It’s happened to most of us. We’re cruising down the street, singing along to Justin Bieber’s sweet new jam when all of the sudden, some imbecile swerves in front of us and cuts us off. Not only does this give our hearts a shock, it usually unleashes a little monster we like to call “road rage.”
Our knuckles whiten, we grit our teeth, we may even let a dirty word fly out of the side of our mouths. We give our horn a long, harsh push or—even worse—we slip up that one finger that tells this reckless renegade exactly what we think of their driving. It’s so easy to lash out since, after all, we don’t know this person. They’re just some anonymous moron drifting in and out of traffic as they please.
This scenario is a classic American experience: we believe we have the right of way, someone compromises that right, and we take offense, often reacting in impulsive, unwise ways. And it doesn’t just happen on the road.
When you think about it, the same thing happens to us all the time in the public square—anywhere, really, where ideas are presented, debated and shared. And on the Internet, particularly, it happens a lot.
As with any large gathering of souls, the Internet consists of many different people from many different upbringings offering up many different opinions and beliefs. And for those of us who are fortunate to live in countries that afford us the freedom to live and believe as we choose, we’re granted the right to choose where our loyalties in religion and politics lie. Those choices aren’t taken lightly nor held loosely, and most of us defend them with our very soul. This being the case, the Internet often disintegrates into a hotspot of disagreement and offense; bursting with arguments, insults and accusations with little or no warning.
We’ve seen it happen recently in discussions of gay marriage, gun laws, abortion, gender roles and more. Someone posts something that offends our beliefs, and a counter is quickly posted elsewhere. It’s as if those attacking our beliefs and opinions are actually attacking us personally, and that’s something we just cannot and will not allow. What once had the supposed potential of a calm discussion soon turns into slurs and insults being tossed back and forth, growing more and more hostile as witnesses enter the fray to defend their friends and own opinions. Names are called, orientations are attacked, and opinions are ransacked—until it all descends into digital chaos. All because someone took offense to an individual’s opinion and acted out.
This begs the question: What right do we have to be offended at someone else’s opinion or beliefs in the first place? We certainly have the right to disagree with another’s stance, but to take a personal affront to the beliefs of another speaks to something else entirely. It’s as if we’ve adopted the type of selfish mindset that expects everyone to shape their every thought and response to what we’ve chosen to believe.
Who are we to assume that our opinions hold more value than those of another? In reality, each of us possesses the equal right to believe as we wish. We may not agree on faith or politics or a million other things, but we can be centered enough to realize that differing opinions are not a call for anger and harsh actions.
Even so, some feel it is their right to incite us to anger—or to be incited to anger themselves. If we’re honest, we sometimes take the stance that our taking offense is a spiritual posture—one of speaking truth, combating lies and championing What Is Right. This may be true or it may not be, but in the words of Paul, if we have not love, we are “nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
These interactions can lead to bruised feelings and angry responses, simply because that’s our first reaction as human. But as Christians who seek to be examples of God, it is our responsibility to turn away from those who would offend and malign us with aimed insults. Is it easier to respond in anger once we’ve been offended? Without question. But because we are called to love this world and to be more through Him, we should not only refuse to engage those who come at us with hate, but choose to look upon them with grace and a loving heart as well.
At the very root of our Christian identity, we are called to love this world as God loves us, and that means without condition. We are to show the kind of love 1 Corinthians 13:5 describes as not rude or irritable nor insistent on its own way. The disagreements aren’t going anywhere. We just have to accept the call of loving the naysayers anyway.
In the end, it’s not easy to respond well to that which offends or hurts us, but if we choose instead to fill our hearts with the love and grace of God, there will be no room for the pain or offense this world brings. Speaking out of offense rarely brings about good things. But speaking out of love—that’s what can move mountains.This post was written by Corey Copeland of Relevant Magazine. For the original post with comments, you can go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/taking-offense-not-part-christian-calling
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Several years ago, I got into a debate with a close friend and the conversation went quickly south. What began as a discussion about our theological and political differences ended up in a shouting match in which each person's character was called into question.
I went into the argument with a "win-at-all-costs" mentality. Winning a disagreement was the only way I knew how to disagree, but what I lost wasn't worth the victory. I said plenty of things I didn't mean. As the saying goes, "I won the battle, but lost the war." And lost a great friend in the process. We haven’t spoken since.
I may have won the debate, but it wasn’t worth the cost.
We’re never going to agree with everyone we come in contact with, but we must learn how to disagree in a way that honors Christ and His body.
Disagreement is an increasing norm in our lives, but we're marginally equipped. It's much easier to post disparaging remarks on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and news articles. Digital disagreement allows us to hide behind a screen.
Just take a sampling of the Christian blogosphere, where heated debates on who gets into heaven, the biblical role of women and gay marriage, just to name a few, are commonplace. Spend time scrolling through comments where any of these discussions take place and you'll immediately lose your faith in humanity.
All of this painfully illuminates the question: Why can't Christians disagree well? Why are we so comfortable tarnishing the name of Jesus—whom we all call “Lord”—just so we can win the argument?
Christians spend much of their time focused on how to engage the un-Christian world around them—and rightfully so. Yet in doing so, we sometimes lose our ability to navigate conversations and relationships with our own brothers and sisters.
John didn't hold anything back when he said: "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:35). We usually apply this to our relationship with unbelievers, but loving “one another” in and amongst our own is an incredible witness as well—for better or for worse. So how can we turn this around? What do we need to do in order to disagree with our brothers and sisters in love.
First, we need to understand that the underlying theme that allows for disagreement to happen in a healthy way is emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence can be simply defined as seeking to understand before being understood. It's human nature to fight for your supposed “right” to an opinion and your supposed “right” to be heard. But the reigning mark of our faith is not holding on to our personal rights, but offering our Christ-reflective unconditional love. It's easier to hoard the opportunity to push someone else down than to sacrifice your right to be heard. But to uphold the name of love, this is often the harder, better way.
Emotional intelligence is sacrificing your rights in order to care for others. This is deeply rooted in the Christian faith: "In humility value others above yourselves" (Philippians 2:3). By focusing only on yourself—your opinion, your agenda, your perspective—you shrink the world. Your problems become the lens you see everything through. You isolate yourself from a world looking for attention, love and human kindness. You cannot care for others when the world revolves around you. And you cannot build the Church body if all you are concerned about is yourself.
Yet in focusing on understanding the other, in an intentional act of love, your world expands. By seeking to understand before being understood, "our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection—or compassionate action," says psychologist Daniel Goleman in Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships.
Just like in any family, conflict among Christians will never go away. But when we learn how to seek understanding before being understood, we can begin to have healthy disagreements.
We can learn to focus on areas of agreement over areas of disagreement. And perhaps then, we can restore our reputation of love.This post was written by Tyler Braun of Relevant Magazine. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/why-dont-christians-play-nice
BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
So often, a person only reveals a difficult period of his or her life after the event, while reflecting on the event. This is especially true of "testimonies" given at church. A person stands to thank the Lord for seeing her through a dark period of life; meanwhile, many people stare in wonder how most of the rest of us were unaware of her living through such an event. I, too, used to live a privatized life. If I was struggling through a rough patch in my life, I would keep it all to myself, unwilling to share my pain or difficulties. Part of the reason for my privacy was fear, part of it was shame, and another part was pride. I have decided not to live my life like that any longer. I intend on being transparent about my struggles. I think that in doing so I can honor the Lord, live a more honest and thus healthy life, as well as give comfort to anyone who may be experiencing the exact same feelings.Over the last month or so I have felt loneliness unparalleled -- never have I felt this lonely. This lonely period began when I discovered that the only friend I had (in my area) was not really a friend, in the true sense of the word. Our relationship, unbeknownst to me, has never been one of true friendship but of convenience. If this certain person could not find anyone else to spend time with, then I would do. I was unaware that our so-called friendship was in this sad state of affairs. Now, in other periods of my life, I would have responded differently to this tragic state. But at this vulnerable point in my life, when I most need a close friend (with whom I can spend time and confide and share my thoughts and feelings, as well as reciprocate), I am left all alone and very hurt. The friend I thought I had was not really my friend at all.I often picture loneliness as a chasm because that is how it feels -- like a space of emptiness that needs filling. "But the Lord should fill that chasm," some say. Well, that sounds nice; that sounds like the typical, Christian, spiritual-yet-superficial pat-answer to every situation. But I cannot see the Lord, nor can I audibly hear His voice, or hug or touch or punch and be playful with Him like I would a friend. The Lord gives us like-minded friends who can excite the senses: sight, sound, touch, smell (hopefully pleasant). "Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one's nearest kin" (Prov. 18:24 NRSV). In my present situation, little did I know that I had the former but not the latter. This present loneliness is also coupled with a deep sense of rejection. The one is as hard to bear as the other. What I am learning from this experience is how to choose a friend more wisely in the future. The saying is true: we cannot choose our family members, but we can choose our friends. Nor can we choose if or when loneliness will visit us: all of us, no matter our age or social status, are susceptible to a brief encounter with loneliness (or depression or rejection). Spouses and members of large families often sense loneliness as much as any single person; so the mere presence of people in our lives will not guard us from its grip.Some people, when experiencing loneliness or depression, merely endure it instead of praying or calling someone or watching a movie or going for a walk; they merely sit and endure the grief and pain, the emotional and mental torment. For some, enduring these times is all they can do; they feel paralyzed by their emotions or mental state.I know firsthand that there are many people in the world today, Christian and non-Christian, who are lonely and depressed. I know so because I receive their emails. None of us should deny the fact that at certain times in our lives we must drink the cup of loneliness. We do not like this cup. We try to avoid drinking the contents of this cup. But often we are forced to take this cup, press it to our lips, and drink.I think the aversion we sense to such an experience is natural. We should not feel guilty because we try to avoid feeling lonely or depressed. However, Henri Nouwen has some sound advice:Whenever you feel lonely, you must try to find the source of this feeling. You are inclined either to run away from your loneliness or to dwell in it. When you run away from it, your loneliness does not really diminish; you simply force it out of your mind temporarily. When you start dwelling in it, your feelings only become stronger, and you slip into depression. The spiritual task is not to escape your loneliness, not to let yourself drown in it, but to find its source.1Why finding the source of your loneliness is so very important, he admits, is because "it leads you to discern something good about yourself."2 For me, that goodness is grounded in the fact that I consider myself worthy of friendship, with much to offer a friend. I despise this loneliness because it reminds me that I actually have been rejected, and it hurts. During Jesus' darkest hours in the garden at Gethsemane (lit. "the place of pressing"), He confessed to being deeply grieved, to the point of death, praying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:39). Do we not pray the same prayer when we are facing some of the darkest hours of our lives? We all want our respective cups to pass from us. This cup of loneliness is mine to drink for now. No one else can drink from this particular cup. I must drink it, and I must drink it alone. A time will come when the contents of this cup will be depleted. I can then wash the cup, dry it, and place it back into the cupboard. I look forward to that day. 1 Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom (New York: Image Books, 1998), 36.
2 Ibid. This truly honest post was written by William Watson Birch. You can find the original post with comments here: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/01/the-cup-of-loneliness.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Lord, the feelings are not the same
I guess I'm older, I guess I've changed
And how I wish it had been explained
That as you're growing you must remember
That nothing lasts, except the grace of God
By which I stand, in Jesus
I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace
By which I'm saved
Lord, I remember that special way
I vowed to serve You, when it was brand new
But like Peter, I can't even watch and pray
One hour with You and I bet, I could deny You too.
But nothing lasts, except the grace of God
By which I stand, in Jesus
I'm sure that my whole life would waste away, except for grace
By which I'm saved
But nothing lasts, except the grace of God
By which I stand, in Jesus
I know that I would surely fall away, except for grace
By which I'm saved
Early in our marriage, we would receive Victoria's Secret catalogs in the mail. Even back then, these catalogs were pornography. They've only gotten worse.
Nevertheless, I told Karyn about the draw those catalogs had for me and I asked her to not have those in the house, especially since we were raising boys.
By starving my eyes from those catalogs, they came to the point of having less attraction for me. Over time, by telling Karyn about the things that turned me on, she was able to help me. We would talk about those things that were tempting. It was liberating to tell her and she would continue to love me and shield me from those things that held my attraction.
After the boys were raised, I accompanied her to a Victoria's Secret store where she was trying on some clothes. Being the dutiful husband, I went with her. I thought, "I've gotten past that Victoria's Secret temptation. I can handle this now."
While I was sitting there, minding my own business and trying not to look at the images of scantily clad women on the walls, a very attractive young lady walked up to me and started talking to me. I was polite and talked with her. Then another attractive young lady and then another. Before I knew it, I was surrounded by three very attractive young ladies.
Well, my ego got the best of me. I started thinking, "these girls think I'm hot. They're talking to me because they really like me." I found myself paying more attention to them while they were flirting with me (or I thought they were flirting with me). Then it hit me. "What in the world am I doing? I'm almost old enough to be these young ladies' father!" Then Karyn came out of the dressing room and paid for some clothes she was buying.
When we got outside, I confessed to Karyn what had happened. She simply said, "of course those sales clerks were talking to you, you're safe. You're much older than them. The longer you stay in the store, the more likely I will buy something." Well, I'll tell you, my ego was instantly deflated. We continued our conversation and Karyn said that the clerks were occupying me so that she would spend more time shopping.
Why do I share this story with you?
Well I learned a few things about temptation:
- I said to myself before going into the store, "I can handle this." God says, "So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall." Knowing this was a past temptation, it would have been wise to ask God for strength before entering. It might have been better to just not go into that store.
- I have a big ego and I need to keep it in check. "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." If I stay humble, God will give me more grace.
- Temptation changes. I thought that I had the sin of lust conquered. However, this temptation played into something different. I was on my guard for lust but not on guard for my ego.
- My ego got in the way of my ability to think clearly. These young ladies were just doing what they had been taught. "Keep the hubby happy and his wife will buy more stuff." I was being played and never realized it.
So, my conclusion, my goal of this post is this:
Do you let your ego go unchecked?
Do you humble yourself so that God can give you more grace?
If you think that you have temptation conquered, get ready. You will find yourself tempted in ways that you haven't been considering.
BE A MAN.
Monday, I posted about how a young man used the retelling of the crucifixion of Jesus so that he could sin and take others with him in his sin.
Today, I want to share something beautiful from my experiences with the Easter Musical. In this church that annually would share the Easter story with its community, there was always a special private showing of the final dress rehearsal.
The final dress rehearsal was an invitation to individuals who were physically as well as mentally challenged. The church would clear out much of the seating so that people using wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and canes could easily navigate into the auditorium. This was a fun tradition in this community because these individuals got to see the musical before anybody else.
In this final dress rehearsal that I am remembering, Jesus was being taken down from the cross. This is a very solemn and quiet scene, taking a good ten minutes or so. Jesus is carefully removed from the cross, given to Mary, Joseph of Arimathea, John and Nicodemus. They lovingly prepare Jesus' body for burial, wrapping him in cloths.
Well, during this scene, one man in the audience who couldn't speak or walk due to his challenges, started weeping uncontrollably. It was quite a poignant scene that was enhanced by this man's sensitivity. I firmly believe that this man was so touched by this reenactment that he said "yes" to God's invitation to accept Jesus as his Savior. Needless to say, this man's behavior affected many others not only in the congregation but many of the actors and orchestra members as well. In my own heart, I felt a revival of my own commitment to serving Jesus. I'm sure that many had a similar experience. An unspoken revival of sorts happened right there because of this man's sensitivity to Jesus' gift of salvation.
I want to tell you that the man that was weeping was so much more of a man than many men I have ever met. Especially, more so than that young man from Monday who wanted to have sexual conquests to prove his manhood. That weeping man allowed God to transform him. Outside he was still the same but I believe that man left the church a new creation.
You may be wondering how the above picture of the mountain climber on the summit fits into this story. Well, I'm thinking that when this guy gets to heaven, he's gonna want to do the things he always wanted to do but couldn't because he was in an earthly body that didn't work as he wanted. I'm gonna find him and we're gonna do some mountain climbing. When we get to the summit, I'm gonna ask him, "remember when you were at that private showing of the Easter Musical? I want to know what you were thinking." I anticipate he will share with me his love for God and how the Holy Spirit worked in his life that night.
Together we will agree with the Roman Centurion, "Surely, this man was the Son of God!" and we will spend a couple hundred years on that summit praising our Savior and recalling all the wonderful things that God did.
Do you want to experience something beautiful?
You can right now as you ask Jesus to lead your life, turn from your sinfulness and allow God to transform you.
We want you to join us on that summit in eternity.
BE A MAN.
In many ways, humans are like animals. Any dog trainer can tell you that the majority of a trained dog's behavior with its master is simply a matter of training the dog to respond to certain cues.
The male sexual response is similar. I know a young man who really loved his dog and enjoyed spending time with her. At times, he would look out the window and masturbate while watching his dog play in the backyard. Over time, he unknowingly trained his sexual response to his dog. When he would see his dog, he would get an erection. I won't go further, because you know where this young man's behavior ended up getting him into trouble if you've read my posts about The Garbage Collector.
The same is true for pornography. If you look at pornography, you will end up training your sexual response to lascivious pictures. If you lust over the cheerleaders during the Super Bowl and then masturbate to their images, you will respond to those images. Thinking about and masturbating to thoughts and images of someone who is not your wife will lead to problems in your sexual response to your wife and to your soul. Jesus clearly taught this principle, that lusting after a woman is committing adultery.
So, if you have trained your sexual response to someone/something other that your wife, there is hope. The first thing you need to do is starve your eyes. No longer look at pornography, no longer look lustfully at other women. Get rid of your porn. Change channels when the cheerleaders come on and when that Victoria's Secret commercial comes on. When you check into a motel on business, tell them to block all the pay channels on your TV. Learn to anticipate temptation. Be proactive rather than reactive. Next, you must train your mind to be obedient to Christ. Pray this verse every time you find your mind wandering , "brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things." Tell your pastor about your decision. Find men who will pray with you and hold you accountable. A professional dog trainer friend of mine in speaking of dog training, told me, "a dog's natural impulses are bent and conditioned to serve the purposes of the trainer. Since we have dominion over creation, the natural impulses of animals, especially those that are domesticated , are to obey/fear us."
However, we humans don't have a natural impulse to obey/fear God. Rather, we have a natural impulse to obey our natural impulses. We are handcuffed by our impulses. That's why it is so important to get our impulses under the control of God. God clearly talks about this. "So put to death your worldly impulses: sexual sin, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed..."
If you feel overwhelmed by your impulses and feel defeated by your inability to resist temptation, know this: For every temptation, there is a way out. How do I know this? Because the Bible reminds us that God is faithful. He doesn't just create us and say, "Good luck! I hope you can ignore sin."
God wants to work in your life so that you don't react impulsively but respond the way that He desires. God wants to remove that selfishness that's within you and transform you so that you learn to please Him. You learn "to serve the purposes of your trainer."
What does "serving the purposes of your trainer" look like? Well, you change channels when Go Daddy puts up a sensuous commercial during the Super Bowl (since when do we need scantily clad women to sell website hosting?). You have paid channels blocked when you check into a hotel. You meet with men who hold each other accountable for godly behavior. You dump your porn.
However, "serving the purposes of your trainer" goes beyond behavior. It goes to a heart change. God wants your sanctification. Sanctification means that you permit God to change you from the inside out and reserve you for His special purposes. Can you let that happen? Yes, you can. Are you humble enough to let God make you into a real man? Yes, you are.
BE A MAN.
If you stumble into sin, believer, don't give up; don't allow hopelessness to consume you, the deceitfulness of sin to blind you, or the weight of shame to defeat you. In the morning and evening prayer we pray, in part, the following: "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not fall" (Ps. 16:8
). Christ is
at your right hand, and this fall shall not be final for you; He took the final fall.
Yes, you may feel as though your worst day has cast a shadow over you that will never break to show the light of day, but, happily, you're wrong. God, in Christ, has declared you to be righteous (2 Cor. 5:21
). Of the righteous we read: "for though they fall seven times, they will rise again" (Prov. 24:16
NRSV). You will rise, friend, because Christ will lift you up. He took the ultimate fall in order that you should rise.
No one knows how many times I've had to encourage myself, thinking these thoughts, repeating the words of this post to myself. How I didn't play dead but arose from sin is a testimony to God's sheer grace. This post is as much an exhortation to myself as it is for anyone else experiencing difficulties or tragedies, whether self-caused or otherwise.
What do you do on the worst day of your life? Rise: not because you're inherently worthy of being named righteous. Rise because the one who took the ultimate fall declares you righteous. Rise because, though you sinned, though you deserve the fate of the wicked like the rest of us, there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1
But rise, too, because you neither honor the Lord nor serve the body of Christ by remaining fallen. Don't play dead, possum. In Christ you have been made alive (Col. 2:13
). Play dead to your old, sinful nature or past. But in Christ, even when you sin, don't play dead -- don't remain defeated. In Him you are more than one who has conquered all spiritually negative realities (Rom. 8:37
). "So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Col. 3:1
You can avoid re-offending others by rising, and thinking healthy, spiritual thoughts: "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil. 4:8
). All offenses begin with thoughts. We are instructed to destroy arguments raised up against the knowledge of God.
But the apostle Paul also added, "We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle
raised up against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:5
NRSV, emphasis added). How many thoughts rise up against the reality of God's holy existence and righteous standards? We are taught to destroy such thoughts, to take them captive and make them obedient to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5
I picture such thoughts as personified. I imagine capturing them, putting them into a prison cell, while Christ stands watch over them as Guard. If I fail to do so, then I may entertain such thoughts, have them affect me emotionally, and then obey them. When I obey them, I sin. "But one is tempted by one's own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved" (James 1:15-16
But when you sin, no matter the degree, take it immediately to Christ. "If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9
NRSV). Don't let sin drag you into a hopeless, despondent, dejected place, out of which you feel impossible to escape. By His grace and forgiveness you rise up, and you keep rising up. You don't rise up only once. You will need to rise up every time you fall.
More than that, you will need to rise up every time you think
about a past fall. Such thoughts about your past have a tendency to paralyze you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Paralyzed, you will play dead. No: in Christ you must rise up from the guilt of your past. Though you fall seven times a day, you will rise -- you must
rise (Prov. 24:16
The Lord foreknew every sin you would ever commit when He by grace through faith in Christ saved your soul. You don't ever take Him by surprise by any thought, desire, or action. In Christ He has already declared you holy, sanctified (set apart from the world and for His service and care), and righteous. You don't let Him down because you don't hold Him up.
You are becoming more and more like Christ (Rom. 8:29
), slow as such may seem, and your heavenly Father understands completely all of your eccentricities, particularities, and unique qualities. This is how, you see, you keep on rising. Give your defeats to the One who defeated sin, death, and hell (1 Cor. 15:56-57
; 1 John 3:8
). Give your hopelessness to the God of hope (Rom. 15:13
). Whatever you do, don't play dead, possum, but rise. This post was written by William Watson Birch. You can find the original post with comments here: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/01/saturday-devotion-dont-play-dead.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.
God has given us instructions in His Word that prayer is something that every Christian needs to be doing. Prayer is, simply put, the way we come to know God personally.
Earnest, honest prayer that is filled with praise, confession, thankfulness, and requests is what God desires. Prayer also needs to be filled with times of solitude, to be free from distractions, so one can hear from God.
1) Is there ever a time we should not pray? We had a couple of American friends visit us while we were living in Germany and we were out to eat, enjoying the local flammkuchen
at a little eatery. My friend ordered water because he didn't want to spend the money on soda and as the waitress opened the bottle and was about to pour, she told him that the bottle was going to be 6 Euro. My friend, who didn't understand European customs, didn't remember that we had told him that water is not free in European restaurants.
He became upset and the waitress withdrew his order of water. Instead she offered soda which was only 2 Euro. He agreed to that. However, you could tell that the waitress was visibly upset. We apologized to her as best we could. When she brought the flammkuchen
to the table, we were about to pray aloud when I said, "I don't think we should pray. I'm afraid that it would give this waitress a bad impression of Christians." Now don't get me wrong I think it IS appropriate to pray in public but God reminds us that prayer can become sin.
In this instance we all agreed that praying publicly wasn't God-honoring in this situation.
2) Is there ever a time we should not pray? I had a friend one time who had a severe debt and asked God to pay the debt for him. He told everyone the exact amount and prayed fervently (personally, I don't think it's wise to publicly state an exact amount of money). Within a week, God miraculously provided that money and more. The person again broadcast the exact amount that God provided. The reactions were predictable. "Wow!" "Prayer works." "God is so good." "Praise the Lord!" and so forth...
I wonder what his friends who have been praying that God would work a miracle in their lives thought when God did not seemingly answer their prayers. Maybe they were encouraged. Maybe it lifted their faith. Maybe it caused them to pray more.
Maybe it discouraged them. Maybe they were like, "Why does he always get the breaks? Why did God answer his prayers and not mine?" Maybe they told themselves, "I guess I have to pray harder."
I wonder what the reaction would have been if God had not provided the amount or the amount with extra to spare. "Is God still good?" "Does prayer still work?"
3) Finally, I believe that God can heal people.
God may choose to heal miraculously or he may heal slowly or he may heal at the hands of doctors. Healing is a biblical concept.
My friend had fallen on an icy patch and went to see his physician who told him it would be 6-8 weeks before he would be pain free. He was having severe pain and muscle spasms. He believed he was going to lose his job because he could hardly move. As he told me, just two days later, you can tell his pain was real. He was almost in tears as he was describing what he was going thru. When he was talking, I heard clearly in my mind, "You need to pray for him." So when he finished I grabbed a couple more guys and we prayed for him on the spot.
I walked away thinking, "OK I did what God told me to do. I was obedient. But nothing's gonna happen."
The next morning, I felt prompted to pray for him again and I did during my devotions. Later that day, I texted him. Here's the convo:
Me: How did it go today?
Him: Pain free and awesome, thanks for asking :-)
Me: You're kidding! No pain? The MD said 6-8 weeks.
Him: No pain, no spasms, no discomfort, no kidding!
Me: Wow! So work was good?
Him: It was great!
I was floored. I told Karyn about his healing and I said, "this is scary. God answered our prayers for his healing." Karyn said, "why is that scary?" I said, "because I obeyed and God healed. What else does that mean God wants to do?"
Later that week, I talked to my friend in person. He said when he woke up the next day (the day after we prayed together) he got ready for work and had forgotten all about his pain until I texted him. He said that it was then that he realized that God had healed him.
When I heard of his healing, I had mixed emotions:
- I had doubt. "Did God really do that?"
- I had some fear. "What else will happen if I pray? Will God do it again?" but also- I became more encouraged to pray right away with people in need. - I had my faith lifted.
There may be people who heard of my friend's healing who may have also asked themselves, "Why won't God heal me? I have asked God numerous times and nothing has changed." Maybe his healing caused them to feel discouraged.
Yet...Who knows the mind of God? Who can understand the ways He works? Who can bring an accusation before God?
These are all definitively unanswerable in my mind.
Still, I will pray.
I continue to attempt to understand, trust and believe.
I try to rejoice with those who have their prayers answered.
I mourn with those who don't seemingly have their prayers answered.
Yet, even in my imperfection and weakness, I point to God. What we see can't be all there is...BE HOLY.BE A MAN.
Self love is natural and not to be thought of as sinful. One tale-tell sign that we love ourselves is the manner in which treat our bodies. "For no one ever hates his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it" (Eph. 5:29
NRSV). When we mistreat our bodies -- for example, drinking too much alcohol, over eating or eating too much junk food, indulging in sexual immorality, neglecting proper exercise -- we are speaking volumes about how we feel about our inner selves.
I once thought that one of the problems with my inner life was that I loved myself too much. But I have concluded that this is not the case whatsoever. If I truly loved myself then I would always do what is best for myself, as I walk daily before God, and do good to others. This has not been a reality for me in the past. One of the major problems with my inner life has been self-blame, and self-rejection, not self-love. I have had difficulty even liking myself, not to mention loving
Henri Nouwen, in his book The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
, explains that "self-blame is not a form of humility. It is a form of self-rejection." (86) When an event does not pan out as I wished, self-blame sets in, and I imagine such blame as godly humility. Nouwen writes: "When a friendship does not blossom, when a word is not received, when a gesture of love is not appreciated, do not blame it on yourself. This is both untrue and hurtful." (86) I must endeavor to view all forms of rejection objectively.
For example, given that Christ is Lord of my life, I must understand that He is guiding my steps as I seek to live in, through, and for Him (Ps. 37:23
). If I encounter some form of rejection, I must understand that, in an ultimate sense, the Lord has another plan. If I do not, however, view rejection in such a manner, but begin to reject myself, then a dangerous worldview can be adopted. Nouwen writes: Every time you reject yourself, you idealize others. You want to be with those whom you consider better, stronger, more intelligent, more gifted than yourself. Thus you make yourself emotionally dependent, leading others to feel unable to fulfill your expectations and causing them to withdraw from you. This makes you blame yourself even more, and you enter a dangerous spiral of self-rejection and neediness. (86) I have experienced this reality, and I can attest that Nouwen's conclusion is correct. Leaving myself utterly vulnerable to the dependence of others for validity or happiness or fulfillment is desperate. In the end, the only one hurt is myself. At such a point, self-rejection sets in, and a vicious cycle is repeated.
I cannot, nor should anyone else, deny that when rejection is experienced a sense of hurt is also present. Rejection hurts because we perceive ourselves as unworthy of love and respect. But unless we reject self-rejection, then we will continue on an anxious, downward spiral of mental and emotional anguish, torment, and despair.
If someone I imagined as a friend constantly mistreats me, emotionally hurts me, I should not, then, reject myself. But neither should I harbor malcontent for the other person. Harshly blaming others in such instances can be just as harmful as self-blame. I should give no place for a root of bitterness to grow within me (Eph. 4:31
; Heb. 12:15
In such a circumstance, I should merely conclude that the two of us do not make an appropriate, friendly match. Yes, I may still experience a little hurt. But I should not be devastated by and obsessive over the fact that we do not make a perfect, friendly match. Nor should I reject myself, and think less of myself, as someone unworthy of quality relationships. Nouwen writes:Avoid all forms of self-rejection. Acknowledge your limitations, but claim your unique gifts and thereby live as an equal among equals. That will set you free from your obsessive and possessive needs and enable you to give and receive true affection and friendship. (87) If I am to be a healthy friend, or brother in Christ to others, then I must maintain a proper view of myself. If I am constantly rejecting myself then how can I expect others to embrace me?
Moreover, if God the Creator embraces me in and through Christ (Eph. 1:5-6
), and even counts me as His friend (John 15:14-15
), then I actually have no right to self-rejection. If God has not rejected me, then I cannot reject myself. Rejecting myself would implicate God's better judgment. By His grace, I will constantly be rejecting self-rejection.
Henri J.M. Nouwen, The Inner Voice of Love: A Journey Through Anguish to Freedom
(New York: Image Books, 1998).
This post was written by William W Birch. For the original post with comments, go to: http://www.classicalarminian.com/2013/01/rejecting-self-rejection.htmlBE HOLY.BE A MAN.