Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. Proverbs 8:34
Have you ever met one of those people that seem to calmly wait in long lines? Like they’ve got nothing better to do? That attitude has always seemed strange and foreign to me. I mean, I’ve got stuff to accomplish. People to see, errands to run! Patience has definitely not been one of my well-honed attributes. But if I learned anything during the Covid years it was to slow down, way down. In fact, when everything started opening up I could feel my body reacting to getting back in the busy flow of life, speeding up to meet the traffic. The Holy Spirit whispered to me again to slow down, to wait, to watch and to listen.
While the verse today specifically speaks to waiting for wisdom and insight, I think we can all agree that patience really is a virtue in every aspect of our lives. Oh, how many times in my baby Christian days did I jump into situations without first asking a few questions or even praying about them! Those were the days of making decisions first then asking God afterwards to make those decisions work out for the best.
As I’ve worked on developing a more patient frame of mind it’s caused me to evaluate why I am impatient. I mean think about it. As you’re tapping your foot in line at the coffee shop what are you really contemplating? Your time is so much more valuable than anyone else’s? If you were in charge, things would be running a lot smoother? The cashier obviously isn’t smart enough or cares enough about his job? The root of all these is pride, lack of grace and humility.
Or maybe you tend to jump at opportunities like a new job, an investment, a free giveaway or a deal on a purchase. If you don’t act now you might just miss out! Is it that you’ve placed money as an idol, either saving it or spending it? Or status and recognition before wise choices?
Friend, unless you are faced with an immediate life or death decision, wisdom asks us just for a few moments of time. A chance to gain insight into the choice or attitude you are about to take. So let’s all take a collective breath say a prayer.
Lord, I get so caught up in the daily comings and goings of my life and need your help to slow down and be patient. Remind me today to give grace to those who need it and seek insight for my decisions. Amen
The Lord upholds all who fall, and raises up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14
We had come to Colorado after receiving the news – my mother-in-law’s constant bowel pain was the result of peritoneal cancer, a rare and deadly disease. She had never fully recovered from her bout with uterine cancer diagnosed just 18 months prior. Her markers were clear but this painful and never-ending pain in her stomach kept her sidelined. We will never know why it wasn’t discovered sooner but there are blessings even in that.
And so, after setting her up on hospice and determining that additional in-home care wouldn’t be sufficient and was well beyond what my father-in-law could afford, I offered to stay longer. As I said goodbye to my husband who needed to get back to San Diego for work, I was faced with my usual self-doubt. “I’m not good at this kind of thing” I said to myself. “I’m not a sweet, kind, compassionate person” I lamented. “I never know what to say in difficult times” I fretted.
I was scared to face day-to-day the woman I love as my own mother as she lay living out her last days. I was worried about how to be around my quiet father-in-law. I definitely was concerned how to handle all her friends who wanted to visit and needed a shoulder to cry on. And then I finally remembered God.
He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the Lord is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.Psalm 111: 4-5
I went for a walk and soaked in the beauty of the Colorado mountains and realized I didn’t need to have all those gifts. He has blessed me with so many other gifts that were needed – organizing, communication, and more. And what I now needed was to lean on Him for the rest of what was required.
My BSGs had just finished Shirley Giles Davis’ study book, God. Gifts. You. Which takes a deep dive into the list of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit. Coincidently she lives and works in Boulder, Colorado, just a few miles from where I now found myself needing the strength of God’s gifts. She reminded us that our gifts can be used for good and have their own pitfalls if used incorrectly. She showed us how God’s beautiful world can only function properly when we appreciate and honor the intricate ways all people’s gifts are used in harmony.
As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me.Psalms 55:16
And so, I called on God in humility. I thanked Him for the blessings of financial security that helped me be there. I listed in thankfulness the gifts of the Holy Spirit which have been endowed to me. And I prayerfully spoke the following:
“Lord, I cannot do this without you. I don’t have the right words for the right moments so I need the Holy Spirit to speak for me. I don’t have the strength for this gracious Father. I need you to keep me strong and lifted or I will fail. Only through your loving grace, using my gifts that I have been blessed with and you filling in the rest will I be able to glorify you and help Bev and all those around her. Please Lord speak in place of my words and be my strength.” Amen
His intervention was immediate as He surrounded me with His love and peace. All those worries and fears dissipated. And for the next three weeks the Holy Spirit held me up and spoke for me. He spoke to the friends who left Bev’s room crying in despair. He spoke to family members who handle grief differently than me. He spoke to Bev while I read her Psalms each day to comfort her. And He kept me from being tired and weak. I could wake at any hour with ease to administer medication, keep the house clean, and make meals for the ever changing number of people at the house. He provided, just as He promises, just as He always has.
You are my strength, I sing praises to you; you, God are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.Psalms 59:17
My BSGs recently completed Priscilla Shirer’s study on Elijah. In her week 6 video she mentions the definition of faith as aligning our entire life with God’s 8,000 promises found in His Word. Our faith doesn’t need to be some mysterious feeling that is undefinable. It’s simple, when we believe God’s promises and live like we do then that is faith. That’s what Elijah did when he went, as directed by God, to Cherith — a lonely, dry, desolate place. God provided in ways only He can with food delivered by ravens and just enough water to get by for about two years. Elijah knew he couldn’t make it on his own. He needed God to survive. All his knowledge and gifts weren’t going to help him. God would need to fill in where he was lacking.
Friends, God promises over and over to provide for us. The Bible is filled with endless stories of His provision. Our own lives are testimonies to those provisions. Sometimes we just need to remember to humbly ask for Him to provide where we are weak and not gifted.
The morning my beloved Bev went to our Father I was blessed again to have God show me how much He had answered my prayer. I needed some alone time so I decided to take a shower. As I stood in the bathroom waiting for the water to warm up, I suddenly felt a huge weight press on me – like an anvil was placed on each shoulder. I cried out in surprise and then it was gone. I knew He was showing me what He had sheltered me from for the last few weeks. And although I am still experiencing the grief of Bev being gone from this earth, that heavy weight has never returned. I can thank God and the Holy Spirit for being my weight bearers. And I can thank God that He will provide in our weakest moments.
Where in your life to do you need to ask for God’s provision? Where do you feel insufficient and weak? Ask Him today He will provide!
If you ever talk to a non-Christian and they give you the line, “The Bible is just some old book written thousands of years ago and society has evolved since then,” you might want to share the story of a slave named Onesimus, which means “Useful.” Not the Onesimus in the book of Philemon – we’ll get to him later. No, the Onesimus of 1716. It shows God’s total sovereignty over this world and how He weaves His way throughout all time. He works through all of us to complete His plan – whether a believer or not. The story of the black slave Onesimus shares striking parallels to the Bible’s slave written of in the New Testament.
Puritan minister Cotton Mather of Boston was gifted a slave by a parishioner in 1711. It’s believed Mather changed the slave’s name to Onesimus. And like Philemon’s slave, Onesimus was considered a liar and a thief by his master. But in 1716, Onesimus told Mr. Mather something he did believe: That he knew how to prevent smallpox. He shared with his master how in his home country people would rub pus from an infected person into an open wound on the arm. This would cause mild symptoms and would inoculate the person against smallpox.
Mather was fascinated. He verified Onesimus’ story with that of other enslaved people. Mather, while attempting to spread this great news during the smallpox epidemic, was vilified. How dare he take the word of a slave? A black slave at that? But Mather pressed on. Combining efforts with physician Zabdiel Boylston, the two inoculated their children and enslaved workers. They then began inoculating other willing Bostonians. Of the 242 people they inoculated, only six died—one in 40, as opposed to one in seven deaths among the population of Boston who didn’t undergo the procedure.
While history doesn’t give much credit for Onesimus being a key part of the development of immunizations, he can be found in the story. Like Naamans’ Jewish slave girl, his desire to be useful and seeking a better relationship with his master saw him sharing a cure for so many.
"It is as none other than Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— 10 that I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me." Philemon 1:9-11
How useful are we to God? How are our new beginnings lived out for the world to see the glory and gifts of God? For the Boston slave Onesimus, he appeared to never have accepted his master’s Christian religion. He did, however, buy his own earthly freedom by giving Mather enough money to purchase a different slave. But for the Bible’s Onesimus, who stole from his master and ran away to Rome, his freedom was purchased for him. Once by Jesus, when he, after being discipled by both Philemon and Paul, accepted the Lord as his savior. And his earthly freedom was paid for by Paul who stated, “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.” (v 18)
Paul exhibited a great lesson of our faith in Jesus, to stand for those who cannot stand on their own. And in doing so, lived out an example for Philemon to follow. If Philemon believed in what Jesus taught, not just believed “in” Jesus, he knew he must live out the fruits of the spirit – kindness, compassion, forgiveness, grace, etc. This was no small feat. Just as in the world of the 1700s, slaves were a valued commodity. And allowing a slave to run away without punishment was bad enough, but to allow a thieving slave (like both were) to do so was unheard of. Mather suffered public humiliation by accepting his slave as an equal partner in curing a deadly disease. Philemon was certain to suffer the same fate from other slave owners if he accepted Onesimus back as an equal in Christ.
But what about the Bible’s Onesimus? Where does he fit in God’s plan? Notice that our worldly sins and crimes are not erased without any repercussions. Paul did not say Philemon should just welcome Onesimus back with all debts forgiven. A crime had been committed and it needed to be repaid by someone.
Onesimus took a number of steps in his life to become useful to God. He first sought out Paul in Rome when his life had become a mess. He accepted Jesus as his savior. And like the first 3,000 Christians, he sat at the feet of a great teacher to learn about Christ and his expectations of us. He then, apparently, asked to go home and face Philemon, his old master.
15 Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever— 16 no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a fellow man and as a brother in the Lord. Philemon 1: 15-16
We can only imagine the scene of Onesimus and his fellow travelers arriving at Philemon’s door. Hat in hand. A posture of humility most likely. Asking for forgiveness. He became God’s instrument to help others learn how to forgive, how to love, and how being a Christ follower transforms us. My friend Andrea has been the person in my life to model forgiveness. I’ve watched how she has forgiven well-trod hurts and has been eternally grateful for receiving forgiveness. By seeing her transformation, it has helped to transform my heart. She has been very useful to God!
Alcoholics Anonymous’ 12 steps are well known by many. And placed in a Christian context may help some of us to follow in Onesimus’ footsteps to being fully available for God’s purposes. To be “useful” in our new beginning. With a few minor edits, those 12 steps are:
We admitted we were powerless over (sin)—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Come to believe that (God) is greater than ourselves and can restore us to sanity.
Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.
Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Were entirely ready to have God (forgive) all these defects of character.
Humbly asked Him to remove(/forgive) our shortcomings.
Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to (all sinners), and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
Jesus paid the price to be our intercessor, our kinsman redeemer. We are accepted by Him in full. But it’s now up to us to do the work to live out being acceptable to Christ each and every day with our new beginning.
I’ve shared before about the miraculous year I had doing God’s will during our 100 Lunches project. When Jesus first spoke to me, directing me to make 100 lunches and deliver them to the homeless in downtown San Diego I had no idea the lessons He had in store for me. Initially, I thought it was just a need that He directed me to fill. My spiritual gifts were perfect to complete this task – or so I thought. What began as a one-time submission to God became a year-long lesson in trust, compassion, faithfulness and humility. Definitely not traits I would’ve confidently listed amongst my gifts.
With each passing day that year, God placed new trials and new opportunities for me to finally grasp what He really wanted of me. I could administer any program at my church, work or other organization. I’m organized, comfortable with leadership, a successful multitasker, and can teach readily. As long as I was in charge life was good, so it seemed. Until someone was unhappy with me or disagreed with me. Or I hurt someone’s feelings. Or I felt overlooked and unappreciated. Praying came after the fall, if at all.
But the Spirit of God came upon me that fateful day. I like to think of God seeing my potential. My new beginning. And He knew with some pruning and care I could shake off many of my old ways and start working on new ones. Starting with praying to Him to help me make the change. And learning that God wants our heart first, above all, so that it’s our heart that pours out to the world.
“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. Jonah 1:2-3
The story of Jonah and the whale rank up there with Noah and his ark as being widely known by Christians and non-Christians alike. Jonah tried to get away from God, jumped overboard, was swallowed by a giant fish, prayed to God and God spit him out onto the shore. A nice story of turning back to God in faith, right? But in these four little chapters there’s so much more! There are lessons on being a “I’m fine, it’s fine” sleepy Christian. Lessons like Moses experienced when he told God he wasn’t up for the job. Lessons on how one person can help save so many.
Jonah was actually a man of great faith. He knew that if he went to Nineveh, a sworn enemy of the Jews and well-known for its evil ways, God would most likely use him to rescue the people there. But Jonah’s patriotism got in the way of his faith. So, he resigned as God’s prophet. He didn’t want his new beginning to look like betrayal back home. But God gets His way no matter how hard we try to thwart Him!
Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah 3:3
So yes, Jonah sees how amazing His God is while sitting in the mouth of a giant fish and prays, remembering how God saved him before and asking for him to do it again. And Jonah finds himself once more pressed on toward Nineveh.
While there he spreads God’s message that in 40 days the city would be destroyed because of their wicked ways. But there’s something missing. Within this story you will not find a message from Jonah on how to stop this destruction. You won’t find compassion and love for these 1,000s of people. He states the fact, does it efficiently and without pause. In three days this one man had reached the ears of every citizen, including the king. Pretty impressive right? And although God loved the fact that they believed and turned from their evil ways you can’t help but think the real target of this lesson was just one man – Jonah.
When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry. Jonah 3:10-4:1
Jonah had the gifts of prophecy, faith, evangelism and apparently administration. And he begrudgingly used them. Where God saw an amazing new beginning as a man who could help bring so many to faith, Jonah saw embarrassment and shame. He didn’t want to go home to face his people who hated the Nineveh citizens and be known as a traitor. He stopped remembering that God loves everyone and God can work miracles in all our lives, even our enemies.
In chapter 4, Jonah is like the Prodigal Son’s elder brother – critical, selfish, sullen, angry and unhappy with what was going on. It isn’t enough for God’s servants simply to do their Master’s will; they must do “the will of God from the heart.” Eph 6:6
So as Jonah sits on the hill outside town in the last chapter of this amazing story God takes another shot at softening Jonah’s heart. He provides another lesson for him to experience and learn. Because God is love He doesn’t give up on us. He wants our new beginnings to be filled with love and compassion. I love this quote from a sermon by Charles Spurgeon on Jonah:
“The deeper your trouble, the greater are your possibilities of adoration.”
When I first went into our 100 Lunches project, I was certain I could complete this simple task with efficiency and ease like Jonah. But God put me on the hill, overlooking all that I had done that first week and said, “You have much more to learn.”
With each distribution of lunches He said, “do it again, this time like this.” He showed me how to be ok with people turning me down when I asked for help. And how to be grateful when people came out of nowhere to help. He taught me how to slow down and look the hurting in the eye and offer a kind word or even a gentle touch. He reminded me to trust in Him, to love Him. He answered prayers which encouraged me to pray even more. He allowed me to be loved by society’s “unwashed”, giving me the opportunity to tell them of God’s glory and provision.
Jonah’s story ends without a word from him letting us know he “got it.” His last lines are the first in this look at Jonah – “I wish I were dead.” God’s last words are about His love and care for all people – no matter their nationality, financial status, religion, or sins. Think of the amazing new life Jonah could’ve had when he left Nineveh. Not just knowing about God, not just having faith that God is in charge. But loving God and loving the fact that He wants us to live like Him, in love.
Jonah’s faith was a divided one. He held onto his patriotism and pride with a vengeance. It caused him to withhold his love and compassion. When we think of the Bible’s greatest lessons about love, 1 Corinthians 13 probably comes to mind. In verses 4-13 Paul tells us what love is. So many think these passages are about romantic love but in the context of the entire letter it’s about how we serve out God’s will with our gifts. In a way, the more important lessons are in verses 1-3. The lesson God was trying to teach Jonah. The lesson which can help us all in our new beginnings as God’s servants.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Cor 13: 1-3
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God.3 John 11
When I was first researching the word “resolute” I came across the tiny village of Resolute in the province of Nunavut, Canada. Back in 1999, Canada created a new province from the original Northern Territories specifically for its native citizens. And Resolute was one of the northernmost inhabited spots in that province. Its most famous resident, who put Resolute firmly on the map, was Joseph Idlout, the subject of two documentaries, Land of the Long Day in 1952 and Between Two Worlds in 1990. He was for a time one of the most well-known Inuit and was shown on the back of the Canadian two-dollar bill.
I decided to watch the Land of the Long Day and was treated to some childhood memories of old fashioned documentary film styles. This little film about a tiny family eking out an existence in the Arctic held my fascination for over an hour. You see, Mr. Idlout purposefully chose to keep his family close to the old ways of living. They hunted and gathered what was available each season, storing up for long, dark winters. They used every available resource to keep their family alive and thriving. Everyone in the family had a job to do for their survival. And to maintain this way of life he petitioned the Canadian government to move to a tiny weather station called Resolute and create a home for themselves. Rather than uprooting their lives and becoming more “modern” they chose to remain true to their culture. And they flourished.
It’s perfect that this “most famous Inuit” moved to a tiny town called Resolute because that’s what it took to make his decision for his family. And I wonder, how many decisions us modern parents make are based on what God really wants for our children?
As a grandma and parent of two, now grown women, I can easily recall times when I had to make decisions that would set my children and family apart from others. So many times, when I would go against the norm, others would say to me, “I hadn’t even thought about that.” In other words, they were just going along to get along without consulting any moral code whatsoever.
“When you are being taught how to use any machine, the instructor keeps on saying, “No, don’t do it like that,’ because, of course, there are all sorts of things that look all right and seem to you the natural way of treating the machine, but do not really work.”
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
It seems so natural to automatically sign a permission slip for your child to go on the 4th grade overnight trip that every single 4th grader in your school has gone on for the last 10 years. There’ll be chaperones and it’s just down the street. Everyone is going. And then you find out boys and girls will be sleeping together in small rooms. Chaperones include moms and dads – many whom you don’t know. So your daughter will be spending the night with boys and a dad. No problem, everyone is going. Everyone has gone. No one has ever brought up any issue. So what’s your problem? Are you going to set your child apart? Will you be resolute in what you know is the God-directed answer?
In the verse today it says “imitate evil.” And I think so often when we read things like that in the Bible we give ourselves little passes to make immoral decisions, especially when we feel it might harm our kids’ social lives. I mean, it’s not “evil” to let our kids go on a boy/girl sleepover. It’s not “evil” to allow our daughters to wear the latest fashions that might be a bit revealing. It’s not “evil” to let our sons play violent video games. It’s also not “evil” for all the parents at the birthday party to get drunk. Right?
In a world where parents are pressured into allowing their elementary and middle school children to start dangerous hormones and go under the knife in order to try and change their gender, letting your kids watch R rated movies and TV shows seems tame in comparison. And we let it slide.
“Perfect behavior may be as unattainable as perfect gear changing when we drive; but it is a necessary ideal. Prescribed for all men by the very nature of the human machine just as perfect gear changing is an ideal prescribed for all drivers by the very nature of cars…it would be idiotic not to try; for every mistake is going to cause you trouble later on.”
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
It’s interesting that this quote from Mere Christianity involves using a stick shift in a car. For just about every one of us that process has changed to be an automatic. But the question I ask is your automatic response to making decisions for yourself and your family set to the world of the flesh or the Word of God?
For Joseph Idlout, he drew on his people’s hundreds if not thousands of years of history and made the conscious decision to not go the modern route of the world. And I have to say they seemed to live a pretty content and peaceful life. Not an easy one by any means. The harsh Arctic conditions probably led many to scoff at their decision. They might even have been called any manner of names from savages to crazy to ignorant. But his children didn’t grow up with drug addictions, suicidal tendencies, endless debt, and more that our world offers.
We can’t all put our families on an island away from the world’s influences. But we can stop pretending things aren’t “evil” when they go against what God wants of us. We must be resolute and purposeful in following God’s will for our families. To be His humble servants, to know His Word inside and out so that it becomes automatic, and to live like the chosen people we are. Our children’s lives depend on it.
Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey himHebrews 5:8-9
My BSGs have decided we can whittle down any Bible study to one word: “Obey.” We joke now about how if we want any blessing, to hear His Word, to see our lives transformed well, all we need to do is “obey.” Easy enough, right? Just ask a few thousand Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years.
In a study we are in right now the question was asked: “What happens between childhood and adulthood that causes children and adults to respond differently to God?” We all knew, and had experienced, the various reasons. My friend Caroline shared that a child’s faith is so pure and beautiful but an adult’s return to faith takes on a different and deeper beauty. We all agreed a child’s faith has yet to be tested. Yet to be disappointed and hurt.
I came to my Christian faith as an adult. I believed in God throughout my childhood. I don’t know why – some amazing work of God reaching into my child heart and mind telling me He was there. But I fell away from that quiet, pure relationship as I got older. I didn’t understand how His ways were so completely different than the world’s. And now, as an adult I’m learning something that has set my feet more firmly on the path to Him. He is perfect.
Today I praise God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit for their perfection. For when we accept that basic truth, we can turn back to it over and over when we consider disobeying Him. Because we have to examine why we choose to disobey His Word. Is it because we think we know better? We don’t trust Him? Or maybe we just haven’t taken the time to listen to Him?
When things go off kilter in our lives and we also accept that God is perfect we then must also accept that what is happening has a purpose. Which means we need to lean in closer to listen and obey. We need to rest in the peace that He’s “got this.” We don’t need to run ahead of Him and solve every problem on our own. We don’t need to stay awake night after night brewing and stewing over our children, our job, our relationships. We take it to Him and say, “You have the perfect solution. Show me. Lead me. And I will obey.”
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.2 Corinthians 12:9
For so many of us this is our hill to conquer. Our place of greatest need. To acknowledge His perfection and our imperfections. To accept that we need to humble ourselves and accept His correction or wisdom.
I may no longer rest my head at night with the same pure, unquestioning faith that there is a god. But my adult-sized faith has been set in the kiln. My relationship with God has become a beautiful piece of art. In His perfection He is transforming my heart into something worthy of His love.
Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once, the man was cured. John 5:8
“Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people. In any way. Any place. Any time.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
I was reading recently about what it meant that Jesus called Himself a humble servant of God. To some that seems contrary – for someone to call themselves “humble.” And at the time of Jesus the word “humble” was a vile and contemptible thing. According to Christian author Charles Jefferson, there was no virtue in the all the pagan world known as “humility.” It was a defect.
As Christianity spread across the world so did its values. One of its unique additions to the world was the concept of Christ-like humility and servitude. It is possibly one of the most misunderstood of Christian values. To some, it means having a low estimate of ourselves. To others it means we deny ourselves and make ourselves inferior. But if we accept all of Christ’s words as true we then must also accept these:
“I am meek and lowly in heart.” Matthew 11:29
And yet we have never met a person who held their head higher, with more confidence, with such loftiness, as Jesus. So often it seems we create a vision of the various character traits of Jesus and each believer then feels they must change their personalities to fit that ideal. When we picture a meek and humble person (not Jesus) do we imagine a rich person? Do we picture a courageous and bold person? Or do we picture a small, weak person who lets people walk all over her?
As I’ve progressed in my faith this concept of being a humble servant is something I’ve really mulled over. I’ve tried “playing” various roles that seem to fit the ideal. And it’s funny. When I try to be so quiet and meek-like it usually backfires. The recipient can tell I’m being a phony.
About a year ago I heard about the book, “The Hiding Place.” I know many Christians have read this at some point in their lives. As a refresher, the story is a Christian family from Holland living at the start of World War II. As Hitler’s army advances, the local Jewish community starts to disappear. Two of the main characters, sisters Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom, find themselves answering God’s call to not just hide Jews but also play integral roles in the underground system of protecting Jews from all over. What struck me about this book were the opposite personalities of the sisters. Both answering God’s call to be humble servants in their own ways.
Corrie was the bold one. She found herself tasked with much of the dangerous work outside their home. While in prison it was Corrie who dealt with the officials. Lest we think this was easy for her because of a strong faith, Corrie frequently questioned God about what He wanted her to do. And each time she prayed. And each time either a word from God or someone close to her encouraged her to move on His command. Near the beginning of their story, Corrie is tasked with obtaining extra food rations cards. She was led to speak with a local man who recently took a job in the Food Office. But she wasn’t sure it would be safe.
“Lord,” I prayed silently, “if it is not safe to confide in Fred, stop this conversation now before it is too late.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
She found herself asking not for five cards but suddenly 100. And within a week they were in her hands. The danger she faced – being turned into the authorities– was replaced with her trust in God’s urging for her to be a “doing Christian.”
Throughout her ordeal, while at home and eventually in prison, she wanted to be so angry with the Germans and those who supported them. She balked at loving her enemies and showing them mercy. Really, who could blame her? And yet over and over she submitted her heart and hands to God.
“My job was simply to follow His leading one step at a time, holding every decision up to Him in prayer,” she wrote. “I knew I was not clever or subtle or sophisticated; if my home was becoming a meeting place for need and supply, it was through some strategy far higher than mine.”
Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place
You can contrast her submission to God with a local pastor she encounters. He, on the other hand, when asked to take in a Jewish mother and child into his home was clearly frightened. He admonished her for the “illegal” activity and warned her that what she was doing wasn’t safe.
The concept of being a humble servant doesn’t require of us to be a person of a certain personality or style of living. A longtime pastor can fail while a wealthy man can succeed at this effort. Throughout “The Hiding Place” one such wealthy man aids the underground effort with both his money and his own hands.
In all of Jesus’ teachings we see Him asking us to do two things: love one another and take action. Like the man at the pool who had been waiting for healing for almost 40 years he asks us to first believe Him then get up and start moving. Along the way he wants us to be teachable and willing to learn. He asks us to put aside our vanity and social aspirations. He tasks us to serve and feed His sheep. He doesn’t ask us to underestimate ourselves, make ourselves small, or feel unworthy. In fact, He wants us to stand firm in the knowledge we are doing His work.
Corrie Ten Boom was bold and faithful and humble at the same time. She was always looking to serve the less fortunate and those in need. And when she forgot about serving her enemies, her sister stepped forward to remind her.
I once took a leadership personality test at a conference. The results weren’t that surprising. I have a bold personality and I’m good at organizing. But what makes any leadership situation successful for me is to be paired with a softer, gentler leader. That person remembers those who aren’t as obvious and reminds me to slow down to see the whole picture.
Betsie Ten Boom was that kind of leader. The book in which they are written of highlights her bold sister, Corrie. But it’s this quieter, gentler servant of God that I saw as a thread throughout. It was Betsie who would send up prayers for the Germans soldiers who were torturing them. It was Betsy who thanked God for fleas in their new barracks. While Corrie was dealing with the big problems, it was her quiet sister drawing people out of the shadows for prayer meetings in the middle of the night.
During one difficult transfer to yet another barracks, the women were made to stand for hours and hours. The two sister’s personalities and approach to being God’s servants was evident in this exchange:
“Betsie!” I wailed, “how long will this take!”
“Perhaps a long, long time. Perhaps many years. But what better way could there be to spend our lives?” Betsie replied.
I turned to stare at her. “Whatever are you talking about?”
“These young women. That young girl back at the bunkers, Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find a way, you and I, no matter how long it takes…” Betsie said with excitement.
Are we that excited to serve God humbly? To be teachable, free from ambition, and vanity? Have we looked Jesus in the eye and said, “I trust you.” And when He has told you to get up and pick up your mat have you obeyed Him? Or have you decided that you aren’t “good enough,” “strong enough,” or “smart enough?”
Are you laying around by the pool, waiting for someone else to do the work for you? If you keep saying to God, “show me what you want me to do” and have yet to walk out your front door and serve your neighbors you’ve missed the point. He takes all types in His Great Army. Get your mat and get moving.
“All of us are different, but all of us can serve the Lord for His glory.”
If we are “out of our mind,” as some say,
it is for God; if we are in our right mind,
it is for you. 2 Corinthians 5:13
There’s a lot of criticism of Christians these days. We get called any manner of names from freaks to racists and dumb to science deniers. And we shouldn’t be surprised. No one ever said this would be easy.
I wonder if that’s why so many people, including parents, choose not to share their faith? Yes, I said including parents. A friend of mine grew up with a mother who considers herself a Christian. Yet she never shared her faith with her two daughters. Never encouraged them to come to church. Never explained what her faith meant to her. I’ve heard parents say, “I’ll let my kids decide when they get older as to what they want to believe.”
But think about all the things in life we are either willing or even feel compelled to share and teach others. I, for one, have a lot of advice in me to spread about the world spanning any number of topics! From a parenting point of view do we “wait till they decide” when it comes to teaching our kids about healthy eating habits? Do we wait for them to figure out on their own how to read or write?
How did we get to this point in our faith journey where we are so hesitant to share our faith out of fear from what the world would say about us? Out of fear we will get called crazy and “out of our minds?”
The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him
stand on the highest point of the temple.
“If you are the Son of God,” he said,
“throw yourself down from here. Luke 4:9
Right out of the gate, before Jesus can even start gathering up disciples, our friend, the devil, comes along and tries to tear down Jesus’ confidence. He tests Him multiple times to see if Jesus is who He says He is.
Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not
put the Lord your God to the test.’”Luke 4:12
I always love Jesus’ responses to those who would say He was “out of his mind.” He never fails to give me a Perspective Change Moment. He doesn’t argue with the devil about the dangers of jumping off a cliff. He doesn’t present genealogy charts and Old Testament verses from Isaiah about His coming. He just says, “Don’t even test me.” He doesn’t sound angry or offended.
Ah, to be like Jesus. When I was contemplating this post, I got convicted of something I had done the night before. My husband and I were flying home from a visit with family. As we sat in our seats on the plane my husband dropped one side of his mask while trying to adjust his hat. A woman was making her way into the seat in front of us and turned and stared at both of us. Then she looked at my husband and said, “Sir, put your mask on.”
And boom, my hackles (whatever those are) started to rise. I laughed at her. I had all manner of comments I wanted to make but some supernatural force shoved me back in my seat and clamped its hand over my mouth. I sat there steaming, irritated. Very un-Jesus like.
I could’ve used the opportunity to be a peacemaker, a practicing Christian. A Christian who shows what Jesus is about rather than what the devil is all about. I could’ve been “out of my mind” with grace and apologies rather than defensiveness. I didn’t act like I would’ve a few years ago but I didn’t act like the person I want to be. Imperfect progress as my friend Betsy likes to say. Yes, my husband had removed his mask for just a minute. But this woman was clearly fearful and needed a bit of Jesus, not the world.
I told my BSGs the other day that if there was one thing I could try to erase from Christians’ minds it is the idea that “sharing our faith” doesn’t mean standing on a street corner screaming about Jesus. It means that when, given the opportunity by God, we behave like Jesus. We speak like Jesus. We seek peace like Jesus. We teach like Jesus. And we stand firm like Jesus. We step out of our own worldly minds and into Jesus’ mind.
But we have the mind of Christ.1 Corinthians 2:16
God will give you opportunities today. It may be with your children. It may be with your neighbor. It may be with a stranger on a plane. And yes, we need to act as though we are out of our minds with the love of God.
Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God.3 John 11
Occasionally in our lives we are asked to state who we consider to be our “hero or who we most admire.” According to the annual United States Gallup poll the incumbent president is usually top of mind when Americans name, without prompting, which man living anywhere in the world they admire most. In the 74 times Gallup has asked the open-ended most admired man question since 1946, the incumbent president has topped the list 60 times.
When you look at the list from 2020, four of the “most admired men alive today” are politicians, one is a government employee, two are businessmen, one is an athlete and two are religious leaders. Billy Graham is the all-time vote getter while he was still living with 61 appearances in the top 10 of this list. That fact made me feel slightly better.
Although as a society we seem to easily agree that most politicians are not typically ones to be trusted we, for some reason, continue to view them as someone to admire.
Growing up I would have done a “hard pass” on who to write down when asked this question. I lived a fairly sheltered life – not much TV, only one friend, my parents didn’t have many friends. And I wouldn’t have written my mom or dad on that list. At various times in my life I’ve thanked God for somehow keeping me on a halfway straight path due to limited guidance.
According to Forbes magazine these are the ten qualities people admire most in others:
The ability to learn
Compassion for others
Respect for others
The ability to “reinvent themselves”
After reading this list, did anyone come to mind? I doubt that it was a politician. When I got married I finally met someone that does a pretty good job meeting the high standards of this list – my mother in law. I set upon a path of being more like her. Someone who is kind to everyone, offers a friendly “hello” at all times, thinks of and serves others, and is always looking on the bright side. While attempting to mirror her I realized I had, in fact, been imitating someone else all along. Someone who was inwardly focused, pessimistic, frequently angry, and had difficulty showing love.
At the end of John’s letter to the church elder Gaius, he warns us to be careful who we choose to imitate. He has made the case that another church leader, Diotrephes, while powerful and surely had a large following, was not up to the standards set by Jesus. He instead turns Gaius to another Christian brother, Demetrius.
Demetrius is well spoken of by
everyone—and even by the truth
itself. We also speak well of him,
and you know that our testimony
is true.3 John 12
You notice it isn’t enough to have others speak well of someone. John reminds us that the “truth” must also be used as a measuring stick. There are many famous people on Gallup’s “most admired men alive” list. And many have well known, serious transgressions. Carelessness with the truth has been one of those. But because they are famous we humans tend to set many bad behaviors aside.
When I was coaching girls softball, I watched the habits and techniques of many of the successful coaches. I gleaned a lot of good coaching skills from them. But there wasn’t one, at the time, that I could name as most admirable. Many parents, on the other hand, admired those coaches because they won trophies. What they didn’t mind was the abusive behavior toward their young daughters. Unfortunately, throughout my years in youth, high school and collegiate sports I found this to be frequently the case. And parents expected other coaches to imitate this same behavior, thinking that was a winning formula.
Last year, my BSGs (Bible Study girls) embarked on a new study called “The Proverbs 31 Woman.” Now there’s a woman to admire! Here’s an excerpt from this long list of character traits to imitate:
She gets up while it is still night;she provides food for her familyand portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,and her lamp does not go out at night.Proverb 31: 15-18
Each week we would take a verse and apply it to our lives. From our relationship with our husbands to our finances, our work ethic to our own health we were presented with a truly admirable touchstone for our lives. We cleaned out our closets and our minds. We took a hard look at our finances and our eating habits. We used God’s Word rather than the world of the flesh to imitate.
In our world today so many people are trying to imitate the latest Instagram influencer or sports figure. We see “success” or fame as proof they are worthy of imitation. We put people like Joanna Gaines or Elon Musk up high on our list. Meanwhile there are Jesus followers, who just do the good work day in and day out that truly deserve our imitation.
Join together in following my
example, brothers and sisters,
and just as you have us as a
model, keep your eyes on those
who live as we do.Philippians 3:17
It might seem like it takes a real discerning, wise mind to know who to imitate. But we all truly know when we’ve met that “someone.” We just then need to measure that person against God’s truth. And yes, we all sin. We all have something to which we must repent to God. But I’d rather imitate a loving, self sacrificing person who doesn’t always use her time wisely than a person who causes chaos and destruction in her wake.
Take a moment today and evaluate the answer to the question, “Who do you most admire?” Be honest. It’s easy to throw off platitudes. No one else but God is listening. Until we can face the evil we are imitating we cannot fully become the mirrors for Jesus.
Did you know that Paul was a small, in stature, man? In fact, some of the Corinthian leaders thought less of him because of this.
You are judging by appearances.
If anyone is confident that they
belong to Christ, they should
consider again that we belong to
Christ just as much as they do.2 Corinthians 10:7
We have the benefit of history and knowing the impact of the apostles, unlike the Corinthian leaders. But who have you looked at and thought, “She says some good stuff but physically she really puts me off.” That is exactly what they said to Paul. (2 Cor. 10:10). The name “Paul” even means “little one!” Yet we can all agree he was certainly mighty among men.
Is there something about you, physically, that is holding you back from fully doing God’s work? Are you uncomfortable being a greeter at church because of what people might think of you? Do you hide your smile because of your teeth? Do you not volunteer for something because of your weight? Here’s a confession I read that might help you:
“I proclaim that regardless of what I look like in the natural realm, I am a menace to the devil in the spiritual realm. In that sphere, I am anointed and powerful, with the ability to pull down strongholds from people’s lives and minds. I am so mighty in the Spirit that the devil and his forces flee when I resist them! I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!”