Tag Archives: independence

Loving Obedience is Caught, not Taught

Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
    as much as in obeying the Lord?
To obey is better than sacrifice,
    and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

loving GodMy dear (now deceased) friend and Board member, Warren Clark, loved telling a story about teaching some of our materials on reconciliation in a church in Eastern Ukraine some years ago. He was in the middle of the teaching when people started getting up and leaving the church building. Not all at once…just a few here and then a few more there. During a break in the conference, he asked the pastor if he had done something wrong to offend them, since they were leaving. The pastor smiled at him and said, “No, brother, not at all! They are hearing a word from the Lord about reconciliation and they are going to reconcile with brothers and sisters. Isn’t that what you want?” Well, of course it is. We in the American church would just never have expected it.

Immediate and complete obedience is really the only obedience.  Anything less (delayed obedience, partial obedience, etc.) is just a form of disobedience. That was Saul’s lesson in 1 Samuel 15. And that will be the lesson ultimately for the American church, I fear. We talk a lot about God and Jesus and God’s Word and other such spiritual things…we can argue theology all day long, thanks to 200 years of freedom to study it…we can write books and blogs about building churches and vision and preaching and small groups and creative programming…but in the end, it is going to matter to God that his people followed some social or political or personal agenda first, and His agenda second. Any agenda, you see, which comes before God’s …

…So That We Can Comfort Those in Trouble

Tuesday Re-mix –

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Step 12: Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we carry this message to other addicts and practice these principles in all our affairs.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

There’s a story we tell in the support group ministry I help lead:

A guy is stuck in the bottom of a hole, with no hope of getting out on his own.  The hole is just too deep.  A businessman walks by and looks down in the hole.  From the bottom, the guy yells, “Can you help me out?  I’m stuck down here.”  The businessman reaches into his pocket and finds a couple of dollar bills and drops them down into the hole and walks off.  The guy in the hole just looks up, bewildered.  Then a minister walks by and looks down into the hole.  From the bottom, the guy yells up, “Can you help me?  I’m stuck!”  The minister yells back, “I’ll pray for you!” and walks off.  The guy in the hole is quickly losing hope.  Then another man walks up and looks down into the hole.  Growing desperate now, the guy in the hole yells up, “Please!  Don’t leave!  I’m stuck and need help.”  Upon hearing this, the guy up top puts down his things and jumps …

Step 8: Owning the Damage I Have Done

Tuesday Re-mix –

Step 8: We made a list of all persons we have harmed and we are willing to make amends to them all.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I’ve been working on Step 8 this week.  I am suddenly feeling a little bit like the guy who casually tossed a cigarette butt onto the ground and burned down an entire forest and didn’t find out about it until long afterwards.  A friend of mine who knows these 12 steps much better than I do once told me that an addict can spend a lifetime on step 8 alone.  Once you start making a list of the people who have been harmed by your addiction, the floodgates open up and it can actually become pretty overwhelming.  That has been my experience as I have considered the ramifications, both known and suspected, of my obsessive self-reliance and its impact on others.

So, in order to avoid feeling completely overwhelmed, I am starting with categories rather than with names.  It doesn’t diminish the scope of the damage, but it helps me at least begin to get my brain wrapped around the depth and the breadth of the damage.  This list is only a start.  But it does get me a few steps further down the long process of considering all those I have hurt.  So, here we go…

1.  My family – How much spiritual damage have I caused each time my wife or daughters came to me needing Godly wisdom and I gave them my own wisdom instead?  Rather than prayerfully discerning the wisdom God had waiting …

I Have a Dream…

Tuesday Re-mix –

…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. Ephesians 4:13-15

Step 7: We humbly ask God to remove our shortcomings.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

I have a dream…

…of breaking free from the shackles of self-reliance and resting instead in the sure hands of Christ and His Holy Spirit, looking to Him alone for my daily bread and for my affirmation and for my validation as a man and a father and a husband and a teacher and a vessel of His Spirit.

I have a dream…

…of escaping from the complexities I have created in order to preserve the lie that I have my life under control and that I am the perfect manager of my soul, a lie I have convinced myself to maintain in order to enjoy the approval of men, a lie I have obliged myself to tell in order to prevent anyone around me from having to deal with my true ugliness.

I have a dream…

…of tearing down the walls which divide my work life from my church life and my family life …

Dealing with Secret Sin…In Community

Tuesday Re-mix –

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 
See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24

Step 4: We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

It was several years ago when a back injury made me finally give up my yardwork.  That was a difficult thing for me.  I actually enjoy yardwork…in my own yard, anyway.  So it was difficult for me to let someone else do it.  It is MY yard, and I know all of its nooks and crannies and secrets, and I certainly did not want some stranger coming in and caring for my yard.  But the biggest adjustment for me in giving up that little area of self-reliance was the fact that somebody else was going to get very familiar with all of the embarrassing hidden messes in my yard…all of those corners and hidden spots which were not well-groomed and which hid some not-so-nice things.

If you have ever had someone come in and clean your house, you have felt that same feeling.  They see everything…that junk drawer in the kitchen, that cabinet which hides stuff you haven’t seen in years, and that horrible, cluttered closet.  It is embarrassing!

Thinking about Step 4 in our recovery from the addiction to self-reliance, taking an honest moral inventory of our inner-most life is revealing.  Just like that secret cluttered closet in the house and that hidden ugly corner in the yard, our lives have secret areas of …

The Problem with “Letting Go and Letting God”

Tuesday Re-mix –

Step 3: We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.

[I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.]

Applying step 3 to our particular addiction (the addiction to self-reliance), feels a little bit like comedian Steve Martin’s simple process for becoming a millionaire…Step 1: go and get a million dollars.

For those of us who are addicted to self-reliance and independence, “turning your life over to God” has always been a bit of a troublesome concept.  Oh, it’s easy enough to say…and it was easy enough to do when we were 7 years old at children’s camp and our “life” consisted of  a bike, a broken G.I. Joe and an annoying little brother, all of which we would gladly “turn over to God” in exchange for Heaven.  Moreover, even the concept of turning our “will” over to God seemed like a small price to pay at the time, given the reward of spending eternity in Heaven with all the donuts and sports we could ever want (what? you didn’t get that promise in your package?).

But it didn’t take long to start growing up and watching our “stuff” and our wills expand to cover a great deal more territory.  Then, the desire for the applause of men and the insecurities which were beginning to haunt us caused us to turn more and more inward and to take more short-cuts and to work harder to control the environment around us in order to survive.  The more we strove to control our environment, the harder it became and the deeper …

Beginnings…the Birth of an Addiction to Self-Reliance

Tuesday Re-mix –

But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” I Samuel 16:7

I am using these Tuesday Re-mixes for a few weeks to think (again) about addiction to self-reliance and how that addiction is one of the biggest challenges to genuine community which we face in the American church culture.

One of the ways I know I am not yet ready for even the first step of recovery (“STEP 1: Admit that you are powerless over your addiction…that your life has become unmanageable”) is that I am still looking for ways to fix my own addiction.  The “fixer” in me says, “If I can trace my addiction back to its inception and therefore know how it started, then I can stop it.”  Do you see how insidious addiction is?  Even my own attempts to heal myself betray me.  I will never be able to admit that I am powerless over my addiction to self-reliance as long as I keep telling myself that I can fix it!  And so I am asking your indulgence.  Sit back and have yourself a good laugh as I delve into my past to try to figure out where this addiction to self-reliance all started.

For me, I think it started when I was just a child going to Sunday School.  We would bring our offering in these little pink envelopes that the church printed for us.  They had our names on them.  On the front of them, they also had a little checklist of things a “good” Christian does.  I could check off the ones I had …

Addicted to Anonymity

Tuesday Re-mix –

I wonder if we in the American culture have become addicted to anonymity?

Dictionary.com defines addiction like this:

the state of being enslaved to a practice or habit or something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.

When I think about the community prescribed in God’s Word, particularly in the New Testament church,  I see plenty of problems for our contemporary culture.  We have become a people insistent upon our anonymity.  We value self-sufficiency and independence almost above all things.  We write books about “self-improvement” and “self-made men”.  We idolize individual achievement and we dream about financial independence, and we describe all of this as “the American dream”.  We live in gated communities to keep out the undesirable community.  And we see anyone asking for help as weak and sad.  We have created an entire body of law around the “right to privacy” and we guard our privacy as if it is our most prized possession.  There is no question but that we have, in many ways, worked exactly contrary to the type of interdependence described in the Bible.

But none of that necessarily gets us to “addiction”.  The question is, are we “enslaved” to this need for independence?  Is it psychologically habit-forming?  If we lost it, would we be traumatized?  These are troublesome questions for me.  These are the questions I ask myself as I travel around the country from one church to the next talking about Biblical relationships and New Testament community.  I have to say it…that kind of community is not easy to find, even in the church…maybe especially in the church.

I  believe our culture’s obsession with privacy and independence and anonymity have approached the “addiction” level.  I believe this because we …