Nobody’s perfect (part II)

I am part of a team of people starting “HOPE” for Mental Health at Kentwood Community Church.  We are part of Celebrate Recovery founded by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church.  This group of courageous people, who admit their imperfections and trust Jesus to deliver them, have been a catalyst to me being able to confess my sins to another trusted person (or small group).  I read my Nobody’s Perfect post from August of 2013 tonight and realized I had promised to get back to you when I had put this into practice.

Much better late than never.

I had told Jesus my sins but telling another person with skin on freed me from most of the grip of satan in my life.  No amount of prayer has freed me as much as telling my sin to another person.  Sin loses power when exposed.

I have known for years that I was “supposed to” confess my sins to another.  But I made excuses and told myself it really didn’t matter.  I lost years of my life to satan’s influence simply because “I know more than God.”

God is not mocked.  I reaped what I sowed.

But I have learned.

Hopefully.

It took going "crazy" to discover what real sanity was

I am grateful to God for the mental illness He gave me.  (But I would never want to repeat it).  Looking back I was “crazier” when I was “sane” and sane now that I’m mentally ill.

Let me unpack that.

Before mental illness I wanted to be a aerospace engineer.  I wanted to impress people with how smart I was.  I wanted fame, fortune, power and pleasure.  I had bought the whole commercial-driven American media world-view.

Most of the girls in my high school graduation class wanted to be social workers it seemed.  I thought they were crazy.  Helping people seemed like a colossal, boring, unrewarding waste of time.

It was at this point that God publicly invaded my private world.  God told me I was a sinner, but I didn’t believe Him.  What I didn’t know was that I was in love with myself, looked down on everyone else, and thought the world should serve me.   That’s when God gave me mental illness.  And my life and the lies I told myself, about myself, fell with a great crash.  God humbled me.  I couldn’t get much “lower” in superficial stereo-typed status than being intermittently locked up in mental hospitals.

For the next ten years I fought God and the meds.  At the end of ten years God gave me the wisdom to take the meds.  Then He sent Bonnie, who knew and loved Jesus, to tell me Jesus loved me.  I wasn’t interested.  Then Bonnie told me that if I rejected the love of Jesus, the only thing left for me was hell.

That got my attention.

I chose to turn around and follow Jesus.

He forgave me, loved me and gave me a heart that cared about other people.  Now I am a Certified Peer Support Specialist working with others who themselves deal with mental illness.  I encourage, give hope, and care.  And I love it.  It took most of my life to discover my life’s work.  And it took going “crazy” to discover what real sanity is.

He’s not what you may think

There are many definitions of the “Glory of God”.  To me the greatest attribute of God’s glory is his humility. God chose to humble Himself and love me when I was arrogant, boastful, insulting and rude; to others and especially to Him.  If God had not endured my disrespect, I would probably be in hell by now.  And rightfully so.  

My greatest weakness may be “Pride.”  I wrote evangelistic advertisements for a newspaper.  The ads ran every Saturday.  I did this for two years until my pride was such that I couldn’t hear from God any more.  I didn’t write again for 8 years.  I knew I was getting proud.  I didn’t want to get proud.  I thought I confessed my pride to God.  But I was proud.

Pride is the opposite of love.  Love gets its joy from helping others.  Pride thinks only about itself.  I still need to die to myself.  Every day.

On the other hand, God’s humility is amazing.  His depths of self-denial are so great that if I loved like He does I would feel embarrassed.  Like the father of the prodigal son, God undignifies Himself and runs after us to love us.  Where I would feel humiliated to love someone who treated me like I treated God, His strength-of-self knows no such weakness.  He voluntarily throws aside the respect due Him, in order to meet my need.  And He has.  And He truly has my Respect.

How about you?  Did you think God was stuffy, formal and pretentious?  Did you think you were too low for Him to come down to meet you where you are?  He’s already there.  And He is waiting for you to ask Him into your life.  And He wants to give you His love.

God "embarrasses" Himself with Love

Luke  15:11-32 NKJV

11 Then [Jesus] said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with prodigal living. 14 But when he had spent all, there arose a severe famine in that land, and he began to be in want. 15 Then he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country, and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. 16 And he would gladly have filled his stomach with the pods that the swine ate, and no one gave him anything.
17 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, 19 and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.”’
20 “And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight, and am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet. 23 And bring the fatted calf here and kill it, and let us eat and be merry; 24 for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ And they began to be merry.
25 “Now his older son was in the field. And as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. 27 And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and because he has received him safe and sound, your father has killed the fatted calf.’
28 “But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 So he answered and said to his father, ‘Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time; and yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might make merry with my friends. 30 But as soon as this son of yours came, who has devoured your livelihood with harlots, you killed the fatted calf for him.’
31 “And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that I have is yours. 32 It was right that we should make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead and is alive again, and was lost and is found.’”

God, our Heavenly Father, the Creator of the Universe, loves us with such intensity, that He “embarrasses” Himself in His pursuit of a relationship with us.  There is nothing so undignified or beneath Him that He won’t do it to win our hearts to Him.  (I am not talking about sin of course).  In the above parable the son disgraced his father and himself and trampled their relationship by demanding his inheritance while his father was still alive.  Yet his father loved his son, kept watch for him, and ran to greet him as soon as he saw him coming back.  In Jesus’ day and culture a dignified adult man would not run, it was considered beneath him.  Yet Jesus portrays God, Jesus’ Heavenly Father, as someone who loves us so much that He is willing to “embarrass” himself by running to greet us to communicate His great love for us.

Of course, this was ultimately shown when He hung naked, brutally beaten and bloody, nailed to the cross, dying, so that he could provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him.

Love doesn’t get any greater than that.

When you die and meet Jesus He will not ask you about the size of your bank account, what neighborhood you lived in, the car you drove, whether you never smoked, drank or danced, how much you gave, whether you never missed church… etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

He will ask you, however, what did you do with “Him”. He gave you His all.  He gave you Himself.  He does not condemn you.  He does not demand perfection.  He wants surrender.  He just wants you.  He wants an unhindered love relationship between you and Him.

What are you telling Him everyday by how you are living your life now?  Go back to Him.  He is waiting for you.  And when He sees you turn, He will run to greet you.

Wisdom, Humility and Real Life

James 1:5 NKJV

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

James 4:6 – 10 NKJV

6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:     “God resists the proud,     But gives grace to the humble.”  7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.  10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 

Naturally, in and of myself, I don’t have any wisdom at all.  I become painfully aware of this sometimes when God removes His wisdom from me.  Then I realize that if my own wisdom was dynamite I wouldn’t have enough to blow my nose.  God is the source of all true wisdom.

I used to write these posts for the local newspaper, accompanied by a meaningful photo.  After writing them weekly for two years I became proud, thinking I was writing them out of my own wisdom, out of my own power, out of myself.  I knew I was getting proud, but I couldn’t shake it.  My pride got in the way of hearing from God to write the posts.  And eventually I had to quit writing them.  And I couldn’t write another until eight years later.

There is a relationship between wisdom, love and pride.  Wisdom is the practically working out of love for God, others and ourselves in our daily lives.  Pride is the opposite of love.  Pride cuts off the ability to hear God’s wisdom because we seek glory for ourselves and so it results in a fall, or the destruction of our lives.

God knows we all have a problem with pride.  That’s why He sent Jesus to take the punishment for our pride.  God said to humble ourselves under His mighty hand and in due time He will lift us up.  He doesn’t lift us up the way this world does, that is, by making ourselves “greater” than others.  He lifts us up by making us like Himself, by making us able to be a loving servant like Him.  Humbling ourselves and loving and serving others is real glory.  And this real glory, when we humble ourselves, and love God with all that we are and others as much as ourselves, is just breaking even in God’s sight.  It is the minimum God expects from each of us.  We are no “greater” than anyone else.

And that’s the way we would want it isn’t it?  We want others to love us as much as they love themselves.  But, we don’t want them to feel “greater” than us by doing so.  It is just what is expected.

But loving others this way is impossible in our natural selves.  When we are born our spirits are dead.  But, when we confess our sins to God and believe that Jesus paid our sin debt in full (when He died and rose from the dead), God gives us the Person of His Spirit that is alive and willing and able to do all that God asks.  We then are able to choose to follow God if we want to follow Him.  And when we choose to follow Him we find out the reason He made us.  We find real life the way God intended it to be.

 1 John 5:11-13 NKJV

11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Matthew 10:39  NKJV

He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for My sake will find it.

Today, right now, Jesus is calling you.  And if you listen to Him, and respond to Him, you will never be the same.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 NIV

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

I’m glad I didn’t get what I wanted

Jesus said that even in abundance our life does not consist in what we have.  I just updated my Linked In account to reflect my new job.  For my job description I put that I serve the mentally ill of which I am one.  At one time I wanted to be a CEO or president or anything that at that time I thought commanded respect.  I despised my mental illness and the stigma and “shame” that came with it.  Now I thank God for the experience of mental illness though I would not want to go back to having no meds.  I get to meet some of the neatest people through my job.  And what used to hold me back now I use to join with others in moving forward.  Jesus’ kingdom truly is upside-down when compared with how this world thinks.  If God would have granted me a healthy brain and given me my desire to “be important”, I would be lonely, frustrated, and friendless.  Instead He gave me defective brain chemistry, pain and sorrow, and a new life that values other people instead of what I think other people think of me.

What do you value?  Are you happy?  The Bible says that Jesus, took the form of a servant, and for the joy set before Him, endured the cross to pay for our sins.  What did He value?  You and me, and His Father.  He was never elected to public office, never wrote a book, and didn’t travel the world.  He did however, humble himself and obey His Father.  And He is happy.  If you want to follow in His footsteps you can.  Just confess your sins to Him.  Tell Him you’re sorry for them and that you are turning from them with His help.  Tell Him you believe He died for your sins and rose to give you new life.  And then tell someone about the forgiveness and new life God has given you.  Read the Bible and pray.  And love and obey Him.  You will experience His peace, love and joy.

There is room for you at the "top".

Someone has said that Jesus’ kingdom is an upside-down kingdom.  Our Lord and Master, our God, is also the servant of all.  Our greatness is not measured in how many people are working for us, but in the works of love we do for others.

This attitude does not come naturally.  It comes super-naturally.  Jesus said we must be “converted”.  Jesus said that He reveals His truth to “babes”.  Jesus said that if we hear His message and receive it [do it] we receive Him and God the Father who sent Him.

(My son has given me permission to share the following).  I am continually impressed with my 18 year old son and how he grasps who God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are and their ways.  When faced with a problem, many times he is the first to say, “Dad, let’s pray.  Let’s ask Jesus for help”.  My son is brilliant socially and is one of the leaders in his classroom.  He also reads and writes at a second grade level.

Though some in this world would overlook him, I admire him.  He’s like the child that Jesus held in His arms and gave as an example for His disciples to be like.

I’ve explained to my son that he is smart, frequently pointing out to him when he demonstrates that quality.  But I have also told him that he is wise, also pointing out that quality when he demonstrates it.  And, I’ve explained the difference.  My son loves God the Father and Jesus His Son and the Holy Spirit.  My son reverences God and values God.  My son is teachable about God and His ways.  And so my son is wiser than some with multiple times his IQ.

Some value intellect.  Some value athleticism.  Some value popularity.  God values love.  Love for Him and love for others.  And true love for God always expresses itself as obedience to God.  Not that we are perfect.  But when we do sin we repent (turn around), ask God and anyone involved for forgiveness, learn from our mistake, and press on.

So my goal is to humble myself and be like my son, like the little child Jesus gave as an example to be like.  And the nice thing about Jesus’ upside-down kingdom is that there is always room at the top, or rather bottom.  All of us can serve others and be like Jesus.

16 He who hears you  [Jesus’ disciples] hears Me [Jesus], he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me.” (Luke 10:16, NKJV)

21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.” (Luke 10:21, NKJV)

  1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 2 Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them,  3 and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.  4 Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  5 Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.” (Matthew 18:1-5, NKJV)