God is Great

Over the last several days, we have focused on the important characteristic of humility.  Humility is vital to our prayer lives.  The best way to ensure our humility is to continually be mindful of how great God is.  When we were children, one of the first prayers we learned started with these words:  “God is great, God is good.”  While this is considered a children’s prayer, these two statements are great theological truths that we need to remember for all of our lives.  This morning, let’s focus our thoughts and our prayers on the greatness of God.

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the word of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.  Psalm 19:1-2

Avery Willis gives us a picture that I want to share with you this morning and I pray it leads you to a place of amazement and worship.

“Step on a rocket with me and catch a glimpse of the greatness of God. We shall travel at the speed of light, 186,282 miles per second. As we blast off, our seats afford us a clear view of earth. One second later earth has dropped away until it appears no larger than a huge balloon. In two seconds we have shot past the moon and stolen a glance at the now-famous moon shot of earth. Eight and one-half minute later we pass the sun. Earth appears to be a speck 93 million miles away in the darkness of space.  Five hours later we leave our solar system and can no longer distinguish earth from myriads of other planets and stars. After four years of travel at the speed of light, we zip by the nearest star, Alpha Centauri. For almost 100,000 years we travel across the Milky Way, our own galaxy. After that, we travel another 1,500,000 years before we reach the Great Nebula, most distant of the six other galaxies in what astronomers call the Local Group. . . . In the great vastness of space we must travel at least 4,500 million years at the speed of light before we begin to reach the area of the universe that cannot be seen with telescopes from our planet. And who know how much lies beyond?  Yet Isaiah says God “hath measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and meted out heaven with the span.  He measures space by the width of His hand.”

Wow.  Truly, God is great.

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Shine Someone’s Shoes Today

The four traits of humility that we have looked at so far are:
1. Humility Gives God all the credit
2. Humility Is based in the Gospel.
3. Humility Recognizes that everything we have is a gift from God. 

4. Humility Serves Others.

Today, let’s talk about a fifth trait:  Humility Knows What Greatness Really Is.
Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions act as tyrants over them.  But it is not so among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you will be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you will be a slave to all. Mark 10:42-44

Humility knows that true greatness is found in serving others and not in being served and true humility is glad about that!  John Piper said, “If God would work this humility in us–oh, how freely we would serve each other!”  One of the times I learned true humility was in Uganda on the morning of our court date for Paul and Matthew’s adoption. We weren’t sure what to expect in Ugandan court, but friends had done their best to prepare us.  We knew that we all needed to look our best.  We got up early and got cleaned up and all seven of us dressed in our finest clothes.  Paul and Matthew were excited to look smart (the Ugandan way of saying “you look handsome”).  We were all getting in the van but I could not get Paul to hurry and get in the van. I finally got him outside to the front porch where his shoes were.  As he was putting on his shoes, he told me that they were dirty and that they needed to be shined.  While I was trying to tell him to just get in the van, he ran back inside the house.  After a few moments, he came back outside with the cloth to clean his shoes.  As he knelt to the ground to shine his shoes, I stood a foot away losing my patience knowing we did not need to be late to court.  Then it happened.  Paul finished shining his shoes and before I could demand him to get in the van, he immediately reached over and began shining my shoes.  My anxiety of possibly running late melted right there on that front porch. Tears welled up in my eyes as I watched this young boy who would soon be my son shine my shoes. As he finished, he rose to his feet and looked at me and said, “I want to make sure you look good for the judge too.”  Follower of Jesus, if we want to be great, let us humble ourselves and shine the shoes of everyone around us. Let’s make sure that we do everything we can to make sure that others look good for the Judge.

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Humility Bends at the Knees

Last week we began looking at different characteristics of humility.  So far we have learned that humility:
1. Gives God all the credit
2. Is based in the Gospel.
3. Recognizes that everything we have is a gift from God. 

Today, let’s talk about a fourth trait of humility:  Humility Serves Others.
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves. Everyone should look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Adopt the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be exploited.Instead he emptied himself by assuming the form of a servant,taking on the likeness of humanity. And when he had come as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even to death on a cross. Philippians 2:3-8

Humility serves.  Humility gets down low and lifts others up. For the last few months, Susan and I have been going to F45, a new gym in Hoover, to workout in the mornings. We do lots of cardio and lots of strength training.  Whenever we have to lift something from the floor, our trainer always tells us to lift with our legs.  To do this, you can’t bend at the waist.  That can cause a lot of pain and it is bad for your back. Plus, you can’t lift nearly as much that way.  Instead, you have to bend at the knees.  This helps you to get down lower and allows you to lift even more weight than you thought you could.  Let me connect this with humility.  Often times we want it to look like we are serving the Lord by serving others but all we are really doing is bending at the waist.  It’s half-hearted effort and we can’t lift up others like we should with that kind of effort. Plus, it is harmful to ourselves.  As servants of Christ, we need to make sure that we bend at the knees in prayer and in real humility.  Let’s kneel down as low as we can putting others above ourselves.  When we do this, we might just be amazed at the weights that we can lift off of others when we serve them with bended knees.  Need some encouragement to do that?  Just look again at the verses above and remember just how low Jesus bent to lift you up.

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Everything You Have Is a Gift From God

Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying: “Nothing beyond what is written.” The purpose is that none of you will be arrogant, favoring one person over another. 7 For who makes you so superior? What do you have that you didn’t receive? If, in fact, you did receive it, why do you boast as if you hadn’t received it? 1 Corinthians 4:6-7

We learn from Paul in the verses above that true humility recognizes that everything we have is a gift from God.  As Christians we would all agree with that statement. However, this is much harder lived out in our every day lives.  Talents, skills, intelligence, possessions, looks, positions, influence, resources, etc.  When we think about these things in our lives, the pronoun that typically preceeds these types of words is the pronoun, “my” or “our.”  It is my talents, my skills, my intelligence, my possessions, my looks.  It is our positions, our influence, our resources.  These pronouns imply that these things belong to us.  However, they are gifts from God that He has given to us and we are merely stewards of them.  When we want to put all of these things in the categories of “mine” or “ours” it is tempting and easy to get prideful.  We must make intentional efforts to remember that everything we have is a gift from God.  Without Him, we would have nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Today, think about what you have.  Go ahead, make a list.  Now remember that everything that just listed, whether it was in your mind or on a piece of paper, is from God.  You aren’t the source of any of it.  If you think you are, then go to God and ask Him to help you kill the pride in you.  After all, as Andrew Murray said in his amazing book on humility, “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”  Wow.  When pride walks in, God walks out.

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Get Off Your High Horse

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Colossians 3:12-13

Yesterday we learned that humility is glad to give God all of the credit.  Today, from Colossians 3, we learn that humility is based in the Gospel.  In fact, if humility isn’t based in the Gospel, it isn’t humility that we need in our church.  Why?  Because true humility is Gospel humility.  Gospel humility forgives others because it remembers how much Jesus has forgiven us.  Gospel humility shares the Good News with others because it remembers that someone shared the Good News with us.  Gospel humility remembers that before we share the Good News, we were recipients of the Good News.  Gospel humility spreads the Good News to the uttermost parts of the earth because it remembers that when the Great Commission was given, America would have been considered the uttermost parts of the earth.  Thankfully, God loved us so much that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Christ forgave us.  Here’s a good thing to remember.  At His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus came riding on a lowly donkey.  Something tells me we will never win the world if we are riding on a high horse.

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Photobombing God

Over the next several days, we are going to be looking at the subject of humility.  This is an important characteristic and I would like nothing more than to make sure that our church is marked by humility.  In the book, Humility, author Andrew Murray said, “Pride must die in you, or nothing of heaven can live in you.”  With this in mind, let’s look and see what God’s Word has to say.

Brothers and sisters, consider your calling: Not many were wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world—what is viewed as nothing—to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one may boast in his presence. It is from him that you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom from God for us—our righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, in order that, as it is written: Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Humility gives God all the credit.  We must remember that as followers of Jesus Christ, we bring nothing to the table on our own.  God chooses us and uses us based on His wisdom and purposes, not based on our own skills and worthiness.  Humility is glad to give God all the credit, or as Paul says, to boast in the Lord.  God acts in such a way as to take the spotlight off of us and place it on Himself.  In this day of cellphones with cameras being in almost all of our possessions at all times, we take more pictures of ourselves and others than ever before.  In this world of selfies and snapchat, we have identified a creature that is lurking in the background.  This creatures name?  The photobomber!  Just as we get our camera ready and our subject matter in focus, at the moment of the click, the photobomber jumps in the background and adds his goofy self to the subject matter.  Without humility, we are in danger of photobombing God.  We jump in the frame and take all or partial focus off of Him.  Dear brother and sister, let’s make sure that the picture of God that we are showing the world doesn’t have our goofy selves jumping in the background and trying to garner the attention.  Humility is glad to give God all the credit and to let His glory shine.  This morning, spend some time in prayer asking God to help you move out of His spotlight.

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A Time, A Place, and a Plan

Continue to memorize our theme verses for the next 28 days:

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us that God may open a door to us for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains, so that I may make it known as I should. Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person. Colossians 4:2-6

A word about fasting…
If you feel that God might be calling you to a fast over these next 28 days, whether it is for one day, one week, or the entire 28 days, I want to encourage you to click here and read about fasting and the different types of fasting that you can observe.

As we get going on this 28 day prayer journey, maybe you are thinking up front that you aren’t that good at praying.  While you may agree that it is important, you still struggle to make it an important part of your life.  I have great news for you.  Prayer can be learned.  And what better place to start than learning from the prayer life of Jesus.

In Mark 1:35, the Bible tells us, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying.”

Let’s notice a couple of things from Jesus prayer life.

1.  He had a set time.  
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark…”
Jesus got up very early in the morning to spend time with His Father in prayer.  We need to do the same and start our day with prayer.  I’ve never been of the mindset that one had to get up before dark in order for prayer to be effective.  I think what we can learn from this is that while our day should start with prayer, we need to have a set time that we can pray everyday when we are not rushed or distracted.

2. He had a set place.
“He went out and made His way to a deserted place…”
Jesus got alone to be with God.  He found a deserted place where there would be no distractions Your regular place of prayer should be free from distractions as well.  Turn off the cell phone and the computer.  Get alone with God.  That way you can talk to Him out loud if you want.  You can even sing a little during your prayer time when no one but God can hear.

3.  He had a set plan.
“and there He was praying.”
When Jesus’s disciples asked Him to teach them to pray, He gave them a plan we call “The Lord’s Prayer.”  This prayer has been outlined over years, but my favorite is probably also the most pupular.  It’s called the “ACTS” plan.  It stands for Adoration.  Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication.
Adoration:  Start your prayer with worship.
Confession:  Confess any known sin to God.
Thanksgiving: Be grateful for what God has done for you and tell Him thanks.
Supplication:  Let your requests for others and for yourself be made known to God.

It always helps to go into prayer with a plan.  So today, at your set time, find your set place and don’t just say your prayers, PRAY them!

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