Me, My Self, and I

Doing the “Right Things”

Recently, in a discussion, someone said they didn’t understand why they had this constant struggle as a Christian to do the right things. “I guess I am a bad Christian,” they said. Usually, there are the pat answers given to this statement. “You’re not praying enough. You don’t have enough faith or you haven’t given it to God.” I say these are pat answers since they seem to be all too common in Christian circles.

Now, before you feel I am being too harsh here to those who have said these things in response, know that I have said them many times myself and to myself. But I have come to realize that is where the problem lies: with the Self.

I am attempting to complete a devotional book that stemmed from me texting my children bible quotes and a little explanation as to what they meant and what I felt God was saying to me through those scriptures. They would send these to their friends and others would also begin to join the text list. Before I knew it I would spend fifteen to twenty minutes each time typing in the phone numbers for all the people who were following the texts. I would end the little devotion with the phrase: It’s a choice.

Hear Me Out

man wearing suit jacket sitting on chair in front of woman wearing eyeglasses

Doing the “right thing” is a choice. Please hear me out. It’s not always an easy choice, but it is a choice. A choice, a decision that you make. Each and every time. We are faced with thousands of choices every day and how we choose determines our results. I have heard it said, “You are where you are because of the choices you made.” Immediately, I can hear someone say “I didn’t choose for my parents to die…” or fill in any tragedy. True, but you choose how you respond and how you respond will determine where you will be. What about instinctive reactions?

Let me break it down like I did recently to a person who made something similar to my opening statement. That is, look at the Me, My Self, and I. Me is the combined Self and I working in unison. The “Self” is the body, the flesh, as the Apostle Paul put it. The “I” is the conscious thought or personality of the Person within the Self. Also called the Spirit. (Not to be confused with the Holy Spirit). The “I” cannot always control the Self, because the Self will do whatever comes naturally to the Self. Ah, but the “I” or the Spirit can train the Self.

Self and Spirit

gray and white short coated cat on brown wooden table top

Let’s say we could take the “I” or Spirit portion out of a human and put it in a cat, which, by-the-way spends two-thirds of its life sleeping. There may be a symbiotic relationship developed over time, but the cat is going to do what cats do. Ever try to control a cat? The Spirit could train the cat eventually, but it will always be a cat and will probably behave like a cat even when the Spirit works feverishly to train the cat. The first part of learning to train the cat would be for the Spirit to learn about cats and then work with the cat to a desired end, knowing all along that the cat will still sometimes act out of instinct.

Now, look at the human being in the same light. You have a depraved, fallen human who, though created in the image of God, acts like a depraved fallen human and in many respects as an animal. (See Galatians 5:19-21) This is the Self. Think of these phrases in this light:

  • I lost control of my Self.
  • I couldn’t help my Self.
  • I have really let my Self go.
  • Get a hold of your Self.
  • Would you look at your Self?
  • Get your Self some rest.
  • Get your Self something to eat.

Who lost control of the Self? The Spirit. The situation is even worse. Inside the Self resides a fallen, depraved, darkened, blinded Spirit. The Spirit inside the Self, which is a spark of the Divine, is dead, and the Self is only operating off training and instinct. Autopilot if you will. Subsequently, the Self will continue to act and behave like the depraved, fallen creature that it is. It should not surprise Christians when non-believers act the way they do. They are acting according to their nature and they cannot control nor help their Selves. They are slaves to this nature.

What is one to do?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

The Spirit within must be reborn. That spark of the Divine within must be quickened, as the Bible calls it. It must be exposed to the light of the transforming power of Jesus. It must be made alive. Jesus didn’t come to earth to make bad people good. No, He came to earth to make Spiritually dead people, alive. This is the only way the Self can be tamed and trained. And with the help of the Holy Spirit that now will be there within to help get the Self under control.

In this new state, the Spirit takes on the “new creation”, but the Self is still depraved and fallen. Yet, control can be exerted. Granted, the Self will still act up and do things that leave the Spirit wondering “what just happened or why did I say or do that?” However, the Spirit under the direction, leadership, and power of the Holy Spirit can take control. That is why it says in Galatians that one of the fruits of the (Holy) Spirit is “self-control.”

Summary – What Now?

Here are summary statements that I have found helpful.

  • You’re not going to get it right all the time. Even the Apostle Paul stated that he (the super saint) still did things that he did not want to. His Self still acted out. That’s why he said he buffeted his body. He was still struggling with his fallen Self even with a redeemed Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for I John 1:9.
  • Seek to understand your Self with all its quirks, tendencies, traits, likes and dislikes. Your Self is unique and you have to understand the basic human first and then understand the Self in which you reside.
  • Cut your Self some slack. God does. That doesn’t mean you are to give the Self a pass. It means keep moving toward maturity under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but he does expect you to head in that direction.
  • When you fall, and you will, pick your Self back up and go again. Proverbs says a righteous man will fall seven times and get back up again. Don’t wallow in Self pity and feel sorry for your Self. You are a child of the King of the Universe.
  • Don’t beat your Self up for being its Self. You don’t beat your cat or dog for being a cat or a dog. You train them. Train your Self. It takes patience, time, and the help of the Holy Spirit Trainer to train your Self. Read the training manual used by the Trainer. It’s called the Bible and that is why it is there.
  • Love your Self. See your Self as God sees your Self. Worthy of loving and investing in. He sent His Son to reconcile you back to Him.

If you have not come to a place where you know for sure that your Spirit is made new. You can. God waits to renew your Spirit. Click here for more information.

Go Deeper

We are all much deeper than the layers of our skin,

Too often we judge by the outside, only by what we see.

Judging the book by the cover, assuming how things might be.

Will you choose to go deeper to know what goes on within?

 

How can we know the struggles, buried deep inside?

How can we know the depression or the mental wars?

How can we see the heartache and battle-weary scars?

How can we know the brokenness or tears of late nights cried?

 

We are all surely broken. It started at our birth,

But God so loved He sent His Son to heal, save, and set free.

He came and willingly chose to die, in place of you and me.

We are all broken, but can you understand our worth?

 

We often forget we’re a child of God, even as we struggle on.

We often get it wrong, hoping, believing in an instant cure.

We say, “Just pray enough, believe enough, it’ll work for sure.”

Child of God, the battles continue, it’s the war that’s been won.

 

Remember, you’re His child, remember He’s your Lord.

Especially in your brokenness, you are called to stand.

You’re not called to surrender, but to the battle at hand.

When you take your last breath, then lay down my sword.

 

Praise be to God, we are not alone in the stormy night.

Life will be a struggle as we head toward our home.

Truth is we are all on the journey, we are not alone.

We have His Spirit who is constantly with us in the fight.

 

Embrace the brokenness, embrace the clashes deep within,

Listen, heed the voice of God should you choose to hear it.

There is peace in the midst brought only by the Spirit.

Life struggles are to point us to trust and lean on Him.

Forgiveness – A Fruit of the Spirit?

The Question

portrait of white pigeon

In the book of Galatians, (Gal. 5:22-23) the Apostle Paul lists out nine proofs or fruits of the Spirit. These fruit show the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer who possesses these qualities. I have wondered why forgiveness is not listed here. Can one truly have the Spirit of God present in their lives without this one trait or asset? After all, it is one of the heavy hitters in the Christian walk and is sometimes mentioned more than some of the fruit.

The Simplest Answer

The most obvious and simplest answer is the list is not an exhaustive one, and forgiveness could be added. Just because it was not listed doesn’t mean that it is not a proof or a fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit has at least three lists in the Bible. Those three lists do not contain all the gifts, and it is argued that there are more gifts than those listed. So it would be for forgiveness. For example, other concepts like mercy, justice, humbleness, etc. are not listed either. It could be argued that these are fruits of the Spirit as well. But I believe there is more to it.

In-depth Answer

 

The more complicated and comprehensive answer when looking at a particular scripture is to look at the context of the speaker. What was said before and after the scripture on the fruit of the Spirit? Also, what is said in the Bible as a whole? Paul was using an opposite comparison when he listed the fruit. Before this section, he listed the “works of the flesh” which are in opposition to the fruit. One is physically focused, and the other is spiritual. One is natural and the other is supernatural.

woman putting red apple on green shopping basket

Paul tells us to separate the fruit from the works. This is a choice and must be practiced. The Spirit is the teacher, the mentor. This choice is simple, not always easy, but simple. We have to choose the Spirit to be able to cultivate and exhibit the fruit. There is a difference between the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh. The flesh work comes naturally. Just let yourself go. Live the lowest level, almost animalistic life. That is not only simple but easy and guess what you will get? Natural, animalistic results.

clouds countryside daylight environment

However, if you choose and walk with the Spirit, you also choose the higher road. This road is not easy. Jesus said that this road is narrow and there are very few who not only find it but travel it. The Spirit is the teacher, comforter, and mentor. The Teacher uses the Bible as His textbook and life as His laboratory. It’s is just like being in school or college. You spend time in the classroom and then you get to spend time in the practicum. If you don’t attend either of these you fail the course. Too many Christians treat the Christian life as if it is party time at college rather than time to learn and grow. Then they wonder why their life as a Christian isn’t working. They have failed the course and too often blame the teacher for their failure. Paul calls this spiritual immaturity.

Forgiveness is not a fruit

So, what has this got to do with forgiveness as a fruit of the Spirit? Forgiveness is a course in the curriculum in the School of the Spirit. I believe it is an exercise in the laboratory of life. It is an instruction given in the classroom. It is practiced in the laboratory. You have to accept the assignment and if you fail the test, you get to take it again. If you fail the course, you get held back. Thank God for I John 1:9, and thank you Spirit for your patience and mentoring, because I cannot count how many times I have failed.

Endangered Christianity

The Statement

black microphone

I have heard it said by more than one person that “Christianity is only one generation away from being extinct.” Usually, the one speaking is trying to get across to their audience the necessity to reach out and share the good news of Jesus or Christianity will be gone. It’s a combination of a fear factor and a warning. The audience, I have been one, nods in agreement as the message sinks in. We had all better get busy winning souls or there will be no one left to carry on after we are gone.

Question Everything

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Even though it sounds good, there seems to be a lingering thought somewhere on the periphery that tugs on the brain. It asks if the statement is true. Are things that desperate? I believe the statement is one of “truthiness,” as I have heard one public speaker call it. “Truthiness” is something that sounds true and logical, but when examined further, it doesn’t pass the litmus test.

Incorrect Presumptions

To accept the statement of “endangered Christianity” at face value is to agree to several basic, incorrect presumptions:

  1. It presumes the continuance of Christianity rest solely on the shoulders of the present generation, and without the evangelistic actions of that generation, Christianity is doomed. Yes, we are commanded to reach, teach, and disciple, but we plant the seed. God waters. The thinking that it all rests exclusively with man leaves God totally out the equation, which leads to the second presumption.
  2. The statement presumes God is not capable of sustaining the Christian faith. This is not biblical. Even in the darkest of times in history, God had a remnant of believers. Case in point is when Elisha ran from Jezebel and begged God to die. He complained that he was the only one in all of the land that followed God. God responded that He had 7,000 followers who did not bow to the state-sponsored religion. God is quite capable of maintaining a following. Further, even in the darkest times yet to come as spoken of in the book of Revelation, and during the Tribulation times, God will still maintain a remnant of followers.
  3. Another presumption is one that would be shared with the devil himself: somehow God can be defeated. This thought process leaves the Christian believing they are fighting a losing battle. They wring their hands while looking to the eastern sky chanting “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” They live a life of someone who is waiting to be rescued from a sinking ship rather than manning their battle stations on a spiritual destroyer.

There is, however, a danger to going to the opposite extreme. We can smugly sit around, not doing anything, “because Jesus has won the victory, therefore I do not need to fight at all.” This too is not biblical. We are commanded to act. In many places, we are ordered to reach the world around us – proclaiming the good news.

In the book of Jude, we are told to “snatch” the perishing as one would a stick from a fire. Paul said “blessed” are the feet of those who proclaim the message of salvation. In another spot, he says faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and hearing by someone telling. Jesus gave us the Great Commission in the 28th chapter of Mathew, to go into all the world. We, as the church, are expected to be obedient to the commands and calls.

The Conclusion

Truly, it is a joint venture with God and His church to continue what Jesus started. There will always be someone who responds to the love of Christ and then will be obedient to tell others, who then respond. There is no danger of the Church going anywhere. It might get lazy. It might get beat down. It might dwindle. It might even lose power, but the Bride of Christ will continue on until He says it’s the end of the age.

Luck?

My Irish Heritage

I remember growing up and having an interest in my genealogy. My mother would answer my questions of what nationality we came from with this: “You are half German, a quarter Irish and a quarter Mohawk.” Knowing me, that was probably the easiest answer to give. Subsequently, I wanted to visit Germany, Ireland, and the Land of the Mohawk to see where my forefathers had lived and died. Nobel thought, huh? I thought so. We lived in Washington State at the time so I was fortunate to see how the Nisqually lived in that day and to visit the reservations. So I had some idea of how all Native Americans lived.

When I was ten years old, we moved to Florida where my grandparents had moved to several years before. I was excited to finally spend some time with them and get to know them. One day I asked my grandmother about our Irish heritage since she obviously knew more about them. She quickly responded in a heavy New York accent, with “I oughta smack you in the puss.” Several things happened at once. First, I froze as I wasn’t sure what part of my body she was about to smack and second, I wondered what I had said wrong. She explained that we were more Spanish than Irish. It wasn’t that she denied the Irish heritage, it was that she was proud of the Spanish more. Her maiden name was Ricardo. That was something new to me.

So faded my affinity to have the Luck of the Irish and to be heavily affiliated with that magical land. I would never have a pot of gold anyway. Not that I believe in luck anyway, especially as I got older and my relationship with Jesus grew.

I don’t believe in luck

I believe in God. I see people who are superstitious with luck charms (not the cereal) hoping and praying for favorable outcomes; while cursing the gods when things go wrong. I see people playing the lottery and gambling hoping to one-day strick it rich. The last ones are really some that I avoid. I play cards and Yahtzee with my wife and consistently kicks my butt. So, no Vegas or Atlantic City for me.

Why gamble when you can be sure?

Like you, I work too hard for my money to just be giving it to the government. They take enough of it without my permission anyway and take more and more each year. Plus, I am not impressed with how they handle what they get now. Why would I want to give any more to them? Yes, we could debate back and forth how several states use the lottery to fund education, and how our state’s money is going to some other state. I could counter with 95% of people who win the lottery are bankrupt and worse off than when they won and could quote statistics from other states who have to pay for the washout of addiction. I think this debate misses the point. When you boil it all down, the question is: what do you believe, or more plainly, where is your heart?

The One Sure Thing

God owns the cattle on a thousand hills the bible says. So, couldn’t this same God give me a million dollars if He really wanted me to have it? Is that what my relationship with Him is all about? It has to go much deeper with Him.

Jesus told us to worship God the Father with our heart, soul, mind, and strength. When He blesses me, what is my reaction? Well, I deserve this. I work harder than most folks. I am more favored. Can’t you tell by how well I am blessed? Or, look at me. I am all that and a bag of fries baby! Supersized at that.

If God chooses to take everything from me, what would my reaction be then? That’s not fair! Hey, I worked hard for all that! Why are you picking on me? Why I am losing all this and those people over there aren’t even working at all and have more than me? Notice these are all heart issues? Many I have had to deal with before and maybe you have to. Would to God I would have the attitude rather of David and Job.

God said David was a man after God’s own heart. Job said after all he had lost, that even if God chose to slay him, He would still be his God. God is a present help not only in times of trouble (thank you, Jesus) but also in times of plenty. How we handle all times is based on how deep our relationship is with Him.

God loves you if you play the lottery and if you don’t. He loves you when you seem to be doing well and when you are not. What He is after is your heart in order to have a deep, meaningful relationship with you. He wants the best for you and to be a vital part of your life.

Are you, like David, after God’s own heart? Put another way, are you seeking what God’s heart seeks. God further said of David that “he will do what I want him to do.” Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey my commandments” and “where your heart is, there your treasure will be also.” Where your heart is, is where you will spend the most time, talent, effort, energy, and money. On what do you base your future and look to for direction; luck, chance, fate, crossing your fingers, the stars, horoscope? I don’t believe in luck, I believe in God. I still want to go to Ireland and Spain now.

Keep Moving: Seven steps to face the storms of life

I am reminded in my darkest and saddest moments of several Bible scriptures that say “and it came to pass.” To be honest, this phrase is speaking of something that has happened, or of something previously foretold that came true. However, I picked up somewhere that things usually don’t come to “stay,” but they do come to “pass.” In essence, they don’t last. That is true for most of the good, bad, and ugly of life.

Constants

There are only two constants: change and the unchanging God. The temporal and the eternal. I have heard it said several times that all of us are heading into a storm, in a storm, or coming out of a storm. That would mean storms are an intrinsic part of this temporal world. They are a fact of life, and we all have to deal with them. Granted, they come in varying degrees and lengths. Some last for a moment and are intense. Our response is quickly taxed, and our energy quickly spent. Some tend to linger on and slowly drain our energy and reserve.

Our Actions

I have noticed in the business world that there are two kinds of leaders: those that are reactive and those that are proactive. I am sure you have seen both of these. One takes the approach to wait and see what breaks and then we will fix it. They wait until the storm comes and then they react to it. They know the storm is coming, but somehow they hope to dodge it or maybe it won’t be that bad. “Let’s brace ourselves and hope for the best” is their mantra. They bark orders as things start to fall apart.

startup-photos.jpg   Then there are those who know the storm is coming and they prepare. They brace for the storm, true, but they have processes in place that are designed to lessen the damage or better, to face the storm head-on. Their mantra is “We knew this was coming so let’s face this as we practiced.” Will the plan always go as planned? No, but there will be a cohesiveness with the proactive that will not be found with the reactive, especially if the plan has been rehearsed to the point of being second nature. Take, for example, fire or evacuation drills. Those who have been trained in these are more likely to survive because they knew what to do. They have a plan.

Handling Storms

In life, we too can have a plan. Simply put, keep moving. Let’s break it down:

  • Be realistic. What is the worst thing that could happen? Uh, you could die. True, but it hasn’t happened yet and what is the likelihood of it happening today. It could, but the probability is that it won’t. So keep moving.
  • Don’t panic. Panic is not a sound, workable plan. Look around you. What are the facts? Have you survived worse than what is happening to you now? Will you survive this? More than likely. It’s not the end of the world. Well, if it is, worrying won’t change anything. Keep moving.
  • pexels-photo-210182.jpegChange your speed. My wife was with me on a trip as I traveled through Atlanta. I won’t say it was rush hour because I think it always is. Once we hit I-85 north from the south side of Atlanta, I turned my music up and merged (sped) into traffic. My wife began to complain more than usual about my driving. I told her to please remain calm and let me drive. The fast-paced, seemingly erratic nature of my driving and those around us unnerved her. I told her that here “you either run or get runned over” Do you need to speed up or slow down? Either way, keep moving.
  • Face it head-on. Like the traffic of Atlanta or where you might live, face it head-on. I have seen my share of accidents, several while wearing an EMS uniform. I tend to believe the squeamish, overly cautious driver is as bad as or even worse than the aggressive driver. I have taken both offensive and defensive driving courses. I drive offensively and defensively as the situation dictates. Either way, I keep moving.
  • Know where you are going. If you have a destination in mind, then you have a purpose in your movement. Any dead fish can float downstream. Watch the salmon on the Columbia River as they swim upstream to their breeding grounds. They are determined to make it. They have a goal, a destiny, and a passion. Let the setbacks come. With passion, keep moving.
  • pexels-photo-901236.jpegModerate your self-talk. Listen, read, and watch positive messages. There is a difference in what you feel and what you know. Tell yourself what you know. Speak the facts, not the emotions. Have you ever watched athletes as they are walking the tunnel to the field? Many of them are wearing headsets or earphones. Why? Watch the fans of the opposing teams in the tunnel as they taunt and jeer at the athletes. The athletes can’t hear them because they are listening to a different voice. That voice is telling them how they are a winner, a champion, to ignore the detractors, and to keep moving.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded. Find a mentor or two that will challenge you when you are slipping and who will applaud you when you are succeeding. Read, listen, and watch people who have succeeded before you. Hear their stories and learn from their lives. They are rich in knowledge and experience. Let them motivate you to keep moving.

Summary

The storms are going to come to all of us, but they don’t have to stop us. If you get knocked down, don’t just lay there. If you can’t get right back up, then crawl until you can. You can’t keep a good man or woman down. Prepare for the storms so when they come you will be ready.

Why I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost

Ghost Busters
Logo from the movie Ghostbusters.

Who ya gonna call?

Yes, I know the word “ain’t” isn’t proper English grammar and there is a double negative. It is just when hauntings and ghost sightings are mentioned I hear the theme from Ghostbusters start off in my head. Personally, I don’t believe in ghosts per se. Okay, one Ghost, and I am not afraid of Him, but I will get to that in a minute. Let’s explore the possibility that there are or are not ghosts. As with any subject supernatural, I use the Bible as my premise and foundation.

Ghosts Defined

A ghost, as defined by Encarta Dictionary: English (North America) is “the supposed spirit of somebody who has died, believed to appear as a shadowy form or to cause sounds, the movement of objects, or a frightening atmosphere in a place.” As defined, I do not believe ghosts exist. You could probably bring to this argument, hundreds, if not thousands of arguments to the contrary. These would include haunted houses with unexplained phenomena ranging from thumping noises to furniture moving, to a cold presence, and sick owners. I could not dispute what these people have encountered. My question would be: was it ghosts? I think not.

I believe in angels, fallen angels, demons, and/or evil spirits. Nothing more. I think that all the hauntings, evil and cold presences, sicknesses, and thumping noises are demonic in nature.

Why?

To answer this, we have to go back to the beginning of the creation of man and the world to the first account of fallen angels. The king of fallen angels has been called by many names throughout the years: the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, Father of Lies, the Accuser, etc. Not exactly human-friendly terms. Most religions of the world have this evil being as the leader of all this evil. He not only hates God but all that is good and created by God, especially humans.

Also in creation, we can find why he hates humans so much. After God created all and saw that it was good, He created man in his image (See Being Fully Human for more discussion). The man was the crown of God’s creation and above all the world of created beings. Satan would and does attack the closest thing to God and to God’s heart: man. One of the most effective ways to injure a man is not to attack him, instead to attack his family.

How?

Several of the demonic tactics in luring humans away from God is to seed doubt in our minds, especially in times of sorrow or stress. This accounts for the seeing of loved ones or even animals shortly after their death. Humans seek stability through reasoning and answers. We do not like change and pain. We prefer pleasure and simplicity. Demons appear as our loved ones in an attempt to question what we know and lead us away from God. Many times God is silent to the passing of our loved ones. He has His reasons, even if we don’t agree with them. We long to see them again. If demonic activity allows for our greatest longing during our most enormous pain, to see our loved ones again, then we tend to relieve the pain through acceptance.

Summary

The Bible clearly states concerning Christians for us to be separate from the body is to be present with the Lord. Though some religions mention the body lingering for up to three days before departing, the Bible does not teach this. There is no mention of people hanging around or visiting loved ones once departing this life. Rather, there is a void that exists. Then something else is impersonating our loved ones. Satan and evil forces exist and will do almost anything to keep you from the one true Holy Ghost. This Ghost or Spirit is not to be feared but loved since He is the Spirit of Love. So now, who ya gonna call?