Posts Tagged With: humility

Christ Meets Us in the Mundane (Micah 5:2)

“But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2).

“Adoration of the Shepherds,” by Gerard van Honthorst (1592-1656), public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

God could operate from a position of power, but often He does not. He frequently finds a way to accomplish His goals by using the most insignificant, unlikely, unimpressive people and circumstances.

When the ancient Israelites requested a king, God initially chose Saul, a “nobody” from the most insignificant tribe in Israel.

When Saul disobeyed God, He replaced him with David—a ruddy “pretty-boy” shepherd from a small town in Judah. Once again, God chose a nobody to accomplish His goals.

When God became man, He could have chosen to be an earthly king. He had already promised to bless the nations of the world through the descendants of Abraham. So, instead of being born as an earthly emperor in Rome, God came to Judea—an insignificant nation within the Roman empire.

God did not even choose to be born to a prominent Jewish family. Sure, He was born into royal blood—as a descendant of David—but his family was a lesser branch of the royal family tree. Instead of noble power-brokers who rubbed shoulders with the elite in Jerusalem, Jesus’ mother and stepfather were poor folks who struggled to survive.

Photo taken by Michael E. Lynch at RXR Plaza, Uniondale, NY, December 17, 2016.

Perhaps this tells us something about what Jesus valued. He could have chosen to cling to any of His divine qualities. He could have decided to live a life of earthly power and authority that reflected His divine sovereignty. He could have chosen the life of a scribe or Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin, flaunting earthly wisdom and education as a shadow of His divine omniscience (all-knowing).

Instead, if there was any divine attribute He chose to reflect for His earthly life, it was His role as Creator. He spent His first 30 earthly years as a carpenter: designing, building, and creating things.

At any rate, He did not choose the world’s ways to save humanity. He did not seek earthly power, prestige, or riches. He did not seek a comfortable life. He came to a tiny town, to an insignificant family, doing a job that gained neither wealth nor a chapter in the history books. While it was not the worldly way to influence people and change the world, though, it was His Father’s way to change the world.

On Christmas, we celebrate a King who was born in a stable, slept in a manger, spent almost His entire life in a country the size of New Jersey, and was brutally tortured and executed. This is not the way people would choose to change the world. We might try to use strength and power to change the world. Jesus chose love, humility, and obedience to His Father’s will.

He met us in the most mundane moments of life. This truth is lost in our Christmas celebration, with the flashing lights, shiny decorations, and feel-good television specials. We seek to find Him in the exciting moments, but He comes to meet us, and calls us to follow Him, in the ordinary moments of life. May this Christmas draw our hearts beyond the celebration and pageantry to the power of an ordinary life saturated with Christ’s presence.

May God bless you and those you love both during your Christmas celebration and throughout the coming year. May the love of God and presence of Jesus in your life bring joy and peace throughout the coming year.

Feel free to share your thoughts about Christ’s birth and Christmas by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons, deity of Christ, Holidays | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

“Love One Another” (John 13:34-35)

I dedicate this post to the memory of my mother, Rosemarie Lynch, who went to her eternal rest on November 6. Mom overcame many challenges in her life, but still found ways to be a blessing to others.

Photo by Wingchi Poon, under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35; all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible).

Jesus told His disciples that the mark of a true disciple would be love for others. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”: not if you have great theology, preach to a lot of people, can quote the Bible in your sleep, listen to gospel music, etc. Love for other people, especially other Christians, proves our love for Jesus. (A sad indictment of many Christians is their eagerness to say “They’re not real Christians” about people they disagree with.)

Romans 12:10 says the following:

“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor….”

Genuine Christian love places the needs of others above oneself, particularly above one’s wants and convenience.

Christian love is sacrificial. Jesus said we should love one another as He has loved us. How did He love us? Most notably, by dying for our sins. He gave everything for us. Our need for forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life superseded His desire for earthly comfort. We do not show our love just by enjoying the company of others when it is convenient. True Christian love demands that we go out on a limb, care for the needs of those who are hurting, even when it means we may have to forego some of our desires. Jesus calls us to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, provide clothing to the naked, care for the sick, and visit prisoners. Are we answering His call with loving action, or do we just pray for these people, hoping God will send someone else to make real sacrifices?

Christian love upholds the dignity of others. Some people obsess about power, control, and authority in relationships. One person is “higher up” than another. Too often, sermons about family focus on a hierarchy: The husband is the head of the wife, the parents are over the children, and so on. The Bible justifies some of this. However, it is an incomplete perspective. Without love, it can be dangerous. Husbands, love your wives; wives, love your husbands. Love your children; do not embitter them. Give preference to one another. Show compassion.

Love, respect, and dignity should guide our relationships, not control. Such guidelines should govern all of our relationships, whether in the family, the church, or elsewhere.

Christian love is not always easy. Jesus does not call us to love those who are easy to love; almost anybody can do that! We are called to imitate God and His Son, Jesus Christ. This calls us to love others as Jesus loved us: completely, sacrificially, imparting life and hope to others.

I would like to hear from you. How do you seek God when He seems distant or it looks like He is allowing you to suffer? Share your thoughts or suggestions by clicking the “Leave a comment” link below.

Copyright © 2021 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Christian Life | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Feast of St. Andrew: Drawing People to Jesus

“The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas’ (which means Peter)” (John 1:35-42; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Image by Dimitris Vetsikas from Pixabay

One odd irony about the traditional church calendar is the placement of the Feast of St. Andrew, on November 30. Many years, it occurs right after the First Sunday of Advent, making it the first official feast day on the church calendar. However, when Advent begins in December, it becomes the last feast day on the calendar. This can be a little reminder that “the last shall be first and the first shall be last” (Matthew 20:16).

Eastern Orthodox Churches refer to Andrew as the “Protokletos,” meaning the “first-called,” because he was the first apostle to follow Jesus. (Many Bible scholars think that the other disciple in John 1:35-42 was John, but the title still goes to Andrew, who is mentioned by name.) Despite being one of the first men to follow Jesus, Andrew drifts into the background.

Usually, when Andrew is mentioned in the Gospels, he is bringing people to Jesus (John 1:40). First, he introduced his brother Simon to Jesus, who gave him a new name, Peter. Simon Peter, of course, would become the chief apostle after Jesus’ ascension.

Later, Andrew would introduce Jesus to the boy who had five loaves and two fish (John 6:8-9), thereby playing a key role in the feeding of the 5000. A few days before the crucifixion, in John 12:20-22, Andrew and Philip brought some Greeks to meet Jesus.

That sums up the life and ministry of Andrew. He introduced people to Jesus. He ministered quietly. Other people may have received the glory and recognition, but when you think about his life, the history of the Church would be very different if not for his presence.

May we all be a little more like St. Andrew—consistently introducing people to Jesus without regard for recognition and glory.

“Almighty God, who gave such grace to your apostle Andrew that he readily obeyed the call of your Son Jesus Christ, and brought his brother with him: Give us, who are called by your holy Word, grace to follow him without delay, and to bring those near to us into his gracious presence; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Book of Common Prayer).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Church Calendar: Holy Days and Seasons | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rooting Out Pride and Cultivating Humility

To follow up on my recent post about pride and humility, I would like to offer a few biblical suggestions for rooting out pride and cultivating humility. This is not an exhaustive list. The Bible has a lot to say about pride: the word appears about 50 times, depending on which version you are reading. This does not count synonyms (“haughtiness,” “arrogance”) or related vices like self-righteousness or hypocrisy. I guess I should study all of those verses; I had to look up how many times the word appears, so I have a lot to learn!

Prayer: James writes, “You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:2-3; all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version, unless otherwise indicated). Prayer prevents pride in two ways. First, it forces us to acknowledge that we need God’s help. Many of my prayers involve situations that are completely out of my control. I cannot control other people’s actions; sometimes I can barely control my own! When I pray for a situation that is beyond my control and the situation turns out okay, I am reminded that Someone greater than me is in control.

Second, when done properly, prayer forces us to face our motives. The Book of Common Prayer contains four daily sessions of prayer known as the “Daily Office.” Three of those include confession of sin near the beginning. Whether you follow a structured form of prayer like the Daily Office or a more freestyle approach, make certain to set aside time at the very beginning for confession of your sins.

Confession sets the tone for our prayers. As we pray, we have to look at ourselves honestly. Where have I fallen short? Where do I continue to fall short? What are the odds that I am going to give in to my weaknesses before I get to the Old Testament reading for this evening? That can set the tone for a related spiritual discipline.

Scripture reading: If I have been forced to focus on my motives during prayer, I am ready to ask myself the hard questions while reading the Bible. What can I learn from this? What is this saying to me? How am I like the person who sinned in this passage? How am I not like Jesus? How am I failing to live by what He said? How can I be more like Jesus, or at least a little bit more like some of the other heroes of the Bible?

If you read a particular passage of Scripture and cannot find a way that you are falling short, thank God for His grace. He is working on you. If you read a passage and can find excuses why you do not have to follow it, admit it for what it is: pride.

Fellowship: Few things will tear down our pride like other people. Fellowship with other believers is a key part of overcoming pride. Other people will annoy you. They will reveal where you lack patience. They will expose your weak spots. Sometimes, this is unintentional; all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and they will grind your gears in the process. Sometimes, it is intentional and mean-spirited. Jesus calls us to forgive. This will take humility. Sometimes, it is intentional, but with the best of intentions. When somebody lovingly points out your shortcomings or misguided motives, it is an opportunity to learn, repent, and grow.

Over the years, I have known numerous church-hoppers. They do not remain members of a particular church for a long time, but will move on to a new congregation when they feel like “I am not being fed here anymore.” I have also known several people who stopped going to church, even though they say they are still disciples of Jesus. In both cases, they usually leave when a person or teaching attacks their pride. Rather than learn humility, they run. Don’t run; God is working on you. He is just using people to do it.

Shut up and listen: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). You can always learn something. Do not try to show off that you are your Bible study group’s resident theologian or should be the next pastor. Take some time to listen. Understand why people believe what they believe. See if they have some insight that you need. You will probably learn something and grow closer to the Lord as a result.

Finally, measure yourself against God’s standard: Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” God, who has revealed Himself to us through Jesus Christ, is our standard. I have sinned because I have not lived up to God’s standard. Whether I am better or worse than another person is not the issue. Even though I have not killed as many people as Hitler did, I still need God’s forgiveness. “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12). You still have room to grow, and that is okay. It is part of being human. God becomes our standard, so we have eternity to learn and grow.

Somebody has said that humility is an elusive quality: As soon as you think you have it, you lose it. However, rooting out pride and cultivating humility is not a one-time event. You cannot schedule it on Google Calendar and seriously hope to complete the task by January 1. It is a crucial part of our lifetime journey of walking with Jesus and growing in grace.

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Character and Values, Christian Life, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Killer Pride

“What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’? But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, ‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble…. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you’” (James 4:1–6, 10; all Scripture quotations from the English Standard Version unless otherwise indicated).

Is there a sin that is worse than all others? Many Christians think homosexuality or abortion is the worst sin of all. Many will say that premarital sex, smoking, drinking alcohol, or taking drugs are really serious. In most cases, when a person defines certain sins as being worse than others, they will choose one that does not tempt them.

Perhaps one of the worst sins is one that almost all of us have, but few confess. We do not notice it in ourselves, but we recoil when we see it in others. That sin is pride. Say the words “gay pride,” and many Christians will point out how they have combined two things that the Bible calls “abominations” (Leviticus 18:22; Proverbs 6:16–17; 16:15). What about pride in my nationality, abilities, accomplishments? Pride in my family?

Perhaps this is the danger in pride. If we see it in ourselves, we usually think of it as a good thing. I am proud of my grandchildren; isn’t that a good thing? I take pride in my work. I can be proud of my country or proud of my heritage. Here is where the danger lurks. Pride is so prevalent and can become so deceitful that we do not recognize when it has gone too far. Pride in one’s country has led to numerous wars. Pride in one’s family may blind us to their shortcomings or tempt us to justify them when they make mistakes.

Humility is one of the most essential Christian virtues, since it preserves us from the dangers of pride. James tells us to humble ourselves before the Lord. God is the source, reason, and focus of our humility.

Pride and faith simply do not mix. A proud man will not seek God’s help. Pride will tempt a person to try to solve problems on his own before seeking God’s help and wisdom. The proud man will seek God’s help only as a last resort. Pride rejects God’s help. Pride will even deny that we need help from God or anybody else. (After all, what do they know? They’re not as smart as me, are they?)

The proud look is counted as an abomination in Proverbs 6:16–17. Sure, we will keep the homosexual from a place of leadership in our churches. However, if a proud man comes in, boasting of his achievements and abilities, we will probably put him in charge of the Sunday school department; we might make him the new pastor or church board chairman; or, we might give him a thriving television ministry.

The Father and Mother by Boardman Robinson (1876-1952). Anti-war cartoon depicting Greed and Pride as the father and mother of War. First published circa 1915. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Pride is not dangerous merely because it is the absence of humility. Pride is dangerous because it leads to other sins. As James writes, pride leads to greed: I think I deserve something more than you do. This may lead me to go out of my way to fulfill my selfish desires. Suddenly, pleasure-seeking leads to the sin of covetousness, which leads to fighting, quarreling, and eventually murder. Many of humanity’s bloodiest wars were fought over nations’ craving for more land and resources. World War II began when Germany invaded Poland seeking Lebensraum (area to live). Ethnic pride led Hitler and others to believe that they deserved that land more than the people who were already there; tragedy followed.

Pride may also tempt us to seek friendship with the world, thereby creating enmity with God. We might think we deserve to be liked more than other people are, so we seek their approval. We try to convince others to like and admire us. We can become so convinced that we deserve people’s respect and approval that we might compromise our convictions to fit in. We think we deserve the things of the world and the admiration of others, so pride leads us to avoid God as the source of all that matters.

Do not be fooled. Pride is deadly. It will destroy your relationships. It will lead you away from God. It will kill your soul. Seek to cultivate humility instead.

“The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea-bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind” (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity).

Copyright © 2019 Michael E. Lynch. All rights reserved.

Categories: Bible meditations, Character and Values, Christian Life, Renewing the Mind Reflections | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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