Thursday, September 26, 2013

Victim Mentality

A secret garden enjoyed by a few who know how to find it. 

The people kept coming and Martha’s welcoming smile never left her face. She was the hostess of hostesses.  But this day,  running back and forth,  refilling endless cups and plates, her smile began to fade.   Hearing Jesus voice but not able to follow the conversation made her think of what she was missing out on -  how she would love to just sit down with everyone else and listen to Jesus’ words. 
 But no, she was the ‘servant’ of all – who would serve them if SHE didn’t ?   Was it really so much to ask that someone could at least OFFER to help? 

Mary !  where was Mary ??  oh yes.. right at Jesus feet totally oblivious to her sister’s need of help.   It just wasn’t fair , was it ?  
Her feet hurt, her arms ached,   she was tired.   Couldn’t Mary at least help a LITTLE?  
And didn’t Jesus even notice that Martha was alone in serving everyone ?   Did He not notice that Mary was not lending a helping hand ?  
Maybe if she just brought Jesus’ attention to her need .. He would ask Mary to help her. Serve Mary right to have to be reprimanded by Jesus Himself !  

When Martha finally  brought the situation to Jesus’ attention, she was so upset her words were harsh and her anger directed not only at Mary but at Jesus Himself  …”Don’t you care? Tell Mary to help me!”    
How did Jesus respond ?    He said ….   
“Oh Martha, you are so good at serving, but Mary has chosen the better part and I will not take it from her.”   
(Luke 10:38-42)

His younger brother had always been spoiled – the best loved son, the one who always got the bigger portion of meat…. the pampered treatment.  How many times had he, the elder – the first born ,  got in trouble for something that was his younger  brother’s fault?  
Then,  the ultimate !   His brother asks for his inheritance – not to invest.. oh no !  but to squander on riotous living, indulging the flesh.   Where did that leave him but to continue to do all the work himself..  labouring all day in the heat while his father longed for his prodigal son, standing at the road gazing into the distance.   The hurt burned within the elder brother’s heart ! 
Then one particularly hot and difficult day, when it was finally over and he could turn to home and food and rest,  what does he find but a party !!   And not just any party, no – it was in his brother’s HONOR !!    Celebrating what … that he had come home penniless and knew he would find a father with his hand out to replenish his empty pockets?? 
Heaping insult upon injury !!  How could this be !   Did his father really not have any love or even courtesy left for his elder son to even consider his feelings  ?    Did nothing matter to him except his love for  his younger son, no matter what he did ??  

When the elder son vents his anger to his father ….   What does the Father say in response?   “Son, everything I have has always been yours.  Come celebrate with us, for your brother who was dead is alive again.”   
(John 11:32)

Peter has just been told by Jesus that his death would not be a pleasant fall asleep, awaking in heaven kind of death.    His death would be by crucifixion.   Not an easy thing to hear.   A life of following Jesus and then dying a horrible, humiliating, torturous death?
Peter looked over and saw the loving exchange of glances between John and Jesus.  Why did Jesus have that special bond with John ?  What was it that John had that he obviously didn’t?    Hmm …   wonder if John will also die a horrible death ?    So Peter asked .. “What about John?  How will he die ?”  
And Jesus answered ….   “What’s that to you ?  You follow me .. Keep your eyes on me, not on someone else, judging them.” 
 (John 1:22)

Our pastor made a point in his last Sunday sermon on the life and temptations of Joseph,  “A victim mentality lowers immunity to temptation.”  
Contrary to the Joseph's immunity to temptation, we can see how the truth of the quote  is played out in the above scenarios.
The elder brother allowed that ‘seed’ to take root early in his life, resenting his brother , resenting the  unconditional love of his father,   resenting his brother going off doing what he willed while he was out slaving in the sun to save the farm. Always he was left wanting, the one doing without.   
Then when temptation came to hate his brother, to hate his father for throwing the party,  … he fell headlong into the temptation, refused his father's love and refused to even attend the dinner party -  he  allowed sin to rule in his emotions/thoughts and finally actions.

Martha started off delighted that Jesus came to visit !   She started off being happy to do what she was good at – serving !    But then she looked at what she was ‘missing out  on’  ..      everyone else  enjoying being waited on hand and foot and free to enjoy Jesus' company.   She was delegated to the lowest rank --servant in her own home!  
Wasn’t fair …  victim mentality….    And then temptation came knocking to point fingers at Mary and accuse her of not doing what she should be doing  … and so temptation found a resting place and conceived to bring forth Martha’s sin of turning away from her own gift and being critical of someone else's. 

Peter, considered himself sold out to Jesus,  boldly claiming that he would go/be anything for Jesus !  We know that his times of testing were coming but of course Peter had no idea at this point  Jesus still walking with them. But when Jesus told him of how he would die, it shook his confidence.   Why?   Why would he have to die a violent death ?   Was he being singled out for this?   Was he more deserving of it than the others ?    He looked over at John .. the one that Jesus seemed to favour or love the most …   what about HIM ??   
And in taking his eyes of Jesus and onto comparing himself with John and feeling like he was coming up short for some reason beyond his control… temptation  came …  and found a hook in him.    Until he could not keep the question back .. “What about him ?  How is HE going to die ?”   

I don’t think we realize how easily the ‘victim mentality’   presents itself in our thinking ..  or  what a short path it sometimes is from thought to sin.  First a thought, then handling of the thought,  emotion responding to the thoughts,  then  emotion acted out. 

When we look at Jesus’  responses in the examples above,  some might comment at His seeming lack of compassion to the person’s pain.    But if we look closer we see that in each instance, Jesus confirms the one coming to Him, but leaves no room for temptation to have any hook.

I remember when my daughter was little and would come to me in tears over some hurt and I would pick her up and   --  if the ‘wound’ did not need medical attention --  I would distract her …   excitedly pointing out something I knew she would like… and often the excitement in my voice would be enough for her to forget her tears and focus on what I was offering her.   
I see Jesus doing the same thing with us.  Not that He doesn’t recognize our hurt or doesn't want to gather us close , but He quickly draws our attention away from our pain to Himself .. because it is only in Him that we have the comfort, healing, answers that we need and seek.
We, as followers of Jesus are commanded to die to self.    In German the word for suicide is ‘selbstmort’ – the direct translation would be self-murder.    That’s what it feels like when we try to put our ‘flesh’  to death, doesn’t it ?  
The easiest way is to hide in Jesus --  to flee at the first stab of pain , the first hint of temptation … flee TO the arms of Jesus and find all we need there.  

One of my favourite verses … .”The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe!”   Pr. 18:10 ..    If we remember that ‘Name’  means ‘character’  then this verse holds a very secure promise of comfort.   The character of God is surely one we can trust in ,  He never changes and we are invited to run to Him in any and all circumstances and He promises we will be safe from all alarm !  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"What Speaks To You?"

There is a commercial on TV that for some reason so grates on my nerves that as soon as I hear it come on I reach for the remote and hit 'Mute' !!
I have never listened long enough to find out what  the commercial is about,  all I know is that the words "What speaks to you..."   are delivered in an annoying  tone of voice  that keeps the words repeating in my  head no matter how hard I try to block them out !

I was thinking about this commercial the other day,  as the words yet again re-echoed in my head and I thought...  No matter how many times this commercial  has tried to make me listen  to its message,  it has never got past my 'quick on the draw' mute-button finger !
I suddenly was struck with the thought --- Am I that quick to 'mute' out the voice of the enemy ?  so quick to 'mute' any voice that tempts me to look, taste or feel something contrary to exercising or developing a godly character?

There are so many voices the 'speak to us'   throughout the day.
Voices that call, entice, invite, tempt, distract.
Some catch  our attention and we turn our ears willingly ... others cause a 'mute' response from our receptors and we effectively tune them out.

But how discerning are we in what we mute and what we allow 'to speak to us'  ?
What controls the 'mute' button in our will and mind ?

 What is our standard, our guide regarding distracting voices of the world ?
Do we think it is OK to listen if we do not act on it ?
Watch if we do not participate?
Touch if we do not partake?
Taste if we do not eat ?
Do we justify to avoid denying ourselves?
Give in so we need not exercise our self-control?
Lower our standards so we meet them easily ?

Are we sometimes quicker  to 'mute' God's voice than the world's ?

I thought about  bible examples ... the times God spoke  to Samuel, to Elijah, to Moses, to Daniel, to John, to Paul  ... all quick to hear and obey.
Not like the people of Israel who gathered at the bottom of Mt. Zion and cried out to God not to speak. They could not bear to hear Him, and asked Moses to 'mute' God's voice to them.
I thought about those who did not 'mute' the voice of the enemy -  Achan quick to listen to the voice that spoke to him -- "Take it, no one will know!"
Or Balaam quick to listen to the voice that promised monetary rewards and power.
Or Ananias and Sephara who listened to the enticing words of the enemy .. "Play it both ways .. look good on the outside but satisfy your greed."  Not muting the voice  cost them their lives.

I once had a pet goat who had an amazingly consistent 'mute'  button for all voices but mine.  No matter how softly I called her name, her head would jerk in my direction and she would rush to my side !

That is how I want to be ...  sensitive, listening for God's voice though it be but a whisper, but my finger on 'mute'  to the voice of the enemy.

"And when he brings out his own sheep , he goes before them, and the sheep follow him,
 for they know his voice. 
Yet they will by no means follow a stranger but will flee from him, 
for they do not know the voice of strangers." 
John 10:3,4