Superhero? Stash the Cape and Walk with Humility

Walk in Humility

Do I stash the cape or keep it? It’s fun designing characters for a children’s book. Artists and authors often use attributes they see within themselves or others for character development. Though super heros in flowing capes make great comic heros, they are hard to live with in daily life.

Recently, everything coming my way (videos, sermons, personal studies) focuses on the element of humility — an attribute I possess too little of! As much as I desire less pride and more humility, achieving that goal often requires time and effort.

Paul wrote to the Philippians,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Philippians 2:3-4

Zap

These wise words establish godly perspective. In both artistry and life, perspective is everything. How we position ourselves in relationships determines how vibrant those relationships become.

Looking Down

When artists portray a character struggling or defeated, they view the image from a high angle looking down. The reader will automatically perceive the character as being fearful or shy. Even slight variations, like a hand turned upward, give the subject a subordinate position.

For most people, deliberately assuming this lower position creates internal struggle. For most people, only rarely do we willingly desire to appear inferior to others.

Superhero

Jesus noticed this propensity to choose the best seats, highest places, and honored positions. In Luke 14, He tells His followers,

“When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor . . . take the lowest place . . . “
Luke 14:8-11

Sooner or later, self-promotion ultimately leads to humiliation! Most of us consider ourselves too cultured and dignified for such brash behavior. But I honestly need to ask myself a few straight questions: How willing am I to seek advice? How readily do I receive correction, especially if it is from someone not in authority? Do I ask others for help or do I find my own way?

For me, these are all difficult. I would far rather be the teacher than the student or the one who provides than the one receiving. Most of us gladly halt what we are doing to help others, but stutter when asking for similar assistance.

Boom

For relationships to grow and mature, they must be reciprocal. Lopsided one-upmanship disappears when we let go of pride and perfection, offering permission to stash the cape. Reciprocal means giving and receiving — a willingness to take the lower position.

Eye to Eye

I hope many genuine relationships fill your life. Paul says,

“Therefore if you have any encouragement for being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
Philippians 2:1-2

The strongest relationships I enjoy are those “united with Christ.” Though natural families form incredible bonds, spiritual ones become even stronger. When our natural family also becomes our spiritual family, we possess the best of both.

Hero

What propels relationships grounded in Christ? The first two attributes Paul mentions are the comfort of Christ’s love and sharing in the Spirit. To know how loved we are, despite our weaknesses and failures, releases us to love others — not as superiors but equals. Eye to eye! The Spirit dwelling within us, leads us into a fuller re-presentation of Christ in the world.

We can stash the cape, leaving any superhero facade behind. Walking on a common level, we experience tenderness and compassion, similar mindsets, and mutual love for each other.

Looking Up

Every picture book or movie presents a hero by looking from what is called the “worm” view. With a few artistic strokes the hero looms large, powerful, and independent within the scope of their surroundings.

A child running through the yard with fabric flowing off their shoulder’s announcing the world will soon be delivered, brings smiles from adult onlookers. Unfortunately, many of us carry our imaginary capes into adulthood, viewing ourselves with superhero status: superior and strong.

Pow! Bang!

We pull invisible capes from who-knows-where and masquerade as someone significant. Oh, don’t worry, we maintain our “Christianese” behind the polished mask of false humility.

Jesus’ words echo in my heart as a warning,

“The greatest among you will be your servant. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Matthew 23:11-23

Scripture gives no room for “might” or “maybe.” They will be! Experience has taught me, the sooner I choose the low position and look up, the better for everyone!

One Hero

When I’m willing to stash my cape, refusing to pretend super Christian status, I clearly see the real Hero — the only Hero, the true Hero worth looking to. What made Him so heroic? He lowered Himself lower than I could imagine, becoming nothing, so we could become everything He designed us to be.

” . . . he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:7-8

Jesus became Superhero #1, for all time, for all people. He didn’t just stash a phony cape; He left Heaven, descended from the highest place of glory and power, to become like us — dust. Talk about a giant step downward!

Kapow!

Only when we see our glorified Lord will we fully understand how low He came. And the result? He snatched a dying world from eternal hell, trampled the head of that slimy serpent, and declared victory over every oppressive dis-ease the enemy once unleashed.

“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 acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:9-11

Stash the Cape

Jesus set the ultimate example, showing us how to restore relationship. The One who could have come like most comic strip heros, looking down on the world, didn’t! He could have dominated, intimidated, and controlled, but He wouldn’t.

Jesus came — looked humanity in the eye and walked at our level. He allowed people to pay His way, wash His feet, and serve Him, without feeling demeaned. Jesus also lifted people (demon possessed, adulterous, wicked, sketchy, diseased, contaminated people) from low positions. Each time, He demonstrated honor and value.

Stash the Cape

So why do we struggle to stash the cape, to show our flaws, and be real with each other? Why do we obstinately refuse the low road?

Jesus chose a different way.

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God;”
John 13:3

Because Jesus KNEW — understood completely His identity in the Father and His ministry — He was secure. The same possibility is true for us! Insecurity causes us to reach for superficial capes and earthly titles. Insecurity motivates us to look down on some, compare ourselves with ourselves, and desire the accolades of others. Security allows us to stash the cape and relate honestly.

The Frame

Every artist or illustrator considers how to “frame” their characters. Wide angle, or close-up? Left, right, or center? Through reading Daniel, God reminded me of the “frame” I need to walk in humility.

A dream disturbed King Nebuchadnezzar. He called in all his astrologers, magicians, enchanters and sorcerers — his full arsenal of dream interpreters — demanding they both tell him the dream and interpret it. They panicked, “You’re asking the impossible! No one on earth can do what the king asks!” (Daniel 2) True story!

Daniel quickly solicits the prayer support of his friends. As a result, God reveals both the dream and meaning. When he approaches the king with the answer, Daniel clearly says, “God in heaven reveals mysteries. It isn’t about me or my wisdom. I’m no better than anyone else, but God wants you to know and understand.” (Dan 2:28-30)

Daniel showed complete humility. He responded to situations by taking the low road, seeking the help of his comrades, claiming no credit for himself and desiring the good of others.

Supermom

That’s our frame for humility. God exalted — first, last, and middle. Others honored as better than ourselves.

So when you see the evidence of pride (no matter how subtle) in my strut, carried in my continence, or waffled in my words, I give you permission to tell me plainly, “Stash the cape, girl! Be real!” Please help me swap my phony cape for the legitimate cloak of humility.

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Harvest Time: Separating the Wheat and Weeds

Harvest Time

It’s harvest time on the prairies — an entire season of hard work and great financial investment threshed and stored for future use. Farmers and laborers feel the pressure during this brief window of opportunity. 

Globally our province sits small in proportion, but giant in production. Vast acres of spring, durum and winter wheat, canola, peas, lentils, mustard and flax gulped into massive equipment, and scurried to storage facilities. It’s an amazing achievement!

The farmer chose his seed well, fertilized and cared for the crop during the ensuing months, protecting against disease and pests. However, you can be sure of one thing — every field will have a mixture of good crop and weeds. What! How?

Weed Seeds

Weeds just are! Whether in my small garden plot, or fields stretching across the horizon, weeds are a perpetual problem. They sap the soil of vital nutrients and moisture.

No one labors for weeds! Yet, they are everywhere — sometimes sitting dormant in the soil for decades. Persistent, invasive, and despised!

Wheat and Tares

“Jesus told them another parable:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
But while everyone was sleeping,
his enemy, came and sowed weeds
among the wheat, and went away.
When the wheat sprouted
and formed heads,
then the weeds also appeared.”

Matthew 13:24-26

Every farmer and gardener can relate. The farmer doesn’t refuse to harvest the field because weeds are present. The gardener doesn’t reject the produce because weeds also grew in the garden.

Wheat Field

Every farmer, including this farmer in the parable, fights weeds to protect the valued crop until harvest time.

Choices

The servants came to the landowner prepared to take immediate action,

“The servants asked him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
‘No,’ he answered,
‘because while you are pulling the weeds,
you may uproot the wheat with them.’ “

Matthew 13:28-29

Wisdom knows the right thing to do in the right way. The unknowing servants, though desiring to do good, wanted to do the right thing but in the wrong way — or at least at the wrong time.

Oh, how often I’ve been like these servants, rushing in to do what I can without forethought.

Solomon wrote,

“For there is a proper time and
procedure for everything. . .”

Ecclesiastes 8:6

Don’t Throw it Out

I think of another old expression, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” In other words, in the haste to discard something undesirable, avoid throwing away something else worth holding on to.

Harvesting

In North America, we too quickly throw away the good. We see evidence of imperfections and cast the whole lot aside. Whether possessions, ministries, or people, whatever no longer serves our purpose or makes us look and feel good, we dispose of.

“Let both grow together until the harvest. . .”
Matthew 13:30

Farmers learn how to harvest their crops in such a way that the least amount of weeds stays with the good grain. By setting the sieves, the chaff, weed seeds, and shrivelled kernels (or dockage) falls to the ground. Yet, try as he might a perfect sample often seems impossible to attain.

Me, Too

God has been speaking to me about the weeds in my life — the dockage He desires to remove. As much as I attempt to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, I’m exasperated by the blatant evidence of pride, selfishness and unbelief that remains in my “life sample.” God pours His grace into me, lovingly caring for every detail, yet I’m blemished, unproductive, and often disappointed with myself.

Why?

“But while everyone was sleeping,
his enemy came and sowed weeds
among the wheat,
and went away.”

Matthew 13:27

This side of heaven we have an enemy, sowing the bad among the good God starts. I want it pulled out NOW, so that only good can flow from my life. Sometimes the tension feels intense!

Frost Damage

At the root of everything ungodly live these three potent weeds: pride, selfishness and unbelief. All present themselves subtlely. I need gutsy people to challenge me when they see them sprouting up and taking root. Faithful mentors question the motivations behind my words and actions.

Harvest Time

Through this parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus offered insight into the end of all things when God Himself will separate the good from the evil. Until then, our world, both external and internal, will contain both.

It’s interesting that the enemy worked while “everyone was sleeping.” That challenges me to alertness.

“. . . For we are not unaware
of (Satan’s) schemes.”

2 Corinthians 2:11

Just as the faithful farmer knows his crops and fields, I cannot afford to be ignorant of my personal weaknesses and tendencies.

God points me to another principle, however. What about those around me? Do I cast them aside, pulling them out by their roots, like the foolish servants wanted to do, while they are still developing in their faith? How do I treat others when evidence of weeds hang in heaps from them?

Truck and Grain Cart

Do I water the “good seed” God is nurturing in them, allowing His sovereign ways and time to deal with the “dockage?” Am I so focused on the messy parts of people’s lives I miss the good God wants me to focus on? Do I see His reflection in everyone I meet?

“At That Time”

The parable reads,

“At that time I will tell the harvesters:
First collect the weeds and
tie them in bundles to be burned;
then gather the wheat and
bring it into my barn.”
Matthew 13:30

This requires patience and trust on my part. God determines the time of the ultimate harvest. He instructs the harvesters in the process. He decides what will be preserved or destroyed.

That time” is coming! The evidence of the natural harvest hangs thick in the autumn air. I pray I will as clearly sense the urgency of the spiritual harvest around me.

It’s harvest time! God’s good seed has produced well.

Sunset

Boast in the Lord – You May be Good but You’re Not that Good

Boast in the Lord and Him only. We may think we’re pretty good compared to others, but not compared to God. We’re just not that good. All other boasting is ludicrous and dangerous.

The other day, I laughed as I overheard four siblings constructing a major building block project. They had gotten along quite well, but now were disagreeing on the finishing touches. Finally, Evan announced, “Here let me do it! Boys are better than girls!”

Shayla, the oldest of the group, placed her hands on her hips, and with eyebrows lowered glared at him in disbelief. His remark obviously stuck a uncomfortable chord with her. Karli, the younger sister, backed off obligingly, pondering the weight of her brother’s comment while beginning to question her own ability. Four year old Sara didn’t miss a beat. She gently but firmly shoved the boaster off to the side, “You’re good, Evan, but you’re not that good!”

I laughed until I felt the nudge of Holy Spirit gently, but firmly, speak similarly to me. He was reminding me how easily I too step in with over-confidence, when humility and tact would be more appropriate. Boasting in ourselves usually doesn’t end up well — for kids or adults, male or female.

“Let someone else praise you,
and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.”
Proverbs 27:2

Boasting

Such boasting in ourselves never produces the results we would like. Boasting must have been an issue in the Corinthian church because it was the first problem Paul dealt with.

“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.‘”
I Corinthians 1:31 

I have discovered that often boasting partners with insecurity rather than confidence. Those who accurately measure their talents, abilities or expertise, don’t need to boast; their works speak for themselves. Those who feel a need to be publicly noticed or appreciated tend to boast as a way to elevate and validate themselves before others. Such tactics usually backfire.

Pride goes before destruction
and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
Proverbs 16:18

Unless you think, for even a moment, I am pointing my finger at anyone else, rest assured, I’m not! God orchestrated this little incident with these young children to get my attention. Although amusing, it speaks directly to some boastful thoughts incubating in me.

Not That Good

Sara’s small but firm voice, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” has been resonating in my ears. I’m asking God to show me places where I overthink my own worth or accomplishments. I have always struggled to receive compliments well. Insults, I’m able to handle more readily, but accolades can trip me up.

I’m not alone! Perhaps the chief danger zones for most of us are pride, praise, and power. These each have a way of ultimately revealing our true nature.

“Brothers and sister, think of what you were
when you were called.
Not many of you were wise by human standards;
not many were of noble birth.”
1 Corinthians 1:26

Having no claim to either nobility or wisdom, this verse resonates with me. Though my parents gave me a generous start, my beginnings were humble. Any wisdom I possess, came from a gracious God and the school of many mistakes.

Quite frankly, I’m not that good! I hate to break it to you, but in the words of Sara, “You’re good, but you’re not that good” either.

Who Are You?

Just this week, someone confessed that when they heard me teach a class for the first time, they thought, “Who does she think she is?” Believe me, I wasn’t offended! It was obvious to everyone in the room, including me, that I wasn’t anybody special. I hold no distinction, certification, title or degree. Nothing set me apart from anyone else.

But here is the kicker! What does set each of us apart lies entirely in the extra-ordinary mercy of God!

“But God chose the foolish things
of the world to shame the wise;
God chose the weak things
of the world to shame the strong.
God chose the lowly things
of this world and the despised things —
and the things that are not —
to nullify the things that are,
so that no one may boast before him.”
1 Corinthians 1:27-29

Good news! We qualify among the ranks of those God chooses. Honestly! Who else but God would choose us, when we are “good, but not that good?”

This beautiful, intelligent woman felt a little uneasy about her thoughts. I didn’t! God and I both know, I’m just one of the “foolish things…weak things…lowly things…the things that are not.” And boy am I glad! No one can look at me and say I got where I am on my own efforts, intelligence, economic status, or by any other human means.

In Christ Alone

I constantly need to remember what Paul told the Corinthians believers,

“It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus
who has become for us wisdom from God —
that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
1 Corinthians 1:30

 

Everything originates in Christ — everything. Wisdom? From Him! Health or wealth? From Him! Loving relationships, warm home, security, hope, peace, destiny and promise? From Christ alone!

When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he said,

“May I never boast except in the cross
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
through which the world
has been crucified to me,
and I to the world.”
Galatians 6:14

The cross puts everything into perspective. So no matter how good we may think we are, we know that we’re not that good.

Boast Please!

Not all boasting is bad, however. Paul wasn’t disqualifying all boasting. A few verses later, He lets us know that most of their boasting was in specific leaders. He warned about this propensity to boast about ourselves or others, whether a favorite leader, music group, sports team, college, or whatever.

“Therefore, as it is written:
‘Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.'”
1 Corinthians 1:31

Here Paul quotes from a much larger portion found in Jeremiah:

“This is what the LORD says:
“let not the wise boast of their wisdom
or the strong boast of their strength
or the rich boast of their riches,
but let the one who boasts boast about this:
that they have the understanding to know me,
that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness,
justice and righteousness on earth,
for in these I delight,” declares the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24

God Delights in Boasting

God delights when boasting is directed toward Him. Not because He is in any way self-centered or needs such acclaim, but rather boasting in God is healthy and beneficial.

David said,

“My soul will boast in the LORD;
the humble will hear it and rejoice.”
Psalm 34:2

Boasting in God has a spin off effect on others, positively turning their eyes toward Him. I’m so glad God didn’t have to use a donkey to speak to me, like He did with Balaam. He chose a four-year-old child to make His point in my heart. I hope her words will stick with me for a long, long time, “You’re good, but you’re not that good.”

A little humility goes a long way!

Is there a Wrong Way to do The Right Thing? Attitude Makes All The Difference

Attitude

There is never a right way to do the wrong thing. There are, however, wrong ways to do the right thing. This is sometimes the manner in which we can step out of God’s will. Attitude makes all the difference!

My thoughts go back years ago when I was in the middle of a difficult situation, like the Monkey-In-The-Middle.

A wise friend advised, “You know the right thing to do. Be careful you don’t do it the wrong way.”

I have thought of this advice many times over the years and have passed it on to others. Unfortunately, I sometimes struggle with this tripping point. I’m not alone.

Presumption

Abraham clearly received a promise from God.

“Then the word of the LORD came to him:
“This man will not be your heir,
but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”

Genesis 15:4

Presumption

Sounds clear enough! But Abraham was already a senior citizen and his wife, though very beautiful, was barren and beyond childbearing age. Time wasn’t just running out; the clock struck midnight and the battery was dead.

So Abraham and Sarah reasoned that God must need help with this one. Through Hagar, they clearly tried to the right thing, but in every wrong conceivable way. (Pun intended!)

Pride

Prayer is a good thing! A really good thing! Jesus gives us an illustration of how we can even pray in the wrong way.

“To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:9-14

Pride

You would think in this place of prayer we could at least get things right! Attitude makes all the difference! Pride may work for the master rooster guarding his brood, but not much further.

Anger

The Samaritans rolled up the welcome mat before Jesus could cross the border to make entry. Even the disciple known as the Apostle of Love wanted to BBQ them on the spot!

Fire From Heaven

“When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”
Luke 9:54

Surely defending the Lord Jesus is worthy of drastic measures, right? Well, maybe not!

The Right Attitude Leads the Right Way

Fortunately there is also a right way! When we are walking in the center of God’s will with godly attitude there often develops an ever widening circle of influence and blessings.

Attitude

Even in the most difficult of situations, when we seek God’s heart and His wisdom, He will give direction.

“… the people who know their God will display strength and take action
Daniel 11:32

“When you are arrested, don’t worry about how to respond or what to say. God will give you the right words at the right time.”
Matthew 10:19

Staying in that sweet spot of favour can be incredibly scary and amazing all at the same time. Who knows what paths might open up, if one is willing to do the right thing in the right way!

 

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