There’s nothing quite like a song….God can reach into those deep places in my heart with music when I can’t be reached any other way…..Thank You for creating music, Lord!
The Truth About Guilt and Comparison
By Doug Fields
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else,
Most Christians claim to want to connect with God regularly—or at least they want the benefits of the richer life that result from consistent connections. But when it comes to turning desire into discipline, most don’t. Failure gives birth to guilt.
The guilt can be crushing. Wonderful people limp through the Christian life marred by it. It’s guilt, guilt, guilt 24/7—I don’t pray enough. I’m not reading the Bible like I should. I haven’t witnessed to my neighbor. I don’t spend enough time with God…Guilty.
If guilt defines you, I’m so sorry. I pray that you’ll come to see that you’re not a “lousy Christian” if you don’t have a traditional quiet time. The Christian life is not about locks and chains. Jesus Christ came to set us free. Yes, some guilt may serve as God’s motivator, but too many Christians cower because of false guilt—aka condemnation—that they’ve heaped upon their own shoulders because they’ve compared themselves to an unrealistic model and come up short. That type of guilt is wrong and unfair, and it will weigh you down and wear you out.
Comparison is deadly, yet so natural. It’s easy to place ourselves next to someone we think has it together spiritually, constantly taking mental notes on how we don’t measure up. Yet, comparison only assumes that others are doing what we’re not, and so we end up contrasting what we know about ourselves (everything) with what we don’t really know about others (which is almost everything). Again, not fair.
Then, to make maters worse, we hear stories about people such as Martin Luther, who awoke each day at 4:00 a.m. and spent hours with God. “I have so much to do today that I should spend the first three hours in prayer,” he said. Now, that really piles on the guilt. I’m really happy for Martin Luther that he was able to pull that off. But, as for me, I’m not a morning person. I didn’t even know there was a 4:00 a.m. until I read his quote in seminary.
For me, I’d much rather hear something about how his early-morning prayer sessions made him extremely grumpy in the afternoons because of his lack of sleep. That would be something I could really relate to!
Here’s my encouragement: Please stop comparing. You aren’t Martin Luther. Neither am I. You’re you! God designed you to be you in your faith too. I’m not suggesting you can’t have an intimacy with God similar to that of other heroes of our faith; of course you can. But I’m asking you to quit comparing, and instead, be challenged to learn how to connect with God in realistic ways that fit with how you’re wired. You can do this! I know you can.
Yep. That’s what I did on Sunday. Gave God a “way out.” Oh, and in case you’re not sure which definition I mean, it’s this one:
|Noun||1.||way out – an opening that permits escape or release; “|
Wasn’t that incredibly generous of me?!?!? To give the Creator and Master of the Universe an excuse…in my mind…..to NOT answer my prayer?!?!?
Let me back up…
I had BOLDLY prayed the last couple of days for a very specific answer, well actually a very specific way of the answer. I guess I “put out the fleece.” Oh, I did ask Him to forgive me if doing that was inappropriate. Because I obviously know that it’s presumptuous for me to expect Him to ‘jump through hoops’ for me. I know that Scripture tells me not to test God. I know that asking for a sign or “putting out the fleece” is a sign of weak faith. Of doubt. Of unbelief. Of not trusting Him.
But because He is a a patient and loving Abba, Daddy, He knows me and my heart and my struggle to trust Him completely and wholeheartedly. He knew I NEEDED to pray what I did, that I NEEDED Him to answer that specific way. He knew I NEEDED that assurance that He loves me. That He hears me. I NEEDED to know I mattered to Him. I NEEDED to know for absolute certain that I was doing what He wanted. I had prayed “Help me in my unbelief” earlier.
And He knew that I could give Him all the GLORY because I would have NOTHING to do with how it was answered. Or making it happen that exact way.
However…….although I prayed right before church “Be the God Who Answers Prayers, Be the God Who Provides,” AND although one of the songs we sang actually had the phrase “the God Who Provides” (yes, quite a GC, isn’t it?) AND although the sermon touched on some of the things I had journaled about this past week, I STILL gave God a “way out”….but not really.
My head-thought process went something like this….imagine a Eeyore-type voice: “Oh, I’m sure God probably won’t answer my prayer EXACTLY in the way I asked. I need to be prepared. He probably will not want to answer it the way I expect….that’s not the way He works. Sigh… It’s all in His timing, not mine….”
Then…unbidden….came my HEART-thought process: “But I REALLY NEED Him to answer it that way. If He doesn’t, it won’t help my faith…” And that does not make me proud to admit that my NEED for the exact answer to prayer was something so strong and dramatic.
But my Abba, Daddy, in His faithfulness, patience, mercy, kindness, love and abundant GRACE delighted to give me the cry of my heart. Me. His beloved child.
He didn’t need a “way out.” He answered my prayer EXACTLY as I needed. And His timing was IMMEDIATE. I was overwhelmed and humbled.
And my faith is strengthened.
Glory Be to God. Praise His Holy Name.
Yesterday, within a couple of hours, I heard David Crowder’s song “How He Loves Us” twice from different sources. It’s a very stirring song to me, and I actually wondered about hearing it twice in such a short time period. Coincidence or God Coincidence? Was He sending it to me for some reason?
Due to God’s prompting, I am re-reading Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby. Today I was shaken by this morning’s reading.
The verse was Matthew 22:37-38:
Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”
Then the question: If you were standing before God, could you describe your relationship to Him by saying, “I LOVE YOU WITH ALL MY HEART AND ALL MY SOUL AND ALL MIND AND ALL MY STRENGTH?”
That cut me to the quick.
Could I? Or would I say the same as this man when asked that question in the example:
“Nobody has ever asked me that. No, I could not describe my relationship with God that way. I could say I obey Him, I serve Him, I worship Him, and I fear Him. But I cannot say that I love Him.”
My heart broke. And I had to ask myself, “Do I love God this way?”
I know it’s still hard for me sometimes to really believe that He loves me….I mean in my heart, truly and firmly and with no doubt. And that affects my trust in Him. God and I had have many discussions about that over the years.
He pursues me with His Love. He continually assures me – the needy child who seems to ask her Daddy over and over “Do You love me?” – with patience and faithfulness and…yes, LOVE.
How could I not love Him with all my heart and all my soul and all my mind and all my strength? Help me Holy Spirit to have a whole-hearted love relationship with the One who created me for that very purpose.
A few weeks ago after reading about being “called” in my Bible reading, I did some extra reading & research. I discovered that being “called” meant being SUMMONED. Then during the next Sunday’s sermon, we heard that Biblical “calling” is the same word used for a military summons – in other words, BEING DRAFTED!
Then I came across the below devotional. There IS a point to all these recent posts & ones to come. Stay tuned….
From What Is A “Calling?”
“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called.” – 1 Corinthians 7:20
If you have been in the church culture for a while, you have heard the term “calling” many times. You may have wondered what the term means. If you go to Webster’s Dictionary, you will find there are fifty-nine definitions of the word, “calling!” Fifty-nine! They’re as varied as receiving a call on a telephone or calling a hand in a game of poker. That’s just two of the fifty-nine! But, what is the Biblical definition of calling? A “calling” is a summons by God.
Those of you that were drafted into the military know what it’s like to get a letter from Uncle Sam saying you’ve been drafted into the military. That is a summons by the government for you to serve in the military. Well, God gives a summons. It’s a summons to follow Him. It’s a summons to trust Him. As a matter of fact, in all callings, there is a calling to serve, a calling of unselfishness, a calling of sacrifice. That’s why military service often is referred to as a calling, because the same kind of things are involved – sacrifice, unselfishness, service – when you are receiving a calling of God.
But that’s not all. There’s also a calling to leave the familiar and venture into the unknown. And that causes us to feel inadequate and insecure at times about the calling. (emphasis MINE! Because this is SOOOO TRUE for me right now) But this is good, for it forces us to depend on God. In the New Testament, when Jesus Christ calls, it is most of all a call to follow Him. Then, as we follow Him, He calls us to specific places of service. Have you accepted His call?
Got another confirmation last night at Life Group. Someone was talking about a friend who got a word from God about a situation (this is one of those “someone who knows someone who is a friend of that person” kind of thing).
This is NOT yours to fix.
God told me almost those same words.
Thank you, Lord.
More about what I wrote here….
In January, before I saw the video and screen I referenced, I met someone from my denomination (and that’s another whole story in itself. Seeing His Fingerprints in lots of places) who was a regional coordinator in a ministry called Mending the Soul, whose mission is “an educational and equipping ministry created to serve the church and the community by embodying the justice, mercy, and goodness of God. We believe we best show: God’s justice by prophetically standing against abuse; God’s mercy by protecting the vulnerable and helping to heal the broken; His goodness by loving the broken and helping to restore the exquisite male and female design for healthy relationships.”
As this regional coordinator explained what the ministry was, I was very intrigued in light of the GC’s I’d been experiencing about brokenness, healing, etc. It stayed in the back of my mind for months until I learned about our denomination’s national “once-every-three-years gathering of multi-generational, multi-cultural, multi-vocational, multi-expressional women” called Triennial XIV being held basically in my backyard this year.
Guess what one of the workshops is? Yep, Mending the Soul Facilitator Training. Guess who’s the leader? Yep, same woman.
Still, I hesitated to register for it. With reasons such as “I’m not sure if this is really where God is leading me, I’m not sure I have the time, I don’t think I can do anything like that, I don’t think I’m qualified even if I got training, etc.”
But honestly, I’ll confess here…what I’ve come to realize is what I REALLY meant was “I’m afraid. I’m afraid WHERE God is leading me. I’m afraid WHAT He wants me to do. I’m afraid HOW my life may change.”
And even….”I’m afraid to face my own wounds, whatever they are. I’m afraid to peel back the carefully placed camouflage and bandaids and uncover hurts and heartbreaks that keep me from living the abundant life Jesus offers.” As the MTS video says “There are 2 categories of people: those who admit they’ve been wounded & need God’s healing….and those who aren’t ready to admit they’ve been wounded & need God’s healing.”
Then I was sent the clincher……Through a blog that I subscribe to, I was led to Cheryl Meakins’ blog when I found a button on her page “Join me in San Diego, CA for Triennial XIV.” WHAT?!?
And another guess what? She’s going to the workshop. She encouraged me to register. Yeah……I get it, Lord. You want me to register. You want me to go.
I registered. I’m going.
As I posted here, at this point, I’m just going to walk through the door He’s opened….take the first step. I have to trust that He’ll open the next doors in His time.
After I received a G.K. Chesterton quote twice in one week, I thought about it a while. At first glance, it seems pretty black and white, self-explanatory. But for me, it’s not. It has really caught my attention, and I
want NEED to dissect it for some reason. I wasn’t sure which part of the quote intrigued me the most:
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.
There are so many thoughts in my mind about all this and so many rabbit trails I’m heading down that this will probably not be very organized & clear, but I’ll try. There are a couple of posts along these lines.
The sermon, entitled The Heart of a Seeker, (mentioned here) that referenced this quote emphasized discipleship and the abundant life that Christ promised us – a closer relationship with Jesus. One that we would want to share with others. Discipleship is NOT easy. But even before that is discussed, there’s this little thing of RECEIVING. Just accepting the grace & love of Jesus is not easy. It SHOULD be easy. After all, He gave us a gift. But we MAKE it hard.
According to another sermon message I heard recently, most of us have a very hard time receiving and accepting the love that God wants to give us. Not just receiving and accepting from God, but that most of us have a problem receiving gifts or help from anyone. I actually always thought that it was just me and my issue/problem, but I guess I’m not that “special” to feel/think something that no one else does. Seems like there are more of us in the club than I thought.
Why do we have such a hard time? What do we think? We’re not worthy? We don’t deserve it? Now we’re obligated? We’re too proud? Makes us look weak?
Sure, some gifts are given to obligate us, to manipulate us. But the majority of gifts are given out of love.
As I recently read, “Too many Christians do ministry from a place of their own needs. They do good deeds because it’s a part of the identity they want: I’m that guy who does those things for people. I’m the girl who is always there. I’m the one who saves the day. Similarly others cultivate relationships because they have love-needs that are yet to be met in their lives – needs designed to be met by Christ alone.” Later I read, ” He (God) did not create us out of need but out of His nature. HE DID NOT CREATE US TO GET LOVE FROM US BUT TO GIVE LOVE TO US.” Wow. Double wow.
Then the speaker of the above sermon explained that the Triune is the “hospitable house of Love that we are invited into!” That the fullness of the Spirit is complete wholeness within, at home in God’s love.
So is receiving the love of Christ the difficult part that is left untried? Does it seem too manipulative for people? Is it too hard to accept that God created us to give us love? To just accept His love because it seems “too easy…there must be a catch?”
Exploring such topics as developing a REAL relationship with Jesus, the Christian Ideal, Incarnational Christianity.
***POOF*** That’s the sound of my head exploding!
Last Sunday’s message was great, full of little nuggets, and I took a lot of notes. I was hearing God. Entitled The Heart of a Seeker, the message was about a closer relationship with Christ, with a mention of a quote from G.K. Chesterton:
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.
For some reason, that quote really intrigued me so I wrote it down...not really sure why…not really sure I understood it completely….but it seemed important. I’ve heard of Chesterton but that’s about it.
Then a couple of days later, I got the email devotional below. It got my attention due to Matthew 6:31-33 about worry. ALWAYS an attention-getter for me, as you well know if you’ve read any of my posts. THEN THE REAL ATTENTION-GETTER at the end: ummmmm, there’s the Chesterton quote. AGAIN! OK, now I know God is talking to me – in a non-Robert DeNiro sort-of-way (HAHA! Keep reading.)
By Doug Fields
“Don’t worry about these things, saying, “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?” These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. Seek the kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:31-33
I was sitting at a Chick-fil-A one afternoon, and I had my Bible on the table with papers spread out. This is not unusual for me. I’ve frequently used Chick-fil-A as one of my regional offices. What was unusual on that day was this: A man walked by me and as he passed, I heard him say, “God doesn’t work.” Then, he sat down at the booth facing me.
I processed what he said for a moment, then asked him in a non-Robert DeNiro sort-of-way, “Were you talking to me?”
He replied, “Yeah, I guess I am.”
So I followed up. “Obviously, you’ve come to some conclusion that God doesn’t work. Tell me your story.”
I listened as this man told me his story. It wasn’t all that unusual. I’ve heard versions of the same story hundreds of times. As the story typically goes, the person was at one point in life a follower of Jesus, but when faced with difficult life circumstances, the person chose to follow their own way, rather than God’s way, and life didn’t turn out as planned. Because God didn’t step in and fix things, the person concluded that God doesn’t work.
The truth is, however, that God isn’t a genie, just waiting for us to rub the lamp so that He can appear and grant our three wishes. He’s not waiting to hear the marketing plans we have for our lives to determine whether He’s going to invest in us. Instead, God is waiting for us to forfeit our selfish agendas and to make the decision to follow Jesus. That’s how God works.
Are you willing to follow Jesus? Will you obey Him, follow His teachings and His direction? Or, will you decide to go your own way, and then act surprised when life dumps you off in a dead-end, and say, “God doesn’t work.”
What G.K. Chesterton wrote one hundred years ago is still true today: “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”
On the day we make the decision to choose God’s agenda for our lives rather than our own, we’ll find that God works.
Me again: I’m mulling this over and doing some more reading. What exactly is God telling me? More to come…..