Category: How We Grow

Why Did I Yell on the Phone?

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A few years ago, I yelled at someone on the phone and really let them have it because they had totally mishandled a medical bill.

That was not the first time I yelled like that, but it was the last time I yelled.

Why the change? I learned that a couple of key questions lurked behind my yelling.

First:  how do I behave in a confrontation when no one knows I am a Christian?

In other words, I must admit that if it were someone from my church who messed up the bill I would never have yelled at them.

Second is an even deeper question I faced:

Is my Christianity only a performance? Or is it a deep heartfelt conviction that wells from the inside out, and drives how I react to situations—-even when the person I am confronting really is wrong and no one else is watching how I am handling it?

Basically, the kind of crummy attitudes behind my yelling needed correction and change. My natural inclination, though, is to not welcome correction.

Look at this verse in Proverbs :

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.  (19:20)

I need to give a note of caution in quoting this or any Bible verse.  Because if someone overheard me yelling and simply quoted this verse to me, nothing would have changed. This way of firing a verse at someone can backfire.  Oh, someone might use it to shame and guilt me into not yelling for a while, but that does not lead to genuine repentance and heart change.

It’s vitally important to consider the real source of wisdom behind the book of Proverbs. This true wisdom is personified in Jesus Christ.  And thanks be to God we have union with Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Only by calling on God’s grace and being in union with Christ can we begin to override our unwillingness to accept correction.  And of course, it is a process. We don’t suddenly and instantly welcome correction in every area of our lives. But with the help of the Spirit and people we can trust, we do start to develop a teachable and correctable heart.

Building Our Dwelling

“Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (1 Corinthians 10:24).

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Pastor Mark Dever gave one overview sermon to his congregation in Washington, DC for each book of the Bible. His New Testament sermons are reprinted in The Message of the New Testament: Promises Kept. 1 Dever’s sermon on 1 Corinthians inspired me to write this post.

If only our Christian lives could be built up as easily as the house getting framed in the picture!

There must be some obstacle preventing that. Is it the fault of what other people do to us, those who do not appreciate us? That may be partly true, but today let’s look at what we might be responsible for.  What obstacles in us make it hard for us to grow in becoming a dwelling place for God?  Here are two scenarios:

  • We like to feel that we are anointed and talented and can be used by God. We can even legitimately enjoy it when someone recognizes that God is at work in us. But do we think we deserve such recognition? How do we feel when we don’t get it? Rejected, upset?
  • We feel that our pet ministry is especially important to the well-being of our church. And as we talk to others, we always let them know just how vitally important this ministry is. We imply that, if they really loved Jesus, they would be a part of that ministry too!

Neither of these scenarios helps us to build up other people. Yet they both are such easy traps to fall into. How can we avoid those traps?

It helps to learn to be secure in who we simply are in Christ. Each of us can say: I have been redeemed by Christ, I am a new creation, and I am loved by Christ, such that nothing I can do can earn me more love. Out of that security in our identity in Christ, springs true edifying Christian action. How very different from thinking I need to prove that I am worth something to Christ and his Church!

As I simply love Jesus, I become willing to quietly give myself in love for others, without concern that I’m right or get recognition or need to have someone join my team.

Ironically, if I don’t feel I deserve to be complimented, I end up receiving godly affirmation. And instead of shaming people into joining my ministry, my attitude of love is infectious and contagious and draws others to join in as they see that yes, the Lord is at work in this ministry.

I’ll never forget a memorial service for a certain man who did not have a prominent and public role in our church. He was someone who never sought the limelight or pushed himself forward. But – at the service, many testified at the quiet impact for Christ that he had on their lives.  He was a true blessing to others. Those testimonies together were like a chorus of angels singing his praise. Isn’t that what happens when we enjoy seeking the good of others?

 

  1. https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=The+Message+of+the+New+Testament%3A+Promises+Kept

 

 

What does it really mean to have more of Jesus?

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 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9-10)

Does having more of Jesus mean getting all pumped up emotionally? That easily happens when we go to a retreat, mission trip, etc. Our balloon is soaring higher and higher.   But then —– we return home.

I remember one time driving to work the day after a 3-day retreat and someone did not think I was driving up the entry ramp to the Interstate fast enough. So, they gave me a long blast on their horn! Yes, after our return, somehow the realities and stresses of everyday life have not changed…soon we are swamped by them again and then we become like that picture of the deflated balloon.

How, then, can we have a more robust view of more of Jesus?

I think we need an encounter with our God of fire and holiness.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” (Hebrews 12:28-29)

Our God is a consuming fire. Should we be terrified about this? Am I throwing fire and brimstone at you?

Let’s look at what the Prophet Isaiah said after a frightening encounter with God.

 “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” (Isaiah 6:5) 

Does this experience make Isaiah pull back in fear or give up? No, he next learns that God forgives him. And then see what happens next in verse 8:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”   And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” 

What if we too start at a place of “woe is me” and then become able to say, “forgive and cleanse me Jesus” and then “I want more of what you want?”

Then, we are empowered to be used and sent. As I often have said in my blog posts, this does not mean we must be doing wonderful and spectacular things for the Lord. The sending can be to tasks that appear to be ordinary.

These ordinary tasks begin to change what we want, care for, think we need, get annoyed at, etc.

So, even when the realities and stresses of everyday life have not changed, Christ is changing our way of reacting to them.  It’s these little changes that add up over time to a changed, maturing character that really does have more of Jesus.

Three Times

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Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times! (John 13:38)

You’re probably familiar with the story of Peter denying Jesus three times and then the rooster crows. And probably you have heard that that is because Peter had not yet received the Holy Spirit to make him courageous and bold. And that, since we do have the Holy Spirit now, that means we rarely, if ever, betray Jesus or sin against him. Right?

Not really! Even now, when I walk in victory, I overestimate how well I can lay down my life to follow Jesus. I start to think of the ways I will never sin again. Unfortunately, in a sense it is inevitable that I sin today. That does not mean I plan to! But rather, in some way, I will miss all of God’s best for me today.

There are two extremes which are so easy to fall into. One is patting myself on the back for not sinning and walking in such victory. And the other extreme is feeling all beat up when I do sin.

 My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

At first glance, these verses look like a contradiction. But not really. “Will not sin” refers to our old lifestyle before we knew Jesus where we sinned continually and never felt the need to repent.  That is over with. We are free from that.

But that does not mean we never sin. So, happily, when I do sin I have an advocate: the Lord Jesus.

Keep in mind that our freedom from sin is a process. The key is to know that we are on the pilgrim’s path. Then we can avoid bouncing between the extremes of either being puffed up with overconfidence or wallowing in the muck of despondency and defeat.

Lord, we thank you that you grow us as we persevere in following you.

Do Whatever He Tells You

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His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. (John 2:5-7) 

Did you ever play a blindfold team building game?  In one version, you need to find a book that is hidden somewhere in a room. You put on a blindfold and your unblindfolded teammate tells you where to turn and reach until you find the book. Basically, you need to “Do whatever he tells you.”

In the blindfold game, when you find the book was it mainly because of your own effort?

In today’s verses, the water in the jugs becomes wine. The servants did whatever Jesus told them but who was responsible for the transformation into wine?  Of course, the answer was Jesus.  But do you think that following Jesus means doing your very best to keep the rules? Do you think it means you must try harder and harder?

Sure, Jesus tells us to obey, and we should. But we often act as if the results all depend on us. We can fall into two opposite traps. The first is to think “It worked! I am Super Christian!” And the second is to think “This is not working! I am such a failure! I must figure out what I am doing wrong.”

Often the feeling that it all depends on us is why our joy and fulfillment are gone and we are empty. Today we see that Jesus is telling us to obey, but the fulfillment in our Christian life is all from him.

Do you get stuck thinking that fulfillment depends on your own effort? Ask Jesus to show you how it really does depend on Him!

The Real Cure for a Dirty Mouth

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4:29)

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Were you ever thrilled that someone became a Christian and stopped cussing?

Great, they don’t use any of George Carlin’s 7 forbidden words any more.

But which is easier—to stop cussing or to become someone who knows how to build people up?

Don’t you hate it when you’ve been gone a couple days and you open your refrigerator and you are overwhelmed by the stench of rotten fish? The Greek word for “unwholesome” in today’s verse is Saprós, which means putrid and rotten. But if you think about it, you realize that we can say stuff that is putrid and rotten without using any cuss words. We can use clean language while simultaneously ripping someone to shreds with gossip and slander.

So, what is the opposite of this kind of trash talk? Do we wash our mouths out with soap?  By washing our mouths out with soap, I mean we might be able by sheer force of willpower, to hold ourselves back from using those cuss words. After all, people in church expect us to clean up our act. But this wouldn’t automatically lead to edifying and encouraging talk. What we really need to see is:

But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.  For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)

I like that we are captives of Christ. Without being Christ’s captive, we really are just washing our mouths out with soap. But it’s different when, empowered and captivated by Jesus, we refuse to let crudeness, viciousness or slander come out of our mouths, and instead replace it with being a sweet aroma—what a wonderful opposite to the smell of stinking fish!

Time to Change Your Dirty Clothes

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; (Ephesians 4:22)

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Recently, roofing crews showed up to do 25-year replacement of some of the roofs in our development. I saw a flatbed truck arrive, and on it were 6 porta potties and a vacuum unit to pump out what gets deposited in porta potties after they have been used.

The potty pump got me thinking about a similar process in our own lives. When Scripture talks about “putting off our old self” it is like getting what belongs to our old self pumped out.

We are quite unable to achieve this pumping on our own. Scripture teaches that we need a helper. It’s the Holy Spirit, who is a supernatural cleaning agent—indeed, scripture talks about the Spirit cleansing us of unrighteousness.

But even better than the cleanup, is that God gives us something wonderful to replace the slop with.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12)

Keep in mind that this clothing is also the work of the Spirit. The Spirit provides us with Christ’s compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

I’d like to return to today’s picture one more time, because there’s a scriptural parallel to the expression “not same truck”. Mainly, our earthly nature and what replaces it, our new self, cannot co-exist.

For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:4b)

We are saved by Christ from the penalty of sin once and for all, but the process of putting off and putting on is not once and for all. No, it’s a daily lifestyle. Just as the pump needs to repeatedly come back to the construction site, we need to repeatedly be cleansed. And every day we can put on some more of Jesus. This is not complete for us until the day when the Lord returns or calls us home!