Wednesday, January 1, 2014

10 Ways to Get Real

Listen carefully when others pray; they're likely to tell God things they'd never tell you. A couple of weeks ago someone prayed, "And God, please help _______ with her anger issues." Yes, me. Ahem. I'm sure I grimaced, but by the "amen," I was so very, very grateful for the loving, uninhibited prayer of a friend! Her words became my own and have stayed with me in a powerful way.

Needless to say, many of us hide what's really going on, especially at church. We dress up, cover up, put on our show face, and stroll down the aisle. How sad. How very, very sad. The first place we should be ourselves is among Christ-forgiven brothers and sisters. "Love one another," "pray for one another," "confess your sin one to another," "bear one another's burdens." So why don't we? Pride. Fear. Embarrassment. Self-protection. None of which is biblical, God-honoring, admirable, or right.

What would happen if one or more of us were real with one another at church? Flawed? Repentant (in church?!)? Humble. How it would open the door for others! And the blessings? The blessing of such fellowship is simply a taste of heaven on earth's side!

Here are some notes for myself on practical ways to grow in humility and honesty:

1. Pray. Ask God to humble my heart and make me more aware of my sin (ouch!).
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble." Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. (James 4:6-10)

2. Remind myself that Jesus left heaven--the perfect place, the place where He was adored, worshipped and honored 24/7--because of my sin. That's how bad I am--it's the cost of my sin. I have nothing on anyone else. It's also the measure of His love!
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5-8)
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

3. Read Scripture daily with one finger on the Word of God and four pointing back at me.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

4. Stop thinking about, talking about or listening to the sins, failures and weaknesses of others. The love Jesus showered on me (point #2), becomes a supernatural outpouring of love and grace toward others.
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Philippians 4:8)

5. When I hurt someone, lie, steal, or am selfish, rude, unkind, impatient, etc. I must, MUST stop and apologize that very moment. Not an "Oh, boy, was that embarrassing," but a, "Wow, I was wrong. I am so sorry I hurt/offended you. Would you please forgive me?"
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:21-24)

6. Ask a friend from church to pray with me for (gasp) an area of sin in my life: for a way I habitually hurt others, for spending money and time irresponsibly, loving pleasure more than God, failing to meet the needs of my family, eating too much and/or not caring for my body or home in a way that honors God.
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)

7. Ask if he/she would share Scripture, personal experiences and/or practical ideas for change.
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,  let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

8. Take her seriously, talk about practical ways to use her suggestions. Ask if I can check in with her periodically about that area of my life.
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)
Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 ESV)

9. Be that person who is not always okay; who has difficult days, struggles, weaknesses and moments of failure.
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)

10. Share testimonies of God's goodness in my life with others--anyone who will listen. Keep current successes in my back pocket, ready to share at all times, praising God for evidence of His power, love and grace.
I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. (Psalm 22:22)
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)
Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. (Hebrews 13:15)

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