The twin evils of smugness and envy

1 Comment

I was feeling smug. Admiring my ability to juggle this and that. Compared to others.  Evaluating myself next to another sister. He pulled me up short. As realization of sin spread, so did horror.

Juggling life

“I repent, Lord! Forgive me! I see! Truly! I humble myself. You don’t need to do anything else to get my attention. Seriously!”

 

For what had flashed across my consciousness about God was this:

“You, the all-wise and infinitely good God, have perfectly arranged this fellow Christian’s plate with the appropriate palate of weaknesses, strengths, characteristics, bents, abilities, talents, habits (good and bad), circumstances, and experiences all intended for her to grow in the knowledge and love of your Son. Every piece on that plate of hers is necessary to her sanctification and growth in holiness. You planned each one, the good and the ugly!”

And You have done the same for me. Who am I to boast about this or that as though they were due to my efforts and smarts? All along You are the one who has traced out our paths? And more pointedly, who am I to complain about the potholes in the road if they are according to Your will?

“Father, I see that this constant comparing of me with others produce either envy or pride and both are evil! Deliver me from these sins, please! Pride says: Look at me!  Envy says: You are a bad God not to give me what I want/deserve!

Since that day a week ago, He has continued to show me that He does indeed ordain and govern all circumstances. Because He is in charge of every molecule in the universe I can trust what He commands me to do:

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love kindness and mercy, and to humble yourself and walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6-8

Not evaluating, not judging the circumstances of others is wise. That’s God’s business. Do you remember Peter’s comment to Jesus as told by John after Jesus appeared to his eleven disciples post resurrection?

“So Peter seeing him (John) said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man? Jesus said to him, ‘If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!’” John 21:21-22

Several times a day as my smug-o-meter rises, (that is – when I awake to this sin), I put myself back in my place. I say to myself:

“Maria, you have died! And the life you now live, you live by faith in Jesus. (Gal 2:20) That is to say – you move and live and have your being attached to Him. If there be any good in your life, it is only good because of Him. So give it up, this thinking that there is something good in or about you alone!”

That truth not only humbles me, but it liberates me. Since all that is good in me through faith is a gift, I don’t have to worry about earning it. And since Jesus has given me the most costly gift, Himself, I can trust Him to give me any and all such that He deems good for me for godliness and life (2 Peter 1:3)

PS:  When I caught myself later on in the week doing my ‘I’m-so-good dance’, I realized that God was showing me a specific way to PRAY for this fellow Christian.  Again, I repented.  We are all different, intentionally.  He has arranged each of us in the Body of Christ as He sees fit.  Therefore, we are to encourage and pray for one another. It’s in our best interests, after all.  Another gentle smack-down!

Resting in Doctrine – God’s in charge!

Leave a comment

Job 14:5A person’s days are determined; you have decreed the number of his months and have set limits he cannot exceed.

Psalm 139:16Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in Your book and planned before a single one of them began.

News of a recent hostage death has caused me to think through whether God is in charge or not.  What we believe about God is called doctrine and doctrines DO matter.  They affect our thoughts, which influence our feelings.  These rational and emotional aspects reside at different layers within us, some conscious and others beyond our conscious awareness.  It’s apparent to me that we are guided by thoughts and feelings originating in both camps, whether we know it or not.  Who hasn’t been appalled at a choice comment that slipped out before we could filter it: ‘Where did THAT come from?” we genuinely exclaim in horror.

Garbage in, Garbage out: ‘right’ thinking about God matters.  So what is ‘right’ thinking or doctrine when it comes to whether God is in control of all that happens in our universe? The Bible, the definitive source of doctrine, affirms that He is in fact the first cause* for all that happens. The term for that 100% authority and rule that belongs to God’s is His Sovereignty.

If a king is sovereign over his lands, then what he says is the law of the land.  How much more is it with God who is the author (hence – authority) and creator of all that IS.  And if He is sovereign, by definition then, that quality of being in charge includes the notion of having and exercising all power.  There is no such thing as impotent sovereignty.

Back to the hostage who died.  My heart goes out to the family who is dealing with pain and loss. If they are followers of God, there is one comfort that should hold them up in their grief:

God’s plan for their dear one was not thwarted.  Therefore, they need not take on all the piercing, painful ‘what ifs’ that often assault survivors.  Rescue attempts did not succeed because God sovereignly ordained the day the hostage would die.

This is NOT fatalism because that would mean that it doesn’t matter what one does, that regardless of our actions, the outcome is the same. God’s sovereignty is different because He chooses to carry out His will in our lives through both our human actions and His divine workings.  Rescue attempts ARE appropriate because they might be the means God uses to save lives.

We have an example of God sovereignly determining different outcomes with two of Jesus’ apostles.  James, son of Zebedee,  was the first to be murdered by the Romans.  Wasn’t anyone praying for his rescue?  Undoubtedly!  Then there was Peter, also imprisoned by the Romans.  This time similar prayers led to his miraculous rescue from jail. What made the difference?  God and His sovereign will!

So, why is this doctrine so important?  For one, it is PEACE-producing.  We don’t need to beat ourselves up with the ‘what-ifs’.  That self-inflicted torture implies our actions are sovereign.

So sweet is this aspect of God!  His unchanging character guarantees that His sovereign decrees will always be done.  This in turn lifts the immobilizing burden of possible mistakes off of me.

  • What if I make a wrong decision?
  • What if I should have known better than to make that trip to the Holy Land and fall prey to a terrorist attack?
  • What if I had taken a different route to the bank?
  • What if I had chosen a different spouse, a different job?
  • What if I hadn’t indulged in that immoral behavior?

I can easily wallow in regrets, if I start thinking that I am in charge of my life.

Jesus breathes comfort and peace into our troubled minds:

  • John 14:27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

*Although God is the First Cause of all that happens, there are other doctrines that exclude Him from being charged with the evil we do. Even though God is sovereign, we are still guilty for bad stuff we do. That’s a complex theological discussion that I cannot take up here.

 

What holds you together?

2 Comments

‘For in him we live and move and have our being…’  Acts 17:28a

TMI?  Too much information – all alarming and overwhelming. With smart phones, laptops, talk radio and even traditional print media, I feel assaulted by sincere-sounding, but conflicting opinions.

Fortunately, my ‘Belt of Truth  awaits me each morning.  Buckling into God’s word not only clears my head so I can see clearly, but also makes me feel secure and safe. You know, I need to prioritize thinking about that belt as much as I think about my food for each school day!

Belt - cartoonThis morning, Sunday, while walking I began to stress about the coming school week.  Will I get all my plans done? What about Jack whose mom wrote yesterday to say how frustrated he felt with one of my homework assignments?

Then I remembered my belt. What do belts do?  They don’t allow for much else to come between our tummies and the snug encircling leather, do they! In that sense they protect us.  From what?

Jesus explained to Thomas, “….I am the way, the truth and the life….”   John 14:6

Tightening my Truth Belt, I’m actually putting Jesus around me.  He promises to block hammering false beliefs.  There’s no room for them if my belt is to stay both firm yet comfortable.

As I trudged up the gravel road, I thought about that quote from Acts about living ‘in him‘.  Paul was actually echoing a line from Epimenides, but applying the truth to God, when he mentioned the poet to the Athenian ‘philosophes‘.

So I will more gladly buckle my safety belt.  Not a car restraint, but a ‘living and moving and being belt’ – One that allows ONLY Jesus both to filter the TMI and to hold me together.

Whose time is it?

4 Comments

Rushing Clock

 

 

 

Tomorrow is Monday, the start of a new work/school week for young and old. The alarm will buzz, vibrate, rattle or serenade us into the awaiting day where the mantra is RUSH, RUSH, RUSH!  And for many, the Sunday dread of the pending week has already begun to dampen spirits.

Does it have to be this way?  What causes all advance weariness?

For me, the idea of hurling myself into the day with the goal of squeezing out more TIME than numerically possible has gotten old. I’ve been pondering my assumptions and questioning if they are even true.  For starters:

  • is it true that TIME is immutable, that is to say, ‘fixed and unchangeable’?  Do we really have only so many minutes and hours to do ALL that we want to/have to do?
  • is there something called MY TIME.  If this is so, where do we get this TIME? Does it come to us by virtue of being born?
  • is it up to us to decide what we have to do or want to do?
  • and just what exactly IS TIME after all?

Here are some liberating facts to guide and perhaps change our ideas and eventually our Modus Operandi:

God is the source of all that is.  He created TIME out of nothing. But of course He existed BEFORE He made the construct called TIME.  The fact that God formed TIME doesn’t minimize its usefulness for God or for His creation.  But if He created it, He can tweak it, change it, stretch it, and abolish it when His purposes for TIME have been completed.  How do I know this is so?  Consider some of these events:

  • When the disciples were rowing across the Sea of Galilee in a storm, Jesus came walking across the water toward them.  Here are a couple of lines in John’s gospel:  Chapter 6:20-21 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”  Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
  • Then there is Joshua in the Old Testament. The successor to Moses, he prayed to God for His supernatural intervention, as recorded in Joshua 10:13  So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies, as it is written in the Book of Jashar. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day.

If God has created everything/all things, then that ‘ALL’ includes both the material and the immaterial.  TIME certainly fits in the category of immaterial.  We can’t see it, but we measure it by material things that God has created, like the sun and the moon and Earth’s relative position to the stars.

I’m beginning to see my presumption and small-mindedness in believing that the God who creates TIME is constrained by how I, a creature, count TIME.

After all, is it too hard for God to manipulate TIME so that it is sufficient for me to accomplish HIS agenda for me this day?  Come on!  We’re talking about the God:

  • Who keeps the Hebrews’ sandals from wearing out during their 40-year journey to Canaan
  • Who multiplies rolls and dried fish to feed a mighty crowd of hungry folks
  • Who springs Peter from jail on one occasion and Paul and Silas on another (employing two different means)
  • Who brings dead people back to life
  • Who provides a coin in the mouth of a fish for the disciples to pay their taxes

If all this is so, maybe you and I can STOP rushing around.  Maybe slowing down to smell the flowers and marvel at God’s creation can become our norm.  Just maybe welcoming ‘interruptions’ as opportunities to demonstrate our trust in God’s sovereign control over TIME can become our new MODUS OPERANDI for 2015.

May God’s truth, as David penned it in Psalm 31: 14-15, have the last word:

But I trust in you, O Lord;
    I say, “You are my God.”
 My times are in your hand;
    rescue me from the hand of my enemies and from my persecutors!

God holding clock

 

 

 

PS:  Who might be our actual ‘enemies and persecutors’?

One little insight – one big release

3 Comments

cricizing others

 

 

 

 

John 21: 21-22 

(Speaking of the disciple John…) when Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

Mathew 7: 2 

..because the way that you judge others will be the way that you will be judged, and you will be evaluated by the standard with which you evaluate others.

**

For several years now, I have felt judged and found wanting by a person close to me. That is NOT a fun feeling.  As a result, I have kind of gone on the offensive, seeking to please this person to get on her good side.  Call it depositing brownie points in anticipation of the next time when I fail to meet her standards.

I have struggled with these negative vibrations/feelings:  ranging in thinking that they pointed to a real deficiency in me to deciding that they were groundless; that maybe indeed I had just imagined them!  Nonetheless, the feelings have kept me from relaxing around her and from feeling that being myself was NOT enough or allowed.  Like I always had to be on my best behavior.  Can you relate?

But the other day, I learned something….or rather observed something that freed me from this unequal balance.  I heard HER lament out loud the very deficiency for which I have felt blamed all these years. And suddenly I understood that SHE was the one imprisoned in a world of ‘guilt and shoulds’.  What I had perceived as a criticism of ME was the shadow of the heap of guilt and judgment she laid daily on herself. Suddenly I felt compassion for her and liberation for me.

Hard on yourself

 

 

 

 

Now I know more clearly how to pray for this friend. And…

I wonder whom I myself have burdened with an unfair judgment that is really a projection of a SELF-judgment!

How do you know if you are ‘saved’?

Leave a comment

Assurance of Salvation

1 Cor 1:18 – For the message about the cross is nonsense to those who are being destroyed, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.

I understand that it is a very unsettling place to be, not to know for sure if you are going to spend eternity with God or away from Him.

I am writing this post to simplify the issue and to communicate that if you want to know whether you can count on heaven with the Biblical God, there is ample written evidence from God to settle that issue, once and for all.

It seems to me that there are several categories of people:

  • those who give no thought to life after the expected 70+ years (Psalm 90:10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years….)
  • those who are adherents of false religions that teach and encourage practitioners to DO THIS or THAT to reach heaven
  • those who are true Biblical Christians but still live with uncertainty about their ultimate destination
  • those who are NOT Christians but think they are and might assume they are headed for heaven
  • those who are Christians and anticipate with growing desire and delight their future in God’s favorable presence in the renewed creation

Marraige Supper of the Lamb

In truth, there are only 2 categories of people: those God has elected and those He has not.  There are no degrees of election or a pathway TO election from non-election. You’re either ALL in or ALL out.

If God doesn’t plant within us new, unnatural desires, we will never understand Him or see Him as beautiful and valuable.

Here’s the simplest way to know if you are a true Christian (and it has nothing to do with how ‘good’ you are or what you do):

Do you see the Biblical Jesus and how one is saved from God’s wrath as an amazing gift? as treasure beyond imagination?

Or do you see Jesus and His teachings as stupid and boring, even to the point of being non-sensical? 

The key, though, is to know and understand the REAL Jesus, as the Bible presents.  Be warned!  Many self-proclaimed Christians, as well as atheists, share a mythical, made-up idea of God.  They invent a Father God and a God-Man Jesus to their liking, for whatever reasons.  I suppose it follows that if you INVENT God, then you can CREATE the pathway to heaven.

John 8:31-32   He said to the Jews who believed, “If you keep and obey My Word, then you are My followers for sure. You will know the truth and the truth will make you free.

Stay within the boundaries of God’s Word; understand the text, given its style (poetry, narrative, history, parables, advice for living)  and context.  The Bible is written so that even uneducated people can be taught Truth.

And if what the text says and means doesn’t make sense to you, then pray to God and ask for His help.  He promises to give light and understanding to all who seek Him earnestly, sincerely. Pray also for those around you, that God would kindly open their eyes to His nature, what is at stake and His offer of forgiveness.

ASK

Fraud and Freedom

2 Comments

What if we could take off the mask and let the world see us for who we really are?

Fraud - 23 Feb 2014

None of us is truly transparent.  We present our best foot forward and then go on the defensive when called on our less than accurate self- projection.

I heard the story told of an older pastor who had given a talk at a PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) conference.  A young serious pastor approached him after his delivery and said that he had been much ‘grieved’ by both his attitude and his talk.  The mature man nonchalantly acknowledged his comment but didn’t say anything else.  The earnest young man continued with something like: ‘You shouldn’t be teaching those things in that way!’   Again….the bait wasn’t swallowed.

Finally the exasperated mininster sputtered, “Well, don’t you want to know what I think of you!?”

“Not really,” came the response, ” but if you really feel you have to tell me, I’ll listen…for about 15 seconds!”

At that invitation, our young man spit out, ” You’re ARROGANT, SMUG and WRONG!”

The calm older man looked at him in the eye and said one word – “Bingo!”  Then he continued, “You’re right, but you should have seen me 5 years ago!  I’m a lot better now, thanks be to God!”

Bingo - 23 Feb

**

Can you imagine how free you would feel not to have to pretend, project or protect?  No reputation to be maintained….no persona to nourish…no posturing to keep up?  Just safe and secure knowing that you’re chosen by God, loved by God and being sanctified by God.  And since God knows everything and it’s HIS opinion that counts, you wouldn’t have to care what others would think.

I can SEE that and TASTE that…but I am not there yet.  But, boy, do I sure want to swim in THAT ocean of freedom and grace.

Dear Lord, translate this vision into something I can grasp and live in!

Grace upon Grace - 23 Feb 2014

Older Entries Newer Entries

%d bloggers like this: