Getting Rid of Life-Shrinking Parasites

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Reprinted with permission from WholeLifeWorship.com (courtesy Dr. Doug Lee)

microscopic-view-of-a-malaria-parasite-everett

Whole-life worship is living the “large life.” God has called us to live a “large” life for Him. He wants to give us His blessings, His power, His love, His forgiveness, His joy, His hope, His peace, and His transformation. These are all LARGE things. They, if we will receive them, enable us to live ABUNDANT lives (John 10:10; John 15); more than that, we will also be able to live INFLUENCING lives – where others look and take notice (Matt. 5:14-16).

But there are parasites ingrained in our fallen nature that want to kill the seeds of God’s largeness from bearing fruit. These “life-shrinkers” are the thoughts, attitudes and actions that make our lives small, puny and petty. They are in direct opposition to living out “whole-life worship” to God. I am reminded of when Jesus could not do any miracles in a particular Galilean village because of their lack of faith – they were living lives dominated by life-shrinkers!

Although life-shinkers are common to all, everyone has their own customized set of life-shrinkers that specialize in short-circuiting the life of Christ in them. Mine are: impatience with others, a critical spirit, greed, envy, guilt and fear. These life-shrinkers are constantly at work to steal away God’s largeness of life. Here’s how they work in some not-so-hypothetical situations:

I notice that someone else is flourishing (ministry, financial, relational). I have a choice of rejoicing in their blessing or becoming envious. If I choose the envy route it leads me down a life-shrinking path: discrediting them, becoming resentful, joining others who are also envious, passing on juicy gossip, etc. In the process I become a much smaller, limited person.

A supervisor at work has the gall to reprimand me about something that he/she is always guilty of doing. What nerve! I have the choice to either look at the reprimand objectively and prayerfully or to harbor bitter feelings toward my supervisor. If I choose to harbor bitterness and its “life shrinking” powers go immediately into effect. I spend my hours at work watching for their every mistake, stacking up my case against them, and looking for the opportunity to get even.

The world likes to call Christians “a bunch of hypocrites.” That’s because many Christians suffer a credibility gap – what we say about ourselves does not match how we live. I believe this is due to the fact that, although we have the BIGNESS of God in our lives, our day-to-day decisions are more influenced by the “life-shrinkers” within us. The Apostle Paul tells us to put to death those things that “shrink” our lives (Galatians 5:16-21, Ephesians 4:17-5:21).

What has helped me put these life-shinkers to death is to recognize them for what they are when they come to me. When a thought or attitude wants me to take action or to react in speech, I’ll say to myself, “That is such a small way to think. C’mon, you were called to bigger things than to react in that way.” Then I will pray, “God, I die to this way of thinking. Please lead me in Your path of right thought, speech and action.” And EVERY TIME I do this, the thought or attitude dies. Every time! I must say that it is a lot easier to do this when you nip these things at the bud (it’s a lot harder, but not impossible, to overcome the “life-shinkers” when we always yield to the desires of our fallen nature).

So live large in whole-life worship by getting rid of the “life-shrinkers” with the help of Christ’s grace and power. Then you’ll have another reason to sing His praises!

Purify my heart, cleanse me from within and make me holy. Purify my heart, cleanse me from my sin, deep within.

(“Refiner’s Fire” by Brian Doerksen)

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Reflections From the Shoe

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Shoe

By Nate Champneys

“Pride goes before destruction.” Solomon said it perfectly with his God-given wisdom. And it amazes me, when you look at all the sin that so easily entangles us, how so much of it is rooted in pride. When I look at my own life, the sin of pride is vastly prevalent, and it is that sin of pride that I just can’t seem to get rid of. So many times I get into an argument with my wife, then it isn’t until later that I see my pride clearly. I have to say, “Honey, I’m so sorry. This really is simply my pride.”

I get so frustrated by my sin sometimes. I just look up and say to God, “Why aren’t you finished with me yet?!?” When you consider your own sin, isn’t it amazing that God still cares about us? The Psalmist says this:

When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)

When you consider how small, insignificant, pitiful, and sinful we are compared to the glory, wonder, size and complexity of the universe that our creator God holds on the tip of His pinky, I can’t help but ask, “Why hasn’t God just stepped on us and squashed us already?” “Why doesn’t He simply put us out of our misery?” It makes me feel like bacteria on the bottom of a massive shoe when I compare myself to His glory.

I mentioned this in a prayer time at church a few weeks ago, and later on during this prayer time, a friend prayed: “Thank you Jesus for coming down to the bottom of this shoe!” Wow. That really puts things in perspective. The God of glory humbled himself and essentially became the equivalent of a bacterium on the bottom of a shoe and gave his life for us, the bacteria on the bottom of that shoe. Remarkable! It really is impossible to truly understand the love of God until you grasp to some degree the majesty and glory of God and are then able to see the heights that Jesus stepped down from.

Now THAT is the exact opposite of pride. That is the God we serve! 1 Corinthians 13 tells us, “Love is not proud.“ Pride is so contrary to who God is, yet it is one of those acceptable sins we excuse, even though it so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1). We serve a God who is so glorious that in the same way He spoke the universe into existence, He could cause everything to go back to nothingness in an instant and simply start over. And yet he is mindful of us. God is the opposite of pride when he has every right to be prideful. This is love: “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

The Creator God, who is so far beyond our comprehension, emptied Himself and “became a bacterium” in order to give His life for you. I don’t know about you, but this lavish love is the only thing that truly puts my pride into perspective.

“Thank you, Jesus, for coming to the bottom of this shoe!

Hebrews 12:1-2

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

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Good Dirt in My Marriage

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By Dan Amos

“Small differences in initial conditions … yield widely diverging outcomes” is part of the definition of chaos theory on Wikipedia. I can look back on my life and see where choices I made have completely changed my course. Obviously, one of those is whom I chose to partner with through life. And when Martin led a discussion on the parable of the sower from Mark 4, I realized that my wife has been a great contributor to my soil. Affectionately, she is my good dirt.

In the parable, the sower spreads seed on various types of ground—on the path, in rocky places, among thorns, and on good soil. The life of the seed was short and troubled on all but the good soil. Jesus said the seed in good soil grew and produced a crop, but He didn’t really define what was good about the soil.

Jesus implies it by saying what bad soil is; good soil must be able to protect the seed from predators, nurture the seed with depth, and give the seed space to grow free from thorns that would choke it out. What isn’t said is the ground has been plowed and fertilized. It is prepared to receive the seed.

I grew up in the church and was at a crossroads when I was pursuing Fran in my last year of college. I could have chosen a life of spiritual complacency, but Fran and I made finding a vibrant faith community a priority from the very beginning. Our first years together were very busy between getting to know each other, frequently moving, traveling for work, and starting a family. Our church community fed and nurtured us, but serving came later.

Elim, through Martin, challenged us to lead, first over a community group. I was asked to be an elder when I first held the prestigious position of elder of plugged toilets. Later, Martin asked me to preach one Sunday. All of these — my wife’s partnership, the fellowship of believers, and the pruning of service — all fertilized the soil in which I have grown. But if my wife hadn’t been my partner in the way she has always been, I would be in a different place. She has been my good dirt. I thank God for her and for those who have nurtured me.

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Reflections From the Empty Nest

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By Pastor Martin Schlomer

Something weird happened yesterday! Our youngest son, Wesley, turned 21 and moved away … permanently. He took all (or almost all) of his earthly possessions and headed north to Bellingham, WA. Some of you may be thinking, “Martin, he moved out last September to attend WWU! Did you forget?” This time is different. He isn’t returning to WWU. He has a full-time job at Lynden Door. I woke up this morning with this thought, “He’s not coming home! Puyallup is no longer home! Have I prepared him?”

I must say that, by the grace of God, all three of my sons love and serve Jesus. I can’t ask for anything more. As a Dad, this is the most important value and priority to me. I’ve watched God change them, challenge them and mature them. This reality overwhelms me with emotional gratitude.

Looking back, would I do anything different? You bet! There is one thing I would do that rises above everything else. I would affirm them more for their character than for their accomplishments. You can have great accomplishments but lack character. This doesn’t mean parents shouldn’t celebrate accomplishments; however, we need to keep the emphasis on what is most important. This is Peter’s point in 2 Peter 1.5-8. If we keep our focus on building their character in increasing measure, this character will keep them from being ineffective and unproductive in their knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 8).

As I look to my future with my sons, daughter-in-law, and grandchild, my focus will be affirming them in their character. Two weeks ago, on a whim, I wrote a Facebook post affirming the character I saw in one of my sons. I was amazed at the overwhelming and positive response! It shouldn’t surprise me. Almost everyone I know is hungry for encouragement in things that matter. I urge all of us to take our children aside this week and affirm the character we see developing in their lives! It makes a difference. Proverbs says our word carry the power of life or death. Use your words to bring life!

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