Getting Wronged By Rights

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.  But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.'”   Luke 15:31-32

Pride is a wonderful thing, don’t you think?  Not the kind of pride that comes through accomplishments or belief in another, but the kind that is filled with self-righteous arrogance and the lack of understanding who God is and the fact that you’re not Him.  No, not so wonderful . . . it inflates the flesh!

Do you think Adam or Eve dealt with pride?  We don’t read much in the way of life after the fall but for little snippets that shed a little light upon the groans of a broken world.   I would suspect that there was some pride during the time when Adam and Eve were banished from the garden.  The emotions, the attitudes, the lack of fellowship with God had to have been filled with moments of absolute grief and loss.  The only place they had ever known was the Garden of Eden and despite all that was made for their pleasure, none was truly theirs anymore.  Suddenly, the first family was without the amenities of sin-free existence.

I can only imagine a few conversations about how they couldn’t be treated like this . . . or how they shouldn’t be treated like this.  How too, I suspect, they both questioned why they were designed, created and given life.  After all, the serpent convinced them that they knew better than God — that their plan far outweighed God’s plan.  They were wronged by rights.

The sense of entitlement that both Adam and Eve likely felt is not unlike the rights we feel we have when something we think belongs to us is taken away.  Much like Adam and Eve, when we take our eyes off the Designer and focus on the measure of me and what I am going to gain, we immediately lose sight of the promises that come through the union of Grace and Truth.

One of my favorite authors, Bill Gillham, writes about it so well in his book Lifetime Guarantee.

Stop fighting it, brother.  Give up all your “rights”–all talents, all abilities, all gifts, all the things you’ve clung to to get your need met for self-acceptance.  You’ll love the results!  You will find “life” through allowing Him to express Himself through your talents, your abilities, your fights, and your personality to a hurting world to do His will.  That’s the way Jesus walked.  He let the Father do it through Him.  (p. 201)

Thank you, Lord Jesus, that I don’t have to think that what I feel is rightfully mine is being squandered.  But instead, I can know that what I have is everything because you live within me!

Murdering Hope

Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.   Ephesians 4:31-32

I don’t have a clue what just happened, but I know who did it!  It was a team effort, they worked together and while they carefully manipulated the moment in their favor, the next move determined the fate of hope.  Unfortunately however, this murderous moment is not so uncommon and repeats itself virtually every day and often more than once.

Whether its like last night when I couldn’t find the ice cream scoop or yesterday when someone pulled into the parking spot I had been waiting on, it’s as though, as some say, someone just “peed in my cornflakes” and the smell of murder fills the air.  It’s when the sidekick accomplice of pride and entitlement lend their support to the masquerade.  When my friend speaks the truth and when family seems to turn their back, the characters begin to prepare for hope’s assassination.  There is nothing good that comes from the acts of resentment and bitterness — together they murder hope — and everyone gets hurt!

It seems like hope doesn’t have a fighting chance in this orchestrated tale of events, but hope has a few tricks up it’s sleeve just the same.  The lord over resentment and bitterness is lies themselves.  Hope is drained through the lies I choose to believe — both of myself and others.  Standing firm however, on the promises that Christ alone IS my everlasting Hope ushers in THE very thing that unravels the plans brought about by lies through resentment and bitterness.  When the ploy is revealed, hope lives!

Lord Jesus, while this story is silly in nature, it conveys a familiar pattern of destruction that so easily entangles.  I know who wins this and I know that hope through you is all the hope that is needed.  Jesus, I’m asking that you continue to heal me and guard my heart from resentment in the little, daily things, but more so, guard my attitude from bitterness and remind my mind of the fullness of my faith in you and the untrustworthiness of my emotions.

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope.  

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.  

Lamentations 3:19-26

Passive Attentive

Dear Lord Jesus, I can think of many things in my life, both past and present, that by definition fall into the category:  destructive.  Whether it be patterns of negative behavior or attitudes from the flesh, I know I have what it takes to single-handedly make a mess of everything.  This is no surprise to you.  I’m so thankful you are a God of restoration!

However, the sealing off of negative thoughts and inconclusive moments in my world have been conduits of passive aggressive behavior in my relationships.  You have spoken to me this morning as clear as the sun is shining and answered my prayer.

Awareness of your presence and the familiar tone of your voice are but refreshments to my weary mind and aching heart.  I am guilty of being passive attentive to your Spirit within me and when I neglect to listen, my doer listens to other things.  I hurt, others hurt, I no longer trust, others cannot trust — it’s not your plan.

I know I need to listen to you in all things, becoming actively attentive to your Spirit within.  Remind me of the power I have in you!  In your precious and Holy name, Jesus Christ, Amen!

We love because he first loved us.  If anyone says, I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar.  For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.  I John 4:19-20

Imperfect Is Perfect

. . . to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.   Galatians 4:5

Another notch on the door frame. Below it is where I was, this notch is where I am today.  But above me is a notch to which I desperately stretch to reach.  I just want to be like _______ (fill in the blank).  Good as them, tall as them, better than them.  How will I possibly measure up?  Will I ever meet expectations, standards, worth . . .  will I ever be good enough?

These questions and more have followed me all of my life.  Not bad questions at all, but ones, nonetheless, that cause my image to take on a disfigured shape depending on the point of personal reference in the who or what that matters most.  Against whom do I measure my worth?  Against what do I place my value and significance?  To whom do I think that I use as a filter in making decisions?  I can think of any number of people or things I’ve measured myself against.

Why is this?  Well, my futile attempts to be perfect, not fail, get props and the pat on the back have carved within my flesh a dependence on earthly acceptance and approval.  Beneath the scars from wounded attempts of measuring up lies the pain and guarded heart that harbors the memory of hurt.  And so long as I look around me for the answers to my questions that pertain to my life, my value and my worth, I will forever be searching a lost cause.

And this, praise the Lord, is not the way He taught!   Instead, my imperfections are perfect to Him so long as I keep my eyes on the One who came “under the law . . . to redeem those under the law” so that I may receive ALL, the FULL rights of, sonship!  In other words, I belong to the King . . . the Creator of all things, including me!!  Measuring up is no longer necessary, because in my imperfection I am adopted — given the fullness of belonging — and with that status, I am fully accepted!

And due to this relationship, I can call on my Dad (Abba, Father), and rest in His peace!

A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.   Proverbs 14:30

All Rights Reserved

The only right a Christian has is the right to give up his rights.  -Oswald Chambers

My nephew is 3 years old.  Lunch for his brothers and sister were being prepared for the day and they were being carefully assembled on the kitchen counter.  His mom grabbed the block of cheese from the refrigerator and began slicing pieces off for each of their lunch boxes.  No one was eating the cheese at the moment, it was for later.  But this little guy was ready, right now, to get his cheesy prize.  His logic was clearly, “if there’s cheese, then I get some.”  Unclear to him this was false logic, because once he found out he wasn’t getting any cheese, his happy, sweet and innocent self turned into a thrashing, loud and tearful torment.  What in the world just happened?

He felt he had a right to get cheese.  All the pieces were in place for this to be true . . . he was there, cheese was there, mommy was there, his mouth was there!  Cha-ching!

I have been challenged lately in my life in much the same way.  There are circumstances where I have felt all the right pieces were present for a very specific outcome.  On more than one occasion these moments have never turned out as I had imagined they would . . . or should.  So, upon departure I would find my anxiety to be high, my criticism to be sharp and despair to be looming near in the shadows.  What in the world just happened?

It’s all about my rights!  In those moments, much like my nephew, I thought I deserved something.  A pat on the back or a certain comment, maybe just a positive look to assure myself things are just fine.  The fact is I don’t NEED any of those things.  Sure, I’d like them and it would be added coolness to get them, but all of those things are already being met in and through Christ in me.  I just need to learn, and trust, in living in that truth.  My worth, my identity is found through Christ.

“I am the vine, you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  John 15:5

by: Mark Cruver