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We Travel An Appointed Way

November 2014
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sunriseHappy Thanksgiving 2014 from my beautiful hotel room in the brand new Palace Inn in Humble, Texas! This is my third week staying in this hotel while I’m continuing to look for more affordable housing in Houston for the long term. I’ve been in the Houston area since the end of September. I’m celebrating Thanksgiving with egg rolls and pot stickers with some Hershey’s dark chocolate and almonds thrown in for dessert. Not the original turkey feast, I know . . . but I love Chinese food and I haven’t had any in so long I don’t even remember the last time I ate it. However, for right now, I’m sipping on a cup of decaf coffee with French vanilla creamer (it was five years ago today that I “decaffeinated” myself off of regular coffee).

This morning I’m bringing a wonderful reminder to the sojourners among us whose current path might seem a bit confusing at times. I know these past 5 1/2 years of unemployment have lead me down paths I never expected and yet have been full of surprises, and some of them have been remarkable. This reminder is from one of my favorite Christian pastors/authors of the 20th Century, Dr. A.W. Tozer (1897-1963), and is stated in two short devotionals. The first devotion is published on The Alliance website (also available at this link) and is titled “God Moves in Mysterious Ways”:

God Moves in Mysterious Ways

To the child of God, there is no such thing as accident. He travels an appointed way. The path he treads was chosen for him when as yet he was not, when as yet he had existence only in the mind of God.

Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evils only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims.

When true faith enters, chance and mischance go out for good. They have no jurisdiction over them that are born of the Spirit, for such as these are sons of the new creation and special charges of the Most High God.

While sojourning here below, these children of the eternal covenant may pay token tribute to nature; sickness, old age and death may levy upon them, and to the undiscerning eye, they may seem to be as other men. Here, as in all its other judgments upon Christianity, the world is completely fooled by appearances, for it cannot see that these believing ones are hid with Christ in God.

The second devotion is from the book, Tozer on Christian Leadership,” compiled by Ron Eggert, (originally from Tozer’s book, We Travel An Appointed Way):

Victory Assured

“Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him” (Genesis 32:24-25).

The enemy never quite knows how to deal with a humble man; he is so used to dealing with proud, stubborn people that a meek man upsets his timetable. And furthermore, the man of true humility has God fighting on his side—who can win against God?

Strange as it may seem we often win over our enemies only after we have first been soundly defeated by the Lord Himself. God often conquers our enemies by conquering us…. When God foresees that we must meet a deadly opponent, he assures our victory by bringing us down in humbleness at His own feet. After that, everything is easy. We have put ourselves in a position where God can fight for us, and in a situation like that, the outcome is decided from eternity (from “We Travel An Appointed Way).

The subject of humility (as in being humble) is not often a topic of conversation in Christian circles today, yet it is absolutely necessary and at the same time powerful in God’s economy. Unfortunately, it’s opposite–false humility–is found among us in droves. In fact, it is such a useful disguise of our adversary in Christian circles that we often fail to see it in either ourselves or in others. And it is a deadly deception.

In an article published on FoxNews by David J. Bobb titled, “Five ways to tell if humility is real or fake,” he states the following:

You know the type. In meetings with the boss, your co-worker is deferential and winsome, but back in the office he’s full of bluster and condescension for all around him. In public, he wears humility like it’s a comfortable hat; in private, he’s all about his own self-interest. 

Whether in business or politics, on the athletic field or in the classroom, there are lots of people who feign humility but in fact care only about their own agendas. 

How can we tell if humility is genuine or fake? Here are five ways:

1. Real humility leads a person to be curious about and concerned for others, not fixated on how others can lead to one’s own enrichment. Humility is putting others first in thought, word, and deed. It resists the temptation to self-aggrandize.

It’s easy to feign interest in another person if there’s something in it for you, like a job promotion or increased recognition. A person with humility is in it for the long-term common good, not short-term self-interest. Examples include helping colleagues because of who they are, not because of their position, or writing a great letter of reference for a young person.  

As a young man, George Washington had an enormous ego and insatiable appetite for renown. Once he recognized that he had to be ambitious for goals beyond his own advancement, he was better able to check his ego and resist the allure of power for its own sake. 

2. Humility is about true service, not self-congratulation. Fawning, fake humility is ingratiating, not giving. It pretends to be generous, but in reality it’s self-centered.  Take the humblebrag. When asked to identify a personal weakness, a humblebraggart might say, “I’m always working too hard for everyone else.”

Humility is often erroneously portrayed as poor self-esteem, but in fact it’s the arrogant who have a distorted sense of self. Arrogant people have an exaggerated view of their own contributions, and limit the good they might do by clamoring for credit. 

3. In admitting an error or acknowledging that one is wrong, the humble person not only apologizes but also changes course. A person pretending to be humble might say a halfhearted “sorry,” but stubbornly continues down the same path. 

Throughout his career, Abraham Lincoln was willing to learn from his mistakes. Like George Washington, Lincoln was a man of immense ambition, but as he made humility his habit, he was able to see with greater moral clarity.  

Whether in political or military decisions, Lincoln was willing to own up to his errors. 

“I now wish to make personal acknowledgment that you were right, and I was wrong,” Lincoln wrote Union Army General Ulysses S. Grant on July 4, 1863. Referring to the General’s decision-making, and ultimate success at the critical Battle of Vicksburg, Lincoln admitted that his own strategic advice had been incorrect. He thanked General Grant for “the almost inestimable service” he gave the nation in making the right decision. 

4. Real humility builds up; false humility tears down. The same person who is quick to claim credit for a project done well is often first to blame others whenever there is a problem. When the results aren’t good, Jim Collins writes, a humble leader “looks in the mirror, not out the window.”  

5. The more responsibility or power one has, the more humility they need. Often those who have displayed false humility in an upward climb reveal their arrogance when they’ve reached the top. We can be confident that George Washington’s humility was real because when he was at the peak of power he relinquished it—twice—first as general in returning to civilian life and then again as president in leaving office after two terms.

It’s hard to read what is in another person’s heart, but false humility has a way of revealing itself. First Lady, before the term existed, Abigail Adams gave her son advice that rings true even today, “If you begin to think yourself better than others, you will then become less worthy, and lose those qualities which now make you valuable.” (Quote and article source here.)

While reading that article if we find ourselves thinking about others who might fit that description (and who doesn’t?), we need to consider the fact that we often “go there” ourselves whether we want to admit it or not. And that’s what makes false humility so deadly. We fail to recognize it in ourselves.

Pride is the #1 sin that leads to all other sins. A high sense of self and what we want can be and often is hidden behind the mask of false humility, and even if we are successful at fooling other folks (and even ourselves) most of the time, God is not fooled.

As Tozer stated in the first devotion above, “The world is completely fooled by appearances.” In America, where celebrity status among Christians is often idolized and worshiped, we can be blinded by the fact that we have replaced God as our One True Authority and exalted someone or something else in His place. And the Bible is very clear that God will have none of it (its called idolatry). Authentic Christianity is not often housed in the images of success we give to it here in America. In fact, it is rarely found there. As Tozer stated above regarding the genuine Christian:

Accidents may indeed appear to befall him and misfortune stalk his way; but these evils will be so in appearance only and will seem evils only because we cannot read the secret script of God’s hidden providence and so cannot discover the ends at which He aims.

In the second devotion, Tozer gives a clear definition of what real humility is and how it is acquired. And we rarely ever hear this definition coming from today’s pulpits:

Strange as it may seem we often win over our enemies only after we have first been soundly defeated by the Lord Himself. God often conquers our enemies by conquering us…. When God foresees that we must meet a deadly opponent, he assures our victory by bringing us down in humbleness at His own feet. After that, everything is easy. We have put ourselves in a position where God can fight for us, and in a situation like that, the outcome is decided from eternity.

Too often the things and people who catch our attention keep us focused on the “here and now” and what we can get in this life. Rarely do we live with an eternal perspective in mind. However, as Christians, we are not here to build our own comfortable kingdoms to live in and that includes within the church environment, too. Everything in God’s economy moves towards redemption (see 2 Peter 3:9). If we are too busy looking after our own comfort and security here on earth, we have totally missed His mission for us.

We who live here in America have much to be thankful for on this Thanksgiving Day, but let’s not let it continue to fill us with pride so as to constantly seek more . . .

Let us seek Him instead . . . .

For those who exalt themselves will be humbled,
and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
~Matthew 23:12

YouTube Video: “All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name” by Michael W. Smith:

Photo credit here

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