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December 18, 2008

humility is truth, pride is lying

We all know that humility is taught in the Bible, but not until I read the quote below did I think so clearly about how only a humble attitude is an attitude based on reality. I am fallible. I am a sinner. It is more than likely that I messed something up, forgot something or just did what I told you not to do.
"We all tend to be infatuated with the idea of strength--but we fail to realize that all true strength is grounded in humility. We still relegate humility to the pale ranks of passive virtues and ornamental graces, whereas, in its legitimate development, it is a stout and soldierly quality. Humility, indeed, is simply a sense of reality and proportion. It is grounded upon a knowledge of the truth about ourselves and about God. 'The reason why God is so great a lover of humility,' says St Vincent de Paul, 'is because He is the great lover of truth. Now humility is nothing but truth, whilst pride is nothing but lying.'"
-E. Herman, as quoted in Elizabeth Elliot's book The Mark of a Man

And yet humility is a trait of Christ (Phil 2)--our all powerful Creator God. "Mild He lays his glory by." May we be forever grateful.

December 17, 2008

"man sees the outward appearance"

One very cold day this weekend, some of us had the opportunity to sing Christmas carols to local hospital residents and staff. I don't tell you this to sound like a good person. Because as I was there, I couldn't help but feel trite and self-centered in offering my well-wishes to people who most likely won't have a joyful Christmas. People whom our society, for the most part, has put away. It felt hollow to suppose that I was doing them some great good by spending a few hours singing before I bustled off to friends, family and Christmas happenings.

In the hospital there is a lady who is burned beyond recognition. A splash of grey hair hangs from a lumpy, rebuilt expanse where her face once was. When I see her, my curious eyes keep turning back to her. My foolish heart, which is so bound up in the physical and visible, experiences repulsion and pity as I judge her value by worldly standards rather than the Lord's.

My little friend Jeremiah, who has recently turned five, was at the hospital with us and saw this lady for the first time. After someone talked to him about her, his response was "But she'll have a new body in Heaven, right?" Yet again, a little child leads me:
in thinking Biblically,
in always hoping,
in having eyes to see the unseen--that which is eternal.

Man sees the outward appearance, but the Lord sees the heart.

December 07, 2008

in one ear and out the other

The book of James is presenting enormous challenges to me. The speaker I'm listening to* (as we study the controversial, important passage of James 2:14-26) suggested substituting the word faith with doctrine (as in "the faith", the objective body of doctrine of Christianity) and works with application, to aid understanding. Perhaps this gives a fresh look at this passage:
James 2:14, 17, 20
What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has doctrine but he has no application? Can that doctrine save him? ...doctrine, if it has no application, is dead, being by itself...doctrine without application is useless[.]
Above is a cartoon I drew in church a while back. The church I attend is known to be serious about Bible teaching (doctrine) and that is one reason I chose it. While so many churches trim down the amount of time spent studying the Bible, I've appreciated additional teaching that our church leadership chose to add to the service on Sunday mornings. We're briefly covering a variety of topics, such as Christology. It has been beneficial.

But beneficial has it really been to me? The point of Bible teaching is not just to get it in our heads, but live in in our lives. Am I applying the doctrine? I confess that too often I consume facts without stopping for personal reflection, application and confession. What good is it for me to have journals full of study notes and bookshelves lined with theology tomes if I am not daily, practically applying it?

Don't misunderstand; I am convinced that we should study the Bible more, not less. But with that studying there must be personal application. So that doctrine doesn't leak out of my ear onto my Sunday clothes. So that I can be saved from the terrible effects of sin in my life as a believer. So I can do those good works by which I am not justified before God (Eph 2:8-9) but for which I was created (Eph 2:10).

*If you've ever puzzled at how salvation is by faith/grace alone in Paul's writings but wondered how James can teach salvation by works, you could really benefit from Jeremy Thomas' studies in this area, all available for free right here [link].