I thought you might think better of me this way…

Time for a major confession here; no more hiding: I try to maintain like I’m not selfish…EVER! (I know, how believable, right?) But, the problem is that I believe that this is a facade that others should be able to easily equate with the real me. I don’t feel like I can deal with the truth if it were to be universally acknowledged.

I struggle, trying to always be ahead of where I really am spiritually. I don’t like thinking I’m a sinner–that is so just…ugh! Who wants to believe that about themselves? Certainly not anyone who has any pride. (Ding! Ding! That would be me.) The truth is that I have not yet gotten to the place where I do not want my image to be a prominent part of my life in Christ. I cannot seem to let it go.

I like the idea of being linked with Christ, but in my heart I do not yet understand all that such a union must entail. I do not have a strong enough concept of Christ. I perceive that I must be always seeing Him in light of me rather than having it the other way around. I believe I’ve it here before that I see myself as the measure of all things, if I’m truly honest.

So the question then becomes, if I see myself as the one the universe revolves around and hinges on, how can I possibly have the capacity for being unselfish? Surely, God who is truly the embodiment of these things, does yet remain unselfish though He does have the right to absolute rule over His universe. But, as one who has a heart-problem that projects myself into His place of infinite prerogative, I cannot maintain sinlessness in attempting an unauthorized copy of His deity.

So the fact that I can say I appreciate God for who He is, is largely influenced by the fact that His identity is something I covet for myself. I want His image to cover me, but in the wrong way. I anticipate how He will make me look good–almost like I favor Him as my ticket to achieving a spiritual make-over. I love Him for me, not Him.

But, if this is not how God intends for us to love Him, how can you and I move beyond living heart-lives similar to what I’ve described above? Is there hope for us and, if so, what does that look like? How can God invade our hearts to the point that our hearts look more like His than the ones we started with? Where does the transformation come from?

I think the secret is found woven into the very questions we’re posing. The necessary ingredient to spiritual transformation is not expecting it to come from us. We broach the journey with the assumption that we are going to be worked on far more than we will ever be purely working out.

We trust that God will be the miracle-worker here. Whatever He asks of us we will do, but nothing that comes about will be recognized as purely our effort. There is so much more going on here than we can see; therefore, we cannot possibly be leading the project at any time. Our change is in God’s hands.

Because all that needs to change us must be God’s project, we do not relate the facts about us to the case first. We sidestep everything that there is to be known about us and choose to boast with God only in the Person of Jesus Christ. If we want to stay where we are in our selfishness, we need not reach out for God at all. But if we want to take on the character of Christ in its place, then surely we can do no less than set our focus Him.

In fact, we must seek Him for the power to lay aside every other enticing focus of our affections and interest. We want self to lose all of its governing power over us. But this victory is truly only as valuable as the internal territory that God gains by the fight. If we become selfless but do not become godly, there is no credit to the Savior. He wants the end to show that He was the One who brought, not just change, but redemption. Selfishness is wrong and distasteful because of the corruption that it is of God’s original design for us. We don’t just need to become less self-intensive but to be redirected to become beings of glory-giving to our God. Does this sound like it might be the offensive strategy we need against the self that seeks to use all our hearts for one who is not one with the Father, Son or Holy Spirit?

How shall I know power if I am weak?

What does God’s power look like, do you think? Must it always appear the same way — should it always be stationed in the same vicinities and triumph by predictable means?

Or, is our God ever unique? Is He steadfastly after our hearts and our neighbors hearts — who ever they happen to be at the moment — in new and exciting ways?

Can He be capable of more than we can see? And what is more convicting: Is He possibly now busily at work accomplishing works of redemption and healing while we complain that His mercies are no where to be found?

What if the kindnesses of God have escaped our view not because He has hidden every trace of hope from us, but because we have chosen blindness over seeing Him? Is it not true that we cannot see the works of a Savior unless we look for Him first?

And from where might a Savior emerge? Doesn’t He show up more regularly on the scene of disaster than a parade of bliss? Doesn’t He pass by unnoticed in the ho-hum days when there is no evidence of our need/desire for His services? Isn’t He crucial to our existence only on a desperation basis?

Therefore, if we need His rescue, the only thing that could prevent us from receiving its benefits would be in denying either our need or His ability. The first error of a desperate sinner with an unexplainable aversion to rescue is rooted in apathy. Despite being suspended over hell by consequences of our own actions, we excuse the situation from which we need escape as something that is “really not that bad” whether this is due to ourselves not being that bad, or God being too precise in His expectations of our repentance.

The second error is also a quality of faithlessness, but in this case it is sated in doubt of God that is a disguise for woefully misplaced grief. We know we are in a bad spot, and that there is no undoing what we have done to get ourselves here, but if only God had helped us be better people, we would not be in this spot. God is the reason we are here on death row at all.

The cure for both apathy and self-pity is nothing less than choosing to believe God for what His Word says. Faith in God — the strenuous and only legitimate work of the soul — takes hold of the gospel in such a way that it turns us out of our own one-man sin party and instead compels our spirits to be united to the God of heaven. It recognizes that we are sinners at no fault of God’s yet He has mercifully reached out to save us. We will accept His offer at whatever terms He gives us; trusting that He will fulfill His promises to completely transform us into God-fearing and God- glorifying individuals that will one day fill His presence with praise and passion.

A rare influence in personal chemistry

Walking with the wise — those who want to lift us up rather than pull us down. People who will sacrifice themselves to help you become more of who you are meant to be. Individuals who count it no loss to lose your friendship if their love is too firm and insistent for your tastes.

What a disgrace to miss these blessings in our lives! To turn one away is to miss the rare treat of discovering what it can really be like to know love in its rawest form — a catalyst so strong that it will enable us to form compounds of character and action that we would never have seen as possibilities.

Let’s raise our voices high and thank Him. God has shown Himself to us in all these separate personalities. May we honor those today to whom we owe a dept for pushing us to be what we are today, and can be tomorrow!

He discredits my every complaint

Complaining. I don’t know about you, but I like to complain. I like to believe that I have that freedom, and that my words can have a significant influence on my unpleasant circumstances.

For example, I hate being alone when I haven’t chosen solitude. When I have to adapt to my circumstance I wonder: how this will help and not hurt me, especially when I’ve already passed several days of this restriction? Must I again accept this when I believe I could benefit so much more from talking and hanging out with my family and friends?

I look at occasional days that pain augments my ongoing fatigue and question the appropriateness of being further burdened.

I beg for only the bare minimum in the intensity of these endurance tests.

On particularly hard days, when one more thing must be given up or is taken away from me, I ask: Lord, how much do you think I can take? I am human — I can only endure such a restricted lifestyle, diet and community. Am I really learning that much more than I would if I could still have some of these things?

And God’s response is, Do you think that I am not enough? Do you doubt My wisdom in leading you down this path of hardships? Do you think that you know so much more about living than I? Are you so opposed to dependence on Me that you would refuse walking so closely with Me to delight yourself in lesser and lighter pleasures? Is your food and life not contingent on more than bread and basic human relationships? Will you think I am worth it enough to reach out and take My hand, believing I walk through all the hardship with you?

My child, I am showing you that you don’t know how to live this life. I am bringing you closer to Me, so I can lead you, teach you, and, yes, enrich you. Like My servants Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah on My diet — My provision — you will emerge from My tests radiant and glowing. And You will lead everyone around you in praising the Name of Your God who has created through extraordinary means a difference in you that will enhance the vision of His glory in your world.

Oh, how can I complain when my Father holds me so close like this; when the hardships He walks me through are for a purpose so much higher and loftier than I?