Monday, August 31, 2015

Not Me!

Just a few short weeks ago, I taught my first VBS class. 18 third and fourth graders arrived for 5 full mornings or fun and learning about Christ. What surprised me most was discovering that at the tender age of 8 and 9, people can already be hostile towards the Gospel.

One little boy quickly became known for the phrase “not me!”

When we spoke about Jesus healing people and asked if anyone could think of a time they were hurt or sick and wished to feel better, he’d pipe up “not me!” He explained that he believed the concept of sin is mean. Through explanations about grace, and sin’s effect on the whole world, and even God’s love for us, he remained steadfast in his proclamations “not me. Not me, I don’t want that.

At the end of the week, my husband took a turn sharing the Gospel. He had heard how much these kids loved sports and competition, so He began to explain how, to play a sport, there had to be rules. To win the sport, you had to follow the rules well. That meant knowing the rules, which meant learning from someone who taught them and enforced them. He highlighted how God wasn’t “mean” for enforcing the rules because if he didn’t, no one could win.

The little guy was listening intently. He tried to say not me and explain all of the reasons he didn’t need rules and rules ruined everything. But when my husband said “and I know I never wanted rules. I wanted to play my own way. Lots of us just want to do we want…” Mr. Not Me shouted out “THAT’s ME!

And the lesson just went on…

If we never learn the game or the rules, we’re never really playing with anybody else…we never have a chance to do well because no one can say if we’re doing well. We also never really get to win…

That got his attention. And mine, too.

We do live in a world that is all about “me.” Every day we’ve got the option to say “not me” and live our own way. That way might require denial, rebellion, isolation, determination, and much more to make it work.

But we don’t see it that. Rarely do we realize how often we say “not me” to the Lord.

When his standards seem too hard, we say “not me, I’ve got grace” instead of trying to meet those difficult expectations. Like Mr. Not Me, we’d often rather live with all sorts of brokenness pretending it doesn’t exist than say “Lord, I’m not sufficient but you are.”

We’re especially quick to find excuses, too. “Not me, I don’t gossip. I just have to talk about this person because otherwise (insert excuse).”


Here’s what we miss:

  • ·         Opportunities for the Lord to heal what is broken
  • ·         Growth through challenges instead of simply surviving them
  • ·         Chances to discover that when we try –and fail- grace is sufficient after all
  • ·         Room to see how God can overcome even the “me” parts we despise
  • ·         A salvation free from guilt, fear, and an obsession over “earning our own way” because it has nothing to do with "me" and everything to do with Him. 

Our Lord isn’t a Lord who worries about “me” or “not me” –He can use us either way. His concern isn’t with our lacks or our strengths, but His glory. We don’t need to feel shame or overcompensate for it with excuses and self-enforced failures and suffering.

“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17)

Remember who came first, who created you, and who knows: God.

The one who not only set the rules and picked you to play and coach, but who set you up as you are, too. There’s no room, and no need, for “not me” with the one who made “me.”

The victory is His, and it's won already. Rejoice that you are on His team and trust in his gameplay. Because "not me, I can't, and I won't, lose this race."

Monday, August 24, 2015

Convicted…By Pride

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
-Jeremiah 17:9

It must be right. It meets all of the usual moral obligations. It:

  • ·         Doesn’t Go Against the Bible
  • ·         Could be Considered Ministry
  • ·         Makes People Feel Good
  • ·         Is Related to God
  • ·         Is Supported by Many

We check our version of this list when we begin to feel convicted about doing something. When decisions arrive or plans must be made, we act on our convictions concerning these things.

But we often forget at the same time to ask what we are convicted by.

You and I can be convicted as much by pride as we can be by righteous obedience to our Lord.

The sense of self-preservation and self-regard is strong in our sinful nature. In fact, it’s so integral to our lives that we often act for self-gain without even realizing it. In our everyday conversations, basic choices, and even our simplest preferences we show concern for ourselves before anything else.

Even in our relationships, our decisions and feelings are often based on what we want, what we think best, and what we find most suitable for ourselves. From the way we plan our schedules to our responses to those we love, it’s more often than not that our intentions are ultimately about our own gain.

From this place of “me first” we’re easily convicted by pride instead of by the Lord. Utterly convinced that our way is the right way or that we couldn’t have been wrong, we can easily be propelled far from God’s plan without ever realizing it.

It’s a harsh reality, but no less the truth.

Don’t allow your heart to deceive you. As you make decisions, big and small, ask yourself: am I fervently obeying my desires or the Lord? (CLICK TO TWEET)

This post is being shared on: #TestimonyTuesday, #RaRaLinkupIntentionally Pursuing,Titus2sday, and Thought-Provoking Thursday.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Praise for Our Idols

What do you think about during worship?

“Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down….”

The words are posted on the screen, and they’ll change just in time if you forget the rest. Fellow believers are up front, strumming and pounding out the tune. You hear their wonderful voices and yours even joins in.

Meanwhile, another song runs through your head. The words on repeat for the hundredth time this week:

“He said and then I said. And we’ve got to make this decision. And I wonder what they’ll think. Which way is right? This reminds me of the time…”

Oh. The volume has softened and your voice must, too. That’s right…

“Lord, I need you, oh I need you...”

The chords playing through your mind this morning begin again. Louder than the words on the screen, which you know anyway. You tune into the line:

“Need…need milk. Did I remember to put that on the grocery list. God, I’ve got so much to do this grocery trip needs to be fast. And then what? Right. Having them over…there they are. Two rows up. I love her sweater. I wonder how they’re doing…”

But the beat has stopped. It’s grown quiet as a voice speaks out without rhythm. Time for prayer. You close your eyes and bow your head. Agreeing as the person up front proclaims God’s goodness and worth, you slip into the usual meditation of prayer:

“Thank you Lord, for who you are. I need this. Will you help me in that? Please be with this person…”

Music is playing again. Look up. Breathe in, you’ve prayed and He has heard. This is a safe place, a good place…

“Come in this place, Oh God, we’ll meet you here…”

But you –you, fellow worshipper- are you here? Am I?

You’ve spent your time of worship focused on the week’s stuff. On your plans and your to-do lists. Your time with the Lord was used to ask and to receive, and not to give. Sure, you gave thought to that person you care for, and you prayed…but what did you worship?

Imagine if those lyrics went:

“Here I am to worship, here I am to bow down to my concerns.”

“Lord, I need groceries. I need time, I need calm. Oh Lord, your peace and presence isn’t productive enough for my plans today.”

“Come in this place, specifically her place…specifically her pain…specifically would you come, Lord, and make this better? Come in this place worry, come in this place fear and anguish, come and meet me here in this place of distraction.”

When our lips sing praise but our hearts are from the Lord, we end up worshiping our other idols: our relationships, our concerns, our time, our plans, and our dreams.

Recall Scripture’s strong words on the topic: “Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 26:1.)

Beware of turning from the Lord all the time. But especially beware of turning from Him during time dedicated to worshiping him…regardless of what it is that you are turning to. He is worthy of that worship, and when we prepare our hearts to praise but get distracted, we end up lifting high plenty that isn’t the Lord.