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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's Time to Burn the Bill of Rights...

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

I have recently acquired an ugly, pulsing spiritual bruise…just above the bridge of my nose. Yep, you guessed it: right between the eyes.

My community group has just begun a new study series: Seeking Him, Experiencing the Joy of Personal Revival by DeMoss and Grissom. Excellent study. Perhaps, a little too excellent. The 2nd week just absolutely nailed me. Week 2's topic: Humility.

Ouch. Didn't see this one coming. There was a list of characteristics in one of the lessons, showing on one side the traits/habits of Proud People and, on the other side, those of Humble People. The activity asks you to circle the number of the traits that you believe are mostly true of you. So I did it. WHAM, seven out of the first twelve characteristics of proud people are true of me often enough that I couldn't avoid them.

Then, I turned the page.

Well, heaven's to Betsy, lookie there. Turns out there are two more PAGES of characteristics. The first 12 had already nailed me plenty, and now, I find that there are double that and then some to wrestle with. Hence the bruise.

I've got pride issues. Too often do I go through a day pretending to know better than God, pretending to be a good man, pretending to…well just pretending.

The trait that left the welt was phrased in this way: "Proud people are self-protective of their time, their rights, and their reputation."

Somewhere, probably eons ago, I started to build my own Bill of Rights. And unlike the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights of our nation (which I support whole-heartedly), my personal Bill of Rights is a malignant cancer that needs to be burned.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are nice things. But I started creating my own personal rights, things like:
I have the right to entertainment.
I have the right to sleep in.
I have the right to sit on the computer for hours, for no good reason.
I have the right to eat whatever I want, whenever I want.
I have the right to be a full time author.
I have the right to take most of the summer for my own amusements.
I have the right to have kids that never argue or disobey.
I have the right to a wife who meets ALL my needs.
I have the right to experience God whenever I call to Him.

You have any rights like that? You see the problem with each and every one of them, don't you? God never promised me any of those things. All those selfish, me me me, rights are nowhere to be found in God's word. In fact, God mostly just tells me to do the opposite. I'm supposed to die to self. I'm supposed to put others' needs first. I'm supposed to lose my life to save it. I'm supposed to expect trials and hardships. I'm supposed to be content in all situations. But somewhere along the line, I whipped out the quill and scroll and started composing my personal Writ of Selfishness.

Unfortunately, I'm not alone. We hear all kinds of rationalization these days--even from Christian folks. But God wants me to be happy--seems to be the carte blanche excuse for all kinds of evils: affairs, abandonments, sinful sexual preferences, expenses, new toys, on and on and on.

Forgive me for being blunt, but I don't see anywhere in Scripture where God says "Do whatever it takes to be happy." As my good friend Christopher Hopper likes to say, "God is much more concerned with your character than He is with your happiness."

Take a good look at your expectations. Have you fashioned your own bill of rights based pretty much on you getting what you want, regardless? Are you placing ridiculously unfair expectations on your job, your spouse, your kids, your friends, or even God? How about when you're driving, when someone fails to let you into the lane of traffic you're aiming for, do you get really, really mad?

See the trouble with these prideful, self-created rights is that we will often go to any lengths to protect them. And we'll be insanely furious when someone infringes upon them.
"What do you mean, I have to take the kids to their dentist appointments? This is my day off!"
"Throw the ball around? No, not now. This is 'Daddy' time."
"I know the bills are tight, but we've just got to have a vacation."

Maybe you're thinking you might have a pride issue too. So what do we do about it?

Read this:

In the year of King Uzziah’s death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said,
   “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts,
The whole earth is full of His glory.”

  And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. Then I said,
   “Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”
  Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from the altar with tongs. He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” Isaiah 6: 1-7

When the prophet Isaiah caught a glimpse of God's glory, His purity, His Holiness, well, Isaiah was undone. By comparison, Isaiah knew he was dirt.

In some ways, I find myself jealous of Isaiah. I mean, he had an up close and personal experience with God. Who wouldn't feel humbled in the presence of the Living God? But maybe, just maybe I lack the perspective to understand how devastating such a meeting might be to me. Maybe it's enough to learn all I can of God's holiness in His word. Certainly, there's enough in the Bible to humble me.

But still, maybe you'll join me in praying, "Lord, please send your messengers with coals from your holy altar to touch all the parts of me that are unclean, especially, my mind and heart. In Jesus' name, Amen.