Posts Tagged ‘humility’

Lose Your Love When You Say Mine

September 15, 2016

Love is a rose
but you better not pick it
It only grows when it’s on the vine.
A handful of thorns and
you’ll know you’ve missed it
You lose your love
when you say the word “mine”.
–Neil Young, recorded by Linda Ronstadt

This verse contains enough good thoughts for a short novel. But they are meaningful.

Trying to possess something or someone ruins the entire experience. They say that money is the most frequent cause of marital problems. But I’d bet that money quarrels are merely a symptom of deeper problems. Let’s use the song–“say the word mine.”

It’s when we put ourselves first that problems begin. When we don’t outgrow our inner 2-year-old, whose favorite word is “mine.” A 2-year-old really doesn’t differentiate a distance between herself and the other. Everything revolves around him. But, that is natural child development.

When we’re 40 and still acting that way, well, that’s a problem. Time to see a shrink.

I sing this (or read it) and I cannot get everything that John wrote in the New Testament.

Jesus as the true vine. We obtain our life nourishment from him. Separated from the vine, we just wither and die. Sort of like this love that someone wanted to possess and in so doing crushed it.

I think of all the times John talks about love. God is love. We should all love. The world will know Jesus’ followers by their love (oh, if only this were true).

Then I think of Jesus when he checked up on people and pointed out pride and self-absorption. His instruction was to be humble–not weak as the word is often misunderstood but simply placing others ahead of us. It actually takes strength–strength of character, strength of faith–to be humble. The easy route is to boast, to put ourselves first (people tell me, “but of course I put myself first, duh”), to exaggerate our successes, to talk about ourselves.

Love is a rose. I love that picture.

What Is Love

September 16, 2015

The word love is used often in the New Testament. John’s writing is filled with the word. Jesus said that he left two commandments–Love God and Love our neighbor. Jesus also said that people in general would know his followers by their love.

It makes me wonder–what is love.

We are taught that Greek has three words for love–eros, frater, agape. New Testament writers don’t refer to erotic love all that much. There are talks on agape–a selfless type of giving.

But Paul–that guy covers a lot of material while he tries to explain Jesus’ words to his new converts (and us old ones).

I’m wishing that more people would teach from the 12th chapter of Romans. Paul cites 29 synonyms for love in that chapter. 29!

If anyone thinks you should pull out Proverbs and read it once a year–and I do–then we need to put Romans 12 on our annual reading list. We should take a lot of time with it. Think about each word.

  • Let love be genuine
  • Hate what is evil; hold fast to what is good
  • love one another with mutual affection
  • outdo one another in showing honor
  • do not lag in zeal; be ardent in spirit; serve the Lord
  • rejoice in hope
  • be patient in suffering
  • persevere in prayer
  • contribute to the needs of the saints
  • extend hospitality to strangers
  • bless those who persecute you
  • rejoice with those who rejoice
  • weep with those who weep
  • live in harmony with one another
  • do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly
  • do not claim to be wiser than you are
  • do not repay anyone evil for evil
  • so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all
  • never avenge yourself
  • do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

What a world it would be if Jesus-followers actually did what he taught! If only I could follow all those attitudes and actions!

Being Humble Explained

June 24, 2015

When pride comes, then comes disgrace; but wisdom is with the humble. Proverbs 11:2

I have a friend who always brings up pride as the sin that lies at the foundation of most other sins. Perhaps he has become aware of himself and repented of past pride that almost proved his undoing.

Think about it a little. When are the times when pride has gotten between you and God? When pride has injured a friend or family member? When pride has stopped you from learning something new?

According to this proverb, humble is the trait juxtaposed to pride.

Humble is often misrepresented by those who think they do not want to lead a self-disciplined life. Or by those “social Darwinists” who believe in “survival of the fittest” and power is a virtue. They have led generations to believe that humble means weak.

But it is actually the opposite. Pride evolves from weakness. It is usually a compensation for the perceived lack of power or strength of the person. How many are they, who puff up with pride only to be deflated later. It’s only the true narcissists who continue in pride oblivious to the wreckage of the people around them.

It takes strength to be humble. One must be strong to put others ahead yet retain the strong spiritual core of a relationship with God. It takes someone strong in spiritual discipline who practices daily the spiritual disciplines of study, prayer, meditation, service, simplicity.

The other strength comes from putting aside the pride of believing that they know everything and acknowledge gaps in knowledge that can be filled through study or through the guidance of a mentor.

To be humble just means to put others ahead of yourself. It is a willingness to learn and grow every day.

I read this saying of a Desert Father that I wholly agree with, “I’d rather have a man who has sinned and repented than a man who has not sinned and thinks he is righteous.”

Leaders, How Well Do You Know Those You Serve

May 29, 2015

Recently the Keurig CEO made news by acknowledging in the face of declining sales that customers did not like the “lock-in” strategy of his new coffee machines. He had tried to use technology to assure that his one-cup-at-a-time brew machine would only work if you used coffee in his specially designed little cups (K-cups). No more freedom to use your own favorite beans.

Well, customers walked away and bought competing brands. (Duh!)

This week, the CEO of McDonalds, the fast food hamburger chain, also in the face of declining sales said that the company would change its grilling process such that it would provide hotter, jucier burgers.

Probably a genius industrial engineer goaded into finding cost-cutting processes changed the process of going from griddle to bun to going from griddle to a bin to a bun. As a result, burgers came out cold (on a relative scale) and dry.

Customers rebelled. They went elsewhere.

Leaders of organizations serve someone. Remember where Jesus said that leaders would be servants? Well, that wasn’t just for his 11 friends. It’s true today. And a leader forgets that at his peril.

Whom do you serve? Who is your customer?

If you are a pastor, do you realize that people want to be taught, not preached at? Do you realize the value of guidance to the point leaders?

If you are leading a team for buildings or missions or youth or whatever, do you know the wants and needs of your customers? Do you think of ways to serve them in ways to help them grow?

In business we talk about providing a product or service that helps someone solve a problem or improve their life. Notice the emphasis on “their”? Our thoughts, vision, effort must be directed outward toward those we serve or hope to serve.

When people become numbers on a spreadsheet, when we are focused inwardly on our costs or comfort zone, then we are in grave danger of failing. 

Then we wake up one day and realize that people have voted with their feet–they’ve left and headed for something or someone who cares about them and their problems.

How well do you know those whom you serve?

I’m Wrong And I’m Sorry

September 22, 2014

Five words that every leader show know and use. Indeed, five words for us all to use appropriately.

“I’m wrong, and I’m sorry.”

When is the last time you heard a leader, especially a political leader or a church leader or leader of a large organization, say that publicly?

They almost always say, “I made a mistake.” And that’s it.

Sorry should always imply a repentance. An acknowledgement that I was going down the wrong path, that I see clearly that I am on the wrong path, and that I have decided to travel on the right path.

I have read in developmental psychology, but I can’t remember everything I’ve read. I do know children for whom the phrase “I’m sorry” has no meaning except maybe “Please don’t punish me.”

It is true that words can be used with no emotion behind them. So, we, the ones who have been offended, have only to wait and see if there was true repentance and change of heart, or if it was merely a use of words because the PR people said you’d better use them.

Last Friday I happened to be by a TV when the commissioner of the National Football League, or the National Felons League as a friend of mine puts it, finally had to face the public music.

Suddenly the cover over the actions of the athletes who participate in a sport made increasingly violent by people like the Commissioner was blown by one, then many, stories about domestic violence. The Commissioner initially made a pathetic statement that entirely missed the target. Then he went into hiding.

Friday, he came out to say something. He began, “I was wrong, and I’m sorry.” His media relations people learned the lesson of appropriate language. Now we’ll see if he has truly repented.

But how about us? How often do we use the words to get ourselves out of a jam? How often do we repent, ask God for help, and try again to get on the path of walking with Jesus? These are important questions to reflect upon daily.

Pride Or Wisdom

August 14, 2014

I, Wisdom, live with prudence,
and I attain knowledge and discretion.
The fear of The Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
and perverted speech I hate.
–Proverbs 8:12-13

So many things that we do in life that separate us from God have their root cause in pride and arrogance. Solomon knew this 3,000 years ago.

As we grow older, we often begin to attain knowledge and discretion. Some don’t. And young people (we’ve all been there) think they have already attained knowledge. But living with God, eventually you look at people in their 30s and 40s who are striving against others for wealth and power–if even only on a relative scale.

Then we look back at those years and those who are there now and understand.

Where does pride leave self-assurance and go too far? Some of us are brought up in households of insecurity and low self-esteem. Where is it that we gain confidence and then where when we go too far and become filled with pride.

It is where you stop living with-God. It is where you put yourself first. Thinking only of yourself. Your desires. Your comfort.

How do you know that you are not in that place of separation from God? It’s when your heart and actions are for the benefit of others. When you listen to what God wants you to do–and then you do it. Humbly–that means thinking of others with no thought of your own gain.

When we arrive at that place, it is like a great weight has disappeared from our shoulders. We live free.

Maybe for some of us, this is a life-long struggle. We have been living in an age of Narcissism. It is all around us. Messages from advertisers and news reports and peers all whisper that we exist only to satisfy our own desires. Breaking free of that is not easy. But it is necessary to achieve the with-God life. And be free.

You Give Christians A Bad Name

August 11, 2014

Shot through the heart.
And you’re to blame.
Darling, you give love a bad name.

Apologies to Bon Jovi, but I heard a comment recently describing several people known to the commenter. He basically said, “They give Christians a bad name.”

While always ready with a supposedly Christian moral platitude or accusatory word, the private lives of many of that type of Christian often reveals that all-too-human gap between what we believe and how we live.

I mentioned before that I’m studying (with a small group) a book by John MacArthur called Twelve Ordinary Men about how Jesus trained the various apostles. Tomorrow, I’m leading discussion on John.

Have you read the gospel of John? He is one of those “truth-tellers” who divide everything up into black/white, light/dark, right/wrong, spiritual/earthly. John was ready to call down fire on a town that had rejected Jesus. He was one of those people.

MacArthur traces through the Gospels to show how Jesus gradually taught this fierce, fiery, politically tapped-in leader to temper truth telling with love. Not a mushy, sentimental love. But a love that understood people and sought to meet people not to talk at them but to talk with them.

That is something we all need to learn and incorporate as a Discipline–the ability to relate to others and meet them where they are. It’s not about us. It’s about them.

That is the lesson John learned–and taught.

Love As A Way of Being

July 18, 2014

Jesus said that this is how his followers would be known–by their love.

English much to the poverty of its ability to define expression only has one word–love–that means so many things. The Greeks, at least, had three. No wonder we become confused.

We make love–meaning having sexual intercourse which all to often has nothing to do with love.

We say “love you” to end conversations leaving the other person wondering if that is just a phrase like “honey” or “darling”.

We tell another “I love you” when what we really mean is we want something from them.

We use the term to refer to the rush of hormones.

Love rightly understood in the context of the New Testament is the direct opposite of the world view of the Romans, which was the world view of all the societies Rome ruled.

The Roman view, which led to a state of being, thinking and acting, was that of power and authority.

For Jesus, love was the opposite. If you follow Jesus, you are the opposite of a follower of Rome. Love is first of all a state of being–that’s just what you are. You live not in a world of power thinking only of yourself but in a world of thinking of others first.

Love is an attitude we carry with us. It is a way of looking at ourselves and others.

It comes from our relationship with God carrying over from that strength to always being aware of the needs of others and aware of how we can help (serve) them.

In this way, Jesus turned the Roman Empire on its head.

The early Christians added to their groups many just because they actually lived differently from others in the same city and society.

This has not always been the case with Christians. Or people. Even today we have such bitter conflict with the taking of many lives. We ignore or worse punish many who have deep needs. And we say we are Christians.

Would Jesus say of us, “I know you are my followers because of your love”?

Practicing Humility

July 15, 2014

On United Airlines, I have many perks. Early boarding, TSA pre-check line, free checked baggage. We flew American.

At home, we eat a variety of fresh foods. In the desert we had tortillas and refried beans. Well, other food, too, but the staple was beans and rice.

At home we have toilets that we flush every time. In the desert with limited water supply, maybe the kids seldom flush the toilets. Not to mention hot water for showers.

We all prepared for our mission trip–intellectually. But some had more trouble than others with appropriate humility.

I started out grumbling that my TSA Pre-check went to someone else. But then I had one of those moments of realization. Here I am on a trip to serve an orphanage and I grumble about having to go through the normal security line. Wow, tough.

Most everybody adapted to the conditions quickly. But I had continual reminders about the need to be humble in all circumstances.

Being humble means to put others’ interests above our own. In whatever the circumstance, it’s not our desires that count.

I guess there exist people who are naturally humble. I know there exist people who seldom think of others. Most of us just need reminders at times to help us practice the discipline of humility.