Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pride (And Appearances)

           In my blog yesterday, I posted an excerpt from Chesterton about humility. He describes a difference between the old humility (spurs people on) and the new humility (decreases forward motivation). If nothing else, I hope that people can see this very valuable point: There is more than one definition of humility being used in culture, and not all of the definitions are helpful to a person trying to grow in true humility.

In this post, I'm going to talk about the surface issues of pride and humility, and then dive deeper into underlying causes. This is a hard-hitting subject. If you read the first couple points and feel very agitated, please go ahead and close the browser window until you feel better about the situation. Other, objectivity will have escaped.
Pride: A feeling that you respect yourself and deserve to be respected by other people; a feeling that you are more important or better than other people.
                                                    Merriam-Webster Dictionary
In other words, pride can be described as an attitude of superiority, the internal thought of feeling that “I am better than you.”

Now, where does such an attitude come from?  No one is truly better than any other human; usually, though, we wish to think that we are better than others *if* we judge others. We wouldn't want to face our own condemnation, and so we want to believe that we are better than those we judge.

If a person has pride, what is likely to follow?

1 – They do not heed correction

            The easiest way to check for pride is to notice what your natural response to criticism is. Do you brittle and feel attacked?  Or do you get excited at the possibility of your own improvement and say "Tell me more!" ?    Proud people are uncomfortable with knowing about their own flaws, and so the downsides of having to learn that they are in the wrong overshadow the benefits of repenting from something that's holding them back.
But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, And did not heed Your commandments. - Nehemiah 9:16
They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. - Proverbs 1:30

2 – They do not accept grace (help to become better)

            Why would they want help to become better?  They are good enough as they are (in their mind)!  God offers grace, but the proud pass on by.  They do not enjoy getting help.  They hold on to their own self-respect (self-sufficiency), and they will usually turn on anyone who points out the problems in order to offer grace or assistance.
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” - James 4:6
Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honor is humility.  - Proverbs 18:12

3 – It pains them to admit flaws            Why do the proud hate correction and assistance?  Is it just some in-born trait?  Well no, the problem is that it pains them to see specific ways in which they are sinful and flawed.  It hurts.  In their mind, they are happily ignorance of their flaws.  But these flaws will catch up with them later, if ignorance remains:
[God will] look on everyone who is proud, and bring him low - Job 40:12
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. - Proverbs 16:18

4 – Others will notice contempt from them / They act like a person must be good enough in order to receive affection

            Probably most of the time, proud people are not the ones to notice that they proud. Other people start to notice when a proud person is proud, because that proud person will behave (act, speak, tones, body language) in ways that show contempt or disdain for others.

This goes deeper.  The proud only treat people with affection and kindness IF those people are good enough. The lie that they believe and practice is this:  "You must be good enough to receive love and affection."  This lie is why it pains them to see errors in themselves; they feel a loss of love if they notice that they are not good enough.   To be proud is to look down upon the imperfect, rather than to love and show affection to the imperfect.
Our soul is exceedingly filled with the scorn of those who are at ease. With the contempt of the proud.   Psalm 123:4

5 – Therefore, when they give affection to themselves, they hide their own flaws from themselves

            True agape love for self includes disciplining self, but since the proud feel that they must be good enough before getting affection, they try to take care of themselves by *not* looking for or listening to input about their flaws.  Pride ultimately leads to an inaccurate view of self.
By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom. - Proverbs 13:10

Let him not trust in futile things [like his own righteousness], deceiving himself, for futility will be his reward. - Job 15:31

6 – Therefore, when they give affection to others they respect, they do not use rebuke.

            Similar to the way that they treat themselves, proud people do not believe in rebuking or correcting those they respect.  And if they see someone else correcting someone they respect, they usually will feel like rebuking *that* person for not be "humble enough."
Open rebuke is better than love carefully concealed.  Proverbs 27:5


Now the amazing thing about where this ends up is that it looks like humility. To a proud person, humility looks like not confronting other people. After all (in their mind), confrontation is offensive and unloving because it can make others feel attacked, and telling another beggar where to find bread is claiming that you know where the bread is (thinking that you are right). So, by the time a proud person makes it to effect number 6, they can be convinced that they are humble, and anyone who 
confronts them is proud. Their self-righteousness continues.

This type of pride accepts the "new humility" (doubting one's beliefs and aims) and does not accept or enjoy the old humility (having conviction of the aim, but doubting to what extent one meets those goals).

Next, onto the opposite of pride!
Humility: Not thinking of yourself as better than other people; an accurate estimation of self
If a person has humility, what does that look like?

1 – They see us all as loved sinners

            To be humble is to view yourself as imperfect like everyone else is, and to view all imperfect people as lovable. (For if you view yourself the same as everyone else, and then wish to kill everyone, that ends in murder-suicide and is *not* the right type of humble). Therefore, there is no internal need to prove oneself “good enough” in order to see self as lovable.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. - Romans 5:8

2 – They embrace neediness and ask for things

            Imperfection and neediness go hand in hand. We have some natural neediness (being human), and it's good to come to grips with that. But after, our very imperfections make us more needy – we need grace, we need help, we need more truth, we need counsel and love and confrontation.
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. - Hebrews 4:16

3 – They admit flaws and welcome feedback

            Humble people already know that they are imperfect, and they don't feel threatened by the fact. Therefore, they are willing to see areas of specific imperfections, and can focus on the bigger benefits of long term improvement and gain. The more truth and character you have, the better your life goes.
Hear instruction and be wise; do not disdain it. - Proverbs 8:33
Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. - Proverbs 27:6

For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. - Proverbs 8:11

4 – They receive and enjoy things from God

            Humble people are more than ready to ask for help, to receive grace, to be open and honest with God about flaws, and to enjoy the results of someone else's labor (God's). They do not need to be self-sufficient, because they can get everything they need from others. Even their own confidence is found not in their own righteousness, but in the righteousness of Christ which has been freely given to them.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. - Matthew 7:7

5 – They lead others and offer advice

            There's a difference between being bossy and being a leader. Being a leader means that you go ahead of others, are glad for where you've gotten, and invite others to utilize the same path. A humble person who sees the value of input for self, will give valuable input to others who they love. A humble person teaching is like a beggar telling another beggar where to find bread. 


Now the amazing thing about where this ends up is that, to proud people, it looks like pride. One reason for this is that a humble person finds himself both imperfect and lovable, he loves his neighbor as he loves himself.  Those who do not accept themselves (proud people, people who believe that being good enough must come before acceptance) view self-love as pride.  Similarly, proud people will think that conviction/confidence is superiority, because confidence means that you accept that point of view over other points of view.  Telling someone where to find bread is offensive if, to them, it implies that you're proud to think that you have the correct answer about where food is. 

Humble people have to be careful to avoid giving valuable advice to those who do not value it, who will throw it away and despise truth.
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, For he will despise the wisdom of your words. - Proverbs 23:9
This humility is the "old humility" (having conviction of the aim, but doubting to what extent one meets those goals). Conviction about aims can turn people off to the message, so it takes discernment.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Dislocation of Humility

         It is only with one aspect of humility that we are here concerned: Humility was largely meant as a restraint upon the arrogance and infinity of the appetite of man. He was always outstripping his mercies with his own newly invented needs. His very power of enjoyment destroyed half his joys. By asking for pleasure, he lost the chief pleasure; for the chief pleasure is surprise. Hence it became evident that if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small.

Even the haughty visions, the tall cities, and the toppling pinnacles are the creations of humility. Giants that tread down forests like grass are the creations of humility. Towers that vanish upwards above the loneliest star are the creations of humility. For towers are not tall unless we look up at them; and giants are not giants unless they are larger than we. All this gigantesque imagination, which is, perhaps, the mightiest of the pleasures of man, is at bottom entirely humble. It is impossible without humility to enjoy anything -- even pride.

But what we suffer from to-day is humility in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be.

A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed.

Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt -- the Divine Reason. Huxley preached a humility content to learn from Nature. But the new sceptic is so humble that he doubts if he can even learn. Thus we should be wrong if we had said hastily that there is no humility typical of our time. The truth is that there is a real humility typical of our time; but it so happens that it is practically a more poisonous humility than the wildest prostrations of the ascetic.

The old humility was a spur that prevented a man from stopping; not a nail in his boot that prevented him from going on. 

For the old humility made a man doubtful about his efforts, which might make him work harder. But the new humility makes a man doubtful about his aims, which will make him stop working altogether.

At any street corner we may meet a man who utters [the frantic] statement that he may be wrong. Every day one comes across somebody who says that of course his view may not be the right one. Of course his view must be the right one (in his eyes), or it is not his view. We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

We are in danger of seeing philosophers who doubt the law of gravity as being a mere fancy of their own. Scoffers of old time were too proud to be convinced; but these are too humble to be convinced. The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern sceptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance.

By C.K. Chesterton, from his book, "Orthodoxy"

See also:  Loving Correction and True Estimate of Self

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Curse of Contentment

As people start into Lent, one general topic that comes up is contentment. Oftentimes, when people talk about contentment, they are referring to a lack of desire for more. That's the type of contentment I am writing about today, and in specific, I am writing about a lack of desire for spiritual things.

When any of us accepts Christ as Savior, we reject the old religion of the world:  Put on your best behavior, and be good enough in order to earn approval and affection. We reject this religion in favor of the truth that we are NOT good enough, but we are deeply and truly loved by God - and we would be wise to ask for help so that our future doesn't have to be so terrible (sin and sad consequences).

If someone comes to your turf, walks up to you, and criticizes you, what is your (current) natural reaction:  Is it to feel hurt that someone so close to you is misunderstanding you; do you go on to justify yourself and disprove them?  Or is it excitement at the possibility of being able to receive more spiritual blessings from God?

The first reaction can be called defensive (I'm fine where I'm at), while the second reaction can be called upgrade-oriented (Want).

After we become Christians, I think that probably all of us go through a stage in our life where we fall back into the mental voice:  Put on your best behavior, be good enough in order to earn approval and affection. We try our best, and then we are content with where we are at. We are fine. We can't complain. We are doing better than we deserve. We are tired. It doesn't feel like abundant living because it *isn't* abundant living, and we are content to stay here. This is "good enough" and if anyone is judgmental enough to try to point out our flaws, we feel that we have every right to get upset. They are walking about looking for flaws to critique. What jerks!  We commend ourselves on our patience and good temper if we can defend ourselves to these people without losing our temper at their presumption.

But as long as we remain in this stage, we are the Laodicean church. While Jesus stands outside and knocks, we ignore the door and talk about how we are perfectly content where we are. While He counsels us to buy from Him gold refined in the fire, that we may be rich, we continue to respond: "I am rich, I have become wealthy, and I have need of nothing."  

While we are thinking, "Why is this person ripping on me?" Jesus is telling us: "As many as I love (desire to benefit), I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent (accept upgrades)."

Accepting Upgrades: Growth is *accepting* (not building) something from God.  The reason we are being confronted is not that we just need to try even harder and spread ourselves even thinner to get any appreciation, but rather that we are suffering from the lack of spiritual blessings that God is offering to us (and we are busy telling him that we are good enough).

And what is the alternative to being fine where we're at?

"And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested."  (1 Chronicles 4:10)

"Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day. Now when He saw that He did not prevail against him, He touched the socket of his hip; and the socket of Jacob’s hip was out of joint as He wrestled with him. And He said, 'Let Me go, for the day breaks.'
But he said, 'I will not let You go unless You bless me!'

...Then Jacob asked, saying, 'Tell me Your name, I pray.'
And He said, 'Why is it that you ask about My name?' And He blessed him there."   (Genesis 32)  [Extra note: Jesus Christ, Immanuel, that is the name of God. The Israelites were the first ones to meet God by name in person.]

"And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, 'Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?' Elisha said, 'Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.'

So he said, 'You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.' Then it happened, as they continued on and talked, that suddenly a chariot of fire appeared with horses of fire, and separated the two of them; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it..."    (2 Kings 2 )

What do you desire?  For me, I want God. I really really want God. I want upgrades and spiritual blessings. I know that I am loved (and therefore I don't need to be good enough). I do not focus on "good enough" and "bad," but rather "less awesome" and "more awesome." I always want to be more awesome. Therefore, I beg God for more understanding than I have now (He also uses people in this process to confront me or prove me wrong), and every time I hear of a possible flaw (which tips me off to a possible upgrade that I might now be able to access) I am happy and curious to know more details. I enjoy where I'm at in my journey, but I am never content to stay - I want MORE Jesus.

I think that God gives grace to the humble because they are the only ones who truly desire it. The proud would never acknowledge that they are spiritually poor, and therefore do not desire help.  Now, God is not stingy - He has an infinite amount of the stuff, and if you aren't using it, then that extra capacity is just going to waste.  Therefore God encourages us to ask him for things (Mt 5) and delights to give it to us when we ask.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  - James 1:5

Dream big. Abraham dreamed of being a father of nations, since that's what his name was all about. But that dream died after he reached old age without children. In the end, though, God's plan for him was for him to be a father of nations - God was the one to plant that desire.

Desire. Ask God for more. Don't turn away potential upgrades when they are offered (in the form of painful feedback from reality, most often).

How do you know whether you desperately need more truth and a deeper relationship with Christ?  If you have a pulse, you do.  It's not a one-time transaction where you accept Christ into your life and then all your needs are met. It's an ongoing relationship - we are like a stream of water. Unless we want to become become a stagnant algae-filled swamp, we must *always* be getting more and more from God (water flowing in) and passing along to others what we ourselves have received (water flowing out).

So, people who are "fine," you need more Jesus. And, people who are very mature (maturing) and have a deep and close relationship with Christ, you need more Jesus.  It's awesome, because He wants us to want Him enough to wrestle with Him - He desires to give good things to those who would enjoy them.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Grace and Enabling

(Are you making the problem better or worse?)

Grace is a huge concept in the Bible, but I think that most people don't take  a lot of time to dive into that topic and studying the Bible to see what grace is.

“Make me understand the way of Your precepts; So shall I meditate on Your wonderful works.” Psalm 119:27

Growing up with the AWANA program, I learned a definition of grace as follows:  “A free gift that you don't deserve.” That's one basic tenant of grace that Christians generally agree upon:  Grace is unmerited – if it was merited (deserved), it would no longer be grace.  Some people will say that grace also means favor: God's grace is when God shows you favor.  But none of those definitions go deeper than that, which leaves unanswered questions, such as:  When God decides to give us favor and send us something undeserved and unmerited, what does He send us?  What IS this unmerited grace that God gives us when He shows favor?

Some people give the answer that anything God gives us that we do not deserve is grace. Like, when He sends rain and sunshine to everyone on earth, that's undeserved and therefore a form of grace. However, this answer doesn't stand up because Biblically, both blessings and grace are undeserved, and yet they are not used synonymously. The word “blessing” is used for many things, mainly extras – like, you are already doing okay, and then God gives you an extra blessing that you can praise and thank Him for.  God blesses people with children, for instance. The “grace,” on the other hand, is only used in situations where we need help and God is helping to fix that situation for us. When Noah received grace from God, it saved him from dying in a flood. When we are saved by grace, we are rescued from the sin and death we were wallowing in. In the christian life, we are told to come boldly before God's throne to find grace *in time of need.*  Blessings are unmerited extras, while grace is unmerited help/rescue.
"Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Hebrews 4:16
So, when help/grace is offered, there is still a choice: God allows us to accept or reject that grace. We can receive grace in vain when we are living under grace, as Christians, yet do not accept that help – Usually because God wants to help us become sanctified and Christ-like while we are still clinging to our familiar sins and being too scared to take up our cross and follow.
"We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain." 2 Corinthians 6:1
Who benefits from grace?  Well, who benefits from free help?  Those who WANT help. In other words, only those who have humility and realize that there is a problem will even want to be rescued or helped.
"But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."  James 4:6
When the Bible says that God gives grace to the humble, it doesn't mean that God is somehow playing favorites. Rather, it means that He offers grace to those who *desire* grace.

In the Lord's prayer, He instructs us to ask God not to lead us into temptation. In this prayer, we are asking God to make right choices easier for us. We are asking for His help in keeping us on the straight and narrow.

Now, with this understanding of grace (unmerited help), we can start to make sense of the various passages of the Scripture that tell us to be gracious and to give grace to other people. What does it mean to offer grace to others?

"Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers." Ephesians 4:29

Here, we are instructed to speak in a way that gives grace to those who hear; our speech should make it easier for others to received the edification that they need. In short, grace is opposite of temptation. Temptation makes it easier for a person to make a bad choice, while grace helps make it easier for a person to make a right choice.  All of our speech is to be gracious, and the Bible tells us to speak about doctrine, encouragement, correction, and instruction in righteousness. You'll notice that “correction” (ie godly confrontation) is included there.  Accountability and confrontation provides grace because it makes it easier for us each to learn and grow – it makes it harder for us to make wrong choices. [See also: The story of The King and His Hawk]

I remember one friend I knew who was battling an addiction. After realizing that he couldn't fight it alone, he got involved in a (very helpful and kind) men's group. Each evening, his accountability buddy would call him – and would ask if he had had any temptations in that area or had sinned in that area. (If he said no, the follow-up question would be to ask if he was lying – which sounds harsh, but it's helpful because addicts struggle also with the temptation to cover up the situation.)  Now, just *knowing* that there would be someone to hold him accountable made it tremendously easier for him to say “no” to temptation again and again, while kicking his habit. Accountability absolutely is a form of grace that helps us when we need help. None of us can do this life alone.

Both grace and condemnation start with acknowledgment that there is a problem present.  The difference is that condemnation points a finger while grace lends a hand.


So that's grace. What is enabling?

“An enabler is someone who—despite knowing that a behavior is destructive or harmful—allows a loved one to continue to do it. It is frequently used in the context of addiction.”

“No one wants their loved ones to do things that hurt themselves. However, by excusing behavior or looking the other way, you can enable an addict to continue abusing drugs or alcohol. Enablers allow substance abusers to continue using drugs without suffering the negative consequences of their actions.”

I found a good quiz online that goes like this: Are You an Enabler?

An enabler is a person who, acting out of a sincere sense of love, loyalty and concern, steps in to protect, cover up for, make excuses for and become more responsible for the chemically dependent person. This can prevent the addicted individual from a crisis that might bring about change, and thereby prolong his or her illness. To find out if you may be an enabler, answer the following questions:
1) Do you avoid potential problems by trying to keep the peace? Do you do whatever you can to avoid conflict because doing so will solve problems?
2) Are you in denial about your loved one being addicted? Do you think his or her drug or alcohol use is just a phase and isn't anything to be concerned about?
3) Do you have a hard time expressing your feelings? Do you keep all your emotions inside? 
4) Do you minimize the situation? Do you think the problem will get better later? 
5) Do you lecture, blame or criticize the chemically dependent person? 
6) Do you take over the responsibilities of the addicted person? Do you cover for and pick up his or her slack to minimize the negative consequences? Do you repeatedly come to the rescue — bailing him or her out of jail, out of financial problems or other tight spots? 
7) Do you try to protect your addicted loved one from pain? 
8) Do you treat him or her like a child? Do you enjoy taking care of your loved one and feel superior when you do? Do you still financially support him or her, even though he or she is an adult?
9) Do you try to control the dependent person?
10) Are you good at just enduring? Do you often think, this too shall pass?
11) Do you believe in waiting? That God will take care of this?
12) Do you give him or her one more chance, then another and yet another?
13) Do you join him or her in the dangerous behavior, even when you know he or she has a problem? 
If you answered yes to even one of these questions, you may have enabling behaviors, which could be [increasing the power of addiction in the life of your loved one.]

In short, God has some grace built into the system: It's called hitting one's head up against reality. This lets you know that what you are doing isn't working and motivates change. Enablers protect the person struggling with sin – they don't protect from the sin, but rather protect from the consequences of sin. They make sure that the addict/sinner never hits their head up against reality, and therefore never has motivation to change.

Why am I comparing and contrasting grace and enabling?  Well, to start with, they are exact opposites. Grace helps people to make good decisions, while enabling makes it easier for them to make sinful choices. But furthermore, people get these two concepts confused. Those who want to show grace want to avoid stumbling people, and a few believe that enabling is the only way to avoid stumbling people. They reason that if you do something and it makes another person upset, you have stumbled that person. They preach that we should avoid potential problems by trying to keep the peace – we should avoid conflict (not because that will solve the underlying issue, but because it won't trigger their anger).

Is there truth to their viewpoint?

 “If a loved one is struggling with drug addiction, confronting your friend or family member about their addiction can be a challenging and emotional experience. At first, it may seem easier to deny that there is even a problem or to excuse your loved one’s behavior. These denials and excuses however, will only make the problem worse. Denying or excusing a loved one’s addiction enables them to continue using drugs, which hurts themselves and others.”

Ultimately, if a loved one is sinning, they need grace and not enabling.  It may seem like giving them grace (confrontation in some cases) will “stumble” them because it will arouse their anger.  Let me share an analogy:

A friend comes to visit a farmer on a rainy day. After being invited inside, he notices that there is a hole in the roof, and rain is dripping into the living room. “Why do you do something about that hole?” he asks his farmer friend. “Oh but it's raining right now,” the farmer replies, “I can't go on the roof because it's slippery.”  This is a good point, and so the friend drops the topic and enjoys the rest of the visit.

A week later, the friend visits again. It's a bright and sunny day, but when he goes inside, he notices that the hole is still present. “Why didn't you fix that hole in your roof?” he asks. “Well, it's not raining,” the farmer explains, “there's no need!”

Now the question of the story is this:  When would be the right time for the farmer to fix the roof?  Obviously, it would be when it's sunny outside and there is “no need” because the problem is not causing any symptoms (no leakage). Those who claim that triggering anger is stumbling a person mistakes the problem (heart problem) with the symptom (anger). They think that by avoiding the symptom and preventing consequences, then things are great – the hole in the roof (heart problem) isn't a problem as long it's not raining (symptoms), right?  Right guys?

The issue IS a heart issue, though, all sin is. If you are gracious and they get angry at you, that's a symptom of that underlying heart condition. To avoid confrontation and accountability (Biblical forms of grace) will irritate the symptom less, but it will enable the heart problem to get worse. If you go out of your way to protect someone from the symptoms of their issue (including anger), you are a textbook case of an enabler who prevents the sinning individual from a crisis that might bring about change, and thereby strengthens the power of sin in that person's life.

That's not grace. That's not offering help. That's not making a righteous choice easier. Rather, enabling makes wrong choices easier and offers to whitewash the world instead of washing the world. Chesterton wrote that one who is not truly loyal will “be less inclined to the reform of things; more inclined to a sort of front-bench official answer to all attacks, soothing every one with assurances. He will not wash the world, but whitewash the world.”

Galatians 2:17
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!”

In other words:

“Seeking Christ includes increasing the knowledge of our own sin – does this (increase in knowledge of sin) increase sin? Certainly not!”

Grace often increases knowledge of sin, but it does not increase sin itself. In fact, grace is the only way out of sin.

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

A Tale of Truth and Loyalty

The King and His Hawk

GENGHIS KHAN was a great king and warrior.

He led his army into China and Persia, and he conquered many lands. In every country, men told about his daring deeds; and they said that since Alexander the Great there had been no king like him.

One morning when he was home from the wars, he rode out into the woods to have a day's sport. Many of his friends were with him. They rode out gayly, carrying their bows and arrows. Behind them came the servants with the hounds.

It was a merry hunting party. The woods rang with their shouts and laughter. They expected to carry much game home in the evening.

On the king's wrist sat his favorite hawk; for in those days hawks were trained to hunt. At a word from their masters they would fly high up into the air, and look around for prey. If they chanced to see a deer or a rabbit, they would swoop down upon it swift as any arrow.

All day long Genghis Khan and his huntsmen rode through the woods. But they did not find as much game as they expected.

Toward evening they started for home. The king had often ridden through the woods, and he knew all the paths. So while the rest of the party took the nearest way, he went by a longer road through a valley between two mountains.

The day had been warm, and the king was very thirsty. His pet hawk had left his wrist and flown away. It would be sure to find its way home.

The king rode slowly along. He had once seen a spring of clear water near this pathway. If he could only find it now! But the hot days of summer had dried up all the mountain brooks.

At last, to his joy, he saw some water trickling down over the edge of a rock. He knew that there was a spring farther up. In the wet season, a swift stream of water always poured down here; but now it came only one drop at a time.

The king leaped from his horse. He took a little silver cup from his hunting bag. He held it so as to catch the slowly falling drops.

It took a long time to fill the cup; and the king was so thirsty that he could hardly wait. At last it was nearly full. He put the cup to his lips, and was about to drink.

All at once there was a whirring sound in the air, and the cup was knocked from his hands. The water was all spilled upon the ground.

The king looked up to see who had done this thing. It was his pet hawk. The hawk flew back and forth a few times, and then alighted among the rocks by the spring. The king picked up the cup, and again held it to catch the trickling drops.

This time he did not wait so long. When the cup was half full, he lifted it toward his mouth. But before it had touched his lips, the hawk swooped down again, and knocked it from his hands.

And now the king began to grow angry. He tried again; and for the third time the hawk kept him from drinking.

The king was now very angry indeed.

"How do you dare to act so?" he cried. "If I had you in my hands, I would wring your neck!"

Then he filled the cup again. But before he tried to drink, he drew his sword.

"Now, Sir Hawk," he said, "this is the last time."

He had hardly spoken, before the hawk swooped down and knocked the cup from his hand. But the king was looking for this. With a quick sweep of the sword he struck the bird as it passed.
The next moment the poor hawk lay bleeding and dying at its master's feet.

"That is what you get for your pains," said Genghis Khan.

But when he looked for his cup he found that it had fallen between two rocks, where he could not reach it.

"At any rate, I will have a drink from that spring," he said to himself.

With that he began to climb the steep bank to the place from which the water trickled. It was hard work, and the higher he climbed, the thirstier he became.

At last he reached the place. There indeed was a pool of water; but what was that lying in the pool, and almost filling it? It was a huge, dead snake of the most poisonous kind.

The king stopped. He forgot his thirst. He thought only of the poor dead bird lying on the ground below him.


"The hawk saved my life!" he cried; "and how did I repay him? He was my best friend, and I have killed him."

He clambered down the bank. He took the bird up gently, and laid it in his hunting bag. Then he mounted his horse and rode swiftly home. He said to himself,—

 "I have learned a sad lesson to-day; and that is, never to do anything in anger."


What I get out of the story is this:  Sometimes, being a loyal friend means being the hawk - Being the friend who is willing to try to communicate truth to a friend, in order to protect him, even when it means putting yourself in the line of fire.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

What doctrine do you follow?

Here's a quiz that lets you know whether or not you are an Arminian:  QUIZ

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Question of Calvinism

I saw this meme on Facebook today:

Now of course as an Arminian, I also agree that salvation is of the Lord. God invented it and Christ died (and rose again!) to make it possible; He chooses who to save (conditional election) and He saves them by His power alone.

So, Arminians do say "Salvation is of the Lord."  But what separates us from most Calvinists is that we believe in the power of the Lord.

Arminians proclaim the ability of God.  Calvinists begin their argument with saying that man cannot have faith until regenerated. And many cannot answer this question:

If God wanted to, would He be able to give a man so much grace that the man could accept salvation, without needing to give so much that the man would be unable to refuse?

Is that an option that God has available to Him?"

Monday, February 3, 2014

So I Threw It to the Ground!!!

[ Please click on picture to view it full size!! :) ]

When I watch "I Threw It To the Ground" by Lonely Island, the scene where the main character quips: "MAAN! This ain't my Dad, this is a CELL PHONE!" reminds me of people who actually do make that kind of mistake with their relationship to God.  :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Christian Journey: Into the Light

Job 12:22: "He uncovers deep things out of darkness
And brings the shadow of death to light.

[ Please click on picture to view it full size!! :) ]

Psalm 18:28: "For You will light my lamp, 
The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.

Psalm 90:8: "You have set our iniquities before You, 
Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Christ is a Gentleman

In life, we are with God. We get to enjoy His creation, His domain, and His grace.

But we start off dead to Him - separated from Him - not connected with Him.

And we need to be connected to Him to live. Just like our spirit must be connected to our body to live.

He loves us and pursues us, and He offers salvation and connection - BUT He will only go ahead and connect with us if we accept Him. If we chooses to stop pushing away and telling us no.

Because He's a gentleman.

He's the One who decided that "no means no" is a good boundary to have. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

Forgiveness - What is it? How does one do it?

Jesus told the parable of the debtor who was forgiven a humongous amount of money, and then goes and throws another man into prison for owing $50. It's about forgiveness, but the connection between the monetary debt and true forgiveness is not always obvious.

Sin has a cost, and when someone sins against us, we pay a price for someone else's sin. Forgiveness is what makes that voluntary - forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another’s sin. Forgiveness means that we don't want to "make them pay" later, to reimburse us for that price we had to pay because of their sin.

Neil Anderson spells out this concept very well. I first read this as a teenager, and forgiving other people, with this understanding of forgiveness, was one of the most freeing things I have ever done in my life. So, now I am passing it along to all of you:


"We need to forgive others so that Satan cannot take advantage of us (2 Corinthians 2:10,11). We need to be merciful just as our heavenly Father is merciful (Luke 6:36). We are to forgive as we have been forgiven (Ephesians 4:31,32). Ask God to bring to your mind those people whom you need to forgive by expressing the following prayer aloud:

        Dear Heavenly Father,

        I thank You for the riches of Your kindness, forbearance and patience, knowing that your kindness has led me to repentance (Romans 2:4). I confess that I have not extended that same patience and kindness toward others who have offended me, but instead I have harbored bitterness and resentment. I pray that during this time of self-examination You would bring to mind only those people whom I have not forgiven in order that I may do so (Matthew 18:35). I ask this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Forgiveness is not forgetting. People who try to forget find they cannot. God says He will "remember our sins no more" (Hebrews 10:17), but God, being omniscient, cannot forget. "Remember no more" means that God will never use the past against us (Psalm 103:12). Forgetting may be the result of forgiveness, but it is never the means of forgiveness. When we bring up the past of others, we are saying we haven’t forgiven them.

Forgiveness is a choice, a crisis of the will. Since God requires us to forgive, it is something we can do. But forgiveness is difficult for us because it pulls against our concept of justice. We want revenge for the offenses suffered. But we are told never to take our own revenge (Romans 12:19). "Why should I let them off the hook?" you may ask. That is precisely the problem -- you are still hooked on them, still bound to your past. You let them off the hook, but they are never off God’s. He will deal with them fairly -- something we cannot do.

"But you don’t understand how much this person hurt me!" you may protest. But you don’t see, they are still hurting you! How do you stop the pain? You don’t forgive someone for their sake; you do it for your sake so you can be free. Your need to forgive isn’t an issue between you and the offender; it’s between you and God.

Forgiveness is agreeing to live with the consequences of another’s sin. Forgiveness is costly. You pay the price of the evil you forgive. You’re going to live with those consequences whether you want to or not; your choice is whether you will do so in the bitterness of unforgiveness. Jesus took the consequences of your sin upon Himself. All true forgiveness is substitutional because no one really forgives without bearing the consequences of another person’s sin. God the Father "made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Where is the justice? It’s the cross that makes forgiveness legally and morally right: "For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all" (Romans 6:10).

How do you forgive from the heart? First, you acknowledge that hurt and the hate. If your forgiveness doesn’t visit the emotional core of your life, it will be incomplete. Many feel the pain of interpersonal offenses but they won’t acknowledge it. Let God bring the pain to the surface so He can deal with it. That is where the healing takes place.

Decide that you will bear the burden of your offender’s offenses by not using the information about their offenses against them [IE to tear them down] in the future. This doesn’t mean that you tolerate sin. You must always take a stand against sin. But don’t wait to forgive until you feel like forgiving; you will never get there. Feelings take time to heal after the choice to forgive is made and Satan has lost his place (Ephesians 4: 26-27). Freedom is what will be gained, not a feeling.

For each person on your list, say aloud: Lord, I forgive (name) for (specially identify all offenses and painful memories [and even ongoing effects]). Don’t say, "Lord, please help me to forgive," because He is already helping you. Don’t say, "Lord, I want to forgive," because you are bypassing the hard-core choice to forgive, which is your responsibility. Stay with each individual until you are sure you have dealt with all the remembered pain.

As you pray, God may bring to mind offending people and experiences you have totally forgotten. Let Him do it, even if it is painful. Remember, you are doing this for your sake. God wants you to be free. Don’t rationalize or explain the offender’s behavior. Forgiveness deals with your pain, not other’s excuses. Positive feelings will follow in time; freeing yourself from the past is the critical issue."

                                  From Released From Bondage, by Neil T. Anderson
                                                               [Brackets words added by me]

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Is There No Balm in Gilead?

God has blessed us with every heavenly blessing, and He Himself is life and joy and healing. Yet, so many of his people are hurting, hanging on, and tired. Why is this?  We read the same question asked in Jeremiah:
"For the hurt of the daughter of my people I am hurt.
I am mourning;
Astonishment has taken hold of me.
Is there no balm in Gilead,
Is there no physician there?
Why then is there no recovery
For the health of the daughter of my people?" - Jer. 8:21-22

Now, of course, there IS balm in Gilead, so to speak. The issue does not lie with a lack of medicine. God loves to give good gifts and showers us with everything that we need.

As humans, we are designed with needs. Lots of needs. We have spiritual needs, physical needs, and even emotional needs (recall, before the fall, God said that it was not good for man to be alone). Yet, many times we want to rise above this calling, and want to assure ourselves, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing."

Yet humans are needy by nature. When God Himself took on human flesh, He took on human needs as well. And He embraced that neediness! He was on His knees before the Father each morning. For 40 days, He also fasted.  Fasting makes our body remember all of it's physical needs, and it brings us sometimes grumpiness and the feeling of physical desperation. Fasting reminds us of our own neediness.

Those who aren't cool with neediness pursue the path of selflessness with fervor. They don't complain, they are tough. They don't ask for things, and besides, they can handle it! It's very much against their way of life to accept help from anyone. Jesus Himself addressed people like this by saying that the well have no need for a physician - He didn't specifically mention that they need Him, but He pointed out that they would not be able to benefit from His presence as long as they were in the category of "the well who don't need things."

Yet as Christians, we want to be the cool Christians. The Christian with our act together. We don't want our flaws or needs or wants spilling out to where people can see them. We want to be a "good example" for others, and by "good example," we mean "got our act together." Yet sometimes that motivates us to cut ourselves off from additional grace and blessings that are always available to us, because of God's rich generousness.

[Please click on picture to view it full size, so that you can read the dialogue]