I just got back from Ireland and have not had time this weekend to write ahead for the upcoming week, so I’m taking the week off from blogging. While this is completely off topic for this blog, I’ll share a couple of picture of me “kissing the Blarney Stone” at Blarney Castle in Cork County, Ireland. One of the legends surrounding the Blarney Stone is that is was Jacob’s pillow, brought to Ireland by the prophet Jeremiah. I have no idea if there’s any truth to the legend, but I couldn’t resist kissing it just in case.
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So, how can we know if we are being deceived if, by definition, someone who is being deceived in unaware of the fact? We must accept the reality that we are all vulnerable to being deceived and be willing to do what God says to do in any situation.
For example, does the pain of something done to you decades ago still plague you? If it does, then you have not forgiven the wrongdoer. Yes, what was done to you was unfair, but do you really want to move past the pain and heal? If you don’t, be honest with yourself and accept that you are CHOOSING to continue wallowing in pain that God is more than capable than healing. If you really do want to heal, then DO WHAT GOD TELLS YOU TO DO and forgive the wrongdoer.
Are you struggling with depression or anxiety? The Bible says to go to God with your concerns with thanksgiving. That means you don’t need to spend all of your time fixating on what’s wrong with your life. Instead, thank God for the many blessings He has already given you. If cannot think of any, start with your bathroom. Are you thankful for indoor plumbing? Hot showers? Indoor toilets? Are you thankful that you don’t have to slog through the rain and mud to walk to an outhouse at 3:00 a.m. to relieve yourself? Americans are addicted to comfort and have lost sight of how richly we are blessed compared to most of the world. I’m thankful that I don’t have to walk for hours to access water that I must carry back to my house. I’m thankful that I have the ability to walk.
Whatever is plaguing you, pray for God to give you wisdom and discernment about what He wants you doing to participate in your breakthrough. And search the Bible looking for passages that address your issue. Finally, pray for God to break you free from areas of deception. Be willing to make whatever changes He leads you to do, and you will experience the breakthrough that has been eluding you.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sitting before a fireplace and saying, “True Story.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]
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I have known many Christians (and I used to be one of them) who do not see themselves clearly and are thus unwilling to do what God tells them to do to achieve the breakthrough they have been praying for. As an example, I know many Christians who are unhappy in their marriages as I once was. I frequently share my testimony of how God healed my marriage – through taking the 40-day journey through Alex Kendrick and Stephen Kendrick’s book, The Love Dare — and then I offer to buy the person a copy of the book. Only a handful take me up on the offer, and to-date, I am not aware of any of them actually completing the 40-day journey.
These people are hurting and asking others to pray for their marriage, and yet they are unwilling to invest 40 days “doing the Love Dare” to their spouses. Why? Because they are deceived, as I was, into believing that the spouse is the one who needs to change. Whenever I hear someone say this (whether directly or through their actions), I know that they are, in fact, contributing to the problem because unconditional love is not proud or self-seeking and keeps no records of wrongs. We want God to supernaturally change our spouses when God is waiting on us to be willing to humble ourselves enough to do the changing, through which God will heal our marriages.
This is only one example of many ways I see Christians deceiving themselves. One considers himself a humble man but continually talks about himself and his problems, keeping himself at the forefront of his mind. Another believes herself to be self-sacrificing for her family, who rarely sees their workaholic loved one because of her workaholism as she idolizes money. He believes needing a beer to unwind every single night is moderation rather than a stronghold while she labels her propensity to gossip as “asking for prayers.” In each of these situations, the Christian is oblivious to the truth that is so obvious to those around him or her.
The saddest part is that after months, years, or even decades of praying for healing that never comes, some Christians walk away from their faith, accusing God of being unfaithful. They never awaken to the reality that God was waiting all of this time for them to do things His way. Before we will be willing to change, we must first acknowledge that we do, in fact, need to change.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cover of The Love Dare. Courtesy Amazon.]
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On Priscilla Shirer’s web series, The Chat, I watched an interesting testimony, which you can watch here, of a couple who survived infidelity:
What struck me was that this happened to a strong Christian couple who deeply loved each other and God. When husband Bob Meisner saw some red flags and expressed his concerns to his wife, Audrey, she assured him (and truly believed her own words) that she would NEVER commit adultery. Audrey said wise words to the audience: When we believe that we would NEVER do something, we remove God from that area of our lives.
Because Audrey believed she was not vulnerable, she excluded God from this area of her life and did not realize how subtly she was being led astray. She did not become aware of the degree of self-deception until after she gave in to an emotional and physical affair that resulted in a pregnancy. Much heartache could have been avoided had she simply been honest with herself.
I make that observation not in judgment of her but in judgment of myself. How many times have I told myself that I would NEVER do X, Y, or Z, only to do that very thing? How many times have I lied to myself about my motives, becoming angry whenever someone who loves me offered constructive criticism — not to judge me but to save me?
I have come to the sobering realization that I am capable of doing just about ANYTHING sinful. Jesus said that we are guilty at the point in which we engage in a sin in our hearts, even before we act on those things. By being honest with myself and recognizing my propensity for evil, I invite God in to protect me. In other words, I submit that part of myself to God’s authority, recognizing that the only way for me not to fall is to lean on God and follow His ways, which protects me from falling.
And because I realize my propensity to do evil and my complete reliance upon God to avoid that path, I become less likely to do it … not because I would NEVER do it but because I’m acutely aware that, without God, I likely WILL! I recognize that I am fully dependent upon God to walk in His ways and throw myself at His mercy, begging Him to show me the way out of temptation to do evil.
To be continued…
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All of us are vulnerable to self-deception. We see other people’s actions and make judgments based upon them, but we hold ourselves to a different standard, basing our judgments on our motives, past hurts, etc. For example, I judge Joe Smith for speaking rudely to me, but I give myself a pass for doing the same thing to someone else because I’m recovering from the flu. After all, I’m in physical pain, so it’s understandable that I have less self-control today. And yet I don’t consider that perhaps Joe Smith was also in physical pain and needed grace extended toward his rudeness rather than verbal sparring.
It’s painful and embarrassing to own up to our shortcomings. We read about the fruit of the Spirit and want people to perceive us this way, but that’s not who we are. Let’s face it – nobody (other than Jesus) is naturally this way. We have to work at it, and it’s HARD. For example, I always cringe when I hear that someone is praying for patience because I did that myself … and spent the next several months doing a LOT of waiting! After all, how can someone possibly develop patience without having to wait? One needs the conditions for which patience is required in order to develop that fruit. So, a prayer for patience is really inviting God to allow you to wait — to suffer — until you develop patience in response.
A problem with self-deception is that we don’t know that we are being deceived. We actually think we are OK, but we’re not. Those closest to you are likely well-aware of the shortcomings that you lie to yourself about. Just as a tree is known by its fruit, your spiritual fruit (or lack thereof) communicates the truth of what is inside your heart to everyone around you. Instead of reacting in anger when your spouse, parent, or child makes an observation about your behavior, try considering whether he or she might be seeing something that you have been deceiving yourself about.
To be continued…
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking at herself in a mirror and asking, “Why am I the way that I am?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]
Tauren Wells has a song that I love called Known, which you can listen to here:
I heard an interview with Tauren Wells, who said that to be fully loved but not known is superficial, and to be fully known but not loved is terrifying. It’s the fullness of both aspects – God fully knowing us AND fully loving us – that makes an intimate relationship with Him fulfilling.
Sadly, many of us (and probably most of us) live in self-deception, fearing being fully known not only by God but even by ourselves. We lie to ourselves, telling ourselves that we have pure motives when we make choices for selfish reasons. And then we become easily offended when someone (even God!) shines light onto that dark part of ourselves that we don’t want to see. I did this for decades, which kept me in bondage. It was through seeing myself as I really was – a big, fat mess of contradictions and selfishness – that God’s grace was able to penetrate my rotting soul and plant His seeds of grace in that fertile soil.
We are never going to change what we don’t first recognize as not working. If we don’t own up to our real motives, we will continue on in self-deception, doing the same things over and over while expecting different results, which is madness. God’s ways work, so if your suffering has persisted for years (or for decades as mine did), it’s time to take a step back and look – really look – at what you are doing and who you are. While facing truth is hard, it’s the launching pad God uses to set us free.
I know many people who choose to continue to live in self-deception and conclude that God’s ways don’t work. I was once one of them. What got me from there to here was inviting God to hold up a mirror and show me my ugliness. While it’s painful to face hard truths about yourself, it’s an integral part of receiving God’s grace and breaking free from the bondage that enslaves you.
To be continued…
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As a ragamuffin, I love my tilted halo. It’s such as relief not having a constant headache from a halo that is too tight on my head. I’m never going to be able to live perfectly, and that’s OK. What God is looking for is imperfect progress, which I am making.
Christians who obsess over doing everything “right” are missing the point of grace. Our attempts to “be perfect” are nothing more than filthy rags, which I have heard actually refer to menstrual cloths in the original Hebrew. No matter how “good” I am, I’m never going to be “good enough.” Praise God that I don’t have to be! God loves me – and He loves you – exactly the way we are. He loves us in our imperfection, and that’s the way He calls us to love another.
I believe the reason that most people struggle to love those who are different from themselves is because they have not yet tasted the grace that God has given them. Yes, they know about the grace of God in their heads, and many can even recite Bible verses that reference God’s grace. But until you have tasted God’s grace for yourself, you will find yourself continually frustrated and God’s joy eluding you. Why? Because grace cannot be earned.
Someone who has never known grace is easy to spot. It’s that person who is never satisfied, no matter how hard someone else tries to please him or her. The music is not to his liking. She doesn’t care for the topic of the sermon. He constantly compares himself to others, judging other people for not doing something as well as he does. She feels the need to correct others and point out their faults. Praise God that He never treats us like this!
If you have never tasted the sweetness of God’s grace, I encourage you to loosen and tilt your halo. God loves you as you are, not as you ought to be. Why? Because He chooses to.
[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace with a tilted halo over her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]