Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Living Dead, Part Seven

Whew!  We've finally made it to the last point on The Living Dead Test.  I don't know about you, but I've learned a lot along the way--both about myself and about what it really means to be fully surrendered to God in all things.  So, let's finish this test up, okay?

"When you can take correction, when you can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, with no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart--that is dying to self."

This is where that ugly thing called pride comes in. . . again.  To be corrected means that obviously someone thinks we're doing something wrong.  Now, whether we're actually doing something wrong or not, our natural tendency is to balk at correction, is it not?  Our pride doesn't like to hear the words, "You're not doing it right" or "You shouldn't be doing that."  We like for our egos to be stroked.  We enjoy encouragement and consent, not correction.

Just this weekend, I was discussing something with Jason, and from the information I had given him, he felt that I was making hasty conclusions on a particular topic.  In an effort to "correct" my way of thinking, he brought up a side of the topic that I was trying to ignore.  It wasn't that I didn't know it was there, but I had already thought it through and was trying to avoid thinking any longer on the drawbacks.  Because I didn't bring them up, Jason assumed (and rightfully so) that I hadn't thought things through, and he was trying to help me avoid setting myself up for failure or frustration.

I see that clearly now, but I must admit that, at the time, my pride was wounded.  My knee-jerk reaction was, "What, does he think I'm stupid?  I know this.  I've thought it through.  Why did I ask for his opinion in the first place?"  But even as these thoughts swirled through my mind, trying to find a foothold, the Lord brought to mind this study on dying to self, and I was able to recognize those thoughts for what they were--the results of wounded pride, nothing more.  Upon this realization, I cast the thoughts aside, and Jason and I were able to have a wonderful day of communication and fellowship, without any trace of bitterness or negative feelings.

Jason was completely right in what he said and did.  He was acting as a faithful and loving husband should.  He was being a spiritual leader and protecting me from all enemies (even myself).  I was the one in the wrong because I was the one who almost allowed my proud heart to ruin a wonderful family day.  I was the one who balked at the correction and decided to take it as an insult to my intelligence when it was truly intended as wise counsel.  Thankfully, the Lord helped me to see what I was doing before things got really ugly, but oh, how wonderful it would be to get to the point where we don't jump to faulty conclusions or react out of foolish pride.  It's going to take some work, but that's where I want to be.  How about you?

"When you can take correction, when you can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, with no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart--that is dying to self."

As we close, let me remind you that dying to self is not a one time thing.  It happens every day, often several times a day.  It entails constant surrender to the Lord, allowing Him to live through us in everything that we say, do and even think.  And while I know it seems impossible, may I leave you with this one comforting thought--Nothing is impossible with God!!!!!

And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible. - Mark 10:27

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Living Dead, Part Six

Hang in there, everyone!  I know the past several posts have been tough, but I can honestly say that they've done me a lot of good.  By discussing "dying to self" in specific terms, I have become more aware of my thoughts and actions and have even caught myself in the process of living for self rather than dying to self.  That being said, I'll be happy to have the last two points finished so that we can hopefully move on to happier and more encouraging posts.  Ready for number six?

"When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, or any society--that is dying to self."

Hmm, it seems to me that those categories list the things of which most complaints exist.  Seriously, how often do we complain about how bad the food is or how little we received when we felt we deserved more?  Or how about the famous statement, more often associated with females rather than males, "I don't have anything to where," when, in fact, we have an entire closet full of nice things?  Climate and society?  Oh, don't even get us started, right?  It's too hot.  It's too cold.  I'm tired of the snow.  I'm sick of all this rain.  These politicians are all crooks.  Our government is going under faster than the Titanic.  Just look at all these deadbeats that are benefitting from my hard work.  Would you like some cheese with that whine?

Let's face it, as a whole, we're seldom content with anything.  More often than not, we find ourselves complaining about something.  Things just aren't good enough for us.  But if we'd really stop and think about it, we would see just how selfish and self-centered that type of attitude is.  It's all about us and what we want, but isn't it all supposed to be about God?

I must admit that the very first part of this one hits me the hardest as I have been contemplating making a drastic change in my daily diet.  As a sufferer of many health issues, I have grown weary of the constant pain and fatigue.  So weary, in fact, that I've found myself looking into meal plans that I would have never considered before.  I mean, seriously, who wants to give up chocolate and pizza and pastas?  For so long, I've told myself that I simply can't do it.  I can't give up these foods.  Truth is, I can, but I don't want to.  I've been living for self and indulging in the foods I enjoyed rather than those my body needs.  In short, I have not been content with any food, only those foods that I consider yummy.  Now, I am faced with a decision:  continue to live for self and let my health suffer or take control of my eating habits by eating what I know is right rather than what tastes good.  Not an easy decision, let me tell you, but it is a necessary one.

The same can be said for every area mentioned in this sixth point.  God is in control of all things, and when we complain about our lot in life, it is a slap in God's face.  Without saying the exact words, we are basically accusing God of "not doing it right."  I think back to the advice my wise husband gave me a few years ago:  If you're not happy with something in your life, do what you can to fix it, but don't complain about it.  Complaining doesn't solve the problem; it only spoils the attitude.  Well said, dear hubby!

"When you are content with any food, any offering, any raiment, any climate, or any society--that is dying to self."

Contentment versus complaining.  Dying to self versus living for self.  A choice must be made.  There's really no such thing as the living dead, despite what the horror movies would have you believe.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. - Philippians 4:11

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Living Dead, Part Five

Today we are going to be looking at number five on "The Living Dead Test," but before we do, I want to remind you why we're doing this.  The purpose of this series of posts is not to discourage you or to put you down, but rather to help you see what areas of your spiritual walk still need work.  Understanding our weaknesses is the first step to correcting them, right?  That being said, let's continue the test.

"When you can see your brother or sister prosper and can honestly rejoice with him, and feel no envy even though your needs are greater--that is dying to self."

Ouch, that's another tough one, isn't it?  Have you ever been guilty of thinking or saying, "Why doesn't that ever happen to me?" or "Why can't I catch a break like that?"  Oh boy, I have!  Sometimes it does seem like those "big breaks" always happen to everyone but you, right?  The great job with good pay and benefits.  Really?  That writing contract that would have expanded your ministry to new heights.  Seriously?  The monetary gift that would have enabled you to pay all of this month's bills instead of having to pick and choose which payments would be late.  For real?

I personally know of a few people who seem to have blessings literally fall in their laps all the time, and the truly sad part is that some of these people are not using their time and talents to serve the Lord.  And honestly, when I hear them talk about blessing after blessing while I'm secretly wondering how I'm going to pay the mortgage and whether we'll ever be able to fix our leaky roof, I find it difficult to rejoice but quite easy to envy.  "Why do they get all the breaks and I get all the problems? It's just not fair!"

Well, the truth, my friend, is that God never promised that life would be fair, but He did promise that He would supply all our needs.  That being the case, we can all say that we have been blessed, and we need to be careful that we do not allow envy to blind us to our many blessings or to cause a seed of bitterness to well up in our hearts.  No, we may not have what John Doe has, but we can trust that we have what God wants us to have at present.  When He's ready for us to have more, He'll open that door of opportunity.  In the meantime, while we're waiting on those doors to open, He would like for us to praise Him in the hallway.

"When you can see your brother or sister prosper and can honestly rejoice with him, and feel no envy even though your needs are greater--that is dying to self."

Oh, good grief!  I've got some serious dying to do.  How about you?

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? - I Corinthians 3:3

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Living Dead, Part Four

I don't know about you, but I'm not doing so well on this test, and we're only halfway through.  Are you ready for number four?  Well, ready or not, here it is:

"When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works, or itch for praise after an accomplishment, when you can truly love to be unknown. . . that is dying to self."

This one has a lot of facets to it, so let's break it down one by one, starting with "never care to refer to yourself in conversation."  Some of you may be thinking, Well, if I don't talk about myself, what am I going to talk about?  Let's face it.  We like to talk about ourselves, our dreams, our accomplishments, and we even have the gall to get upset if the recipient of our "conversation" doesn't seem as interested as we think he/she should be.  When was the last time we simply listened to someone else without waiting in expectation for our turn to talk?  The last time I checked, dead people don't talk. . . especially about themselves.

How about part two:  "itch for praise after an accomplishment"?  Lord knows, I have tried to work on this one.  The Lord has blessed me with a variety of talents, and I honestly want to use them for His honor and glory.  But I must admit that there is still a part of me that secretly longs for applause and praise.  "Beautiful offertory this morning, Dana."  "Wow, you did such a great job on that song."  "That lesson was exactly what I needed to hear.  How did you know?"  I admit, it feels good to hear these things, and I often struggle to find a way to turn the praise back to God.  This kind of leads into the next point:  "truly love to be unknown."

When was the last time we did something for someone else anonymously?  It's probably been a while, huh?  We don't mind doing things as long as everyone knows we did them, right?  We're so proud to point out the bathrooms that we cleaned at the church or the cookies we baked and carried to the shut ins, but all the while, God is disappointed.  Not that we're serving, but with the attitude with which we're serving.  Are we doing it for Him or for us?  Are we giving Him the praise for the opportunity to serve or are we hoping to gain praise for ourselves?

I believe today's point could be summarized by saying that those who are dead to self are not selfish and self-centered.  They put God's work and the needs of others before their own, and they do so without any hope of praise or recognition.  They are content to serve in the background, knowing that God knows what they are doing for Him and realizing that that is enough.

"When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation or record your own good works, or itch for praise after an accomplishment, when you can truly love to be unknown. . . that is dying to self."

Die already, self!  Die!!!

Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. - Philippians 2:3-4