READ THIS FIRST

I am told that the truths that I share sometimes come across a bit too curt. Not that the truths shouldn’t be firmly held, but when I share them verbally my tone and expression and responses to the listener allow me to share the truth and the balance of grace at the same time (please listen to some of my audios for examples).

Whatever today’s topic, the full balance always involves the the following sweet coatings on the sometimes distasteful pill of truth of:

For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.

1. You are not alone, Dr. Verle Bell joins you as the chief of sinners and in no position to judge your worth, dignity, security, future, or God’s ability to help you.

2. There is Hope!

3. If you are a saved child of God, you have worth, strength, and hope just because. You can’t lose it or increase it, you have them just because Jesus died for you and loves you.

4. There are no have to‘s for us but there are a lot of sure-would-be-nice‘s. These blogs are to help you grab ahold of all the sure-would-be-nice’s God has for you in the present.

5. If you never change, grow, fight the good fight, etc, You are still a winner, for we are more than conquerors- we forever remain in his love!

Stop to think, how many people have passed through this world without confessing with God that they are a sinner in need of salvation, asking for that salvation based on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Since we have, as a result we are now immortals. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Now read on to get your share of the icing!

If you ask Him nicely, He might even let you lick out of the icing bowl, just as my Mom did when I helped her in the kitchen as a boy.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

I remember being ridiculed as a youngster ( when I felt that I was, once again, being overlooked and ignored) for whining “How about me?” This was one of myriad events that convinced me that, even when almost perfect, I was nobody and, if I screwed up, I was less than nobody.

As I often claim, and no one believes me, I am terribly shy. I had to do a discharge lecture today to 20 people rather than the usual 2. It was terrible but the Lord helped me fight through my shyness and do a decent job. So it was with difficulty that I pushed myself to offer to sing a solo at church. They seemed to have only a few who did all the solos and I thought that they just didn’t have volunteers. I was told that “We don’t want to lift up individuals so we don’t let people sing solos” That didn’t seem to jibe with having the same 3 people do all the solos including the person telling me that we don’t want stars.

When some disciples went to Jesus and asked him, “What’s in this for us?” He didn’t yell at them but pointed out that no one will sacrifice anything for the kingdom without receiving 100 fold more in return.

We are commanded to “Lay up for yourself treasures in heaven” God loves to give good gifts to us.

Think about it. How would it cause any trouble to spend our energy laying up treasure above? Of course this is achieved by giving up material things now and fame and power and relationships if necessary.

Look up the words treasure and rewards and you will be amazed on how strongly God wants us to picture and be motivated towards heavenly rewards.

There are three parts to INIQUITY a. deciding for myself what is right or wrong, b. doing what I have decided is right in my way and in my strength, c. moaning and groaning about how hard obedience is. It seems to me that all three of these are defeated by being motivated by treasure in heaven. Treasure will only be given if we ask God what he wants us to do and how he wants it done, then doing it in his strength and delighting in the privilege of being a fellow servant, soldier, and laborer and in the future reward.

As I marched through 12 years of college, I kept my focus on the prize of becoming a doctor and it made the marching a pleasure, even the not sleeping and the long hours. (Not so sure it was worth it) However, let me assure you that there will be no such second guessing about whether it was worth it when you see your pile of treasure in heaven.

 

 

REWIRE YOUR BRAIN!

And be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing  (metamorphosis) of your mind. Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. For His ways are not my ways nor His thoughts my thoughts. So take every thought into captivity. As I think in my heart so am I. Without Christ and salvation it is impossible to think Gods thoughts after Him but after salvation we still need to allow the transformation and do the work for His thoughts to dominate.

STEPS FOR REWIRING THE BRAIN: (Don’t forget it takes three months of consistent effort to let the old programming die and the new to become the default automatic response.)

  1. ADMIT, the specific way of thinking that needs to change, thoughts of anxiety, anger, frustration, judgmentality, self contempt, works, rights, etc.
  2. DON’T YELL AT SELF for having the thoughts. This just leads to pretending that I have already arrived and am already perfect. The Lord isn’t caught by surprise that I have fallen back into old lines of reasoning. He know the clay of which I am made.
  3. ASSURE MY BRAIN that it is OK TO LET GO of the round and round worry or motivation with self contempt, or protecting myself with bitter review of hurts etc.  The brain thinks that it will find solutions by continuing to worry. NO! It is really fine to cast all my cares on Him. He really does care for me.
  4. ASK “What does God want me to do about the thing I am focusing on right now? If He wants me to do, then do! If it is not my job, then don’t! If it can’t be done till later, then how will I remember? then let it go. If there is nothing for me to do right now then:
  5. REFOCUS by asking the following questions:

a. Where am I right now and what is going on in front of me?

b. What has God given me? Savor and steward it.

c. Who has God placed in my life? Cherish and encourage and build and relate to them.

d. What can I do? Then do it with all my might.

6. REST IN THE JOY OF OBEDIENCE. No matter the outcome I am a success if I have obeyed. Continue reading

I SEE YOU

What a gift it is to be seen by friends and family!

Too often we are so preoccupied with our media or own thoughts that we do not really LOOK at the people around us.

Matthew 13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables: “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.

Acts 3:4 Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”

And SEEING the multitude, Jesus went up into a mountain and when he was set his disciples came unto him and he opened his mouth and taught them saying.

LOOK UP AND BEHOLD the harvest is truly ripe and beg the Lord of the harvest to thrust out workers into the harvest.

Having eyes to SEE why don’t we see?

I remember that when Lois and I would go to a family reunion, we would have to prepare ourselves for what I call “negative seeing”. Her mom would be laughing and talking and would see us and immediately begin to frown. We were prayed up and I still think that there was no legitimate reason that she disliked us. Boy was that painful, BUT NOT AS BAD AS NOT BEING SEEN AT ALL!

When I was a child, I was,(at least in my own mind) almost perfect. Straight A’s and no need for discipline. As a result I was never SEEN! I was convinced, and still struggle with the idea, that when I was nearly perfect I was nothing and if I messed up I was less than nothing.

I used to go to a Southern Baptist prayer breakfast and when the pastors came around shaking hands, they never looked at the person they were shaking hands with! I wanted to yell, “hey you, if you shake my hand LOOK AT ME!”

At church people often seem to LOOK RIGHT THROUGH ME if they don’t know me well, and the ones that do LOOK at me often seem to be “gladhanding” me and really any old body would do just as well as an object to shake hands with. Especially people of different ages treat each other as if the other doesn’t exist. There is entirely too much NOT SEEING between  young and old.

Of course I am not just talking about seeing the surface of the person in front of you, but trying to see them as God sees them. To SEE their infinite worth, to SEE why God has put them into your life, to delight in the fact that they are there. To react as, my puppy does, and be thrilled that they are there, to ask myself, “why has God put this person into my life and why do we need each other?”

A good start would be to ACT IN THE FACT that we are children of God and will spend ALL ETERNITY together! Can you imagine getting to Heaven and meeting someone from church whom you saw weekly and having them comment, “I tried to connect with you but you never really LOOKED at me!”

We need to see their dreams and their needs and then jump in and get involved. James 1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

I used to go to parties in connection to a hospital I worked at. I am VERY shy and was able to overcome this by focusing on one person at a time and SEEING THEIR shyness and discomfort and trying to set them at rest  and let them know that I did enjoy the gathering more because of their being there.

Let’s give each other the gift of “I SEE YOU” and put real meaning into it!

PASSIONATE AND PEACEFUL, DRIVING WHILE RESTING, CARING AND CALM, DOING AND LETING GO

A friend writes

“Thank you so much Dr. Bell for this reminder and encouragement. I needed to hear it today.

“As I read your blog post an example that came to my mind. Have you seen the movie “Schindler’s List”? At the end is a very moving scene in which Oscar Schindler is with some of the Jews he rescued. Schindler is weeping. He pulls of his wristwatch and says he could’ve sold it and saved another life. He points to his car and laments that it could’ve bought several lives. He saved 1,200 Jews from the Holocaust but regretted that he didn’t save more.When I get to the end of my life, what will I see so clearly (as Schindler did) that I failed to exhaust all my energy and resources in accomplishing? This is worth considering while I still have the time and the will to do something about it.”

MY THOUGHTS: I used to have a radio program in Anchorage AK but it was not a live call in show. I always worried that when I emphasized GRACE the ones who needed to grow and do more would listen to the grace part and let GRACE ABOUND so that they didn’t need to grow: and the ones who needed to rest in GRACE would, instead, beat themselves up for not growing faster and doing more. How can we seize all that God has for us without becoming tense in the process?

I think that part of the answer is in keeping our focus in the here and now and keeping our NOW eyes open to what Jesus is up to and then GRABBING IT WITH GUSTO!

Take every thought into captivity, watch and pray lest you enter into temptation, take heed etc.

1.FIRST NOTICE (without yelling at myself) “Lord, there I go again letting my thoughts wander to the problems of tomorrow, reviewing the past, fussing with what is happening elsewhere, worrying about changing other people with their nasty specks in their eyes, defending myself, sticking my head in the sand, stuffing my feelings, blaming, explaining etc.”

2.THEN ASSURE MY HEART IT IS OK TO QUIT FUSSING by asking “Lord, anything you want me to do about that right now?” If not, it is OK to let it go. AND

3.REFOCUS “Lord show me WHAT you have given me, WHO you have given me, and what you have placed in front of me to DO.”

4.ENGAGE the WHAT, WHO, and DO “with all my might”.

a.  SAVOR WHAT I HAVE , my food clothes shelter (and therewith be content, godliness with contentment is great gain)

b.  LOVE AND ENGAGE WITH THOSE GOD HAS GIVEN ME, build them encourage them, receive from them and give to them invest in them.

c.   BE A DYNAMIC DOER OF WHATEVER YOUR HAND FINDS TO DO. Eccl 9. In the “game of life” pound your bat on the base, try for the home-run, cheer till you are hoarse, do a slider, thump some backs. People should consider you their favorite “Christian nutcase” and be asking you to give and explanation for the hope that oozes out of you.

WHY NOT MORE?

When our children were homeschooling, they would always try to see WHAT WAS THE LEAST LEARNING THEY COULD GET BY WITH. They are doing better with that as adults, but we all struggle to get by with the least of the truly good things in life. GOD, THE WORD OF GOD, PRAYER, LEARNING, WORK,CHILDREN, EXERCISE, ETC. Why what is wrong with us? (Don’t get me started with a list of what is wrong with us–the blog would never end) Part of the trouble is we resent work and all the above take time and effort. Remember that God created work as a gift to man before the fall and a help with fighting sin after the fall. I love the advice that a world famous weight lifter gave on how to grow and thrive. “work out till you can’t do anymore and then whatever you do after that will build muscle”. We don’t like to spend and be spent, to get to where we have done all we can and must throw ourselves on God. We need to get to the end of ourselves and throw ourselves on God if we want to develop “muscle” in prayer, understanding and applying scripture, raising children, etc. We compare with others or say “I’m doing better than I did, I’m trying.” If we are walking with God at all, then comparison will slow down our growth because those around us are not even trying.

If you were told to take a suitcase into a room and that you had 10 min to stuff as much money as you could into the suitcase which you could keep. Would you go to the pile of 1’s or to the 100’s and would you quilt after one min or be stuffing right to the last? May God find me stuffing my heart and mind and life with MORE OF HIM right to the last moment I live.

DON’T STARE AT POTHOLES!

When i was a child, I rode 5 miles downhill to school. I could do 30 MPH going and 5 MPH  coming home. I learned that if I started at a rock or a pothole, it would suck me right in. The state police warn people to not stare at an accident in front of you, but look up and steer to safety.

What do you stare at? In counseling we have learned that when people spend all their focus on: the past,on being unlike one’s parents, one how they were hurt, on what they have done, on the irrationality and severity of their obsessions , on what they don’t have, what they can’t do, who isn’t in their lives, on their fears of the future etc etc. they make no progress. Like Peter, we are distracted by the sound of the wind and waves and take our eyes off of the Lord.

We become so preoccupied by our mess that we secretly believe that we are unfixable.

Oh we need to acknowledge that we are the chief of sinners dwelling in a sin damaged world, with thoughts and feelings and “ways” that are not like God’s.

BUT DON’T DWELL ON THE NEGATIVE.  Take them to God and ask him if he thinks that his grace is sufficient. I remember one troubled lady who went to a business women’s lunch in which Christians shared testimonies. At the ending invitation she prayed, “Lord if you think you can make anything out of the mess that is me; you are welcome to try.”

Obviously I am suggesting we TURN OUR EYES UPON JESUS LOOK FULL IN HIS WONDERFUL FACE.  BUT HOW?

Remember the important mix of both heart and habits. Many Christians are so afraid of rote works and rituals that they don’t realize the importance of backing up with good habits our desire to return to our first love in which it was easy to keep focused on Jesus. In a marriage it is good to set aside a date night and defend it from all distractions. This does not rob the relationship of loving spontaneity but insures the nurturing of the relationship. I refer you back to the noon, supper, and bedtime “ritual” of seeing the Lord in something he has helped you do,something he has done in others or through them for you, or some little part of life he has given you to savor.

If you do this as a habit, your brain will start to see him throughout the day .

The next time you catch yourself STARING, if it isn’t the Lord then pull your focus away and walk the current situation with him.

TWO SIDES TO THE PRIDE COIN

A friend writes, in response to my last post “Or there are those of us who blame ourselves for everything and really do say, “It is all my fault,” feeling shame for pretty much all of life that goes wrong. Thankfully, our God of grace is always ready to tell us He will carry us through it all, and we just need to give it to Him.”

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————- In my last post I suggested the paradoxical idea that it would be a good thing if  “It’s all my fault” because then I may yield to God and He can make a difference. (If part is someone else’s fault there is no guarantee they will yield to God). One must then also include Grace that “even if it is all my fault as the chief of sinners after all, I still have infinite worth, significance, strength, and security in the Lord.

It is always so hard to cover all sides. Even Paul found that if he emphasized Grace, people would sin (so Grace could abound) If we emphasize that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works, then people forget about Grace and get tense about the good works.

Can you recall why self contempt, is PRIDE?

Pride is connecting my worth to myself and not to the completed work of Jesus and the price He paid for me.

If I feel superior and worthwhile apart from Him or get some of my worth from Him and some from myself then it is easy to see that as PRIDE.

But if I have infinite worth in Christ and feel worthless anyways, then my worth must come (or not come) from my efforts and not his.

Remember that Grace is built, by the brain designer, into the structure and chemicals of your brain. If you act as if Grace is not true, you will burn out. You are acting as if Grace were not true when you circle round and round on any concern and do not cast your cares on Him–you must not believe He cares for you or is competent to handle it. If you use shame and name calling to motivate yourself, you must not accept his opinion to be superior to yours (I John 1 19-21) If you call anyone including yourself “you dummy” you murder your spirit. If you compare with how your used to do or with how you think you should be doing or how others are doing you are unwise and ultimately criticising the one who made us all so different. If you use fear of the future and worry about tomorrow, (even food and clothing) you do not trust the provider. God gives no Grace for these things and they all burn out the brain.

I can always tell when I am taking responsibility for part of the current situation that belongs to God  — I begin to feel stressed.

HOWEVER this need to let go of the negatives is not a denial that “in me dwells no good thing” that ” I am the chief of sinners forgiven” that”my ways do not work like His ways neither are my thoughts sane as His are” that “everything I am and have and do that is beneficial and good, was given to me and empowered by Him” INSTEAD IT IS FREEDOM TO ADMIT THAT I’M PROBABLY WORSE THAT EVEN MY ENEMIES THINK BUT SO WHAT!

This is hard, we so long to cling to some scrap of self generated worth and will even settle for self generated worthlessness!

NO when your hearts condemns you God is greater than your heart and there is therefore no condemnation in Christ Jesus to those who have accepted His payment for their sins.

Just remember to watch for defensiveness, burnout, self contempt and run to God and rest in him and ask him to take away some of your blindness and

BE THOU MY VISION O LORD OF MY LIFE.