Posts Tagged ‘humble’

Luke 10:17-24 — Today, we move on to a new passage, Luke 10:17-24. We will spend a few days here as well.

Jesus spent a pretty extensive speech in the previous passage about what to expect and how to react to it when spreading the gospel message. Somewhere between Luke 10:1-16 and Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two are sent out to prepare the way for Jesus. At Luke 10:17-24, the seventy-two return to Jesus. The disciples are excited. They had expelled demons by invoking Jesus’ name. They were on a spiritual high. They were pumped up.

You know this feeling. If you have ever participated in one of our church’s Thanksgiving Meal Giveaway, you know this feeling. You have participated in a Holy Spirit move.

You know this feeling. You have been witness to someone accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior.

You know this feeling. You have just witnessed the most amazing church service where people let loose and praise the Lord like it’s nobody’s business while at the same time you see that their country is one that suffers from desperate poverty.

You know this feeling. We, as Christ followers, have often seen the power of the Holy Spirit move through us, seen Him act in others and in situations around us, that inspire wonder and awe on our part. When this happens, we feel special. This is how the returning 72 felt. They were walking in the clouds. They felt they had been witness to the power of God and they reveled in the moment. Everything Jesus had promised had played out right before their eyes. As humans, though, we can easily mess things up. Pride can sneak in. We can sometimes take pride in the accomplishments that we see in the name of the Lord and begin to take credit for what happens as if it were something that we had done. Notice that the disciples said, “the demons obey US…” Notice that. The disciples are claiming that the demons are obeying them, rather than the Holy Spirit who is working through them.

Jesus handles this situation with His usual grace and charm. He wanted them to know that they should be excited to see what God can do. They should be excited that their faith allowed the Holy Spirit to work through them. He wanted them to know, “see this is what you can do when you have an all-in kind of faith, that totally sold out to me kind of faith”. Jesus wanted them to know that it is this kind of faith that can conquer anything. So, Jesus celebrated the victories with them. However, He also used the victory as time for additional teaching. He warned them about taking personal pride or credit for that which is of God. The demons were driven out by the Holy Spirit acting through the disciples not because of any special thing about the disciples. Their only qualification was their willingness to be sent. He warned them to remember, basically, to give credit where credit is due, to God. We are the vessels and not the contents. Our names are registered in heaven simply through accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and being willingly submitted to Him and whatever He sends us to do. There’s an old saying that “Jesus does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” We must remember that any power that we have has been granted to us not anything that we are ourselves. God uses so many different kinds of people in so many different kinds of ways, there is no common thing that we can learn to acquire the power of God. It is something that He grants us when we are submitted to Him.

We can easily become prideful for the successes that we see in the name of the Lord. The church I call my home, LifeSong Church, in Lyman, SC has been extremely successful over these 7 years of its existence. It has grown from a handful of people meeting in Pastor Jeff’s living room to now where we have 700-800 people on our campus each weekend. It would be easy for us to take pride in that. But as Pastor Jeff tells us as the staff that the success of our church has nothing to do with him as lead pastor or any of us as staff. The growth of our church is, he says, a testament to the fact that the Holy Spirit knows what He is doing and not us. The only credit we should take is that we are willing and submitted to Him and earnestly wish to do His will. There is a reason that our church has grown so rapidly. It is the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s it. Yes, we are to work hard and be witnesses and develop systems and processes to make our jobs easier and our work more fruitful, but that is simply the window dressing for what the Holy Spirit does all on His own. Don’t get me wrong, we must have all of our systems and processes in place so that we can indeed not have to think about mundane things and can consciously participate in the Holy Spirit’s move among us. Our systems and processes should be so well oiled that we don’t have to think about our systems and processes – they just work. That is so we can be fully engaged and watch what the Holy Spirit does and assist in any way that He calls us. We cannot take credit for what He does but we can be there as He does it. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

With the phenomenal growth of our church over the past 7 years, we can also easily take pride in the fact that “we get it and you don’t”. We can look at other churches in our area and see them struggling but yet we are growing and say we get it and you don’t. My church is better than your church. Sure, we can see that there is something special going on at LifeSong and be thankful that we happen to be at this place at this point in time with these people doing what God has called us to do at this place at this point in time, but it is not because we get it and you don’t. It is because God has chosen this church at this moment in time at this place with these people. Our only qualification is our willingness and our submission to the power of the Holy Spirit. What is happening at LifeSong is not about how cool our worship is, not about the cool names we give our ministries, not about how talented our leadership team is, not about how special we are as a team, but rather, about God Himself, about the power of the gospel message in its purest form. The only credit that we can take is being willing to serve Him, being willing to share the gospel in His Name, being willing to love as Jesus loved, being unpretentious about who can come to our church, remembering that we are all sinners in need of forgiveness. Humble servants we must be and watch God in His Sovereignty work.

Father, in heaven, I thank you for your providence in which you have guided and directed me to be at this church at this moment in time with these people doing the work that you have called us to do at this time in this place. Help me to always remember that you are the One who makes everything happen. I am just the vessel but you are the content. Help me to always remember that the credit for miracles that we see in the lives of people that cross our doors is not because we are the coolest church in the area or because we have the corner on the market of salvation, but rather it is because of the pure and simple power of you. It is because you through the Holy Spirit change people from the inside out not because of the snazzy building, or the cool music, and the awesome names of our ministries. It is you, Lord. It is you. Help me to remember that you are Lord and I am just your servant with a willing heart. Help me always to give the glory to you for you are the Sovereign Lord. Amen.

Luke 2:36-38 — The widow Anna teaches us many things in this very short passage. First thing I see is that when things happen to us, they can either make us bitter or make us better. The second thing would be that age is not a marker of ministry effectiveness.

First, let’s look at bitter vs. better. We all have stuff happen to us. We live in a fallen world. Tragedy happens to us. Evil is often thrust upon us. Other times, we are the cause of our own misfortune. It is, after all, a world filled with sinners committing sins daily. Here, we see Anna. She was widowed at very young age apparently. She was married only 7 years before her husband died. In the culture of the time, it probably meant that she was in her early 20’s when her husband passed. There is no mention of how he died and I think that this background is probably unnecessary. We should just know that he died. Anna could have become a bitter women. She could waited probably the lengthy time in first century Palestine for her to be allowed to find a new husband. She was probably left without much prospect due to the inheritance rules of the day. We hear no mention of any children in this brief passage, thus, in Jewish society at the time, there was no way for her to claim any inheritance because it would have been through a son that she would have any claim. She was probably left destitute. Some in this situation in that time period who saw little options might have turned to prostitution as a way to support themselves. She could have become very bitter for what life had done to her. However, this is not what we see in Anna. Her life tragedies drew her closer to God. She became so in tune with the Lord that she basically took up residence at the Temple. She stayed day and night. She worshiped God with fasting and prayer. She did this every day. She become so in tune with God that she became a prophetess. She so devoted herself to the Lord that she understood His will. She sought it daily and revealed it to others. She did not become bitter. She became better. We often let our circumstances in life swallow us up and that’s all we can think about or talk about — what happened to us. We probably all have known someone who has become so obsessed with the destruction of their ex-spouse because of an unwanted divorce that they lose sight of everything else. They quit living and become bitter people who have let the pain of life become their god. It has become their friend. Their destructive behavior destroys friendships and effects their children. Let us not become that kind of person. Let us see what God does with our new circumstances as the result of unwanted events. They can make us bitter and ineffective (what Satan wants) or it make us humble, teachable, and useful (what God wants). God gives us free will to react to life as we see fit. However, He wants us to see Him in our circumstances. He wants us to need Him. He wants us humble. He wants us to be in need of Him. He wants us to build our character in our circumstances so that we see life as Him preparing us for what He has prepared for us next. Sure, we wish to avoid pain in life. We’re human. What I am saying here is that we can let what happens to us rule us and make us bitter or we can let what happens to us make us more humble and dependent on God. That’s when He starts doing His work in us!

The next thing that this short passage teaches us is that age has nothing to do with our ministry effectiveness. In today’s society in the 21st century, everything about our society worships youth and the beauty of youth. Even this kind of mentality has invaded the church, particularly in the wave of the “new church movement” in which we currently live. Old is considered traditional church. Traditional church (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.). Old is hymnals in the back of the wooden pews in fixed and bolted positions. Old is the preacher behind a pulpit. Old is a robed choir behind him. In the new church movement, you see young hip pastors. No robes with stoles here. Blue jeans. 25-44 years old. Edgy haircuts. Often subtly in the new church movement we are glorifying youth without even realizing it. We figure that people in the 50+ age range are not in our churches because they are old school and we need hip people in our churches. Old folks just don’t get it. Anna could teach us many things in this passage. Anna teaches us that age has nothing to do with ministry and it has everything to do with the spirit of the Lord. In this first century Palestine as in most cultures of the time, age was respected and valued. They words were treated like they were gold nuggets. Their words carried weight. Anna was dedicated to the Lord for 50-60 years doing nothing daily but praising the Lord. She was full on, all-in for God. She knew hardship in her life but she didn’t let it get in the way of loving and serving her Lord. She was an old lady at this time but she was still vital in the Lord. Don’t you think that if she would not have been effective in the Temple daily she surely would have been asked to leave. Are we, in the new church movement, subtly asking the early baby boomers to leave our church by not including them, by not encouraging them to use their talents to their highest ability. Do we assume that they are not participating in leadership in our churches because they are tired and just want the young folk to take over? Let us find the Annas in our midst. Let us encourage them to serve. Let us learn from them. The message that they grew up with may have been packaged differently but the message is the same. At my age, early 50s, I grew up in the old church and am right square in the middle of the new church movement. Church must change the packaging every generation to meet the new generation. However, we must never change the message. The gospel message is a timeless one. New church does not have a franchise on the message. Anna, 21 centuries ago, got the message. Through the centuries we have got the message. The message has not changed. That’s what ties Jeff Hickman and Perry Noble to Martin Luther. That’s what ties Big Daddy Weave to Charles Wesley. Let us embrace the wisdom that our elders have with the message. Let’s allow them to be central to the new church movement. They know the message has never changed. It is timeless. Thus, let us find our Annas in the new church movement. Encourage them to serve the Lord with great fervor as Anna did all the way til age 84. They God we serve in our new church movement is ageless and timeless so we should encourage young, old, middle aged, teens, youth, you name it. Let’s encourage everyone to serve the Lord no matter their demographic statistics.

Father help me to have Anna’s dedication to you such that I seek your will daily despite the clutter of my mind and the world that I live in. Help me to never let what happens to me become the definition of who I am. Help me to become more humble with every circumstance of life so that you can use me mightily. Help me to grow more dependent on you daily. Help me to become so focused on you that I stay energized to serve you regardless of circumstance, or regardless of my age. Help me to be useful to your kingdom, Lord, til I take my last breath on this planet and am called home to you. Amen.

Luke 1:39-45 — Have you ever let jealousy ruin a precious moment in life? That could have been the reaction of Elizabeth in this situation but her humility is worth noting when she sees her relative, Mary.

In first century Palestine, a woman’s value was largely measured by the children she bore. Barrenness often lead to personal hardship and public shame. When she found out that she was going to have a baby, it was a long-awaited answer to years of prayer. She would no longer have to hear the whispers as she passed by others. She also knew that her future was secure through her coming son. She also knew from her husband’s encounter with the angel of the Lord that her son was going to be special. He was going to be the one that paved the way for the long-promised Messiah. It was news that just had her giddy with excitement and feelings of blessing. I am sure that we have all experienced those times where we know that we have been given a great blessing. It just makes you feel as though all your years of faithfulness to the Lord have been rewarded. It gives you a feeling that yeah, I really have done the right thing following Jesus all these years. It is a moment of joy and satisfaction. It gives you a moment of pause when you realize when there is a blessing that you know can only come from the Lord. Have you ever received a blessing that you know was only possible through the grace of God? It made you feel especially loved and favored by God. I am sure that Elizabeth felt this way too. There are times when we feel especially blessed. It is the sweet spot of all sweet spots when you realize that God gave you a blessing specifically. Not your neighbor. Not someone you hear and see about on stage at church. Not something you read in a devotional or see on a TV program. It is you that has been blessed. You!

Imagine then Elizabeth meeting Mary. This encounter is when you really realize that Elizabeth is a true woman of God. We read earlier in a previous passage that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous people in God’s eyes. Now, from the scene in this passage, we know it for sure. Have you ever had one of those situations where you had a story that everyone was in awe of but then someone chimes in that they have an even better story than that. Everyone listening then turns their attention to the “better story” and then you are left alone as everyone then follows the person with the better story. We have a modern day example of this from my favorite football team, Clemson. Cole Stoudt is a senior and has worked hard over the past four years and waited his turn to become the starting quarterback. His faithfulness to the Clemson program is astounding. It is a story worthy of praise. He certainly has a story to tell about faithfulness and hard work and believing in yourself. However, he just happened to have a freshman phenom quarterback to be recruited whose talents are far above his. Everyone makes over DeShaun Watson. He is the next four years of Clemson football. What about Cole? He is left behind. His faithfulness had been rewarded. But along comes someone with far greater talent. Cole could have pouted. However, he stuck around and became a man. He could have let jealousy destroy him. However, without Cole over the past three weeks, while Watson has been injured, he has been a steadying force. Jealousy could have derailed a team’s season.

In the same light, Elizabeth could have been jealous of Mary. She could have felt like the kid who had the less great story. She could have reacted the opposite of Cole Stoudt. She could have, in jealousy, been angry with Mary. Elizabeth’s story was a miracle. She was advanced in years and finally was pregnant. And not just pregnant, pregnant with a special child. She encounters Mary whose son they both knew was going to be greater than Elizabeth’s precious long-awaited child. She could have been one of those people who start vicious rumors about those who seem to be more blessed that we are. She could have rejected Mary in jealousy. But that is not what we see from Elizabeth. Amazingly, Elizabeth shows her true humility. The statements about her and Zechariah are true. They are righteous people humbly serving their Lord. Instead of jealousy, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and filled with joy that the mother of the Christ Child would come to visit her. Have you ever envied people who seem particularly singled out for special blessing? Are you jealous of those at church who have positions of authority over you? Instead of being petty and jealous, let’s us rejoice for those who have been blessed. Instead of talking gossip about those in authority over us, let us be humble and realize that those in authority over us have been given that position because God ordained it and we often don’t see their behind the scenes faithfulness to the Lord. Let us rejoice and take the Elizabeth approach and not the jealous approach. Elizabeth knew that her son would serve the Lord and serve the one in Mary’s womb. She was a servant of the Lord not the servant of her own ego. We all are here to serve Jesus. We are all here to tell the story of his great gift of salvation and of restoration. Let us serve the Lord together in the capacities that He has given us right now at this place at this moment in time. All of us are servants. We must serve and work in our positions that we hold no matter how high or how low as if we are working for the Lord. God has you right where He wants you right now because this is where He needs you in the position you hold. Let us be humble like Elizabeth and realize and submit to the Lord.

Father, help me to have an Elizabeth attitude about life. Help me to realize that you bless me daily and give me what I need not what somebody else needs. You personally know me and love me. I should not compare my blessings to others. You are doing a work in me that is unique to me. Help me to have a vertical mentality rather than a horizontal one. Help me to keep my eyes on you and how you sustain me personally rather than comparing myself to how you bless or don’t bless others. My relationship with you is vertical. You are my King and I am your servant. I need to remember that I serve to glorify you and not gain glory from others. Help me to be Elizabeth humble. Amen.

Luke 1:26-36 — This is one of those passages where we need to spend a few days as it is very important to our faith. The first thing we must talk about together is Mary herself. Mary was young, poor and female. All of these things are not very impressive particularly in first century Israel.

That God chose Mary is so interesting. She was young. Some conjecture because of life spans at the time that Mary was maybe 14 years old. If you have a 14 year old daughter, think if she was chosen by God for such a task. That she was so young in Jewish society would have meant that few, if anyone, would have given her any respect or any social power. She was just a kid. Even though children were required to work and do help with household matters and do their parent’s bidding at times, they were given no rights. Teenagers are accorded far more respect and given more freedoms than teens in first century Israel. They were to been true servants of their families. They were to be seen and not heard. For God to choose Mary, a young teenager, demonstrates to us that God will make His power known even through the young. If you are a teenager and you think that Jesus cannot use you because of your age, then simply think of Mary. This young virgin was used by God because she was faithful to her God. Mary was given a great task and a great honor. She was to give birth to and be a mother to the Son of God. Can you imagine knowing that you are carrying the Son of God in your womb? God can use us even when we are young. We have some great kids at our church that are destined to be used by God. Don’t let their age fool you into thinking that they are not important instruments in spreading the gospel of the man born until Mary. Let us be a people that nurtures our children’s faith and encourage them to be gospel messengers. Two people are brought to mind by this thought. Ruthie Bowen and Kieffer Mendoza. Ruthie is a young little girl, maybe 5 or 6, but she is such sweet child and so loving to everyone around her. She will pray for her friends at her age at the very mention of a problem. Wow. She is destined to be a great woman of God. We should respect her for this and nurture her growing faith. Kieffer Mendoza is a freshman in college. He has amazing musical talent that is going to take him very far in life. At the same time, his faith in God is as mature or even more mature than many of us adults. The combination of his talent and his faith makes him an amazing instrument of God. We should respect him for that. We should nurture that. Regardless of age, we should respect and nurture the gifts that God gives even the youngest of the young to spread the gospel message. God is eternal so He is not hung up on age. Neither should we.

Mary was also poor. In Jewish society, power and respect followed money just as they do today. Poverty was considered a strike against you. Poverty was a sign of lack of faith. It was punishment for your sins or the sins of your forefathers. Poor people were not given much power. Nothing much has really changed in this regard today. She was young and she was poor. Wow, God could have done better than that, surely. Why wasn’t Jesus born to a daughter of a rich king? Part of this story has to do with humility and opposing the proud. Rich people tend to get all caught up in their position and and who they are in relation to others. God opposed the proud and exalts the humble. Mary was a humble young servant of the Lord. She had no rights as a young, poor person but she fully depended on the Lord. She trusted Him to see her through her early years of her life and she probably didn’t care that she was poor. She had family and she had God. I think too God uses a poor person for a mighty task to show us that no one is excluded from being used by the Lord. All that is required to be chosen by God is faithfulness to Him. We must be in love with God to be truly used by Him. We should not exclude the poor from our fellowship of believers because they do not dress like us, don’t drive the cars we drive. God doesn’t care about any of that stuff. He cares about the heart. Mary had the heart of a servant. She was used not because of wealth or position, but because she was fully devoted to the Lord. That’s our only qualification as well. God uses the rich, the poor, it doesn’t matter. He checks the heart not the wallet.

Finally, to add one more layer of Mary being “behind the eight ball” in first century Jewish society, she was a woman. God giving a great task such as this as a women would have been unthinkable to Jewish society. Women had no rights. Women were dependent on men for their very existence. Inheritance of a husband did not pass to a wife as it does now when a husband dies. Then, it passed to the father’s eldest or oldest surviving son. Women weren’t allowed to even testify in court because their testimony was not considered credible. But God chose Mary, a woman. He chose her for the most important task of all time. Carrying the Christ Child. In fact, when you read through the gospels, Jesus accorded women great value. In the early church they were given equal standing with men. The first persons to see Jesus after the resurrection were women. Women are given places of honor in our faith. Women became empowered for the first time through the Christian faith. But in thinking of Mary in her day, this a radical concept. Sure, as time progressed, women in the faith were given greater and greater standing, but Mary was first. She was like that first person to stand up against a custom that has existed for a long time. She was a rebel of sorts. Mary knew that being a woman was a liability in her day, but she responds, “I am the Lord’s servant.” Basically, I do not care that the odds are stacked against me. I trust in the Lord as knowing what is right for me. Mary should empower women. She goes to prove that women can play very pivotal roles in the spread of the Good News. Women are God’s most wonderful creation and if they are called to serve the Lord in the ways that He sees fit, we should not hinder them but empower them. We should look at their heart for the Lord not the fact that they were a dress.

Mary, young, poor, a woman. God chose the humble not the proud for this wonderful and important task. He chose according to the heart of the servant not the age, not the bank account, not the gender. Mary gives us hope that all of us can be used by the Lord. God only cares that you place Him first above all other things. That’s when He can use you mightily. Not when you achieve a certain age, a certain level of weath, not whether you are a man or a woman. The message of Mary choosing gives us great hope. You too can be used by the Father to do great things for Him.