~~i want to be everything you dreamed when you called my name~~

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

True Humility

Many of you know that I have been struggling through getting this PhD done. I feel like I am ramming myself into a brick wall every time I talk to my advisor, and have lost all confidence in my ability to be able to finish this because of him. But there are two things that God is refining in me right now...today I'm going to talk about humility - I'll leave the confidence issue for another day when I'm actually starting to LET GOD BE WHO I AM CONFIDENT IN!

So for the past while, God has been laying Philippians on my heart - and this morning I read a piece of it for the "first time"....I love that about God's Word - no matter how many times I read it, it's always new and alive and perfect!

Philipians 2:3-11
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to you own interests, but also to the interests of others. 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! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So this passage really spoke to me about what true humility is this morning. As for my dissertation, verses 3-5 hit me head on with God's command to me - Put others first! I get so caught up in how my advisor has wronged me, that I play the victim and completely miss what God may be using me for in his life. A wise friend once told me that she feels part of my stuggle with my advisor is because the spirit of evil is rising up within him as he sees the Spirit of God within me. Oh how I wish that I would initially see the spirit side of things before the natural!

What I love about this passage, though - is that Paul goes on to tell us what putting others before ourselves - true humility - is. In verses 6-11, he gives us a very concise and beautiful description of the meaning of Jesus' life - humility. He begins by asserting the Jesus is God himself (vs. 6 - in very nature God), God in every dimension of his being (Romans 9:5; Colossians 1:15-20). But Jesus was willing to forego his lofty position in heaven, choosing rather to humble himself to be born as a human baby so that he could die as the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 2:2).

Paul describes this process in the verses following. First - Jesus MADE HIMSELF NOTHING (vs. 7). He did not stop being God, but he did lay aside his honor and privilege as God the Son (John 17:5). In so doing, he was submitting to the will of His Father (Matthew 26:39).

Second, Jesus was MADE IN HUMAN LIKENESS (vs. 7). The Creator became the created - the Word became human flesh and lived among us (John 1:14) - amazing! Jesus Christ was like us in every way except for one - He did not sin. He was bound as a man by certain limitations, and he faced temptation, but He never wavered from his purpose of honoring God (Hebrews 2:17-18; 4:15).

Third, Jesus lived a life of suffering and BECAME OBEDIENT TO DEATH, an agonizing and shameful death on a cross (vs. 8; Galatians 3:13; Hebrews 12:2). During his earthly life, He endured mockery and insult (Luke 18:32; 23:11, 36; 1 Peter 2:23; Psalm 22:6-7). Jesus knew what it was to be despised and rejected by men and was familiar with suffering (Isaiah 53:3).

After his humiliation, however, God the Father exalted him to his place of honor. The Son of God came back from the dead and returned to the Father - that one day all of creation will bow before Jesus and confess that He is Lord (vs. 9-11). The question is not, "Will you acknowledge Jesus as Lord?" - but rather, "When will you acknowledge Jesus as Lord?" We can do it now, accepting his payment for our sin and living in grateful obedience to his will. Or we can do it after it is too late - and pay the penalty for our own sin.

In verse 5, Paul reminds us that our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. And what this passage has spoken to me today is, following the model of Jesus, we are called to be willing to give up our rights and position in this life and live in a way that will enable others to experience God's love. But that promise is ours as well! We and those who are drawn by our example will one day share in Jesus' glory in the world to come, where we will reign with him. Romans 8:17 tells us that if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.

Will you pray that my focus will shift from my situation to what God is doing through my situation? I want to live a life of true humility - one that brings honor to my Father. I have long said that this PhD is just a piece of paper, that it doesn't define me...but I think in this area of my life - I've lost sight of WHO does define me - and in the process extinguished the Light that should be emanating from me to my committee members.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

God of the Impossible

God's fingerprints are all over the book of Esther, but His name is not mentioned even once. And this led me to think about how many times I feel like God is silent or inactive...yet He's orchestrating something huge - as He did for His people in the time of Esther. Throught he courage of one woman, God supernaturally protected His people from annihilation and extinction. Esther reminds us that God is constantly at work behind-the-scences to deliver His own.

The story beings with Esther, a beautiful young Jewish girl, chosen by the Persian King Xerxes as his new queen (note that Xerxes was unaware at this point of her Jewish heritage). The wicked Haman, second-in-command of the Persian empire, plots to have all of the Jews killed as revenge for the refusal of Mordecai to bow down to him (Mordecai was Esther's cousin and former guardian, as well as a high-ranking government official). Haman convinces Xerxes that this mass extermination will be in the empire's best interest, and the execution is scheduled for a particular day according to a decree from the king himself. The date is chosen by casting lots, or purim. Even today, the Jewish people celebrate the Feast of Purim to commemorate God's deliverance from Haman. Mordecai asks Queen Esther to become involved, and she courageously reveals her heritage and exposes the plot to the king. Because of her love for her people, Esther risks her life by going against the king's law, saying, "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:19). The king has mercy on her and grants her request, and eventually Haman is hanged on the very gallows he has erected for Mordecai.

Esther's decision is similar to the one Jesus would make years later. Motivated by His love for us, our Savior became our representative in the courtroom of a holy God. It cost His life to save us from perishing (John 3:16). It seemed impossible for fallen humanity to gain a pardon from an offended God, but Jesus accomplished just that and then rose from the dead to prove it. Just as Haman was publicly humiliated and destroyed, so Jesus "disarmed the powers and authorities" of His enemy, Satan. "He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:15).

That which appears to be a futile cause for human beings is never unattainable for God. In fact, I think God specializes in the "impossible" as a means for demonstrating who He is. Many people throughout history have scoffed at God's seemingly improbable plans and methods. When He had informed one Abram and Sarai that they were going to have a son - they laughed because of their old age - until the miracle birth took place (Genesis 18:13-14). And when Mary learned that she had been chosen to give birth to God's Son, she very logically inquired, "How will this be...since I am a virgin?" (Luke 1:34). God's angel messenger reminded her that "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). And even in Persia, God was watching out for His people, quietly setting all the pieces in place for their deliverance.

Presently, I feel surrounded by some impossible situations...
...a dissertation I've worked for 3 years on - not being accepted by my committee...
...a house we are confident God has led us to - with unreasonable requests from the seller's realtor...
But in the midst of all of this, I know that God is sovereign over all things! I am glad I serve the God of the impossible - trusting that He will bring these dreams He has placed before me to fruition!
If I perish...let me perish...I am Yours...I am Yours...