A DAY OF HUMBLING

Yesterday was a day of humbling.  I made a big mistake at work, had to fudged a little on a recorded time, and to top it off, when the left turn lane started to move on the turn arrow, I started forward from my straight lane.  Catching my error, I slammed on the brake.  There I sat in the middle of the cross walk in my driver’s instruction car for all to see my error.  The haunting realization came over me that even under my scrupulous vigilance I can’t attain perfection.  The illusion of perfection was no longer possible to maintain.

I’m a perfectionist!  I live under that faulty idea that I need to do all things perfectly.  How imperfect is the pursuit of perfection?  To think that I can do anything perfectly is ridiculous -not to mention it’s hard work.  I’m reminded of the guy on the Ed Sullivan show twirling plates on top of poles.  He had to run from plate to plate to keep them spinning so they wouldn’t fall.   In my yesterday’s experience, plates fell.  One fell then another.  It was a disaster.

So here I am, in the aftermath of humiliation, trying to make sense of it all.  I ask myself,” What causes me to be a perfectionist”?  My answer is twofold.  First, I am created in the image of God, who is perfect.  It’s inherent in my nature to want things perfect.  Secondly, I have a sinful nature, so I’m full of pride.  I inherently want to be better than the next guy.  I also don’t want to be criticized by the next guy.  Perfectionism can also set me in a place where I judge others as less than me.  How ugly is that?

I now rejoice in my day of humbling.  It brings me down from the throne of superiority and places me right back where I belong.  I will continue to give my best effort at work and in all my endeavors because it is the right thing to do, but I will also make every attempt to keep a humble place and avoid letting my desire to do good work tempt me into a prideful place.  I will trust God to give me days of humbling when I need them.  After all, I am a sinner in need of a savior.

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RECEIVING HIS LOVE

Last week in my blog “The Greatest Force” I quoted this scripture from Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Can anybody do this?  I’m going to take the liberty of answering for all of us and say “no” because in verse 40 of this passage Jesus continues, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”  The scriptures make it very clear that none of us have been able to keep the whole Law.

Houston, we have a problem!

Unfortunately, neither Houston nor I have the solution, but God does.  For God so loved …, that he sent Jesus (see John 3:16).  I believe that our ability to love God and others is rooted in our ability to receive God’s love.  Truly believing that we are loved changes us.  There is a peace that comes over us that counters our need to perform.  It takes away our need to earn love.  Living in the peace of God’s love supports us and opens the way for us to give love.

To genuinely receive God’s love is difficult.  We have to lay down our self-sufficiency.  “I can do it myself.”  Self-sufficiency is a part of our sinful nature.  Have you ever observed a toddler saying “I do it?”  It’s inherent.  God’s love given freely puts us in a humble place.  We don’t have to do anything to earn it.  God did it all.  It’s simply a matter of surrendering the pride of self-sufficiency.

Pride separates us from God, and allows us to do all kinds of unloving things.  Think of bigotry and abuse.  Aren’t these sourced in pride?  The pride that says I’m better than or more important than another.  Can a humble heart, that is truly receiving love from God, commit these acts against their neighbor?

I fall short in loving God and my neighbor every day.  Therefore, every day I have the potential to be ungodly.    I need to do something about this.  No, I need to humbly receive God’s love for me.  Loving God and others will flow from that.

THE GREATEST FORCE

Love is the greatest force in the universe.  The Bible tells us that God, the creator, is love (1 John 4:16).   The world and all that is in it was created in love.  It was love demonstrated by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross that brought us salvation.  The redemption of mankind was accomplished by His great act of love.  In love then there is sacrifice.  As Jesus exhibited, love requires the laying down of personal wants and desires for others, or maybe just redirecting our personal wants and desires to others.  Jesus told us in Matthew 22:37-39, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We obviously have the right to use love, and we are commanded to use it.  First we are to love our God, and second to love our neighbor.  Our neighbor being anyone we encounter.

We have access to the greatest power in the universe!  How amazing is that?  Why aren’t we using this great power?  Oh, it requires sacrificing our own wants and desires.  Bingo!  The whole world could be changed by this great force that we have access to, but it requires sacrifice.

Taking a broader look, I find that there is little use of this greatest force in our world.   I’m not seeing a wide use of love.  Knowing that God is love, we can say there’s a lot of ungodliness being exhibited.  For those who like to blame this on God, perhaps a look in the mirror might clear their perspective.  I’m looking in the mirror, and I find much room for improvement.

BE MERCIFUL

“Be merciful to those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; to others show mercy, mixed with fear – hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.”

 Jude 22-23

 

The Church, the Body of Christ, has throughout the ages frequently missed the basic tenet of being merciful.    On the other hand the Church has been an instrument of mercy in society since its beginning.  It’s been a mixed bag.  In Luke 6:35-36 Jesus says,

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back.  Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.  Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

God has shown us mercy, and he desires us to be merciful.  I believe our ability to be merciful depends on our ability to receive mercy.  Humility is the key.

 

To receive mercy, I must first recognize my need for mercy.  When I know that I have sinned against God, there is then the recognition of the debt I owe to God.  Secondly, I need to humble myself and become aware that there is nothing I can do to repay this debt.  God is willing and has made the way to grant me mercy by forgiving my debt.  I don’t have to work for it.  It’s free.  That is hard for me because in my pride I want to do something to earn forgiveness.  However, by holding on to this idea of earning forgiveness, I will never even understand mercy.

 

Now you can see why it’s a mixed bag for the Church.  Our pride often gets in the way.  In Matthew 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees, “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’”  And again in 12:7, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.”  The Pharisees were caught up in a ritual of sacrifice that fed their pride allowing them to condemn others rather than show them mercy.  They were trying to pay their debt to God on their own merit.  They were blinded by pride and did not understand mercy.   Therefore, they could not extend mercy.

 

Mercy proceeds from a humble, forgiving heart.  This is God’s nature and his heart toward us.  By surrendering my will to God and allowing myself to be forgiven, I take the first step in understanding mercy.  I feel the burden of gilt lifted and the exhilaration of being free.  But, I must remember that I’m free and not fall prey to the lie that I must do something for this freedom.  That lie feeds my pride.  I must remain humble. Then in humble gratitude, I live under God’s mercy.  A life that is continually bathed in mercy emanates mercy.

VALUABLE INSIGHTS

Situations come upon us from time to time in which prior information would be quite valuable.  Say you come upon a situation where two people are engaged in a quarrel.  What should you do?  If you don’t have much income, but you’re living comfortably, should you still give to the poor? Are you a person who has to have something to say about every subject?  A wealthy but stingy man invites you to dinner, should you go?  At work there’s a group of party animals that go out 3 or 4 times a week.  They spend the next day talking about the great time they had. When they invite you to join them, should you go?

These are just a few of the situation addressed in the Book of Proverbs.  Our God has provided us with a rich source of information for our daily lives.  Proverbs is not outdated wisdom, but it is full of wisdom for all times.  Provers contains 31 chapters.  By reading a chapter a day you can read the whole book in most months.  Try filling your day with rich practical information for your daily decisions.

You can find valuable insights into the situations I mentioned above by looking at these verses:

Proverbs:         26:17,  21:13,  21:23,  23:6-8,   23:20-21        {these are listed in order}

TRUST IN THE LORD AND DO GOOD

The title above comes from Psalm 37:3.  Trust in the Lord and do good.  This is wisdom for God’s people from King David who later, in verses 8&9, exhorts us to: Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil.  For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.   These verses challenge us, but they also comfort us.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

In light of the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage, I believe June 26, 2015 is a day to be marked as another “in your face God” moment for our country.  That is why I was looking for comfort and direction from Psalm 37.  God’s people need to be aware that God is not surprised by the decisions of man.  He gave them over to a depraved mind because of their rejection of him.  He is in charge, and we belong to him.  We are redeemed!  And we are bearers of his message of love and forgiveness.  Nothing good will come if Christians join the ranks of haters and revilers.

In Romans 1:18-32 Paul gives a clear dissertation on what’s happening.  He starts out: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”  Reading on we see that the depravity over taking our nation is because we have turned our backs to God.  Even the futility of our thinking, the illogical thinking of our leaders is a result of denying God.  So, what should be our response to this evil?

I think that we should trust in the Lord and do good.  God has his hand on all that is taking place on the earth with a promise to work it out for his glory and our good.  Trust him!  As King David pointed out, hating, fretting and being filled with wrath only leads to evil.  Our charge is to do good, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Do good to those who spitefully use you.  Jesus made it clear how we are to proceed.  Don’t turn your back to him.

Prejudice

The first time I ever saw a dark skinned person was when I was seven.  I was walking with my Mom down a street in the small town of Easton, Pennsylvania when we happened upon some black men unloading a delivery truck.  Having never seen a man with black skin, I asked her, “Who are they?”  I don’t exactly remember her reply, but she told me that some people think they are different than us.  The first inkling of racial prejudice came to my childhood mind.  Then we moved to north-east Washington D.C.

In Washington I went to an elementary school as one of the three “white kids” in the school.  My sister was one of the other white kids.  We didn’t think there was anything out of place.  However, the white people in our apartment building were always warning my Mother not to let her kids hang out with “the blacks”.  To me this seemed stupid.    They were my class mates.  I later came to hate racial prejudice.  Besides, black people were usually a lot more fun than white people.

In those early years, I prided myself as being above prejudice.  However, now that I have a better understanding of the word prejudice, I realize that feeling superior to those who embraced prejudice was in itself a form of prejudice.  I was separated out from those “prejudice people”, and I could therefore look down on them.  I find that it is in my nature to be prejudice.  I am always looking for ways to show myself better than others.  I may not have been prejudice against black people, but I have many prejudices.

Paul says in Philippians 2:3, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  This is the anti-prejudice scripture.  Notice that the term others is not qualified.  It doesn’t say other Christians, or other white people, or other Jewish people.  Therefore, others must be all inclusive.  I can’t justify any prejudice when compared to this word from Paul.  Since it is an inherent tendency, I will fight prejudice in myself for the rest of my life.  With God’s help, I will fight to love others not belittle them.