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.

Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

Maybe (Just Maybe) It’s Not About You

 

            A few hours ago a friend and I were musing about the difficulties we’ve experienced in our lives over the past year. “I wonder if God is taking a nap,” may have been uttered. Both of us have been through our fair share of suffering, but if it was a contest I’d have to say she is the winner, hands down. So in a lot of ways I remind myself that as bad as I think my situation is, it’s certainly not as bad as it could be (don’t we all try to make ourselves feel better with that statement?). Our conversation sort of ended with a, “Well, life sucks, time to go take a shower now.”

            As I’ve been doing a lot lately, I stood in the shower after our talk and stared at the wall, thinking, praying, complaining, questioning…and finally I just had to ask, “Why does it have to be like this, God? I mean, why does it have to take thirty years for someone to find out they’ve been married to a monster? Why has it taken me over a year of suffering without any answers or diagnosis? Why, if we have to suffer, can’t it just be quick? Why couldn’t she have found out about her spouse a year into her marriage? Why couldn’t I have gotten a diagnosis last year when this all started instead of being turned away time and again by doctor after doctor? Why, why, why?”

            Of course I know better than to ask “why,” but for some reason I chose to go that route with God anyways. And as it happens when things like this are going on, God has been strangely silent during my prayer times. But this time (maybe He’d heard enough whining?) He chose to speak to me. He said, “What if it’s not about you?” And that was it. He allowed me to stew on that one for a while. So I stood there staring at the walls, having just received a verbal crack upside the heart with a truth so simple yet so profound I couldn’t even respond.

            Then I thought of Job, how he probably suffered more than any human being in the history of humanity (besides Jesus), and how he never had the privilege of knowing the “why” behind his tragedy. Not that he didn’t ask, but God never answered him specifically (at least, not on this side of heaven). And then I think of how many people throughout the course of time have been helped because of Job’s story. How many people have suffered and turned to the pages of that book to find the answer to their “why” only to stumble across chapters 38-42, and realize they probably won’t ever know their “why” either, but somehow gaining a measure of hope from his story.

            Then I think of how much my friend has suffered, and I consider how much my spiritual life has grown just through knowing her, and as a result of watching her suffer. Maybe, just maybe, my suffering isn’t about me at all. You know, we say it all the time (and I hate hearing it, honestly) that “God is just teaching me a lesson right now, I’m trying to listen to what He’s saying” as if God is some cosmic sadist getting some sort of pleasure out of causing us pain, just to teach us a lesson. That is not the God I know from the Bible, my God isn’t a sadist. My God came to give me life to the full (John 10:10), not cause me misery in order to teach me something. But, that doesn’t mean pain or suffering isn’t a part of the process of life, in general. And who am I to presume to know the plans and purposes of God, anyways? How do I know what God is doing in someone else’s life as a result of my suffering? The truth is, I don’t know, and neither do you. We don’t know who is watching us or being ministered to through our pain. We don’t have a clue as to what God is up to about 99% of the time. We only know what we wish He were up to, or what we expect Him to be up to, and most of the time (at least in my experience) he rarely delivers as expected (I find He delivers far better than expected).

            I sit here and think of all the people who have influenced me in my life, and many of those people suffered a great deal. A lot of what God taught me had to do with watching them respond to their circumstances. And all of this gives me pause. Because if my suffering isn’t even about me, that means God is using me for some greater purpose in someone else’s life, even if I’ll never know who, what, or why. Who am I to be used by God? All of a sudden my “why” turns into an “Oh, thank you, God, for choosing me!” Not that I am happy about suffering (who is?) but knowing all of this actually has nothing to do with me gives me some measure of peace within the ugly process of hurting.

            Throughout the past few weeks God has brought a verse to mind repeatedly, and it’s worth noting here, “Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days” Ephesians 5:16, NLT. The reality is we are all going to suffer. Some of us will experience great loss. Some of us will die younger than we had thought. Some of us will be considered “Modern day Jobs” by our friends. Some of us won’t really suffer much at all. But one thing we all have in common is that from the moment we take our first breath, we are already beginning the process of losing time and dying. So as William Wallace shares in the movie Braveheart, “All men die, not every man truly lives.”

            Within the process of suffering a pathway to true living exists, through embracing the pain (not with a giddy, happy, la-la kind of feeling, but in an embrace of surrender) and trusting that God is choosing to use us in His master plan in ways we won’t be able to comprehend. That maybe this journey we’re on isn’t even about us, it’s about Him and seeing how intricately he fits the pieces of our puzzles together to bring ultimate life abundant to us and others, all for His glory. Like Joseph was able to say to his brothers, “What Satan meant for harm, God used for good.”

            Then again, maybe none of what I’m saying here makes sense to anyone but me. I don’t know. I just know that at least in my suffering, I am gaining a bit of relief in knowing it’s not about me at all. And I’m finding a way to be thankful in it, even excited about it, because I know God is working something incredible out. And whether I know what it is on this side of heaven or on the other, I will understand it eventually, and when the final picture is brought together, I know I’ll be smiling as Jesus looks at me and says, “It hurt, but it was worth it, don’t you think?” Yeah, it is, Jesus, it is.

When “ONE” Really Does Matter

When “ONE” Really Does Matter

 

Earlier this year I felt led to start a life group at New Life Community Church—a life group that focused on spiritual freedom, spiritual healing, spiritual warfare, and the icky issues that often get overlooked in favor of more traditional studies by famous authors. You know, the studies about Grace, How to Pray, How to Disciple, How to do this and that and the other. Don’t get me wrong, I love those types of studies too, but sometimes people walk into church a little “messy” on the inside, and sometimes those people need something a little different than another “Five Steps to Being a Better Christian.”

I was excited as it got under way. There were four of us ladies, which would be perfect when it came to discussing the more sensitive issues we were likely to explore. (It’s easier to share in a small small group then in a room with twenty people.) But after just a few weeks our small group was reduced to microscopic proportions as just I and one other woman remained. Not surprisingly I struggled with the doubt of whether or not I had really “heard” God’s voice in this endeavor. Apparently I had some unmet expectations regarding the “success” of this group. (Don’t you love how God kicks us off our platform of pride rather bluntly?) But in the end I knew I had followed His leading, and I committed myself to sticking it out, even if it was only so “ONE” little life could possibly be affected in a positive way (and even if that “ONE” just happened to be ME!).

Surrendering my expectations to God lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. I could walk into the “group” (I mean, if two people can be called a group) excited about the study and what God had revealed to my friend during her week. We probably learned more from each other’s insights and experiences then either of us thought possible.

A few months into the group I had the opportunity to share a testimony at a Life Group Leaders meeting our church held. I had “ONE” little testimony to read, but God had more in store as a result.

After the meeting a woman approached me and asked if there was room for “ONE” more (Oh nope, sorry, three is a crowd—NOT). So she started attending the group even though the study was ending soon. She shared some of her struggles and asked us to pray for some of her family members who were struggling with some specific “icky” issues we often addressed in our study. The three of us developed quite a bond through this “doing life” together thing. We now pray for each other on a regular basis and know we can depend on each other for a listening, non-critical/judgmental ear. We have a “safe” place to share what many people may find “taboo” in a Christian environment (after all, Christians shouldn’t be depressed or have anxiety, right?!).

A few weeks after this woman joined our group, one of the Pastors referred another woman to me who needed a listening, non-judgmental ear regarding her “issues”. She ended up coming to the group, even though she was only able to make it to a couple meetings before it ended.  (I’ll share more about her amazing spiritual transformation in a later post, but you won’t want to miss it! It’s powerful!) So, by the end of the semester, our little life group was up to four. Then the summer came and I found out God had some major plans!

Now, we weren’t even meeting in the summer, nor was this group specifically advertised at church—but the church happens to have a website where people can browse through the life groups and read a little paragraph about it to see if it’s something they are interested in. Through this website, a few more ladies contacted me and a few others were referred to the group via word of mouth. I like to think of it as a carefully God-selected group of women called to come together in this special way.

In a matter of two months I went from prayers of, “Lord, only one? Ok, I’ll trust that this “ONE” is exactly what you have planned,” to, “Ok Lord, where am I going to find room for all of these people?!” You see, the Unexpected God came through again with His awe-inspiring blessings.

In just a few weeks our group begins again, this time we have two different meeting dates because there isn’t enough room for all of us in the room we had been using! So we’ve expanded to two days of meeting, and TEN women searching for the same thing: a dynamic and intimate relationship with Christ. Woo! God is GOOOOOD!

So I said all of that to say this: if you’re leading or mentoring just “ONE”, or maybe you write a blog and only “ONE” person reads it, or maybe you work hard to serve but not “ONE” person notices your efforts, then take heart! Maybe God will grow your ministry and maybe not, but either way, the “ONE” He gave to you is the perfect one because He chose it. So embrace it! Every “ONE” is important in God’s kingdom and we really CAN change the world one person at a time. It starts with our own spiritual freedom, and then through building relationships—one at a time—and trusting God with the results. You never know how your influence, testimony, or freedom in Christ could be used to affect the life of another…and another…and another…

…Or, as it was in my case, maybe that “ONE” God wants to transform is actually YOU.

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 7)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 7)

 Rebuking the Devil

11. Deadness

“They think he has leukemia,” my heart stopped as a lump formed in my throat. The news seemed, well, unbelievable, “How can that be?! He’s only thirty years old,” I responded to my sister. But deep down something in me just knew. My brother-in-law was going to die. And in fact, less than a year later he passed away. His death was an awful thing to witness. It challenged my faith and even some of my moral convictions. I left the hospital only hours before his last breath, but that final day was dreadful. I’m not even sure what was worse: watching his chest rise and fall awkwardly, or hearing the wails and cries of his mother and sisters who wept as those with no hope. As much as I loved him and would miss him, I prayed for God to take him quickly during those final, torturous hours. The only comfort came in knowing he was leaving his pain and entering the eternal rest of Jesus’ arms.

But it almost didn’t work out that way.

In the minutes after receiving that first phone call, my world began to change as I wrestled with the way I had lived my life and how my choices could have directly affected the eternity of my brother-in-law. He knew I claimed to be a Christian, he knew I was raised in church, he knew what I said I believed, but he also knew that my actions were the exact opposite of everything I had been taught. In fact, it was only a few months after my “prodigal return” to Jesus that I found out he was sick.

Realizing the seriousness of the situation, I fell to my knees in prayer for his salvation. He was not saved, he did not know Jesus, and frankly, I couldn’t blame him with the type of Christian examples he had in his life! Unfortunately, this scenario plays out all too often in many families. We find out a loved one is sick, we worry over their soul; we pray for their salvation, we cry out to God in desperation for their physical healing. But where were we and our prayers before we found out about their illness? Tragically, many of us were Christians whose faith was dead.

“In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead,” (James 2:17, NIV). The Greek rendering for “dead” in the passage is literally, “like a corpse”. It’s like a body without a soul—it’s an empty shell, completely ineffective.**

When I started to witness to my brother in law, he was skeptical to say the least. Sure I had “repented” and been going back to church for a few months, but the whole of my life (as far as what he knew) was nothing but a giant hypocrisy. What was so great about the God I was reflecting in my life? Why should he want that? And now here I was pleading with him to accept Christ before it was too late. Maybe I should have thought about that, oh, say ten years earlier when I was chasing the lusts of the flesh.

In the end, after much prayer and witnessing (and yes, much confession and asking of forgiveness) my brother-in-law did accept Jesus as his Savior before he lost the ability to communicate. I’ll never forget one of the last things he said to me as his face radiated peace during those final days, “I’m going to be with Jesus! I’m going to Heaven!” I had no doubt about his eternal security, but man, that was close! Too close! And for many, sadly, the story does not have a happy ending.

Spiritual deadness is merely the result of spiritual dullness left unchecked. Living as a complacent, lukewarm believer eventually leads to an ineffective faith. What the world needs to see is Christians practicing what they preach (love, grace, mercy, forgiveness), and exuding the peace that passes all understanding in their daily lives. When we choose sin over obedience, self over surrender, and bondage over freedom, our behavior will absolutely reflect those choices—and our choices will affect other people. It may even affect their eternity.

“To suffer deadness is to forget Revelation 3:1,

‘To the angel of the church of Sardis write: “These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead.”’”¹

Our lives are ravaged with trial, suffering, and pain, but that doesn’t mean we should lose hope, abandon our faith, and walk away from God when circumstances don’t turn out the way we’d like. A lot of times our spiritual estrangement is a result of an “entitlement” mentality. We believe God “owes” us a certain way of life, and when He fails to meet our expectations we get angry with Him and rebel. I plead with you to take caution with such an attitude. Satan will tempt us to think our influence doesn’t really matter, or that our choices aren’t hurting anyone else, but that is a lie from the pit. Our spiritual freedom matters, our faith matters, and it matters not only for you and me, but for our families and friends, and anyone we come in contact with in our daily lives. The bank tellers, the grocery store clerks, the other drivers on the road (ever see a crazy driver with a Jesus fish or church sticker on their car?)—our decision to choose to pursue truth and live by it matters to the world.

If you’ve struggled with a dead (ineffective) faith, please pray this prayer out loud, “Jesus, my attitude, actions, and choices do not always align with your truth. In the name of Jesus I now choose to believe what your word says about me, and how you see me, and I reject the lie that my choices and behavior do not matter and won’t hurt anyone else. Give me a heart that is willing to walk by faith while boldly rejecting what is false. When I trusted you as my Savior, you made me alive in righteousness and dead to sin, now create an experience in my life that reflects that position of freedom. Help me live every day as one dead to sin and alive unto righteousness. Thank you for your forgiveness, mercy, and compassion. I choose to reject the voices of condemnation and embrace your word of truth that says simply, ‘Go, and sin no more.’² In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

_________________________________________________________

  1. Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.
  2.  See John 8:1-11
  3. **Before you send me angry emails or attempt to post argumentative comments, I know this verse is often used to prove that one needs works in order to be “truly” saved. But without getting into a theological debate, I will merely state this: in relation to the whole of God’s word and contextual interpretation, I do not believe this verse says faith without works is not a “saving faith”. In fact, if it did, it would contradict many other passages and examples of “carnal” Christians in the Bible. (And that’s as much as I care to comment on this subject. This post is NOT intended to be a doctrinal debate on soteriology!)

 _________________________________________________________

(To review the previous Deadly Ds of the devil, simply click on the “D” of your choice:

#1—Disappointment; #2—Discouragement; #3—Despair; #4—Doubt; #5—Disbelief; #6—Distraction; #7—Double-mindedness; #8—Dishonesty; #9—Deceit; #10–Dullness)

The “Fruit-of-the-Spirit” Diet (Part One)

**Originally published in the Christian Online Magazine, August 2013**

The “Fruit-of-the-Spirit” Diet

Part One: No Laws?

By Rebecca Aarup

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Since we are living in the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25 (NLT)

 

No sugar, no carbohydrates, no gluten, no chemicals, no processed foods…there are enough food laws to make a person’s head spin! You can hardly enjoy a conversation without the issue of food restrictions being raised. I’d guess a good majority of people are on some sort of specialty diet, whether due to medical problems or personal convictions. And admittedly, I adhere to a few of those food rules myself. But sometimes I wonder what it would be like to open my refrigerator or visit my favorite restaurant, eat whatever I want, whenever I want, with no fear of the consequences those food choices would leave with my body.  What a wonderful world that would be, right? Unfortunately, though, I’m one of those people who gains weight when they as much as look at a chocolate chip cookie cross-eyed. I have to watch what I eat “religiously” as well as exercise consistently just to maintain my current weight (which is on the high end of normal for my height). A lot of this has to do with aging (boo!) and the consequences of suffering with an eating disorder for many years. Suffice it to say, if I was to take a free-for-all approach to my diet, I would be shopping for a newer, larger wardrobe rather frequently.

 

But imagine a dietary world with no rules, where nothing was off limits. I can hear you laughing now, “Sure, Rebecca, sounds great BUT…” And you’d be right, because the reality is, that is not the world we live in. The things we choose to do or think directly affect our physical and emotional health, whether we like to admit it or not.

 

And that got me thinking, “what if”? What if there was something we could consume without fear of consequences. A substance with no rules or laws. How would that affect our outlook on diet, exercise, health, and spirituality? That’s when one of my daughter’s favorite verses popped into my head, the fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23, against which “there is no law.” Is it possible that walking by the Spirit’s leading specifically in the ten areas mentioned in this popular passage could help us live a more balanced life in every area of spiritual and physical health? Does the fruit of the Spirit even have anything to do with our diet and health?

 

Over the next several months I hope you’ll join me on this journey of exploration through a diet with no rules or limitations—the “Fruit of the Spirit” diet. We’ll be looking at what, if anything, each “fruit” has to do with our physical health. The Apostle Paul reminds us to “follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives,” and so it is with the area of food, and physical health.

 

How about you? Do you think any of the spiritual fruits listed in Galatians 5:22-23 relate in any way to your diet or physical health? In what ways?
To ensure you don’t miss any of this ongoing series, to comment, or to ask questions, visit me at http://www.RebeccaAarup.com and enter your email address to receive new articles directly in your inbox each month. In the next article we’ll discuss “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” I hope you’ll consider joining me on this journey unlocking the keys to the “Fruit of the Spirit” diet!

© Rebecca Aarup

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 6)

Rebuking the Devil’s Deadly D’s (Part 6)

Rebuking the Devil 

(To review the previous Deadly Ds of the devil, simply click on the “D” of your choice:

#1—Disappointment; #2—Discouragement; #3—Despair; #4—Doubt; #5—Disbelief; #6—Distraction; #7—Double-mindedness; #8—Dishonesty; #9—Deceit)

10. Dullness

Have you ever tried to write with a dull pencil? Or cut a vegetable with a dull knife? You can get the job done, but the end result leaves something to be desired. Sometimes in my laziness I have shaved my legs (sorry if that’s TMI, guys) with a dull razor and though it eventually got the job done, it didn’t feel good!

It’s the same for Christians; we should be sharp in our faith and beliefs. As we grow in love for God and His word, we learn how to love Him and we learn more of His character. His truth is then able to permeate our words and actions. As our lives are transformed, others around us will notice the effects of our submission to Christ. Of course, the opposite is true as well. If we continue on as immature believers, weak in faith, the result is much like that of a rusty blade. Not only do we hurt ourselves, but those around us will suffer as well. The results of our dullness will be grossly evident to the world.

A shallow faith is not an attractive faith. When we say we believe something, yet fail to behave in a way that backs up that “belief” we do ourselves and others spiritual harm. Our Enemy is certainly pleased when he can keep us comfortable, lukewarm, weak, vacillating between spiritual highs and lows, and double-minded as Christians. When a trial comes, when the storm rages, we find out how shallow or strong our faith really is.

As Christ followers we have a responsibility to grow in Christ, not just in book-smarts or theological knowledge, but in submission to Jesus. Submission activates our faith and opens the door for us to hear the Holy Spirit’s guidance, warnings, and convictions (see James 4:7). But without the “sharpness” of life in the Spirit, we lack the spiritual discernment and wisdom to guide us through life successfully (in the will of God). And without a doubt, our poor choices will affect others around us.

The author of Hebrews was disappointed to find the Jewish believers stumbling in the quick sands of spiritual immaturity, and rightly so, he admonished them to “grow up” so they could teach others the way of truth, rather than being spoon fed spiritual milk their entire lives. The Christian life is meant to grow and mature, not idle aimlessly in neutral. A lot of the problems we’re seeing in the world today are directly related to the dullness of modern, worldly, semi-committed, complacent, and immature Christians. And as we’ll see in the next post, spiritual dullness left unchecked can have eternal consequences.

“To suffer dullness is to forget Hebrews 5:11, ‘Of whom we have many things to say and hard to be uttered, seeing ye are dull of hearing.’”¹

If you’ve struggled to fully submit your life to Christ and walk in the Spirit on a consistent basis, pray the following prayer out loud: “Lord, I confess I have allowed Satan’s deception of dullness and complacency to infiltrate my spiritual life. This is evident when I fail to fully submit to your word and will. I now choose to reject a dull spiritual life, and actively choose to believe and live by the truth that I am to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ and share that with others.² Guard my heart against a dull, immature faith and grant me a wise spirit.³ Thank you for renewing my heart and mind, and giving me a willingness to seek and live by the truth of your word.”

____________________________________

  1. Dr. H.L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, ©1981, 1984 by H.L. Willmington–all rights reserved.
  2. “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18, KJV
  3. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.” James 1:5-6

____________________________________

profilepic3Rebecca Aarup is a redeemed prodigal, set free from over a decade of mental illness, eating disorders, addiction, and more. She now enjoys sharing her story of freedom and transformation with a lost and hurting world, as well as teaching about spiritual warfare and the importance of understanding our identity in Christ.

Rebecca is also an author and freelance writer, having written devotionals and teaching articles for a variety of publications including The Secret Place (Judson press), Evangel (Light and Life Communications), and Mustard Seed Ministries. Beyond writing, Rebecca is a wife, home-schooling mom, and Bible student at Liberty University. She lives in Glendale, Az with her husband Chris and daughter, Samantha.  You can read more from Rebecca by following her on twitter and facebook.

_______________________________

If you haven’t already, please take a second to click the FOLLOW button on the space provided on the right hand side of the computer screen (or scroll to the bottom of your screen if using a smartphone) and you will receive new posts in your email inbox. This is absolutely free and your information is never shared!

If you were encouraged by what you read here, please share with your friends and/or leave a comment.