How Big is Your God – Pt 3

When I thought about how big God was I found  I was no different that most other Christians.  My life certainly didn’t reflect the God of the scriptures.  When I prayed I didn’t really see much results.  People I prayed about didn’t get healed, didn’t get delivered or set free, didn’t get saved.  And to be honest I was getting frustrated

What about you?  Have you ever faced these situations?  How’s your frustration level in spiritual matters?  Just how big is Your God?  Think about the people you have given up hope on.  People whom you think are a lost cause, feel like their never going to change.  Or think about the times where we turn to the credit cards and bank loans or pawn shops because there are bills to pay, instead of allowing God to provide.

Do we stand in the face of opposition and difficulty confidently assured of our God who stands with us, or do we cower in fear of what people think or may say.  Do we accept all challenges boldly, jumping in with both feet because we know “God will provide”, or do we shy away from difficult situations.  Do we willing step out into the unknown simply because God said ‘go’, or do we try to figure out all the angles first.  These were all questions I asked myself.

Just how big is your God?

Enter David in our story found in 1 Samuel 17.

Davids brothers were part of Saul’s army facing the Philistines.  And as David was to young to enter the army he would travel back and forth with supplies for his brothers.

So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts. He arrived at the outskirts of the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries.

21 Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army.

22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers.

23 As he was talking with them, he saw Goliath, the champion from Gath, come out from the Philistine ranks, shouting his challenge to the army of Israel.

24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright.

What I found interesting is Davids response to Goliath wasn’t fear.

“Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?

David response wasn’t to cower and hide.  He saw and heard the same things his fellow Israelites were hearing.  He served the same God they did.  He had grown up hearing the same stories they did.  If you were to ask him how great God was he probably would have the same answer his countrymen had.  But something was different in David because he didn’t even hesitate in his response.  Instead of running away to hide like everyone else had he charged headlong down to meet the giant saying

“You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied”

David personally knew how great God was.  God’s greatness for him was not a theory talked about in church.  It was a confident assurance that gripped him in the center of his being  and it caused him to have great boldness.  He absolutely knew God was going to back him up and defeat this giant, and it was a boldness that none of his fellow countrymen had.

How big is your God?  Is it a theory?  Its a tough question isn’t it, and it is one each of us needs to ask ourselves, because God doesn’t want to remain a theory we simply talk about.

You’re such a Curmudgeon!

“You’re becoming such a curmudgeon!” one of mcurmudgeon-with-bow-tiey co-workers said to me a couple weeks ago.  I had to admit I didn’t know what he was talking about.  He grinned widely and said it means “a cranky old man.”  It’s a comment meant to be a joke but it has got me thinking.  Because the things we say we believe we don’t often live like we do.  Craig Groeschel wrote “The Christian Atheist”, a book which premise is that Christians today declare that God exists and is involved in their lives, and then live like He isn’t.

We live in a society which says that they are Christian.  For many it is because they go to church, at least at Christmas and Easter.  For others it is cultural, and while we are getting further and further away from a Christian culture many still see themselves as Christians.  And there are others who believe in the Christian message.  But it isn’t what we say we believe that matters.  In fact our lives declare more about what we believe than anything we may say.  And for many of us our lives are not declaring what we hope they may.  It is a fact I have been looking into in my own life.

It is not a bad thing to evaluate your walk with God from time to time.  If you don’t you will quickly become complacent and coast through life.  Paul wrote “Test yourselves to make sure you are solid in the faith. Don’t drift along taking everything for granted. Give yourselves regular checkups. You need firsthand evidence, not mere hearsay, that Jesus Christ is in you. Test it out. If you fail the test, do something about it.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 MSG

Everyone of us needs to look at what our life is saying about our beliefs.  Are we following Jesus or are we saying we are Christian and living like He doesn’t exist?  Craig Groeschel wrote “Who do we believe in more? Ourselves or God? Our actions and decisions will reflect that.”  Our actions declare what we believe.  John Calvin wrote “the doer is he who from the heart embraces God’s word and testifies by his life that he really believes.”   Rick Warren said something similar when he said You only believe the part of the Bible you do.”

Paul said three times in scripture “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Philippians 1:27 NLT, Colossians 1:10, Ephesians 4:1.  Our conduct says a lot about us and about what we believe, and the world around us is watching.  Are we declaring the majesty of Christ, or the selfish whims of our own hearts.  What is your life saying about what you believe?  Is it agreeing with the words you say?  It is a tough question to ask, but a very important one to answer.

What’s Going On God? – pt. 5

Confrontation and Transformation.  Two extremely important components to God’s plan in our lives.  God always reveals His plans for us to bring us to the place where we are willing to see ourselves for who we are, including all the parts we don’t want to see, so that He can transform us into the image of Jesus and accomplish His purposes through us.   Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me.

Our circumstance that each one of us face are tools which God uses to draw out of us the areas in our lives that need to be shown to us, and so that He can change us.  If we are unwilling to see ourselves as we are, we won’t change because we won’t see the need to.  People all around the world have the same response when confronted with change.  “Well I’m a good person…”  If we don’t see the need for change, we cannot make the changes necessary, and if we don’t make the changes or allow God to make the changes in us we will miss out on the purpose we were created to fulfill.  So God allows circumstances in our lives to draw out of us the things we are often so good at hiding.

There are two things necessary in our lives for this process to accomplish what God desires in us.  We each face different circumstances, and many of them can be extremely difficult to deal with, but we all need two things if God is going to be able to use the circumstances to accomplish His purpose.

The first is a humble heart.  Without humility we will be unwilling to see the areas of our lives that need to be addressed.  Without humility we will be focused completely on getting what we feel we deserve.  Humility allows us to see things differently and be willing to set aside our plans and purposes.  Humility allows us to be willing to see the need for change and to accept the work of God in our lives, even when we are not always able to comprehend or understand what He is doing.   It is a humble heart that will allow God to confront us and change us.  Saul was proud and didn’t respond to the dealings of God, but every time God dealt with David he responded with humility and God was able to do amazing things in and through him.

If you think you know better than God you will won’t respond to His work in your life.  Denying the changes in your life does not make them any less important or necessary to our growth.  Denial is not a river in Egypt. If we insist on denying the reality of our lives we will never see the possibility of our future. 

Humility also releases the hand of God in our lives.  If we want to struggle and fight on our own God is willing to let us, but He would prefer if we allowed Him to mold and form us.  James 4:6 NKJV“God resists the proud,  But gives grace to the humble.”  God offers us His grace if we are willing to be humble.  Grace is “the transforming power of God, doing in you what you cannot do for yourself.”  God’s power working in your life, accomplishing God’s plan.  Without grace we would all be lost.  If we are willing to humble our hearts, God is able to accomplish great things in our lives, and through our lives.

Second we need a close relationship with God.  It is our relationship with Jesus that draws us into God’s plan for our lives, and it is what sustains us as we move forward into God’s purposes.  It is our relationship  with God that allows us to

  • feel and be secure in the love and safety of the hands of God regardless of our circumstances
  • allow God to deal with us knowing He is doing it for our benefit and not His.
  • allow God the freedom to work out the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

     

     

No relationship = No change

Are we keeping our relationship with God current?  Jesus said in John 15:5 NLV I am the Vine and you are the branches. Get your life from Me. Then I will live in you and you will give much fruit. You can do nothing without Me.”  It is our relationship with God that allows His life to flow in us, and it is His life in us that allows the changes to happen. 

Every move and promise of God in our lives always leads us to the cross of Calvary.

We always return to face our reality and our choice is whether we take up our cross and follow or turn away to our own path.

  • God always brings confrontation for a season to bring transformation for a reason.
  • Things happen TO me, So that things can happen IN me, so that things can happen THROUGH me

There is always a divine purpose to the struggles we have.

What will make the difference will be our focus.

Are we looking at our circumstances or the One who will see us through our circumstances.   It is a humble heart and a relationship with God that allows us to focus not on the problem but on the one who will see us past the problems.

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.”  Hebrews 12:2 MSG

 

What’s Going On God? – pt. 4

A life pull of purpose is available to all of us.  Each one of us is created for a purpose and not a single life born is a mistake.  We have a part to play in accomplishing our purpose and God is actively involved in our lives calling us towards a deeper relationship with Him and a life spent living out the purpose we were created for.  And many of the situations we face every day are simply training and proving areas where God shows us ourselves so that He can change us.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

Both Saul and David had opportunities to be powerfully used by God in their generation.  Both were hand selected by God with a purpose.  Both men encountered hardships and testings that God used to show them who they really were and to show them their character.  Both men made mistakes and messes, but only one responded to the dealing of God in his life, and only one fulfilled the purpose of God for him. 

Paul as another man in scripture called by God with a purpose.   Now Paul had a little different start than David and Saul.  He was a man of prominence and power.  He was part of the Jewish council, and a staunch advocate for the Jewish faith.  He was a man of principle and extremely devout and fervent.  He went so far as to exterminate everyone he thought was a threat to the Jewish faith.  And yet God chose him.

Unlike Saul and David, Paul had a difficult past to overcome.  Daily Paul had to face the people he had tried to exterminate.  Paul had to forgive himself, and move forward.  Paul refused to allow his past to hold him back.  Paul understood what God said in Isaiah 43:18

“Do not call to mind the former things, Or ponder things of the past.

Paul wrote in Philippians 3:13-14

“This one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

Paul completely focused his life on the purpose God gave him to fulfill.  Paul chose to run forward, and not look back.  He chose to learn from his mistakes and to move on.  Paul’s life can give us hope as well because he shows us the possibility.  We can achieve all that God destines us for.  It is a matter of focus.  Will we accept our reality or deny it.  Will we accept the truth about ourselves, or make excuses.  Only when we see ourselves as God sees us can we move forward to the next stage.

The first stage is Revelation – God reveals to us what His purpose for us is.  Revelation always brings us to the second stage.  Confrontation – Every time God reveals a part of His heart, or His purpose for us He always confronts us with who we are.  We all like to deceive ourselves into thinking that we are really good people.  So God shows us what is in our hearts and the behaviors and attitudes that need to be dealt with and overcome.  So God uses situations we face every day to show us who we are.  Jesus said “The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45  All of the situations we face draw out of us what is really in us.  All of the things we don’t want to see.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me,

So that things can happen THROUGH me.

The next stage God brings us to is Transformation.  At this stage we have a choice to make as well. Will we allow God to change us.  Because transformation is not an easy task.  Confrontation causes us to face ourselves and our giants.  Transformation enables us to overcome them.  Transformation is the stage where God helps us to overcome the parts of ourselves that are holding us back.  This means that transformation can be a painful process.

  • This is the stage of surgery, where God cuts away the disease and cancers in our character and places them on the cross.
  • This is also the stage where the flesh fights the hardest against the spirit.

Because our flesh desires comfort and this stage can be anything but comfortable.  The good news is God usually combines this stage with confrontation.  He doesn’t confront us with a list and then expect them all to change.  God will bring something to the surface, causing us to realize it, and then have us face it and overcome it one step at a time.  David and Paul and many others in scripture and in history are proof that God is able to carry us through this into all that He purposes us for if we allow Him to.  The stages of Confrontation and Transformation are not easy stages to go through in our lives, but they are necessary, and God never leaves us to walk through them alone.

Are we willing to allow Him to see us through?

The false self and God

true-identity.jpgWe were created for relationship.  Each and every person has built into us a need for others.  We need relationships in order to be healthy and grow.  Unfortunately we have given into the idea of independence and we can go it alone.  This was not the plan that God had in mind for us.  God created us for relationship and the primary relationship was meant to be with Him.  Everyday God would come and walk through the garden and interact and share with Adam and Eve.  And even though things got screwed up by the choices they made that removed us from relationship with God, He never let go of this one thing.  We were created for relationship, and God deeply desires a personal relationship with everyone.

Our problem is we don’t know ourselves and we are not willing to look within and see what is inside us we end up hiding from God.  We take large portions of ourselves and hide them away for fear of rejection, or because they are parts of ourselves that we don’t like, or are uncomfortable with.  We live a life based on the image of who we want people to see, or what I have begun to understand as a false self, or false identity.  We have learned to portray ourselves in a way that seems favorable and ignores anything that is uncomfortable about ourselves.  And every moment of every day of our life God wanders in our inner garden, seeking our companionship. The reason God can’t find us is that we are hiding in the bushes of our false self.

David Benner wrote “The more we identify with our psychologically and socially constructed self, the more deeply we hide from God, ourselves and others. But because of the illusory nature of the false self, most of the time we are not aware that we are hiding. Coming out of hiding requires that we embrace the vulnerabilities that first sent us scurrying for cover. As long as we try to pretend that things are not as they are, we choose falsity.”

The problem is we don’t always recognize our false identity because we have lived with it for so long that we have become comfortable with and live according to who we made ourselves to be.  But that very thing we use to protect ourselves from others ends up separating us from God who deeply loves us.  We end up not knowing ourselves, and as a result we miss out on knowing God.  The worst part is we don’t even recognize that we don’t know God, because we design Him to suit ourselves.  So we think we know Him and we follow Him, but we are following a “god created in our image.”

What is worse is the very thing we use to hide ourselves ends up creating this very thing.  “Having first created a self in the image of our own making, we then set out to create the sort of a god who might in fact create us. Such is the perversity of the falspuppet1e self.”  We then pursue a life we are comfortable with and allows us to never examine ourselves to deeply, and we never really have to change.   Our false self will keep us in bondage and we will be happy to allow it until we realize that isn’t what God designed us for.

If we are willing to allow God to show us who we really are, and begin to work from there we can encounter the true God and see our lives transformed.  But it begins by being wiling to see ourselves differently.  If we close the door and refuse to look inward we lose the ability to truly know God.  Knowing God will always cause us to see ourselves and to know ourselves.  We cannot change what we do not know, and if we never allow God to reveal our true nature we will never allow Him to change us.

Even though it may be uncomfortable and even painful we must be willing to allow God to remove our shell and our false identity.  It begins by asking God to help you see what makes you feel most vulnerable and most like running for cover.  Our false self will try to protect itself and keep you hidden, but we cannot allow it.  The places we feel the most vulnerable is the very place that God wants to open our hearts to His presence and love, but He can only do this if we allow Him in.  So we need to ask God to help us look inside and to help us see the things that we use to defend ourselves from feeling vulnerable.  Then we need to ask God to prepare you to trust enough to let go of these fig leaves of your personal style.

The riches of God’s presence await us if we are willing to open ourselves up to His touch.

Unmasking our false self Pt 2

true-identity.jpgLast time we looked at the nature of our false self.  In every person there is a true identity which is a gift from God when we were created and not something that we have to create, and a false identity which we have learned to become by our lifestyle, upbringing, and circumstances.

Our sense of identity is built up over the years as we grow.  It begins as we discover that our behaviors create responses in others that if worked correctly will get us what we desire.  These behaviors are added to by the early realization that we can create ourselves so that we are seen in a positive light and helps us maintain our self-esteem.  And so our identity becomes something that we create around ourselves.

“Our basic style is often built around the things that were reinforced for us as children. It usually starts with the things we do well. Over time our repertoire of competencies grows, and we learn to live in a way that we think will work for us. This becomes “our way,” or what we simply think of as who we are.”  David G. Benner  Our abilities or lack of abilities form our sense of identity.  Those around us challenged us to achieve, or made us feel we could never be good enough, or we were told we were  a failure.  These and many other things created in us our sense of identity early in life, and have become the basis and foundation for our current behaviors.

Identifying our false self can be difficult if we are not willing to see ourselves differently than we currently do.  Because the false self is a facsimile and is not a secure state it can be very uncomfortable to look inside ourselves.  Our false self and the sense of security it brings us can be hard to let go of.  But the reality of who we are, and the great blessing that comes as we discover ourselves and the resulting sense of peace and security completely outweigh the risks of looking inside.

There are some trustworthy clues to discovering our false self if we are willing to look.  One of the first clues is a sense of defensiveness.  “Because of its fundamental unreality, the false self needs constant bolstering. Touchiness dependably points us to false ways of being. And the more prickly a person you are, the more you are investing in the defense of a false self.
Some people bristle easily if they are not taken seriously, thus betraying a need for others to see the self-importance that is so obvious to them. Others take themselves too seriously, perhaps being unable to laugh at themselves. Both reactions suggest ego inflation. Others have learned to mask these outward displays of defensiveness, but inner reactions of annoyance or irritation still point toward the presence of a false self.”

Touchiness and pettiness are fundamental characteristics of a false identity.  And the things that bother us most about others, our pet peeves, point to the falseness in our own identity.  “If laziness in others is what really bothers me, there is a good chance that discipline and performance form a core part of the false self that I embrace with tenacity. If it is playfulness and spontaneity in others that I find most annoying, then seriousness may be a central part of the self I protect and seek to project. If it is moral disregard that is particularly irritating in others, my false self is probably built around moral rectitude and self-righteousness. And if emotionality in others is what I most despise, emotional control is probably central to the script I have chosen to live.”

Compulsive behaviors are also an indicator of a false identity.  Our false identity is rooted in the perception that our value is dependent on external things like owning the latest and greatest things, or being the best at something.  As a result we compulsively pursue the things we see create value and security for us and preserve our sense of identity.

The constant pursuit of a false identity is the root of our unhappiness.  As we discover and grow into our true identity we find fulfillment, meaning and happiness because we are living life as we were meant to live.  And our value comes not from external things but on the value that we have as people.  As we begin to value and understand ourselves it opens the door to us valuing and understanding the people we come in contact with each and every day.

But it begins by being willing to take an honest look at ourselves even if we may not like what we see, and being willing to see some of the ways we live as actually supporting a false identity and not who we really are after all.  “The bondage in any false self is the bondage of having to keep up the illusion.”  David G. Benner