July 19, 2016

Reassessing Rightness

It is a good day here in sunny and warm, Phoenix. The skies are clear today, and there is a solid chance of monsoonal storms later this afternoon. Last evening we had some strong storms in the southern sections of the city, but by the time the front moved closer to the 'heat island' of the city center, it has all but disappeared.

In North Phoenix, we mostly had some wind and dust. The morning weather man said that there is a slight chance (20%) for storms every day this week. This is not the best news, but not the worst either. I'll take a slight chance of rain over a zero chance any day (LOL!)

Hopefully, now that the monsoon seems to have returned to the southwest, we will get some good rain showers and strong storms. The temperature today is muggy, but muggy is good. It feels cooler than normal (Weatherbug says it is 91, Yahoo says 97). Our high today is only expected to reach 105, which is about 4-5 degrees less than what it has been each day for the past two months. My prayer today is for rain. Oh, Lord, please let it rain!

Dreams In Context

Do you ever have one of those nights where you dream in anger? 

I woke up this morning after having a very strange dream. I was at an event, like a big country event or church sponsored event. My dream reminded of when I attended a large megachurch near my home in San Jose, CA. Each summer, the church would rent out the county fair and families and friends from the church would attend on a particular day to show their faith and support to the community. My family (my ex-husband and my baby son) always went to this event. It was one of the highlights of our summer, and it was always so much fun for us. In my dream, which was eerily similar, I was at an "outdoor event" or fairgrounds, and there were "shows" going on that you could attend throughout the day. All I remember is being really angry while I was there, and that I had two confrontations in my dream. The first happened when I was helping to serve dinner. I don't know how I went from being a participant to a volunteer, but that is what happened in my dream. In this part of my dream, I was helping to setup tables for dinner. It was near or around the 4th of July because the table decorations were red, white and blue. I was putting napkins by each plate when all these people, girls in blue party dresses, started to flood into the dining hall. We (the volunteers) weren't ready to let anyone in, but all these girls (women and girls) came in with their blue taffeta dresses and started to sit at the unfinished tables. I said to one of the women that we weren't ready to seat anyone yet and that she should wait outside. Instead, the woman responded in a "huff" and said she could do what she wanted. I remember being very angry at her insistence that she didn't have to wait in line. I remember thinking she was rude for not following the instructions to stay outside and wait until we let everyone in.

Then as that part of the dream faded away, another incident occurred where I was standing in line waiting to eat dinner. There was a long line of people, and I was in line by myself. I was minding my own business when this woman came up from behind me and began to lean hard on me. She pressed her body so hard up against me that I was literally bending over. She was having a conversation with the woman in front of me, and the two of them were speaking to one another as if I was not even there. I moved out of line, made a remark about this woman's pressing against me, and was rebuked for being rude. There was an exchange of words (I don't remember what was said), but when the hostess came to seat us, she planned to seat me AND this woman at the same table. I didn't say anything, but the woman behind me made a remark saying she didn't want to sit with me. The hostess proceeded to take me to the farthest part of the dining area. As I followed her, I saw some of my friends seated closer up. They waved and said they would talk with me later. I just remember thinking that I was going to be seated at a table with strangers, and that no one would even talk with me.

Once I got to my table and sat down, my food was served. It was awful looking. It was like pig slop, and I looked at everyone else's food at the table and their trays looked normal, appetizing. I complained about the quality of my food, and the hostess took my food away. As I sat there, I started to feel isolated and all alone. I decided to leave and go home. I thought, "I will stop and get my own dinner on the way home." I walked out of the event, found my car, got in it, and sat there thinking how the whole experience of that day was awful. I started to cry. It was night time, and my car was wedged between two others so tightly that I was worried I wouldn't be able to free myself. Finally, after careful maneuvering, I made my way free and left the parking lot. I woke up shortly thereafter feeling this intense anger inside of me.

In all, the dream was just another weird experience whereby something in my real life showed up in my sub-conscious dreams. The previous night, I had an experience whereby I encountered a surly restaurant manager, and where I felt I was being slighted as a customer. It wasn't a big deal, really, but I think that experience contributed to my overall sensitivity and feelings of being "pressed" upon. In truth, I am sure my dream represented my current situation where I feel like I am being "put upon" regularly. I am thinking that recent events have brought these feelings forward, and that for some reason I have not really dealt with them, which is why they seem to be cropping up at night when I dream. Sigh!

Be Angry, But Do Not Sin

The Apostle Paul writes, "In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold" (Eph. 4:26-27 NIV). Likewise, James says, "My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires" (James 1:19-20 NIV). The Word clearly teaches us that anger is an emotion, and like all emotions, is not inherently sinful. However, a normal human emotion like anger can lead one to sin -- if left unchecked. Therefore, the Word cautions believers to recognize that some emotions, anger especially, are to be carefully monitored in order to avoid sinning against God.

In my dream, I was angry for various reasons. First of all, I was angry because of injustice and unfairness. Yes, I thought I was being treated unfairly. I felt my human emotion rise when I was being pushed and pressed by another person, and when I felt that my "rights" were being thrown over in favor of another. In both cases, I felt that other people were being treated "better" than I was, and that when I complained, I was accused of being the "problem."

How often is that the case? Have you ever been in a situation where you were blamed as the instigator of some trouble when the real instigator was "left off the hook" scot-free?

I am sure we have all been in situations where we were blamed for doing something when in reality we were the innocent victim. It hurts when this happens. It hurts when we are falsely accused of something, and when our voice is silenced so that we cannot give a rightful and proper account.

This is what I felt was happening in my dream. Through no fault of my own, I was being hard-pressed, treated roughly, and then accused of "starting a problem."

As I consider my dream, I have to say that I have not had any incidents that specifically address this issue. Sure, I do get angry. I get angry all the time. But, in truth, nothing has happened to me that has placed me in a position whereby I felt my rights were being taken away from me. Perhaps my dream was prophetic, future-oriented, and was designed to show me that, in time, my rights will be taken away from me, that I will be "hard pressed" as others attempt to take advantage of me or treat me as though I am an insignificant afterthought. I am not sure. But what I do know is this -- anger and rage -- never achieve the righteousness of God. God is not pleased when our angry runs over. No, anger is an emotion that needs to be kept under lock and key. It is best exposed when confronting injustice or unfairness in others, and not in ourselves. The Word says, "Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19 NIV). It is best to let the Lord deal with situations that rile or revile us. Yes, the Lord is the best One to handle situations that place us in unfair positions or cause our emotions to swell and potentially spin out of control.

Today, I think about times when I was angry, really angry, and I remember how many years ago, I used to throw temper tantrums in order to express my frustration. I would throw things, kick things, all in an effort to diffuse the emotions that were boiling inside of me. I even hurt people -- yes, I did -- and I still have regret for behaving out of control and letting my anger lash out at others. I should never have done these things, but I had no way to deal with my anger issues to bring about healthy responses and eventual healing. Of course, throughout the past 20-30 years, I have attended to my anger issues with the help of many counselors and self-help books, which have made it possible for me to diagnose the root cause of most of my anger. In this way, I have diffused my anger in the best possible way -- I dug out the root of anger -- so that the hole that was left could be filled in with God's abiding love. I have removed anger far from me, as far as I possibly can, and now I trust the Lord to help me deal with the occasional frustration that causes me to feel unhappy or unwell.

My prayer always is to submit my anger to the Lord. I want to maintain a life that is predicated on peace, and to do that, I must yield all desires of self-righteousness to His authority and command. He is RIGHTEOUS, and it is only through my identification with my Lord and Savior, that I am "made righteous." I possess no righteousness in and of myself, thus I must carefully remember that any rightness (truth) that is in me, is the truth of God's word, and the light that His word brings to illuminate the darkness in the hidden areas of my life.

Oh, Lord, may my heart be right and true. May my hope be in you alone, and may I never seek any "rightness" in my efforts, attitude, or even my abilities. In you alone do I look for all righteousness. It is in you alone that I find my righteousness, and in doing so, it is in you alone that I am set free.

Getting Things Right

This past Sunday, our former pastor, Rev. Dr. Darryl Delhousaye, preached a message on the Beatitudes. It is always such a joy when Pastor Darryl returns to the pulpit at Scottsdale Bible Church. He was the senior pastor at SBC for 25 years, and after he retired from preaching, he took a position as full-time President of Phoenix Seminary. Whenever he returns to campus to preach, the worship center is always full-up. He is funny, quirky, and a strong Bible teacher. I always find his messages informational, interesting, and inspiring.

In Part One of his series, he covered the first four beatitudes (blessed's as they are called): humility, sadness, gentleness, and righteousness. I was particularly interested in the last one, righteousness, because he said something that clicked in my brain and made sense to me. I have always known that righteousness means to "make right" as in to make two lines or angles true (in math terms). My study on Romans (thank you, Kay Arthur) taught me all about righteousness, and to this day, I can remember seeing the video teaching where we learned what it meant to be "made righteous" because of Christ's finished work on the cross. I guess I had just forgotten a bit about the "right angles" and such because the way Pastor Darryl explained it, well, it just made sense to me. Perhaps it is also because my good friend is preparing to take his CLEP math exam, and our conversations most days center around math and his math "woes" (LOL!)

I am not sure, but for whatever reason, Sunday's message made sense to me, and my big take away was the truth that as humans we have a self-righteousness that is man-made. This self-righteousness is not pleasing to God, and unfortunately, for many Christians, is a big part of their persona. You see, when we believe we are entitled, and when we demand our own way (even with strong ethical or moral intention), we can put on self-righteousness. Self-righteousness occurs when we want to be treated a certain way or when we feel that we should be treated better than we are. We can become self-righteous when we think we are 'god' and as 'god,' we should have our needs met, our will served, our way accepted. Self-righteous behavior doesn't please God, and it doesn't further His kingdom.

Why are we self-righteous?

In many ways, I think Christians get this wrong. They see self-righteousness as needing to be "morally or biblically" right (as in an argument). They take the Word of God seriously, as they should, but they apply the Word without grace or even without thinking about the fact that the people with whom they are engaging, more than likely to not think the same way, possess the same worldview, or even believe the Bible to be true. Thus, instead of taking the Word of God and using it as salt and as light, they use it as a bully, a weapon, and they inflict damage wherever they go, and without even considering the aftermath of their actions. In many ways, because they have God's word on matters, they presume they are RIGHT in all things. But, the problem with this approach is that in reality, this sort of self-righteousness presumes that they are entitled to be served. The problem is that while God's WORD is right, and the living WORD, Jesus Christ is right -- we as human carriers of His Spirit, are not always right. We do not function perfectly as He does, and we do not act with perfection and with correct intention as only He is able to act. Therefore, when we put on self-righteousness and think we are "right", then we willingly engage in sin. Yes, it is sin whenever we elevate our beliefs, wants, needs, and desires above that of another person.

The real truth is that in God's economy, we are all the same -- we are all fallen. There is no one who is righteous in his or her own accord. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. Even, blood bought, born again Christians are sinners (yea, saved by grace). We are sinners, nonetheless, and as sinners, we do not have any righteousness outside of the righteousness of God. Consequently, the long and the short of it is this: God is God, and He knows it. What is more, we are human, created flesh, and well, while God knows this is true, we don't always remember it as such. As a result, we think we are much better than we really are, and that is what gets us into trouble, into arguments, into debates, and into violent situations. Yes, we can damage the call of Christ quickly by putting on self-righteous behavior, attitudes, and language. We must remember that God is righteous, and Christ is OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Paul said, "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God--that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Cor. 1:30 NIV). Thus, to presume that we have any "rightness" in us, is in error. We are only made right and true because of the finished work of Christ Jesus.

As I came to terms with this truth on Sunday, I realized that often I desire to be "right," and often I act as if my way is right, good or best. I do try very hard to seek His way, and when I do, things generally work out better for me. Sometimes I will say I am seeking His way because I know His way is best. But often, I still try to do things my way. I still try to do things that look "right" to me when in fact the lines just don't match up, they don't form the proper right angle needed to test for true "rightness."

My heart's desire is to do right, to be right in a Biblical sense, and to seek righteousness in all areas of my life. This means that in order to do that, I must surrender my need to be "right," and to accept God's determination on whatever matter is at hand. Thus, if I am seeking my way in any thing at all, I must recognize that there is always a "better" way, and that way belongs to God. Perhaps the reason why I was angry in my dream wasn't so much that a real person had pressed hard against me, and was exerting their presence in my life, but rather that God was showing me that I am responding toward His rightness with anger rather than with humility. You see, in order to be humble, I have to acknowledge this truth -- He is God -- and as God, He has position and authority over me. No matter how high I am lifted up in this world, God is still higher. No matter what accolades I receive over the course of my working life, God will always receive more praise. No matter how much I achieve, accomplish, or endeavor to complete, God will always out perform me. I can never out "do" my God. He will always be better, faster, and more perfect than I am. Why? Simply because He is God, and I am not. Second, if I want to walk in righteousness, I have to remember that "rightness" consists of two straight lines placed in precision to form a "right angle." This means that there can be no seconds -- not slightly perfect connections. Consider a wall being built that is not square -- it is all wonky and out of alignment -- the same is true for His RIGHTEOUSNESS. It is square because of who He is, and not because of anything I bring to the table. No, His righteousness and His justice, mercy, goodness, etc. are perfect because of who He is and because of His nature and character. Thus, any righteousness of my own will always be out of alignment, out of square, so to speak. I must remain true, and to do that, I must remain in the alignment that He has made possible. This simply means that whenever I seek to do "right," I must seek to do right in His way, with His tools, with His provision. I cannot ever achieve anything pleasing to Him that is of my own hands, my own making, or my own accord.
In Closing

As I ponder this truth today, I realize that I have been attempting to be right about certain matters where the Lord has clearly given me His opinion, advice, and counsel. Thus, if I do not listen to His judgement on matters, I run the risk of behaving self-righteously. I act as though I know better, when in reality, I do not. Thus, if I am seeking to honor Him with my heart, my attitude, and my way, I must humble myself before Him and yes, at times, allow Him to press into me, to preside over my decisions, my "calls," and so forth. What He thinks is always more accurate, more true, and more correct than any collection of thoughts I may ever have or hope to have. Therefore, there can only be One right answer, and that answer is always "Yes, Lord."

No comments: