Saturday, June 1, 2013

How Do I Redefine Myself?

In the fourth part of his series "Uprising" which is based on his book, Erwin McManus reminds us that we are going after a great quest; the quest to live a life of courage.  Inside all of us is a hero.  There are decisions  we have to make on a daily basis.  We have to take deliberate steps which directly affect the outcome of our life.  These steps either lead away or towards a life of courage.  We were created to live an amazing life.  If you have ever felt that tension where your dreams were greater than your current life, it's because you have been trapped by fear to pursue it!

In the previous message of the series "Uprising", Erwin described  how courage stems from integrity, but integrity is usually what we want as a byproduct of our character, our  dreams and our ambition.  We don't consider integrity as a pursuit.  What was also discussed is that integrity stems from humility.  We wake up many days determined to be courageous, but rarely do we feel the same about pursuing humility.  "Courage is the dessert, but humility is the vegetable".   Even as we learn these truths, there is a tendency to think, "Okay, I can be humble long enough to develop integrity and I can have integrity long enough to get courage... Just tell me how long."  In other words, we tend to think in phases; Phase 1- Be Humble,  Phase 2 - Have Integrity and Phase 3 - Get Courage.  Here's the bad news; this is not a process that has a domino affect.  One does not follow the other.  It works more like a funnel.  The longer you live with humility, the longer you will have integrity.  The longer you live with integrity, longer you will have courage.  We never graduate, though.  However, it is helpful to know that the more humility you have, the more integrity you will have and the more integrity you have, the more courage you will have.

"I have known fear throughout my life... Fear is a cool mistress... I spent so much of my life watching so many other people live the life I wanted to live.  It played itself out in so many ways;  Fear to love, fear to trust, fear of being rejected, fear of being wounded and fear of not being liked."  Erwin feared pursuing ambitions, longings and desires because he feared there would be a lack of intelligence, skill and drive!  Fear led to fear!  But why have dreams if you don't have the courage to pursue them?  Why have hope when we are paralyzed and captive?  Have you ever noticed how much language of "courage" exists in scripture?  God seems to choose people who naturally have it.  But what you find upon a closer look is a need for ongoing courage.  People, past and present, are bound and trapped by their fears.  

In Joshua 1, we read, "After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them—to the Israelites. I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates—all the Hittite country—to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. 

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”  10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you for your own.’”

12 But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, 13 “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you after he said, ‘The Lord your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ 14 Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the Lord your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

16 Then they answered Joshua, “Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. 17 Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Whoever rebels against your word and does not obey it, whatever you may command them, will be put to death. Only be strong and courageous!
Erwin observes, "I think the dominant conversation God is having with Joshua is about fear.  It wasn't really about courage, but rather it was about fear.  Joshua was defined by fear and doubt.  Joshua declared that Moses was dead.  He knew that the hero of the Israelites was no longer.  The man who freed a generation and who had led with the courage from God was now a memory.  Now Joshua was going to have to lead the people into battle and he would have to do it alone, with God.  "I love the way Joshua describes himself... he was Moses' aid"   How do you describe yourself?  Who do you have the courage to become?  This was Joshua's question.  He knew who Moses was and what Moses had done, but he didn't know who he was to become.  This opening chapter of Joshua starts with the aid of Moses, but it ends with the champion of Israel and the conqueror of the Promised Land.

"Last night, I went to get some exercise at the 24-Hour Fitness across town because the 24-Hour Fitness where I live isn't open 24 hours a day.  Go figure that out."  When Erwin arrived at the gym, he jumped on the elliptical machine and began exercising vigorously, but girl next to him was blowing him away.  She was faster and in much better shape.  Then the woman recognized Erwin from his church, he replied with a shrug,  "Yeah, I was just warming up."  Erwin jokes as he reflects, "Humility; (the gym) is where it all starts!"  After exercising, Erwin got home at around 10 pm and realized that he had left his phone on one of the machines.  "I have this Hansel and Gretel syndrome where I leave electronic equipment all over town to find my way around."  Erwin found himself driving back across town (West Hollywood).  "I realized (as he was driving through neighborhoods) so many people have lost themselves by being defined by others...  I felt overwhelmed..."  The single greatest act of courage we can accomplished is to redefined ourselves!  Our past, our fears and our doubts constantly hold us back.  Don't allow ourselves to be defined by the LEAST of us; but to allow ourselves to be redefined by who God designed us to be!   Do you have the courage to redefine yourself?

God had already redefined Joshua.  God would be to Joshua the SAME as He was to Moses.  Joshua was still living by his own definition of himself of the past.  Joshua sheepishly asked the Israelites to keep the commitments they had made to Moses.  But God and the people said, "No, we will keep our commitments to you."  First, they asked him to keep his commitment to God, though.  All they wanted from him was that he be strong and courageous.  God kept saying to Moses, over and over again, to have the courage to be who He wanted Moses to be.  If the people could see strength and courage in Joshua, it will be proof to them that he was connected to the heart of God.  See, when we connect our hearts to God, we become Bravehearts!  For every single person who God worked through in scripture, they had to embrace a definition of themselves assigned by God, which was always a definition greater than the one they had of themselves.

"The reason we are so afraid of monsters in the closets and (monsters in ) the dark is because there really are monsters the in closets telling us that we are less and that we are our worst moments, our deepest wounds."  Some of us are defined by our greatest pain, our greatest fear or our greatest doubts.  So, we live in fear and we only long for a future we wish we had.

In Joshua 2, Rahab, who was not held in high esteem, became a hero of the Israelites.  She was a prostitute who was considered righteous when she gave lodging to Joshua's spies!  Joshua had come to the great city of Jericho and he had sent in his spies.  Rahab understood that these spies were God's people and she realized she was forming history in His will.  Although she had made horrible decisions in the past, she now decided to join the mission and intention of God.  God performed a major act in history and used Rahab, the prostitute to do it!  She allowed God to redefine her.  "I love that there are 4 women identified in the lineage of Jesus and I love that Rahab is one of the 4!  The story of Jesus the Savior has the blood of a prostitute!"  Rahab was given a moment to put aside who she was in the past.  She decided she was not the sum total of her choices.

Look at the stories of the Bible.  It is proof.  Esther was a slave in a harem, but when she embraced the voice of the people, she became a queen.  Moses was a murderer, but one day he rose up and chose not to be a dismal failure.  Over and over again we see the pattern.  Daniel was a slave who became the sage of an empire.  Peter was the fisherman who became the rock of the world's church.  People even defined Jesus by His past!  He was the son of a carpenter and yet He was rightfully the son of God.  Today, erase all the definitions of who you are that make you less of who you truly are.  The question of the day is, "Who do you have the courage to become?"

Last week, Erwin was in Florida speaking and stopped to see his mom with whom he has what he describes as an "ambivalent relationship".  His mother rarely shares with him her past because of poor decisions and poor relationships.  What he does know about her is that she was 19 when she had Alex, Erwin's brother and she soon after became pregnant with Erwin.  At one point, her husband, who had been drinking, threw her down some stairs and she broke her leg.  She went to her parents for help and they took her in.  She worked at a hotel, her marriage was falling apart and somehow an opportunity opened up for her.  A Pan Am executive who rented a room for the night took to his mother and offered her a position at the airlines.  However, in order to take the job at Pan Am, an new hire had to have roughly $250 to pay for a uniform and that was a lot of money back then, especially to his mother.  Her family didn't have the money, but she was determined to get it and she did some things that Erwin is reserving for another message.  Nonetheless, his mother ended up getting a job as a stewardess.  Her refusal to wallow in her current circumstances and to remain defined by everyone around her gave her the courage to go to New York and to Miami.  Because of her courage, she traveled the globe although she almost allowed her past to convince her she would never be anything.  She allowed herself to shine.

When you surrender your life to Jesus, you become someone else.  If you've spent your whole life listening to the voices of others, you will remain outside of your dreams.  Erwin once heard a billionaire say, "People never change."  That is only half true!  People do change!  They can change through Jesus Christ.  Baptism is a form of choosing to be someone else through Christ.  It's the choice to come clean, to believe in Him and to refine ourselves according to God.  "I am defined by Jesus".  Live a courageous life!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

What Does the Bible Say About Integrity?

Following a message on humility, Erwin continues his "Uprising" series based on his book of the same name..  "We began a great quest...for honor...a journey that all of us need to take...that will lead us to this virtue of courage...Without courage, you will never unleash your full potential or realize your dreams."  Sometimes it seems like there are courageous people and then there are the rest of us.  The courageous people seem to have this natural DNA where they don't experience or feel fear.  But if we study courage, we began to realize that courage is simply the absence of self.  It is an extension of humility.  Last week we learned humility leads us to courage.

As for integrity, it's not as compelling or as highly viewed as other traits.  It's easy to be successful without integrity, right?  Sometimes, integrity even seems like a liability!  It can slow us down and hold us up.  What we will discover in our study is that, without integrity, we cannot withstand the test of time.  We won't have resilience.  We won't be able to make it through tests and trials without spoiling our soul.

The root word of "integrity" is the Latin word "integer" which means "whole" or "complete".   The mathematical application of the word is a number that is not expressed as a fraction or as a decimal.  It is a whole number.  Integers form the foundation and the baseline for all other mathematical thought.  They connect with all other functions.  Therefore, integrity can be associated with the concept of connectivity; the need to connect or to "integrate".   Think about the importance of integrity on a ship or on a plane.  What if either lacked integrity!?!  "You might as well go ahead and send your last text message" because when these vessels, which hold and connect everyone on board, lose integrity, they lose their ability to protect you.  The integrity of the engines, the hulls, the steering, the controls and the communication are all of vital importance.

So, we can see the need for integrity is virtually all around us.  In fact, we trust that most places have maintained their necessary level of integrity.  When they do not, we hear about them, such as the fertilizer plant in Texas which experienced a chemical compromise and the plant exploded with such intensity, it could be felt 50 miles away.  Thirty five people died when integrity gave way.  Two brothers decided that, because of their lack of integrity and their distrust of the integrity of others, they would place bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  Hundreds were injured.  We know about the lost integrity of the ground beneath an entire community in China.  When the ground finally gave way, a landslide decimated the town and killed thousands of people.  We know how important it is to maintain integrity.

One individual who walked the journey and held integrity was David; King David from the Bible.  David was our Maximus.  He was the William Wallace of Braveheart.  "David was Peter Parker, Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent all wrapped up in one".  Yet David was an incredibly flawed person.  He stole another man's wife and sent that man to his death in battle.  But integrity is not about being faultless; it is about being "falseless".   It is not about attaining perfection; it's about discovering intention.  Lets go back in the life of David, back when he was a teenager.  David had the job of looking after sheep, which was not the job for future kings.  His brothers were far more noble in their careers as soldiers.

We read in the bible that, one day, the army in which his brothers served was faced with battling the Philistines.  These two armies decided to have their best warriors fight to determine victory.  But the Philistines had a secret weapon named Goliath.  David showed up on the battlefield delivering cheese and he heard the taunting of Goliath.  David was shocked and asked "Is there no one to step up against him?"  Showing great selflessness, David said "I'll take care of it!"  This was condescending, naive and insulting to the soldiers.  His own brothers dismissed him, but David was confident.  He tells the king that he is qualified to fight Goliath.  He talks about how he went after lions and bears who had taken his sheep.  He killed the wild beasts and declares that Goliath will end up the same way.  He says the Lord who delivered him from danger in the lonely field would also hand him victory over Goliath.  This was an amazing sell because David's resume that he presents is one he built when no one was looking!!  In what was probably and unbelievable response, Saul tells David to "Go, and may the Lord be with you".  We all know what happened next.  But see, David let's us know in this passage that, what we do in secret forms our character.

1 Samuel 16, right before the passages about Goliath, we read about the prophet Samuel going to the house of Jesse looking for the the future king.  Jesse's hearty sons parade in front of Samuel, one by one, but none of them are chosen by the Lord.  Samuel himself thought a number of times that he was looking at the future king because of their physique, but each time the Lord whispered "No".  This reminds Erwin of the times when he was young and when he got picked last on the football team.  Sometimes, when we see someone tall and good-looking, there can be this form of judgement.  But the Lord doesn't look at the things people look at.  Rather, the Lord looks at the heart.  Samuel turned down each sons in succession and finally asked a question he shouldn't have had to ask!!  "Are these all the sons you have?"  What kind of father would leave out one of his sons!?!  Most dads would bring ALL their sons, right?  It is almost as if Jesse assumed David could not possibly be the one to be chosen.  When Samuel learns of the other son, he tells no one to sit down until David arrives.  Finally, David comes and he is described as being healthy and vibrant.  This story of David describes integrity as a key virtue of those whom God chooses to do His work.  It is integrity of the heart.

In Psalms 78:70-72, we read,  He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens; 71 from tending the sheep he brought him to be the shepherd of his people Jacob, of Israel his inheritance.  72 
And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them.

Proverbs 28:3 says "Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those who do evil, who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts."

When you pursue the virtue of integrity, you'll find the unexpected virtue of courage and you'll find that nothing can take it either away.  Your integrity becomes your armor.  Everything God creates was meant to be integrated.  The entire universe is integrated.  When you think about things like aerosols destroying the ozone, we realize that we as humans are actually affecting everything around us.  But this only matters if life matters.  If life doesn't matter, lets just destroy everything!  Something inside us knows we are supposed to protect the innocent and unprotected species.  We know we are supposed to protect doves and beetles, oceans and atmospheres.  Have you ever noticed that everything else around seems to have more integrity than humans.  A baboon has more integrity because it is true to itself.  Whatever it does is the true nature of a a baboon!  Gravity is consistently gravity.  It is mathematically a feature of integrity.  There is not a single antelope who wakes up and decides it never wants to an antelope again.  If an antelope decided it wanted to be the hunter one day, then it would be a very short-lived dream.

One day, Erwin went grocery shopping with his wife, Kim.  While she shopped for the household, he wandered to gather his own.  Eight bags of popcorn and two cases of diet root beer later, he found himself in the produce section.  "Did you know there is a section in Pavillion (the grocery store) that is filled with fruits and vegetables!!   I know!  It is amazing!".  While mulling around the fruit section, Erwin gathered some bananas and started thinking...  When you buy a banana, you are technically just buying banana peels, right?  If the universe had no integrity, there might not be a banana in the peels.  We buy peels knowing there is a high probability that a banana is inside, but we don't know 100%.  There is an element of "faith" the banana even exists.  We assume it's not a cantaloupe.  Most of us have never even thought about whether or not there is a banana inside because we have such "faith".  Have you ever gone to the store and bought a watermelon.  You might have only bought a watermelon rine, but you had faith that there was watermelon inside.  We might thump the watermelon to determine the ripeness, but regardless, we assume it's watermelon.   Why?  Because everything God creates has integrity!   BUT there is this squirrely species called humans.  While humans might be consistently inconsistent, often integrity comes into question.  This is because God gave us free will.

We were created to be in relationship with God and others.  God gave us guiding principles consistent with creation, a creation He created with love.  If our hearts are out of alignment with Him, our hearts are out of alignment with others.  When Jesus was asked what the most important commands God gave us were, He said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind...(and) Love your neighbor as yourself".

Have you ever felt that you were not the same person everywhere?  You might think you're a different person at church, a different person at home and a different person at work.  Because of this, you then feel  like you are not in harmony, you're disconnected and not integrated.   For instance, have you ever been around people who bring out the worst in you and you didn't like it?  See, when we become unintegrated, it is because of something internal in us.  We might say, "I am really a kind person, but not when there is pressure.  We might "Always tell the truth", but only when the truth works to our advantage.  We might maintain healthy relationships, but only as long as the relationships serve us.  Like bananas, we have layers within us.  We might like our outer layer; our looks, our health, our physique, our status, our success, our home.  But we might not like our second layer; our consistently living by the truths of Christ.  See, when the pressure cookers of life come, which are called relationships, employment, finances etc and we start attributing our behavior to what's going on around us, it is reflective of our integrity; our ability to maintain ourselves in who God meant for us to be.  There are no such things as white lies.  We choose to lie or to not lie.  We might be patient until what we want doesn't happen. Our third layer, the core of who we are, can often be affected by the outer layers.  Our fruit can be refreshing and nourishing to us and others.  On the other hand, it can become bitter, violent and deceptive.  We can deliberately choose the quality of our hearts by choosing to live as God tells us to.

Often, religion can cause us to create an external shell.  We might be afraid to be transparent, because it can sometimes expose imperfections.  But Jesus came to change us and to give us integrity of the heart and change us from the inside out.  God wants to give us a new heart.  He wants to make in us a new creation.  There was a death on the cross which was meant to realign us with our God in order to cement our own personal integrity.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Why Does God Look for Those with Humility?

Continuing the series from his book, "Uprising", Erwin McManus ( opens with a prologue.  "For the next 3 weeks, we are going to step into a quest for honor and integrity."   However, to set the foundation for honor and integrity, Erwin begins with "humility".  When we enter into faith conversations in life, this is not a typical topic covered.   "If we have a series about success, how to reach our destinies or how to unlock our talents, the room is packed!  However, if we talk about humility, few people feel they aspire to be more humble.  Yet, what we need to begin to connect is the person we long to become and the journey that is required to become that person.  Have you ever felt that you just can't "catch a break" to become that person?  We often lack the discipline or the knowledge to pursue character.  In order to live a life of honor, we have to have the courage to agree to live it!   So often, we feel we have some sort of deficit when it comes to courage.  As for integrity, it carries this elusive meaning; this slippery definition within us.  So many of us have been on this journey towards integrity, but we are not sure how we can attain it.  That, or we just can't seem to "crack the code" to become a people of integrity.

Have you ever tried to join a pick up game of basketball, football, soccer, kickball..etc?  Remember, this is where you have to stand in a line and wait to be picked by captains for a team.  Erwin remembers this all too well because he was always picked last.  He admits that he was a terrible athlete, but "another reason why (I was picked last) was because, often of the time, my brother was a captain... I knew I wasn't going to get matter how hard I tried..."  Since (most captains) knew his brother wouldn't pick him, they then wouldn't want to "waste a pick" because they knew they would end up with Erwin anyway!  Erwin hated this process and one day, when he'd finally had enough, he decided that the only way he could avoid being picked last was to be the captain himself.  He courageously stepped up to be a captain and, of course, his brother was the other captain.  Erwin knew that his team "would get killed" and lose they did, time and time again.  But as time went by, Erwin began picking the worst players first because he liked honoring the kids who never got this chance.  Also Erwin began to realize that, if this team, his "Rival Muffin Band", ever won, it would be a true victory because they had such a small chance of winning!   "I accidentally found a principle from Jesus!"  The great part about this story is that his team did finally win, but he'll save that story for another time.  Nonetheless, there is something inside of all of us that hates being picked last.

So why should we value being last?  Why should we care, in any given situation, about humility?  These questions require a question.  Have you ever wanted to be the person God trusted with a big dream or responsibility to truly make a difference in this world?   If humility has any true value in this world, it is the fact that,

God honors humility.

Philippians 2:1 says, "Therefore if you have any encouragement from 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. 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 the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, 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!"

In Jesus, we see humility is the highest virtue because He took this on Himself at the highest order.  Jesus changed our concept of what leadership looks like entirely.  He combined leadership with the spirit of serving to create a sort of a "servant leadership".  So many times, when we talk about the humility of Jesus, we see this as almost a contrast from who God is; this great all-knowing, all powerful God.  But Jesus humbled Himself by leaving His Trinity to become a servant to mankind.  What all this implies is that God, before Jesus, had never experienced humility or had never felt what it meant to be a servant.  But this is FALSE.

In scripture, we read much about glorifying God, about honoring Him and about sacrificing for Him.  A side effect of this are the questions that surface in the back of our minds, "Is God some sort of Divine Narcissist?"  "Does He need to be adored?" and "Did He create all of us just to have a people who worship Him?"  "Is this our needy God?"   Well, if the driving narrative of all of Creation is simply to glorify God, He did a lousy job because most of us don't glorify Him!   On the contrary, if the driving narrative is love, then everything else makes sense!  Think about it.  Jesus teaches us that leaders are to be servants to the people.  But by this teaching, we learn a provocative truth about God;   Jesus is God's expression of pure love and the humility love requires. We think of God as all powerful and all knowing.  While this is true, Jesus relays to us is that He is also the purest expression of humility.  God is not only more humble than us, but His coming in the form of a servant was not new to Him.  Jesus was a natural servant because it is the only path God has ever taken!  We speak of the God as the God of fire, wind and water.  But He is not like the Greek gods of power and rage.  Our God is the God of humility with a path of servant-hood.

If many who want to be like God, they want His power and His wisdom, but often don't want His character!  Jesus made Himself nothing by assuming the role of a servant.  What other path could God take except a path of humility and love?  Matthew 11:29 says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls."

God is saying, "You can trust me with your life!  His heart is gentle and humble.  This is who God is and this is why He is worthy of worship!  But it still seems strange to say God is a servant.  It feels right to say He is all powerful and all wise, but saying our God is a servant recoils us.  It is the aspect of God we desire the least.  Servant hood is not a higher status.  It implies that our hope is found "beneath us".  Jesus says to come to Him with a humble heart.  But it is only with a humble heart that everything else makes sense.  Jesus materializes Himself to earth in His truest character.  See, it then makes sense about why God chooses who He does.  It then makes sense why he looks for the humble in spirit.  The scriptures give us a clear picture of this. In fact, we also read in scripture that God actually opposes the proud!  God does not choose the arrogant.  James 4:But He gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

God chose Moses, right?   Moses was basically Israels's George Washington.  It wasn't because Moses was the most confident or the most powerful man among them!  Moses was "more humble than anyone else on earth!"  That humility is the most reflective image of God.  It is parenthetical.

Remember when Moses and Aaron went before the Pharaoh?  In Exodus 10:3, So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said to him, “This is what the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, says: ‘How long will you refuse to humble yourself before Me?  Let My people go, so that they may worship Me.  Of all the requests God could have made to Pharaoh, He only asked Pharaoh to humble himself!   Was that all Pharaoh had to do?  What Pharaoh soon came to realize is that God is incredible about taking broken humans and doing wonderful things with them.

God will not oppose you because you are a failure.  He will not reject you if you are broken.  God does not even reject the sinful. He rejects the arrogant.  This is why it brings so much pain to Him when we resist Him when He Himself went net through so much pain to pursue us.  God calls you and me to serve and to lay our lives down.  But He laid His life down for us many, many years before He asked us to this.  He has done this and He has done much more!

Humility is kind of a strange dynamic.  You can think too highly of yourself, but you can also think too little of yourself.  See, we often confuse humility as unhealthy self deprecation or as an incredible lack of self esteem.  Years ago, Erwin went to a study about neural readings of the brain and neural feedback.  One day, while he was waiting to enter the lab, he started a conversation with the CEO.  They were talking about the business and, after the CEO mentioned his family several times, Erwin commented that he must be a great father and husband.  The CEO balked and said, "No, I'm a piece of shit!"  Reflecting on the CEO's response, Erwin's mind wanders to his dog, Thatcher. "I'm his master, but I have to serve my dog..I have to make sure he has food... I have to take Thatcher for walks..And because I am his master, I have to carry plastic bags and grab 'all of that' every time!"  Erwin is a servant-master to his dog.  You are not some meaningless piece of waste.  You are wonderfully and marvelously made!  Don't buy into the falseness that you are worthless.  You are the image of God.

Sometimes we just want to be more than we are.  We all have this desire.  There is a voice in us that makes us want to be great or significant.  "I want to be great.  I'm just going to own that"  Jesus says if you want to be great, He has a process for that.  To be great, you have to be the servant to all.  Erwin observes, "As long as I know how long I have to be a servant, I can do that, right?"  Jesus says if you want to be first, be last.  "I've been that, so I'm willing to be last...but for how long??"    Is this like the line we formed as kids when we were last in line and someone came down and said, "Okay everybody, "Turn around!" (So then the last were first.)

In order to be in a place of the most honor, we have to start in the place of the least honor.  Have you ever been to a game where you saw empty seats in the more expensive areas?  You were with a friend who were a bad influence and you went and sat in those seats only to have the concierge ask for your tickets!  After you couldn't show him a ticket, you were asked to politely (and humbly) return to your seat?  Worse, have you ever been to an event where you had a good seat, but then you saw a better seat, only to find somebody got there first.  But when you tried to return to your previous seat, someone had taken that as well?

The most extraordinary thing Jesus taught us about humility is that God is more humble than we could ever be.  What we might find hard to believe is that we thrive in humility!  God knows this and encourages us to choose the path of servant hood.  It is only to the humble that God trusts His power and His glory.

John 13 reads, It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.
The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 

This was Jesus' moment!  He knew that all God's power had been returned to Him.  What would we have done if we knew, at that moment we had this kind of power?  Can you imagine what would happen to this world if everyone could materialize their thoughts into reality?  Everybody would be gone!  Think about how many siblings we would have left!!  How many of you would just get rid of your boss or your boyfriend?  There is a reason why God doesn't give us His power.  What do you do with your power?  What do you do with your relational power, your emotional power or  your position of wealth?  See, Jesus had absolute power on the cross!   Yet, even knowing what He was about to experience, Jesus chooses to wash His disciples' feet.   

"So He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him.  He came to Simon Peter, who said to Him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?”
Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”  “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with Me.”  “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!”

God searches us and longs to make us clean.  He asks us for our life, but only because He gave first to us.  He even took on all of our shortcomings to save us.  God always exalts the humble.  He exalted Jesus to the highest place with the name above all names.  We should realize what Jesus is trying to do in washing our feet.  He is trying show us the value of humility.  It is here that we find the kind of people God chooses to entrust with His power.

"When I was 29", says Erwin, "I spent those years working for an urban ministry...I rarely talked to anyone... We were working in a tiny duplex downtown and ministering to prostitutes and drug dealers...20,000 people would pack the arena nearby."  Often, Erwin would volunteer at the arena pointing a flashlight to the right or left.  Erwin worked at camps for boys as well.  "Boys are easy.  There's no conversation and then we wrestle."  But then Erwin would also help with 10 to 12 year old girls.  "Girls are HARD...All they want to do is talk!"  They would come in clusters to him because they would move in clusters.  Remembering their names was hard and exhausting. "I was was exhausting and I needed relief."  After surviving an  exhausting camp one day, Erwin had committed to volunteering at the arena where "a monkey could do what I was doing".  This particular night, Erwin wanted to skip out, but his wife Kim said "No, you volunteered and you are going."  "So I went...I had no clean clothes, so I grabbed some jeans at a local store.  When I got there, I was in a bad mood with a bad attitude.  What's worse, the guy in charge of the event wasn't nice either.  This guy came up to me and said, 'Son, when you come to a meeting of ministers, you need to wear a suit.'

Sulking in a humiliated mood, one of the organizers stopped to have a word with Erwin.  He was told by the organizer that one of the featured speakers was not going to make it and he said, "I think the Lord wants you to speak!"  Erwin laughed because he didn't want to look like an idiot.  But the man more intently grabbed Erwin and, through huge glasses declared upon Erwin, "The Lord wants you to speak!!"  Erwin was stunned.  There were 20,000 people in the audience and he only had 45 minutes to prepare.  This was a huge opportunity; the opportunity of a lifetime.  But Erwin went behind closed doors and fell to the floor, weeping.  He was overwhelmed and terrified.  When he finished praying, he went to tell his wife.  In terror, he said, "I can't speak!"  Kim responded with "What do you mean?  God told me you were going to speak tonight and that's why I wanted you to come."  Shocked, Erwin asked, "Why didn't you tell me?"   Calmly, she said, "Because you would have prepared for it and you wouldn't have come to serve."

Humility is what God needs to work in humanity.  In humility, there is no where to fall!   "I love the fact that when God created us, He took the most common material in the universe, dust, and breathed life into us."  God needs none of what we have for His work, He just needs us to humbly open our hearts for Him.