Don’t Take This Personally


No one’s life has ever been made better by taking more things personally. 

With each gesture, each word or tone of voice that I choose to take as an affront to my worth or goodness I make myself a little more miserable and a little more insufferable.  That child who just rolled his eyes at me?  That behavior must be assaulted!  Because, after all, I don’t deserve such attitude (my thought is not that the child must be disciplined because his soul is in danger; I don’t care so much about that right now).  My spouse didn’t respond the way I’d hoped?  I can’t just overlook that!  Are you kidding me?  That’s an attack on my value and seriousness and weight as a person.  

Each and every little slight or difficulty that I opt to take personally is another handful of seeds that I’m sowing that yield awful, deadly weeds as time goes on.  Weeds that choke out contentment and gladness and good humor.  The more I take personally, the more I can expect to see personal bitterness and strained relationships in my life.  

Word to the unwise:  Take yourself a little less seriously.  Choose to overlook even real and intended insults.  And remember that according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you don’t deserve anyone’s respect.  Remember these things.  You’ll be happier and more pleasant to be around.  

Trust me.  I’m writing from less than 24 hours’ distance from doing this in the wrong direction.  Pride and self-importance made me a mean and hardened man for a few hours last night.  It was unpleasant.  

Take yourself less seriously.  Have less grievances.  Your blood pressure and your closest relationships will reflect the change sooner than you might think.  

A humble heart is more than ready to bear good fruit in place of bad weeds.  

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Let This War Kill Him


One of the most freeing parts about being a Christian is being on the right side in a war that’s already been won.  

And one of the villains who has been laid down in that war is all of the worst things inside of yourself.  

We’re preaching through the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7) as a church right now, and one of the things that Jesus does for me as I read it and think about it and pray through it is to reveal to me how many wicked things there are inside of my heart.  In the corners, under the floorboards, stuck up in the attic, in all sorts of hidden spaces within my heart are some disgusting things.  And He knows about them. 

And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 

Matthew 6:16-18

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 

Matthew 7:3

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 

Matthew 5:22

Jesus knows how wicked I can be.  He knows.  My greedy motives and petty, little grudges and pretentious, false religiosity are all before Him.  

The wickedness in my flesh and soul do not surprise or perplex Jesus.  

And He says that as I am conformed more and more to Him, as I’m made more and more teleos (Matthew 5:48; “perfect” or “complete” or “mature,” e.g., Hebrews 5:14) as I am grown as a Christian by grace through faith, those sick and awful pieces of myself are getting laid low.  

There is hope for the Christian.  There is hope for me.  I am a territory being conquered by a good King.  My heart is a battlefield, and I myself am a soldier on the right side.  

This war will end someday, and all the veterans like me will stand in the light of our Sovereign, with bodies and souls that will be big enough and clean enough to enjoy Him to the fullest.  

15 Seconds For the Bitter

  

Often, the chain that binds your heart to bitterness is self-righteousness.  It’s the controlling, constant belief that you did not deserve what was done to you.  And so you can’t forgive.  You can’t stop re-living it.  You can’t stop hating.  

If that’s you, let go of the illusion that you are intrinsically righteous, and you will find your heart freer to forgive.
In Christ, we can know that our sins against God are far more offensive than any sins committed against us.  And we are offered forgiveness by grace through faith in Him.  

Preaching this great Gospel to one’s self helps to foster forgiveness and kill bitterness.  Because no man is ready to forgive from the heart more than the one who knows how wicked he was before Christ.  

Where self-righteousness locks you to bitterness, the Gospel frees you to forgiveness.  

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. 

Matthew 6:14-15

30 Seconds On Grace

  
Christian, the grace you extend is the grace you really believe in. 

If you do not forgive the sins and mistakes of others, it is because, regardless of what you say, you do not approach God with the posture of one who has been forgiven of wrongdoing.  

Instead, you see yourself as more righteous than those who have wronged or inconvenienced you.  And so, unlike Jesus Christ, who truly was holier than those who wronged Him, you refuse to extend them mercy.  While Jesus spent Himself on His enemies’ forgiveness and rescue, you plant yourself on a throne of judgment and refuse to be gracious.  

What do you really believe about grace?  If you want to know how you really see yourself in relation to God, don’t look at your words.  

Look at how you forgive.  

And this could just as easily be a letter to myself.  

A Father Story


A man had a son, whom he loved and raised. Everything a dad should be to a boy, this man was. He taught him right from wrong, he provided for his needs, and he always had the boy’s best interests at heart. But through no fault of this father’s, as the boy became a teenager the outworkings of his heart became worse and worse. He spoke insults to his father, was constantly violent at school, and lied to and stole from friends, neighbors, and family.

The boy didn’t care about the long, long hours his father worked to provide for him. It meant nothing to him that his dad treasured him and thought about him often during the day and wanted only good things for him. He was thoroughly self-absorbed, and he wanted nothing but an easy life of pleasure for himself.

At about the age of 18, the boy was able to put together a scheme to steal all the money from his father’s savings account. He was a lech, but he was cunning. So he cleaned the account of his dad’s life’s savings, several hundred thousand dollars the good old man had planned to leave to the boy and his extended family and the church someday. The son laughed with a buddy as he bought a new car he planned to drive to the coast, never looking back.

The father was shattered when he discovered what his son had done, not because of the money he’d lost, but the boy. He was forced to sell his house and buy a much smaller condo, but he continued to work and be the man he’d always been, though always while looking for his son. Hours spent on calling known friends, searching his name on the internet, and sending pleading messages to the boy’s e-mail. There was never any answer, never any response, until 5 years later, when the father got a letter.

It was a message from one of his son’s friends. The boy had pulled off another online theft, stealing $100,000 from a financial group in the town where he’d settled. The group was suing him, and the boy was facing a felony and decades in jail since he couldn’t make restitution. His friend felt obliged to let the father know, but sadly he told the old man that the son had not changed and that he showed no remorse.

It was three weeks later when this father came into a court appearance, his son shocked when he saw his face. The old man offered the judge and the plaintiffs $100,000 in full, and asked if the charges might be dismissed and the boy released to him. The parties agreed, but the judge asked him where the money had come from, and when the man explained that he had sold his condo and then come as quickly as he could, the judge, knowing what kind of young man this was, asked why.

The father was unashamed in his answer: “Because I’m his Dad. And he’s my son. I know he doesn’t deserve it. I know it better than anybody. I’m not paying because he does. I’m paying because he is mine, and I love him.”

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:1-9

Praise be to God for not sparing the Son in saving wretches and thieves like me.

15 Seconds On Eleos

  
Mercy is what founded the church. 

The impenetrable walls of the Kingdom of Christ, the ink of His redemptive Story, is the unmerited love of God.  His inexplicable, unsearchable adoration for His formerly wretched people.  

The power that held back the deep waters of an Egyptian sea for Moses and that killed 185,000 soldiers for Hezekiah runs through the love that brings a dead sinner to faith in Christ.  It is a grace, a mercy, a benevolence that knows no equal.  

We Christians are a people created by the grace of our Father in Christ Jesus.  We are a people borne of the unspeakable compassion of the triune God.  

We are a people of mercy, for we were wrought by a God of mercy.  

60 Seconds on Free Will

  
The reason why grace is grace is that the freest will in the universe is God’s.  If in salvation man’s will were determinative, if a human being’s will to be saved was the scale-tipper instead of God’s will to save him, then God would ultimately be beholden to His creature’s will.  The deciding factor in why He saved the human would be the human’s will, not His own grace.  

But I firmly believe, and Scripture confirms for me, that grace is the deciding factor in my salvation.  I know I was dead in sin and a slave to Satan, and that it was God’s grace that made me alive together with Christ.  And grace is unhindered, un-obligated, totally free favor.  For grace to be grace, the hand that bestowed it must have been just as free not to give it as to give it.  If the determinative factor were outside the giver, it wouldn’t be gift.  It’d be payment.  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 

Ephesians 2:8-9

Praise be to the God who frees bound wills and awakens dead hearts.  

Just like any other slave, the human will only gets loosed when a stronger hand breaks the chains.  

The will is a slave that the grace of Jesus can make free.  

And the fact that it’s in bondage until He does so is one of the reasons we call God’s saving work “grace.”