Category Archives: humility

Neat & Tidy

Many people who know me would have no hesitation to call me OCD.   I don’t think I’m that bad, everyone else is just unorganized.  I’m definitely not as bad as I was when I was younger.

Walking down the sidewalk as a child, was a bit of a challenge for me.  If I stepped on a crack of any kind, I could feel it in my foot.  I realize that I  couldn’t physically feel it, but I felt it nonetheless.  When that would happen, I would have to do so with my other foot.  If the left foot stepped on a crack, I would step on a crack with my right foot.  If I bumped my right hand, I would stop and bump my left hand in the same place, on the same spot.  Shoelaces had to be evenly tied.  If a store had different colored tiles on the floor, same method applied as if I stepped on a crack.  I no longer have to make things even, but every once in a while, I can still feel it when I step on a crack.

Even now though, I like things a certain way.  I like things to be orderly.  Organization is very important to me.  Symmetry is my friend.  Things should be color coded.  Everything should has a place, and everything should be in it’s place.  Ok, so maybe I embrace my OCDs.

Truth be told, the LORD is a God of order.  How can he not be?  Look how perfectly our bodies are supposed to work in harmony with each part.  Any further away from the sun and we’d freeze, any closer and we’d roast to death.  The earth is perfectly tilted and rotates at just the right speed so we’re not thrown off.  Everything produces after its own kind.  God is OCD if you ask me.

I heard a preacher talk about an experience he had where he went to heaven.  One thing he mentioned that he noticed was that there was no dust.  Seriously?  I find that quite amusing.  Of all the things that could be in Heaven, he noticed something there wasn’t.  I always knew dust was evil.

I guess if you think about it, that makes sense.  Why would there be dust?  Dust causes problems and if we believe Heaven is perfect in every way, then there won’t be anything that causes problems.  Thinking about that, do you know what else I believe isn’t in Heaven?  Wrinkles.  Not the kind that our skin develops…I’m talking about wrinkles in clothes!  I cannot stand it when I don’t take my shirts out of the dryer fast enough and they all end up wrinkly.  I will put them back in the washer for a rinse cycle and re-dry them.  In fact, I don’t think we’ll even need to wash clothes in Heaven!  By the way, any piece of clothing that says “wrinkle free” is a lie of the devil.

Seriously though, things are probably very neat and tidy in Heaven.  No dust, dirt, pollen…no scattered piles of stuff lying around on tables.  Everything has a place and everything in its place.  I’m sure Heaven runs like a well oiled machine.

Let me ask you a question, how neat and tidy is your church?  I’m not talking about dust and dirt.  Does everyone appear to “have it all together”?  When you meet and greet each other, do you ever get anything more than just standard answers?  I’m not saying that we should all spill our guts and spend 10 minutes vomiting the negative things in our lives all over the first person that asks how we are, but overall, does it seem like no one has any problems or things they are struggling with?

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:  And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. – James 5:13-16

These are all very outward expressions of what’s happening inward.  James didn’t say to put your best face on and pretend everything is just hunky dory.  Going through hardships?  Pray.  Are you enjoying life?  Sing about it.  Feeling ill?  Call the elders.  Sinning?  Tell someone.  That’s not typical church life anymore.

I’m not talking about exalting your problems and wallowing in self pity, but a big reason people think they can’t go to church is because they don’t have it all together.  Guess what: neither does anyone else.  I was in a service once where the guest speaker actually made a comment about the church being so “neat”.  They didn’t mean it as a complement.  They saw through all the fancy clothes and smiling faces.  I would bet the Holy Spirit began to show them what each person was going through and how they were hiding it.  Again, I’m not saying we need to go blasting every personal issue we’re dealing with, but people need to know they can be authentic.

Some of the most effective messages I’ve preached was when I was the most transparent.  I think that most congregations think that their lead minister is some super saint.  Trust me, they’re not.  Do they have a special gift to preach the Word of God?  Yes.  Do they have a special gift to live the Word of God?  No.  If you continue reading past the 16th verse in James 5, here’s what he points out:

Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.

James is telling us that Elijah was no different than we are.  Elijah struggled with the same feelings as we do.  Have you ever read the story of him on Mt. Carmel?  God performs this miraculous sign in the eyes of 450 prophets of Baal and Elijah slaughters them all.  Then, shortly thereafter, Jezebel threatens to kill him.  What does he do?  Rain down fire from heaven to smite her?  No, he runs like a yellow bellied coward and hides out.  Then he whines to God about being the only prophet left.  Really?  Did you forget that quick what God did for you?  What a cry baby!  Yet that’s exactly why James says what he did.  Elijah was subject to fear (and the whole hose of other emotions) just like we are.  Despite that, God answered his prayers time and time again.

Why are we so worried about what others in our congregation think about us?  Why are we so quick to want to hide our past mistakes or current struggles?  Are we afraid that people will think less of us?  Who cares if they do!  Your victory over your past may just be what someone needs to hear.  Your current sin may be someone else’s past victory.  How easily we have neglected the fact that we are ONE body of Christ and when one part of the body is not working right, it affects other parts.  If we never take care of the parts that are hurting, healing can never take place.

If you break an arm, but just let it swing around all over, it will never heal.  Instinct tells you to hold the broken arm with your good arm to support it until it heals.  However, if you don’t know its broke, there’s nothing you can do about it, and it will get worse and take much longer to heal.  That may not be the case with our physical bodies, since we know when something is in pain, but if the other member of the Body of Christ don’t open up and do as James instructed, then they end up feeling isolated and ashamed.

I heard a preacher once say that if you’ll admit to someone what you’re going through, then the enemy has nothing to blackmail you with.  I absolutely love that.  Condemnation can only rule over you if you let it.  James knew that.  Paul knew that.  There is no healing that will ever take place if you never talk about the pain.  Besides, it just plain selfish to keep those things to yourself.  Not only are you crippling the Body, you are robbing someone of the joy they can experience by having the opportunity to help you.

Think about this for a minute: Did you know we have an advantage over Elijah?  We actually have an advantage over every Old Testament “faith figure”.  Why?  They only had the Spirit UPON them.  We have the Holy Spirit IN us.  We don’t need these outside manifestations to know God and to hear His voice.  He dwells within us.  Our bodies are now the Temple of the Holy Spirit.

I like what John said in 1 John 3 that we can have confidence that God will give us what we ask for.  One of the easiest things to pray is simply, “God, help me!”.  Jesus told us that the Father knows of our need before we ask.  We still need to ask, but He is ready to answer when we do.

There’s a story that fits this topic perfectly.  It’s told with some variation, but it’s something like this:  Floodwaters are rising in a town and a man is on his front porch watching the scene.  A car pulls up and offers him a ride out of town.  The man refuses and says, “God will help me.”  The water rise and he has to escape to the second floor.  He’s looking out a window when a boat comes by to get him out.  He refuses again stating the same reason.  The water rise some more, and now he’s on his roof.  A helicopter drops a rope but he refuses once again, stating God will help him.  Soon the waters rise enough that he is treading water, but he eventually wears out and drowns.  When he gets to Heaven, he accuses God of letting him die.  God responds by telling him, “I sent you a car, a boat, and a helicopter.  What more did you want me to do?”

Even though this is true regarding so many of the tragedies that are occurring everyday, it rings so much louder when we are walking through the foyer on Sunday mornings shaking the hand of our car, boat, or helicopter that God has sent to get us out of the flood waters that are rising in our lives.

In the end, we do need to use some common sense and wisdom in sharing with others.  There are some things that shouldn’t be shared publicly and some things that shouldn’t be shared with certain people.  There is a time and place to be transparent.  Not to say that it isn’t Sunday mornings during the generic “meet & greet”.  However, that obviously that isn’t the time to blurt out that you’ve had an affair or something like that.

Let me close with this: Paul told the Galatians in chapter 6, verse 1-2, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.  Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

Not only do we have on obligation to allow others to help us, we also have an obligation to reach out if we know someone is struggling.  I know that can be awkward, but if we really love our brothers and sisters in Christ – like Jesus instructed us to – we won’t be afraid to get our hands dirty.

The body of Christ would be much more effective and powerful if we’d only be willing to admit what everyone else already knows: you don’t have it all together…we don’t have it all together…I don’t have it all together.

And that’s ok.

 

 

Advertisements

When Opportunity Knocks

 

Throughout my years in the workforce, I’ve had quite a few different jobs.  I really do have the utmost respect and admiration of those who hold the same position for decades with the same company/business.  That’s never been me.images

Let me expound for a moment.  I am not a slacker by any means.  In fact, in nearly every job I’ve started, the company has wanted to promote me fairly quickly into a management/lead role.  When you are promoted quicker, and over those who have been at the job longer, you have to come to the realization that you are meant for leadership.  I don’t say that to brag.  I am just confident in what God has placed within me.

For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another. – Psalm 76:6-7 KJV

Opportunities have seemed to present themselves to me when things are going good.  If I didn’t look at it correctly, I’d get quite frustrated thinking I’d made the wrong decision.  It’s easier to leave a job when things are going down the toilet and you are fed up with what you’re doing…but when things are going really well?  That’s a whole different story there.  It makes a decision to leave really difficult when you have no reason to leave.

Maybe I’ve made the right decisions along the way, and maybe I’ve jumped ship too soon.  However I can tell you that I’ve always believed in my heart that I was doing the right thing.  Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t taken every opportunity that’s come my way, but with each transition I’ve made, I did so with the mind that I was bettering my situation and knowing it would allow me to grow in different areas that I needed growth.

I consider my self to be very blessed when it comes to the leadership positions I’ve been given.  The current position is one that I’ve been entrusted with much, by people who had no knowledge of me prior.  They sought me out and offered me a job that has given me the freedom to do with the business as I see fit, with little to no interference by the business owners.  I still answer to them if need be, but in the end, I really answer to God.

Many times as a leader, I’ve had a different type of opportunity arise.  One that didn’t cause me to consider leaving, but rather made me examine my integrity.  This type of opportunity always knocked when I did something wrong.  It offered me chance to admit my mistakes, make excuses to justify my screw ups, or cover it up out of fear of consequences.  I’d love to say I’ve always owned up and admitted what I did wrong, but sad to say, I’ve done all three.  I will say that in the years since my encounter with God, I’ve done a much better job of the former, rather than the latter of the three.

Speaking of leaders who make mistakes, the Bible is FULL of them.  One in particular that I’d like to touch on is Saul.  It either eludes minds, or for whatever reason, we skip over the fact that Saul was given a unique opportunity.  He was God’s first choice to rule as King forever.

And Samuel said to Saul, Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord thy God, which he commanded thee: for now would the Lord have established thy kingdom upon Israel for ever.” – 1 Samuel 13:13

Did you really catch that?  Saul, and his descendants, were meant to rule forever…God’s original plan was not David!   This is some very deep stuff to consider.  God knew what Saul would do, yet David was second choice.  David, as I talked about it in my previous writing, was the only man in scripture to be referred to as being after God’s own heart.  But David was God’s second choice?  I can speculate all I want and scholars can debate it till the end of the age, but we will truly never know why.  In fact, it’s hard to even fathom why.  Some will play the “God works in mysterious ways” card, but not me.  I hate that card, but that’s for another time.  Moving on.

Even though the LORD knew what Saul would do, there are two things God did for Saul that we need to think about.  The first thing: God still gave him the opportunity to lead.

God gave Saul the chance to lead.  He did so knowing that Saul would do wrong.  That should speak volumes for us.  There are many people who think that they’ll never get the opportunity that they seek and desire because they think they’ll screw it up so, “God would never give me the opportunity.”

Think about Moses for a moment.  God called Moses to lead His people and He did so in a miraculous way that was never seen before and has never been seen again.  How did Moses respond?  By killing an Egyptian and fleeing out of fear for his life.  Yet who ended up leading Israel out of Egypt?  Moses.

Think about Jonah.  God called Jonah to preach to the people of Nineveh.  How did Jonah respond?  He jumped on a ship in an attempt to hide.  We all know what good that did him.  However, in the end, who walked into the city of Nineveh and gave them a word of prophesy?  Jonah.

God knew what both of those men would do, yet he gave them the opportunity to lead regardless.  How encouraging is that!  Just like Saul, God did not withhold anything from them, despite knowing their future mistakes.  (I will definitely be talking about that in the future.  There’s so much more contained in that truth.)

The second thing we need to consider is: God gave him the opportunity to repent.

God gave Saul the chance to repent.  Let’s read what his response was in 1 Samuel 13:11-12:

“…Because I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that thou camest not within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered themselves together at Michmash; Therefore said I, The Philistines will come down now upon me to Gilgal, and I have not made supplication unto the Lord: I forced myself therefore, and offered a burnt offering.”–   1 Samuel 13:11-12

Here’s how I can hear Saul saying it in modern terms, “The people were freaking out!  You were no where to be found!  Something had to be done.  You left me with no other choice!”  My, oh my.  Blame shifting, panic, fear…this from a man that was God’s first choice.

If you continue reading in 1 Samuel 15, it appears as if God is willing to give Saul a second chance.  Yet Saul does his own thing once again.  He blatantly lies to Samuel in verse 13:”I have performed the commandment of the LORD.”  

Liar, liar, pants on fire!  He was to “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”  That sounds pretty harsh, but because Saul did his own thing, Haman (a descendant of Agag the Amelek king) nearly got the opportunity to perform genocide on the entire nation of the Jews.  (Read the book of Esther.)

When given the second opportunity to repent, Saul’s response was, “ I have sinned: for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord, and thy words: because I feared the people, and obeyed their voice.  Now therefore, I pray thee, pardon my sin, and turn again with me, that I may worship the Lord.”  Nothing but more excuses.  No sincerity and no real sorrow.  How do I know?  David would never have been king.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Saul had answered differently from a sincere heart of repentance on either occasion, God would’ve left him on the throne.  His mercies and faithfulness didn’t just start in Lamentations, they were there from the beginning.  Jeremiah knew it and David experienced it.  Saul was extended the same mercy, but rejected it.

One of the most profound things I said to a youth group once (and I had them repeat after me) was, “I suck at being righteous on my own.”  Because I do.  Because you do.  Because Saul did.  Isiah referred to self-righteous acts as “filthy rags”.  Look it up if you want to know what it means.  I can tell you it’s not pretty, but that’s exactly what pride is.  It’s exactly what kept Saul from fulfilling his destiny.  Don’t let it do the same to you.

So how do you know when you’ve gone too far?  I’d say you’re probably safe if you’re even asking that question, but if you really are concerned about it, honestly and truthfully examine what you’re answer would be if you were in Saul’s shoes.  Would your answer be one of real sorrow and from a desire to do the right thing?  Or would you apologize just to get out of trouble, thinking that you were never wrong from the beginning?

Saul allowed something to dictate his actions.  He allowed something to rule his life.  Saul let one thing take precedence over a lifelong opportunity.  That one thing was pride.

Pride has the ability to do irreparable damage.  Pride is associated with the devil.  Pride is probably the only thing that will keep you from fulfilling God’s call for your life.  Pride will deafen you to the sound of opportunity knocking.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 – ESV

I’ll say it again: If you have a sincere desire to please God, regardless of where you are in life and despite the mistakes you’ve made or are currently making, you are not too far gone.  The humble will never cease to hear opportunity when it knocks.


%d bloggers like this: