Monthly Archives: March 2017

Humility

Humility, an essential Christian characteristic, is being set aside in our world of shameless self-aggrandizement and self-promotion. James clearly tells us that we cannot be children of God if we are not humble.

“…Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4: 7-10)

Verse ten of this passage strikes at the crux of the matter. In order to be saved, we must have enough humility to admit that we cannot lift ourselves out of sin. We must have a sufficient amount of humility to admit we have sinned, and that we are “without strength” in this matter (Romans 5:6).  We must admit that there is One who is greater than ourselves in the universe and He has paved the way for our salvation. This amount of humility meets only the minimum threshold for a child of God. I only have to look up into the night skies and witness the vast expanse of His creation to realize how small I am in comparison with Him. I can look out at an advancing wall of storm clouds to feel the vast disparity in the power of the creator and my own feeble capabilities.

“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Psalm 19:1-3)

Yet the Lord calls us to not only acknowledge his position above us, but he also instructs us to regard others to be above us, too. “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (Philippians 2:3).

    This is the level of humility for which each of us must strive. That is, to regard each one of our brethren to be better than ourselves. Our Lord undoubtedly provides us with the ultimate example. Paul, in Philippians two, follows up his earlier instruction to “let each esteem other better than themselves” with the reminder that our Lord, Christ Jesus, gave us an example by doing this very thing.

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

This scripture brings several points to light that make the example of our savior’s humility even more striking.

    First, Jesus’ example further corroborates James’ assertion in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” Jesus humbled himself to the will of the Father even to the point of death and has been exalted by the Father, and has been given “a name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9).  Second, verse six clearly states that, as the Son of God, Jesus is equal with God. Yet, even though he is equal to God in his act of sacrifice for us, he demonstrated that he values our souls above his own life. This example of ultimate humility is truly astounding. Jesus’ life on this earth is the single greatest act of humility that ever will be.

    The creator came and lived with his creation as if he were a created being and suffered the indignities of an outcast. Yet, he was humble throughout.  John chapter one verses one through thirteen clearly state this point quite clearly. “He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:10-11). The creator came to the world and was rejected. This is one of the many indicators of the great humility of our Lord. He permitted His creation to reject Him. Placed in the same situation, how many of us could have refrained from using the power of the creator to stop the mouths of those who mocked, derided, and belittled their own creator? No matter what was said to or about Him, our Lord subjugated himself to the will of the Father (John 6:38-39). And now he asks that we do the same.

    If Jesus, who is the creator, humbled himself, what excuse do we have for pride?

“For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3)

If we think soberly about our own lives, it is much easier to follow Paul’s admonition in Philippians 2:3. It is not hard to find brethren that are better Christians (e.g. more hospitable, generous, loving, knowledgeable, humble, etc.).  We can grow in humility by following the example of our Lord, and keeping a level head about our own failings and the strengths of others. If we do so, the Lord will lift us up.

~ Richard Garbi

Faith

As some of you are aware, I have been on a long journey in search of that mystery called Faith.   For me, it was an elusive prey, confounding my attempts to quantify and understand it, much less incorporate it into my very being.   How is it, I wondered, that Faith was so simple for some, yet eluded others like myself?  I asked, “What is Faith?  And where can I find it?”  The answer from Hebrews 11:1, as you know, is “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  I still wanted something more (I’m needy that way).

Just before your baptism, you might have been asked a question like, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God who was born as a man to redeem us from our sins, who died on the cross and was bodily resurrected three days later?”  For those who are Believers, “Yes,” is the unquestioned answer, given without hesitation and with a sense of heartfelt joy and relief.  But is this the same question as “Do you have faith in Jesus Christ as . . .?”   Is “belief” the same as “faith”?  Does “Are you a believer?” mean the same thing as “Do you have faith in Jesus Christ?” or “Are you a Christian?”

To “believe” something is to have a strong conviction that an assertion is true, even if you can’t support it fully with facts.  And belief, indeed, is a component of faith.  But faith has other components which stem from the heart, whereas belief is a matter of the intellect: trust, fidelity and vision are matters of the heart.  

Trust 

Søren Kierkegaard likened Faith to floating in seventy thousand fathoms of water.  If you struggle, as Peter did, you’ll sink, but if you relax and trust, you’ll float. Faith is trusting God as our rock and fortress, the one upon whom we rely, as our safe-haven (see Psalm 18:2). 

The opposite of trust is mistrust, which manifests as anxiety and worry.  How many times does Jesus say not to worry?  “You of little Faith,” he admonishes.  If you are anxious, you have insufficient faith.  But as your faith grows, your anxiety will diminish. 

That statement about insufficient Faith is not meant to be an added guilt-trip to those of us who still suffer from anxiety, or panic attacks, or worry.  On the contrary, the statement is there to give hope, that there IS a path to a smoother road in life.  

Fidelity 

This is faith as faithfulness to God.  It means loyalty, allegiance, the commitment of the self at its deepest level, the commitment of the heart.  The opposite is to be adulterous in the sense of idolatry, breaking God’s covenant. 

“You shall have no other gods before me” and “You shall love the Lord your God with all your Heart, and with all your life force, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  To be faithful to God is similar to being faithful to your spouse – being attentive to the relationship.  

Vision 

This aspect of Faith refers to the way we see reality.  The way we see the World affects our response to life. 

IF you see reality as hostile, then you live your life in fear trying to protect yourself.  You focus on the fact that nobody gets out of this alive.  Death gets us all: us, our children, everyone we love.  Even the solar system will be burnt to a crisp someday. Some people will see God as waiting to get us – unless we offer the right sacrifices, behave the right way or believe the right things.   God will judge us and punish those who didn’t “get it right.”  Matthew 7:13 can be interpreted that way.  Only a few will win the race.  

IF you see reality as being indifferent to human concerns, then human motivations and purposes have no impact on the Universe, which is just a mixture of force fields, matter and energy, totally uncaring or even able to care.  If we adopt this point of view, we just enjoy the view and do what we can to make ourselves comfortable.  Morality and ethics are man-made and optional.  Of course, this uncaring Universe will someday run out of fuel and die.   

The third way of seeing reality is as nurturing and supportive.  It sustains us and is life-giving.  This is the version of reality that Jesus spoke of when he was talking about the lilies of the field and the birds.  God feeds them, clothes them and sends rain upon the just and unjust.  God is generous.  This way of seeing the whole leads to radical trust.  It frees us from anxiety, self-preoccupation and concern to protect the self.

When I finally took the time to stop searching so hard for faith and just examine myself, I discovered the Holy Spirit setting up housekeeping!   I came to BELIEVE that Jesus was my Lord and Savior, the only begotten Son of God who was born as a Man to take on the entire burden of Sin for you and me and everyone who comes to Him.  I came to BELIEVE that Jesus was cruelly crucified on the Cross; that He suffered a separation from God when He took on the burden of Sin, and that He overcame Death, being resurrected on the third day by His Father.  

When I sank into the waters of Baptism, my TRUST in Him as my Rock and Fortress blossomed, my FIDELITY and  commitment to God took form and strengthened and my VISION of His creation as a loving and nurturing vineyard for His workers overflowed my Heart.  

Love in Him – Kevin

~ Kevin Crittenden

Being a Traveler

I have often sung a song with the line, “this world is not my home, I’m just a passing through,” or another one, “here we are but straying pilgrims.” Both of these songs embody an ideal that it is sometimes hard for us to remember and grasp. Scripturally we can look at verses such as John 17:16, where Jesus says of his disciples, “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Yet, here in this world, it can be easy to forget where we are bound and what we are meant to be.

In this world, we can be surrounded by luxury or poverty, peace or strife, success or failure, happiness or sadness. Each of these things brings color to our world that can make us comfortable sitting on a couch or give us an itch that we just can’t scratch. All of them can have the effect of making us feel at home in this world. I have a wife, children, a house, food to eat, and things to drink. I have possessions, employment, friends, and family. I own toys, computers, hats, games, and so many other things. All of this is mine. Is it any wonder that Jesus said that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God”? (Mark 10:25). But even here and now, I am not considered to be rich (just ask the IRS). Yet each of these things can be a hurdle in the way as I race towards my true goal.

I have been on many trips in my lifetime. Each time that I go someplace, I have to pack. One of the most important aspects of this is that I have to boil things down to the essentials. I need to know how long I’ll be gone and what things I’m going to need once I get there. If I’m staying in a hotel, I take one set of things, which may include a computer. If I’m going camping, I won’t take the computer, but I may take firewood. If I’m staying with a friend, I may bring something for that friend. So, now I have to consider: I’m a traveller on my way to heaven; I am not of this world, so what is truly essential to me, until I get home.

The ancient Egyptian Pharaohs buried many things with them when they died. They thought that they could have their silver and gold, horses and dogs, even wives with them when they died. They thought that they could take it all with them. Yet, several thousand years later, and all of those things are still there, sitting in their tombs. The things themselves are not as important as we sometimes like to think they are. Instead we need focus on things that are unseen. “For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). If we look around, everything that we can see will be consumed by fire (2 Peter 3:10), that includes all the houses, the lands, even the people. We cannot be distracted by these things and so trip on the hurdles that have been placed in our way, usually by ourselves.

We are warned by Jesus that we must love him more than our families (Matthew 10:37), and that we must lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not here on this earth (Matthew 6:19-20). Even the greatest command comes into play here: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might(Deuteronomy 6:4). Everything we have, and everything we are need to be focused on loving God. God is our number one priority. Nothing else in this world matters like he does.

Abraham knew this when he left behind home and family to go where God told him to go. And God rewarded him for it. The prophets knew this as they left their homes and went out to preach the word of the Lord. We, in this generation, need to know it as well. Jesus left heaven to save us, what have we left for him?

Knowing that none of the things of this world matters, knowing that we need to place God first in our lives, and in our minds, how do we do that? Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). And this is such a simple thing, or rather, it should be a simple thing.

Jesus has told us to shine our light to the world, not be angry with our brother, not look at a woman (or man) lustfully, be faithful to our spouse, say what we mean, not resist those who take advantage of us, and love our enemies (Matthew 5). And that is all in just one sitting. It can appear to be very overwhelming to us if we look at every single thing we should do to show Jesus that we love him.  Remember, though, that the words of the Lord are “sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10). We can be sustained by the words of the Lord, as Jesus was in the desert, and we will find rest for our souls.

Paul tells us that three things remain: faith, hope and love, “but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13). It is the greatest, because once we arrive at home, we will no longer need to hope for what is coming; we will no longer need faith to assure us of things we hope for, but we will live in love with him who sacrificed so much to give us life, and give it more abundantly. At the end of everything, the only thing that we can take with us is love. Love for the Father, who made us. Love for Jesus, who saved us. Love for the Spirit, who guided us. Love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, who share in our love of God. Love for our fellow man, who was made in the image of God.

~ Ben Fry