:23-24

… anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Mark 10:38

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Romans 6:11

May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Galatians 6:14

Today’s scripture verses were just a few that came to mind after reading the following, which I found in an old church bulletin.

DYING TO SELF

When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don’t sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ.

THAT IS DYING TO SELF

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take in all in patient, loving silence.

THAT IS DYING TO SELF

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality, or any annoyance; when you stand face-to- face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility-and endure it as Jesus endured.

THAT IS DYING TO SELF

When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any solitude, any raiment, any interruption by the will of God.

THAT IS DYING TO SELF

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown.

THAT IS DYING TO SELF

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances.

THAT IS DYING TO SELF

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart.

THAT IS DYING TO SELF

 

August 1, 2014

Humility Reminders

Today’s post appeared jointly with the blog Thinking Out Loud.

 

Some of you know that in the last two or three years my go-to portion of scripture has been the place in Philippians 2 where Paul breaks out into a section that translators set out from the text as poetry, leading many to conclude it was either a creed or something that had been set to music as an early church hymn. This is the passage I mentally recite when I can’t get back to sleep, and if you invite me to speak at your church on less than 72 hours notice, this is the passage I will speak on.

I’ve created my own version of it, but for sake of familiarity, this is the NKJV, which is usually not my default translation:

5 Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who,being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So in practical terms, how do you adopt that mindset, that attitude; or to put it another way, how do you get to be humble?

He took on the role of a servant

Of the four things the text states this is really the only one that is open to us. We have already entered into the human condition, and we will almost certainly taste death, even if it is not the excruciating form that Jesus endured. Since we have no options vis-a-vis three of the four things stated, what we must press into is the idea of adopting the towel and the basin as our personal symbols; to give up the stallion in favor of a donkey; to take a seat at the back, not the front; and to seek not be served, but to serve.

We need to remember our sin

When spiritual pride comes knocking at the door, we need to remember our sinful condition. Like David, our sin is ever before us. If you’ve mastered holiness, good for you; but I still live in the middle of two conditions, in the warfare of two wills, two natures battling for control of my mind and actions. Without making this a confessional, suffice it to say that, like my apostle namesake, I haven’t attained it, but press on to it. Remaining in Christian community will help keeps us transparent and accountable.

It’s a really big planet

We are also humbled when we consider not only our place in the universe, but that we are members of a tribe seven billion strong. No matter how large your Facebook friends list, or whether you take significance in being either a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond; on a global scale sense of personal importance fades dramatically. You may be a superstar in your local church, or your denomination, or you may have won public service awards in your community, but on an international scale you’re probably not such a big deal.

Identifying humility’s opposite

I wrote about this a few days ago and suggested that while we often name pride as the culprit that undermines a humble spirit, ambition can be equally deadly. Being able to name the players in the spiritual battle that’s always ongoing really helps us see the root of the problem. Philip Yancey, in What’s So Amazing About Grace wrote about how the larger society operates by the rules of un-grace. Probably most people equally operate by the laws of un-humility. Timothy spoke of the last days being characterized by people who were “lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy…” We certainly do see a lot of that. When I remember how contagious these attitudes are I recognize the need to guard myself from trying to ‘keep up with the Joneses.’

I have a good example to follow

The whole point of this passage is comparison. Let the attitude or mindset that was in him also be in you. Three months ago, I wrote about the classic CCM song Understudy that uses Hollywood imagery to describe us apprenticing to the one with the starring role. No wonder the early followers of Jesus were called “little Christs.” Or, if you prefer, you can think of the students of who “walk in the dust of the rabbi;” doing everything their teacher does.

What other aspects of Christian living can serve to keep us humble?

 

 

July 27, 2014

What’s the Opposite of Humility?

If you have read this website for any length of time, you know that I often return to the “hymn” in Philippians 2. The one that begins, “Let this mindset [attitude] be in you that was also found in Christ;” and then goes a few sentences before defining that mindset, “He humbled himself.”

The cross is the place where we changed.
Above all fruit of that change is the fruit of love.
The attitude we then adopt is humility.

So what is the opposite of humility? What is the thing we have to “put off” before we can “put on” a humble, gentle spirit?

If you asked me that question 24 hours ago, I would have said pride. Pride and humility are opposites, right?

But this morning, after starting in Philippians 2, I kept reading to the end, and then decided I should backtrack to chapter 1 so could say I had read the whole book this morning. (Maybe that was pride!!)

Anyway, midway through that chapter I think Paul gives us a clue as to what feeds humility’s counter-attitude. It just so happened I was reading in The Message translation.

15-17 It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

18-21 So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

Paul is in prison at this point, hence the reference to “out of the way.” He has apparently gained some popularity at this point and obviously that is enviable to the point where others would like to step into the limelight.  In the above translation they are called “greedy” as having “bad motives.” In the NIV it reads,

17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.

adding the extra dimension that perhaps they simply want to cause trouble for Paul while he is not at liberty to respond. Imagine though, someone preaching the gospel, the good news about Jesus to make someone else look bad.

Some of this is human nature. Paul was not part of the original group of apostles that Jesus taught or among the early disciples who were present on the day of Pentecost. As Saul, he greatly opposed the movement Jesus had begun. Then, in a very short period, he becomes Paul the Apostle. Can you see the problem some might have with this?

Sometimes someone new will come into one of our churches and be given a ministry position and the church’s “old guard,” the “elder brothers” can get very irate. I know. I was the new person in a rural church. A woman got up at the annual meeting and asked, “So what’s the deal here? Can anybody just walk in off the street and get a job?” If I had doctrinal quirks or theological errors it might have been a valid question. But clearly, her question wasn’t rooted in that concern, it was rooted in envy. Just a few short months later she left the church.

But I think The Message translation gets more clearly at the humility’s opposite in chapter one, with chapter two in view.

The opposite of humility is ambition.

Being driven, taking proactive steps, or being a type-A personality is not a bad thing. But to be consumed with ambition strikes at the very heart of the humble attitudes we are supposed to reflect.  The Voice translation reflects this in Psalm 75:

There is no one on earth who can raise up another to grant honor,
    not from the east or the west, not from the desert.
There is no one. God is the only One.
God is the only Judge.
    He is the only One who can ruin or redeem a man.

It is God who grants promotions and give raises. We shouldn’t seek these things; we shouldn’t strive to get somewhere that isn’t in God’s plans or not currently in God’s timing.

We can’t even claim that healthy ambition in doing things for God, because there is a flaw if we think we do things for God.  (This becomes especially vital in a church culture where pastors are preoccupied with metrics and church growth.)

Above, verses 18-21 reveal that Paul doesn’t allow himself to get perturbed at whatever motivates such people. As long as the gospel is presented clearly, he actually rejoices. The messenger may be flawed, but the message is what matters. As I replied to a comment last week, even a stopped clock is right twice a day, so while we should consider the source, we shouldn’t discount everything the source writes or says.

Right now, even as you read this, there are people using the ministry to build their own empires. Yes, that concerns me, but it doesn’t concern Paul if the message is being clearly transmitted. Of course, in a social media and internet world, everybody knows everybody else’s backstory. That is unfortunate, but it doesn’t minimize the power of the message itself.

Response: God, I know I need to guard my heart. Help me to see things I’m doing for wrong reasons; wrong motives. Help me not to be consumed with ambition.


Previously on C201:

 

 

December 7, 2013

The Person God Elevates

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Ps. 75:6 No one from the east or the west
    or from the desert can exalt themselves.
It is God who judges:
    He brings one down, he exalts another.

Every day here I always encourage you to read the various devotionals we find at their source blog. Today that is a necessity, because the original is very long, but very good (and it’s almost entirely scripture). It’s about the culture of celebrity pastors which now, dare I say, plagues us in North America.  The two excerpts below do not comprise the entire article, which also ends with a prayer. So here is the link to: Celebrity Pastors and the Glory of God from the blog Feeding on Christ by Joseph Randall.

…The Biblical and historical fact of the matter on celebrity pastors is this:  The LORD sovereignly chooses to make people great in the eyes of the world for the purpose of making His own name great and to be a blessing to the world through the Gospel.

He did so with Abraham:  “Now the LORD said to Abram, ‘Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.’” (Genesis 12:1-2)

He did so with Joseph:  “The LORD was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master.  His master saw that the LORD was with him and that the LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands . . . But the LORD was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison . . . The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the LORD was with him. And whatever he did, the LORD made it succeed.” (Genesis 39:2-3, 21, 23)

He did so with Moses:  “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you like God to Pharaoh . . . .’” (Exodus 7:1)

He did so with Joshua:  “The LORD said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.’” (Joshua 3:7)

He did so with David:  “Now, therefore, thus you shall say to my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel.  And I have been with you wherever you went and have cut off all your enemies from before you. And I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth.’” (2 Samuel 7:8-9)

He did so with His own beloved Son:  “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5-11)

He’s done it with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, and many other faithful preachers and theologians in our own day.

And He does so now with whomever He pleases:  “The LORD kills and brings to life; he brings down to Sheol and raises up.  The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts.  He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honor.  For the pillars of the earth are the LORD’s, and on them he has set the world.” (1 Samuel 2:6-8) …

 

The article continues:

1.  Let us remember that the LORD doesn’t need us:

“Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” (Psalm 135:6)

“Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear.” (Isaiah 59:1)

“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.” (Acts 17:24-25)

“God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.” (Matthew 3:9)

2.  Let us remember that the LORD grants all mercies, ministries, and positions in His Church as He sees fit:

“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” (Romans 9:15)

“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7)

“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.” (Romans 12:3)

 “Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.” (2 Corinthians 4:1)

“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ . . . But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose . . . But God has so composed the body . . . And God has appointed in the church . . . .” (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18, 24, 28)

3.  Let us remember that the LORD delights in and lifts up the humble:

“The LORD lifts up the humble; he casts the wicked to the ground.” (Psalm 147:6)

“For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” (Isaiah 57:15)

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)

“The greatest among you shall be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:11-12)

“If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35)

4.  Let us consider all other preachers (and people!) better than ourselves:

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

5.  Let us seek the LORD to build our ministry or all is vanity:

“Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.  Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Psalm 127:1)

6.  Let us forget about ourselves and exult in the glory, beauty, and satisfaction of Jesus Christ alone – Who is the greatest and most famous One, but was made nothing on that cross so that we might have all in all in Him!

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11)

April 3, 2013

Humility and How I Attained It

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:12 pm
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This appeared recently at Forward Progress, the blog of Michael Kelley under the title Humble Casting.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you (1 Peter 5:6-7).

The elusive characteristic of humility. My college roommate and I used to joke that we would someday co-author a book called Humility and How I Attained It. We would be so proud of this work. Wait… dang it.

That’s the nature of humility, isn’t it? You seek after it, but as soon as you think you’ve found it, you’ve lost it. No doubt that humility is an essential character trait that can be nurtured and developed; it’s even commanded here in Scripture. We aren’t commanded to sit around and wait for humility to come upon us like a stomach bug; we are directly told to “humble yourselves.”

But Peter also gives us the action step to doing so. Surprisingly, though, it’s not to practice self-abasement. Neither is it to walk around with your shoulders drooped. It’s certainly not to awkwardly deflect compliments when they happen to come our way. Instead, you pursue humility by casting your cares upon the Lord.

Now why might that lead to humility? Think of it like this: You are very sick. So sick, in fact, that you cannot get out of bed. You cannot fix your own chicken soup or get your own crackers. You can’t even get to the TV remote if it’s not right beside you. You have no other choice, once you recognize the frailty of your condition, but to cast your burdens upon another. That’s an incredibly humbling thing by its very nature.

The same thing holds true here. When we cast all our cares upon the Lord, we will be humbling ourselves. Problem is, we don’t really recognize the frailty of our condition. We think that we can still fix things in our lives. We can still have the difficulty conversations and carefully lay out plans. We still see ourselves as strong and capable, and therefore we do not cast. Most of the time, it takes a true moment of crisis for us to begin that casting process. We have to be, by circumstance, awakened to what’s been there all along:

Our powerlessness.

Our lack of control.

Our great need day in and day out.

But what if we didn’t have to wait until we are reminded to start that process? What if a moment of crisis didn’t have to awaken that sense of dependence? What if, instead of waiting in our false sense of power, we instead made it our practice to preemptively cast our cares upon the Lord?

And what if the really good news is that He doesn’t get tired of that? What if the fuel for the casting was the great love of God demonstrated for us at the cross of Jesus Christ?

Now that would really be something.

Wouldn’t it?

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere. An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

C201 is always looking for both submissions and suggestions for sources of material. Use the submissions page in the margin.

January 21, 2013

To Come or To Go — That is the Question

Today’s piece is from Harlen Wall. When we asked for permission to use this, Harlen also wrote his own introduction:

Who am I? A Jewish Bible Teacher. Inspired by G-d, I composed this message for my weekly newsletter, which is distributed via email to a group of Christians and Jews (comprised of my students and those who attend my weekly Shabbat service along with friends and family).

The reason I put the dash in G-d is out of reverence for His Holy Name. Who am I to think I can comprehend who G-d is –and the “dash” reminds me of His infinite and transcendent Unity (Oneness) that is above space and time.I should NOT be casual when I write the Holy Name of G-d or refer to Him. Jews are taught to have reverence for His Holy Name.

Here is today’s reading:

“Then the LORD said to Moses, “Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them (2) and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the LORD.” EXODUS 10:1-2

I only wish to make a very simple and concise point in this week’s message. Sometimes, less is really more! Most English Bibles translate the word bo as go as in “go to Pharaoh.” But the Hebrew word is best translated as, and properly rendered “come.” There is a big difference between coming and going, especially in this context. There is a very important lesson in this verse. Hashem (the LORD) is telling Moses to come to Pharaoh because He (G-d) is already there waiting. This idea is dazzling in its simplicity but profound in its depth.

G-d is telling Moses to come. Not only to come to Pharaoh but to come to Him (G-d) since G-d is already there waiting for him. In truth, it won’t be Moses that will confront Pharaoh. It will be the G-d of Israel, the G-d of Heaven and Earth. Moses just has to show up and realize that it’s not about him. It’s not about what he can do or say. He doesn’t even have the natural gift of persuasive speech. In fact, the Torah tells us that Moses is C’vad Peh (heavy of speech). It’s not about Moses in any way. It’s about what the LORD can do and will do in and through Moses.

This is, in many ways, the most difficult lesson for us humans to learn. Many of us invest decades upon decades of our lives in proving to the world that we’re worthy of respect and deserving of recognition. We make every effort to convince others that we’re intelligent, beautiful, “strong,” wise, and powerful. It’s both ironic and sad that we often spend our entire lives seeking honor, only to find out in the end, that’s it’s not even about us. It’s only about what the LORD can do in and through us. It’s not about us. It’s all about Him. This reality can be liberating and troubling at the same time.

The totality and essence of the human experience is “coming to G-d.” He’s always waiting “there” for us, in every situation. G-d is not telling Moses to go to Pharaoh. He is really saying “Come to Me. I’ll be here waiting for you. I’m already there.” He is saying you will not defeat Pharaoh if you “go to him.” You will defeat Pharaoh (despite your many weaknesses and flaws) if you come to me. Moses could not defeat Pharaoh and the Egyptian forces on his own merit or strength. He could only succeed by coming to G-d and allowing Him to fight the battle. A war is never won. It’s merely received.

It’s not just the word bo that is mistranslated. There are many Hebrew words that are mistranslated in Christian/English versions of the Torah. Perhaps the most glaring error is the very name of the LORD that is given to Moses on Mount Sinai. The Hebrew word is “E-hi-yeh,” which is translated in most bibles as “I am that I am.” This is not the meaning of the word and falls short of what the original Hebrew language reveals to us. To render the word as ‘I am That I Am” is to miss the point and the underlying message to Moses, Israel, and ultimately the entire world.

In truth, however, the word is a verb and means “I shall be” as in I shall be there. G-d was revealing His Essence to Moses and at the same time assuring him that he would be there with him when he approached Pharaoh. The name of G-d and his essence is that he will always be there (waiting) even before we get “there” (even when it seems like he’s not there or we can’t see him or feel him). He was also revealing to Moses that He would be with the children of Israel in their exile and all their trials throughout history as well.

We must always remember this lesson that G-d taught Moses. And we must always remember the meaning of His Name. We must know with complete certainty that the LORD is always there waiting for us in every situation. Instead of going to confront our enemies or going to confront or deepest fears or going to defeat HaSatan, we must make the decision to come to G-D instead. The victory is always received when we come to the LORD. And we must joyfully accept that the victory is His. Not ours. It’s not about us. It’s ONLY ABOUT HIM.

But the choice to come or go is ours.

~Harlen Wall

June 24, 2012

Who You Look Down On, Who You Look Up To

Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.   ~Romans 12:3b NIV

At 6’0″ I usually find myself in conversation with people not as tall as myself, but in the last few months I’ve noticed that I’ve become increasingly uncomfortable carrying on conversations with people taller than myself, probably because it happens so seldom.  Yesterday we ran into Tim, the son of one of my mother’s best friends, and I again found myself registering the fact I had to keep looking up to make eye contact.

I can see how people like myself who are tall of stature might get confused and think that they are somehow ‘taller’ intellectually or emotionally; and there is always the danger of thinking oneself to be ‘taller’ spiritually. Of course, we all know our inward shortcomings and weaknesses, but when we’re out and about with members of the wider faith family, it’s easy to posture. In the key verse today, Paul says we should use ‘sober judgment’ of ourselves.

Another application of this principle is that we look up to God, who scripture tells us looks down on us. This is repeated in various passages; it’s important to remember who is where! One prayer pattern that I learned years ago contains the phrase, “You’re God and I’m not;” or “You’re God and we’re not.” When we come to Him in prayer, we need to remember who is ‘taller.’

Here’s a similar application of how we deal with our own estimation of ourselves from Luke 14.  Jesus is teaching…

When Jesus noticed that all who had come to the dinner were trying to sit in the seats of honor near the head of the table, he gave them this advice: “When you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t sit in the seat of honor. What if someone who is more distinguished than you has also been invited? The host will come and say, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then you will be embarrassed, and you will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table!

10 “Instead, take the lowest place at the foot of the table. Then when your host sees you, he will come and say, ‘Friend, we have a better place for you!’ Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. 11 For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”  ~NLT

A month ago we attended a family funeral. My wife’s uncle passed away and we didn’t realize that some seats were being held for nieces and nephews, so we took a seat toward the back. Her cousin saw us and immediately told us that special seats were reserved for us, and invited us to “come up higher” in the seating plan. We appreciated this, but I couldn’t help but think of this passage as we were walking to the front, and also of the potential embarrassment that could occur if the situation were reversed.

The brand of Christ-following that is portrayed on television is centered on people with very strong personalities and — dare I say it? — very large egos. I think some of this is given away by the very fact these people want to be on television, though I don’t preclude the use of media to share the gospel.  But you and I, the average disciple, should be marked by humility; the type of humility that takes a back seat in a culture that wants to proclaim, “We’re number one.”

We serve the King of Kings. We have the hottest news on the rack. We are seated with Christ in heavenly places. But we approach this in a humble spirit, with gratitude that God chose to reach down and rescue us from our fallen state.

Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. ~ James 4:10 NKJV

How tall do you feel?

~Paul Wilkinson

Classic Worship Song: Humble Thyself in the Sight of the Lord