No remainders

long division

Long division.  You, like most others, probably just cringed.  Let’s face it, who really liked long division?  Actually … I did.  Haha.  There was something intriguing about it for me.  I was blessed and fortunate … for as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved math.  Any kind of math.  All kinds of math.  Including long division.  BUT, I have to say, one of the things about long division I did NOT like was remainders.  You know, when you go through the process of doing the long division and you get to the end – and stop.  Seriously?  I can say with all sincerity that I can remember getting to the point of long division when we continued to the point of at least solving the long division to some number of decimal places.  At least then you sort of finished the job.  That is what I guess I hated about remainders.

It’s the same reason I get perturbed about ties in sports … like soccer or hockey (don’t even get me started about ties in football).  It just doesn’t make sense.  You play an entire game only to get to the end and stop.  Without finishing the job.  Without determining a winner or loser.  Ties.  Remainders.  Bad.

Reading this week through Proverbs 7 – 24, 1 Kings 5 – 6, and 2 Chronicles 2 – 3 brought this to mind as it relates to God.  In particular, a bit of a mosaic formed around several verses, conveying an encouragement that I hope serves to be one for you too.  Following are some verses from Proverbs 10:25, 10:28, 10:30, 11:8, 11:18-19 that got me thinking …

When the storms of life come, the wicked are whirled away, but the godly have a lasting foundation.

The hopes of the godly result in happiness, the expectations of the wicked come to nothing.

The godly will never be disturbed, but the wicked will be removed from the land.

The godly are rescued from trouble, and it falls on the wicked instead.

Evil people get rich for the moment, but the reward of the godly will last.

Godly people find life; evil people find death.

When I reflected on these (and other) verses, what I was left with is a reminder that God doesn’t have remainders.  What’s that?  Nothing is ever “left over” with Him.  Nothing goes unused.  He always finishes the work.  We may not know how or when it’s used but it’s always used.  There are at least a couple different implications, I believe.

First, nothing that happens in our lives goes to waste.  That’s one of the things with remainders that always bugged me.  Here you go to all this work and you’re left with this little number that just sort of dangles out there, useless.  Well the great thing with God is that whatever our plight, nothing dangles out there useless.  God uses all of our circumstances, all of our situations, all of our experiences … for a purpose.  For His purpose.  So as we go through whatever it is we go through, we can rest in the assurance that He uses it.  Not just for His purpose, but also for our blessing.  Now, that’s not to say that everything that goes on will seem good or feel good or appear good.  In truth, there are all sorts of things in our lives that are anything but.  I get that, and I’m not trying to minimize the real treachery that any of us have gone through, are going through, or likely will go through some day.  But what I am saying is … there will be no remainders.  God will put every bit of it to use, and somehow, some way, some day, in His economy it will be good (Romans 8:28).  But not necessarily good in the way we might want or expect.

Second, it seems to me that the fact that God doesn’t have remainders means that there is nothing in our lives that is insignificant.  There are no unimportant things to God.  We might think, “Oh, God doesn’t care about this or that,” but I’d have to say I disagree.  It might not be that God cares about it for the reasons we would assume, but He cares about it for some reason, whether apparent or not to us.  I think about “white lies” or the things that “no one will notice,” and while in some respects those are small matters, God may care because of what it says about the caliber of our character, or because of an unseen or unforeseen downstream circumstance that comes about.  Let’s face it, rarely do we as temporal humans have the full perspective on what is or isn’t significant.  I’d argue that it’s all significant.  There are no remainders with God.

So what do we do with this?  In my mind, this brings me a sense of encouragement and hopefulness.  To know that the Creator of the universe and of every single living thing, cares enough about me (and you) to bring to fullness every single situation in our lives truly blows my mind.  God loves us so much that never, ever, ever will He let there be a remainder in our stories.  Never will He not finish the problem solving.  Never will He let the seemingly insignificant number just sit there dangling.  He loves us too much.  Let’s face it, that’s what we see in Jesus.  Never once did Jesus cut a corner.  Never did He leave something undone, unhinged, incomplete.  He went all the way … to a horrific death … so that you and I could go all the way … through eternity with Him and His Father and the Holy Spirit.  It wasn’t just on Calvary’s hill, it was and is and forever will be always.  No remainders.

Know with assurance, then, whatever you may be going through, struggling with, encountering, wondering, searching for, etc., the God of the universe is at work.  He is going the distance to solve the problem – in His way – but going to the very last decimal point with NO remainders.  And He’s doing it for YOU.  I pray (and let’s pray for one another) that you feel that in this very moment.  That you draw comfort and fortitude knowing that there will never be a remainder in our lives because of our great, all-knowing, all-powerful God.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

Defective bubble wrap

bubble-wrap

I used to drive my grandmother NUTS!  She hated the sound, but whenever presented the opportunity, I couldn’t resist.  I still can’t.  Whenever the opportunity arises, I have to jump in.  Pop.  Pop.  Popopopopopopop.  There’s something fun and irresistible about taking even a small swath of bubble wrap and popping the bubbles.  Big ones, little ones … it matters not.  It’s one of the methods of proof that Helen can point to that I truly haven’t grown up since being nine years old, haha.

It’s true of many of us.  Admit it.  Popping the bubble wrap, whether by one bubble at a time or by “wringing” it and getting the multiplicity of pops that sounds like a brick of firecrackers … or both … is just plain impossible to pass up.

So it’s understandable, then, how frustrating it can be to attempt to pop the bubble wrap only to find it’s messed up, defective.  You know, when you go to pop a bubble, only to have the air (you know, the thing that actually allows the bubble to “pop”) transfer to the bubble adjacent to it.  So you figure, “okay, I’ll just pop the other one,” and all that happens is it transfers back!  Ugh!  Hate that!  Defective bubble wrap is no kind of fun, and trying to make the pop but only moving air from one to the other takes all of the luster away from the bubble wrap in the first place.

It’s a little like how many of us going through life.  Let me elaborate by sharing something that struck me as I read this past week through 1 Kings 1 – 4, 2 Chronicles 1, Psalms 37, 71-72, 94, 119, Proverbs 1 – 6, and Song of Songs 1-8.  A passage I’ve read many times before in 1 Kings 3:10-14 moved me …

The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.  So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!  And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!  And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

This familiar passage is often used to depict Solomon’s wisdom, and rightly.  But to me, it also is super instructive about the folly of how many of us choose to chase after life.

The verses immediately follow a time after Solomon was anointed king of Israel, and the Lord appeared to him in a dream.  God asked Solomon, essentially, “What do you want?  Whatever you ask, I’ll give to you.”  Now I don’t know about you, but that would definitely have gotten my laundry list of “wants” unrolled and ready to recite.  But that’s not what Solomon did.  He did the wise … and uncommon, unforeseen, unpredictable … thing, and asked for wisdom, to lead God’s people well.

Okay, so tell me … if God came to you and offered you anything you ask, on what page of the long, long, long list of “wants” would wisdom be?  Yup, me too.  Nowhere on the list.

We don’t chase wisdom in life.  We choose wealth, prestige, honor, success, comfort, homes, toys … you name it, any number of things that we believe will lead to fulfillment in life.  Purpose.  We attach our dreams and hopes to stuff.  Material, and therefore fleeting, things that we believe will make life worth living.  The problem is, chasing those things as mechanisms to bring our life meaning is a lot like playing with defective bubble wrap.  It no more brings us the fulfillment we seek than pushing on a bubble on a defective bubble wrap sheet makes the bubble pop.  It just moves the air to the adjacent bubble.

Pursuing stuff doesn’t help solve life’s problems.  It just shifts the problems over to another problem.  Defective bubble wrap.  Just ask anyone that you think is wealthy, or at least wealthier than you, if the wealth you perceive they have (or know they have) has made life way easier, worry-free, or allowed them to have everything the way they’ve always wanted it.  Nope.  Just moves the air to the adjacent bubble.

Here’s the deal … when Solomon asked for the thing that matters most – wisdom to lead God’s people well – God endowed him with all the rest.  Why?  Because in making such a request, Solomon aligned his desires to God’s desires and God could then fulfill his “wants” because they were God’s wants too (Psalms 37:4).

The point is we should align our hearts to God’s heart.  We should seek not the material, but the eternal (Matthew 6:19-21).  When we do, we put ourselves in a position for God to work, for Him to provide those things He knows we need, and perhaps even those things we want.  In short, God allows us by seeking wisdom to achieve fulfillment and purpose.  In an eternal sense, we’ll receive that which matters most, whether or not we have wealth, prestige, honor, success, comfort, homes or toys.  Sure, God may grant us some or all of those, but our fulfillment and purpose won’t be affected.  Pursuing it the other way just makes it like defective bubble wrap.

Let’s pray this week for the Lord to show us true wealth, value, purpose, and meaning.  Let’s ask Him to reveal in us – and to cleanse within us – any nature that is like defective bubble wrap.  After all, that “popopopopopop” sound is what makes it all fun and worth the effort.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

Tell me something good

chaka-khan-rufus

First of all, I would be horribly remiss if I didn’t express my eternal gratitude and immeasurable respect for all those who have fought, served, and died for our country.  Your sacrifice allows me and others the freedom to devote ourselves to reading God’s word and working to share its transformative power in the lives of others.  Thank you!

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There are few, if any, songs that I think have a greater funk and groove to them than “Tell Me Something Good,” the 1974 hit by Rufus and Chaka Khan.  There really isn’t a single song more dripping with “cool” that I can think of.  Given that it was originally written by Stevie Wonder (one of my all-time favorite singers, writers, musicians), there’s no surprise that there aren’t enough O’s in “smooth” for the song.  When it comes on I basically stop anything else I’m doing.  I’ve never quite mastered the drum groove in it.  But one things for certain … it’s so good!

But far more than the incredibly delicious tune that it is, the title reverberated with me as I read the past few weeks (yeah, there was a bit of an unintentional hiatus) through the rest of 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel and 2 Chronicles as well as a host of Psalms.  In the course of digesting God’s word especially through the life of King David, this sense of telling [someone] something good pressed me in important ways.  As Christians, as leaders, as parents, and on and on and on … it’s crucial to “tell me something good.”  I’ll explain.

In 2 Samuel 12, we read an illustrious and central account that shaped the life of King David, and one that I think should have similar implications for you and me.  Verses 1 – 10

So the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to tell David this story: “There were two men in a certain town. One was rich, and one was poor.  The rich man owned a great many sheep and cattle.  The poor man owned nothing but one little lamb he had bought. He raised that little lamb, and it grew up with his children. It ate from the man’s own plate and drank from his cup. He cuddled it in his arms like a baby daughter.  One day a guest arrived at the home of the rich man. But instead of killing an animal from his own flock or herd, he took the poor man’s lamb and killed it and prepared it for his guest.”  David was furious. “As surely as the Lord lives,” he vowed, “any man who would do such a thing deserves to die!  He must repay four lambs to the poor man for the one he stole and for having no pity.”  Then Nathan said to David, “You are that man! The Lord, the God of Israel, says: I anointed you king of Israel and saved you from the power of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and his wives and the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. And if that had not been enough, I would have given you much, much more.  Why, then, have you despised the word of the Lord and done this horrible deed? For you have murdered Uriah the Hittite with the sword of the Ammonites and stolen his wife.  From this time on, your family will live by the sword because you have despised me by taking Uriah’s wife to be your own.

To set the stage for those who might not be familiar, this passage follows a time when King David had his army battling the Ammonites.  When King David was on the top of his palace he happened to notice beautiful Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, bathing.  David called her to him and committed adultery with her, impregnating her.  To cover up his sin, he tried calling Uriah home thinking that Uriah would have relations with his wife.  Despite trying to finagle his way out of his sin and dishonor, Uriah remained honorable and refused to have relations with his wife while his fellow Israelites were engaged in battle.  David eventually positioned Uriah on the front lines in order to get him killed, which came to pass.  Essentially, David committed both adultery and murder.

The passage above shows how God used the prophet Nathan to confront King David and speak truth into him.  Nathan carries the message, demonstrating obedience to God and ultimately love to David … in the manner of wanting to point out his failure to help realign him with God’s desire for him.  That is, Nathan told him something good.  Even though David was the king, and there was an inherent risk in Nathan being confrontational and plain with David, Nathan knew he had a duty to God, and a duty to David to tell him something good, even when it could have been received or perceived as bad.  There is the model for you and me.

Too often as Christians, parents, business leaders, friends, we shy away from the type of loving confrontation that we see exhibited by Nathan.  We short-change ourselves and others either by lacking the courage or the foresight to understand that when we tell someone something good … the truth, or feedback, or even in admonition … we are demonstrating love and care.  As a business leader, I’ve lacked that vision to know that when I don’t guide someone on my team or within my sphere of influence, I am not helping them.  Quite the opposite, I’m hurting them.  That is, when I love like Jesus does, I am compelled to provide input, feedback, guidance, admonition.  Even when I need to tell them something bad, if I tell them in a way that honors God and honors the person, I tell them something good.

Let’s be clear … just because we tell them something good, that doesn’t absolve us from the way that we tell them.  Intrinsically, for us to tell someone something good, it has to be driven by a focus on doing the right thing, and doing the right thing in the right way.  While Nathan’s delivery to King David was pretty plain and frank, he was following the guidance of God, delivering God’s words, conveying God’s message.  In our case, we should be striving to do the same.  A direct report whose performance is not up to par should be communicated with in a plain but God-honoring way.  If a friend is harboring sinful behavior, we are called to step in and communicate in a way that glorifies God.  When our kids make poor choices, we must step up and correct them, as Jesus would.  Tell them something good, even when difficult.

Needless to say, we tell them something good when there’s something good to tell, also.  Not just the bad stuff.  This applies equally in our homes, communities and work places.  When we notice something worth accolade and don’t provide the input, we’re not telling something good.  Missed opportunities and loss follow.  As parents, as Christians, as friends, as leaders in organizations and businesses, our greatest calling is as builder, developer, encourager.  To miss the opportunity to edify is equally as destructive as missing the opportunity to correct.  Silence is most assuredly not golden (a different song from a different era – courtesy of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons).  Our calling, our responsibility, the way we should the love of Jesus to others … tell me something good.

Soli Deo Gloria!

MR

 

Tipping the scales

SONY DSC

A week ago, we returned from an unforgettable 10 days in Israel. Our small group of family and a couple dear friends also encompassed three generations from my mom and dad, Helen and I, and our kids. It was truly a unique experience to see the Holy Land through a variety of eyes and perspectives. Thousands of photos (including the one our daughter took, above) and indelible memories later, it is still with a sense of regret that we returned to “usual” life.

Touring the Holy Land is cathartic on innumerable levels. History is important. Visualizing the accounts conveyed in scripture is unparalleled. Yet I think the most substantial aspect of the experience is the individual imprint it leaves. I’d postulate that none of us are impacted in the same way … much like the reading of God’s word is a way that He speaks to us discretely and uniquely. Having been to Israel previously, I also know that the affect of seeing God’s land is often peeled back layer by layer over time. Again, similarly to how God’s word permeates our hearts a level at a time as we peer into it more and more and allow the Holy Spirit to use it to minister to us.

So it is that I am both deeply moved from our time in Israel and probably wholly unaware of the eventual implication of the journey. Reading over the time since we left through 1 Samuel 25-31, 2 Samuel 1-4, 1 Chronicles 1-10, Psalms 6, 8-10, 14, 16-19, 21, 35, 43-45, 49, 54, 63,73, 77-78, 81, 84-85, 87-88, 92-93, 102-104, 121, 123-125, 128-130, was superlative because I was reading and seeing at the same time.

Such is the case with our visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, coupled with a lesson that struck me from 1 Samuel 25. But let me first set up the situation … King David and his men were traveling from En-Gedi to the wilderness and along the way, came upon the land of a wealthy but testy man called Nabal. David asked Nabal to share any provisions he might be willing to provide. Nabal answered in a way that was both insulting and pompous, resulting in David’s rage and vow to kill Nabal. Fortunately for Nabal, his wife Abigail intervened, tipping the scales away from David’s ire and toward mercy instead. Abigail’s plea is conveyed in verses 23 to 28

When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed low before him.  She fell at his feet and said, “I accept all blame in this matter, my lord. Please listen to what I have to say.  I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests. But I never even saw the young men you sent. “Now, my lord, as surely as the Lord lives and you yourself live, since the Lordhas kept you from murdering and taking vengeance into your own hands, let all your enemies and those who try to harm you be as cursed as Nabal is.  And here is a present that I, your servant, have brought to you and your young men. Please forgive me if I have offended you in any way. The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles. And you have not done wrong throughout your entire life.

As we were planning to visit the Temple Mount (as shown in the photo above) we were warned that we had to remove any semblance of our Christian faith. No bibles. No cross necklaces, even if under our shirts. It was primarily for our safety. Traveling the country and historic sites, places where Christian history happened and places that pointed to Messiah, but which have been overrun and superseded by other religions to the drowning out of Christ, it’s tough not to get angry. Sort of like David’s response to Nabal. I have to admit, my initial responses were irritation and frustration. Denigrating our Savior isn’t something I tend to take lightly. It seems that limitations imposed on our faith are expanding and deepening. Antipathy toward Christianity feels as though it’s collapsing upon us on all sides … not just on the Temple Mount, not just in Israel, not just in the Middle East.

We can choose to be angry and seek retribution somehow. We can argue and complain and reflect back on those who limit us with seemingly similar limitations. Fight fire with fire. Tip the scales in our favor. Or we can be heartbroken and share God’s care for the lost. Tip the scales toward mercy.

God wants all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). We often want otherwise, particularly when we have a chance to fight back against those who fight us. How do we live a life that shares God’s heart for the lost and, how do we choose to focus less on how others are striving to limit our faith and more on the void that exists in their lives?

Nine days ago I was in the garden of Gethsemane, recalling Jesus’s turmoil as He was hours away from crucifixion. Jesus felt anguish both for the fact that He knew He’d have to go to the cross and accept the punishment and death associated with it, but I’m also convinced that His anguish was as much about the fact that the condition existed to begin with – our depravity hurt Him perhaps at least as much as His payment for it. If we are to emulate Him, we need to tip the scales in a different direction … away from the anger of the attacks on the Christian faith and more to the anguish of knowing so many don’t have it. As Abigail intervened on behalf of her husband – despite that he may have deserved to be punished – so perhaps we should have a heart of intervention for those who lack hope and fulfillment. Those who are “this close” to (spiritual) death and don’t realize it.

Standing on top of the Temple Mount I reflected on how that morning before we left, I asked God to change my heart from resentment about how I was being forced to hide my expressions of faith. Seeing four or five religious Jews need to be escorted across the Temple Mount by soldiers because they refused to remove their yarmulkes was an apt reminder that I need Him to continually change my heart … that visual brought me back to infuriation. But maybe what should incense me is how little mercy I can tend to show those that are lost. How little I truly internalize what Jesus was really doing on that cross … forgiving us unforgivables and paving the way for those who have yet to receive the pardon.   What should rile me is the enemy who covers the eyes of so many and falsifies his status as defeated and impotent, dragging so many unsuspecting and oblivious adherents of his lies along with him. Time for me (us) to tip the scales back to where Jesus was … love and mercy for those who need it most.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

The heart of the matter

heart of the night

I didn’t bother counting, but I searched on song titles with the word “heart” in them and perhaps not surprisingly there are thousands. Heck, I’d be willing to bet if you looked at movie and book titles it would expand mind-blowingly. Why? Because the heart is understood to be the place where our most deeply-seeded feelings reside, and where the core of our life persists in both the physical and the spiritual sense.

While that might be the case, I suspect that the heart is more conundrum than comprehension. We may understand that the heart is primary and core, we don’t understand what is primary and core about it. I mean for ourselves … I doubt we fully understand the content of our own hearts. I know for a fact we don’t know the content of others’ hearts. As one of my favorite songs by the Paul Colman Trio says, “They say ‘just follow your heart,’ yeah but what if it lies?” And here the heart’s so crucial and yet we understand it so little. Perhaps not at all. We’re unable to get to the heart of the matter.

My reading the past week or so reminded me of the futility as humans of trying to propose we get it. Folks, we don’t. But …

As I read from Joshua 16-24, Judges 1-21, Ruth 1-41 Samuel 1-24, Psalms 7, 11, 27, 31, 34, 52 and 59, a key point was throughout that was particular pointed out in 1 Samuel 16:4-7.

So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When he arrived at Bethlehem, the elders of the town came trembling to meet him. “What’s wrong?” they asked. “Do you come in peace?” “Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too. When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

In this portion of scripture, we have Samuel visiting the family of Jesse to find the one of Jesse’s sons that the Lord had selected and anointed as the next king, in replacement of Saul. Naturally, as Samuel was visiting he expected that the next king would actually look like a king. You know, tall, handsome, strong, whatever it is that a king should look like … perhaps what Hollywood would say (don’t get me started on Hollywood haha). Anyhow, the Lord provides Samuel – and us – an apt reminder of the heart of the matter.

So let me ask a bizarre question to make my chief point. What if we didn’t have eyes? Or perhaps if our eyes were different, so that when we “looked” at someone the only thing we saw was what was in their hearts. That is, we could see the heart of the matter.

What would we see?

Pain? Hurt? Woundedness? Sorrow? Deception? Darkness?

What if when we “looked” in the mirror we saw the same things in ourselves?

What we would see is the heart of the matter … how the Lord sees. As God reminded Samuel, “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” So let’s assume we could actually see other people’s hearts (or maybe even our own … but for now lets focus on the hearts of others). How would it change how we treat people?   How would it change our relationships? How would it change our discussions? How would it change our faith? How would it change our churches? How would it change our world?

My point in this is that we judge what we can actually see and we assume, interpret, and infer the rest. Wrongly. God, of course, does so with pristine accuracy. So with our interactions with one another, if we saw what was in someone’s heart would their “attitude” or “motives” as we see them – wrongly – when seen rightly change how we behave? How we treat them? How we sympathize or perhaps empathize? Chance are, yes, it would change.

So why not seek to make that change happen now? Clearly we cannot see as God sees but we can ask Him to align our hearts and mind to what He sees. We can ask Him to change our hearts and our eyes, and to show us through the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our lives to start to see the heart of the matter, as He sees.

As we stand here on Good Friday, when Jesus – knowing with 100% accuracy the horrible condition of the heart of the matter in each of us – willingly laid down His life and His rightful prominent position at the right hand of the Father, I think it’s reasonable and right for us to appreciate the gift of salvation brought by Jesus’s death. Especially because He saw the heart of the matter in you and me and still went to the cross. That’s why today, Good Friday, is truly good.

Let’s prayerfully ask God to begin to reveal to us how He sees, and to allow us to begin to develop vision to see the heart of the matter. To see one another’s hearts more … something tells me that might just be the key to repairing all that is wrong in this world. Yeah, we’ll never actually see how God sees … but if we keep seeking, He’ll help us find. Vision. To see the heart of the matter.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

Him-ility

humility

Businesses are always looking for it in their employees. For sure in their leadership. We want friends that don’t just preach it but possess it. The church is supposed to live it, though if we’re honest it’s equally rare within as without the church. We desire to embody it, and aspire to be a good example of it, but frankly if we think we have it we probably don’t.

Humility.

It’s probably the single most talked-about and sought-after trait in a fellow human. When we think of the most impactful and memorable (from a positive perspective) leaders throughout history we probably would use that adjective within the first three to describe what made them unique. As common as these factors are about the word, why is it that it’s pretty rare? I mean, I’m certain I don’t possess it and I sure want to. What makes it so difficult when it’s so favored?

I think I struck a chord this week during my reading, and I stumbled upon a scriptural reminder that I am going to keep in my pocket with a great many others that I usually have to tap into from time-to-time. The chord was during my continued daily reading from Deuteronomy 5-34, Psalms 91, and Joshua 1-15, and I’ll embellish more below when I unpack Deuteronomy 8:11-17. The reorientation it spurred in me was a slight revision of the word.

Him-ility.

“But that is the time to be careful! Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord your God and disobey his commands, regulations, and decrees that I am giving you today. For when you have become full and prosperous and have built fine homes to live in, and when your flocks and herds have become very large and your silver and gold have multiplied along with everything else, be careful! Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord your God, who rescued you from slavery in the land of Egypt. Do not forget that he led you through the great and terrifying wilderness with its poisonous snakes and scorpions, where it was so hot and dry. He gave you water from the rock! He fed you with manna in the wilderness, a food unknown to your ancestors. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. He did all this so you would never say to yourself, ‘I have achieved this wealth with my own strength and energy.’

Talk about a great “true north” passage! As I read through it, I had to admit that in many respects I violated the very heart of the listed “bewares.” It sets forth quite the admonition with the underlying theme being to alert us that the more we achieve and accomplish in life, the more apt we are to pat ourselves on the back, to give ourselves a high-five, to puff out our chests, to speak glowingly in the first-person. Think of your favorite politician, actor, athlete, etc. Chances are better than not that it is their service, their hard work, their study, their focus, their gifts, their talents that get the credit for the heights they reach. More often than I’d like to admit … for the heights I’ve reached in life it’s my service, my hard work, my study, my focus, my gifts, my talents that I attribute. That is NOT humility.

So how do we reframe our thinking and acknowledging? Him-ility.

I think the only way we can actually achieve the humility that we are seeking is to redirect our thinking toward Him-ility. The Holy Spirit prompted Moses to write in the Deuteronomy passage the key to Him-ility … it’s about HIM, not about ME. John the Baptist expressed the standard for a Him-ble life when he said of Jesus, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT)

Note that in John’s words, there are actually two conditionalities to achieving Him-ility. One we tend to assume is how we achieve humility … “I must become less and less.” But IF we really want to achieve humility, we have to chase Him-ility. That’s the part where John says, “He must become greater and greater.” And notice, that part comes first.

I don’t believe there is a true, reliable or lasting path to humility … I mean, Him-ility … without the predicate step of making Jesus more and more and more in our lives. That allows for us to become less and less and less … and in the process for Him to make us more and more and more in the manner that would give Him maximum glory and us maximum blessing. Ironic, huh? When we make Jesus more, we can make ourselves less, and He can make us more (just see 1 Peter 5:6 if you don’t believe me). Hence the ONLY path to humility is Him-ility.

This actually squares with my experience. When I look back … with honesty … on the achievements of my life, just as Moses wrote above, I see God’s hand in all of it. Not a single thing I’ve ever done came as the result of my own ability, effort, gifts, talents or intellect. Any of those things I possess – and those that know me might dispute whether I really possess them haha – are because God provided them. God freed the Israelites from slavery, led them through the wilderness, gave them water from a rock and food from nowhere. If we’re really authentic as we gaze back over our lives, we will also see how He freed us from bondage, led us through our wilderness experiences, and provided us sustenance when it seemed there was none.

Let’s go before God in prayer this week and ask Him to give us not a spirit of humility, but a spirit of Him-ility. Let’s ask Him to help us remember that the only way we can lead our businesses, guide our families, conduct our friendships, and live our lives in a lowly and genuine way is to look to Him. To have Him be more and more and more as the Guide of our lives, so we can be less and less and less. Then, and only then, can He make us more and more and more in His eyes.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR

DIY

Do-it-Yourself

Cable and satellite tv, the internet, Lowe’s and Home Depot, and many other influences have enabled me to be handier than I can ever have imagined. I assure you, I was not born with abilities to fix things in my house, car, etc. If you know me, this is where you express your most heartfelt and enthusiastic “amen!” It’s incredible how my ineptitude has been transformed with so many skills I never envisioned. My dad did a good job as I was growing up, and especially after Helen and I got married and owned our own homes, showing me how to change outlets and switches, fixing leaking faucets or unclogging clogs. But the true metamorphosis continues especially with being able to Google anything and to watch the “how to” on YouTube. It … is … AMAZING!

It strikes me that this isn’t just a Michael thing. I suspect that all of us have skills we once only wished we could have. The sheer unadulterated POWER I feel when I can make that “service engine soon” light in my Prius is worth my weight in gold. This is evidenced these days by the advent of the initials D-I-Y (do it yourself) … which I recall nary a mention before the emergence of the various media that have equipped those of us previously unequippable.

This newfound freedom from newfound ability emboldens us. As I was reading this week from Numbers 26-36 and Deuteronomy 1-4, I had a tinge of conviction about the DIY capability I put to use around the house, but not outside of it. Allow me to share from Numbers 32:1-9, and to explain thereafter …

The tribes of Reuben and Gad owned vast numbers of livestock. So when they saw that the lands of Jazer and Gilead were ideally suited for their flocks and herds, they came to Moses, Eleazar the priest, and the other leaders of the community. They said, “Notice the towns of Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sibmah, Nebo, and Beon. The Lord has conquered this whole area for the community of Israel, and it is ideally suited for all our livestock. If we have found favor with you, please let us have this land as our property instead of giving us land across the Jordan River.” “Do you intend to stay here while your brothers go across and do all the fighting?” Moses asked the men of Gad and Reuben. “Why do you want to discourage the rest of the people of Israel from going across to the land the Lord has given them? Your ancestors did the same thing when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land. After they went up to the valley of Eshcol and explored the land, they discouraged the people of Israel from entering the land the Lord was giving them.

Let me start out by saying that in fairness, the men of Reuben and Gad were misunderstood to be wanting to beg off of the battle to occupy the land the Lord had provided to the Israelites on the west side of the Jordan river. But let’s set that aside for the moment. Because the message here derives from a common thread that may well have been the motivation of the men of Reuben and Gad before they were rebuked by Moses and perhaps “clarified.” We’re not totally sure either way.

Anyhow, when I read this I thought it to be a powerful illustration of the mentality we see in Christendom today. There was a sense on Moses’ part that the men of Reuben and Gad weren’t so much content with the land where they were on the east side of the Jordan. Rather the concern was that they were willing to let the other tribes do the difficult work of going over the Jordan and fighting the foreign tribes that were occupying the land the Lord was providing. Either they were unwilling to join the fight or too afraid to engage in the fight. One way or the other, they were happy to let the others do the hard work. DIY wasn’t exactly uppermost on their minds or burning a hole in their hearts.

Encountering that angle on the passage made me think of our modern day churches. The 80-20 rule is alive and well … 80 percent of the ministry tends to be done by 20 percent of the people. The rest of us engage with church in much the same way we would our favorite DIY television show. As observers, spectators and too infrequently as doers. So much for the D of DIY, at least when it comes to church.

Why are we so unwilling to take on the D of the DIY? I suspect much of it has to do with the assumed hesitation of the men of Reuben and Gad. Crossing the Jordan in and of itself meant having to once again pack up their belongings and move from the comfortable place they were in. It meant messy and arduous work. It meant potential hazards in the actual crossing. It meant being willing to fight the enemies on the other side, and it meant possible taking losses in the short-term to gain victories in the long-term. What it also really meant … and they weren’t seeing … is that even in the DIY there was help. GOD had ALREADY done the work, fought the battle, and won the victory. Even when I take on a DIY project, I still always have available the help and expertise of someone more knowledgeable. When it came to taking the land on the west side of the Jordan, God had already accomplished the task.

And so it is in ministry. On one hand, we have to decide to cross, to battle, and to get involved in often difficult and messy endeavors. But God is the One who does the actual work and wins the actual battle. Hence the folly of being unwilling to minister and get involved. Hence the folly of leaving it to someone else. All we’re signing up for is the willingness to be used … and to be blessed. I can tell you with 100 percent assurance … the times when I’ve been willing to DIY in ministry (which is anything but Y) I have always been the greatest recipient of reward. It’s senseless to DIY at home, but not to DIY where Jesus called us to … Jerusalem (our neighborhood), Judea (our surroundings), Samaria (“across the tracks” where people are different than we are), and the ends of the earth. My prayer for all of us is less and less frequently, will we leave the DIY of God’s work to others.

Soli Deo gloria!

MR