Humility Preserves

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I am reading through the book of Numbers during my time with the Lord.  I read a passage in Numbers 16 the other day that I do not remember ever reading or hearing about.  I grew up going to church Sunday morning, Sunday night, youth group on Wednesday, and AWANA.  I went to Bible College at Cedarville University and have been a part of numerous Bible studies.  Somehow, I have missed this story.  The humility and love for the people of Israel challenges and convicts me.

The story I am referring to follows a familiar story that many of us know:  the rebellion of Korah.  Korah was a son of Levi along with 250 chiefs of the congregation rose up before Moses questioning his authority.  Throughout the entire story of Korah’s rebellion Moses’ humility continues to shine through.  “When Moses heard it, he fell on his face.” (Numbers 16:4).  Later God spoke to Moses and told Moses to separate the congregation of Israel from Korah and all his followers and their families and again we see the humility of Moses, “And they (Moses and Aaron) fell on their faces and said, ‘O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” (Numbers 16:22)

The rest of this story ends with God opening the earth and Korah, his followers, and their families are swallowed up by the earth because of their pride.  What I do not remember ever reading was what happened after Korah and his family and followers were swallowed by the earth.  As you read these verses focus on the humility of Moses and Aaron.  We have seen it in the story of Korah, but Moses’ and Aaron’s humility continues to be what shines forth from them.

But on the next day all the congregation of the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and against Aaron, saying, “You killed the people of the Lord.”  And when the congregation had assembled against Moses and against Aaron, they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared.  And Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying “Get away from the midst of this congregation, thay I may consume them in a moment.”  And they (Moses and Aaron) fell on their faces.  And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer, and put fire on it from off the altar and lay incense on it and carry it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun.”  So Aaron took it as Moses said and ran into the midst of the assembly.  And behold, the plague had already begun among the people.  And he put on the incense and made atonement for the people.  And he stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was stopped.  Now those who died in the plague were 14,700, besides those who died in the affair of Korah.  And Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, when the plague was stopped. (Numbers 16:41-50).

God is ready to consume the Israelites with a plague because of their pride, and Moses and Aaron intercede for the people of Israel and stave off their complete destruction and annihilation.  God was showing forth His justice, and Moses and Aaron were seeking God’s mercy, which He granted.

Consider how this applies to our own lives.  Do we sit back and watch or do we intercede on behalf of others.  Moses and Aaron did not just intercede, they went “quickly” and “ran” to intercede on behalf of the people of Israel.

I ask myself, “Am I quick to intercede, or do I think it is their just punishment?”  God saw the sin of pride rampant in the camp of the Israelites, and the honor of humility in the hearts and actions of Aaron and Moses.  It’s easy to see in this story.

Can we see pride or humility in our own story?  The closer we walk with God on a daily basis the greater our humility becomes.

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The Yoke

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My Grandpa was a farmer.  The manual labor involved in preparing for the end product of a harvest is a monumental task.  When I was little, I went to stay with my grandparents for a few weeks in the summer.  One of the things I remember about that time was Grandma going out to the field and telling Grandpa how homesick I was and it was time to take me home.  That meant leaving the field with all the work that needed to be done and driving me from Minnesota to Vermont in order to take me home.  For a farmer, that was a huge sacrifice.  That is a very vivid memory for me that I have always cherished.

In the Bible, many different illustrations are used to assist us in understanding the principles that God wants us to live out in our daily lives.  One such illustration is the visual of a yoke.

 

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).

 

The yoke here does not refer to a yoke used for oxen (as I had originally thought) rather it refers to a person coming under another person’s leadership and following in their footsteps.  Jesus was speaking here and telling those that would listen and those of us that read these words to “come.”  Jesus will not hog tie us and make us follow Him, rather we must come on our own accord.  The reason we are to come to Him is because the yoke we are carrying is heavy and causes us much labor.  The reference here is to the religious leaders who were making the people of the day carry the heavy burden of the law.  Following laws out of fear is a heavy burden. These religious leaders seemed perfect on the outside, but on the inside their hearts were dark with the deceitfulness of sin.

When we take on the yoke of Jesus we can learn from Him.  What do we learn from Him?  We learn “gentleness and humility.”  Living a life filled with gentleness and humility is a much easier and the yoke is much lighter to carry.

During the time that Jesus walked the earth, the religious leaders had added extra rules to the laws that were already given to make sure that the previously recorded rules were not inadvertently disobeyed.    To illustrate how extreme it had gotten the religious leaders had 39 sub categories under “Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.”  Thirty-nine sub categories that helped define what work was and what work was not.  They were deceived into thinking that external perfection equaled holiness.

Jesus’ teaching was different.  He taught that it was not the externals that made the person holy rather it was what came from the heart.  What was in Jesus’ heart?  “Gentleness and lowliness.”

My grandpa was hard working.  My aunt calls it the legacy of the Lichtys.  Yet, when the rubber met the road, my grandpa was gentle and lowly.  As I started writing this, I was thinking about farming and these verses thinking that a yoke was a piece of farm equipment.  I remembered this story about my grandpa and wrote it down.  Then I went to study the meaning and history behind the yoke.  I never realized that the yoke here was not intended for oxen but rather a metaphor for discipleship.  A metaphor for following in the footsteps of a leader.  So Grandpa Lichty what you have taught me is to work hard, but do it with gentleness and humility remembering that what is important in the end is not the work, but the people.  This yoke is “easy, and this burden is light.”

What are you on a quest for?

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Have you ever been on a quest?  I love a good adventure.  I love to read about an adventure in a good book, watch a good adventure on TV, and hear about another’s true life adventure.  Life in its greatest sense is an adventure.

Life with God is an even greater adventure.

We never know when we trust Him where it will take us, who we will meet, or the challenges we will have to overcome.  Yet, so many refuse to trust Him because they are afraid of the risk.

Afraid of the unknown.  Afraid of the adventure that will lie before them.

Afraid of the cost.

We get into our comfort zones and refuse to leave them.  Not willing to “move from the boat to the water.”

We keep an unseen ledger sheet in our heads and our hearts and every cost is weighed out by what is to be gained.  Too many times our fear of the cost outweighs the risk of our faith.

What would it cost vs. what we would gain revolves in a never ending battle in our hearts and our heads.

So what if:

  1. We confessed our sins and our faults to others. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” (James 5:16).

When we have secret sins that would mortify anyone if they knew about them, do we confess them?  What would it cost us if we openly and honestly confessed our sins?  (It’s not like God is asking us to publish our sins on every form of media possible.  Rather, He is asking us to be open with a few people that will hold us accountable.  Plus, those we have hurt or offended must be included in this process so forgiveness can be granted).  We may lose our dignity.  We may lose our reputations.  We may lose favor.  When we keep on sinning or cover up the sin, it becomes a cancer that eats away at our very souls.  We never have the chance to be healed from the sin “that so easily entangles us” (Hebrews 12:1).  Confession brings about healing.

  1. We loved as Christ loved us. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (I Peter 4:8).

The cost of love is sometimes the highest cost of all.  “But God demonstrated His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).  The love of God cost Him His Son’s life.  Why?  “To cover a multitude of sins.”  (I Peter 4:8).  Jesus’ righteousness became our righteousness.  What if we loved someone else so much, our love covered their sins and changed them from an ugly cancer to a new creation in Christ?  We do not have the ability to save them, but our love may be what causes them to seek Christ.  Remember Jesus’ love for the woman at the well.  What about the woman caught in the act of adultery?  What about His faithful love for us?  What if our love covered a multitude of sin in someone’s life and they were radically changed?

  1. We had the faith of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O King.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17, 18).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had so much faith in who God was that they were willing to tell the King, “Whether we live or die, we believe that God is God.”  That is the faith of a mustard seed.  That is the faith that moves mountains.  Faith, that whether our prayer is answered how we pray it or not “Whether we live or die,” still believes that God is who He says He is.  Then thanking Him for the work that He is doing in our lives through every situation, we resolve to walk through faith “making known His deeds among the people.” (Psalm 105:1).  Sometimes deliverance does not come the way we pray, because God is doing a different work in us than answering our prayers the way we pray them would allow.  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were delivered from the fiery furnace.  It was many years, before Joseph saw the hand of God in the situation he had been placed. Yet, he never changed who he stood with…the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Through all the trials that Joseph endured, God changed him.  The boy who boastfully proclaimed his dream of ruling over his brothers and strutting around like a proud peacock in his coat of many colors was transformed through his years in Egypt into a humble man who was able to confidently say, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:20).  The cost of faith is great.  We may never know like Joseph the good that God can bring from an evil situation, but we must always be confident that if we are walking by faith and able to pass the tests of morality and humility as Joseph did, God will mean it for good.  We must have faith!

  1. We had the meekness/humility of Moses. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“Now the man Moses was very meek (humble), more than all people who were on the face of the earth.” (Numbers 12:3)

Humility often costs us our pride.  We may have to confess our sins.  We may have to admit someone else is right.  We may have to swallow our pride and say that both opinions are right, but I choose to let your opinion or your way stand.  Humility is costly, but pride is costlier.  Humility may cause momentary pain, but pride usually costs us relationships.  Look at the cost of Satan’s pride.  Look at the cost of Nebuchadnezzar’s pride.  Look at the cost of Peter’s pride. (Before the cock crows three times, you will deny Me.)  Humility causes momentary pain with long term benefits.  Pride causes momentary satisfaction with long term pain…not just for us but for those we lord our pride over.  Will humility be your banner or will pride be your grave marker?

  1. We had the courage of Peter. What would it cost us?  What would we gain?

“And Peter answered him, ‘Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’” (Matthew 14:28).

For each of these things – confession of sin, self-sacrificing love, faith, and meekness – courage must be used to execute them.  The boat seemed safe.  Ask the other disciples if they felt safe in the boat?  Ask Peter if his risk of fear vs. courage was worth the sensation of looking at Jesus while walking on the water?

We are all on a journey, a quest.  We all must answer the questions: What is the cost?  What is the gain?  The journey with Him is the choice we must all make.  What are the things we must pack as we go on this quest of following God?  Will you take with you confession of sin (vulnerability and authenticity), self-sacrificing love, faith, humility, and courage? Or will you take secrecy of hidden sin that eats away like a cancer, selfishness, doubt, pride, and fear?  Will you reach for momentary pain and long term benefits or momentary satisfaction and long term pain?  Only you can make the choice.

A Humble Prayer

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In the deep recesses of our hearts there is something we all want.  That thing that we want, that we yearn for, that we are fixated on shows who we really are.  When we are by ourselves and our minds and our hearts have a minute to dream or wish for “something,” our true character is revealed.  That dream for a new car, a new house, or a whole new wardrobe shows our materialistic side. Is that what we dream about in those solitary moments of thought?  Maybe it is a better relationship with our kids, our husband, or a friend?  It could be a more influential position at work or in the church that we fixate on that will bring about a level of happiness we cannot seem to find in the current position we hold. It seems no matter the walk of life we are in, we always want what we do not have.  What happens when we get “it?”  The promotion, the new house, or that dream vacation…what happens?  We are not satisfied and we want something else.

 

Hannah (I Samuel 1) wanted a child.  She was the favorite wife of Elkanah, and he lavished her with gifts “and he loved her.” (I Samuel 1:5).  Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah, had children and she made sure she reminded Hannah of this fact. Peninnah would “provoke Hannah grievously to irritate her” (I Samuel 1:6).  This situation would not have made for a very peaceful domesticate life.  Scripture does not indicate that Hannah retaliated back to Peninnah by telling her that Elkanah loved her more.  Hannah could have done this.

 

Rather than complain or mock Peninnah in retaliation, Hannah prayed.  She went to the only One who could remedy the situation.  Hannah’s prayer to the Lord is a testament of her character, her wisdom, and her relationship with God.  “And she vowed a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.’” (I Samuel 1:11).  Hannah was willing to give back to God what He gave to her.   She realized she was completely dependent on God for this answer to her prayer.

 

God blessed Hannah with a son, Samuel.  Hannah, true to her word gave Samuel back to God and the Lord blessed Hannah with more children.  There is a contrast in character between Hannah and Peninnah.  Peninnah mocked Hannah, and Hannah offered up no retaliation.  Hannah realized her dependence on God and went to Him humbly.  Her interaction with Eli also showed her humility despite the fact that he falsely accused her of being drunk.  She did not retaliate, but out of her humility she responded to Eli.

 

What do we see in Hannah’s character?  She was humble.  She took her request to God.  She was willing to use that answer to prayer as a testament to God.  She willingly gave back to God what He had given to her. When we pray, what is our motivation?  Is the answer to the prayer selfish or can we use the answer to the prayer as a testament to what God has done?  When we pray and God gives us what we asked, do we glorify Him and tell others what He has done? Or do we selfishly hold onto the answer not willing to be a spokesman for God?

 

We must be like Hannah and bring our requests to God, and be willing to give the answer back to God.  We must do this with an attitude of humility.

PATIENCE

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PATIENCE-cheerful endurance or tolerating difficulties or delay without getting angry.  As a society, and even in our Christian society we tolerate impatience.  I believe it is one of the foremost acceptable sins that is tolerated as part of an individual’s character.  We enjoy being in the presence of a patient person, yet if someone is impatient we tolerate it.  I have spent the last 24 hours considering patience, reading Scripture about patience, and being convicted about my impatience.  I had to ask myself, “What causes me to be impatient?”  After studying Scripture and spending time in contemplative thought with the Lord, I realized that my pride is what causes me to be impatient.  My needs or schedule causes me to be impatient because I think that what I am doing is more important than what anyone else is doing. I get behind a car that is dawdling or wait at an excessively long red light, I begin to get impatient.  Someone does not perform a task or take care of something the way I think they should, I get impatient.  So the secret for acquiring patience is not by asking God to give us patience and give it to us right now.  Rather, it is dying to ourselves.

 

Humility is the key to patience.  It is putting the needs of someone else ahead of our own.  It is walking in another’s shoes and realizing that the trials they have are just as difficult as our own.  As Jesus walked the earth, He knew what was coming-His death on a cross.  Yet, this did not overshadow His earthly ministry with His followers.  When His disciples wanted the seats of pre-eminence in the kingdom, He did not lash out at them.  He patiently answered their question.  On Jesus’ way to raise Jairus’s daughter from the dead, He took some time to heal the woman with the issue of blood.  He did not rush past her knowing He had more important business to accomplish.  He made her feel like she was the most important person at that moment.  Patience, not our favorite quality, yet Jesus time and time again emulated for us what patience looks like lived out on a daily basis.  Patience does not come from being good at waiting, rather patience comes from being good at denying ourselves.  Remember, we do not truly understand another person’s life unless we have walked a mile in their shoes.  So before we fly off the handle at someone for their inconvenience in our lives or their seeming ineptness, walk in their shoes.  Stop and share a word of cheer rather than a word of irritation.  That word may change the situation for everyone involved.

 

James 1:4 “But let patience have her perfect work that you may be complete, lacking nothing.”

 

Danielle gave me a lovely gift for Christmas.  It is a cutting board with the “recipe for a good Mom” written on it.  On it are various quantities of a good Mom, and of course the first one is 2 cups of patience.  I told Danielle that needs to be changed to 2 teaspoons for me.  My goal is not patience but rather humility hoping that through my humility patience will be produced.  Yet, my goal is not really humility, rather it is seeing myself for who I truly am in relation to God.  I am a sinner saved by God’s grace deserving nothing but hell, yet receiving eternal life.

Humility

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Humility.  What comes to mind when this word is mentioned?  Who comes to mind when this word is mentioned?  Maybe the famous song by Mac Davis comes to mind, “O Lord, it’s hard to be humble, when you’re perfect in every way.  I can’t wait to look in the mirror.  I get better looking each day.  To know me is to love me…”  I am pretty confident that God is not pleased with this level of humility, nor are we endearing to those around us when we think and act this way.

 

Humility is one of those qualities that is a product.  It is not like patience or kindness that we must make a conscious effort to work on in our lives.  Humility is not calling attention to our acts of service or the many qualities that we may have.  According to I Peter 5:5 “…Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  This tells us that our humility comes with a reward from God, grace.  Rather than clamoring and clawing our way to get what we feel we deserve through the boasting of our many good deeds, our many fine virtues, or our indestructible character; we live our lives in humility and God will give us grace.  Would we not much rather receive the good things we do not deserve (the definition of grace), rather than fight our way to the things we think we deserve?

 

I love Christmas.  I love the songs of Christmas, the Christmas books, Christmas baking, special Christmas food, etc.  One of the things I especially enjoy is the thoughtfulness at Christmas.  I enjoy thinking of a gift to give someone that totally surprises them and brings joy to their face and that warm fuzzy feeling in their heart.  This is what God’s grace is like.  He gives us what we do not deserve, and when we receive it we are even more humbled that God thought enough of us to give us this gift, even though we do not deserve it.

 

So how do we go about putting humility into our lives?  We cannot be humble if we keep expecting God to give us any type of grace.  It is not going to God and saying, “I was humble in this particular situation, so what do You have for me?”  As I Peter 5:5 says we must “clothe ourselves with humility.”  It becomes a part of our everyday attire that we do not think about we just are.  C.S. Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  Rather than put yourself down when someone gives you a compliment, say “thank-you” and give God the glory.  A humble person does not draw attention to themselves, yet after we have been with a person with true humility we are a different person.  They left a trail of joy, a smile on our faces, and that warm fuzzy feeling in our hearts.

 

It’s easy at Christmas to think of ourselves less, tis the season.  What about when Christmas is over and the doldrums of January hit?  True humility is not fickle, changing with the wind, rather it is a becoming outfit that when practiced in a truly godly way leaves smiles and tears of joy.  Be encouraged.  God’s grace is a much greater gift than anything we could demand ourselves.

Humility and Honor, or Pride and Destruction

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Esther 6

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Proverbs 16:18).  Haman has built himself up in his own eyes and is preparing for the demise of the only one who will not honor him as he feels he deserves.  Honor should not be forced, but should be given to whomever is worthy to receive it.  There are times that people do not deserve honor based on their character but receive honor based on their position such as David with King Saul.  Haman being in such a high position in the kingdom of Persia felt he was owed this honor by all at all times.

God in His infinite wisdom brings about a change in the direction of Haman’s plans by causing King Ahasuerus to not be able to sleep.  Having just finished a lovely meal with the Queen and Haman, he could not go to sleep.  So while Haman had his gallows constructed for Mordecai, the King had “the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, read before the king.” (Esther 6:1).  This book recorded the events that had taken place in the kingdom that were notable and praiseworthy.  In essence, it was the kingdom’s journal.

As the chronicle was read, the story of Mordecai saving the life of the King by overhearing the plot against his life was recited.  The king stopped the reader and asked if Mordecai had been honored for this act of faithfulness, and following the hand of God the act was not rewarded since God had plans for the reward to happen on this day.  Haman shows up in the outer court at just the right moment and the King desires him to enter so he can ask him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?”  (Esther 6:6).  Again God’s timing is perfect.  Haman can imagine no one more deserving of the King’s honor than himself so he thinks about how he would want to be honored and shares this with the King.  The King thought it was a marvelous idea so he tells Haman, “Hurry, take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the King’s gate.  Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.”

Haman had gone to the King to ask permission to hang Mordecai on his 75 foot gallows but instead he must parade Mordecai through the streets on the King’s horse with the king’s robe as he shouts, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”  If Haman knew this honor was not for him he might have suggested something a little less ostentatious.  He had to lead the man he wants to kill through the streets honoring him.  What a change of events, yet God has His hand in all situations.

Mordecai did not go back to the palace after this mini parade, but rather went home and told his wife and his friends all that had happened.  As he sits in the shadow of the gallows he has built for Mordecai, his wife and friends inform him that his future is not as bright as it once was.  “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” (Esther 6:13).  Though God’s name is not mentioned in the book of Esther, the hand of God is seen not just by those of us that can read the story in its entirety but also by those that are a part of the story as it unfolds.  It seems Zeresh and Haman’s wise men see the finger of God moving the pieces of this story before their eyes.  God works in wonderful ways.  Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it is little steps at a time until the big picture is revealed.  As we submit to God in our lives and willingly follow His leading in our lives, the picture becomes clearer.

As Haman was hanging his head in defeat listening to his wife and friends, the King’s eunuch comes to get Haman for the feast with the King and the Queen.  Haman must have been late, maybe he forgot about his feast with the King and the Queen, or maybe he did not want to go now that his honor had been stripped by Mordecai the Jew.  Whatever happened, the eunuchs hurried him along to the feast.

Questions:

  1. What did the King say about Mordecai in Esther 6:10?
  1. The King obviously knew where Mordecai worked and his nationality. Go back to Esther 3:8-11 and reread what Haman presented to the King.  What are your observations about the passage?
  1. Haman pushed his political agenda and his deep seated prejudice with the King. Since the King had no other wise people he consulted, the entire Jewish race would be wiped out without the King even realizing who was being annihilated.  What does this scenario teach about having wise counselors, mentors, and friends to help guide our decisions?
  1. How do these verses apply to this situation with the King, Haman, and the edict against the Jews? Proverbs 3:35, Proverbs 12:15, Proverbs 14:16.
  1. Once the mini parade was over where did Haman go? Where did Mordecai go? (Esther 6:12)
  1. What does this show about Mordecai’s character?