HUMILITY – A LOST ATTRIBUTE OF MODERN MAN

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

Listening to the news reports, listening to radio talk show participants, listening to parents and children interact, listening to parents and children at the sports stadium … just listening to what is going on around you reveals, in a nanosecond, that there is an absence of humility in our modern society.

Humility has, from the beginning, been difficult to find among mortal men. Adam and Eve turned their back on humility and sinned when they ate the forbidden fruit in their attempt to “be like God”. Genesis 3:5.

But Scripture reveals that we have no basis to be proud or arrogant.

O LORD, what is man that you regard him, or the son of man that you think of him? Man is like a breath; his days are like a passing shadow.

Psalm 144:3-4.

According to Scripture, we are temporal, finite; sinners who have absolutely no standing with God. While we may look good to other sinners here on earth, we have no basis to stand puffed up before God.

God is at work in His creation and in my life on a moment by moment basis. He is omnipotent (all powerful), omniscient (all knowing), omnipresent (all over, everywhere), and He has extended His grace to us through Jesus Christ, His Son, and our Savior.

What is the response to this powerful, present Creator God? It certainly should not be strutting our stuff before Him, as if we could accomplish anything without Him!

Rather, it should be the response that Abram had when God told him that He was making a covenant with him. Genesis 17:3 says:

 Then Abram fell on his face.

It has been said that Western society is blessed to be steeped in the teaching of Scripture and the person and work of Christ. However, this blessing of familiarity can readily motivate contempt in us for the things of God. Even if we do not consciously disregard the Lord, when we fail to marvel at the Father’s grace, simply because we hear of it every week, we must be careful not to fall into a subtle and powerful form of contempt. 

Canon 6 of the Council of Orange says:

“…if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

We must beware of Satan’s subtle urging that we take credit for our salvation, that we believe that we are not dependent upon God for our very existence, that we forget exactly what we are – sinners, deserving of punishment from a Just God. Satan does not want us to remember that, even though sinners, we have been rescued from that punishment by the grace and mercy of God which is extended to us through belief in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.

Someone who is drowning and is virtually unconscious of his plight should not become arrogant when a stranger jumps into the water and rescues him from death.  Rather, there should be a recognition that he was unable to do anything to save himself and that the rescuer is due great honor for the valor extended on his behalf.  

This is a picture of us, Beloved.  We were drowning in sin and stuck in the mire of evil deeds, thoughts and desires.  Jesus through God’s providence rescued us – we had nothing to do with it because it is all God’s grace.  There is no basis for us to become proud, holier than thou, arrogant or puffed up in ourselves. 

Take time to meditate on the greatness of our God and His love for us.

This is the antidote for us to defeat Satan’s maneuver against us.  In humble submission to Christ, thank Him for His love and grace. 

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

John 10:11

The Good Shepherd wants you to come to Him as a lamb, one of the most humble of creatures.  Rest in Him as He holds you in His arms. 

Father, I pray that You would forgive me when I have slid into a pattern of placing myself before You.  The reality that the God of the Universe knows me, loves me, and sent His Son to die for me calls for nothing other than humble obedience, reverence, love and awe. 

 

I JUST WANT TO BE A SHEEP

Sheep.  They are the animals which our Lord used as the primary illustration of our relationship with Him.  

Sheep in English Countryside
Sheep blocking the road in the English countryside.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Matthew 9:36 ESV

Shepherding sheep is something that was understood and seen throughout Israel and the Middle East countries: indeed, it still is.  Thousands of years ago, when King David wrote Psalm 23, he presented a beautiful picture of the Good Shepherd.

A Psalm of David. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:1-3 ESV

The shepherd provides all that the sheep need.  The shepherd leads the flock to green pastures, to fresh grass, to comfortable resting places, things that are sometimes difficult to find along the barren hillside.  The shepherd takes the flock to still waters.  Why still water? Because the shepherd knows that if the water is rushing past, it could kill the sheep if the animal slips and its fleece becomes soaked with water, thereby drowning the poor animal .  Calm water, though, provides welcome refreshment to the flock without danger.

Flocks can be very large as the shepherds combine flocks and they then all take care of the sheep combined together.  But, the shepherd can call his sheep and they will come to him, even if they are part of a large combined flock.  Jesus references this in John chapter 10: 

To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. …

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. … 

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.

John 10:3-4, 14-16,27 ESV 

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He knows His sheep and when He calls them by name, they come to Him and He leads them out of the fold.  He is the Good Shepherd and His flock is one united flock, even though it is comprised of sheep from various sheepfolds.  The sheep Jesus saw before Him were the Israelites in the area; but His sheep come, not only from Israel, but from the Gentile nations of the world.  That is what Jesus is talking about when He said “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also.”

Girl with sheep
Young girl with grazing sheep.

So, are you one of the sheep in Jesus’ flock?  There is a song that is sometimes sung around the campfire by children and youth, but it expresses the desire to know Jesus and to be one of His sheep.

I just want to be a sheep, I just want to be a sheep. 

I pray the Lord my soul to keep, I just want to be a sheep.

Are you a sheep in His fold?

Lord, thank You for being the Good Shepherd, and I praise Your Name for lovingly bringing me into the fold. I thank You that You know my name, and I pray that I would respond and come to You when You call.

THE TEAR

The tear – it can be shed because we are sorrowful, in pain, frightened, or angry. Or, it can be shed because we are joyful, relieved, empathizing, or celebrating. (I will always cry when the Bridal March begins, whether or not the bride has even begun walking the aisle!) Crying is therapeutic – it gets pent up emotions out and relieves tension. You could say that tears are suitable for a host of purposes!

used A Tear
A child’s tear lingers on his cheek, even as a smile crosses his face!  For his grandmother, the tear tugs at her heart.  For him, the tear will be gone soon, but the grandmother’s heart will take a bit more time to heal!

 

What tugs at my heartstrings the most, though, is a tear from my grandchildren. Now, I know that children shed tears in the process of growing up, it just happens.   I also know tears can be shed when children encounter something that is unfamiliar to them even if there is no discomfort or danger. I know that tears come as a result of, often very well-needed, discipline. And, I know that children are not above shedding some tears in an effort to get what they want, even if it is abject posturing to get something from their Grandparents!

 

Crying
Sometimes the adult, believing she is giving the child an exciting day, results in frightening the young child so much that tears flow. The adult may explain that there is no danger, but still the tears flow.

 

As parents, we want our children to be healthy and happy. Who has not looked at their sick child and at least thought, if not said aloud, “I wish it was me instead of my baby!” Sometimes we simply cannot kiss it and make it better, and our tears will flow out of frustration, concern, helplessness ‐‐ love.

 

Jesus knew our feelings because He experienced them. He wept when his close friend Lazarus died.  [John 11:35] He wept when he looked out over the city of Jerusalem [Luke 19:41 ] knowing that, because they had rejected him, tribulation would come and the city would be devastated. Our Savior experienced physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual pain, during his time here with His creation.

 

And, deep down inside, I believe that His heart hurts when He hears our cry and sees our tears. However, unlike us, He was not “helpless” in the face of sorrow or disappointment. He was, at all time, the God‐man – fully God and fully man. Through His act of obedience to the Father’s plan, He went to the cross so that we would have an escape from the pain inflicted upon us by sin.

 

Further, because of His triumph over sin and death, He knows that our troubles will last only for a short while, that there is a lesson we need to learn from the events that sparked the tears, and that He is with us through the dark times. We simply need to trust Him and hold His Hand as He sees our path while we cannot.

 

I have not been immune from those dark times. I have experienced nights on end with tears as my only companion. I worked to keep the family on an even keel when its support suddenly disintegrated before my eyes. There were times that the tears flowed so hard that I could not breathe, and I relied on the Holy Spirit to pray for that which was best because I could not.

 

I also know that no one can take your tears away; no one stands in your shoes; no one understands the disappointment you have encountered; and no one has endured the dark night that you are in or that you have experienced. It is yours and yours alone. David was well acquainted with the loneliness and pain that difficulties, fearful events, strife, and sin can create.   He refers to it as the “valley of the shadow of death.”

 

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4-6.

 

But notice the rest of this sentence, even though he was in the valley, he was not bound by fear. David knew that the Lord was with him and was providing comfort to him, even in the darkness of that valley.

 

I certainly am not David, but I can affirm that I have experienced release from the tears and dark times through the grace of God, the love of His Son Jesus, the solace of the Comforter, and the soothing hands of His Church.   Beloved, rest assured that you are not alone as you go through your difficult times.

Picture hanging in our office
Picture depicting Jesus as the Good Shepherd holding His lamb in His nail-pierced hand.

The Good Shepherd has given His life for you and He will guard and protect you as His own. [John 10:11]

 

Lift up your eyes and look for Jesus and He will give you strength. As incongruous as it sounds, while you are crying tears of grief, sorrow, fear or pain, you can experience peace and even joy because He has you in His arms and there really is nothing to fear.   Martin Luther says it well in the Hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”:

The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.

 

 

One day you will be able to look in the rear view mirror of your life and see the valley that you climbed out of, and you will be able to praise His Name as you thank Him for His kindness and grace, even in those dark times.

 

Joy is possible even as tears linger on your cheek!

 

Father, I thank You for being with me through your Son, my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ and His Spirit, my Comforter. Thank You for the truth that You are sovereign and that nothing will frustrate your plans for me or for your church. Thank You for bringing me through the valley and for holding me even when my tears flowed. Thank You for your love.

 

 

 

ONE THING TO DO – MANY WAYS TO DO IT?

When we were in Nashville recently, we took a trip to Lane Motor Museum. The recommendation from the hotel “things to see and do” data sheet indicated that this would be a worthwhile excursion.

Lane Motor Museum building, Nashville, Tennessee.
Lane Motor Museum building, Nashville, Tennessee.

We found the museum to be fun, educational and interesting, even to me as a non-car person! (Regarding that last characterization statement: When I rented a car for work travel, my husband would ask “what car did you drive” and I would respond “a blue one”.)

A 1938 Tatra at the Lane Motor Museum. This car was made in Czechoslovakia.
A 1938 Tatra at the Lane Motor Museum. This car was made in Czechoslovakia.

The museum was truly interesting and it showcased the fact that the design of vehicles is open to interpretation and what is beautiful for one may not be the same for another.

1929 BMW IHLE-600 at the Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, TN.
1929 BMW IHLE-600 at the Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, TN.
Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, Tennessee exhibit of a 1951 Hoffman
Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, Tennessee exhibit of a 1951 Hoffman

According to the information card by the vehicle, the 1951 Hoffman was designed and built by Michael Hoffman.  It has 3 wheels, small engine, slow speed, and rear wheel steering.  The vehicle’s handling, again according to the information card, was like “a drunk leaving a hotel bar”.

1973 Citroen SM Coupe at the Lane Motor Museum.
1973 Citroen SM Coupe at the Lane Motor Museum.
A BMW Isetta at the Lane Motor Museum. You get into the car by opening the front of the vehicle.
A BMW Isetta at the Lane Motor Museum. You get into the car by opening the front of the vehicle.
The USMC Mighty Mite, a 1960 AMC-AV-108-4 on display at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.
The USMC Mighty Mite, a 1960 AMC-AV-108-4 on display at the Lane Motor Museum in Nashville, Tennessee.

During a video tour of the museum, one of the speakers made a statement that resonated with me.  He was pointing out the wide variety of exhibits in the museum, vehicles with 2-wheels, 3-wheels, 4-wheels, and even 1 wheel.

The Trident is a 3-wheel vehicle at the Lane Motor Museum.
The Trident is a 3-wheel vehicle at the Lane Motor Museum.

Here’s a picture of the 1-wheel vehicle, the 1998 McLean Wheel!

The McLean Wheel, Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, Tennessee.
The McLean Wheel, Lane Motor Museum, Nashville, Tennessee.

The McLean Wheel is a monowheel. In other words, it is one big wheel with the rider and the engine inside the circumference. It differs from a unicycle which has the rider above the wheel. The monowheel depends on a gyroscopic effect to keep it upright. Like a bicycle, it is unstable at slow speeds. At 15 mph, you can put your feet on the footpegs. Turning is accomplished by leaning. Obviously, it takes patience and practice to learn to successfully ride the monowheel.

Returning to the video, the museum representative said all the exhibits in the museum were intended to do just one thing – transport a person from one place to another. (That’s not a word-for-word quote, but the meaning is the same.)  People have thought up a variety of ways to accomplish this one goal; but, the fundamental purpose for each of these vehicles is the same.

When listening to the video, I saw this museum as an analogy of mankind seeking God. Many people look to various philosophies, programs, and rituals in their attempt to achieve a relationship with God. Good works are done with the hope that it will appease God and, when all is tallied up at the end of our life, we will have more on the good side than on the bad side – so God will have to let us into heaven.

The desire is the same; the goal is the same; it is just that the methods are different. Indeed, there are even bumper stickers that assert that all religions are the same. If we are sincere in what we are doing, it will all work out right in the end!

Not so, Holy Scripture says. Running around acting religious or trying hard will not do the trick. In Mark we read that after Jesus had been teaching, he wanted to go to a desolate place to get away from the press of the crowd. He got into a boat and left the area.

“When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” – [Mark 6:34 ESV]

In teaching about the way to get to heaven and to live eternally, He created a word picture that the people would readily understand, sheep in the sheepfold with the shepherd watching over them. We may not have experience with this, but the hearers of our Lord Jesus certainly did. He said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” – [John 10:1-3 ESV]

“I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” – [John 10:9, 11 ESV]

A bit later in John, Jesus is explicit in his teaching, no confusion here … He said:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” – [John 14:6 ESV]

Jesus is saying that He, and only He, is the way to God. There is no other. If you want to spend eternity with God in heaven, you must come by way of Jesus Christ, the One who redeemed you when He sacrificed His body on the cross, Who rose from the dead the third day, and Who now sits at the right hand of God the Father.

There are a host of designs for automobiles and vehicles for transport of persons and packages. The purpose is the same and each design fulfills that singular purpose.

But this is diametrically opposed to what happens when people seek God in their own way.

There are many religions, philosophies, plans, religious systems, and rituals that have the same purpose of  seeking God. But, while the purpose is the same, the result is not.  All of man’s attempts to reach God will fail miserably; in short they will not achieve the purpose of eternal life with God in heaven.

God has given us the Way to Him in His Word.  There is only one Way to go to the Father, and that is through Jesus Christ.

All roads do not reach the same destination – and all methods of religion do not suffice for achieving eternal life in heaven.

“if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” – [Romans 10:9-10 ESV]

The way to reach heaven and eternal life is singular … it is through belief in and reliance upon the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.   Seek Him, and you shall be saved.

Father, I thank you that you sent your Son to be our Savior and that He came so that we would have life eternal.   I pray that your Word would become real to each person reading this prayer and that, if they have not come to Jesus in faith, your Spirit would quicken them, in Jesus name I pray.

JAN AND JILL AND THE FUTURE!

We cleaned out a storage unit recently and, in so doing, we came across a number of boxes that contained – who knows what!  We couldn’t tell from the outside of the boxes and we had no recollection of what we had stowed in them.  So we had a type of retro-vintage-Christmas when we opened the boxes to see what they had sheltered for so long.

After going through several boxes, I re-discovered Jan and Jill.

Jan and Jill, vintage friends for a young girl
Jan and Jill, vintage friends for a young girl

These two dolls are, today, lovingly called “vintage” rather than simply “old”.  They came into my possession in the late 1950s and I recall playing with them often.  As an only child, they could be my friends on rainy days and I could tell them my thoughts without fear that they would blab!  The box also contained their four-poster bed and closet, complete with drawers and hangers.

Doll bed
Doll bed

A separate box contained quite an assortment of clothes for the duo.  Of course the box also contained the accoutrements of the dolls’ haute couture such as earrings, shoes, leggings, a swimsuit, etc.

Doll wardrobe and clothes
Doll wardrobe and clothes

These dolls reminded me of a different time and place – when I was young and living with my parents.  The future was ahead of me and I could tell the dolls all the things that might happen, of course in my anticipation there was only good and no pain or sorrow.   Neither the dolls nor I had any ability to affect the course of history, I was just dreaming about what would happen down the road.

The dolls didn’t know they would wind up in boxes that were enclosed in other cartons which moved from house to house, city to city, and ultimately to an off-site storage unit, along with old magazines, records, tax returns, and junk.

I didn’t know that I would move several times before and after college; that my mother would die when I was 21 years of age; that I would go to graduate school long after college; that I would have children and grandchildren; or that I would retire after a 30-year long career in one place.  I didn’t know that I would have numerous health issues, many related to the effects of the polio I had as an infant, or that there would be times in my life that I believed I would not be able to handle another day.

No, I had no idea of any of that – but I do know Who did!

My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, came to me when I was a young girl, speaking of His love and sacrifice for me.  I did as Paul described in Romans 10:9-11:

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”

Salvation is through faith in Christ alone.  Nothing that I could do would merit my adoption by God and none of my “good works” will accomplish, affect or influence my salvation; because I am a sinner, and the Holy God cannot look upon sin.  Isaiah 6.  Rather, because of the righteousness that Christ has provided for me, I have forgiveness and I can now call God my Father.  Galatians 4:6.  I still sin, but I have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ and I can confess my sin, repent from it and turn to Jesus.  Ephesians 2:8.

Jesus said:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

John 8:33-36.

While I am still a sinner, I am no longer controlled by sin.  God’s Son has set me free from the control of sin.  Praise the Lord.

So, I don’t need to know the future.  God has it in His hands and He loves me because of His Son’s sacrifice for me.  In Jeremiah 29:11, God says:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

The Lord God Who said these words regarding His people in the Old Testament is the same God Who cares for His New Testament/New Covenant people.  That would be you and me, Beloved, if you are a believer in our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.   Indeed, Jesus said:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

John 10:27-29.  [The emphasis is mine.]

Jan and Jill
Jan and Jill

I know that the Jan and Jill dolls cannot remember what I confided in them when I was a young girl.  And, if they had the ability to do so, they would likely wonder what their next phase in life will be.  That, of course, is in my hands.  Unless I find some young girl who would like to have them, they may find themselves on a shelf as a reminder of days long gone.

For me, now that I have retired, I know that my future is not in my hands.  It is in the Hands of my Savior.  My job now is to pray for guidance from the Lord Jesus Christ, and then to reconfigure my days to follow the course that He has laid out for me.

While I don’t know the future, I do know Who holds my hand.  And, I have absolute trust that He will continue to hold my hand through whatever else this life has in store for me and on into the next, where I will join my Savior and the great cloud of witnesses who have gone on before me.  Hebrews 12:1.

Praise His Holy Name.

Father, thank You for the gift of Jesus Christ Who paid the debt created by my sin.  Thank You that the righteousness You require is not my own but that my Savior has covered me in His righteousness.  Thank You that, because of Jesus, I can come before You, not only in Heaven after death but also now in prayer and in worship, and I can call You Father.  I praise Your Glorious Name, through Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior.