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Posts Tagged: humility

Why Not Read Less of the Bible This Year?

Dec. 16, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

From Garrett Kell on his threefold plan:

First, I plan to read the passage that will be preached on the next Lord’s Day. If I’m preaching this will be a necessity since I’m hoping to live better than I preach, but if I’m not preaching, I plan to study ahead to get the most out of the sermon.

Second, I plan to pick one Bible book a month to study deeply. In January, a friend and I are studying Amos. For the month we will read and re-read it. We plan to outline it, chart it, and memorize portions of it. Then in February, I’ll select another book with a similar approach, though hopefully improved by January’s attempt. By doing this I’m able to meditate deeply on one book, something I felt I was missing in other seasons of my life. Some months I may do two books if they are short (i.e. Haggai, Obadiah, Philemon, 2 and 3 John).

Third, I plan to read other books of the Bible in one sitting throughout the year. To avoid neglecting other portions of the Scriptures, I have a list of the books of the Bible in my journal and plan to regularly step away for an hour or two throughout the year and just read them straight through.

Read the whole thing here.

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Remembering the Day I Was Fired

Apr. 22, 2016By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

In the spring of 2008 I was brought into the principal’s office. I had been teaching at a Christian school for two years, where I had started working after I graduated from seminary. The first 18 months had gone really well and I truly enjoyed what I was doing. I had seen kids come to Christ, enjoyed teaching the students, loved coaching the basketball team, and was privileged to serve as a board member. At home, my wife and I had just welcomed our second child into the home we bought in 2006. However, the last six months had been pretty difficult and in the morning of a spring day I was asked to resign. We all know what that means - I was being fired. 

It is hard now to recapture exactly what happened. I write with eight years of perspective. The day will forever be ingrained in my mind. Getting called in. Sitting with friends who were letting me go. Telling my wife I was being fired from my first vocational ministry job. I had heard that only 1 in 5 people that graduated from seminary were in vocational ministry after five years. Would I be a casualty? Would people think less of me and wonder whether I was competent or qualified to serve in a role I had been trained to do? Most of what I say below would apply to all types of firing, but I am speaking specifically about being fired from a vocational ministry position for reasons other than significant moral failure or cut backs - I’m talking about the hard and unclear cases.

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The allegations, whatever they are, are probably not 100% false

The last six months of my job were difficult. I needed to wade through all that was being said about me and learn. Even if 99% of it was false, some of it was probably true and even if it was minor I needed to mature. Do some pastors get sifted by their people even though they are 100% in the right? Yes, but it is rare. I have sat with many people who have been let go from ministry positions, and as they have told me their stories I have usually been able to see why the whole thing went south, even if they can not see it yet. It took me some time, but I Iearned quite a bit about leadership, personal interaction, clarity in speaking, keeping better attention to details, and much more.

Submit to Authority

Almost everyone is under the authority of someone else. It is easy to submit when you agree with the decisions being made, but the true test of submission is whether you can submit to decisions you do not agree with. I am not talking about submitting to immoral decisions. Over the course of a job we are bound to disagree with someone making decisions in leadership. I am sure I could have reasoned that what was happening was unjust. Maybe I could have reasoned they were my enemies and prayed the imprecatory Psalms over them. Maybe I could count it as persecution. Maybe I could have planted seeds of discord in the staff, parents, and students and try a divide and conquer strategy. 

Or not.

“Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Does Romans 13:1 only apply to the government rulers? I don’t think so.

Let no bitter root grow

Being fired by a Christian brother or sister is a terrible experience. I was sitting in a room with four people who took little pleasure in letting me go. They knew what it meant for my young family. Some of them were and still are close friends. I had actually taught or coached three of the four’s children. We had a relationship. They were parents, spouses and friends. They had prayed for me and the person who made the decision thought he was making the best possible decision.

There were also the colleagues - those who liked me and were on “my side” and those that were not. Again - all believers for whom Christ had died. For me, Hebrews 12:14-15 came to mind: “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Even for the people who treated me terribly, I was responsible before God to be at peace with others and not let bitterness grow. 

Eight years later I can say that I have prayed with all four of the people that were in the room with me and keep in contact with two of them. As for the others who pushed for me to leave, I have prayed for reconciliation but life has taken us different places and I have no idea where they are. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matt 5:9).

As a man and the only one who received income for work, this was especially important for my family. I needed to provide a safe and calm environment for my wife and kids. They needed me to not be angry, anxious, or full of contempt. They needed me to lead.

If it keeps happening, you really need some perspective from others your trust

I got some good advice from a wise man when this happened. He told me that if this only happened once it was not a big deal. If it happened again it was a cause for concern. If it happened 3-4 times it was a big red flag.

If you constantly find yourself being let go from ministry positions it is probably a sign that you need some perspective and feedback. It could be that you are not cut out or gifted for the type of jobs you are applying for. You may be taking jobs beyond your competency. You might need to learn to actually love people and not just on your own terms. It could be that you don’t know how to discern a situation that is a good fit for you. Whatever it is, find some friends and get some perspective. 

The Lord will take care of you, even if it’s your own fault

I had an immediate problem in that I had no job in April of 2008, which was beyond the hiring cycle for most churches and schools. It’s difficult to not be anxious when you walk into your home you purchased right before the market crash, look into the eyes of your wife who had just had a baby and tell her you were fired. Would the Holy Spirit carry me through?

In June of that year, I pitched the idea of Training Leaders International to a pastor at the church I attended. In July, I began an interim pastorate that lasted two years. And though the Lord extracted quite a bit of flesh from me, TLI was launched and now serves pastors around the world. 

The firing taught me a lot about myself, which the Lord used to shape me. The pastorate was one of the greatest blessings of my life. Now I am in a position where I have to ask people I love to resign. It is painful, and I remember what it was like to receive the news

The truth is, TLI would not exist if I had not been fired, nor would I have been ready to lead it. So Lord - thank you for firing me from a job I loved.

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Calvin on Humility

Apr. 24, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

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From Institutes II.ii.11:

I have always been exceedingly delighted with the words of Chrysostom, ‘The foundation of our philosophy is humility;’ and still more with those of Augustine, ‘As the orator, when asked, What is the first precept in eloquence? answered, Delivery: What is the second? Delivery: What is the third: Delivery: so, if you ask me in regard to the precepts of the Christian Religion, I will answer, first, second and third, Humility.

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Intellectual Pride in Interpreting the Bible

Apr. 1, 2015By: Darren CarlsonAuthor Bio

A group of students in Cambridge came up with a list of seven common ways pride expresses itself. We list them in our hermeneutics class when we call our student's attention to humility as being the most important and most neglected interpretive virtues. 

1. Using irony or sarcasm gently or subtly to humiliate an opponent.

 2. Not listening to an opposing argument but moving straight to its weaknesses.

3.  Not affording an opposing argument the same charitable interpretation that I would expect my ideas to receive before they were criticized. In other words, assuming the worst.

arrogant

4.  Arguing ad hominem (attacking the character of the person rather than the content of their arguments).

5.  Pretending I understand something much better than I do, especially in front of non-academics.

6.  Being resentful when people outside my area demonstrate a sound grasp of aspects of it, because I thereby cease to be the fount of all knowledge.

7.  Using terms or phrases I know only some in a group will understand, to create an inner circle and exclude others.[1]


[1] This list comes particularly from Vanhoozer’s “Advanced Theological Prolegomena” lectures.

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The Achilles Syndrome: A Reflection of the Ego

Jan. 12, 2015By: Eduardo Mendes

“God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I am has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, ‘Say to the Israelites, The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you. This is my name forever, the name you shall call me  from generation to generation.’”   Exodus 3.14-15 

I personally do not enjoy watching the movie Troy because the good guy dies and that reality does not make me happy... But there is something in this movie that always makes me stop and think: the Achilles Syndrome. A perfect warrior who, driven by the success of his own name, thought he could achieve all he wanted. In the end he realized it was all an illusion.

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It’s very intriguing to see how driven Achilles was by his EGO. When we watch this movie we think: how can he be so arrogant? There is no doubt that EGO has been the greatest enemy of man, be it in the home, in society, in the work place, and even in the church.

Another movie that brings us this idea is The Devil’s Advocate. In one of the scenes, actor Al Pacino, representing the devil, states that vanity is his favorite sin.

I confess that the idea of this text applies in the first place to me. I struggle with the devil’s favorite sin. Sometimes I catch myself making decisions based only on my EGO; I desire to promote my own name or to leave my mark in history. Because of the Achilles Syndrome, which is clearly shown in the Troy movie, I constantly need to call out to the Lord and ask Him to help me make decisions in my life which are focused on His glory. 

Even in the face of my struggles in this area, God has manifested His grace in my life using ways that are different and that often appear to be inadequate (Job 2). I believe that they’re tools used by God Himself to place in me the correct understanding about who He is and who I am (Psalm 135). All that results is the fruit of His sovereign action over my decisions, in order to mold His servant for His glory.

I like the passage in Judges 6: 

11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

13 “Pardon me, my Lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

15 “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

16 The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.” 

The idea in this text is that God enables regular people for His glorious mission. This is where my heart should be: aware that I am nothing but on who is in the hands of the Creator (Genesis 1 – Revelation 1:8) I can be a part of this glorious mission. What a great privilege and challenge – who am I before such a great Creator?

Unfortunately, this feeling that I am nothing is not always shown in my life. Al Pacino, playing the devil, reveals that this problem of people seeking their own interests and not living for the glory of God is a universal one. Sometimes I get tired of dealing with this problem which is so strong in my life and in the lives of so many others.

I have been a church member for 35 years and have seen many problems. I have noticed that, unfortunately, most of them spring from the Achilles Syndrome.

Lord, how long will we live for our EGO? Give us a heart which is focused on your kingdom; may our decisions have as their foundation the glory of Your NAME and not ours.

I would like to invite the reader to pray this prayer with me because I believe that this has always been and continues to be today, the greatest problem in humanity. Let´s consider together the EGO issue which has destroyed so many families through divorce, so many societies through wars and so many churches through divisions and intrigues. 

Cry out to the Lord like David in Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.

Let’s not allow the Achilles Syndrome to dominate us. Let’s stop exalting our own names and begin to exalt the NAME OF OUR SOVEREIGN GOD. May He be exalted forever. Amen

 

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