Shedding Self-Importance

Bryan & Lynn, Still learning to be servants

“I have had more trouble with myself than with any other man.”  D.L. Moody


April, 2000

Shortly after Lynn and I were accepted by Kachemak Bay Christian Center to be their pastor, we traveled to California to be with family for a few weeks.  On our return to Alaska we drove from Anchorage to our home in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula.  I could hardly wait to jump in and be a real pastor. It was my dream, and God had “groomed” me for this moment!

As we drove into Homer I noticed the marquee on the movie theater.  It read, “Congrats to Bryan and Abi”.  I immediately stopped the car to gawk in amazement.  I was flabbergasted.  I suddenly felt a warm flush of self importance.  Homer was recognizing me as a pastor, as well as ABI, the Bible school in town that I had been teaching at, also in Homer.

I was delighted and duly impressed with how enlightened my town had become in recognizing me since my trip ‘outside.’.  I actually drove around the block to take in this wonder and took another look.  I was completely taken in by this marquee.  My pride took over and I felt invincible.  Words would pour off my lips and my little town would be guided by my spiritual brilliance.  I felt a warm surge of “heavenly” authority.

About two weeks later I picked up the local newspaper.  As I paged through I came across an announcement for a wedding for someone named Bryan and Abby.  I suddenly pieced it together.  Abby had been an employee at that movie theater before she got married!  The management had put this message on their behalf.

Immediately the Lord jolted me back into reality.  My arrogance and pride drained from me.  I felt like a pompous ass.  I had so inflated myself, thinking I was so impressive and important that the crash devastated me.  I was not as awesome as I thought I was.  I was embarrassed by how easily I was led into this spiritual trap of self-importance.

The Bible has a great deal to say about pride and arrogance.  “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.”   I would like to say that I have overcome this arrogance, but I catch it growing in the corners.  I can say that even though I was so self-absorbed and self-important that I am now immune from this sin.  But that would be a lie.

Jesus loves the humble.  He favors those who are poor in spirit.  But he resists people who are proud and self-sufficient.  He stands against the arrogant.  The Father hates my pride and my arrogance.

I want to encourage you to come to Jesus now.  Come as you are and He shall meet you.  Dispense with your pride and “humble yourself before the Lord”We do all right if we see ourself as ordinary and average.  Satan will look for any handle you give him.  Pride is one of his favorite ways to control you.  When the disciples tried to figure this out they ended up fighting (Mark 9:33-34).

 “But it should not be that way among you. Whoever wants to become great among you must serve the rest of you like a servant. Whoever wants to become first among you must serve the rest of you like a slave.  In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served. He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people.”

Matthew 20:26-28, NCV

The ”marquee incident” was 15 years ago, but I am determined to remember how the Lord revealed to me my pride.  It has become humorous to me now, but at the time it was brutal.  I have had to learn through weakness.  When I am weak, He is strong.

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”  Tim Keller

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When Others are More Gifted Than You

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“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.”

1 Corinthians 12:4, NLT

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.”

1 Peter 4:10

Several years ago, the Holy Spirit completely turned my understanding of the Church– upside down. It took some time. I found that over many years I had made the Body of Christ into a competitive sport. And although I wouldn’t of phrased it exactly that way, it was how I approached the Christian brothers/sisters in my life.

I guess a great deal of effort was generated to receive the proper recognition. I had completely misunderstood the very of nature of being a ‘gifted’ person. As I look back, I was very much like James and John, in Matt. 20:20. It wasn’t so much that I was exalting myself, as I only felt (?) that I needed to push for all that Jesus had for me.

(I could go much deeper, but I feel I should be brief.)

We must learn to respect the giftedness of others. Often, this is easy. When we encounter a special ability, it can be fairly easy to do. A teacher or preacher, a worship leader or an amazing writer who has a tremendous gift is a real blessing and are simple to recognize.

However, we are probably more inclined to operate out of our own bitterness or frustration. Rather than accepting others, we look for any reason at all to invalidate and disparage. We scour and search for anything to minimize or reject our “competitor.” To bolster our efforts, we label it as “discernment.” This justifies us, as we think that it is “protecting” the Church.

The Spirit, out of His infinite inventory, distributes the gifts to the Church. And we honor and respect Him when we acknowledge that. We don’t elevate the person, but we do accept them. We don’t ignore any sin, but we recognize the treasure that is hidden in a clay pot.

A necessary thought. What about when a gift is seen in someone 30 years younger than you? Paul wrote young Timothy precise instructions on his youth.

“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.”

1 Timothy 4:12

We need to honor the Spirit. We should respect the giftedness that others have. Humility often varies with the person, the gift and the maturity. And it would be the nadir  of foolishness for us to think we have settled this issue, once and for all. There are no cookie cutters. One last thought, which is a wise course I think–

“Be desirous, my son, to do the will of another rather than thine own.”

–Thomas a Kempis
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Delusions of the First Person Variety

When I first watched the “Matrix,” I completely flipped out. It explained too much. It took me a month to recover.
I need to briefly share what delusions are like.  I’m going to flip the switch and flood the room with light, and watch the “critters” scuttle to find a hiding place.  I’m doing this to help heal myself, and for you to understand this awful state of mind.

First of all– definitions

Delusion n.
A false belief held despite strong evidence against it; self-deception. Delusions are common in some forms of psychosis. Example.  Because of his delusions, the literary character Don Quixote attacks a windmill, thinking it is a giant (that’s the dictionary workin’ it for you.)

Delusion de·lu·sion n.
A false belief strongly held in spite of invalidating evidence, especially as a symptom of mental illness.

Typically, my delusions have a common core of pride or self-centered thinking. For instance, I have experienced all of these:

  1. A woman loves me and she is secretly trying to be with me. This is very flattering and egocentric.  This  one can really mess with your thought-life. (Ego.)
  2. I’m the center of the universe, people really do not exist, except when they come into my life or influence.  [This one is a bit metaphysical.] See #7.
  3. I have special powers that ‘know” a person’s motives, plans and heart.  I am hyper-discerning.  The opposite can be true at times, where I become exposed to people, which necessitates me never leaving my room. I feel “naked” and of course, very uncomfortable.
  4. I get paranoid, thinking people are plotting with each other behind my back, working to destroy me.  Chat rooms, and Facebook are focal points for me with this one, but not always.  With this one I get really verbal, and I start zapping people.  I guess because it’s the internet I can do this with impunity.
  5. Clocks are always at the top of the hour, like- 7:00 am.  Or they are at the bottom of the hour, like 11:30 pm.  I call this “chronosynchronism.” I believe this is evidence that my life is orchestrated, purposeful, and this is evidence I am very significant.  This is my latest.  And it really isn’t super disruptive.
  6. I can read secret messages in books meant for me.  I also line up spaces in what I’m reading to form an unbroken line.  I compulsively do this.
  7. The big one is this, I am in my form of “The Truman Show”.  The universe is just a set and I am the only living thing out there.  Everything is focused on me (of course).
  8. I hear voices sometimes, but mostly a radio or sometimes the “dot-dash-dot” of a telegraph.  I think its trying to warn me in some code.  It can be persistent. And it can be disruptive. Paranoid that my giftedness is cause for the NSA to control me.
  9. My wife intends to poison me.
  10. Personal hygiene issues. Afraid of being murdered in the shower creates a super-phobia. I once went 6 weeks without showering. (I made my own eyes ‘water’, lol).

I guess all of these have things in common.  They are self-centered.  They are unreasonable and illogical.  They are compulsive. And yes, meds do work.  And the above list?  The delusions are only mild-to-moderate issues of delusional paranoia.  There are so many Christians and non-Christians who have worse. I once met a man who seriously believed he was Jesus. (And no, I didn’t worship him).

As a believer working out his discipleship, I’ve discovered that humility and openness is always the way of keeping one tethered to reality.  However, I have a fear that I will break loose and never come out again.  I MUST live in “brokenness”.  (So in a strange way, following Jesus Christ is easier.)

Also, I must be open to things that will invalidate my delusion.  Even if I’m 99% convinced, that 1% will cause me to consider thinking through a scenario.  Truth is your best friend when you are challenging a delusional paranoid.  But it has to be gently applied. Life doesn’t have be lived this way. Also, delusions will often ‘morph’ and change and take on modified characteristics. This seems to be part of the mental illness, but can also indicate demonic oppression (or both even).

A psychiatrist should be informed in most cases. Very often meds will be necessary to get your loved one through this time, but not always.

Praying for delusional behavior

People have prayed for me, more then I have prayed for myself.  Your intercession bridges a gap over this illness.  When you pray, you power up the energy cells and get instructions.  It may mean wait, or proceed.  Every person and situation is different. Prayer is always the best approach.

(So many delusions and so little time.) They will vary from person-to-person. An active prayer may help, “Lord, may it be the real me who touches the real You.” Remember, Jesus stands at the right hand of his Father praying for you [which can’t be all bad].

“Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

Romans 8:34

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