Monday, November 18, 2013
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. (1)
When you and I become Christ’s by accepting Him as our Savior, we begin Christ's sanctification process: the transformation where He changes us to be more in the image of Himself, Jesus. This next illustration is a great way to understand what we undergo:
A London businessman, Lindsay Clegg, told the story of a warehouse property he was selling. The building had been empty for months and needed repairs. Vandals had damaged the doors, smashed the windows, and strewn trash all around the interior.
As he showed a prospective buyer the property, Clegg took pains to say that he would replace the broken windows, bring in a crew to correct any structural damage, and clean out the garbage.
"Forget about the repairs," the buyer said. "When I buy this place, I'm going to build something completely different. I don't want the building; I want the site."
Compared with the renovation God has in mind, our efforts to improve our own lives are as trivial as sweeping a warehouse slated for the wrecking ball. When we become God's, the old life is over (2 Cor. 5:17). He makes all things new. All He wants is the site and the permission to build.
Friday, November 15, 2013
Bitterness happens when you hold on to the slights and hurts of others and refuse to forgive.Oftentimes, people do not even notice that they have offended you, let alone apologize or attempt to make ammends. Holding a grudge does not punish the perpetrator, but in fact, it enslaves the victim.
Once you let bitterness get hold of you, it goes to work deep in your heart, poisoning it a little at a time. Day by day the strength to forgive is stripped away. The softness of its flesh becomes hardened, making it impossible to be tender-hearted anymore. The love you felt towards others is quickly compromised. Harshness is its replacement.
Then, the ability to think with clarity and wisdom is clouded by all of the resentment that you feel. Your ability to recognize truth or sincerity is severely handicapped, because of the growing anger in your mind. This forces your peace to leave and lets anxiety take its place. Now you start to worry over things that were once insignificant to you. Relaxation and rest are no longer blessings that are within your reach.
Finally, your perspective is so tainted, negativity permeates every aspect of life. Gone are the days that were filled with laughter and lasting happiness in the simplest of things. The tangled web of bitterness growing inside of you leads to paranoia, irritability, and self-centeredness, invisible to only you, but obvious to everyone else, keeping you distanced from others and lonely. Your relationships suffer greatly, because no one wants to spend time with anyone so joyless and miserable, unable to enjoy anything.
The more time you give taking the poison of bitterness, the more it will destroy you and everything you care about. Learn to forgive quickly, laying your burdens down at the foot of the Cross. Remember how much Jesus has forgiven you. Ask Him to help you let it go. Refuse to be a puppet to the destruction of bitterness by learning to forgive and trusting God to set you free!
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
The truth is we are not supposed to be an example. Our family and friends do not need a good example, they need a friend. A real one. An honest one. A touchable one. They need a friend who does not think they are better than everyone, but one who knows they are not. They need a friend who knows they need Jesus.
So what about being a leader and setting the example? Isn’t that a good thing? Isn’t that what our church leaders, teachers and brothers and sisters in the faith tell us all the time?
The more I think about it, the more I believe this well-meaning statement is not only an incorrect way to teach us to try to control our behavior, but it is also dangerous to our spiritual health. When we are told to try to be an example for others, we may as well just put on a mask right there – Here. Hide behind this. Don’t let anyone ever see you struggle. Don't let anyone ever think you don't have it all together.
I know that’s not what they mean. I know. But it doesn’t matter so much what they mean, it matters more what we hear and take from it.
When we hear our spiritual leaders, teachers, mentors and well-meaning brothers and sisters in the faith tell us that we should always try to be an example, most of us think that means we can never mess up, can never have problems, can never just be a person that struggles like everyone else. Eventually, we mature in our faith as men and women who believe being a Christian means having it all together, saying all the “right” things, staying a few steps ahead of everyone else.
We may even become a person that people look up to, but we will never be someone that others feel they can really relate to. We may be successful at managing our own behavior, but we will always struggle to manage people’s opinions of us. We may have a great reputation, but our character will be clouded with unforgiveness, doubt, anxiety, bitterness and even resentment. We may be a good church-goer, but we will not know how to be a good leader or even a good friend. This striving towards perfection, towards personal excellence may keep us out of trouble, but it will suffocate our soul.
But what about holiness?! I can hear the protests now. Don’t we want to be a light in a dark place? Yes, of course! But always striving to be an example won’t let us shine, it will just cause us to shrink from the possibilty of negative attention, of being found out, of failing to meet up to the expectations of others and ourselves.
We are already a light in a dark place! But here is the most important part most of us forget when we’re telling each other to be an example: Our light comes from Jesus, not from our own awesome behavior!
Do you believe Christ himself has taken up residence within you? Do you trust him with your life – your decisions, your emotions, your relationships? Do you truly believe that he goes with you wherever you go? If so, then instead of telling each other to be an example, how about encouraging each other to be yourselves?
When we are hurt, we can deeply feel it. When we mess up, we can and will own it. When we hurt or wrong someone else, we can admit it and apologize. When we have doubts, we can voice them. And when we are joyful, it will be from a real place inside of us, not a manufactured mask that we put on to impress others.
We will be authentic allowing Christ to do his work in us and through us. It is Christ that sanctifies us and makes us holy or "whole" as the word holy means. All we are expected to do is to follow and abide in or live with him each and every day. We are to clothe ourselves, in his righteousness, not our own which is as filthy rags to God. That means to be like him, learn about him, and make him the most important part of your life. If we do that, then Jesus Christ will be the One that gets all the glory and all the praise for our light shining to the world, not our own selfish, prideful weak attempts at good works to make ourselves look good.
So, we really need to encourage each other to leave our masks behind. We need to create a loving, friendly environment around us that lets people feel safe to be who they genuinely are without judgment.
We need to trust in God and remember that Christ lives in each one of us. Each of us has been given everything we need that pertains to life and godliness. Each of us already has the full measure of faith and grace we've been generously granted.
So please, let's stop telling each other and expecting each other to be this perfect Christian example to the world. Let's give each other the freedom that Jesus paid for on the cross with his life, to be the best that he is growing us to be – a peculiar yet love-filled people who have the living Christ living inside each and every one. We are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, and it is HE that is the Example and Savior of the world!
Monday, March 14, 2011
Thursday, February 17, 2011
Attraction’s endless masquerade. Not so much a party, more like a never-ending game. I pretend I am this woman and you pretend you are that man and we pretend that everything is perfect. But we never truly connect, because you cannot feel the touch of another with gloves on.
I am not perfect, I hate to be the one to tell you that. In fact, I am as far from being perfect as a person can get. I am not always the goody-two-shoes over achiever with drive and ambition that you think I am. I can be boring at times and I don’t always have something interesting to say. I am sometimes lazy and I often do fantasize about the taking the path of least resistance when attempting to accomplish my goals.
Also, I often frustrated when people do or say stupid things and I don’t always have something positive to offer as feedback when that happens. Most of the time I will just ignore it or try to change the subject. I can be very silly too and my sense-of-humor can border upon the absolute goofy. Sometimes I cry at the stupidest things, like during certain TV commercials or when I can’t fit into my jeans. I can be withdrawn and sullen too at times, feeling as though I am stuck in a life I did not create for myself, as if my life is the by-product of circumstances and not of deliberate direction, but I soon realize that I am just being hard on myself, yet again. It is the same sort of thing that a lot of people lament; thinking that every moment of life is supposed to have meaning and most of the time it is the quite the opposite; life’s meanings have moments. It is the journey that counts, not necessarily the moments where we arrive at our destination.
Such is the game of attraction and dating and it can be outright maddening to at times. I am supposed to appear as if I am always cheerful, playful, and brilliant. Always full of energy, always light-hearted and uncomplicated. That is just not me. I am very complicated, very complex. My moods can change quite often and I am constantly thinking and analyzing things, trying to rework a situation in my mind until it all works out the way that it should. Always careful to plot my moves and words carefully.
I am not always sure what it is that I want most of the time or what I mean by the things I say. I don’t need to be interpreted or even to be understood at every moment of every day. I just want and need to be accepted for who I am, even if that is someone I am not always so sure about. I’d like to think that I am a work in progress, that the best parts of me are still hiding up my sleeve. I think it was my college art professor that said it best, "Sometimes you can beat a horse to death, but you can also sometimes beat a dead horse back to life." Keep trying, keep going, keep moving. Things can finally turn out the way that you want if you keep at it long enough.
But why am I not supposed to feel so great when you are around me? Why am I not supposed to tremble when you move in to reach for something just past me at the dinner table? Am I am not supposed to love how great you smell and how it is left all over me and my clothes after you hold me so tight to tell me goodnight? Why am I supposed to hold all of this inside and act as though it does not mean so much to me? Because a woman like me MUST have had plenty of men that were crazy about me, so why would someone like me be crazy about you? Right? So we lie to ourselves about how much we care and we lie to each other. If only we would be honest and forthcoming from the beginning.
I would tell you that you light me up inside in a way that I have never known before. I would confess that I love the way I look through your eyes? Just the sound of your voice makes me feel comfortable and safe, warm and protected. The strength of your arms wrapped around me makes me feel more like a woman than a thousand romantic songs sang to me night and day. And when you look at me with that look, it is as if all space and time ceases to exist. I stare at your face intensely, putting it to memory. It’s as if I look at the sun too long, I can close my eyes tightly and I will still see it all day long!
But then there is always the masquerade. The mindless game-playing over our misunderstanding of the communication differences of the sexes; where insecurity and competition dictate to us that we have to hide our true feelings and passion and curb it way, way back. You are never supposed to know how much I enjoy you, how often I think about you or how much I long for you to reach out to hold me and to whisper to me that you feel the same.
Why must we play? Why must we do all of this nonsensical pretending? Tippy toes, tippy toes. Don’t ever tread too heavily. Sip, sip we just sip from the cup. Never are we ever to drink from the river together. So we continue to live a life this small, this shallow and pale and deny the vastness of the unexplored brilliance of deeper and honest attraction, connection and truthful openness. We ignorantly continue to deny ourselves the experience of the magnificent onslaught of the pulsating flush of endless possibility rushing through our veins at lightning speed leaving our hearts racing and our bodies breathless and beautifully spent in the miracle that’s called love.