What’s Making America not-so-Great and Killing the Evangelical Church

      A few years ago I began writing a new manuscript. Thirty thousand words later and a two year sabbatical, I am once again reminded of the importance of sharing this message. So, below I have decided to share one of the chapters of this unfinished work with you, in hopes that God will speak to both you and me about the dangers of the Entitlement mentality. How often I forget to leave this door closed! Perhaps you can relate? It doesn’t take much effort to look around our world and our churches to see its nasty infiltration. Let’s pray that we, as a church and the bride of Christ, will come together–laying aside our expectations–and learn to be content with the peace of Jesus alone.

Excerpt from:

The Devil’s Alphabet: 25 Doors You Don’t Want to Open

CHAPTER THREE

Door #5: Entitlement

Counterfeit: easily offended, anger towards God, feeling as if we are owed something

            Truth: We have no rights, all our rights belong to God, we are not our own (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

The Origin of Entitlement

“For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to heaven and set my throne above God’s stars. I will preside on the mountain of the gods far away in the north. I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’” Isaiah 14:13-14, NLT

Most of us have heard it said, “Satan’s downfall was his pride.” But I would challenge that statement. Opening the door of entitlement often leads to other doors, doors like pride. But pride begins with entitlement. Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines entitlement as: “the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something; the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something (such as special privileges).” Before pride, Satan saw something he wanted and decided he deserved what he saw. Satan saw God, His glory and His throne, and believed he deserved those things for himself. This entitlement mentality was the beginning of the end for Satan. It’s one of the things he used to tempt Eve as well; she doubted God’s word first, then began to believe she had a right to the knowledge God was clearly withholding from her. Whether we realize it or not, we stumble through this door more often than we think.

Entitlement Mentality with God

            Anger towards God, I think we’ve all experienced this at times. But what is the source of this anger? The source, more often than not, is an entitlement mentality. As Christians we tend to fall victim to thinking life is supposed to go a certain way because we’re obeying God. We’re promised blessings when we obey, right? While obedience to God is a promise of blessing, it is not a promise of good or pleasurable circumstances. The blessings we are promised aren’t necessarily material in nature (though they certainly can be). You’re going to read this repeatedly and I say it again now to continue to drive the point home: one of our greatest blessings is having a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Peace has no price-tag, and those who have this peace know exactly what I’m talking about. The moment we start to believe God owes us something is the same moment our spiritual peace begins to erode because like it or not, our circumstances will not always be pleasant.

“Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God? Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’ When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?” Romans 9:20-21, NLT

Those are difficult verses to swallow, especially if we’ve walked through the door of entitlement. It doesn’t help that there are an abundance of religious leaders today teaching and writing about things like health, wealth, and prosperity. This never ceases to amaze me. How can this teaching be so prominent when our Bible contains much of the opposite when it describes the lives of Christians? Look at Job! Look at Paul, John the Baptist, or pretty much anyone who followed the teachings of Jesus. They were persecuted, punished, tortured, and murdered because they followed God. Materially speaking, they were anything but prosperous. And while Job was wealthy, he also lost all of his wealth, health, and property; he even lost his entire family. None of his friends understood his suffering because of their own entitlement mentality. “Surely God only allows such horrors to befall the wicked, evil, and rebellious, not the righteous,” they reasoned. And the same thing happens in our lives. We suffer and our fellow Christians judge our spiritual lives because deep down they too believe good things are synonymous with obedience to God.

Sometimes life is great, we’re showered blessing upon blessing, good things raining down from the heavens abound. And other times it seems the only thing raining on us is hydrochloric acid; burning, painful, searing loss after loss. In either case, God owes us nothing. Certainly God wants to bless us, but it’s the spiritual, inner blessings He is focused on. It’s the transformation of us into the likeness of His Son that he knows will be our ultimate bliss.

As a mother, I strive to teach my daughter healthy eating habits, but that’s not easy with a young child who seems extraordinarily picky. Rest assured, when my daughter opens up her school lunch and sees fruits and vegetables, her reaction isn’t gratitude. ‘Round and ‘round we go fighting about it, but in the end she either eats the produce or goes hungry. She believes I am torturing her, but I know, as much as she dislikes it, that I’m doing the right thing for her body, growth, health, and development. I could let her eat artificial cheesy snacks and chocolate cookies every day, to show that I love her and care about her happiness, but a better way to show I love and care about her is to withhold those things from her, saving them as an occasional special treat. In fact, she appreciates those things a lot more when she doesn’t get them every day. Similarly, God wants to show us He loves us and cares for us, but His idea of love is far different (and greater) than ours. Our prayers sometimes sound like a six-year-old begging for cake; God hears those prayers, but many times chooses to answer with carrots and apples. When we have an entitlement mentality, the raw produce version of answered prayers or life circumstances will probably anger, baffle, and discourage us. When that is our reaction to the circumstances in our lives, we need to stop and ask God for a heart check, as we’ve likely walked through the door of entitlement.

Entitlement Mentality with People

            Let’s face it, God is God and He’s going to do and allow whatever He wants. For some of us that truth isn’t terribly difficult to accept. After all, He’s God and we’re not; but when it comes to other people, well now, that’s a different story. We expect others to forgive us, treat us with kindness, care about our hurts, ask us how we’re doing, sympathize and empathize with us, and basically fulfill our emotional needs in every way we were designed to get from Jesus. God forbid someone fail to meet our lofty expectation, that’s when our entitlement mentality rears its ugly head. We know we’ve walked through that door when we find ourselves easily offended, overly sensitive, resentful, bitter, gossipy, judgmental, and critical of others; basically an overall jerk of a Christian (those who knows me well are laughing right now, because they know I have struggled with all of these character flaws). Somewhere along the way, someone failed to meet our unspoken, assumed expectation, and that hurts, especially when we feel we’re entitled to a certain response or action from said person.

It’s Not All About Me (or You)

“I’ll never forget the day I decided to try a new church. Just months after being widowed, I had moved and was looking for a church that was similar to the one where my husband had been pastoring. That day, I had gone through the process of finding the place where my children would go during the service and after leaving them in the capable hands of the teachers, I walked to the sanctuary. As people were milling around, I waited for someone to introduce themselves to me…but no one did. With my heart pounding and my hands sweating, I realized just how alone I was. New situations hadn’t bothered me before, but that was because I normally had my husband at my side.

“When I found a seat, I half expected the people sitting next to me to turn their heads and acknowledge my presence, but they didn’t. Then, as the worship began, I found myself fighting back tears. When your late husband was an amazing worship leader, pretty much any song sung in church reminds you of him. And so there I stood, alone, in an unfamiliar church, choking back tears. For a moment I was embarrassed because I felt I was making a scene. But that moment of embarrassment vanished when I realized my sorrow had gone unseen. For a while, that day really bothered me. How could those people be so self-focused that they didn’t even notice me? I felt invisible. I felt as if no one cared.”

Wow, that’s rough! Certainly my friend here had every right to be upset over the situation. I know I’ve experienced something eerily similar in many church settings, and I’m sure you have too. Unfortunately, it’s easy to walk in with expectations of how we are to be treated; failing to see that perhaps others have the same expectations of us. Before you know it, we’re all ticked off and offended with each other. Fortunately, God used the situation to speak to my friend about her own attitude, rather than the attitude of everyone around her (He has a way of doing that to us, doesn’t He?).

“Months later, as the intensity of my grief wore off I have come to see something. It’s not the people around me who have become more self-focused during my trials—it’s me. And honestly, at times I’m the most self-focused person I know. I had walked into that church feeling as if everyone should notice me. I stood during worship and had the audacity to think that the people gathered there would be looking at me instead of worshipping God.

“If I have learned only one thing the past few years, it’s that life isn’t all about me. And much like this memory shows, church isn’t all about me.”

It’s not all about me and it’s not all about you. The sooner we accept that truth the happier we will be. In a perfect world maybe our expectations of others would be met more often, but we don’t live in a perfect world. We live in a world full of difficult and unfair circumstances. One of the keys to living a more peaceful, less frustrated life, is to give our expectations to God, and leave our assumptions behind the closed door of entitlement. We’re going to be hurt and disappointed by people, because we’re all self-centered, sinful human beings, it’s a fact of life. We don’t appreciate it when others make assumptions about us and our motives, so it shouldn’t be a shocker that we need to treat others the same way we’d like to be treated—with grace.

Truth Encounter

            The door of entitlement is a tough one, one the Devil will place in our path time and time again. It’s what got him in trouble and what has plagued humanity from the beginning of time. The best defense is to get out of denial and admit we have a problem with this self-centered way of dealing with people and God. The following prayer can be used to help you refocus on the truth, and reject this door of entitlement. No matter what words you use to express your heart to God, say them out loud so the Devil can hear you and flee.

“Jesus, I know I’ve often walked through the door of entitlement, becoming bitter, resentful, angry, or offended with you or others over my unmet expectations. I now choose to give all of those expectations to you (take a moment to think about and name specific situations where you were hurt or offended by someone, or angry at God for allowing a situation into your life); my expectations of how others should act, my expectations of how you should answer my prayers, and my expectations of how I think my life should go when I am living to please you. In the name of Jesus I choose to reject the lie that I am entitled to anything, and accept the truth that it is only because of your grace I am even breathing at this very moment. I am not my own, but have been bought with the price of Jesus’ blood. Teach me how to bring glory to you through my attitude, and by showing grace to others as you have shown me grace. Thank you for freeing me from the bondage of entitlement. In Jesus’ name, amen.”

 

 

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So, what is YOUR word?

psalm143“What will you do?”

As I’ve heard sermons, read books, and sat through lectures throughout the year, I’ve heard the voice of the Spirit resounding loud and clear, “So, what will you do about it?” God has strategically batted that ball back to my side of the net over and over—spurning me to embrace an active faith, and it makes me uncomfortable. But then I remember a prayer I uttered, albeit not well-thought through at the time, for God to make me uncomfortable. Really, that prayer should be right at the top of the list of “things you don’t ask God”, right behind praying for patience or a spirit of forgiveness. Well, I’ve learned my lesson—God answers prayers for sure, especially the character building ones.

At the start of 2012 a friend of mine posted a blog about a challenge (read it here: MY One Word), a challenge to ask God about what “word” to focus on for the following year. That sounded neat, so I gave it a go. I cheerfully got on my knees and asked God what my special word for the coming 2012 year would be, I anxiously listened, hoping to hear prosperity, success, purpose, or anything along those lines. Instead, after a few moments of silence, I heard “perseverance”.

“Um, Lord, really? I mean…really?” Some of my friends were getting words like “go” and “action” and I got perseverance? I didn’t like it; I wanted to take back the prayer. What was God thinking, anyways? I had always been somewhat known for starting things and losing interest over time, eventually abandoning the project or idea. But looking back on 2012, I can see how God used the trials of one of the most difficult years I have faced to break my pride, provide me with ultimate spiritual freedom, as well as teaching me self-discipline and yes, perseverance.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to start a new year, because even though it’s just another day on the calendar, somehow turning the page and writing a new number (2013) just feels like a fresh start. I’m looking towards 2013 with great expectation—expectation in God’s revealed will (HIS Word) and not my own clever ideas. I still haven’t prayed about the new word for next year, but I’m not as scared about it as I was last year. Looking back I know that no matter what, God knows what He is doing and I can really, in fact, trust Him in all things, even the hard, painful, and uncomfortable things. That no matter what the situation, His character is constant, even if I’m not feeling like it is.

His character is constant, yes, perhaps the biggest lesson I learned this year. My character? Not so much. Which is why the prayer, “Lord, change me” has been cried out more times than I can accurately recall.

So, mingled in with words like illness, death, betrayal, loneliness, slander, hatred, consequences, loss, depression, despair, relapse, and uncertainty have been the words of truth—healing, restoration, freedom, hope, peace, purpose, fulfillment, grace, mercy, understanding, and love. All of the awfulness has actually taught me how to be an optimist of sorts. An optimist in God, not in myself. An optimist in His character, not in my ability.

I’ve asked, He has answered, and none of His responses were as expected. Through all of this I am learning that maybe, just maybe, He really does know better than I do.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Palm 143:10

What theme has God brought to your year? What “lesson” have you learned through trials or blessings? Post your comment here or join the discussion on facebook.

__________________________________________________________

profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is an author and freelance writer. She is also a health columnist for The Christian Online Magazine, a contributing writer for Encourage 365, creater of S.E.R.V.A.N.T. Sisters women’s ministry (online), and has written devotionals/studies/articles for a variety of publications. She just released a new Bible Study The Word: Six Lessons from Psalm 119 which is available as a free download on her website or in print form from Amazon. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Arizona with her husband Chris and 5 year old, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by subscribing to her blog (it’s free) and following her on twitter and facebook.

Liar, Liar

“Everyone lies to their neighbor; they flatter with their lips but harbor deception in their hearts. May the Lord silence all flattering lips and every boastful tongue.” Psalm 12:2-3 TNIV

Where has all the integrity gone? Lying has become a way of life for the majority of people, even Christians. The following are lies I’ve heard from self-proclaimed Christ-followers:

“I told this guy I was married so he’d leave me alone”.

“If you get pulled over by a cop, never, under any circumstances admit fault (even if you know you were wrong)!”

“Just say you’re busy so you won’t have to go to [an event].”

The Bible is clear about lying. It is sin. The excuses one conjures up to justify lies are evidence of a guilty conscience.

“It’s not hurting anyone.”

Wrong. Sin always, always bears consequences. Jesus said, “The good man brings up good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that all men will have to give account on the Day of Judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:35-37 (emphasis mine). Though a person may never know they’ve been lied to the most important One knows: God.

How can we expect to witness to our unbelieving friends and neighbors when our character stands in question?

As a Jesus-follower, I never want to find myself caught in a lie. The best way to not get caught in a lie is to not lie. I never want to be responsible for turning someone away from a saving faith in the Gospel because I had no integrity. A Christian who lies gives the unbelieving world another excuse to hold on to their godless existence. Let’s be salt and light, friends; after all, how can we call ourselves Jesus-followers when we make a habit of deceiving people?

As Christians we are called to a higher standard, even if taking that high road is more difficult or painful.

I recently read an “inspirational” article saying women want to be lied to by their spouses and it creates a better marriage by boosting the woman’s self-esteem. Apparently, when she asks if she looks fat she wants to hear “no” whether it’s true or not.  It’s likely our spouses are afraid to tell the truth because of reactions they receive. No wonder relationships have so much angst and heartache. Lying is so commonplace that hearing the truth hurts our feelings so we decide we want to be lied to and we think others want to be lied to.

If we want to bear witness to the life-transforming power of Jesus, we need to be people of integrity who refuse to tolerate even an inkling of intentional sin. May our prayer resonate with the Psalmist, “Because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.” Psalm 119:128 (emphasis mine)

Heart Sick

Heart Sick

“If your instructions hadn’t sustained me with joy, I would have died in my misery.” Psalm 119:92 NLT

Have you noticed that some of these verses about “delight” have referenced pain, misery, anguish, trouble, or discomfort of some kind? (See Psalm 119:143) I like how the Message puts it:

“If your revelation hadn’t delighted me so, I would have given up when the hard times came.”

Do you know anyone who has given up? Perhaps you have given up? I know a few people who have definitely given up on life, given up hope for happiness, and are certainly drowning in a sea of their own misery. I have been there myself. Part of the problem is whether or not we really understand the character of God. It’s one thing to look at a verse and nod in agreement, but if that truth hasn’t infiltrated the deepest recesses of our minds, it won’t transform our behavior. And by behavior I mean whether or not we choose to trust our Sovereign God when we are facing terrible distresses. We can know all the facts in the world about the Bible, Jesus, God and various doctrines, but if we are not living it out, it is worthless information (James 1:23-25); just words on a page or knowledge in the brain. Facts won’t transform us.

When we are hopeless, miserable, and despairing it is an outward evidence of an inward illness; the heart that has not fully understood the living truth of God’s promises. We’re not instructed to transform our behavior through memorizing facts (not that memorization is bad-quite the contrary), we are told to be “transformed” by the “renewing” (Greek word meaning “renovation”) of our minds; this is the only way to discover God’s will. (Romans 12:2) Our mind must undergo a spiritual renovation. This process involves removing the old décor, tearing down some walls, maybe building a new room, and removing the old clutter. This renovation will teach us to think in a different way. This way of thinking is led by the Holy Spirit, and is centered on the word of God and his revealed truth. Without this mind makeover, we are left to our own way of thinking which seems good to us, but in reality is conformed to the thought processes of the world. We cannot be worldly and spiritual at the same time.

If we really know God relationally (as opposed to just factually) we will begin to have a transformation of thought which will result in a transformation of behavior. Take a marriage, for example. As you get to know your spouse as a person (their character) you begin to behave differently around them. You have a level of trust based on your knowledge of who they are, and how they have acted towards you in the past. You also allow yourself to be more “real” in the presence of your partner as opposed to a person you just met last week. It’s not the facts of your spouse that influences your behavior, it’s the knowledge of their character based on your experience with them in your life.

So, are you miserable? What has your experience and relationship with God been like? Do you know his character, do you trust what the Bible says about who he is and how he feels about you, his treasured creation? Your relationship with God will dictate your behavior. Walking around moping and feeling sorry for ourselves is a demonstration of disbelief in God’s word. Does that sound too hard? Think about it!  It is something we are all guilty of at times, but it can be different! God’s word can sustain us with a deep lasting joy despite any situation. It doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll be walking around bubbly and enthusiastic all the time, but it does mean that deep down we will trust God, his word, and his promises and know his plan is being worked out in us. (Romans 8:28) That knowledge and experience with our Lord will relieve our pressure, lift our burdens, and give us joy! God is working this out: hallelujah! I know I can’t figure it out on my own (and when I try it usually turns into a total nightmare) but I know when God is moving miraculous things occur. I want my eyes to be open to the miracles he’s performing every day in my life, but I can’t see and be thankful for those things if I am fixated on not getting my way.

If it’s in my life (and yours) then God allowed it, and if I have a problem with that I need to dig deeper in to his word to discover more of his heart for me. God isn’t the problem, he’s the solution.

Prayer

Jesus, right now I choose to thank you for this circumstance in my life. I admit I am uncomfortable, but I realize that you are painting the portrait, not me. I will stop trying to add my colors to your picture, and let you be the Artist. Teach me more of who you are and what you are up to in my life so I may learn to trust you completely in all things. Today I ask for you to show yourself to me in a mighty miraculous way, confirm for me the truth that you are here, you care, and you have a plan. Impress that upon my heart with your Holy Spirit, and help me to be quiet so I can listen to your voice.

Inward

Inward

“I pondered the direction of my life and I turned to follow your laws.” Psalm 119:59 NLT

Any type of conversion or repentant experience has to start with something. A person doesn’t just decide one day to change; there is usually some motivating factor. What leads a person to desire change for themselves? The Psalmist said, “I pondered the direction of my life.” He thought about it. Where was his life going, how was his attitude, what was the end result of his life going along the current path he was on? He pondered it and decided something had to change. This change required a decision to move or turn from his current course, and go along a new course, the course of God’s word.

The beginning of change within us starts with a time of self-examination. We ask God to search us, but we also look within ourselves to see if there is something wrong. If I keep going on the path I am on, where will that lead me? Is there anything about my choices that needs to change?

Is self-examination biblical? God designed us with a free will, and within that free will is the ability to choose our direction. It’s up to us to make the choice of whether or not to maintain our current heading or put in a new route.

“When you are on your beds search your hearts and be silent.” Psalm 4:4

Before we go to bed is the perfect time to reflect on the day. Take a good look inward and see if there was anything that didn’t line up with the person of Jesus that we seek to represent. Anything less than a perfect representation means turning from that action/thought/attitude and getting back on his path. It is most certainly biblical to examine ourselves.

Do we feel regret over the short-comings we committed? Is there remorse? This remorse is necessary to lead us into a genuine repentance that alters our current actions. Does this mean we won’t ever commit that “sin” again? Of course not! We are human and we fail, but the genuine repentance will put us on a new path moving closer to the character of Jesus. Ups and downs are sure, but a consistent pattern upward will be evident of the repentant heart.

There is a counterfeit remorse, however, and its name is “self-pity”. This destructive behavior appears to be regretful, sorrowful over sin, yet it dwells on the wrongs and the failures rather than moving on and up in Christ.  Self-pity will always distance us from the voice of God. We must not allow self-pity to destroy our fellowship with him. Confess, repent (turn), be restored and move on!

 Unless we are looking in the direction of Jesus (through his word), we cannot know what light and life even look like. The joyful life is the holy life. Anything less will lead to a false sense of “happiness”. This false “joy” is the type of feeling that is easily tossed about whenever circumstances are uncertain. A lasting deep abiding joy comes in the life that is on the path to holiness. Those who appear to be happy in their “sin” will fall at some point, and deep down they will always be searching for the next “thing” to satisfy when all along Jesus has already given the answer to fulfillment!

“These people have stubborn hearts; they have turned aside and gone away.” Jeremiah 5:23

In order to know true joy I must be walking upward in my relationship with Jesus, moving closer to becoming like him. The only way I can see him and know him to be transformed into his likeness is to spend time with him in his word and prayer.

“The Spirit searches all things.” 1 Corinthians 2:10

We ask the Spirit to turn us to the light of his face through his word. We cannot see him unless we turn to look at him!

We look inward then we turn and look upward.

Prayer

Jesus, help me to take an honest look into my heart. Lead me into a time of self-examination and speak to me through your Spirit. Open my eyes to the truth of what lies within me that I need to turn from. You are truth, and your word is truth, so I ask that your Spirit guide me into the truth no matter how much it hurts. I want to press on towards a life of holiness in becoming more like you, and I don’t want anything to hinder that.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of everlasting. (Psalm 139:23-24)

Instruction

“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71 NIV

Instruction

Every day we are learning. We learn from past experiences, we learn from what others teach us (erroneously or not), we learn from what we read, what we watch, what we absorb through various means of media; we are constantly learning.

God can and will use many things to teach us his ways. The Psalmist mentions the use of afflictions as a blessing rather than a curse. “It was good…” How often are we overcome with afflictions and declare, “Wow this is great”? Well, I know I am not usually responding that way. Often it is not until the trial is long past that I can see any good. Sometimes I have never understood the good. There are some circumstances I hope and expect to understand someday when I see Jesus face to face but until then I ask, “What am I to learn?” I don’t want to miss what the trial was teaching. For whatever reason God has allowed the hardness into our lives, we can be sure there is something there to be learned.

“Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8

Afflictions bring us into obedience, and Christ Himself learned this lesson! What a privilege to be tested in the same way as the Son of God! How do you react to the test? Does it bring you to obedience or do you feel compelled to rebel in anger and self-pity?

“But those who suffer he delivers in their suffering; he speaks to them in their affliction.” Job 36:15

We can’t talk about afflictions without mentioning Job. Surely, this righteous man of God knew a thing or two about suffering unjustly! What happened? God spoke to him through his afflictions. Which, by the way, God sovereignly allowed to come upon Job for no other reason than the devil asked God if he could test him! No secret sin to be revealed in Jobs life, only the certainty that Job would remain faithful to God and not curse him or fall into the poisonous cycle of cynicism. God delivered him, and spoke to him while he was suffering. God meets us in our affliction, and teaches us there. We must not shut our eyes or cover our ears to his message during that time! Self-pity is the number one silencer to the voice of God. Focus on yourself for a while and you’re sure to lose sight of any lesson God was trying to teach you.

“I applied my heart to what I observed and I learned a lesson from what I saw.” Proverbs 24:32

Are we determined to see Gods message? This is another vital point in the afflicted one. We must press on and wrestle if we are to discover the lesson God has set before us. I don’t want to leave any trial without that “blessing”. I have said as much in my prayers, “Lord, I am not leaving here until you show me what I am to know!” Sometimes he wants us to persevere and show some determination. Do we give up or press on? How focused are we on getting taught?

“We can rejoice too when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.” Romans 5:3

“For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment.” 1 Peter 2:19

How else can we experience Gods pleasure over our passing the test unless we’ve been put to the test? How else can we mature as believers unless we are stretched like an archers bow? Are we willing to endure trials in faithfulness to receive the prize that is waiting? Do we trust that we will gain what he has promised through the refining fire?

We behave what we believe. If we’re not behaving like we trust him, we need to find out exactly what we believe about him.

“Burst into song, O mountains! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on them in their suffering.” Isaiah 49:13

Know that God is not pleased that we must endure suffering, but he is pleased when we come out of it shining with a crown of endurance! We can be sure he is pleased when we have sought his face and desired to learn his lessons with the pain! We can know that he is waiting to tell us, “Well done!” And won’t that be a marvelous day indeed! Well worth any trial!

Lastly, may our afflictions teach us not only how to trust our Lord, seek him, lean on him, and listen to him, but also to be contented with him.

“I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, (Every situation!) whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

Christ Himself gives us His strength to endure any trial allowed in our path. That alone should elicit a shout of praise, “Teach me more of your wonderful ways!”

Prayer

Thank you, Jesus, for being my guide and for using whatever means necessary to teach me your ways. I confess the times I have indulged in self-pity and loathed over my circumstances. I confess the times I have focused so much on my own misery I have completely missed you in the trial. I don’t want to leave here without understanding your lesson for me at this moment. Teach me your word and help me to trust you more. Bring me to that state of contentment in any situation; that is my prayer. I want to hear you say “Well done” when I see you face to face so I ask for your endurance through these difficulties. You have called me to press on, and I accept this calling with joy!

Balancing Act II

“Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. The statutes you have laid down are righteous.” Psalm 119:137-138 NIV

Balancing Act II

As important as it is to stay balanced through our studies in the word of God, it is also important to stay balanced in our everyday life. When we are unbalanced with our nutrition we become vitamin deficient. When we have an unbalanced activity level our muscles atrophy. If we have two vehicles and we only focus on maintaining one of them, the other one will fail to work properly. If we play too much and refuse to work, the bills won’t get paid. Balance is necessary everywhere.

I wanted to get more specific with this issue of balance. I have a confession to make; I raise my hand in guilt. I become easily side-tracked, like a cat with cat-nip. Throw me a toy (said theological debate) and I chase like a cat rabid for a fix. Come back to me a few days later and I’m tired, cranky, drained, emotional, and no better off than when it started. God whispers to my heart, balance, you’ve lost your balance child.

Sigh

Yes, I’ve done it again. Next time I will keep my mouth shut, live peaceably with all people…and all that good stuff.

Oh look, is that cat-nip?! Chases toy….

We all have our hang ups, our vices, our debates or truths we hold dear and defend. God help those who get in the way! We can be ravenous about our beliefs. Give a group of believers some tricky subjects and watch the blood flow:

Tongues

Prophecies

Tribulation/End Times

Sports

Politics

Ding! Let’s get ready to rumble folks!

It’s downright ugly what we do to each other over such issues. God is righteous, or just. His word is right. Why do we act like unrighteous heathens quarreling like rabid animals over things that cause strife and divisions? Is it edifying, does it build up the church, does it draw us to love and good works? Is this how we are communicating with each other?

Balance

How easy it is to lose focus!

My Pastor said something in his sermon today that clarified the issue for me.

Just because it’s important, doesn’t mean we need to focus on it.

Think about that for a minute. Example: Should I devote my life to figuring out what day Jesus will return? Well, it is important isn’t it? Yes, but is it our focus to try to figure out the exact date? No. It’s our greater focus to live for him now, while there is still time, and live in anticipation for his return, whenever that may be.

God’s righteous word is full of important issues. All of them worthy of our attention, but are we to lose sight of the big picture and focus on one particular item alone? Who’s to say which subject is more important than the next? Isn’t that more or less up to the individual preference? One person loves all things Old Testament, another loves all things end times….both important, but neither to be weighed as more important than the other.

Is it ok to discuss these issues? Of course! Argue, fight, get hurt feelings, lose relationships, and attack people over them? No!

When engaging in discussion, we should always consider:

Does it edify the brethren?

Does it honor God?

Am I speaking truth as best as I understand it as laid out in God’s word?

Usually the best option is to agree to disagree and move on. It really is the spiritually mature choice. Our faith is best lived out, not blared out through verbal attacks.

“Run after mature righteousness-faith, love, peace -joining those who are in honest and serious prayer before God. Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights. God’s servants must not be argumentative, but a gentle listener and a servant who keeps cool…” 2 Timothy 2:23-24 MSG

As we balance out our daily Bible study, let us also balance out our daily communication with our sisters and brothers in Christ. The next time that hot debate topic comes up, whether it is about religion or politics, food, television, books, or sports, why don’t you consider the Psalmists view of Gods character first and how you can be a reflection of that in your conversation.  Are we displaying a balanced mature faith by living righteously?

We live righteously by following a righteous word.

Balance

Prayer

Thank you for your righteousness, for being a just and holy God. Thank you for being perfectly balanced, and for walking on this earth in human form, demonstrating what it means to be perfect. I know I fall so short of that standard, but I want you to continue to change my heart and make it clean. I want to be balanced in my words and actions, as well as my prayer and Bible study. Jesus, continue to purge the bad habits from my life! Before I sleep tonight, reveal to me any unbalanced ways that need healing, and restore them. Let this truth be on my heart as I sleep tonight, your statutes are righteous! I want to be righteous like you!