Showing posts with label humility. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humility. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

GREATNESS?




*Note: This post originally published as part of the [Subversive Underground] e-newsletter.

GREATNESS?

My greatest fear is that I will never be a great man, that I will always be less than average...the lowest, the least of God's shining stars.

After nine months I still have no clue what to do with my life. I look in the mirror at night and I wonder if I'll die a failure.

Will I ever publish a book? Would that make me great? Will I ever find a full-time job that pays well, with insurance for my wife and children? Would that make me a great person?

Will I ever be famous or successful or honored among my peers?

Would any of those things make me a great man?

What is greatness? I'm sure someone somewhere has written a poem or a speech about it. I should google it sometime. Is that what a great man would do?

Why do I struggle with these questions at all? Why do I care so much about things like success or popularity? I don't know. I just know I can't find a job. I can't be the husband and the father...the provider I want to be.

I don't know what would make me great, but I do know one thing. I am not great. I am less than average. I am only me.

The ironic thing is that I'm currently writing a book about the hidden wisdom in the Gospel of the Kingdom regarding the power of weakness.

The truth is, sometimes it's hard to believe the words in my own book. It's hard to believe that God has a plan to make me more like Jesus and that the path to that involves enduring a measure of pain, of weakness, of humility, in order to discover the power of Christ.

What I'm learning now is that there is a very big difference between knowing something is true because you've read it in a book, and knowing something is true because you've lived it.

As I learn to daily die to myself, I'm discovering that God is really in complete control. He has everything where he wants it to be, including me.

Yesterday I read a wonderful quote from the book "Let Go" by Fenelon. It read:


"It is in weakness that we can admit our mistakes and correct ourselves while confessing them. It is in weakness that our minds are open to enlightment from others. It is in weakness that we are authoritative in nothing, and say the most clear-cut things with simplicity and consideration of others. In weakness we do not object to being criticized and we easily submit to censure. At the same time we criticize no one without absolute necessity. We give advice only to those who desire it, and even then we speak with love and without being dogmatic."

Maybe I am not great. I freely admit I don't even really know what the word means. I do know that most of what I would expect to help make me great will really only make me shallow and self-absorbed.

God's plan for my life is to make me like Jesus. The character of Christ is one who came to serve and not to be served. Jesus was the leader who got on his knees and washed his follower's feet. He was the one who suffered and died under the hand of unjust punishment without striking back. He even forgave those who were in the act of torturing him to death.

The path to greatness is not the same as the path of Jesus. The way of the cross is the only way to follow him. He said so himself.

His ways are not our ways. His thoughts are not our thoughts.

This is why Jesus calls us to "Repent" in order to enter the Kingdom of God. Because "Repent" literally means to "think again". It involves re-thinking our lives and re-defining the things we value most.

I am not great. I am just me. And the real problem begins there.

The real miracle is that, someday, somehow, God's plan is to take someone like me and make me into the image of his Son.

So, every day I have to wake up and take up my cross and submit my life to Christ. There is no other way.

"If anyone would be the greatest, he must be the very least and the servant of all"- Jesus (Mark 9:35)

-kg

Friday, November 22, 2013

UNBELIEVABLE TRUTH #7 – Jesus Sets Us Free From Every Sin

My internet friend, Brant Hansen, said something the other day that inspired me to write today’s blog.


What Brant noted was that we tend draw the line between good people and bad people. If we do good things, God will accept and love us, but if we do bad things then God will hate us and punish us. But, as he wisely pointed out, Jesus never drew those distinctions between good people and bad people. Instead, Jesus seemed to always draw a distinction between proud people and humble people.

Humble people receive God’s mercy and grace, but God opposes proud people. (See James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34)

What matters, then, is not “being good” or “being bad” but coming to God with humility.

See, God isn’t looking for a few good men. He already knows there aren’t any. Instead, God is looking for humble people who are willing to receive His wonderful gift of life and justification through faith.

I was also looking again at a series of verses in Acts 13:38-41 where Paul affirms something equally amazing, saying:

“Through Jesus, the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you…everyone who believes is set free from every sin – a justification you were not able to obtain under the Law of Moses.”

Most of us don’t really get that. In fact, that’s why Paul goes on to quote Habakkuk 1:5:

“I am doing something that you will not believe, even when someone explains it to you!” (quoted in Acts 13:41)

What’s the thing that we cannot believe? It’s the idea that Jesus has “set (us) free from every sin” and that we are now fully and totally justified under the Law of Moses – AS IF WE KEPT THE LAW PERFECTLY. Even though we don’t keep the Law perfectly (because we can’t), Jesus DID keep the Law of Moses perfectly and then (get this) He transferred that justification to every single one of those who put their trust in Him.

Wow.

What if we actually believed this message? Well, if we did it would mean that we would live like people who were not condemned for their failures. We would live like people who really believed this:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4)

Over the weekend I was sharing this exact verse with a brother in Christ and after we were finished he said something like this:

"How awful to miss what Jesus has done for us on the cross."

That is exactly what someone might say who hasn’t yet understood Romans 8, and Acts 13 because after hearing this truth our first reaction is to put ourselves right back under condemnation again.

Don’t do that.

The point for us is that Jesus has set us free from every sin and has justified us "as if we kept the Law of Moses perfectly" because Jesus DID do that in our place, and then He shared that work with all of us.

So, rather than being down on yourself for not seeing it - just see it and accept it and start walking in the light of a new day, rejoicing in the freedom that Jesus has given you and the FACT that you are set free from sin and from condemnation!

Go ahead and say, "Woo-hoo!"

You might even want to jump for joy. I'm serious. Find a private place where no one is around and jump into the air and say "Praise God!" because that's an appropriate response.

Try it! And then make it your mission to daily wake up and remind yourself of the Truth: I am set free to live without condemnation from God because Jesus has done what I could never do – kept the Law of Moses perfectly – and now I live in the reality of God’s Grace as if I had kept the Law perfectly. Not because I have, but because Jesus did and He gave that gift to me.

Keep saying it until you really believe it. Then spread the Good News.


-kg

Thursday, November 08, 2012

THE POWER OF WEAKNESS - PRINT EDITION



I'm very excited about publishing the print version of "The Power of Weakness" early in January.

This new print edition will feature a foreword by author Ross Rohde (Viral Jesus), expanded chapter content, and a brand new chapter not found in the Kindle ebook version available now at Amazon.com.

The cover image was created by Elim Feliciano.

So, what do you think about the cover image? I could almost see this on a t-shirt.

More details about the book, and the book release party coming soon.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

NEW EBOOK: THE POWER OF WEAKNESS

I've published my first Amazon-exclusive ebook for the Kindle called "The Power of Weakness." It's available for $2.99 at this link>

About The Power of Weakness

In his second letter to the church in Corinth, the Apostle Paul described an encounter with God that taught him a valuable lesson about humility and perspective.

The author, Keith Giles, explores this Kingdom principal of weakness in the lives of people like Moses, Gideon, Samson, Solomon and even Jesus to help us understand how we can unleash the “power of Christ” in our own lives.

**

If you have a Kindle please download the book and read it. If you would, I'd like to ask you to publish your review on the site to share your thoughts.

Thanks,
kg

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Top 10 Things Every Christian Should Know #5

Number 5- "Humility Is Essential"

"Humility is a virtue so beyond my understanding that should I achieve it, I would be proud of myself" - Benjamin Franklin

Someone once defined a prideful person as "..someone who spends too much time thinking about themselves and not enough time thinking about me." Andrew Murray put it another way, "Humility is not thinking less of myself, it is not thinking of myself at all."

God has a lot to say about pride, and as I go through my life I have seen the wisdom of these words played out numerous times.

"God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble."
- (Proverbs 3:34)


This verse speaks volumes, doesn't it? We are handed a simple choice; To humble ourselves and receive Grace, or to continue in our pride and have the creator of the Universe oppose us. Sadly, my own pride has often been the catalyst in my life for failure, bad judgement and hurt feelings. I have learned to hate my pride and to keep a close eye on it, just in case it tries to rise up and do something stupid.

When Jesus went out and spoke to the people of his day, he centered his teaching on something called "The Kingdom of God". He told stories to illustrate what life was like in this Kingdom. He used everyday moments to point out Kingdom values. Jesus was almost always teaching his disciples, and anyone else in earshot, what the Kingdom of God was all about.

One interesting thing about the Kingdom of God is that to enter it you must first humble yourself, (see Mark 10:14-15). That's because the Kingdom of God is quite simply that place where the absolute will of God is done. This means that God is King, and that you and I are not. So, if we will not humble ourselves and submit to God's will in every way, we cannot enter the Kingdom. Better said, when we refuse to humble ourselves, we have left the Kingdom of God and entered our own Kingdom, where our will is done.

This is why Jesus says, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."(Luke 9:23) Jesus isn't being mean here. He's not saying, "If you don't jump through this hoop I will not allow you to join my club." What he's saying here is more like, "If you can't swim, you will not be allowed to work as a lifeguard at the pool." Jesus is simply pointing out that someone who is unwilling to let go of their agenda, their will for their life, cannot follow him. It can't be done without humility and submission.

Even Jesus began his ministry by humbling himself to become flesh, to be born to a simple, poor family, and even to lay down his life for us all. (see Phil 2:5-8) See, God went first. He humbled Himself before us. He submitted Himself to us first, and even when we were putting nails through His hands and feet, He continued to surrender to us in order to rescue us from our sins.

Now, Jesus asks us who are called by His name to humble ourselves. We are expected to look at Jesus as our blueprint for life in the Kingdom of God and become obedient to God, even to the point of death as we carry our own crosses daily.

I believe that is why Jesus set the example of washing his disciples feet. He humbled himself before them, served them as a slave would serve his master, and then said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you...Now that you know these things, you will blessed if you do them." (John 13:15;17)

That's the key ladies and gentlemen. We are blessed when we do these things. Not when we "know" these things, but when we "do" these things. That is when the blessing comes. Humility isn't just a good idea, it's a pattern of life for those who desire to place their feet into those prints left in the sand just ahead of us by a carpenter from Nazareth.

"He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)

-kg

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

And This Is How It's Done

Mister Rogers' Neighborhood won four Emmy awards, and Rogers received one for lifetime achievement.

During the 1997 Daytime Emmys, the Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Rogers. The following is an excerpt from Esquire's coverage of the gala, written by Tom Junod:

"Mister Rogers went onstage to accept the award — and there, in front of all the soap opera stars and talk show sinceratrons, in front of all the jutting man-tanned jaws and jutting saltwater bosoms, he made his small bow and said into the microphone, "All of us have special ones who have loved us into being. Would you just take, along with me, ten seconds to think of the people who have helped you become who you are. Ten seconds of silence."

And then he lifted his wrist, looked at the audience, looked at his watch, and said, "I'll watch the time." There was, at first, a small whoop from the crowd, a giddy, strangled hiccup of laughter, as people realized that he wasn't kidding, that Mister Rogers was not some convenient eunuch, but rather a man, an authority figure who actually expected them to do what he asked. And so they did. One second, two seconds, seven seconds — and now the jaws clenched, and the bosoms heaved, and the mascara ran, and the tears fell upon the beglittered gathering like rain leaking down a crystal chandelier. And Mister Rogers finally looked up from his watch and said softly "May God be with you," to all his vanquished children."


Someday I hope to live in this man's neighborhood. For now I'm happy just to drive through and admire the architecture.

May all of us live such simple and humble lives as this man did.

Peace,
Keith

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FELIX: BEFORE AND AFTER

Minicius Felix was a pagan living in the latter part of the first century. Prior to converting to Christianity he was an avid enemy of the faith, much like Saul of Tarsus who later became Paul the Apostle.

Here you can read his thoughts about the Christian sect prior to receiving Christ as Lord:

Before Conversion
"The Christians, they form a rabble of profane conspiracy, they despise temples as if they were tombs, they despise the titles and the purple robe of the high government office, though they are hardly able to cloth themselves in their own nakedness.

Just like a rank growth of weeds the abominable haunts where this impious confederacy meet are multiplying all over the world. Root and branch like a weed, it should be exterminated. Because they love one another before they even know one another, they practise a cult of lust calling one another brother and sister indiscriminately."


A few years later, having been won over by the intense faith of the martyrs, and being humbled by their radical love for the poor, and one another, Felix surrendered his life to Jesus and wrote this:

After Conversion to Christ
"That we should be considered poor is no disgrace to us, but an honor. A life of luxury weakens the spirit. Frugality makes it strong. And yet, how can anyone be considered poor who does not feel any want, who does not covet what belongs to others, who is rich in God's eyes? Much more should he be considered poor who always craves for more while he already has much.

"Let me tell you what I think. No one can be as poor as he was at birth...Just as a man traveling on the road is the better off the lighter his bundle, so too, he who makes himself light by poverty, who does not need to pant under the burden of wealth, is happiest on his journey through life. If we regarded wealth as useful then we would ask God for it. He surely could give us a share of it, for everything belongs to Him, but we would rather despise wealth than have it in our hands."


--I wish Felix was alive today. I would gladly support his radio and television ministry if he were bold enough to preach such truths to America. We need this truth to be spoken over us.

"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." - Ezekiel 16:48-50

Friday, July 16, 2010

LET THE CHILDREN COME

"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young."- Isaiah 40:11

This verse – written by the prophet Isaiah some 500 years before Christ – is a prophetic look at the Messiah who would come to set people free and bring salvation to every Nation.

The prophecy is fulfilled in The Gospel of Mark when Jesus allowed the children in the crowd to come to him. The full text says,

"People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them." - Mark 10:13-16

There are several key things to notice in the passage above. First, that the Disciples (sometimes referred to as the "Duh-Sciples"), didn't get it. They wanted to keep Jesus from the nuisance of children. Instead, Jesus grew angry and not only did he allow them to come near, he used this as an opportunity to teach us something about the Kingdom.

Great teachers around this time in history were often found blessing children. Greek philosophers enjoyed blessing the youth of their day, but here Jesus does something that none of the others ever did. He took them into his arms and held them in his lap, and he loved them.

All other teachers who blessed children did so from a distance, but Jesus allowed them to come near enough to embrace. He held them in his arms. He carried them close to his heart.

I had never before noticed that the passage in Isaiah was fulfilled by this scene in the Gospel of Mark. I had missed that the prophetic verse referred to a shepherd who would gather the lambs in his arms. Lambs are the children of the sheep.

This passage also shows us that Jesus had a heart for women as well. It says, "He gently leads those who have young", showing his compassion for women who care for children every day.

Most striking in the verses from Mark is the comment made by Jesus that "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it". He doesn't say that it will be hard for those who do not receive the kingdom like a child. He says they will never enter it. Never.

To receive the kingdom of God like a child is to submit totally to the Master. It is to crawl into his lap and to trust him, to let him bless you, and to obey his words because you take comfort in his love for you.

Let the Lord Jesus take you into His arms today. Let Him embrace you, and let Him bless you with His presence.

You are so loved.

-kg
**
Originally posted March, 2007

Monday, May 17, 2010

FINDERS WEEPERS, LOSERS KEEPERS

In the Kingdom of God, things are upside down from the world we were born into. Those who lay down their lives discover new life. The first are last. Those who humble themselves are exalted. The greatest is the servant of all. Those who die to themselves daily discover life eternal.

But what is actually "upside down" is this world, not the Kingdom of God. God's reality is the rightside up one. Ours is the one that needs to be corrected, not God's.

Having been born into this upside down reality on Planet Earth, I am constantly struggling to see things from the perspective of God's Kingdom. It's not an easy thing to do.

For years I have wrestled with my own prideful heart. Perhaps I never had a fair chance at this since I was an only child and my entire life I've been the center of my own universe. At any rate, the fact remains that, no matter how many times I die to myself, this heart of pride just will not stay dead.

I lay back on the cross. I drive the nails. I roll the stone over the door. But my sinful, selfish heart continually rises from the dead.

I die daily. But my heart of flesh daily lives and breathes.

After all these years I turn around to see how far I've come on this journey of faith and instead I see that I have barely left the gate. In fact, I wonder if I have moved forward at all because I seem to be in the exact same place I have always been.

My heart is deceitfully wicked. I cannot trust my own inner man. Even when I believe I am serving others and living for Jesus my flesh has the power to reach out and subtly turn the spotlight back on my own ego.

Like the Pharisee, I confess that I have done my works of righteousness before men to be seen by them and celebrated. Of course, most of this is done subconsciously, but when I take the time to examine my motives closely I have to admit, there is still a part of me that does things so that people will see it and take note.

Last week, the Lord Jesus, in His mercy, held up the mirror to my soul again. He allowed me the briefest glimpse at my own selfish heart and it crushed me.

To my own eyes it appears as a dark, cancerous ooze in my soul. I cannot look directly at it very long without feeling sick. Yet, as much as I hate to admit it, this is me. This is who I am without Jesus.

For a long time now, I have mistakenly considered this prideful, selfish behavior as being like a Pharisee. Yet, now I realize that this is actually just part of being a human being.

It's my humanity that makes me selfish, and sinful, and hopelessly pathetic, not my "Pharisee-ness" (whatever that might be).

So, today I am trying my best to take everything one step at a time. I realize, once again, what it really means to have a "constant conversion" and to put to death my own status quo (Conversatio Morem!).

One great thing about all of this is that it reminds me to depend upon Jesus for everything. To the degree that I am in touch with my humanity, my weakness, my failure, I can appreciate the wonder and the majesty of God's amazing love and grace.

He is the vine. I am one of the tiny branches. Without Him, I can do nothing. Nothing at all.

"And now I know the secret that only losers keep, and I wallow in the hopeful tears that every finder weeps."
-kg

Friday, January 15, 2010

WHO SINNED?

How can a follower of Jesus look upon the heart-breaking devastation being reported in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti and respond by proudly declaring that the God you follow is responsible? I don't understand this.

Do we not believe Jesus when he says, "If you have seen me you have seen the Father"? Are we not convinced that God is merciful when Jesus shows mercy? Are we unmoved by his treatment of the woman caught in adultery? Are we unphased by his compassion for the leper, the blind, the outcast? Can we not fully accept that God, the Father, is just as merciful and loving as Jesus?

"Don't you know me...even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" - Jesus, (John 14:9-10)

Those who believe that the tragedy in Haiti is the result of their being judged for their sinful practices must consider the following:

1 - 80% of people in Haiti are Catholic.
2 - America is the world's largest exporter of pornography in the world.
3 - The United States of America is principally a transit and destination country for trafficking in persons. It is estimated that 14,500 to 17,500 people, primarily women and children, are trafficked to the U.S. annually.
4 - Poverty is not the evidence of God's judgement. Neither is wealth an evidence of God's favor.

"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower" - (James 1:9-10)

"Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?" - (James 2:5)

5 - Suffering, natural disasters and tragedy are all opportunities for those who walk in the light to bring hope to those in the darkness.

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (Jesus answered) "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world." - (John 9:1-5)

We, the followers of Jesus, must change our attitudes about sin, and most importantly, about sinners.

First, we must remember that we also are sinners. There is no "Us and Them" here because we are still struggling with sin ourselves, even though we know the Savior and are in fellowship with Christ. Sin is our enemy and we struggle with it daily.

"If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." - (1 John 1:8-10)

Our response to the distress in our world is to humble ourselves and pray and confess our own sins to God and cry out for people to be healed and saved - not judged and condemned.

"If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." - (2 Chronicles 7:14)

It is the people of God who need to humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways in order for God's healing and forgiveness to fall - not the "sinners".

We need to erase this sentence from our minds:
"If only those sinners would get saved, the world would be a much better place".

The idea being that, if there were more people in the world just like us, then everything would be perfect...because of course, we are so much better than all of "Those People" who are not like us.

What God says needs to happen first is that we humble ourselves. That means we don't use statements like "If only those people would be more like us, everything would be wonderful". Humble people don't talk like that...or think that way either.

Jesus reminds us that the Father allows rain to fall on the just and the unjust as well. Because of this, whenever we show mercy to the unbeliever, or love to our enemy, we are being like our Father in Heaven. He is loving. He is merciful. He mourns with those who mourn and rejoices with those who rejoice. We should do the same.

Finally, we must remember that the time for the judgement of our sins is not in this life. This comes later, at the end of time and the return of Christ. For now, we are in a season where God waits beause he is not willing that any should perish. This is a season of mercy, not a season of judgement.

We would also do well to remember how Jesus will judge us on that day. When it comes he will divide the sheep from the goats based on how well they loved those who were the victims of poverty, or of tragedy, or injustice.

The tragedy in Haiti is an opportunity for the people of God to respond with compassion and love. Let us focus our attention on being light in the darkness. Let us bring hope to the hopeless. Let us not assign the blame to the victims while we sit in luxury.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." -Jesus (John 13:34-35)

Peace,
Keith Giles

Monday, December 28, 2009

RE-POST: BETTER THAN ME

BETTER THAN ME

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" - Philipians 2:3

I'm nearly ok with treating others like they're as good as I am, but "better than I am"? I don't know if I'm ready for that.

I used to be in a band with three other guys. I was the lead vocalist and lyricist. Early on I told all of them they had permission to kick my butt if they ever felt like I was getting too prideful or self-absorbed. Luckily, they all were quite eager to provide a butt-kicking to my ego whenever necessary, and I managed to hold my pride in check for nearly five years.

Actually, my ego was still incredibly virile, but I shudder to imagine what it would have been like had my band-mates not engaged in actively serving me large helpings of humble pie.

"Humility is a virtue so beyond my understanding that should I achieve it, I would be proud of myself" - Benjamin Franklin

Someone once defined a prideful person as someone who spends too much time thinking about themselves and not enough time thinking about me. I can relate.

As an only child I've never had any trouble thinking of myself, or how everything in the Universe relates to me, or to who I am or what I want. Maybe I'm so fascinated by the discipline of humility because I realize that I am most lacking of this quality?

Andrew Murray once said, "Humility is not thinking less of myself, it is not thinking of myself at all." If this is so, I've got a long way to go towards humility.

The verse in Philipians urges us to consider others as being better than ourselves. I struggle with treating people as being on par with myself, to be honest. The idea of putting the needs of others above my own is still not the same as behaving as if everyone around me is actually better than I am. I can put the needs of others above my own needs and still believe that the people I'm serving are less important or intelligent than I am. What I'm called to do in this verse is to consider others through the lens of humility, and to see them as better than I am, as more deserving of honor and service than I am.

Again, God's Word compels us to throw ourselves on His mercy and confess that we are not capable of such selflessness. It's just not in me to love others sacrificially, or to serve them joyfully, or to regard them as more important than I am. It's just not.

That's where we have to fall on our knees and pray that God would transform us into the sorts of people who are capable of loving and serving this way. I need to beg God for the kind of humility that actually believes that others around me are better than I am. This means believing that I am not as fabulous as I think I am. It means humbling myself before God, and even before other people, so that God can work in me, and through me. My heart needs to be softened, like clay, so that God's fingerprints can be seen in my life as He kneads and twists and forms my heart into the shape of His Son's.

One interesting thing about the Kingdom of God is that to enter it you must first humble yourself, (see Mark 10:14-15). That's because the Kingdom of God is quite simply that place where the absolute will of God is done. This means that God is King, and that you and I are not. So, if we will not humble ourselves and submit to God's will in every way, we cannot enter the Kingdom. Better said, when we refuse to humble ourselves, we have left the Kingdom of God and entered our own Kingdom, where our will is done.

Even Jesus began his ministry by humbling himself to become flesh, to be born to a simple, poor family, and even to lay down his life for us all. (see Phil 2:5-8) See, God went first. He humbled Himself before us. He submitted Himself to us first, and even when we were putting nails through His hands and feet, He continued to surrender to us in order to rescue us from our sins.

I believe that is why Jesus set the example of washing his disciples feet. He humbled himself before them, served them as a slave would serve his master, and then said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you...Now that you know these things, you will blessed if you do them." (John 13:15;17)

God has a lot to say about pride, and as I go through my life I have seen the wisdom of these words played out numerous times.

"God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble." - (Proverbs 3:34)

This is good news, because I need Grace in greater measure every single day. If humility is the only way to receive this Grace, I am more than willing to be humbled, and to remain there, so that the Grace of God may shower down on my life like warm summer rain.

Let it rain.
kg

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Posted here originally, September 28, 2007

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Least of the Least

One of the most powerful things about the ministry of Jesus was that he saw the least and the last around him and made them central to his proclamation of the Kingdom.

In contrast to the Pharisees and other religious leaders of the day, Jesus seemed to seek out those most outcast by society. The leper, the poor, the broken, the sick, and even the unpopular tax collector became the main disciples of Jesus. He welcomed them, he sought them out, and even greater still, he loved them.

This backwards strategy confounded his peers, bringing harsh rebuke and criticism from the Jewish leaders of the day, and yet this love for the common man, or woman, became a growing factor in his popularity among the people.

In Jewish culture, women were valued only for their child-bearing and mothering skills. Men had the authority to divorce them at will, for any reason, or no reason, at all. A woman had no such right.

At the time of Christ, women were not allowed equal access to the Temple. The court of women was further away from The Holy Place than the court of men, and in fact the court of the Gentiles was the second closest. Jewish women were valued below even the non-Jewish men in the assembly.

Jewish men, historically, did not speak to women in public, even their own wives. For a Rabbi, this would have been an even greater embarrassment.

Furthermore, a woman wasn’t allowed to even read from the Scriptures and was not counted as a member of the congregation. Even one of their most respected Rabbi’s, Judah ben Elai (A.D. 150) was quoted as saying, “One must utter three doxologies every day: Praise God that he did not create me a heathen. Praise God he did not create me a woman! Praise God that he did not create me an illiterate person.”3

Nothing could have been more backwards and counter-culture than for Jesus, an up and coming Jewish Rabbi, to honor women, and yet that is just what he did.

What we see in the Scriptures is that Jesus “…needed to travel through Samaria” a place where most of those outcast from contemporary Jewish society dwelled in community. The Samaritans themselves were an entire race of people who were devalued by God’s Chosen people. This little detour certainly caused the Disciples to scratch their heads.

Even more, the fact that Jesus only came to speak to one person in Samaria is even more confounding, especially when that one person turns out to be a woman; and not just any woman, but what most would refer to as the village tramp.

At the heat of the day, when most everyone was inside the cool of their home, the Samaritan woman is heading out to Jacob’s Well to draw water. Most every other woman would have long since completed this daily chore and that is our clue that the woman Jesus wants to talk to is an outcast in her community. She avoids the other women, probably because they tend to look down on her for her promiscuous lifestyle. Perhaps because she has been responsible for seducing one or more of their husbands.

At any rate, this woman is an outcast, even among other women who are themselves undervalued in this society. This woman has multiple strikes against her. She is a Samaritan, a woman, and a moral failure among her own people. She is the least among the least.

This is the woman that Jesus seeks out. He seems to be waiting at this well, at this specific time of the day, in order to meet with this woman that no one else would spend an idle moment with.

Many of us have made mistakes in our lives. Many of us have received condemnation from others about our failures. Our parents, our friends, even people within the Church, may have rejected us and turned us away to wallow in our shame. We need to know that Jesus does not condemn us. We need to know that, in the eyes of Jesus, we are not disqualified from Grace. We are not disqualified from ministry. Our weakness does not exempt us from participation in the Kingdom. In fact, according to Jesus, it is our weakness, our poverty, our humility, our sorrow, and our humanity that qualifies us as blessed members of the Kingdom of God. (See Matthew 5:3-12)

This, my friends, is Good News. Do you see the heart of Jesus here? Do you see how he goes out of his way to find this woman? He loves her. He spends time with her. He speaks to her and treats her with respect and dignity, even as he points out her personal failures regarding relationships with men. She is never offended by Jesus. She is never insulted. Intuitively she knows that Jesus takes her seriously and is showing real interest in her as a person.

In fact, Jesus is never seen treating people in culturally acceptable ways. Instead, he goes entirely against the prevailing cultural norms and treats people, lepers, sinners, even women, with uncommon respect, tenderness and love.

As we look closer at how Jesus interacted with this woman, I think we could all learn a lot by following his example of extravagant love. Just imagine what incredible impact we could have on people around us if we simply valued them as people, treated them with respect and took a genuine interest in their lives?

We are so quick to look for fault in others, to disqualify them from the free gift of Grace, and yet our Lord Jesus looked past the mountain of sin and the cultural prejudices of the day to see this woman for who she was. He spoke to her as an equal, not as someone who was beneath him. He looked into her eyes long enough to remember what color they were. He talked with her about the Law, even though women in that age were not allowed to be taught the Law. He listened. He took her seriously. He did not condemn her for her failures in life.

Yes, Jesus did confront this woman with her sin, but he did so in a way that did not offend her. He spoke to her as someone who was genuinely concerned for her well-being and expressed the truth without attaching judgment.

I’ve heard it said that listening to someone is so much like loving them that most people can’t tell the difference. When was the last time we listened to someone else as an act of compassion?

We should learn how to practice this sort of evangelism, because it was so successful that it impacted not only this one single person but an entire village.

If Jesus could seek out a woman and see in her an evangelist; If Jesus could have a conversation with an adulteress and treat her as a person worthy of his love; If Jesus could endure the humiliation of being seen with an outcast in order to set her free from her past failures; Then there’s hope for you and I, isn’t there?

Jesus still seeks out those who are sinners so that he can set them free. Jesus still searches for failures so he can transform them by His love. Jesus still values those who the rest of us have dismissed as worthless.

There is still hope for you. Whatever you’ve been through. Whatever your failures. Whatever your challenge. God has a place for you in His Kingdom. You are valuable. You matter. You are worth more than you know.

God longs to invite you into the ongoing story of His Kingdom here on Earth. If the woman at the well had a purpose and a value in this Kingdom, then certainly you and I do as well.

-Keith Giles
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3(from “Man as Male and Female” by Paul K. Jewett, 1975)
**
NOTE: Taken from my book-in-progress, "The Power of Weakness"

Monday, June 29, 2009

PRIDE KILLS

This weekend I had an opportunity to see the destructive power of pride in action. My friend Robert is 77 years old and homeless. He lives in a motel room in Santa Ana all alone. He can barely breathe. He has no strength to stand and walk to the bathroom without stopping halfway to rest against the wall and catch his breath. He eats Ramen noodles and donated food, and yet he refuses to allow me to buy him lunch. He will not, even as a personal favor to me, allow a volunteer from the Senior Community Center to come and talk to him about their free meals program, or their free shuttle plan.

Instead, Robert talks to me about his plan to ask his doctor to amputate his right arm because he is in constant pain following surgery after an accident. “If I let them just cut my arm off,” he says, “then I could stay at Fountain Care and they would bring me my meals and someone would be there to take care of me all the time,” he says. I can only shake my head in disbelief. “But Robert,” I try to explain, “you could stay here in this bed and keep your arm and someone could still bring you your meals and come visit you and make sure you’re doing ok.” He makes a face and shakes his head, coughing hard into a napkin as he lays back on his rented bed. “Naw,” he finally croaks out. “I don’t want to lose what little independence I have.” And around and around we go.

Driving home after our visit I am frustrated and I let God know about it. “Please, God, let Robert let me help him,” I pray. I remember Jesus instructing his disciples not to take anything with them and to leave their money belts at home as they went out to preach the Gospel. In some ways, Robert is giving me an opportunity to learn how to be his friend and to demonstrate the Kingdom of God to him without money. If I don’t give him money, then what can I give him? Friendship. Honesty. Love. Compassion. Jesus.

Still, it frustrates me that Robert would rather do things his own way and lose his arm than to accept help from someone else and keep his arm, and his health. This isn’t anything new, of course. Many people who are homeless are kept there because of their pride. Many exhibit varying degrees of “It’s my way or the highway” attitudes which prevent them from entering a program or submitting to the rules imposed by a shelter or a rescue mission. So, they hold hard and fast to their way of doing things, even though their way keeps them homeless and hungry and alone.

In some ways I can relate because, at heart, I am a prideful man. If there’s anything I grapple with on a daily basis, it’s my pride.

This weekend I also experienced a bit of humility. On more than one occasion I found myself humiliated and it gave me an opportunity to explore my pride a bit more. I realize that the only reason I got my feelings hurt in each case was due to the stature of my pride. If I had been humble and meek my feelings would not have been hurt. I could’ve cleared the low ceilings without banging my head if my knees were already bent low. Instead, I walked upright and got smacked in the face with my head held high.

Someone once told me that you know you’re really a servant when you get treated like one and you don’t get insulted. I’m not there yet, but one day I hope to be.

Pride kills. I’ve seen it divide families, churches, and marriages. It also removes us from God’s grace and takes us on a detour from the Kingdom of God.

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” – James 4:6

At the sermon on the mount, Jesus established the reality of God’s Kingdom for us. He told us that, in God’s economy, the poor, the weak, the humble, and the broken-hearted were the most blessed in the Kingdom. Along this redefined scale of greatness, those who find themselves at the bottom in this life are blessed to learn that, in God’s Kingdom, they are actually closer to the top than they thought.

We often get confused and say that God’s Kingdom is upside down, but the truth is that our reality is what’s out of whack. God is not upside down, nor is His perspective. This is why those who seem to be on the top in our society (the rich, the famous, and the powerful) often admit that they are empty, broken and disillusioned to discover that Jesus was right all along. The way to true life and joy and happiness is down, not up. When we surrender this fantasy of having it all and let go of everything except God himself we’ve taken a most important step. Many of those who are weak, humble, broken and poor already know that they are not good enough to make it on their own. They are at the top of God’s scale of greatness even though they seem to be at the bottom of ours.

I must confess that I still struggle with these two opposing definitions of greatness. I catch myself wanting fame and working for the praise of men, even though I have seen the Kingdom and I believe that Jesus showed us the Truth. True greatness is found at the feet of others with a basin and a towel, not sitting atop the highest sky-scraper overlooking the largest city while you count your money. I know that, but I am still learning to embrace the reality of it.

So, if anything, my experience this weekend with naked pride and painful humiliation has been beneficial to me. I’ve received a reminder of how pride can imprison someone, and I’ve discovered that my prideful heart is still alive and well –and still in need of being crucified with Christ.

What are the things I do every day that feed my ego or stoke my pride? Can I fully surrender these empty aspirations at worldly fame? Can I actually demonstrate that I believe Jesus is true when he says that the greatest in the Kingdom is the servant of all?

I stayed up late last night, after my wife and sons went to bed. I sat alone and I recapped my weekend. I took stock of all these things and I believe there are some things that still need to die in me. There are still territories in my heart that need reformation. Let the revolution continue.
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kg

Friday, September 28, 2007

BETTER THAN ME

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves" - Philipians 2:3

I'm nearly ok with treating others like they're as good as I am, but "better than I am"? I don't know if I'm ready for that.

I used to be in a band with three other guys. I was the lead vocalist and lyricist. Early on I told all of them they had permission to kick my butt if they ever felt like I was getting too prideful or self-absorbed. Luckily, they all were quite eager to provide a butt-kicking to my ego whenever necessary, and I managed to hold my pride in check for nearly five years.

Actually, my ego was still incredibly virile, but I shudder to imagine what it would have been like had my band-mates not engaged in actively serving me large helpings of humble pie.

"Humility is a virtue so beyond my understanding that should I achieve it, I would be proud of myself" - Benjamin Franklin

Someone once defined a prideful person as someone who spends too much time thinking about themselves and not enough time thinking about me. I can relate.

As an only child I've never had any trouble thinking of myself, or how everything in the Universe relates to me, or to who I am or what I want. Maybe I'm so fascinated by the discipline of humility because I realize that I am most lacking of this quality?

Andrew Murray once said, "Humility is not thinking less of myself, it is not thinking of myself at all."

If this is so, I've got a long way to go towards humility.

The verse in Philipians urges us to consider others as being better than ourselves. I struggle with treating people as being on par with myself, to be honest. The idea of putting the needs of others above my own is still not the same as behaving as if everyone around me is actually better than I am. I can put the needs of others above my own needs and still believe that the people I'm serving are less important or intelligent than I am. What I'm called to do in this verse is to consider others through the lens of humility, and to see them as better than I am, as more deserving of honor and service than I am.

Again, God's Word compels us to throw ourselves on His mercy and confess that we are not capable of such selflessness. It's just not in me to love others sacrificially, or to serve them joyfully, or to regard them as more important than I am. It's just not.

That's where we have to fall on our knees and pray that God would transform us into the sorts of people who are capable of loving and serving this way. I need to beg God for the kind of humility that actually believes that others around me are better than I am. This means believing that I am not as fabulous as I think I am. It means humbling myself before God, and even before other people, so that God can work in me, and through me. My heart needs to be softened, like clay, so that God's fingerprints can be seen in my life as He kneads and twists and forms my heart into the shape of His Son's.

One interesting thing about the Kingdom of God is that to enter it you must first humble yourself, (see Mark 10:14-15). That's because the Kingdom of God is quite simply that place where the absolute will of God is done. This means that God is King, and that you and I are not. So, if we will not humble ourselves and submit to God's will in every way, we cannot enter the Kingdom. Better said, when we refuse to humble ourselves, we have left the Kingdom of God and entered our own Kingdom, where our will is done.

Even Jesus began his ministry by humbling himself to become flesh, to be born to a simple, poor family, and even to lay down his life for us all. (see Phil 2:5-8) See, God went first. He humbled Himself before us. He submitted Himself to us first, and even when we were putting nails through His hands and feet, He continued to surrender to us in order to rescue us from our sins.

I believe that is why Jesus set the example of washing his disciples feet. He humbled himself before them, served them as a slave would serve his master, and then said, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you...Now that you know these things, you will blessed if you do them." (John 13:15;17)

God has a lot to say about pride, and as I go through my life I have seen the wisdom of these words played out numerous times. "God opposes the proud, but gives Grace to the humble." (Proverbs 3:34)

This is good news, because I need Grace in greater measure every single day. If humility is the only way to receive this Grace, I am more than willing to be humbled, and to remain there, so that the Grace of God may shower down on my life like warm summer rain.

Let it rain.
kg

**