Challenging post on July 20 by John Fischer on the topic of Questions. Here is one paragraph:
Questions leave us vulnerable, weak, needy. They open up gaping holes in our personality, our theology, or our lifestyle. Questions force an honesty that we are unwilling to confront – an honesty that requires us to live with our lives unresolved. We don’t like that. Especially when we’re trying to sell a theology that has an answer to every problem we face.
What unanswered questions do you have today?
One of my least favorite topics but maybe one of the most important to God–humility! Here are a few quotes from Andrew Murray’s book, Humility, courtesy of David Mays.
“Humility is the only soil in which the graces take root; the lack of humility is the sufficient explanation of every defect and failure.” (17)
“Pride has its root and strength in a terrible spiritual power, outside of us as well as within us. We must confess it, deplore it, and be aware of its satanic origin.” (25)
“We must seek a humility that rests in nothing less than the end and death of self; that gives up all the honor of men, as Jesus did, to seek the honor that comes from God alone; that absolutely makes and considers itself nothing so that God may be all, so that the Lord alone may be exalted.” (27)
“Humility toward men will be the only sufficient proof that our humility before God is real.” (57)
“Virtually every Christian … fears and flees and seeks deliverance from all that can humble him.” “To humble himself has not yet become the spontaneous expression of a life and a nature that are essentially humble.” “Nothing but the presence of God can reveal and expel self.” “Our humiliations lead us, in the experience of the presence and power of Jesus to choose humility as our highest blessing.” (100)
Fascinating post by Michael Hyatt about a lecture he heard from Malcolm Gladwell, titled, “The Mistakes Experts Make.” Hyatt says that Gladwell used the battle of Chancelorsville in the American Civil War, as his illustration of how overconfidence (and a corresponding lack of humility) can bring about devastating consequences. The picture above is of the battlefield. I assume from the same lecture of Gladwell, that Hyatt shares the following three ways leaders can avoid becoming overly confident
- Listen to those around us. We cannot afford to create a culture that is not safe for dissent. Our people need to feel the freedom to disagree with us and tell us the truth.
- Plan for contingencies. We might be right. We might be wrong. We need to accept this and create a plan A and a plan B. We can’t afford to assume that our plans are infallible.
- Enlist the help of our team. . . . When the organization gets bigger than about 150 people (according to Gladwell) our leadership has to change. It must become a more collective, collaborative effort.
Final question from Michael Hyatt: What specific actions are you taking to remain humble as a leader?
“A spirituality of radical humility, and radical trust” is how Mike Potemra describes the writings of
Therese of Liseaux. In particular he was referring to a new translation by Robert Edmonson, called, The Complete Therese of Liseaux. After reading her autobiography a few years ago, I look forward to picking up this new book, with even more from the “Little Flower.” With sections like the following quoted by Potemra, I need to re-read Terese!
“Even when I might have on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go with a heart broken with repentance to throw myself into Jesus’ arms, because I know how much He cherishes the prodigal who comes back to Him [Lk. 15:20-24]. It’s not because God, in his kind mercy, has preserved my soul from mortal sin that I rise and go to Him in confidence and love.”
I made a couple of posts about Therese-here is one in which I quoted the prayer she sent Maurice,
“I ask of you Jesus, a heart that loves you, a heart that cannot be conquered, always ready for battle after each tempest, a heart that is free, never seduced, a heart that is straight and never walks on crooked paths.” 268
I am always challenged when I read and pray through Psalm 131 and this week has been no exception. After some reflection on this personally and with a group, I ask, what was the Psalmist saying as he prayed this Psalm? That he had no pride in his life? I don’t think so. But maybe he was praying
I declare that
- God is in control, I am not!
- Life is all about God, not about me!
- Any strengths that I possess come as a gift of God
I am committed to
- Consider others as more important than myself
- Unseen acts of service
- Listening, believing and obeying what God has to say to me
- Listen to God speaking to me through my brothers and sisters
- Submit myself to God’s correction and rebuke
- Waiting on God before I respond or act
- Be slow to speak, slow to anger and quick to listen
- Allow myself to be transformed by love
- Cease striving, relax and rest in God
- Christ being centered in my life
- Humble myself before You God
- Be content with God’s provision
- Delight in submitting to your authority
- Yield up my rights to God
- Seek to value the needs of others over my own
- Submit my life, my plans, my ambitions, my relationships, my dreams, opportunities, schedule, etc to God
- Actively look for ways God’s goodness is expressed in my life and in the lives of others
- Embrace my areas of weakness
- Humbly use any strengths God has given for His glory
I refuse to
- Be seduced by power and pride
- Compare myself to others
- Look down on others
- Consider myself as more important than others
- Give up
- Allow anyone or anything control of my life except the Spirit of God
- Respond defensively to the suggestions or criticisms of others.
- live with a controlling, judgmental attitude.
- My total absolute need for God
- How desperate and dependent upon God that I am
- Jesus is Lord
- How easily I forget God and how quickly I seek to act independently of God and others.
- How wrong it is to compete with others for honor and position
Slowly moving thru Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila and it is amazing how her words speak into my current situation. As she writes about the third mansion, she warns that very moderate trials may disturb and dishearten them. She says that we should not give them advice nor should we argue with them. “They cannot be made to understand that they are acting imperfectly.” Sounds very familiar with how I have been of late!
The solution is that “God wishing His elect to realize their own misery, often temporarily withdraws His favors.” This withdrawal of the consolations of God is a great mercy and helps those in trouble gain great humility as they see their faulty behavior. Sounds similar to John’s Dark Night experience, doesn’t it?
One example she gives of the kind of moderate trials that bother these people is when they experience a lack of respect–something I have suffered with of late. She says God does give grace to bear the lack of respect but she says that the reason we are disturbed is that “they have not long meditated on the pains our Lord endured.” Again, correct–so easy to focus on myself!
Teresa says that the issue is not our vocation–whether we are a pastor, priest or missionary “but whether we practice the virtues and submit our will in all things to the will of God. The object of our life must be to do what He requires of us; let us not ask that our will may be done but His. If we have not yet attained to this, let us be humble, as I said above. Humility is the ointment for our wounds; if we have it, although perhaps He may defer His coming for a time, God, Who is our Physician, will come and heal us.”
She talks later about a lack of humility as being a key reason for people not continuing to make progress (presumably in their spiritual life or for Teresa to other mansions.) She seems to suggest self-renuniciation as a solution although I must admit that I don’t exactly know what that means nor how to go about it. Perhaps, “It is not longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.”
Her last paragraph does offer some help. “Let us look at our own faults, and not at other persons’. . . We ought not to insist on everyone following in our footsteps, nor to take upon ourselves to give instructions in spirituality when, perhaps, we do not even know what it is. (OUCH) . . . it is best to keep our rule, which bids us ever to live in silence and hope. Our Lord will care for the souls belonging to Him; and if we beg His majesty to do so, by His grace we shall be able to aid them greatly. May He be forever blessed.”
Seems like she is a bit contradictory in the last section but nonetheless a warning to be careful about leading others–I think of Galatians 6: 1-2 how we are to gently and humbly help those who have been overcome by sin lest we ourselves fall into the same temptation. Lots of things here to think about!
Michael Patton over at Parchment and Pen: A Theology Blog writes a sharp post on “Why I don’t read your books or blogs.” Unfortunately, Michael, it is more than likely that those most in need of hearing these words, will ignore them! We are sorely in need of epistemic humility today!
Michael warns us against Overstatement, Unqualified Superlatives and Non-Contingent Propositions.
Here is a challenging paragraph from his post.
But, ironically, especially in a hyper-critical postmodern world, we give credit to our case when we do represent the transparency that accompanies real contingency and the revelation of epistemic humility. We show that we have a broader understanding of the issues. It evidences an honest wrestling with the subject of the proposition. In the end, when we do come to a conclusion on the matter, even with all the contingencies that we have worn on our sleeve, readers become more confident in your ability to think with integrity and have a greater confidence in your conclusions
I don’t know about you but if you have ever tried to pray through Psalm 131, it is not easy. How can I say in verse 1, “My heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or awesome for me.” I want to pray these words—I want them to be true but if I am honest, I can’t really pray them.
Not on my own. That is where verse 2 comes in. As I still and quiet myself before the Lord and enjoy Him for who He is and not for what I can get, is there not a movement away from dependence on myself and to Him?
How do I maintain this trust and dependence on God and not myself? Verse 3 “Put your hope in the LORD, now and always.” God alone is my hope. Remember that, David!! Read 2 Cor 4 after spending some time with Psalm 131 and what a wonderful fit it is. Over and over, Paul writes that it is all about the glory of Christ—beginning at the end of chapter 3. So, says Paul, “we never give up” (4:1)—because we have a New Covenant ministry in which we reflect His glory (3:18); “we don’t give up and quit” (4:8) so that the life of Jesus (4:10) and the glorious power of God is seen in us (4:7); “we never give up” (4:16) because in doing so “God will receive more and more glory.” (4:15)
Reading in the New Living Translation
Since I just finished the biography of Therese of Liseaux (who suffered a lot from her superiors for alleged defects), this quote from Thomas a Kempis below seems to fit well. Or to state it as my prof said last week, Word-bearers should be training their people so that they may correct the Word-bearer when he is wrong. In other words, we must ask ourselves, “Am I willing to be corrected?”
Here is a Kempis, “When you refuse to be rebuked and punished for your defects, it appears evident that you are not truly humble, and that you are not yet dead to the world or the world yet truly crucified to you.“ Book 3:46