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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

You Don't Have Time for That!

Diagnosed with terminal cancer at thirty-three, Carly worked to maintain a joyful spirit. Weakened but hopeful, she asked her girlfriend Beth to go shopping with her for a new dress. After selecting a few dresses she called Beth into the dressing room. Donning a smart royal blue jersey wrap, she pointed to herself in the mirror and asked, “Do I look fat?” Beth shook her head and grunted, “You don’t have time for that!”

This story kicked me right in the gut. I realized whether we’re ill or not, in the kingdom of God we don’t have time for “that”—for worrying about our weight, or whether we’re admired, or covering up the pain with a substance or activity, or… You know what your “that” is.

Jesus had something to say about this, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). I regularly remind myself of this woman’s wise reply and Jesus’s words. My desire is for my heart to be focused on the kingdom of God, not on myself—on my body size or wardrobe. As a child of God these things no longer identify me.

Through prayer and Bible study, God will put up a mirror and we’ll begin to see our attitudes, beliefs, and motives from a very different perspective—his. One of the purposes of Scripture is to show us the truth about our own human nature. Self-examination is a light shedding process; the light of truth penetrates and exposes deception. Jesus said the truth will set us free (see John 8:32).

God gives us our experiences so we might be able to examine them under his light. We learn that his fingerprints have been on them our entire life…even before we were born. Even the worst chapters of your life are full of his presence.

God promises he will “bestow on you a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3). Can it get any better than that?

This is an excerpt from the book "Something Happened On My Way To Hell" by author Kimberly Davidson

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lured into a Web of Idolatry

Whatever feels good, what seems to give us an immediate experience of life, we decide is life; we decide it is food for our souls, and we chase after it with all the excitement of a street person in the back alley rummaging through the fine restaurant’s garbage. –Psychologist Larry Crabb

Hard, cold facts reveal that we tend to set our sights on godless promised lands and people who assure us of every good thing. In what’s been called “the parable of the rich young ruler” (see Mark 10:17-31) we find Jesus about to leave town. One man knows it is his last chance to ask his question to Jesus face-to-face. The young man kept all the commandments, but still sensed incompleteness. A picture of urgency and humility, he ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees before him. He asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus addressed the young man’s real point of need, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Scripture then says, “At this the man’s face fell, and he went away very sad, for he had many possessions.” Imagine how devastating Jesus’s words were to this young man. The young man clutched an idol. Money and processions can be horrible masters.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Let the idol go and follow me. My desire is for you to join me, but I will not force you. Of all the people who came to Jesus, this man went away worse than he came. The thought of giving up his possessions, his way of life, his security and status—his pleasure, was too much. He declined Jesus’s offer. The hole in his soul would remain eternally unfilled.

When we repeatedly worship worldly treasures instead of God, they become an obsessive addiction. This explains why we can’t “just stop.” This is idolatry: the practice of ascribing absolute value to things of relative worth—things other than God. Idolatry elevates pleasure in things or people above pleasure in God, which God considers a sin. He doesn’t want to share his throne with anything or anyone else. The idols in themselves are not actual sin, but can lead to sin. The danger of idolatry is it usually goes undetected. At first the idol seems exciting and it makes promises. Before we know it we’ve become its slave.

Anything we use to soothe our stress or pain, and boost pleasure, may potentially be made into an object of our devotion. Pray: “Lord God, You are God Almighty. Yet, sometimes in ignorance and arrogance I try to take your place. I ask for your forgiveness and submit my life to you. I acknowledge that all glory, honor, and praise belong to you alone. In Jesus’s name, Amen.”

This is an excerpt from the book "Something Happened On My Way To Hell" by author Kimberly Davidson

Image Management

If I asked you, “What image do people have of you… or more importantly, what image do you want people to have of you?” how would you answer? Today personal image often centers around our own mental images of success, power, youthfulness and accomplishment.

Psychologist Mary Pipher says, “Girls become ‘female impersonators’ who fit their whole selves into small, crowded spaces. Girls stop thinking, Who am I? What do I want, and start thinking, What must I do to please others? American culture has always smacked girls on the head in early adolescence.”

For decades my main concern was my own image management. Scripture says the person who lives for pleasure is dead even while she lives (1 Tim. 5:6). My soul was dead. There was nothing to me. If you were to take off my mask, there would be no face. A person without a face is indifferent. I didn’t care about others. I used people. It was all about me—me working tirelessly on my image.

Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it (John 3:17). He didn’t want people to feel bad about themselves. He wanted people to feel loved by God. Jesus wanted people to find freedom from shame and self-condemnation, not get stuck in it.

Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Let that that earthly, cultural image go and follow me. My desire is for you to join me, but I will not force you. If we’re honest many of us are afraid of the what will happen if we obey Jesus’s words: “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your own pleasures and shoulder your cross, and follow me closely” (Mark 8:34, TLB).

I think too often this is one of those biblical truths which have been misapplied. Taken out of context it results in a narrow and faulty doctrine that basically says, “If you really want to follow Christ you must give up your comfortable life to suffer and be miserable. The more you suffer, the more God will love you.”

Jesus meant we must accept the death of our own self-directed life. As Pastor Lou Giglio says in his book I Am Not But I Know I Am, “It is nothing more than the doorway to a life filled with the matchless wonder of all that God is.” Jesus is our model. He willingly left glorious heaven for dysfunctional earth in order to be in God’s redemptive story. As a man, he was willing to fully give of himself so that the ultimate glory would be given to his Father. He knew there was greater glory to come. All Jesus did was give of himself so others, including you and me, could be privy to a great relationship with God—now and forever.

The Bible define the Christian disciple as one who models Jesus Christ’s lifestyle; one who will “deny himself and take up his cross” and follow Christ (Mark 8:34). Jesus too knew that embracing smallness and crucifying the flesh is something we have to do every moment of every single day. In the process we must be willing to face whatever physical, emotional, or social harassments ensue—being ridiculed for our beliefs and losing certain friends (they were probably not real friends to begin with), turning off our Internet connections for a couple of hours and serving the homeless, or giving up things that have no eternal value.

This is what exchanging our old image and selfish life for a new image and selfless life in Christ looks like. Far too many Christians are living a life they weren’t meant to live. They assume that if they do something they don’t like or feel comfortable with, it is what God wants. They don’t understand that God desires for them to live an abundant life. Someone once said, “Life isn’t about finding yourself; it’s about discovering who God created you to be.” As we discover our God-given purpose and live in accordance with that, joy is imminent.

It is hard to deny ourselves what we truly desire with temptation banging at our door each day, maybe every minute. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can learn to let go of insatiable desires. To do this we must grow in the spiritual virtue of attachment—attachment to God alone. As we receive nourishment from him then our minds and heart begin to change, and we begin dying to self.

Brennan Manning prayed, “Dear Jesus, gift us to stop grandstanding and trying to get attention, to do the truth quietly without display, to let the dishonesties in our lives fade away, to accept our limitations, to cling to the gospel of grace, and to delight in your love. Amen.”