Our Enemy — Lies!

I have characterized our enemy as lies. But the central lie that empowers all the others
is unbelief in God, who He is and what He has said, particularly about men and women He has created. The individual lies are symptoms. Unbelief is the real disease.

In contrast, consider some of God’s pictures of our significance:

In Luke 15, you can cut the hatred with a knife. The religious leaders, angered that Christ associated with people they considered unholy, grumble among themselves that He receives sinners and eats with them. The practice of the religious leaders was to disdain association with such people and keep themselves aloof. Christ tells three stories
that show how each person He has created is priceless, and that the religious leaders
had missed the infinite value of one person. It is interesting that the despised tax collectors and sinners were freely coming to Christ. They were drawn by His love and esteem for them.

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I Can’t Go On!

“I Can’t Go On!”

Just as Elijah faced his crisis, I faced one in June, 1998. During a vacation at Yosemite, I received distressed calls from my church, saying areas of my ministry were falling apart. It reinforced the lies within, and already depleted, I felt I could not go on.

But this crisis was nothing new. I was frequently at the end of my resources, and always did go on, in pain and desperation, whether I had the resources or not. I cried to God in my darkness. In the coming weeks, the Lord began not only bringing light, but to diagnose root problems that had chained me for most of my life. A starting place was the book Search for Significance, by Robert S. McGee. Now, at a point of great need, I grabbed the book like a drowning man clinging to a lifesaver. Unexpectedly, each sentence of the cure was a burning sword plunged into my heart. I found every sentence painful–it revealed the lies by which I was living. I also found that the nesting place for the lies were individual issues, battle grounds where these deceptions had taken root. In entries to come, I would like to take you to these areas. They may be ones you face.

One Fellow Struggler

One Fellow Struggler

For those of us that struggle in the quest for significance, we are not alone. Elijah, the prophet of Israel, faced this battle in 1 Kings 19 in the Bible. If you are not familiar with the Bible, stick with me. I think you will understand where I am going, and will find the prophet someone with whom you can identify.

After years of authoritative ministry when threatened by Queen Jezebel, Elijah ran for his life gripped by fear. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, well South of Ahab and Jezebel’s territory, he left his servant. He abandoned needed companionship and perspective, while he continued into the desert. He came to a juniper tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. Listen to his self deprecating words: “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep (1 Kings 19:3-5 NIV). 

Why would a powerful prophet cut and run after his greatest victory, the confrontation at Mt. Carmel? Following the dramatic firefall, the people cried “The Lord He is God.” Afterwards, threatened by Jezebel the Queen, he realized that the expressed desire of the people to serve the one true God was only a sham, and conditions would continue much as they had been, an ungodly king and queen ruling a largely unbelieving nation. The death of his lifelong dream crushed him, and he yielded to despair, considering himself a failure, vocalizing, “I quit!”

Why would a person accept a verdict that places him far below the high place that God has for him?

Lord I Feel So Small!

Pullquote: Before God we are priceless and precious.

Lord I Feel So Small!

Greg’s loving nature took an interest in those around him. Genuinely selfless, he loved group outings with our children and others in their 20’s. His friends appreciated his solid values and concern for others. After college, it was no surprise that he took a staff position with Point Loma Nazarene University, in San Diego, California. All seemed well, promising a future of happiness and usefulness. But Greg’s cheerful exterior hid a private, lifelong battle. He had been hospitalized several times for depression. In the Spring of 2005 he drove his car onto railroad tracks in San Diego, California, and took his own life.
His shocked and saddened friends asked “Why?” The clues came from his parents. Greg fought lifelong trench warfare with issues of personal significance.

The Lying Voices

Those of us who have faced the battle know it well. We often cry “Lord, I feel so small!” I know the daily struggle, as for decades I viewed myself as a failure. Sadness overshadowed my life. In a crisis seven years ago, it seemed I could not go on. I thought the only thing I could do to benefit others was to give blood. I have given over fourteen gallons.

For friends and close family members, this seems strange in the extreme. I am a former Air Force pilot, have a master’s degree, and am a pastor of almost 30 years, considered very successful by most. But I lived in constant slavery to this sense of smallness. Voices within echoed, You’re a failure. You will always be a failure. You lack the gifts and strengths of others. You are a small person, unworthy of the love and friendship of others. Tragically they drowned out the high call of God.

Perhaps these voices sound familiar. Only those of us engaged in this bloody combat for our happiness know the daily, moment-by-moment anguish that sometimes takes a life. More often it saps us of joy and fulfillment, and sentences us to wage a lifelong warfare to find our true place under God’s sun.

Whether you face the struggle or not, questions come to mind. How is it possible that a person would accept a verdict that places him far below the high place that God has for him? Why would he believe lies? What is the true picture of one’s significance? In my next blog, let me begin our search with Elijah.