selective focus photo of woman taking selfie


Do you remember Carly Simon’s song, “You’re So Vain?” It was a pop song in 1972. I had just started working a job at the local drive-in movie theater. Just as I was about to get out of my car, this song came on the radio. That was the first time I heard it. I thought the song had an odd topic for a pop song, but I liked it. In today’s key Scripture, we find the topic of “vain conceit versus humility.” The two are mutually exclusive.

There are some formidable commands in the New Testament, and Philippians 2:3-4 is one of them:

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. 

Most of us consider ourselves “safe” from selfish ambition and vain conceit, but it’s the last part of the second sentence that is tough. However, giving preferential treatment of the interests of others OVER our interests. OUCH!


I won’t speak for you, but for me, I sometimes struggle to give preference to the interests of others. If God’s Word said, “Give equal treatment.” I could possibly manage that, but to potentially suffer loss because I’m not looking to my interests, I need the Holy Spirit’s help for that.

We are not just considering money. Remember, we have three things that we can give: time, talent, treasure. Stated differently, we can provide our time, provide our abilities, and provide our fiscal assets. 

Many people are very possessive of their money. However, if we are willing to pay for our vacation, we should be willing to pay for others’ mission trips. That would be putting other’s interests in front of our interests.

An example of giving our time is helping in a Vacation Bible School, participating in our church’s prison visitation program, and joining our church’s cleaning volunteers. And an example of giving our talents might be joining our church’s volunteer odd-job team that does odd jobs for the elderly, widowed, and disabled. In my life, I’ve never found any church that had more helpers than needs.

It may be tough but it’s Still God’s Will

Philippians 2:3-4 seems so unremarkable when we read it. But when we stop and consider what the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to write, we are confronted with a life-altering commandment, one which we all should prayerfully apply to our lives.

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Small Things

Mother holding a baby

Oh, be careful little eyes
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see
Oh, be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
So be careful little eyes what you see

It’s The Small Things

Our lives consist of small things, fleeting moments, activities that barely qualify as actions or events. Yet it is in the tapestry woven by all of these that display our character; our commitment to Jesus. When we pause to look at our lives, the big things seldom accurately depict ourselves.

Within our worlds, people know us as teachers, bank tellers, homemakers, auto mechanics, and so forth. And perhaps within our world, we have achieved something exceptional, or we have suffered something horrible. Nevertheless, we still live our lives moment by moment, day by day. It’s still our small decisions that display our virtues.

See Yourself As God Sees You

If we allow a great success, a great defeat, or a great loss to define us, then we have surrendered ourselves to a thing rather than to our Lord Jesus. Don’t allow something from this world to have sway over your thoughts, intentions, or activities in life.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. – Romans 12:3

We aren’t to think badly of ourselves, just realistically, and from God’s perspective. And remember, the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little heart, who you trust.

Photo by Brandless on Unsplash

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How do we Love God?

A person showing a homeless man compassion

My wife and I recently bought a shed to make into my office – she wants me out of the house. 😉

We had ordered a custom version. Nothing wild. We just asked for a standard door, four extra feet for the length, and two extra windows. No problem!

Well, as so often happens, there was a mixup with our order. As I talked through the problem with the shed company’s sales guy, he bumped up to an office guy, who then bumped me to receive a call from the district manager.

Not to take anything away from the shed company but less than an hour before my conversation with the district manager, a dear brother that I’d not heard from for at least six months texted me and said God put me in his thoughts, so he wanted to check and see if I needed anything. Yes! I needed prayer. Then I received a text from another dear friend. We called to talk about her Christian missionary blog, but she said that she’d pray for me.

Then the district manager called. We had an adult, intelligent, pleasant, meaningful conversation. The outcome was that the company would make the modification my wife and I had expected. We’re happy.

Many people like to quote the scripture, “…God is love.” not knowing the full verse in 1 John 4:8 (ESV), which reads, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” God’s promises always carry conditions. So, what terms are included in us loving God? We get a glimpse in the Old Testament book of Micah which reads:

Micah 6:8 (ESV)

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

There’s more that God requires, but this passage can get us pointed in the right direction. We are to personally act justly even if the law gives us a loophole, and to love mercy even when we have every right to demand “our pound of flesh” and to walk humbly in every aspect of our lives; this may be the most challenging requirement. 

Humility is not a weakness, for it requires incredible strength, which can only come through our faith in Jesus Christ and the working of the Holy Spirit within. Our perfect example of humility is Jesus. Through Jesus, we can love the way God desires, and that’s good news.

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

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I’ve worked for many good leaders but I once had the privilege of working for an exceptional leader. He was excellent because he had woven into his leadership style some non-negotiable values. For example, as president of the company, he would regularly go into the factory and work with the temporary “temp” workers for an hour or two, and he required his leadership team to do the same.

He was consistent in his decisions and required anyone that came to him with a problem to also bring with them a recommended solution. He placed a strong emphasis on himself and all his leadership team to continually learn and apply techniques that would be good for everyone. I saw him “tear up” in front of the whole company because we had to lay off a group of people.

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 (NIV) says, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests.  It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left.”

God made sure His kings understood their leadership mandate was from God and under the auspices of God. Therefore kings had no reason to think more highly of themselves than they ought (Ro 12:3). This principle also holds for any leadership position right down to those in charge of the men’s fellowship breakfast or the cookie sale.

Leadership is a tough job full of temptations to think of yourself as unique, to exempt yourself from burdens you place on others, to avoid the details and focus on concepts and to compromise instead of working to build a consensus.

The underlying wisdom here reminds us that leaders need to build into their lives accountability, to be committed to managing core principles and to not delegate those to others. Also, leaders need to write down a copy of those core principles (really) and continually reference them, so they are sure they remember them and to communicate that those core principles are non-negotiable.

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I’ve always wondered why Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey instead of a horse when He entered Jerusalem as a King. Here was the King of kings entering Jerusalem to win His victory over death and to secure the way to salvation, the way of resurrection, for everyone willing to walk that road. 

To get to the root of why Jesus rode a donkey we need to read passages of Scripture in Zechariah and Luke. The date for each passage is very approximate, but they are each separated by about 400 years which is a recurring measurement of time in the Bible. So, let’s get started! 

Zechariah 9: NIV (circa 520 BC)

9 Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!    
Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,    
righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,    
on a colt [a], the foal of a donkey.

Matthew 21: NIV (circa 60 AD)

7 They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. 
8 A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 
9 The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,“Hosanna to the Son of David!”“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Jesus was keeping the prophecy in Zechariah. As for why two animals, the donkey and a colt of a donkey, there’s no real agreement. My conjecture won’t resolve this debate so I’ll refrain for stating it. 

Jesus was coming as the prophetic fulfillment of Isaac. (Genesis. 22:1-19). Soon, for Jesus, Genesis 22:6 would be fulfilled, for that verse says, “ And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac, his son…” For Jesus, the wooden cross for His sacrifice would be laid on Him.

Jesus was coming to the Earthly capital of His kingdom. But, He was coming in meekness and outward poverty. He didn’t even own a donkey for it was borrowed. Jesus, as the Son of God, made all Creation yet enters His city riding on a borrowed donkey. How wrong it is for us to covet wealth.

As we know, this entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem was not the time when He would set up His physical kingdom. That happens when He returns, for we read in Revelation 19:11 (NIV), “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” Notice, He’s on a horse; that makes me happy. 

Hosanna is used to express adoration, praise, or joy. As we remember once again the Passion of Christ let us shout, “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

[a] The unbroken foal would be more easily subdued and guided when its mother was with it; such an addition to the ridden animal would usually be employed to carry the rider’s luggage. 

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Sometimes it is right not to demand your rights.

While I was still working, I made a trip to our office in the Philippines (see picture). I intended to help the team understand how important they were, how much we appreciated their contribution to our success, and to help me learn any frustrations or inefficiencies that our U.S. team was inadvertently causing.

On my second or third day with them, I asked if I could sit with each of them while they handled work assignments that they received from our U.S. team. As soon as I sat with the first team member, I could tell I was doing something culturally wrong.

I found the operations manager and explained my plan. He said, “Oh, no, that will never work.” They saw me as a person in a different “class” from them, so they were disturbed and afraid by me going to their cube and “chatting” with them. Instead, I had to sit in my “big office” and have each person, one by one, come to me and explain the work they did. I complied, and it all worked out.

I needed to sit and watch how they worked. I had the right to do that. I had participated in the hiring process of these employees, and their salaries were paid out of my budget. Nevertheless, for the sake of harmony, I had to comply. It is appropriate to surrender our rights, from time to time, for the sake of harmony. We do this so that we may keep our witness and preach Jesus and the cross.

How did my acquiescence help further the gospel? Well, when I was back in the U.S., I could Instant Message each person. We developed some rapport. Shortly after my return, these wonderful people were hit by a massive typhoon.

Some of my Filipino team members had family members killed by that storm. I was able to tell individuals that I was praying for them, other members of my U.S. team chatted and prayed for them, and we took up a donation which we sent to them.

You see, we do not need or want distractions. Jesus showed us this, and it’s recorded in Matthew 17:24-27.

After Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the temple tax?” “Yes, he does,” he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak. “What do you think, Simon?” he asked. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes—from their own children or from others?” “From others,” Peter answered. “Then the children are exempt,” Jesus said to him. “But so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours.”

I have a framed poster that the employees of my first real company gave to me which says, “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” There’s a lot of truth in that one sentence.

The seriousness of the allegation…

A conversation with my son plus a “hit piece” in the media about a minor political figure prompted me to address, again, the dangers of hateful rhetoric. 

My son has become exceptionally well educated in history and politics, and is a true source of joy, especially during our lively debates. However, during our recent conversation, I became aware by the casualness with which he passed judgment on public figures, verbally attacking them instead of disagreeing with their ideology.

I’ve tried for many decades to convince people to keep their complaints and their debates centered upon ideas and actions and to never demean or demonize a person. After all, we are all made in the image of God so we should tread lightly when we venture from the world of ideas into the world judging people.

Certainly, there are people that have said and done things so egregious as to justify their excommunication from society. Nevertheless, it’s a rare thing for God to show us His plans for that person so we can, in good conscience, elevate ourselves above them to pass judgment over them.

As a society, we have been duped by sound bites such as, “Due to the seriousness of the allegation…” I’ve had more than one attorney tell me that I can sue anybody for anything at any time. Allegations are just that, an assertion by a person or a group of people. The person(s) making the allegation is rarely, if ever held responsible if their assertion is found to be incorrect or misplaced.

A challenge for us is to, in humility, apply justice and mercy if we are called upon to judge a person. Let’s look at what Jesus said in Matthew 7:1-3,5 (NIV): “1) Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2) For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?…5) You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

The heart of Christ’s command is not a wholesale prohibition of judgment (see v.5), but rather to humbly seek the truth in a matter with fear and trembling. Condemning a person’s faults may be a failure by us to forgive, for God’s Word says in Micah 6:8: He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

In closing, please again consider the commentary on Matthew 7:1-5, from Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers:

  • Judge no man unless it is your duty to do so.
  • As far as may be, judge the offense, and not the offender.
  • Confine your judgment to the earthly side of faults, and leave their relation to God, to Him who sees the heart.
  • Never judge at all without remembering your own sinfulness, and the ignorance and infirmities which may extenuate [make more forgivable] the sinfulness of others.

These are the concepts I communicated to my son, and now to you. I hope that all people heed this message, especially myself.

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Are you kidding?

One of the stories we tell around our family table, and one that always teases out a, “I didn’t know!”, from our second oldest son is about the time he “lost” some of his hair.

When he was about six years old, our son came into the house, and my wife and I both looked at him in astonishment. “What happened to your hair!”, we both exclaimed.” “Nothing,” he murmured. “We need to know what happened, son.”, I said. Mom said, “There is a piece missing from your hair, right in the middle!” Our son said, “I was playing on the swings, and it got my hair caught in the chain and it pulled my hair out.”

I wanted to says, “Are you kidding!” For, there was no way this could have happened as there was a perfectly cut chunk of hair cut out right in front. Our son had lied about what happened. After further grilling on our part, he finally confessed he had tried to cut his hair.

After some admonishment from each of us, we decided to drop the matter as history would record this event; his school pictures was the next day. Sure enough, we have used that his school picture many times, on all our kids, as a lesson to tell the truth, and not try to cut your hair when you’re six years old! 

It was easy for us to see through our son’s attempt at deception and to get to the truth. And, so it was with Jesus when he talked to the Samaritan woman at the well.

The account of the Samaritan woman is well known and has been preached and taught many times, and for a good reason. However, today, I would like us to consider just one facet of this beautiful gem that God placed in His word. As a quick refresher for today’s salient verses, let’s review them:
John 4:11-12. 15-18

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.” He told her, “Go, call your husband and come back.” “I have no husband,” she replied. Jesus said to her, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true.”

The woman attempted to level the playing field when she brought up the shared experience of Jacob’s well; both Jews and Samaritans recognized the exalted position of Jacob. She was trying to establish a common ground between them. When that didn’t work she “fudged” her marital history, but Jesus looked right through all these things and spoke life to her. It blew away all disingenuousness, duplicity, and dismissal that she attempted; and Truth transformed her.

This same Truth still lives and lives in us as Christians. How imprudent it is when we try to sidetrack our Lord when He is intent on leading us to truths about ourselves. We are utterly disarmed and without excuse.

Our feeble attempt to suppress a wrong that we need to right or a new path we need to walk is foolishness to Christ. Nevertheless, His love allows us to go down those roads, for a bit, giving us the opportunity to come to our senses and grab hold of Truth, even as the prophets of old grabbed hold on to the horns of the altar.

Let’s make a pact, right now, that none of us will try to level the playing field with Jesus. When Jesus, the Truth (Jn. 14:6), shows us where we must walk, let us walk that path in faith, confident that the love of God leads us and abides with us, for He is “a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1 KJV). Amen.

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My in-laws are without a doubt the most hospitable people I’ve ever known. My wife went to visit her parents after church, yesterday. I had stayed at home so I asked her how they were. She said they were kind of depressed because they didn’t have a house full of family and friends there for Sunday dinner. They love people and they love to have people in their home. That’s a good characteristic to have.

My wife inherited her parent’s practice of hospitality. During the time that our family lived in Romania, I was the “missionary” doing all that missionary stuff but my wife simply opened our apartment to people. She created an amazing pancake recipe which everyone loved. This became her pancake ministry.

Pastors, missionaries, friends, new people would “happen” to be in our neighborhood so they’d drop in. My wife knew they wanted some of her pancakes so she’d make a batch and everyone would talk. It might be about last Sunday’s church service or it might be about how fast their kids were growing up. My wife gave them pancakes, hospitality, and love. In fact, I think she accomplished more with pancakes than I ever did doing the missionary stuff.

We see in Romans 12:9-13, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Photo by Nathalie Jolie on Unsplash

If you’re happy

As I was thinking about writing this devotional, the kid’s song, “If you’re happy and you know it…” came to mind. I began pondering “happy” and that kids love fun songs. And, the “If you’re happy” song gives kids a chance to burn off some of their cornucopia of energy that makes me jealous.

I was thinking “happy” then I asked myself, “Self, do kids get tired of being told what to do?” There are an awful lot of kids songs that tell them what to do, think “Hokey Pokey” on roller skates. But, the songs that tell kids to do something makes most of them happy and they have fun with it. They’re laughing and trying and fumbling but they are having a good time.

Am I that way? As a certified grownup and having raised five kids, some more than once, am I happy when I’m told what to do? I try and I fumble and have to work at getting it right, but no, I’m not happy! What’s missing? Well, my peers, who are probably in the same boat, are hiding their struggle as I hide mine. That’s not how you do the Hokey Pokey. We’re not having fun because our pride is stealing our happiness.

So, it’s up to you. Be the spark plug of happiness. Connect with your peers. Share your challenges. Be transparent. You may be just the breath of fresh air someone needs.

As God’s Word says in 2 Corinthians 7:13 (NIV), “By all this we are encouraged. In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.” Be that refresher, be happy, also give others the opportunity to be happy. Come on, put your hands together and sing, “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands!”

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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