Monday, December 7, 2015

Genuine Humility

Yesterday, preaching on the humility of King David, I shared a quote that offers a wonderful definition of humility. It is found in the book Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney, 

“Humility is honestly assessing ourselves in light of God’s holiness and our sinfulness” (p.22)

That is short, to the point and biblically informed, just like the book.  

At the end of Humility, there is a list of suggestions on how to weaken pride and cultivate humility in our lives. These suggestions are connected to the definition of humility that has God’s holiness and our sinfulness at the core. I offer this helpful list to go over if you want to take the pursuit  of humility serious.   

  1. Reflect on the wonder of the cross. 
  2. Begin each day by acknowledging your dependence upon God.
  3. Begin your day expressing gratefulness to God. 
  4. Practice spiritual disciplines—prayer, study of the Word, worship. 
  5. Seize your commute time to memorize and mediate on Scripture. 
  6. Cast your cares upon Him, for He cares for you. 
  7. At the end of the day, transfer the glory to God. 
  8. Before going to sleep, receive this gift acknowledging His purpose for sleep. 
  9. Study the attributes of God.
  10. Study the doctrines of grace. 
  11. Study the doctrine of sin. 
  12. Play as much golf as possible* 
  13. Laugh often, and laugh at yourself often. 
  14. Identify evidences of grace in others. 
  15. Encourage and serve others each and every day. 
  16. Invite and pursue correction. 
  17. Respond humbly to trials. 

*A personal favorite from the author of this blog

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Who is the most valuable guy in the church?

I recently read a helpful article on how to spot the most dangerous guy in the church. After giving some marks to identify this person, the main point is that the most dangerous guy in the church is unteachable

I want to take the opposite approach and look at how to identify the most valuable guy in the church, and then boil it down to his most essential quality. I’ve found at least five marks of the most valuable man in the church in the book of James. 

1. He is familiar with suffering and understands it is God’s instrument of growth. 
(Jas 1:2-4) Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”

2. He understands that the biggest sin problem is not in others, but his own heart. 
(Jas 1:14-15; 3:13-14) “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”

3. He knows the destructive power of the tongue and anger, yet has gained control over them.
(Jas 1:26,19-20) If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

4. He treats others equally and is not filled with jealously or self-centered ambition.
(Jas 2:1; 3:14-15) “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”
But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic.”

5. He is humbled by the high calling to teach and does not seek it for his own ego, and may not seek it at all.
(Jas 3:1)Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Take away
If the most dangerous guy in the church is marked by an unteachable spirit, the most valuable guy in the church is marked by his humble spirit. He has been humbled by suffering and sanctification. He shows humility in relationships and humility before the Word. 

He is humble and accepts that his greatest calling is simply to serve God and Christ (Jas 1:1). He is content if his life reflects that priority, even if he has very few fans and followers. He is not seeking to be valuable, since he is confident that his greatest value is found in the gospel. 

*All Scripture references are from the ESV

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Proud Irony in the LGBTQ Rainbow

Last week on Friday the Supreme Court issued their ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the U.S.  Based on the authority of Scripture, I can not celebrate this since it approves homosexual behavior, which God revealed as morally wrong in his Word (Lev 18:22, Rom 1:26-28, 1 Cor 6:9). I stand with other evangelicals who believe that marriage is designed to be the union of one man and one woman in a lifelong covenant. 

But many people were celebrating this over the past week. I noticed how social media lit up with rainbows.  Even the White House website was decorated this way. Some people changed their Facebook profiles to a rainbow enhanced picture of themselves. 

What I’ve found interesting for awhile is the symbol that the gay pride movement has chosen for its brand is a rainbow.  It’s supposed to show the diversity of the LGBTQ community. It has been around since 1978. 

The rainbow that we occasionally see in the sky has been around since the Flood of Genesis (Gen 6-9). The Flood was an act of God’s judgment on the world because of the increasing sinful depravity of humanity (Gen 6:5-7).  The only part of creation spared was Noah, his family, and the animals in the ark.  After the floodwaters abated, the Lord gave the rainbow as a covenant sign to humanity that he would never destroy the earth again (Gen 9:21).  Even though humanity will continue in wickedness, the Lord God will never send out a catastrophic judgment of this magnitude.  The fact that farmers continue to plant and harvest shows that he has kept the promise to this day. 

The Hebrew word used in Genesis is literally a bow (see Gen 9:13 in ESV, KJV or NASB); this reminds us of the bow a warrior uses in battle.  The imagery is striking. God the Creator hangs his bow of judgment up that he just used against all his creation. 

The gay pride movement did not “create” the rainbow as a stamp of diversity.  God, who also created marriage, created the rainbow as a symbol of his covenant with humanity.  Biblically informed people, when they see a rainbow, remember that sinful depravity brings about God’s swift judgment.  They also remember that God provides salvation through his grace, just like he did for Noah and his family.  There is also a reminder of how central marriage is to the narrative of human history.  When God commands Noah to come out of the ark, he also commands his wife, his sons and their wives.  When God begins a new creation with Noah and his family, the foundation again has the institution of male-female marriages and childbearing (Gen 9:1), just like the original creation of Adam and Eve (Gen 1:27-28). 

So the irony of the rainbow is that symbolically it is really packed with meaning in God’s perspective.  It speaks of the human depravity of sin and God’s judgment.  It also says something about how God began a new creation through marriage, male-female relationships, and childbearing.  And most importantly, it speaks the truth that God often does not treat us as our sins deserve (Ps 103:8-10). 

I write this as one who understands my own sinful depravity and need of God’s grace in Christ.  I can only hope that many of those who proudly wave their rainbow flags are able to see the same thing. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015


Some poetic reflection on my priorities right now in life. 

I find these days no time for blogs, 
Yet I’ve not sunk into a miry bog. 

It seems that time just passes by, 
Like words on a screen slip past the eye.

Most things written are easy to forget, 
Even if they seem somewhat legit.  

There are five people to care for at home, 
Created for relationship, longing to be known. 

And the church I pastor here in town, 
Made up of those who will inherit a crown. 

These deserve my best each day, 
As time on this earth is fading away. 

See, blogging has never been an identity for me, 
A child of God I’m content to be.

I’m confident I’ll have little regret, 
Knowing how my life was spent. 

When the time comes for me to retire, 
I hope I was able to inspire. 

Not because of words published on the web, 
But real souls I’ve led and fed. 

Prayer and Word sums up my main task, 
Which means for now, blogging comes in last. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My Favorite Prayer Resource

So far this year has started off with a focus on prayer in my life and church. The message I preached Sunday was on prayer from Philippians 1:3-11. Our church began a women’s prayer group that went very well from what I heard. The first book on my reading list is Tim Keller’s book on prayer. And in my personal Bible reading, I have been encouraged by Ezra and Nehemiah’s prayers. It is remarkable how God hears and responds to human words in his sovereign power. 

I wanted to suggest one of my favorite resources for personal prayer. Other than the Bible, the most helpful resource has been The Valley of Vision

This is a collection of Puritan prayers from previous generations. Those who appreciate antiquity and depth in the Christian faith will treasure it; others who are prone to novelty and naiveté may not. The language may take some getting used to, but I believe anyone who sticks with it will have a deeper prayer life. 

Several ingredients make for good prayer: contrition, joy, humility, courage, and faith. The Valley of Vision combines all of these in doctrinally rich prayer that makes us think greater thoughts about God. 

Here is one example of the spiritually rich prayers found in this devotional. It is best read slowly, meditatively, and obviously prayerfully.  

The Deeps
Lord Jesus, give me a deeper repentance, a horror of sin, a dread of its approach. Help me chastely to flee it and jealously to resolve that my heart shall be Thine alone.
Give me a deeper trust, that I may lose myself to find myself in Thee, the ground of my rest, the spring of my being. Give me a deeper knowledge of Thyself as saviour, master, lord, and king. Give me deeper power in private prayer, more sweetness in Thy Word, more steadfast grip on its truth. Give me deeper holiness in speech, thought, action, and let me not seek moral virtue apart from Thee.
Plough deep in me, great Lord, heavenly husbandman, that my being may be a tilled field, the roots of grace spreading far and wide, until Thou alone art seen in me, Thy beauty golden like summer harvest, Thy fruitfulness as autumn plenty.
I have no master but Thee, no law but Thy will, no delight but Thyself, no wealth but that Thou givest, no good but that Thou blessest, no peace but that Thou bestowest. I am nothing but that Thou makest me. I have nothing but that I receive from Thee. I can be nothing but that grace adorns me. Quarry me deep, dear Lord, and then fill me to overflowing with living water.

I came to faith in a culture that taught me pretty shallow prayer, so the Valley of Vision has been a great help to move beyond. I’m not sure how long I’ve been using it. I did find a receipt dating back to April 2011 in it as a bookmark, so I know that I was using it before then. 

My practice is to use the prayers in the book as a framework. I don’t just repeat the words, but think through them and pray accordingly in my own words. If you are looking for a new devotional resource to help in your prayer life, then check this classic out.