The Wages of Humility

Humility is the fear of the LORD; its wages are riches and honor and life.  – Proverbs 22:4 (NIV)

 

I’ve been working since I was a young lad.  Growing up on a farm in North Dakota had a lot to do with my work ethic.  A work ethic doesn’t mean that I like to get up early and work in the barn, it simply meant that I did what I had to do and learned how to enjoy it.

A work ethic is rewarded in wages.  The more valuable you become as an employee, you have a higher chance of being compensated well.  In some cases, people scrape by on the work ethic of others.  They do just enough to contribute to a project while remaining disengaged from the process.

The wages of humility can be rewarded richly.  The one thing about humility is this; you cannot bank on another person’s humility to ensure a good personal reward.  Each person is responsible for their humility towards God.  Either you have it or you don’t.

Humility is hard to do because it is the opposite of pride.  Pride keeps us disillusioned about how great we really aren’t.  Pride is like the emperor’s new clothes.  Like the emperor who paid dearly for a set of invisible clothes, we pay dearly while trying to look like something we aren’t.

In humility, we pay at first with our effort.  In the end, when we take the accurate assessment of ourselves in light of God and in light of what Jesus has done for us, we are richly rewarded with peace, provision and potential.

The hardest part of humility is accepting who we really are.  When dealing with the sin that separates us from God, it’s not easy to accept the light that reveals our hidden motives.  When dealing with our comparison with God, it’s not in our nature to worship His glory.

However, in humility we gain an accurate perspective of who we are in Christ.  Because of Jesus’ work on the cross and the entrance of the Holy Spirit on the earth, we can become sons and daughters of God.  That’s something to exercise humility for.

Think about this; whenever I act in pride, everyone sees my lack of clothing.  My motives are revealed and my actions are offensive.  Whenever I act in humility, everyone sees the heart of God working through me.  Humility will reveal truth in gentle ways.  While the truth may be difficult to embrace, it will be the truth that sets us free.

With truth like that, we can’t afford to act in anything but humility.

The Hard Road is Easy

No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.  – Romans 8:37 (NLT)

 

We don’t understand the love of God until we open our hearts to receive it.  We have the option to be known by God.  It’s not that He doesn’t know us already, He actually has given us a choice to open our hearts to His love.  Our choice doesn’t change the fact that He loves every single person on the earth.  What it does change is the dynamics of our relationship with Him.

The dynamics of a relationship change the odds in our favor.  Before relationship, it doesn’t take much to separate us from God’s love. (This is our part, not God’s).

  • Loss separates us from God when we blame Him for it.
  • Ambition separates us from God when we forget about Him in pursuit of other things.
  • Selfishness separates us from God when we focus on our life exclusively.

Consider what cannot separate us from the love of God.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?  – Romans 8:35 (NLT)

All of the things, beyond our control, cannot affect our relationship with God when we surrender to His great love for us.  Even in the middle of our suffering, the Holy Spirit continually works in our hearts to help us understand God’s great love for us.  Even in the middle of our rebellion, the Holy Spirit continually prods our heart with what is right.  Even in the middle of our distraction, the Holy Spirit works to bring our attention to proper focus.

The only thing that can separate me from God is me.  That’s something to consider.  God’s love reaches to the highest and lowest places in my life.  There’s no place beyond His reach unless it’s a choice of my will.  I have a choice to receive His love or to make my own road.

Seventeen years ago, when I worked road construction, I learned how smooth roads were made.  Paving a road is only part of the process.  Before the pavement is applied, the sub-grade is leveled and additional material is brought in if necessary.  Ultimately, the smoothness of a road is determined by the foundation.

This hard road of following Jesus can become easy through unconditional surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit.  Nothing will be able to separate me from the love that God has for me.  Through my surrender, nothing will be able to deter me from His purposes for me.

Remember this.  If God is for us, who can be against us?  If you’ve given God the lead in your life, what can separate you from His love?  God works deeply in your surrender.  He takes care of you and leads you into His purpose.

That’s a journey worth following.

A GREAT Deal

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  – Romans 8:31 (NLT)

It’s hard to imagine a deal like this.  In exchange for my surrender and decision to live for Christ through the Holy Spirit, I can experience all of this?  Where can I sign up?

  • There is no condemnation of previous sin while under the grace of Jesus.  Once we ask for forgiveness of our sins that have separated us from God’s holiness, His mercy covers us and makes us His own.
  • Those who surrender to the Holy Spirit are granted freedom from sin and its nature.  If you struggle against sin, the Holy Spirit will help you overcome sin by learning how to focus on following the His lead.  Our conduct is simply a byproduct of our focus.
  • The Holy Spirit – who raised Jesus from the grave – lives inside of you and strengthens you.  The same Holy Spirit that demonstrated such authority and power by raising Jesus from the dead is available for me and for you.  What may seem like a dead situation in our lives can be brought to life through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • As children of God, you can be led by God into the purposes He has designed for you.  We become children of God through surrender.  When we let God lead us into His purposes, we become everything He intended for us to be.
  • The things you suffer now will not compare to the glory that will be revealed in you by the Holy Spirit.  Suffering is tough.  Pain is hard to bear.  But, it’s nothing compared to the awesomeness that is to come when we get through it.  The worst pain you could ever feel will fade like a distant memory when you experience the best glory that the Holy Spirit can produce within you.
  • The Holy Spirit will help us in our weaknesses.  In times when we don’t know what to pray, He will help us to pray as we need to for the situation.  This is great to know when you simply don’t know what to say.  The Holy Spirit searches the deep things of God and is capable of searching the deep things in our own hearts.  We may not know what to say or pray because we don’t know how to define what we feel.  The Holy Spirit will help us gain accuracy in our prayer life and focus our intentions towards God’s purpose and plans.
  • God works everything out for our good.  That means He knows the end result and is intentional about getting us there.  Our good is our growth.  God knows what we need to experience to become the person He knows we can become.

To sum it up, what can we say about these wonderful things?  God’s intention towards us is great.  We can choose to love Him back with our whole heart.

What is preventing you from signing up?

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  – Romans 8:38

 

 

God Created Farmers

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)

Sowing is the act that follows the faith of expectation. Farmers believe this principle. Springtime in North Dakota brings the opportunity to plant the possibility of a fall harvest. After a long, cold winter, most farmers are itching for the opportunity to get into the field.

Sowing to the Spirit reaps eternal life now and after this life on earth. It’s a both/and, not an either/or. We sow to what we expect to receive. Sowing to the Spirit is not rocket science; it’s an act of expectation of God’s work within us.

Sowing to the Spirit starts with surrender, continues with trust, and finishes with faith.

Surrender is the gateway for the Holy Spirit to begin eternal life within us. Eternal life isn’t a threshold we cross at death; it’s a process we learn how to live before we arrive in heaven. In our surrender, the Holy Spirit has opportunity to teach us the culture of eternity and place within us the DNA of Jesus. The opposite of surrender is dependence upon my own ability. When I trust in my ability, I sow with the expectation of corruption.

Trust is the platform that sustains the work of the Holy Spirit within me. The act of surrender is an event; the continuation of trust is a mindset. When I trust the Holy Spirit to work within me, I learn how to sustain my existence with trust in God. I learn how to overcome fearful circumstances and remain resolute in the face of adversity. The opposite of trust is stress. When I stress over situations in life, I sow with the expectation of failure.

Faith is the energy source for my obedience. Faith believes what God says to me and follows with obedience. Faith is the ability to retain what God has spoken over me and directly to me. When I use faith in my walk with the Holy Spirit, I practice the art of living like Jesus. He followed the words of the Father to accomplish every assignment during His brief time on earth. It was faith that sustained Him as He learned obedience in every way. The opposite of faith is disobedience. When refuse to answer God’s call to me, I sow with the expectation that God cannot be trusted.

What is holding you back from sowing to the Spirit? Are you having trouble of letting go of something? Are you tricking yourself that you’re sowing good seed?

Give God a chance to work deep within your heart. Practice being a farmer with expectation and give God something to work with. Believe that He has your life in His hands.   You’ll never know how much He values your surrender, trust and faith until you give it to Him.

It’s Not Over Yet

For “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever.” And this word is the good news that was preached to you.   -1 Peter 1:24-25 (ESV)

Long Island, NY – Today we served over 4000 honored Guests in three locations across Long Island, NY. Through these Convoy of Hope events, we’ve experienced the power of sharing hope through word and action.

On Friday night, during the Volunteer Rally, I asked the volunteers to serve our Guests and love them like God loves them. They needed to know that their life makes a difference through the love they express to others.

Love planted doesn’t always reveal a harvest; sometimes it takes years for the love of God – His Word – to demonstrate the difference. Rose Padgett is an example of that.

Fourteen years ago, Rose attended a Convoy of Hope outreach in Milwaukee, WI. She arrived hungry, destitute and looking for something positive. The first thing she experienced was overwhelming. Every volunteer she encountered showed her love, dignity and respect. For her, this was something new. In her words, “It kind of freaked me out!”

Rose had some decisions to make during the next couple of years. She was at a point in her life that needed change. After spending some time in prison, she was at a crossroads in her life. She stood in a bus stop with two routes in front of her. One route would take her to the life she had always known. The other route would take her to a new possibility, yet unknown.

She chose the route that brought her to the doorstep of City on a Hill. From there, the staff and volunteers began walking with Rose and helping her become free from drugs and her life in order. In time, God’s work in her life was being revealed. She got clean from drugs and began helping others.

When I met Rose two years ago, she said that the moment God began the transformation in her heart was the day she came to the Convoy of Hope outreach. The expression of love that she received that day was the expression of the Word of God.

If the odds seem impossible and the situation seems unchangeable, let God speak life into it. God’s word will return to Him with the desired outcome for our lives. If it can happen to Rose, it can happen to us.

The Art of Excellence

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ. – Philippians 1:9-10 (ESV)

The level of our love determines the level of our excellence. Excellence is a term that carries a couple of distinctions. One distinction involves excellence in the appearance of work; the other distinction involves excellence in the conduct of the heart.

The pursuit of excellence can sidetrack our motivation. Excellence can sidetrack vision when it becomes the goal and not the byproduct of love. Pursuing the thought or appearance of excellence without the motivation of love is like putting a fresh coat of paint on a rusty car. No matter how much paint covers the rust, in time, the rust will be revealed on the surface.

We cannot cover the condition of our heart with a veneer of excellence. We can however, reflect excellence in conduct, moral authority and motive through abounding love. Love that abounds is hopeful, generous and patient.

Hopeful love helps us see the possibilities within every disappointment. Being loved by God helps us realize that He is aware of everything that happens to us. Love does not disappoint us because it has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, causing us to see things differently. We can see trouble through the eyes of the Holy Spirit. Hopeful love helps us see the solution at the end of the journey.

Generous love shares resources, time and attention with others. If you want to know what is in your heart, choose to walk alongside someone who needs your help. We’re good at helping others from a distance, we’re not so good at helping one another up close and personal. Up close love demands sacrifice. It asks for our attention to be focused on helping another person. Generous love helps us become a conduit for the Holy Spirit to move through us. Generous love shows us how to pour ourselves out while being filled up again by the Holy Spirit.

Patient love endures till the end. Love for God helps us see things through His timetable. The greater our love for God, the more patient we are in His processes. We begin to measure God’s miles with surveyor’s tools, not a desk ruler. We understand that when He doesn’t answer our prayers immediately, there is a reason for it. We become OK with those reasons. Patient love gives God the needed room to work in us. Patient love helps us realize that it’s not about us but what happens through us.

Abounding love helps us tell what is good for us and what is bad for us. Most bad choices happen with self in mind. Good choices happen with others in mind. Abounding love helps us make the difference.

Don’t mask the conduct of your life with the veneer of excellence. Let excellence be the byproduct of a heart full of love. When the Holy Spirit can work freely in our lives, love becomes the difference maker that helps others know Him.

Let’s reflect God’s excellence in our lives. Life is too short to fake it.

Go Towards the Light

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  – John 1:5 (RSV)

Many years ago, I went raccoon hunting.  Raccoon hunting happens at night.  We had dogs to help track the raccoons and we could follow their barking as they sniffed out the critters.  Have you ever run through the woods at night with nothing but a flashlight?  We ran by Braille and the sound of barking dogs.

Luckily for us, the Light of the world came to the darkness of the world to shine a light into the hearts of humanity.  Some of the darkest parts of the world are in the hearts of humans.  Thankfully, the Light of the world has overcome all darkness.

I love the light.  It helps reveal reality.  Light illuminates direction and provides perspective.

Light reveals reality.  Darkness in the woods heightens imagination.  During the day, the woods are a peaceful place.  At night, all sorts of things lurk behind trees waiting to terrorize travelers.  There’s very little difference in the woods from night to day but you’d be amazed of the influence of darkness upon the imagination.  It’s like that in real life.  Darkness that is not illuminated with the Light creates all sorts of misconceptions and distorted realities.  Light helps reveal things as they really are, not as they are imagined.

Light illuminates direction.  It’s difficult to drive at dusk.  The sun has gone down and there’s just enough light for your headlights to be useless.  Accidents happen at dusk.  People can lose their way when the light fades from their lives.  Vision without light is like dusk.  It’s hard to see where you’re going when the light has gone away.  Jesus brings the Light of vision into our lives.  Through the Holy Spirit, we can know the direction (vision) of our lives and follow it without being blinded by the darkness.

Light provides perspective.  Depth is impossible to see in darkness.  You can’t tell how close something is without light illuminating the distance.  In darkness, troubles feel closer than they appear.  Light provides the perspective we need to define the troubles we experience.  In darkness it feels worse than it really is.  When it feels worse than it really is, our minds take paths they should stay away from.  Light will help us see things as they are.  Through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, we can know the depth of the issues we face and we can experience the power of the Holy Spirit to help us see things with clear perspective.

The Light of the world might illuminate some things in your heart that you don’t want seen.  That’s always part of the power of light, it reveals all kinds of darkness.  That’s not a bad thing though.  When we go towards the Light of the world for the answers to our lives, we can see things that we’ve never seen before.

Make some room in your heart for the Light of the world to enter.  Let the light go towards the most protected parts of your heart and bring reality, direction and perspective.  Don’t live in the darkness, thrive in the light.

The Telegram that Shapes the Future

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.  – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (RSV)

Part of my job requires me to train individuals to lead an area of service during a community outreach event.  I enjoy this because it provides opportunity to connect with leaders and set them up for success.

Most of the leaders are receptive to the training and some of the leaders are experts in what they will be doing.  I make an effort to discern what I need to go over with them in content and what I need to converse with them in strategy.  Sometimes, we gather some great ideas that an individual leader has implemented with success.

Inevitably, there are also some leaders who have done something like this before and are not quite as open to receiving additional instruction.  In most cases, everything always works out, but in some cases, their inability to receive input is demonstrated by their output during the day of the event.  It’s not always pretty and in most cases ineffective.

It’s easy to tell the difference between people who are learners and people who know it all.  At some point, everything is revealed through conduct, thought processes and speech.  It’s kind of important that we understand how to be good listeners and learners.

My parents encouraged me to read the Bible for myself.  My dad gave me a Living Bible and suggested that I read a chapter a day…either in the morning before getting up or in the evening before going to sleep.  I took him up on that suggestion and it changed my life.

Reading the Bible isn’t rocket science.  Some of the content may be confusing at times but with context and help from the Holy Spirit, it can equip each one of us for the work God intends us to do.

Read the Bible like you look at the sky.  This is the practice of repetition.  You see the sky every single day and every single night. Accumulate the Bible inside of you.  Aim to fill your life with the words you read.   One of the best practices of learning involves repetition.  It’s also one of the hardest practices of learning because it requires discipline.  Bruce Lee, a famous martial artist, once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”  The Bible can help equip you to do great things.

Read the Bible like you’re on vacation.  This is the study of context. When I travel, I want to eat at the local places and understand local history.  It helps me relate to the people I work with since I am an outsider.  They are insiders, they know the back-story behind their community.  Stories in the Bible have back-stories.  Verses written in the New Testament coincide with documented events.  Prophecies in the Old Testament that don’t make much sense become clear when coupled with the stories of the kings of Israel.  Context helps the sayings and verses make sense for the time they were written.  Context also helps develop the principles I can live with today.

Read the Bible like you’re visiting with a friend.  This is the experience of personalization.  Visiting with a friend is an exercise in personal development.  Friendly encouragement goes both ways.  Sometimes, they say just the thing you need that picks you up.  The Holy Spirit will illuminate things that you need when you read the Bible with discipline and context.  There are verses that I’ve read over and over but on certain days encourage me greatly.  Why didn’t those verses encourage me the moment I first read them?  The Holy Spirit knew what I needed and helped illuminate them for my need at the moment.

The Bible was written for our encouragement, equipping and development.  It is the tool that helps shape our view of the world and our view of the Kingdom.  In any case, getting a good view of the Kingdom is helpful in discerning a clear view of the world.  It’s difficult to interpret the sayings of the Bible through the lens of cultural viewpoints or individual experience.

Let the Holy Spirit work deeply to prepare your life for the things that God has intended.  You’ll need His help and the Word that He inspired to live the life you were meant to life.  Give God the time, the room and the direction to make your life a blessing to others.

 

The Definition of Insanity

My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  – Galatians 2:20 (NLT)

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

Have you ever tried to do a solo job that required help?  Occasionally, we can accomplish the work of two people.  If you’re a really hard worker, you might be able to carry the workload of three…they’d probably have to be lazy people though.  The point is that we need help throughout our life.

We need help to live for God.  Doing something in our own strength is futile when trying to experience something supernatural.  For years, I didn’t know how to trust God like I do know.  Not saying that I’m an expert today, but am certainly further that I was back then.  In many cases, I worked extremely hard to ensure a proper outcome.  I pushed myself and it affected those around me.

Trying to live a life for Christ without the power of the Holy Spirit is like trying to tie your shoes with your feet.  Christ living in us is an act of trust.  If you have trust issues with God, you’ll have trouble living like you were meant to.

Without trust, we stumble on various obstacles:

When we live without trusting God, it’s hard to get over trauma.  Without trust in God, hurt and pain will be blamed on God.  God doesn’t prescribe trouble on us, He redeems our lives through it.  Trouble came when sin entered the world many years ago.  We were born into trouble.  However, without trusting God, we’re subject to that trouble all the days of our lives.  When we trust God, it doesn’t remove us from trouble, it gives us the strength and perspective to get through it.

When we live without trusting God, we won’t help people.  If I don’t trust God, I will probably not build people up.  Without trust in God, I cannot fully pour myself out for others.  Jesus entrusted Himself into the hands of the Father who judges justly.  That was the only way He was able to get through the cross and out of the grave.  He left the outcome up to God and looked to help other people.

Trying to live for God without trusting His work is the definition of a religious person.  That’s insanity.

Trusting in God while creating space for Him to work in you is the definition of a sound mind.  Other people might think you’re crazy, trusting in Someone you can’t see.  When trust is complete, not only can you see God’s work all around you, you’ll be able to see His work more clearly in you.

It’s Different than the Happy Dance

Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. – Hebrews 12:2 (ESV)

Jesus had every reason to dread His mission. Not only would He be a sacrifice for people who might never accept Him, He would soon be separated from God as the recipient of everyone’s sin.

Joy pulled Jesus through the trial of the cross because He knew the rewards awaiting Him on the other side. Joy brought Him to a place of fulfilled vision. His trial was the trigger that unleashed grace to all humanity. Jesus suffered the shame of the cross so people could realize the dignity God created within them.

Joy is the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit that provides vision in the middle of pain.

You may be going through a trial where it looks like there is no way out. Joy realized is strength gained. You can experience joy by adjusting your perspective:

God’s measure of success is different than yours. Our thoughts of how God should intervene and fix things are radically different than God’s thoughts. Our 12-inch ruler makes measuring a mile tedious and difficult. It’s possible that our measuring system needs to be updated.

God’s end result picture is different than yours. You might be happy with a result painted in color; God might be working on a 3-D masterpiece. Sometimes, we have to give room for the Holy Spirit to introduce other colors or design to complete the picture He’s working on.

God might be aiming to make a trophy of grace out of you. Our trials can become trails when God’s glory is the goal. He usually works through us to help other people. Most things we go through usually have a purpose in helping or inspiring others. When we make it through tribulation, other people gain encouragement by our success. If we’re not careful, we can believe that all things we suffer only affect us. As you go through a tough time, someone else might be watching to see if you make it through.

For the joy of the end result that was set before Jesus, He endured the worst possible trouble. While His disciples saw the cross of death, He saw the empty tomb. As His disciples lamented His absence and return to heaven, He saw the Holy Spirit as a constant companion. When other people cried over the brokenness of the world, He saw the power that made Him overcome the world.

So, take heart, your trouble pales in comparison to the purpose behind it. With joy, you can make it through. Through joy, your life will inspire someone else. Because of joy, all things are possible.