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.

Buyer Beware!

“It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer; then off he goes and boasts about his purchase.  Proverbs 20:14 NIV84

This was me for most of my life.  I would try and get things for less than they were worth and then tell my friends what a great deal I got.  But if Jesus says that we are to treat others (the seller) just as I would want to be treated (if I was the seller) then I need to look again at this Proverb.

If the buyer is boasting about his purchase I assume he felt it was a quality item… Who boasts about buying junk?  If that is true he lied to the buyer when he said it was “no good.”  Why would he do that?  If he did lie it may have been to get the item at a price less than the buyer thought it was worth.  To me that’s stealing.

So, if my assumptions are correct this one short sentence condemns the buyer for being a braggart, a liar and a thief.

Since coming to this realization I have been slowly changing.  I’ve been thinking about the seller’s position when I buy something, and not just my own.  If I am following (obeying) Jesus I believe God will give me all the money I need to fulfill his mission for my life. I’m not going to withhold what someone else deserves because I am afraid of running out of money (scarcity mentality). I will bless them by giving to them freely just as Jesus gives to me freely.  I will see buying something as an opportunity to love the seller and treat them as someone dearly loved by the God Who died for them.

Yet changing is difficult and I have a long way to go.

What do you think about this?  Is the seller worth showing the love of Jesus to?  Will Jesus keep you supplied with the money you need if you are doing what he says?  Do we serve the Almighty God? Or the almighty dollar?

Why God allowed suffering in my life (for both before and after becoming a Christian)

I grew up obeying rules and secretly (secret from myself, that is) thinking I was better than other people.  At nineteen, as I was beginning a slide into depression but didn’t know it, I was “called” into my bedroom by what I was hoping/afraid might be God.  I told Him I wanted to be like the Christians in the Bible.  God told me through the Bible that those who are forgiven little, love little.  But, those who are forgiven much, love much.  I thought I had little to be forgiven of so I told God I wanted to be forgiven of much and I thought it might be fun to sin.  God impressed on my spirit, “You’re a sinner!”  He wasn’t talking about your everyday church-going sinner that we all are.  He meant I was vile, evil and depraved.  I replied, “No, I’m not!”  He said again, “You’re a sinner!”  I said again, “No, I’m not!”

Then God did the kindest, most loving thing He could do for me:  He “blessed” me with mental illness (that would not be correctly treated for ten years).  The mental illness caused indescribable psychic pain, anguish, regret, and shame.  My emotions left me (but I didn’t know it) causing me to feel like I hadn’t really talked to anyone for ten years; I literally felt alone for all of those years.  And, my Pride was assaulted:  I was in and out of mental hospitals, I was humiliated because I lost many jobs, I could not do some of the simplest of things (like count money), and I despised being labeled mentally ill and a failure.

Why did I call it God’s “blessing?” because that was the only way for my Pride to fall.  I came to realize I was vile, evil and depraved; just like God had told me.  God called me again after ten years and I grudgingly accepted Him.  And God began the continuous work of changing me so that eventually I will have the beautiful loving character of His Only Begotten Son, Jesus.

But bringing me to Jesus wasn’t the only value of the pain.  God allowed that pain to go deep within to allow me to care deeply about the hurts of others; to be able to empathize with others, and let others in pain know I that have hurt deeply as well.  I use the pain God gave me every day in my job, as I walk alongside those dealing with mental illness.  (And, I also use the pain to understand others who have experienced pain, such as my children, who were traumatized before we adopted them).

I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone.  I wish I could have learned without the pain.  But God used the pain to win me to Himself and change me; and help me to care about, and be willing and able to serve, others.

And for that I will forever be grateful.

You can choose to go to Heaven (Part 2)

Jesus has done almost everything needed for us to enjoy a relationship with Him forever.  We have a critical part to play in receiving and giving Jesus’ love.  Jesus began His ministry by saying, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  What does that mean?  Repentance means to “turn around and go in the opposite direction.”  Jesus’ gift of Eternal Life, and eternity with Him, is completely free.  It cost Jesus His life to be able to give it to us, but He gives it to us freely as a gift of love.  But what do we need to do, and what does Jesus need us to do, so that He can live His life freely through us?  We must be willing to turn from the principle of sin, and from the actions of sins; specifically, we must renounce that which hurts God and other people and ourselves.  You may be thinking, “Jim, I’ve tried to change before, I can’t do it!”  I can’t either.  No one can… not by themselves.  The Spirit of Jesus, The Holy Spirit, must remove the sin principle that is in us and give us His power to be “bent toward God” in order for us to leave our sins and truly love God and other people.  If we are willing to surrender control of our lives, and obey God, God is more than willing to give us His power to change and to leave evil actions behind and to live for Him.

You can choose to go to Heaven

To me the best salespeople aren’t the ones who try to pressure me into doing what they want me to do.  To me the best salespeople are the ones who give me the facts and respect me enough to let me make up my own mind.  One of my former pastors, Rev. Dave Terhune, used to say that he’s in sales and God is in management.  My pastor presented Jesus, told how much Jesus loved them (by dying in their place, and rising from the dead to give them new life forever), and their response and the consequences of their response (surrender to Jesus and live with Him forever; decide not to surrender, or decide not to decide, and be separated from Jesus forever (Hell)).

Pastor Dave never saved a single soul using this method.

But God saved hundreds of people, using Pastor Dave, using this method.  Give people the truth.  Give them the options and consequences of those options.  And let God do the rest.  Because only He can do the rest.

Contrary to what much of what our culture believes, God loves you and everyone else.  In eternity past He thought: I want to make a Jim McNaughton.  Now God knew before He made me that I would reject Him and need to have my mind taken away from me for ten years before I would be humbled enough to accept Him.  He knew that I would hate Him when I was in that pain, for what He had done to me .  He loved me enough that he was willing to endure me and my rebellion, until at last I surrendered to Him.  Now I realize that all that indescribable pain was worth it.  On the other side of ignorance and pain is the realization that God suffered with me and for me and I was never alone.  Mental Illness was a gift packaged in pain that changed my attitude from pride to humility.  Looking back the pain was infinitely worth it.  And I would go through it again if that was the only way to know Christ.  But… I definitely would not want to go through it again if I didn’t have to go through it again.

I think it was King David who said, “Strike me, it is a kindness.” And his son King Solomon that said, “The wounds of a friend can be trusted.”  Just because I was in the worst pain I have ever experienced didn’t mean that God didn’t exist, that God was powerless to stop the pain, or that God was evil.  God exists, He gave me the pain, and He made it work together for my good.

Millions of people suffer infinitely more than I have.  I don’t know why God allows so much pain.  But, I believe that when someone hurts, He hurts.  I watched the movie, God’s Not Dead, a few hours ago and they brought up our Free Will.  God chose to give us a choice as to whether we believe, trust and obey Him.  Or, whether we do not believe, trust and obey Him.  When we believe, trust and obey God we experience peace, joy and love.  All that is going on around us may be chaos.  But, on the inside, we enjoy God’s presence.  When we choose not to believe trust and obey him we experience evil, or the absence of God.

God wants you to choose life, to choose Him because He knows He is the best thing for you.  He made you because He wanted to love you and wanted you to experience His joy in receiving and giving love.  But He respects you and your right to choose.  He will not force Himself on you.  When He made you He placed you in times and circumstances that would best influence you to search for Him and find Him and realize that He loves you.  But He also allows you to choose to ignore Him, and pretend He does not exist, and die without Him, forever.  He is not wrong for allowing this.  It is the outflow of having a Free Will.  If you say to God, “Leave me alone, leave me alone, leave me alone,” (active rejection), or decide not to decide, (passive rejection), He will do what you want.  And an eternity without God is Hell.

God is desperately pleading with you to choose Life, to choose Him.  But the only guaranteed time you have is today.  His arms are stretched out to you, His hands open wide.  But it is up to you.  Will you return His love?

Defeating the sin which so easily ensnares us

Satan is appealing to my pride again.  He is telling me (not in words, but in thoughts and feelings) that I KNOW SO MUCH ABOUT GOD that I don’t need to learn from other people (which God says in Proverbs clearly that I do need to learn from others).  I identified this feeling when in a Christian bookstore reading the covers of some books.  I decided to buy the book I was looking at (and my feelings were telling me that I didn’t need to read it).  Then I told my wife what I was going through. 

I have started reading the book (All In: You are one decision away from a totally different life by Mark Batterson) and it is very good and I am learning alot and being motivated alot (which satan didn’t want). By telling my wife about my struggle, the sin of pride is not in the dark anymore, where it can grow and destroy me.  Instead, it is in the light which exposes its true malicious intent.

1Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.                                                                             – Paul the Apostle, Hebrews 12:1 NKJV


 I experience world-class feelings of insecurity and inferiority sometimes.  Satan used my God-given need to feel the value God has given us, against me.   However, detecting satan can be so difficult sometimes.  He can be so subtle and appeals to our God-given needs (but he wants us to meet those needs outside of God’s will).  But by following Jesus I (and you) can defeat satan.

It has been said that to learn how to recognize counterfeit money you have get to know the real thing better.  It has also been said that to learn how to recognize satan, get to know Jesus better.

What is Jesus like?

What is Jesus like?  The Bible says: 

He is the [exact visible] image of the invisible God. (Colossians 1:15a, KJV, brackets mine)

What is God like?  The Bible says

…God is Love. (1 John 4:8b, KJV)

What is Love like?

1If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate.

2If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.
3If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.
4Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
Love doesn’t strut,
Doesn’t have a swelled head,
5Doesn’t force itself on others,
Isn’t always “me first,”
Doesn’t fly off the handle,
Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
6Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
7Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
8Love never dies. Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. 9We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. 10But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled.
11When I was an infant at my mother’s breast, I gurgled and cooed like any infant. When I grew up, I left those infant ways for good.
12We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!
13But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.  And the best of the three is love.  (1 Corinthians chapter 13, The Message)

This is what Love is like.  This is what God is like.  And this is what Jesus is like.  He never gives up on us, He’s always looking for the best in us, He doesn’t keep a sin scorecard (our sins are wiped away when we trust Him that He paid the penalty for them), He doesn’t think He’s better than us, He’s not stuck up, He doesn’t force Himself on us,  He doesn’t have to be first, He cares more about us than His own life.

This is one amazing Love…

This is one amazing God…
This is one amazing Jesus.