Wednesday, August 29, 2018

I Hated. God Intervened.

Dear Friends,

Mark Twain famously said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it’s the parts that I do understand.” There are times where I can see how nice and easy it would be if I were a Christian who could edit out or ignore as irrelevant any scripture that conflicts with our personal worldview. Problem is that I’m an Evangelical Christian who believes that I need to take the Word of God and particularly the words of Jesus as “gospel.” It’s not easy. Some of the most challenging times in my life have been when I’ve had to force open my hardened heart just a crack in order to let in the healing power of God.

When I worked for a city here in Southern California, I hated the mayor. HATED the mayor. A dictionary defines “hate” as a feeling of intense dislike, but this word was not strong enough to describe the depth of my feeling toward Ginger. She was a narcissistically powerful politician – a female “Trump”– and was outraged when the city hired me. My then-wife also worked at the City and Ginger hated even the possibility of “nepotism.” I had been interviewed by a panel of three managers from other cities and came out number one on their list of twelve candidates. Ginger knew the Human Resources Dept had determined I was the most qualified person for the job, but her personal “rule” was that two married people could not work for the City and told the City Manager to immediately rescind the job offer. He refused. 

Three months later, a group of City administrators went on a “field trip” with our department of water and power and when we returned, the mayor told the City Manager that I had sexually harassed the female bus driver and I was to be terminated at once. Ginger said that she had talked to the woman herself and no further investigation was needed. Thankfully the City Manger asked a police captain to personally investigate the mayor’s allegations. The privately-employed woman bus driver denied talking to the mayor. The driver remembered me and recalled that we had exchanged a few polite words in passing but nothing inappropriate. Case closed. As the most powerful person in the city government, the mayor was immune from any correction or action against her. And unable to have me fired, Ginger hated me even more. I was furious. No one had ever done anything like that to me. I hatred her with an intensity that I had never felt before. 

Then God started to really mess with me. When I’d want to read my Bible devotionally just before going to bed, I’d often open it at random and read what the hand of God had selected for me that night. Yep. You guessed it. My Bible too often opened to those dreaded words of Jesus. “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you.” Matthew 5:44 Nope! Sorry Lord. Can’t do it. I will never pray for Ginger. Never!

The well-known Trappist Monk, Thomas Merton, once said, “..a ‘good’ Christian who harbors hatred in his heart toward any person or ethnic group is objectively an apostate from the Christian faith.” If you read 1 John, you’d find out that he was right. When I finally got that you can’t truly love God if you hate others, I realized that was why God had taken me so many times to Matthew 5:44. And at that moment,  the Holy Spirit convicted me that I needed to pray for Ginger. Forgiveness was impossible but I could pray for her. It was incredibly difficult. I did not know what to pray, but God ignores the insufficiency of our words and listens to our heart. 1 John 5:14-15 NLT I began to see how alike Ginger and I were. Both of us feeling completely justified in holding on to a hatred that grieved our God who loved us both dearly.

  “..a ‘good’ Christian who 
harbors hatred in his heart 
toward any person or ethnic group 
is objectively an apostate 
from the Christian faith.”

Ginger used to smoke at the top of the ramp to the back door of City Hall and even though her attempt to have me fired was ten years ago, she would still turn her face away when I walked past her. Then one day, I said, “Good Morning Ginger” and her body stiffened. By this time, God had changed my heart through my prayers and she was no longer the evil villain of my past. From then on, every time I saw her (she was a heavy smoker!), I greeted her as she glared at me and turned away. Then one day, she astonished me by saying “Good morning John.” A decade of mutual hatred was melting away. 

For the next year, Mayor Ginger and I had some long pleasant conversations at the back door. We never talked about what happened ten years earlier. We didn’t have to. She knew what she had done and, through the grace of God, I had completely forgiven her. We talked about church – she was Methodist. We talked about God and about Ginger’s ailing husband and her dogs. We talked about how much we loved the City that we worked for. Then one day, she announced her retirement from the City council. 

In the mayor’s office, to the left of the desk was an American flag and to the right of the desk was our City flag. A new mayor had been appointed, the office repainted and I had the City flag replaced with a new one. Ginger had served four terms as mayor from 1981 to 2000 and this one City flag had been in the mayor’s office during the entire time. On the day before her retirement ceremony, I met her by the back door of City Hall again, but this time I had the old City flag from the mayor’s office. It was folded in a gift box and her eyes filled with tears when she opened it and I told her which flag this was. She told me that no other gift she could possibly receive would mean as much as this flag. As she hugged me, I said, “I think you already know Ginger, that I’ve forgiven you completely.” She hugged me tightly now as she started to sob.

Lord, erase all hatred from our hearts
and give us the grace to love others as You do...

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The One Thing That Unites All Bible-believing Christians

Dear Friends,

Many years ago, we stated our belief in the Apostles’ Creed on our church website and were immediately attacked by a fundamentalist Christian who ranted in an email to us that reciting any creeds meant that we were in league with the anti-christ Pope and would burn in hell. Golly! Who knew that the words, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit...” could inspire so much hatred from a Christian believer?

It saddens me to read elitist Catholic theology that the Roman Catholic church is the “sole true church.” In 2007, the Pope affirmed that the Orthodox Churches are “defective” and that all “other Christian denominations were not true churches.” The Roman Catholic Church provides the only true way to salvation and those of us non-Catholic Christian believers will go to hell. Of course, the Orthodox Churches throughout the world claim to be the only “one true church,” meaning that Protestants and Catholics are on our way to that hot place when we die. The Lutheran “Augsburg Confession” states that they are the only true catholic faith and the “one true visible church” and the only church that rightly administers Christ’s sacraments. (I’m sorry ELCA Lutherans, but Missouri-Synod Lutherans claim to be the only true Lutheran church!) And, according to a university professor writing about the history of the Southern Baptists: “Only Baptist churches can trace their lineage in uninterrupted fashion back to the New Testament, and only Baptist churches therefore are true churches. Only the true church (a Baptist church) can legitimately celebrate the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Any celebration of these ordinances by non-Baptists is invalid.”

Alrighty then.. Can anyone see why so many in our younger generations look at the church and choose atheism? I am constantly astounded when I hear solid God-loving, church-going Christians attack each other. When I changed our non-liturgical service to include the Lord’s Prayer, I heard objections and that we should not say it because it was “too catholic.” I told them that since that was the one prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to say, then we must assume that Jesus is also “too catholic” for us. On the other side of the church aisle, I have liberal Christian friends who sincerely believe that all of us “Evangelicals” have a NRA bumper-sticker on the pickup truck and a mini-confederate flag clipped to the antenna. That was why, in last week’s AMEN Corner, I listed the twelve doctrinal beliefs of Evangelicals. A good friend, in a progressive liberal church denomination, read that and admitted that perhaps he’s also “Evangelical.” When it comes to the fundamentals of our faith, we all agree with each other more often than not.

What divides the body of Christ is too often not our beliefs but what we’ve been taught by our church about the beliefs of others. A church can only justify itself as the “one true” church if it can convince their followers that all others are theological heretics and false–even dangerous–Christians. 

Paul says, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” 1 Cor 1:10 The response to this word of God was for the Orthodox, Catholics and Protestants to disagree, divide and disunite, burn down each other’s churches and then kill one another in the name of Jesus. While the deadly “Holy Wars” of the Reformation ended 370 years ago, that animosity among the different Christian churches still runs deeply today and we attack each other, not with a battleaxe but with our words and the web. 

And yet, in my own conversations, I have found many Catholics and Protestants who are shocked at how much we really do agree upon. A dear Catholic woman was astounded and confused when I told her that we believed in the Nicene Creed just as she did. She heard Catholic teachings about Protestants all of her life and was unable to believe that we “non-Christians” would actually say the “Catholic” creeds. “You don’t really believe those, do you?” she asked. A Lutheran church we rented from assumed we were not Christians since we were not Lutheran. The church leader asked me, “What kind of religion are you?” I told him that we were Evangelical Christians who recited the Apostles’ Creed just like his church did. He cried, “But you’re not Lutheran! That’s a Lutheran creed!”

We have different church traditions and teachings that are not in the Bible and are important to man and then there is teaching and doctrine that's important to God. That’s the message of the Gospel and the foundational principles of our faith that were written in the ancient creeds. The Apostles’ Creed is the complied teachings of the original apostles. And in 381 AD, the church came together to finalize the Nicene Creed with its increased emphasis on the Trinity, the divinity of Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Only those who hold to the historic, classic, traditional and apostolic beliefs can say the creeds. 

It’s time for Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants to stop the scornful condescending comments and our sinfully superior belief that the only true Christians are those who are baptized in our church. If we believe in the Nicene Creed, which is the ecumenical expression of our shared faith, then we are united into that one holy, catholic and apostolic church. We are all the body of Christ. Let’s act like it.  Amen?

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In the Year of Our Lord 381 ~ First Council of Constantinople.

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, 
Maker of heaven and earth, 
And of all things visible and invisible: 

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, 
Begotten of his Father before all worlds, 
God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, 
Begotten, not made, 
Being of one substance with the Father, 
By whom all things were made; 

Who for us men, and for our salvation 
came down from heaven, 
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, 
And was made man, 
And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. 
He suffered and was buried, 
And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, 
And ascended into heaven, 
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father. 

And he shall come again with glory to judge
both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end. 

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and giver of life, 
Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, 
Who with the Father and the Son together 
is worshiped and glorified, 
Who spake by the Prophets.

And I believe one catholic and apostolic Church. 
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins. 
And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, 
And the life of the world to come.   Amen.

(Anglican Book of Common Prayer 1662)

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About the Nicene Creed
By the Rev. John B. Hickman

Why Is This Called The Nicene Creed?
We call it the Nicene Creed because these foundational beliefs of our faith were agreed upon and adopted by the First Council of Nicaea in 325 and it was amended in 381 by the First Council of Constantinople. The formal name of the amended Creed is the “Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed” which is why we call that tongue-twister simply the “Nicene Creed.”

As a Protestant Christian, Should I Be Saying a “Catholic” Creed?
Protestants can forget sometimes that Martin Luther and his band of reformers did not invent the church! Our church was started by Jesus Christ and developed by His apostles. There was not a “Roman Catholic” church but just one universal and apostolic Christian church at the time that the Apostles’ Creed and Nicene Creed were written. The creeds were written in the 4th century to counter some popular movements that were leading people away from the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles. No person had a Bible so people relied on the creeds as their only written statement of faith. In 1054 the church split into two with the western half becoming known as the Roman Catholic Church and the eastern half becoming known as the Eastern Orthodox Church. In another 500 years, a Roman Catholic priest named Martin Luther protested that his church was charging money for indulgences that would shorten one’s stay in purgatory and Luther’s intent was to reform the Church and return to the ancient teachings of the Apostles. The Creed is those ancient teachings. It’s an Orthodox Creed. It’s a Catholic Creed. It’s a Protestant Creed.

Do All The Churches Use The Same Version of the Nicene Creed?
The original Creed, as amended in 381, had the words: “And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father..” In the sixth century, the Roman Catholics added the words, “and the Son.” The original Creed also said that Jesus Christ is “one substance with the Father” and the Roman Catholic church changed that to “consubstantial with the Father” which means the same thing. The Orthodox say the original Creed as written while, over the centuries, both Catholics and Protestants have tweaked the wording to use modern language or to clarify a minor theological point. Appreciating the beauty and flow of the language from the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, we use the original 381 version that has the words “and the Son” added. Jesus said that He is the one who sends the Holy Spirit that proceeds from the Father. John 15:26 So both versions are theologically correct.

What Does the Quick and the Dead Mean?
“Quick” is an archaic word from the King James Bible that means “living.”

As a Protestant, How Can I Say:
“I believe one catholic and apostolic Church?”
Remember that the Creed was written 670 years before the western branch of Christianity became what we know today as the “Roman Catholic Church.” The word “Catholic” with a capital “C” refers to the Catholic Church. The same word with a small “c” means universal and that was the meaning of “catholic” as written in the both creeds. The Apostles lived with Jesus, wrote the Gospels and developed the Christian church that we read about in the book of Acts. We proclaim our belief in the universal church that was founded upon those apostolic teachings.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Are You An Evangelical? Are You Sure?

Dear Friends,

We call ourselves an Evangelical Church, but what does that mean? What is an Evangelical? And the term “Evangelical” comes loaded with so much political baggage these days! Do I even want to be known as an Evangelical? And why do we need this tribalistic view about our Christian faith anyway? If we believe in Jesus, aren’t we all then united as brothers and sisters in the Lord?

What if we just called ourselves “Christian?” Doesn’t that describe what we believe? Consider this: despite their wildly different beliefs, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormon Church, Unity School of Christianity, the Aryan Nations and the KKK all call themselves “Christian.” The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity (Unification Church) teaches that Jesus failed by dying on the cross and Rev. Sun Myung Moon became the savior and mediator between God and man. Another “Christian” movement, “Eastern Lightning,” with over one million members, believes that Jesus Christ has been reincarnated as a middle-aged Chinese woman called “Lightning Deng” who now lives in New York. This new reincarnated “Jesus Christ”  uses live snakes painted with Bible verses for her prophetic predictions. There is a long list of wacky or dangerous cults who sincerely believe in Jesus Christ and call themselves “Christian.” There are also those who self-identify as Christian because their family baptized them as an infant but they have no active faith. All the above are baptized believers in Jesus Christ. But are they Christians as described in the Bible? This is why we may want to describe ourselves as Evangelicals. 

When we use the term “Evangelical” we are very specifically describing one who believes in historic, classic, apostolic and reformational Christianity. The term separates us from those movements which have altered the traditional, historic Christian doctrine including those in Protestant Christianity who have veered off to the doctrinal right (fundamentalism) or to the left (liberal theology).

Evangelicalism is a transdenominational sub-culture that arose in the 1940's to correct a Protestant movement towards Christian liberalism and fundamentalism in our country. Both fundamental and liberal theology have equally strayed from biblical theology. Fundamentalism represents the extreme right as it adds secondary doctrines (no dancing, card playing, movies, strict rules for women’s dress etc) to the essentials of the faith.

Liberal theology invites and permits our “modern thought” to override scripture and tradition when they conflict. According to liberal theologian Delwin Brown, “There must be commitment to the careful judgments of the present age, even if they differ radically from the dictates of Scripture and tradition.” The Evangelical sits solidly in the middle between these fundamental and liberal theologies.

Evangelical theology and life are conservative in that it seeks to preserve the classic Christian doctrines of the first Apostles, the Church Fathers and the Reformers. You could say that Evangelicalism is a reformation of the Protestant reformation. It is a return to what Luther and Calvin had intended the church to become. Evangelicalism is a set of biblical beliefs and doctrine that many denominations and non-denominational churches have in common.  NHFC is solidly Evangelical in our beliefs. 

After the last presidential election, the term “Evangelical” has been weaponized by the media and used in a defamatory manner against all sincere bible-believing Christians. An L.A Times editorial even described all Evangelical Christians as white and racist! (Nope. Fact is that one in three American Evangelicals is a person of color.) We have become the enemy of the political left and need to restore the true meaning of Evangelical among those who have no understanding of what we believe. 

What are the Christian beliefs that all Evangelicals have in common? From a textbook for Christian theologians called EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY: Evangelicalism has a super-natural worldview that believes in: 

1) The reality of the Trinity. 

2) The deity of Jesus Christ. 

3) The virgin birth. 

4) His sinless life and in His miracles. 

5) The bodily resurrection of Jesus. 

6) The infallibility and authority of the Bible for all matters of faith and religious practice. 

7) The fallenness of all humanity. 

8) Salvation provided by Jesus through His suffering, death and resurrection. 

9) The necessity of personal repentance and acceptance of Jesus. 

10) The importance of a devotional life and growth in holiness and discipleship. 

11) The urgency of evangelism and social transformation. 

12) The return of Jesus Christ to judge the world and establish the final, full rule and reign of God. 

If you can say “YES and AMEN” to these twelve timeless, apostolic, classic and historic Biblical teachings, no matter what church you attend, you are Evangelical.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Depression. Is it Christian?

Dear Friends,

I love the good times in life. You know what I’m talking about. Those times when your life is like a Disney cartoon. When the chipmunks are dancing in the lush meadow of sunflowers and the baby deer are running and playing. The birds are twittering, the sun is shining and the princess is singing while riding on the back of a white horse. These are the zippity-doo-dah days when we are enjoying God’s blessings and we wake up every day filled with the joy of the Lord. We have no problems or concerns. We are living on the mountain top of life. 

But what goes up must come down and so we go for the smog test and our car needs a major repair. The house air conditioner stops working in 108 degree weather, you get the overdrawn account notice from the bank and your back goes out again. And if you were dancing on the mountain top victorious in Christ, you’re now sliding into that pit of despair feeling slammed by Satan. And that old demon of depression is back again.

Depression is that emotionally heavy feeling that can occasionally descend on even the most devoted Christian believer. It’s a mood marked by sadness and gloom. There is little interest in life and sometimes a deep sense of despair. We’ve all been there. We’ve all had those times when we’re moping around like Eeyore in the “Winnie the Pooh” books. All of us experience depression to one degree or another at one time or another. Depression can have physical or psychological causes but the most common cause of depression is giving place to a spirit of self-pity. No matter how good life is at the moment, as soon as we begin to experience the normal tribulations and trials we go into our Eeyore mode, hang our head and feel sorry for ourselves. 

Jezebel had put a contract out on the life of the prophet Elijah and he ran away into the wilderness to hide from her. He collapsed in a heap of self-pity under a tree. Elijah prayed to God that he might die and said, “I’ve had enough, Lord, take my life.” Then Elijah ran and hid in a cave which is where God found him. And I love what God said. He said, “Hey Elijah! What are you doing here?” I had always read this as God asking Elijah what he is doing in the cave –this physical location. Then one time I read this scripture and saw it from a different perspective. When God is talking to fearful and unfaithful Elijah and asking what he is doing “here” I wondered if He was asking what Elijah was doing in this psychological place. Hey Elijah! What are you doing here in this place of self-pity! God didn’t show up at Elijah’s pity party with a nice bottle of wine and a thoughtful hostess gift. God showed up and said, “What are you doing in this place of despair? Get a grip Elijah!” 

We read that God spoke words that took away Elijah’s fear, doubt and self-pity and spoke words that strengthened Elijah’s faith and trust in God. And Elijah blew out the candles on his pity party cake, got a grip on life and marched out of that dark cave of despair. 1 Kings 19:1-18 Like Elijah, for many of us the most common cause of depression is that we’ve allowed the circumstances of our life to twist into a knot of self-pity. We’re crying in our beer and life seems like one long sad country song and then God shows up and says, Hey Bubba! What are you doing here?

But sometimes depression can be caused by an unexpected emotionally traumatic event. All of us have experienced depression caused by a normal and natural psychological response to grief, loss, a major life-change. And the most helpful thing for us to do is to just let that grief or loss work its way through us knowing that it will be temporary and transitory. We’ve lost loved ones and in the height of our grief and depression we were absolutely sure that we would never get over it. We were so far down in that pit of despair that we couldn’t even find the slightest hope for our future. And then God heals. Because when we were in that pit, our Heavenly Father was right beside us with His arm around us. As we heal, the intensity of our grief diminishes. He restores us. When your depression is the result of your crummy circumstances, keep spiritually focused on God and know that the emotional pit you’re in is only temporary. Always remember that there’s no place that the circumstances of life can take you where God can’t reach you!

But sometimes the cause of our depression is not a temporary hormonal glitch, a personal tragedy or self-pity. For some people, the cause can be organic and can lead to what is called “chronic depression.” Chronic depression  can occur in both men and women and is pervasive and long-lasting. It is a mood disorder in which feelings of sadness, loss, anger, or frustration are felt every day and last for many months and years. Chronic depression is an illness that the best and most spiritual of us Christians can struggle with. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. It’s an organically-caused physical illness. When people experience chronic depression, like with any other illness, they need to see their doctor.

Many of us with depression find refuge in alcohol, drugs, sexual immorality and other activities that soothe the pain of life’s difficulties. But you can’t find refuge when you run away from your circumstances. When life became unbearable, Elijah ran to hide in a cave but God showed him that the cave was not the refuge. God was his refuge. God is our refuge. We run to Him. He reaches for us and enfolds us in His love and heals us.  Amen?

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Heavenly Smack-Downs

Dear Friends,

Decades ago, as director of a men's ministry, I had prepared an insert for the Sunday bulletin in which I was encouraging the men to join me in a workday to help the widows in our church. My then-wife read it and told me that if the only way she could get anything done around our house was to become a widow, she'd be willing to give that a try. (I was smart enough to be able to penetrate this subtlety and discern that perhaps I wasn't doing enough to help her with the family chores.)

That Sunday afternoon, I was determined to redeem myself and asked what I could do to help so that she could just spend the afternoon with her book. She gave me her list and I strode confidently out the door to hunt, purchase and conquer. I was so proud of myself when I came back! I burst into the house and couldn't wait to tell her about returning the items to SPORTS CHALET and how I had to get pretty assertive with the manager before he would give us our money back. I told her about the hassle of getting the right cat food at PETCO and how I'd prevailed. I'd found exactly what she needed at LINENS-n-THINGS using the coupons and at VONS I was proud to say that I had gotten everything on her list. I even told her about ignoring the woman who was flirting with me in the produce section. Of course I was making myself sound like the world's best husband and when I finally ran out of things to boast about, I noticed that she was giving me one of her “disapproving looks.” I was still standing in the entryway of our house and she was sitting on the living room couch and just staring up at me. There were a few moments of uncomfortable silence and then she rolled her eyes and said, “And so the entire time that you’ve done all this your zipper’s been down?”

God’s word tells us that pride goes before a fall and it does seem that just when we get caught up in our own magnificence, we so often experience a heavenly-sent smack-down. And as we mature in the Lord and these holy attitude adjustments continue to take place, we eventually progress to become the person God has created us to be. The Orthodox call this “deification” and Catholics and Protestants call it “sanctification.” When I was a kid and walked in the front door, my mother would always call out, “Is that you?” Today my answer would be, “Not yet but someday I will be.”

We are all works-in-progress and on our journey of spiritual growth, it is through the grace of God, we  transition from “full-of-ourselves” to “full-of-God.” And it’s only when we find our God-revealed authentic self that our humility can be safely unveiled.

Humility has gotten a bad reputation these days. Our American culture has worked hard to infuse the younger generations with a sense of grandeur and self-esteem (self-love). We have promoted pride while demonizing humility and turned out what behavioral scientists and psychologists are calling the Narcissistic Generations. Our culture today has tilted toward an unhealthy focus on appearance, money, and fame and even many of our churches have attracted adherents by feeding those humanistic desires through the “prosperity” gospel.

We need to get a grip on the reality of who we really are! To develop a grace-based understanding of Godly humility we need to first see that it’s not piously beating ourselves up for our fallen human nature. Humility embraces the contradictions, failures, and glories of our humanness. It is just an honest appraisal of who we are as we see our true self through the eyes of God. And then... 

“O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 If the first two instructions are difficult, the third is particularly challenging. And then Paul adds a new requirement that really skewers our pride. “Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, think of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”  Philippians 2:3-5 NLT

Humility keeps things in perspective. It helps us to understand that we are not exceptional. You and I are simply part of the human race. Let us pray... 
Lord, save me from thinking that I am better than others. Help me to enjoy the praise I receive and then empty it into the ocean of your love and give You all the glory. Help me to elevate the interests of others above my own and to manifest Your love and grace to those who You have brought to me.