And Now For The Rest Of The Story

“Christmas celebrates the awesome and amazing fact that God is grander, wiser, and more mysterious than we could have ever imagined.” – Dan Schaeffer.

Paul Harvey was one of the most famous radio personalities in America in the 50s and 60s.  Millions of loyal listeners tuned in to his “The Rest of the Story” broadcasts for their unique blend of true historical facts laced with mystery.  The rest of the story filled in the details of a story that most people did not know about. It would be nice to know the rest of the story of the most influential man in history. The birth of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, is the greatest gift that God has ever given.

We know so little about Jesus’ birth. Luke summarizes it all in one sentence: “And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

It’s kind of a  letdown, isn’t it? If we had been writing the story of Jesus’ life, we would have page after page, maybe several books. We would tell the rest of the story. For example, explaining why Mary was traveling with Joseph, to begin with, why no one in Bethlehem welcomed them into their home, why there was no better place for them to stay than a barn, who was with them when the baby was born, and so many more details. We probably would have drowned the story in detail. God doesn’t always give us all the details we want, but He always gives us the details we need.

There is one, clear indisputable detail in the Christmas story. Jesus comes in a humble matter. Luke talks about Augustus, the mighty Roman emperor. With a word, he could force people to travel significant distances to register for taxation. This is the most powerful man on the planet. But Luke doesn’t talk about him. Instead, he talks about a little baby, born in the most inglorious and humble circumstances. Born to a virgin, born away from home, born in a barn, laid to rest in a feed trough. The contrast is powerful and undeniable. The rest of the story would include a mighty Messiah, born in circumstances befitting a king. But no. Everyone in town turns away from His parents. They have nowhere else to go, so He is born in a barn and is laid to rest in a feeding trough.

Why? Because God will teach us through Jesus. God taught us that the way to be great in God’s eyes is to be nothing in the world’s eyes. God taught us humility’s a trait that God blesses. And He will teach it first and best through His very own Son: “though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)

He came as the least, and He came for the least. That is the rest of the story.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we learn about from our Lord on the essence of true humility?
  2. What will you do, beginning today, to cultivate a Christlike attitude of humility? 

An Illustration Of Meekness

John answered, a person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” – John 3:27

He was an unusual dude. He lived in the wilderness and made his own clothes out of camel hair. Sporting long hair and a beard, he was a man’s man. You’re not far off if you’re picturing Grizzly Adams, Jeremiah Johnson, or Hugh Glass from The Revenant. That was John the Baptist.

In Matthew 11, Jesus says no man was greater than John the Baptist. That’s pretty high praise coming from Jesus. At the time, John the Baptist was a leading man leading a very large ministry. People came from miles around to hear him speak and to be baptized. Throughout his ministry, John spoke about someone far greater who would be coming, the Messiah. Finally, at the height of John’s popularity and amid the crowds of people gathered, Jesus showed up to be baptized by John. Imagine that for a second. He was the one who got to baptize Jesus. The Holy Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove. A voice from heaven said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy ” Jesus’ baptism provided several things for the people. It confirmed his identity as God. His baptism also enabled Him to identify with people and marked the beginning of His public ministry. From this point on, John’s voice became less, and Jesus’ voice became greater.

The attention moves from John to Jesus. John’s followers see this and become concerned that they are losing their fame and popularity. They are concerned that they would lose their followers.

John does not get mad, frustrated, or combative because of Jesus’ rising popularity. He doesn’t frantically try to hold on to his fame. John recognizes his place in a much bigger story. He understood all along that this was never about him. He sees his story in light of God’s plan and glory. This is an illustration of meekness. John recognizes that God has given each of us a story, and the point of our story is to reveal His glory. The fact is, it has always been about God. Any fame or popularity that comes our way is all about His name, not ours.

God may be using your life for significant things, but when held up to the bigger story of God, they are not as significant as we may think. The extent of John’s humility is convicting. What about us? Do we acknowledge our unworthiness in light of Jesus’ greatness? This kind of humility changes our response to God, and to others. When we see who we are in light of who Jesus is, we ought to be filled with humility and moved to worship the One who alone is worthy of all glory and praise.

Meekness is an invitation to live for the story that matters most.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What does it mean to be meek?
  2. What is the blessing of a God­ controlled life?

Blessed Are The Meek, For They Shall Inherit The Earth

“The meek man is not a human mouse afflicted with a sense of his own inferiority. Rather, he may be in his moral life as bold as a lion and as strong as Samson; but he has stopped being fooled about himself. He has accepted God’s estimate of his own life. He knows he is as weak and helpless as God has declared him to be, but paradoxically, he knows at the same time that he is, in the sight of God, more important than angels. In himself, nothing; in God, everything.”  – A.W. Tozer

The first beatitude—being “poor in spirit”—is about recognizing our insignificance compared to God on a very personal level. The second beatitude is about mourning for sin and its many devastating effects. Together, these two beatitudes set the stage for the third: meekness.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Mathew 5:5 ESV) A bunch of meek people gaining control of the earth? Seems unlikely. Most people believe the strong will inherit the earth. Here’s the thing for us who are Jesus’s followers: Jesus took time in His limited earthly ministry to talk about it. He wanted us to know about it on this side of eternity. Logically, meekness is something that God desires and shows favor on. The challenge is understanding the word meek.   

Meekness is a controlled strength that puts everything in the hands of God. It’s founded on a trust of the Lord, and it always denies self. It seeks another person’s interest at the expense of its own, and it’s pure, peaceable, gentle, and open to reason. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.  How counter-cultural is that in today’s world?

There are many biblical references to the word “meek.”  Bible Psalm 37:11 (ESV) mirrors that of Matthew 5:5 by stating, “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” Proverbs 16:19 says, “Better to live humbly with the poor than to share plunder with the proud.”

Meekness should not be confused with cowardice or weakness. It’s not being afraid to stand up to someone; rather it’s having the courage to trust God for justice. In the eyes of God being meek is seen as being peaceful, humble, and clear-minded about what is most important in life. Being meek means that you will follow God’s guidance in this life.  Meekness is a trait that is necessary for a Christian’s life. It is not just power under control, but power under God’s control. For a Christian, meekness is about surrendering everything to God and being completely at His disposal.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Everyone who has humility has meekness and every person with meekness is likely also humble. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2. When you think about meekness, what synonyms come to mind?
  3. Jesus says the meek will inherit the earth. What does He mean and how does that apply to us today?

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

“Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:1-3 (ESV). 

Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount is one of the most extensive and significant collections of His teaching that is recorded in the Bible. This foundational message begins with a series of traits or ways of thinking called Beatitudes, which, when practiced, yield joy and peace of mind. The first is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Since Jesus is the one giving the sermon on the mount it is no accident that the first beatitude is about being poor in spirit. This is a primary trait for a Christian—a fundamental requirement to following God’s way of life. A humble spirit enables us to develop the rest of the characteristics that Jesus lists in the sermon on the mount.

When used in the spiritual sense, “poor” refers to someone who is humble enough to recognize how powerless he or she is compared to God and someone who is willing to submit to that power. Compared to God, we are nothing. The poor in spirit don’t compare themselves to others: “Not that we dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who are commending themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” (2 Corinthians 10:12 ESV). After looking at how insignificant one is compared to God, it’s impossible not to feel humbled. Psalm 39:4-7 says, “O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am! Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths, and my lifetime is as nothing before you. Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath! Selah Surely a man goes about as a shadow! Surely for nothing they are in turmoil; man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.”

After God gave Job a glimpse of His greatness through the creation, Job declared, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:5-6 ESV).  

There are many reasons God requires this deep humility. An example is Psalm 25:9 which tells us that the humble are teachable: “He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” The humble are repentant: “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18 ESV)  And the humble acknowledge and accept their dependence on God and recognize His greatness: “Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:1-2 ESV).

Discussion Questions:

  1. Describe a time when you felt especially poor in spirit—a time when you were keenly aware of your need for God. How did He meet you?
  2. Where do you especially need to grow in humility? (at work, as a parent, in your marriage, in the way that you approach church, etc)

I Surrender All

“Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” – James 4:10.  

You are probably thinking, “Surrender. Ugh.” I get it. In the eyes of the world, surrender equates to humiliation. No one wants to give up and wave that white flag of surrender. So, no wonder the idea of surrender is often deeply resented. But here’s the irony and the paradox of the Christian faith: Surrender is the beginning of the victorious Christian life. Jesus was all in for you, He wants you to be all in for Him.

Fulfilling our purpose in life and creating the future we desire can be frustrating.  But we have a choice. We can give up or give in, or we can surrender it to the Lord. Surrendering isn’t the same thing as giving up — not when God is involved. Surrendering to God means letting go of our plans, and letting God have His way in every aspect of our lives. Allowing Him to guide our steps and direct our decisions. As Christians this means we surrender our will for His perfect will, and follow God.  As Christians, we are called to turn over every aspect of our lives to God’s control. There is no one-step way to surrender to God, it’s a daily, moment-by-moment choice to give it to God.  

As we surrender to the Lord, our giving up is replaced by His lifting us up: “So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6-7). When we humble ourselves before the Lord, we begin to see His mighty hand at work.  

In surrender, God may—or may not—give us what we want. But when we surrender, He always wants to give us Himself. When we surrender, we always receive what is best: the Lord Jesus.

Surrender isn’t about giving up; it’s about giving in to the One who knows what is best for us, to the One who knows us most and has a perfect plan.  Surrender is the only real way to experience His peace. It’s the only way to true joy.

“He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30).

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is an area of your life that you know you need to surrender to God? 
  2. What might you be giving up if you do surrender that area to God? 
  3. Do you believe that surrendering to God could actually benefit you? How?

Earning Respect From Others

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity. Until I get there, focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encouraging the believers, and teaching them…Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching….” – 1 Timothy 4:12-16. 

Timothy is said to have been acquainted with the Scriptures since childhood. God had called Timothy to the gospel ministry. He was the protege’ of the Apostle Paul, but he was young. Would people follow his leadership? Would they respect him enough to listen? Through the Spirit’s inspiration, Paul taught Timothy how to overcome the liabilities of youth and earn respect.  And it starts by living a Godly life. 

Proverbs 11:27 says, “if you search for good, you will find favor; but if you search for evil, it will find you!” What does Solomon mean by good? He means mercy, not cruelty, righteousness, not wickedness, doing what pleases God, not what displeases Him. Think of the people in your life that you genuinely respect: chances are most of them will be very godly people. If you want to earn the respect of others, you must live with godliness.

To live a godly life means we walk in humility. Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” Humility is not denying your accomplishments. It’s realizing God gave you the ability and the opportunity to realize those accomplishments. 1 Corinthians 4:7 tells us “For what gives you the right to make such a judgment? What do you have that God hasn’t given you? And if everything you have is from God, why boast as though it were not a gift?  

Make loving people a priority in your life. Love people eagerly and faithfully. As you become the example, you create a pattern for others to follow. This visible transformation earns respect and influence, regardless of your age and experience. You can act in a way that generates respect regardless of age or experience.

Titus 2:7 sums it all up pretty well: “And you yourself must be an example to them by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching.“

 Discussion Questions:

  1. Living a godly life generates respect. Agree or disagree and why? 
  2. Treat others with humility. The more you lower yourself, the more others will respect you. Agree or disagree and why? 

The Giant That Felled David

“If you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronise me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride…Pride is essentially competitive – is competitive by its very nature – while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. If everyone else became equally rich, or clever, or good-looking there would be nothing to be proud about. It is the comparison that makes you proud: the pleasure of being above the rest. Once the element of competition has gone, pride has gone.”– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

When you think of the life of David, one of two events probably come to your mind. You either remember the time young David slew Goliath; or you remember when David committed adultery with Bathsheba. Both events were monumental moments in the life of David. In the first, David demonstrated his humility. In the second, David revealed his humanity. When David met a giant named Goliath, we are privileged to witness his greatest victory. When David met Bathsheba, we are forced to watch his greatest defeat.

Up until this moment, David had never lost a battle. But then he was soundly defeated by a giant far more powerful than Goliath could have ever hoped to have been. It wasn’t the giant of health problems, death, financial crisis, relationships, or any other problem or trial that you would list as the greatest troubles in your life today. This giant resides in the heart. This giant is pride.

When we look at David and his life we will see what happens when pride rules. As we have noted before, David had great men of honor and ability following him and one of them was Uriah the Hittite. He had a beautiful wife named Bathsheba. Uriah had only this one wife and David on the other hand had many wives. He was king and could choose whomever he wanted. Yet, because of his pride he desired something that was not lawful for him to have. He saw this woman as something that he had not conquered. He wasn’t thinking of the trouble it would cause him and his nation, he simply did what came natural to him. He saw an opportunity and he took it. Uriah was in battle fighting for his king and his country, David committed adultery with her and thought the matter was closed. In time, however, she sent word to him that she was with child and David went into full pride mode.

David then made a decision to ultimately cover up his sins and he sent Uriah back to the battlefield with a sealed note. In the letter he wrote, “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.” 2 Samuel 11:15

A widow was made by the intentional decision of a man filled with his pride. Judgment came to David and even more people died because of this tragic event. Was it worth it? Of course the answer is NO. When David was confronted, we see him come to a place of genuine repentance and sorrow. David quickly understood the situation and asked God for forgiveness.  His life had changed when he encountered God’s judgment first and then God’s grace.

There is just one way to be free from pride and it’s destructive ways. Humility crushes the wall of pride in our lives. There is nothing more deadly than pride and the only cure is humility and brokenness. As Christians, we must do whatever it takes to see pride rooted out of our life. We do that by getting down on our knees, pray, and believe that God is bigger than our struggles, our needs and wants. The worst is that it keeps us from God. It keeps us from repentance because pride makes excuses for sin rather than owning up and confessing. That is our barrier. Pride keeps us from triumphing over sin.There is only One that has the power to remove, and cancel sin. The only way to draw close to him is through a humble spirit. “Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.” – Isaiah 66:2

Discussion Question:

  1. What are some of the destructive elements of pride?
  2. In your own words describe how pride brings someone low and humility brings someone up.
  3. What are some good areas of pride?
  4. Does our emphasis on ourselves reduce our emphasis on God?
  5. Being open and honest, have you ever gone through a season when you struggled with pride? How did it affect your relationships with others? With God? How did God address that issue in your life?
  6. Pray and ask God to help you in any area of pride.