Humilty


Recently I counseled someone who had become rather melancholy about church, worship, and just the whole image of modern day ministry. The smorgasbord of appeals being made from an array of sources makes choosing a church (even Christ) very difficult, and has caused some to be discouraged to the point of disinterest.

The Bible says such a period would emerge. Paul told his colleague and friend there would come a time when people would not endure sound doctrine (2 Tim 4:3), and even said some would eventually abandon the faith (1 Tim 4:1). With the deluge of preachers and self-proclaimed prophets afoot in cyberspace and the world today, it is becoming more and more difficult to know exactly what and who to believe. A lot of stuff out there may sound good, but so much is neither good nor sound.

Is there an actual litmus test for determining legitimacy in ministry? How can one know what and who to believe? Or even know who is real? Our Lord said clearly without regard for personality, charisma, gifts, degrees, apparent success, and the like, there is one sure tell sign. He said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another.” (John 13:35, NIV) Succinctly, amidst all the hype and pseudo-energy that characterizes a lot of contemporary preaching, the love of God must and will be unmistakably clear to help confirm if a message and messenger is truly real. The power of God’s love is still able to woo sinners unto repentance if we would simply trust Him.

Remember our childhood days? While we could hardly afford a bicycle, most kids were enamored by the speed and sound a motor cycle made. Too dangerous and expensive for most of us, we remained content to ride our bikes, but would make an inexpensive modification to its operation to enhance our experience. We would simply take a playing card (any card) from a deck of cards, and a clothes pin from where mom would hang the laundry, and clip the card onto the frame of the bike so it would flap against the spokes. Remarkably, it created for us a noise that gave the sense we were riding a motorized cycle. There was only one problem. While it made a lot of noise, it actually had no power.

Chew on that, my brothers and sisters. Please don’t be guilty of the same. Be encouraged!

Football is perhaps my favorite of all organized sports. Routinely I enjoy a game on television, and will even catch a few highlights on a sports channel. While relaxing at home recently, a game caught my eye. The offense was executing their play as the ball was snapped, and wide receivers ran up the field hoping to get open. The quarterback unleashed a long pass toward the goal line (and near the sideline) as one receiver ran a post pattern toward the pylon—the end zone/out-of-bounds marker. Near the two or three yard line, the player inadvertently stepped-out-of-bounds, but reentered the field of play in pursuit of the descending ball. It was a remarkable catch! The referee signaled a touchdown. The stadium erupted as the crowd went ballistic. The defenders objected and I stood up in utter amazement at the acrobatic reception!

Instinctively, the scoring team’s field goal unit ran onto the field to line up for the ensuing extra point when all-of-a-sudden the game was halted. The play was being reviewed by those in the replay booth. After a short delay, the umpire repositioned himself on the field and reported, “After further review, the call on the field is confirmed; it is a touchdown!”

It is no secret we are often sidelined and knocked out-of-bounds—e. g. mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, weariness, fatigue, etc.—by the opposition (our adversary) while attempting to execute our Lord’s play (God’s will for our lives). In fact, to go “out-of-bounds” (in the eyes of many) actually renders one ineligible to continue or even further to touch the ball. This new rule in professional and collegiate football is affording us some valuable insights into spiritual truths I felt worthy of sharing.

Here they are:

(1) The goal of the enemy is to render us disqualified and totally ineligible to continue in ministry. His strategy is to cause us to “cross of the line” or “step out-of-bounds” through any number of discomforting means—mistakes, blunders, indiscretions, bad judgments, etc. So be aware of his schemes and ward him off at every juncture!

(2) No matter what happens, keep running the route! Had the receiver stopped his course (even though he was clearly pushed out), he never would have caught the ball and certainly would not have scored. Get back onto the playing field as quickly and as responsibly as you can, and continue with the route you have been given! After all, the ball is already in the air.

(3) Remember, lastly, the ultimate decision is not your call to make (nor anyone else’s)! There is another Person (God)—Power, Authority—who sits aptly in the replay booth; and He alone is the Official who determines whether you are “in” or “out!”

Work hard to avoid being side-tracked or side-lined, my brothers and sisters! Let the Lord use you TODAY. If you have been knocked down or in some way pushed out, get back up (or back in) and keep running your route. There’s an entire team (believers) and a stadium full of fans (Hebrews calls them “a great cloud of witnesses” [12:1]) who are counting on you! They (We) need you to score!

Having lived in the Midwest over twenty years, something completely unexpected happened to me a couple of Wednesdays ago that I will never forget. I was exiting my office door onto the wrought iron stair case that leads down to our church’s parking. Wednesday night’s Bible study had just ended and I was collecting my gear—my brief case, clutch, keys, a bottle of distilled water, etc.—and had donned my coat to enter into the smoky gray dusk of the night.

Just as I opened the door to walk out, I stepped onto the landing—an approximate four-foot square iron bottom deck—and recognized something soft (rather spongy) as I stepped out. In my mind, I curiously wondered if it was a sponge, a carelessly discarded food item, or something else I needed to remove. As I looked down in the darkness, I was alarmed to find an 18-inch garter snake uncoiling from under my foot. I jumped back into my office and screamed, “It’s a snake!” Our associate minister was behind me and he was equally surprised at the discovery. Others in the inner office heard the commotion and yelled in disbelief saying, “You’re lying?” Incredibly, I had to report to them it was true. We were all startled and amazed!

The small visitor has negotiated the rail adjacent to the 10 wrought iron steps that rise upward to my private entrance. When I took my weight off of it, it quickly moved away to escape and instinctively curled its tail around one of the rails on the stair case floor. It soon dropped in fear down onto the asphalt parking lot floor. My associate minister and I ran down the steps to the ground and made certain we carefully disposed of it. It was a most harrowing experience.

Upon leaving the church and reflecting over the night’s surprise turn-of-events, I heard (in my spirit) a clear message from God He wanted me to gain. I considered it so critical (and especially at this juncture in Christian history with all that’s going on), that I wanted to share it with others (even you). The message is this: “That old serpent (the devil) is not just trying to gain access into the church through any ordinary door. No, he is especially seeking to get in through the office of the pastor.”

My word of warning to every pastor, every teacher, and every servant in every capacity in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ is this: “Beware! Watch out! Do not be ignorant of his schemes (see 2 Corinthians 2:11), and take heed. Whatever else you do, don’t let him in!”

My prayers are with you all!

We have been negotiating a study on the subject of more effective prayer, and I recently offered a challenge to our church to join me as their days begin by kneeling (or bowing down) to pray. The challenge is to participate in this sacred engagement in advance of other conversations, the turning on of a television or radio, or any such human (even electronic) transmission of information we may normally experience. Let God be the first Person you seek, and let your conversation with Him be the first you engage every day for the rest of your life.

Some have asked, “Is kneeling really necessary?” Maybe not! But, have you ever thought about the many things for which we are so readily willing to kneel? We kneel to pick up things we have dropped, to find a coin under a table, to retrieve a shoe that’s too far under the bed, or to see if we can locate a pen or a pill. We will kneel to hook up a computer, to change a tire or the oil in our cars, to tie up our shoe laces, to rest from standing, and a host of other things. The one thing about each of these instances is when so doing, we kneel because we have to. If we don’t, we may not recover the thing we hope to find. On the other hand, even though God does not demand of us to kneel when we pray, it should be our joy to approach Him from our knees as a simple gesture of grateful humility before a great God—the Supreme Power of the Universe. There is none like Him!

I’m extending this challenge and invitation to all of my readers to encourage you to begin your day in prayer with others of us as we kneel before God in prayer. We may or may not be able to do it at the exact same point, but we can certainly start our days in the same position—and that is, on our knees before and in humble submission to our Most High God.

Many have already discovered newfound power, a different kind of acumen, and a spiritual awareness and a capacity that enables ones to be a blessing to a lot of people in a lot of different ways.

So join me (and others) in prayer each morning on your knees. You’re going to feel so much better! God does not want us to kneel before Him because we have to; God would much rather we kneel because we want to!

Let me know how it’s going! Thanks!

In John 11:35, our Lord succumbed at the grave of his beloved friend—Lazarus—and is unashamedly portrayed expressing His emotional side. The Bible’s shortest verse there is recorded where it says, “Jesus wept.” It is no secret that men (historically) have not been the most comfortable beings when it comes to openly expressing their emotions or displaying any public sensitivity. Much commentary has been offered as to why this fact exists. A major reason is that men have not been (as a general rule) conditioned (nurtured or encouraged) to expose their sensitive sides. In fact, a sensitive side has been largely viewed a weak or feminine (less than masculine) side. No “real” man wants to be seen as feminine. At times, parents (adults) perpetuate this myth when at hurting moments for boys, they (boys) are routinely admonished to, “Be a man!”, or “Don’t cry!” What is up with that? Why can’t a man (a male) openly own and display his painful emotions? Who made that rule? What is the big deal?

 

God has ingeniously engineered the human body with many functional systems for our good. Unlike other creatures, emotional tears are inimitably human. They provide essential cleansing to the eyes as well as the mind, our emotions, and the body. Tears are secreted by our lacrimals—tiny, sponge-like glands which rest above the eye against the eye socket. Pin-head size holes exist at the lower part of the inner eye socket from which the moist secretion is expelled; and for healthy benefits. Crying can reduce stress levels, encourage a good sleep, and retard diseases aggravated by stress, such as high blood pressure, heart problems and peptic ulcers. If more people (men in particular) would cooperate with healthy grief rather than fight it, studies prove it could lessen the tendency to be stressed, have hypertension, endure a stroke, undergo a heart attack, or even be depressed.

 

Jesus proves there is nothing wrong with crying, and there was nothing weak about Him. If we were not designed to occasionally cry, then there is clearly a major flaw in our anatomy. Yielding does not mean one is weak. To the contrary, it can be a sure sign of strength. It minimally conveys to others that the one crying is in some way hurt. And when you’re hurt, the Bible indicates that our God mysteriously leans over the banister of heaven and gives attention when His children cry. David put it like this: “In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God. He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

 

My brothers (in particular), if the urge arises, every strong man needs to learn it is okay when the “flood gates” open. It only means that you’re human; and a wonderful miracle is unfolding. You’re going to feel so much better!