Tag Archives: humility

Celebrating Christmas Correctly

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See the source imageI originally planned to simply post this quote, but I found it so challenging personally that I decided to blog about it.  I have to admit that Christmas is often a time when I want to impress others, at least a little.  There are those family members and friends I don’t see or hear from too often during the year so ….when we get together I’d like them to see me at my best.  I take care with how I look and what I wear, and even what I tell them about how my life is going.

Then there are the gifts …I prefer to be the giver, rather than humbly receiving.  I enjoy giving gifts and feeling generous.  Isn’t there some pride in this?  I don’t like others to see that I need them or what they have to offer.

What about food?  Instead of a simple meal together, Christmas has to be a feast … in fact, a series of feasts and parties and excess.  Through it all, I’m hoping that my culinary contributions will measure up and be appreciated as “the best.”

I can give myself a pass on decorating, probably because I simply don’t have that talent or inclination.  However, for many of us, it’s worthwhile to consider:  am I decorating to welcome the King?  Or to impress my visitors with ‘house beautiful’?

Jesus came on Christmas as a helpless infant.  He was born in a dirty stable to poor parents.  He left honor and glory behind to become one of us, one of the least of us… and why?  Simply out of love.  The least we can do is love others and receive His sacrifice in humility and grateful worship. I see clearly how things should be, but understanding it is much easier than living it.  Authors and readers have you found ways to celebrate Christmas correctly?  I’d like to hear some suggestions.

 

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Martin Luther on Christmas

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Luther’s writings contain a multitude of references to Advent and Christmas. The following excerpt comes from a sermon on the Nativity that he preached in 1530:

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If Christ had arrived with trumpets and lain in a cradle of gold, his birth would have been a splendid affair. But it would not be a comfort to me. He was rather to lie in the lap of a poor maiden and be thought of little significance in the eyes of the world. Now I can come to him. Now he reveals himself to the miserable in order not to give any impression that he arrives with great power, splendor, wisdom, and aristocratic manners. But upon his return on that Day, when he will oppose the high and the mighty, it will be different. Now he comes to the poor, who need a Savior, but then he will come as a Judge against those who are persecuting him now.

The Mind of Christ

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“….complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord of one mind.”  2 Philippians 2:2

In this letter to the church in Philippi, a church Paul obviously loves, he tells them that nothing would please him more than knowing they are in agreement, or having the same mind.  Then he goes on to tell them exactly whose mind they are to have– not their own but Christ’s!

“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.”  Philippians 2:5-8

The mind of Christ means having a humble spirit, willing to sacrifice for others.  Paul explains further that being of one mind with Christ means they will:

“Do nothing out of rivalry or conceit” Philippians 2:3

“look…to the interests of others.”  Philippians 2:4

“in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”  Philippians 2:3

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all in our right mind (Christ’s)?

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Which One Are You?

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“One of the criminals who were hanged, railed at him, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!  But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed, justly, for we are receiving the reward of our deeds;  but this man has done nothing wrong.’  And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’  And he said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Luke 23: 39-43

When I read these verses, the thought that comes to me is which criminal am I?  Make no mistake, I am a criminal, condemned for my sins and unable to save myself.  Sometimes I, like the first man have expected God to rescue me from all the consequences of sin in my life.  If I say I believe in Him, doesn’t He owe it to me?  Or shouldn’t He do it to prove Himself to me?  I’ll happily be a good follower, if Jesus does His part and makes my life easy and comfortable.

Not the right attitude.  I need to accept the fact that I deserve all the problems I’ve created and more.  I am indeed a poor, miserable sinner, justly condemned to an eternity of separation from God.

The second thief got it right.  He realized that he was only getting what he deserved. He recognized Jesus for who and what He is;  the blameless savior of the world.  The one who is willing to die so that even if sin (mine and others) causes me to suffer today, I don’t have to suffer eternally.

Isn’t it amazing that all I had to do is recognize my plight and say, “remember me, Lord”?  Then I’ll find that He has never forgotten me.  The God of the universe has never forgotten me, because I’m one of His children.  I’m engraved on the palms of His hand.  He’ll welcome me into His kingdom as soon as I ask.

Which one are you?

Remembering to be Humble

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“So they sent their sister Rebekah on her way, along with her nurse and Abraham’s servant and his men.”  Genesis 24:59

“Now Deborah, Rebekah’s nurse died and was buried under the oak below Bethel.  So it was named Allon Bacuth (oak of weeping).”  Genesis 35:8

I was quite excited on the first full day of the Via de Cristo weekend I attended many years ago, to be assigned to sit at the table of Deborah.  After all, everyone has heard of Deborah, right?  Deborah, the judge;  Deborah, the warrior;  Deborah, the woman who was famous as a leader in a patriarchal society.  What a role model!  Who wouldn’t be honored to sit at a table named after her?

But my bubble burst when I read the card on the center of the table closely.  I discovered that I was not sitting at the table of Deborah the Judge–I was sitting at the table of Deborah the nursemaid.  You probably don’t know who she is — I sure didn’t.  She is only mentioned twice in the Bible (see the verses above), and only once by name.  Frankly, I was disappointed.  I resolved that secretly, I would continue to think of my table as the table of the “famous” Deborah.

In the years since that weekend retreat, I’ve come to rethink that position.  I’ve read the two references to “my” Deborah and what comes between them.  Do you realize that Deborah served Rebekah and her family for over eighty years?  She must have been greatly loved and greatly mourned for her death to be noted at all.  She was buried with honor under a venerable oak, symbol of long life.

If I am honest, I must admit that I’m a lot more like Deborah the nursemaid than Deborah the judge–in fact most of us are.  We may not be the star of the story, but we can be humble, faithful servants to the people around us.

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Keeping it Simple

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“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow myself before God on high?  Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old?

Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil?

Shall I give my firstborn for my transgressions, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

He has told you, O man, what is good;  and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

Micah 6:1-8

We tend to make things complicated that should be simple.  The Jews had over 600 rules to explain exactly how to follow God’s commandments.  I’m no different.  When I take on a task, I like to pin down the exact expectations, so I can be sure to measure up.  God doesn’t seem to work that way.  He made each of us unique and special. He knows our talents and gifts, our weaknesses and flaws.  Remember Beth Ann’s post about the talents?  Each servant was commended for using what they had been given, but they didn’t end up with identical results.  The only servant who was denounced, was so fearful, he didn’t do anything with the gift he was given.

So, in the verses above, God’s prophet Micah tells the people, there isn’t a certain number, or a specific type of sacrifice you need to make.  You just need to be fair and kind to others.  Spend time with me, have a humble attitude, and you will learn what you need to know and your efforts will please God.  He is, after all, your Father, who wants love and respect, not blind obedience.

Jesus tried to keep it simple, too.  In the book of Matthew when the Pharisees question him about the requirements of the law he answers:

“…’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and will all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.  And …You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments, depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  Matthew 22:37-39

So, if I love God, my heart will be in the right place, and I’ll want to obey.  It’s won’t be a task to be completed perfectly.  It will be a natural consequence of who I am.  I guess the lesson for me here is, spend more time with God, getting to know Him, experiencing His presence, studying His Word, and my obedience, though imperfect, will please Him.  I don’t need to worry about the details.

 

A Gentle and Quiet Spirit

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Who exemplifies this verse to you?  It always makes me think of my mother.  She is in a nursing home now with Parkinson’s disease and dementia, but that gentle and quiet spirit still shines through.

How does the Bible describe gentleness?

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”  Proverbs 15:1

Many people in mom’s situation are angry and frustrated.  They act out and make difficulties for those around them.  I know mom is frustrated, too, when she cannot find the words to tell us what she wants, or can’t remember the answer to a question we ask.  Yet, I have never seen her behave in an angry, rude or confrontational way.

“…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

Mom has always been a humble person, never one to be demanding, or put herself first. She bears with her situation patiently.

“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to be gentle and show perfect courtesy toward all people.”  Titus 3:1

Once again, gentleness seems to be associated with courtesy.  My mom’s behavior always taught me to be kind and courteous to others.  Courtesy doesn’t seem to be valued these days, but it can go a long way toward winning someone over.  Listen to this:

“…always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you:  yet do this with gentleness and respect.”  1 Peter 3:15

Being gentle will further our witness to Christ.  Who has taught you the art of being gentle? We want to hear your story.

Forgiveness for Ourselves

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When we talk about forgiveness you think about all the people in your life that have hurt you in the past and how you should forgive them.  Then there is forgiving the people in your life, as you walk through, that will need forgiveness immediately.  This is just a way of life, and a way of life that we are called to walk by our Lord Jesus.

But I think that there are many of us that are walking around in Unforgiveness, even if we try to work out the pain of the past and in the day-to-day.  The Unforgiveness I’m speaking of is forgiving ourselves for past sins.

We’re taught that if we bring our sins to the Lord Jesus and confess them to Him, He will forgive us all of our sins.  No argument there.  This is basic Christianity 101.  But how many of us hide our past?  How many of us keep sins and strife in our heart and we don’t share it with the Lord or a counselor or pastor at our church.  How many of us don’t want these sins to see the light ever, ever again?  We think we are hiding them in our heart so no one will see what we were or where we have come from. The Lord Jesus sees them and in the meantime these sins still effect every aspect of our lives, bleeding out at the most horrible times.  We’ll mask these effects by saying, “Oh, that’s just the way I am” and try to brush off the horrible-ness of the action.

We’ll take these things to the Lord, ask for forgiveness and then turn around and take them back!  We think this is something the Lord could never forgive, or that we aren’t worthy and we walk away while the Lord is there, waiting and loving us.  It’s so hard to learn that the Lord Jesus loves us and will forgive ALL of our sins.  We need to learn to take it ALL to Him and lay it at His feet and LEAVE it there.

I’m writing about this because this is one thing that I struggle with.  Bringing the really, really secret parts of myself to the Lord and LEAVING it there.  Being free of the garbage that has built up over all these years.  Yes, I read the confession every Sunday at church. Yes, I hear the pastor saying that I’m now forgiven of all my sins.  Wow, is it so hard to make it a reality. My head knowledge about forgiveness is all there.  I truly need to learn to leave it at my Saviour’s feet and walk away feeling lighter.

Forgiveness Isn’t An Option

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As a Christian we are expected to forgive everything and anything that we encounter in our life. I try to do that, but let us be honest here, forgiveness is not always an immediate response. Is we feel that we have been wronged by someone, our first instinct is to lash out or become irritated. Well guess what, that’s because we are human and are full of sin. I believe that even if our first response is to lash out it is our final reaction that means the most.

Asking for forgiveness from God is easy, but asking for forgiveness from the person/persons we have wronged is a lot harder. It is our responsibility to accept we have done wrong with our reaction and asked for forgiveness from them even if it is hard.

Praying for those that we feel have wronged us is difficult at first, but if you continue to do so, you will find that it becomes easier to actually mean the words you are saying.

So, I guess the moral is – DON’T ask for forgiveness – if you WON’T give it.

Just saying

God Loves You And So Do I

PS I struggle with this as well so do not feel like the Lone Ranger out there.

Unoffendable

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This week I took some books out of the library on forgiveness, so that I can immerse myself in our theme for the month.  The first one I picked up is Unoffendable by Brant Hansen, who is a Christian radio host.  His basic premise is that Christians should strive to become “unoffendable.”  In other words, we should have a mindset that allows us to forgive  others in advance.

Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better

Here’s a quote:

“Whenever there’s an injury to a relationship, a hurt, a broken heart, or even a broken thing, and you are willing to forgive, you are saying ‘I got this.  I’m going to pick up the bill for this.’

This is, of course, precisely what God has done for us.

Hansen is absolutely right:  we hear it every week in church when the pastor announces the forgiveness of our sins.  It’s not a reward for our confession, it’s a statement of what has already taken place.

When we give up our anger, Hansen says, we are making a sacrifice which allows us to love others in unexpected ways.  (Isn’t it amazing how our monthly themes are all fitting together?)  He also maintains that when we choose ahead of time, “before conversations, before meetings, before our day begins–to be unoffendable, we’re simply choosing humility.” When we give up our anger, when we put other first, when we admit that we don’t understand their feelings and motivations, we have come to the place where we can minister to and serve them.  Isn’t that what the Christian life is all about?

So what do you think?  Can you spend some time each morning praying to be unoffendable all day?