Friendship Gone Wrong, Part 2

friendship gone wrong

THE FIRST LIE
Since the serpent first opened his mouth in the garden, he’s been trying to convince us that God is not enough for us: “You’re missing out. God’s holding out on you.” (Gen 3:1-6) And since then, the temptation to look to God’s creation instead of God Himself for satisfaction is a common, daily struggle, manifesting in myriads of ways.  God speaks to this when He addresses the Israelites in Jeremiah 2:12-13:

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

Anything we look to for satisfaction other than God is an idol. A leaky, broken cistern. This is a shocking and grievous thing to God that we would forsake Him for something lesser.

The subtlest forms of idolatry happen when we put good things above God. Marriage is a good thing.  But when we need it more than God, it is an idol.  Children are good things, but when we need them more than God, they are idols.  Friends are good things, but when we need them more than God, they are idols.

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Humility and Faith

humility and faith

Humility is emptiness of self; having no concern for your rights and your importance.  A humble person doesn’t feel entitled to anything but wrath from God.  In the last post I talked about the link between humility and seeing God clearly.  We looked at Isaiah, Peter, and John the Baptist, three men who had a big view of God and therefore a low view of themselves.

“Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” – Isaiah (Is 6:5)

“You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God!” “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” – Peter (Mt 16:16, Lk 5:8)

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” – John the Baptist (Jn 3:30)

Cultivating humility begins with an accurate view of our Holy God and understanding that the only thing we deserve is wrath.  But without the element of faith, you will stop short of true humility.  Here’s what I mean: Yes, we need to understand that our God is holy and before Him we stand condemned.  This is crucial.  But we must also believe that He is who He says He is: “compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.” (Ex 34:6, Ne 9:17, Ps 86, 103, 145, Jl 2:13, Jn 4:2)  Without an understanding of God’s bent toward grace and compassion, we will stop short of humility and end in self-pity.

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Humility: A Clear View of God

humility

Nothing draws the heart of God to His people more than humility.

Thus says the high and exalted One who lives forever, whose name is Holy, “I dwell on a high and holy place, and also with the contrite and the lowly of spirit.” Isaiah 57:15

“My hand made all these things, thus all these things came into being,” declares the Lord. “But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.” Isaiah 66:2

You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:16-17

For though the Lord is exalted, yet He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Psalm 138:6

What more convincing do we need? We must deal with this truth: God loves humble people.

What does it mean to be humble? It is defined as a modest or low view of one’s own importance. Consider the synonyms of humility in the above verses: lowly, contrite (or crushed), broken.

A Clear View of God
I LOVE the dichotomy in those verses. They begin with a high and exalted God. A holy God. And of all places, where does this God long to be? With the lowly! The broken! The crushed! The contrite! Why is this? I believe there is a simple and clear explanation. Brokenness and humility is the defining characteristic of those who see God clearly.

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Journaling: More Than a Diary

journaling

“Today we went to Hobby Lobby. My mom got 2 new lamps. It took her 30 MINUTES to choose which ones she wanted! I got a little birdcage for my dollhouse. We went to Marco’s for dinner then to Kroger. They now have a checking counter you can do yourself!” ~Me, 12 years old

My first journal is full of entries like this: “dear diary” entries recounting my day and how I felt about it. I recorded everything from how God was answering my prayers, to what my friends and I scored in putt-putt. Ha!

Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun rereading my pre-teen thoughts.  (Especially now that I have often spent over 30 minutes being indecisive about decor and that self-checkouts are standard in many stores.)  But chronicling your life is not the only function a journal can serve; those blank pages can be used in so many other ways!

In a sermon about how to have a quiet time, our former pastor would include a photocopied page from his journal. It was so helpful to have a tangible example of what it looked like to engage with God. Something that once seemed daunting and unknown became attainable. It is for this same reason that I share some pages from my own journals.  I hope this will get the creative juices flowing as you consider what it could look like for you to engage with God and seek Him with all your heart.  Below are some functions your journal can serve.

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Practical Strategies for Bible Reading

practical strategies for bible reading.jpg

In my last post, Word Pictures, I tried to give a fresh perspective on why our time reading the Word of God is so crucial.  And likely, many will affirm that knowing and loving the Bible key.  After all, this is the foundation of our faith!  Yet, in that quiet moment when you open its pages, The Bible can also be incredibly intimidating.  Here are a few suggestions to make this task doable.

1. Read a book, not a verse.
Imagine you are given a book from a friend.  How would you read it?  Would you start in chapter 4?   Or flip to random pages and look for the perfect one-liner?  Never!  This type of reading is a surefire way to be confused, misunderstand the intended purpose, and quickly lose interest. Why then do we read the Bible this way?

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Word Pictures

word pictures
The most substantial and lasting change in my life is a direct result of many hours spent alone with the Bible.  Sometimes I get asked about how to become more spiritually maturity, grow closer to God, or walk in freedom from sin.  For me, the answer to all of these things is time in the Word.

Yet I find so many people struggle to enjoy the Word of God.  Some resort to skimming a few chapters or searching for that 1 verse that will bring good feelings.  For some, it has become a dry and bland duty, void of any delight.  Or worse, others resort to searching for verses to debate with others.  This ought not to be the case for those who follow Jesus.

In light of that, let me give you some Word pictures (yes, that’s an intentional pun!) to grant a fresh perspective for your time reading and studying the Bible.

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The Inner Circle

the inner circleI vividly remember standing outside of a literal circle of people. Though these girls were just acquaintances, I had hoped to join their conversation.  As 4,000 students shuffled through the halls of my high school, I awkwardly waited for someone to notice me.  No one noticed.  And to avoid looking weird, I headed off to class.

I hated feeling like I was missing out.  Like the real fun is just beyond my reach.

Fast forward 9 years. Jimmy and I were backstage at a festival in Norway with our 6-month-old. The green room was bustling with the sounds of bands prepping for their sets, artists and managers talking, and meals being served.  We sat around a table laughing and talking with a few other artists.  The kinds of people you name drop, you know?  Awesome people who love Jesus, but people I only had access to because of Jimmy’s rising music career.

Then Lively started crying. Why can’t this baby just sleep?  I mean, when else am I going to get to talk to these people?   Seeing that all my efforts to soothe our daughter weren’t working, I resigned, with much frustration, to head back to the hotel for the night.

Rocking my daughter to sleep, I sulked as I thought about the laughter and conversations I was missing out on. I felt so sorry for myself, sitting outside the inner circle.

WE ALL HAVE AN INNER CIRCLE

You may laugh at me, or think me overdramatic, superficial, and immature.  But I think this is a universal struggle. Whether you are in high school, in the corporate world, or a stay-at-home mom, we all have a sense of who the “important people” are.  The popular girl. The pastor’s wife. The CEO of your company. The blogger with thousands of followers. The couple with a lot of money.  The pretty one, the wealthy one, the one with lots of kids, the one who makes everything from scratch.

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