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.”

 

 

Advertisements

Three Lessons to Take Away from the 2014 Winter Olympics

Three Lessons to Take Away from the 2014 Winter Olympics

 

            Admittedly, I’m an Olympic nerd. I love the drama, the personal stories, the action and intensity of the individual events, and of course, I love rooting for my home country. Normally I tune in to my favorite events, usually whatever is shown on the major networks in prime-time. But this year was different. So far my 2014 has been wrought with more physical nightmares than 2013 delivered. Both my daughter and I contracted a rarer type of flu, one that sent us both to the hospital, one that had us sick for two weeks, and one that eventually gave me pneumonia (which I still have). So, aptly timed, the Olympics aired while I was on bed rest; quite convenient! Having the opportunity to watch not only my favorite events, but all of the events (yes, I even watched Curling!) afforded some great learning opportunities.

 

Shut Up and Own It

           

            After an abysmal performance in Speed Skating, an athlete provided an explanation in an on-camera interview, “I don’t know what it was, but I know it wasn’t me!” Um, ok bud, thank you for clearing up the confusion, because I’m pretty sure I just saw you put up a not-so-stellar time, in more than one race. But it’s ok, it’s not you. It’s the ice, the elevation, or the whacky design on your evidently not so aerodynamic skating suit. But it’s not you. Even worse, this was an American athlete. Not a proud USA moment for me but a clear reflection of how most of society thinks—blame someone else and avoid personal ownership, no matter how ignorant.

            But as much as I want to get down on the guy, I have to admit, I do the same thing. I get defensive about my performance as a Christian, as a wife, or as a mother and I make excuses for my behavior. It’s just easier to heap the blame on someone or something else than it is to own my mistakes, short-comings, or outright blatant meltdowns of maturity. Seeing that interview was like seeing my own reflection. I wanted to judge the guy, but I saw his excuses within my own heart. Maybe there are reasons, circumstances, or outside influences affecting my behavior, but in the end, what I say and do is my own choice. How I perform (behave) is my choice, how I respond to adversity is my choice, how I react to conflict is my choice. It boils down to an attitude and response that either attracts or repels others. Squashing pride, owning our choices, and humbly admitting our faults will attract the right attention (and people) in our lives. Making excuses, blaming everything and everyone, and refusing to take personal responsibility will only serve to show our immaturity and pride, while simultaneously poisoning the relationships in our lives. So, let’s all do each other a favor the next time our attitudes and behavior fall short; let’s shut up and own it, and move on.

Keep a Golden Perspective

 

            Dozens of athletes compete in each Olympic event, but only three walk away with hardware around their necks. Over the last two weeks of competition I’ve seen every range of reaction to a given outcome. Some athletes were overjoyed beyond comprehension just to get on that Olympic podium, they didn’t care what color they got, while others had no trouble hiding their disdain over the color of the medal around their necks (think USA women’s hockey medal ceremony—you would have thought that silver medal was battery acid). By far the attitudes of gratitude spoke volumes more to me than the whiny, it’s-not-good-enough looks of resentment. But again, I find myself looking in the mirror, seeing the reflection of my own heart.

            Truth is (I know, it’ll come as a shock, because we all know I’m perfect…) more often than not I have a spiritual attitude of ingratitude. I compare my circumstances (i.e. what medal I’ve received) and gripe about what the other guy got that I deserved. I studied hard, obeyed a lot, and tithed my paycheck, so why didn’t I get God’s golden favor of physical health and material wealth? But alas, in the real world it simply doesn’t work that way. Christianity is not a vending machine religion, where you dial up a result, put in your coins, and know what you’re going to get. You can do everything “right” and still end up as a widow, a grieving parent, or permanently physically handicapped. Our obedience to God, our choice to follow Him and choose to live from Truth guarantees us nothing (as far as circumstances goes) while we’re walking around on this earth (but it does guarantee a whole heck of a lot in eternity!). No, in this world we will have trouble, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have peace at the same time. That’s the promise of a golden perspective. When we keep our eyes focused on Truth we live and breathe the peace that passes all understanding. That other guy can get the gold medal, we’re fine with the bronze, because we know we’ve been promised much more in a time not too far from now. It’s easy to say but hard to practice, yet maintaining a golden perspective is what will determine how we react to the success of others (as well as our own failures).

 

Well, What Do You Expect?

 

            Don’t even get me started on this issue of unmet expectations. Well I guess I got myself started. Anyways, I could easily be the poster child for this problem, but watching the Olympics reassured me that I’m not alone in the fight. As I listened to the announcers talk about the athletes I was left with an expectation of who was going to come away with the shut-out victory. I mean, the way some of these athletes were discussed, you would have thought everyone else should have just forfeited and handed them the medal. But then the competition would begin and whatever the announcers just said seemed, well, foolish. In some ways, it was humorous as the announcers would be just as shocked as everyone watching. But hey, the unpredictability of the games is part of the excitement. On one hand you’ve got an athlete who can scarce believe their own performance and the gold medal they’ve unexpectedly received, and on the other hand you’ve got a gold medal “favorite” sitting in 4th, 5th, or even 30th place, wallowing in disappointment and “what-ifs”.

            If there’s one thing nearly every conversation about disappointment and despair (“I want to quit!”) has in common, it’s the issue of unmet (and often unrealistic) expectations. Someone didn’t respond to us the way we thought they would (or should), the person we thought was our best friend turned out not to be a friend at all, our financial security was blown out of the water with an unexpected job loss, the happily ever after was cut short by a death…on and on we could go. Like it or not we all have expectations of ourselves and others, and when those expectations aren’t met we get grumpy. There’s a little phrase I learned as a kid, “Give all your expectations to God.” I wish I had paid more attention to it, because it could have saved me a lot of depression, despair, hopelessness, self-loathing, bitterness, resentment, hurt feelings, and lost relationships. Sometimes people won’t treat us the way they should, sometimes we won’t treat others the way we should—it happens. One way to avoid the trap of despair (and self-loathing and self-pity and living life as a victim) is to literally release all our expectations to God. One of my favorite quotes is from Charles Stanley, “Obey God and leave all the consequences to Him.”

We have control only of ourselves, our own choices, and our integrity (that is, whether or not we have integrity). So then, the only thing we can reasonably expect is the unexpected. That doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, it will be easy, or we should stuff our feelings down when things don’t go as planned, it just means we shouldn’t be surprised by it. Whenever we’re struck with feelings of resentment, hurt, despair, feeling like the world is out to get us, etc. it can likely be traced back to an unmet expectation. Like tracing our steps as we search for our lost car keys, we need to trace the pain back to its source and then give that “source” to God. We can try to manipulate others or our circumstances to fit our expectations, but we will never have peace until we relinquish the idea that we have control over anything other than our own free will.

 

Closing Ceremonies

 

            I actually had a longer list than this but I’m tired of typing and you’re probably falling asleep reading. So I’ll end it here. I hope the next time the Olympics rolls around you’ll watch and look for the lessons, because there are many to be found. So, this is Bob Costas bidding you a good night from Sochi…

Alright, it’s just Rebecca, and I bid you a “thanks” for reading, as well as inviting you to share what lessons you may have learned as you watched (or read about) the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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.

Visions

Visions

“I seek you with all my heart.” Psalm 119:10 NIV

“I sought your face with all my heart.” Psalm 119:58 NIV

Car keys

Debit Cards

Remote Controls

People

Love

Happiness

Purpose

Have you ever found yourself searching for any of these things?  I have searched for all of these things at some point in my life! I have been guilty of filling my life with the things of the world in order to find happiness, love, or fulfillment. I have also spent a lot of time searching for missing items, like the remote control! (It’s always between the cushions!) If I were to look back and think, would I be able to determine how much of me was actually involved in the search effort? When I was attempting to find happiness apart from God, I searched with my whole heart! Why? Because I wasn’t satisfied and I didn’t have a purpose! Therefore my mind, will, and emotions were searching feverishly after a source of deep fulfillment. I wanted to be wanted, and I didn’t understand that I already was wanted by the Creator of the universe himself! This search led me to make many terrible choices, some of which will have lasting consequences here on earth. I’m very grateful to God that he continued to pursue a relationship with me, and never let me be comfortable apart from it!

The Psalmist reminds us that not only are we to obey, but we are also to seek after God with all of ourselves. Not just intellectually, but in our wills and emotions. Our affections need to be seeking after the only One who can satisfy.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.” Proverbs 8:17

“Seek his kingdom.” Luke 12:31

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” Luke 10:27, Deut. 6:5, Mark 12:30

“Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” Psalm 105:3-4

One cannot truly obey whole heartedly unless they are first seeking whole heartedly. How do we seek God with all our hearts? The same way we obey with all our hearts! We look for him not just in our minds to expand knowledge, but in our will. We deliberately make a choice to search for his truth. Then in our emotions; when we are feeling like God must not be concerned with our troubles, we direct our emotions to search for God in our circumstances. He promises us that if we seek him, we will find him!

If you are a believer, a Christ-follower, then God is with you! If you don’t see him, it is because you are not looking. God has not gone anywhere, he is there. He never abandons his children, whether or not his children feel abandoned.  Often I am tempted to pray, “Be with me, God” or “Be with them”, and then I check myself. God is already there! If I am a believer, how much closer can God get to me when he is already in my heart? No, instead I need to be praying, “Let me see you, Lord, because I know you are here!” If I seek him, I am promised that I will find him! Likewise, this promise is for all God’s children! What a marvelous truth!

“God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out to him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:27

The problem in seeing God is that we are not looking with a united heart, most notably with our emotions. No wonder we doubt so easily! Our minds look for him in his word, or in outward signs, but our will does not act with the authority of his promises. We don’t realize he has been there all along; we just missed him. We cannot be satisfied to seek him only for greater knowledge; we need to seek his truth with our whole heart. It’s a simple formula; seek and find. This formula involves not only reading his word, but spending time listening to his voice. Usually we are too busy to sit and listen, and we miss his direction and purpose. Prayer is a very important part of uniting the hearts vision of God. We never want to become out of balanced, full of knowledge without application.

The one who is whole heartedly seeking after truth will find it in God’s word and from his voice.

He is not far from us, we simply need to look.

Prayer

Jesus, I know I often get overwhelmed in my circumstances and fail to see you. I often ask you to come to me when you have been here all along waiting for me to catch a glimpse of you! Open my eyes and let me see you in my every day! I don’t want to miss what you have for me because I am too busy looking around instead of at you. Help me to learn how to be still and listen to your voice. Give me a new vision of you, and unite my heart to see it clearly with all that I am!

“Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;

Naught be all else to me, save that thou art:

Thou my best thought, by day or by night,

Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”

Blameless

Blameless

“May I be blameless in keeping your decrees; then I will never be ashamed.” Psalm 119:80 NLT

When we enter the presence of God are we ashamed or confident? Can we come to him in prayer and feel good about the way we have conducted our lives? The prophet Isaiah got a taste of the holiness of God and declared, “Woe is me for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips…for mine eyes have seen the glory of the Lord of hosts!” (Isa 6:5) This account gives me goose bumps every time I read it. How do we view ourselves when we come into the presence of the Almighty? Do we come to him with an attitude of indulgence, demanding what we think we need? I fear much of what has happened today is a lack of self-awareness. We don’t view ourselves as we ought to. We are weighed down with pride. We approach God as if he is our vending machine. “Bless this pursuit, God, thank you!”

We ought to be ashamed of ourselves for ever losing sight of the holiness of God!

Yet, God doesn’t call us into a life of shame and regret, does he? He calls us into a life of holiness. He is a Holy God, and he demands holiness from his children.  However, there is a big difference between living a holy life, and living a life of bondage. We can try so hard to be “good” in our own power that we become slaves to rituals, rules, and conduct codes. Read the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7) and try to live that out. It can’t be done apart from the Holy Spirit! Reading the “do’s” and “don’ts” of the law then trying to act them out is a sure way to feel like a failure. We are called to live a blameless life, but we are not called into bondage. The only way to live a holy life is to walk in the will of God, and that involves spending time getting to know Him. As we get to know the voice of God and his leading we get “in tune” with the Holy Spirit and his ways. Over time we see a change in our conduct.

 The behavior springs forth from the relationship, the relationship doesn’t come from the behavior.  If we have the relationship right, the behavior will flow. So, are we walking the “fruits of the spirit”? Are we a living testimony of the Sermon on the Mount? If not, we need to check in on our relationship and knowledge of the Lord. If we are walking in the Spirit, he will lead us into his will.

When I come into the presence of God I do not want to be ashamed.

“I have been blameless before him and have kept myself from sin.” 2 Samuel 22:24

“I will be careful to lead a blameless life-when will you come to me? I will walk in my house with a blameless heart. I will set my eyes before no vile thing.” Psalm 101:2-3

“He whose walk is blameless is kept safe.” Proverbs 28:18

“You must be blameless before the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 18:13

“For he chose us in him before the beginning of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.” Ephesians 1:4

“Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless, and at peace with him.” 2 Peter 3:14

All of the biblical knowledge in the world will be put to shame without a right heart. The Pharisees followed all the rules, but their hearts were perverse. They didn’t grasp the fact that their behavior would not earn them anything before God. They had to come to Jesus first, and they were unwilling to do that. No doubt, they were put to shame because of their religious hypocrisy.

If we want to have confidence in our prayer life, we need to be walking the blameless life. We cannot do that apart from Jesus. Intimate dependence on him is the beginning of correct behavior. We start in his word, getting to know him, spending time with him and letting his Spirit change our hearts as we mature in him.

This is the holy life; walking in the will of God.

A relationship with a holy God will lead us into the blameless life. In this way we can enter the throne room of Christ and have confidence in what we ask.

The holy life is the life never put to shame.

Prayer

Jesus, I know every single day I fall far short of your holy standard. I want to come into your presence with confidence and assurance that I am in your will. Help me this moment to see a glimpse of your true holiness. I know you want what is best for me, and that it’s perfectly lined out in your word. Teach me to love your word so I can know your word and follow your word. I need your Spirit to guide me into truth to keep me from being ashamed in your presence. I want to stand before you confident that I am in your will and living the blameless life.

Confidence

Confidence

“I will speak to kings about your laws, and I will not be ashamed.” Psalm 119:46 NLT

Confidence in the presence of God gives us confidence in the presence of men. When we are confident of whom we are, who Christ has made us, and how he sees us, we will have boldness in the world to speak the truth. The fear of man’s view of us, what we believe and how we choose to live stems from an insecurity in our relationship with Jesus. If we truly understand who he is and how he feels about us, it should spur us on with all assurance.

Psalm 119:43 “Do not snatch the word of truth from my mouth.”

Verse 46 is the answer to this request. The truth has not been taken from the Psalmist, but rather validated in his life giving him boldness before rulers.  No doubt the Psalmist knew the promises of God well, and he trusted God in light of that.

Great holiness equals great boldness.

Silence, idle talk, cowardice, and bashfulness are all signs of the one who is ashamed. The Psalmist declares with force, “I will speak.” He has predetermined that he has the word of truth, God has given it to him, and he will speak of it. Indeed, he will not only speak of it rather than remain silent, but he will speak to kings about it! He will not only speak to kings about Gods truth, he will do so boldly and unashamed!

Imagine the opportunities we are given every day to be a bold witness with our lives. When we are living out his will our actions will back up what we speak of. That blameless life gives us confidence before men.

Have you ever been given advice about a situation from someone clearly not heeding their own words? It’s a little difficult to trust that kind of wisdom. I can’t expect my daughter to grow up with healthy eating habits by merely telling her to do so, I have to live it. It’s not going to have much weight if I’m gluttonous every day while telling her she cannot do as I am doing.

If I want people to see Jesus, I need to be a portrait of who he is. It’s more than just words and knowledge.

The fact is people are drawn to actions rather than words. I’m more interested in my daughter obeying me then I am in her telling me she loves me 500 times a day. If you love me, obey me! How interesting that a parent child relationship is mirrored in our relationship with Christ. He also tells us if we love him we need to show it! Stop the talk and start the actions.

The actions will back up our words and give us a holy boldness before men. We can speak of truth and not be ashamed. We can have the word of truth in our mouths and declare it before kings without fear!

So often we avoid speaking because we are afraid to offend someone. Really, it’s quite absurd. Jesus does not give us a politically correct example. He often offended people, mostly the Pharisees (the religious leaders!). Jesus was the ultimate example of speaking the truth in love. So often we think speaking the truth “in love” means keeping our mouths shut or sugar coating the truth; however we should never be ashamed of the truth he has revealed to us in his word! Certainly, we should never apologize for it. I’ve heard people say, “Hey don’t get mad at me it’s in the Bible, God said it not me!”

Listen folks, if God said it, we shouldn’t be ashamed of it! We should speak it boldly and have the life to back it up!

Could you stand before kings with confidence?

Bosses

Spouses

Friends

Siblings

Co-workers

Do we have confidence before them? Can they tell who Jesus is by what they see from us? Or do we have hollow words; or perhaps no words at all?

“I sought the Lord and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4

Prayer

Lord, teach me your word and let me never be ashamed to proclaim it! Help me to trust the promises in your word, and gain boldness from my relationship with you. I want my life to be a witness of who you are and I want it to point others to you. Let me be one who is deeper than just words, truly walking blamelessly before men.

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)