Do You Love God More?

i_love_you_moreContinued from here.

The bottom line is that God is seeking people who love Him with all of their hearts, minds, souls, and strength. To love God more means to love everything and everyone else less. Do I love God enough to obey Him, even when it costs me money, time, and inconvenience? Is my love for Him stronger than my love for others who find themselves slammed by spiritual attack simply because I love them? Will I continue obeying God when I see no harvest from all of the seeds I have labored to plant in obedience to His leading? Only when I can truly say YES to these questions have I become a disciple of Christ.

This is not an easy lesson to learn, and it sure isn’t popular. People are willing to flock to the God who showers blessings on them, but how many stay when those blessings are removed? And if I am only willing to follow God when he blesses me, do I really love Him? Or do I simply love what He can do for me?

One of the secrets I have learned along my spiritual journey is that God IS the blessing. He has promised never to leave or forsake me, so even when I see no tangible benefits to my obedience, I always have the blessing of His presence. That’s never going to leave. No matter how stormy the seas become, I can rest in the presence of a God who loves me. Learning how to do this is the key to Christian discipleship.

I don’t like this lesson any more than you do. I’m selfish by nature, and I very much prefer feeling comfortable to being a martyr. I love having mountaintop experiences that proclaim the glory of God. I’m not so wild about the times in the valley when I must suffer. And yet, that’s how Jesus lived, as a man of suffering. Why do I insist upon an easy life when the one I follow was and is a man of suffering? I still have much to learn about denying myself, taking up my cross, and following Jesus.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace carrying a huge heart that says, “I love you more.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

When Spiritual Attack turns Outward

perseveranceContinued from here.

I believe I have blogged about this topic before, but it bears repeating … Once you reach a place of persevering despite receiving no foreseeable blessings and regardless of spiritual attacks launched against you, the enemy starts picking on the people you love. This is an area of spiritual attack that I did not see coming when I entered into professional ministry, and it was (and continues to be) harder for me than direct assaults. When I am attacked, I know how to stand my ground and fight back with prayer, praise, and worship. However, I cannot make these choices for those I love, and I love a lot of people whose faith isn’t as strong yet. I pray for and encourage them, but I cannot choose to trust God for them – only they can make that choice. And when they are pummeled by the enemy, some of them sink into despair, and I know they are suffering because of the bulls eye placed on them because of their relationship with me. It’s a tough position to be in.

I wonder if perhaps this dynamic is what Jesus was talking about in Matt. 10:37 when he said,

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

When I see my friends and family members suffering from spiritual attack, it’s distracting. I must make a choice – Will I continue to obey what God has called me to do, even as my loved ones experience the suffering of spiritual attack? It can be tempting to step away from obeying God in the hopes of bringing those I love some peace. But that would be loving them more than I love God, which would make me unworthy of Jesus. (Side note – I’m painfully aware of my unworthiness of Jesus, regardless of how well I obey him.) I must always choose God, no matter the cost. Boy, is that hard when it’s someone I love paying the price for my choice!

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace rolling a boulder uphill over the word, “Perseverance.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Why God Allows Spiritual Attack

whyContinued from here.

So, why does God allow our lives to get harder rather than easier when we are clearly doing His will? In his book The Three Battlegrounds: An In-Depth View of the Three Arenas of Spiritual Warfare: The Mind, the Church and the Heavenly Places, Francis Frangipane explains it this way:

We must realize that it is not Satan who defeats us; it is our openness to him. To perfectly subdue the devil we must walk in the ‘shelter of the Most High’ (Ps. 91:1). Satan is tolerated for one purpose: the warfare between the devil and God’s saints thrusts us into Christlikeness, where the nature of Christ becomes our only place of rest and security. God allows warfare to facilitate His eternal plan, which is to make man in His image.”

I have now been in professional ministry for over a year, and the spiritual attack has not lessened. However, my susceptibility to being rocked by it has. I now know that if I press Ctrl + P on my computer and something prints out without issue, it’s a blessing to thank God for. I have no expectation that this is going to happen every time. I trust that God is perfectly capable to ensuring I meet His deadlines, which may be quite different from my own time preferences. He knows exactly where I am and exactly what the ministry needs. If printing that document was critical to accomplishing His purposes, NOTHING would be able to interfere with the printing process. God doesn’t need me to accomplish His purposes, but He has invited me to join Him, and he – frankly – walks more slowly than I do. As I learn to rest in His perfect timing, the spiritual attack – even silly but annoying things like printing issues – lose their power to rattle me. God’s purposes will be accomplished – not only His purpose in whatever needs to be printed but, much more importantly, His purposes is transforming me into Christlikeness.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace shrugging behind the word, “Why?” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Obedience Met by Spiritual Attack

laptop_computerContinued from here.

Now let’s take this simple concept a step farther. In the case of the friend I shared about yesterday, an expected blessing was withheld. He clearly did not get the flu from doing something nice for someone who didn’t deserve it, but it would have been nice to have been spared the flu. Of course, if he had been spared, he wouldn’t have known this and might still have grumbled about not receiving a blessing. Aren’t we all prone to this type of thinking?

Taking this a step further, let me tell you about what another Christian friend is dealing with. In obedience to God, she volunteered to take on an important role in a new ministry in an area that God has been wooing her to for years. Within hours of making this commitment, she was involved in a serious car accident (not her fault) that rattled her enough to step back from this commitment for the time being. I told her she is clearly dealing with spiritual attack and encouraged her to pray scripture prayers out of Beth Moore’s Praying God’s Word: Breaking Free from Spiritual Strongholds from the chapter entitled Overcoming the Enemy, which is all about fighting spiritual attack. Thankfully, this friend is a mature enough Christian to recognize this truth and does plan to resume God’s calling.

One of the shocks of entering professional ministry for me was how frequently God allows spiritual attack to impede my progress … at least, that’s my perception when everything I do for God seem to take 3-5 times as long to accomplish as the same tasks when I was working for Corporate America. I miss the days when I would press Ctrl + P on my computer, and a document would print. That was my experience for decades in Corporate America. I entered professional ministry, and suddenly the printer repeatedly goes offline … or the new printer (still under warranty!!) has not one but TWO drums break … or the wireless printing feature that always worked well becomes so erratic that I need to buy a wire to ensure the printer will actually receive the print command. I took a pay cut (literally earning half the hourly rate) to obey God, and it takes 15 minutes to print out a one-page donor receipt letter?? Really??

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace looking frustrated while typing on a laptop computer. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

A Call to Deeper Holiness

reclinerContinued from here.

Most of you reading my blog this week might believe I’m being overly radical in walking away from viewing television (and movies), but I am doing this because I love God more. I am tired of this medium being used to influence how I view God, myself, and other people. I want my worldview shaped by truth, not by people with an agenda. I find truth by spending time with the God I love, praying, studying His Word, praising & worship Him, and reading books written by Christian authors, such as C.S. Lewis, who encourage me to get to know God better rather than seeking to entertain me with watered-down versions of the same messages the World offers. I haven’t had much time for reading books lately, but removing television viewing from my life will free up the time to do so.

I know this sounds radical, and it’s sure counter-cultural, but so is being a disciple of Christ. I don’t need the same worldly messages of disunity, darkness, etc. packaged between a couple of Bible verses to promote the same propaganda as the World. I’m not looking for entertainment with less violence and sex, seemingly “pure” just because it’s reined in more than in the secular realm. Christianity is not a diluted version of the World – it’s a completely different mindset, and I’m tired of allowing others to shape and mold my mind. Only God has the right to do that. I will no longer allow others to have the power to do this to me.

When I spend time with God, I never risk walking back into bondage. I never experience flashbacks or nightmares after praising & worshiping Him. I never walk away from studying His Word feeling guilt, shame, or tension. I never put down a C.S. Lewis book thinking about how much I have suffered and how others have wronged me. So, why have I allowed this dynamic for so long in what I watch, even through allegedly Christian programming? No more. It’s taken me decades to get here, but it’s time to turn that television OFF, and that is what I am doing.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace asleep on a recliner, holding a remote control. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Be Mindful of How God is Represented in Christian Movies

alternative_factsContinued from here.

My other beef with many Christian movies is that I do not believe many are written by people with a close walk with God. You cannot communicate well what you, yourself, have not experienced, and (sadly) many script writers do not appear to have a close relationship with God. I’m sure they mean well as they try to convey that God, in His mysteriousness, can work things out even when we don’t get it, but that’s simply not the God I know. When I allow myself to watch Christians movies that portray God as this confusing, standoffish being who I am to keep serving no matter how badly He allows everyone else to stomp all over me, I’m allowing others to influence my perception of the God I love. That’s not who He is!

Before I continue, let me say that I have seen some wonderful Christian movies, so I don’t mean to paint with such a broad brush that I sound like I am slamming all of them. My concern with a movie is that I don’t know what’s coming until I am already invested in the characters, and I find it difficult to turn the program off when I get slammed by what didn’t see coming. Perhaps the answer for me is only to view Christian movies that others have seen so I know what to expect.

Back to the point – The God I know is a loving, relational God who treats me like a beloved daughter. He is kind and compassionate. He deeply cares about every aspect of my life. Yes, it is true that I have suffered much while in a relationship with Him, but that suffering has persisted not because He is so “mysterious” that I must live a martyr’s life as I wait for Him to get off His haunches and actually do something about the situation. Instead, when the pain persists, He is either waiting for me to do my part first (such as to forgive my enemies to pull in the healing), or He is developing fruit in me (such as perseverance) and provides many oases along the way if I will simply rest in them.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing behind a podium in front of a chalkboard that says, “Alternative Facts.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Violence in Christian Movies

scared2Continued from here.

When I decided to obey God to become more holy in my television viewing, I started a subscription with a company that streams Christian and family-friendly movies. While this subscription service certainly provides more positive options, even those have been less tolerable for me as my relationship with God has deepened. This came to a head over the weekend, and I just canceled my subscription to this service as a result.

On Friday, which is when I observe my Sabbath, I scrolled through the faith-based options and selected a movie that sounded promising. It opened and closed with Bible verses and told the story of a young man who got a raw deal in life and lashes out in anger toward God, and then God rights the wrongs with a happy ending. I’ll get into one aspect I didn’t like in my next blog entry, but I want to focus on the one that caused me to pull the plug on watching television for the foreseeable future – the violence.

In the movie, the protagonist’s rival is jealous over a love triangle and puts a drug into the woman’s drink. This triggered my post-traumatic stress, and I had a flashback/nightmare about being attacked in a dark room as my attacker drugged me, and I could feel my mind and body disconnecting as I sank into darkness, knowing that he was going to rape me. I awoke shaking and filled with fear. I don’t need this drama. I have spent enough years of my life reliving my traumatizing past. I don’t need a Christian movie, of all things, resurrecting those dark places and walking me back into bondage. The Bible says,

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” ~ Gal. 5:1

When I watch a movie, even one promoted as Christian, that resurrects the darkness in me, I’m allowing myself to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, which tramples over all that Christ did to free me. Jesus paid a heavy price to free me from my childhood abuse, and I’m trampling that freedom as I walk right back into the bondage simply because a movie claims to be Christian. I won’t do that anymore.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace and an emoticon looking frightened. Courtesy Bitmoji.]