Tag Archives: humility

It’s (Not) Hard To Be Humble…Yet

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 1 Peter 5:5-6 (ESV)

Do something with me – think about a famous Hollywood star like Will Smith or Angelina Jolie.  Now, one of the worst things you can say about a star today is that they are a diva – demanding their way, treating people badly, etc. Diane and I used to watch a show called the Pretender – the main character was a super smart guy who could become any kind of person, do any kind of job he wanted and all along doing this he was solving crimes and such.  But since that show was cancelled, I haven’t seen the star anywhere else, and somewhere I read that he was quite a difficult person to work with. Maybe that’s why.

My point is that today humility is a very attractive character trait, even amongst secular people. And yet, when we think about humility, we don’t realize that our worldview is 180 degrees different from the worldview of Ancient Rome.  In that culture, if you said someone was humble, you were not complimenting them – you were calling them a name. It is fascinating to note that for the Greeks, humility was a character quality that made you weak and despised. It was the quality of a slave.

But Christianity turned this all around…humility is mentioned 270 times in the Bible and it’s almost always positive, so much so that in today’s world, if you say someone is humble even outside of Christian contexts, it is considered a compliment.

The lesson? Christianity has an effect on the culture – and people are mistaken who think that you can remove the Bible and expect everything to be the same.  Maybe for a generation or a generation and a half, but the positive effects of Christianity won’t last, and you end up with a society that you and I would never want to live in.


For Tuesday, November 17th: 2 Peter 1 (we should be back on track if you are an Edgewood person who received a handout for the Inspired readings – believe it or not, some unnamed person – with the initials RK – gave James six chapters and 1 Peter four chapters. Oh well.)

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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Uncategorized


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What To Remember When You Walk Through Suffering

There are people who say that God never wants His children to suffer, that He only wants “blessing” for us and that suffering is never His instrument for this blessing. This, however, is a lie and if you believe it, you will spend much of your life in despair.

You see, suffering is not the opposite of blessing. The Apostle Peter writes…

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled.  1 Peter 3:13, 14 (ESV)

My junior year in college was literally the worst year of my life. By the end of fall semester that year I was put on academic probation, and it felt like everything was falling apart…and I was a Christian. I had struggled with OCD and panic attacks, and my mom and dad didn’t know what to do. They wanted to help but had no real idea how to do so.

But God was doing a work in my life – I went into that year a proud young man.  And by the end of the year, like Nebuchadnezzar after his insanity, I was deeply humbled, a different person, no longer thinking so highly of myself.  And even more than that, God was doing something in my father’s life.  I had been praying for his salvation since I had come to Christ 3 or 4 years before, and toward the end of my junior year, my dad, age 63, became a Christian. His words as I remember: “Son, I told you if I ever did this you would be the first to know, and today I asked Jesus to be the Lord of my life.”

Later I asked him what led him to finally bow his knee to the Lord. And he said, at least partly in reference to what had been going on with me: “I just didn’t have the answers.”

In other words, hindsight has shown me that God was doing glorious things through the pain I was experiencing.  He was making me more like Jesus, and he was showing Don Knowlton that he needed Christ.  My dad is in heaven today at least partly because of the painful trial I went through that year.

The Lord works suffering out for our good, even if we bring it on ourselves. Romans 8:28 is our rock in this – God causes all things to work together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.  Now Peter is going to go on to say, far better that you suffer for doing right than that you suffer for doing wrong, but the point is this:  in God’s economy, suffering is often the instrument of blessing, not the opposite.

If you don’t understand this, whenever you suffer you will be in despair and unable to rejoice like the Biblical writers tell us to – because you won’t be able to connect the suffering with the often unknown good that God is doing. And He is always doing good for those He loves, even through suffering.

For Friday, November 13th: 1 Peter 4


Posted by on November 12, 2015 in Uncategorized


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What if the Apostle Paul Had Gotten Proud?

It would have been bad, that’s what.

Proud people are pretty unusable by God, and so Paul would have been put on the shelf. And maybe we would have missed half of the New Testament, you know the part that Paul wrote (Just imagine the Bible without Romans). And maybe the gospel wouldn’t have gone to Asia. And maybe Peter wouldn’t have gotten that rebuke from Paul that kept The Rock on the right path (Galatians 2:11).

So God kept Paul from pride, and therefore kept him usable, and take note of how the Lord did it…

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  2 Corinthians 12:7 (ESV)

Do you see what the Lord needed to do to keep His apostle humble and therefore usable? He had to give him pain.

Now, we don’t know what the pain was – most commentators think it was something physical (because of the word “flesh” – like an eye problem or blindness, for instance), but in the end it doesn’t matter. We just know there was pain…pain enough to make him cry out to the Lord to remove it. But God, in His goodness, refused.

It’s a good reminder, because I know what I do every time pain enters my life – I do what every other believer in all the world does – I ask my Heavenly Father to remove it…and fast.  And sometimes, praise His name, He does.

And sometimes, praise Him again…He doesn’t….because thankfully, He wants to use me too.

For Friday, June 12th: 2 Corinthians 13



Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


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When You Think You’re Something Great

I have a friend who recently needed to talk to a person in charge of a particular organization. What he related about his conversation was interesting. He had the sense that she couldn’t be bothered in dealing with him. She was of the impression that she was someone of great importance who really shouldn’t have to deal with a peon of his sort. She had an assistant for that.

We fall into thinking that we are something or someone special for a number of different reasons, but often it happens because we imagine that our accomplishments are our own. However, as A.W. Tozer once said, “God is always previous.”  Tozer is saying a lot here, but one thing he is saying is that we have what we have because God put it there.  I saw this in reading the 8th chapter of 2 Corinthians. Consider what Paul said about his assistant Titus…

But thanks be to God, who put into the heart of Titus the same earnest care I have for you. 2 Corinthians 8:16 (ESV)

We don’t have evidence that Titus was a prideful person, but suppose that after acting in a caring manner toward the Corinthians, he thought to himself, “My, what a caring and compassionate man I am!”  And come to think of it, don’t we all have thoughts like that from time to time…about whatever we’re doing well? (Don’t leave me out here all alone, please.)

And yet, here is Paul saying that God put the “care” into his heart. God did it. Not Titus.

The Apostle actually says the same thing in a different way at the beginning of the chapter when he talks of the grace of God given among the churches in Macedonia. And here he means that their generosity actually came from God. It was His doing.

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 2 Corinthians 8:1-2 (ESV)

The grace of God which was working in them…resulted in their generosity. So, He made them generous. Now, do you suppose this works in other areas also? I think so. That is, if you are strong in prayer, He put it into your heart to be a person who seeks Him. If you are a person who knows the Bible, He made you to love it. He is always previous. O, I want to remember to think this way! First, it moves me to prayer (“Father, make me___________”), and second, it is a great deliverance from imagining I am superior to anyone else. In fact, it is the only healthy way for a Christian or anyone else to think. So whatever good we have, whether generosity, or intelligence, or love, or prayerfulness, or anything else good, He gets all the glory.

And therefore, as Paul said, “Thanks be to God!”

For Monday, June 8th: 2 Corinthians 9


Posted by on June 5, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Knowledge…or Love?

Around the Knowlton house, we’ve had a few air mattresses through the years, but I don’t think we’ve bought one lately. As far as I can tell, they aren’t worth whatever money you spend on them.  Just one nick, one tiny little hole, and you’re sleeping on the cold, hard ground. I know you can patch it, but how long does that last? No. give me a firm, real, mattress on an actual bed any day.

I bring this up because of 1 Corinthians 8:1…

This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. (ESV)

Knowledge is the air mattress; love is the real bed.

Now, the whole chapter is about eating food sacrificed to idols, which is something we obviously don’t think anything about today.  But in that culture, it was a huge deal, perhaps akin to the kinds of social questions some evangelical Christians in North America ask today, say about drinking alcohol. In this case, eating food sacrificed to idols was not a problem, Paul said, because an idol was nothing anyway, but some people didn’t see it that way. If these folks had eaten such meat, their consciences would have cried out in horror.

Now apparently, at least some of the Corinthian Christians knew along with Paul that idols were a no-thing. These believers had knowledge and were thus “wise” about these matters. And because of this…they were proud. Their knowledge had puffed them up with conceit. And as a result, they looked down on brothers with weaker consciences who felt the need to abstain.

Paul was not impressed. These believers may have had better ethics, but their love was lacking.  And so the Apostle was basically saying, “If you have a choice between knowledge about right and wrong…or acting in love, choose love every time.” Love is like a firm bed; it’s solid and firm, building up others and helps them grow in grace long term. But on the other hand having knowledge is like an air mattress – it may make you feel good in the moment, but it often only helps for the first night, and that restful feeling wIll soon give way to the hard and uneven ground.

So the application? Well, of course, we should study God’s word and understand the truths of the Christian life as much as possible. But there is a tendency for knowledge, even knowledge about God and His ways, to inflate our ego and make us think we are better than others. And that’s a lie. In fact, ironically, the moment we start thinking we are wiser and thus better than others, we fall behind them in the race for holiness.

So give yourself to loving others, and forsake pride by remembering that you are a sinner like everyone else. And if you do have knowledge, well, remember it came from God, and others probably have knowledge where you are yet ignorant.

For Friday, May 15th: 1 Corinthians 9


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Posted by on May 14, 2015 in Uncategorized


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How Death Helps Us

As I approached 50 (and then hit it) this past summer, I more and more began to think about how many years I have left.  I’m not trying to be morbid, but I think this is pretty natural.  However, it is different than the way I used to think.

As a young child, I vaguely remember watching the evening news on the Vietnam War.  Back then, when I contemplated dying like all the young soldiers on the news reports, I thought maybe I would be able to escape death somehow.  First of all, I thought that maybe I wouldn’t have to go to war like them, and second, I thought some scientist might find a cure for dying by the time I got to old age.

But the years and their accumulated wisdom have shown me that death is coming, unless of course the Lord Jesus returns, which of course would be much, much better.

Now, of course, from a Christian perspective, death is the enemy. And thankfully, because of Christ, death is in its death throes; and I, like all other believers, will be very glad for the day when death finally dies.

And yet…there is something about death that I find, for lack of a better word, helpful.  Now, maybe I’m crazy, because I’m actually not sure that I’m supposed to think this way, so feel free to write me letters. And obviously, it’s not helpful to me in that I have lost loved ones, or could lose others.  For this, I hate death.

But…it is helpful to me personally in remembering who I am.  As Casting Crowns sings so wonderfully, “I am a flower quickly fading, here today and gone tomorrow, a wave tossed in the ocean, a vapor in the wind.”

You see, without death, I think I might overestimate my own importance, like the nationally prominent pastor who was caught in sexual immorality sometime in the 80’s.  His denomination had a full, probably well-thought-through discipline and restoration process for him to go through, which through his national prominence he personally cut short after 3 months saying that his church needed him to come back, or lost people needed him to come back, or God needed him, or something.

And I thought at the time, “Nope, they actually they don’t need you.”  God didn’t need him any more than my church or the Lord needs me today. In fact, I, like everyone else, am quite expendable. And nothing teaches me this better than death.  It’s the old joke about the man who is working hard at his desk when Death with his hooded cloak and scythe shows up at the office door, and the man says, “I can’t die today; I’ve got too much on my to-do list.”  Right.  Don’t we all?

Death is the ultimate humbling experience. It speaks to the Hollywood star or the National politician or the self-important pastor: “I guess you weren’t so necessary after all.”

Paul knew this.  That’s right, even the Apostle Paul knew that he was replaceable…yes, expendable.  So when the prophet Agabus told him that he was about to be arrested and handed over to the authorities if he went to Jerusalem, and his friends subsequently urged him not to go, Paul replied…

“What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13 (ESV)

How about that? For all he had accomplished, the Apostle Paul still didn’t think he was…necessary. He had a perspective on himself that came from God.  The work would go on without him quite well, thank you very much; and besides this, he had another understanding about the end of life that made his perspective on death quite palatable.  It is a truth he shared with the church at Philippi that made it possible to think about the end with both humility…and expectation:

“For to me,” Paul said with confidence, “to live is Christ…and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)


For Wednesday, March 11th: Acts 22


Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized


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Two Ways to Live

There are two kinds of people in the world.

One kind of person is like Herod the Tetrarch. And the other is like this man we come to know and love in the gospels and Acts – Peter the Apostle. What is the difference? Well, in short, one is independent, and the other is dependent.

In a match of Herod versus Peter, we know where to put our money.  Herod wins in a first round knock-out, right?  But man’s ways are not God’s ways. And by the end of Acts 12, Herod is literally on the mat, in a very nasty way.  Peter is moving on to fight other battles.  It looks like dependence may be a better plan in life.

But I’m getting ahead of myself – in this chapter, we see independent Herod making decisions, ruling territories, putting people to death (Both James and a squad of soldiers). Here we see the self-made man, the man of action, the get-it-done-and-take-no-prisoners kind of guy. He is the kind of man that makes others quake when he comes into the room (or speaks – “the voice of god and not of a man!”).

And then there is lowly Peter. Peter doesn’t really do much of anything in this chapter, and perhaps that is by Luke’s design. By contrasting the two, Luke is trying to show us something. Dependent Peter sits in prison and is rescued. And Herod? Herod exerts his great power and is actually the one who wickedly puts him in prison.

When an angel finally sets Peter free, he goes to a nearby house and get this, they don’t even let him in at first. I know it’s certainly not that he wasn’t welcome, but it does set up a fairly hilarious comedy of errors as the newly freed and seemingly powerless Apostle waits outside while nobody believes that God could have possibly answered their prayers.

And when Peter finally makes a report, well, of course, it’s God who gets the praise:

But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought them out of the prison. Acts 12:17 (ESV)

Glory to God…not Peter.

And then Herod. He accepts the praise of men and…

Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last. Acts 12:23 (ESV)

You see, there is only one way to live – the prideful and independent person will meet his end, even if it doesn’t come quite like Herod’s – but the humble and dependent person not only shows us how to live; he also shows us how to be saved.


Tomorrow, Thursday, February 26: Acts 13


Posted by on February 25, 2015 in Uncategorized


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