Tag Archives: pride

Two Men. Two Failures. Different Tears.

 

Here’s a riddle for you. It’s one that intrigues and gives me pause at about this same time every year.

Two men, two mouths,

    both tongues betray,

almost but not quite

    on the same day.

One fails and weeps,

   shinnies up and up

       and falls putrescently;

one fails and weeps,

    bows down and down

       and rises taller, finally,

           than before his perfidy.

   Love’s victory!

       Who are they?

I’m neither a poet nor the son of a poet, and not much riddle-writer at all. But onward I hint.

Two men. Two world-class failures. Two very different endings.

When I say “failures,” I mean deeds, not men, though a failure one of these men certainly was.

Though in our society, all it takes to be called a “success” is a lot of money—even if you’re sad, pathetic, miserable, dishonorable, unfaithful, cowardly, brutish, and completely lacking in every other aspect of life and character—the first fellow I’m thinking of who fixated on money and had more of it, for a time, than the other individual, is the failure.

Both of these men failed miserably. Both betrayed the same man. One betrayed for money. One betrayed to save his skin. Both betrayals were predicted by the same man betrayed.

You’ve already cracked the riddle, right? Apostles both. Judas and Peter.

Judas, of course, betrayed his Lord for thirty pieces of silver. Many have postulated that a significant motive may have been his desire to rush the Lord into quickly and powerfully inaugurating an earthly kingdom. I think they’re probably right, though the Bible never says that.

Scripture does tell us that the man was a thief, a thief who whined about his concern for the poor. Maybe he did want to rush Jesus to take up the throne—he was not alone among the disciples in looking for an earthly kingdom—but I’m quite sure he also wanted to take his place in that kingdom thirty pieces of silver richer.

When it all goes wrong, Judas tries to cast away his guilt by slinging the silver at the priests’ feet. But the guilt covering his hands and heart is gangrenous and won’t be flung away. Fatally self-centered even in his sorrow over failure, Judas ends up focused completely on Judas.

And Peter? Ever impetuous, though Jesus has warned him and that famous rooster is already calibrated and cocked to crow, Peter blubbers and blusters, “I don’t even know the man!” He punctuates his denials with sea-salt curses before rushing away and weeping bitterly, wondering in anguish how everything could have gone so wrong.

But though his flesh is weak, Peter’s heart—before, during, and after his failure—is the Lord’s. When Jesus later asks Peter three times, “Do you love me?” they both know the answer. Blood-cleansed, Peter is not centered on Peter; his focus is on his Lord.

Two men fail; two men weep. Since we fail, too, we do well to consider the two very different types of tears.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

2019 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 


“Pride Goes Before Destruction,” Said a Very Wise Man

 

prideNo surprise, but the words of Scripture have just been validated yet again in my life.

I promise, I’d not been tempted upon the arrival of February, which is a full two weeks past the time most folks break their resolutions, to congratulate myself on keeping any of my New Year’s resolutions. You see, one New Year’s Day many years ago, I resolved never to make any New Year’s resolutions.

As tribute, no doubt, to my incredible self-discipline, may I say that, though I’ve faltered a time or two, that resolution I have religiously kept. It and I have dwelt together in complete harmony these many years.

But I was tempted nonetheless to be a bit haughty concerning one minor achievement thus far in this young year. I realized a day or two ago that, contrary to my usual practice of ruining checks in January (yeah, we still occasionally use the printed kind), by inscribing the wrong year on them, I’d not written 2016 on a single 2017 check.

Yes, but—and now please begin reciting with me Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall,”—as I’d been patting myself on the back, I opened an email note from my fellow editor brother. Guess what?

Well, wait to guess for just a moment. I need to set up this confession just a bit more.

As a writer, editor, copy editor, and proofreader, I was taught the Eleventh Commandment with its three sub-points: Thou shalt edit, copy edit, and proofread.

In our modern world, the flurry of straight to the Ethernet ebook publishing only underscores that need. Lots of stuff gets “out there” way too quickly. Lots never should have been out there. But mediocre writing can be made almost passable by the Eleventh Commandment, good writing can be made better, and great writing can be made truly top notch.

And yet I’ve seen stuff that even some major houses publish in ebook form that, it seems, nobody bothered even to proofread. I’ve on occasion narrated a book for audio publication—and discovered that I must have been the first person ever to read through it. Typos, errors, bloopers all over the place. Not to mention that even a quick run-through by an editor could’ve tightened it up nicely. A pet peeve. Can you tell?

Okay. Please begin the recitation again. “Pride goes before destruction . . .”

That note from my brother? He just thought he’d mention that the January 2017 issue of the monthly devotional magazine we’ve been editing for decades made it through four proofreadings and nobody caught the fact that somebody (ahem!) set its date, page two, to proudly proclaim, “January 2016.” But, hey, I messed up no checks. Just several thousand magazines.

“. . . a haughty spirit before a fall.”

It’s possible that a resolution to be more humble might not be completely out of order.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


God’s Grace: It’s Good News That’s Tough!

 

worshiping 01

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound!”

Grace, the real thing, is precious almost beyond belief. It’s cool water to a man dying of thirst. It’s life and health to a woman who a week before was lying feverish on her deathbed.

Grace really is amazing!

But what even Christians, and maybe especially Christians, often fail to realize is how very tough it is, too.

Yes, it’s amazingly good news, this news flash from Heaven that though we were all sinners condemned to death, convicted criminals languishing on death row, “because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5).

It’s amazingly good news that “God raised us up with Christ” so that for all eternity and to the amazement of the entire universe he could “show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (2:6).

And there’s no catch.

There’s no fly in the ointment. No hook under the worm. No fine print. No “real sinners need not apply” clause.

So how can this wonderful thing called grace, the most beautiful gift ever given, still be as tough as nails?

Ephesians 2:8-9: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works so that no one can boast.” No boasting. Period.

You see, grace is indeed the free gift of God. Grace means for us life and joy and peace. Grace really is amazing!

But, make no mistake, it can’t be earned, not even a little bit. It comes completely from God’s side of the equation. Do I in any way deserve such a gift? No! Thank God, deserving doesn’t even enter in, and to dare to use the word “deserve” in the same paragraph with words praising God for his mercy and grace is a slap in the face of the Almighty, a denial of the cross, and a backhanded attempt to breathe life into an arrogant and self-righteous spirit that really must move out and die before grace can enter in to give us life.

Yeah, I know. When you really think about it, it gets kind of scary. If this grace business is true, then God might let almost anyone into heaven. He might forgive folks who really, unlike me, aren’t as obviously good and religious and among his favorites. If you didn’t know better, you might almost think that God still feels like Jesus seemed to feel when he walked this globe, that not only did he spend time with “sinners” who knew they had no hope except for God’s mercy (but who knew the joy of finding it), he really enjoyed that time more than time spent with Pharisees. Could that be true?

Grace won’t leave me a single wobbly leg to stand on if I want to make my stand on rule-keeping “righteousness” and my own goodness. But if I focus on God and get over myself, I’ll find to my everlasting amazement that “the God of all grace” has given me two very good legs to dance on.

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

  

Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“God Has Forgiven Me, But I Can’t Forgive Myself”

brokenheart

“I know God has forgiven me; I just can’t forgive myself.”

I hear people say that. To my shame, I probably have also. I’m almost 51% sure that most folks mean well by it. But I’m 100% sure it’s among the most wrong-headed, arrogant, and idolatrous statements we could ever make.

Do we think it sounds humble? “God has forgiven me, but I can’t forgive myself”? How could that conceivably be confused with humility?

It’s completely encased in arrogant pride as, while we acknowledge that God can and does forgive the sins of others, we’re sure our own sins are so much worse than theirs that, though God has forgiven us, we can’t manage to do the same for ourselves.

Are we really such a better (or worse) class of sinners than the run of the mill, ordinary sort? Are our standards (here comes the idolatry) higher even than God’s who says that through his Son, we’re forgiven?

Will we say, “Thank you, but I doubt that even the blood of your Son can forgive me, Sir. Instead of accepting charity, I choose to wear (if I can find them) a hair shirt, sack-cloth and ashes, and a dour expression. Instead of accepting your gift and focusing on your Son, I’d rather, if you don’t mind, go on gazing at my own navel, allowing the universe to be bordered north, south, east, and west by “I, me, myself, and mine,” and go on playing the victim. If you don’t mind . . .”

Oh, get over it. God minds!

Whatever we intend, this false humility is a stinky thing, a slap in the face of God, a denial of the cross. It can be nothing else.

But someone opines, “I can’t forgive myself. I know God says I’m forgiven, but I don’t feel forgiven.”

Two points. First, why would we ever think we could literally forgive ourselves? Jesus said it: “Only God can forgive sins.” If we’re his, he has done the forgiving at appalling cost; our only choice is to accept the gift or not.

Second, though our Father cares how we feel because he loves us, feelings, for folks as self-centered as we are, easily become our most popular idol. But they’re wrong about as often as they’re right. And they make a rotten god.

If God says we are forgiven, then we are, no matter how we feel. I may feel in my heart of hearts that the moon is green cheese; my feelings won’t change reality at all. But my feelings about forgiveness will affect my ability to live a joyful, gracious, unselfish, and fruitful life.

The Apostle John writes that God is greater than our “anxious hearts” and “self-debilitating criticism” (see 1 John 3:19-20, The Message).

You can’t forgive yourself? So what? If you’re God’s child, accept the gift and dance with joy! Or hold it at arm’s length and wallow around enjoying your role as a poor, pitiful victim. The first choice is life and joy. The second is as boring and tiresome as it is deadly. The first is heaven; the second, hell.

Refusing forgiveness is a lot of things, all bad; the one thing it absolutely is not is humility. God sent, God gave, his Son so we could get over ourselves.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com! I’m pretty sure some Christmas music is waiting there, as well as some potential gifts!  😉

 

 

Copyright 2014 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some Thoughts on Pride, Flies, and the Common Cold

 

It’s quite true. Pride is still the deadliest of the sins besetting fallen humanity. As pervasive as acne at a Justin Bieber concert, sinful pride entwines its roots around and throughout the human heart, and only the Spirit of God can effectively deal with its cancer.

But what, pray tell, does the human race really have to be arrogant about?

I stopped writing a few moments ago to deal with an age-old blight and do some killing. Flies. I hate ’em! The only good one is a dead one, but it’s autumn; they all want inside, lest they freeze to death. And the fight is on! I know we have a few other weapons, but still the best and most fulfilling way to dispatch the little pests is to swat ’em. There have been, I’m sure, variations on fly swatters, but ever since a cave man rolled up his copy of the Bedrock Times and splattered fly innards across his rock coffee table, most of us have used pretty much the same approach. Yeah, we’re very advanced.

I’d feel “advanced” if I could ever make it through the holidays without a cold, but it’s early November (too early, I’m afraid, for this one to count as the traditional holiday sneeze-fest), and I’m sniffing and snorting and in a foul mood and generally zombied by a wide variety of cold remedies. I’m thankful for some of those cold-fighting options, but “remedy” is a stronger word than they’ve earned.

If I corner the market on kleenex, cough drops, anti-congestion pills, anti-mucous tablets, antihistamine capsules, anti-inflammatory caplets,  anti-cough syrup, nasal passage irrigating “pots” (therapeutic waterboarding), gargles, and a slew of other just general anti-snot pills and paraphernalia . . . I’ll get well in a week or so. Which is probably about the same time I’ll get well if I do nothing and just take the misery full on (which is not tempting).

I wonder how long it took the aforementioned cave man to get well as he snorted, coughed, and spluttered around his cave annoying (and infecting) his wife and family and making himself less miserable by killing flies? Betcha it was about a week. Very advanced we moderns are. Right.

But if you really want to see how far we’ve come, look at the human character. Just kidding, but a look is instructive. A quick perusal of just the ancient Bible book of Genesis makes it depressingly clear that not much related to the human character has changed. Take a brief glance at even those great patriarchs in that great account. What is most remarkable is that their worst flaws are not by our pathetic standards remarkable at all. The most serious blights of the human spirit “way back when” are the most serious blights of the human spirit exactly right now. It seems our souls are ravaged by a still-rampant virus only God can remedy.

I see ample room for humility. I’m sure I need a big dose.

 

  

Copyright 2012 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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