Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Reclaiming Lost Ground

In my last post, I talked about surrendering to God. Surrendering can mean many things; sometimes it means letting go of something, but sometimes it can mean NOT letting go!

In surrendering ourselves to God, we agree, we resolve, we commit to opposing everything in our life that is un-Godly. Or at least to try. To work at it. To make it a priority. BUT! If I stop resisting something, if I allow myself to become complacent, to just give up and accept it as part of my daily definition of “normal,” then I will have surrendered to it and not to God.

It can be as something as simple as a hardness of the heart that I’ve learned to accept, an area of unforgiveness, resentment, or anger – however justified in my mind – that I have ceased to oppose or worked to resolve. I just accept it as “the way things are.”

In doing so, I accept defeat. In effect, saying, in THIS area, God is not sovereign. In this, I “cannot win”…or don’t want to. In holding on to that anger, in nursing that grudge, in accepting that addictive behavior, I show where have I given ground over to the Enemy.

But the more you give him, the more he will try to take. Each step backward is a foothold for the enemy to advance further into your life.

Victory in Christ means not accepting defeat in your life. Find every piece of ground where the enemy has gained a foothold, and renew the offensive to reclaim it! Turn to God, acknowledge it to Him, then seek and accept his equipping to oppose and defeat it.

Challenge: Lord, show me daily, minute by minute, which battles I’m not fighting that I should be.  What footholds has the Enemy gained, what areas of my life do I need to reclaim? Teach me to live daily in the victory you have secured for me on the Cross.

 

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: The Power of Letting Go

I surrender all. I surrender all. All to thee, my blessed savior, I surrender aaaaalllll.”

So the song goes. But…am I really doing it? Am I really giving everything over to Him? Or, am I still holding on to a few things I plan to handle for myself?

Why do we sometimes cling sooo tightly to a favorite fear, or chose to continually re-live the same past trauma, or dwell forever on that one special mistake we made way back when? It’s like some ragged stuffed animal that’s been with us for so long that we just can’t quite seem to let it go.

MINE!” we yell.

So, inevitably, that’s precisely where God is going to focus his attention; because it’s the very things that we hold on to the most tightly that are the most important for us to let go of.

It’s those learned responses, those conditioned reflexes, those programmed behaviors, those things where we stubbornly insist, “It’s just the way things are!” Even if they aren’t pleasant, they are comfortable, they are familiar; they are what we know.  And they may even be true…for now.

But…just because that’s the way things are, doesn’t mean that’s really how they have to stay, is it? God is all about taking what is…and changing it into what can be.  HOWEVER…

…we have to let go of it first.

It’s those very things that we “know” with such certainty that too often get in the way of discovering the real truth of things.  It’s only when we stop trying to tell God how things are, that we become open to the possibilities of what they can be!

Problem is, that means letting go of our illusions of control, of our carefully nurtured victim-hood, or of any of 101 other things that we tend to put in place of a complete reliance on God and an unwavering trust in His sovereignty over our life. And that’s hard. Real hard. Because we really like our little teddy bear.

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”  1st Cor. 13:11-12

If I hold on too tightly to those artifacts of the past, if I cling too tightly to that ragged old teddy bear, I can never really grow up the way I am supposed to, the way God wants me to. I stagnate, I get stuck, and I don’t grow. So, before I can move forward, I have to stop looking back. Instead of focusing on what was, I can start seeing what new things God is ready to lead me into instead!

Challenge:  Lord, what are those things in my life that I haven’t let go of yet? What are things I need to put into your hands? What are the fears I most need to trust you with, and the places in which I most need to be the most open to change?

Thoughts From My Quiet Time: Victorious Is A Verb

How often do we, as Christians, truly live as if we are victorious? Or do we too often still live in defeat? As though our decision to follow Christ were merely an event experienced along the way, something of little consequence, rather than a fundamental alternation of the very fabric of who and what we are?  To the point that it even alters the way we interact with universe itself?

We. Are. Changed.  But do we live as ones who have been been changed, and are being changed?

Do we live as though we share in the victory of Christ over sin and death? As though we are an intimate part of that victory?  Are we dancing and singing and clanging our symbols as we follow along behind our Victorious One? Or do we live more as mere observers, those who witnessed the action and cheered, but now see ourselves as separate, standing quietly off to the side as they march by? Maybe as not worthy? Maybe not like those “real” Christians over there?

Are we part of a triumphal procession…or are we content to watch and cheer from the sidelines?  Are we truly transformed…or merely affected?

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (2 Cor. 3:18)

For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4-5)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”  (1 Cor. 15:54)

Challenge: Am I daily living in the victory secured for me by Christ, and is it daily transforming my life?

 

Thoughts from my quiet time: Being conformed to His will

Everyday, resolve to confess that you still know so little. That the mysteries of God are far from solved, and that truly, the only way to know God is to spend time in His presence. To be more fully conformed to His will.

Wait…what? What does that even mean?!

Conformed to His will. Taking on His likeness, His countenance, so completely that someone looking at you recognizes Him. Not like a doppelganger, but as someone who has spent so much time with another that they begin to share gestures, mannerisms, turns of phrase. The way a couple can finish sentences for each other, or pass the sugar bowl without being asked just because they know the other so well. An intimate familiarity. Something that only come from time spent together.

It is beyond apprenticeship. It is as a servant who never leaves his master’s side, to the point where the servant knows every quirk, every desire, every mannerism and habit of his master. To the point where it becomes a service not born out of obligation, but of love. But then, even more. For the Master loves the servant so much that he adopts him as a son or her as a daughter, because he wants more than just a servant. He wants an heir.

This puts a different feel on “obedience” doesn’t it? It gets to the point where it stops being obedience, and it starts being love. Where the two natures become so intertwined that you do what is right by the other because you don’t know anything different. You truly become conformed to the other. To look at one, is to see the other. His will is the same as your own. Absolute intimacy and spiritual union.

 For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.
Rom. 8:15-17

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.
John 15:15

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.”
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Jesus *said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
John 14:6-9

You Get To Have The Good Stuff!

Wait, that can’t be right, can it?  I get to have the good stuff?  What about that whole “first must be last” thing, and forsaking the flesh, and…and…

Well, I guess it all depends on how you define, “The Good Stuff.”goodstuff1

There is an unfortunate tendency among far too many Christians to continue to live under the condemnation of sin, to hold on to this notion that we are somehow not just unworthy…but worthless as well.  We believe the lies the world tells us, we listen to the lies the Enemy whispers in our ears; that we are less than, that we are forgettable, that somehow God must have turned away from us because of what we’ve done, or what we haven’t done.

‘Cept that, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

We hear that a lot, but what does it mean?  It means that God loves us despite what we are, not because of what we are.  It’s called “unconditional love” and it’s a concept most of us really struggle with, because we see so little of it in the world around us.

Or, to put it another way, God can’t be disillusioned with us…because He never had any illusions about us!

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)

Which of your sins didn’t Jesus forgive, which of your sins, your errors, your misjudgments or your failures didn’t He atone for when He died on the cross…2000 years before you were even born?

I first found Christ when I was six years old. So, was I:  a) forgiven only of those first six years of my life? Or: b) was I truly made a new creation, washed clean for all eternity by the blood of Christ, my life fundamentally transformed from that moment forward? Let me give you a hint:  The answer is: b).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2nd Cor. 5:17)

And that’s where we get back to that definition of, “The Good Stuff.”

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)

What does that mean?  What is an “abundant life?”

It means you’re allowed to enjoy the good stuff.  You are allowed to be happy, to do things and experience things that bring you happiness.  That you weren’t put here to suffer, but to come to know an abundant life lived under the redemption of Christ.  Don’t live in fear.  Don’t live in recrimination and doubt.  Set aside the insecurities that rob you of your birthright, and chose to truly believe that God means what He says…that He loves you and wants you to know true happiness.

So…do the things that bring you joy! Putter. Sew. Sing. Paint. Draw. Not for anyone else. Just for yourself. The only person it has to be good enough for is you.

Let yourself giggle as you enjoy the delightfully decadent joy of some wonderful bit of bakery fluff coated with some hoity-toity almond butter slide down your throat accompanied by some far-eastern Darjeeling you bought from that quaint little shop in Pike’s Place Market.  And just savor it. Enjoy it.

Walk in your yard and enjoy the blossoms without noticing or caring about the weeds.

Buy that wonderful hand-knit scarf at the street fair, even though you just really shouldn’t, I know, it’s really just too much, and I’ll probably never have anywhere to wear it, and….do it anyway.  Then make a pretty throw with it for the couch instead.

blow-bubblesMake a bunch of silly scribbles in a sketchbook that doesn’t look like anything, but you really like the way the colors go together.  Then stick it on the front of the fridge with a magnet and smile every time you look at it.

Play the piano, just because you know how.  And sing to yourself as loud as you want, and who cares if the neighbors hear you and think you’re weird.  Draw silly faces on the mirror in dry-erase marker and stick your tongue out at them every morning.

It’s called “rejoicing,” and you can do it a lot more often than just standing in a pew on Sunday with a hymnal in your hands!

I think that sometimes, even as even the most devout of Christians, it’s still hard for us to really, truly believe that God loves us and wants us to be happy, especially after some of the things He’s let us endure. But that’s the lesson I’m trying to learn now, to really take to heart….I get to be happy.  It’s okay for me to be happy!  What a concept, huh?  I think maybe we miss out on a lot of blessings and don’t experience more happiness in our life because we don’t believe it.  We don’t look for it, don’t let it in, don’t recognize it when it shows up.  We play this karma game.  We take a worldly look at God’s work and figure He’s just waiting…waiting….waiting with the ruler poised over our knuckles for us to give Him another excuse to drop the hammer.

So, please, also try to take this to heart.  You get to be happy.  And you don’t have to feel guilty or unworthy about it.  Try to get to the place, someday, somehow, where you can really believe that it really is okay for you to be happy.  I’m trying to let go of all the things in my past that are holding me back, bogging me down, things the Enemy takes such joy in using against me.

I hope and pray that you, too, will find a way to let go of all the things that were born out of tragedy or sorrow or abandonment or trials…and just let it be the past. Like an alcoholic who’s quit drinking, a drug abuser who’s quit using and gotten clean…don’t let your past define you.  You don’t have to fix it, maybe don’t even have to “heal” it…maybe you just…let it all go.

Give yourself permission for that.  Forgive yourself for all of that past, for all of those things.  God doesn’t require any sort of penance from you for it — He’s already paid your penance for you, and more! I am choosing to not let myself be defined by my past.  Make that choice for yourself as well.

Be free!  Be emancipated from all that. The door to your jail cell is open, and has been for a while.  You just need to walk through it and accept (and experience) true freedom.   “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;”  That is the true essence of God’s forgiveness.

See what kind of a life living in true freedom can bring. It’s called “joy.”  Live that life for yourself; live a life fully in the forgiveness of Christ, free from the burdens of the past.

~ Steve

“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit”

November, 2011.  That’s the last time I posted to this “blog.”  Six months of quiet inactivity.  Six months of silence.  Six months of sitting on my spiritual gifts, and finding reasons to do just about anything else but be with God in His word.

Six months of letting the Enemy win.  Of getting beat up, and beating myself up, and just generally slipping further and further away from were I should be. 

It stops today.  Today, I take up my cross, anew.  I will stumble, I will succeed and I will fail. I will do it imperfectly.  But, by the grace of God, I WILL DO IT. 

Looking at the book of John, Chapter 15, we see a pretty clear and unequivocal declaration that it is not enough to just “get saved.”  Claiming to be a Christian is not enough. Professing the name of Christ is not enough.  Sitting in a church once a week is not enough.

It’s about your HEART.  It’s about following after God, hungering after His word, and wanting what HE wants more than what WE want.  About transforming what He wants INTO what we want.  It’s about fighting that fight every day.  Not waiting for tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week.

Or six months.

Jesus warns us that those “vines” which do not abide in Him, those which bear no fruit, will be cast away, destroyed in the fire, while those that DO bear fruit will be pruned and shaped to produce even more.  And this fruit, the fruit of the Spirit, is how we will be known as followers of Christ.

“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”  John 15:8

And so, I find myself asking, how much fruit am I bearing? Am I a lush, growing tree, bearing fruit, bringing shade and comfort and sustenance, or am I a dry, withered scrub bush with brittle branches and thorny brambles?

Am I trying to do things in my own strength and failing, or, abiding in Him, seeking after His will, and then shaping my efforts accordingly?  Honestly? Lately, it’s been a lot more of the former, rather than the latter.  So today, that changes.

There’s an old, favorite Sunday School song, which declares, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”  Well, with God’s help, guidance, and equipping, I hope to let my light shine a whole lot brighter than it has been of late. 

Sometimes the hardest thing about doing God’s work is just showing up at the job site.

Well, I’m done taking sick days.

~ Steve

Just One Little Thing

Wow, March 9th, 2010 was the last time I posted anything here.  One might suspect I wasn’t taking this web ministry seriously.  And I haven’t been.  I’ve let far too many things get in the way.  There’s always something, one little this or that which gets in the way.   I’m always too busy doing other things, letting other things come between me and God.   Turns out, I’m not the first one to have this problem.I ‘m sure we’ve all heard and read the story:

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.  “You know the commandments, ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’

And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.  And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:18)

This story is almost universally used as a warning and admonition against greed, excessive wealth, and coveting possessions rather than seeking after God.  And sure, there may be a piece of that here; but I think such a narrow interpretation actually misses the broader point Jesus was trying to make.  Jesus wasn’t so much warning against the dangers of money or wealth specifically, but rather, he had narrowed in on the one thing that was coming between this man and his relationship with God.  While in this case it happened to be money, it could be anything, really.  This rich, young man came to Jesus with what seemed to be a genuine desire to serve…but also a strongly-developed sense of his own piety. In his mind, in the finest Pharisaical tradition, he had faithfully kept all of the Commandments; and perhaps he had…all except for one:

“Thou shall have no other Gods before me.”

I think that Jesus saw both the man’s genuine faith (given the gentle way in which He spoke to him), as well as the man’s rather self-sufficient pride.   Jesus could tell that, despite his profession of conscientious obedience to the Law, this young man still wanted to be able to keep a hold of This One Thing…in this case, his money.   The Bible tells us that God is a jealous God who wants to be first in our life.  He wants it all, everything about us: our hopes, our dreams, our desires.  He wants to be first in all of this, and yet, so many of us try to work out a deal.  We bargain with God, trying to hold back just This One Thing that we don’t want to give up.   It might be our daily office gossip, or a root of bitterness at an ex, an addiction to alcohol, pornography, crude jokes or anything else outside the nature of God that we try to hold onto. We hold back on that one “little secret” that we figure maybe God will let us have.  After all, we’ve been so faithful in so many other areas, right?  We tithe, we go to church, we don’t cheat on our wives or steal or lie.  We “DO” all the right things, so we figure we can probably hold on to this one, little indulgence, and God won’t really mind.  Right?

Wrong.

The message in this passage is not just about money, but about WHATEVER it is we are letting come between us and true faithfulness to God’s calling in our life.   Hebrews 4:12 tells us:

For the word of God is living and active.  Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

Jesus looked into this man’s heart, his soul, and saw what his “One Thing” was: his wealth.   So Jesus zeroed in on that, and basically told him to put his money where his mouth is; be faithful not just with your words, but with your wealth.  Again, for some of us it might be the magazines we shouldn’t be reading, the TV shows we shouldn’t be watching, the websites we shouldn’t be visiting.  It doesn’t even have to be anything overtly “sinful,” but simply anything that we covet or obsess over, anything that takes the place of a fuller relationship with God in our heart. It could be the football games on Sunday that won’t “let” us go to Church.  The favorite TV drama that only comes on the same night as the small group Bible study we’ve been meaning to attend, but…

This passage emphasizes what we should already know:  that Jesus can see into the deepest, most hidden corners of our heart.  We aren’t hiding anything from Him; we aren’t fooling God. There’s no drawer, closet, cupboard or box we can hide our “This One Thing” in that God won’t find it.  Maybe you think you’re hiding it from everyone else…but HE KNOWS.  He’s always known.

Moreover, I think it’s important to note where Jesus says, “hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God.” Trust.  Trusting in something else besides God as the source for our strength, for our security, for our guidance and our hope can also be that “one thing.”  Do we listen to the words of Oprah or Dr. Phil more than those of Jesus?  Do we rely more on Stephen Covey or Rick Warren to find our purpose than we do on God? Do we want to do it our way, throwing in a prayer every now and then to keep God updated on how it’s going, maybe ask for a little help in what we’re doing, not even questioning if that’s what God really wants for our life, for fear that the answer might turn out to be “no?”

“For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36)

Even as I’m writing this, I’m thinking of all those “one little things” that might be coming between me and my Lord.  Considering that there shouldn’t be anything on that list at all, it’s rather disturbing.  And humbling.

I also find it interesting that upon hearing Jesus’ response, when the man turned and walked away in sadness, Jesus didn’t chase him down, back-pedal on his answer, or try to find a little more “seeker friendly” message.  Jesus simply preached the Truth.  What the man chose to do with that information was up to him.  The man chose to reject the message; and Jesus let him walk away.  Jesus didn’t water down his message, didn’t soft-coat it or dance around the hard facts.  Communicating the Truth was more important to Jesus than meeting this man’s “felt needs.”

In this interaction, Jesus acknowledged to his disciples that many will hear the Truth, will fully understand the implications of His message…and still choose to hold onto the world instead.  Choosing to rationalize and justify, to hem, and haw, choosing to hold onto what they want instead of reaching out for what God has in store for them.  Compare and contrast the response of the rich man here, with another famous rich man.   A certain Zaccheus who, upon hearing the word of the Lord, couldn’t wait to get right with both God AND those he had wronged, doing so with a joyous heart.

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.”  (Luke 19:8 ESV)

In response, Jesus says, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.” (Luke 19:9 NASB) I think this shows that it’s not the condition of your wallet or your bank account, but the condition of your heart that matters.

“…for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt 6:21)

So when we think we are being righteous, and faithful, all the while stubbornly holding on to just This One Thing,  we need to remember:

It only takes one.

Nobody is getting hurt…again.

You are alone again.  You like it that way.  Less muss, less fuss.  Fewer distractions, less demands on your time.  You value your free time, time to do the things YOU want to do, right?  Problem is, you want to surf the Internet for pornography.  It started simple enough.  Just swimsuits, alluring models in skimpy clothes.  No biggy.  Then it was those celebrity “fan sites” with half-dressed celebs being drunk and provocative.  Man, ain’t those paparazzi the greatest!  Then you moved on to lingerie. Maybe a Victoria’s Secret catalog that came in the mail by accident.  No harm there, just a little skin, right?  Pretty soon, though, things go from bad to worse.  At first it was just “art appreciation.”  Fine photography revealing the human form.  No harm in that, right?  Besides, if those girls didn’t want to be looked at, they wouldn’t have posed for the pictures, right?

Then, just like with alcohol and drugs, you start needing harder stuff to get a buzz.  It’s a daisy-chain of addiction, one site leading to another to another, each link taking you deeper and deeper into darkness.  Over time you find yourself going places no man should ever go, looking at things no man should ever see.

You have it all worked out in your head, have all your excuses and justifications lined up like bullets in an ammunition clip, ready to be fired off on full auto if your conscience ever tries to rise up and suggest that your lifestyle might not be the healthiest, your moral choices not the most sound.  I mean, after all, they’re just pictures, right? What’s the big deal? Nobody is getting hurt, right?

How many of us out there have used these excuses ourselves at some point?  Whether it’s our online poker habit, the slots at the Indian Reservation, our drinking, shoplifting, or pornography, the excuses all end up sounding pretty much the same.  It’s just a few beers, right?  It’s not like I’m drinking the hard stuff.

I’m not spending THAT much at the mall every week, right?  And besides, it was on SALE!

No, really. This will be the LAST time I hit the Blackjack tables, just until I can earn back the money I lost last week…

No matter how wrapped up in it we get, no matter how many chains we bind ourselves with, no matter how many other areas of our life we sacrifice to our addictions, we always somehow manage to clear the air by insisting that, hey, what’s the big deal? Nobody is getting hurt.

But it’s both a truth, AND a lie.

Because, you see, someone IS getting hurt. YOU.  YOU are getting hurt.  You are harming yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  You’re relationships are suffering, what few you might actually have left.  You’ve withdrawn from the world, slowly cutting off family, shutting out friends.  When you let yourself become a slave to these compulsions, these addictions, you are bringing the promise of ruin and pain into your life.

So when you say that “nobody” is getting hurt, what you’re really doing is calling yourself a nobody.  You are saying that you don’t matter, that it’s okay for you to get hurt.  Oh sure, you’d never intentionally hurt anyone else.  THEM you care about.  You?  Eh, it’s okay if YOU get hurt.  No big deal.  You’re just a nobody.  Nobody cares about me, really, so why should I care about myself?

And the really tragic thing?  Somewhere, somewhere deep down inside, you might actually believe it, too. 

Because, truth is? You don’t really believe all those excuses you’re so good at making.  You don’t really think it’s no big deal.  You know it’s wrong, but because you’re an addict, you won’t…or can’t….stop.  The guilt is tearing you apart inside, but instead of dealing with the guilt, you medicate the pain.  With your addiction.  You “use” to feel good, even for a little bit, to escape the pain you feel.  But you still know, somewhere down inside, that it’s wrong.  And so you feel guilty, ashamed.  Swear you’ll quit.  But you can’t.  So you drink to escape the guilt that’s driving you to drink.  It’s a vicious cycle that is tearing you apart and robbing you of health, life, and love.

So, let’s be honest here.  Someone IS getting hurt. You.  But it’s not “only” you, either.  Maybe you’ve never punched anyone, never screamed or yelled, never “abused” or hurt someone.  Maybe you’ve never hit anyone with your car while driving drunk, or never forced a young runaway girl to pose nude for a website to pay for the drugs you got her hooked on; but not all hurts leave scars you can see.  You’re hurting your wife, your girlfriend, your parents, your kids.  Your co-workers, your friends.  People who want to know you, who want you to chose THEM over the porn, or the poker, or the alcohol.  They are hurting, feeling the pain of rejection, of abandonment, of self-doubt.  Even if you never lift a finger farther than it takes to click a mouse button, you are still hurting people.  You are passing on a legacy of hurts that they will carry with them throughout the rest of their life. 

So don’t believe the lies.  Stop telling yourself that nobody is getting hurt.  You’re not a nobody.  You are somebody, somebody who God wants to know Him, to find in HIM the healing, the love, the acceptance that maybe you don’t think you deserve, or will ever find.  God wants to give you His love, whether you deserve it or not.  As a matter of fact, the less you “deserve” it, the MORE He wants to give it to you!

Jesus *said to them, “{It is} not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt 2:17 NASB)

And understand that you can’t fight this alone. Trust in God, and He will bring people into your life that can help you find healing, help bring restoration and connection and wholeness where you’ve allowed your addiction to cause brokenness, destruction and pain.

No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.  (1 Cr 10:13 NASB)

Stop hurting yourself.  Stop hurting those around you.  Stop telling the lies that no one…not even you…believe anymore.  It won’t be easy; but with the help of God, it doesn’t have to be impossible either. 

 

Here’s are some recommended resources for those struggling with addiction, especially sexually-based addictions:

http://www.13waystoruinyourlife.com/

http://www.pornaddicthubby.com/

Trapped in Temptation
http://www.cbn.com/spirituallife/CBNTeachingSheets/Pornography.aspx

WWJD or WWYHMDL?

A while back the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) bracelets were all the rage.  They still pop up now an then.  Like tying a piece of string to your finger, I believe the the WWJD bracelets were supposed to be reminders to live your life in a more Christ-centric way, to evaluate your actions in the context of what you think Jesus would do in a similar situation.  It is certainly an appealing and catchy sentiment that appeals to our desires to “do the right thing.”  There’s just one problem.

It’s asking the wrong question.

Asking WWJD means that you are guessing.  You’re taking your best estimate as to what YOU think is the right answer in this situation.  You are trying to live your life like Jesus lived his.  So, does that mean that are you wondering if you should go overturn the tables in the temple courtyard?  Should you go live in the wilderness for 40 days, or get in the Pharisees’ face about their legalism?  Should you go hang out in the lunch room at IRS headquarters so you can fulfill your mandate to consort with tax collectors?

Uh….probably not.  See, the thing is, you CAN’T LIVE YOUR LIFE LIKE JESUS, because he was the Son of God.  He set an unachievable goal.  He didn’t set us an example to follow…He gave us a path to follow!  He didn’t come to give us a list of do’s and don’ts…He came to show us the way to the Father.  Jesus only gave us two commandments…”You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  (Luke 10:27)

I propose that you can’t really do the second one until you start doing the first one!

So, instead of wondering WWJD, what we should be asking is, “What Would You Have Me Do, Lord?”

See, the thing is, we don’t have to wonder.  We don’t have to guess.   As believers in Christ we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we have a hot line straight to God, such that when difficult situations arise, we don’t need to look to our bracelet…we can go right to The Source.

While, granted, WWJD fits better on a bracelet or a T-Shirt or a bumpersticker than “WWYHMDL,” we need to understand that relying on our best guess estimates makes us the arbiters of truth.  It becomes too easy to live life according to a series of handy, and often changeable “Jesusisms” that reduce His Word to little more than philosophical precepts.  We might as well ask what would Gahndi do, or Buddha, or Oprah.  Jesus was not just another philosopher exhorting us to live better lives.

He called us to live our lives in service to Him, and the only way we are ever really going to know what that is supposed to look like is to ask…HIM.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Prov. 14:12

The key word in this passage is the word “seems.”  There is an answer which “seems” right to us, a way that “ought” to be correct, or a solution that “feels” good.  Except that, if it is OUR way, then it is wrong. 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord , and turn away from evil.  Prov 3:5-7

Lean not on your own understanding.  Rather than do what “feels right,” study the scriptures, pray, come before the Lord and ask Him to tell you what to do.

We are too easily swayed by the ways of the world to trust our own judgement when it comes to spiritual matters.  So, instead of settling for What Would Jesus Do, let’s keep asking, “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

You may not always like the right answer, but it’s always better than feeling good about the wrong one.

You’re NOT The Boss Of ME!

As God is taking his wire brush to my innards, breaking loose a lot of the accumulated crud and gunk clogging up the works, I’m actually starting to realize a few things.  One, he’s got a lot of work to do in there.  It’s like the barbecue grill you forgot to clean after the last big cookout of the season last Fall, and so it’s just been sitting there all winter.  Now when you crack open the lid for the first big cookout of this Spring…ewwwwww.  Lot’s of mouldering gyeck and rust and spiderwebs and who knows what else that dripped down onto those little fake briquets on the bottom, congealing into something resembling a twisted science experiment that escaped from an evil scientist’s lab.

Yep, that pretty much sums up my soul right now.

Secondly, perhaps the single most illuminating (and disturbing) thing that I’ve realized is that I am resenting God.  Wha..?   Yup.  I am deep in the throes of a full-blown, resentful, pouty-lipped, widdle foot-stomping spiritual temper tantrum.  Probably have been for quite some time.

I’m pretty sure this isn’t what Jesus meant when He said we should become like little children in order to enter His Kingdom.

I find that I am resentful of Him forcing me to give up all my worldly pleasures and distractions.  I resent being told "No."  I resent not getting to do things my way, when I want, how I want.  I resent being forced to stay and work on my marriage rather than being allowed to follow the path of so many today and harry off on some mid-life crisis to "find myself" and pretend I’m some carefree 20-something with nothing to worry about but ME, ME, MEEE! 

I’m like some petulant teenager who just can’t understaaaaaand why she can’t go to the Nine Inch Nails concert with her 23 year old "friend."  But I WANT to!

And figure that should be enough, right? 

Sometimes, to be honest, I feel like stomping up the stairs, screaming "I HATE YOU!!!" at the top of my lungs, and slam my bedroom door with all the fury contained in my martyred and misunderstood little arms.

Forgetting, of course, that I stomped up the stairs of the home my parents have provided for me, to slam the door of the room they filled with furniture, and throw myself on my bed and listen to the Ipod they bought me, as I bemoan how they just never let me do anything, and they don’t really love me, or they’d let me do what I WANT."

Sound familiar, at all?  How like children we must be in God’s eyes!

We are like those oh-so-worldly teenagers that we all know, and many have raised, those wizened old philosophers and sages who have the world figured out at 17, and with much rolling of eyes and dramatic sighs we wish our geeky, clueless parents would just get out of our way and let us do what we KNOW is right.  Or at least what feels good.  Or what our friends tell us is "cool."  Or any combination of the three.

Only to discover, some ten years later, as we watch our own little crumb snatchers get all demanding and pissy when they can’t have what they want, when they want, and that would be RIGHT N-O-W!! just how much smarter our parents have suddenly become.

God is revealing to me one of the fundamental flaws of my character, and I am struggling to face all of the potential ramifications of it.  Despite a lifetime of faith, despite years of devout worship, study, and what I felt to be "devotion," I’m still really just as much of a drama queen in many ways as anyone else in the world.

Despite "knowing" what God wants, I "kick against the goads," fighting against God’s sovereignty, rationalizing, justifying, cajoling and bargaining in order to keep on doing this or that "one little thing."  Problem is, God wants it all.  Heart, mind and soul.

It’s time to grow up, man up, and stop demanding that God see it MY way.

Because, despite of all I may want to convince myself, or however much I may try to hide from it, the simple reality is…yeah, He really IS the boss of me. 

He formed me in the womb, knew me before I was born, and created me for a purpose.  He is infinite in His wisdom, and like that wise and worldy parent, knows the dangers of rock concerts with over-age boyfriends and the many other dangers facing us out there in the world, dangers of which we are undoubtedly blissfully unaware.  We need, I need to trust Him, to know that He has a perfect plan for my life, and that the more I fight it, the only person I’m really making it hard on is myself.

I think this poster sums it up nicely: