Category Archives: conversion

The Pitfalls of Being a “Self- Made” Man

James HJames Mom%20%26%20Jamesallmark is a good friend of mine…and I am proud to call him”friend.”  He is a pioneer in television in these parts beginning his work with KRBC when it was tiny studio up in the hills of the Callahan Divide overlooking Abilene.  We found we had a lot in common having both begun work when TV was just a kid.  I was on the “floor crew” at KMID, in 1960 moving cables and cameras around.  James was beginning his career as an announcer and doing voice over for commercials.  He has been responsible for telethons every year…hard, detailed work.  But best of all he is a strong, faithful, committed Christian.  He writes a great article nearly every week as you will find out when you read the post below

“He is a self-made man and worships his creator.” Someone once used these words to describe a man that he knew. Cutting but true! The world has convinced mankind that a self-motivated, self-serving lifestyle is his right and obligation. The self-worshipper is “full of himself” and thinks nothing of ignoring others and even God, if they stand in the way of his agenda and human nature’s desires. He deliberately keeps God and others at arm’s  length. The Apostle Paul described the self-driven lifestyle in these words: “And that means killing off everything connected  with this way of death: sexual promiscuity, lust, doing whatever you feel like whenever you feel like It, and grabbing whatever attracts your fancy. “That’s a life shaped by feelings and things instead of by God” (Colossians 3:7 MSG).

Let’s dig down deep and see if we can discover our spiritual enemy and how he has always worked his will in our lives. Let’s set aside the image of Satan as having horns, wearing a red suit (fire resistant I presume), and carrying a pitchfork. He is the general on the battlefield of our spiritual life, who dispatches his army of demons to torment us and take us as prisoners of war. Satan ensnares us by manipulating the man of flesh that resides deep within each of us. This man of sin is easy pickings for Satan and his hordes.

Self-control is the only weapon we have fight off the enemy. The problem that we have is that most of us don’t have sufficient ammunition to fight off the invaders. Their concept of self-control is that they, themselves, control our lives and actions. And, of course we as human beings excuse our bad behavior with the lame blaming that “after all we are only human”.   That leaves us holding the bag!

Self-control means that somehow we must exercise control of our choices. Let’s look in the mirror and see our ego-centric self is what we must overcome, and we have to be able to admit that it is out of control and uncontrollable without divine help. The truth of the matter is that until we can overcome the influence of our human nature that rules in our lives. our lives can only get worse…never better!

Several years ago I discovered that hyphenated words that start with “self” run up a red flag. I’m talking about words like self-indulgence, self-fulfillment, self-absorbed, self-motivated, self-love, self-driven, self-pity, self-centered, to mention just a few. I’m sure that others may come to mind. Our problem is that many of these appear to be good characteristics that we have been taught to nurture. Now, substitute “God” for “self” in each of these words and you may be surprised at the cleverness of our enemy. Replacing “self” with “God” brings into sharp focus the kind of live we are prone to live, left to our own devices, and the real life that God offers. It has been suggested to me that sin is a perversion of God-given. When our instincts for security cross an invisible line it can morph onto pride, greed, and envy and anger. Our human need for companionship can turn into lust and lust into sexual impurity. Our need for self-preservation can find expression in angry outbursts and gossip. It has occurred to me that all of my unacceptable behavior can be traced back to my self-centered distortion of legitimate human needs that are carried too far. My responsibility is to learn the difference between my “wants and “needs.” He leaves the choice with us. Do you want to be a self-made man or the Creator’s creation?

A few years ago, a commercial ran on national television that really caught my eye. It was a commercial for the Edward Jones financial people. It opened at a nurses’ station at a hospital. A doctor is on the phone with a patient, who is at home. Try to visualize this scene. The doctor is instructing his patient on how to do surgery on himself. The doctor said: “Now, make an incision about six inches long between your third and fourth rib.” The camera cuts to a very distraught man standing in his kitchen with shirt unbuttoned. In his hand is a butcher knife from the kitchen. He had broken out in a cold sweat, and muttered nervously: “Doc, shouldn’t you be doing this?” The spiritual surgery that must be performed to set a person free from himself is drastic and painful, but absolutely necessary. You must decide whether you want a scalpel, or do you want the Great Physician to take over?

Archbishop Fenelon was a spiritual advisor in the court of King Louis the XIV in France some three hundred years ago. He ministered to a small group of faithful Catholics and often wrote letters to them to encourage and instruct them. Here is an excerpt from one of the letters. “The death that God brings pierces deep within. Soul and spirit will be divided. He sees all in you that you cannot see. He knows exactly where the fatal blows should fall. He heads straight for that which you are most reluctant to give up. Pain is only felt where there is life. And in this situation is precisely the place where death is needed.”(The Seeking Heart-Fenelon, pg 5).

The Christian life was never meant to be a self-improvement program because it requires that we nail our old self to the cross of Christ. When we have carried out this self-crucifixion, God immediately goes to work recreating man in the image of his Son. As Peter wrote, “Everything that goes into a life of pleasing God has been miraculously given to us by getting to know, personally and intimately, the One who invited us to God. The best invitation we ever received! We were also given absolutely terrific promises to pass on to you—your tickets to participation in the life of God after you turned your back on a world corrupted by lust” (II Peter 3-4 MSG). Read Peter’s words again and absorb the significance of what they mean about the daily, intimate relationship that our supernatural God wants to have with each of us.

It boils down to choosing whom we will believe. We have to decide whether we will believe the lies of the father of lies, or take the word of the One who created the universe and mankind. Many years ago I put my trust in God, and have never regretted my decision. I have even begun to experience God working in my life, and that brings me peace, and hope that the world cannot comprehend. I am not willing to be a self-made man any longer, I much prefer becoming A God-fashioned man.

I am content to be the clay and put myself in the hands of the Master Potter to turn a pile of mud like me into something beautiful.

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Filed under Awareness, Christlikeness, conversion, Courage, Culture Wars, Discernment, discipleship, Encouragement, Heart, Holy Spirit, Initiative, Integrity, Jesus Christ, Life, Meaning of Life, Mind, morality, Peace, Persuasion, Philosophy, Redemption, Religion, Scripture, Selflessness, Supernatural, Trust

Overweight, Oversensitive and Overheard

All this talk about overweight Americans has got me a bit skittish.  I have a very hard time losing weight and keeping it off.  I, along with New Jersey governor Christie, don’t need to be told I’m too fat.  I’ve been on the heavy side a loong time. So, I admit to being a little bit sensitive what with all this negative press.

Recently, for example, I was eating breakfast (fat or not, you should always eat breakfast) at our local grocery store foodbar.  Several groups of older men gather there to talk and drink weak coffee.  Some of them were seated behind me and I couldn’t help overhearing some comments that got my attention.

“Wow! He’s a big’un ain’t he?

“Did you see his body?”

“Yup, he must weigh 220!”

“Lookit them littlebitty horns.”

By this time I realized they weren’t talking about me.  After all, I weigh a bit more than that.

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The Answers for Everything

Two questions: Why did the number of disciples explode in the first three centuries after the establishment of the church on that wondrous Day of Pentecost? And, why isn’t similar growth occurring now? Once we have answered these questions, we will have the answers for everything. So what are the differences between then and now and us and them?  I can think of a few:

1.      They were Holy Spirit motivated and driven. Too many of us are ignorant of the Spirit’s provision, power and His primary legacy: inspired Scripture. It is within these God-breathed words we will find the answers we seek, not in some book on church growth.

2.      They were not building-oriented. We are. We spend millions on structures we mistakenly call “churches” with a “sanctuary” and classrooms. Try finding that in Scripture!  What a classic misappropriation of time, energy and money!

3.      They did not have a “professional class” or clergy. We do. We spend millions on their salaries and benefits. Then we work the hound out of them. This too is alien to Scripture. As Lisa Sells has written,

…the pastor (“preacher” for us restorationists-DW) is expected to both nurture the mature and win the lost through a one-way monologue (i.e., the weekly sermon-DW).  Then through the week the pastor is expected to satisfy member needs for personal love and concern.

“The result is often a membership that watches the pastor try to do all the ministry as well as a pastor that is overextended and skating on the edge of burnout. (Lisa Sells, “Avery Willis’ Last Dream,” Mission Frontiers, USCWM, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 626-7971111, www.missionfrontiers.org. January-February 2011, p. 9)

4.      They were not assembly-oriented. We are. Assembly has been called, “The Sunday Morning Show.” It has replaced The Great Commission as the focus of our resources and energies.  Assembly an essential part of our Christian walk but it must not become our major focus.  As Steve Smith wrote,

The Great Commission says we are to go, not invite people to come to us.  We must go to where the lost are, and train the new believers to also go to the lost, into factories, homes, shops and neighborhoods (Steve Smith, “Training for Trainers Process,” Mission Frontiers, January-February 2011, p. 11)

5.      They understood what “making disciples” was and how to do it.  We don’t.  They proclaimed the word, lived the gospel, baptized those who came to belief and taught them to observe all that Jesus commanded.  Those disciples made more disciples who could make disciples and multi-level discipling was born.

6.      They knew that their mission was to follow Christ.  We know it too, but we get distracted by stuff that has nothing to do with our primary mission. They didn’t get involved in peripheral diversions.  Since Jesus came to seek, serve and save the lost, they knew that was their job too.  It’s all right there in the Gospels and the Letters.

It is time to dump the ineffective inventions, innovations, diversions and distractions that have gummed up the simple process of seeking, saving and discipling the lost. It is time to stop wringing our hands in despair and to fill those hands with a copy of Scripture.  It is time to quit looking around wondering what to do and to fill our eyes, mind and heart with the teachings and examples of Jesus and the apostles. There we will find what to do. There we will find the answers to everything.

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The Life of Rafferty

Since I became aware of the death of Gerry Rafferty I’ve been thinking about how we hear so many truths from unexpected sources.  For example, it is all too easy to go Back, Jack and Do it Again because You Don’t Always Get What You Want.  When You Can’t Hide Your Lying Eyes and Life in the Fast Lane makes you lose your mind, The Devil is Pleased to Meet You (we could go on but I’ll stop with these classics).

Rafferty’s rendition of Baker Street, has never failed to move me…not only with its haunting music, but with the truths in his lyrics.  In so many ways, they describe the life of Rafferty including his struggle with alcohol and his reclusive spirit.  The lyrics speak of misguided struggles leading nowhere, lessons learned but not heeded, of truths realized but never internalized.  Sadly, you and I have probably known some pathless pilgrims on Baker Street.

Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well another crazy day, you’ll drink the night away
And forget about everything.

This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people but it’s got no soul
And it’s taken you so long to find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything.

You used to think that it was so easy,
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re tryin’, you’re tryin’ now.
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re cryin’, you’re cryin’ now.

He’s got this dream about buyin’ some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one night stands
And then he’ll settle down, it’s a quiet little town
And forget about everything.

But you know he’ll always keep movin’
You know he’s never gonna stop movin’
Cause he’s rolling, he’s the rolling stone.
And when you wake up it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
But you’re going, you’re going home

Rafferty never found the lasting inner peace longed for in his lyrics.  From his beginnings as an unwanted child with a dysfunctional family to the end of his life, his history is one of hopelessness addiction and unrealized potential.

Would Jesus Christ have made a difference in his life?  I think so, but you be the judge.  Since Jesus is the bringer of light and life, peace and hope — I believe it would have made a huge difference.  And since fellowship with His followers brings comfort, compassion, encouragement and shared strength, I am confident his life could have been very different.  Tragically, we shall never know.

Look around my friend.  Do you see someone on a hopeless highway, trying to find their way home?  Help them find the way to a new morning.
♦♦♦♦

My Blogs:
Whitticisms
: dwhitsett.wordpress.com

In the Charamon Garden: charamongarden.wordpress.com
Whitsett Woodcarving: whitcarv.wordpress.com
Mission South Pacific: missionsouthpacific.wordpress.com

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CREDIBILITY = SUCCESS

We have not been very smart to expect people to listen to the gospel simply because we are preaching it.  We do a bit of advertising, get into our building or some other auditorium and expect people to beat down the doors in order to hear our wonderful speeches.

We forget that people listened to Jesus because he loved the souls of men and women and they knew it.  He proved his concern by the deeds of kindness he performed (Acts 10:38).  He, and those who first followed, earned the right to be heard.  Jesus, His apostles and disciples validated the gospel by their deeds (Mark 16:17-20).  Validation is still needed. We still have something to prove!  We must prove that what we want to give away is worth taking.

Consequently, in the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, we see tremendous stress upon good deeds.  They taught that the gospel must be seen as well as heard. Jesus knows that people are not likely to believe, trust and obey a Savior who is not visible in the lives of those who claim to be his followers.  He pointed out to his contemporaries in the religious leadership that they were “…invalidating the word of God,” by their “tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that. (Mark 7:13)”

Our problem today is not so much that we invalidate the gospel, but that we fail to validate it at all. If we think that having a benevolent program and passing out Christmas baskets is sufficient, we are sadly mistaken.  To these good works must be added such things as assistance to the hurting areas of our inner cities.  We must offer assistance to struggling marriages and families.  We must utilize the spiritual gifts of our members to help heal the hurts of those under our influence.  And, all these good works must be solidly linked to the good news message.

Nice, comfortable buildings, “meaningful” worship services and impressive programs will not get the gospel to the lost.  Only when converted people preach a valid gospel will it be listened to.  Lives that are “adorning the doctrine of God in every respect, (Titus 2:10)” will provide that authentication.  It is madness to expect success when we have no credibility. We must gain the attention of those to whom we would preach by letting Christ be seen in us.

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IMITATION

gules-dorsiMy good friend and fellow co-worker in the kingdom, Bob Marks, is the preacher for the Warringah church in Sydney, Australia.  In this post, I want to feature his excellent article about imitating Christ.

According to the dictionary an imitator is one who patterns their life or some aspect of it on another.

Last weekend’s Sunday Telegraph contained a story about Gules D’Orsi, a 25 year old university student from Adelaide who was informed that she looked a lot like Princess Diana.  She was in Madrid when a homeless man came up to her shouting over and over, “Diana, you’re not dead!”

Gules said she was always a tomboy, but she got to a point where she knew she had to present herself better. “I used to be a major drag.” She started wearing her hair short like Diana and since then people often come up to her, take pictures of her, and ask permission to put them on Facebook. People the world over love to see images of Princess Diana even so long after her passing.

Princess Diana memorabilia still is very collectible.  It’s interesting to see people’s fascination with seeing a real live version of Diana! They like to be reminded of their favourite princess!

All of this reminds me of the desire that Christians have, or should have, to imitate Jesus. In Ephesians 5:1 Paul tells us to “be imitators of God”. He uses the Greek word mimetai from which we get our word to “mimic.” The idea is to copy closely, to repeat another person’s speech, actions, behaviour and mannerisms. We should be so like Jesus that when people see us, they see Jesus in us, and are drawn to him through us. To God “…we are a fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing” and we should be spreading all around us this fragrance we have through the knowledge of Jesus! (2 Corinthians 2:14,15)

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A Lesson from the Carrot Patch

carrots-in-love-2One of my favorite parables of Christ is found in Matthew 13:24-30

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, “Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?” And he said to them, “An enemy has done this!” The slaves said to him, “Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?” But he said, “No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

My carrot patch (the picture above is of carrots I harvested today just in time for Valentine’s Day!) started out pristine – weeds were not allowed. After the seeds came up I faithfully pulled each weed and laid mulch between each row of carrots. It was beautiful. Then, I got busy elsewhere and the weeds took advantage of my distraction.

Now, the carrots are finally ready to be pulled but it’s hard to tell the carrots from the weeds. But, know what? It’s not a problem. When we need carrots, I just go out and pull both weeds and carrots. It’s easy to tell the difference – the carrots have those long, orange roots (you know, the part we eat) while the weeds don’t. So, I quickly sort the carrots from the weeds and take the former into the house to prepare for a meal.

While this method won’t work for most vegetables, this is how I would love to garden…just let the weeds grow! Then, when it comes time to harvest, sort it all out.

In the garden of the world that’s exactly what God does. He asks us to sow the seed (word of God – the gospel), plant and water (1 Corinthians 3:4-9). The resulting growth is His work, not ours. In every case, some weeds will come up. Thankfully, it’s also not our job to discern the weeds from the wheat, that’s God’s business. At harvest, He takes care of the sorting.

When we try to do God’s work and pull up the weeds, precious souls are damaged. We’re terrible at it. Yet, that’s exactly what we spend a lot of time and energy doing…deciding who’s in and who’s out.  The results are predictable: disunity, denominational polarization and isolation, anger and disgust by those who observe.  Men and women are drawn by the cross but  repelled by our actions.  Satan loves it.

Let’s leave the weeding up to God.

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