Archives For humility

Everyday Compassion

Jeff Olson —  April 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

boston-marathon-explosionNo one in the crowd near the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon could have predicted the horrible bombings that took place last week.

At first, the explosions sent people scattering and ducking for cover. But almost as quickly as it happened, people started rushing back to the sight of the explosions to help the injured.

It was an amazing thing to witness—strangers, mostly, selflessly rushing in to do whatever they could for their fellowman in dire need.

We’ve seen this before at the sight of other tragedies, natural and man-made. In the past week, my hometown experienced historic flooding. And once again, strangers from the surrounding areas showed up to unselfishly help strangers.

In the face of great tragedy, the courageous urge to jump in and help rises up—as it should. But what about everyday life? Does the urge to help others rise up in us there?

It may not be as dramatic, but we can be just as compassionate in our everyday relationships as we seek (with the Spirit’s help) to imitate the other-minded attitude of Christ that the apostle Paul admonished his readers to adopt: “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).

May the courageous compassion that shines through in tragedy inspire us to be looking out for the interest of others every day.

Last weekend I heard the sad news that Neil Armstrong died in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of 82. After his famous “one small step” onto the lunar surface, he almost disappeared from the public eye. And yet, upon hearing of his death, I immediately was transported back to my childhood.

I remember exactly where I was that hot, muggy Sunday evening, July 20, 1969. My family and I were on vacation, camping with another family on Wellesley Island in the middle of the St. Lawrence River in upstate New York. We had just arrived on Saturday after a long day of traveling, and I was bummed that I’d miss the TV coverage of the lunar landing. From an early age, I was fascinated with flight and the space program. I wanted to be a fighter pilot in grade school (that dream lasted until high school when my inner ear problem and severe motion sickness prevented me from pursuing that career).

In fifth grade, I coerced my dad into helping me build a wooden model of the lunar landing module (LEM) and a clay model of the surface of the moon where the LEM would someday land as part of my science fair project. With great attention to detail, I assembled, painted, and decaled models of the Apollo 11 command module and the LEM. So the idea of missing the lunar landing was deeply disappointing.

Upon arrival at the campground, we were informed that the activity center had one black-and-white TV that would be available for anyone wishing to watch. I remember pestering my parents to go. We crowded  into that darkened community center at 10:30 p.m. and waited to watch the few moments of pixelated images from 240,000 miles away. I was just 14 years old and thought landing on the moon was a dream of science fiction novels. And there he was, Neil Armstrong, hopping down the ladder of the Lunar Module to set foot on luna firma. The first man to walk on the surface of the moon.

As I walked out of the center that night, I looked up at the moon in wide-eyed wonder like never before, with thoughts like: “There’s somebody actually standing on the moon right now! I wonder what he’s looking up and seeing?”

Neil left his footprints in the lunar dust, but he also made his mark on earth. Returning to earth as a hero, he didn’t exploit his newfound stardom for personal financial gain. Instead, he lived much of the rest of his life in relative obscurity. He was the first man to ever walk on the moon, and yet he didn’t make it all about him.

Humility is a big “footprint” to follow. Yet, it’s what the Old Testament prophet Micah stated was God’s call for every man and woman who walks the surface of this planet: “He has showed you, O man, 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” (Micah 6:8 NIV).

As I look around at the landscape of our culture reeking with entitlement, the quest for instant stardom, and reality TV personalities striving to exploit their 30 seconds of fame for some outrageous financial gain, it’s glaringly apparent—Neil Armstrong was a man of a different time. He seemed to possess humility in the presence of great achievement because he knew it wasn’t all about him. That’s the footprint Neil left on earth that I admire even more than those he left on the surface of the moon 43 years ago.

Please join me in sharing your reflections on where you were when Neil took his walk on the moon. Or how about sharing some thoughts or comments on what it might look like to follow Micah’s call to “humbly walk with our God” in an “all-about-me” kind of world?





Jeff Olson —  April 12, 2012 — 4 Comments

A comedian once mused that he wished someone made a GPS for husbands. It went something like this:

GPS: “Compliment your wife on her appearance.”
Comedian: “Hey honey, you look really good tonight.”

GPS: “Ask her about her day.”
Comedian: “How was your day, sweetheart?”

GPS: “Pretend to be listening.”

GPS: “Compliment your wife’s hair.”
“Uhmm…Hey, your hair doesn’t look as gray as it did yesterday.”

GPS: “Recalculating.”

The Bible is far, far more than a GPS, but it records Jesus dropping “GPS like” directives to help us “recalculate” how relationships are to work now that He had come.

Here are just few:

“Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31, NLT).

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37, NLT).

“Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39, NLT).

“There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent” (Luke 24:47, NLT).

The life, death and resurrection of Jesus birthed a new way of doing relationship with others and with God. The fallen way of selfishness and revenge and pride is now being replaced with His Kingdom way of love and reconciliation and humility.

As theologian NT Wright puts it, “It’s a way nobody’s ever tried before, a way that is as unthinkable to most human beings and societies as—well, as resurrection itself. Precisely. That’s the point. Welcome to Jesus’ new world!”

Demandingness (Part 2)

Tim Jackson —  January 27, 2012 — Leave a comment

Okay, so if you read my previous post (Demandingness Part 1), maybe you’ve had time to reflect on how your inborn demandingness shows up in your life. I know, it’s always easier to see it in others first, but this time I want you to focus on you. Not pretty is it?

So what’s the remedy?

Radical transformation. No routine adjustment will suffice here. This goes clear to the bone. It’s complex. No simple 3, 5, 7 or 12 step plan. It’s not a plan, but a person–who gives us a whole new outlook on life. It’s the Jesus way.

Paul, a 1st century Jesus follower described it this way in his letter to other Jesus followers living in the Roman colony of Philippi:

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Phil. 2:3-4, emphasis added)

What’s so amazing about this statement is that Paul was describing how Jesus handled his life. He wasn’t demanding. And if anyone could have been demanding of others he probably could have gotten away with it. After all he was God and perfect. But he didn’t. Why? Because that’s not the heart of God portrayed in the New Testament. He humbled himself because of his great love for us and served our interests–to redeem us when we were hopelessly lost (Matt. 20:28; Luke 19:10).

This life changing perspective from Jesus grows out of a humbled and grateful heart that refuses to focus just on my stuff, my interests and my life, and instead focuses on those around me too. It’s not wrong to look out for myself. That’s not selfish. It’s when I exclusively look out for me and refuse to look out for others as well that I’m selfish, self-focused, narcissistic and demanding.

So, I’d encourage you (and believe me, I’m talking to me too) to listen for it. Ask God to help you become more aware of your demandingness first. And as you begin to admit and own it for yourself, you’ll be humbled and better equipped to help someone else you care about whose demandingness is showing too.

Let’s help each other look more like Jesus and be less demanding. And I just bet those around us will notice too.

What Occupies You?

Jeff Olson —  August 4, 2011 — 1 Comment

To illustrate the truth of Ephesians 5:18, Evangelist DL Moody once held up an empty glass and asked an audience, “Tell me. How can I get the air out of the glass I have in my hand?” One man said, “Suck it out with a pump.” But Moody replied, “That would create a vacuum and shatter it.”

After many other suggestions, Moody picked up a pitcher and filled the glass with water.

“There,” he said, “all the air is now removed.” He then explained that freedom from a sinful habit does not come by working hard to eliminate it, but rather by the allowing the Holy Spirit to take full possession of us.

Is there a sinful habit in your life that you can’t to get rid of, no matter how hard you try? Maybe you should stop striving so hard to eliminate your out of control problem. Generally speaking, we don’t need more self-effort and self-regulation. What we need more of is to humble ourselves before God so that He can fill us with His Spirit.

The more we occupy ourselves with Jesus the less room there is for sin to occupy us.

To read more about freedom from addictions, Check out the Discovery Series Bible Study Released!



Penance and Addiction

Jeff Olson —  July 5, 2011 — 5 Comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the penance phase in the addictive cycle.

Penance is that tricky phase most cycle through after the high and relief of acting out wears off. Whether it’s getting wasted with alcohol or drugs, throwing a temper tantrum or binging on porn, it’s that place we go to when we feel dissatisfied, guilty and foolish for turning again to something that doesn’t last and often makes things worse.

Penance is tricky because we are not what we seem when we go there. We appear to be making amends for our out of control behavior. We start to act kinder and more thoughtful. We start to do things for others that we’ve been resisting to do for years. It can look so genuine, but it doesn’t last because we’re doing it for the wrong reasons. Making amends is not about a healthy desire to change. It’s about finding a quick behavioral fix and ending the dissatisfaction and shame our addiction has caused.

In the penance phase we also appear to be really sorry and contrite. We beat ourselves up. And we claim to really want to change. We promise to try harder. We make plans to never act out again. We say that we really mean it this time. All of our self-loathing seems to prove our sincerity, but we’re not as sincere as we think. We are not seriously open to a work of God in our lives because we are still trying to handle the brokenness of our life on our own. Rather than humbly accepting the forgiveness and grace of Jesus and admitting that we are is helpless to stop without God, we want to stay in charge. And penance, which is little more than self-effort, is our way to staying in control.

Penance is the opposite of repentance. What makes true repentance possible is humility—the realization and acknowledgment that we are helpless to break free from our addiction and go in a new direction without God. If we try to repent without humility, it will be in our own strength. And it will eventually lead to nothing more sin-management and eventually acting out again.

The New Testament book of James says that humbling ourselves before God is the central to standing against evil desires and even the devil himself (James 4:1-10). Humbling ourselves before God is about surrendering a control over life that we often wrestle away from Him. It’s letting Him call the shots. When it comes to our addictions, it involves receiving His forgiveness and accepting the truth about who He’s says we are in Jesus—a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Because the addictive cycle is partly sustained by keeping the addiction a secret from others, it’s best to stop hiding our struggles and humbly allow others access into what is going on. We must start to get our pain and brokenness out in the open with at least a few non-condemning friends who openly admit they don’t have it all together either. Together, friends can speak into each others lives and encourage each other to grow and stand in the grace and truth of all that they are in Christ.