Posted on August 7, 2019
When I’m tempted to wallow in the “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen” soundtrack of a suffered season …Psalms. Because the first thing I don’t feel like doing when I’m sad, angry or anxious isn’t what these profound words of wisdom instruct me to do. “It is good to give thanks to the LORD,” Psalm 92:1 says, “to sing praises to the Most High.” (NLT)
Flipping through a rolodex of the last month’s gut punches, I don’t want to sing. I’m thankful for the obligatory things …my home, health, family, talents, children, friends and God’s provision. There’s nothing earth shattering falling out of the bottom of my life. But occasionally a million little aggravations collide into a big burst of soul-stripping tears. Still, Psalm 7:17 instructs: “I will thank the LORD because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High.” (NLT)
“After Jesus was baptized by John,” a pastor at our church faithfully reminded me the day I was baptized, “Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days.”
“Crap,” was my first thought. CRAP. Over the next few weeks I started to feel like Psalm 3:7 …“Arise, O LORD! Rescue me, my God! Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked!” (NLT)
And then God asked me if I was willing to put reconciliation in His hands. Not just any reconciliation. One that had already rocked me, and my entire family, to the core. My answer was a resounding, “NO.” I didn’t want to. I’m down with heartfelt apologies. Reach as far back as you want to, God. And forgiveness? Forgiveness is a given. No apology needed. I got that memo. It’s an automatic process every Christian is wise to begin immediately after any hurt or heartbreak to prevent the root of bitterness from having babies all over our souls.
But reconciliation? Nope. No. There are some people we can love from a far and leave behind the lines of our boundaries …right? RIGHT? No. Psalm 5:11 says, “But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy.” NLT
God is the one protecting and providing refuge. So, if He says we are free to come out of hiding, we should. If He prompts us to reach out one more time in an effort to build a bridge, we should obediently take the chance. What’s the worst thing that could happen when the best thing that could happen is peace?
Let’s just say …the worst thing happened. I opened up a wound that hurt worse than before. It leveled me. It surely made me ask “why …” a lot. But I kept reading through the Psalms …because coincidentally the devotional app I faithfully open every day has been in that book. (not a coincidence.) I kept praising God, through thick and heavy tears. He’s right, of course, but let’s face it …some moments make us doubt ourselves, everyone around us, all the decisions we’ve made, and the faith we stand on. Cry it all out. He can handle it.
As we continue to breathe air He will pull things out of the thin of it for us to give to Him. Not everything we go through in life is all about us. We’re called to leave the door wide open for reconciliation while God works on all of the hearts. If it’s possible …we want it. It’s OK to leave our boundaries in the protective hands of our Defender. God doesn’t owe us an explanation for our obedience. He just says, “obey.” Trust and obey.
We have to let go, so we can receive all He has for us. All we can’t see, doesn’t make sense, and makes it hard to leap in faith when He asks us to stretch past our flexibility. He knows what we need in breaking moments. Life is hard, and God knows it. He is our good Father, and so waits for us to open His book and fall into His capable arms. Every time, He will pick us up, stretch us out, and set us back on the path He’s prepared for us. He promises. And He’s good for it. Don’t let fear rob freedom.
Posted on May 9, 2019
Jesus promised us that “in the world we would have trouble” (John 16:33). Hate seems to be the prominent way societal agendas are pushed into action. Do you remember the part in Frozen when Elsa realizes that the key to controlling her icy powers is the warmth of love? The cartoon queen might be on to something. After all, how much hate can we throw at hate before we end up consumed in the eternal coldness of winter?
“The antidote to hate is compassion,” states Psychology Today, “for others and ourselves.” Christ sacrificed His life for everyone, and His command to us is to love… above all else. When you can’t handle the hate, practice compassion.
Hate can attempt to get under our skin and either make us believe outright lies about who God says we are, or turn towards another to claim lies about who they are. In three simple steps, we can realign our thoughts to the tune of Christ’s love.
Posted on March 27, 2019
“Friends with Everyone” is the quest to love people in our lives well. God places people in our lives purposefully. As Christians, we are called to reach outside of our comfort zones in order to serve the people bordering our everyday lives.
“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews.
To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law.
To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.
To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.
I have become all tings to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV (emphasis mine.)
Love finds common ground. Paul isn’t advising us to change for people in these verses. He’s challenging us to find common ground with the people in our lives. There is common ground to be found. It’s not an easy quest. There are lines we will be tempted to cross and company we wish would could keep closer. We will be called to ruffle a few feathers in righteousness. We will be left out, called out, questioned, and ridiculed. Being friends with everyone requires us to flip all of the hurt into forgiveness, and trust God with transformation.
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV
We wouldn’t die for someone that hurt us. We wouldn’t die for someone who didn’t apologize for the hurt they caused …and we surely wouldn’t die for someone intent upon hurting us again. Jesus did. Compassion and kindness come from Him. All of us continue to fall short every day, yet the forgiveness Jesus died to grant us, to go before us and pave for us, isn’t effected by our inability to overcome the broken world we live in. He has already defeated what we could …and cannot. It. Is. Done. A true understanding of forgiveness breaks the cycle of hurt and allows the love of Christ to flow through our lives.
“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” Proverbs 13:20 NIV
I believe we take this verse out of context when we use it as an excuse to shun people who are different from us. What good is all of our wisdom about Christ, if we hide from the people that don’t know what we know? Like Paul, through adversity …seek diversity. But we must keep our eyes on Jesus. He is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. He was friends with everyone, without sacrificing His mission.
Jesus had a close group of twelve friends, and out them three were extremely close to Jesus. Still one, John, was Jesus’ best friend on earth. We’re clearly called to choose our close circle of friends with care, but leave the door open. May our light reflect His Love.
I shudder to think of all the rich friendships I would have missed out on, had I not decided to leave my Monday morning Bible Study group open to anyone. Whether or not they go to church or believe in God is between them and Him. Our job is to open the door and share what we know.
“Don’t hang out with angry people; don’t keep company with hotheads. Bad temper is contagious- don’t get infected.” Proverbs 22:24-25 MSG
The more friends we have, the greater the risk of getting hurt. Learning how to survive devastating blows to our character and create healthy boundaries is all part of the package. Can I tell you something? It’s through our reaction to those situations that our faith is put on display the most.
Loving the people in our lives well leads us to brotherly and sisterly love. As we grow in wisdom and away from the lessons of our past, God is faithful to provide friends that are racing towards Christ alongside us. Never take these friends for granted. These are the best friends. The ones who don’t get all awkward and subject-change when we start to talk about Jesus. No, these are the friends who lean in to learn alongside of us. Every broken hearted moment is worth it to find these people in life. But we can’t stay there.
We are called to be friends with everyone.
Posted on February 5, 2019
Relationships remain imperfect because humanity is incapable of selfless love. Due to the fall in the garden of Eden, we are continually cursed with sin, keeping us from accomplishing correct communication with each other. Only one pair of feet have ever trod the earth in perfect obedience to God. Jesus came out of compassion for us. It’s through Him, that we can find victory in life, and our relationships. Not through perfection of our behavior, but through the perfect forgiveness and hope that His love grants us.
The very definition of ‘struggle’ is “to content with an adversary or opposing force.” We often pit the people on the other side of our relationships against ourselves. In addition to the disagreement at hand, we internally mull over all of the ways that we want them to treat us, and expect to be treated. We are set to a defensive default, but created to love.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
Jesus taught that this was the most important command. The NIV Notes on this verse say that “Jesus’ teaching united his followers around love.” Unity is the opposite of struggling opposition. There’s nothing we can do to force our relationships to work. But we can focus on Love.
Posted on January 18, 2019
“Apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 (NIV)
Hurt tempts us to comply with a variety of unreasonable emotions. We don’t aim to become bitter people in our relationships, but life happens. Scripture warns in Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger, do not sin.” Bitterness is characterized by intense cynicism, antagonism or hostility. (dictionary.com) “Most of our bitterness and anger towards others is rooted in an inability to be profoundly amazed at Christ’s love for us in our sin.” (John Piper) It interferes with forgiveness too and makes it hard to accept certain realities.
Resentment is the byproduct of bitterness and unchecked anger within relationships, most often marriage. Colossians 3:8 warns, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Resentment can transform from a behavioral reaction to a personality trait. However, when Christ stitches our wounds together, the bleeding stops and peace is restored.