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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Why I Can Honestly Tell My Kids "You're Special"

When I was growing up and someone would tell me, "You're special!" I would always wonder what they meant by that.  I was never sure if this was a compliment or if it was a condolence prize to make me feel better when I didn't feel better than I did.  Sometimes people would say, "You are SO special!" or, "God made you special!"

The word 'special' began to mean nothing to me.  I thought about what it means to be special and realized that I figured since everyone in the world is someone God made, then telling everyone they're special means absolutely nothing.  Being special, I thought, should mean one is outstanding, better, set-apart from the rest.  I thought to be special I had to do or be something extraordinary - or aspire to some high ambition or demonstrate a quality that no-one else could possess.

In the end I just figured people who told me I was special were just being nice and didn't really know me that well, or just ignored my glaring faults if they weren't blind to them.

But I was wrong.

Here's a side note:  I like to read and study on a wide variety of topics.  One of my interests is biology - specifically human biology.  I love to learn and understand how our bodies work!  And in some of my observations I began to realize something I once thought of as false.  I began to understand that each human being, created in the image of God, is SPECIAL.

A female child is born with about 1 Million Eggs.  By puberty only half of them are still around.  Only 300-500 will ever develop into mature eggs to be released.  Of those, only however many children she conceives get to ever become a person.

And that doesn't even compare to the sperm - a whopping 60,000 are produced every minute!!  That is incredible!!

Of those millions upon millions of sperm, only a select few - carrying essential DNA will ever get to meet up with a mature egg to conceive a child.

And beyond that, conception is in itself miraculous.  Don't believe me?  The width of a fallopian tube is about like a human hair.  You were once small enough to fit inside a human hair.  It's amazing the sperm ever get there or that the egg ever gets squeezed through this passage to meet up with a sperm. Each and every human being is incredibly special.

God could have picked any one of those million sperm or any one of those million eggs your mother had.  And of all those potential DNA recipes, He chose to make a person - you - out of the exact DNA from your biological parents.  You are unique and special because though there are millions of people on the planet only a tiny percentage of the potential DNA mixes got to be made into YOU!!!

That is why I can honestly tell my children that they are 'special'.

They'd like to roll their eyes at me.  But they don't.  Because they know I'll launch into human biology 101 with them if they do.

So, sure, be a cynic and try to tell me that saying to someone 'You're special' is pointless.  (Because I was that cynic at one time!)  But I won't listen.  I'll just direct you to study human biology 'til you begin to 'get it.'


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Will China Gain if the Protests are Heard?

I have not set foot in the homeland of my birth in over 10 years.  And yet, I still feel a close bond to the people of Hong Kong.  And as I watch and hear and read of all taking place there - these tumultuous times - I can't help but to chime in here with my small, timid, perhaps unheard voice.  Because we in America tout the virtues of democracy - but will we speak up for those who risk what they know not, who sit and protest and voice their own desire for freedom?

I will.

Though this is a small, not oft-read blog, I'll throw in my two-cents about this matter of democracy and freedom.

China stands to gain SO much if they heed and hear the cry and protests of those within its governance.  Did you catch that?  I said, 'those within its governance.'  Catch that, please.  It means not only those who raise their protest in a land claiming democracy - namely, Hong Kong.  It also means those within the border of mainland China.

China is a huge country.  It is a huge force for possible good globally.  And the Chinese people as a whole are resourceful, courageous, hard-working, smart, industrious, family-honouring, smart, studious, daring, smart, delightful - and did I say, smart?  'Cuz I'll say it again.  They are smart, clever, brilliant - however you want to put it.  And these days the government of China can affirm the smarts of the people they govern or they can denounce it.

China has the power to quell the voice of protest.  But they would lose so much if they did.
They would lose the wealth that Hong Kong generates - a 'who-cares' attitude would begin at the first squelching of their collective voice, and business would suffer.  Tax revenues would fall - it would be the beginning of the end, and China would lose, BIG time.

They would lose the confidence, respect and honour of the people they govern and they would lose the respect of the watching world.  They would face shame on a global scale.  China would LOSE face, not gain it, if they refused to listen to the protests of the people.

China would again prove she is driven more by fear than by any other factor.  Fear driven leadership, while perhaps effective in the short-term, only serves to crumble a nation.  No-one respects actions taken on the basis of fear.

And China would gain SO much if she heard the cries of her people.

There would be breezes of hope and a future!
There would be economic gain and benefit.
There would be a 'We-Can-Work-Together' attitude!
There would be greater willingness to come together and see great things accomplished.
There would be public honour for the government.
There would be a better tomorrow.

If only the powers that be would sit up and take notice.

The people of Hong Kong have protested peacefully.  They have enacted civil disobedience with an emphasis on the civil.  They have pulled together to make their wishes clear.  In many ways, they have demonstrated to China how orderly governmental and political ideas can be exchanged and heard.

Will China act wisely?  Judiciously?  Will she gain honour on a global scale?  Or will she kow-tow to fear and set forth a hard-line approach, which will only bring further disaster and gloom on a struggling nation?

Ultimately, we know that politics isn't the only answer to a nation in struggle.  We know there is no peace without the Prince of Peace.  But until He is given His rightful place, a democratic process allows for access to basic freedoms for all.  Will China allow such access to its people?

Only time will tell.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

The Problem of Being Intentional. Or Not.

It's a buzz phrase these days: Intentional.  It sounds so...purposeful, determined, self-directed, controlled.
Sounds almost too good to be true.

Let me just put this out there.  I am intentional about a very few things in my life.
And the rest, well, I like to leave the door wide open for the spontaneous.  Don't get me wrong - this can be problematic too.  Because I want to allow room for people who come along who weren't on my to-do list (if I really had one, which I don't usually).

I'd like to be intentional about so much, but I just don't seem to have that gift.  I do think it must be a gift.  It is a gift given to the driven, type A - and well, I'm just a type B, or C or maybe a Q or X or Z.  Haven't figured that out yet, and being a non-type A, I may just never get around to typing myself into a category.  Which is really okay, because who has time to stare inward - navel-gazing, I call it - ad nauseum figuring out where I really fit into some category or such.

I'm a Mom with 5 kids, ages 13 down to 3.  I am up to my eyeballs in just living.  I'd love to pretend I'm soaring on the glory of parenthood - and I do have those moments daily - being such a spontaneous, unplanned, un-intentional type, I do take time to smell the flowers and the sweaty hugs and morning breath of the kids that crawl all over me before I really want to get up.  It's more wonderful than it sounds - I just can't describe it to you!

The thing I am intentional about seems to be being anti-social.  Now - not in the terribly negative, rude, off-putting sense.  No - I'm anti-social in the sense of feeling obligated to run hither and yon to every social event there is.  I feel maxed out just socializing with a broad range of children.  And I love being social one-on-one.  I just don't do well with the chit-chatty general socialness of society.  So, I'm intentional about preserving my social energies and limit myself to whatever is realistic - which really isn't much.  I guess I'll just ask for forgiveness and understanding when it comes to my lack of socialness.

And I share this for you who may be type A or B or Z.  Because I'd like you to know you don't have to perform, you don't have to win the gregarious prize.  You don't need to worry what everyone thinks of you.  Because if you just hang onto your sanity and snuggle a kid or two each day, you're doing just fine.  Forget trying to do it all.  If doing it all is stressing you out, just start being intentional about disengaging from society, just a little bit.  I may be accused of being selfish (which would be spot on).
 But I am not trying to win a popularity contest.

Relax.

Be intentional, if that's your gift.  And if it's not, just be intentional about what really matters, and let the rest of your life flow from the joy
                        of living
                                 for an audience 
                                                   of One.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The "Don't Listen To Me" Prayer

So I have this big thing against complaining.  I feel justified in my anti-complaining stance - after all, God isn't fond of it either, and since we are to imitate Him, well, you draw your own conclusion!

The thing that gets me about complaining is that at the heart of it it smacks of discontent and ingratitude.  I know a few particular people who have a big thing against ingratitude, and if you know any, you will know how easy it is to raise their ire.  Just don't thank them.  Enough.  Or sincerely enough.  Or at all.  Or act entitled.  The offense this causes is my reaction to complaining.  My children know it.  My husband knows it.  Complaining is simply off limits in my house.

In fact, it is so off limits, that I even react when it is subtle.  Or not so subtle since you'd have to be a genius to slip complaining by me in any form and have it go unnoticed.  I may be kind and ignore it.  Or I may just call you on it.  Don't try your luck!

So you will be shocked to know that I, too, of all people, who so nobly turn my nose up at complaining, once in a while, have a complaining heart.

Aaargh.

Then I face the very thing in me that I so detest in others.  And it happened to me the other day.

You see, we have never had a headboard for our bed (or a footboard for that matter).  For a year we slept on a mattress on the floor, while we were in transition.  I got much stronger leg and back muscles from that, to the point where I now feel somewhat of a wimp, enjoying the luxury of a bed that sits on a basic frame.

But once in a while, in a hotel or as a guest, we experience the headboard thing.  Our bed doesn't end up sliding out from the wall, my pillows don't fall down the crack and I began to realize that this headboard thing is the next step in luxurious living.

But we have been focussed on settling everyone in our house with highest priorities falling to kids and such.  And right now we can't afford a headboard (*sigh*).  Well, of course we could spend on it and pay later, or juggle things around, but it just isn't a priority in our family budget.  And probably won't be for a while.

And I woke up the other day with the first thought popping into my head, "I guess someday we'll eventually get a headboard."  And I caught myself.  "Quit it!  Of all the things in life concerning you, you think of a headboard?!  There are people grieved, suffering, dying, ailing, hurting, fearful, and lost and you dwell on a headboard!?  Get over yourself."

And I knew God was listening in on my thoughts, since He knows and sees the ponderings of our souls.  And I said, "Okay Lord, just don't listen to me right now.  These thoughts aren't exactly the kind of thing I want you to hear.  Let me just sort this out and shut down this complaining heart before I let you in on my thoughts."  I do this whenever I have ungodly thoughts.  I call it the Don't-Listen-To-Me prayer.  Because I know God knows what I'm thinking.  And once in a while I am quite ashamed of myself for thinking such things.

Sometimes I want to read the imprecatory Psalms over someone, and then I repent and pray the Don't-Listen-To-Me-Right-Now prayer.

Even though the Psalmist didn't pray that, but felt quite comfortable calling on God to deal with His enemies in most unsavory ways.

I know I can be honest with God about the things going on within me - as we all can.  But I do recognize when my thoughts are me-centred, petty, unrighteous, unholy and filled with complaining.  It is at those times I arrest myself and simply ask God to not listen to me.  I do this because at those moments when I think of Who He is and all He has done, I realize my complaints (not borne out of soul suffering, but merely whiney, self-pitying stuff) are rude, offensive and denying of His daily mercy and grace in my life.

And in fact, the Don't Listen To Me prayer does help me.  Because it arrests me at that moment and tells me, "Hey, if you have to pray that, don't you think there is something going on that needs correcting and changing?"  It forces me to address the ugliness in my soul and re-focus on what - or Who - is eternal.

I invite you to pray the Don't Listen To Me prayer too.  Because all our thoughts lie open before Him.  Certainly He knows how sinful we can be.  I'm sure He'll give us a minute or two (hour, day, week etc). to realign ourselves to His purpose and to reflect on His grace.

And it certainly does wonders to tweak a complaining heart.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Things Aunt Lydia Taught Me

It has been less than a week since Aunt Lydia made her transfer from earth's shadows to heaven's glory.  I can just hear her voice, with a chuckle, saying, "If I'd have known how great this would be, I would've booked my trip sooner!"

Her birthday was December 19, just one day after mine.  Because of that, and because kids tend to think the day is somewhat significant, I have always felt a closeness to her.  That and because she was my aunt meant I could tell her almost anything and not get in trouble for it.  Aunts are supposed to fill that place in a kid's life, I guess.  They are supposed to be a non-parent, family-type who can get away with spoiling their niece or nephew and listen to them complain about everything under the sun - including secret opinions of other relatives.

Aunt Lydia loved beauty.  She always had growing things spread around her house - perhaps I got a little touch of that in me.  I love the magic of planting and growing - of seeing photosynthesis erupting before my very eyes in matters of days and even hours.  She cared very much about aesthetics - something I'm sure I would do well to take up, someday!

But more than beauty, birds, flowers and such she loved Jesus.  She would putter around her kitchen and yard and I would hear her singing.  She couldn't hardly get past a checkout lane without greeting the cashier and intentionally calling her by name and handing her a tract.  I've never been a great tract-giver.  But watching Aunt Lydia in action, I wished I were!  She had a boldness about her witness that made an impression on me.

She loved to worship.  She hated to miss the fellowship of believers at her place of worship.  I would watch her sit there and just close her eyes and drink it all in - the slow, acappella singing and simple harmonious songs.  Her heart soared in worship, because she adored Jesus with a depth of passion that shows up the rest of us, when we fail to enter into worship with uncluttered hearts and distracted minds.  She had developed well this habit - the discipline of full focused attention on her Lord Jesus Who loved her and gave Himself for her.  She would sometimes comment about those who didn't eagerly embrace church life, 'Well, they just aren't Gospel Greedy.'  I have often reflected on that phrase - we think of greed as negative.  But for her it was an appetite that couldn't be fully met - her hunger to reflect on, to live out, to revel in, to nurture her soul upon the Gospel was a primary drive in her life.  Her heart was centered on the Gospel.  We would do well to follow her in this.

She loved her family, and I'm sure they felt it.  I can't speak for them, but I know she loved me.  She made every effort to come see us when it was too much for our family of seven to trek down to Florida - even though it was difficult for her.  I remember her holding Hannah after she was born.  She was only able to come for a few days and that is the last time I saw her.  She impressed on me the great privilege and obligation I now had to care for these 5 gifts from God.  She loved to teach children - and the strongest point of her teaching ability came from her deep, warm-hearted love for each child.  She diligently prayed for us and reminded us of her love and care.

I will miss Aunt Lydia - selfishly, I will miss being loved by her.  I will miss that I can't see or talk to her anymore on this earth.  She is in a better place, but we are the poorer for it!  Each deposit in heaven reminds me yet again that this world is not my home - I travel as a sojourner - a stranger on earth.  Every goodbye to loved ones forces our attention heavenward - and calls us to live with that in view.

Here is a song-link for the hymn 'Satisfied'.  I believe it describes Aunt Lydia's hunger and love for Jesus:

Satisfied



Friday, May 30, 2014

How Much Should a Wife Submit?

This is an anonymous posting from a trusted Missionary Pastor that I know.  He teaches the Bible to many, and often has occasion to teach on marriage from a Biblical perspective.  I will share these with you for your edification and growth.


THOUGHTS ON SUBMISSION

QUESTION:  In light of these verses (see below) is the submission of husbands and wives supposed to be  50 – 50, or 60 for wives and 40 for husbands, OR some other combination such as 90 – 10 with wives submitting 90% of the time or should wives submit 100% and husbands not at all?


From Ephesians:

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the
husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the
church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church
submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their
husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and
gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having
cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he
might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or
wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own
bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated
his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the
church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 "Therefore a man
shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the
two shall become one flesh." 32 This mystery is profound, and I am
saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each
one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she
respects her husband.




It seems clear from 1 Cor. 7 vs. 2 - 4 That in some areas of marriage there is complete equality between husband and wife!  

"2 But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife
and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should give to his wife
her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 For the
wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does.
Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but
the wife does."


1 Cor also says,
"11 Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not
independent of man nor man of woman; 12 for as woman was made from
man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God."

Back to Ephesians 5:16:  IT IS IMPORTANT FOR US TO KNOW GOD’S WILL.

Again, let's ask the question, “Who submits most in the marriage relationship?"
In Ephesians 5:22 – 24 it seems very clear that Paul is stating that the wife here is a picture of the Church and the husband a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There is no argument that the Church should submit to the Lord Jesus in every respect, but so far as I am aware, no local Church has done this completely, and therefore the universal Church has not done so either.  This is not to excuse wives from submitting to their husbands, but to point out that since we are all still sinners, we will fail at times.

On the other hand, as the husband represents the Lord Jesus in the marriage relationship, I think that it is important to look at His life and see how submissive He was/is.


The Lord Jesus came to earth for the express purpose of dying for sinners.  All who believe in Him become part of the Church.  How did the Lord submit?

1.    He always did the will of God.

2.    He gave Himself 100% for the Church.

3.    He took all of the punishment we, the Church, deserved and forgave us for all we have failed in before and after we believe in Him.

4.    He has chosen to not remember our sins.

5.    He submitted to taking our sin, shame, and reproach and demanded nothing more than that we accept His gift of eternal life. 

6.    He forgave Peter's denial, Paul's persecution, Thomas's doubting, and all our failures.


Now, I ask again, in the marriage relationship, who should submit more - the husband or the wife? 

Do I, as a husband, forgive as God has forgiven me in Christ?  (Col 3:12-13) (Eph. 4:32)


In Matthew 18:21-22 the Lord instructed Peter to forgive.  There is no thought that the offender must apologize or grovel in any way.  The duty to forgive is on the person who is offended. 

As a husband, I must strive to be like the Lord Jesus and love my wife as He loved the Church, and I must be willing to forgive all and to give myself 100% even if my wife fails in her duties.  If I can show my wife love as Christ loved the Church, she is much more likely to respond the way God wishes her to.


References Below:
 Ps. 81 Especially vs. 10 – 13
Romans 8:5 - 8
Romans 10:3
Galatians 5:1
Ephesians 21  17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand
what the will of the Lord is….21 submitting to one another out of
reverence for Christ.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Forgiveness, Remorse and Measurable Repentance

I was following up with some comments about my recent Forgiveness rant, Part 1 and Part 2...

 And there were parts I left out that I need to mention.  My source said not to quote him, so I will quote him without citing him.  He said that there are only five words that apply to this discussion.


5 Words.


What are those words?  Scroll down please....











WHAT





DOES








THE












BIBLE











SAY?







Yup - What does the Bible say?



I said, 'What about if I'm not sorry enough - or if I'm really sorry and trying to enter into the other's pain that I have somehow caused, and they don't feel my genuine sorrow or remorse?  What then?  Am I beholden to the yoke of their anger and unforgiveness?'  He said, 'No - you forgive them for not forgiving you and move on.'


"But what if I'm not sorry enough?  What if I come across as ingenuine?  What if they can't feel my repentance?"


"It doesn't matter - the answer lies in the question: What does the Bible say?"


Well, it seems Scripture hasn't much to say about the emotional penance we are to do to merit a forgiveness.  In fact, the most glaring Scripture that I came across was the following verse:


Colossians 3:13  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.


So, how did the Lord forgive us?  When we have done enough to prove our sorry-ness?  The hymn-writer would take issue with that:


Could my tears forever flow, Could my zeal no respite no -

These for sin could not atone - Thou must save, and Thou alone!
In my hand no price I bring - Simply to the Cross I cling.

Does God forgive us only when we're sorry enough?  No - because we could never begin to be sorry enough!  That is the essence of grace - forgiveness is poured out in spite of our lack of sorry-ness.


Ephesians 5:1 also tells us: Be imitators of God, as beloved children...


If we are going to imitate God, we must include in that category: How we forgive others.


On another note I pondered that Jesus never had to say sorry.  To anyone.  No one deserved an apology from Him, though I'm sure He hurt people's feelings.  Jesus did not ever need to repent though He rebuked others and caused their hearts deep anguish and pain.  Simply because others were hurting did not warrant an apology from Jesus who did no wrong.


Jesus came to free us from the yoke of slavery of sin.  And when others sin against us by not forgiving us, we are even free to forgive them and move on, and yes - even incubate their toxicity from our lives as much as possible.  Not out of unforgiveness.  But out of fairness to them - if anything!  They obviously find us so difficult to be around that we can make their lives easier by simply staying away as much as possible.  I am not advocating absolute disengagement or grudge-bearing!  Just a healthy distance!  


I hope I have made more sense here than I did the last time.  Otherwise, look forward to more in this ongoing series!  I welcome your questions, comments and input, as always!





Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When Forgiveness Is Denied (Part 2)

In my first post I was basically talking to/about the person who withholds forgiveness.  Now I want to talk to the one who is denied being forgiven.

If you have apologized and asked forgiveness - once - not many times, not in repeated trials to demonstrate enough penance - ONCE, then you have done your part.

You ARE forgiven - by God.  And He, after all, is really the only One Who matters.  It is sad, and a terrible grief to bear - that others refuse to forgive.  This is a matter they have between them and God.  You are free - free from the burden to work to pay for your sins.  You are free to live before God with the knowledge of HIS grace, HIS mercy, HIS forgiveness.  You are free to worship because you embrace the Gospel.

You are not beholden to some checklist of works-righteousness that wins you the salvation you have already received!

You are not subject to the faulty view others have of you!

You are not guilty because another deems you so!

You are not what others think of you!

You are a redeemed child of God Who welcomes you knowing you are fallen, imperfect, and yet His precious child.

He loves you.

He forgives you.

You are released from the burden of guilt others wish to place upon you.  Jesus took your burdens on Himself, and for others to try to enslave you to a yoke of works-righteousness would be beneath you as a child of the King.

You have been freed.

Now go live in that freedom and insulate yourself, as much as within your power to do, from grace-denying, forgivness-withholding, gospel-rejecting, toxic people.

You probably have to live with them to an extent.  But as much as possible, live in the grace of God and recognize others have their hang-ups and that is God's business to deal with.  Just don't accept the baggage they wish to place on you - to attempt to enslave you to their will, and not God's.

Be free from imposed burdens, that God never intended for you.

When Forgiveness Is Denied

I am going to address this from a certain angle and I don't want my readers to be confused.  I am not speaking here of forgiveness of grievous, outright obviously sinful atrocities committed against you or which you have committed.  This is not the kind of forgiveness I am addressing, though perhaps some thoughts will apply.  I am talking about when others harbour bitterness, anger, resentment, and an ongoing refusal to grant forgiveness especially regarding their perceived (valid or otherwise) injustices.

We all hurt others in our lives regularly.  Some of these matters are actually sinful and wrong.  Many are not - we are simply dealing with overly sensitive, self-centered individuals who nurse conjured up wounds that were never actually inflicted.  When we deal with these kinds of people (though we'd rather not, frankly) it is fair to offer an apology - whether it is actually warranted or not.  In my opinion, this is a matter of extending grace to those who have hang ups they can't overcome without our helpful willingness to concede and offer an admission of fault.

There are times, however, when the person is so caught up in his/her own pain and perceived injustice that they refuse to forgive.  They hold out forgiveness as if it were some gift of life that is theirs to dole out at their pleasure - when they feel you have wallowed in self-rejection, guilt and poverty of soul and done enough emotional penance to reduce you to a writhing worm covered in dust, half drowning in a puddle.  They gloat in the sense of power and victimization that they feel is theirs by right of the obvious injustice they have suffered (even if it exists only in the realm of fantasy and imagination).

They withhold forgiveness as if it is something that they have a right to withhold.  They evaluate apologies, evaluate the sentiment of your spirit and decide whether you have met their woundedness with enough self-denigration to merit the gift of their forgiveness.

People such as I've described cannot possibly describe themselves as Christians.

Yes, that is a bold statement but I will explain why.

If you deal with a person like this, and they claim to be a Christian you should open and end every conversation with the following two statements:

Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for my sin.

Jesus' death on the cross was enough to pay for the penalty of others' sin, even those committed against me.

Now, let's have that conversation about forgiveness.

Because if a person refuses to forgive they basically have an argument with God, and are in denial of the Gospel.  They therefore cannot rightly claim the name of Christ - because they deny the forgiveness HE offers and hold a judgemental wrath that is only God's to hold - and God doesn't hold it since His wrath was satisfied by the death of Jesus on the cross.

If a person withholds forgiveness he is saying that Jesus death on the cross was not enough to pay for your sins.  They deny the Gospel and the Cross and have no place celebrating with other believers that Jesus died to pay for our sins.

This kind of unforgiveness warrants Church discipline - because in withholding such from a fellow believer they are denying the truth of the Gospel and living in ongoing, unrepentant sin.


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Blaming Emotions

I'd like to address this issue of maligning emotions - as if they are inherently bad.  "But you were emotional when you responded!"  Sounds like an accusation or something.  I wish we could get over this concept that emotions are wrong.  That we must float through life robotic-like - oh, no, not really - with plastic smiles plastered across our from-here-on-out robotic affect.

I wrote a bit about this in a previous post (Two lies that burn holes in relationships), and received some feedback from an insightful relative.  I asked her permission to post her thoughts here as I thought they warranted a broader audience.  She says it better, and with more credibility than I could!




Thank you so much for your helpful insights, and good observations about those two lie-beliefs regarding emotions! I've been fascinated with the topic of emotions and feelings for a LONG time. Here are just a few brief comments, on a few random observations that seem true to me, about emotions. I would love to hear your honest feed back about them. I didn't know if you'd want them posted as a comment to your post, so, here they are. People often react against emotions, feelings, or tears. Perhaps that is because our own and another person's emotions are not at all easy to figure out. Emotions seem to be very connected to our hearts. We often find it very difficult to figure out, then explain clearly or accurately what we are feeling and why. We are often oblivious to the many things that are going on in our hearts, and we often do not know the REAL reasons why we are feeling what we are feeling emotional about... It gets confusing, to say the least. I've often heard people say things like, "Don't believe your feelings, or your emotions." And, yet it doesn't seem to be our emotions that we are usually believing. Emotions are just emotions, not beliefs. It is the lie-belief that is causing the emotion, that I should not believe... Emotions are a gift from God. Designed by Him, for His very good purposes. One benefit they provide is, our emotions alert us to the fact that there is some kind of problem that needs our attention, our help. E.g. Sometimes someone IS being sinned against, and they need to ask the person to stop sinning against them. If the person won't listen/repent, Jesus instructed us to, take 1 or 2 other people with us, etc. Yes, God's Word does speak of overlooking a matter, also. Rather than just try to ignore the emotions, or stuff them, it seems good to let your emotions, or the other person's emotions, alert you to take that pain to our Father in Heaven, asking Him for His perspective on it. Asking Him for wisdom to know what the REAL cause is, and what to do about that. If the pain SEEMS to come from another person's sinful, self-absorbed, unkind behavior, talk to God about it. He wants and welcomes us to take EVERYTHING to Him with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving... He welcomes us to "pour out your heart before Him." We can ask Him for wisdom and discernment to know, whether this is something He just wants me to learn from, and what He wants me to learn. Or, whether He wants me to love them enough to help them recognize and turn from that sinful, self-absorbed behavior. Considering, for example, the fact that they may well hurt, offend, damage other people by sinning against them in that same way, also... Sometimes a person's emotions reveal that they are believing a lie. We, or they need to be set free, by discovering the truth that will set us/them free. It seems like a sincere love for them, would want to choose to help them, discover just what that lie is, and helping them find the truth that will set them free. Or, genuine love for them, would want to help them discover Jesus' ways of responding to being sinned against... Which includes, but is not limited to forgiving the person whose sinful, self-absorbed ways, have caused me much pain. The pain that comes with being sinned against, as well as the pain that comes with not experiencing anyone who cares about that pain, can become fertile ground for many a very destructive lie-belief to get planted deeply in people's hearts... It's fascinating and sobering to think about the FACT that we do NOT experience the other person's pain, and they do not experience ours. We only have their emotions, or facial expressions, that give us clues to the fact that they ARE feeling something... Many of the ways that we respond, or react to other people's emotions, effectively program them to hide their hearts from us, for fear of us treating them that way again... this hiding of our hearts, ruins relationships, and can even cause people to believe that not even God cares about how they are feeling. A very dangerous lie-belief, that causes people to make very destructive decisions, as they walk away from God, and from the people who "prove" that they don't care, by the way they treated that person. Depending on how we respond, or react, we often cause people to clam-up, hide their hearts from us, even lock up their hearts, believing the lie, that no one will ever care about the hurt that I am feeling! Responding wrongly to a person's emotions, often prevents us from being able to effectively helping them. Caring about another person's emotions, respecting their emotions, and the fact that something has caused them pain, is something that many people long to experience, but many never have...

- Elaine Ferguson

Anger in Parenting...strikes again

So last night there was this episode:

We don't normally have drinks other than water.  But I decided to have a special juice mix and went to find a carton of peach nectar I had stashed in the fridge downstairs.  It had been there a month or so, unopened - chilling for the right moment.  And now it had come.  I open it.  *Gasp* It had been opened!  I smelled it.  Fermented.  Yuck.

Scene 2:  I call a particular child who is known to take liberties.  Did you open it?  Yes.  How long ago?  A while ago.  Do you know it is now ruined?  Yes.  What are the rules about this sort of thing?  Why didn't you ask me first?  Why didn't you tell me?

I expressed my honest frustration and exasperation at that moment.  I didn't, in fact, YELL.  I told him how disappointed I was that now it is wasted all on account of his failure to obey the rules.  I went on for a few minutes.  He slumped and mumbled a weak (and lame) 'sorry.'

Scene 3:  Supper is on and he doesn't eat.  He sulks.  He endures supper.  All evening he is glum.

Scene 4:  I come under attack from the other parental unit for my 'anger'.  How it is inappropriate.  How he has now spiralled downward the whole evening.  How all the books say anger is bad in parenting.  How we had sometime ago met with another couple to hash this out - this disagreement of ours - that anger is either appropriate at times or never appropriate in parenting.  And how, in his mind, I had 'agreed' that anger is wrong in parenting.  (I don't remember it being that nicely finalized!)

At this point, my anger - probably very sinful and wrong at this point - was deeply kindled.  The evening was over.  I was fuming.

So I toss it out to the broader public for your honest input.

We have an ongoing disagreement: I believe anger in justified, though not loss of self-control, at times in parenting.  That when children continue to willfully disobey, they should know that there are harmful repercussions from such actions.

The other parental unit believes that anger is not okay.  That it is hurtful.  I agree about the hurtful part.  I'm just not convinced on the 'harmful' part.  A lot of things hurt that are good for us.

Thanks for letting me get this bee partly out of my bonnet.  It's a hornet's nest in there.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Situational Contentment and CCD

I hear the term 'situational ethics' thrown around with scoffing tones.  And I'm sure there's good reason for this.  But I'd like to highlight something that is far more common, more subtle and more agreeable to our collective palates.  Situational Contentment.  That contentment, shalom, peaceful calm, serenity, blissful reverie that finds it's joy in the situation at hand.  I don't want to knock it - no, we can rightly enjoy the stuff of life - money, houses, land, nice weather, vacations, health, well-being, relational harmony - because they simply ARE enjoyable.  The problem comes when we can only be content if these things are all fine and dandy.  When we can define each area of our lives with glowing, gushing, delightful phrases that make people wonder if we live the realm of normal.

Today I read Psalm 16.  Let's go through it together, shall we?  (It's the cure for the common contentment disorder.  Otherwise known as CCD, it is known to strike the most robustly healthy of individuals who struggle to source their joy on the True Joy Giver).  I, too, struggle with CCD.

16:1 Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.

Stop right there.  It says 'In You.'  Notice what it doesn't say: In my bank account.  In my friends.  In my status.  In my reputation.  In my family.  In my health.  In my own strength.  No - we take refuge in GOD.  Not in the stuff of life.  Money troubles can beset us.  Friends can let us down.  Family can be a pain in the neck.  Health can suffer a blow through no fault of our own.  My own strength and ability to control things in life can be hindered.  None of these things can be the source of our security, refuge or hope.  Only God can do that.

16:2 I say to the Lord, "You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You."

What is a 'Lord'?  It is one who rules, who is sovereign, who has the right to authority.  If I say to God, 'You are my Lord,' I am declaring that I willingly submit to His rule.  That's a hard prayer to pray.  I dare you to.
As for that second line: 'no good apart from You.'  Can you say that and mean it?  Here David is saying basically that the stuff of his life is nothing.  Apart from God everything else is just stuff.  I take no value in my ministry, accolades, giftedness, knowledge, abilities, wisdom.  These are all temporary.  God is not.  Let's be sure to value Him more than all else.

16:3 As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones , in whom is all my delight.

Since God is our everything we will naturally gravitate towards those who share the same sentiment about God - those who value Him above all else!

16:4 The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips.
16:5 The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.

I will trust God to give what He deems that I need.  Note that I said 'what HE DEEMS I NEED.'  Sometimes our list of what we think we need is not on God's list for us.  Part of trusting Him means we look to Him to tell us what we need rather than us just going to Him and saying, "By the way, I NEED  fully outfitted brand new ___________"  (car, cellphone, house, wardrobe, etc).  Submitting to Him as Lord means we also submit to HIS ideas of what we truly need.  That said, in His grace He often even gives us above and beyond our needs and provides our wants.  Such grace!

16:6 The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.

The language of 'portion' 'lot' and 'inheritance' speaks to the financial realm (maybe indirectly).  These indicate he is thinking of physical provisions.  The amazing thing is that the psalmist has already told us what his inheritance is: God.  God is my inheritance.  He is beautiful.  God tells Abraham, "I am your very great reward."  Would you rather have Jesus than silver or gold?  Would you rather have Him than have riches untold?
You have a beautiful inheritance.  Far greater than wealth, houses or land.





16:7 I bless the Lord Who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Sometimes I'm prone to think others are my source of counsel - and Proverbs does commend this.  However, there is a place for simply receiving counsel from the Lord and even the ponderings of our Spirit-filled hearts.  When God lives within us by His Spirit, even the thoughts of our hearts can counsel us (unless our thoughts direct us to something against what Scripture teaches).

16:8  I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.

What is 'shaken'?  In my mind it relates to anxiety, fear, worry, stress.  All of these are things that have tripped me up - often.  When I find CCD (Common Contentment Disorder) striking I start to WAF.  WAFfing is my acronym for Worry Anxiety and Fear.  Often CCD and WAFfing go together.  Why am I shaken?  Probably because I haven't set the Lord always before me.  How could I WAF when I have my eyes set on the King of Kings?  How could I shudder with anxiety when HE owns the cattle on a thousand hills?  Are you shaken these days?  Set the Lord (the sovereign, rightful ruler of your life) always before You - recognize He is near (at your right hand even!) and you will not be shaken!  This is not a formula.  It is a habit of the heart.

16:9  Therefore, my heart is GLAD! and my whole being REJOICES! my flesh also dwells SECURE!

Why does he reference 'flesh'?  Go back to material provisions!  He isn't saying this is just some great spiritual exercise - this thing of putting God before us!  He is saying there are actual physical benefits to this choosing-God-as-my-portion.  When he says 'whole being' do you think he means 'just my inner spirit.'??  Noooo...  Every part of him rejoices because He is filled to overflowing with joy because God is all he needs.  Do you sense your need of God that much?  When we sense our need for Him, and realize He has met this need, and goes on meeting it, we have joy in our whole being.
This is the antidote to anxiety.

16:10  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.

The psalmist is confident in God's faithful sustaining presence even through the end of his life - all the way to the grave and beyond.  What hope!  What assurance!

16:11  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy;
               At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Knowing how to live when our situation is glum, difficult, mediocre, sad, frustrating, or hopeless seems to be a challenge.  Who teaches us the path of life?  Who gives us fullness of joy?  The Psalmist is confident in God shepherding him through life.  God is the source of joy.  God's presence is the fountain of life.



Take a look at Psalm 16 and tell me if it isn't the cure for CCD and WAF.

I dare you to try.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

MH370

The news story of the missing Malaysian Airlines plane has had our family transfixed.  We have no personal knowledge of anyone on that plane.  Perhaps it is the magnitude of the grief and tragedy that these families have faced over the past 18 days.  Perhaps it is because both Sam and I have extended family that frequently travel similar routes - my parents even more often.  But after thinking about it and watching the daily headlines and wondering what good can come of this, and entering - albeit from a huge distance - into empathetic grief along with the families affected, I came up with what I feel is the worst aspect of this situation.

CHINA's ONE-CHILD POLICY.

Wait, what does that have to do with this?

Everything.  A number of families have been affected and are facing seasons of grieving and piecing their lives back together.  But the families of Chinese citizens, whose only child was lost in this disaster - these face more than mere grief.  They face anger, betrayal, injustice.  They face the reality of their only child being lost, and the injustice of having been denied more children by the government that holds their wombs and potential legacies hostage.  They face the grief and suffering that adds insult to injury when all their hopes of family - children, grandchildren, and all that go with them - they face the loss of these in a way that is impossible for me to imagine.

Our family has prayed, and continues to pray for those affected by this horrible event.  But in my deepest, groaning prayers and sadness for these families, I pray the Chinese government will come to see, in an all-too-painful way the outcome of some of their edicts.  Many other families face similar losses when a car accident kills their only child.  So this is not the first or only time for this kind of grief to emerge.  But it is very public, and very known worldwide and we need to rise up on their behalf to call on the Chinese government to grant basic human rights and freedoms to their own people. The kind of compassion and empathy that this tragedy engenders should raise new voices of outrage at the 'insult-to-injury' this policy slams upon families in crisis.

So far, my blog stays fairly a-political.  But I can't help but to raise my voice for those suffering the deepest pain and grief in the public light.

We call on China to quit the one child policy.  To quit robbing families of their own decisions about their children.  To quit forced abortions and sterilizations.  To quit injuring their own people.  Just quit it.  Every time we watch a mother grieve over the loss of her only child in China, we need to cry out in prayer and raise our voices to China's government to change the course of their country's future.

END THE ONE CHILD POLICY.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two Lies that Burn Holes in Relationships

There are many factors that harm what could otherwise be healthily functioning relationships.  But there are two that are especially toxic - two lies that, left unchecked, uncorrected, un-remediated, will without a doubt wreak havoc on your relationships.  Think over them carefully and see if you have fallen prey to the trap of believing (and acting upon) these two lies:

1.  I cannot be happy/content unless others do/say/behave/operate according to a certain set of prescribed behaviours.  (These can be as varied as how the tube of toothpaste is flattened to whether my spouse/friend/child attends Church regularly).

What does this look like in relationships?  Here's how it goes...
  Scenario 1:
Joe wakes up one morning.  Kind of groggy, sleepy and headachy.  He drags himself downstairs and puts on the coffee.  Only to find the filter wasn't changed and it was day-old grounds left in the machine.  The water then spills over the top.  He fumes.  "Why didn't she change it!?"  Aargh.  He thinks to himself, "I would be content if she would change the filter after using the coffee machine."  He grumbles, whines, complains and harbours bitterness in his soul.

  Scenario 2:
Sally gets up at the crack of dawn to read her Bible and pray.  She wanders out to the living room.  Plops down with Bible in hand, ready to meditate and bring her soul into some kind of spiritual alignment.  "Hmm...so where am I today...oh, yes, Leviticus - can't wait!"  Her eye wanders and notices the dirty socks her son left on the floor last night.  She looks at her prayer list.  She tries to concentrate and pray.  Then she sees the colouring books and crayons left on the coffee table - and a few smudges where the 5 year-old went not just outside the lines, but the paper too - marking the new coffee table!  "Here I try to attend to my spiritual disciplines only to be distracted by the things my family fails to do!  Lord, I try to seek You with all my heart, but it's their fault I can't concentrate!"

  Scenario 3:
  Caleb comes home after school to find his secret Lego kingdom has been broken into by a little brother.  Some of his treasures are missing!  He rants and raves and blames and bears general ill-will to those in the immediate vicinity.  Surely he can't be joyful and content when such a travesty of justice has occurred in his absence!!

You get the picture.  In each of these (and many more real-life examples to be had in your home and mine) the person has fallen for the lie that other people are responsible for my general happiness.  I will grant that there is a shred of truth in the lie - which is what makes it so toxic!  Of course other people can make us happy (temporarily).  Of course if my husband showers me with affection and love I will rejoice in his love for me!  But if I live dependent on how others can make my life better I am failing to put my hope in God Who will never fail me nor forsake me.  When I look to others to please me, and crash emotionally when they let me down, I demonstrate that my joy is fickle and based on temporal things rather than on God.  God is our source of joy - not what others do for me or even what others do at all.

  Some might think, "Oh, I am not discontent because others don't do things for me.  I am unhappy, joyless, depressed, worried and anxious because others are living contrary to what I deem is God's best for them."  This is a whole other matter entirely.  Can I be happy if my child is living a depraved life, far from God and rejecting God's call on their lives to live in purity and obedience?  You may not be happy about the situation, but by all means, you can still find your hope and joy in God.  People face dire situations and tell of their fervent, unswerving hope in our sovereign God.  So, even if you find yourself tied up in knots over the life choices or circumstances in others' lives, you can still keep your mind on Him Who grants perfect peace.

"Peace I leave with you - not as the world gives...Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Do not be afraid.  Trust in God."  - Jesus, in John 14:27

The second lie is similar to the first:

2.  If I am hurting, then someone has sinned against me.
This lie can also be phrased this way:  If someone is hurting in a relationship, that is solid evidence that they have been sinned against and the other person has sinned.  (If that person were truly godly - obedient and holy - the result would be warm fuzzy feelings on the part of the other, there would be no sorrow or pain).

The problem with this lie is it makes pain the litmus test for sin.  It goes something like this:

"Sarah, I don't like the mess in the kitchen - in fact it bothers me to see it in such disarray."
(Sarah thinks to herself:)"Oooh.  Ouch.  Oh, that hurts to hear that.  I hate hearing how I've let him down.  He must have sinned in saying something because I am hurting so badly now."

OR:
"Sarah, I don't like the mess in the kitchen - in fact it bothers me to see it in such disarray."
(He thinks to himself:) 'If she knew how much it bothers me maybe she would get it cleaned up.  It is so sinful and wrong of her to not get the kitchen in order.  I am so upset by it - and since I am upset it is obvious that she has sinned against me.'

Both of these are traps we can fall into.  (In fact, these two scenarios encompass both lies!)

It is faulty because there are people in this world (probably all of us, actually) with faulty pain-detectors.  We feel pain at times we shouldn't and don't feel pain at times we should.  I can prove that this is a falsehood with the following scenarios:

Scenario 1:
Child throws food on the floor.  Child is reprimanded.  Child reaps the right consequences for such foolish behaviour.  Child is sad and hurting.  Child has NOT been sinned against, but certainly feels pain.

Scenario 2:
A drunk person asks for some beer.  You give it to him.  You are making him happier in doing so.  He feels no pain.  He thanks you.  He thinks you're great.  You are now best buddies!  In fact - you are harming him, but he feels no pain from the harm you are doing.  His pain-sensors are not a good gauge of whether he has been sinned against or not.

Scenario 3:
Husband is unhappy with his wife.  She talks too much.  She asks me to do things I don't feel like doing.  She doesn't know when to quit.  Because he is unhappy, that must mean she has sinned against him - right?  Wrong.  There is a good possibility she had every righteous, holy, good, godly intention in the things she has said to him.  His happiness is NOT a good litmus test for her culpability.

This is very dangerous thinking, because in some circles it is believed that we must 'respect the emotions of another person.'  The Bible doesn't really support this.  In fact, I daresay the prophets would be guilty a thousand times over of disrespecting people's emotions.  The concept of respecting anyone's emotions is ludicrous.  I can't say it any plainer or bolder than that.  I will admit there is often a measure of wisdom in taking into account the volatile emotions of others.  And there is the concept of effectiveness: that understanding how others feel can help things go well in general.  However, other than it being wise to give thought to these things, there is no rightness or wrongness in acting in godly principled obedience when it will cause pain to others.  We don't want to intentionally cause pain, but sometimes it is inevitable.  There are people walking this planet who are so pained by the tiniest of infractions (real or imagined) that there is no possible way to live around them without causing them emotional injury simply by breathing (or occupying space on this planet)!

So - please - extricate yourself from these two lies.  Go live in freedom and relinquish anxiety and walking on eggshells to a bygone era.  You are free - God does not want you living in constant fear (or pain!) because you either require others to please you or because you are afraid of sinning against someone by causing them pain.

This is no way to live!

 Life is too short for such headaches.



Friday, February 14, 2014

Perfect Love

Valentine's Day is charged with emotion - hopes, fears, and sometimes just a wishing it would all go away and pass quickly.  The love we wish for isn't always there - whether we're married or single.  And the love we feel from those who genuinely love us isn't always enough, or thrilling or everything we were hoping for.

Too much is chalked up to how I feel about these things.

I used to hate Valentine's Day.  Thought it was so gushy, mushy, sentimental, sweet and so not real life.

And then I got married, and wanted to make the most of it.  In fact, I thought in marriage it would be the best time to celebrate wedded love.

Well, I won't say much on that, 'cuz we just happen to not be the sentimental sort - except for every other day of the year, when I am showered with love that is undeserved, unmerited and so beyond what I had every hoped for.

But the bedrock of my life is not romantic love.  It is PERFECT LOVE.

I base my existence on the fact that I am perfectly loved.

A love so holy,

    so pure,
         so right,
              so cleansing,
                    so refreshing,
                            so healing,
                                     so joyful,
                                               so wonderful -

Beyond imagining.

Beyond my ability to describe.

It is not the wedded bliss love of the earthly human realm.

It is Divine.

Being loved perfectly means my fear is unnecessary.

Earlier today I was finding myself worrying about my children - what if this happens to them, or that, or they suffer, or I suffer, or they go through things that are hard, what if they suffer too much... And I caught myself - I, who pride myself on not being a worrier, was worrying.

I asked myself, 'Why are you thinking these things?'  'Because I fear for them...This is a crazy scary world we live in!'  'Why do you fear for them? Is God not capable of keeping them in His way?'

I recognized that the root of my fear/worry was a lack of trust in the goodness - the very heart of - the Divine and Perfect love of God.

Be released from your fear today.  Wash yourself anew in the Perfect Love of the One Who Loves Perfectly.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

What Not to Say to Job - Part 2

I have more to say on the Book of Job.

Going back to his lame-o friends...  Yeah, they needed a good theology lesson.  And here I am centuries later to give it to them.

I think they had issues.  Real issues.  They couldn't handle that God is sovereign and acts according to the counsel of His own will - sans our input or even any obligation to give us an explanation for what He does.

They got it wrong because God was behaving contrary to what their human wisdom/reasoning would expect.  They thought God was there to serve them - that God's job was to act according to the plan.  That plan is: Play fair (according to my understanding of fairness).  Reward and punish within good reason (human reason, that is).  Be powerful, but beholden to my will.  Those are the kinds of things we would expect God to do and be.  Because we are human we so badly mix up our desires for how we want God to act with our understanding of Who He really Is.

He is sovereign.  End of discussion.  He acts and allows and does things we can't begin to fathom or comprehend.  This kind of sovereignty should be awe-inspiring, worship-inducing, knee-bending humility-invoking, fall-flat-on-our-faces before Him, sovereignty.  It should cause us to wonder, to fear, to honour, to find shelter in and to draw even nearer to Him Who owns us.  "We are His people and the sheep of His pasture."

I can just overhear one of Job's friends comforting Job with a platitude such as, "God isn't going to leave you in this place to suffer one minute longer than it takes for you to learn what He has for you."  Such wonderful words, I'm sure, would cause one to love God so much more.  (Hope you can hear the sarcasm in that).

The problem with Job's friends is that they mix nuggets of truth with all-out attacks on him (unjustified of course - they were way off base).  The nuggets of truth give just enough 'nutrition' to the onslaught to make the painful intake of such notions toxic to the soul.  If they were all out crazy nut-cases who spouted junk it would be easy enough to write them off as totally warped, psychologically deficient persons.  But the fact that there are shreds of truth in what they said makes the intake of their words so damaging.  Beware those who mix truth with error - they are worse than the flat-out false teachers!  Because their words have some appeal - it sounds so logical.

More on the Matter of Pain

Let's suppose you lived before anaesthetic.  And let's suppose you needed to have your leg amputated.  I'd rather just die than have to submit to the torture of amputation, frankly.  But you go for the surgery and are in the midst of having your leg sawn off when a dearly beloved friend of yours walks up beside you and says, "I know you are suffering right now.  You will be so thankful for what you're enduring because you will come to know God's presence with you in such a deeper way.  God isn't abandoning you.  Oh yes, I hear you screaming.  There now, settle down, grit your teeth and bear it.  Be patient.  This has a wonderful purpose for you.  Just believe it.  I'm sorry you have to suffer like this.  Maybe if you had washed that wound better you wouldn't be in this place right now.  I hope you'll learn your lesson.  Oh, do be quiet.  It hurts me to see you suffer like this.  I only hope I can learn from your mistakes.  Maybe if I see why you have to lose your leg this way I can make better choices and avoid what you so sadly have to endure.  I'm glad I can learn from you.  See, your suffering isn't wasted."

Can you hear the rage mounting?  Can you see the insult this adds to injury?  Are you guilty of saying some of these things?  Are you guilty of thinking them?

In the last post I mentioned that pain is pain and is very real.  I think we forget that.  We see others suffer and it invokes fear in us.  We are uncomfortable with how God can allow such deep sorrow.  It is a part of life that scares us.  And for the most part, we should try to avoid suffering.  Fear of suffering is actually a healthy and good thing - we should fear getting burned badly enough that we don't touch the fire.  I don't touch fire because I fear suffering.  This is not all bad.

But there are going to be times in our lives and in others' lives that are painful and there is nothing we can do to change that fact.  It is going to be real and painful and we will either recognize that God has His hand in it for whatever reason, or we will fight it with nice sounding platitudes and vapid sentiments.  Sometimes we just feel we can't accept what God allows.  And from that place comes all this human-reasoning that tries to explain why people suffer.

Sometimes we just need to submit ourselves to His almighty hand and know He walks with us, and our friends, IN their suffering.  That He loves them, and us and doesn't owe us an explanation.

Yes, He meets us in our suffering - sometimes in the richest, deepest, most personal ways we ever come to know Him.  We may know Him more than ever before because of it.  We may love Him more because we participate in His sufferings.

Being IN Christ means we will share in His sufferings. 

Jesus was unjustly accused.

Unjustly punished.

Judged.

Scorned.

Rejected.

Physically tortured.

Emotionally abandoned.

Betrayed.


Scripture connects, time and again, suffering with glory.

We don't want to sugar-coat suffering and glorify suffering.  Sometimes it's tempting to do that - to somehow look at the suffering and glory and glorify the suffering.  There's something dark and twisted about that.  There is no glory in suffering.  The glory follows.  There is fruit borne of suffering and there is blessing that comes from it.  But it is equally insulting to those who suffer to glorify their suffering as it is to insinuate they suffer for their own sins.  Ask anyone who is in deep pain if it is glorious and I'm sure they will tell you to take of your rose-coloured glasses and take your thoughts to some journal-that-no-one-shall-read.

So to one who suffers, we don't have all the answers.  And perhaps answers aren't what is needed.  That was the big mistake Job's friends made.  They wanted answers and they spouted them, right, left and center.  Their linear, zero-sum logic thinking led them to be mocked for centuries for their rude, disdainful counsel.  Let's not be like that, okay!?

Sometimes we lay aside the search for answers - theological and practical.  And instead we find the all-sufficient hand of God sustaining and helping and leading and comforting.  When we quit the striving for getting it all neatly packaged sometimes our eyes are opened to the all-encompassing love and grace of God that has been flowing about us unnoticed the whole time.

Maybe it's time Job and Job's friends took their eyes off the situation and began fixing them on Jesus - the author and perfector of faith - no matter how weak, feeble and miniscule that faith may be -

Fixing our eyes on Jesus...

Who for the joy set before Him

Endured the Cross.

Jesus suffered and endured His suffering, and completed the work God the Father had laid out for Him.  He conquered sin, death and the grave.  Jesus suffered like no-one else.  And He endured perfectly.

We cannot fail to recognize that Job endured, and though he wasn't perfect, he turned his eyes heavenward and accepted whatever God deemed right.  He willingly submitted himself to His Creator and meekly received whatever God chose to dish out.

And we would be wise to do likewise.