Walking in Humility

There has been a lot of upset football fans over the new “Taunting” rules being incorporated into this season. It seems that most feel they are overly restrictive or, at least, not being applied in a uniform and consistent manner. Some have said this brings us to the NFL or No Fun League!

I helped coach a youth football team for 8–10-year-olds. It was very evident from the very first practice those who were influenced by some of the more braggadocios players they see on TV. I have always hated a lot of the antics the players do on Sundays and even Saturdays in college football to some degree. The victory dances don’t really bother me too much until someone adds something inappropriate to their celebration. The high-stepping and flipping into the endzone or spiking the ball have become almost commonplace, but the one that really gets to me is when a player makes a great tackle or stop of the other team and then stands over the other player flexing (and I am sure cursing) him! I really believe that I would not handle that well if I was the one being stood over! Probably one of the MANY reasons I wouldn’t make it into the NFL!

I always encouraged our young players to wrap-up and tackle hard … football is a violent sport by design … but I always told our players that once they planted their opponent into the field to then offer them a hand and help them up! Hit ‘em as hard as you can ensuring you have completed your job, but then show grace and offer your hand in assistance!

As Christians we are called to be humble … not weak … and doing for others benefit instead of our own! The Bible tells us this concerning humility: “He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noticed how they would choose the best places for themselves: When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, don’t recline at the best place, because a more distinguished person than you may have been invited by your host. The one who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then in humiliation, you will proceed to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and recline in the lowest place, so that when the one who invited you comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ You will then be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”  Luke 14: 7-11 Gayle Sayers, Tim Tebow and Drew Brees are the top three on the list of “Most Humble NFL Players!” I knew about Tebow and Brees’ declarations of faith but knew little of Sayers. In an article discussing him it was noted:

“Sayers wrote a book entitled I Am Third, in which he told the remarkable story of his friendship with Brian Piccolo. The title in itself shows how humble Sayers was, as it means God is first and his family is second. (My emphasis)

The book had such an amazing story that they created a movie about it called Brian’s Song. The movie showed how Sayers’ good friend, Piccolo, was fighting off terminal cancer as he turned pro and battled Sayers for the starting tailback position.

Piccolo and Sayers became best friends and pushed one another to be the best that they could be. When Sayers accepted the NFL’s Most Courageous Player award, he talked about his good friend Piccolo.

‘I love Brian Piccolo, and I’d like all of you to love him,’ Sayers said.  ‘When you hit your knees to pray tonight, please ask God to love him, too.'”

I would love to see more of this in football, both collegiate and professional, and … well … in the rest of the world too! Let’s show the world true humility and in doing so point them to the humblest servant our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

Here is an example: Chiefs Offensive Lineman Stefen Wisniewski Shares His Faith at Super Bowl Opening Night – YouTube

Learning to Facilitate Rather Than Demand

Biblical love declares, “Love is not self-seeking” (1 Cor. 13:5, NIV).  The ESV states it this way, love does not insist on its own way.  Being born again based on the cross of Jesus with His blood freely flowing for our salvation, our DNA as Christ-followers is agape, sacrificial love. 

Do we in the Christian community exemplify agape sacrificial love?  Are we like others in this world insisting on our own way?  Do we consistently position ourselves and our agendas as more important than the needs of others?  Are we demanders or facilitators?

Jesus sets the example of unselfishness in John 13:2-5, “The evening meal was in progress…Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.”   Jesus knew God the Father had placed all power under Him.  What did He do?  Did He arrogantly demand others allegiance and the control of their life?  No, He humbly served them. 

Philippians 2 declares for us to exemplify the mindset of Jesus, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”  Humbly and genuinely look after the interest of others along with your own.  You will see something beautiful occur.  Close, in-depth, mature friendships will happen allowing you to experience the koinonia fellowship in the “awesomeness” of Jesus at the core.

How about our speech as believers?  Do we reflect selfishness with our demands at the forefront or support for others?  Ephesians 4:29 is such a constructive verse, Let no unwholesome word come out of your mouth, but if there is any good word for edification according to the need of the moment, say that, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” As His people our speech is to be wholesome, edifying, and graceful to others.

Are you a self-seeker who insists on your own way?  Surrender this to Him and allow Him to show His love and encouragement to others through you.  Learn to facilitate rather than demand.

Are You Focused on the Frame or the Masterpiece?

Can you imagine an individual in an exclusive art gallery approaching a da Vinci, van Gogh, or Picasso masterpiece and start squawking about how beautiful the frame around the masterpiece is?  I am sure that your thoughts are like mine, “how foolish, how silly to even imagine such a thing!” Do you realize that most of us do this very thing in our personal lives?  We focus on the frame and not the Masterpiece everyday of our life.

The following Biblical story hopefully will help make my point.  The Jews in the Old Testament persistently cried out to God for a king to be selected. They wanted to be ruled like other countries around them rather than the current theocracy that God had designed.  Because of their relentless cries, God allowed it. He directed Samuel, the Chief Justice, to search for a king, and he selected Saul to rule the Jews.  Physically, Saul had it all. 1 Samuel 9:2 states it this way, “Saul (was) as handsome a young man as could be found anywhere in Israel, and he was a head taller than anyone else.”  He had it all, good looks, physical stature with magnetic charisma. The bad news is that Saul’s heart was not in tune with God.  Samuel grieved Saul’s failure, yet God told him to select the next king after Saul and where to find him.

One of the sons in the house of Jesse located in Bethlehem would be the next king. Reluctantly, Samuel headed that way to interview each of the sons. God instructed him “to anoint for me the one I indicate.”  Jesse started parading his sons before Samuel.  Eliab, his oldest, was a super impressive guy.  Samuel was convinced, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.”  Like Saul, here was another handsome, charismatic man who looked the part.  This time God scolded Saul and made a huge point, “But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” 1 Samuel 16:7.  Let me restate this for you, Samuel looked at the frame (his appearance), but God looked at the Masterpiece…his heart.  All of Jesse’s sons except the youngest were paraded in front of Samuel.  None of these were acceptable to God. Finally, they had to fetch the youngest son who was out in the fields with the sheep.  Once, Samuel saw David, God told him to Rise and anoint him; this is the one. So, Samuel anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon David.”  David was a young man who out in the shepherd fields under the stars had developed a heart for God with whom God could paint a masterpiece.  His heart was spiritually full and sensitive and was precious to God.

David wrote in Psalms 13:5&6, “I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.”  He wrote in Psalms 15:2, “Walk blamelessly and do what is right and speak truth in your heart.”  These verses from the heart of David are Masterpieces.  

Let’s change our focus.  Rather than our priority being our appearance, let’s give our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to build a marvelous Masterpiece in our lives.

Are Anxieties Constantly Chasing You?

Let me assure you that if the answer to the above question is “Yes”, I can empathize with you.  For 30+ years of life, I was inundated by anxieties.  That was my daily existence.  Acute anxieties shrunk my life.  I say acute rather than chronic because my experience was suffocating and oppressive.  I tried to suppress, repress, depress, compress, and protest them.  Nothing worked.  I constantly experienced the loud crackling, buzzing “white” noise of anxiety in my mind.  The result was a loss of hope and focus accompanied by depression. 

Twenty years ago, I learned a huge lesson that changed my life.  Anxieties were the symptoms not the cause.  They reside in the weakest, most vulnerable part of your body, your emotions.  Feelings are produced by self-talk.  You may not be in touch with your self-talk, but it is going on all the time even when you sleep.  Have you gone to bed feeling quite well yet wake up in the middle of the night being down in the dumps or shook up by anxiety or fear?  Self-talk is the villain.  Self-talk can be a nasty, bitter, hurtful, lustful, dark part of our flesh.  It has access to all the recesses of our mind.  File after file, voluminous amounts of material reside in your mind that self-talk can draw from to take you down, yet self-talk is not the core part of the chain.

The innermost thoughts at the core of your mind (also called your heart) are what can take you down.  Your mental core produces self-talk.  The key to emotional health is believing and abiding in the TRUTH at the heart level.  If the core of your thought process is saturated with the truth, your self-talk becomes positive and productive with your emotions at peace.  To facilitate this, memorize, meditate, and abide in the truths in the Bible, the living Word of God, such as the following verses:

  • Proverbs 4:20-23, 20 My child, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words.
    21 Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; 22 for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body.  23 Above all else, guard your heart,
     for everything you do flows from it.  Self-talk, emotions, and behavior are all sourced from your heart, the very core of your mind.
  • Proverbs 3:5&6, Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.  Learn to trust God at the core of your being.  Don’t go native “leaning on your own understanding”.  If so, you will sink back into depression and anxiousness.
  • Psalms 119:9&11, How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word… 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. 
  • John 17:17, Sanctify them (made whole) with truth, your word is truth.
  • John 8:31&32, 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  If you “abide by” or “hold to” His Word, you will be set free because His Word is the TRUTH.

Once your heart (the core of your mind) is in order, Philippians 4:6-8 instructs us how to keep anxiety out of life.  On a moment-by-moment basis, 6a Be-anxious-in-nothing” meaning every anxiety is a lie…it’s not the truth.  Spit those bones out.  6b But-in-EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  7 And (as a result of v. 6) the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Don’t heed the negative, anxiety laden self-talk thrown at you by the flesh nor allow the devil to shoot a “fiery dart” without having your spiritual armor on…BE ANXIOUS IN NOTHING.  In verse 8, we are told what to focus our mind on to keep peace. Make the center of your attention to be TRUTH, NOBLE, RIGHT, PURE, and ADMIRABLE (meaning excellent or praiseworthy).  “Think about such things (especially TRUTH)…put it into practice and the God of peace will be with you.   

When you first start practicing the above, your emotions may still be haywire and hurtful.  They have been wired that way for a long period of time.  You can’t shut off feelings like a water faucet; however, if you continue to think on the truth and memorize and “chew on” His Word daily, you will discover that your feelings will steadily subside and will synch up with your heart.  It’s all about the TRUTH!  Abide in His Word and “you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Psalm 85

In the last 12-months, like so many others, we have experienced the deaths of family members, friends and neighbors as well as various injuries and illnesses as well as family members estranged from one another. When we thought we were finally going to get past the dreaded 2020, 2021 didn’t hold back from unleashing some torment of its own!

I was reading in Psalms 85. Many times, when we experience difficulties in our lives, we get caught up or stuck responding to God as the middle of that chapter says, “Will you be angry with us forever?  Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” It is easy to slip into a negative spiral from this point. Interestingly, the verses before and after these two say, 4Restore us again, God our Savior,
and put away your displeasure toward us. 7Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.

This Psalm was written after the Jews came out of Babylon. The Blue Letter Bible helps shed light on the meanings of some of the literary examples and comparisons made in this passage:

“Interpreters are generally of the opinion that this psalm was penned after the return of the Jews out of their captivity in Babylon, when they still remained under some tokens of God’s displeasure, which they here pray for the removal of. And nothing appears to the contrary, but that it might be penned then, as well as Ps. 137. They are the public interests that lie near the psalmist’s heart here, and the psalm is penned for the great congregation. The church was here in a deluge; above were clouds, below were waves; every thing was dark and dismal. The church is like Noah in the ark, between life and death, between hope and fear; being so,

  • I. Here is the dove sent forth in prayer. The petitions are against sin and wrath (v. 4) and for mercy and grace (v. 7). The pleas are taken from former favours (v. 1-3) and present distresses (v. 5, 6).
  • II. Here is the dove returning with an olive branch of peace and good tidings; the psalmist expects her return (v. 8) and then recounts the favours to God’s Israel which by the spirit of prophecy he gave assurance of to others, and by the spirit of faith he took the assurance of to himself (v. 9-13).

In singing this psalm we may be assisted in our prayers to God both for his church in general and for the land of our nativity in particular. The former part will be of use to direct our desires, the latter to encourage our faith and hope in those prayers.”

So, as this once nebulous Covid has now hit much closer to home and we have experienced it’s torment personally, I pray we would always look up and be faithful in our devotion to Christ and seek His righteousness as He provides His direction for our footsteps:

11 Faithfulness springs forth from the earth,
    and righteousness looks down from heaven.
12 The Lord will indeed give what is good,
    and our land will yield its harvest.
13 Righteousness goes before him
    and prepares the way for his steps.

You’ve Fought Hard, But Your Life Remains a Mess…

Pam and I led a marriage mentoring ministry in our former church and were always on the lookout for married couples who would be solid mentors.  Once we had the opportunity to interview many of these couples, we often discovered that their marriage and family life were a pretense.  Rather than mentoring other marriages, they desperately needed help with theirs.  They were a mess.  Full disclosure, Pam and I were in the same position ourselves for a number of years.  Do you feel that you’ve fought hard for your family, but your life remains a mess?

At the end of chapter 3 and the beginning of 4, James in his candid style bottom lines what frequently is going on in our lives.  3:14-16 states, “14 If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.”  Each of us in our marriages have our own selfish ideas and ambitions for what our lives should look like.  Individually, if we put our dreams into play, guess what happens?  We end up being “married singles” living with someone who has his/her own selfish ambitions which rub against yours causing huge issues in your household and to you personally.  Things can get ugly between the spouses and nasty with the kids.  Verse 16 is clear, bitter “envy and selfish ambition” lead to “disorder and every evil practice.”

Could James 4:1-4 be an honest picture of your household? 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  “Harboring bitter envy and selfish ambition” produces chaos in your marriage and an emotionally and unhealthy environment for your kids.

Hebrews 12:15 declares, See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”  Within your family and others, bitterness defiles, emotionally scars, and impacts the behavior of many others.  The bible does not say it “could” impact others, but it “will” impact others.

Look at the last half of James 3:14, “do not boast about it or deny the truth.”  Boasting about your ambitions when others around you are being crushed by your ego is flat out selfish.  This verse says for you to face the truth.  Take a good hard look at yourself and cry to God for truth.  Find Godly counsel with a Christian counselor, minister, or a mature Christian who has walked through a similar journey as yours.  Start sorting this out, Bro…Today!

Gather the Troops

(Part 2 in the Honoring God During Divorce series.)

Make no mistake about it – divorce is war. Gather the troops, a.k.a. Prayer Warriors.

You have entered a spiritual battle. However, you must remind yourself that your spouse is not the enemy. You may think it sure feels like they are the enemy; they are acting like an enemy.

Well, God has made provision for those thoughts and feelings. He instructs us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). Read 1 Corinthians 13 for a refresher on how God defines love; He is not asking you to have warm, affectionate feelings toward someone who feels like an enemy.

So, what does it look like to love your enemy? See Matthew 5:38-48. How do you pray for your persecutors? Pray for their salvation (Jude 23), their relationship with God to deepen (2 Pet. 3:18), and for conviction from the Holy Spirit to bring about repentance (Jn. 16:8).

I reiterate – Your Spouse Is Not Your Enemy. Satan is.

Remember, “that enemy of yours, the devil, roams around like a lion roaring [in fierce hunger], seeking someone to seize upon and devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). His goal is to steal, kill, and destroy (Jn. 10:10).

Don’t lose sight of who your real enemy is. Don’t be distracted by well-meaning advice that inadvertently focuses your anger on your spouse. Don’t be led astray by the incredibly intense emotions that will flood you.

Don’t be dismayed by the flaming missiles (Eph. 6:16) and weapons formed against you (Isa. 54:17). Trust me on this – there will be missiles and weapons.

Fear not, Christian; God has made provision for this reality. Hold fast to God’s promise that “no weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgment you shall show to be in the wrong” (Isa. 54:17).

The battle is spiritual – we do not war against flesh and blood, so our weapons of warfare are spiritual (Eph. 6:12). Put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18). Sharpen your sword, i.e., learn the Word of God and how to wield it righteously. Watch and pray.

A word of caution – don’t rob your prayers of power. Don’t use asking for prayer as a time to gossip or cast aspersions on your spouse. Don’t be double-minded – kneeling in prayer and walking in fear (Jam. 1:6-8).

Additional Prayer Points to Consider:

  • Pray for healing and protection for yourself and your child(ren) (Ps. 147:3)
  • Pray that God will strengthen your faith and you will be able to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7)
  • Pray for mercy and justice (Ps. 6)
  • Pray for a clean heart (Ps. 51:10) – that your thoughts and words be acceptable to God · (Ps. 19:14)
  • Pray that God will keep you free from both unconscious and presumptuous sins (Ps. 19:12-13)

Angela Startz – Certified Christian Life Coach

Man, I Am So Broken…

Whether it is marital or divorce issues, children or family problems, other relationship arguments, past experiences that leave you vulnerable, depression, anxieties, failure at work, inability to find a meaningful job, not nearly as successful as you thought you would be, or whatever is causing you serious personal conflict, I hear people talk about how hurt and broken they are in their personal lives…“Man, I am so broken…”  Let me encourage you.  Believe it or not, personal brokenness places you in a wonderful position to get to know God and what it means to follow him. 

Often, I hear a person share how God had allowed them to get to a place of despair and brokenness giving them a need to get to know Him.  The following verses are very clear about God’s compassionate heart for the brokenhearted.  This very time of discomfort and perhaps hardship may end up being the best time ever to grow spiritually.

Read the following powerful verses to see clearly how close to God’s heart are those who are brokenhearted: 

  • “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalms 147:3).
  • “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).  Noticed that God anointed Isaiah to “proclaim good news to the poor”, “binding up to the brokenhearted”, “freedom to the captives,” and “release from darkness for the prisoners.”  He is close to the suffering.  I believe that brokenness is especially dear to God because it is a heart issue.

Paul the Apostle recognized because of his amazing background, education, intelligence, and capacity God needed him to be brokenhearted to live in submission to Him.  The following verses were very dear to Paul and his relationship with God, But the Father said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9&10).  Paul understood in his brokenness, God was made perfect!

Don’t despair in brokenness…it is God’s means to get your attention and break your will so that you will wholly depend on Him.  God is especially close to and heals the brokenhearted. It’s time to grow!

Don’t Play Favorites…

When men meet other men, usually the very first question we ask is, “What do you do?” meaning where you work and what position you have at your job.  Intuitively, we want to know their status.  Following on from that, we frequently start treating each other and grouping with one another based on how the question is answered.  In our world system, favoritism is determined by our ranking.

In James 2:1-9, the half-brother of Jesus tells us straightforwardly what His brother thinks of our methodology of ranking and positioning each other: 

“My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: 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? But you have dishonored the poorIs it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture,Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin.”

James was blunt.  Jesus could not stand favoritism.

Favor of others by their status and appearance is all about this world not the next.  Treatment of others by their worldly ranking is spiritual sickness to God. 

Don’t play favorites!  Enough said…

Be Sharp

I’m finding there are some essentials when you live in the woods. Among those essentials is one that I find is right up there at the top, and that is a sharp blade. I need to keep my chain saw blade sharp, or it won’t cut. I need to keep my machete blade sharp or it won’t do the job I need it to. Why I need a machete, I will leave for another Journey. Let’s just say it has to do with what I call, “wait-a-minute vines.” I have found all this out the hard way, and that is I let my blades go dull. When we let them go dull, they are not that productive. And not only that, with a dull blade, I have to work harder to get something cut. I also realize that the same thing applies to my spiritual life. The word of God says, “For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and the thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account.” Hebrews 4:12-13 I use the phrase, “I feel this within the depths of my soul, within every fibre of my being.” That’s when I know that the Spirit is speaking to me, for I feel the effects of His communication deep within me. That’s the word! That’s the truth speaking to my heart, either telling me something that I should be doing, or something that I shouldn’t be doing. When I don’t go to the word every day, I get dulled, and it seems to take so much more energy to get things done, and my strength falters quickly. That voice of the Spirit, the One who lives in me, and wants me to trust Him with all that I am, and all that I have, comes to my heart every time I open the word of God! Pastor Andy