To whom do I feel superior?

Politicians, bigots, the sanctimonious, lovers of big government, abusers of the poor, corrupt executives, mainstream journalists, child molesters, drug dealers, murders, criminals, gangsters, deceivers in high places, mobsters, terrorists, abusers of power, elderly abusers, child abusers, women abusers, animal abusers, environmental abusers, litterbugs, texting drivers, oblivious drivers, loud cell-phone talkers.  To name a few.

When I feel contempt for others, I’m seeing more and more how that indicates an unconscious contempt for myself.  And interestingly, the more I extend grace to myself, the easier it is to extend grace to others, even those my flesh loves to despise, so it can feel good about itself at their expense.   “Judge not, that you be not judged.”  By yourself.  When I’m in the mood to judge others, I’m also unwittingly in the mood to judge myself, and this is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad way to live, with self-contempt always hovering over me, waiting to strike.

Extending grace, unconditional love, to myself and others, just as I have received grace, unconditional love, from my DaddyJesusSpirit, is a fruit of the Spirit’s work in my life, freshly convicting me of the sin of self-contempt and others-contempt, returning me to sanity, joy, peace as I am enabled to enjoy myself and others and my ShepherdJesus.  Only shepherds judge others.  Dumb sheep leave judging to their shepherd, and just have fun.

–ShepherdDave, needing prayer for fresh conviction of sin, so he’s momentarily transformed into blissful and beloved DumbSheepDave, with amazing humility, amazing love, amazing joy, and amazing peace, so the pre-believers around him will want what he has (please pray now)

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Teacher needs prayer.

Here’s what she wrote to her Pray-ers: “Dear Friends, I have the exciting opportunity to substitute in a k4 classroom this week.  However, the classroom is very needy with lots of difficult kids.  It is totally of Jesus how this all came up.  Anyhoo, please pray for peace to come over this classroom as I’m teaching.  For me to bring the atmosphere of the Kingdom to this small little place.  I will be teaching Tuesday through Friday and will need your prayers for strength and to be able to love these little ones.  There are 3 that are super difficult.  Thanks for praying.  I’ll let you know how it goes…”

Here’s what I wrote back.  Love for any reading this to join me in praying for her this week:

“Excited to pray.  You’re a miracle-needy lady, Nancy [not her real name], so it makes sense you would be recruiting prayer for a string of miracles this week, and the BIGgest miracle of all, would be if Jesus so captures your heart and imagination throughout the week, that you are aware of Him living His life within you, instead of Nancy trying desperately to live the Jesus life.  So each time you feel stress, pressure, you will know that this is Nancy trying to live the Jesus life, but each time you feel a peace that makes no sense, because of a curiosity and expectancy to see what Jesus does next, in you and through you, you’ll know a miracle is happening.  Now, pay attention: if you are ever irritated with yourself when you catch yourself trying to live the Jesus life, you are not loving/accepting yourself unconditionally, but are filled with self-contempt for your failure to perform like you willfully wanted.  Jesus is never ever contemptful/irritated/angry about your failure: only ProudNancy.  Count on me to be praying daily for a string of miracles, and especially that Nancy will be extending grace to herself when she fails.  Now this is LIFE, Nancy.  This is FUN.  No pressure on Nancy.  Nancy’s performance in the classroom is not Nancy’s problem, or Nancy’s job.  Jesus’ problem, and Jesus’ job.  :)”

–DumbSheepDave, having the time of his life because folks pray

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All my life I’ve been living in denial,

of how worthless I’ve felt, of how much I’ve hated myself.   Wow.  I would never have guessed or believed it.  But now I am learning that suppressed feelings of shame/worthlessness from childhood, lead adults to the kind of drivenness, intensity, competitiveness, trying to prove myself worthy, to myself and others, that has characterized my life.  I mean, I’ve had glimpses of this, but never saw its root as self-hate.  Wow.

Performance-based conditional self-love/self-acceptance, is the opposite of the unconditional love/acceptance of Jesus for me.  Performance-based conditional love, is what Satan offers, and what the world offers, and what the flesh offers, and this is not “love” but conditional-hatred, the opposite of the unconditional love/acceptance Jesus gives me, and I’m beginning to give myself.   Amazing difference it’s making in my daily life, even though my default mode is still failure-avoidance.   It’s always seemed so natural for me to be in a hurry, efficient, intense, that I’ve seldom given it much thought.  And now I find myself more self-aware when I’m hurrying, or intense, realizing that this intensity is rooted in self-hate, not self-love.   I have nothing to prove to myself or others, because I have the performance of Jesus imputed to me.  I’m more and more loving me just as I am, just as Jesus loves me.  Amazing.  My body is beginning to relax inside.   Ahhhh.  Peace that surpasses understanding: surpasses leaning on one’s own understanding, trying to feel good about self, based on performance as ShepherdDave.   I think there’s been a fear-based unease about my life, a hyper-vigilance, a hyper-conscientiousness, to avoid failure of any kind, at all costs.   Day and night.   Ahhhh.  The idol/addiction of failure-avoidance has lessening grip on my life.  ShepherdDave is dying and DumbSheepDave is coming to life.  I’m on a pathway of healing for the open festering wound on my soul.  I’m smiling at myself more, enjoying myself more.  And this enables me to smile at others more, and enjoy them more, rather than being critical of them, especially the inconsiderate and the uncool.  Judge not that you not be judged.  By yourself.

–DumbSheepDave, not knowing how to adequately thank folks for praying (please keep praying and please pray now)

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Big, surprising answer to prayer.

God has led me to an amazing discovery in the past week, about my throbbing gut, that is blowing my mind: it’s emotionally rooted, due to a lack of self-love.  That’s right, self-love.   Whenever I don’t love myself unconditionally as Jesus loves me, my gut throbs.  As I confess my sin of performance-based conditional self-love, trying to prove myself to myself and others, my throbbing gut subsides, because then I am accepting myself, enjoying myself, cherishing myself, just as I am, warts and all, just as Jesus loves, accepts, enjoys, cherishes me, warts and all.   Amazing.

How did I miss this before?  I guess, because self-love seeeems so selfish, and self-centered.  But what’s interesting, is that it’s just the opposite: self-hatred is at the root of idolatry, not self-love.  When I love myself, I have nothing to prove, am not insecure, don’t neeeed to perform.

But then when my gut begins to throb again, I know that I’ve stopped loving myself well, that my love for me has turned conditional, based on my performance, and I need to confess my sin of self-hatred/independence/shepherdness/idolatry, so I can return to the inner peace and joy that flow from the Spirit and have nothing to do with my circumstances.   Priceless.  While I’ve hated my throbbing gut historically, I now love my throbbing gut, that tells me when I’ve slipped back into independent/shepherdlike behavior.   I have a ShepherdDave meter!  When I listen to it.

And there’s more.  Think about it.  It’s impossible to love others as Jesus loves, when I’m not loving myself as Jesus loves.   And.  Self-love = humility: not defensive, not needing to prove self, not competitive, not intense, not agendified.   And.  When I forget that whatever I’m facing is not my problem, not my job, my gut starts throbbing again, reminding me that it’s Jesus’ problem, and Jesus’ job.  Amazing.

–DumbSheepDave, experiencing more peace like a river, and great sleep, because folks have been praying (please keep praying and please pray now)

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I’d rate my circumstances a two,

on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being tops.  Okay, maybe a one.  In the past, I have rated my circumstances a 3 or 3.5 in my monthly report to GospelFriendships boardmembers, and to the folks at WHM on my monthly report as supportcoach to new missionaries.   So, why the downgrade?  Not due to finances: God’s been moving folks to give extra at year-end, and finances are looking up.

For a long time now, I think I’ve been living in denial of how harrrd my circumstances are.  I tend to suck it up and keep going, making the best of things.   What’s so hard about my circumstances?

I have chronic sensitivities to many foods (garlic, onion, pepper, to name a few), mold, wireless signals, auto exhaust, and most chemicals.  And we live off of a busy intersection.  These sensitivities affect my digestive tract, which produces insomnia, and/or leaves me feeling lousy.  I’ve lived with this for 45 years, and been to every kind of medical specialist and alternative practitioner in many locales, tried multitudes of various therapies, drugs, supplements, sleep-clinics.  Nada.

My sleep/energy the past two years is the best it’s been over the past forty years, but I go to extreme measures each day just to get eight hours of sleep at night, and even then, my sleep is interrupted three times on a good night, and I’m up for several hours on a bad night, going through the following day sleep-deprived, feeling awful, wanting to die and be with Jesus.  My extremely restricted diet of certain organic-only foods, combined with exercise, sauna, keeping our windows closed all year, multiple air cleaners, anti-wireless strategies, not eating out, and a bunch of other strategies, have contributed to this improved sleep.   But my gut never ever stops throbbing.  Most humans would be depressed at the thought of having to modify their lifestyle in such drastic ways, and feel entitled to extreme-hardship pay.   It’s just what I have to do to get half-decent sleep, feel decently, so I’ve not usually dwelled on the hardships, tended to look at more positive things.   This denial has resulted in my unwittingly giving believers and pre-believers around me a false impression of normalcy, when in fact, my life is extremely challenging, complicated, and at times downright depressing.  Poor Janet has had to live with all this most of her married life.  Our oldest daughter strongly suspects that I’m mildly bipolar, and after reading up on the diagnosis, it makes sense to me.

I can tell you this.  It’s really hard to believe/trust/rest in Jesus, when you feel awful.  The times I feel good, are incredibly awesome, and life seems incredibly easy, with my mind razor sharp, reflexes quick, and with oodles of energy.   When I feel awful, I’m learning to thank Jesus for my feeling miserable, telling Him, “Whatever it takes to get me more dependent on You, that’s what I want, Lord, because that’s when I’m the happiest.  Thank You for these perfect circumstances, custom designed for me, exactly what I need, to be retrained in a better way to live.”  I’m convinced that my suffering, combined with the prayers of GospelFriendships Pray-ers for my faith life, have resulted in an amazing difference in my life, a remarkable Jesus-dependency at times, that I’ve long-dreamed of having.  I’m still a toddler in Jesus-dependency, but praise God I’m not where I usedtabe, and life is good, because of Him, and the Pray-ers who’ve prayed for more Jesus-dependency in my life.  I wouldn’t trade my life for anyone’s.  If Jesus can provide this for me, He can do it for anyone.   I am not special.   He is special, and able to change anyone, even someone as stiff-necked, thick-headed, and spiritually-learned-disabled as I.

–WeakDave, having the best years of his life, and thankful for friends who have prayed for him

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Answered prayer for one of my heroes.

When this pastor began asking folks outside his church to pray for Jesus to change him, and the church he had months earlier begun to pastor, and to open doors to friendships with pre-believers, he had no pre-believing friends, the church was going downhill and unresponsive to his preaching, and he battled daily discouragement, freely admitting that Jesus wasn’t enough for him.   Today, the church is beginning to turn around, and he now has a number of pre-believing friends outside the church, including this couple mentioned below in his weekly prayer update from Saturday.
–WeakDave, trying to get believers to hang out with pre-believers, and pastors to recruit prayer for themselves

Praying friends,

This is a quick call to prayer.  This morning I am meeting with the young unbelieving (for the moment) couple who are coming for pre-marital counseling.  Pray for the Spirit to come powerfully in our time together.  Pray that the openness that they have displayed so far will grow.  Pray that I would be sensitive to know when to push and when to simply step back and wait.  Pray that through this process that this couple would embrace Jesus, and that this would start a faith movement throughout their families.  You might also pray for me that I would believe that the Spirit could/would do such a thing.  I’m not very believing in that regard.

Also, I am playing golf with the prospective bride’s father Monday morning, just the two of us.  He basically thinks he is good enough for God’s acceptance, and I’ll have to admit he is a pretty good guy in most ways.  Yet, it is all up to him.  He is master of his own world.  Pray for good conversations.  Pray for boldness on my part to testify to what Jesus is doing in me, and pray that what Jesus is doing in me will naturally come out without me having to force it.  So, pray for the Spirit’s work in me, and also pray that the Spirit would open his heart to something much greater than what he can achieve on his own.

Thanks for your prayers.  I love knowing that when I go into battle for men’s/women’s hearts, I don’t go alone.

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Y director has a Gospel buddy.

Excerpts from the former-pastor-now-Y-director’s recent prayer update.  He loves his Y job, hanging out with so many pre-believers.

“The convert from last year I wrote about has become a sorta tag-team Gospel buddy with me.  He befriends people and starts the conversations toward God things, then directs them to me to answer harder questions about life, relationships, and theology.  Here’s part of his conversion story:”

‘As I grew into my thirties, I attempted to fill an empty void in my life with self-glorification, greed and vanity.  At one point I thought I was God.  I was making a lot of money, I had ever material possession I could ever want or need, and was living a self-absorbed-but-self-destructive lifestyle.   I was becoming like my dad, who has been filled with anger and rage for as long as I can remember.   I did not want to be him and knew I desperately needed help.

‘In early 2010 after realizing that I was failing miserably in every aspect of my life, having nowhere else to turn, I prayed to God for guidance and help.   He delivered that to me in the form of a spiritual mentor and someone I now have the distinct privilege to call a friend.   I walked into this person’s office at our local YMCA in March 2010, loaded with questions about Christianity.  Over the months that followed I gradually learned who Jesus is and in the summer of 2010, accepted Him as my Savior, and my life is so much better.  I’m no longer alone in this world!  I don’t have to bear the burdens of life on my shoulders alone.  My wife has since joined me on this journey, and we are now raising our children ages seven and five, in a Jesus-centered home.’

The Y director also added, “I started another outreach class at our Y.  It is called ‘The Silver Screen & Pearly Gates.’ I’m showing movie clips and trying to draw out discussions regarding religious themes in the movies.   I happen to think there are a number of movies that scream for the real Gospel.  I’m following a course of thought that Lewis and Tolkein shared when they purposed to create myths to stir people’s hearts toward the ‘true myth.’ I think Hollywood does that without being conscious of it.”

–ShepherdDave, thanking Jesus for the many who pray for him to return to being DumbSheepDave, and who pray for the ministry of GospelFriendships (please pray now)

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Pastor recruiting prayer for his own heart.

The paragraph below was written in September by one of the pastors I mentor, doing a great job of recruiting prayer, weekly, from outside his congregation, for revival in his own heart, and in the dwindling, revival-resistant congregation he began pastoring 18 months ago, with little progress to report.  And below that, an October report.

–WeakDave, recruiting prayer for himself and those he influences, that Jesus might be making such a difference in our lives right now, that believers and pre-believers around us are wowed and want Jesus to do the same in them

Early September:

“I’ve been reading through Nehemiah and one thing has struck me very clearly.  Nehemiah was a man of prayer, and he prayed because the assignment he had was impossible.  He was a very talented guy and he had abundant resources.  Yet, he was about the task of building more than simply a wall.  He was attempting to bring spiritual renewal to a people who had not learned their lessons from their previous captivity.  He was also opposed by enemies of God’s people.  His task was WAY beyond him.  So, he prayed, and then he worked hard.  He prayed while he worked.  He prayed after.  I am a man of gifts and resources.  They may not be much, but they are enough for me to trust in all too quickly.  I am assigned a task that is impossible.  I am involved in leading a church into renewal and into bringing the Kingdom of God to a dark, desolate world.  It will require MUCH work.  In light of this, why do I not pray more?  I know it sounds spiritually mature for me to ask people to pray that I would pray more.  I need more than that.  I need you to pray for repentance.  I think I am more capable than I am.  I think I am smarter than I am.  I think I am good enough with people, much more than I actually am.  I am enough in myself.  Give me a little ministry success and a little encouragement from church folks, and those ideas sink even deeper into my heart.  That is scary.  In reality, I am the deluded fool.”

Early October:

“I am thankful today for what my Father has been doing lately, and I know your prayers have contributed to this.  Let me fill you in.  Our church is no longer on the brink of bankruptcy.  Last year at this time we are wondering if we would have to sell our property.  That is no longer in the conversation.  We finished the year in the black (income vs. expenses), and we were closer to budget than we have been in YEARS!  Our attendance is trending upward.  People are not leaving any more like they were for the first 1 ½ years I was here.  There is a positive atmosphere in the church that was not here when we got here.  People’s lives are being changed by the Spirit.  One of my deacons is giving a testimony during worship this Sunday of the Spirit’s work in his life.  I don’t think this is what you would call a ‘Holy Ghost Revival’…yet.  I think the Spirit is at work, and I am very encouraged.”

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