Allowing Yourself to Be Weak

Warning: This post might step on some toes!

Our society has pretty much embraced the American cultural icon of the cowboy.  We revere those who ride alone and hard. We are rugged individualists and hardened men making our own way.  Our society reflects this in subdued ways.  No matter what happens, we are free and independent.  We are ‘desperadoes’–we do whatever we think is best.

This is distinctive to the American sense of being.  We are instilled with a pride and a freedom as our birthright.  John Wayne, the ‘Alamo,’ and the biker with his Harley-Davidson on Route 66 have been our inspiration.  Each are distinctly heroic and carry our hopes and dreams.

But the Bible is not an American book.  A cowboy did not die for our sins (which are many).  The way of discipleship does not take us through Dallas, Texas.  Rather, His Words to us are bold and entirely challenging in an amazingly fresh and different direction.  We are told to wash feet, to repeatedly turn the other cheek, to surrender all our rights, and then take the lowest place there is in every situation.

Jesus is positioned as the Lord over us.  Humility is to become  the way we think and how we act.  We have become slaves to righteousness.  Our vaunted independence has been toppled. The crown has slipped. My wilfulness still wants to stand instead of kneeling. We discover this has been the truth all along.  We have never ever been in control.  He has been the King since before time, and will always be, for an eternity.

“Many Christians have what we might call a “cultural holiness”. They adapt to the character and behavior pattern of Christians around them. As the Christian culture around them is more or less holy, so these Christians are more or less holy. But God has not called us to be like those around us. He has called us to be like himself. Holiness is nothing less than conformity to the character of God”.

Jerry Bridges

I want to pose the following questions.  Are we honestly in a condition of being weak?  Can you serve with a basin and towel?  Is your heart that of a child? Do we see the world through the ‘lens’ of a soft and broken spirit?

Our churches often struggle often over issues of pride and stubbornness.  There is often little gentleness and brokenness to be seen.  We still see ourselves as independent, and we call our own shots.  I wonder if the lordship of Christ is even considered.  We may consider it noble to be a Christian, but our lives are not discipled.  (And they are not likely to be until God breaks us of our independence.)  It’s called, ‘the spirit of the age.’

“Holiness has never been the driving force of the majority. It is, however, mandatory for anyone who wants to enter the kingdom.”

Elisabeth Elliot

 

I write these things surveying my own life.  Self will and my hard heart fit ‘hand-and-glove’ with being that desperado.  I ride alone, making my own way, and I don’t make any disciples. I jettison my cross— my cross of discipleship.  I serve no one, unless it suits me.  Am I His disciple, or am I a man of my own?  Is He my lord, or have I decided to claim that right for myself? We must decide these things.

I only hope I have spoken the truth today. Forgive me if I offended.

“Lord, I am willing to receive what You give, to lack what You withhold, to relinquish what You take, to suffer what You inflict, to be what You require.”  Amen.

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Frozen

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The all-glorious Mr. Freeze
 Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

Colossians 3:13, ESV

Remember “Mr. Freeze?” (Not the rapper, but the supervillain.) He was a DC Comics ‘evil-bad guy.’ He wreaked terrible havoc using ice. It was his specialty, his weapon of choice. In the later issue comic books he wore a cryonic suit and used a “freeze gun” and his victims would be turned into an instant icicle.

But “freezing” people happens far too often. We don’t need a suit or a special gun. We do it with our words, attitudes, actions. It is called unforgiveness, or stigma, or just plain contempt. It locks another person in a place were they will stay forever, and you won’t ever have to deal with them.

We glaciate others with extraordinary ease. Someone offends me, or irritates me and I blast them. In my mind I solidify them into one spot, and there they are locked. Sealed away, and out of my thinking. (And I can avoid those pesky urges to humble myself.)

I have been frozen by others— and I have been the ‘freezer’ as well. The sad part is that we ourselves are so far from perfect. When we zap someone we will never, ever ‘receive’ from that person. We can even preclude them as outside of the grace of God. “You offend me, and I will never forget it, and you will never be more than an evil miscreant to me.” My rationale is “life is too short for hassling with jerks like you.” But I can’t fully accept that idea. That is not God’s will for me, and I know it.

We end up debasing ourselves by our own unforgiveness. We restrict others from the Holy Spirit’s transforming ability. In our mind’s eye, the wicked person will never be able to offer up anything of value. We freeze–locking them into a place. And a vast amount comes from an unforgiveness that is ‘fallen’, and an unbelief in God’s grace and power.

Mr-Freeze-1Perhaps all our personality conflicts are merely chances for us to learn how to love and receive special things from God. But we get confused with ‘our difficult people’ and situations. In our immaturity, we simply put them away where they cannot hurt us again. We may even encourage others to do the same.

Furthermore, any use of our ‘freeze gun’ freezes us as well. Unforgiveness turns on us (which we didn’t count on) and the effect is cumulative. We can only absorb so much and we get hard and cold.

One more thing. We do this to whole groups of people. The alcoholics, the mentally ill, other races. This can be called prejudice or stigma. Ask yourself this–have you ever been stigmatized or demonized?  You will usually know it. But we cannot afford to be controlled by our unforgiveness. There is far too much at stake.

 

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him and let it drop (leave it, let it go), in order that your Father Who is in heaven may also forgive you your [own] failings and shortcomings and let them drop.”

Mark 11:25, AMP

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Bitter Water

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“Then Moses led the people of Israel away from the Red Sea, and they moved out into the desert of Shur. They traveled in this desert for three days without finding any water. 23 When they came to the oasis of Marah, the water was too bitter to drink. So they called the place Marah (which means “bitter”).

24 Then the people complained and turned against Moses. “What are we going to drink?” they demanded. 25 So Moses cried out to the Lord for help, and the Lord showed him a piece of wood. Moses threw it into the water, and this made the water good to drink.

It was there at Marah that the Lord set before them the following decree as a standard to test their faithfulness to him.”

In this brief narration we have a graphic portrait of the condition of many within the Church today. The situation is becoming critical and its effects are devastasting. Some call it ‘crossless Christianity,’ ‘cheap grace’ or the ‘new cross.’ The writer of Exodus 15 calls it ‘bitter water.’

The children of Israel had begun to murmur. They demanded water for the long and hot journey through the Sinai desert. Coming to the ‘springs of Marah’ they basically undrinkable and bitter.

Mosrs responds directly to directly quell this potential rebellion. He begins to cry out to the Lord (what else can you do?) and begs the Lord for wisdom. He must know the next step.  “So Moses cried out to the Lord for help,” There was a tree, a piece of wood, and when that wood was tossed into the waters, the water were made sweet.

Today– people are waiting— searching for water. And never, ever has there been such a desperate search. They stampede to any new well on the horizon, and they search for anything on the horizon. Any well will do. Some will seek there lives away, only to perish at the ‘end.’ They’re chasing a mirage.

The Church is to be a well, an oasis in a dry and desperate land. But the water is becoming ‘bitter.’ We have defiled it with ‘sin and self.’ Friends, please understand— the ‘bitterness’ of our ‘uncrucified’ flesh was polluted our wells. We have poisoned our selves.

We need ‘the cross.’ It is a sweet source fo our ‘bitterness.’ We must return to ‘the old rugged cross.’ We need to embrace its cruelty again. Jesus, himself said this: “Whoever doesn’t bear his cross, and follow me cannot be my disciple.’  Those who followed after Him needed no preacher to interpret. Rome had a nasty habit of executing her criminals publicly. Everyone who had listened to Jesus Christ had seen people crucified. One Roman general, after suppressing a Jewish rebellion crucified 2,000 men at one time. The roads into Jerusalem were lined with crosses of dying men.

Every man and woman could see the terrible price of resisting Rome. This would result in death, and there are no halfway about it. A cross is a radical thing. There is nothing ‘halfway’ about it. It demands ‘no less than all.” A cross was a radical thing thing.

The Cross is in danger of being misinterpreted’ today. Somehow, our cross is somehow different. It seems softer, and more padded, it doesn’t rub us the wrong way.” It allows us much: our favorite habits, our prideful ways, and our self-centered ways. It would seem that what we call ‘our cross’ has a built-in ‘life-support’ system that keeps our old man alive just a little bit longer.

The Cross was an intensely radical thing. It demanded no less than everything.

“Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. 18 For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth.”

Philippians 3:17-19

There were those who opposed ‘the cross.’ But they didn’t oppose Christ— but were enemies of the cross. They loved and admired Jesus– they would sing and worship, but well, the cross was a different story. They refused to pick theirs up. They don’t want the ‘real’ cross, but will easily slip into ‘holiness’. They are really religious, but in a ‘crossless’ sort of way.

Dr. A.W. Tozer in an article entitled “The Old Cross and the New” wrote: “The new cross is not opposed to the human race, rather it is a friendly pal, and if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun, and innocent enjoyment. His life motivation is unchanged, he still lives for his own pleasure, only he takes delight in singing choruses and watching religious films, instead of singing bawdy songs, and drinking hard liquor. The accent is still on enjoyment, though the fun is on a higher plane morally, if not intellectually.The new cross does not slay the sinner, but redirects him.”

“The old cross is a symbol of death. It stands for an abrupt and violent end of a human being.”

 “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you[b]; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”

2 Corinthians 13:5

Are we really carrying the cross of the Bible? Is our faith real? Are we carrying the real cross? We cannot be really His disciples unless we do so, and we are apostate if we do not.

“Then, calling the crowd to join his disciples, he said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.”

Mark 8:34

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Hardly Indispensable: A Leader’s View

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13″ The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening.

14 When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?”

Exodus 18

Often your father-in-law will observe things clearly and honestly. I believe most can perceive situations that our own fathers will overlook. I think this is because our own fathers are often functioning out of their hearts.  They are emotionally attached. But a father-in-law has a different view.

Jethro has come, most likely to escort the grandkids, and his daughter. He is probably quite curious about Moses new direction. Jethro has only known that his son-in-law as a shepherd. But now, things are changing quickly. And Jethro is praising God for what He did over the Egyptians.

Jethro is enthusiastic. But he is also alert and aware. As Moses schedules his day, Jethro sees an inordinate amount of time given to judging, not leading. He watches and than asks some questions. This is the sign of good correction. Moses faces these questions really well. He is a great model for teachability.

Leadership is almost always a shared work.

Many aspects of it should be collaborative and plural. The singular view of leading people– out of my own resources alone, will not end well. Moses was teachable and Jethro needed to share this word of correction. If Moses had not took the wise advice of Jethro, they would’ve died in the desert.

When Moses released these things to others who were qualified, he commences on a new understanding of ministry. He actually becomes a better man because of the advice of Jethro. He must become “expendable.”

24 “Moses listened to his father-in-law’s advice and followed his suggestions. 25 He chose capable men from all over Israel and appointed them as leaders over the people. He put them in charge of groups of one thousand, one hundred, fifty, and ten.26 These men were always available to solve the people’s common disputes. They brought the major cases to Moses, but they took care of the smaller matters themselves.”

None are ever indispensable and no one can do everything. We may try, but that usually is ego. We will do better if we will relinquish control. I think that the Father designs it this way.

Dwight L. Moody once said that he would rather put a thousand men to work than do the work of a thousand men.  I believe that is a Kingdom concept that we should activate.

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