Humility = Heroism

Man-of-Steel-2013-Movie

Humility is often viewed as negative or weak in our society. It’s all about the big “You” – standing up for yourself, using people to get to the next rung in your path to power and success, exploiting others’ weaknesses to reach your goals, doing things when they only promote your good, and even only going out of your way to help someone when it’s convenient for you.

Do you really think people in positions of great power are the happiest and most secure? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying people who are in positions of authority or power aren’t humble. There are some great leaders.

As Ken Blanchard says:

Humility doesn’t mean you think less of yourself. It means you think of yourself less.

Have you ever stopped to think about how humble of some of your favorite heroes/heroines in history – even comic book heroes? They laid down their lives for others and put their needs ahead of their own personal gain. Yet, there was a joy there. You admire them, even seek to be like them.

Humility is beautiful. It calls us to heroism. Not a heroism that puffs up or purposely calls attention to itself. It’s full of grace and thanksgiving. For Christians, it’s a recognition of what God in Christ has done for us “while we were yet sinners.” From that realization, it’s a heart full of love and obedience in living out what we’ve been called to do – to love God and love others (1 John 4:21, Mark 12:30-31). *As my friend, Billy, pointed out and summed up what I was getting at:

All heroes are a shadow of Christ.

Humility stems from love. And love makes you go out of your way for the other person. It’s grace given to you that leaves you shaking your head in glorious astonishment. I’ve seen it again and again in my own life and relationships, from my boyfriend, family and friends. It never ceases to blow my mind and riddle me with great joy.

This thought, and now post, actually stemmed from the movie “Emma” (from the book written by Jane Austen), when Mr. Knightly is proposing to Emma. They’ve been best friends for years, but a set of circumstances drives both of them to realize they love each other, but the other doesn’t know how the other feels. But just this scene, and what he did to “win” her, just evoked that strong imagery of how humility is heroic, romantic and beautiful, especially in relationships. It’s the heart and action behind the words that give the words that much more intimacy and power. Such grace.

Emma: But I feel so full of error, so mistaken in my make up to deserve you.

Mr. Knightley: And what of my flaws? I’ve humbled you, and I’ve lectured you, and you have born as no one could have born it. Perhaps it is our imperfections that makes us so perfect for one another.

*Added in later to original post.

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Once Upon A Time

I may be accused of bending too far over in this post, but I’m a romantic at heart, plus I love analogies that can be used to point us to our condition and who we’d be apart from Christ.

That being said, I’ve recently become a big fan of the TV show “Once Upon a Time.” I only heard of its existence within the past few months, thanks to my mom. Basically, it’s about all the fairy tale characters you read about and saw in movies as a child, but they all interact with and live in the same land. The evil queen (from “Snow White”) terrorizes them, but there’s a lot more to her than meets the eye. She seeks vengeance by putting a curse on them, which sends them to our world; a town named Storybrooke. There they are given false memories and don’t remember their world or real past (except of the evil queen, who keeps her memory and is the mayor). Snow White and Prince Charming have a baby girl, Emma, right as the curse is arriving. They stick her in this magical wardrobe, which will only transport one person to our world. They believed that on her 28th birthday, she would return and save them from this curse.

There’s a lot of actors in it (Ginnifer Goodwin, included) that I really like, and it’s always cool and soothing to see so many familiar faces in one TV series. Plus, who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? The way their stories intertwine is so intriguing and makes for a suspenseful, fun watch.

As I quickly made my way through the whole first season, my overactive mind kept finding these analogies within the stories to us and our relationship to God, and His plan for us. Obviously the curse the evil queen cast on all the fairy tale characters that plucked them out of their world and made them forget who they were, reminded me of because of sin were were cast out of the Garden of Eden and we were blind to our need to salvation. But because our Savior, Jesus Christ came and lived the perfect live and died the perfect death (for our sins), and because God chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, He has allowed the Holy Spirit to open our eyes, so that we are no longer under the curse, but are free from it; although we are trapped in these bodies and in this world until Christ comes again, as He has promised. And much how Charming and Snow sacrificed raising their baby and put her in an enchanted tree wardrobe, God sacrificed His only Son by allowing Him to die on the cross in order to save and reconcile us to Him. Of course, Snow and Charming didn’t have to let their baby die, and none of these fairy tale analogies carry any weight in comparison to what God in Christ has done. I just find it fascinating and beautiful when secular stuff still points back to a higher power, and our need for a savior.

The Bigger Picture

“Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and given him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the ‘new wonderful good society’ which shall now be Rome’s, interpreted to mean ‘more money, more ease, more security, and more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.'” – Marcus Tulius Cicero

That about sums it up. I’m sure everyone is tired of all the turmoil and gnashing of teeth that’s gone on during this 2012 election. I know I’ve avoided it like the plague. While I made sure to be in tune and aware, I didn’t wish to engage in pointless fights. While I have many opinions and concerns – dear Lord, I hope most of it is unfounded – I will share with you one conclusion. Perhaps this is more of an insight as to the condition of the human heart: We are short-sighted and care only about instant gratification – not about the future consequences or bigger picture.

This is true regardless of who we put in office. People tend to vote selfishly. Regardless of these being troubling times for some and happy times for others, let us remember that the victory doesn’t belong to Obama or to the Americans who put him there. It belongs to Christ. He has already won. Place your faith and expectations in Him, not on who’s in office (yes, that IS important and I’m not belittling it). His “Change” happens in the hearts of men and women. He will save and has saved His people – His nation. We may not see it here on earth, just as the disciples and others expectations of who Christ was and what He was going to do looked vastly different in their minds. They thought Christ was going to save them from Rome, from taxes; that He was going to sit on an earthly throne. Praise the Lord that He sees past our fading and frail plans. Go “Forward” with that joy, foundation and hope.

A Few Problems With Us and American Christianity

We are so eager to go out and create a legacy of some sort, to change lives with the gospel, to minister effectively, pray for revival, and to make systems better. All of these are wonderful, godly desires – if they’re from the heart. But (and I ask myself this same question) how many of you are doing that SAME thing, on a SMALLER scale, with the family, loved ones, friends, bank teller, hair stylist, recluse neighbor, etc. in your lives? How can God entrust us with the bigger things in life if we can’t be faithful in the little things He’s so abundantly blessed us with and put in front of us? Or how can we even be as effective? Food for thought.

On both a bigger and smaller scale, as I mentioned earlier, these are wonderful, God-given desires. But, we have to guard the intentions of our hearts. Because anything beautiful can become twisted. We see it everyday around us – this tendency to worship the creation rather than the Creator. We all have this struggle between being Pharisaical and pursuing/living out holiness.

Each of us, to varying degrees, is a Pharisee. We’re religious hypocrites. We’re assured of our own righteousness because of what we do and do not do, instead of what Jesus had done for us. Anytime we read a verse about the Pharisees, we need to realize that they were the ‘Bible guys’ – they were the serious, devoted Biblicists….

Mark Driscoll

It’s not just about doing, but why we do it. Are you seeking to do good for others and drown yourself in ministry because you’ll feel better about yourself, out of duty or because you feel you’ll earn more of God’s love, grace and forgiveness? Are you doing it to prove a point or prove yourself to others?

That is such an impossible feat and crushing goal/burden. You’re doing it from a fear – and as Scripture tells us, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18 NKJV)

You can’t earn any more or any less of God’s love and grace (insert Romans 6:1 here). He paid it in full on the cross. It is finished. There’s such freedom in that to then to fall more in love with Christ and joyfully live out and serve others with the purpose of showing them a glimpse of His perfect love and holiness.

Look at how Jesus did community and missions with every kind of person. One of the main problems with the church in America today is that we teach people to be narrow-minded with all these “do’s” and don’ts” instead of showing and teaching them from the Bible what it looks like to pursue holiness on the straight and narrow path. “For the gate is narrow and the way is HARD that leads to LIFE, and those who find it are FEW” (Matt. 7:14). On that note, we often want to interpret Christian living through our American lifestyle. Or we’ve been told that Jesus is like Tinker Bell – just sprinkling the love dust – and that He wants our happiness in the way of health, wealth and prosperity. Many are turned off and disillusioned by this lie that looks “good.” We’ve managed to Americanize “Christianity.” We see in churches, especially in the Bible belt that it’s become our social feel-good-about-my-spirituality-and-meet-people club. But on the flip side of that – we can’t become bitter, blame or discredit entirely the effect of the church in people’s lives. Who are we to play God in that sweeping determination? And we most certainly shouldn’t use it to fuel our pride and justify ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but more and more I realize how I am my greatest hinderance and enemy to pursuing Christ and Christ-likeness. And the longer I live and am a Christian, the less I feel I know and progressed. I pray you feel the urgency and call — to then pray for more of the Holy Spirit and live it out. It’s HARD. The apostle Paul said he had to beat his body black and blue (not sure if that’s literal or figuratively, but you get the point). I pray that I will discipline my heart to look at every choice/action/thought (from the smallest to the biggest) through the lens of eternity and not from my short-sighted, selfish one.

What is it God Requires of Us?

Every so often I will get these emails, texts, random articles or funnies pulled from a Dilbert calendar from my dad. I treasure all of these things, because dad and I are in that group of people (you know if this is you) who love being thought of in these small ways; and are moved, be it tears or laughter, by the heart behind the gesture and word content. I love it when my dad shares his heart with and confides in me, or just wants to vent to me. This is one email that I had to share with everyone:

I want to share a quote from John Owen from his book, Grace and the Duty of Being Spiritually Minded.  I think it is powerful, searching, shocking, frightening.  Perhaps, this is because I have just about finished reading through it and I know the context of this quote.  I hope no one will read it and dismissively say, “Yep, I know that.”  Or, I hope no one will read it and say, “What a legalist he was!”  However, I have no doubt many will want to argue with Owen, both because of the rigor of his Christianity and the unrelenting way he searches our heart.  In our undoctrinal, antinomian age where superficial knowledge of the Scriptures abound and deep, careful analysis is discouraged, I would only ask one thing of those who will disagree with him:  On whatever basis one disagrees with Owen, he or she must bring forth a biblical, exegetical argument that is equal to and refutes what Owen says.  It is of no account for someone to disagree with Owen, who was perhaps the greatest theological mind of any age, just because they do not like what he says.  If they say that being spiritually minded is not what Owen says it is, let them show us from Scripture what it is then that we may prove ourselves by their standard.  Let them disprove him from Scripture.  Here is the quote:

To “walk with God,” to “live unto him,” is not merely to be found in an abstinence from outward sins, and in the performance of outward duties, though with diligence in the multiplication of them.  All this may be done upon such principles, for such ends, with such a frame of heart as to find no acceptance with God.  It is our hearts that he requires, and we can no way give them unto him but by our affections and holy thoughts of him with delight.  This it is to be spiritually minded, this it is to walk with God.  Let no man deceive himself; unless he thus abound in holy thoughts of God, unless our meditation of him be sweet unto us, all that we else pretend unto will fail us in the day of our trial.

In his book, he is expounding Romans 8:5-6:  “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit.  For to be fleshly minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace….”  Understand, Owen is drawing a sharp and eternal distinction – as does Paul in this passage – between those who are fleshly-minded and thus unsaved and those who are spiritually minded and thus saved.  Owen’s point is that to be saved is to be spiritually minded, which means that our thought-life will be much engaged in meditating upon God – His person and His works – if we are spiritually minded, i.e., saved.  Being “spiritually minded” for Owen is no passive, inert idea or abstract status.  He argues (rightly, I think) that being spiritually minded refers to the actual exercise of our minds as renewed by and under the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He uses Paul’s teaching of “spiritual-mindedness” as an intensely practical test of our profession of faith.  He asks some pretty straightforward questions like, “How much of your time do you spend thinking about/meditating on God/Christ?”  In the last sentence of the above quote he is reiterating a point he has often made in his book that no matter what someone says or does they are deceiving themselves as to their standing in Christ if they do not “abound in holy thoughts of God” and “our mediation of him be sweet unto us.”  Owen’s Christianity is muscular, rigorous, intensely challenging, humbling.  And, I must add, right on as far as I can tell.

Don’t Let Discouragement Choke You

 

Jon Bloom, president of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched in 1994, wrote on a topic that, as Aragorn said, “would take the heart of me.”

I especially needed to hear it today as I am about to embark on my first ever bike “race” Hotter ‘n Hell this weekend. I must confess I’m nervous for several reasons: mostly because I’ve never done it before; afraid I will get on the wrong course; someone will collide into me and something bloody happen; bonking (when you’re body is zapped of everything and you just collapse). But out of all of it there’s an underlying fear and prayer: that I won’t become frustrated and impatient with myself (it will project to others around me too) at my lack of skills/speed. I will have to fight feeling discouragement. It all boils down to faith and perspective. I need to honestly realize where I am as a beginner cyclist, and realize I have a lot to work towards. I don’t need to beat myself up that I “suck,” but take heart and realize that I can only get better with time and practice. I also need to enjoy myself and realize how I have progressed under Chris’ wonderful, patient training. Oh, and I need to fight against my stupid pride and just accept that there will ALWAYS be someone better than me, and that’s OK.

We all face discouragement and we tend to fuel it with doubts and frustration and impatience – a lack of faith. How do you cope with yours? Read Bloom’s article below:

Discouragement is a temptation “common to man” (1 Corinthians 10:13). And in dealing with it sometimes we need tenderness and other times we need toughness. But either way discouragement is not to be tolerated or wallowed in. It’s to be fought.

If we linger in discouragement it can be costly. Its sense of defeat and hopelessness saps us of energy and vision. It can consume a lot of time. It can keep us from doing what we need to do because we don’t want to face it. And it can even be contagious, weakening others’ faith.

When we feel discouraged we want comfort, which is right to feel. But the comforts we often turn to are ways to avoid our fears rather than ways to muster our courage to face and overcome them. When this happens discouragement simply becomes sinful indulgence in unbelief, no different than indulging in lust or anger or other sins of unbelief.

Jesus does not want us to be discouraged. In fact, he commands us not to be. Listen to what Jesus says to his disciples just before what probably was the most discouraging experience of their lives — his brutal death: “Let not your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1, emphasis added).

Note Jesus’s words, “let not.” These are not merely comforting; they are commands. He knew they would be tempted to fear. Things were going to look very bad, like the whole mission was imploding. What were they to do instead of being afraid? Believe! “Believe in God; believe also in me.”

In other words, “Don’t let your hearts be ruled by what you see. Let them be ruled by what I promise you.” And that’s what he’s saying to you and me too.

What’s tempting you to discouragement today? Are you having a hard time believing that God really will work for good what looks so bad to you (Romans 8:28)?

Then it’s time to fight, not pout or shrink. Think of discouragement as your faith being choked. When you’re choking, it’s not the time to plop down in front of the TV with a plate of comfort food to medicate your melancholy. You need to dislodge the obstruction so you can breathe. You need to fight for life. You may need to get someone to give you the Heimlich.

Go get encouragement — faith-fueled courage. Don’t let discouragement choke you. It’s dislodged by believing promises. God gave us the Bible so that “through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4). It says amazing things like:

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?… No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. (Romans 8:35,37)

Don’t let your heart be ruled by what you see. Let it be ruled by what Jesus promises you.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke

Believing is Seeing

“We must get over wanting to be needed – this is the hardest of all temptations to resist.” – C.S. Lewis

Today was just a C.S. Lewis type of day (note: after writing this whole thing out, I discovered all the quotes I found somehow fit perfectly within and complemented my post). It all started when I was sent this quote as a way of encouragement:

Faith is the art of holding on to things in spite of your changing moods and circumstances.

I had read/heard of the quote before, but it had slipped my mind. Then in my Bible reading plan (Soul Detox from YouVersion) complemented that quote when I was assigned to read and study Psalm 27. Verse 14 stood out to me:

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

I don’t know about you, but some days in my heart it feels that the world is ending, even though, in reality, the sun is still shining. I grappled with this verse. Ok, Lord, I can wait, which is agony enough, but “be strong”? There are so many times I feel so weak that I feel I’ll snap in two. I’m ashamed to even write that, knowing my “hardships” (see, I even have to put that in quotes) are minute. But then I realized in really chewing on this verse that waiting on the Lord – trusting in His faithfulness, having an eternal/godly perspective, clinging to Him, basing your hope and joy in Him – DOES produce a strength you cannot conjure on your own. It’s a different kind of strength than we typically think of.

Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd.

It’s ironic – sometimes I have to write these blog posts out to realize the depth of my sin, the narrowness of my perspective and my lack of faith. But on the flip-side of that I see the humbling mercy of God in Christ, the riches of His love, His pursuit of me despite my wanderings and how much He has blessed me with. It’s so easy to fall into being self-centered – some struggle with that enslaving downfall more than others. Let me encourage you, as I encourage myself, to strive for holiness in seeking to fulfill the Great Commandment (Matt. 22:37-39):

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Because I find the times in which I serve and love on others, some of the most beautiful and richest moments of my life because my focus is no longer on me.

This is one of the miracles of love: It gives a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

So, if you think about it upside down (which is really right side up) you’re really showing yourself some love….and I want to be careful here….this is what I don’t mean….I don’t mean that you should love others to get something from them. What I meant by that statement is despite what the world and your sinful side tells you about how you shouldn’t do this or that for a person or they deserve this or that and not your love/grace…..DON’T listen to those lies. Know that you may suffer and maybe you won’t “gain” anything on earth, but I’d encourage you to look at Christ’s life on earth and what you have to gain eternally.

Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even agony into a glory.

Perspective is such a key word here. It’s SO hard and I know I fail often. Don’t beat yourself when you fall down. Know His mercies are new every morning and that He has already forgiven it when He died for you (quickly insert Romans 6:1 here).

It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.

Let me leave you with this one last encouragement and commandment from Hebrews 12:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…

Shalom,

Rachel B. Duke