Category Archives: Pride

I’m not hurting anyone (One of the lies we believe)

My friend James-Michael Smith has written a well-argued rebuttal to a post by a retired Methodist pastor that went viral through UMC social media.  In that post, Rev. McCormick argues that we need to be careful when using the Bible as a source for morality.   Below you’ll find the links to the article, and JM-Smith’s excellent response, and I encourage readers here to check it out.

One of the things you’ll find in this article, and what I find most instructive for myself (and, I presume, for most of my readers here), is an argument used by Rev. McCormick that what is moral or immoral is determined by the extent to which something is helpful or harmful to myself or others.

Isn’t this the lie every one of us who have been addicted to something have believed?

Whatever your drug of choice is, I am sure you, like me, have used the line, “I’m not hurting anyone!”   So deluded we become that we are convinced that we are not even hurting ourselves.  In fact, just the opposite:  We need our drug of choice.   We can’t live without it.   Those who are trying to take it from us are the ones harming us.   We are convinced that without this, we will be left with nothing to fill the void.

This is the sinister, conniving, baffling and powerful pull of sin.  We are led astray not by something that is ugly and obviously harmful, but by our own desires (James 1:14).   What seems right and good to us – that which we desire – is the bait Satan uses to cloud our judgment and eventually enslave us to something contrary to God’s will for our lives.

Who are we to judge what is helpful or harmful?  Jeremiah would remind us again today that our hearts are ever deceiving us (Jer. 17:9).

Francis Chan, when asked about his thoughts on homosexuality when ministering in San Francisco, points us to something else that I find helpful no matter your struggle, and I’ll paraphrase it here (watch the YouTube link though):  The Christian walk is not about being moral (however you want to define it) but about surrender to and obedience to our Creator.   If this God asked us to stand on our head, would we do it?  If this God asked us to not marry, would we do it?  If this God asked us not to eat a fruit that looked delicious, would we do it?

My desires – my heart – is fickle.  We are surrounded by a culture, a world drenched in sin, which does a fantastic job of making anything seem OK so long as we aren’t hurting anyone.   The world will tell me, and my fickle heart is easily persuaded, that my desires are good and deserve affirmation.  This is the morality of the world.   But that is not the standard of our holy God.

The way out of habitual sin – addictive behavior – begins with acknowledging that I am the creature, not the Creator, and my way of doing life may seem right to me, but is one that leads to death (Prov. 14:12).

Check out JM’s blog HERE

Or his Facebook Note HERE.

There is a virus in our #UMC church

In 2008 I was a seminarian and student pastor serving a rural United Methodist Church.  I began a blog around that time with the intent of taking the theological discoveries I made at Duke Divinity School out for a test drive with the public.   I discovered quickly that the more radical my ideas, the more provocative posts, the more hits my blog received.  What began as a hobby devolved into my primary pulpit, and pixelated “amens” took precedence over the parishioners in the pews.

The topics that got me the most views were homosexuality and hell.   I was one of just a handful of vocal allies in the UMC at that time, urging the denomination I expected to ordain me, and the “bigots” around me, to change.   I remember being cautioned by well-meaning church leaders that my blog posts could negatively impact my future as a UMC pastor, particularly in the south where I served.   I blew off such counsel, convinced my cause was just and that I was right.   Imagine it!  Me, a second year seminarian still so green behind the pulpit being utterly convinced I knew better than all the witnesses to a faithful sexual ethic and theology of the body who have gone before me.

They say we stand on the shoulders of the saints who have gone before us.  The weight of my pride would have crushed and silenced them.

The recent special General Conference of the UMC where the church voted to retain it’s position regarding same sex relationships has caused me to marvel at how much has changed in just a decade in American Methodism.   Ten years ago a United Methodist pastor could lose their job or at least jeopardize their future (as a candidate or member in full connection) for being a vocal ally supporting full inclusion.   Today, any trepidation people may have once had is gone.  Today in America, those holding to a traditional, orthodox view on sexuality and gender are more likely to be called bigots, close-minded, unwelcoming viruses infecting the church, distorting and thwarting the Gospel of Jesus Christ.   Today in America, I find myself again to be in the minority, just as I was only a decade ago.

The testimony I wish to share today to the Church, if I may be so bold, is that what I see happening, and what I saw happen at #GC2019, is that indeed there is a virus infecting our Church, but it’s not that which was proposed at the General Conference.

This virus’s name is not Orthodoxy, but Pride.   And perhaps those of us who have been so infected and destroyed by this virus have been given eyes, by God’s mercy and grace, to see it.

My concern for the progressive wing of the church, of which I was once a rabid advocate, has less to do with the position you hold but the arrogance with which you hold it.   The Church’s theological arrogance on the issue of homosexuality seems to be a mirror image of the World’s sexual arrogance insisting on complete autonomy.   It is virtually impossible to distinguish today’s cultural sexual ethic from the sexual ethic of the Church, insofar as you don’t abuse anyone.   So long as you “do no harm” all is well in both church and culture.

Sneers are to be expected when preaching to the lost that God owns our bodies, that our fleshly desires and impulses are not “good” just because we have them, but must be surrendered to a holy God who desires to make us born again in the Spirit.   The spirit of this world causes most to recoil at such a “traditional” notion.   But this same spirit has infected our Church and Christians now mimic the world, insisting that God affirms their sexual identity.  Anyone who does not is unloving and unlike Christ.

Our collective hubris has ascended the peak of Babel.   Is it any wonder that we are now a scattered people, each with a different language for love?

Pride is the virus most infecting our churches today.  The way I understand God to deal with pride (which he hates more than our sexual sin, by the way) is by blowing up the status quo, destroying our ivory theological towers, and scattering us far and wide.   But as I also understand God, his judgment is meant to wake us, and if those of us called by His name would but humble ourselves, and pray and seek His face and turn from our wicked ways, then He will hear from heaven and will forgive our sin and heal our land (2 Chron.. 7:14).

 

The Sin of Self-Gratification: Taking on the “M” Word (Part I)

“I’m not hurting anyone.” I have offered this as justification for my own sexual sin, and have heard it repeatedly these last few days at the United Methodist General Conference.

I felt God nudging me to share something I wrote several years ago after finding victory over another “harmless” sin, masturbation, the most private and culturally acceptable sin. The truths found here are easily forgotten or ignored but are essential, I think, for any ongoing debate or conversation around sexuality.  This is in large part because we have forgotten that our bodies are not our own to do with as we please.   Coming to a shared understanding of this is crucial before building something new as a church.

Please read and share: “The Sin of Self Gratification.”

via The Sin of Self-Gratification: Taking on the “M” Word (Part I)

5 Ways to Battle Your Most Deadly Enemy

Uzziah was only 16 when he took the throne as king over Judah.  In the beginning, this young ruler “continued to seek God in the days of Zechariah and as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him” (2 Chronicles 26:5).    As God blessed him, Uzziah’s fame increased throughout the land.  And then this happened.

But when he [King Uzziah] became strong, his heart was so proud that he acted corruptly, and he was unfaithful to the Lord his God, for he entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense (2 Chron. 26:16)

A few verses later we are told the fate of Uzziah.  His pride prevented him from heeding the correction of the priests and rather than humble himself he grew angry with them.   The Lord struck him with leprosy, and this once obedient, God-fearing king who could do no wrong died a leper, “excluded from the house of the Lord.”

Pride is not just ugly, it’s deadly.  It’s no wonder God hates it so much, and it’s no wonder all of Scripture seems to shout in various ways and means “Stay Humble!”

The number one reason people relapse back into their old sinful habits and addictions is because they fall prey to the lie that they are doing great.   They may in fact be “doing great,” at least in the eyes of the casual observer, but the moment they see themselves as well and in control, look out.   A fall is coming.

After reminding the church in Corinth (and us today) that Israel’s blunders and missteps were recorded to serve as warnings to us (like Uzziah above), he writes,

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Cor. 10:12).  

Satan is waiting with outstretched arms and chains made of re-enforced steel to welcome back the one God had prospered and blessed who now thinks they can take the wheel.     Friends, whenever pride whispers it’s seductive lie that you can take it from here you need to crank up some Carrie Underwood or something, anything that will help ensure Jesus takes, and keeps, the wheel!

I have found in my own life that freedom is a daily choice and the choice is this: Will I live in my own strength and power and might, or will I turn my will and my desire over to God.    I must daily die to my self so that His strength, His grace, His power, His mercy, His spirit can manifest itself in me.    Left to myself, on my own, I am a mess.

killpride

So how do we do that?  What are some practical ways you can keep from taking the wheel back and do battle with this most deadly enemy called PRIDE?

1.  Pray, pray pray.    There is no other way.   Print out the Mercy Prayer which is HERE and keep it in your back pocket or purse and read it and pray it every day, all the time.   Pray it over others, yourself, your wife, your children, those who offend you, those you lust after, those you despise and those you cherish.     Praying mercy for others kills the root of bitterness and strife within us which pride thrives upon.

2.  Pray for humility.  Pray not just for humility, but pray that you would love to be humbled.  Andrew Murray, in his excellent book “Humility” (which you must read), taught me that I needed to pray for this queen of virtues.  It does not come naturally to any of us, and must be sought.    Jesus said we should seek the kingdom and his righteousness, and that blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.   Humility is to live rightly before God and neighbor.    Do you hunger for this?   Pray that you will.

3.  Read.  In addition to staying in God’s word daily, read books about pride and humility.    Murray’s book mentioned above is a great one.   The book I’m re-reading now, Irresistible to God, is another.   Going through Fenelon’s  Seeking Heart as a daily devotional is another excellent practice.

4.  Seek out ways to go low.   “Going low” is the opposite or “rising up” in pride.   Throughout the day there will be numerous opportunities where you can go low.    When someone says something that offends you, you can choose to ignore it and pray for them.  When you really want to ensure you get in line in time to get one of the few pieces of cake left, choose instead to hold the door open for others.   When your spouse has sinned against you and you just know you didn’t do anything wrong, be the first one to say you are sorry.    The more  you practice going low the more this virtue will grow within you and become part of you.   Every fiber of your being will resist it at first (and throughout your life, most likely), but press on by repeating # 1 above.

5.  Consider Jesus.   I have probably preached or mentioned Hebrews 12:1-3 more than anything else this past year apart from 2 Cor. 5:17.  It reads,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

Whenever you feel like rising up inside (or presently are doing just that!), consider Jesus who, like a silent lamb who did nothing wrong, went to the cross for your sins and mine.    I’ve yet to be faced with a situation where just one glimpse of Jesus suffering on a cross for me hasn’t helped to diffuse.  It makes all my prideful assertions over my “rights” seem petty and cheap and gives me the strength I need to be obedient in humility.   Does it sometimes hurt?  Of course!   But count it joy that we get to share in the sufferings of Christ! (Rom. 8:17)

Practice these 5 things on a regular, if not daily, basis and avoid the trap into which Uzziah and so many before and after him have fallen.  Pride is not just serious, it’s deadly.

I’ll leave you with these words I have written in the front cover flap of my bible given to me by a great teacher on humility.  Feel free to put them in yours, too:

Chad, you leave your first love and lose the filling of the Spirit by a judging, critical heart which refuses to pass on to all others the mercy by which you alone live.   The love of lowliness and mercy defeats and destroys that spirit of emulation which is the love of achievement or place or plans.