Why do we struggle with certain kinds of change?

Some changes we welcome. The change from the old worn out car to the new one. Now that is a change most of us delight in. AC is back…the old car had lost it. Navigation, blue tooth capability is now on board…man what luxury. The old car did not even have a USB socket, let alone the other accessories.
How about the new house with the furnace that does not need constant fixing, and plumbing that actually works all the time. Oh, yes very welcome.
And then there is the long search for a good paying job and you find it. It means a change in work environment, location, etc, but how welcome is that?
Yet when it comes to the changes the spirit of God is orchestrating in our lives, how we find ourselves balking and resisting and dragging our feet! Why is that? Well, after thinking about this in my own life, I think I have identified a couple of reasons, that my “change-meter” malfunctions.

I struggle with change because it takes me into new territory. It appears that is what happened to Peter when Jesus wanted to change his thinking about the Gentiles & the Gospel. Remember the big sheet with all those food sources that the Lord dropped down in front of Peter in his vision of Acts 10? God said, Peter, rise and eat! Wow! This was not just a diet change, but a whole different way of viewing Gentiles and Jews when it came to the Gospel. Peter’s change meter pegged. He was being moved into new territory. Notice what he said: “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean”(v. 14). I have never gone there, and don’t really want to go there! Three times the Lord brought Peter to the brink of change (v. 16). Of course when Peter submitted to the change (and it was a process you will recall with the men coming, the house of Cornelius listening to the message, the coming of the Spirit, then Peter in chap. 11 eating with that Gentile family), what great blessing resulted. Change accepted…and today we Gentiles are “in” because of one man accepting the change brought by God’s spirit. The changes God brings to us always seem to have bigger gains than the losses we experience by the change. I must keep that in mind.  I like something C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity:

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

Here is one other thought on this change thing. I struggle with change because I allow my present state to trump the priority of Christ in my life. I cannot help but recall Paul’s moment of change on the road to Damascus in Acts 9. Here is a guy who was comfortable in his Pharisee life. He was serving God (he thought sincerely) and had the powers that be behind him in his ministry venture of taking Christians into custody. Life change and ministry change hit him between the eyes on that day when the light shone down from heaven and Jesus confronted him with those haunting words “why are you kicking against the ox-goads?” Paul was brought to the brink of life change and ministry change when he accepted the fact that Christ holds the priority in life. Three days blind, months and even years of re-direction spelled out just how extensive the change was for Paul. Everything Paul valued and had committed to up to that point changed. What was the results of the change? Well, for starters, most of the New Testament flowed out of his Spirit-empowered pen!

So….Change is always good when God brings it and I accept it. I want to view the changes God allows and brings as really good redirections in my life. Leonard Ravenhill once wrote these insightful words: “THE QUESTION ISN’T WERE YOU CHALLENGED. THE QUESTION IS WERE YOU CHANGED?” Think it thru.

 

 

Advertisements

HOW DO WE HANDLE OUR “OBSESSIONS”?

Everyone has some kind of obsession.  We call them by other names like “hobbies,” “passions,”  “preoccupations,”  “preferences,”  “peculiarities,”  “proclivities,” “infatuations,” “distractions,”  “pet-peeves,” “eccentricities,” and “intense focus.” Now these terms sound much more innocent & harmless  than the term “obsession” and in themselves, I suppose, they could be. But when they cross the line into that practice or object upon which we continually fix our minds to the detriment of the “big stuff” of life and the biblical requirements of life… we are now controlled by our obsessions and not by our Lord.

I have a question. When do we cross the line with our “obsessions”?  Well,  there was a homemaker named Martha who was obsessed with the kitchen and as a result lost her opportunity to spend quality time with Jesus who was in her home (Luke 10:40-41). There was the most beautiful woman ever created named  Eve who became obsessed with the fruit of one tree when she was told it would make her smarter and more beautiful. Her obsession began to control her to the point that she became  blinded to all the other great fruit trees God had given her and her husband to enjoy. We all know the result of that obsession (introduced by Satan, by the way…troubling thought as we think about obsessions).  That obsession crossed the line to sin (Gen. 3). Then there was this  fisherman named Peter who was obsessed with fishing. We know this because when Jesus gave he and his partners a miraculous  catch of fish, he counted them… all 153 of them.  (John 21:11). This obsession turned into a flood when the going got rough in the ministry. Peter said he was going back to  his fishing business…and he did…at least for awhile (John 21:3).   Of course there was that  business man who was obsessed with making money, so much so, he had to tear down his storage facilities to make bigger ones to accommodate his wealth. Eventually,  he discovered that his earthly life was going to end and his soul was not ready for death because he had obsessed about wealth to the exclusion of his spiritual well-being.  He left behind all that stuff he was so preoccupied with and lost his soul. (Luke 12:13-21).

So how do we handle our obsessions? There is nothing wrong with loving to cook, or being passionate about fishing, or auto racing, or baseball, basketball, football  (ok, for those of you who know me – books!). But obsessions can cross the line.

Here are some suggestions that have helped me handle my own obsessions. And, just so you know, I am a work in progress on this matter.

# 1 – Pray over your obsessions. Isn’t this strategy the very one that God has given us to handle all those temptations and struggles that would pull us off course? Pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:18)…If any man lacks wisdom let him ask of God (James 1:5). I have found that something we are not willing to pray about and bring before the Lord is probably something that should be deleted from our lives.

# 2 – Make sure CHRIST is your strongest obsession. What did Paul tell the Philippians? For to me living is Christ and dying is gain (1:21). I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (3:14). Christ should be the one person and the one “thing” that lights up the rooms of my existence down here. He is someone you should never grow tired or weary of. He is the light of the world, the water of life, the bread of life…all those things I look to my obsessions to provide for me.

# 3 – Test your “obsessions”  to determine if they are drawing you toward the will of God or pushing you away from the will of God. Is engaging in your passions making it more difficult for you to serve God, sacrifice for His service, and love others for Jesus’ sake?  Do these passions reduce your energy and desire to serve the Lord with joy? Or do your “obsessions” refresh you and renew your your spirit so you can continue with joy to offer yourself to Christ? Is your “obsession” a biblically acceptable practice or does God’s word identify it as sin? Remember John’s admonition in his epistle of I John?  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever (I John 2:15-17).

# 4 – If your “obsession” has crossed the line to sin, confess it, forsake it, and let the LORD fill that spot you reserved for your “obsession.”  Jesus is the one that really gives us the freedom and zest to live life to the full here. We do not need to be under the control of our obsessions to live well, live happily, nor live at peace down here. When our “obsessions” diminish our love for the Lord and his cause, we have crossed the line to sin.  Moses was right when he told us to “...love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (Deut. 6:5).

# 5 – Enjoy your “obsession” as a gift from God if you can do so under the control of the Spirit of God and with a ready willingness to lay it aside at any moment so your relationships remain God-pleasing and your service remains Christ-centered.  Go fishing, enjoy cooking, play that baseball game, get that book (yeh!) but do so in submission to the control of God’s Spirit in the process.  Be on guard with your “obsessions” as a potential enemy if not handled by the power of God. God has given us all “things richly to enjoy (I Tim. 6:17), but not to become a preoccupying and dominating power over us.  Just remember that Jeremiah warned us that our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked and only the Lord can really know them (Jer. 17:9-10). Think it thru