Day 31: Continually crushing

crushing your kingdoms

Every day for the month of October, I have participated in a 31 day writing challenge and today is the last day! If you would like to read all the posts in this year’s series, click here for the index post.

One thing I’ve recognized this month is that, while on this earth, we will never completely crush our kingdoms. We have the sin nature in us, always at war within us to regain control, to put self back on the throne. It’s part of the sanctification process that we continue to journey to be more like Christ.

To fight against this tendency, we need to learn to preach the truth about God to our hearts. Tim Chester, in the book, You Can Change, identifies four life-changing truths that we can cling to in this daily struggle:

  1. God is great – so we don’t have to be in control
  2. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others
  3. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere
  4. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves

This is a continual process. We are to be continually crushing the kingdoms of our own making as we grow closer to God. You can follow these steps as you grow.

  • Acknowledge: I’m completely sinful, but I’m completely loved.
  • Admit: I see the sin in my own life and I own that it’s wrong.
  • Determine: I choose turn from the sin to not do it anymore.
  • Recognize: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought.
  • Rejoice: I’m a bigger sinner than I thought, but he’s a bigger Savior than I knew.

Thank you for journeying with me this month. I hope you will continue with me as we continually crush our kingdoms and build up God’s kingdom.

Day 30: Seeking the True Kingdom

Fall LeavesYou may be asking yourself what the deal is with all this kingdom talk. It’s not normal in our day and age to talk about kingdoms. Why should it matter?

When we live for ourselves, we are focused on things that satisfy ourselves. At our worst, we hurt others to achieve the things we want. At best, we are seeking only our own good – or the good of others to promote our purposes. All of this falls short. In Isaiah, it says that the good things we do are equivalent to filthy rags:

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Forget the good things we try to do, which clearly don’t amount to anything worthwhile – our iniquities or sins sweep us away like the wind carries off dead leaves. A few chapters earlier, Isaiah speaks prophetically of Jesus as being crushed for our iniquities:

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
    we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
    the iniquity of us all.

God caused his son to pay the penalty of our sins, death, in our place. In exchange, we are given the righteousness of God. By faith in his name that exchange happens, and we are reconciled to (restored to a good relationship with) God.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Once that reconciling has occurred and relationship is restored, we are then free to focus on building his kingdom rather than our own. From the passage of scripture mentioned in Day 8, we set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. We put to death the things in us that build our own kingdoms. In their place, we:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness,humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

If you’ve never done this, would you join me as we seek the true kingdom, the kingdom of God? Recognize that your best attempts at being good are still like filthy rags in the eyes of a holy God, accept that God took the responsibility for your sin and exchanges it with the righteousness of Jesus, and then, turning away from the earthly things within you, seek to live a life focused on the true kingdom, with God on the throne.

~~~

Tomorrow is the last day of the series. You can view all the posts on this index page:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 29: How to crush your kingdoms

Yesterday we looked specifically at the approval idol and how we need to look to God to fill the need for affirmation and approval.

Continuing that thought, let’s look at how to overcome the control, power, and comfort idols.

~~~

If you greatly value self-discipline; if you hold everyone, including your self to certain standards; if you worry constantly about things you can’t change, then you may be dealing with an idol of control. With a control idol, life only has meaning if you gain mastery over a specific area(s). This one trips me up a lot, though not nearly as much as approval. It’s also interesting because control can go to both sides of the spectrum. Sometimes people who are constantly dieting or obsessing over weight/size are really struggling with an idol of control. When a lot of my life might feel out of control, I sometimes find myself overeating because it’s one thing I can control. Some people may obsessively clean their home or body in an effort to control, while others may exhibit slovenly behavior from the same need to control.

Contrast this with Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Our vain attempts are control are just that – in vain. Pointless. God is the one who has all things under his control.

~~~

What about power? Are you someone who has to win at all costs? Is success the name of the game? This may mean that you prize work and climbing the corporate ladder above everything else. It could mean that you wish to exert your influence over the people around you. It may be that you want to win at anything you do. Other people are often seen as pawns to be used as you feel helps you the best. You may feel anger at others who attempt to exert power over you or when you cannot have influence over a circumstance. With a power idol you only feel that you have worth if you have power and significance over others.

The answer to this lies in Psalm 145:8:

The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love.

God is gracious and compassionate to you and so you can let go of your need to exert power over others and instead be gracious and compassionate. 

~~~

And, lastly, for those of you who identify with the idol of comfort. As pointed out in a comment, this doesn’t necessarily mean luxury, but instead seeking ease or lack of stress as the most important thing. If you desire your privacy above serving others, you may be struggling with a comfort idol. You may find yourself choosing the easy road, the path of least resistance. You may not accomplish as much with your life, but you’ll make sure you don’t have a lot of stress put on you. Life only has meaning if a certain quality of life, pleasure or experience happens.

Cling to this instead, from Psalm 16:11:

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Instead of looking to pleasures to bring you comfort, look to Christ for the fullness of joy and pleasures that never end.

~~~

I hope that this look at idols hasn’t weighed you down too much. It’s hard to look face-to-face at some of the ugliness of sin within us. Don’t be discouraged, but look to Christ instead. We’ll talk more tomorrow about the joys that wait on the other side of the coin.

Because it’s national cat day (who knew?) – I’m sharing this of one of my two babies:

Silly cat playing in tea package

~~~

Catch up on every post in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 28: When longing for approval

Hopefully by now, you’ve identified which of the four root idols is your stumbling point, having used the reflective questions from last week. Thank you to everyone who commented with such openness about the root idol you see in your life.

Zephaniah317

Here’s mine: approval. Big time. Maybe 90% of what I do is done in light of what someone else will think of me. How I dress, what I buy, my ever-so-witty statuses and tweets. I blog (sometimes) so you, reader, will be moved to comment or like or share.

If you’ve ever said something nice to me in person, I probably treasure it and mull it over again and again. If you’ve ever had a negative or harsh word to me, well, like a cow chewing its cud, I ruminate on that hurt repeatedly. I worry almost constantly about whether or not someone likes me.

Here’s a ridiculous example from this week:  I grew up listening to Christian Contemporary Music. I’m not going to debate the pros and cons here; I would posit there’s good and bad CCM. Today, I listen to a mix of music with some CCM still thrown in, though frankly not much. In my car, I typically listen to music on my iPod connected to the stereo though bluetooth. When my iPod dies because I forget to charge it, I tend to default to a CCM radio station, for lack of anything better. This past Sunday, my car needed to be moved, so I handed over the keys without thinking that my iPod was in my purse. What that meant is that once the car moved far enough away from the iPod, the bluetooth disconnected and the radio turned on. Tuned to a CCM station. With the volume on loud.

*cringes*

See, I go to a rather hipster-y type church, with a lot of artists and musicians. Of whom I have great respect. Some of whom, at times, have been vocal about their disdain for CCM. And, so, I’ve been mortified since Sunday to know that one of two people might think I was jamming to CCM. Because I care about what others think of me. Because I find my worth by being loved and respected by people I love and respect. Because I have an idol of approval.

(The amusing thing is that just yesterday I posted two songs here, one of which is by a popular CCM band.)

The thing I need to learn is that I will never find my worth by being loved or respected by _____ people. At best, it’s like drinking salt water when you’re thirsty. It seems like it will satisfy as it touches your lips, but it only further dehydrates your body.

Instead, I need to focus my heart on finding love, respect, and worth from God – the living water that truly satisfies. As Zephaniah 3:17 says,

The Lord your God is in your midst,
    a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
    he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

This is who I should cling to for affirmation. This is who I should desire to admire me. Oh, how I like that idea of someone rejoicing over me, loving me, and exulting over me with loud singing. And I would bet it won’t be to CCM.

~~~

We’re winding down the series on Crushing Your Kingdoms. You can catch up with all the posts in the series here:

crushing your kingdoms

 

Day 27: Where your brokenness brings you

Part of crushing kingdoms includes brokenness, which is weighing heavily on me tonight. This song is several years old now, but between the lyrics and the visual picture in the video, it really hits home.

This is not about what you’ve done,
But what’s been done for you.
This is not about where you’ve been,
But where your brokenness brings you to
This is not about what you feel,
But what He felt to forgive you,
And what He felt to make you new.

And then there’s this lovely song by All Sons & Daughters

I am a sinner; if it’s not one thing it’s another
Caught up in words, tangled in lies
But you are a savior and you take brokenness aside and make it beautiful

We’re continuing the series – click the photo for the index of all posts:

crushing your kingdoms

Day 26: Four kingdoms (root idols)

apple orchardHave you had a chance to think through those questions from the You are here post? I sat down and went through each one. Frankly, I wasn’t surprised at my answers, even though I didn’t really like them. They pretty much confirmed what I guessed.

These questions are digging at determining the sin underneath the sin that drives most of our sinful behavior and other idolatries in our lives. I’ve heard several pastors and authors teach that these boil down to four big ones:

Comfort
Approval
Control
Power

The Journey Church in St. Louis did a series that includes these: Transformation. The sermon, Loving People by Uprooting Idols, in particular hits on this. If you  want to spend some time learning more about crushing kingdoms, these are a great resource. I know my church has preached on this, but I couldn’t find the audio anywhere. :(

So, here’s the deal:

If your answers pointed to lack of stress, freedom or privacy, where your greatest nightmares are stress and demands on you, then you most likely have a comfort idol.

If your answers  leaned toward finding affirmation, love or relationships and your greater fear is to be rejected, then you are dealing with an approval idol.

Do you fear uncertainty and worry a lot? Do you regard standards and self-discipline above all else? This is the idol of control.

Is success the name of the game? Is everything about winning or asserting your influence over others? Then you’re looking at a power idol.

fallen applesThis is deep, heavy stuff, if you take time to really look at your heart and where your affections lie. I’d encourage you to go back through the questions and take inventory in where you have rooted your time, attention, and heart.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! – Psalm 139:23-24

Above all, spend time in prayer over this. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts. These deeply rooted idols are not removed without God’s help. But, it begins with a willing spirit to see what lies between you and God. One way might be to spend time praying through Psalm 51, David’s cry of forgiveness to God.

~~~

We continue to work through the series, Crushing Your Kingdoms, this month, with only a handful of days left. Click below to view the index of all posts in this series.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 25: Ears to hear and eyes to see

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear.”

So begins, Matthew 13, where Jesus speaks in parables to the crowds who followed him. We’re allowed to listen in to the conversation between Jesus and his disciples, where they ask him why he speaks in parables:

And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says:

“‘“You will indeed hear but never understand,
    and you will indeed see but never perceive.”
For this people’s heart has grown dull,
    and with their ears they can barely hear,
    and their eyes they have closed,
lest they should see with their eyes
    and hear with their ears
and understand with their heart
    and turn, and I would heal them.’

But blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear. For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.

Later, his disciples asked him to explain the meaning behind the seed that fell on different ground:

“Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Let us pray today that, like the good soil, we would have ears to hear and eyes to see and know the kingdom of heaven.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 24: How dare you?

I haven’t participated in Five Minute Fridays for a few months and this month doesn’t seem like the best time to jump back in – and yet, through the #write31days challenge, I’m reading a lot of great FMF posts and I’m inspired.

This week, the word prompt is “Dare.” So, I will attempt to entertain you with some of my inner self talk presently taking place:

HOW DARE YOU? 

Excuse me?

Who do you think you are? You post such brave and challenging things aimed at others, but what about you? You don’t dare show your own weaknesses or put too much spotlight on your own idols and kingdoms. How dare you?

Well, I thought, maybe…

YOU thought. There’s your first mistake. Look, you write a nice blog and have some talent at stringing words together, but you’re no studied theologian. Six years at Liberty University doesn’t exactly qualify you to preach to others or point out their weaknesses.

I know. Look, it’s difficult. I feel the pull to share hard things but don’t feel like I have the qualifications to speak. It’s partly what tied my hands and shut my mouth this past year. I look at my failings (repeated ones sometimes) and I’m desperately looking for someone to help me through it. Finding no one, I write. Yes, I’m writing to others, because it sounds silly to write posts directed to “Dear Me.” But what I write is for me. I’m not trying to become famous or get a book deal. I just want to help others who may be hurting as much as I am.

Oh, well, when you put it that way…

LOL – I went over the five minutes, but was amused by arguing with myself. The truth is, I laid out where I want to go in this post, but I’m pretty scared about actually going there. It means talking about hard things that may upset some people. It means talking about the things in myself that I’d much prefer remain hidden. And, I suppose, they can still remain hidden – so I need to determine how much to actually put out there in the interwebs, where my mom, family members, friends, and possibly coworkers may see it. I’m awed by the bloggers who put themselves out there on a regular basis, but I don’t know if I’m ready to be one.

All right now, in some ways this feels like stalling. I’d better get to the serious writing. :) See you as we press on through 31 days of crushing your kingdoms.

bold_crushing

I’m also linking up with Five Minute Friday:     

 

Day 23: God’s grace is greater than my sin

I’d like to take you back in time a couple of years to share something I wrote on the weekend of Easter 2011.

candles

Friday night, minutes before the start of the Good Friday Gathering, Tom and I had a minor disagreement. Not even that, just a miscommunication really. He had to serve & the Gathering was about to begin, so we had to just drop it. Thanks to modern technology, we texted things out over the next 10 minutes and everything was fine by the time the service began.

But…

In the moments before that 10 minute window, I wallowed. My husband doesn’t care. Doesn’t he know I am already having a hard time with other issues and then he throws this at me? Around me I heard friends visiting with one another cheerily. No one cares. I am alone. It only took seconds before I saw the absurdity of my thoughts. How small and selfish and vain my heart is. In that instant, I was broken. Here I came to remember the suffering, agony, and shame that Jesus Christ experienced dying on the cross for the sins of the world, and here I proved yet again, why he died for me. I can’t even come to church and not sin! The truth rang loudly:  nothing I do is ever good enough, nothing I bring is ever worthy enough, nothing I say is powerful enough to forgive my sins, to cleanse me of the blood-guilt.

Here grace steps in. God, in his grace, offers me what I do not deserve and could never earn. God generously gives his son, the only one perfect sacrifice, to pay the debt I owe for my vile actions. Jesus willingly allowed himself to be crucified, for me. He rose again from the dead, for me.

This blows me away.

Bianca Olthoff posted (in 2011) about grace, at her blog, In the Name of Love. I would like you to watch this video she posted, and I encourage you to check out her blog (I’ve lost the link to her original post).

 

What hit me like a ton of bricks was his sentence, “I cannot pay my debt,” and the realization that my debt is as great as this man’s. No less atrocious in the eyes of a holy, pure, and righteous God. And I, too, am forgiven.

Doesn’t that just blow your mind?!

~~~

I’m reposting this today as part of the #write31days series, Crushing your Kingdoms. Click to read all posts in the series.

crushing your kingdoms

Day 22: You are here – a brief recap

Dear Reader Friend,

There are less than 10 days left in this 31 day challenge. I’ve posted scripture and songs and stories from others. The things going on in my personal life (see Day 2 for a glimpse into THAT) have made it very challenging to carefully craft out a blog post each day. I lost a few days early on and am not quite caught back up yet. But thank you for hanging in there with me.

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

you-are-here-illustration by hikingartist (CC BY-ND 2.0)

So, where are we now?

My goal this month was to look at the things in life that we try to build on, trusting in our own strength or ability rather than leaning wholeheartedly on God, his strength and his peace. I thought I would go through different things we try to rely on and show how they are kingdoms with foundations built on sand that easily crumble. Instead, my physical kingdom, i.e., house, crumbled. Not literally, but with water soaking our entire basement floor and an upstairs crammed with all the furnishings that were down there, it’s been a challenge. I’ve learned that I don’t need to wait until my house is perfectly decorated to invite people over. Instead, I’ve actually had more people in my house this month than probably the past three months combined. It’s hard to swallow pride and ask for help, but the community that has surrounded us has been worth it.

I’ve had some stumbles, too.

Temptations that repeatedly tease with their false hope of something “better” have been taunting me. Being tired and worn thin, it’s been easier to give in, to allow the serpent in the garden sweet talk me into taking a bite of his apple. When I look at it in light of crushing kingdoms, the sins I gravitate toward are often my attempts at building my own kingdom. The idols I manufacture are my attempt at putting myself on the throne.

The next step in this series, though definitely more difficult to spell out in words, is to look at four of those areas that are often classified as the deep idols. These would be the root of the issue, so to speak. If you take the sins you feel you struggle with and start probing even deeper, where does it lead you? At the heart of things, what is it you really long for? How do you figure that out? Here are some questions to begin asking yourself:

What do you worry about the most?
What, if it failed or you lost it, would make you perhaps not want to live anymore?
What do you rely on for comfort?
What do you do to make yourself feel better?
What do think about, or daydream about, when there’s nothing else pressing in?
What gives you your self-worth?
What are you proud of?
What would you want printed on your tombstone?

Think through these, so in the next several posts, you’ll more clearly see what deep idols you are clinging to as you crush your kingdoms.

Thanks for following along with me this month, whether you’ve been a faithful reader for a while or if you’re one of my new friends, many of whom are also participating in #write31days.

me in my World Help shirtHave a blessed day,

Janice
aka Claygirlsings ← (how this name came about)

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