Thursday, June 30, 2022

I Am....Humble.

 


A couple weeks back, I looked at this same passage. 

This morning, I find I am back again, zeroing in on the word "humble." 

Jesus invites us, not just to take up His yoke, not just to discover a sweet rest for our souls, but He invites us into this aspect of His character - 

HUMILITY 

As He invites us, He says, "Let me teach you..."

Believe me, above all character traits, I need this one (more on that in a minute)!

According to Andrew Murray (Humility, 1884): 

"Jesus came to bring humility back to earth, to make us sharers in it, and by it to bring us salvation." 

Why?  Because humility was lost to us in the Garden, when the enemy of our souls injected the venom of pride into mankind.

#####

Recently I received an invitation to speak at an upcoming women's retreat in another state. 

The committee for this retreat audaciously picked this topic of humility as their theme for the weekend.

I should have known this might prove a dangerous journey of study as soon as they mentioned it...but, found myself feeling led to accept regardless.

As soon as I agreed, the same ugly serpent from the Garden reared his head, sinking his teeth into my soul..

Allow me to explain.

As I accepted the opportunity, the women's ministry director started spelling out the particulars for the weekend.  In a previous conversation, I had been told there would be three sessions over Saturday and Sunday; however, when we began nailing down the details, it became clearer to me that the gal at the head of the committee took the first two sessions, and I closed out with the third. 

My train of thought as this unfolded:

"But, I don't really like the "one and done" events...I feel more comfortable when I have time to build relationship with the ladies who are in attendance."

"I'll be driving 10 hours, two ways, for just one speaking time?"

"I've never been asked to speak at a retreat where the speaking sessions were divided, and, how do we maintain a flow and build on the theme adequately?"

"Actually, this feels a bit demeaning....like they don't trust me??????????"

And, voilá...just like that the poison of pride coursed it's way through me...

Yes, sweet Jesus, teach me to be more like you.

#####

With that backdrop, I started digging (deeply) into a study on pride, and it's opposite - humility. 

Some things I've learned about pride:

Considered the "original sin" in Scripture with Satan's fall, pride is listed as the most serious of all sins, and #1 on the list of the Seven Deadly Sins, first published as far back as the 6th Century. 

It's the most serious, for from it all other sins spring forth...

When employed, at pride's core, one is really saying, 

"I want to be like God...no, I want to replace God...in fact, I want to be God."

That alone puts pride at the top of the sin-list...

In Mere Christianity, CS Lewis writes about pride that it is:

"the anti-God-state, the position in which ego and self are directly opposed to God. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunken-ness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison..."

This thought is,,,,well, just, WOW!

Through pride, the devil became the devil...and, we are never more like the enemy of our souls, than when selfish pride gets in our way. 

I also found this Benjamin Franklin quote worth contemplating:


Needless to say, as I am just beginning my study, I've been deeply CONVICTED...

BUT (what a great word)!!!!!

There is good news.

There is an anti-venom for pride - it's costly, however, as most anti-venoms are:

The cross of Christ provides the basis for humility: 

Living in the shadow of the cross...in a place of total dependence on God...

Quoting Andrew Murray, once again:

Too many of us don't realize how wonderful and natural it is to become nothing, so Jesus can be our all in all... We haven't been taught that it isn't sin that humbles us most, but GRACE! 

To rightly see ourselves in light of Christ's death for us, undeserving as we are of His great mercy extended toward us, sets us up to maintain a humble perspective.

The greats of old certainly understood the need for Christians to walk humbly before their God...

We live in an era, where we must consider it more than anything.



Thursday, June 23, 2022

I Am...the Bread of Life

 Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.

John 6:35

Hands down, my favorite smell is fresh bread baking in an oven.  

That smell itself is a gift; but, then, cut that fresh bread and slather it with butter (or divinity, as we call it in the Forrest household), and, yes, I believe it is divine.  

I could write a whole page extolling the virtues of this very healthy, complete food, when made with the right kind of whole grains.  

However, that is not my purpose.

When I think of bread and Jesus, my mind wanders to His first great temptation as His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness are coming to a close.  


Jesus was hungry.  

Satan came to tempt Him.  

Don’t you know when He pointed at the stones and invited Jesus to turn them to bread, the temptation came complete with the smell of freshly baked bread wafting across Jesus’ nose?   

Satan attempted a brilliant power play – “Come on, Jesus, this is no big deal.  We both know you can do this with a snap of the fingers.”

However, THIS was a big deal for Jesus.  


THIS temptation wasn’t just about the “lusts of the flesh” – the desire for food.  

THIS temptation was all about following God’s will.  

Later, Jesus was overheard saying, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.”  

The wilderness wasn’t just about temptation.  

The wilderness was also for preparation.  

Preparation for the fulfillment of God’s will.  

By saying “no” to bread-eating, Jesus was saying “yes” to bread-being.  


Without no-saying, there could be no cross.  

Without no-saying, Jesus couldn’t be my source of sustenance.  

By turning down turning stones to bread, Jesus chose MY NEED OVER HIS NEED...all because HE LOVED ME WITH SUCH GREAT LOVE! 

His hunger needs came second to my hunger needs.  

His “no” on that day allowed Him to say “yes” to me on another day.  

On November 22, 1970, I ate of the bread of life, and I am still full.  


I am still sustained.  

In fact, I am more than satisfied in Jesus.  

Which leads to this one other thought that crossed my mind: 

Jesus’ “no” affected my entire future.  

It affects each day as I awake...

As I partake of my daily bread...This question looms:

Whose hunger am I thinking of ahead of my own?  


How might some of my “yeses” possibly affect the tomorrow of someone else? 

How do I consciously bring THE BREAD OF LIFE to others as the answer to their deep HUNGER.

Our world is in a crisis of spiritual famine.

Folks are dying of starvation all around us.


Metaphorically, I have the BREAD OF LIFE baking in my oven consistently...fresh, nourishing, life-saving! 

It can change everything for one of those in need.

Will I just keep it for myself? 

Selfishly, hang on to it just for me? 

Stick it in my freezer and hoard it?

Just as Jesus took the small measure of bread from the young man on the hillside near Jerusalem and broke it, gave it, and gathered up more....there is more than enough Jesus, THE BREAD OF LIFE, to be shared around the world. 

Sharing our Bread changes everything! 

I'm convicted....

How about you? 

It’s just a thought...

Thursday, June 16, 2022

I Am...a God of Nevertheless!


While this isn’t an actual “I Am” statement of Jesus, this is an “I Am,” nevertheless.   

This week I was reading through Psalm 106, and my eyes stopped reading several times, because of one word.  

It is a sweet word.  A hopeful word.  A cleansing word.  

A word promising a better tomorrow: a do-over!  

It is a word that really can only, wholly be fulfilled from the heart of a God of lovingkindness.  

The Word?

NEVERTHELESS!

God's children...their hearts were hardened…NEVERTHELESS.
They rebelled…NEVERTHELESS.
They provoked God to wrath…NEVERTHELESS.
They served idols…NEVERTHELESS.
They played the harlot…NEVERTHELESS.
They even sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons…NEVERTHELESS.
They became unclean in their practices…NEVERTHELESS.
They grumbled…NEVERTHELESS.
They were jealous…NEVERTHELESS.
They sinned, committed iniquity, & behaved wickedly…NEVERTHELESS.
They forgot God’s abundant kindnesses…NEVERTHELESS.
They craved, they lusted, & they tempted God…NEVERTHELESS.
They envied…NEVERTHELESS.
They exchanged their glory (God) for the image of an ox…NEVERTHELESS.

Yes, there were consequences.  Some died; experienced disease; were swallowed up; carried off to foreign lands as slaves; provoked God’s anger, and, He even abhorred His inheritance…NEVERTHELESS!




Nevertheless, the Lord looked upon their distress, He when heard their cry!
Psalm 106:44


He heard their cries.
Looked upon their distress.
Remembered His covenant.
He was sorry according to the GREATNESS of His lovingkindness.
Many times He would deliver them.

NEVERTHELESS
They received salvation that He might make His power known.
He redeemed them.  
Rescued them.  
Gave them new beginnings and fresh starts.  

Praise the Lord!  O Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.  His lovingkindness is everlasting.
(Psalm 106:1)



MY PRAYER:
May the “NEVERTHELESS-es” in my life always lead me to NEVER AGAINS!



Thursday, June 9, 2022

I Am...Gentle and Humble Hearted! An Invitation to Rest!

 Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy, and My load is light.

(Matthew 11:28-30)

Like most folks, I imagine my eye is drawn to one particular word in this passage:  rest.  

We live in such a chaotic world that most of us don’t do “rest” very well.  So, when Jesus offers us an invitation to find rest for our souls, we snap to attention.  

First question that comes to my mind is: “How?” 

And, this is followed by: “Where?”  

Instead, the question should be, “Who?”  

Jesus offers us an invitation to learn about "resting well" from Himself:  the very One who could calmly sleep in a rocking boat on a stormy sea with a dozen fear-driven, raucous men.  


I would say Jesus knew how to do “rest” fairly well!

So, He invites us to come and learn from Him. 

That invitation is for anyone who is weary of being heavy-laden (bent over from a load of worry, want, or a waxing/waning lifestyle). 

Whew! After the last 12 days of travel, I’m ready to jump all over the offer…except…wait…  

There is a condition to this invitation.  

The condition involves taking a yoke.  


The disciples knew exactly what Jesus was asking; and, if we think about it for a minute, so do we.  

A yoke was a collar worn by a pair of oxen for the purpose of doing a work of service.  

Each yoke was fitted specifically to the oxen that would wear it.  

Generally, a lead ox took charge of the team; and the other ox submitted to the leadership of that head.  

It's very clear, Jesus is referring to Himself as the lead ox...So, Jesus’ invitation involves submission 

Now, there’s a word that makes us all a little nervous.  

I’ve certainly been burnt before, submitting in situations where I’ve been taken advantage of, treated unfairly, and hurt.  Submitting now leaves me a little skeptical, and…cautious.  


You, too?  

Must have been true for Jesus’ audience, as well, because right away, He gives all of us a reason to not give in to our trepidation.  

There it is, the “I AM” statement:  

I AM gentle and humble in heart.  


We don’t have to be fearful of submitting, when the One who is leading us underneath the yoke is:

Gentle:  Our Savior is a man of strong character, under control, tempering his strength with meekness and kindness.

Humble:  This is the man who was by very nature God, but chose to come to this earth for one purpose – to serve.  Speaks volumes to me.

Under the yoke of Jesus, we are treated with kindness and tenderness; our good is always considered above all; and, we are deferred to with love, mercy and grace. 

 It’s a “better” yoke…a light load.  


In other words – we’re already under some yoke anyway, why not exchange the one we’re hauling for a kinder, better yoke – one that is light and under which we can “rest”?  

It's a gentle load.  It’s light.  It’s better.  

All because of the One who carries it with us! 

The invitation is really an invitation to submission.  

Submission results in rest for our souls.  

The two concepts are equal: one and the same.  

We can’t have one without the other.  

We'll never get burnt by the One who works alongside us - the One who is always gentle and humble of heart.



Thursday, June 2, 2022

"I Am...The Good Shepherd!" What does that mean for me?

 I am the good shepherd (John 10:11, 14)...

While I haven’t spent a lot of time around sheep, I do know a few things about them.  
What I know sort of makes me resent this particular “I Am” statement...
If Jesus is the Good Shepherd, then by common sense deduction, I am one of His sheep.  
Forget the soft cuddly little animal that decorates nurseries.  
What a misrepresentation of the real deal!
Everything I know about sheep begins with the letter “s”.  
They stink. They are stubborn. They are stupid.  
The last thing I want to acknowledge about myself is that I might be a sheep.  
In reality, however, it is an accurate comparison (well, my smell isn’t so awful, but my behavior can be...).  
So, yes, I need a shepherd...desperately!
Having spent 100 + days in 2021 studying the 23rd Psalm (a challenge I enjoyed)...I know there is more to this "I Am" than one blog can cover...
...But, for the purposes of this week’s reflection, we will only look at one attribute of a Good Shepherd.  
A good shepherd is a good leader:
“...the sheep listen to His voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them...and His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. They will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice (John 10:3b-4).”
Sheep do that, you know...they follow their own shepherd.  
They might be in a field filled with other sheep from other folds, but, because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they recognize his voice.  
When they hear that voice, they follow.  
They separate out from the rest of the sheep, and they go after their shepherd.  
Because they have spent so much time with their own shepherd, they trust that he will “lead them beside quiet, restorative waters (Ps 23:2b-3).”  
They won’t trust other shepherds to do the same.  
Following a shepherd is an issue of trust...always!
When Jesus speaks this “I Am” statement, His singular vision, His primary purpose, His truth for me to grapple with is this:  
Will I let Him lead?
Do I trust Him to lead me to the place that is best for me? 
You see, a lot of times, I look to Jesus as a friend, a confidant, an advisor, an encourager, a counselor, a “life-coach” (if you will), a computerized GPS... 
While He is very much those things along the way of life, He, first and foremost, desires my heart to allow Him to do what He does best – LEAD.   
My BIG problem? I want a bit of a say in where we go.  
I want a head’s up for the journey ahead.  
I really am saying something like this to my shepherd, “Oh, I’ll follow............but, with some consideration. Just give me a little idea of what’s up the road. Let me deliberate a little bit.”  
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, doesn’t want my consideration.  
He doesn’t desire deliberation.  
His plan is for my participation.  
We can trust that while the upward climb may sometimes seem steep and rocky – the grass at the top will be healthier and we will ultimately be happier (more blessed).
Blessed am I when I don’t just consider following my Good Shepherd, but surrender to Him with willing and eager participation!

Thursday, May 26, 2022

One Question Every Person Must Answer Himself: Have You Answered It?


Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:13-16


“Who do you say that I am?” 
 

It’s the ultimate question every human being will have to answer for themselves.  

Just who is Jesus Christ to me?  

In fact, our destiny hinges on our response to this question.

The path of life we trod also hinges on it: one leads to a abundant life and fulness of joy; the other is a path to destruction - a path to be avoided at all costs.



Jesus eased into this question: He first asked His disciples what others thought of Him? 

That warranted an easy response.  

It’s always easier to answer for someone else!

Their answer didn’t surprise Jesus, He heard the undercurrent of rumblings.  

He simply used this question as a lead-in to the more personal question.  

"What about you," isn't quite as easy to answer...and, it's just so personal....
And, oh , my doesn't that question have the potential to offend!
So, if you're like me, you typically avoid it....but, NOT JESUS!
The risk of not asking it has far greater consequences...

The disciples quickly rattled off the names of some fairly well-known, and highly revered folks…men with fire and intensity, good men, prophets.  

Each of these men came preaching a highly-charged, volatile message that was pretty difficult for most people to swallow.  

These men were forerunners to the Messiah, but they were not the Messiah.  

The Jews were waiting, had been waiting, for hundreds of years, for the one who would come as Rescuing King, conquering deliverer, and essential High Priest.  



To the crowds, Jesus was just another prophet to be tolerated.

“BUT,” Jesus (again, not one to shy away from personal questions, when so much is at stake) asked.  “Who do you say that I am?”  

By this time, the disciples had spent about 2 ½ years traveling, talking, and being taught by the Master.  

The longer they were around Him, the more evidence He gave them that He wasn’t just an ordinary prophet.  

The more they observed His miracles, the more convinced they were that there was something of the DIVINE about Him.  

His life attested to His Messiah-ship.  

At the same time, there was something a bit confusing about Jesus.  

He wasn’t using His divine powers to overthrow the Roman-rule as they expected.  

He talked about going away, and coming back.  

He lived a life of servant-hood, not that of one who would be King; and He discussed with them the idea of “being lifted up,” which they all understood to be crucifixion.  

Would a Messiah subject Himself to such shame?  

So, there were doubts about Jesus they wrestled with, even while, at the same time, Jesus sought their allegiance.

I so love Peter!  Honest, vulnerable...impulsive.

He jumps right in, speaking for the group.  

His head knew the answer, even if His heart didn’t necessarily go along with it.  

“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  



This was the first step Jesus’ disciples took toward a confession of faith; and, Jesus blessed the answer, stating that this response held the keys to the eternal Kingdom of God. 

His Kingdom without end... 

Later, following Jesus’ death, each of the disciples finally worked their faith from their heads to their hearts... 

As they "got it" (and wrapped their hearts around allegiance to Jesus), their lives forever changed...

All of us must come to the same Crisis of Belief, ultimately answering:
What will I do with Jesus?

What a reminder that we don’t have to have all the theological answers to surrender our allegiance to Jesus and confess Him as our Savior, finding salvation for our souls.  

Like the disciples, there may be many times we come face to face with a crisis of belief, but in the end, 

“He who begins a good work in us, will complete that work in the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6).”  


This, then, is our jumping off place, the point on the cliff where we dive into the ocean of Jesus' "I AM" statements, and begin our exploration.  “Who do you say that Jesus is?”  

Is He your Savior? 

Or, is He just a good man with a hard message?  

We can’t explore the depths, unless you jump.  

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this – I believe with all my heart, Jesus is who He says He is:  my deliverer, the One who sets me free.  

I jumped, and He changed my life, 51 years ago. 


He began a good work in me.

One day, I know, He will complete it.  

To see more of Him...to KNOW Him intimately, we all have to take that leap of faith! 

I highly recommend jumping, because I know the arms of Jesus will catch you, too –