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Sunday, May 11, 2014
Preaching To Myself
It has been an interesting day. I am trying to get into more of a habit of “preaching” to myself instead of “listening” to myself. My pastor said something to that effect and he was quoting someone else. I have no idea who that was but I am pretty sure they were talking to me.
I think constantly. My brain is always on the move and I have an opinion about everything. Just ask me and I will tell you what you should think. That habit leads to some serious sin issues. Jesus said:
Mar 7:20-23 And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."
All of these things are in me. Of course it would be really easy to say that this is what is in other people. Jesus was talking to a multitude after being spoken to by the scribes and Pharisees. Then we get to this verse and he was explain to them what he had been saying to the multitude. Sometimes we just don’t get it. Look at the Apostle Paul’s comment:
Rom 7:18-24 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
With all the evil within us we can easily fall into total despair as Paul describes. We can be horribly torn between what we see as we reflect on Christ and his perfection – realizing that we are called to the same type of life, and what we see in ourselves. As believers we are just not there.
How do we get there from here. Paul had pretty much tried it all. Look at his spiritual pedigree:
Philippians 3:3-6 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ , and have no confidence in the flesh, though I also might have confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.
Yet we still find him in despair. This is why he needed preaching. Look at what we are called to as a Church:
Eph 5:18-21 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God.
Notice how we are to be communicating with each other. Our hearts are to be making melody and it is to come out in song together. These songs are to build us up in the faith by giving thanks. We learn in chapter 2 that these thanks are for the multitude of spiritual blessings that we are to be thinking about. Of course if we are not preaching these things to ourselves they can’t possibly come out communally. That is when we look at Psalm 104. We see the Psalmist praying about the greatness of the creation. He must have spent an amazing amount of time meditating on God’s works prior to exploding into this amazing doxology of His work.
Psalm 104 shows that David must have been preaching to himself – meditating on God, as opposed to sitting around moping about what was happening to himself. Fast forward to May of 2010.
It has been an interesting day. I stayed up late and got up earlier than what I wanted to. I had to hit the road running – there was so much that needed done. At a time of a particular time crunch I had to go into a store. I rushed to get my item and arrived at checkout to see a particularly long line. The people at the head of the line were in deep conversation with the clerk. My initial thought was one of some frustration but I almost immediately changed to wondering why they were having a problem. Now this is really unusual for me. I want to be at the front of the line and I really want things to be done for me in a speedy, pleasant, and professional manner.
You see the universe is supposed to revolve around me and my petty wants and pleasures. All stoplights - in a “perfect” world would turn green at my approach. Checkout lines are empty waiting for me. Most importantly, Starbucks is always open and affordable.
It is simply an amazing work of grace that I was not totally irritated by this couple in front of me. But wait, there’s more. As I am standing in line people come to stand behind me. It is clear that we will be here for a little while so I turned to the people behind to start a conversation. We were having a good time discussing the mental status of a generation that would be purchasing the “gummy worms” in the rack beside us. The lady at the register in front of me turned to us and in a loud ugly tone told us to quit talking about her.
I smiled and replied that we were discussing the gummy worms and not her. She informed me that I was talking about her and to stop it. In that moment another work of grace occurred. I did not get angry, vent, fight, or anything that would normally be my response.
Today I took my wife out for Mother’s Day. We came out to our car. Smoke was pouring out the windows. Inside I found my wife’s coat burned and smoke coming from a smoke bomb that someone had pushed through the open window. I opened the door and got the coat and the smoke bomb out. The seat is now yellow and the inside of the vehicle smells like the 4th of July. The restaurant manager spoke with 911 (after being put on hold long enough for us to get a message 5 times telling us we were to wait for the operators who were dealing with other emergencies). He specifically told them that we did not need the fire department, just the police to make a report.
As soon as the phone call was over the fire alarm sounded. It took another phone call and a police officer calling to stop the fire engine around the corner from loading up and responding. We made our report.
In all of this my anger, always just beneath the surface, was not unleashed. I was thankful that we got to the car, that a fire had not started, and that we had a way to get home. This is amazing – it is grace.
Contrast this with yesterday morning. I woke with less sleep than I would have liked. My daughter rose late and I was going to be late for my appointment with my doctor. I was pretty much boiling – my cup runneth over in a really bad way. I dropped my daughter off and realized I had neglected to eat. I am diabetic so missing meals is not a good idea. No problem here – I pulled into a gas station for a quick bite. There it was, a breakfast sandwich. Now I could finally point to something that was going right. At least that is what I thought. I arrived at the cash register to find a person taking forever to buy lottery tickets. I am from Las Vegas and I really hate gambling. Here was a gambler making me late. I left my hot sandwich on the counter and stormed out. I had no time for a gambler to make me late for my doctor appointment. I broke speed limits all the way to my appointment.
At the doctor’s office we found that my blood pressure was higher than it has ever been. The heat readings taken along the spine were worse than my first visit. My Chiropractor was obviously confused by the results because my reflexes and sensation tests had improved tremendously. I explained that the fault was not hers. I was seething with anger.
The difference between these two days was my actions. The day when I was full of sinful anger was a day where I had not read scripture, meditated, or sang the songs of Zion. The second day I prepared for by looking forward to worship. I had prayed. I had meditated. I had even heard a sermon before the smoke bomb.
The difference between the two days was what I had been preaching to myself. The day of the doctor’s visit I had actively told myself how important it was to me for everything to revolve around me. The second day I preached to myself how great was the God who had saved me. My emphasis was on how to best prepare myself for worship. The difference could not be more glaring or profound.
How does this relate to massage or pain relief? My sin of anger intensified the physical body in ways that have a tendency to increase those physiological factors that often lead toward pain. Prolonged anger is a sin that can well have an effect on a person’s pain. At the end of the book of Deuteronomy there is a description of what will happen to Israel when she turns from God. God’s people should turn to Him because of who He is and what he has done for them. He also exhorts them in this passage to consider what will happen to them if they should fail to serve Him as He commands. It would do us well to consider this as individuals.
As a massage therapist I work with people in pain. My job is to deal with physical issues by applying techniques to the soft tissues of the body. It is not unreasonable to think that if a person continues in a pattern of anger that there will be a significant impediment to the response to treatment. I may well be treating the symptom. There is never a solution to any problem in life that does not involve our great God and our relationship to him. I preach to myself about these things.