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.

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.

IT’S ALL MY FAULT

Whenever I do couples therapy, neither one wants to examine themselves. “Fix the other and I’ll be OK!” They wallow in the universal delusion that LOOKING good is more important that BEING good. Half of us run around being terrified by the delusion that, if we admit the reality that “I am the chief of sinners”, God might find out and no longer love us, or that our sinful reality might be more that He can handle.

We try to minimize the coming consequences of our sin by comparing with others. We think that if we seem to be less sinful we must be OK. Like the pharisee who prayed “I thank God that I am not like these others.

We fear that whatever problem is revealed would have to be fixed by ourselves, and deep down, we know that we can’t even fix the tiny portion of our mess that we do admit to.

The disciples ran around saying “is it I?” when they should have said “If anyone would betray you, it would be I, so Lord what must I do to not betray you?”

Remember, THERE IS NO HOPE in finding out what part of your current mess you can blame on others. Tying your happiness and future to others changing is a guarantee of burnout and misery. As Einstein famously quoted, and I paraphrase, “If you come at life in the same way and expect a different response–you are insane” OK I know that we are all insane but by the grace of God we can take our thoughts out of the way and let his thoughts and ways take over and exhibit his sanity.

So when you catch yourself thinking, “Well it’s not all my fault, what about them?” Try and change it to “I sure hope it is ALL my fault because then God can help me fix ALL of it.” Unfortunately there will probably be some part of it that is others fault or just from living in a sinfilled world. Don’t wait for the other part to change before working on yours. Don’t give in to the temptation to believe that if the other doesn’t change there is no point to letting God help you with your part. Don’t beat yourself up when God shows you that your part is bigger than you thought. Do rejoice and be exceeding glad when God cares enough to show you. Do ask “Search me oh God and know my heart and lead me in new paths. Then rather than burning out fixing others who don’t want to change, you can share with those who ask that “In my life God has shown me and helped me change, so he could help you also.

BLESSINGS AND CURSES

We obey because:1. He first loved us, 2.we owe a great debt,3. doing it His way couldn’t be any worse than doing it my way,4. we believe He exists and will reward those who diligently seek Him etc

For full motivation it is good to think through and let the Holy Spirit show us the BLESSINGS of doing it His way and the CURSES of doing it “our” way. Blessings to us,  to others, to His kingdom, to His name.

Lets take the example of God’s command to examine ourselves, to let ALL scripture reprove us, to ask God to search our hearts, to let iron sharpen iron.

If you remember; all scripture will first establish TRUTH and all TRUTH will REPROVE and REPROOF will lead to CORRECTING  the thing reproved and being CORRECTED will lead to EQUIPPING which will lead our developing the CHARACTER OF CHRIST which will lead to ministry. So many people want to jump reproof and correction and go straight to ministry or to declaring themselves equipped. THERE IS NO MOVING AROUND REPROOF. Without that, all the rest vanishes.

BLESSINGS         (in no particular order of importance)    OF FEEDBACK

  1. Understanding why others struggle
  2. No need for defense or blame or excuses or explanations which all tire us out and impress no one. Instead free to repent and grow.
  3. Enjoying shared fellowship with others who are being real.
  4. Have our ways directed: by God through friends, family, finances, health
  5. Understand Doctrine’s purpose and meaning,application, and “SO WHAT?” better.
  6. When we do mess up and then apologize, others listen and cut us slack.
  7. Experience continuous growth throughout our lives as friends are willing to have their iron sharpen ours’
  8. Enjoy the affirmation of others, that our lives have allowed God to minister to them.
  9. Find that we are in the position, by virtue of our allowing reproof and correction, to minister to others.
  10. Find tools and truth and support that helps us grow.
  11. Find forgiveness and new trust and involvement and relationship with those we have offended.
  12. Continue to receive valuable confrontation because the others are rewarded by our appreciation and change after their previous confrontation.

CURSES OF NOT BEING OPEN TO FEEDBACK

  1. Criticizing others for the same things we do.
  2. Constantly inventing explanations blame and excuses that no one accepts any longer.
  3. Losing the real relationships with those who call our bluff and only hang out with those who really don’t know us or won’t confront us.
  4. Unable to commit to responsibility that brings criticism, thus wander without direction, always becoming and never being, because all being is imperfect and thus leaves us open to evaluation.
  5. Be full of doctrine, quoting scripture but unable to apply it since the next step would be to let it reprove us.
  6. Always apologizing but never changing so that others grow weary of our apologies and we wonder why they won’t just drop it and trust us now.
  7. Slide slowly backwards, because growth requires ongoing self examination and feedback from others. (When I was in the military I found out that anyone over the rank of captain became steadily more irrational because they no longer received feedback.)
  8. Being always hungry for affirmation but winding up having to praise ourselves and still feeling no sense of value because any praise we receive is hollow, coming from people who don’t know us or from ourselves.
  9. Having initial opportunities to minister based on our command of doctrine; then finding them to fade as the lack of reproof correction transformation and true ministry are evident.
  10. Plagued with accountability and tools that do not work because we choose people who don’t know us or won’t confront
  11. Focus on touch-up change and not rebuilding the core, on fixing the NOW rather than healing the past results of our allergy to feedback. (It’s hard enough to admit the current need for growth but harder yet to see how this has hurt our Lord his ministry and others.
  12. Painting ourselves into a corner where by force of habit we can not hear, retain, and profit from feedback;and through ignoring the feedback or counter attacking or getting angry at anyone who calls our bluff; we are able to arrive at a place that no one confronts us and go back to pretending that this means that we are OK.                                                                                      etc  etc etc

This is one case in which it is more blessed to receive than to give. When we are receiving helpful feedback. One thought is that we must not focus on the timing or delivery of the feedback because our best feedback often comes through God from our enemies. Remember when David was being cursed. He said “leave the man alone, God is speaking to me through him”.  I had an acquaintance who understood these truths and asked his employees to give him feedback. He figured that he could use a little touch up here and there in his approach to being a boss. At first he got superficial useless feedback, but when he convinced them that God was asking him to do this and that there would not be negative consequences to the employee and that,by the grace of God, he would actually change as a result; he found that they went on and on with details of his need to shape up. He was a bit depressed to find out that HE WAS WORSE THAN HE HAD THOUGHT  but he did grow and change. He found out that he was about to lose key employees and probably his company as a result.

SEARCH ME OH GOD AND KNOW MY WAYS AND SEE IF THERE BE ANY WICKED WAY IN ME AND LEAD ME IN YOUR PATHS

(EVEN IF YOU HAVE TO USE FINANCES, HEALTH, FRIENDS, FAMILY, CHURCH, AS WELL AS YOU WORD TO SHOW ME.)

 

WHY NOT MORE?

WHY NOT MORE OF JESUS AND ALL HE HAS TO GIVE?

WHY NOT NOW INSTEAD OF LATER, WHY NOT HERE INSTEAD OF ELSEWHERE.

“LORD GIVE ME ALL OF YOU HERE AND NOW THAT YOU LONG TO GIVE ME. YOU DELIGHT IN GIVING GOOD GIFTS TO YOUR CHILDREN. GIVE ME YOURSELF. YOU HAVE PROMISED TO GIVE ME THE DESIRE OF MY HEART, AS LONG AS THAT DESIRE IS YOU AND YOUR GOALS,  YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. LORD I BELIEVE, LORD I DO DESIRE YOU. HELP MY UNBELIEF, HELP MY LIMITED DESIRE AND TEACH ME TO PANT AFTER YOU AS A RUNNING DEER PANTS FOR THE COOL RUNNING WATERS.

I remember when we were homeschooling our 5 children, they all went through struggles with seeing how little they could learn and how much trouble they could give us as we struggled to teach them. Yet, learning is a glorious privilege. What was wrong with them? They had fallen victim to the lie that labor is an irritant and if others want you to do something then you are controlled  if you do.

I believe that struggling labor is God’s gift to us to help us in our struggle with temptation and sin. There was labor before sin entered the world. God labored to create. Adam was given labor. Then God added thorns to the equation to teach us to hate sin, and if we rejoice in the consequences of our iniquity and the iniquity of our ancestors, He will enter our circumstances and walk them with us. We never labor alone. We are fellow soldiers, fellow laborers with God and our brethren.

Perhaps the greatest freedom is the freedom to do what is good for us even when we feel pushed into doing it and even when the other person will take credit for pushing us. Children try to establish the illusion of independence by resisting wise and godly advice and by fighting to do the minimum.

Research suggests that our brains have almost an infinite storage and learning capacity!  However it take time and effort to store the information or imprint the skill. I believe we also have an infinite capacity to  long for and delight in THE INFINITE ONE. Don’t forget grace and become overwhelmed but do rest in the here and now and look for God’s mind, and heart and character in what is happening. Then pause and worship and delight. Does He lead you into persecution and labor beyond your capacity (remember everything is beyond your capacity) REJOICE and be EXCEEDING glad. You are priveleged to be in good company, the Lord’s and the saints who have gone before you. Your labor is not useless no matter the immediate outcome. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses even if no one notices the struggle, the Lord and they do!

In ALL your ways, seek to know Him better, give thanks ALWAYS for EVERYTHING. Let Him be in ALL  your thoughts. Lord help me to have so much of you that you are in ALL my thought words and deeds. Be my ALL in ALL. Let those around me not think of me a fanatical but as not being present at all and instead may they see you and marvel at your beauty and wisdom!

 

 

GOOD GUYS BAD GUYS

Radical Moslems attack us and they are the bad guys which justifies us filling their countries with soldiers and bombs which makes them feel justified in blowing up innocent civilians in crowded shopping places. After a while no one can remember the original reasoning that starts feuds. Remember american  history and the Hatfields and McCoys? Do you remember what started it. I doubt that they do themselves. Now it’s the police who shoot unarmed civilians which makes others feel they can shoot the police. So now the police are heroes. All I know is that, in this sin damaged world, I’d rather live in a society with police and army to protect us that trust in the basic goodness of mankind to behave itself without them. Yes  I know the George Washington said that there can not be enough police or soldiers or guns to control a society where the majority is not following Christ.Apart from Him, the truth is, THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS NO NOT ONE!. We read that in the end time lawlessness will run wild and AGAPE love will vanish.

So what can one do?  Fight lawlessness and the lack of Agape love in YOUR OWN life and reach out to the people around you. Work with the police to support them and hold them accountable. Reach out to victims of abuse or racism and love on them while calling them to a higher standard.  Hold up God’s Agape standard that all people are His marvelous creations and equally loved and equally paid for by his blood. He is no respecter or persons. Greek or barbarian, rich or  poor, wise or foolish.

Go ahead take sides! Just always take BOTH sides. I remember when I was able to do a lot of couple counseling. Each one felt that I was picking on them and taking the others, side. By   God’s grace I tried to point out to each one what they needed grace to change. Be for the police and for the victims of prejudice. Both sides will be mad at you then but God won’t.

What have you done or not done recently to follow and support the rule of law in our country? What have you done or not done recently to minister to others regardless of the cost to you?