Saturday, June 24, 2017

I Am So Self-Centered

by Sylvia Gaston

I admit it. I’m not proud of it but I know it to be true. Let’s face it, we all are.

As far as I can tell, selfishness is the source of absolutely every single problem on Earth. Think about it – war, divorce, fights, theft, resentments, jail, pollution, abandonment – all can be traced back to our self-centered nature.

We want things our way. Our primary objective is our own self-satisfaction. We see everything through the lens of “I”.

Our culture certainly encourages us to be this way. “You deserve a break today.” “Just do it.” “Because I’m worth it.” “YOLO (you only live once)!” “Life’s too short to (fill in the blank)”.

Why is it so difficult to think of others more than ourselves? Why did God create us like this? Is it another product of original sin? Is it related to the wonderful gift of personal choice that He gave us?

I’m sure the answer lies in there somewhere.

I don’t want to be a self-centered person. I want to be better than that. I would love to be selfless enough to always be thinking of others before myself.

So, I try. I really do. I try to remain calm when my teenage/young adult kids are being tupi. We don’t say stupid, so this is my new substitute word.

I know that if I remain calm when I counsel my children, the focus is on them and training them to be better men and women. But when I lose my temper, I shift the focus to the fact that they haven’t pleased ME or met MY needs. I don’t want it to be about me. But, boy, if I’m not thinking about this before I open my mouth – WHAM! Now, I’m the one being tupi!

And, as I live life with my husband – well, same as above – enough said ;)

I find myself examining my disappointment in the words or actions of others. Confession time…it’s not just a temporary disappointment. I can stew over certain things for longer than I care to admit. The offending person probably hasn’t given it a second thought and here I am, grinding on it for minutes, hours, or even days. Who’s the real loser here? Don’t answer that.

The Bible tells us “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

So, I keep trying. But it is a daily battle. I remind myself each morning and throughout the day to find peace in the day despite its highs or lows. I remind myself that I am a new creation because of God’s Spirit who lives inside me. I remind myself that I want to change the world and that others are watching – my husband and kids, my friends and family, co-workers and acquaintances, and even strangers. But, most of all, my Creator is watching and I desperately want to please Him.

I cannot say it better than Jesus did.

The Bible tells us in Mark 12:28-31 that some religious leaders were questioning Jesus. They asked Him, ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.’

It’s so simple. Why do we make life (and spirituality) so much more complicated than that?

So I will keep on trying. Let’s all keep trying each day to live outside of ourselves.

As Mother Teresa said, “People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered. Love them anyway.... Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.... What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.... Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth….Give the world the best you've got anyway.”

Saturday, June 17, 2017


by Tim Howard

Two verses in the New Testament have amazed and confused me at the same time. The verses are found in the book of Luke chapter 15 verses 1 and 2. It says: “A lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus, listening intently to his teachings. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!”

The amazing fact is that Jesus attracted so many different types of people to Himself. They came from every walk of life and enjoyed hanging out with Him. They didn't necessarily agree with Him on the issues, believe in His teaching or follow His instructions but for some strange reason, they liked HIM!

What was it about Jesus that attracted so many people? Was it His persona? His personality? His style? Some have suggested He was ruggedly handsome but Isaiah the prophet tells us there was nothing beautiful or majestic about His appearance, nothing to attract us to Him. My answer to the question can be summed up in one word: ‘CHARISMA’ but not the kind you may be thinking about right now.

The Charismatic person of today often looks appealing on the outside but lacks substance on the inside.

The New Testament word ‘Charisma' is connected to God's gifts and is founded upon the word ‘Charis' which is translated in our English language as God's Grace. Charisma, therefore, is God's grace and truth revealed through His gifts.

Maybe this acronym for the word CHARISMA can bring clarity between ‘Now’ and ‘Then.’

C  Compassion, care, and concern. People were drawn to Jesus because He really cared about them. People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. That cliché may be old but it's true! Charismatic people, today might be charming but all too often they only care about themselves.

H  Hope. A lot of charismatic people currently give people tons of hype and empty promises but the message of Christ was filled with genuine help and hope.

A  Acceptance. Jesus came not to judge but to save people.

R  Real! Jesus didn’t speak with religious rhetoric or verbiage but acted with real power to deal with real problems. He was committed to doing the work and didn’t stop with mere words.

I   Insightful. He dealt with the root problems of mankind and focused on the heart. He changed people from the inside out.

S  Simple. He speaks in terms we can understand.

M  Meekness. Humility is His trademark.

A  Action. There is no dichotomy between what He said and what He did.

Jesus didn’t influence people because He was charming, knew how to work the crowd, made promises that sounded good or displayed uncanny ability to con people. He influenced people because He was full of grace and truth. This is Godly Charisma.

The confusing fact about this narrative in scripture is the reaction of the religious leaders. They didn’t get it! Jesus came to help people in need, not hang around people who considered themselves self-righteous because they practiced their religion. 

Be very cautious of following someone who appears to be charismatic but doesn’t have character. It won’t end well!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Hello. We’re All Broken

By Candace Cortez

Happy Saturday! My husband and I just returned from our 10 year anniversary trip to Italy! On one of our tours, they explained a part of the restoration process on some of the art and buildings. The Colosseum, for example, has recently been cleaned, which you can tell the drastic difference between cleaned and uncleaned portions by looking at the layer of walls on the inside compared to the outside walls. It was shocking to see what pollution can do to stone.

I believe many of us are like those buildings. We feel like we have our lives together for the most part. We feel strong and capable. When we don’t feel those things, we have a hope we can get there eventually with enough hard work. Especially living in this culture, our independence is a trophy in itself. This feeling of self-security makes it difficult to depend on God. When we do get brave or desperate enough to surrender a part of ourselves to the Creator’s hands, we begin to see the difference between the old us, and the restored us.

My parents were dumpster divers, always finding old unwanted pieces of furniture and bringing them back to beauty and purpose. This sounds awesome, but the process was difficult. There was sanding, scraping, chemical treatments, ripping off old upholstery, and sometimes replacing parts completely. When we surrender ourselves to God, He begins to do work in and through us. The process is not always fun. Most of us live our lives feeling fine. Choosing to be fine. It is not comfortable to realize you’ve been worn out and broken this whole time. We get used to and sometimes fall in love with the things that are broken in us, and shy away from the idea of being restored.

I have missed many areas in my life that still needed work, because of this feeling of being restored enough. After years of working and surrendering the parts of me that appeared the most dysfunctional, I have noticed a slowing down of the restoration process. I do not believe this is because God has deemed me “back to new”, but because I have lost sight of the inside layers that are still filthy. Yes, the outside seems restored, but just like the inner layer of the Colosseum, the comparison from inside to outside is kind of shocking.

If we are not careful, Christians can stop at the outer layer. We can say, “ok thanks God, I look better, and I’m all ready to do whatever You want. You’ve taken away those addictions and helped me get better at using my resources wisely, I’m good to go from here.” If we get here, another scary thing can often happen. We can start to point the finger at other people who are not as shiny on the outside and determine that they need more work than we do. This is where the Pharisee’s found themselves.  This is where I have found myself so many times. But God works in a way that’s complete, comprehensive and all consuming. He doesn’t want to just make our life appear better. He wants to restore every layer back to His original design of relationship with Him.  

Some of us have been working with God a long time letting Him restore our hearts. Some of us are just getting started. Some of us don’t even realize that we need any work. But the truth is, we’re all broken. No matter what stage of the renewing process you are in, God is still wanting to do more and the results are incredible. If you’re feeling finished today, let God reveal another layer and do His thing.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Don't Give Up, Hand Over

by Andrew Cromwell

You hear people say it all the time. “Give it up to God!” they say, and you think to yourself how you’d like to but what does that even mean? How am I supposed to give it to God? Physically hand it to Him? But He is invisible. And what if the thing being given up is non-physical to begin with, like a worry or fear or question? How do I give that to God? And what if the problem is my teenager? Just tell me how to give them up and I’m there!

And what’s more, giving up sounds awfully like throwing in the towel and quitting. So does “giving up” mean when things get difficult you quit on your marriage or your kids and just trust God to do the rest? And what about debt? Can that just be “quit” on?

We all know that “giving it up” can’t mean just quitting outright, so what are we giving up exactly and how do we do it?

First, you can give it up through prayer.

Sometimes “giving it up to God” simply means praying about it. Prayer is the process of talking with God. The Apostle Peter tells us to “cast all of our cares upon Him because He cares for us.” Imagine all of the worries of your heart like things that are heavy. These heavy weights drag you down so all your energy is sapped just by going through life.

It is helpful to think of this process as one of “handing over”. We hand over those heavy weights to someone who can carry them for us. That doesn’t mean the core issues simply disappear, but rather that God in His great strength now carries them. We give up on the belief that we can carry and handle everything by ourselves.

Second, you can give it up through silence.

Far too often, we just can’t seem to close our mouth for long enough to get clear of the things that we are carrying. Sometimes these are words we say out loud to others and sometimes they are words we say to ourselves. Either way, we usually end up stirring up more trouble, worry, fear, anger, bitterness or hurt.

Is it any wonder that the Psalmist says, “Be still and know that I am God?” To be still is to relinquish the power to control the situation through our words. There comes a point when more words don’t help. This is when a “holy” silence is needed. A “holy silence” is the kind when you shut your mouth because God is at work!

Finally, you can give up through forgiveness.

Many of the things we deal with are because we have not dealt with our heart first. Our heart is polluted with bitterness and unforgiveness. We have been hurt by others and so we have a bitter expectation that people are going to keep hurting us. Often, we fulfill our own expectation by lashing out and hurting them first.

The only way to break that cycle is to forgive. Forgiveness is Jesus’ greatest gift for us and His greatest challenge to us. 

So, what are you carrying that is weighing you down? Maybe it’s time to give it up to God!