Tag Archive: discipleship


Photo credit: Woman's Day

Photo credit: Woman’s Day

Confession time! The transformation of recovery isn’t complete when Self keeps taking charge.

For the last couple weeks, I have moved, for the most part, into a guest bedroom in my house, partially to study without disturbing my precious bride, but mostly to hide from disappointment. I have repeatedly told the one who loves me that I was giving her “space to have her own way.” The truth is I have grown increasingly impatient, even intolerant, with her decisions lately. I have judged her actions as being based on her whim and emotion, when they are more than likely only lacking what I would deem an appropriate level of consideration of my own will, wish, and way. Either way, I am using isolation as a shield for disappointment, whether the expectations that feed it are realistic and fair or not.

Last night, while I fell asleep alongside her for a change, my mind and mouth were engaged even in the twilight of wakefulness. In the mental fog where the lies that support justifications begin to buckle under the weight of truth, I had some profound thoughts that escaped by way of mumbled, almost hypnotic, verbal expression. I confessed to my precious bride that, more than anything else, I am afraid of her. Not that I am afraid of her intentions or convictions, but that her intellect is not behind the wheel. After acknowledging my fear that her emotional navigation would run us, or more accurately – me, amok, I was forced to acknowledge that isolating myself from her to prevent injury puts my own emotions at the helm of my life, and so, constitutes me becoming the monster of which I was afraid.

The last thought I remember uttering before drifting off was that she is worth whatever pain I may experience, whatever it takes. As I recall what Christ endured for His Church (Ephesians 5:25), I am reminded that I have “not yet suffered to the point of shedding (my) blood” (Hebrews 12:4). I have not done everything I can. I have avoided pain by disengaging. I have behaved according to my own self-interest rather than sacrificing myself “as an act of worship” (Romans 12:1) giving preference to those around me. “As a dog returns to his vomit” (Proverbs 26:11) I have put Self on the throne of God yet again!

“Selfishness – self-centeredness! That, we think, is the root of our troubles. Driven by a hundred forms of fear, self-delusion, self-seeking, and self-pity…” (AA, 62).

Holy Father, rescue me from the bondage of self!* I have wandered back into my old cage, and it is dark and lonely in here. Deliver me so I can be relevant to those You have placed in my path, and that You, not me, may be glorified. Make Your light shine on me and reflect onto others, that they may be attracted to You and discover for themselves that You are able and willing to deliver us from our prisons, no matter how comfortable we have made them. Empower me to do Your will only always. Through Christ our Lord, amen!

 

* (a variation of AA’s Step Three Prayer, Alcoholics Anonymous, page 63)

Build From Bottom Up

  “But among you it will be different. Those who are the greatest among you should take the lowest rank, and the leader should be like a servant.” (‭Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭26‬ NLT)
The service structure of a Twelve-Step Fellowship is modeled after this Kingdom rule. Service is bottom-up, not condescending. The invisible honor that results is contrary to Earth’s understanding, and looks upside-down, but it isn’t. The things of Heaven are unseen (Colossians 1:16), and so it is with spiritual living while on Earth. We are blessed for the purpose of service, and I am only content when I am giving myself in worship of my Creator by serving His other creations.

“A wise woman builds her home, but a foolish woman tears it down with her own hands. Those who follow the right path fear the LORD; those who take the wrong path despise him.” (‭Proverbs‬ ‭14‬:‭1-2‬ NLT)
I believe either of these verses could stand alone, but together they pose a parallel that amplifies the meaning of the second one by the word picture of the first. Failure for me to follow Lord Jesus Christ is the same folly as if I were to rip apart my own house in a violent fit. The use of a woman in the first picture demonstrates the social expectation of stewardship. It isn’t just any resident of the house going all Tazmanian Devil on it, but the housekeeper herself! I am my own life’s housekeeper, and so the choice to build or destroy, to follow or despise, is mine.

Holy Father, today, I choose to follow Your lead to love sacrificially, to serve others and, by extension, You. You are my motivation to breathe, move, fuel, plan, and act. Save me from selfish reaction today, and guide me under Your grace to peace. Cause my living to reflect Your loving care, and brighten my light so others will know You. In Christ Jesus’ name, amen!

pure water leaf“But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you.” (Joshua 23:15, NIV)

“I have sworn an oath to David, and in my holiness I cannot lie.” (Psalm 89:35, NIV)

These verses should be effective in wiping away a common misconception about God that is comfortable to entertain: the one that paints God as merely a warm and fuzzy grandfather-type who lets us have our way and who, consequently, disappoints us when our every wish isn’t materialized. God demands holiness of Himself and, while He has instituted grace as a covering for imperfection, He has been clear that obedience toward holiness is still our part of the covenant. Any doubt of that should be clarified in His declaration in Psalm 89. (The whole chapter seems to address this issue.) Joshua was clear to Israel just as Moses was when he laid before them the choice between life and death (Deuteronomy 30:19), and it should be clear to this generation’s children of Heaven too.

I can Twelve-Step my holiness problem this way: 1) I am powerless over sin, and my life is (by my power) unmanageable; 2) I believe God can deliver and restore me to sane living and abundant life; 3) I make a conscious decision to turn over to God everything I am, have, and will become, to live for His purposes rather than my whims; etcetera, through the Twelve Steps. As long as I am carried by a body of meat I will be prone to human decay, and while Earth’s gravity holds me I will stand imperfectly on this rock, but I have the hope of relationship with a Creator who is not content to leave me alone until He perfects me for eternal unity with Him (Philippians 1:6).

Gravitys HoldTo reach for holiness, I have to look at sin differently through eyes of grace. Sin includes anything outside God’s perfect will for me, not just the firebrands I once used to convict others and make myself feel superior – murder, robbery, adultery, and the like. I sin when I think self-serving thoughts – not just lust, but laziness, pride, self-satisfying cravings. To don this attitude toward sin without the undergarment of grace would be to fling all hope into despair, because the consequence of sin is always death. Not to apply it, however, is to be a friend of the world and enemy of holiness, and I cannot bear to tolerate my enmity with God while His is the relationship I most fervently seek to maintain.

Holy Father, today, while I celebrate all the progress with which you have blessed me, I acknowledge that there is nothing I have or am that You did not create, that You do not own, and that You could not take away. I align myself with You. Thank you for accepting me, faults and all. Now make me more acceptable to You by whatever means You determine necessary. I submit. Clean out the closets of my heart, all my secret places. Shine light into my darkness and sweep away the debris of my shame. Make me aware of anything that remains for me to address, and give me grace to address it according to Your will. Be glorified in who I am and what I do. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen!

Take my colt!

 If anyone asks, ‘Why are you untying that colt?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it.’” (‭Luke‬ ‭19‬:‭31‬ NLT)

I want to be like the farmer who owned the donkey. Ready for the Lord to take what He needs from me without further explanation.

Holy Father, today, I reaffirm that all I am and have is Yours. Forgive and remove my selfish grip on my surroundings.

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23 Then he said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23, NRSV)

Notice, please, because it took me forty-one years to notice, that it does not say, “My disciples should demonstrate that they know more of my words than their fellows by drumming them into each other with judgmental condescension.” Neither does it say, “Make your light so shine that all others may be blinded by the brilliance of it and ashamed of their own flickering glimmer.” God is not interested in the pride of man masquerading as discipleship. That is self-righteousness, which is not righteousness at all, but only selfishness. Jesus’ instruction was to deny selfish desires and motives, even that of self-preservation, in preference for following His lead.

May I say that again?
Jesus’ instruction was to deny selfish desires and motives, even that of self-preservation, in preference for following His lead.

If Jesus instructs that concerning losing life and gaining it, what do you think He means about appetites, cravings, lusts, physical or material desires? If we are to deny ourselves even to the point of taking up our cross, our guillotine, our firing squad, our noose, our electric chair, our lethal injection, then why do we feel so smugly content to pick up our addictive substance of choice just because we want it? It’s not a good time to quit. I’ve got a lot going on this weekend. I just can’t live without it today. Whatever! We are instructed to put Self in its place and nail it on its crossbeams.

It doesn’t matter what you want, Self! I’m following Jesus today!

Dear Father, today, I seek Your strength in hammering the nails into my self-will. Deliver me from the slavery of self-service, so I can be fully occupied with Your service. I cannot serve both You and Self. Help me take up my cross and follow You, not for my glory but Yours.