Thursday, August 25, 2022

Window Displays, Pride and Prayer

 A few weeks back, Bay and I served for a week at Camp of the Woods in Speculator, NY. 

The camp is situated on beautiful Lake Pleasant (one of the finger lakes in the Adirondaks).

We enjoyed the opportunities the Lord presented us for ministry, and we were blessed with snippets of free time where we could sit on the balcony of our room and simply watch the sun set.

Above all, we enjoyed the messages brought to us in "Adult Chapel" every morning from Dr. Crawford Loritts on "effective praying." 

Day one, I quoted him as saying:

Proud people do not pray effectively...


The obvious reasons resonate with all of us:

Powerful and effective praying come from hearts that are right within...

Powerful and effective praying result from hearts that are totally dependent on the Lord...

Proud people are independent people.

Arrogance always leads to isolation (an attitude desirous of being in control). 

"We are most free when we are most dependent!"

So powerful and effective prayers give up and lean into the faith-life.

Faith in Christ Jesus.

James, the Lord's brother whispers in our ear...

"Need something, especially wisdom? Ask in faith, with no doubting...(James 1:5)"

He goes on to say (James 5:16b) that the prayer of faith offered up by a righteous person (that's anyone who's surrendered to the Lord) has great power (just look at the life of Elijah)!

In between chapter 1 and chapter 5, James reminds us that God resists (stands against) the proud, but gives grace to the humble (4:6).


I've thought of an illustration (well, I borrowed the idea from someone else, actually, and put my spin on it).

Perhaps I should have started with this.

I really dislike shopping.

Recently I was asked by a friend, "If money were no object, what would you like to have?"

My answer: A personal shopper. Someone who knows what to buy that would work best for me...and I'd never have to go to a store!

However, that said, I would miss window-shopping!

I love seeing the displays (especially at Christmas time).

(Best NYC Christmas display of 2020)

Those who create them know how to put the items they are selling together so that folks want to go into their store and BUY those very things.

But window displays are only for looking.

You can't touch them.

You can't dismantle them and take them home.

There's a barrier that prevents us from doing so...between myself and the display is a thick pane of glass. 

That thick pane of glass between my prayers and God's ears?


God desires to answer our prayers; indeed, He does!

His promises are certain!

But faith doesn't work alongside pride.

The two are mutually exclusive. 

So, if there's pride in our hearts, it's impossible to pray in faith.

I'll finish with yet another Andrew Murray quote:


He continues by saying, 

"True, we can still have strong convictions in our minds, while there is pride in our hearts, but a living faith, bursting with the power of God, is impossible!"

I'm certainly finding myself mulling this over and over again...deeply convicted!


Assignment #6 in Humility:

Where is pride standing in the way; a barrier between you and faith?

Thursday, August 18, 2022

A Pharisee Dressed in Tax Collector Clothing?: Another Lesson in Humility

The Lord continues to stop me in my quiet times to further contemplate more passages on pride and humility. This one about the tax collector and the Pharisee was waaaaaay convicting! 😌

Back on July 7th, I wrote a blog calling for Jesus-followers to "lament" this ever-rising-issue within our country, which seems to be fulfilling the prophet Isaiah's words about calling good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20). 

How do I know this is happening?

Well, for one - I just have to look at the current news (and, by the way, it's not just happening in America)...

Secondly, because we have begun blatantly celebrating the #1 most deadly sin: pride.


Pride always comes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).

I posted that blog, and it didn't take long, before I received a subtle, but fairly obvious (at least it seemed obvious to me) correction. 

I’m more worried about being like this:

Luke 18:11-14 “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector.’”

See also Romans 14:1-13 “To their own master, servants stand or fall…each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.”

Now then, I may have read way more into those words than meant (and I should, without doubt, give the benefit of the doubt), but what I read was this:

"Be careful...your words appear very Pharisaical..."

I particularly felt like the next See-Also-Scripture put an exclamation mark on this opinion, when it alluded to the idea that I seemed to be passing judgment and, therefore, putting a stumbling block in the way of other believers.

No matter what was meant, it caused me to take a look inside my own heart for the proud Pharisee, the humble tax-collector, or the hypocritical judge. 

With this in mind, I am particularly grateful any time I'm invited to examine my motives;

...and with the invitation, I dug into the passage on the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

Let me quote the entire passage from Luke 18:11-14....

He [Jesus] also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man [the Tax Collector] went down to his house justified, rather than the other [Pharisee]. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The first question that has to be asked is this:

From where does my righteousness come? Really, that question should be phrased "from whom?"

There is, as we know, not one righteous before God,  for we have all sinned and fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23). 

If I claim righteousness by my works, actions, or words (as the Pharisee did), then I have completely twisted the truth of the gospel. 

But Jesus...Right?

We are only justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption of Jesus (Rom 3:24). 

Humility begins in me when I recognize my complete dependence on Jesus for EVERYTHING...

...and, the recognition that I am NOTHING without Him.

When I show up in the "temple" to pray (metaphorically speaking, for the temple is now my body - I Corinthians 6:19), I better recognize who gives me the right to come boldly before the throne of God's grace (Hebrews 4:16): Jesus Christ crucified, buried, and risen again!

Standing in the shadow of the cross, I know who I am: 

I am (you are) 100% Tax Collector without Jesus.

Yet, it's interesting, because I find in me, that every now and again, I come to the temple to pray, dressed like a Tax Collector, but inside I'm a Pharisee.

(I'm fairly convinced we all do it.)

  • It shows up in the attitude with which I express my opinions.
  • Sometimes in the way I minister for the Lord (a bit ashamed to say it, but its true, remember I like to pick my area of serving)...
  • Sometimes in the way I respond to others with touchiness and/or impatience; self defense and/or self-assertion; with unkind words and, yes, sharp judgments. 
  • Sometimes, even in the very act of confessing that "God has done all," self finds a way to take credit (I'm clothed like a tax collector, but the Pharisee certainly lives inside)...

Yep, as Andrew Murray, in his book, "Humility," says:

"Even in the temple, with the words of repentance and praise echoing off the walls, the Pharisee may chime right in, and in thanking God be uplifting and congratulating himself. Pride can dress itself up in the clothing of religion."

  • And, sometimes, without really looking inside, it can show up in my hand as a subtle, but sword-wielding, rebuke. 

Now and again, when I least think pride is present (because I look very tax-collector-ish), I need to take a better look inside.

After all - God sees the heart and cares not a whit about appearances!

The Apostle Paul encourages all of us, who are God's chosen people, to "dress ourselves with humility."

Paul says, no matter how you look on the outside, your heart/soul/mind needs to be dressed to match.

The only way that is possible is to put on the Lord Jesus Christ.

So, may we be neither Pharisee, nor Tax Collector, nor judge, but Jesus from the inside out as we surrender to Him. 

When we do, He will lift us up!

Assignment #5 in the school of humility:

Take a deep look inside. Who shows up in your temple to pray - Tax Collector? Pharisee? Judge? The Pharisee trying to look like a Tax Collector?  Look in the mirror - how are you dressed from the inside out? 

Thursday, August 11, 2022

The Link Between the Wilderness and Humility

I am not a fan of anything that slightly resembles a wilderness.

We visited the same wilderness that the Bible describes for us when we were in the Middle East a few years ago.

Here are some pictures:

A literal "wilderness" is barren and dry. 

Psalm 107 describes it as a "desert waste."

If you're stuck in a wilderness, you are lonely, thirsty, and hungry, because there is (as you can see) NOTHING THERE!

Deuteronomy 8 also describes the wilderness, the one Moses lived in for forty years, and the one the Israelites circled, also for forty years:

It is great (large in magnitude and extent), terrifying (dreadful - probably because everything alive there will bite you, sting you, or eat you!). filled with fiery (poisonous) serpents (snakes) and scorpions (see what I mean?), little water, and every where you look there are dried up bushes and rocks. Besides all this, when I looked up average temperatures of the Sinai Peninsula, the source I looked at just said, "Hot and hotter." 

I spent a good two weeks one time in a wilderness just like that in Northern Kenya...on the back of a camel, no less. Hot. Thirsty. Uncomfortable. Miserable! I can understand why the Israelites complained.

As I said, I'm not a fan of the wilderness.

I'm pretty sure no one is. 

Metaphorical wildernesses are just as bad...spiritual ones, too.

They have the very nature of physical ones. 

Re-read the description above. 

I've lived through those, as well, and for the most part every wilderness I've survived has given me a story to tell, a lesson-learned, a character-redeemed on the other end.

The same thing was true for Moses...

...and, it was true for the Israelites.

Here's what the Lord says through His servant Moses at the end of the forty years:

"Remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you so that you might know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. And, He humbled you and let you hunger, and fed you with manna, which you did not know, which your fathers did not know, that He might make you to know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:2-3)."

1. God led them to the wilderness. He had a reason for taking them on that forty year path that went around in circles. And, as a side note...isn't it interesting, in Matthew 4:1, we read: "And Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil." The Lord does that...and, there is always a purpose.

2. The #1 reason God led the Israelites to the wilderness? To humble them and to help them see exactly what was in their hearts!

3. The #2 reason? To teach them that they had to be dependent on God for everything - the food they put in their mouths and the food they spooned into their minds. 

4. In the wilderness (Hebrew: the midbar), separated from all the distractions of the world about us, God is more able to give us a Word (Hebrew: dabar). There will always be a Word He'd like to speak over us, whether it's a declaration or a promise; and, He needs us out of Egypt and Egypt out of us in order for us to hear Him. 

Nope...wilderness wanderings are no Disneyland. 

They aren't meant to be.

They are, for us, a school.

And, the lessons are most uncomfortable. 

But, in every wilderness, the Lord is there (we are never alone); and, He is melting, molding, shaping, remaking, creating us to look more and more like Him. 

The heat of the desert waste will refine us; and, the Word of the Lord that comes in that place will satisfy us. 

The end result will be: HUMILITY.

So, here are the words I want to live by: I will not fight my wildernesses (even if I don't like them); I'll let go of all complaining, and not allow my heart to harden, as it did my ancestors...I will receive all The LORD wants to reveal to me about my own heart, making some course corrections; and, I will listen to all He wants to speak to me about life on the other side of the desert, following in obedience. 

Maybe then I will look more like my gentle and humble Jesus.

Humility Assignment #4: 

Ask the Lord to examine your heart and mind; to search you and to show you what you need to see about you...

How has Egypt gotten into you? Are there lessons to learn in your wilderness? Things in your life the Lord wants to redeem for His glory? 

Make course corrections using 1 John 1:9 as your core beginning place.

Then dive into the Word of God for a Word from God!

Humility won't come until we start here. 

Thursday, August 4, 2022

A Modern Portrait of Humility: A Tribute

Remember this verse from last week? 

It was key #2 to unlocking God's lessons on humility (#1 was knowing who we are in light of who He is)... 

I hadn't quite put the period on last week's blog post, when I began to turn my attention to this week's "thought."

In my journal, just prior to shooting my words into the blogosphere, I jotted down the following:

I have met some of these people...the ones who serve, and the ones who are, what I consider, some of the happiest, humblest people on earth.

It is only appropriate that I share a small portrait of one such individual:  A Moses in humility...a dear friend, who back in 2010, became World Magazine's "Daniel of the Year." (you can access his profile by connecting to the link). 

Throughout his 36 years, serving in medical missions throughout Kenya, Dick Bransford, brought hope, healing, and most important of all, the gospel to millions - but, he served far and wide beyond Kenya's borders, going to some of the toughest places on the planet.

His specialty: helping disabled children - some of the most marginalized, and overlooked, in third world countries. 

Bay and I were honored to call the Bransford family, our family. 

And, Dick, and his wife, Millie, loved us and mentored us well. 

We never passed Dick on our mission station, that he didn't stop us, chat for a minute, and ask: "So what are you reading now..."

It was his delight to push us out of our comfort zones that we might grow beyond our secluded little Rift Valley Academy world.

We wanted to be just like Dick and Millie when we "grew up." 

On July 23, Dick passed away at home in Boone, NC at age 81. 

The world truly lost a gem....a truly great man. 

Yet, what I want you to see is how great man are only great when they learn nothing is beneath them when it comes to serving. 


Great men and women serve just like Jesus. They are those who:

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [themselves]. 
These folks:
Look not only to [their] own interests, but also to the interests of others...and, have this mind, which is in Christ Jesus: who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself...
(Philippians 2:3-8)


With this passage, I close with one brief scenario from Dick's life:

For 11-frightening-days, during our sweet time at RVA, Bay struggled, bed-ridden with malaria, as did our youngest daughter, Mandy (age 7).  

Dick had seen Bay and Mandy, given me the necessary meds that left them "swimming like they were under water," and warned me at one point, that perhaps they had more than just malaria, but possibly black water fever, and I was to keep a close eye on them. 

Their medication schedules had me up nursing the two of them around the clock, with me catching the little sleep I could for rarely more than an hour at a time. 

While still caring for them, I “coached” (ha!) Bay’s little basketball team, continued teaching my few classes, handed out assignments in his classes, and stayed up with our dorm boys, as well as our daughter, Steph, and son, Adam, while on the fly. 

 (first prayer card picture taken when we left for Kenya)

There was no question, I was getting pretty tired…and then, one blessed Sunday morning, Dick showed up at my door, still dressed for the hospital, having just made some of his own rounds, and ordered me to bed for a nap, while he kept an eye on Mandy and Bay, fevers still raging, still delirious and “seeing things" (we’ve had some good laughs over Bay requesting me to take those four guys standing in his room to the rodeo in Nairobi - when there were no guys, let alone a rodeo)…. 

At any rate, that nap was exactly what was needed…and I was able to keep the pace until both were recovered. 

Bless him, I know Dick ran on very little sleep with all of his responsibilities, but his heart was HUGE…and his humility was even HUGER (is that a word?)…. 

Dick had his own family at home.

He had a hospital filled with patients.

He had a trip planned within the upcoming week to a strictly Muslim island off the coast of Kenya where he had found favor with the powers-that-be to bring modern Western medicine to a group of people stuck in "15th-century-living." 

And, still, Dick Bransford had time for me.

He had time to care for my sick husband and daughter, shoo away needy dorm boys, and feed my other two kids lunch, just so I could catch a few hours of a nap. 

Who does that? 

Only those who have learned that serving others is serving Jesus, and they love to do it with GREAT JOY.

Only those who recognize who they really are in light of all they have been given by the Lord Jesus Christ, and, thus, live out of a heart of humility. 

Only those who recognize NOTHING is beneath them...and, so, look to the interests of others..

Our world needs more Dick and Millie Bransfords, who shine the light of Jesus, as they serve with GLADNESS. 

Dick Bransford left my family an incredible inheritance.

No, it wasn't money (he wasn't wealthy - though, indeed, he could have been)...

What Dick left us was much greater...

The knowledge that serving out of a heart of humility, not seeing ourselves above or beyond any opportunity the Lord puts in our path, brings great reward in the form of peace and joy. 

Until that day...may we live out the legacy you left us, Dick Bransford...and continue to put other's needs ahead of our own. 

It’s exactly the kind of leader Moses was...

It's exactly how Jesus lived…

Want to hear more about this humble man?  Another dear friend wrote a great book about his life and it's on Amazon (click on link).

Assignment #3 in humility:

Study the life of a living example of humility who currently intersects with your world. What character traits exemplify their lives and how do you see them being "humble and gentle" Jesus to others?