Thursday, August 28, 2014

SELF-CENTEREDNESS

This article probably describes SOMEONE YOU KNOW. Interestingly, all the main points in the paragraphs below came to me while listening to a lady complain about her friends at church. She exemplified most of the principles discussed. —B Long

SELF-CENTEREDNESS
“Self-centeredness” and “selfishness” are two different things. A selfish person wants his own way, his own advantage, pleasure, and comfort without regard for others, and does not care how it affects others. A self-centered person evaluates and judges everything according to how it relates to or affects him, and is oblivious to how it affects others. A selfish person will deliberately hurt you. A self-centered person will hurt you and not realize it.

A self-centered person has great difficulty in relationships because he has inner struggles with what he assumes others think about him. He wonders what they really meant by something they said. Self-centered people only get along with people who are givers and those strong enough to bear with and indulge them. They are unable to edify others unless others are edifying them. A church will have difficulty building genuine unity among self-centered people. They give the illusion of unity during times when they are made the center of attention, when they are being ministered to, or served by others.

A self-centered person usually is comparing himself to others. This causes him to have problems with envy and low self-esteem or with pride and vainglory. He tends to judge the importance of his place and purpose by comparing it to that of others rather than looking to the will of God.

A self-centered person will have a distorted perception of the actions and words of others. He makes himself the center of every discussion, and makes erroneous judgments accordingly. This causes him to “read into” situations and project wrong motives and intentions onto others. He makes pre-mature judgments. He is blinded to reality because of his distorted perceptions, and is therefore easily offended and unable to see the other person’s point of view.
All of these dynamics make it difficult to communicate with him. He misses opportunities to love and be loved.

It is difficult to correct a self-centered person. He tends to shift blame and responsibility to others. While focusing on himself he amazingly cannot see himself. He never sincerely asks “What have I done?” or “What must I do?” His repentance tends to be self-pity rather than a real change of heart. Tears do not necessarily represent true repentance, brokenness, or honesty. Tears can indicate sincerity. But tears can also come from a distorted perception of reality. A person can cry because of a genuine sense of pain and grief, but might also be motivated by error and self-will, or frustration at not getting his own way or not getting what he wants. Tears are often used as a form of manipulation

Self-centeredness hinders relationships because it hinders love and our ability to discern and effectively reach out to those around us. It hinders understanding because it keeps us confused and oppressed with its distorted perspective. It hinders unity because it causes people to be easily offended through misunderstanding and by wrongly judging the motives and intents of others. It chokes out joy because it chokes out love. It is difficult for self-centered people to be truly happy.

Self-centeredness is a problem common to man. Isaiah spoke rightly when he said, “All we like sheep have gone astray, each to His own way.” Our only real hope for change is through the grace of God and the cross of Jesus Christ. The historical cross is where Jesus died to deliver us from our sins. The way of the cross is where we gain victory over our self by laying down our lives for the Lord’s will and for others.

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life form My sake will find it.” (Matthew 16: 24-25).
My judgment is righteous because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the Father who sent Me.” John 5:30
Love seeks not its own. 1 Corinthian 13: 5

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Hope: Seeing Beyond My Current "Moment"

This is a re-print of an article I posted a couple years ago. The purpose is to renew faith and hope and to strengthen the believer to overcome disillusionment.  -Billy Long  

The Narrow Perspective
To have an accurate understanding of truth as God sees it, we must look beyond ourselves and our moment. We must see God’s purpose beyond our own comfort and pleasure. Disillusionment comes from a narrow and self-centered perspective, from making judgments based on ones limited "now" experience and current moment rather than faith in God and his power to fulfill His will and plan. Sometimes He gives us immediate victory and keeps us from harm and trouble, but other times He may allow us to suffer persecution, adversity, and hardship. Our circumstances may change, but God and His plan remain fixed and inexorably moving forward.

Mark Twain’s Mistake
Palestine, before the renewal of Jewish settlement during the late nineteenth-century, was virtually laid waste and its population in acute decline. Mark Twain visited the Holy Land during that period and seeing its desolation and the absence of the Jewish state, proclaimed, “See, this proves the Bible is just another book”. But had he lived until 1948 and beyond, he would have seen the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel and the reappearance of the “land of milk and honey” with the desert blooming. He would have realized what a tragic mistake he made by judging the bible based on his own limited and short moment in time.

We make the same mistake in our own lives. We become discouraged and disillusioned when we draw conclusions based on our own personal and immediate experience without considering God's overall long-term plan and His sovereign power to fulfill it. There are many periods in history when God’s people might have given up had they based their hope in what they saw and experienced at their given moment. We must never assume God has or will fail. Time and patience will always prove God to be true, faithful, and well able to accomplish His purpose.

Examples in Biblical History
As we survey the history of God's people in the Bible we have the advantage of having the whole story before us. But if we could set ourselves down anywhere into that history, we might experience any number of places where we would be tempted to be overwhelmed with despair and disillusionment. Here are a few examples.

The bondage in Egypt
You might have been disillusioned had you lived among the suffering Hebrew slaves in Egypt during the 400 years of bondage. You would have been tempted to think God had forgotten you and the whole nation. Living in what seems to be interminable grief and waiting can very easily produce a very negative and wrong theology unless the heart is fixed in God—no matter what.

Time of the Judges
You might have been disillusioned if you had lived in Israel during the time of the Judges. After having seen the glorious conquests, order, relative purity, and strength under Joshua, you would now have witnessed a nation of confusion, perversions, and subjugation that occurred on a regular basis throughout that period of Israel’s history. Were it not for the recurring emergence of Holy Spirit anointed judges, you might have been tempted to think God had forsaken the nation.

The Divided Kingdom after Solomon’s Glory
You might have been disillusioned had you lived through Solomon's glorious reign when Israel was at its height of peace, security, power, wealth, reputation, and prestige, and then later to see the kingdom divided into two third-rate nations fighting each other and harassed by their neighbors.

The Captivity
You might have been disillusioned had you lived during the revivals of Hezekiah and Josiah which tantalized hopes of strength and stability, only to see the nation at Josiah's death come briefly under Egyptian domination, then under Babylonian bondage, then on to captivity.

The Return
You might have been disillusioned had you been among those who witnessed Israel’s deliverance from captivity, expecting her to rise to power as God’s people, only to see her rise to a very disappointing stature compared to her former glory and then continue in subjugation to Greek and Roman domination during the 400 year period between the Old and New Testaments.

Jerusalem’s Fall
You might have been disillusioned had you known the bustle of Jerusalem and the grandeur of its temple when Jesus walked its streets, and yet within a couple generations witness its complete destruction. How disheartening it must have been that within a hundred years of Jesus’ first advent the Jews were not even allowed in the city except once a year.

Look at Church History.
The church’s history has often been as discouraging as Israel's history. Consider the dark ages with its corruption, ignorance, and cruelty. Look at our own contemporary examples. Consider the church splits, broken relationships, moral failures in leadership, foolish behavior, embarrassing antics, and other discouraging situations that have been on display to us and the world.

Our Response
The Bible makes it clear that in spite of Israel’s failures and Satan’s attempts to destroy them or cause them to stumble, God was able to preserve the nation of Israel and in the fullness of time bring forth Jesus Christ our Lord to bring redemption to mankind. Our Sovereign God has and is administrating history and the future to the fulfillment of His plan. His dominion is forever and His kingdom stands strong, inexorably moving toward the consummation of His eternal purpose. Israel’s “ups and downs” and “in and outs” never hindered the plan or kingdom of God. The same fact holds true for the church, for me, and for you.

If we stand faithful to God’s word and ways, and persevere with patient endurance in faith and hope, we will ultimately see the rewards that come in God’s time. Our experiences may seem inconsistent with what we expected and may vary from one end of the spectrum to the other, from wonderful to painful, from clear insight to the perplexity of looking through the glass dimly. But in all these we must stand in faith and know that God is God, that He loves us and has a plan for us and for the world, and that His kingdom purpose will be fulfilled. The land may be parched “today” as Mark Twain saw it, but “tomorrow” it will be a fruitful and fertile land of milk and honey overflowing with the bounty of God’s kingdom. And those who say “today” that God has failed will “tomorrow” look back and see how foolish they were to doubt the Almighty and Wonderful God our Heavenly Father.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Psalm 42: 5

Sunday, August 3, 2014

WHEN GOD ARISES

When God arises issues are no longer left to the opinions of individuals. God pronounces sentence or blessing based on the reality of where people and things actually are. That which is of God will be blessed; that which is not of God will be judged. Saul and his house will fall in battle. Eli will drop over dead. The earth will open and swallow Korah and all that are with him.Shemei will face the sword of Benaiah. Alexander the coppersmith will be delivered to Satan to receive his just wages.
The plaintiffs, the defendants, and the prosecuting attorneys will all have eloquently stated their cases, but God will arise to judge. All of them will be silenced together as He gives the verdict. The builders will be dwelling in the structures they have built. Then God will arise sending the storm to expose the nature of the building material down to the very foundations to test the building and the builders.

When things become muddy, cloudy, and confused, when the enemy is entrenched and embedded in the fabric of life’s complex situations and seems invulnerable to attempts at dislodgement, when the tares and the wheat grow together and you dare not attempt to pull up tares lest you inadvertently injure and pull up wheat— It is at this time that God will arise. He will come and bring things "to a head" or to harvest. The Day of the Lord brings a ripening---wheat for the barn and for bread, and tares for the fire.
When God arises, He manifests and approves that which is of God and that which pleases Him. He also manifests, exposes, and judges that which is not of God and that which displeases Him. When God arises His enemies will scatter and wickedness will melt before Him. But the righteous will be glad and rejoice exceedingly, for in His presence is fullness of joy to those who love Him.
God may seem silent, but He is never indifferent or "gone." He observes, He is involved, and He will work all things together to the council of His will and purpose. There will come a day when in heaven they will sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,
"Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty!
Just and true are Your ways,
O King of saints!
Who shall not fear You,
O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy,
For all nations shall come and
worship before you,
For Your judgments have been manifested." Revelation 15: 3-4