Humility 101

“The world screams “You are enough” and we are desperate to believe it. But being enough is different from being worthy and valuable. We are beautiful people flawed to the core, but deeply worthy of love and of priceless value to our Creator God… every one. Jesus has no favorites. So to say “without You I am nothing” is not to say we have no value. This prayer simply says that by ourselves, we are unable to thrive.” Lisa Whittle

That last sentence hits me so hard… we are unable to thrive on our own apart from God. As much as we may try, (and boy do we try) it goes against everything in our spiritual nature to try and live life on our own. Now our flesh is another story, it wants its moment in the spotlight, to be sure. We try to “be enough” as we strive and wrangle our way to the next thing, and the dust never seems to settle. It’s actually quite alright that we aren’t enough, because that’s the beauty of serving a God who is:

“Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.” 2 Corinthians 3:5

So we are not, in fact good enough or sufficient. Not on our own, anyways. Believing that our strength or wisdom comes from within is a short trip around the block, we end up right back where we started. The beauty of the Gospel is that it turns us away from our selfish, narrow selves and towards something far more satisfying and larger. It’s not that we don’t have value, in fact we are so important to God that He doesn’t want us wasting our lives on things that leave us empty. Likewise, we don’t ever need to feel bad about not being enough.

“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.” Romans 8:1

The story in Mark 9 where Jesus’ disciples struggle through this makes me laugh and cringe all at once:

“They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35

Here they are, in the company of Jesus, traveling the long road with Him as He performs miracles and begins to reveal what is coming next – and they are arguing about which one of them was or would be the greatest. Lord have mercy. Literally.

Who had the best argument I wonder? John? Peter? Judas even? Jesus waits until they enter a house and then asks them “oh, by the way, what was all that arguing about?” Crickets.

I imagine how I am when my boys argue over something so ridiculous it just takes all my energy not to throw up my hands and leave the room. Jesus being Jesus, He sits down and has to explain a few things to them. Humility 101.

He has no favorites. When left to our own devices we are all kind of a selfish mess, wondering about being the greatest or the most (fill in the blank). There’s always someone better, and none of us are sufficient. What a relief that instead of living under condemnation, we can just go all-in with Jesus and thrive where He takes us.

Through abiding, we live. Through humility, we thrive.

Lord help us let go of the idea that we can ever be ‘enough’ and let us see the greater purpose that You have in using our insufficiency to glorify You. 🙌🏼

The Feelings Train Has Left The Station

facts faith feelings 2

 

I love me a good ‘satire-as-truth’ article, so here’s a little bit of reality-based humor from over at the Babylon Bee:

SEATTLE, WA—After reading several chapters from the gospels over the weekend, local progressive believer Wendy Butler reportedly published a Patheos blog post in which she criticized Jesus of Nazareth for “not being very Christlike.”  

The blog post took Jesus to task for His “unloving and problematic” teachings.“He devotes entire sections of His sermons to ranting about archaic religious concepts like hell and the last judgment instead of just coming alongside the marginalized and affirming their sins,” Butler said. “Very little of what He did on earth I would describe as life-giving. Frankly, I do a better job of being Christlike than Christ Himself.”

Zing! Is anyone offended?

Our experiences lead the way when defining how we think about God, its partially true. It isn’t right, but it’s true. How can some have such a reverent outlook while others dismantle Jesus down to nuts and bolts only to put Him back together how they’d like to see Him? To be fair, it plays out on both sides of the fence, the end result being the same, a kind of build-your-own-Jesus that never really resembles the real one.

I’ve known people whose Jesus still lives up on a cross , defeated and sad. They revere Him but know none of His power. Others take a more charismatic view, Jesus is their sandal-wearing buddy, here to serve or comfort in time of need. We conveniently take certain passages from the Good Book and use them to reinforce ‘our Jesus’. Each side has their go-to verses they like to use: “He hung out with sinners!” vs. “He turned over the tables in righteous anger!” and everything in between.

Here’s the rub: we are all human with vastly differing views and experiences. The minute we start trying to form the Word to suit our agenda is the moment we might as well toss in the towel. We have to begin with Jesus. He is our starting place. We don’t need to pull out passages that prove our point, we need to just point to Him.

Jeremiah 29:13 says “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 
We are told in Proverbs that wisdom and knowledge is found when we seek it out like treasure and when we cry out for discernment (2:3-4). We do have the answers, and they actually are kind of a “one size fits all” in the sense that Jesus is who He is. Now, of course He deals with us on a most personal level and it is a beautiful thing, because we are certainly not one size fits all people. He knows our life road map that got us where we are, our quirks, our wounds, the silly stuff we believe that may not be entirely true, He gets it. He just offers us all a clear lifeline out of the muddy waters and into the Living Waters of truth.

There’s a lot of buzz lately in Christian (especially womens) circles about the need to be brave and fierce and true to your ‘tribe’. It’s all about that ‘tribe’. That’s all fantastic, provided your tribe is grounded in the truth of God’s Word. We are meant to support one another, but we are not meant to replace Jesus for someone else. That’s the thing about following the feelings, they aren’t solid and what’s true today may not be six months from now.

There’s a lot of truth to the satire, we decide we know whats best and what Jesus really meant when He said such and such. We tweak it a bit to fit our desires. And it takes off like wildfire into the next thing and the next, and before we know it, Biblical Jesus is a blurry image in the rear view mirror and we are taking off full steam ahead on the feelings train that we have no business driving. When you have voices inside Christianity doubling down on distorting the gospels to fit a hurting culture, you wind up with half the listeners believing a lie and the other half left either in fear of speaking up or disgusted confusion.

“Your Jesus is meeeeaaannn. I don’t like mean. I like tolerance. Jesus loves everyone. It isn’t right to hurt and exclude people the way you do.” 

“Your Jesus is a hippie. The real Jesus stood for truth and justice and would never put up with sin. It isn’t right to be so permissive of outright sin.”

While we’re busy firing off cheap shots at the other camp, that ugly snake slithers away hissing and grinning at having performed his duty to perfection.

When Jen Hatmaker and others came out in support of gay unions as godly and permissive, the church understandably fired back. I read a LOT of the responses and fallout when this happened and I can honestly say the disagreement was for the most part, civil but strong. Her response to it all was to attack the ‘Christian Machine’ that oh so predictably called her out on her claims. There were many heartfelt, well thought out responses to their very heartfelt departure from Biblical teaching. I’m not attacking her, I’m pointing out that when we place our self and feelings at the center of our arguments its a losing battle. When the argument becomes about ‘you’ it’s over. The vast majority of people weren’t attacking her, they were standing up for long-held Biblical truth, which, by the way, we are supposed to do in love. If our response is to shut others down and (like the lovely young lady in the satire article) imply we have the upper hand on compassion that Jesus Himself doesn’t seem to have, well then, prepare for some healthy debate coming your way.

We are all fallible and prone to wander. We all want the latest hot take of how to make this life thing work to our advantage. Most Christians I know of, Hatmaker included, want to mend hurting hearts and bring people to Jesus. Nobody wants to be smacked upside the head with a hard cover King James and told they’re scum. And those who have been pulled from the ledge will tell you they don’t want to be coddled in their sin either. (See Rosaria Butterfield’s beautiful essay on that topic if you want to be encouraged about speaking truth in love).

We are mandated, by Jesus Himself to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31) AND honor Christ as Lord, being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; doing it with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). So the two dueling-Jesus guys actually do meet up in the middle! They both exist! Let the truth speak for itself. We miss so very much when we try and mold Jesus to be how we want Him to be. Let the entire Word of God be your home base, your safety, your map; the real Jesus will show up in ways you’d never expect.

 

 

When Jesus Marveled

“Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to tho one, “Go,” and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Matthew 8: 5-10

Jesus marveled. A Roman centurion had faith that astounded even Jesus. He believed that his servant could be healed with just a word from the Lord. Apparently this kind of faith was pretty rare. We read this and think “well, good for him, he figured it out, whatever it is!”  But what is “it”? I think faith (the effective, Biblical kind) has been made complicated. God made it quite simple. He gives us examples in His word to show us that faith isn’t difficult or beyond us, we just need to have His perspective on things.

Simple examples from everyday life:

Roman centurions weren’t known for their love of Jesus, much less having great faith. What this man understood though, was authority. He was in charge of people. They would act at his command. He figured that if his servants obeyed him, how much more would demons have to obey God at His command? He recognized that all he needed was a word from Jesus for his servant to be healed.

No limiting Jesus:

The centurion recognized Jesus didn’t need to physically come all the way out to the house to heal his servant. Jesus knew it too, of course. The Roman spoke what he understood to Jesus, essentially saying “this is how I understand it to work… so if this is correct, save yourself the trip and just speak the word!” Jesus is gracious to meet us where we are – He’s always willing to “make the trip” for us. How beautiful though, when we understand His ways more fully and step into line with them the way this man did!

He was spiritually-minded

The Roman understood one thing that is easy to forget: the Truth of the unseen world is stronger than the ‘truth’ of our physical world. The world we see was created as a result of there first being a spiritual realm. It was called into existence because God spoke it. The Bible tells us that this physical world is changeable but the spiritual realm is fixed (2 Corinthians 4:18).

Being spiritually-minded doesn’t mean we discount or ignore problems. We read “be spiritually-minded” and wonder if we’re just supposed to think positive thoughts and hope for the best. But anyone can tell you that doesn’t work.  When we see physical problems, we zone in on them and then ask God for help. His Truth goes out of focus. When our minds are fixed on just the physical, we can’t operate in God’s Truth. The Bible tells us that to be spirit-minded is life and peace, while being carnally minded is death (Romans 8:6). He is telling us to get our minds off of what we see and feel and onto His Truth. In a world that tells us to focus on our feelings and how every little thing affects us, it’s no wonder we don’t see faith operating the way it should. God doesn’t want us to deny a  problem – He is asking us to deal with it from the spiritual side.

Faith makes the unseen visible

Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  This is a very popular verse. I always skimmed over it thinking faith is just a kind of hope that we have for something that hasn’t happened yet. But it says evidence of things not seen. It doesn’t say “evidence of things that don’t exist. There is a huge difference! We aren’t hoping for pie in the sky things that don’t exist, calling them into being like some magician. That’s not God and it’s not Biblical. Our faith is for things that exist, but aren’t seen or manifest yet because they are in the spiritual realm. Our job is to plug in and come into agreement with God and get those things into the physical! 

This goes totally against the world we live in. It’s not natural to put more stock in the invisible than we do the visible. But by abiding in God’s Truth, soaking in the word and letting it take root, it can happen. The Roman soldier knew something I wish I had known a long time ago: all it takes is a word from God and belief on our part to believe that He can do it. That’s it.

It’s important to open the Word and see it with fresh eyes. It can be hard. Things don’t always jump off the page and excite us. We are trained to move on to the next thing if we aren’t entertained. But we have to keep at it. Sometimes we need Jesus to come all the way out to our house and meet us there. It’s ok. He’s happy to do it. How powerful, though, to have a simple faith that takes Him at His spoken word.

This Roman was about the least qualified person in Israel to understand what he did. Part of his very job was to keep the Jesus people at bay. His simple acceptance of who Christ was opened the door for him. Jesus marveled at his faith, not because he had figured out a complex, hidden mystery of the ages, but because he really believed in the person of Jesus and in His power. The invisible became visible.

It just takes one word.