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Be Known

Our Innate Desire To Be Known

I have been thinking recently about the seemingly growing mass of people who do things just to be known and noticed. The examples are so numerous that it is hard to decide which ones NOT to mention. Just think on some headlines over the last few months. Add to that the countless people who still go on shows like Jerry Springer, or people who play to the paparazzi just to keep getting noticed – Lohan, Hilton, Kardashian, etc, etc. On the far more tragic side I was reminded recently that when Mark David Chapman shot John Lennon on a New York sidewalk the first thing he said was, “I shot John Lennon.” He wanted to be famous and the closest he could get was to be infamous.

So, what is it about us that we have this growing need to be known, to the point that we do the ridiculous (or even the tragic) just to have our proverbial fifteen minutes of fame? I think at the heart of it all, it goes back to the biblical story of Adam and Eve and our rebellion against God. The point of the story is that human beings are in some sort of rebellion against God and this rebellion, known as sin, has had cosmos altering consequences. We have become alienated from God and from one another. That alienation has produced fear and insecurity, loneliness and shame. You might be thinking, “Hey, we have always had alienation, fear, and insecurity. What’s different now?” What is different now is two-fold.

First, there have always been other social institutions that helped us overcome our alienation and fulfill our need to belong and be known. Once upon a time the tribal group (or community/family) gave us a sense of security, identity, and purpose. We knew people and they knew us. Not simply in the informational sense of knowing, but in the deeper heart sense of knowing. It is more like the sense in Dutch and Afrikaans of “ken” as opposed to “weet”. Weet is informational knowledge, you know about something or someone. Ken is heart knowledge. It is what the Bible speaks of in 1 Corinthians 13:12 when it speaks of a longing for a new day,

“Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

The more mobile and isolated we become, the more we run the risk of being alienated, yearning for connection.

The second factor is the divine element. During the rise of the modern era, and the commitment to science as having the answers to all our problems, we put God and spirituality on the shelf. We further isolated ourselves from the needs of our soul. Eventually people began to sense that modernism and science did not have all the answers and so an outbreak of being “spiritual” but not “religious” has been sweeping western culture. Why? Because we still have the deep inner need to be known and to know, especially by something or someone greater than ourselves.

In search of that need to be known, to be significant, many have taken a decidedly neurotic path. Others have taken a more reasonable and socially acceptable route. The rise in popularity of social media like Facebook or LinkedIn, is in part an attempt to stay connected or reconnect with people who are important to us. Such social media can be a great tool to keep and grow our relationships, giving us a sense of place and belonging. Of course it can also fool us into thinking that we have deep and meaningful relationships just because people see our status updates and we have hundreds of friends, some of which we have never actually met.

Ultimately, all our efforts to connect with one another, to be known by one another, to feel like we are significant and that we matter, will fall woefully short if we do not address the root cause of that alienation. We are alienated from one another on a horizontal plane because we first became alienated on the vertical in our relationship with God. We can have all the human connections we want, but until we are connected intimately with God, we will still be lacking and still looking for more. Blaise Pascal said it best: “We all have a God shaped vacuum in our soul that only He can fill.” When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about being known, he was speaking of the longing to be known by and to know God in as intimate a way as possible. All our searching for meaning, fame, security, belonging, and connection is at its core the result of a need to know that we are loved by God and to experience that love in deeper and deeper ways.

Friend

What To Do When a Friend Hurts You

I don’t think I need to ask if you have ever been hurt by a friend.  Being hurt is common to the human experience.  Each of us, at one time or another, has been wounded by someone that we have allowed to be close to us.  Sometimes, the wounding has been necessary to help us become what God intended us to be.

As part of our trusting relationship, a friend may see something in our character that needs to be addressed.  These “woundings” fulfill what we see in Proverbs 27:6a;  “The wounds of a friend are faithful…” And, the reason for these times of pain is to help refine and purify you and to help remove that which stands in the way of God and your relationship. 

In the same way that we are wounded by friends who are trying to help, we have all been wounded by friends who are trying to hurt.  For whatever reason, those we have viewed as friends may run roughshod over our emotions and leave us reeling and broken.  When the wounds of a friend aren’t faithful, how do we respond out of our own pain and disappointment. When wounded, it might take some time to work through it, but here are a few rules of thumb I have learned over the years:

First, I have found that it helps to clarify the issue or issues.  Many times misunderstandings and confusion create conflict and wounding that was never meant to be. In an electronic age, where email has replaced face to face conversations, one can’t hear tone or read the nuances of body language.  Being able to resolve a misunderstanding through clarification can lead to healing and restoration before a bigger rift occurs.

Secondly, know and understand that “hurting people hurt people. ”  Often, the wounds that you receive actually have nothing to do with you.  Perhaps there is pain in the life of the one who is lashing out at you.  Maybe there is a break down in some other area of their life and sadly you have caught them at the wrong time, in the wrong frame of mind, and you take the brunt of their anger.  At these times it is easy to lash out and hurt back, but remember again from Proverbs 15:1,  “A gentle answer turns away wrath but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Seek to be understanding and compassionate.

A third thing to consider is that often times people don’t have a clue about the true impact of their words.  Their idea of what is acceptable may vary greatly from yours. Letting people know how they have made you feel in a gentle manner can go a long way towards restoring relationship  Use expressions that do not fix blame, but help them understand the impact of their words or actions.  For example, I have learned to confront others with expressions like,  “When I heard ___________, I felt _____________.”  Fill in the blanks with the words that were directed at you and the emotions that they brought on. Hopefully, through using careful words and patient understanding, healing can occur.

The goal of each of these last three ideas has been to heal and bring restoration.  Indeed, in all our relationships God calls us to love and care for others and to walk at peace with others. (Romans 12:18)  This needs to be our end goal that we work towards. That being said, this is an end goal that works better if two people work towards it together.  If we are in a relationship where we are constantly being wounded by an angry and spiteful person, we need to understand that by allowing them to continue to wound us and the others around us we are actually empowering them and giving them authority over us and our own well being.  Often in times like this, the best way to have any relationship what so ever is to put limits on how often you are in contact with them and to limit what goes on in those times.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list on dealing with toxic relationships, hopefully it gets your thinking about how to have healthy and life bringing friendships.

What about you?  How do you deal with a situation where a friend hurts you?

Guilty

User Submission: Forgiving the Guilty

The following is a submission from a user like you. Emily shared her incredible story so that it might touch the hearts and lives of our readers. If you would like to share your own story, you can do so here

For as long as I can remember I have always found healing in writing. It’s how I process emotions and a whirlwind of overwhelming situations – situations that seems to weigh so heavy on one’s heart that it shakes their faith to the core.

Because I had many stories with situations like that to share, I began writing my book last September. I had been brainstorming for three years before I actually sat down to write it. More than anything, I wanted to be as honest and as open as I possibly could. It truly was a healing process for me as I reached back into the recesses of my mind to share very personal stories about my life – stories that would glorify my King, Jesus, and point others straight to Him and the miraculous transforming power of salvation, healing, and deliverance.

Although I openly discuss many things that the Lord helped me overcome, mostly sexual sin and rebellion, there is a particular occurrence that strengthened my faith more than anything I could have ever imagined. I find myself needing to talk about it today, knowing deep down in my soul that no matter how dark, tragic, or extremely sad it may be, Jesus has turned beauty from these ashes and will receive glory from it because what the devil meant for evil, the Lord has and will continue to turn around for good!

Last week, I found out that the man who murdered my father five and a half years ago was given a guilty sentence. He will serve up to 45 years in prison as a punishment for his actions.  And while most people are shouting: “That man should burn in hell!” I am preaching, “You MUST forgive!”  because I know the severity of holding onto the wrongs that others have done to us. My friends, it is simply not worth it.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:14 (NIV)

Although I made a CHOICE to forgive the man who took my dad’s life right after it happened, I wrestled with so many emotions and thoughts after reading the articles describing the horrendous acts of murder that turned my world upside down in November of 2008. Seeing the photo of this man, as he was escorted by two police officers out of the courtroom, his stone cold eyes looking straight back at me, made my stomach churn. My heart was pierced and so many different emotions rose up in me.

Avoiding traumatic thoughts and emotions was the main reason I chose not to follow the murder case as the years went on. Immediately, I chose to forgive and move on with both my life with Christ and my now husband. I did not want to live in the trauma. It wasn’t that I didn’t love or miss my dad terribly.  It was because dwelling on all of this wicked and demonically influenced tragedy would never bring my dad back.  I knew that justice belonged ONLY in the hands of the Lord.  Most of all, I longed for that man to repent of what he did and find a life-changing relationship with my Jesus like I had found. I still pray for that to this day.

I can’t say that I have found the strength to pray a prayer like this from soley within myself. My strength does come from within though, but it is the power and might of the Holy Spirit who has given it to me. My life verse from the Bible will forever hold true, and I will never stop standing upon the promise of Philippians 4:13: “I can do ALL THINGS through CHRIST who strengthens me.” I’m so thankful for that promise.

Jesus will never abandon me. Although, my earthly father is gone, I have a Heavenly Father who loves me more than anyone could. I cling to Him when the storms of life try to overtake me, for He is my anchor of hope. I cling to and stand upon His Word that is full of promises – promises of His love, mercy, and grace, for He is my Rock and firm foundation. I cling to my Jesus and the voice of His Holy Spirit, for He is the One who gives me strength and courage to endure every trial I could ever face. No matter how dark life may get, know that when you trust in Jesus, and you hide your life in Him, you have a Light within you that shines so brightly it will overtake all of the darkness.

Betrayal

Betrayal

If you have ever been the victim of a deep betrayal, you can understand and describe the pain with vivid imagery. I believe that these same gut wrenching human emotion pierced Jesus’ heart when one of His very own betrayed Him. You see, Judas,  for a lowly amount of coins, betrayed the forever King. It makes no sense, yet we are all at some point in our lives betrayers. We all make decisions that sacrifice the ultimate worth of Christ’s love for cheap pleasures.

I can think back to moments when metaphorical coins seemed a desirable trade for choosing my fleshly desires over my spiritual ones. In simple terms,  I was choosing sin over Jesus,  I was Judas in those betraying moments. Has this ever described you? It’s perhaps not the most pleasant thought to dig deep into, but can you name your offenses? Can you list your sins? For some, it might be easier than others and I want you to know that when Jesus becomes your Lord and Savior, there is no more condemnation – Jesus removes your sins as far as the east is from the west. Yet, the point in which I am trying to highlight is that without recognizing and repenting of our betrayals, we can never truly see the fulfillment that comes when grace is presented. There is a Scripture in 2 Timothy 11- 13 that hit me pretty hard when I read it and I would like to share it with you,

Here is a trustworthy saying: If we died with Him, we will also live with Him; if we endure, we will also reign with Him. If we disown Him, He will also disown us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot disown himself.

Did you notice how the beginning lines all have the opposite outcomes? Dying means life, suffering means ruling and, later on in the verse, faithlessness is remarkably met with faithfulness. Jesus was always using radical ideas to describe His Kingdom. In fact, The Beatitudes are a great example of this as well. Yet, will He call us His if we do not call Him ours? The answer is no. We cannot expect to live a life of betrayal towards God (even if we speak Him with our lips, but not without our entire being), and claim to be His. God’s sovereign name does not allow this injustice. We may pretend by doing all the things that look ‘right’ on the surface and still, Jesus can respond by saying, “I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:23)

Thus, repentance and a true relationship with Him is necessary. Betrayal is simply not an option when it comes to belonging. We must recognize that this makes God a good God, unchanging and unwavering in all of His ways. Yet, there is good news for us who are weak…this does not mean we are perfect. In fact, we can screw up! We can lack faith and fall short (like Paul so often spoke about in the New Testament) and God is still faithful. Why? He cannot show betrayal to those who are marked His. Jesus’ costly bloodshed will not allow God to turn us away when we are sealed by His precious covering that occurred on the cross. He cannot deny Himself. We can be Peter, at times, sinking in an ocean deep even though we can hear God saying “come” and He will never disown us for we are His. He will keep reaching His hand towards us. However what we cannot survive is to live as Judas. We cannot kiss Him, yet deny Him. We must make sure that we are pursuing His will (and not our own) or we are living in a way that breaks His heart.

I hope that as you are dying to your flesh daily, remembering that in the end you are truly gaining. I hope that you also remember that when you endure, you will someday reign. And, when you fall short, I hope that you never forget that He is still faithful. So, I’ll end by proposing the same thought I began with slightly modified: have you ever been the cause of a deep betrayal? Was this offense towards the One who wants to call you His and capture you heart forever? I believe that these gut wrenching and human emotions of betrayal pierce Jesus’ heart when one of His decides to choose to betray.

Peacemakers

Blessed are the Peacemakers

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” Matthew 5:9

In a time of revolution and upheaval, and following possibly the most violent century on record, it seems almost laughable that there could possibly be any real hope of bringing peace into this world. Yet Jesus seems to think that there are peacemakers and that they have some special relationship with God. So what is it that these peacemakers do and why such a special relationship with God?

The first thing we need to come to grips with is our understanding of peace. The definition we commonly accept, the absence of war, is woefully lacking in depth and has little to no relationship to the Biblical understanding of peace. We have become so accustomed to wars, both global and local, that we have accepted the absence of bullets flying and rockets falling as somehow constituting peace.  By such a definition the blessed peacemakers would be those who get the bullets and rockets to stop.

When I was a child and through my early adult years, the United States and the Soviet Union were not shooting at each other. Yet there was no peace. We called that time, The Cold War. Nobody really felt that we were at peace. During elementary school we had regular drills on what to do in case of nuclear attack. Our neighbors actually built a bomb shelter in their back yard. It was not a time of peace.

The most commonly known biblical word for peace is the Hebrew word shalom. It means far more that just the absence of bullets and rockets. When you greet someone with shalom you are pronouncing that you pray their world is one filled with the joys, blessings, and contentment that can only come with a right relationship with God. True peace is about healthy relationships of openness, trust, and love

The ultimate blessing of Shalom is when you are at true peace with God. This is not a concept that is readily considered in our world. Most people seem to assume that since they are not in a fighting war with God that they must be at peace with God.  After all, God would never be mad with us would He? Isn’t the idea of an angry God an ancient superstition born out of ignorance? Not according to the Bible – because of our sin we are literally at war with God. We fight against the reign of God in our lives. We worship anything but God. We act as if things are fine because we are not standing on the mountaintop shaking our fist at God and He is not hurling lightning bolts at us from the heavens. Yet the Bible says that:

“since we have been justified though faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:27

Prior to coming to faith in Christ we are not at peace with God. We were still God’s enemies. Yet out of His love for us, while we were still sinners, Jesus Christ died for us so that we can have true peace, peace with God as our Father.

So how does this fit with the blessed peacemakers of The Beatitudes? If you have peace with God you have something that you should be sharing with others. You become and ambassador for Christ. Consider what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:17-21:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God as reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God”

So the peacemakers are those who are giving their all to see that people are reconciled to God. Why are they called sons of God? Because they are following in the footsteps of the Eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was given the ultimate ministry of peacemaking on the cross. There is nothing more important that you can do for someone than to help them find ultimate peace with God through Christ.  That doesn’t mean that efforts to stop the bullets and rockets are waisted. They are extremely important. But we should never settle for the lack of such things as being true peace. We humans are so very prone to accepting something that falls short of God’s best design for us. We accept the good and fail to experience the great.

If you have been reconciled to Jesus, then you need to be a peacemaker and give yourself to the ministry of reconciling others to Him. If you have not been reconciled with God, I implore you to do so. You will never have ultimate peace in your life until you do.

Book of James

Insight From the Book of James: Life’s Rip Currents

As a child, I loved blowing those whimsical translucent puffy flowers…at least until I learned that they were merely weeds, a once, yet no longer, beautiful dandelion. I would twirl and sprinkle little pieces of it’s seed all over the place, thinking it to be such a beautiful sight. It makes me now wonder if as Christians we sometimes become like the once dandelion turned weed when our faith becomes tested.

There is a beautiful quote by a 19th century English preacher named Charles Spurgeon,

Trials teach us what we are; they dig up the soil, and let us see what we are made of, they just turn up some of the ill weeds on the surface.

I believe that Charles must have spent some hard hours in the Book of James. While I am removed from Charles Spurgeon’s worldview, I can still, like so many others, relate to this visual imagery: a flower for all to see, but underneath my exterior there are strong roots that often still spring up ugly weeds.

I wanted to take some time, with you, to look at James’ insightful book. We see that James is a man of few words. He was the brother of Jesus, yet refers to himself at the beginning of chapter one humbly as a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. We also see through the Scriptures that James was not only concerned with allowing the Jewish followers of Jesus to stay encouraged in their faith, but also the Gentiles. Lastly, we learn that the twelve tribes of Israel have been scattered and dispersed.

In the book, James is communicating with Jerusalem, Palestine and Syria while Peter is focused on Babylon and the east. Additionally, we hear that the Apostle John is spending time in Ephesus and Asia Minor. The beautiful thing about James’ message is that he manages to say so much in so few words. James wrote five short but impactful chapters on faith through: testing of trials, works, conduct (2 chapters worth) and persecution.  As he begins, he wastes no time trying to explain that Christians will experience trials and temptations and that this should produce a response of pure joy. I could spend a long time just dissecting just that concept, couldn’t you… joy when life gets tough? Here’s another glimpse into some of his thoughts,

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

I love this visual of a wave blown about by the wind, having no control of its direction. Surely, this is not a good way to live! Just like soil that sprouts out weeds when under harsh conditions, a Christian should be careful not to doubt during trying times, least they appear double minded! I know this is easier said than done, the truth is, my first response to another test or trial is not joy and when I ask for help from God – I sometimes have my guard up and grip to my own doubt. Yet, James gently corrects us all by saying; we shouldn’t expect anything from God if we can’t boldly and wholeheartedly ask and believe. I have heard many Christians recently start quoting a little saying that proclaims that the teacher is always quiet during the test and while this seems to bring comfort to those who are hearing silence from the heavens, I wonder if this statement can be viewed theologically. You see, we see right here in James that we do not serve a passive or aloof God, He wants us to ask for help during the test…always! Perhaps, we might not hear His voice audibly, but He will respond and we must not doubt this to be one hundred percent the truth because it is written for us to see through the lens of James.

Naturally, while reading James, I looked up rip currents because I live in Florida – I love the beach and I wanted to further understand James’ analogy of tossing, powerful waves. I figured a few tidbits of information about strong currents, waves, would be handy knowledge and what I found was profound spiritual truth! You see, a rip current is a source of danger for any swimmer, much like a trial or temptation can be a source of trouble for any Christian. I read that a swimmer can actually be dragged away from the beach and drown from a strong rip current because they fight the current – the death actually coming from exhaustion.

Have you ever felt this way in the midst of a strong trial? You keep fighting and fighting until exhaustion creeps in, blame rises up, separation from God occurs and you are left broken, a part of you dying away? This is not what a trail is meant to result in. We are meant to ask God for help and to muster up joy, knowing that our faith will help us persevere.

Here are some directions to surviving a current that can be easily translated to faith:

Yell for a lifeguard. (If you don’t hear back, keep yelling but start dealing with the issue immediately.

Check what resources are with you.

Do not try to out swim or fight a current.

Tread water if you cannot swim and let the current carry you.

This is how we should respond to trials. We should call out to God, and if we hear silence, we should keep calling while we take action – action in the form of devotion, worship, fellowship with other believers and constant prayer. We must start addressing the hardship and trial immediately. The enemy will waste no time in twisting your thoughts into doubt, so we must be sharper and quicker to respond with truth. Next, we must check our resources. We mustn’t try and go it alone. We need others to encourage and help us, reminding us to keep our heart pure and remain joyful in all things. We must also not try and fight the current by swimming. In faith terms, this means ‘doing it our way.’ We must surrender. We shouldn’t allow our circumstances to determine our willingness to be obedient. Lastly, we must tread water. We can’t be complacent, or roll over and give up. We must keep fighting the good fight and when exhaustion kicks in, allow God to carry you.

Personally, I love the extra bit added to fourth statement I didn’t include above: the current will take you deeper but you won’t be dragged under. This is how God often operates. You see, just when you think you can’t take anymore, He doesn’t just rescue you, but allows you to be redefined and further strengthened. The section then concludes by saying: just keep treading water until rescue arrives.  When it comes to our faith, we know Jesus will always be there. Therefore, whatever you are going through today, tomorrow or much later down the road, consider it pure joy when trials come knowing that Jesus is right beside you and He won’t allow the waves to drag you under if you call on Him without doubting. He will always show up!