Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Are You Teachable?

So many people claim to be "open-minded" and say that they want to learn. But do they really? As I look around me, there really aren't that many people who actually swim against the flow and live all that differently from the rest of the world. It seems to me that most people think you're nuts if you don't fall in line with societal norms, and people are afraid of the stigma that comes with it. Yet those who live under the one-size-fits-all rules are generally the ones criticizing those who are different, who have too much faith or live out their convictions unapoligetically. Do people really know the meaning of "open-minded"?

The problem here is that doing anything different from society presents a problem for some people because they are forced to re-think their game plan. The Bible speaks quite specifically to Christians on this very topic. We're called to be different. We're supposed to be the light and the salt of the earth, but are we?
"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." Romans 12:2 ESV
This leads me to ask, are you teachable? Do you REALLY have an open mind? An open-mind isn't being willing to sway like the wind or to to be weak in your beliefs. It's all about whether we're willing to abandon our own thoughts and ways for the sake of being molded and shaped to whom He wants you to be. It's about giving up your ways for His.

The book I'm currently reading has brought to my attention the importance of being teachable. Joanna Weaver in "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World", explains that if we are teachable, we will be willing to give up our own ways to follow His. Being teachable goes hand-in-hand with dying to self and abandoning all of your preconceived ideas for whatever He has in store. If we aren't willing to give up all those things that have been plugged into our minds since birth, then what is the whole point here?

I was convicted to take a long, hard look at myself and I quickly realized that there are some areas where I haven't been so teachable. I have hung on to what I thought or what I wanted when the whole time He was saying, "I want you to do it My way." I, like many of you, have all this stuff that's been "programmed" in my head and it's hard abandoning everything I have known. Change isn't easy, and certain types of change are simply impossible on our own...this is one of those kinds of change for me. Changing the things that, to some degree, made me who I am falls well outside the boundaries of my own abilities.

I must admit, it stinks to see the flaws in myself but there is no other way to truly grow and learn than to accept His rebuking, ask for His forgiveness and pray for His help to change. We're rejecting Him and the opportunity to grow if we reject his rebuking, right? Not to mention, we can't hang onto our way, the world and His way all at once. He commands us to hang onto one--Him.
"Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent." Revelation 3:19 ESV
We each have so many thoughts and way that have been plugged in our heads, maybe from our parents, certain experiences, or from our relationships. God takes us as we are, knowing we have all this stuff to wade through before we can ever come anywhere close to being what we are meant to be in Him. If we're not teachable, we'll never get beyond our own junk to see the light.

I compare it to purchasing an expensive electronic device, knowing that it has mostly pre-populated memory. Seriously, how many of us would buy something that had been pre-programmed to the extent that it had no memory leftover to make it your own, much less pay full price for it? I don't think I would. But our God does that for us, doesn't He? He bought you and me with His life (FULL price), making one stipulation: We must believe in Him enough that we're willing to allow Him to do whatever He will with us-- even if it means complete reprogramming.

He isn't asking us to completely delete our memories, or to immediately change. He's patient and gentle in that He will do it for us if we let Him and He will take it as slowly as we need to. Bf we aren't willing to change our ways, ideas and thought processes at any given moment, then we have two problems.
  1. We don't really have the faith in Him that's required.
  2. We're ultimately being disobedient.
That being said, if the whole purpose here is to be more like Him, we have to lose who we are in the process right? We can't cling to our own ways but yet say that we're living for Him. Living for Him means we give up anything to be more like Him. If we're operating on free will, and we are, then we have to make the choice because He's not going to make us do anything. We can choose to do what He says -His way-or choose not to do it at all. But if we choose not to obey, we have no right to complain about His lack of blessings for us later. He wants ALL of each of us.

Are you willing to ditch your own way and learn to do things His way? When He speaks, do you listen? Do you actually obey, or do you find yourself doing what you want? Are you one of those people who are embarrassed by people who don't "go with the flow"?

True love always costs the giver something. It cost Him His own life. Has it cost you anything to love Him?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No More Pretending

I've hit rock bottom so many times over the course of my life, and many of those have occurred after of which I was saved. I don't know many people who haven't, but I know many who try to hide it. It's the normal human reaction. We humans hurt, and it seems to me that that's what we do best. But is it not just as common that we tend to get hung up in our own hurt to the extent of which we can't see the hurt of those around us, or anything else for that matter? Furthermore, is it not even more common that we try to put on our masks and pretend our hearts don't ache unbearably?

Life is hard. It's a constant balancing act. Everyone one of us struggle to balance the portions on our plates that mostly consist of things we've asked for. But it's hard balancing our own hurt while continuing to walk the path of life. It's incredibly difficult to hold our heads up and put on an act that we aren't struggling. Add to that the pressure to keep yourself from toppling or caving in and you have yourself one mighty long list of things to do---no wonder we feel pressured. This explains so much of why we're all so prone to mood swings and frustration.

I don't know a single person who can say they have always been 100% transparent in that they've never hid their hurts from the world. I do it all the time and I do it to those closest to me quite often. For the most part, I hide it thinking I can move on faster if I pretend it doesn't exist. Or I hide it thinking that they'll judge me if I expose my struggles. One thing I've been convicted of is that I'm not being real or transparent when I intentionally try to cover up any my thoughts or feelings.

The good news is that, as believers, we don't have to carry everything around on our own. As a matter of fact, we don't have to carry it at all because He offers to carry it for us. But in order to give it to Him, we do have to face it, and in facing it we must be real about it. As a believer, I've come to understand that it takes courage to be real, And since He calls us to be courageous, He will take care of the details if we'll just obey.

As I lean in a little bit closer and ask God for even more insight on my pain and frustrations, the message I keep getting is that I should focus on something but my own pain but do not forget the humbling lessons of that pain in doing so. So how do we do that? Is it another juggling act, of which we set ourselves up for failure if we try it alone?

I've failed enough in my own life to know that I cannot attempt these things on my own. Even so, it takes constant reminding that I must focus on what He can do and not what I cannot do. I must not let my lack thereof prevent me from speaking truth or following His commands. If He tells me to do it, and if I seek His will wholeheartedly, He will handle the details. 

The truth isn't always what we like to hear, nor is it always to the world's standards of positive thinking. The message of Christ is points to our inabilities and His abilities. It's a message telling us that we must die to self and be willing to be molded. As He molds us our vulnerabilities and issues are exposed, thus causing things to sting a bit. Therefore, we can be confident that in all of our suffering He has a plan to make us better. And we don't have to hide it.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Lukewarm vs. Boldness

If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me. Luke 9:23 NKJV.
Have you ever noticed how many believers side with the world when another Christian is outright passionate and vocal about Jesus Christ? Many side with the world, anxious to tell another believer that they're too passionate, even to the point of being strange, and they they should tone down their faith. Everyone claims to believe but when the rubber meets the road, many people are ashamed and embarrassed of those believers who are on fire for God. They are embarrassed and afraid of being associated with that person all because the world thinks that it's a little bit too much to be passionate for God, although it's okay to be passionate about other things.

I'm seeing more and more Christians who have been watered-down and are lukewarm these days. It's becoming more and more common for one to think that we should shut up and keep our faith on the down-low so that we don't offend anyone. Those who don't cower down are labeled and criticized, even by fellow brothers and sisters in Christ for "coming off too strong". Frequently, I see people who seem to be staunch believers until their faith is challenged. They cower down when given the opportunity to take a stand beside a fellow believer against the world's accusations.

I've been seeing so much of this and for a long time I let it discourage me. But I've read and prayed and been refreshed with the truth. And the truth forces me to ask: If you believe in Him and that the Bible is His word, how can you say that it's wrong to live and speak passionately about the Lord and Savior who brings so much joy to your soul? If you've ever experienced His joy and peace, how can you remain silent?

It's a sad day when Christians can't stand together, equally zealous and willing to serve the God of our hearts. But the Bible tells us that this is to be expected. We shouldn't be surprised. The Book of Revelations speaks of Christians like this, who are so caught up in the world that they look, speak and act like the world because they're not on fire and they're not cold---they're lukewarm. They're watered down in the world from trying to live too much in the world that they compromise His word and His way, to try to please both the world AND God.
I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3: 14-16 NIV
I didn't say it, I just repeated it. So if you're offended, I encourage you to pray about it.

I almost don't believe my ears at times. I kept hearing my fellow Christians advocate that a believer should simply love others by hugging and serving and but that we shouldn't say too much because we risk offending someone. Don't dare mention the truth because we risk upsetting people, right? Read the Bible ...Christ offended many. He was, the most controversial man of all time, and He was controversial because He went against the flow of things not just in His actions, but also by speaking the truth. Granted He spoke lovingly, He spoke frankly and He didn't cower down in shame because someone got offended over the truth. If we believe He came to set an example for us to live by, why do we question this so often?

Let's face it, the truth hurts. And it hurts even the most God-fearing, on-fire Christians as much as it does the lost at times. I hate to face ugly things about myself, but as a believer I must be willing to receive the truth and to share the truth with others. And if I can't receive it, how can I share it?

He tells us in clearly to expect this, and not to fall for it. Here are some guidelines and scripture references that make it clear that we don't have to cower down in the corner--and that we can do something.
  • Speak and Live Boldly. Proverbs 28:1 says, "The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.
  • Speak the truth in love. "We must no longer be children, tossed to and for and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming. But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ." (Ephesians 4:14-15)
  • Expect resistance. Matthew 10:16 says "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." Matthew 10:22 says, " and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved."
  • Don't be discouraged by those who refuse the truth. "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town." (Matthew 10:14)
  • Don't be offended by the truth when spoken to you. Matthew 11:6: "And blessed is the one who is not offended by me."
I'm not advocating that we attack the world and each other with judgment and criticism. I know there are times whereby simply showing love and mercy makes those around us far more likely to hear the truth than not. But there are also times when we have to stare sin in the face and boldly yet lovingly rebuke it simply because we all need to hear the truth. We all need to face it's stings before we can even begin to make a change. But eventually the truth must be spoken.

In case you haven't noticed, we Christians are losing to society's ways. The reason for that is that we've, as a whole, adapted to the mindset that we should be quiet and cower down. This mindset contradicts His word, which tells us to speak boldly. We have every right to be bold, because He is real to each of us who believe. We also have the ability to be bold simply because we believe in Him and His ability to deliver us.

We don't have to adapt to or believe everything society tells us to. Although society (and some fellow believers) try to instill the fear of offending others in each of us, don't buy it. It's meant to keep us quiet and paralyzed and to stop the growth of the Christian faith. It's a lie planted by Satan and we should know better.

Look around you, non-Christian religions are quite passionate and zealous. Why can't we be? Why shouldn't we be? We know our Lord is THE LORD. It's only wrong because the world thinks it is and they think this simply because the truth hurts. And if there was no truth to it they wouldn't be so offended, would they?

We don't have to compromise our faith to survive in this world. We don't have to adapt the beliefs and become watered down and less passionate. But that's a choice we each have to make. As for me, I will answer for me someday and each of you will speak for yourselves. Those who are against Christ will someday proclaim He is Lord just like the rest of us, and by then it will be too late. I encourage you to set yourselves apart. Make it clear who you believe in and serve your purpose with passion and zeal. After all, that's what He called us to do.

I hope you each hear, "Well done, thy good and faithful servant." I hope you never quit.
Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Revelation 3:19-22