Lent: Watch your Mindset

I had a converstaion recently which reminded me of the importance of our thoughts and how the way we think affects us.

We think in terms of “I am” statements.

I am poor. I am destitute. I am sick. I am depressed.

These thoughts define us in our own minds. They are a statement of agreement with an accusation of the enemy. We need to cut this behaviour out and recognise the Truth behind the lie.

“Poor” is not the same as “broke”

I have been broke. Often. But I’ve never been “poor”. Poor is a state of mind. It is an acceptance of poverty. Someone who is in a state of poverty is defined by it. He is trapped by the agreement that he is “poor”. And that very agreement then prevents him (or her) from breaking free of the hold the enemy has on their life. If we believe we are poor we develop a “poverty” mindset. That means we look at every cent that comes in. We account for everything to pay the “essentials” and we generally cut out our tithe or gift as an “unnecessary expense”. The thought drops in “I can start giving again when the situation improves”. But if you don’t sow a seed, you can’t reap a harvest.

Don’t misunderstand me here. As opposed to other “prosperity” teachers I’m not saying you must give to me, my ministry or any particular organisation or church. There’s no “donations” page on this blog. I ask for nothing except feedback. I want to see the church blessed financially, and to see God’s People freed from a poverty mindset. The only way that can happen is a paradigm shift that eliminates this poverty agreement.

“I am sick” is just as bad.

Currently I take medication daily for diabetes type 2. This is a “pregressive” illness, meaning it gets worse as you get older.

Mine isn’t. It’s getting better. I’ve not changed anything except how I look at the diagnosis. I used to say every time “My diabetes”. Agreement. Acceptance. Ownership. It was mine.

Then I realised Isaiah and Peter both point out that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed.

Healed. Cured. Fixed. Sickness has no permanent hold on us.

But we can hold onto sickness. That’s happened with me. I spent over ten years declaring the diabetes to be something that defined me. It made me who I was by agreement. The revelation that it wasn’t who I am, but the agreement was a lie is something I’ve been working on for over 5 years now. It takes time to win that fight sometimes, but even if it’s by inches, I’m winning. The same with my eyesight. I wear glasses, but I’ve not needed to change my prescription since I began to understand this principle of not agreeing with the lie. Now I get a new pair of specs a year because my medical insurance pays for it, and I wear them out. No other reason. Or I get contact lenses. Either way, my eyesight is stable, and I expect it to begin to get better. Again, like diabetes, deterioration is “progressive”. It’s a lie.

Moses was 120 years old and his sight hadn’t failed. And he lived under the Old Covenant. How much healthier should we be under the New Covenant?

And then there’s the doozy…

“I’m depressed”.

I’ve battled this one. Victory and loss in almost equal numbers – leaning slightly towards victory now finally.

Depression is a big one. It’s so convincing. The thoughts bombard your mind and it seems reasonable to accept them. What begins with a natural emotion like grief can begin to spiral if we don’t keep our thoughts submitted to God. Grief becomes anger. Unresolved anger becomes depression. Disabling, crippling thought patterns that rob us of the joy of living.

Sound familiar?

The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy the Bible warns us. Depression, like any illness, has a spiritual root, a physical root and an emotional root. Like a difficult tooth it gets in with an infection and we need to have it removed. Psychology tries to crown it. Cut off the tooth, but the root just gets identifief, not removed, then burined under good intentions. Sometimes it’s enough. If we bury the root in Christ as the Crown, then the root will not trouble us again too badly. There may be flare ups now and then right?

Wrong.

If a dental root is diseased a crown won’t fix it. Eventually it spreads and rots the bone. The rot goes into the blood stream. Poison. Deadly poison. An egyptian mummy was given an MRI and it established cause of death was most likely blood poisoning due to a dental abscess. Slow. Painful. Like depression.

Rip the root out competely, however, and it can’t bother you again. treat the site so no worse infection gets in and then no more toothache.

It’s the same with depression. Some of my roots got buried, some got removed by God’s power. The ones buried keep coming back to haunt me until I find the strength to have them pulled.

And it hurts. The pain is made worse because it’s festered and been allowed to rot. My wife is encouraging me to seek grief counselling (Christian counsellor) over the death of my brother to find healing. He died 29 years ago in 1985 at the age of 9 years and 11 months. Recently I’ve had violent mood swings as that root has flared up because of other things I’ve had to deal with. The root needs excising. It will not be pleasant, but I recognise it’s essential for my health and my ministry to not be hampered any longer by this grief.

I’d entered an agreement I didn’t even know about because I didn’t watch my mindset.

Brother Lawrence wrote about “practicing the presence of God”, which I have read only extracts of. The wisdom in what I’ve read is incredible. See stirring a pot of stew as an act of worship, or washing the dishes, or hugging your sibling. Anything we do, do it as for Christ. Make Him the first, last and only focus of our every action and live a life Holy, and wholly devoted to Worship. When I can it changes everything for me. From writing this blog to washing up, helping my mum (who can drive me batty in 0.001 seconds) or even patting the dog, when seen as worshipping God by my actions is a whole new way of thinking for me. The trials in my life suddenly dim as His Brightness overwhelms me. I remember it’s His cross I carry, as a yoke – He takes the weight, and I simply mark His footsteps.

So keep your eyes on Christ. Watch how you set your mind and your heart. David fixed his heart to serve God in all things. As a result of trusting God’s goodness, God forgave his adultery and murder. He submitted himself and his thoughts to God – to Christ, the Messiah – and his Faith was credited as righteousness.

If he could, we can.

Watch your thought life.

I’m trying to watch mine.

Lent: Right, Popular, Both or Neither

Nicky Gumbel tweeted today, 5th April 2014:

‘What’s popular isn’t always right. What’s right isn’t always popular.’

 He’s very right. It’s popular to have a “progressive” view of the Christian faith. It makes it easy to be a Christian if you make the message more “inclusive”. Or “encompassing”.

It’s easy to be a christian if you’re not challenged by it. If you don’t need to change your behaviour or thought patterns, then why not? A ticket to heaven and do what you want here.

But it isn’t what the Bible says.

Following Christ is free – but it’s costly if you really follow Him.

It’s “free” in the sense of it being available to anyone and everyone. We can all choose to follow or not.

It costs us because of what we will have to surrender to Him when we make the choice. Sin can be great pleasure for a season. But when the season is over it brings pain and heartbreak. The Joy from following Christ may involve pain during this season, but the Joy and happiness that comes with true Holiness and living a separated Life in Christ just keeps going.

Many people I’ve known have encountered problems and walked away from Christ as a result. Not that their problems weren’t real. Marriages failed or people in a local church rejected them when they moved home because they did things differently. Work problems, health issues and money worries. All of the reasons could be “rationalised” as a reason to abandon Faith.

But a century ago – maybe 150 years now – none would have been considered reasonable reasons. In the old Revivals they would simply have been understood as being attacks by an enemy seeking to drive us away from God, and the Faithful would have gathered round in support

Now we see it as “reasonable” to walk away – after all, “they’ll be back” seems to be the watch-phrase.

But will they? Probably not today. Modern society drives wedges like no other society has ever managed to between God and His Church. The enemy is surely kicking himself that he didn’t bring this society in years ago. He could have destroyed so many lives so much sooner.

Charles Spurgeon, the 19th Century minister wrote of Luke 23:26

“We see here a picture of the church: She follows Jesus, bearing the cross. Note that Jesus did not suffer to keep you from suffering. He bears the cross not for you to escape it, but for you to endure it. But we can comfort ourselves with this thought: As with Simon, it is not our cross, but Christ’s cross that we carry. When you are mocked for your devotion to Jesus, remember it is his cross.” (Morning by Morning)

 Carrying the cross of Jesus is very different from bearing our own sin. Our sin will crush us. Jesus’s cross is the yoke He speaks of. Easy and light. We walk with Him and bear His cross so He can carry our sin.

But saying it isn’t popular. Speaking out Truth never makes people popular. Jesus was killed for it. Through the last 2000 years the martyrs of the Faith have all been killed for it from Stephen’s stoning onwards to those imprisoned and executed today for daring to question the koran or denouncing Mohammed as the false prophet he is.

What’s Popular when it comes to Christianity is seldom correct. Of course an unpopular theology could be wrong as well, but it’s usually an obvious one. The bigot at the roadside trying to claim God hates inter-racial marriage. The arrogant individual condemning the rape victim for aborting the foetus.

I’m not saying I condone “abortion” per se, but I recognise God’s ability to forgive us any sin. The question of when it’s “abortion” and when it’s “contraception” is also a sore point. I don’t believe a “morning after” pill given to a rape victim is abortion. But termination at 20 weeks is. There’s a difference between preventing a pregnancy and ending one after the fact is established as a means of birth control. Even so, it’s not unforgiveable, but I’m certain God won’t condone it.

It’s not just what we say, but how we say it that’s the real issue.

We need to be able to tell people about the Love of Jesus without them feeling they are condemned for being less than perfect. We were in their shoes once, and someone did that for us. They were Jesus to us, and we responded to His Love through them, not (usually) fear of a wrathful deity, but the care and compassion of a Loving God.

Many years ago I shared some of the Gospel with a friend but lost my nerve before I could invite him to accept Christ. I’ve regretted it ever since. He had been touched by God during our conversation, and even reduced to tears at the understanding that God recognised the mask as a mask, and how deeply sad he was inside under it. It was like watching a train come towards me, and I blinked when the enemy whispered to me “He’ll go from tears to lauging in your face” as I steeled to invite him into the Church. I didn’t ask, and there’s not been many days since that I haven’t prayed that someone with more maturity than I had then has come across his path. It’s over 20 years, and I still think about it every day – not feeling condemned, but being aware of the enemy’s ability to whisper doubt and fear into my mind.

Another time the enemy tried the same trick allowed me to speak words of healing when I stood fast. As James 4:7 says “Therefore, submit to God. Moreover, take a stand against the Adversary, and he will flee from you.” (Complete Jewish Bible)

I submit to God and stand my ground. If I just stand, it may be close – 10000 falling by my right hand close – but it won’t touch me. I stand and hold fast to my confession.

So starting this lent, quit trying to be popular and up-to-date. Rather seek to be Right in God’s eyes. Sometimes you’ll be both. Take our eyes off Jesus and often we are neither.

Christianity is not a popularity contest. It’s not life and death.

It’s more than that.

Lent: Pursuing Holiness

It’s something we forget to do too often.
We rush in our Christian walk to Faith and Hope. We expect Love to abound from us in huge dollops like syrup onto pancakes. We look for signs and wonders.
We wait.
And wait.
Then we quit.
We quit without ever seeing the fulness of what God has for us often. The richness of the deep relationship He longs to have with us gets missed and replaced with duty and obligation. Routine replaces passion and we die slowly as our life is sapped from us one day at a time. Salvation becomes a “for later” concept – even for many Christians – which beckons to a full life to come, but we have to put up with what we have right now until we die. Life is hard, then we die. It’s become almost a catchphrase for the church (note small “c”) without being specifically used.
But why do we have the traumas we struggle with? What prevents us from entering into the full relationship Christ died to win for us?
Holiness. Rather our lack of it.
We’ve lost sight of our holiness in the muddle of worldliness we exist in the middle of. Paul writes to the “Saints” in each area, and we long for that acknowledgement of us. But we have the bumper-sticker mentality of being “sinner saved by grace” instead of “Beloved Child”. The mentality crept in that we were “saved” by Jesus, but then James’s words got twisted when he wrote about faith without works being dead, and having works. Somewhere down the line it got understood and then taught as being salvation because of the works performed, rather than the works being performed as a mark of salvation in us.
Salvation by works is futile and fruitless. It is also impossible. We can do nothing in our own strength to make us worthy of God. Even the faith to believe in Him comes from Him!
So how do an unholy people commune and build a relationship with a Holy God?
The answer is simple: they don’t. They need; no – We need a representative as Holy as God to be able to stand in our place. Enter Jesus.
Jesus as man was purely human. He was fully human in a way we cannot be outside Him. He was made, as the Hymnwriter John Henry Newman describes Him in his hymn “Praise to the Holiest in the Height”, as 

“A second Adam to the fight
And to the rescue came”

 An incredibly accurate description of Jesus. Our rescuer – even though we didn’t realise we needed rescuing – in a fight we didn’t realise we were battling. We were being fought over long before we recognised it.

Adam was a perfect man. Fully human in a way only Jesus has been since. Adam’s blood condemns us. Jesus’s Blood liberates us.

Because of the Holiness of Jesus.

John Eldredge has written an entire book on the subject of “The Utter Relief of Holiness” where he addresses in far more detail than I can in this entry how – in detail – Holiness is what we were created for.

But we need to pursue it. Relentlessly. Unceasingly.

We must be completely single minded in our pursuit of the Holiness of Jesus. Out of it comes a deeper relationship with a Holy God who desires our company so much He chose to become Sin for us.

So continuing the Lent theme of giving things up, let’s give up quitting. Let’s give up turning our backs on the pursuit of Holiness and drink deeply from the suppy Jesus taps us into.

Pursue Him the way He pursued us.