Monday, October 27, 2014

Gratitude: Intro

One of my top viewed posts here on my blog is one I wrote years ago on complaining vs. thankfulness. Since it was such a long time ago that I wrote that, I’ve considered writing more on thankfulness for a while, but have been slow at getting around to it. Recently I determined that this would be good timing, since Thanksgiving is approaching.

I began thinking about aspects of thankfulness, and pulled out a book to read to get me started, “Choosing Gratitude” by Nancy DeMoss.

Little did I know that God’s purpose for me in writing on thankfulness was not to just write on thankfulness, but reveal to me how ungrateful I am.

I know I don’t always express my gratitude as I should, but I didn’t consider myself ungrateful. Isn’t it funny how we can view ourselves in such a positive light, minimizing our sins, yet often magnify the sins of those around us? After all, I’m not one to complain about much. Other people are a lot worse, right? But when I honestly look at my life, and see how often I’m looking at circumstances in light of me and responding based on how things affect me, well, that’s another story. Maybe I’m not as grateful as I’d like to think.

Choosing Gratitude” has challenged me, and God has been using it to show me that I need to cultivate a spirit of gratitude more intentionally.

This reminds me of a passage to me in the Psalms from Psalm 40:1-5. It talks about God’s deliverance, pulling me out of the pit of destruction and setting my feet on firm ground. Verse five responds in thanksgiving:

“You have multiplied, O Lord my God, Your wondrous deeds and Your thoughts toward us; none can compare with You! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told.”

I want my heart to overflow with thankfulness like this far more than I do. I want to be known as a grateful person, not so people will look to me, but so that they will see how much God has done for me and praise Him! I don’t want to steal the credit from the One who deserves it.

God has much to do in me. This series on gratitude is not so much of a list of steps to make you a more grateful person, but preaching to myself, because I need this the most.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Selfishness of Irritation

Have you ever considered how selfishness generally drives your irritation? Consider this portion of an article from Desiring God:

The Selfishness of Irritation
Our irritability never has its roots in the soils of righteousness. It springs out of the soil of selfishness and springs up fast, like the sin-weed that it is. We get irritated or easily provoked, not when God’s righteousness or justice is scorned, but when something we want is being denied, delayed or disrupted. It works like this:
  • When I’m weary I want rest, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m sick or in pain I want relief, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m preoccupied I want uninterrupted focus, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m running late I want to avoid appearing negligent, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m disappointed I want my desire fulfilled, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m fearful I want escape from a threat, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m uncertain I want certainty, preferably reassuring, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.
  • When I’m enjoying something I want to continue until I wish to be done, but if it’s denied/delayed/disrupted I get irritated.

Do you ever find yourself doing those things? I can think of personal examples, and I'm sure you can as well. The article continues...
"The reason irritability is unloving, unrighteous anger is that it is a selfish response to an obstacle to our desire. What we desire may not be sinful, but a selfish response to its denial, delay or disruption is a failure to trust God at all times (Psalm 62:8)—and often a failure to value, love, and serve another human soul.

Jesus didn’t die for our punctuality, earthly reputation, convenience, or our leisure. But he did die for souls. It is likely that the worth of the soul(s) we’re irritable with is infinitely more precious to God than the thing we desire. We must not dishonor God, whose image that person bears, by being irritable with them. There are necessary times for considered, thoughtful, measured, righteous, loving anger at priceless but sinful souls. But there is never a right time for irritability. Love is not irritable."

You can read the conclusion for how to biblically deal with irritation here.


Monday, October 13, 2014

True Woman '14 recap

This weekend was the True Woman 2014 conference. While I wasn’t able to attend, I had the opportunity to live stream many of the sessions. It was powerful!

Joni Eareckson Tada shared her testimony and some of the work of God in her life in the last 47 years. She was paralyzed in a diving accident at the age of 17. She shared the realities and struggles of living with paralysis, chronic pain, and cancer, yet her unswerving confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness overflowed as she spoke. A couple quotes that stood out to me were these:

"God does not remove hardships. No, He pushes them my way to reveal the spitefulness and selfishness within me."

"Suffering is the textbook that will teach you who you really are."

Mary Kassian spoke from 2 Timothy 3:6-7. I’ve never thought that deeply about that particular passage; so many things about it were striking. The main thing I was reminded of is how sin creeps in so deceptively. I need to fight hard against even seemingly small sins, to immerse myself in the truth of God’s Word, and to not cater to my flesh. Failing to deal with sin allows others sins to pile up. Sin is such a serious matter, yet it’s tempting to make light of it. I daily need to be reminded of what the penalty Christ had to pay for my sins.

I was reminded through this conference that I so easily get caught up in wanting circumstances or situations to change. But as Nancy DeMoss said, “Anything that makes me need God is a blessing.” He wants to use my circumstances to draw me closer to Him, to reveal the sin and selfishness in my own heart, to break me of my idols, to uncover the wrong desires and motivations. He wants to change me! If I would only remember that the deepest work needed is not outside of me, but in me. And what a blessing it is that the trials and difficulties I've faced have been some of the sweetest times of fellowship with Christ, as He has refined and changed my heart.

I’m so thankful for the grace of God and His goodness in the midst of great earthly difficulty. The testimonies I heard through the True Woman conference expressed much greater difficulty than I’ve ever faced, and yet the hope they have in God is unshakable. My heart longs to say, “Yes Lord” to whatever I may face, knowing that it could mean great difficulty, persecution, trials, and suffering. But He is enough, and His ways are best. I can consider any circumstance or trial pure joy, knowing that the testing of my faith is developing the character that God needs to develop in my life.


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Yet Without Sin

"He was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin"
 Hebrews 4:15

Hebrews 4 displays a tremendous, hopeful picture for a believer. On earth, Jesus had to deal with sinful people and the effects of a broken world just as we do. Yet even in the midst of temptation, Jesus never sinned. He never got sinfully angry. He never retaliated. He never complained. He never feared the future. He never sunk into depression. He loved perfectly. He served humbly. He gave sacrificially.

What does this truth mean for us?
  • Jesus understands our temptations. Since He Himself faced temptation, Jesus is keenly aware of the temptation we face. In the midst of temptation, Jesus shows us much grace and desires for us to turn to Him and lean on Him (Pr. 3:5-6).
  • We don’t have to give into temptation. Life is full of difficulty. Jesus doesn’t promise that we won’t have trials, but that we have a way of escape in the midst of temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). This "way of escape" isn't an escape from the reality of the problem, but an escape from a sinful response on our part. We don't do this by mongering up enough determination on our part. It requires humility and dependence on Christ. We can do nothing apart from Him (Jn 15:5).
  • We can receive mercy and grace in our need. We can draw near to the throne because of the Perfect Lamb who endured temptation and remained sinless, dying a substitutionary death on our behalf. It is His grace that is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:8, Heb. 4:14-16).

John Piper encourages, “So today, let’s trust that Jesus, ‘who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin’ (Hebrews 4:15), will provide a way of escape that is more persistent (Hebrews 13:5), far more powerful (1 John 4:4), and far more satisfying (Hebrews 11:25–26) than what our ‘common to man’ temptations are promising.”

This should give us great hope! In the midst of difficult situations, we can turn to the hope in Christ—that He understands our weakness and temptation and is eager for us to draw near to Him, that we may receive mercy and grace.

Are you turning to Christ in the midst of challenges, difficult situations, and temptation? Or are you trying to make it on your own? God doesn't give grace to those who try to do it on their own. He gives grace to the humble (Jam. 4:6). So humble yourself before God, and receive His mercy and grace.