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

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

*

A Doubting Faith

faith-and-doubt“”Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”

20 He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.””

Matthew 17:19-20, NLT

The text is intriguing; it seems to direct us to consider the unbelief of the disciples. They had tried so hard to do what Jesus wanted; they get an “A” for effort, but they can’t heal this boy. They correctly discern a demons presence, but they are stymied after trying to exorcise it.

The disciples “crash and burn” is uppermost in their hearts. They have a private meeting with Jesus to determine what went wrong. Their expectations were running high; they expected success in this encounter with darkness. After all, weren’t they Jesus main followers?

Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him.” John 12:37, NIV

 Jesus is on his way to be crucified. It would be fair to say that his mind was occupied with this. He is still performing healings for the needy, and although awesome things are happening, the crowds remained doubting. They would remain uncertain about him, and many would go on to mock and revile him in just a few days.

Doubt is an insidious thing. It allows one to see, but not respond. It seems to be a cowardly attitude that masks itself as safety and security. There is a willingness not to make a response when that is precisely what is being called for. It is content to live uncommitted and remain unaffiliated. Truth is neutered and we want it to be so.

I certainly don’t mean to be overly harsh to those with doubts. But there are some who put their faith in their doubts and that is slightly disturbing. They see, but do not perceive. They hear, but do not really listen.

“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17

 Believers who doubt are in a strange place. But saving faith is always growing, in spite of one’s own skepticism. Questions are to be welcomed; honest inquiry is not a threat, but an issue of a seeking heart. Faith without evidence is no better than superstition. I think believers who never ever doubt are “a freak of nature.” Our faith may struggle, and hard questions be asked, but my faith still holds.

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

We are to grow in our faith. The Bible describes it as “life.” To be a believer in Jesus is a journey of confidence and hope (these words have been carefully chosen). When we find ourselves without these two working in our hearts we become unbelieving believers. Maybe we should doubt our doubts before we doubt our faith.

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.”   Oswald Chambers

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg

The Master of My Panic

“God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.
So we will not fear when earthquakes come
    and the mountains crumble into the sea.”

Psalm 46:1-2, NLT

[David says,] “Fear and trembling overwhelm me,
    and I can’t stop shaking…But I will call on God,
    and the Lord will rescue me.”

Psalm 55:5, 16

Apparently, David understood what we now call a “panic attack.” He sure wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. David understands the shaking and fear that wanted to eat him up. He seems to go from “crisis-to-crisis” and very possibly this could of contributed to a deep anxiety.

My own experience with a panic attack is similar to what he must’ve felt. I start to shake and feel a pressing anxiety. The trembling gets very intense, I feel like death is imminent and my heart races. A feeling of doom often accompanies this. When I first started having them they were completely overwhelming; I had no idea what they were. They were quite scary. They seemed to happen once every week, sometimes more, sometimes less.

Mayo Clinic has put out the following list of symptoms:
  • Sense of impending doom or danger
  • Fear of loss of control or death
  • Rapid, pounding heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or tightness in your throat
  • Chills
  • Hot flashes
  • Nausea
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Chest pain
  • Headache
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness or faintness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Feeling of unreality or detachment

Mine typically last for 20-30 minutes. When I finally asked my doctor, she knew exactly what they were. There is no drug; the attack can only be treated by an awareness of what is happening. There is no cure for them and really no way to eliminate them completely. I was stuck with them.

As a believer the panic attack had to be understood as coming under the lordship of Jesus Christ. When an attack occurs it is time for me to “hunker down”and prepare for the coming storm. Since I know he is in charge, I become less anxious. (And that is a good thing.)

Educating myself has helped a lot. Just to know many others experience them is a real encouragement. The panic attack is quite common and much is known about it, the attack can be understood and even managed by understanding its true nature.

I know that all that touches me is the Lord’s concern; of that I have no doubt.

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/panic-attacks/basics/definition/CON-20020825

bry-signat (1)

cropped-christiangraffiti1.jpg