Humility and Truth

We cannot hope to find truth as long as pride rules our hearts.

 

Truth is one of the most challenging things to find in our world.  The advent of the internet gives us the ability to justify almost any belief we can think of.  Whatever you want to believe, you can find somebody on the internet with reasoning and evidence to tell you that you are correct.  In matters of faith, science, politics, relationships – whatever you want – there is somebody to tell you that you are right.

Online companies know that we like to be edified in our beliefs rather than challenged, and as a result they tailor our news feeds around things they know we already like.  Compare your feeds from Google and other sources with a friend who sits on the opposite end of the political spectrum – you will see different sources and views being sent to each of you.  This is kind of a scary thought, when we realize just how narrow our information becomes despite having access to so much.

But we have to be willing to have our beliefs challenged.  We have to be willing to be wrong.  Pride is what keeps this from happening, and so often we don’t even realize it is pride that has taken over our thoughts.

Think of people who disagree with you.  Why do they disagree?  Too often our first thought is because they are selfish, evil, ignorant, uneducated, etc.  Yet rarely are these actually the reasons why.  Our life stories, experiences and cultures have had significant influence on us, and pride holds us back from saying, “Maybe this person with a different experience and culture has a point.”

We need humility to see the world through another’s eyes and grow in truth.

One of the most important statements of the Scriptures is when Christ tells us about Himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” – John 14:6.  We often think of this passage simply as talking about salvation, but there is so much more that Christ wanted to show us and bring us.  He wanted us to know the Father, to see the character of God on display, and to be an example of what it means to have abundant life in this world, not just the next.

And in Christ we see the absolute importance of humility.  As Paul writes of Christ in Philippians 2:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 6 Who, being in very nature God,

    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

7 rather, he made himself nothing

    by taking the very nature of a servant,

    being made in human likeness.

8 And being found in appearance as a man,

    he humbled himself

    by becoming obedient to death—

        even death on a cross!

Christ modeled humility in both His life and death.  The way Christ lived is very important if we are to find truth in this world, because without humility, we cannot find truth – not just religious truth, but truth in relationships, community, work, politics – all areas of life.

In humility we listen, and when we listen we learn and understand.  This is not to say that we should expect to find ourselves wrong about everything all the time.  The quest for truth will often lead you to find that you were right!  But at the very least, it helps us understand people who disagree, why they do, and gives us tools to love them and help them in their situation.

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” James 1:19b.  This is an important verse that most of us probably think we’re pretty good at.  But if you step back and think about it, how often do you really listen?  We ask questions like, “How could they do that?” but when we do so, they are almost always rhetorical.  We’re not really looking for an answer.  When somebody does something hurtful, asking that question with sincerity makes a huge difference in progress to forgiveness and reconciliation.  That requires deep humility.  To listen means to not elevate your own thoughts and experiences above others, but to acknowledge that even though you disagree with them, their experiences may have something to teach you.  Then we can listen.  Then we can come closer to finding truth.

I encourage you over the coming weeks to take time to intentionally humble yourself when it comes to matters of truth in your life – in relationships, faith, politics… step back and try to look at the mountain from a side you haven’t traveled up before.

Pride will isolate us.  Humility will draw us together.

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Envy

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Envy rots the hear.  There’s no easy way to put it.  When we have envy, little by little it destroys us and our relationships.

Dwight L. Moody once told the fable of an eagle who was envious of another that could fly better than he could. One day the bird saw a sportsman with a bow and arrow and said to him, “I wish you would bring down that eagle up there.” The man said he would if he had some feathers for his arrow. So the jealous eagle pulled one out of his wing. The arrow was shot, but it didn’t quite reach the rival bird because he was flying too high. The first eagle pulled out another feather, then another–until he had lost so many that he himself couldn’t fly. The archer took advantage of the situation, turned around, and killed the helpless bird. Moody made this application: if you are envious of others, the one you will hurt the most by your actions will be yourself.

During the history of the Kingdom of Israel, it came to a crossroads.  God wanted the people to see Him as their king.  The governance of the era of the book of Judges had a three prong system of oversight for the nation.  The Judges were primarily military leaders.  The priests we responsible for religious law.  And God was meant to be the third prong – their king.  But over and over again the people rejected God as their king, and began to slowly erode their morals and culture.  By the end of the book of Judges, we see Israel compared with Sodom and Gommorrah, and a civil war break out.  They hit rock bottom.

And at this point, they have a choice:  Finally embrace God as their king and steer back to the right path, or continue to seek hope and faith in earthly things.  1 Samuel chapter 8 shows us the will of the people.

We want a king over us [a human king]. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.”

This decision would lead to the downfall of Israel as a nation.  In the end their human kings would lead them astray, and bring them into exile under Assyrian and Babylonian rule.

But in that verse above there is a real insight we must take note of.  Why did they want a king?  To be like the other nations.  They suffered greatly from envy, and that envy rotted the nation.

This story from the Old Testament shows on a national scale what happens to us on an individual scale all the time.  We see what others have and our desire for it negatively affects what we already have, or what God wants us to have instead.

Why can’t this town be more like that other town?  Why can’t my spouse be more like that person’s spouse?  Why aren’t my kids more like that person’s kids?  Why don’t I have a job like that person’s job?  How can these thoughts affect us in any way other than by deeply wounding our appreciation and love for what we already have in our lives!?

Envy is so good at sneaking up on us.  It guises itself as, “good intentions,” or, “ambition,” but in reality, its just trying to create a deep and destructive jealousy within us.  Why doesn’t my church have this ministry that I believe is really important?  Sounds like a good question – and very often it is!  But sometimes, its not a question we ask in sincerity, but in bitterness.  Bitterness is where we can begin to identify envy for what it is.

Do our desires and longings for us and those around us make us bitter?  Or do they call us to be better?

Don’t allow envy to rot you, wound you, and take you down a dark path.  Spend some time in reflection and look at the desires of your heart and what they are doing to the rest of you both spiritually, mentally, and physically.  How are they affecting your relationships?  How are they affecting your appreciating for the blessings you already have?  Answer these questions, and uproot the bitterness when you see it.

Hope in the Darkness: Prison Ministry

Imagine discovering you have been forgiven for murder.  How would that change your life?

Hello!  My name is Matthew Magnus.  I have the wonderful privilege of serving as pastor of Pineview Alliance Church in Grande Cache, and also of serving as a part time chaplain in our local federal prison.

Prison is a spiritually dark place, and the chapel serves an enormous value to many of the inmates during their incarceration.  The power of Christ’s grace and love is so strong here; you can really feel it each and every time you go.

One of the most common phrases you’ll hear from an inmate is, “There’s no forgiveness for what I’ve done.”  So many come from a place of deep guilt, expecting chapel to just be something that helps them get parole and a cup of coffee.  It’s always an incredible moment when one begins to realize the grace of God is greater than their sins.

To see the Gospel transform men who are angry and full of shame into people who are forgiven and full of hope – on a weekly basis – is one of the most rewarding ministries I can imagine.  This is a place where cycles of sin and despair can be broken, and helping one person here can make waves when they get out and re-engage with their families and communities.

It is an inspiration to continually see men react to the gospel, not just as a simple change in belief, but a change in purpose.

But like all ministries, it is not without its challenges.  Prison is a very spiritually dark place, and the prayers of God’s people are among the most effective tools of cutting through that darkness.  And not just with the inmates, but the staff as well.  Many of them deal with enormous stress, anxiety and trauma, and it lingers in the culture of work there.

Additionally, there is no funding for resources for the chapel.  Apart from chaplains’ wages and special diets, the federal government doesn’t spend much money on religious “stuff” and the prisons rely on their local faith communities to provide them with resources.  I’m not sure how well that works in the prisons by the cities, but in Grande Cache, a rural community 90 minutes from the next town, resources are always short.

First and foremost, I ask you to remember us and your local prisons in your prayers.  Yes – I am about to ask for resources as well, but I really do mean prayer as, “first and foremost.”  I was really excited when I got the part time position at the institution, because it would enable me to pray for the prison from within the prison.  Honestly – in 18 months of employment there I can count the number of times I’ve done that on one hand.  It is a very challenging environment.  I praise God daily for the prayers of the people in my church, and the many (many!) staff who have worked there for years and continue to exude positive energy and support for other staff and inmates.  Please, find out the names of your local chaplains for those who live near institutions, pray for them, and pray for the staff and inmates as well.

Second, resource donations are always welcome.  I’ll write up a list at the end of this post with more detail on what we always need at the specific prison I work at, but I also encourage you to keep in mind your local prisons when you find yourself with extra supplies and want to know where to send them.

Third, promote and partner with some of the ministries that currently exist to serve inmates.  There are some incredible programs out there that provide us with resources and support for inmates and run on a donation and volunteer basis.  The most impactful ministry I’ve seen so far is Angel Tree by Prison Fellowship.  This is a ministry that sends Christmas presents to the children of inmates at no charge.  Inmates have very little disposable income, and what is considered a lot of money on “the inside” is actually very little when it comes to sending gifts and supporting their families.  To have somebody from a local church knock on the door and hand their children presents on behalf of their dad is an emotionally powerful ministry.

Thank you for taking the time to read this!  I hope I’ve been able to offer a little insight into the importance of prison ministry and the needs that it has.  If any of you would like to talk more about it, I’d be more than happy to!  Just send me a facebook message or email me at mmagnus@live.ca

Concerning the specific resources the chapel I work in always needs:

1) Pew Style Bibles.  We like to work out of the same Bibles when we have ministries so we can give passage references along side page numbers and also know everyone is working out of the same translation.  Our current collection is falling apart.  A batch of 25-30 Bibles in moderate condition and all of the same printing would be of huge help.  The Gideons have provided us with a case of Bibles, but the print is very small and they are quite flimsy – good for personal use, not for the group settings we have.  Any easy to read translation will do such as NLT – the average inmate comes into prison with a 6th grade education.

2) Bible Studies and Work Books.  We find that when the inmates have a workbook to take back to their cell with them, there is a lot better engagement.  Unfortunately, even at $5-7/book, they can’t afford to buy them more than once or twice a year.  We do a mix of DVD Bible studies and personal teaching.  Concerning topics – these guys are like anyone else, and the majority of Bible Studies are relevant to their lives.

3) Anything music.  Anything.  There are some really talented guys in prison.  We like the chapel to be a place they can participate in worship through music, and also jam for fun and find some joy there.  But our chapel instruments are aging and wearing quite thin.  We have a couple of guitars and a bass that are warped and hard to keep in tune, as well as a drum set that is wearing out, and a piano that hasn’t been tuned… probably ever.  Any parts such as drum skins, drum sticks, strings, or used instruments still in decent condition would be greatly appreciated.  We have an inmate now who is capable of tuning the piano – we just need a key to do it.  Also, worship books with music to learn newer songs.

4) “Old School” Media – namely DVD’s and CD’s.  There isn’t access to online streaming, nor can I bring in a USB for music and movies.  We have to do everything like its 1999!  Newer Christian music would be highly appreciated, as well as CD’s with sermons and messages (though they can’t be burned… sort of… message me if you want to know more).  Also – movies with a strong, positive messages or ones that lead into really good discussions on morality make for great evenings.  I showed them Captain America: Civil War one night and we spent two hours talking about good and bad structures of authority and the the connection between bitterness and lack of forgiveness and grace (from a super hero movie!?  Yeah – there’s actually some pretty solid themes in them).

If you live in the Edmonton area, I can pick up anything you’d like to donate when I come into the city.