Sunday, January 31, 2010

Grace to the Humble

Do you ever do dumb things? I do. I find the best perspective I can have when it comes to my “dumb moments” is to laugh at myself and to forgive myself. After years of practice, it’s finally beginning to sink in that no one takes me as seriously as I take myself.

Over 20 years ago, my husband told me, “Everyone makes mistakes, but when you make a mistake, you seem to think it’s the worst mistake ever made by anyone in the universe.” This was true. Every time I did anything I perceived as “stupid,” I would wish for the earth to open and swallow me.

Was my overreaction to my slip-ups mere insecurity? That certainly played a part, but the Lord gently showed me that pride was also at work here. Why else would I need others to see me as infallible? What kind of egocentrism made me think it was okay for others to make mistakes, but not I? And wasn’t it prideful to think that others thought so much about me? Did I really believe that no one had anything better to think about than the latest dumb thing I’d done or said? Honestly!

The opposite of pride is humility, but how do we develop humility?

First of all, humility is a choice.

In Matthew 18:4 Jesus said, “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” We choose to humble ourselves and become childlike in our faith, which affects how we respond to everything else in our lives.

Humility comes through understanding who we were without Christ and who we have become because of His great sacrifice for us. “This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Rom. 3:22-24). In Christ, I am no better and no worse than anyone else.

Recognize that it is God who makes us able. “Our competence comes from God (2 Cor. 3:5). On my own, I am imperfect, but in Christ I am “the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). I can only humbly acknowledge what He has done for me.

Finally, we learn humility through a lifetime spent making mistakes and letting Jesus pick us back up and give us another chance. He forgives everything, and in that knowledge, I am humbled.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6b).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Fear not

Have you ever been paralyzed with fear? Literally so frightened you couldn’t move, could hardly breathe?

I have great empathy when someone talks about being afraid. I know that some people like to do things to frighten themselves, like bungee jumping or watching scary movies, but real fear, the honest-to-goodness-sheer-terror kind of fear, is awful. In fact, in 1 John 4:18 John says, “… fear involves torment.”

Merriam-Webster defines torment as “the infliction of torture (as by rack or wheel)” – Ouch! The dictionary also calls torment “extreme pain or anguish of body or mind: AGONY.”

Agony! That is what people go through when they are in fear!

Too often we accept fear as a normal part of life, but do you think for one minute God wants us to be fearful? Of course not! Over and over again throughout the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, our loving and compassionate heavenly Father says some combination of “fear not,” “be not afraid,” or “do not be afraid.”

He understands that we sometimes experience fear, but He does not want us to stay there.

Why? First of all understand that fear is not from God. Second Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear …” When you’re afraid, remind yourself that God did not give you that fear.

What has He given us instead? Well, the second part of 2 Timothy 1:7 says that He has given us a spirit of “power and of love and of a sound mind.” He has given us peace according to John 14:27; “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

God doesn’t want us to be afraid because He wants us to walk in faith. “Without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is the opposite of fear. Faith is a place of power that allows you to move forward with confidence in this life. Faith is the solution to any fear you may face.

When you replace fearful thinking with God’s thinking, based on the Bible, fear will lose its grip on you, and you will be set free from the agony that is fear.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

God in the details

I love it when God shows Himself in the details of our lives – in those areas we think are too unimportant to bother Him with.

Recently, when my daughter brought her computer home from college, it decided it no longer wanted to read DVDs or CDs. This was a major problem because we needed to install software for her to be able to connect to the Internet, and since she’s taking online college courses this semester, the Internet is a definite necessity. When she called for the manufacturer’s help, she was told the computer was no longer under warranty, and they would charge some outrageous amount to help her. She said, “No thanks,” because . . . well, she’s been unemployed a long time.

I tried to see what I could do to possibly fix the computer – but to no avail. I prayed and tried again. Sadly, I thought I just had to admit defeat and hire someone to fix the computer. Sadly because . . . well, money’s just been tight lately.

Suddenly, my own computer developed the exact same problem; it stopped reading DVDs and CDs. I thought that was unbelievably strange that both computers would have the same issue – an issue I’ve never had before in all my years of owning computers – within days of each other.
I called the manufacturer (my computer is under warranty), and a brilliant young woman from India took control of my monitor and fixed the problem. Then she said, “Now I will tell you step by step what I did.”

Hmmm, I thought, I’ve never had a technician offer to do that before.

She told me the steps one by one as I wrote them down. I told her my other computer had the same problem, and although the computer was from the same manufacturer, it was not the same model. She said, “That does not matter. Following these steps will fix your other computer.”

And it did. My daughter’s computer is fixed, and it didn’t cost me a penny.

Remember, because it’s not under warranty, the manufacturer would not help with my daughter’s computer. But my computer, which is under warranty, amazingly developed the same problem. And then there was that technician who offered to tell me the steps she’d used to fix my computer when I’ve never had a technician do that before!

Coincidence? Some people would say so, but I know that my Heavenly Father saw the need and orchestrated a way to solve that problem.

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7, NLT).

His way is the high way

". . . I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life . . .” (Deut. 30:19, NKJV).

What do I know of God? I know that His ways are not my ways (Isaiah 55:8). I know that apart from Him, I can do nothing (John 15:5). I’m learning – very gradually – to trust that when I do things His way and not my own, very good things will come of that. I’m learning that every time I fight the urge to respond the way my flesh wants me to and instead respond the way His Spirit tells me to, I’ve won a victory against the enemy of my soul who wants to keep me in bondage – a slave to sin.

Oh, but making that choice to listen and be obedient to Him is hard work sometimes. For instance, I remember a time when I knew my efforts were being overlooked, and I wasn’t receiving credit for my contributions. Feeling unappreciated and taken for granted, I planned my revenge: I would no longer put forth any effort; I would let people know how wrong they had been. I rehearsed my presentation until I was sure it would cut others to the bone and make them feel so guilty and ashamed and sorry for the way they had treated me!

Ready to unleash all my fury, I felt the Father speak to my spirit: “At the end of your life, these things will not matter. What will matter then will be the kindness you showed for My sake and the gentle words you chose to honor Me.”

I knew immediately I did not want to be remembered as the self-centered, indignant person who demanded to “get what she deserved.” I wanted to live His way. I wanted to walk in love.

So I chose the opposite of what I had planned. I worked harder – to please God, not people. I extended kindness rather than withholding my affection. I approached the situation with gratefulness instead of resentment.

Did anyone notice? I don’t know. I don’t remember a sudden rush of accolades or expressions of appreciation, but giving up my agenda was so worth it for the joy and the peace I experienced as a result of doing things God’s way. And I knew – without a doubt – that even though it may have seemed like a small thing to others, a major spiritual victory had been won, and I had thwarted Satan’s plan to keep me bitter, resentful and so unhappy.

I’m still losing more battles than I care to admit, but what’s true for all of us is that as we learn to tune in to the Father more and more and choose His way of living in this life, we will experience victory after victory and be set free to walk in His blessings.