Developing Humility

growing_in_humilityContinued from here.

When you make the choice to pick up your cross and follow Jesus, you will begin the process of growing in humility. You will become less full of yourself, and that space will be replaced by more of God. God is love, joy, peace, and contentment, so you will experience those attributes progressively as you fill up with God,.

For example, my first big act of discipleship was setting aside the first hour of my day for God, no matter what. This one act of humility invited such a flood of God’s love that I remained on a “God high” for months! Forgiving my childhood abusers required a huge step in humility and brought me the peace I had been seeking for decades. As I humbled myself in my marriage, I experienced joy, peace, and contentment that was not there when I was full of myself.

The key to humility and discipleship is taking that first step. It feels unnatural to live for anyone but yourself, but when you take your focus off yourself and place it on God, an important shift takes place inside of you – your selfishness (pride) starts to shrink, making room for God. As you experience freedom from that first step, you become more willing to take the next step … and the next … and the next. It feels unnatural to “shrink yourself” to make room for God. However, that’s exactly what is needed so you can fill up with God and shine His light into the world.

To help me with this, I started looking for ways to defer my preferences. For example, I would purposely defer my preference for the more comfortable chair and offer it to someone else. I would choose the bruised banana so my husband could have the better fruit for his morning snack. While these are small acts of humility, they helped me chip away at my natural self-centeredness and value others above myself.

You cannot be a prideful disciple of Christ because Jesus was not prideful: he was humble. Transforming ourselves into the image of Christ requires us to develop humility. While humility feels unnatural, it’s the key to developing the fruit of the spirit.

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[Graphic: Outline of body is filled with yellow to represent God. Cartoon of Grace fills  roughly one-third of the space in the body outline, and a yellow heart is over Grace but much smaller than she is. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]

Lack of Humility: Being Full of Yourself

humility_stage_2.PNGContinued from here.

Let’s talk about being a baby Christian, which has nothing to do with how long ago you invited Jesus to be your Savior but has everything to do with whether you have ever chosen to call him Lord. Sadly, a large number of Christians only embrace Jesus as their Savior but not as their Lord. There’s a huge difference between the two. Either you are a disciple of Jesus, or you are not. If you are not, then while you might look forward to heaven in the afterlife, you won’t experience all of God’s promises of joy, peace, and contentment because those blessings are reserved for his disciples – for those who are conforming themselves to the image of Christ.

The graphic shows what a baby Christian looks like. While Jesus has come to live in her heart, this person is still full of herself. There’s no humility – she is living her life as she wants and not picking up her cross and following Jesus.

Unless and until you choose to embrace Jesus as Lord (to do what God tells you to do), you will remain in this state, as I did for decades. I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8, but I didn’t make the decision to become his disciple until age 44. During the decades in between, I had a lot of knowledge about the Bible, but I didn’t actually do most of it. I was too full of myself and was more interested in what **I** wanted than in what God wanted. The Bible’s word for this is pride.

I was so filled with pride that there was little room left for God. Ironically, I believed that I couldn’t have a problem with pride because I had low self-esteem, so I sure wasn’t “puffed up” about how great I was. I was shocked to learn that pride is thinking about yourself all the time, and boy did I do that! I always had myself on my mind, and it made me miserable!

Disciples of Jesus have humility. As they do what God tells them to do, they take their focus off themselves and place it on God and on others. As they do this, they stop being so full of themselves and start freeing up room for God. Unless and until you choose to start living your life differently in deference to God, you will remain a spiritual infant, and the blessings of joy, peace, and contentment will continue to elude you.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace taking up all of the space in the body outline with a small yellow heart at the center. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]

Promised Land Living: Importance of Humility

If you want to experience Promised Land living, you are going to need to become more humble, which is the key to Christian discipleship. Most of us balk at the term humility, but we wouldn’t if we understood what it actually means. The Bible tells us to walk humbly with our God and that humility is the fear of the LORD, which brings us riches, honor, and life. Considering that humility is the vehicle that brings us riches, honor, and life, shouldn’t we at least ask what it is?

Let me start by explaining what humility is not. It is not humiliation. God promises us a double portion instead of our shame, so He’s not telling us to humiliate or shame ourselves. Humility is also not weakness. C.S. Lewis defined humility best:

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

I’m no C.S. Lewis, but I’ll give you my own personal definition of humility: It’s choosing to stop being so full of yourself so you can start being full of God.

While I am no artist, I took a shot at trying to illustrate the stages of humility in the graphic.

progression_of_humility

The first graphic shows someone before receiving Christ as Savior. As you can see, this person’s body outline is completely filled by the person. In other words, the person has no humility and is completely full of herself. To quote Joyce Meyer, nothing makes you more miserable than thinking of yourself all the time. Sadly, this is our default setting without Christ.

The second body outline shows someone who has received Christ as Savior but not as Lord. Notice that she now has a yellow heart but otherwise still fills her body outline with herself. God has planted the seeds of the fruit of the spirit inside of her, but she is too full of herself for those seeds to bear fruit yet. Unfortunately, far too many Christians never progress from this infant stage. They can check “going to hell” off their list of worries, but their daily lives don’t look much different than the lives of those without a relationship with God.

The third graphic shows a Christian who is bearing spiritual fruit through discipleship. She is no longer full of herself, so her body outline is progressively filling up with God. Her life looks different from the lives of those around her, and people can see God’s light shining through her life. She still struggles with self-focus, as can be seen by contrasting this stage with the fourth graphic, which shows someone with perfect humility, a state that only Jesus ever accomplished. While you and I are never going to achieve perfect humility, we can choose to grow in humility by becoming less full of ourselves, leaving more room for God to shine His light through us. This is the key to discipleship.

Continued here.

[Graphic: “Progression of Humility.” Shows four body outlines. First: Cartoon of Grace taking up all of the space in the body outline. Second: Same graphic as the first but with a yellow heart at the center. Third: Yellow heart is the same size, cartoon of Grace is much smaller, and yellow fills the rest of the space in the body outline. Fourth: Grace’s body is so small that it is almost hidden behind the yellow heart. Almost everything in the body outline is yellow. Courtesy Bitmoji and Grace Daniels.]

Promised Land Living: The Importance of Christian Discipleship

I recently completed two series: four fundamental beliefs and seven fundamental practices of the Christian faith. You might be thinking that it looks like a lot of work. Folks, this is what it means to be a disciple of Christ!

The only part of Christianity that takes no effort is receiving Jesus as your Savior. Accepting him as Lord is a whole different ballgame – it requires effort. You must pick up your cross, deny yourself, and follow him. That means you don’t get to do whatever you feel like doing and also experience the benefits of the fruit of the spirit, such as joy and peace. You can be “saved” from hell but still live a hellish life if you don’t take active steps to take up your cross and follow Jesus as a disciple.

I was excited to receive Dallas Willard’s book, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, for Christmas, and it’s next in my “book queue” to read. The back cover says beautifully what I am trying to communicate:

The last command Jesus gave the church before he ascended to heaven was the Great Commission, the call for Christians to ‘make disciples of all nations.’ But Christians have responded by making ‘Christians,’ not ‘disciples.’ This, according to brilliant scholar and renowned Christian thinker Dallas Willard, has been the church’s Great Omission.”

It’s not enough for us to receive Jesus as our Savior and secure a “fire insurance policy” that gets us out of hell. That’s the starting point, not the ending point. Church, we’ve got to grow up! It’s time to move forward from receiving Jesus as Savior and also embrace him as Lord. Until we do, we won’t accomplish the purposes that God has placed us on this earth to do, and we sure won’t make the Christian life look very appealing to others.

I received Jesus as my Savior at age 8, but I did not truly embrace him as Lord until age 44. I spent decades living in emotional bondage – bondage that was just as bad, if not worse, than that experienced by many people who had not received Jesus as their Savior. Yes, I could check off my list that I wasn’t going to hell (although I wrestled with that concern on and off), but I was not experiencing the fruit of the spirit. I was not joyful or peaceful as I self-injured and binged on food.

Despite having decades of knowledge about God and “being saved”, I was still a spiritual infant. I wanted God to wave a magic wand and change my circumstance, but He wanted to change ME! That didn’t happen until I started doing what He said to do. God’s promises in the Bible can be your reality, but this won’t happen without effort. You must commit to growing into His disciple and allowing God to change you from the inside out. If you will do this, your life will change radically for the better, just as mine has.

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[Graphic: Cover of Dallas Willard’s book, The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship. Courtesy Amazon.com.]

Seven Fundamental Practices: Tithing

moneyContinued from here.

The practice of tithing was perhaps the fundamental practice that I resisted the most. The bottom line was that I did not want to do it. I had many reasons that I won’t elaborate on in this blog entry, but underneath all of those reasons was that I simply just did not want to.

I used to believe that nobody actually gives 10% of their paycheck to their church. I was shocked to learn in a Bible study that I was the odd man out. This was a Bible study through work, and none of us attended the same church. So, nobody in the study had a vested interested in getting me to tithe. Because none of them would receive any sort of tangible benefit from me tithing or suffer any sort of detriment from me not doing so, I was more open to hearing their perspectives. After hearing all of my objectives, one member said the following to me with a big grin on his face:

Grace, you’re making this too complicated. It really is simple: Everything you have belongs to God! You don’t own it – you are a steward. God has told you where to spend 10% of His money, and then you get to spend the other 90% on whatever you want.

I had never considered that perspective – that God owns everything and that He allows me to choose how to spend 90% of what he entrusts to me.

I decided to test God on His promise about financial blessing through obedience. Can you guess what happened? God was true to His word. God tested me on my obedience a few times, allowing the coffers to get low to see if I would continue to tithe. I did, and He always replenished the funds before I ran out. Years later, God revealed a powerful truth to me that I’ll need to write about another time. The short version was that God placed powerfully on my heart that He would have to cease to be God to break his promise in Malachi 3:10.

If you need further reassurance, check out my blog entry on sowing & reaping. Tithing is the mechanism God uses to provide for all of your physical needs (what to eat, drink, and wear). Start tithing, and you’ll never have to worry about God meeting those physical needs again!

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and throwing money in the air. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Seven Fundamental Practices: Sabbath Rest

rest_upContinued from here.

Taking a Sabbath day rest each week is one of my favorite fundamental practices and yet was one of the harder ones for me to commit to doing regularly. American culture does not support a full day of rest. We are a country of workaholics, and far too many Christians feel guilty if they are not running here, there, and everywhere every day of the week. Not taking a Sabbath rest is sin — it’s damaging to you and weakens you.

If we assume that the Ten Commandments were written in priority order, then the Sabbath actually outranks the prohibition against committing murder and committing adultery! God also provided a more detailed explanation of the Sabbath than the other nine commandments, so it clearly matters to God.

If you believe that the commandment to keep the Sabbath “went away” after Jesus, check out Hebrews 4:1-11, which specifically states:

There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. ~ Heb. 4:9-10

There’s no getting around it. God has commanded us to take a day of rest weekly, and choosing to ignore this command is disobedience.

Now for the good part … Sabbath rest is AWESOME!! I look forward to it all week. As the week progresses, I find myself losing steam, but then I remember that I get to take a Sabbath rest in three days … in two days … in one day … Then, I wake up and have the glorious realization that I get to rest ALL DAY LONG!

My Sabbath feels like it goes on for days, in a wonderful way. It’s like time stops, and I get to relish every glorious minute of freedom from work. It’s like my battery is being recharged all day. Then, when I awaken the next morning, my battery is fully charged, and I am ready to face another week of productivity.

On the rare occasion that I fail to observe the Sabbath, I can feel the difference. I have less energy, and I accomplish less in seven days than I usually do in six. Thankfully, taking a Sabbath the following week gets me back on track, but it’s a L-O-N-G week in the meantime.

This is another topic I will need to write more about later.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding a pillow and blanket, saying, “Rest up.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

Seven Fundamental Practices: Prayer

Continued from here.

praying_for_youPrayer matters. I used to not appreciate just how much it does. Trying to have a relationship with God without prayer is like trying to have a marriage in which you and your spouse never talk to each other – you might stay married, but you aren’t going experience the joys of functioning as partners.

Prayer is simply talking with God. Just as with your spouse or a friend, this can happen in a number of ways: indoors or outdoors, alone or in a group, crying out or silently, standing up or kneeling, and even on the fly. What matters is that you are talking with God.

Be authentic when you pray. God already knows everything there is to know about you, even the things you don’t know about yourself! You aren’t going to surprise Him with anything you say. He knows your heart, so there’s no point being anything other than authentic with Him.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer advises us to be real with God when we pray. For example, she says not to bother telling God that you will never do a particular sin again. She says, “Yes, you will!” And she’s right! Because of her advice, I have changed my prayer to ask for forgiveness as well as for God to change me to enable me not to engage in that particular sin anymore. Without His help, I am powerless to stop.

Joyce Meyer also gave me a huge chuckle when she shared her own experience with forgiving others. Out of obedience to God, she prayed that God would bless those who hurt her but then followed up with, “but I don’t really want you to do it.” Of course, the audience laughed, but she made a great point – God already knew that about her, so why pretend otherwise? She then provided excellent advice that I use daily – I can sincerely pray that someone who hurt me will come to know the height, depth, width, and breadth of God’s love for him or her. People who truly know they are loved are less likely to purposely give offense to others.

Prayer is so important that you need to set aside specific time to pray daily. Also, remember that a conversation works both ways, so spend some time in silence to “hear” (sense) God’s response to you. There’s so much more I would like to share about prayer. I’ll have to write a series on that topic later.

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[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace kneeling by her bed in prayer and saying, “Praying for you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]