Friday, March 6, 2009

Self-Idolatry; God's Grace; The Body

I got off track in some areas and God has really opened my eyes to it. He has drawn me to Him like the gentle shepherd, reminding me in His grace that although I am a sheep, a natural wanderer, His power in me will help me stay on track but when I do stray - He will make sure to always lead me back.

It's so hard to recap everything that I'm learning right now but I'll try:

  • My plea to God the past months has been to keep me humble. Take away my pride. Truly, whenever I get more responsibilities that is my prayer. I don't want people to see me, I want people to see Him in me. I don't want to ever think that the work done through me is ME. I do not want to be prideful. I recognized through my series, What Pleases God --- that God isn't pleased with what HE does through me. He is pleased with my heart, with my faith - with ME - not how HE uses me.
  • I believe He truly continues to help me in this area of being humble. He showed me in such a powerful yet gentle way how wrong I've been in my relationship with Him. He showed me at least in a way that I could understand - just how HUGE and powerful He is. and that I wasn't treating Him as such. He reminded me just how perfect He was and that if I felt I was a "good person" it was because I was comparing myself to somebody or something else other than HIM. He truly just broke my heart over my sin. I recognized that so much of the time when I have been broken over my sin - it was broken over the punishment of my sin, not the sin itself. He is making me so much more sensitive to sin in my life and truly breaking my heart over what it is.
  • but then I felt I was back at square one in my journey.... how do I recognize just how ugly & broken I am without Him.... yet still love myself?
  • How do I accept His grace... yet not become prideful or self-righteous again?
  • How to recognize just how ugly & broken I am.... yet still have confidence to go out into the world and not be so self-defeating/condemning.

SOOO at the same time as all of that going on, this was too:

  • I've been asking God to fill me with just such a burning passion like a fire for Him & the Body of Christ. As Brandon and I help form the connections ministry with our church - I just wanted Him to help me just burn with Love for the Body, to see it connected, unified in Him. To be so passionate about helping people get connected so God can use those relationships as a tool to help us how to learn to love and have grace for each other and truly be His hands & feet.

And amazingly enough, He made those journeys happen at the same time for a reason. As always what I was learning privately - helped me corporately.

God showed me how self-focused I had become. He showed me once again I had another idol that I needed to allow Him to destroy. The idol was myself once again. I thought I had gotten over this - when I recognized this pride cycle I was going through so long ago..... BUT God really showed me that self-idolatry doesn't always show as pride & arrogance. Self-idolatry also shows in self-condemnation; self-hate; self-esteem issues. It doesn't sounds right but it's true!

Because don't you see the underlying thing there: SELF.

I had been so consumed with focusing on myself that I had turned my eyes off of HIM. I was looking for good, validation, significance, security in myself. I was leaning on my own efforts, understandings. When I'm so wrapped up in myself, there's no room for Him.

He showed me again again again (self: How many times must you be taught this lesson!) that to find my life - I must give it up! I need to stop trying to look for love, validation, security, significance in myself. Only when I release these needs for HIM to fill will I truly get my life back. God I pray I could just learn this lesson and never get off track in this area again. I have been soo consumed with myself I'm sick of myself.

God I AM SO sick of beating myself up over everything. Second-guessing. Doubting my efforts. Doubting who I am. Doubting that I am loveable. God I am WASTING my life. I am wasting everything you've done for me. I am so sick of not having confidence. God, help me get over myself!!!

The Spirit reminded me of this verse, one of my favorite verses:

Those that LOOK TO HIM are radiant; their faces are never covered in shame Psalm 34:5

God help me LOOK TO YOU. I am so sick of looking to myself and at myself. God help me look toward YOU.

Oh GOD the more I thought about this - the more my heart was broken for the state of the church right now. God I am surrounded by people who are lonely, who are thirsting for your love & acceptance. Hungry for the security, joy, confidence only YOU can provide. God I feel like this is the most basic of lessons but I'm always re-learning it! God ALL our needs are met in YOU and YOU alone. These are the needs you're talking about. Oh God help us all get over ourselves. Especially here in America we are so focused on individualism, being independent. God the Bible says something like, "how dare the foot say it doesn't need the arm. how could the eye say it doesn't need the hand"... we are all doing that God! It's so TRUE GOD. We are sooo wrapped up in ourselves we are trying to be the Body with only ourselves. It's impossible. Oh God thank you for filling me with this passion.

I realized that this is one of THE BIGGEST 'problems' with the American church right now God! Truly! We are so self-focused God. Brandon and I have done "experiments" if you will and it's AMAZING how we could go DAYS DAYS DAYS God in conversation with people & our friends and continue to ask about them, uplift them and allow them to talk about themselves and nobody ever asks the questions back or wants us to share back. We enjoy listening so it's okay - but it was soo eye opening to us just how RARE it is to find somebody/anybody who is truly God & others focused above themselves. People are soo wrapped up in themselves - they are not others-focused at ALL. These symptoms on the outside are just such symptoms of that void, that hunger for YOU God. That self-idol.

We can't love and focus on others until we are focused on you and we have the blessed assurance of security, love & significance in YOU.

God I learned this lesson soo long ago in my marriage but I keep having to re-learn it now in other situations.

God I asked you to please show me your love for me. and you did God. Time and time again you answer my prayers God. God for some reason YOU the Creator of this universe thought little nothing ME was worth saving when I was worth nothing. But God you RESCUED me out of the deepest darkest paths to eternal separation from you and said "look at how much I love you. I want to have a personal intimate relationship with you. Will you allow it!?" OH GOD the ludacrisness of this situation!!! YOU desiring & pursuing & offering relationship to ME. You tell me, "even in your darkest moments, I love you".....

Oh God I know that it's just because of your character not that I was worth saving --- but God help me accept that love and let it define me God. Help me find my identity in YOU God, a child of the King. Help me allow you to lavish your love on me. To find assurance that I am your child. To be assured that I am beautiful & can be confident because YOU the creator of this entire UNIVERSE loves ME! Oh God - you answer my questions, you hear my prayers and you answer..... how am I so blessed!? You even send me notes in 'weird' ways --- yesterday the note that said, "nobody will ever be just like ever, ever". Oh GOD my heart breaks for how long I didn't know this love & acceptance. My heart BREAKS for those that don't know this.

OHH How long I missed this lavish love because I was so focused on myself.

oh God when I am focused on you and not myself - your Spirit SOOTHES my Spirit and calms me down in the assurance that I am your child. Not your slave. not your toy. YOUR CHILD God.

Oh God this is what it's all about! When Romans talks about our minds being set on the Spirit and not our sinful nature. This is what it's about God. Being able ("training" even our minds to be able) to focus on YOU and not ourselves. To be defined by YOU. I get it God. Romans 8:1-17 God when I am focused on you, your Spirit will testify to my spirit that I am a child of God.

When I'm not focused on you --- the OTHER thoughts creep in. Thoughts apart from you. Thoughts that lead me to try to find the answers & ANY needs in anything other than YOU. And God anytime we try to fill those needs/answers/voids with anything but YOU God - we move closer to death not life. We become more broken, a larger void.

The cycle is stopped when we TURN back to you God. I get it God. TO DWELL on YOU.

Oh God I see it all - I see the big picture! I SEE that we need to be YOU-focused and OTHER-focused. We need to allow you to help us crucify once and for all ourselves as idols. To "die to self". I get it God!

To kill our sinful nature that leads us away from YOU and toward our own understanding, efforts.

Oh God I never got it. I never TRULY got your love. you are showing me everywhere I look. Today I opened this book, "Grace-Based Parenting".... and it was the last place I thought I'd find you would be woo-ing ME. Yet you did it God. Through those pages you showed me through my parenting and past experiences - that I can be so fixated on rules or judging/comparing to others that I am not even focused on you. This book reminded me that GRACE and LOVE were the largest and biggest message of the Bible, your Word. For so long God I have been trying to reimburse you for your love. Forgetting Romans 4:5 that there is NO work I can do that will make me right with you. I grew up just feeling guilty and I believe it was because I had learned to relate to you through rules/obedience and not running to you and desiring YOU to meet my needs of love, acceptance, grace. Rules that weren't even biblical --- but rules that were how some group decided to apply what was biblical. Your moral code is non-negotiable - but I was mistaking some people's application/interpretation of it to be THE moral code and it's not.

GOd you are more graceful & merciful than anybody I ever come across will be!

This book is awesome God! Thank you for letting this cross my path so much! It talks about my needs of security, significance, strength.... and how I'll get them from YOU... Through love, purpose, hope!

I had forgotten these things GOd. I had forgotten this all important basic message.

THANK YOU for getting me back on track God.

and THANK YOU for teaching me this lesson personally and tying it all together with the vision for connections for The Body.

God I truly believe that we won't ever learn to be others-focused unless we step out and commit to living in deep, authentic relationships with others.

God help me somehow spur others to desire to be in relationships in the Body. Help us get over this self-idolatry permeating our culture & lives. God I know you are telling me that being in relationship with others is THE greatest tool that you can use to help us be others-focused; to get over ourselves.

God, help us focus on YOU so our eyes can get off ourselves. Through you, we will have love, hope, purpose, significance, security we need... so that we can have confidence in who we are.... so that we can focus on OTHERS.

YOU are the answer. To everything.

1 O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary

and beheld your power and your glory.
3 Because your love is better than life,

my lips will glorify you.
4 I will praise you as long as I live,

and in your name I will lift up my hands.
5 My soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods;

with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
6 On my bed I remember you;

I think of you through the watches of the night.
7 Because you are my help,

I sing in the shadow of your wings.
8 My soul clings to you;

your right hand upholds me.

Psalm 63


jeleasure said...

Here is something you may not believe, but it has been spoken of in the writings of Wesley, Chambers and even Billy Graham. We never fully get our minds off of ourselves. But, the more we wrestle with that issue, the closer we get to God, because, it becomes clear that God is the desire of our heart.

What we must be careful of, is what Wesley and Luther both struggled with, getting rid of self and finding that we can not do it.

Very simply, again, to be concerned that Christ increase, and we decrease is to always be concerned that we serve others and be concerned that others will see Christ in us.

Luther beat himself. Wesley lived a life of depression. Wesley could not make up his mind on some issues for fear that he was not being pleasing to the Lord. When we worry about being pleasing to the Lord, we will grow closer.

I see you as a person who desires to be close to the Lord. And, I see this even more when you say that you want to decrease and pray that you get your mind off of self. Howeve, I will worry if you ever come back and say, "I have finally been able to stop thinking about myself and how I want to please the Lord".

To save, we must be saved.

I mean this in a worldly sense. On a plane that has lost cabin pressure, you are told to stabilize your self, before attempting to save someone else.

We must be concerned for our selves to a point.

Denise @ Sunflowers, Chocolate and Little Boys said...

This was a wonderful post. I have been praying alot about this lately too. I am constantly asking God to help me focus on him rather than me and all the other things in my life. It sounds to me like you are doing a wonderful job. Praise God!

Anonymous said...

I checked for a new post from you yesterday but must have done so just before you posted. You have an amazing heart, Randi. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Randi Jo :) said...

Thanks so much you all! :)

Jim that's much to think about.... I think that I tend to learn (and therefore write) in EXTREMES.... and that there is always room for a balance somewhere....

I get what you're saying, but I wouldn't know how to write it - since like I said I learn/write in extremes hehe - my personality I guess.

It's not about NOT being concerned with self at all as much as it is just FOCUSing on HIM and not self. Where is the MAJORITY of the time? When there's an issue or question do I turn to Him first or myself?

Not really sure what all that looks like yet nor how to write it... but I just know that my heart is the most joyful, peaceful and I love myself the most -- when I am focusing on God. and seeing myself as HE sees me.


Sandy at God Speaks Today said...

Randi Jo:

What a heart-felt post. Sounds like the pages and pages of journal entries I have written...

I resonate with your desire here. I remember when God began showing me how prideful I was. Not because I thought I was something "great" but because I was so self-absorbed. It really opened my eyes to the things on which I tend to focus.

I'm so glad Grace Based Parenting is speaking to you in such profound ways. God used that book to change my life too.

It sounds like you are in and intense time of training. Soak it up. Keep pressing in. I can tell God is going to do amazing things through you.


babyfordawn1983 said...

Time for me to hope back on the wagon! Been off of this thing for almost 6 weeks now. So much to cathch up on.

This blog has me torn. I completely understand how we need to focus on others more than ourselves. I totally agree with that. I have some things on my heart that th Lord is planting in me. It is so awesome. But here is were it is a fight for myself.

I am one of those people who focus so much time on others and totally ignore myself that I tend to over analyze too many things people are talking about. I tend to get used and hurt way too often because I expect way too much from people. So where do you go when you focus too much on others and ignore yourself? I am still trying to struggle with that.

I have a hard time looking at the positive. It is hard when you don't want to do things but have too. I feel like a failure sometimes because I try to practice my patience and positive thinking and it just doesn't work. But I know GOd loves me regardless of how many times I fail. Thanks for reminding me of that!

Randi Jo :) said...

well there's the 'snag' Dawn. This looks different for everybody. So it's hard.... we can talk more specific if you'd like....

BUT I'll just say that....

It depends on what we're talking about when we say "others focused"..... when I say others focused I'm almost always talking about intangibles... because that's my gift. prayer for them, encouragement, allowing them to talk, loving on them when I don't want to, having patience, learning to have mercy & forgiveness.

BUT to be others focused -- you NEED to take care of yourself! Above all else I take time for my relationship with God. that relationship comes first.

I tend to write in extremes --- because writing helps me train my brain too --- but you're right there is a balance needed. When I say, "focusing on others".... I am honestly not even talking about "doing" for them... instead I am talking about being others focused in that I will swallow my pride to protect their ego. I will allow them to talk when I want to. I will be thinking about THEIR needs & perspective in the situation not only my own 'agenda'

BUT truly taking care of ourselves is important - as Jim was saying above - put your own mask on first... BUT that's where the relationship with God comes in. HE comes before others.... and in relationship with Him is always free-ing, refreshing. He helps us put Him first - which actually puts us first in a way... because He gives us love, acceptance, time, so we don't "need" it / crave it as much from others.... though we still need it from others & He does use others to love on us...

When we get to a point that being with Him really does rejuvenate us, that's when we can then turn our eyes off ourself. Without trusting in Him to 'watch our back' or whatever... to take care of us... we really can't be others focused.

We're all at different seasons. There are seasons when God is just asking me to just allow Him to love on me and He's teaching me to trust Him and building up the trust in Him.... and that season is awesome. and then there's a season of Him asking me to stretch myself and to let that love flow OUT of me onto others.... that's where I am at. I've kept it in too long. I'm safe & confident in Him and need to allow Him to pour that same love into others now...

Truly though Dawn, you shouldn't feel like a failure. God loves you just as you are. it is not by your own efforts that you are changed.... and this is the truth -- it is the Holy Spirit that is who transforms us. we'll talk about this more soon :) haha but truly Dawn... if I've been able to become positive & loving and if there is ANYTHING good in me it's because of His transforming power --- because in my own nature - I am none of those things! We'll talk more soon about the HOly Spirit and tapping into His power, allowing Him to transform us! :)

I am sorry if that didn't make any sense. It's late and I'm headache-y.

Love ya!!!! :)

Randi Jo :) said...

p.s. I felt I probably rambled too much. Let me try to make it more concise LOL... my point Dawn was that I was just so self-absorbed and He helped me in that... but we all have unique struggles/weaknesses.... if you're not... then it's not something you have to worry about. this is just where *MY* haert is. you can be in a totally different season and He is teaching you something totally different. maybe right now He's trying to build you up and teach you to totally learn to see yourself as He sees you. Maybe He's trying to show you just how much He truly does love you and helping you in that area be reconciled with yourself. I don't know! :) You have to talk to Him about that... but this is just where I am :)

Randi Jo :) said...

p.s. you'll have to explain your "expecting too much from others" thing and how you are disappoinetd because of that.....

I don't see that as being others focused. high expectations on others isn't being others focused in my opinion. we'll talk more on that.....

maybe we should discuss what being "others focused" really means and looks like?

love ya girl, talk more soon! :)

Randi Jo :) said...

the more I thought about it, the more I realized I needed to clarify

"others-focused" is NOT caring about what other's think.

"others-focused" is about putting their needs & best interest above even your own. thinking from their perspective & what is best for them, not necessarily what is best for YOU. "to not to think of yourself better than anybody" --- whatever that verse is. to put more value on others than yourself.

putting the highest value in God --- who makes our hearts whole. who allows us to truly love & accept ourselves as He does.

others focused many times will be NOT caring what others think. We can't care what others think --- we have to do what God leads us to do. In fact many times while being others focused we will be allowing others to think wrong of us -- but still doing what is best for them... even if they don't realize it, appreciate it, approve of it. Loving them, acting in their best interest... no matter the risk/consequence.

does that help at all?

thekingpin68 said...

'My plea to God the past months has been to keep me humble. Take away my pride.'

I often state in prayer that I should primarily be humble, not because it is the thing to do, although it is, but because with my sinful and finite nature there are many many humbling things about me.

Thanks for the comments, Randi Jo.

Anonymous said...

Randi, you are always such an amazing witness. I always come away built up after I read you. I hope you are doing well. Springtime in North Carolina yet?