Who Wants to Read About Humility?

I had Andrew Murray’s book, ‘Humility’, on my shelf for sometime. I probably looked through it once but never prayerfully, seeking what the Lord may have for me through this godly brother. There are less than 100 pages to this book but beware, every sentence holds godly truth. Murray begins his weighty discourse describing humility as most essential yet most neglected to our salvation:

…(our) whole relation to God and man marked by an all-pervading humility. Without this, there can be no true abiding in God’s presence or experience of His favor and the power of His Spirit…Humility is not so much a grace or virtue along with others: it is the root of all…”

He asserts that he himself, along with many Christians, “had long known the Lord without realizing that meekness and lowliness of heart are to be the distinguishing feature of the disciple, as they were of the Master.”

Such “distinguishing feature” is hardly evident in the church today…is it at all evident in me?

While written in 1896, Murray aptly describes the Body of Christ today, striving for and rejoicing in “manly virtues, such as boldness, joy, contempt of the world, zeal, self-sacrifice” while the “deeper graces” taught by Jesus, “most distinctly connected with His cross and the death of self – poverty of spirit, meekness, humility, lowliness – are scarecly thought of or valued”.

God may give boldness to the weak and timid while they live out His call but boldness alone is not esteemed by God. He does not “exalt” the bold but the humble. In fact, God declared, “This is the one esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word.” (Isaiah 66:2)

If it is at all possible to make humility exciting, Andrew Murray does it. Humility – the way of victory, of entering God’s presence, the way God exalts us – the way of the cross!

Like all aspects of the Christian life, humility is not merely something to agree with but is essential in our walk and surrender to our Savior. “The highest lesson a believer has to learn is humility” and I think I’m just in Humility 101.

“Take every opportunity of humbling yourself before God and man…Accept with gratitude everything that God allows from within or without, from friend or enemy, in nature or in grace to remind you of your need of humbling and to help you to it.”

Yesterday, the morning after I finished this book, my husband Bob did something thoughtless, (ok, unintentional) that irks me very much, as though it could totally discombobulate my day. The fact that he’s done it several times before raises the temp. Murray’s exhortations of humility, verbatim, rose up in my heart but I resisted them, lecturing and blaming Bob, following his steps out as he left for work. I left for the laundry room.

As I stuffed the clothes in the machines, my heart was gripped and convicted. I repented before the Lord and called Bob right away and apologized, truly from my heart. He was very sorry too – just a mutual binding together of sorry hearts that ended up uplifting the morning!

“Accept every humiliation; look upon fellow man who tries or vexes you as a means of grace to humble you.”

Just today, as I was writing this, a situation arose through a phone call with someone who “tries and vexes me”. I actually prayed, “Lord, convict her heart in this situation.” But within an hour, the Lord showed me, clearly, that I was wrong in the scenario. I had to point that out to her and apologize. And, I had to thank God for these opportunities, exposing my uprisen flesh and the lack of this godly virtue.

Murray points to Paul who earnestly asked the Lord to remove the ‘thorn’ that humbled him. Like the Apostle Paul, virtually all Christians want to pursue humility but in truth want to avoid all that humbles. But, Murray concludes, “Our humiliations lead us, in the experience of the presence and power of Jesus, to choose humility as our highest blessing.”

My husband and I are earnestly praying to know God’s call and to serve Him in these, our senior years. In response to that prayer, the Lord is revealing what is really lacking – and what is truly needed. Of course, writing all this is somewhat humiliating – don’t expect follow-up posts!

“God exalts the humble”. In the meantime, I hope to stay teachable, even if it is Humility 101. I know that the Teacher has a great interest in my passing and, as I keep returning to class, He will never fail me.

Who wants to read about humility? Who wants, really wants, to be humble? I hope it’s me!

Humility

YOUR NAME HERE

YOUR NAME HERE - WRITTEN IN SAND

YOUR NAME HERE – WRITTEN IN SAND

For the follower of Christ, every accomplishment, acknowledgement, and acclaim – every entanglement- in this world presents the risk of spiritual death.   Every time we want our self to count in this world, we have diminished the purposes of Christ.  When Scripture speaks of separation from the world, most believers think bars, nightclubs, casinos, brothels, etc. However,  the entire world system lies under the domain of Satan – politics, education, commerce, trade – all that is in the world opposes the divine authority of God, and is culminating into a powerful anti-Christ domain.  We cannot sanitize any aspect or minimize Scriptural declarations:

“…don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”   (James 4:4)

Our highest and only ideal in any area, work, school, community – must be aligned with the Lord’s call for us there.  The loftiest arenas such as medicine, politics, science or education have the greatest potential to overshadow the presence of Christ in our lives if we pursue high worldly standards and miss the mark for holiness and humility.   God’s authority does not acquiesce to the ‘good’ of this world but calls us to obedience and surrender.   Christian ministries are not immune to worldly influence and trappings – the ‘self appointed’ will count for nothing when presented on Christ’s altar.

Often and aptly said, with Christianity ‘everything up is down’.   While those in the world strive to make a name for themselves, we as believers gain the greatest treasure – intimacy with the Lord – when we live as strangers, aliens, and foreigners in this world.  “…you do not belong to this world, I have chosen you out of the world.”  said Jesus, John 15:19

Divested, treading lightly, grasping loosely…..

“Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.” (I Peter 1:17)

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” (I Peter 2:11)

“I am a stranger on earth; do not hide your commands from me.”  Psalm 119:19

For Christians to petition unbelievers in Hollywood, government, or education to represent Biblical values is futile and, moreover, misses the mark of Christ’s demonstrated life.  Strangers, aliens, and foreigners typically do not make demands of host countries, nor do they have rights to do so, they are merely passing through.  Moreover, our power against the enemy does not come from ourselves employing worldly tactics, but are spiritual, through the Holy Spirit and the Word of God.  If we are commissioned by God we are backed by heaven. Too often though, we are quick to protest but slow to separate ourselves unto the Lord, to fast and pray.

Without the Holy Spirit, most miss the inevitable truth, “Your life is just a vapor…” written in sand in a windy world. 

YOUR NAME HERE - WRITTEN IN STONE

YOUR NAME HERE – WRITTEN IN STONE

“At every turn of your life, keep the end in view; remember that you will have to stand before a strict Judge who knows everything….”    Thomas a Kempis, Imitation of Christ.

Except for careful planners, most of us will not actually see our ‘final destination’,  yet we could be scheduled to reach it tomorrow.   The most profound transition of our life is the moment of our death .  Rather than meditate upon it, even savor the moment we see Christ, we reject and dismiss such thoughts and go to great lengths to deny, delay and avoid the possibility of death.    Our predecessors did not live in such a way, they ‘loved not their lives in this world’…believing that “to die is gain”.  The Psalmist beckoned the Lord, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”  Numbering our days, meditating upon the great transition, is a deeply humbling influence to overshadow daily decisions, reactions, and priorities.

While harsh and devastating, death is often the quickening fire set to mature and separate  believers unto Christ.  It changes our focus from the temporal to the eternal – not just for our soul but for those eternal souls around us.  Contemplating eternity undergirds the great commission, “Go into all the world and preach the Good News…”  The reality of death should stir us with the passion and urgency of the Gospel.

YOUR NAME HERE - OMITTED OR WRITTEN FOREVER

YOUR NAME HERE – OMITTED OR       WRITTEN FOREVER

Sovereign, Almighty God has a divine and fearful Book of Life.  Such was supernaturally revealed to the hearts of God’s chosen throughout the ages; Moses referred to this Book of Life in his pleas for mercy, Daniel’s prophecies point to the preeminence of this Book,  the Apostle Paul speaks of this Book, and the aged Apostle John sees this majestic Book of Life in Revelation.  Man’s attempts to capture life, drama, and truth in books or literature are less than dust and ashes next to the book of all books, God’s Book of Life.

“Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it….And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened.  Another book was opened, which is the Book of Life… If anyone’s name was not found written in the Book of Life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”   (Revelation 20, excerpts)

One day soon the façade of this temporal world will fold and the majesty of God’s everlasting Kingdom will be established.  It has been said,

“The believer’s life on this earth is his only arena for change and fruitfulness…the nature of eternity is changeless.  Therefore, the time to become like Jesus, being conformed to His likeness, is during this earthly Christian experience of trial and faith”

“You and I will never be any closer to Christ, throughout eternity, than we are when He comes.  That’s the point of judgment”.

Paul exhorts us, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”  Why so, if the cross of Christ is sufficient for our atonement and eternity?  God declares judgment for the complacent.   Unlike unbelievers, lukewarm ‘Christians’ misrepresent the majesty and awesomeness of God, attempting to weave Him into the world and that He opposes. God is a “consuming fire”.   If we rightly discern and anticipate His coming judgment and Kingdom, we will have godly fear and trembling, and a deep grief for the lost that are without hope at His arrival.

“Oh Lord, help us to put our name – our reputation, our possessions, all that we are and have – into your Hand.  Launch our lives out as Your vessels in this world that Your Name might be glorified and honored above all.”

Does God Laugh?

brush over several cans

What we can find through any Bible concordance is this –  God laughs at His enemies. This, of course, is not funny but rather enlarges the truth that any nation or people that rise up against an almighty God are so foolhardy in doing so that it is truly laughable.

“The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against His Anointed One…The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.”  (Psalm 2:2-4)

The Word of God declares here, and elsewhere, that man’s efforts to thwart God’s plans, escape His laws and judgments, are futile and vain.  Meditating on this truth will draw us further into a reverent fear and awe of God.

Not explicit in the Bible however is this: Does God have a sense of humor?  Is there ever a chuckle in a holy and awesome God?  I myself have sensed the laughter of the Lord on few occasions, most recently last week in my kitchen, as I stirred a gallon paint with chopsticks….

After 30 years, our tiny old kitchen, 12’x 8’, finally got the rehab it cried for.  I had no idea that beautiful granite, custom cabinets, and new fixtures could give me such pleasure!  Backsplash, ceramic tiles and accents all enhanced a wonderful color scheme.  However at the last touch the creative flow truly ran amuck…

“…the kitchen came out great!”  I shared, “the only task left is choosing a color for the walls.”

My co-worker shared her design secret, “Look at the granite and choose a color from it that will ‘pop out’ on the walls!”

‘Pop out’ sounded good.  Looking closely at the granite counter I could see sparse dots of blue.  “That’s it! Blue it is!”  With that contrast of color, I imagined my kitchen could impress as a sky with a rising or setting sun…

“Are you sure that’s the color you want?” asked the contractor when ordering the paint.

“Yes, it is” I confirmed.  Obviously, I thought,  contractors know little about ‘popping colors’.

When I arrived home to view my ‘sun rising kitchen’ I saw, in less than a second, that it was the worst color combination known to mankind.  All the pleasure of the kitchen was lost – I could hardly cook.  Immediate change was needed – pale yellow and fast.

Pale yellow worked well until a leak caused some damage to the ceiling and wall.  After repair, repainting was required.  Well, I figured, if pale yellow worked so well, let’s go bolder!

Paint job #3, ‘bolder yellow’, proved a mistake.  It overpowered the whole room.  I will repaint the kitchen myself, I concluded, to make this right.  ‘Tangerine Mist’ was recommended by a reliable source and I believed it –   until I painted it. At the first strokes my heart sank but I went into denial, “…this will look good once the whole kitchen is painted”.  Ha-ha.   No more sun-setting color popping bold kitchen – back to palest yellow as soon as possible.

I opened the can, color #5 and stirred with chopsticks…. “Hmm.  Actually,” I thought, “this doesn’t look like pale yellow.  Why does this look florescent?  No, it can’t be,” I decided, back in denial, “it will look good once it gets on the walls….”  While brushing and rolling I convinced myself it would look better once it dries.   After one wall I stood and stared at a yellow color that seemed to shout, “Stop! Go no further!”   Now bewildered, “How can this be?  How could one room be painted five times?”   It was not at all funny until later that night – it was hilarious.

Was God amused?  What does He – who created humor –  laugh at?  While stirring and gazing into that paint can, claiming ‘no, this is not possible’, I sensed the chuckle of God.  It might have been a hearty laugh when I stood back, with brush in hand, lamenting, “Oh no.  This even makes Tangerine Mist look good.”

Indeed the Lord holds a serious singular focus – declared from Genesis to Revelation – to reconcile and restore man unto Himself for eternity.  He opens His heart to the one surrendered, sharing from the depths of His passions – His grief, His anger, His love and mercy.  He speaks to our heart and speaks through His Word, renewing our mind and refreshing our soul.   Could laughter be one of His healing balms?  In those unexpected moments when we are surprised by humor, it may well be God laughing and inviting us in – to lift our heart, to change our view and move us forward.