Sunday, June 30, 2013

10 Reasons Why a Competitive Spirit is Destructive

Summer brings wonderful opportunities to enjoy the outdoors with friends, taking in a plethora of games and physical activities. This post could cost me precious friendships--including my own. All aboard who're ready to ride.

10 Reasons Why a Competitive Spirit is Destructive:

1. Winning for the sake of winning benefits no one but the winner(s).

What God’s Word says:  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work. So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God... and they are full of greed. (Eph. 4:15-19)

2. If winning is the goal, either outcome (win/loss) leads to sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors.

What God’s Word says:  So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

3. A competitive spirit stirs up sinful thoughts, attitudes and behaviors in others.

What God’s Word says:  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. (1 John 3:16 NKJV)

4. A competitive spirit breeds pride, contempt and criticism.

What God’s Word says:  Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens.
Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the Lord our God, Until He has mercy on us.
Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us! For we are exceedingly filled with contempt.
Our soul is exceedingly filled With the scorn of those who are at ease, With the contempt of the proud. (Psalm 123 NKJV)

5. Making "my best" top priority means my focus, time, effort and resources are self-centered.

What God’s Word says:  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus... (Phil 2:3-5 NASB)

6. A competitive spirit hurts others.

What God’s Word says:  What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures (James 4:1-3 NASB).

7. A competitive spirit is demanding.

What God’s Word says: O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; Nor do I involve myself in great matters, Or in things too difficult for me.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; Like a weaned child rests against his mother, My soul is like a weaned child within me. (Psalm 131:1-2  NASB)

8. A competitive spirit is more focused on results than people.

What God’s Word says: Therefore Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who have come before me are thieves and robbers... The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."  (John 10:7-11 NIV)

9. A person full of the desire to win, be the best or be right does not truly love others.

What God’s Word says: ...knowledge puffs up while love builds up. Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is known by God. (1 Cor. 8:1-3)

10. Preening a competitive spirit leads to confusion of priorities, foolish choices and loss of reward.

What God’s Word says: But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. (James 3:14-16 NIV)

But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. (1 Cor. 3:10-13 NIV)

 God help us! We are a people driven by pride, self-seeking, boastful in and of ourselves. How grateful we should be that God is different--and that He is committed to changing us!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Sliver and the Mote...One and the Same

Have you found it interesting that both a sliver and log are made of the same material? Of course. How obvious. And when Jesus commanded that we remove the plank from our own eye, it is probably the same offense that got under our skin to begin with.

Perhaps someone you know monopolizes conversations or one-ups everyone elses' story or manipulates others. Knowing myself the way I do, the things that bother me are the very things I'm guilty of. Ugh. How did Jesus know?

So in daily life, as I consider the ways others have sinned against or offended or hurt or failed to prefer me, Jesus calls me to sit down alone, look into the mirror of God's Word and examine my own tendencies. It's just that simple. It's just that hard.

From the side of resolved conflict, let me testify that the joy of shared conviction is greater than the shame, greater than the shadow of neglect, sweeter than simply "getting along." For Jesus' sake, let's get it right and love one another--as He has loved us.

" And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye." Matthew 7:3-5

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector." Matthew 18:15-17

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.  Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.  By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?  And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also. 1 John 4:7-21


Sunday, June 23, 2013

Fighting Centrifugal Force

"Carl leaned into the center of the merry-go-round and no matter how fast I pushed, he traveled in a tight circle," Naomi said of her 4-year-old. "But James is only two. He leaned out and let go with one hand, fighting to stay on. The farther he was from the middle, the greater the centrifugal force!"

How true, how true! She likened it to our walk with the Lord. Life is traveling, moving, changing. The closer we are to Christ, the more He is the center of our lives, the less we are affected by difficulty and instability. The farther we are from Christ as the center, the easier it is for us to feel pulled away, suffer emotional crises, and flail about, off-balance.

This last week I was blessed to counsel 4th-6th grade girls at camp and found the above metaphor incredibly helpful. With the change of schedule, setting and responsibility, it was challenging to find daily time to spend alone with God. Just the two of us. But how very important that is!

In the book, The School of Christ, T. Austin Sparks explains it this way, "How altogether different [Christ] is from ourselves.... The disciples had to learn it.... They would urge Him to take a certain course, to do certain things, to go to certain places. They would seek to bring to bear upon Him their own judgments and their own feeling and their own ideas. But He would have none of it.... No, all the time He was putting them back and showing them how different were His judgments; altogether different.... Catch that and you have got something helpful. 'Lord, why is it that I am always caught out, always making a blunder? Somehow or other, I always say or do the wrong thing. I am always on the wrong side! Somehow I never seem to come right in line with You; I despair of ever being right!' And the Lord says, 'I am teaching you, that is all; deliberately, quite deliberately. That is exactly what I am teaching you to see... We move in two altogether opposite worlds" (p. 12-13).

Not only was I able to find daily time alone for Scripture and prayer, Naomi's insight helped relieve me of a recent struggle. Lately I've been challenged to evaluate my life--have spiritual disciplines become my goal and measure of success? Or are they simply the means to an end? And as I recalled the two little boys on the merry go round, I was encouraged that the disciplines of daily Scripture reading, prayer, fellowship, and service are tools God has given as gifts to keep me stable; close to Christ, the center. Without these established patterns and habits, I flail and struggle against myself, my emotions, and circumstances. Oh, how good God is to give of Himself 24-7, generously, abundantly, according to His riches in Christ Jesus for my every need!

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:6-13

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:

“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Corinthians 9:8-11

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Satisfaction of Grace

I've been blessed to review some of the old entries you've picked up lately--entries from two and three years ago. Thank you. It's a reminder of why "HeartQuencher" is here. It's here to say, from my little corner of the world, that God is real; that His Word is an active, living entity; that God really does speak into and work through the daily grind of life. Many of you can attest the same, and I hope you do.

One of the things I'm learning as I age is grace: grace with myself; hopefully, grace with others. This week I overheard a speaker on the radio say that his life took a one-eighty from the corporate world into ministry, but he is still the same. He has the same energy, drive and excitement. And I was encouraged. Too often I am chastised (or chastise myself) for "doing too much." And it's truly a temptation to get caught up in busyness or gaining others' admiration. But more than that, I felt a great weight fall off when I realized I just like to do things--and I have ideas and excitement and delight in making them happen. And that's okay. It's the way God designed me.

In our garage are paper-mache` bombs and sticks of dynamite for an upcoming mission-possible themed camp with 4-6th grade girls. The growing pile has a laminated hand-print for "secret" entry to our cabin, "Authorized Personnel Only," etc. etc. And it's great fun. God has provided the time, the resources and the desire to create things that will draw the girls attention, gain their interest, and soften their hearts to hear His Word. It's an act of love, not busyness. And that's okay. It's what God gave me to do, and the fight is not necessarily doing or not doing; the fight is in saying, "It's okay to love doing what God created me to do. I don't have to defend or feel badly or excuse it. I can glory and revel and rejoice in who God is--in the creativity of a great God--and what He's doing."

As I met with Joy last week to study Philippians we discussed Paul's mindset and attitude knowing he was in prison at the time. The study question asked how that related to us. "It is to be happy in God," she said. Clapping her hands at each action and releasing with the repeated refrain, she thought aloud, "That when I cook, I am happy; when I work, I am happy; when I sit, I am happy." And it brought to mind the word, "satisfied."

So this week, I have been taking joy in the busyness of life--in managing chores and laundry and Bible study and youth group and piles in the dining room. What a blessing to know and live and walk as God leads. That is the satisfaction of grace--knowing that whatever circumstances or opportunities or people God brings into my life, He has orchestrated and designed us for each other.

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;
By His knowledge the depths were broken up,
And clouds drop down the dew.
My son, let them not depart from your eyes—
Keep sound wisdom and discretion;
So they will be life to your soul
And grace to your neck.
Then you will walk safely in your way,
And your foot will not stumble.
When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
Yes, you will lie down and your sleep will be sweet.
Do not be afraid of sudden terror,
Nor of trouble from the wicked when it comes;
For the Lord will be your confidence,
And will keep your foot from being caught.
(Proverbs 3:19-26)

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Diffusing the Fog

Be very careful if you ask someone to pray with you...for you. Because if they are honest, sincere and open before God, you will hear their heart. And you will hear their love and concern for you. And you might catch a glimpse of yourself you weren't expecting.
And as I heard that prayer, things left unsaid naggled at my thoughts--my lack of gentleness and patience, my do, do, do, work, work, work tendencies. And God said, "Yes, yes. Look." And He stopped my busy hands and said, "See?" And He quieted my busy mind, "And here..." And He cast a glance at my dining room table piled with ministry forms and papers and sign-ups and asked, "Why?" and "For Whom?"
And I said, "Jesus. It's for Jesus. Well, okay, it started out for Jesus. But now I'm in too deep and it needs to be done and I can do it. I know I can. All I need it one more of these and three more of those and a little more time...."
And He said, "Stop." And I stopped. And He said, "Look." And I looked, turning in my Bible to Hebrews 9. And there He was--and there was nothing to be done. And there was nothing I could do. And if it was up to me or up to Him, who would I choose? He could. He did. I cannot.
Who could offer His blood on the altar of God's judgment, stand and reenter the outer courts of the world? Only Jesus. Who could suffer death and live again, offering Himself in my place? Only Jesus. Who could stand before the Father on my behalf? Only Jesus.
And sin that creeps, first at my feet, then as a surrounding fog, that isolates and bears down and suffocates--that sin has no hold. The sword of the Spirit, that Word of God, pulled from its sheath to the forefront of my mind, glows and guides, driving me to my knees, revealing my desperate need and my Sufficient Savior.
And by His grace, I repent. I call out for mercy. I draw on His life to renew relationships and point of view and priorities and choices. And the fog dissipates. And the way, though not easy, is filled with hope and peace and light. Because of Jesus.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits:
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies,
Who satisfies your mouth with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord executes righteousness And justice for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy. 
He will not always strive with us, Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
As a father pities his children, So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children’s children, To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them.
The Lord has established His throne in heaven, And His kingdom rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you His angels,
Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word.
Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure.
Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.
Bless the Lord, O my soul! (Psalm 103, NKJV)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Ride of a Lifetime

I reached for the metal triangle holds on the park swing and gave a push. Soft, cushy fingers grasped the taught chains, elbows tensed, and a squeal filled the air.  "This is love," echoed in my head, "not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins." (1 John 4:10). Pause. "This is love." Love is active. Love is pushing a swing. Love is preparing a meal. Love is listening. God loved. God gave.

The action, the love, had little to do with the fellow in the swing. All he did was ask. God's love for me has little (nothing actually) to do with my earning or deserving it. He loves because He is love. He is defined by love. Without partiality. He is. Love.

God's love is constant, eternal, unlimited, unconditional. Why then do we struggle to take hold of it? The apostle Paul pointed to suffering. Suffering, our own or that of others, can easily misdirect our focus. Rather than trusting and looking to God for wisdom and strength, we question His love(Ephesians 3:13-14).

We look for miraculous intervention in a specific situation and fail to acknowledge the miraculous intervention that has already taken place: God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us.... He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 5:12, 8:32).

God loves. He continues to love. Could He change the circumstances? In a heartbeat. Could He remove people from my life? No question. But "as for God, His way is perfect" (Psalm 18:30). The one thing more impossible than circumstance or people is the human heart. What turns a heart to worship and trust God alone? Only broken idols and withered dreams. What turns a life of self-gratification to Godly contentment? Only emptiness and refilling.

Just as human love is received through acknowledgment of the gift, spiritual love is received through faith. God has expressed His love. It is ours to ask, grab the chains of the swing and hold on for the ride of a lifetime. "In this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."

"Therefore I ask that you do not lose heart at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.
For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us,  to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."(Ephesians 3:13-21 NKJV).

"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written:
“For Your sake we are killed all day long;
We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”
Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:31-39, NKJV)