Monday, January 28, 2008

Breathing Underwater III: Give Up To God!

Let’s be real with ourselves, others & God.

I saw this on someone's Facebook site yesterday: Living life trying to keep my head above water.

Series recap: Step One: I am powerless to control my tendency to do the wrong thing and my life is unmanageable.

“Lord, apart from you, my life becomes broken, and I don't know how to fix it. Please help me. Do for me what I cannot do for myself.”

Matthew 5:3
"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule."

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.” Thomas a Kempis

I hope that we are becoming a people who have entered into mercy and allow others to enter it, too.

If you haven't got time for your child's pain, make the time; you can pay (attention) now, or you can pay (the consequences) later. Heath Ledger dies at 28. Six prescription drugs were found.

The longer we postpone our pain, the further recovery gets away. The longer we deny it, postpone it and say, “It’s no problem, it’s not a big issue, I can deal with it, I can handle it,” the fewer the days we have on this earth being all God meant for us to be.

Step Two: Believe that God exists, that I matter to Him, and that He has the power to help me recover.

“Father, I believe that your Son, Jesus, can restore my soul. Jesus, please be the Physician I need. I invite you to enter my heart and bring healing to any disease you find there. Only you can make me whole. Dissolve all that keeps me separate from you.”

Matthew 5:4
"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you."

Pain is the doorway to healing. Listen to the pain.

“All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why.” James Thurber

Nothing is ever really suppressed. It just leaks out somewhere else.

Bill Hybels experience. Not addicted to anything? Christian crack-coffee, cigarettes, exercise, affirmation, _? Don’t think you’re at the end of your rope?

Do you really want to see how much is left? More than ½ of marriages end in divorce. Sickness, job loss, financial ruin, trouble with kids.

“I’m fine, really.” No you're not...

Philippians 2:13
“For God is at work within you, giving the will and the power to achieve his purpose.”

God says, “Your willpower is not enough. Good intentions are not enough. What you need is My will and My power to help you change. I will give you the willpower.” You might say, “I don’t even know if I want to change. I’m scared to death of change.” Then you say, “God, I’m willing to be made willing. I don’t even know if I want to change.”

Isaiah 43:2
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Someone emailed this to me about last Sunday's service: "It would be a relief if God took a day off once in a while and maybe rested on the Sabbath but that didn’t happen yesterday." It brings us smack dab to Step Three:

I choose to commit all my life & my will to Christ's care & control.

"It is a foolish sheep that makes the wolf his counselor." John Ray

Matthew 11:28-30
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

A climber falls off a cliff & half way down he manages to grab a branch. He’s hanging on for dear life. He looks around- one hundred feet down & one hundred feet straight up. He cries out, “Somebody help!” He hears the voice of God, “This is the Lord, trust Me, let go and I’ll catch you.” He looks back down at the bottom; he looks up. “Is there anybody else up there?

God is the last resort. I’m afraid to let go. Some of you are hanging on for dear life by that branch and saying, “This isn’t that bad. No problem, really, I’m fine.”

What is freedom? Freedom is choosing who controls you. Remember the myth of control- it’s really an illusion.

Conversion is our movement towards God and it is a process of disenchantment with our ego, (what the Bible calls ‘the false self’) recognizing how truly afraid and poor we really are. The only way we can ever be freed from our fears is to be freed from ourselves. There is a relationship between the amount of fear in our lives and the amount of attachment we have to ourselves. The person who is beyond fear has given up the need to control or possess. That person says, ‘I am who I am in God's eyes—nothing more, nothing less. I don't need to impress you because I am who I am, and not who you think I am—or who I think I am’.

What keeps us from making that step towards God? We’ve talked a little about control & denial. But there’s more….

Guilt and shame. They are closely related but have a couple of profound differences. A feeling of guilt tells us that we’ve transgressed an ethical principle. Guilt happens to ‘good’ people who do bad things. Shame is a little different. It is the monster behind our control.

Shame feels like guilt, but in feeling shame it is not necessary to have transgressed an ethical value. If we just make a mistake, a small error of any kind that shows we’re imperfect- that we’re human, an overwhelming feeling of shame, of feeling less-than worthless, can come over us. Shame is often a pervasive feeling that can be activated by another feeling: I might get angry with my kids and then experience shame about my anger because I was told as a child that ‘good’ people don’t get angry.

Second, the basic feeling of shame is one of being bad, defective person or worthless. With guilt we feel like a good person who did a bad thing; with shame we feel like a bad person for being imperfect. We tend to pile up all this pain & shame, cover it up, suppress it, reach for control, manipulate, and sabotage our best efforts through self destructive behaviors, you name it. We get addicted in the end. After a while any addiction quits working and the pain & shame return. When this happens we switch to another addiction, or ramp it up to cover our pain. In the end perfectionism is a real killer!

One of the most common parental sayings to children when they do something wrong is, ‘Shame on you,’ or 'You should be ashamed of yourself.' Even well-meaning parents have dug a shame hole for their children, myself included. & Then there’s the really bad stuff that we do or gets done to us. Denial makes the world go around because we’re too busy covering up our shame!

Our addiction, our control becomes an emotional painkiller. It’s like trying to keep beach balls under water. They want to pop up!

‘You’re as sick as your secrets’ is an old saying. So go and tell someone. Tell God.

The idea of deciding to turn my life and will over to God seemed not only impossible, but also stupid. The notion that I was going to have to take Step Three in order to get well made me furious. I could almost hear God as being those shame and fear voices we talked about- and they sounded just like my parents yelling at me. Roger from Compelled To Control

“No way I’m going to turn my life over to God. He’d ruin me-and I’d deserve it.”

You ought to fire that SOB! You ought to fire him! You’ve got the wrong God for this program friend. The God who operates here is loving, forgiving and gives you all the chances you need to get the program (the 12-Steps); He’s honest and will always be there for you. I had a God like yours when I first came in here, but I had to fire him and get me a new God.”

You know when you hear the stories about a little four year old gone missing & you feel sick to your stomach? You know there’s a whole pile of people looking, perhaps you’ve even joined some searches. If no one was looking can you imagine how you’d feel. ‘Get out there, a little one is lost!

We’re all little lost four year olds in God’s eyes.

Matthew 18:1-7
At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, "Who gets the highest rank in God's kingdom?"
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, "I'm telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God's kingdom. What's more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it's the same as receiving me. "But if you give them a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you'll soon wish you hadn't. You'd be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. Doom to the world for giving these God-believing children a hard time! Hard times are inevitable, but you don't have to make it worse—and it's doomsday to you if you do.

"God is in love with you. He overflows with compassion for His kids."

When you take this Third Step you give up everything and then you never had it so good. Because God takes what you’ve given Him, He turns it around, He adds new meaning, new significance, new vitality, gives it back to you in a whole new way.

“God I don’t even know what I want to give up but I do know I want my life to be under your control so God here is a blank check. I don’t understand it all but if You’re really real, come into my life. If You can give me a better life than I’m living right now, do it.”

In WWII the strategy used to win the Pacific back was island hopping. The forces would target strategic islands and begin bombarding the enemy forces there. That was called the softening up period.

"Commonly, first we fall and later we see it—and both are the Mercy of God." Julian of Norwich

Many of us are in a softening up period right now. All kinds of explosions are going off in life that are sending fragments everywhere & you're saying, "This isn't working." It's softening up your pride. You are beginning to say: "I need help. I need God in my life. There's too much stress."

“To wait for moments or places where no pain exists, no separation is felt and where all human restlessness has turned into inner peace is waiting for a dream world.”
Henri Nouwen

“Much as I long to be out of here, I don't believe a single day has been wasted. What will come out of my time here it is too early to say. But something is bound to come out of it.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Could Bonhoeffer ever have imagined the impact his written words and lifestance would have more than sixty years after his death?

In the next phase, the Marines would come in & establish a beachhead—maybe it was very small. But they now had a presence on the island. When they had established the beachhead, had they completely liberated the island? No. They had just gotten in.

From there they began to fight the battles. Sometimes they'd win the battle & sometimes they'd lose it. But everybody knew that once they'd established a beachhead—total liberation of the island was inevitable—it was just a matter of time.

In the history of WWII—once the Marines had landed & established a beachhead they never lost an island. It was just a matter of time that the entire island would be set free.

When you take step 3—what's happening is God gets a beachhead in your life. The Bible calls it conversion. It means God has a presence in our life. Does that mean everything in life is suddenly perfect? No—it just means God's in our life, He's got a beach head & the rest of our life He's going to be setting us free, little by little by little. It's a process.

Not only that but He’s allowing us to become a beachhead in the lives of others. In families, neighborhoods, workplaces, places of recreation, we are His hands & feet!

"Lord, you woke me up this morning. It means you have another day for me, a purpose for my life. What do you want me to do with it?"

If you ask Him He may even tell you the things He’d like you to do that day!

Step Three: I choose to commit all my life & my will to Christ's care & control.

Ruthless ambition can lead one to the very failure and emptiness that is the point of conversion. With God in our life no one ever dies alone.

Any problem we face can be handled, with God’s help, one day at a time. We will either view God’s character in light of our circumstances, or our circumstances in light of God’s character. If we choose the former, we will tend to look away from God and look to ourselves instead.

Matthew 5:5
You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

My will is yours, Jesus. Although my fingers are probably crossed right now, I do want you to make any changes in my life that are needed (especially in my thought life—and the way I imagine you) until I no longer want to be in control of my life. As you prayed in the garden, "Your will and not mine be done."

Might as well jump…


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