Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Principle of Humility

Solomon said that pride brings in its wake disgrace, while humility is accompanied by wisdom (Prov 11:2). We have all experienced this whether it was someone we knew, or read about, or even ourselves. There is just something about the combination of our sinful nature and the power of our culture that tempts us to boast about our accomplishments.

Humility means that a person has a modest estimate of his own importance compared to other people. Pride, on the other hand, means a person has an inordinate opinion of his own importance. Humility is authenticity on display in a person who is easy to talk to and interesting to listen to. Humility feels no
compulsion to impress anyone; and yet, wherever the humble person goes, he leaves a lasting impression.

Humility is the constraining attitude that enables a person to be authentic under pressure. It is a God-given quality that allows us to have the right perspective and see things through God’s lens. Humility is such a contrast to our usual selfish nature. When Jesus entered Jerusalem in his triumphal entry, he did it with humility. The creator of the world knows very well what people see as greatness, so he took that greatness and turned it on its head, “When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it” (Mark 11:7).  He took one of the least attractive animals that any great king would own, and he sat on it. Jesus chose the donkey as his vehicle of entrance into Jerusalem.

History shows us that when human beings have power and success, they become flush with pride. It is as if they cannot prevent the overwhelming smugness that takes over. When Hitler had conquered several European countries and it seemed like the world was falling before his feet, he told his generals that Britain was already defeated; they just didn’t know it yet. Jesus was the complete opposite of this kind of arrogance.

Jesus offered a contrast to all the world’s proud and arrogant dictators who always cling to power and whose actions crush anyone who gets in their way. Jesus did not grasp for power but instead made himself nothing by taking the nature of a servant. In doing so, Jesus humbled himself all the way to death, even the humiliating death on the cross (Phil 2:6-8).

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he immediately cleansed the temple, sending the greedy money changers scrambling while declaring that the purpose of God’s House was to be a place of prayer. Immediately afterwards, the blind and lame came to him, and he healed them, and the children began shouting praises (Matt 21:14-16). The chief priests demanded that he silence the children, but he said that from the lips of children and infants God has ordained praise (Ps 8:1-2). The arrogant and the proud were uncomfortable in Jesus’ presence, but the cripple, the lame, and the children felt safe and accepted. He was God, and yet he showed us how to live with such humility!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Principle of Accountability

One of the fastest ways to wreck a marriage is to be possessive of your spouse. Many a husband has driven his wife away because of his insane jealousies and controlling behavior. Likewise, many wives have driven a wedge between themselves and their husbands because they simply were so possessive. It also affects the whole family as parents become possessive of their children. There are many reasons people become possessive, but the primary reason is they simply are seeking their own comfort. Our selfish human nature compels us to fight for our way! It is, however, a form of manipulation where people are being used to get what another wants. What is the antidote for possessive behavior? It is accountability! When we are accountable to God, our wife, our husband, and even our children, we let them go. When we comprehend that we are accountable for our words and conduct, we judge the impact of our actions on those around us. We refuse to hold on to people or things that we think will bring us pleasure. Instead, we seek their highest good.

Accountability is the quality of being accountable. It is an obligation and willingness to accept responsibility or to account for one's actions. It is the concept that teaches us that we are answerable to someone—first to God and then to our parents and to those who are in authority. Think of it as the antivirus security software on your computer that guards against viruses that want to get in and corrupt the files on your computer. The Great Wall of China is the greatest wall in the world, stretching over 1500 miles, thirty feet high, and eighteen feet thick. However, on several occasions, the enemy never had to climb the wall, they just had to bribe the gatekeeper to gain entrance. Accountability is the gatekeeper to our minds and hearts.

Accountability says I am a servant of God so I must live in submission to him. Accountability says to the husband and wife that they both must submit to each other. Paul says the husband must love his wife as Christ loved the church and be willing to die for her. She, in turn, must respect him (Eph 5:33). It is a picture of what marriage is supposed to look like, with each putting the other first. So many marriages could be turned around immediately if only they were willing to be accountable to each other.

When we live in accountability to those around us, we seek what is best for them as opposed to what is best for us. This is contrary to how our world teaches us to live. It is, however, exactly how Jesus told us to live, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (Luke 9:24). We have been trained to think that by getting all I can for me, I will have more—more happiness and more fulfillment. The opposite is really true. In giving more, I gain more. Accountability helps hold our feet to the fire so we live the way Jesus lived. You will know when a person is truly accountable because they refuse to control people; instead, they give them freedom.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The Principle of Responsibility

Responsibility is a moral, legal, and mental accountability that causes a person to possess the qualities of reliability and trustworthiness. Responsibility is a crucial idea that outlines our lives. Life’s concrete concepts are poured into the forms of responsibility, giving shape to our life. It means we take responsibility for our mistakes, apologize, and ask forgiveness. It means we pay our bills on time, pick up after ourselves, and clean up our own messes. It means we treat people in a respectable way even when we disagree with them. It is responsible to forgive, to share, to help, to not blame, to correct, to improve, and to make right what is wrong in our actions. It means that we are people who make mistakes, but we are willing to learn to take responsibility for them. It means keeping our promises and being responsible for every word that comes out of our mouth. That, of course, means that we are responsible for our own attitude, and that is no easy task. The earlier we learn responsibility, the earlier we start being responsible for our own actions.

Daniel, from the Old Testament, is an example of what responsibility looks like. He was transported from his country of Judah to Babylon. Though he was still very young, he carried with him the formation of a young man with character and godly principles that were instilled by his parents. His name means “God is my judge.” Even though the Babylonians immersed him in their culture and enrolled him in their university to be a future leader, he never forgot his principles. When there were contradictions to his principles, he remained true to his God and his convictions.

Once, when Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, he demanded that his wise men interpret the dream. To make things more difficult, he required them to tell him the dream and the interpretation. When they told him that was impossible, he ordered them all to be executed (Dan 2:1-28). When Daniel was told that he and his friends would also be executed, he asked the king for time to interpret the dream, and the king granted him time. He and his friends took the matter to God in prayer and pleaded for mercy (Dan 2:17-18). During the night, God revealed the mystery to Daniel in a vision.

Prayer was a way of life for Daniel and not the last resort. Prayer is not so much taught as it is caught.  Children learn how big God is and how powerful he is by seeing him respond to their parent’s prayers.  When Daniel appeared before the king, he was asked if he could interpret the dream. Daniel answered that no one had been able to explain the mystery to the king, “…but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries” (Dan 2:27-28).

Daniel demonstrates the principle of responsibility in so many ways. He does not fall apart in a crisis but keeps his head. He goes to God in prayer for direction, and God gives it to him. His life and testimony are a witness to those who know him. He is humble yet courageous. The book of Daniel records that Daniel remained a man of responsibility all his life and never wavered from his principles. He never gave up, and as a result, he stands with distinction as an example to us all. His life is what a responsible life looks like.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Principle of Respect

Respect is esteem for the inherent worth of a person. We have to be taught how to be respectful to others—beginning with our parents and those in authority. Respect begins with honoring our parents, which is one of the Ten Commandments. Solomon said that if we fail to show respect for the poorest among us we show contempt for our maker (Prov 14:31). Jesus defined respect in these words, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you (Matt 7:12).” Paul wrote to the Ephesians, that husbands must love their wives, and wives must respect their husbands (Eph 5:33). Summed up in this verse is the ultimate secret to marital fulfillment. When a man loves his wife with unconditional love and she in return respects him, their two deepest needs are met.

If children see their mother and father treat each other with respect, they follow their example. When parents fail to show respect for each other or God, children are left in bewilderment, causing them to disrespect their parents, one another, and others. How they grow up treating each other is how they will treat their future spouses.

Our greatest respect is reserved for God who alone deserves our adoration and worship. In the book of Esther, Mordecai demonstrated this kind of respect for God. A very evil man named Haman was elevated to a position of authority, and he demanded his inferiors bow down to him. Mordecai would not do it. Haman was enraged that Mordecai would not follow the crowd and pay him homage each day. Esther saw it too and found another reason to respect her adopted father. Haman decided to destroy him, but not just him, but all the Jews. Haman looked for a way to destroy the entire race of God’s people. He lied to King Xerxes and presented him with false evidence showing the Jews were a threat to his kingdom. Haman was granted authority to execute them.

Esther was queen, so Mordecai challenged her to go to the king and intercede on behalf of her people, "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:12-17). Esther accepted the challenge and went before the king on behalf of her people even though to do so could have cost her life. It is clear that Esther had enormous respect for her father, and he had that same kind of respect for her. They were God’s instruments in saving the Jews at that time.

Our children will learn to respect others if they have seen us do so. If they have felt our impatience and disregard for their feelings and desires, they will do the same with their peers. If, on the other hand, they have seen patience modeled and respect demonstrated, they will follow that model. Mordecai was the kind of father Esther could respect. Like Esther, I also had a father who earned my respect.

I laid on a low cot in my father’s hospital room. My sister had spent several nights there watching over him, and now it was my turn. I awoke at all times of the night when he stirred; I rose to attend him. I made sure the nurses and other hospital staff did their jobs. That was my dad lying in that bed, and I knew he was dying, but I wanted him to be treated with the utmost dignity. The food wasn’t the best, and one morning I asked him if wanted something different. He wanted his favorite breakfast sandwich, and I went and got it for him. Later, one of the doctors said your dad must be very special. I responded that he was. She said, “I can see the tremendous respect that you have for him.” She was right. I learned about respect from him mostly because he was the kind of man who deserved my respect.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

The Principle of Self-Control

Self-control is the ability to restrain one's own impulses, emotions, and desires. It is the foundation for all the other disciplines of life. Self-control is the ability to control our emotions, especially those powerful ones like anger, frustration, rejection, and discouragement.

Self-control is especially necessary when it comes to people. If you want to be a good husband or wife or great parent, you have to learn to exercise self-control. A young mother once asked General Robert E. Lee for advice on raising her son.  The General responded, “Teach him to deny himself.”  This is the hard part, but it is also the essential part of learning self-control.

Anger is an example of how we must learn to deny ourselves. We deny ourselves the folly of giving in to uncontrolled anger. Children learn the dysfunctional patterns of behavior of their parents and follow them. If they see uncontrolled anger displayed by their parents, they will do the same.

Most of the time, people use their anger to control other people. Anger is an effective tool, albeit dysfunctional. Nonetheless, it works as long as the other person is willing to respond to the anger. Solomon said, “A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again” (Prov 19:19). Every time we respond by doing or not doing what the angry person wants from us, we are enabling their anger problem. We are coming to their rescue each time, the same way we do for a small child. If a mother gives in to the anger of her child and comforts him, she is encouraging and perpetuating the bad behavior. Instead of comforting the child in his uncontrolled anger, he needs firm discipline to learn how to control his emotions.

When a man has self-control, he can respond back to an angry remark in the right way, as this proverb shows, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov 15:1). Though this can be proved true by anyone—only the self-controlled will ever know what it is like to bring calm instead of an escalated fight.

When it comes to material things, we have to learn to exercise self-control. The accumulation of needless debt enslaves us and wastes our God-given resources. Our inability to delay gratification until we can actually afford what we want becomes our downfall. Solomon said, “Of what use is money in the hand of a fool, since he has no desire to get wisdom?” (Prov 17:6). Since the person has absolutely no self-control, he will waste his resources.

Solomon warned men to listen to wisdom and stay far away from illicit sexual temptation. He compared it to a wayward woman who seduces those who get within her grasp. She robs their resources and spoils their futures. Somewhere years away, the poor fools will say, “Why didn’t I listen to those who warned me about such women?” (Prov 5:7-20).

Most have heard the saying that “the grass is greener on the other side.” That is, however, a myth because the grass is greener where you water it. That is exactly why Solomon warns men to think about what they are doing. Why make such foolish choices that destroy your life and cause you to lose your family? Why not be faithful to your wife and family! “Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. A loving doe, a graceful deer” (Prov 5:15 -19).
Jesus is our model of self-control. He controlled his words and never responded back in unkind and hateful ways, even when insults were hurled at him. Peter wrote, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Pet 2:23).

The prophet Isaiah gave us a picture of Jesus with his words when he said, "Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope" (Isa 42:1-4).

This is the perfect picture of a self-controlled life.  He is powerful but controlled. He does not yell or bully anyone. He is gentle with the weak, though he is strong. He does not snuff out a person barely hanging on in life, but instead, he gives hope as he brings justice.