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May 25th, 2010

A Lean Year Can be a Blessing

I had a funny moment this morning.

On Tuesdays, my dad and I have breakfast together at a local restaurant. We have been doing this for years. Today when we walked in and chose a table, a lad–total stranger–stopped me and said she had to tell me something.

This is Miami. You can imagine my thoughts. “Process server.” “Hare Krishna.” “Angry liberal who doesn’t like my NRA T-shirts.”

She said, “You look so HANDSOME since you’ve lost weight!”

I didn’t know what to say! She said she had noticed the change over the last few months. I had no memory of seeing her before today.

I thanked her, and we sat down to eat. My dad was happy about it. Anything good that happens to me reflects on him, as far as he’s concerned.

Why is this a big deal? Because it’s an answer to prayer. I want my father to accept Jesus and be baptized with the Holy Spirit, but he hates Christianity, so I pray for God to show him that I am more blessed than he is, so he’ll want what I have, and so he’ll get it through faith and obedience.

My dad has a real problem with food. When we go to this restaurant, sometimes he moves us from one booth to another because he needs extra room. Since August, he has seen me lose weight without effort, and today, he got a very loud reminder, in a place where he has to face the temptation that causes his problem.

That was pretty cool.

It was one of those things that are so weird, they have to originate in the supernatural.

As for her taste in men and her eyesight, well, we have to make allowances.

The weight loss itself was supernatural. God did it all. I am really sick of people trying to tell me I did it. It actually makes me angry sometimes. Sometimes people have an offensive insistence on “debunking” miracles. If God works miracles for people they know, it poses a threat, because it means God is real, and they need to change their lives and draw closer to him. It’s easier to put the credit where it does not belong. “An earthquake parted the Red Sea.” “Evolution proves God exists.” You know the mindset.

When you try to give me the credit for this, you are encouraging me to steal from God. That is not helpful to me, no matter how grateful you think I should be for the praise. I could not have done this, and I do not want to fall into the trap of thinking I blessed myself. I know you mean well, but so did Peter, when he objected to the crucifixion. And you know what Jesus said in reply.

Speaking of the supernatural, I saw something interesting on Sid Roth’s show yesterday. The show is called It’s Supernatural, and it always features Christians who have experienced supernatural manifestations. Sometimes I’m very suspicious of these people, but I liked the folks he interviewed yesterday. Their names are Ken and Jeanne Harrington.

They talked about the supernatural things God had done in their lives, and if I understood them correctly, they tied all of it to obeying certain Biblical principles, such as humility and honesty.

They made a good impression on me, and I can tell you why. They’re not sharp, oily, polished people. They seem very nice, but they are extremely ordinary. They’re not highly educated. They don’t have a bunch of cribbed preacher jokes to sling at the camera. They dress normally. No chin beards or hair gel or funny suits in colors heterosexual Caucasian men ordinarily shun. And they don’t push an overpriced seminar or a set of pricey tapes, as far as I know. They host “workshops,” and they have a book called Shift!, and I think that’s about it.

I enjoyed listening to them, because they reminded me that while transformation through the Holy Spirit is the most powerful thing in a Christian’s life, the earthly approach matters, too. You can’t just sit around praying in tongues all day. You have to read the Bible, and you have to try to change. The Holy Spirit guides you and gives you the power to succeed at this, but you have to act. Sometimes I underemphasize the importance of earthly tools.

They talked about the importance of avoiding attempts to justify yourself, even when you’re wronged. When you have a conflict, you are very likely to be wrong to some extent, even if the other person is almost completely at fault. Instead of insisting that person take all the blame, you should take responsibility for your part in the mess and apologize.

That makes sense, because Christianity is about growth. If you insist you’re right, and you believe it, you will not try to improve yourself. You will cut off the flow of growth. You can’t grow without admitting the need to grow. This is a lesson I am trying to implement in my own life, and I am not doing a great job.

So much of evil has to do with holding onto unprofitable things. Covetousness is an example. To covet is to set your heart on something. When you set your heart on something, you exalt yourself. You’re saying you know what the future should hold. You can’t walk by faith, if that’s your attitude. If you read the Bible, you’ll see story after story of people receiving the unexpected from God. They hoped for certain things, and God gave them different things, and it turned out God was right. This is the essence of Christian living. You can’t live this way if you covet. When you covet, Satan tells your flesh you need a certain thing, and your flesh tells your mind, and in the end, Satan rules your mind through the flesh. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. God is supposed to rule your mind, and your mind is supposed to rule your flesh.

When you covet, you refuse to grow. You’re like a kid who never learns to eat solid food, because he insists on continuing to breast-feed.

I think addiction is the most powerful expression of this principle. An addict refuses to move forward. He is so in love with the pleasures of the past, he will not try to free himself from them in order to make room for the greater pleasures God has planned for the future. If you know an addict, you know what I mean. They’re obsessed with the past. Blame. Offenses. Other people’s sins. Anything that excuses the refusal to grow. We’re supposed to move forward constantly, without letting anything get a grip on us and hold us back. Addicts never grow past the ages at which their addictions start. They remain immature, like teenagers, all of their lives.

We are told not to love this life. The reason is that the next life is better, and we have to let go of this one to get it. By worrying too much about success and pleasure in this life, we treat it the way an addict treats drugs. We become addicted to it. We covet it.

I might buy that book. I suspect that some of Sid Roth’s guests are con artists, but I don’t see how the Harringtons can do me any harm.

They mentioned something interesting. We have had many revivals which have failed. We have seen miraculous manifestations of God’s power in revivals that failed. God will let us perform miracles sometimes, even when we are not walking in his will. They said the emphasis on character was missing.

As Paul taught, the spiritual gifts, without the fruit (righteousness derived supernaturally from the Holy Spirit) can actually be liabilities. It’s a good thing to keep in mind, especially if God has started allowing you to use his power. The charismatic churches have had a lot of problems caused by allowing the flesh to use the spiritual gifts. I don’t have to name famous pentecostal preachers who have disgraced their offices; we all know who they are.

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2 Responses to “More Favor”

  1. Elisson Says:

    We had an interesting discussion last week – the question was, if you were only required to obey one Commandment instead of ten, which one would come the closest to accomplishing, by itself, what all the others do?

    According to Maimonides, the great medieval Torah scholar, the answer is, “Thou shalt not covet.” If you avoid covetousness, you avoid pretty much all of the evils the other Commandments guard against. If you don’t covet your neighbor’s possessions, money, or wife, you eliminate most of the reasons for theft, adultery, and murder. If you don’t covet money, you don’t feel obligated to work on the Sabbath. The person that is happy with what he has has received an extraordinary blessing.

  2. Steve H. Says:

    I have been having the same thought. And you can see it in Genesis. Satan coveted God’s throne. Eve coveted godlike status, as well as her husband’s God-given position of authority. And Adam…I think he just coveted lunch.