Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Look deeper

There is a myth in Christianity that I often hear people say. Maybe you have even said it yourself,  “God will not put more on me than I can bear.” Maybe you’ve heard it. Maybe you’ve even said it.Some people even think it’s in the Bible. But let me help you with that myth right now with a look at the life of Paul. In 2 Corinthians, Paul wrote, “For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction … that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life ….” (2 Corinthians 1:8).
If ever there was a hopeless situation, Paul was in it. Paul hadn’t done anything to cause it. In fact, he had followed God’s leading straight into a place of despair.  If you share similar feelings today, you are in good company. The apostle Paul was a man who served God, knew God and pursued His calling at all costs. That should demonstrate to us that a life of service to our King doesn’t guarantee a life without difficulties, sorrow, or sacrifice. In fact, the opposite is typically true. 
God sometimes allows situations in our life to appear hopeless because He is trying to direct our focus onto Him. We may feel like giving up because we can’t seem to fix the situation that we are in, and no one we know can fix it either. All of our resources have been depleted. But Paul reveals a very key principle in his next statement, “…indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead … He on whom we have set our hope,” (vs. 9-10).
In order to take Paul deeper in faith, God put him in a situation that his resume, abilities, and connections could not change. Why? So that Paul would learn to trust God even more so than he had done thus far. 
Is God being mean in these situations? No. 
I understand that it may feel like that when we’re going through it, but what He’s really doing is trying to take us deeper. It is in these times, these hopeless scenarios where we see no way up, over, or out, and yet God somehow ultimately “raises the dead” for us. God has now become real to us at a level we never knew Him at before. 
Seek Him when life’s situations have you struggling (Isaiah 55:6). Don’t be ashamed of the pain or despair you may feel, Paul himself felt it. Never deny your emotions. Simply turn them Godward and look to the One who knows how to raise the dead. 
See, if we’re not dying or in a situation that is dying, whether it’s relational, financial, emotional, or other, we will never know what it is like to experience a resurrection. If you don’t need one, you won’t see one. 

Thursday, November 14, 2019

A seductive slope

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable. Luke 18:9

Self-righteousness is ugly. It is ugly to God and it is ugly to others. Self-righteousness is a blind spot of the worst kind, as it invites avoidance. Everyone is offended by it except the one exuding its offensive ways. Their goal is to afflict the comfortable. They look for those comfortable in sin, as defined by their self-righteous standards. They strain to apply their petty preferences to everyone else. It is sad and  pathetic, but many of us have been down this harsh and critical road ourselves. Much to our embarrassment, we have been the culprits of caustic and unfair judgment of others.

Conversations inevitably degrade to a tone of “us” versus “them”. It is a slippery and seductive slope that sucks one into a nauseating cycle of one-upsmanship. It becomes a competition between who is the “most spiritual.” It may be measured by tone of voice. The rationale is that the most spiritual-sounding voice must be the most righteous. What is even more “spiritual” is to accent the spiritual tone of voice with churchy words and phrases that only the insiders can interpret. Religious activities become a parade of people hungering and thirsting for the accolades of others. Pleasing and sucking up to people replace passion for God and the things of His kingdom. It is a sad state of affairs when the self-righteous become the influencers of the people of God.

Sincere believers and followers of Christ become confused, and non-Christians are repelled. The heart of Jesus is riled by the self-righteous. It is not acceptable to Him, nor should it be to us. Pride is the driver behind self-righteousness. It hijacks a good discipline like prayer, and turns it into a sideshow of sorts. Ironically, what God meant for good is twisted into evil. A self-righteous person who prays draws attention to himself rather than God. God must shudder when He witnesses the feeble attempt of a self-righteous prayer. It leaves the lips of the self-righteous and falls to the ground, never making it to Christ for His consideration. Pride pulls prayer back down to earth. Prideful praying is ineffective and unacceptable to God.

Can pride really engulf a praying person? Unfortunately, it absolutely can. This is why it is imperative for God to root out pride in our lives on a regular basis. Pride never goes away. Pride lusts after God’s job. Pride is not content in the role of a humble, submitted, and obedient follower of Christ. Pride puts others down to build up its own ego. Humility, in contrast, is quick to build others up and bridge them to God. The humble are quick to confess their sins and shortcomings.

There is a self-awareness and understanding of their blind spots; so avoid self-righteousness like the plague. Root out sin in your own life and watch the righteousness of Christ shine through you. Humility is the remedy for self-righteousness. Humility launches prayers to heaven and attracts the ear of God; so talk to the Lord on behalf of people, not about people. He pours out His grace on the humble. His grace purges self-righteousness; so prayers are heard and answered for Christ’s sake.

The Bible says, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).