Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Problem of Self Deception

Untrustworthy. That is my assessment of my own heart. I have made poor decisions in the past based upon my emotions. I have trusted my own thoughts and plans and found them to be in error. I have convinced myself in the past that wrong is right and right is wrong. I know it to be true that the "heart is deceitful", as Jeremiah says.

Being Decieved is easy. But it is the ultimate betrayal when it is your own heart that betrays you. James tells us that this has roots in a shallow relationship with the Lord. "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22) Amazingly, it is possible for us to be in church hearing the word, read the scriptures often and yet have a predetermined plan that we will only obey those commands that "make sense" to us. This, of course, means that we are our own Lord and Jesus... well Jesus isn't. As scary as that may be, it gets worse.

We spiral into a deception that is self induced and get farther and farther from the will of God. This is further exasserbated by the religious veil that is cast over our lives. We can lie and decieve, cheat and connive, and lust and covet- all the while we are singing "Praises to Jesus". What we are sometimes to dull to percieve and what others cannot tell at all is that our praises and prayers are rejected from heaven. God rejects those attempts are relationship with him. Isaiah's generation had their hypocritical religious actions rejected by God. He said in Chapter 1
When you spread out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen

It seems like the people going through these actions needed Isaiah to tell them they were wasting their time because they had so decieved themselves.

A sobering thought.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Secrets of Self Control

Gal 5.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.

In a recent article Daniel Akst bemoans the fact that we are losing the personal battles in self control. He warns, "...Human nature hasn't changed, but the landscape of temptation sure has. Technology is a leading culprit. From refrigeration to credit cards to automobiles to the Internet, technology makes it possible for more and more people to live surrounded by "supernormal" stimuli. Technology goes hand-in-glove with capitalism, which plays a large but complex role as well...In the future, self-control is only going to get harder. People across the world are more affluent, more mobile, and less tradition-bound. Behaviors that were once taboo or outlawed are gaining acceptance, and so can be indulged stigma-free."

This is all bad news to those of us who are charged to "walk by the Spirit" and "not gratify the desires of the flesh". In a world where there is such a lack of personal integrity , where morality is seen as passe and archaic, and where self indugence is celebrated as 'self actualization', it will be increasingly difficult for men and women of God to live out a Biblical morality.

Akst further reminds us that this is a predictor of success."We now know that small children who can refrain from seizing a treat grow up into more successful adults in almost every way. Among students, self-control is a better predictor of academic success than IQ.." I suppose we should not be surprised that God's way ends up blessing those who walk in self-control.

Self-control gives us the ability to manage our anger, our lusts, our appetites, our covetousness, our money, and a thousand other impulses that assail our senses. We are better people for learning the secrets of self-control.

Accountability. Making ourselves accountible to another is a key to self-control. Sometimes we do that after the fact, such as letting your spouse review your calorie intake when you are on a diet. Sometimes we do that before the fact, "Honey, don't let me drink too much at this party we attending." This takes some minor organization and must be set up ahead of time.

Predetermined consequences. We might commit to ourselves that if we have difficulty watching inappropriate movies that we cancel the cable package that allows that channel into our home. Or we might precommit to only go out to eat Saturday night if the garage gets organized. This can be a motivational method but it still requires discipline.

Contagious Discipline. I have discovered that when I am disciplined in one area I find a way to be disciplined in other areas of my life. Exercise, for instance, helps my prayer and Bible reading habits.

Spirituality. But ultimately, walking in self-control is equivalent to walking in the Spirit. When I am submitted to God totally, loving him with my whole heart, and surrendered to his will I don't want to personally grieve Him. By discovering God's opinion of my issues I learn what pleases Him and can adjust my life accordingly. Knowing my life pleases Him is an amazing feeling. It is a powerful motivator to be 'right' with God. And that is likely the greatest secret of all in this world.

Study scriptures Prov 25.28; 2 Tim 1.7; Prov 1.2; Phil 4.13; 1 Thess 5.6-8; 1 Pet 5.8-9; Mt 26.41

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Letter to my Enemies

Yeah, you know who you are.
You are more interested in tearing me down than in helping me grow. You spread stuff about me to others and some of it is true. You do everything you can to entice me to sin- be it in rage, or lust, or covetousness, or whatever. You try to discourage me and when that doesn't work, you go after my family- hoping to discourage them from walking in the ways of God. You hinder my relationship with friends and confidants and try to poison their thoughts concerning me. You are a hitman to assassinate my character. You judge me. You provoke me. You entice me. You tempt and torture me.

I hate what you do to my friends, too. You twisted perverts! You suck all the joy out of their lives, and destroy every precious thing in their lives. You are so slick sometimes they can't even see it is YOU that did all that. You are quite the liars!

I am sick of it. Sick of giving in to your discouragement. Sick of the flesh acting out. Sick of the lies. Sick of the slick sales job you use to entice. I am sick of you using my own lusts against me. Sick of the emptiness that I feel when I give in to your despair.

So I am determined to humiliate you. You better watch out because I am coming right at YOU. I will continue to live my life for God. I will not care about what others think about me, and I will not compromise because of you! You are losers- everyone of you. That will be clear soon enough. I am sure that God will smite your jaw and rattle your teeth soon enough. So I hope you enjoyed this cause this is the last time I am giving you a thought. You are of no account to me. I am done with you.