Sunday, November 27, 2016

When I Don't Want to Ask for Help

Argh. I was in fits. Grumpy. Frustrated. Sinfully uncommunicative. And in His gentle, prodding way, God said (through my husband!), "Have you asked for help? All you have to do is ask."

"But I don't want to!" I said with a foot-stomp in my heart . "I want to do it myself. I want to do it my way..." And that's when I realized this was another opportunity to grow in Christlikeness, a.k.a. humility.

My conversation with the Lord continued over the next few days and went something like this:

"I've been working on saying no with Your help. And You're right. I'm not the answer to everyone's problem. I'm learning to pray first and think about what's best before jumping in. It's called more-of -You-and-less-of-me. With Your help, I am applying boundaries and priorities. It's okay to say, 'No.'"

Read email. Fix meals. Spend time with family. Sweep floors. Pack for upcoming trip.

"Okay, God, yes, the last couple of months You've shown how I struggle to admit I'm wrong and ask forgiveness. The people who live with me are gracious and kind, but it's got to stop. Pride is keeping me from admitting and owning up to my sin. I need Your grace to humble my heart and ask forgiveness. I get it. Yes, You're right about that, too."

Car trip. Forgot child's swimsuit at home. Failed to warmly greet family member. Lying awake at night.

"Yes, Lord, yes. I do get defensive when people offer suggestions or criticism. You're right. It's wiser--and better--to learn from others and admit my limitations than feel important in my own mind. It's another opportunity to grow."

Travel home. Laundry. Cheer at ball game. Send child back to college.

"But, really, Lord? Now I need to ask for help? Haven't I changed enough? I thought I was getting this, but maybe we could try the remedial program? I want a break. And that whole 'asking for help thing--'... It's so much easier to do it myself. And it's loving others when I don't inconvenience and interrupt them. I'm helping by not asking."

"But maybe I want them to be inconvenienced," the quiet Voice says. "Maybe I want you to need others. Maybe others need to be needed. This is an opportunity for them to serve Me. It's an opportunity for you to admit your need. It's good for everyone."

"Really, Lord? I need to ask for help?" Maybe tomorrow....

And in all of this I'm reminded that I, that we, are flawed, weak, needy, sinful, incomplete. Even in conviction and confession I am weak; unable to get past myself (Did you count the "I's" in this post?!). We are wholly dependent on God; on His sovereign mercy and grace. It is only as I move out of the picture and focus on His goodness, grace, sufficiency and work that He is glorified. It's time to unclench my fist and allow the Lord to be central; to change me as He will, according to His good pleasure.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 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, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:1-11)

Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.  (1 Thess. 5:17)

For more conviction (or help) check out this list of manifestations of pride and humility. Book recommendations: From Pride to Humility by Stuart Scott, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller,  Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney, Humility: the Forgotten Virtue by Wayne Mack.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Choices and Consequences

I heard this quote at a youth rally and it's coming around and around again like the "Song That Never Ends"--but in a sobering way.

Pastor Dave Tebbencamp from Creston, IA said, "You get to make the choice, but you don't get to choose the consequences."

Let that sink in.

How often do we make choices based on a desired outcome? Yes, we reap what we sow, but it's not an earthly harvest--and the market price is out of our control. The outcome is not ours.

I can choose a presidential candidate, but that doesn't determine the outcome of the election. In teen life, certain clothes and actions don't seal my popularity. In grown up life, I can set my eyes on a lifestyle, relationship or state of being, but when the goal eludes me, I am disheartened, bitter, angry, confused, alone, frustrated, distraught.

And here's the driving factor: the choosing is in the wanting. I make choices based on what I want. And I measure success based on whether or not I get what I wanted.

If I want popularity above all else, it will result is unseen consequences. If I want a perfect marriage, a stunning home, a high-dollar income, I can make choices to attain it, but I don't get to choose the consequences. (Note to self: what do you really want in this moment?)

In John 9, Jesus put clay on the blind man's eyes and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. He could have said, "That's stupid. Why would I do that?" Or, "Uch! What was that guy thinking, putting spit and mud on my face?!" But He trusted Jesus. What he did may not have made sense, but he obeyed. He made the choice to trust. God provided the consequence--sight, for the first time ever! God always produces, or provides, the consequence. "...whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Galatians 6:7-8). It's not about earthly, material outcomes--it's about unseen ones. The things we don't often think or talk about.

If someone asked, we would agree that God's outcome--His consequences--are always the best, always for our good, always eternal. Pleasant or unpleasant, they are good (Romans 8:28-29; Hebrews 12:4-11). The problem is that we want to control the choices AND the consequences. We want the whole kit and kaboodle.

Honestly, there are times I don't like to make right choices. I can't and I won't. Praise God, He loves and helps me! But I must ask, trust, depend, and give up my "right" to determine the outcome. This diagram comes in handy when I have a decision to make and know the right choice, but am having a hard time getting there:
By God's grace, we can make the right choices and trust Him with the consequences--that's living by faith.

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

For we do not commend ourselves again to you, but give you opportunity to boast on our behalf, that you may have an answer for those who boast in appearance and not in heart. For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; or if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 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 5:9-15) not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.” Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:7-14)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Danger of "I've Got This"

Rather than work my way into it, let me say that "I've got this" is not in the Bible. Well, actually it is, but not the way we'd like it to be.

When my children ask if I need help with dinner (yes, it happens sometimes), I answer, "No, thanks. I've got this." My husband might offer to help me carry a heavy load. "I've got this." Someone at church asks how they can pray, "No worries. I've got this." Someone offers Even forbidden fruit. Adam is standing right there, but she steps in. "No problem. I've got this." And she did.

The truth is that God created us to need Him, to rely on and desperately depend on Him, but how often we overlook the words "trust" (used 53 times in the English Standard Version) and "believe" (used 258 times in the ESV Bible). In our churches we use that as a once-upon-a-time, been-there-done-that kind of word when it's an every day, moment by moment call to trust and believe. The result, or manifestation of belief, is obedience. Our obedience to God's Word is a measure of our trust. Jesus said, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." (John 6:29). That's God's work? Belief?

If we don't believe God is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do, we're lost. That's the requirement for pleasing God (Hebrews 11:6). And when I believe God is who He says He is, I trust Him. When I believe He will do what He says He will do, I obey--I see and understand the consequences and it makes a difference in my life.

The next time fear rises and your stomach lurches try, "God, help me trust you," instead of "This isn't that big a deal. I've got this." When life is overwhelming and the crunch is on, "God, help me believe you know how this is going to turn out and help me please you, regardless," instead of "What can I do? How can I make this happen? What if...what if...what if?"

For me it starts every morning. The mantra, "Not I, but Christ" has to run through my head all day as I choose to "live by the faith in the Son of God who loves me and gave Himself for me." (Galatians 2:20).

Next time you've "got this," give it up. That's God's work in and through you.

Let him not trust in emptiness, deceiving himself,
    for emptiness will be his payment.
It will be paid in full before his time,
    and his branch will not be green.
He will shake off his unripe grape like the vine,
    and cast off his blossom like the olive tree. (Job 15:31-33)

Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”
The heart is deceitful above all things,
    and desperately sick;
    who can understand it?

"I the Lord search the heart
    and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
    according to the fruit of his deeds.” (Jeremiah 17:5-10)