Glamorizing pride

August 12, 2016

Let’s all of us decide to stop trying to convince the world that Christianity is true because Jesus makes us prettier, happier, thinner, wealthier, bigger, more successful, more popular, healthier, stronger, and more influential than everyone else. ~Mike Yaconelli

The world glamorizes pride. We should expect it to. We should expect the world to glamorize people and make a big deal of positions, titles, and opportunities. We should expect the world to glamorize talent, money, and success. We should expect the world to glamorize my-great-big-life of opportunity… designer clothes, jewellery, jets, important friends, entourages, celebrity, fame, and sometimes infamy.

The world glamorizes pride. We should not. The world system is centered on pride. It would seem that the more pride a person has, the more they are celebrated, often enabling even more success, in turn, reinforcing greater pride. But what happens when this thinking makes its way into the Church?

Pride pushes Jesus off to the side. Not obviously, very subtly. Subtlety is one of the devil’s best games. Pride’s deceit is in its subtlety. Pride has chameleon-like characteristics. Pride is great at making excuses, subconsciously. The self-deceptive nature of pride is remarkable at hiding unseen in our lives.

Pride seeks to put me front and center of my life and will work relentlessly to keep me there.

Pride grows. It is insatiable.

Pride competes for our attention. It seeks to squeeze Jesus out. Pride will keep me unaware I’ve left little room for Jesus in my heart. 

Pride lies. It will lie to me about who is really at the center of my life. In this way…

Pride limits the Holy Spirit’s activity in me, and blocks the Holy Spirit flowing through me.

Pride leads to a self-centered life that validates resentment, unforgiveness, bitterness, and a great many other sinful conditions to take root in my heart.

Pride is the devils end-game. Pride is what was found in Satan’s heart that led him to sin. Ezekiel 28 tells the story of God kicking Satan out of heaven. Satan cannot touch God, but he makes war against God’s people. Having been kicked out of heaven, he tries to keep heaven out of the lives of God’s people. Pride is one of his greatest tools in this battle.

Pride steals. It kills. It destroys. Does this sound familiar? Jesus said of Satan, our enemy, the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, John 10:10. Our enemy seeks our utter destruction. The devil’s aim is to ruin individual lives, families, leaders, churches, denominations, and whole nations.

So is there hope for us?

Pride is something every believer has to face. No one is immune. Not while we live in this flesh body. The only antidote to pride is keeping our eyes fixed on JesusHebrews 12:2. This means we have to stop looking at all the things we do and stop looking for any sense of worth from them.

Our hope is Jesus. Focus on Jesus’ completed work on the cross. His blood shed. His resurrection. His glory. His love. His Spirit-given to us, filling us, changing us, empowering us. His Word renewing our minds. Jesus is the Living Word!

When our focus is Jesus, our heart affections shift away from ourselves and the many attention-seeking things of this world that pride stands on. We become free to see Jesus in all His glory and His majesty. Our sense of awe and wonder of Him brings us to a place of continual desire for greater depth of intimacy with Him. Worship becomes a continual flow from our heart back to Him and He purifies and makes true our worship.

It is only in Jesus that the grip of pride is loosened from our lives. Continued focus on Him and what He has done removes any ground pride has to stand on in our lives.

It is Jesus. It has only ever been Jesus. It will always be Jesus. He is Who has loosed us and given us this victory… 

Love thy neighbor

July 21, 2016

Jesus said, “love your neighbor,” Mark 12:31, and yet so many of us pick and choose who gets our respect, who we honor, who we love.

Too often, we choose the rich, the popular, the favorite pop-culture-icon, the seemingly successful. These people get our attention. They get our listening ears. They get our respect. They influence our lives. They may get our wallets. And we even do this in church. We pick and choose and we get it wrong. Very wrong.

We are not meant to pick and choose at all. God does not show favor to the rich over the poor, Job 34:19. God does not show favoritism (or) God is no respecter of persons Acts 10:34 (NIV/ASV). God is not partial, Galatians 2:6. And James 2:9 says, if we show favoritism, we sin… 

A glaring truth about our own spiritual maturity: 

How and to whom we show respect, honor, and love is a measure of our spiritual maturity.

If we pick and choose, show respect to some but not others, we show we are not that spiritual. Instead, we are following after the world system that looks at all the externals.

The externals are the huge bank account, the beautiful, the trendy, the position, the title, the achievements. Externals are also spiritual gifts, to prophesy, abilities given to communicate, perform miracles. All these can be done while we are dishonoring, disrespecting, and even withholding love from people. Believe it or not, but, God gives gifts to people and doesn’t take them back, Romans 11:29. So a person can exercise all manner of spiritual gifts, but not really love people. This is a scary truth, and one reason we are so easily misled when looking at externals.

If we pick and choose who gets our respect, honor, and love based upon personal choice or external measures, we turn people away from the Gospel and give people a view of relationships in church that is broken and dysfunctional; in this case they are.

But when we show respect, honor, and love to people, when they haven’t done anything–in our estimation–to deserve it, it opens people up to the Gospel and healthy relationship. Why? Because it is so rare. Love like this is so rare. But this is the way God loves us, and the way He wants His love to be demonstrated through us, God is love, 1John 4:8.

We are all the work of God’s hands. God places immeasurable worth on every person. There is not one person who escapes His all-seeing and loving eyes. There is not one person more deserving of His love. Nor is there any person less deserving. God has dignified every one of us. God is the One who places great value upon us and calls us His precious-beloved child. God shows extreme honor to us by making our heart His home–something none of us deserve, but God does this because of His extreme love for us. 

If we think God is a harsh judge, requiring service and duty and rule keeping, a wrathful fear-inducing punisher, relationally cold or distant, these traits will show up in the way we relate to people. If we are critical of people, always suspicious, judging and measuring behavior, we ourselves don’t know God because these are the traits of a tyrannical ruler, not God.

God is our loving Father. He is joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle. God is lavishly generous, compassionate, willingly self-sacrificial, forgiving, and unceasingly graceful. God welcomes everyone, and shows extreme honor to us by making our heart His home–the God of heaven honors us by making our heart His home. He desperately desires relationship with us. If we are people walking in ever-growing intimacy with Him, we will be growing more like Him. Intimacy with God produces in us more of His nature and character, and this will be seen daily in the way we relate to people–all people, everywhere…

What’s in my heart will be my prevailing conversation. I might talk about other things, but I will keep coming back to the theme of my heart.

We can’t help it. The thing we love the most will leak out of us. We cannot stop it. We start to talk about other things, but we will come back, again and again, to the thing that holds our greatest affection. Jesus said, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of, Luke 6:45.

Some people leak Jesus, beautifully. They leak the presence and power of the Holy Spirit and it affects great change in the lives of people all around them. It seems as if they leak the very fresh air of heaven. This is God’s intention for our lives: that we would leak His love, His presence and power, and that heaven would be felt through our lives. This is what Jesus meant when He said, the kingdom of God is within you, in your hearts and among you, surrounding you, Luke 17:21AMP.

But if our hearts are full of the self, money, the things money can buy, or whatever other idol has our heart, these will be our prevailing conversations. Occasionally we may talk about Jesus and his kingdom, but inevitably we will again start talking about whatever has our heart. We cannot help it. We were created this way, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of, Luke 6:45.

God’s intention however, is that we would be filled with Him. We were created to be carriers of His presence and power, and He wants to flow out of our lives like a river of living water, John 7:38.

We are to leak Jesus all over people. Jesus wants to be our prevailing conversation. He wants to be what our heart is full of. 

Funny title: How are we supposed to pray? As if there’s a right/wrong way…

There’s no right/wrong way, but prayer starts with the understanding that God’s heart is for us to be engaged in the honest pursuit of relationship with Him for Who He is, not what He does. This is the goal of all true prayer. God wants us to know Him.

Jesus instructed us to keep it simple, honest, humble, natural, and ask for nothing less than heaven to come to earth!

God is not impressed by vanity prayers or spiritual-pride-filled theatrics. He is not impressed by people’s puffed-up notions of spiritual maturity. None of these impress Him. In the history of the human race it has not impressed Him. It never will.

…because unlike people, God sees through everything. He knows everything. Our secret thoughts are not secret to Him. The attitudes and meditations of our heart are on full display before Him. He knows what we are thinking before we say a word. He hears our every conversation. He sees who we are behind closed doors. He knows and sees absolutely everything and He still loves us with an irrepressible, unstoppable love.

When we come before God we can place all the pieces of our life before Him, Psalm 5:3MSG, and confidently know that He does not stand accusing us, He stands waiting longing to embrace us. He wants us to come before Him giving thanks and being open and ready for whatever He wants to do.

Jesus’ instructions on prayer: 

Remember, the world is not our stage…
Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it, It might be good theater, (it might impress a whole lot of people) but the God who made you won’t be applauding… Don’t call attention to yourself… When you come before God, don’t turn that into a theatrical production either. All these people making a regular show out of their prayers, hoping for stardom! Do you think God sits in a box seat? Matthew 6:1,2,5MSG.

Pray with Simplicity. Get alone with God… (put aside the iPhone)
Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense His grace, Matthew 6:6MSG.

Enjoy God for Who He is, not what He does, then relationship with Him will flow naturally…
The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and He knows better than you what you need. With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply… Matthew 6:7,8MSG.

Affectionately call Him Father, and give Him all glory and honor, for He alone is great and worthy…
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name (Your name be kept holy) Matthew 6:9NIV.

Exchange our will for His. This is essentially what true prayer does: exchange our will for His. Our lives will come into complete conformity to His will, very naturally and easily…
Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, Matthew 6:10NIV. This is no small prayer. This is asking that heaven’s realities become ours, here on the earth. God’s will is to extend heaven into the earth through us. I pray this daily.

Like any good father, God is our Perfect Father, we can ask Him to meet every need, He provides generously…
Give us our daily bread, Matthew 6:11.

We can love all people, not holding anything against anyone, but allowing God’s love to flow through us…
Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (fully letting go of resentments, peoples insults or offenses) Matthew 6:12NIV… When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves, Matthew 5:44MSG.

Trust God to keep us on a firm foundation…
Lead us not into temptation, deliver us from the evil one,Matthew 6:13NIV, and keep us safe from ourselves, Matthew 6:13MSG.