Pressing On

with THE WORD

A study of the Scriptures to discover who God is, what He is like, and how to partner with Him now.

Filtering by Tag: humility

The big serve

I recently watched a documentary about a Make-A-Wish event for a young cancer patient.  When he was 18 months old, he was diagnosed; however, his family waited to do the Make-A-Wish event until he was five, so it could be something more memorable and meaningful to him.

It started out as a simple plan to let him play the part of his favorite superhero for a day, but it quickly grew into a large-scale, city-wide event.  As word got around that a young cancer-survivor wanted to be Batman, people began offering their skills and connections to make the day as realistic as possible.

Here’s a rundown of just some of the people who got involved:
A boy donated his replica Batman costume and let the cancer survivor keep it afterwards.
One guy offered his black Lamborghini to be the Batmobile.
A local anchorwoman prerecorded the news broadcast that started the event.
The Chief of Police prerecorded messages to give out the day’s missions.
A social media company handled all publicity leading up to the day.
Actors played the roles of Batman, Penguin, and Riddler.
A local eatery provided their lunch.
During its busiest time of year, the opera house tailored all costumes.
A famous musician provided theme music.
A company overnighted a specialized computer chip to run the communication device.
A baseball team gave permission to use their mascot and stadium.
A social media expert provided official Twitter updates during the day’s events.
City Police, many of them on their day off, ensured the planned city route was unblocked and safe.
The mayor ended the day by presenting the key to the city.
A wealthy couple covered the city’s extra expenses for the day.
And many, many others donated their time and effort in both big and small ways…

On top of all this, roughly 14,000 people showed up to witness the events as Batman and Batkid went all across town to save the day.  While they brought supportive signs and cheered him on, the sheer volume of people presented a huge logistics problem – one the police are all too familiar with.  Safely managing a mass of humanity that large always presents a formidable challenge.  However, the officers found something different that day – whenever they would ask people to move back and give Batkid some space, people in the crowd would turn around at start helping them move the crowds back to make way.  No one grumbled, complained, or mouthed off at the officers.  Additionally, there was no complaint of crime or problems from within the crowds at each of the event’s locations.

While the day of the event was hugely successful (it was done on a Friday), those involved said there was a curious spillover to the event that lasted well into the next week.  In general, people were happier; people were friendlier.  It was described as an afterglow to the efforts to take care of this young cancer survivor.  No one expected it, but for a little while, the citizens gained something they didn’t have before.

But why did the crowds and city act this way?  Because they put the needs of the little boy ahead of their own.  Although this wasn’t a church-sponsored event, the participants provided a real-life example of what the Apostle Paul told the believers in Philippi:

Philippians 2:3-4
in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.


Whether they had donated a Lamborghini or held up a homemade sign of support, each person’s focus was helping this one child.  For a single day, they stopped their own agendas, let go of their personal worries, and they focused on someone else.  No one did anything they would consider extraordinary – they all stayed within their skills and abilities – but when they did it together, something big and beautiful happened.

Does your small group or members from your church get involved in your community?  Mine does, and I absolutely love it.  We don’t go out to protest or yell preachy things from the street corners.  Instead we follow this example:

Philippians 2:5, 7
Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who…emptied Himself by assuming the form of a servant


When we empty ourselves of our pride, our agenda, our schedule and serve others with the skills and abilities God has given us – big and beautiful things can happen.  In humility consider others as more important than yourselves.  Get out among non-believers and serve – isn’t that what Jesus did?

However, the afterglow of our efforts will last longer than just a few days…instead, it will echo into eternity.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Correcting bad teaching

When Paul sent his letter of instruction and encouragement to Timothy, the very first area he discussed had to do with Timothy’s authority in the church family.

1 Timothy 1:3-4
As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, remain in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach other doctrine or to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies.  These promote empty speculations rather than God’s plan, which operates by faith.

Right away, we see that Timothy is in charge.  The Greek word Paul uses for command means to instruct, charge, or declare a message to others.  This word was often used by the gospel writers to describe Jesus’ teaching to both the crowds and to his disciples.  Paul wants Timothy to exercise his authority in the church at Ephesus, as evidenced by him using that particular Greek verb five different times in this letter.

Given the multicultural makeup of the city, its inhabitants, and their multitude of religious practices, the church would have been inundated with many competing ideas about who God is, what He is like, and how a relationship with Him is supposed to happen. 

Whenever Timothy would encounter these incorrect ideas about God, and the time came for him to command people not to teach these false ideas, it is easy to understand how tense of a situation that could be.  No one likes being wrong, and no one likes being called out for being incorrect – especially on something they are passionate about.

Oftentimes, when a person’s doctrine beliefs are discussed, there is a tendency for pride to creep in.  We fight in order to show that our understanding is right…rather than taking the humble route of wanting to make sure we are rightly aligned with God. 

That balance between humility and authority will be challenging for a leader, so Paul makes sure that Timothy understands where his motivation comes from:

1 Timothy 1:5
Now the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith.

Timothy is to give commands because he genuinely loves the people he will be shepherding in Ephesus.  While Timothy’s instructions will be authoritative, they will be given for the people’s benefit. 

We need to correctly understand who God is and what He is like if we’re going to have a strong, life-giving relationship with Him.  As such, correcting false doctrine and false teaching is of paramount importance within the church family.  However, to be effective, the goal of our instruction must be love.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Talking with outsiders

No one likes a “know-it-all”.  Generally speaking, people do not mind if someone else has more knowledge, but the way a person handles themselves in light of that additional knowledge can make or break relationships.  Whether it’s among strangers or siblings, classmates or co-workers, no one appreciates being talked down to.  The subject matter could be of small consequence or something really important, but how something is communicated is as important as what is being communicated.

For those of us that have been following Christ for a length of time, there is a tendency toward smugness that will cause problems.  When we get comfortable going through the motions of living the “Christian life” instead of focusing on our relationship with God, we grow stale.  Our mindset and interactions with others will twist until we end up presenting a conceited, self-righteous version of Christianity.

A telling symptom of this stale-ness is found in how we interact with those outside of our Christian family.  What is our general attitude toward non-Christians?  While we know that they need Jesus, do our actions and attitudes invite them toward Jesus or push them away?  Do we speak at them with a lot of Christian-ese?  Do we belittle them because of their sin?

After spending most of his letter describing the wondrous relationship we now have with God and praising the Colossian believers for their great love for everyone in God’s family, Paul took a moment to give them a warning:

Colossians 4:5-6
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the time.  Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

Those outside the faith need our wisdom and our gracious speech, not arrogant attitudes and put-down talk.  Being “better off” doesn’t make us “more important”.  In fact, many of the Bible’s authors gave warning against such self-righteous thinking.

Instead, gracious speech comes from a grateful mindset.  That’s why Paul has spent so much time writing about the greatness of Christ and the priority He should have in our lives.  When we have our relationship with God in its proper place, then our interactions with outsiders will begin to look and sound a lot like Jesus’ interactions with others.

Looking and sounding like Jesus will draw a lot of attention, people will take notice of the difference.  In order to be ready to answer each person, we should take the same attitude Daniel had when God told him the meaning of the king’s dream:

Daniel 2:30
As for me, this mystery has been revealed to me, not because I have more wisdom than anyone living, but in order that the interpretation might be made known to the king, and that you may understand the thoughts of your mind.

Can you hear his humility?  Can you see how Daniel shifted the focus from himself and gave the credit to God?  When we have the opportunity to share the gospel with others, we should have the same attitude:

I’m not a Christian because I’m better than anyone else.  One day, someone told me that God loves me enough to die for my sins.  He loves you, too.  I’m just glad that I get to be the one to tell you about it.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Humble prayers

The contents of our prayers to God reveal a lot – especially about how we view ourselves in relation to God.

Luke 18:9-14 [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:

“Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.  The Pharisee took his stand and was praying like this: ‘God, I thank You that I’m not like other people – greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of everything I get.’

“But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest and saying, ‘God, turn Your wrath from me – a sinner!’

I tell you, this one went down to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The prayers of both men revealed their basis for relationship with God.  Everything the Pharisee said was true – he wasn’t committing the sins that he saw others do, and he gave a fraction of his life and money to God.  However, he expected God to accept him based upon these “good” things, based upon his terms.

On the other hand, the tax collector’s prayer was simple and direct.  When he said God, turn Your wrath from me, the phrase could also be translated as God, be propitious.  The word propitious isn’t used much anymore, but in this context the tax collector is asking God: May Your wrath be appeased and turned aside by the sacrifice.  The tax collector was looking to God to determine if his relationship was acceptable.

These conflicting ideas for the basis of our relationship with God go back a long way…so far, in fact, that we find them in Cain and Abel. 

Genesis 4:3-7 In the course of time Cain presented some of the land’s produce as an offering to the Lord.  And Abel also presented an offering – some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions.  The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering.  Cain was furious, and he was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you furious?  And why are you downcast?  If you do right, won’t you be accepted?  But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door.  Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Cain knew how to “do right” and approach the Lord in manner He required – with a blood sacrifice, not with Cain’s best work.  However, Cain wanted to approach God on his own terms…and his offering was rejected.  Similarly, the Pharisee went home without being justified because he wanted God to accept him for the good deeds he had done, rather than asking God to accept a substitutionary sacrifice.

The hearts of the men in Jesus’ parable were revealed in what they prayed.  One was self-focused, the other was God-focused.  One exalted himself and would eventually be humbled, either by correction or rejection from God.  The other humbled himself and would eventually be exalted, because of his relationship with God.

Let us also, then, pray humble prayers…because we know that Jesus’ blood sacrifice on the cross is the basis of our relationship with God, not anything we have done or will do.

Keep Pressing,
Ken

Remember to remember

Paul has spent a large amount of his letter giving instructions about how a believer’s life should look.  Our lives are to be an out-pouring of our relationship with our Savior.  Paul repeatedly instructs Titus to focus on doing good, and he provides suggestions on how the Cretans should be doing good as well:

Titus 3:1-2 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.

This is certainly not an easy list, especially the last one.  Humility is a difficult character trait to develop around the people we love and like…but to demonstrate it toward all men?

To show true humility would be to intentionally put others’ interests ahead of our own, to manifest our care of others in a gentle manner, with meekness.  Meekness means to have a person’s strengths be fully under their control.  A tamed stallion remains just as strong when he was wild; however, now that he is tamed, his meekness allows his strength to be put to good use.  When we show true humility toward all men, we are taking control of our strengths and desires, using them for the betterment of the people around us.

While that sounds all well and good…what immediately comes to mind is that people are generally selfish, rude, uninterested in spiritual matters, suspicious, and focused on all the wants/needs of this life.

And Paul doesn’t disagree with that assessment, either.

Titus 3:3 At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.  We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

I love how Paul says “we” – that at one time we too were foolish.  Paul is including himself with these non-Jewish Cretans when he describes just how bad off they all were in their sinful lives.  Paul wants them to remember that at one point, the Cretan believers were outsiders too!

Our tendency to get wrapped up in “Christian living” has the ability to isolate us from those outside of the faith.  I’ve heard it said that it takes a new Christian about 3 years to completely remove from their lives all non-essential interactions with non-Christians.  We believers tend to form a holy huddle and do “Christian” things with only “Christian” people.  

This is a terrible habit, and Paul wants the Cretan believers to avoid this kind of behavior.  By having them act in humility toward all men and by bringing up their common background, Paul’s message to the new Cretan church is simple – Don’t forget where you came from.

We used to be in the same mess that non-believers find themselves in now.  And when we didn’t deserve it, at a time that we were completely self-absorbed, Jesus acted in true humility toward all men.   Jesus took control of his strengths and desires, and put our needs above his needs, for the betterment of all people.

It becomes easier to reenact humility toward others when we remember that it was extended to us first, even when we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures.

Keep Pressing,
Ken