People’s Innate Selfishness

pay_attention_to_meContinued from here.

When I was driving through South Carolina, I heard a fabulous sermon on the radio, but I lost the signal before I could find out who was preaching. The pastor was talking about marriage and said, “If the person you married was bad enough that Jesus had to die for him, he’s going to annoy you from time to time.” I literally laughed out loud because this is so true! And this comment does not only apply to marriage – it applies to every interaction we have with any other person, whether it’s a family member, friend, or the sales clerk at a store. Every single person you encounter was “bad enough” that Jesus had to die for him or her, which means we can expect them to do things that annoy us from time to time. The things they do to annoy us, in most cases, stem from their pride, which is the Bible’s word for selfishness, self-centered, or self-absorbed.

I don’t remember where I heard this observation, but someone pointed out that pride is something we are blind to in our own lives but that we instantly recognize (negatively) in other people. All of us are naturally selfish. On her television show, Joyce Meyer advised that if you believe you are not a selfish person, pay attention to your own reaction the next time something doesn’t go your way. Unless you have worked with God to grow in humility in a particular area of your life, I can guarantee you are selfish because that is everyone’s default setting, mine included.

Now, if the other seven billion people on the planet would simply bend to my will, then my selfishness would not be a problem. The issue is that seven billion people are prideful, wanting things to go their own way, and that simply is not possible. So, as we interact with one another, our areas of pride bump into one another, and we react by viewing the other person as the problem, blind to the role our own pride is serving in the conflict. In fact, I have learned that when I find it difficult to be around other people, my own pride is likely the problem. I need to go before God in repentance, deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Jesus as I make a conscious choice to defer to other people’s preferences.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace holding symbols and yelling, “Pay attention to me!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Being a Horizontal Christian by Loving Other People

lovedI finished reading Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader last week and feel like I now have a much better understanding of Eastern Orthodox theology. One notable difference from Protestantism that I have pondering is the heavy emphasis of the role of the universal Church as THE Body of Christ. While I know that Christians collectively make up the Body of Christ, I have been guilty of viewing Christianity as my relationship with God (vertical relationship) without much emphasis on my relationship with others (horizontal relationship). Tony Evans wrote an excellent book on the horizontal relationship of Christians with other people entitled Horizontal Jesus: How Our Relationships with Others Affect Our Experience with God, which taught me a lot about the “one anothers.”

Until the last few years, I believed I could live as an effective Christian alone in a cabin off the beaten path – just God and me. However, I have grown to realize that I cannot be an effective Christian if I am not interacting with other people. After all, the cross is both vertical AND horizontal. If all that mattered was God’s relationship with each individual with no connectivity among one another, then Jesus could have stayed in heaven and not have bothered to come to earth. After all, his relationship with God was just fine. He inconvenienced himself (to put it mildly) to connect horizontally with people, and Christians are supposed to follow his example, so Christianity involves interacting with other people … and that’s a big part of what makes the faith so challenging!

I have heard Joyce Meyer share the same story multiple times, and it never fails to elicit a chuckle out of me because I so deeply relate. She shared that she would be doing such a great job at being a Christian when she woke up – loving, thankful, etc. – until she had her first interaction with another person. Then, it all went downhill. The people are the hard part!

In this blog series, I will be focusing on some of the lessons I have learned – and continue to learn – about applying the Christian faith as we interact with the flawed people around us.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling with a heart on her head. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Why Does God Allow Spiritual Warfare?

joyce_meyer_rokuContinued from here.

As I stated, I did not handle this onslaught of spiritual attacks as well as I would have liked and even “forgot” about one of the most effective ways I previously learned how to deal with these types of situations. I was very much tempted to ask God, “Why?” However, I made a life decision to stop asking God why, so I went back and forth with asking, “Why, God? Sorry, I’m not going to ask why, but it would be really nice for you to intervene here. What do you want me to do?”

In the midst of this, I sensed God reassuring me that He would send reinforcements, and I didn’t know what He meant by that until the next day, when I accessed the Joyce Meyer channel on my Roku and saw that two of her current episodes were called “Tests We Encounter on the Way to Promotion.” God had recently revealed to me that a promotion is coming and that I need to start adjusting my life to prepare for this new direction. I had not connected the two – that I was experiencing this barrage of spiritual attack as a direct result of this upcoming promotion.

If you have access to the Joyce Meyer Ministries channel on Roku, I recommend watching both of those episodes, particularly if you are dealing with lots of spiritual attack like I am. This sermon (aired in two parts) really helped me make sense of what’s been going on with me. After all, why would God put me in a position to lead a ministry and then allow one thing after another to stand in the way of doing what He has specifically called me to do? This sermon helped me recognize what’s going on and how to react to it.

Meyer pointed out that just as we test out a chair by sitting in it or a mattress by lying on it before purchasing it, God tests us out before promoting us. He needs to see whether we will do what we say we will do when placed under pressure. So, God allowed the enemy to erect multiple barriers to doing what God called me to do specifically to test my reaction. Would I trust that God is in control and hold onto my joy and peace, despite the barriers? Or would I give up? Thankfully, I came closer to the first option than the second, but I certainly did not handle it perfectly. In other words, I didn’t get an A, but I hope it was a B. If it was only a D-, then another test might be coming as God prepares me for promotion.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Screenshot of Joyce Meyer Ministries Roku channel. Courtesy Roku.]

 

Why Walk into the Pain of Others?

whyContinued from here.

After reading my last blog entry, you might be asking why anyone would be willing to yoke together with another person who is deeply in pain and walk into that pain voluntarily. The short answer is love.

As you grow to love God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength, you grow to care about what—and who—God cares about. God deeply cares about the people who are in bondage to deep emotional pain, and He knows the only way for them to walk out of this bondage is for someone to walk God right smack dab into the center that pain. This requires a sacrifice from you, which is why Jesus said “whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” The cross we must bear is walking into the pain of others so they can walk out with a relationship with God.

Only love will motivate someone to walk into someone else’s pain, and that love comes from God. The authors of my textbook, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Encountering Mission), offer these words of wisdom:

Given all this pain or potential pain, why would any sensible person voluntarily stand on its receiving end? The only reason that makes any sense is the call to emulate the Savior, who offered himself as a ransom for many…Only a heart like that of Jesus can bear the pain.”

Only a true disciple of Christ is going to be willing to walk into the pain of others because there’s nothing else appealing about the process. Life brings each of us enough pain. Why would we want to voluntarily walk into someone else’s pain as well? The only reason is love – pure and simple love.

If you call yourself a Christian, then you are called into leadership – to influence others to seek the same God you have found. Your call might be at a worldwide level like Beth Moore or Joyce Meyer, or it might just be for your own children, friend, or neighbor. Either way, you are a Christian leader and need to take that responsibility seriously.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging her shoulders and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Choosing Judgment or Intercession

praying_for_you

Continued from here.

One reason it’s so difficult to obey God about forgiving others, despite God forgiving us so freely, is because we let our feelings and emotions drive our behavior. Obeying God is a choice, and it does not feel natural to choose to behave contrary to our emotions. Your emotions will follow your thoughts. When you choose to obey God and align your thoughts with Him, your feelings will eventually follow, which is why our hearts become tender toward those we pray for.

When someone wrongs us, we have two choices: judgment or intercession. We cannot simply ignore the wounds that the actions of others inflict upon us or those we love. Being wounded causes an emotional reaction, and we get to choose how to behave amidst the sea of emotions. Our flesh will always drive us toward passing judgment on the other person, which God tells us not to do. Rather, God tells us to intercede for that person in prayer, which is what both Jesus and Stephen modeled for us. This isn’t easy, but it really is that simple.

Joyce Meyer helped me with this. In one of her sermons, she pointed out that if you know you are going to forgive someone in obedience to God, it makes sense to go ahead and do it right away. For example, I have decided in advance that I am going to love and forgive my husband no matter what he does. So, any energy I put forth toward being annoyed with something he does is only going to make the process harder for me. Since I know I am going to forgive him, why wait? I can choose in that moment, even while he is doing something that I don’t like, to extend him grace and mercy and not to judge him. Again, it’s simple – it’s just not easy.

Whenever someone wrongs me or others, I have a choice: judgment or intercession. If I am tempted to think something negative 100 times a day, I can turn that into 100 prayers in a day for that person. This is what Jesus and Stephen modeled, and this is how I will react to others harming me if I want to be a disciple of Christ.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace kneeling by her bed in prayer under the words, “I’ll pray for you.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Why Would God Allow us to Suffer for Someone Else’s Benefit?

whyContinued from here.

As I shared in my last blog entry, God revealed to me that the purpose behind my being sick throughout the month of December was because of something He is doing in the life of someone else. God then reinforced this message on Joyce Meyer’s program, Enjoying Everyday Life. I’ll share Meyer’s insights and then add my own.

On her TV program, Joyce Meyer shared that she went through an annoying situation in which God revealed that she had suffered for the benefit of another person. In other words, she went through a situation involving another person in which she suffered, but God did not bring this situation into her life to punish/discipline Joyce or because the suffering was needed to teach her something. Instead, God was teaching the other person something, and for that person to learn the lesson, Joyce had to suffer.

Meyer said that as we mature in our relationship with God, God will sometimes allow us to go through seasons of suffering that have nothing to do with us. Instead, the other person must experience a painful situation in order to grow, and God will allow that painful situation to come about in the person’s relationship with a mature Christian. As a result, the mature Christian suffers, despite having done nothing to bring that suffering about (no unconfessed sin, etc.) because it’s not about him or her.

Let me tell you – that’s not a lesson I have been happy to learn, but it is definitely one that is good to know because I spent quite a bit of time begging God to teach me whatever I needed to learn from this experience so I could recover sooner. The answer was no because it was not about me! I needed to be sick as long as the other person needed to grow because this experience was about that person and not about me.

This is a tough lesson for me because I would have been willing to do just about anything to shorten my period of suffering, but I was helpless to do so. The only tool in my toolbox was prayer. At least I knew what (and who) to pray for once God revealed this to me. However, my prayers did not shorten my suffering, which was frustrating for me, doubly so since it’s been a lot of work for me to get back on track with my spiritual disciplines – I’m still feeling a bit “off” since that experience and welcome your prayers.

However, God reminded me that He was not asking anything of me that He did not ask of Jesus. How much suffering did Jesus do for me? So why do I fight against suffering for someone else? Just as Jesus’ suffering resulted in new life for me, perhaps God is using my suffering to bring about new life for this other person. Thus, there’s joy in the suffering. I confess I’m not yet to a place of “feeling joy” in suffering, but I’m a step closer to realizing that God is bringing beauty from these ashes.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging and asking, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Humility: The Sacrifice of Pride

Continued from here.

On her television show, Enjoying Everyday Life, Joyce Meyer has shared that her lowest-selling book is one on humility. It’s not that her books don’t sell well – they certainly do! The problem is that people are selfish. We would much rather spend our time learning how to receive God’s blessings than on making sacrifices for God, and developing humility requires us to sacrifice our self-focus. As I have shared on other blog entries about humility, God actually knows what He is doing. The less your fill with yourself, the more room becomes available to fill with God, which brings joy and peace. Thus, when we resist developing humility, we choose to miss out on the joy and peace that God has available for us.

Paul tells us to be completely humble, so why would a book on humility be Meyers’ lowest seller? The answer is a reluctance to sacrifice … in this case, the sacrifice of pride. We want to read books that build up our pride: How can **I** experience joy? How can **I** experience peace? How can **I** experience healing? Please don’t think I am excluding myself from this statement – that’s my natural state as well, which is why my natural state is also anxious and unhappy.

And yet, Christianity isn’t about us: it’s about God! When we choose to spend our time figuring out what we can get out of our faith, we keep our minds focused on ourselves, rather than God. Jesus gave us two “great commandments,” and neither one has ourselves as the focus:

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
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. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” ~ Matt. 22:36-40

It comes easily to all of us to keep our minds focused on ourselves – on what we want, making it a sacrifice to focus on God and others. But this is what must do to become disciples of Christ.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Testing Your Level of Humility. Courtesy Amazon. ]