Tag Archives: pride

Leaving the Devil Worshippers Back Home

I’ve decided to broach a touchy subject tonight that I’ve sat on for a while. When I write a blog, I often have a concept down, but there’s some part of it missing. That’s what happened with this post, until today.

As I prepare to go back to Africa, a lot of things go through my head. How do I prepare, physically, financially, and especially spiritually? This is also a continual thought as people approach me who want to be involved on the going side of missions.

I am always looking for people who will be involved not only with serving locally, but people willing and suitable to go and do the difficult work of traveling to remote places in Africa or Asia, with all of the discomfort and unknown factors that come with that.

Now God can and will use all kinds of people. I think of how incredibly naive I was when I first got involved with missions, and it’s proof positive that God will take someone with few skills who is willing and use them. God can take willing people and give them skills, but it’s harder to take skilled people and use them if they’re not willing. What I’m saying in a long-winded way is that I try not to look at someone and say, “I won’t take them. God won’t use them.”

However, there is one type of person I greatly hesitate to take overseas with me for Christian ministry and that is devil worshippers. At this point you’re probably saying to yourself, “what on earth is this guy going on about? Why would that even be an option?”

Well, there are far more devil worshippers in the church than is readily apparent, and I’m going to explain. A friend of mine said once, “Complaining is the devil’s worship music.” Let that sink in, because it’s completely true. There are people in the church that you can tell when they’re complaining because their mouth is open. A person with a complaining spirit sows all kind of discord around them and invites evil into their own lives. They cause division within a ministry group and make being a witness extremely difficult. They split churches and cause effective outreaches to cease.

There is a direct tie between true worship and effective ministry. There is also a direct tie between gratefulness, thankfulness, and an effective witness. In many instances in the bible, miracles and great acts of God are immediately preceded by worship, especially in times where that worship was under difficult circumstances and trials. I think of Paul and Silas in prison, in chains and having been beaten. They began to worship, the earthquake came, and their chains fell off. As a result, the jailer and his whole family were saved.

What does worship do? It takes our focus off of ourselves and places it squarely on God, where it belongs. Therefore there is also a direct tie between worship and humility. Worship says, “less of me, and more of You.” It is in this state that we are able to act and pray most effectively. As the scripture says, “if you ask for anything in my name, it will be done.” But that’s where people often go wrong. They pray, “in Jesus name” at the end of their prayer as if it’s some magic talisman and expect it to be done as if that’s what Jesus was talking about. No, we pray and act in Jesus name when our will lines up with his. How does that happen? When we seek his will by knowing the written Word, and by worshipping, which in effect says, “Lord, let me put myself aside. Show me your will.”

It is at this point, when we have put ourselves aside, when we are humbled, and we have a heart of gratitude, that our testimony is effective. Consider the words from the book of Revelation, speaking of the end of the devil. “Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.”

Now contrast that with a complaining spirit, that continually says, “I have been wronged. No one defers to me. Someone owes me. I demand my pound of flesh.” All focus in this case is on me, not God. There is no gratitude, and no seeking anyone’s will but my own. Everything that has ever gone wrong was always someone else’s fault. Despite the fact that many complainers constantly engage in self-effacement, they are not humble, because humility is not about thinking less of yourself. Rather it’s about thinking of yourself less. You can’t do that when you’re complaining. I would go so far as to say, no one was ever saved from their old life because someone was complaining.

When ever I will be heading to the mission field, I go through a time of self-assessment. These are not just thoughts for “them”, whoever “them” is. These thoughts are especially for me. So to succinctly sum up what I’m talking about today, I’m finishing with the words from Philippians 2, which says the following.

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 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.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Do Everything Without Grumbling

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

When The Mission Ruins The Missionary.

Why does someone become a missionary? I suspect there are any number of reasons, but usually it involves God’s calling in one form or another. There are also all kinds of people who become missionaries. Some people have been Christians their whole lives. Some by God’s grace have lived lives that have been largely spared from sin and tragedy, while others have a long, tragic, and often sordid past. This post is written mostly to the former, the ones without a history, for reasons I’ll get into. Why does God choose the people He chooses for His purposes? This is a question that often perplexes people, on occasion myself included. Look through the bible and you’ll see all kinds of people God has used for His purposes, and the underlying theme found for almost all of them is that they were imperfect, some in profound ways.  Paul was a murderer. So was David, as well as an adulterer. Gideon was a coward. I could go on, but you get the point. So why is this such an underlying current? The answer is very simple. God is not looking for the über-capable, He’s looking for the über-faithful, and those who will act in love. People who have a history know what they’ve been saved from. People with a history know that it’s only by God’s grace that they are saved, and it’s only by God’s grace that they’re successful in their efforts in ministry. They give glory to the one to which it’s due, and unless they have a very short memory, they know it’s not them.

Now let me get to people who have followed God their entire lives. It is an incredibly blessed person who has not faced the darkness that some have, and are able to serve God faithfully. If you need to read that again for it to sink in, do it, because it’s that important. People who have always followed God are more prone to fall into certain traps. You wouldn’t think this was the case, but it’s true. I’m a missionary. I have many missionaries in my family, and many friends who are missionaries. I have seen the pattern enough times to know that this is not an outlier. Let me give you the chain of events. A person who has followed Christ all their lives goes overseas to the mission field. Initially it’s done with some humility, and a genuine concern for the lost. They are grateful for everyone who is backing them up financially and with prayer. They get overseas to some remote country with crushing poverty, and the depth of how they’ve been blessed is seared into them like a hot iron. But then time passes, and they begin to have success. People are coming to Christ. The church is growing. The sick are being healed, and all kinds of unexplainable things start to happen. That’s when the dangerous road starts. Without the humility that comes from a past away from God, it’s easy for pride to start. Where before there was humility, the missionary starts to see these successes as something they’ve done themselves. Further down the road, they start to see themselves as the only one who can do what they’re doing. The people who are supporting them financially are now seen as just a means to get them where they need to go. Other missionaries who are doing similar work are looked on with suspicion, even members of their own team. The mission becomes everything, coming even ahead of the God that sent them on that mission. In some cases, missionaries will neglect their own families to give to the needy outside their family. Without humility, they can no longer give the mission to God, and rather than leave it in His hands, a large amount of effort goes into attempting to control other people and situations.  A little further down the road, and they start to see themselves as some kind of superhero, a Christian Jason Bourne, if you will. The love they initially had for their supporters turns into glory-seeking and hubris, and that’s where it all falls apart. There are  some places in the bible that talk about this, and I’ll quote a couple.

1st Corinthians 13:1-3 says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

1st Timothy 5:8 says, “But those who won’t care for their relatives, especially those in their own household, have denied the true faith. Such people are worse than unbelievers.”

The most direct and to the point passage is from Revelation. It’s a letter written to the church in Ephesus, and it speaks directly to a situation similar to what I speak of. “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.”

 I’ve started down this road on occasion, but fortunately I have a wife that is willing to point it out to me. I’ve seen the damage done, and believe me, I never want to wake up one day, look around, and find I’ve spend lost months or years walking down a different road from the one God called me down. Fortunately, there is always repentance. The question is, what damage has been done by the time repentance happens? I guess this is where prayer and leaving it up to God is the only answer. I’ve seen Him leverage sin on more than one occasion and turn it into something beautiful, and I know He’ capable of doing it again.

I used to think pride wasn’t a big deal. In the past couple years I’ve learned I was wrong. People talk about original sin like it’s something Adam and Eve did when they disobeyed God in the garden.  But people forget about the sin that happened long before that. Pride took an angel of worship and turned him into the devil. Pride is a big deal.

The humility that comes with a checkered history is a valuable thing. If you’ve thought about becoming a missionary, but thought you weren’t good enough, you are wrong. God uses all kinds of people, and many times the worst things that people have done become the greatest assets to God’s kingdom. This is what I mean when I say that God leverages sin. He takes the broken of the world and uses them to fix others. He takes those who are foolish to the world and uses them to confound the wise. Don’t let anyone tell you that your past keeps you from becoming a missionary. Current, un-unrepented sin will. Pride will. Unforgiveness will, but your past won’t.

A South Sudanese pastor weeps in prayer as he prays that God would make him in private the man he claims to be in public.
A South Sudanese pastor weeps in prayer as he prays that God would make him in private the man he claims to be in public.

But Enough About Me. What Do You Think of My Hair?

For a variety of reasons, pride has been on my mind lately. I spent most of my life thinking that pride was not really an issue, this despite the fact that it’s listed as one of the seven deadly sins in the Bible. (Proverbs 6).  But that is what someone who lives with pride tells himself. Over the past few years I’ve been realizing more and more how false this belief is, that pride is not an issue.  I was listening to Daniel Kolenda recently, who is an evangelist to Africa. He pointed out that Lucifer was a worship leader before God’s throne, and pride was what turned him into the devil. I had to listen to that again. This brings a new perspective on things. Someone at the very throne of God can give up his place in Heaven for the chance at glorifying himself above God. This is what pride does.

I believe my former opinion about pride is rooted in the false assumptions many of us hold about humility. People think of being humble and think of someone who is self-effacing, with a poor opinion of themselves. This is not what humility is, that is just poor self-worth. Humility is more about building others up, rather than tearing one’s self down, though in doing the first, you tend to think of yourself less, as opposed to thinking less of yourself.

C.S. Lewis has some great thoughts on the subject in the book, “The Screwtape Letters”. It’s a fantastic book that has volumes to reveal about human nature. I highly recommend it.  I’m paraphrasing because of the format of the book, but C.S. Lewis says,

“Men fix in their mind the idea that humility consists of a certain kind of opinion, namely a low one, of his own talents and character. He fixes in his mind the idea that humility consists of trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be. This adds an element of dishonesty and make-believe into the heart of what otherwise threatens to become a virtue. By this method, many people have been brought to think that humility means pretty women trying to believe they are ugly and clever men trying to believe they are fools. On the other hand, true humility consists of a state of mind in which a man could design the best cathedral in the world, and know that it’s the best, and rejoice in the fact, without being any more or less glad at having done it than he would be if it had been done by another. God wants him to be so free of any bias in his own favor that he can rejoice in his own talents as frankly and gratefully as in his neighbor’s talents.  Humility also involves the doctrine that men did not create themselves, that their talents were given to them, and that they might as well be proud of their hair color than of some talent they have.”

This last part is particularly poignant for me.  It brings home the fact that every talent I have was given to me by God. I can choose to either use them for Him or not, but they have nevertheless been given to me by God. This gives me no room to look down on anyone else who has not been given the same gift, any more than they should look down on me for the gifts I do not possess.

A few additional thoughts of my own;

Humility seeks the good of others, pride asks only “how does this make me look?”  Humility seeks to release people in the gifts they are given, pride seeks to control.   Humility rejoices in the triumphs of others, pride seeks to undermine others.               Humility knows, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Pride forgets the second part. Humility attracts, pride eventually becomes repulsive.

I no longer think pride is not important.

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