Monday, July 13, 2009

The Cure for the Common Soul

On Sunday mornings over the last few weeks, we've been looking at what it means to Renovate our lives with the resulting benefit - a renewed mind. Paul's words are fairly clear: "Don't allow the world to be the mold and model for your lives; instead allow your mind to be transformed by God."

As I mentioned in my last post, it's pretty tough for us to live virtuous lives under our own power. We have a tough time watching our neighbor next door pull up in a vehicle that would suite us perfectly while our own beat-up and broken car leaves us wishing and sometimes praying for something better. In such a scenario, how often and easily envy, jealousy, and even hatred all surface for some reason that's apparently outside of our control. Try as we might, we just can't seem to feel joyful about it at all.

What's even more puzzling is why the Apostle Paul (keep in mind he was as human as you and I are) tells us to be loving, joyful, peaceful, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. The simple answer is that we do so only when we live with the Spirit as our guide. In other words, when the Holy Spirit controls us, the fruit of the spirit (the list of virtues above) begins to show up in our lives. As we shed more and more of our sinful nature (the flesh which isn't really part of who we are IN CHRIST) our lives begin to look a whole lot different. What happens, essentially, is that who we are on the inside resembles who we are on the outside more and more of the time. In a nutshell, we become the same person on the outside that we are on the inside. The old is gone, the new has come.

The implication then is that we don't have to fake it any longer. We don't have to fake compassion and concern because we REALLY do feel the compassion and concern. We don't have to control our anger in public anymore because our hot-temper is gone replaced by the fruit known as patience. So, there you have it. Keep in step with the Spirit and our lives show fruit. Keep in step with the world and we continue to deal with a divided heart and we find ourselves having to fake it over and over.

In my next post, I'll post some practical ways that we can put ourselves into position for the Spirit to work in our lives. Changes are a coming...!

Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Jealous Heart

This past week, I saw jealousy surface in my now 7 -year old son Zach that I hadn't seen before. As part of our vacation, we took a hike on one of the many trails in Lincoln State Park (Indiana), one of which led to an old but still climbable Fire Tower. We knew we were looking for something to climb but I had no idea that it would be so BIG. I'm not exactly sure of the height, I'm guessing somewhere close to 75 to 80 ft. Anyway, my oldest son Mitchell took right off and began the long ascent up. My daughter Joy (5) wanted to go next, with mom's help of course. Josh (11) made it up a few flights of stairs before deciding that it was too high so he quickly made his way back down. Next in line was Zach - with my help. We made it up to about 30 feet in the air and Zach was visibly scared. And honestly, I'm not that big a fan of heights either so I was a little nervous too! Well, Zach (determined to find the Crystal Skull at the top of the tower) was at his limit. He tried and he tried to talk himself into going further but at the end of the day, he never made it up. And in a vacuum, with no one else around, he would have been alright. But, what made him so mad - bringing out the jealousy like I've never seen before from him - was the fact that his little sister Joy (who's only five) made it all the way up to the top. Honestly, I think (like Cain and Abel) he wanted his little sister dead at that very moment. Seeing her celebrate her long ascent up created a fury in him that I wasn't quite prepared for.

Well, this story reminds me of my own jealous heart at times. We live in a world of constant comparisons. As a pastor, we compare numbers and stats with other pastors. How easily jealousy arises as one pastor describes tremendous success while the other pastor, in comparison, has quite obviously failed. As a father, we compare ourselves with other fathers who seemingly have it all-together and have the father-child thing down-pat. In comparison, we struggle in our child-rearing ability. The result: jealousy. I could go on, but I think you get the point. In our culture, jealousy is a BIG issue, in kids for sure, but perhaps even more so in us as adults. We always tend to want what we don't presently have. And it drives us mad!

So, what' s the answer? After all, Christian's are called not to covet and not to desire what their neighbors and others have. We can try all we want not to want but sometimes that only makes it worse. The fact of the matter is this: it's a heart issue that only God can truly relieve us from. It's something that has to be dealt with on the inside before our outside lives (jealousy, anger, resentment, etc...) can ever show signs of rightness and righteousness characterized by joy, peace, patience, love etc... So, quit trying to be good or to be better. Quit trying not to be jealous. It's not likely to work. Instead, relinquish control and allow God to change you from the inside out. More on this tomorrow...