Bill Onisick, identifying humility as the gateway character trait to God's Kingdom, focuses on the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, contrasting pride and humility. Any time we feel prompted to exalt ourselves, we demonstrate Satan's spirit of pride, thereby jeopardizing our entry into God's family. Sadly, most of us would receive a D or F on a simple quiz of 20 "yes or no" questions, such as: 1. Do I readily seek other peoples' opinions? 2. Am I happy when something good happens to someone else? 3. Do I ever get offended? 4. Do I do more listening than speaking? and 5. Do I ever say anything negative about a brother in Christ? Paradoxically, the key to exaltation is to esteem others over self rather than exalting self over others. When we become self-aware of our carnality, we discover our penchant to tear others down while exalting ourselves. It is our obligation to emulate our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ, who taught us to wash feet, assuming the role of a servant.
Bill Onisick, reflecting on a valuable insight he learned on an exercise treadmill listening to a sermon after a bad case of insomnia, insists that we do not have to be in control of all outcomes, winning every struggle through proper decision-making. The peace which passes all understanding accrues from yielding to God's will, asking Him for a soft, pliable heart to replace the calcified, hard heart of stubbornness. God will begin this heart transformation process, circumcising our heart, but demands that we reciprocate in an on-going process of replacing our prideful, stony heart with humble one, brimful of agape love. God assures us that He prefers a humble heart over a magnificent temple. Humility unites us to God and our spiritual siblings, while pride divides us. A person filled with pride detests even a tiny bit of pride in others. We must be aware of the danger of having a prideful, competitive heart taking over and willingly undergo a spiritual heart transplant, one which enables us to follow God's commands without corrosive stubborn pride.
Bill Onisick reminds us that, during our pre-Passover self-examination, we need to ask God for the ability to see our hidden weaknesses. Paradoxically, when we see a major fault in someone else (according to the speck-and-beam principle), it could well be that God is pointing out a deeply concealed sin within our own deceptive, carnal nature. We need to see ourselves as God sees us. The contrast between the behavior of Nabal (nicknamed "fool") and Abigail (whose name means "father's joy") demonstrates the critical divide in our warring carnal and spiritual natures. Nabal, who could figuratively represent foolish, arrogant, defiant, and inhospitable behavior that we may harbor in our unrepentant carnal nature, stands in stark contrast to Abigail, representing humility, peacefulness, and gentleness, characteristics of the wisdom that comes from above. In our pre-Passover examination, does God see "Nabal's" self-deceptive foolishness in us, leading to shame and disgrace, or does He see "Our Father's Joy" in us, leading to honor and salvation.
Bill Onisick, reflecting on the extraordinary geographical, gustatory, and horticultural skills demanded of a sommelier, draws a spiritual analogy likening the wide range of skills needed by a wine-taster to the level of the emotional intelligence required by God's called-out ones. The emotional cues which influence our behavior are complex, most likely tracing back to traumatic events in our youth, events which demand compensatory physiological response. Anger and fear invariably have their roots in early feelings of inadequacy or fear of abandonment. Satan and his world have programmed our emotions to relish pain avoidance in order to protect ourselves from unpleasant memories. Only by replacing EQ (emotional intelligence) with GQ (Godly intelligence) can we ever experience joy and the peace which passes all understanding. As we realize God's power, we can replace pessimistic attitudes with joy, as it were, "turning lemons into lemonade." As we become God-aware, we can effectively block Satan from robbing us of our joy and peace.
Richard Ritenbaugh, while acknowledging that technology has given modern culture some marked advantages over ancient societies, laments that the fields of psychology (with its propensity to deny sin) and mental health have not kept up with advances in the "hard" sciences. Instead of resolving basic interior problems, modern psychology treats the symptoms rather than the ailment by masking the consequences of sin with drugs. A notable exception to the general defect of psychology are recent developments in crisis and grief counseling. It is altogether feasible to see the Book of Lamentations as a form of crisis counseling, facilitating stricken Israel's coming to grips with waves of grief. The crisis itself—Jerusalem's fall to the pagan Babylonians—represented an intervention from God, as He tried to turn Israel away from her sins. The Book of Lamentations provides strategies to cope while moving toward repentance, including (1.) creating awareness, delving into possible causes, (2.) allowing catharsis, that is, expressing emotions, (3.) providing support, assuring Israel that her responses are natural, (4.) increasing expansion, that is, helping Israel overcome tunnel vision, (5.) focusing upon the specific cause of the crisis, (6.) providing guidance in overcome hurdles, (7.) providing mobilization, that is, pointing out peripheral support, (8.) implementing order, that is, putting Israel on a manageable routine, providing her with a sense of control, and (9.) providing protection from self-inflicted injury. In chapter 2, the narrator (speaking as the voice of Godly reason), uses some of these strategies. Sadly, however, at the chapter's end, Lady Jerusalem sidesteps godly repentance, opting instead for self-centered recrimination against Almighty God. Though God has actively brought about Judah's tribulations, the root cause of her troubles lay with her breaking her covenant with God.
Bill Onisick, asserting that any addiction (e.g., drugs, alcohol, food, work, hobbies) can enslave and control our brain, suggests that addiction takes us on a pleasure-seeking shortcut. Our IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is not much help in preventing or controlling addiction, but development of our EQ (Emotional Quotient) takes us to a new dimension in managing our (and others') emotions. When we develop our EQ, we develop self-awareness, preventing us from thinking more highly than we ought to. We also develop an awareness of our own ignorance, and we develop an awareness of where our emotions are coming from. When we move to the next level, GQ (Godly Quotient), we learn to empathize with other people (because we recognize we have similar proclivities and failings), and we incrementally transform from selfish and self-centered to selfless and other-centered with agape love. The development of GQ through God's Holy Spirit leads to genuine self-control.
Bill Onisick, reflecting on the horrendous damage caused by forest fires in the Carolina mountains, draws some parallels to the spiritual forest fires currently raging in the greater Church of God. Most literal and spiritual fires are caused by human carelessness or arson rather than natural causes like lightning strikes. There is a triangular relationship (heat, oxygen, and fuel) which increases the size of a fire—rendering it out-of-control. Miles and miles of black charred ashes is all that remains of a once beautiful forest. Relationships throughout the greater church of God have been charred in the same way by loose lips and careless tongues described in James 3:2, setting on fire the course of nature by Hell. We have all been guilty of spiritual arson. If we do not control our tongues, we are on a path to destruction. Our prideful desire to correct others, even when we are technically right, does not please God. We need to listen far more than we speak, sparing our words. God gave us ears that remain open and mouths that close. As we count our 50 days to Pentecost, have we been a fire igniter or a fire extinguisher? A quickness to listen is a mark of humility, whereas a quickness to speak is a mark of pride. We should control our reactions to our thoughts, focusing our minds on the suffering Our Savior endured on our behalf. We need to continuously and diligently use the spiritual tool of meditation, bringing our thoughts into captivity of God's purpose for us, developing Godly mindfulness, which is our spiritual armor against pride. Godly mindfulness enables us to pause before we react, giving us precious time to think before we blurt out foolishness. Godly mindfulness enabled Jesus Christ and Stephen to forgive their adversaries while they were facing death. If we follow James admonition to maintain Godly mindfulness, we can prevent our mouths to flare up in sin.
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