Tag Archives: Pride

From Regret to Delight – A Mathematical Series Poem

The lesson and challenge over at dVerse Poets Pub Form for All today is to write a poem based on a mathematical series. I chose the counting series 1 to 5 and then in reverse for mys second stanza. I might come back later and write another based on another of the mathematical series Tony mentioned in his post.

From Regret to Delight

Regrets
avoided by
letting go pride
humbly loving and forgiving
making memories peaceful and sweet

Trusting God’s compassion and grace
humbly healing all hurts
revealing great truth
enveloped in
delight

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The Misery of Pride

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dwight Yoakam lately because I went to see him here in Portland last week with my cousin. The concert was awesome, but I wish he would have sung a few more of his slower songs. Although it is not Christian music, I love his style, his voice, and how he can so perfectly capture the mood of the song he is singing.

I want to share one of my favorite Dwight Yoakam songs called 1,000 Miles from his 1987 album Hillbilly Deluxe. This is a very sad song, but I just love how it shows off his wonderful voice. I love the tremor in his voice when he sings “A thousand miles of misery-y-y-y-y-y-y-y.”

There is also a lesson in this song. The first verse says:

Runway Four, Flight 209
Teardrop falls, we start to climb
This window seat proved a poor choice
It shows the dream that’s been destroyed
A little baby starts to cry
Hey, I would too, if not for pride
I owe so much to pride, it’s true
It brought an end to me and you

As sad as this song is, as heartbreaking as the situation of the singer is, it doesn’t have to be that way. He is in misery because of pride. Because of pride, he has lost the one he loved, which is not surprising. As scripture says:

Pride goes before destruction,  a haughty spirit before a fall.
Proverbs 16:18 (NIV).

Pride brings a person low,  but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
Proverbs 29:23 (NIV).

The end of a matter is better than its beginning,  and patience is better than pride.
Ecclesiastes 7:8 (NIV).

How many relationships between husbands and wives, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, or between friends are broken or lost because of pride? It prevents us from being forgiving, kind, and loving in our relationships, and keeps us from admitting our own faults and seeking forgiveness. It leads to a thousand miles or a thousand days of misery and loneliness.

What relationships are you jeopardizing today because of pride? It’s a question we all need to ask from time to time. May God help us all set aside our pride and leave misery behind.

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More Thoughts on Forgiveness

Yesterday I was monitoring a special-accommodation bar exam applicant, which always gives me a little time to read and write. After I posted my poem about forgiveness from my netbook, I started to read a book my sister-in-law Pam gave me a couple of years ago. It’s called Wishful Thinking: A Seeker’s ABC by Frederick Buechner.

I’m a little embarrassed to admit it’s taken me this long to read it, but that’s the fate of books around my house. They do all get read eventually, and I love books as gifts, but sometimes it takes me a while. In this instance, however, the section I read fit so perfectly with the whole “which comes first, forgiving or being forgiven” discussion that I’m thinking it was God’s timing.

Wishful Thinking includes Buechner’s “definitions” of 150 words, from the perspective of a Christian seeking to understand the world and God a little better. He is humorous and thoughtful, and perhaps a little irreverent at times, but always honest in what he shares. The entry on forgiveness was so well put:

To forgive somebody is to say one way or another, “You have done something unspeakable, and by all rights I should call it quits between us. Both my pride and my principles (q.v.) demand no less. However, although I make no guarantees that I will be able to forget what you’ve done, and though we may both carry the scars for life, I refuse to let it stand between us. I still want you for my friend.”

To accept forgiveness means to admit that you’ve done something unspeakable that needs to be forgiven, and thus both parties must swallow the same thing: their pride.

This seems to explain what Jesus means when he says to God, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Jesus is not saying that God’s forgiveness is conditional upon our forgiving others. In the first place, forgiveness that’s conditional isn’t really forgiveness at all, just Fair Warning; and in the second place, our unforgiveness is among those things about us which we need to have God forgive us most. What Jesus apparently is saying is that the pride which keeps us from forgiving is the same pride which keeps us from accepting forgiveness, and will God please help us do something about it.

When somebody you’ve wronged forgives you, you’re spared the dull and self-diminishing throb of a guilty conscience.

When you forgive somebody who has wronged you, you’re spared the dismal corrosion of bitterness and wounded pride.

For both parties, forgiveness means the freedom again to be at peace inside their own skins and to be glad in each other’s presence.
Wishful Thinking, pg. 32-33.

What Buechner says here is what I was trying to get at with my poem yesterday. In the end, it is not we who do the forgiving commanded by God by our own power. It is God, working in the humble heart, who helps us forgive and sets us free. He does so because He loves us deeply.

And so each day we should pray, “Help me, Father, to forgive in the same way You have forgiven me—fully and unconditionally—so that I may be set free. Amen”

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Grace Is Not New

Many characterize the Old Testament as a book of God’s wrath and the New Testament as a book of God’s grace. But as I read the whole of scripture, I find grace and wrath throughout. There is grace for the humble and wrath for the proud in the Old Testament and the New Testament. Two translations of a verse from Proverbs illustrate this truth.

Though He scoffs at the scoffers,
Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.
Proverbs 3:34 (NASB).

He mocks proud mockers
but gives grace to the humble.
Proverbs 3:34 (NIV)

This Old Testament verse is quoted twice in the New Testament, in James 4:6 and in 1 Peter 5:5. In quoting this Proverb, James and Peter are teaching the new church that humility is at the core of the Gospel of grace that they preach. We trust in the atoning sacrifice of Christ because we know we are unworthy to be able to earn God’s grace on our own. The proud, who believe they do not need Christ, remain under the wrath of God.

There have always been scoffers and proud mockers who deny the majesty of God. Until Jesus returns there will continue to be. These scoffers say that our faith is futile and useless because God does not exist, or if He does then He surely does not care about us mere mortals.

But there have also always been the humble, those who desire to know God and trust in His grace and strength. And as much as the mockers would like to think humble believers in Christ will someday cease to exist, that all religion will one day be irrelevant, we will survive because God has granted us grace and mercy.

I sometimes think about all the people who lived before Jesus walked the earth and wonder what their eternal fate was. They could not have trusted in the saving grace of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, because it had not yet happened. And yet I cannot help but believe that His blood covers the humble and afflicted of the Old Testament. It’s the ultimate time paradox – one that, for me, is answered by the timelessness of our dear Savior.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 (NIV). He lives outside the bounds of linear time as we experience it. His grace is sufficient for the humble who trust in Him.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8 (NIV).

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Forgiveness – A Poem

Father, must I again
offer forgiveness when I am
right and he is wrong?
Give me a soft heart so
I am able to forgive, to gain
victory over my sinful pride.
Each new day pride says I’m right.
Now I know it is You
Emmanuel, who forgave me. I was
so wrong not to trust my
Savior who forgave his debt and mine.

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What Are We Without God?

I’m still working my way through Ezekiel. It’s a tough book to get through, even though I know that after all the dire prophecies against Israel and the surrounding nations, Ezekiel eventually tells of the future restoration of Israel. But there certainly are a lot of dire prophecies.

As I was reading the other night I came to this passage describing the sins of Israel that led to God’s prophecy of punishment to come:

Every leader in Israel who lives within your walls is bent on murder. Fathers and mothers are treated with contempt. Foreigners are forced to pay for protection. Orphans and widows are wronged and oppressed among you. You despise my holy things and violate my Sabbath days of rest. People accuse others falsely and send them to their death. You are filled with idol worshipers and people who do obscene things. Men sleep with their fathers’ wives and have intercourse with women who are menstruating. Within your walls live men who commit adultery with their neighbors’ wives, who defile their daughters-in-law, or who rape their own sisters. There are hired murderers, loan racketeers, and extortioners everywhere. They never even think of me and my commands, says the Sovereign Lord. Ezekiel 22:6-12 (NLT).

As I read this it occurred to me that mankind hasn’t changed much. The behaviors enumerated in this passage can be found in our news today, or they have become so accepted that they don’t even make the news – unless the person engaging in such behavior is a celebrity. The final verse of this passage gets to the cause of this terrible behavior: it is that many people never even think of God or His commands.

In the New Testament, Paul warns that such behavior will increase “in the last days.”

You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. 2 Timothy 3:1-4 (NLT).

Thankfully, because of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, the Lord no longer judges people according to their nation, as He did the Israelites. In the Old Testament accounts, even the few righteous who remained in Israel suffered exile along with the wicked. But now each person is responsible for their own decision of whether they will think of God and His commands, or will instead scoff at Him and go their own way. Each person must decide whether they will become what mankind always becomes without God – boastful, proud, unloving and unforgiving, lovers of pleasure rather than God – or will instead choose to follow Christ and seek the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to guide them.

I choose to follow Christ. How about you?

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When Did Pride Become a Virtue?

Yesterday I was listening to my iPod on shuffle and the old hymn “They Will Know We Are Christians by Our Love” sung by Jars of Clay came on. It’s a pretty good hymn, all about unity among Christians and, as the title suggests, how other will know that we are Christians by the love we show each other and other people. But there is one line in this otherwise beautiful hymn that has always kind of bothered me. In the second verse is the line, “And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.” Whenever I hear it I wonder why would we save each person’s pride? When did pride become something to save or desire? When did pride become a virtue?

At Dictionary.com I found the following about the noun “pride,” its synonyms, and its one antonym:

Synonyms
1. Pride, conceit, self-esteem, egotism, vanity, vainglory imply an unduly favorable idea of one’s own appearance, advantages, achievements, etc., and often apply to offensive characteristics. Pride is a lofty and often arrogant assumption of superiority in some respect: Pride must have a fall. Conceit implies an exaggerated estimate of one’s own abilities or attainments, together with pride: blinded by conceit. Self-esteem may imply an estimate of oneself that is higher than that held by others: a ridiculous self-esteem. Egotism implies an excessive preoccupation with oneself or with one’s own concerns, usually but not always accompanied by pride or conceit: His egotism blinded him to others’ difficulties. Vanity implies self-admiration and an excessive desire to be admired by others: His vanity was easily flattered. Vainglory, somewhat literary, implies an inordinate and therefore empty or unjustified pride: puffed up by vainglory.

Antonyms
1.  humility.

And yet, pride is often itself lifted up as a virtue. We are proud to be Americans (there’s even a song about that). We are proud of our educational achievements (with all those letters after our names). We are proud of our charitable activities (loving to pat ourselves on the back for being so generous and Christ-like). We are proud of our honor students (there’s even a bumper sticker for that). We strut our pride as if the accomplishments and characteristics we are proud of are of our own making and design.

The problem with pride, as I see it, is it leaves out God’s immeasurable contribution to the blessings we enjoy. Let’s look just at being proud to be an American. For most of us, we did nothing to accomplish this. It is a matter of where we were born, which was determined by where our parents lived at the time, which they in turn may not truly have had much control over. Rather than saying “I’m proud to be in American,” wouldn’t it be better to say “I am blessed to be an American”? Or better yet, “I am humbled to have the good fortune to be an American”? It is by God’s grace that I live where I do and to Him belongs the glory, not me.

I did a Biblegateway.com search for the words pride and proud throughout the whole Bible. Pride appears 63 times and proud appears 47 times in the NIV, and for the most part they are not viewed as a virtue but as a sinful condition of the heart. It is only in the New Testament when the pride of believers is in Christ alone and not in themselves that the word pride finds an acceptable usage on our tongues.

The prophets Obadiah and Hosea wrote of the evils of pride. Pride is deceptive, and the proud forget their God.

“The pride of your heart has deceived you,
   you who live in the clefts of the rocks
   and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
   ‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’
Though you soar like the eagle
   and make your nest among the stars,
   from there I will bring you down,”
            declares the LORD.
Obadiah 1:3-4 (NIV).

I cared for you in the desert,
   in the land of burning heat.
When I fed them, they were satisfied;
   when they were satisfied, they became proud;
   then they forgot me.
Hosea 13:5-6 (NIV).

But I love the antonym of pride, and that is humility. The word humble appears 71 times in the NIV. In each instance, humility brings blessing. Moses was selected by God for the work of freeing the Israelites because he was humble. Numbers 12:3. Ahab was saved from disaster because he humbled himself before God. 1 Kings 21:29. The Lord heals and forgives the sins of those who are humble. 2 Chronicles 7:14. God guides the humble. Psalm 25:9. He gives grace to those who are humble. Proverbs 3:34. Daniel was given great wisdom and visions from God because he was humble. Daniel 10:12. The Lord always lifts up and exalts those who humble themselves before Him. Luke 14:11.

It is easy to be deceived by pride, but it is not a virtue. Being prideful will not lead to blessing, but may instead ultimately lead to the loss of the greatest blessing of all. Humility, on the other hand, is a virtue that one can cling to and trust that good will come from being humble.

They will know we are Christians by our love, but they ought to also know we are Christians by our humility. We must never forget that all we have, all we are, all our accomplishments and blessings, are a gift from God and to Him belongs the glory.

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Perspectives on Prayer – My Tuesday Three

It has come to my attention that God may have a broader perspective in mind for My Tuesday Three than I had originally planned. Although I am certain that the showcasing of three blog posts will often be what He leads me to, once again this week that is not what happened. Although I have read a few blogs in the little bit of free time I’ve managed to find (and precious little it has been), none jumped out as having a theme or subject connected to others.

I have, however, been thinking a lot about prayer and spending time with God. Not coincidentally, I received three quotes in my Quotemeal emails this week having to do with prayer. All three were terrific, and so I decided to share them and my thoughts about them.

The first quote was by Florence Allshorn, an Anglican missionary to Uganda and trainer of women missionaries who lived from 1887 to 1950.

The primary object of prayer is to know God better; we and our needs should come second.

I think this is a great and true quote. But so often all we think about in prayer is what we need to ask God for. We have our “prayer list” of all our family and friends who need healing or financial assistance or a new job. We pray for our children that they would do well in school and meet a loving spouse and develop a career they can thrive in. We pray for our pastors and elders asking that they would have wisdom and blessings. We lift up our military and ask for God’s protection for them as they serve their country.

All of these prayer concerns are important and God desires us to trust Him with the answers to those prayers. But if we do not first seek to know God in prayer, then how will we know what to pray for loved ones? If we do not seek to know God better in prayer, how will we discern His will for us and for those we love (whom He loves even more)? God is all about relationship; He knows all there is to know about us, and He wants us to learn all we can about Him. Then instead of praying, “Lord, help John to get the job he is interviewing for today,” we will learn to pray, “Lord, if it is your will for John, grant him favor in the eyes of those he interviews with today and give him wisdom to know if this is the job You have planned for him.” 

The second quote was by Julian of Norwich, an English mystic who had visions of Jesus Christ and lived from c. 1342 to c. 1416.

The Elements of Prayer|Its ground: God, by whose goodness it springeth in us. |Its use: to turn our will to His will. |Its end: to be made one with Him and like to Him in all things.

I like this quote, too, because of its focus on God and our relationship with Him. Once again we see that prayer is not about giving God a laundry list of what we think we want or need. Rather, it is about seeking God and His will. I particularly like what Julian says is the ground of prayer, that it is God who allows prayer to “springeth in us” in the first place. If it were not for God, we would not even be able to pray. This reminds me of Romans 8:26 (NIV): “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

And I love what Julian says is the end of prayer, and that is to be more like Jesus in all that we think, say, and do. Prayer that is focused on our needs cannot achieve this end; prayer that is focused on knowing God can and does.

This third quote is by Dorotheus of Gaza, a Christian monk who founded his own monastery near Gaza and lived from 505 to 565.

A man who prays without ceasing, if he achieves something, knows why he achieved it, and can take no pride in it… for he cannot attribute it to his own powers, but attributes all his achievements to God, always renders thanks to him and constantly calls upon him, trembling lest he be deprived of help.

This is my favorite of these three quotes. I loved how its arrival in my email coincided with my repost of my article based on 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “pray without ceasing.” I had scheduled that article to post at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, and this quote was in my June 25 Quotemeal email.

I think this quote illustrates the humility with which we must come before God. It reveals absolute and complete reliance on God for everything, even the ability to pray. It also reveals the appropriate reverence and awe with which we may approach God in prayer, a reverence and awe that recognizes He need not listen to us and answer at all for He is God. And yet it reveals a trust that God will answer, for if such trust were not present there would be no thanksgiving and constant calling.

As I pondered these three quotes, I could not help but conclude that what I want from my prayer life is to know God better, to trust God more, and to seek God’s will with great earnestness. I will not cease to pray for my loved ones and for everyday needs, but in praying for them I desire to seek God’s answer rather than to dictate to Him what His answer should be.

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My Desire Is to Know God’s Purpose

I’ve been listening to Jeremy Camp in my car this past week, and one song in particular spoke to me. “My Desire” expresses how I feel about my life and my God. I want my life to be real. I want to set aside all of my pride and embrace humility. I want my life to have purpose, the purpose that God has set before me. I want to be free. This song provides the means for achieving all these goals and desires: “lay it all down before the King.”

You want to be real
You want to be empty inside
You want to be someone laying down your pride
You want to be someone someday
Then lay it all down before the King
You want to be whole
You want to have purpose inside
You want to have virtue and purify your mind
You want to be set free today
Then lay it all down before the King

Without Jesus, it is impossible to be completely real because a part of me would always be false. Without the King of kings, it is impossible to be whole because He is an essential piece of my being. Without the Christ, it is impossible to set aside pride because He grants humility and shines His light on the pride deep within my heart. Without the Lord, it is impossible to be whole because He is what completes me. Without His Holy Spirit, it is impossible to have virtue and a pure mind because He reveals that which must be washed away by the blood of the lamb.

On our own, we can try to find purpose, to be humble, to be virtuous. But in the end all we will end up with is an inferior purpose, pride in our ability to achieve that purpose, and a mind corrupted by the world that applauds that purpose. I’ve tried things on my own and found less than what I truly desire. I was left empty, but not in the way I desire to be or in the way Camp refers to in this song.

Life without Jesus is an endless striving for more, a reaching for something to fill us up. We must be emptied of all that is worldly so that we might be filled with His love, mercy, grace, and compassion. We must let go of what we think we desire so that He might place in our hearts a greater desire to be a blessing in this world for His sake.

What is your desire? Do you seek to find what God’s purpose is for you? Do you desire to be set free? Then lay all your life, all your love, all your sins, all your pain, all your struggles, all your striving down before the King. He will give you the desires of your heart.

Trust in the LORD and do good;
   dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
Delight yourself in the LORD
   and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:3-4 (NIV)

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The Humility of God in Christ

I started this post, knowing I was writing it to post for Monday — Music Monday, that is. But I had no ideas for what song to post. I didn’t hear any song that had sparked the idea for a post this week. But God gave me the perfect song just as I finished writing this post, which you’ll see at the end.

Last week I received a C.S. Lewis quote in my Quotemeal email from Heartlight.org that I was not familiar with. I would like to cite to the book it is from, but I don’t know which one that is. But it was one of those quotes that just cried out to be the starting point for a blog post, and so I copied and pasted it and saved it as a draft. It was the only idea I had for my Monday post, so I started writing. Here’s the quote:

It is a poor thing to strike our colours to God when the ship is going down under us; a poor thing to come to Him as a last resort, to offer up “our own” when it is no longer worth keeping. If God were proud, He would hardly have us on such terms.    – C. S. Lewis

If God were proud, He would not have us at all, and certainly not as we called on Him only when we were in dire straits. But our Lord Jesus is not so proud, though He certainly had every right to be. Paul wrote to the Philippians:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
   did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 
but made himself nothing,
   taking the very nature of a servant,
   being made in human likeness. 
And being found in appearance as a man,
   he humbled himself
   and became obedient to death—
      even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV).

So why do so many go their own way, thinking they are just fine without God, until things go wrong and they need to be saved? Why do so many not realize that from the day of their birth they are already in dire straits and in need of a savior? Why did I, for that matter, have to reach the depths of major depression to realize I truly needed God, before I “struck my colors to God” and called on Him for help? Why did I have to get to the point in my life where it seemed I had nothing worth giving before I offered all to Him?

The amazing thing is that He accepted me even then. On top of that, He took the nothing that I had and has turned it into something worthwhile. He took me, a poor, wretched and lost sinner, and turned me into a daughter of the King.

It may be a poor thing for us to cast our lot with God only when we have determined we have no other option. But it is not a worthless thing. No, it is the most worthwhile thing we could ever do; because Christ, in His humility, gave all so that you and I might be saved even as one hanging next to Him on the adjacent cross with no other options left to us.

Are you still moving through life thinking you don’t really need God? Are you waiting until you hit rock bottom to call out for Him to lift you from the pit? There is no doubt He will take you then, but why wait? You are already in need of His saving grace, His amazing grace, and He humbly awaits your cry.

So what’s the perfect song to go with this post? “Amazing Grace” sung by Elvis Presley. I have even heard this song this week, and we sang it in church a week ago. My son plays it on the ocarina and it is one of my all time favorite hymns. I think that the rendition by Elvis is appropriate because Elvis is one of those who had to hit rock bottom after flying sky high before he realized his true wretchedness and need for a savior.

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