Climbing the Wall of Self

Get over yourself!  Has anybody ever said that to you?  Did you know what they meant?  Well I’ve been asking people what this statement means, and have gotten some rather puzzled looks.  One young lady shared that it’s being obsessed with yourself.  Most agreed that it’s thinking only of yourself and your self-importance.  Yet, isn’t this the challenge for all of us?  Don’t we all need to get over ourselves?

When I think of getting over myself I envision this masonry wall that I have to climb over.  On the other side of the wall I find much more happiness.  For when my focus is on others, and I lose the self-concern, I feel fulfilled.  But, that wall of self is hard to get over.  It’s a difficult climb that requires self-discipline. It sounds contradictory, but self-discipline is the way to get over yourself.  We need to get on the other side of the wall of self, but, as I said, it’s a difficult climb.

This is how the Apostle Paul said it to the Philippians:

            (Philippians 2:3-4, MSG) Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Paul was simply telling the Philippians to get over themselves, and I believe the message is also for us.  So, I’m passing the message on, with all love and empathy, exclaiming, get over yourself!  Be assured, I’ll be right beside you sharing the challenge in our attempt to climb that wall of self.

Real Love

This time of the year we tend to give more than at other times.  Maybe it’s because we’re more conscious of God’s giving to us. I was reading in 1 John chapter 3 this week, and I was reminded how important it is for us to show love in tangible ways like God has shown us.  Our giving is a display of our love for one another.  The Apostle John compares giving with Christ sacrifice on the cross.  1John 3:16-18 says it this way.  (Though I usually quote from the NIV, I like the way these verses are translated in the Message.)

This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us.  This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.  If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love?  It disappears.  And you made it disappear.  My dear children, let’s not talk about love; let’s practice real love. (MSG)

I take from these words that we are instruments of God’s love.  When we give in a tangible way we bless others with the love that God blessed us with.  I pray that each of us will be inspired for the coming season and throughout the coming year to practice real love.

The Trouble with Marriage

The most important thing to remember about marriage is that two human beings are involved.  Now humans are created in the image of God, but they picked up an additional element at the fall of man.  This additional element is known as a sinful nature.  When thrown into a marital situation the sinful nature can wreak havoc.  Since we all have this destructive element, those of us who are married have an inherent obstacle to success.  How do we combat this obstacle?

I don’t claim to have the ultimate answer, but here are some thoughts that might help.  First, don’t be surprised when your partner sins; remember it’s inherent.  So, be ready with love and mercy.  In Colossians 3:12 &13 there is some great advice,

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Having trouble incorporating this into you relationship?  Help is just a prayer away.  God has always answered my prayers of “help me!”  When I fail to see the wonder and blessing in my wife, I ask God to fix my eyes. I recognize that the fault is in me.  My failing to see is found in the clouding of self-centeredness.  I’m thinking of me and not her.  God always helps me to alter my perspective and see clearly the wonderful gift of her presence in my life.

I’m writing here from the husband’s point of view, but I’m pretty sure this also works for wives.  If both partners look for the fault in themselves then God has an easier task.  He doesn’t have to wait till we own our part of the problem.  I realized early in our marriage that it was unfruitful for me to try and fix what I thought was wrong with my wife.  (Do I hear chuckling in the background?)  Yes, only God can fix me, and only God can fix my wife.  We both have that sinful nature to deal with.  Thankfully, we have a savior who is always ready to help.  All we have to do is humble ourselves and ask.

With Great Expectation

I woke up this morning feeling better than I ever remember feeling.  My heart felt light, and I was in love with the world.  My wife seemed to be having the same kind of morning.  We had a pleasant breakfast together then left for work.  Walking out to my car several of my neighbors greeted me with a friendly good morning, and for the first time, I felt a genuine love for them as I returned their greeting.  I got in my car and headed out on my normal route to work.  I noticed that the normal intensity from my driving companions was missing.  People were not cutting each other off, but they were yielding to others and giving way in a very uncustomary manner.  All the tension and animosity of the usual experienced was gone.  I turned on the radio to hear the morning news.  Every report was of kind and generous acts occurring around the world.

Then I really woke up.  I realized I was dreaming.  To my dismay the scourge of sin was still among us.  Hatred, selfishness and mistrust were still guiding our actions.  How I longed for the world of my dream.  At that moment I realized, it is coming.  The reign of sin will end.  We will live in God’s presence where sin cannot exist.  God will usher in a new heaven and a new earth, and we won’t even remember the time of sin’s domination.  Hallelujah!  Let us patiently wait with great expectation.  (see Isaiah 65:17-25 and Revelation 21 & 22)

The Elect

Many brilliant minds over the ages have developed doctrines about the elect and predestination.  The elect are those who will during the course of time accept Jesus as their savior.  Predestination refers to the idea that God already knows who the elect are. My endeavoring to add to or distract from the many works on this subject would be arrogant presumption.  But, I would like to throw in a few thoughts on the subject anyway.  You decide.  I know I’m treading on dangerous ground.

The apostles Paul and Peter both wrote about God’s foreknowledge of the ones who would become his children.  In Romans 8:29 Paul writes,

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

In 1 Peter 1:1 Peter writes,

            Peter an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, exiles scattered throughout the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood.

In the past, when I read these passages, I would get lost in all the doctrinal issues they have spurred.  Now they just make me feel wanted.  God wants me.  He pursued me and patiently waited for me.  Perhaps you have inkling that you’re being perused by God.  I can, without reservation, recommend that you surrender to him.  Entrust yourself to his foreknowledge.

What Now?

Once you have received Jesus as your savior you come to a place where you wonder, what now.  Many are ready with answers.  You’ll hear directions such as: find a church, get involved, learn your spiritual gifts, and most of all work hard for the Lord.  Surely this is good advice, for James reminds us that faith without works is dead. (James 2:17)   The danger though for us humans is we get too focused on our works.  Then we find ourselves working for God’s approval, or worse, other’s approval.  Burned out grumpy Christians are the results, and that is not very attractive.  There must be a better answer to the question “what now”.

The Prophet Micah clears it up for us.  In Micah 6:8 we read,

He has shown you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

To act justly:

Treat others with fairness, be impartial – do what is right in regard to others.

Love mercy:

Be forgiving and have compassion on ones who offend us or are in need.

Walk humbly with our God:

Recognize who God is, and our place in regard to him.  He is the all-powerful God who spoke the universe into existence.  We are his created beings whom he loves.

I believe these three instructions help to keep us from getting lost in our good works.  Notice the focus is on others and God not ourselves.

The Wisdom of Age

 

When I was in my early thirties I remember saying to a prominent lawyer in Binghamton, NY, “Where is the wisdom of age in our society? It seems like the older people are running after the same stuff as the younger people. Now that I am twice as old I find that the wisdom is there among my friends. Perhaps we just have to ask.

At a gathering of these friends I asked them, if you could share one word of wisdom with a twenty year old what would you say? These were couples it their fifties and sixties that had found Jesus in their walk through life. It was unanimous that the most important thing would be to surrender to Jesus. Here is there second spur of the moment responses.

  • Be patient, wait for God, and don’t jump ahead.
  • Walk forward and do what comes to you (you don’t have to look for it or make it happen).
  • Stuff happens! Troubles will come your way. Walk through them with God and you’ll become stronger, and the good times will seem even better.
  • Pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done”, this prayer is good in all situations. Ask God to put you into his day.
  • As a part of the body of Christ, stay in your place. All jobs are not your jobs. Leave room for others and you’ll avoid burn out.
  • Cherish every moment with your children for the time passes quickly.
  • If you’ve got something to do, do it. Push yourself to get started and the finish will come. Enjoy your work.
  • God is in the circumstances. Don’t spend your time trying to avoid circumstances but embrace them. Find God in your circumstances.
  • Enjoy life whatever your life is. God does always seek us, finds us and carries us. This is the higher perspective.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously.