Sunday, October 12, 2008


Discouragement is one of the most common maladies around. We’ve all suffered multiple doses of it. Very depressing! Here’s my home remedy.
First, I have set up a system of alarm buzzers and flashing red lights that go off in my mind automatically when this feeling creeps up on me. All this buzzing and flashing tells me to stop whatever I’m doing, take a deep breath and acknowledge that I have for the moment wandered off into an unreal world. Pep talks or trying to assume a positive attitude don’t do it because in that state I’m insane, at least temporarily. I’m literally out of my mind. So I turn off the buzzers and flashers and go to that quiet, still place within myself where I can think straight and assess the situation.
What is this discouragement that is causing all this turmoil? Invariably it turns out that I feel discouraged because what I want isn’t appearing, the way I think things should be isn’t working out, that person over there isn’t behaving the way he should, and so I have this heavy load to bear. Woe is me! My lower lip is apt to stick out in a pout.
If I feel discouraged, it is because I have bought into an unreal world that exists only in my imagination. In this instance, it is a self-centered world, a world in which it’s all about me, I’m the most important person, I’m the big enchilada, and I know just how everything and everyone should be. Oh my! Thank goodness for those buzzers and flashers that warn me of insanity!
When I am out of my mind I’m liable to talk about “the real world” as if it were actually real. For instance, I might say that when I leave a church building after a Sunday worship I step out into the real world. If that were true, then the world I experience inside the church must be false and unreal. Is it? Which world is real, and which false?
The real world is where the Kingdom of God reigns. And it reigns everywhere, here and now, not just inside a church. If, in a state of insanity, I refer to anything else as “the real world,” well, I’m living in a fantasy world where things are always going wrong and it’s so discouraging, dontcha know?
As human beings we spend a good deal of time wandering around outside the kingdom of God in a substitute world that individually and collectively we have devised. So pervasive is this substitute world we actually believe it is the real world and sometimes we get caught up in a struggle between our relationship with God and paying our dues in the so-called real world. We get confused, and perhaps come to know first hand the truth of the statement, “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways.”
When I release my emotional allegiance to the unreal world all problems and concerns fall away. They are seen for what they are – unreal, and in the process of passing away. “Not by power or might, saith the Lord, but by my spirit.”

Monday, October 6, 2008

Who's Asking?

Many years ago I thought it would be beneficial to my “spiritual progress” to occasionally issue myself a report card on my achievement and deportment. I sought to answer the question, “How am I doing?”
Generally speaking, my self assessment said I wasn’t doing well. Most of my grades were Cs and Ds, some heart-breaking Fs, a few rare Bs. Never an A. I was struggling earnestly to be a better person, to be a better Christian. It was a hard and, if I were honest, not very rewarding task.
Then one day all that changed. I suddenly realized that God had no interest whatsoever in grading my progress. If I was looking for approval from Him, it would never come. God’s only “answer” to my “how am I doing?” question was one of His own: “Who’s asking?”
Who is asking? The self-important twerp, or the Christ-centered child of God? Only the twerp would feel the need to ask. The twerp, ensnared and enslaved by the value systems of the human nature world, is congenitally unsure and in constant need of propping up. He is wed to a false sense of self, a self that thinks itself independent and capable of existing outside the consciousness of God. That self is in the process of passing away and is desperately afraid. Perhaps, if it in some way “improves,” it will somehow be saved! Its report card, no matter how dismal the grades, is its supposed ticket to salvation.
The false self can seem very humble. It is quick to proclaim, for instance, that it is not perfect. “Nobody is perfect, you know,” it says with a nudge of the elbow and a knowing wink. “Nobody can be perfect.” In fact the false self by its very nature is arrogant. It proudly defies the words of Jesus Christ, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect.” Amazingly, no “good Christian” who professes a love for Jesus ever seems to contradict the twerpy self!
Any human being who imagines he can maintain an identity separate from God – who believes, for example, that he is an independent entity who has the power, even the right, to ignore God if he chooses – is imperfect and will remain so till death releases him. No report card of supposed progress will save him. Those who truly accept the dominion of Jesus Christ do not waste their time on earth measuring human imaginations of what perfection is. They abide in the spirit of the Almighty God, wherein is perfection.