Tag Archives: pride

A Tale Of Two Kings or Heeding The Writing On The Wall

Early in our marriage, I endured a two-year period plagued by multiple jobs, persistent unemployment, and poverty. Any extra income was directed toward diapers for our newborn daughter and medical expenses for her persistent ear infections. In fact, Anna’s ear problems required two sets of tubes and two ear drum surgeries. In order to pay for the expenses, I cashed out what little retirement we had, paying severe penalties to the government.

I count myself among the many who have stood at the edge of the downward spiral and looked down. Without a supportive extended family system, we would have fallen in. It was frightening.

During that time, I opened my Bible looking for solace and read about King Saul’s many troubles. It seemed like God was against him. I was incensed. God, why were you so deadset against Saul? I asked.

Then I opened the book of Job and read about the righteous man’s many sufferings. My anger against God grew into a raging fire. We’re toast! I yelled at God. You can do whatever you want and you have no one to answer to. You don’t even care. I felt like God was dangling me over the fire and enjoying himself as he watched me burn.

At the end of the two year period, I enrolled at Fuller Seminary a thousand miles away in Pasadena, California. Looking back, I laugh at the fact that I chose to study theology while I was intensely angry at God.

Then December 1, 1991 (almost 19 years ago to the day of this post), I read a tale of two kings: Nebuchadnezzar and his son Belshazzar.

One day King Nebuchadnezzar was admiring his kingdom and taking credit for his exploits when God drove him into the wilderness where he lived like a wild animal. God told the king he would remain until “until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes (Daniel 4:32).”

After spending seven years in the wilderness, after being humiliated before his fellow Babylonians, here’s what Nebuchadnezzar announced to his people:

Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
Daniel 4:37

Rather than voice his bitterness toward God, the king exalted God and commented that “everything he does is right and all his ways are just.”

In the next chapter, Nebuchadnezzar’s son Belshazzar is sitting on the throne. He’s wining and dining his guests, reveling in his glory when a finger begins writing on the wall. Four words appeared in an indiscernible language. Belshazzar was terrified by the experience, and worse yet, he couldn’t decipher what the words meant. Daniel was brought in who interpreted the words, which were written in Hebrew.

Daniel began by reminding Belshazzar about his father King Nebuchadnezzar. God sent him into the fields, Daniel explained, because his heart had become hardened with pride.

“You, O king, haven’t learned from your father,” the prophet confessed. Then he interpreted the four words on the wall: Mene, Mene, Tekel, Parsin. Literally, the words meant, “numbered, numbered, weighed, divided.” Daniel told him, “God has numbered the days of your reign and brought it to an end. You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting. Your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians” (Daniel 5:26-28).

That night, Belshazzar’s life came to a violent end.

As I compared the two kings’ stories, I had a life-changing realization:

First, God hates pride. Nothing strikes deeper at the heart of God than when we take credit for what he has done.

Second, God may allow pain to come into our lives in order to weed out pride’s insidious tentacles. It isn’t an act of punishment, it’s an act of mercy. He does this because he loves us and desires an unhindered relationship with us.

Third, only God has the right to define what is just. This last point hit me particularly hard. In his mercy, God had sought to weed out my pride and independence. But instead of turning to God, I had turned away from him, assuming he was unjust. But what right did I have to define justice? Justice is defined by God’s actions, not my opinions. In my arrogance, I had defined justice. Any time I define the meaning of justice, I miss the mark entirely. Yet Nebuchadnezzar said, “Everything he does is right and all his ways are just” (Daniel 4:37). God cannot act unjustly.

Instantly, my anger melted away and I asked God to forgive me of my arrogance. Pride still rears its ugly head in my life and I still encounter hardships and struggles, but this I know: God is good. God is just. And because of this, I can trust him.

And you can too.


Daniel 4:1-5:31
2 Peter 1:1-2:22
Psalm 119:97-128
Proverbs 28:17-20


2 Peter 1:1-2:22. Peter wrote his second epistle in order to address false teaching in the church. He likely wrote this letter shortly before he was martyred. This is one of my favorite passages in Scripture:

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires
2 Peter 1:3–4

God has already given you everything you need to live and enjoy the life he has called you to. Because Christ lives in you, you can participate in the divine nature. You’re not God, but God can live through you!

Psalm 119:97-128. Verses 98-100 tell us that simply knowing God’s word makes us wiser than our enemies, wiser than our teachers, and wiser than our elders. Our reading below in Proverbs offers us a great example of this.

While reading Psalm 119 the thought occurred to me that the word of God does a great job of warning us about potholes that lie in our way. Verse 105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” God’s word makes us aware of sin so we can avoid becoming enslaved by it’s addictive grip. It also helps us free ourselves from it, although doing so requires so much more work than avoiding sin before it takes root.

Proverbs 28:17-20. Promises of financial independence roam freely on Saturday morning television. Years ago I chased some of those dreams only to discover the reality of Proverbs 28:19-20: “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty. A faithful man will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.”

I once attended an online marketing seminar that sold business opportunities for $5,000 apiece. After the presentation, probably 50 people crowded around the cashier to give their money away. My dad, who accompanied me, asked the presenter what percent of the people in line would actually make a profit on the business venture. “Oh, one or two,” he replied. Yep! Proverbs is right.

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  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Do you struggle believing God is good and just? Why or why not?
  3. Who defines what is just in your life?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.


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The Glory of Self-Promotion

This week is the culmination of many television programs for the broadcast season. Lee DeWyze was voted the next American Idol, and Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussy Cat Dolls and her partner Derek Hough won the dance competition on Dancing With The Stars.

At some level, all the contestants on these programs promoted themselves. In fact, most recognizable personalities in our society draw their living from promoting themselves.

Is promoting ourselves a noble or self-absorbed pursuit?

Please join me as we explore this further.


2 Samuel 13:1-39
John 17:1-26
Psalm 119:81-96
Proverbs 16:6-7


2 Samuel 13:1-39. Like father, like son. Just as David had committed sexual sin, so Amnon followed in the steps of his father. Since he was David’s eldest son, Amnon was the heir apparent to the throne—a scary thought considering how Amnon treated his half-sister Tamar.

While David was furious with his son for raping his sister, we see no evidence of any retribution. Nothing is done to Amnon and Tamar is left in disgrace. Because of this, Absalom, Tamar’s brother takes justice into his hands.

Even worse, we see no evidence of David comforting his disgraced daughter. Because David did nothing, we read in verse 20 that she came under the care of her brother Absalom. Despite David’s brokenness over his sin with Bathsheba and the warnings of calamity on his household, David demonstrated a disturbing aloofness toward his family and the laws of Israel. This inactivity on David’s part likely planted the seeds of discontent in Absalom.

Following in the violent footsteps of his half-brother, Absalom killed Amnon and then fled.

This was fulfillment of Nathan’s words to David: “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you’” (2 Samuel 12:11).

Like a chemical chain reaction, our actions affect others. Think about how many people were affected by David and Bathsheba’s sin:

  • Uriah, who was wrongly killed on the battlefield.
  • Other brave warriors who died on the battlefield (as Eugene mentioned yesterday)
  • Uriah’s grief-stricken family
  • The extended families of David and Bathsheba who were disappointed by the couple’s actions
  • The unborn baby who died in Bathsheba’s womb
  • Amnon—who learned sexual impropriety (to some extent) from his father David and was later murdered by his brother Absalom
  • Tamar—who was raped by Amnon
  • Absalom—who was enraged by his brother’s actions and father’s inaction. This led him to start an insurrection against David which eventually led to his death.
  • Israel—who felt betrayed by David’s actions (and inactions regarding his sons) which laid the groundwork for Absalom to rebel and steal the hearts of Israel from his father.

We may not serve in positions of influence like David, but I can name countless people whose actions have affected people—some of whom they never met.

John 17:1-26. This chapter probably gives us the best window into the way Jesus prayed and into the relationship between Jesus and his heavenly Father.

Of the many profound insights Jesus makes in this passage, one stands out to me. In describing his followers, Jesus prays: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.” Jesus’ concern was that his followers would huddle together to the exclusion of people who don’t follow Jesus in order to avoid being stained by the outside world. This is assuredly a prayer Jesus continues to pray to the Father today.

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As a writer and occasional published author, I periodically experience seasons when I must promote something I’ve written. When my book Strange Fire, Holy Fire was released about 18 months ago, it brought to the surface a quandary that has plagued me for years. Amidst the marketing promotion my publisher organized on my behalf, I felt deeply uncomfortable about promoting myself. And to be honest, I wasn’t exactly diligent about marketing the book from my end. I subconsciously (perhaps even consciously) convinced myself that promoting my book was prideful.

This morning, reading Jesus’ prayer in John 17 made me realize that I was completely wrong in my assumptions.

Here’s what Jesus prayed to his father: “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you…And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (John 17:1, 5).

Jesus was quite comfortable asking to be glorified because he knew that he would take that glory and return to this Father.

Here’s what I learned from Jesus this morning: receiving the adulation of others isn’t wrong, if we pay it forward to our heavenly Father. In fact, I’m coming to realize that promoting ourselves (or our work) isn’t wrong either, as long as we pay it forward to God. Actually, that “self-promotion” might actually be God-ordained.

It really goes back to what we do with the glory we receive.

If we keep it to ourselves, we place ourselves in the unenviable position of setting ourselves up for a fall (see Proverbs 16:18).

But if we genuinely reflect it toward God, then the glory we receive servers a greater purpose than just promoting ourselves.


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. How have your actions affected others? How might decisions you’re making right now affect people in the future?
  3. What does it look like for you to “pay forward” the glory you receive from others to God?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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