Working Out the Wrinkles

Lately, I have been enjoying ironing.  It is a mundane task, and perhaps that is why I enjoy it so much.  It is simple.  There is no stress.  I apply a little heat and a little pressure.  Presto!  All the wrinkles come out.  The finished product is a crisp, clean shirt ready for one of my boys to wear.

As I was ironing today, it got me thinking.  I have a lot of wrinkles in my own life.  Things that make me not so crisp and clean.  Thinks that make me less than I ought to be.  I come by these wrinkles naturally.  They are part of my sinful nature.  I cannot work them out on my own.  I need someone else to iron them out.

You see, for a shirt, wrinkles do not come out on their own.  They do not just magically disappear.  They need to be worked on.  They need heat and pressure applied to them to come out, especially the stubborn ones.

My wrinkles are the same.

Fortunately, because I am a child of God, the Holy Spirit is right there ironing out my wrinkles to make me more like Christ.  He gently applies heat and pressure at different moments in my life.  God works out my wrinkles according to His purposes and for His glory!

Perfect analogy?  Perhaps not.  Yet somehow there is satisfaction and comfort in contemplating how a mundane task in life can point to the handiwork of God!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (I Corinthians 10:31 English Standard Version).

Just Learn to Love Yourself…Not!

“When we learn to love ourselves, we can love God and others.”

This statement generally sends me off the deep end.  Oh, if you could just love yourself, everything would be wonderful!  If you could just learn to love yourself, you could be right with God and man.

Hogwash!!

Loving ourselves is what gets us into trouble to begin with!  I mean, without realizing that we are sinners in need of a savior…that we are not okay without Christ, and we are in fact dead in our trespasses and sin (cf. Ephesians 2:1; Colossians 2:13)…we are lost.  I know a lot of people who love themselves, and this is why they feel they do not need Christ.  Satan loved himself and thought he could usurp God.  God doesn’t say, “Love yourself first, then you can come to me.”  He says, “You have sinned and fall short of my glory” (cf. Romans 3:23).  He says, “You deserve death for your sin” (Romans 6:23).  He said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  True love comes from God first and is given to us through Christ.

What if instead of falling for the psychology of the world, we understood who God is and who we are in Christ first?  After all, love comes from God (cf. I John 4:7-9…note that in this passage the love referred to is for others not oneself). I love who I am in Christ because of the work Christ did on my behalf.  I do not love myself.  There is nothing inherent in me that makes me lovable apart from the work Christ has done in my life.  Christ’s righteousness transferred to me is what makes me capable of loving God which in turn makes me able to love others.  I am last on that list if I make the list at all (cf. Philippians 2:3).

Sometimes I think that the study of psychology puts blinders on our eyes so that we are evaluating God’s Word through it as opposed to evaluating psychology by God’s Word.  If Satan can twist things just a little, he can keep more people from truly knowing Christ.  It’s like having a glass of cool clear water which is good to drink and refreshing.  However, if you put just a drop of arsenic in it (something you cannot see which poisons the water), a drink from the glass leads to death.

Let’s not fall for the tricks, the slight adjustments to truth, which are propagated by the spiritual forces of evil (cf. Ephesians 6:12).  Satan has a way of making things that lead to death look good.  Just something to think about.

Friction

Friction…it sounds like such a troublesome word.  It sounds like something that holds you back or causes you problems.  Friction…

Yet for all the potential issues friction can cause, there are many benefits as well.  Friction can keep you from sliding on the ice.  It can warm you up when you are cold.  Emotionally and in relationships, friction can cause you to learn lessons you might not have otherwise learned had you not experienced it.

My husband is a politician.  Sometimes he votes “no” on things.  He hates to see the people’s money wasted.  Yet this creates a lot of friction with other people who perhaps do not care as much about frivolous spending.  For some reason, when you are the odd man out voting “no” on things, the other politicians think you are the bad guy.  I tell him, “You are the friction that keeps those guys from wastefully spending my tax dollars.  You slow their spending down.”

Naturally, people purposefully avoid things that cause them trouble.  They tend to avoid things that cause friction.  Perhaps, however, friction is not as bad as people might think.

God uses trials in our life as a source of “friction” to create perseverance in His children.  James 1:2-4 (NIV) states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  Friction should be considered joy because it produces perseverance.  Perseverance works in our life to produce maturity and completeness.

Friction…perhaps it is not so troublesome after all.  The results of friction can include not bumping your head on the ground from slipping on ice, being able to keep warm, and maturity.  In fact, even joy can be found with friction if you really take the time to consider it!

Real Food

“If we suffer the good to grow weaker, the evil will surely gather strength and struggle desperately for the mastery over us; and so, mayhap, a painful desolation, and a lamentable disgrace may follow” (Charles Spurgeon).

Think upon those words.  How do believers grow weaker?  By not having a steadfast diet upon God’s Word.  God’s Word is our food.  God’s Word is our life’s breath.  Yet many of us rarely pick up Scripture to study it.  Many of us only occasionally pick up Scripture to communicate with God through it.

Sure, we read Christian books, listen to Christian music, and go faithfully to church each week.  However, how do we know that those books, that music, and yes, even that church is being faithful to God’s word?  It’s like being on a diet.  When you’re on a diet, you eat altered versions of real food so that you won’t get too much fat or too many calories.  The substitute is never quite as satisfying as the real thing which is why diets so often fail.

We need the real food.  We need the real, unaltered word of God to feed our souls.  We cannot live without it, or evil will surely overtake us.

Here I Stand

People disappoint you, even people you love.  In ignorance, they make decisions that are misinformed by deceivers and manipulators around them.  They go with the crowd mindlessly succumbing to group think.  Thinking for themselves becomes a difficult endeavor.

Clearly, it is foolish to put your hope in fallible human beings (at least it seems clear to me!).   Yet, people do it all the time.  Why do people put so much stock in others particularly what those others say and what they think?  People long to belong desiring relationships with others.  Loneliness is common when you stand up for what you believe in because you might face rejection and ridicule.  People you once thought were your friends might turn their backs on you.  Consequently, people play the game.  They let a little part of themselves die so that they can live in relationship with others.  Every time they let that little part of themselves go, it gets easier.

Standing up for what you believe in is hard.  However, at least for me, letting a little part of myself die seems even harder.  God has impressed certain values and beliefs onto my heart so much so that they have become an inseparable part of me.  As I grow older, I have come to understand that I was created to go against the grain.  So I continue to stand, even if I stand alone.

“I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen.”

Martin Luther

Where True Joy is Found

Do you know that when you worship, you are worshiping a God whom you’ve offended?  Yet God in His mercy allows you to come to Him even though you don’t deserve it.  Remember who you and know who God is.

Do you know that when you worship, you should be bringing your best to God?  How often do you just go through the motions?  How often do you just do things because you secretly hope others will notice and think you are more spiritual?  These things are not your best.  You know what your best is, and God does too.

Do you know that your worship should result in a love for God?  It shouldn’t just make you feel good about yourself and make you think, “Oh, what a wonderful day!”  True worship leads you to a deeper love and longing to know the true God.  True worship is about God.  It is not about you.

Do you know that your worship should be obedient?  Your life is a living sacrifice to God (cf. Romans 12:1-2).  Worship is not reserved for 20 minutes on a Sunday morning.  Life is worship, and worship is life.

So what about you?  Are you truly worshiping God?  Do you come near to God with your mouth but have a heart far from Him (cf. Isaiah 29:13)?  Consider what is acceptable to God and conform to His standards.  This is where true joy is found.

(Adapted from a sermon by Pastor Alan Sherban at http://www.bethanycf.org/file/180018899/180541042/Acceptable-Worship-Unto-God)

Half the Battle is Still Only Half the Battle

There is a thought that knowing you have a problem is half of the battle towards solving that problem.  This may very well be true.  However, the problem is that most people stop at just knowing there is a problem.  Admitting you have a problem and not doing anything about it is like making dinner and not eating it.  What would be the point?

If you know you’re self-centered, but don’t work to try to put others first, you have decided you’re more important than others.  If you quarrel with people easily, but don’t work to try to hear them out, you have decided you are more important than others.  If you hold grudges against other people, but don’t work to practice forgiveness, you have decided you’re more important than others.  If you decided you’re more important than others by your behaviors, you will never change…not even if you admit there is problem.  People tend to prefer themselves to others.  It’s our sinful human nature.

While knowing you have a problem may be half the battle, you still have to do something about the other half of the battle.  You still have to change, or the problem will never be solved.  At the point that you do not change, selfishness reigns.

It’s All About Me

“It’s all about me.”

That’s something we probably wouldn’t admit to thinking, but sometimes our behavior gives us away.

I struggle with “all about me” thinking.  It can be easy to get wrapped up in your own little world doing your own little things.

The other day my husband ran into the kitchen saying, “Hurry!  Our little neighbor boy is having a funeral for his crab, and it would mean a lot if we went to support him.”

I paused for a moment thinking of all the things I had to do.  My “all about me” struggle was likely evident to my husband who was waiting for my response patiently.

“Well, I just got out of the shower.  I have no make-up on, and my hair is still wet,” I tried to reason in my mind and perhaps a little bit out loud.

My husband waited patiently.

“Okay, let’s go,” I said as we walked out the door.

For once, I won the struggle with my “all about me” thinking, by God’s grace I am sure.

Our little neighbor boy was sad.  He was digging the hole to bury his favored pet.  We stood around solemnly, and my husband said a prayer.  The broken-hearted boy buried his little crab fighting back his tears.

Had I given in to my “all about me thinking”, I would have missed this opportunity to share in the inner world of a young child whose heart was aching for his little friend.  To see his little heart broken made my heart break for him.  It seemed he needed us there for him that day.  I am glad I went!

God has a plan and purpose for everything under heaven, and I need to constantly remind myself of this truth.  Things that seem trivial to us could have huge meaning to another person.  As I struggle to do those things I know I should and to not do those things I know I shouldn’t (Romans 7:21-25), I pray that my decisions glorify God.

It’s not all about me.  The truth is, it never really was.

Lights in a Dark World

It is a daily struggle for me to not grumble and complain about things that happen in my life.  Do you struggle with this also?  I would think most of us do because in Philippians 2:14-15 (ESV), Paul instructed those in the church of Philippi to, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

As representatives of Christ, people are watching how we handle things.

I can remember when I was the director of Women’s Ministry at my church.  I was having an interaction at the DMV where I was trying hard not to let my anger get the best of me.  I am sure this is not a foreign concept to anyone.  Not all customer service interactions go as well as we might anticipate!  Praise God that He kept me under control because after the transaction was over, the worker said, “Hey, aren’t you in charge of Women’s Ministry at church?”  Can you imagine what might have happened had I grumbled, complained, and argued with the poor girl?  I was mortified to think about how I almost acted.  What might my behavior have taught the people around me about who Christ is?  I shudder to think of the potential outcome of my bad attitude.

Just as Paul instructed the Philippians, we should put our grumbling attitudes in check.  Not all arguments are worth the effort we put into them.  Not all problems are as bad as we think they are, particularly in light of the potential spiritual consequences that might ensue!  We need to proactively shine as lights in this dark world!

Clouded Vision

This week we have been being bombarded with earthly concerns about finances, relationships, and just a lot of little miscellaneous problems.  It can be easy to let these types of this overwhelm you.

Over the past several weeks, my pastor has been talking about spiritual vision.  Matthew 6:33 (ESV) says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  When all the worries and concerns started hitting us, I realized that these things were designed to try to blur my vision and to detract my attention from seeking God first.

The cares and concerns of the world are things that can make us take our eyes off God if we allow them to.  The more we have the desire to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, the more our enemy will try to discourage us and defeat us.  We need to remember this.  Our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the enemies of God who want to destroy us (cf. Ephesians 6:12).  This all reminds me of that old hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5qc0EcNgqw shares a good rendition of this song).

When our vision is being clouded by struggles, trials, and temptations…the fiery darts of Satan…we need to focus in on Christ.  As we seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, the things of the world will indeed grow strangely dim as our spiritual vision clears.

What are you focusing on?