Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Few Lessons Learned

As most of you know, I am leading Beth Moore's Breaking Free on Wednesday nights at my church. This is the third time I have done this study - I keep finding new things I need to break free from. Maybe I am just a slow learner. Each time I have done the study, my answers are completely different. Maybe it's because of the stage of life I was in at the time. This week I have learned a few things in my studies. Nothing new or earth shattering, but things I believe I have finally learned for good. You see, sometimes I learn lessons for a short time and then quickly forget them. I am sure you have never done that, but humor this slow learner for a few minutes.

This week's study is about the obstacles we face while trying to live the abundant life. I know most all of you have done this study, but I wanted to put down some of my personal thoughts so maybe this will be a mini refresher course for you (or maybe this is the time you go to another blog). The first major obstacle is unbelief. Many times we say we believe God, but we do it with doubt in our hearts (I call that being a 'praying doubter'). Just like the man in Mark 9 whose son was demon possessed we say "I do believe" and in the next breath we say, "Help me overcome my unbelief". We humans are fickle people (is fickle just a southern term? not sure).

There are people who say they believe in God, yet don't believe Him. They don't believe He is who He says He is and that He will do what He says He will do. Haven't we all been there at times? There is such a huge difference in believing IN God and believing God. The liberty and freedom God speaks of in the Bible comes when we do both at the same time - believe IN Him and believe Him.

In verse 22 of Mark 9, the man says to Jesus ".....But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." How many times have you prayed with the silent "if you can do anything" attached? "God, I have this illness and I need you to heal me (if you can). God, I have a rebellious child that needs your touch (if you can). God, my marriage is in trouble and I need you to restore it (if you can)." If I had a dollar, no, a penny for every time I attached a silent "if you can" to my prayers I would be rich (filthy stinkin' rich, I tell ya). I think I have finally learned to leave the "if you cans" off. I told you this is my third time doing this study - I also told you I am a slow learner.

Something else I have been pondering lately is how we in the church are so proper and 'perfect'. Have you noticed that it is not socially acceptable in the church for saved people to admit that they have questioned God? Have you ever heard someone in the church say "I have been saved for 20 years, but I still struggle at times in believing that the Bible is the divinely inspired word of God". Or, how about "I have been a Christian for years, but I still struggle with the same old sins I did before I was saved". I doubt you have -- that type of talk would insure that you would be gossipped about severely, shunned, or worse. We Christians can be judgemental. We judge people for the same sins we have committed. We judge others for the tiny speck of sawdust in their eye while we ignore the Redwood tree in our own (my paraphrase). It's easy to judge others because it keeps our mind off our own areas of captivity. When an unbeliever talks of their unbelief or struggles with sin, we are compassionate and do our best to encourage them, but when a believer does the same we rush to judgement.

Another obstacle to living the abundant life (life knowing God intimately) is pride. I have never had a problem with pride (well, not in the past few seconds anyway). The Bible tells us that God will not share His glory (even with His children). I have to admit that my eyes have recently been opened to an area of pride in my own life. See, there have been times (seasons actually) where I felt that my past sins were too many for God to forgive. In other words, I have been guilty of thinking that what I have done is too much for God to handle. I have thought MY problems were too big for God. Pride - rears its ugly head in the strangest of ways sometimes.

The Bible tells us that God hates pride, pride brings disgrace, it breeds quarrels (anyone who is married knows this first hand), it is evil, and pride deceives. The Bible also says that God humbles the proud, he lifts up the humble, and lives with the contrite in spirit. When we read those verses it all makes perfect sense, but in real day-to-day living, pride is a fierce enemy to defeat sometimes. Funny how a person who has thought their past sins were too big for God to forgive would also struggle with pride, huh? It would seem that pride wouldn't be a problem for a forgiven sinner, after all one who has been forgiven much should be willing to forgive much, right? A sinner saved by grace should be quick to extend grace, right? Right - except for pride. I am trying to commit James 4:6,10, Isaiah 57:14-15, and Isaiah 66:2 to memory so I can be ready when the enemy encourages my pride to take over (he knows my weak spots so well).

Next is the obstacle of Idolatry. Idols are anything that we use to take the place of God. Our husbands, our kids (I am guilty of this at times), stuff, jobs, people, homes, looks, reputations.....need I go on? We have all traded time with God for time doing something else. Idolatry. I bet if I polled 100 people and asked what things/people they put in God's place, I would get 100 different answers. In Bible times, people picked which idol they would carry around and worship. Some worshipped the sun god, others the fertility gods, others the gods that helped bring rain, etc, etc, etc. Today we do the same. The only difference is that today we have more 'stuff' to make idols out of (yes, I know that is an improper sentence- I never said I was an English teacher). We choose the things we can see over the One we believe in.

Another obstacle is prayerlessness. What does satan love more than anything? A Chrisitan who does not pray. He knows that without prayer we will never grow closer to God. In fact, we may just fall far enough away from the Lord that we keep others from growing closer to God or even keep someone from accepting Jesus. Do not be deceived, when you are not praying - satan is working. (As a side note every time I type satan - I end up typing stan - so if you see the word stan you will know who I am talking about;however, I mean no disrespect to men who are actually named Stan).

Last is the obstacle of legalism. Aren't we all Pharisees in disguise sometimes? Especially when it comes to the lives of others. We know the law, but forget the relationship. Don't we all know someone who lives to condemn people of their sins? Every church has one. The person who praises God with her/his lips, but can't wait to condemn their brother as soon as he fails. They are bored when things are going well in the church and have to spice things up a little by stirring the gossip pot. They place everyone else under a microscope and avoid the mirror.

Legalism comes in many forms, but the worst of which is when we are 'all talk/no action' Christians. We go through the motions, come to church every time the doors are open, pray the loudest in Sunday School, etc, yet our hearts are far from God. You see, the abundant life has nothing to do with stuff, but everything to do with relationship. You can sing in the choir, you can lead Bible study, you can preach the gospel, but if your heart is far from God and your number one desire is not for His glory, His fame, His renown (Isaiah 26:8), then your efforts are ALL in vain. The moral of this story is RELATIONSHIP IS EVERYTHING.

Now if you will all stand as we sing "Come Just As You Are"....................


Anonymous said...

I'm standing, I'm singing and I'm being grateful for my precious daughter who loves the Lord God with all her heart, soul and mind.
On this issue of pride, I'm reminded of Proverbs 16:5 which is the most plain verse in scripture that leaves no doubt as to what God thinks of Pride. "Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord.".

Anonymous said...

I'm only anonymous because it will not receive my ID. Sorry, but I'm still your Dad no matter what the blog may say. Beth, I need your help with this. Love you bunches.

Rochelle said...

What a great post. I have much to break free from! I must be the one who is a slow learner! But thankfully He does request that we come as we are.

I'm Sadie said...

I have so many things to break free from. I especially loved the part on prayer. I have grown so much in prayer lately. This was a great post.

StaceyStace said...

Love this post! God is working in my life to teach me that I have put my trust in a few select pharisees who have tried to shield me from the freedom He has in store for me. Additionally, I am still struggling with my own bitterness and pride - I just see it more all the time. Yuck. But I thank Him for patiently teaching me. I wish I could do a Beth Moore study - I just can't fit it in! I enjoy reading what the "siestas" are up to!

Fran said...

Hey girl....
I think I need to do breaking free again...just seems that new things pop up and I haven't dealt with it and can't manage to break free. I've got problems! :) I guess we all do....but, why do the same struggles seem to just come back around...and around...and around...like a dern merry go round.??

Oh well...I love this stuff...I got all sorts of pride, idols, and other ugly garbage....I want to be COMPLETELY FREE!! Its a daily prayer for me.

Bless you sweet friend.

Alene said...

Great post. I loved that study. I was praying this morning and realized I needed to ask forgiveness for all the "if You can" statements I say. Of course He can, He's Lord. Thanks for sharing & Blessings for teaching.

jennyhope said...

"The Bible tells us that God hates pride, pride brings disgrace, it breeds quarrels (anyone who is married knows this first hand), it is evil, and pride deceives"

I have been smack dab (is that a word) in the middle of the whole James about what causes fights and quarrels. I swear marriage has been about refining the snot out of me.
I love your comment from your dad.
Also love the pic of you in red. I love breaking free to!! YAY!

Eddie said...

Breaking Free sounds like us men could use a little "Beth Moore" or "Beth Street" in our lives. I'm loving reading how God speaks to you and how through you, He is speaking to others including me. Love you sweet daughter. Dad

Dionna said...

Like your new profile pic! :)

Earen said...

Shocker of all shocks...I've never done a Beth Moore study, so I really enjoy hearing what you're learning. I've thought about going on-line & just purchasing one of her studies. Would you start with this one? Suggestions? Wonderful post..as always sweet friend!

Alana said...

Oh, I am so guilty of the "if you can"'s. I sometimes wonder why that is. I guess I pray for something and then think, "well, what if He doesn't want that for me, or what if He is trying to teach me something" so I try to give Him an out or something. I guess in all reality "the out" is more for me...in case I don't have enough faith to pray it into being. Does that make sense?

Great post, Bethanne.