I breathe, yet my soul is still heavy. I laugh although my soul is unrested. I battle, but the fight is never without only within. I thirst for significance discerning it’s not the goal of life. I’m just like you…waiting on the shore hesitant for my ego to die that I might truly live.
Archives For Confession
What is it about the past that holds so many people captive?
When I was growing up I worked in my father’s sheet metal shop, and there were all types of machinery, and tables for working with all things metal. One table had weighted magnets that would swing out over the table and hold a piece of metal down to the table once they were turned on. The metal would then be unmovable as you worked on it.
From time to time, I would jump up on the table and try and pull a magnet to the point of breaking it free from the table. It was a strength game my bothers, and I use to play to see who was the strongest. I was never able to break the magnets free, and neither were any of my brothers. It always remained locked in place. The only way to break it free was to cut the power off to the magnet.
Some of you today need to do the same thing and cut the power off to the past that has you in its grips. You have tried to pull your way free from the past. You have struggled really hard to be stronger than your past, but nothing seems to set you free. The only thing that will free you is to cut off the power of the past. You do that by believing God is at work in your life in the present.
We all have a past. A past filled with memories so powerful and hurtful that to recall them brings nothing but a pain to your soul and a knot to your stomach. When we hang on to our painful past memories, we either become withdrawn and unsociable; or explosive, cranky, critical, judgmental, reactive and mean towards others.
Jan Glidewell once said, “You can clutch the past so tightly to your chest that it leaves your arms to full to embrace the present.” I love the story of Joseph in the Bible. His story is one of my favorites. I’ll try and summaries and keep it brief as I give you some background and insight into his life and choices concerning his painful past.
- Joseph, son of Jacob, overcame a painful past.
- He was raised in what we would call a “dysfunctional family.”
- Sibling rivalry filled Jacob’s household.
- Joseph’s brothers caught him, threw him into a pit, and discussed killing him.
- One brother intervened and convinced them instead to sell Joseph as a slave In Egypt, where he became the property of Potiphar.
- Potiphar’s wife had eyes for Joseph and made continual sexual advances.
- He refused, she falsely charged him with attempted rape and he was imprisoned.
- While imprisoned, Joseph made friends with a baker and a cupbearer.
- Both promised to pull their political strings and secure Joseph’s release.
- In time, the baker was hanged, and the cupbearer was freed, but forgot Joseph.
- For two more years, Joseph’s remained in prison.
- One day Pharaoh had a dream that no one, but Joseph could interpret.
- Egypt would experience 7 years of plenty/7 years of famine.
- As a reward Pharaoh put Joseph over all of the agricultural activity in Egypt.
- The years of plenty came, and Joseph stored up. Seven years later the famine hit.
- This famine was so severe that even people outside of Egypt came to get food.
- One day, Joseph’s own brothers arrived.
- Joseph recognized them, but his brothers didn’t recognize him.
- Joseph sold them grain and tricked them into coming back before revealing himself.
1 Then Joseph could not restrain himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Make everyone go out from me!” So no one stood with him while Joseph made himself known to his brothers. 2 And he wept aloud, and the Egyptians and the house of Pharaoh heard it. 3 Then Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph; does my father still live?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed in his presence.
They were terrified. They did not know anything about Potiphar’s wife and the undeserved prison sentence. Neither did they know about the abandonment by the cupbearer. But they remembered the pit and their bartering and selling their own brother. They had every reason to be terrified
And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt.
Perhaps they expected a call for the royal guards, and the punishment they deserved for the cruelty they had shown their own brother. But no retaliation comes. These brothers did not know that Joseph had made peace with his painful past. His own words indicate he had let go of any vindictive feelings he held against them. He had cut off the power to the past.
5 But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.
How was Joseph able to put all his painful past behind him? What was Joseph’s secret? He practiced true forgiveness. Joseph could have struck back and felt the exhilaration that comes from getting even. Instead, Joseph chose to forgive. Until you forgive, the pain of your past will continue to be felt in your present.
I chagllege you today to cut of the power to the magnet that is hold you in the past. Forgiveness is how the power switch is cut off. It is hard to forgive but possible.
I want you to think of the power of your words today. I not only want you to think about them, but I want you to take an inventory of them today. I ask you to pay close attention throughout the day to the words you use toward others and even yourself.
When I was young I worked in my fathers business. He owed a heating and air condition business and also did metal fabrication. We had a supply room, and from time to time he would make me do inventory of all our products. I would spend days counting big items all the way down to small items. For 8 hours a day for several days I would count.
It was a tedious job, but it was a necessary job also. Once I had the inventory completed, I had an accurate count and assessment of everything we owned. I could now order or add to what was lacking, and I could now even throw away anything that wasn’t needed or was broken. Inventory clears things up and makes it easier to see exactly where you are. It clears the path forward.
There are times in life you need to take an inventory of things. Today I want you to start taking an inventory of your words. Have you ever stopped to think about the power of the words you use? The words you say to yourself, others, enemies, friends, co-workers, your family, spouse and your children?
Your words affect your life. Your words affect the lives of others. Most importantly, your words reveal what is in your heart. Words show what you have in your inventory. Many miscalculate the power of their words. They say to themselves, “It’s not all that important, they are just words.” That’s not true through. Words are powerful. Words can build or tear down. They can destroy or create. Words set the tone of every conversation.
With words, you can make someone’s day or shatter someone’s day. You can inspire someone or discourage someone. You can build someone up or tear someone down. Your words can move some to do their best work, or to work against you. Words are either life affirming or destructive. For all these reasons, we should take an inventory or our words often, and choose our words carefully.
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words, so allow me to give you a picture. This picture is found in the book of Luke.
Luke 6:43-45 (NKJV)
43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Emphases added)
The picture stand on its own. Words come from the heart. They are either good or bad. Inventory is tied to our hearts. We are challenged to clear up our words, thereby clearing up our hearts. When our hearts are clear of destructive words, we can then speak into the lives of others words of life and creation.
You see, frequently, though not always, what people criticize in others is what they are afraid of in their own lives. Jesus also pointed out that a persons words would eventually tell what kind of person he or she is. Therefore, it’s imperative that we take an inventory of junk words still floating around in our hearts. It’s important to do so. It’s life changing to do so. In fact, God himself will one day take inventory of our heart.
Matthew 12:36-37 (NKJV)
36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
We as Christ followers have a great task at hand, which is taking an inventory of our words for the sake of His glory. I challenge you today to look closely at your conversations and at the carelessness we often use in our speech. You might just be surprised at the junk that is still in your heart.
My prayer: Let the words of my mouth be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
N.T. Wright once said, “Moral reformation which leaves the heart untouched is about as useful as tying bunches of grapes on to a briar-bush.” I totally agree with his assertion.
Adding more good things to your life in the effort to become holier than the next guy without heart transformation can only lead to more darkness. God is interested in our relationship with Him as the source of our light.
Often, someone trying to prove to God and others how good they are, end up becoming obnoxiously zealous with a spiritual stink. You can never walk your way into a deeper relationship with God by moral reformation that is self-generated.
Moral reformation is birthed out of a surrendered relationship to the potter who alone can shape you into His own purpose. Any and all enduring reformation comes from time spent with God.
He is the vine, and we are the branches. We must allow the fruit to grow from the perfect source. We can’t grow our own fruit without Him, and we can’t offer our own fruit back to Him as something special.
Morality isn’t ultimately an individual thing for the Christ follower. Morality is found in the soil of a fierce relationship with the creator.
Do you have a spiritual stench?
I’m empty today. There is nothing inside of me that is happy. I’m my own worse nightmare. I break promises to God all the time, and I feel there is no way He can love me knowing the thoughts of my heart.
Bitterness haunts me and broken dreams seem to be the only thing in front of me. I keep going and yet deep inside I long for another direction for my life. I question if God knows what He is doing in my life. I fail so often I’ve almost started to expect nothing less.
I wonder constantly how to be a better Father, and yet I seem to never follow through on things and time is slipping away. I desperately want to be a better husband and yet I fall short time and time again. I want to be a better pastor, but I’m confused to what all that means and I wonder if I’m just setting myself up for more disappointment.
I write these things today to show you the voices I encounter on a daily basis, but I also write to tell you more.
I’m actually not empty because He said He would always be with me. That is a promise I can count on regardless of feelings. I don’t have to always be happy because He has promised me joy by the power of His Holy Spirit. I don’t have to worry about being my own worse nightmare because He is for me. I may break promises, but He is the God of mercy and even though He sees the thoughts of my heart, He knows I’m but clay and loves me anyway.
The Bitterness that comes from broken dreams only proves He has a better plan and a better way. The longing for another direction is only a thought of momentary escape, and God knows I’m committed until the end. He is not afraid of my questioning Him because in doing so, I’m drawn closer to His heart. I might fail more often than succeed, but He is there to pick me up when everyone else has run away.
He whispers to me that being a Father is not about being perfect but about loving them and pointing them toward Him, the perfect Father of all. He encourages me to love my wife as Christ loved the church and yet knows I will fail from time to time. Again He shows me His mercy and Grace. He calls to me to remain steadfast in being a pastor and promises me that when the chief Shepherd appears, I will receive the unfading crown of glory.
Oh the beauty of following Christ! Maybe you have similar feelings about your life today? If you do have similar feelings, then welcome to the human story. If you do have similar feelings, then He knows all about them. If you do have similar feelings, then you need to know they will one day pass away forever. Until then, keep walking, keep believing for He is with you.
There is just something ugly about a Christ follower carrying grudges. Carrying around that proverbial bucket filled with ugly is a laborious task to keep doing. In fact, not only is it laborious,but also it grieves the heart of God. We are supposed to be people of forgiveness.
Grudges lead to nowhere good! Grudges damage everything. Grudges will hurt you from the inside out and will produce a wedge between you and your fellowship with God. Letting go of grudges and moving beyond them is the only godly option.
Letting go of grudges can prove to be difficult. Let’s face it, when you have been hurt, it is hard to let go. Fear often plays a role in us not letting go because we don’t want to ever be hurt again. Therefore, we hold on to the grudge and keep our guard up. As right as that may feel, you and I know deep down inside it’s just downright wrong.
You can only be free when you forgive. Otherwise, you are in a prison of your own creation. You are letting the grudge be your Lord instead of Jesus. Anger and frustration control you more than you know. However, you would do well to remember Ephesians 4:26-27 – And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.
Grudges are nothing to play with. Grudges can take you down a path you never thought you would go. You might do something you will regret forever. Turn before it’s to late and you jeopardize your reputation and the position you carry as a Christ follower.
Holding on to a grudge is not done in a vacuum. The longer you hold a grudge the more you will entice others into thinking about the person you are angry at in the same way you do, then you become the blind leading the blind. Read with your heart the following verses and enjoy the rest of your day.
Hebrews 12:14-15 – Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.
Getting away has always been hard for me. I feel like the weight of many peoples lives lean upon my faithfulness. They count on me to give them comfort, hope, purpose, and a weekly word from God. I try to get away a few times a year, but I can’t ever seem to get away.
My wife knows how hard it is for me. She tells me all the time when we are on vacation or an anniversary getaway, to let go of ministry for a few days. I do understand what she is saying, but in my heart I hear, “If you let go of your ministry thoughts you are letting go of God’s call on you life. You are letting go of your responsibility and call to help people.”
While on our latest getaway, (our 24th anniversary) I tried my best to disconnect. Amy asked me more than a few times to stop thinking of ministry and doing ministry. I smiled each time and said, “No problem, I will.” Thirty-seconds later while she was talking, I’m thinking of some family that needs my attention. I’m trying to listen to her and hear my own thoughts and plans that will help them through a difficult time.
I’m not particularly good at faking my wife out. She knows me too well, and yet she somehow still loves me. I don’t get it! I’m one lucky man for sure. Anyway, it doesn’t take long for my wife to see I’m lost in thought and not actually in the moment with her. It’s kind of like when the T.V. is on, and she is trying to communicate with me and I have part of my attention on the T.V. and part of my attention on her. It just doesn’t work for either one of us. At least in a T.V. situation she can and does just turn it off or hit the mute button to capture my attention.
I’m convinced my wife knows me better than I know myself. I’m certain God knows me better than myself, and I’m pretty sure He speaks through her often if I would just listen. Our latest getaway has certainly helped me. She told me many times to unplug and sadly it took me to the last day, but I think I’m beginning to understand a absolute truth. It’s a truth I know, but often I don’t apply properly. That true is, God doesn’t need me to do His work; He has called and chosen me to do His work.
The “need” part is where I get messed up. I often live my life like God needs me, and I put undue pressure on my life and family. Instead, I need to wake up the “CHOSEN ME” part. According to research 40% of pastors and 47% of spouses are suffering from burnout, frantic schedules, and/or unrealistic expectations. I’m convinced much of the cause is because pastors, and yes, even spouses can’t let go when God has called them to rest.
I once read, “Pastor burnout is a weapon the enemy uses with great efficiency. It is surprising in its simplicity but brutal in its impact. Burnout begins by encouraging us to do what we do best – minister to people.” I’ve learned this last time away, sometimes I’m the people, and God wants to minster to my family and me.
You can only think about one thing at a time. Don’t believe me?
Try spelling aloud, “I love Jesus with all my heart” at the same time as you write down your address on paper. (Go ahead and try it; I’ll wait.)
I’m convinced this is a blessing and a gift of God. There are times in our lives we need to fully immerse ourselves in Him and nothing else. We need to get our minds and hearts refocused on life giving thoughts and directions.
For instance, let’s say someone has broken your heart or wronged you in a particularly profound way. All you seem to be able to do is fixate on them and it’s driving you crazy. It steals your joy, your smile, your happiness, your forward motion and a host of other good emotions that belong to you.
When you have been wronged it brings pain. Pain is a part of life and often the hammer that drives the nail of suffering into your heart. When suffering takes over my emotions I have a choice to make. I can continue to think about it or think about the things Jesus told me to think about.
1 Peter 5:7, instructs us, “7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”
You can take your pain and emotional distress and cast them on Him. You can cast them into the sea of His mercy and love and watch them sink away.
Often, we turn to God for help, but we don’t take Him the problem. We manage the problem under lock and key. We open it over and over again and complain about it. Instead, you must take it to Him and cast it upon Him. After all, that’s what He said to do. You want to be obedient, correct? I thought so.
It’s been said, “The human mind is like a stage. Only one performance can play at a time.” Now, let Jesus have the stage by thinking on the things He said to think on. He has given you the power to choose who will play on your stage. It can be the thought of a person that hurt you, or Jesus who can heal you. It’s your move. God bless you.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
Psalm 55:12-15 (ESV)
12 For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend. 14 We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. 15 Let death steal over them; let them go down to Sheol alive; for evil is in their dwelling place and in their heart
When a person helps heal a wound in your life you are thankful, and rightfully so. They were there for you in your moment of greatest need. However, what happens when that same person reopens the wound by partnering with the very one that caused the wound in the first place?
When that happens it’s called, talking out of both sides of their mouth. It simply means to say different things to different people about the same subject. Betrayal hurts no matter what you call it.
Many things in life hurt and can be difficult to handle, but when a friend throws you under the bus, it’s a pain of a special category. Betrayal brings many negative emotions to the surface of your heart, and it hurts tremendously.
In our text, the psalmist uses some strong language in verse 15 that I’m not sure how to fully process, nor interrupt in a way that makes perfect senses to me. However, it’s real language and shows the depth of the pain he was feeling.
Getting rid of negative emotions can be a battle all by it’s self, and the last thing you need to do is add another battle to the battle that is already raging in your heart. I suggest you take a cue from Jesus himself and walk in the power of extreme forgiveness. I once heard it said that forgiveness means to “let go.” Letting go can be done in spite of your emotions.
Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal. When a friend betrays you, you can seek revenge and feed your negative emotions if you choose, but it’s only a prison you are building for yourself.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
Let me say it again. Forgiveness is the only way to move beyond betrayal.
21 Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.
Anger is an emotion and emotions serve a purpose for good if we submit them to God. Anger can find solutions to a problem or it can add destruction to a problem. For example, if you are angry at a certain behavior in your child that needs to be corrected, anger is an emotion that is telling you something is not right. Anger is not the problem. How anger is allowed to manifest is the real issue. Anger can be useful or hurtful.
Not long ago, I lost my temper with one of my children. I allowed anger to determine an unhealthy way of handling the problem. I started out calm enough, and my correction seemed to be going okay. Then something happen that caused me to raise my voice.
At that moment, whether I want to admit it or not, I lost my influence for good and turned into the old fallen man that doesn’t reflect the long suffering of God, nor his patient love. In my heated moment, I forgot that it is the goodness of God that leads us to repentance.
The more I allowed my angry to run out of control the more it consumed all the grace, mercy and reflection of God away from my child. I could see the fire of anger burning but instead of throwing water on the fire, I just threw more gas. The frustrations of my adult world that I should take to God in prayer and leave at His feet found their way out and projected onto my child.
My anger had become harmful instead of constructive and redemptive. I’ve heard it said before, and I believe it to be true, “Anger becomes harmful when you don’t regard it as a signal to fix the cause.” The bible declares in Ephesians 4:26, “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry,”
I got the second part of that verses right. Before the sun went down, I had apologized to my child. The next time I want to get the first part of the verse right. In my anger, I don’t want to sin. When I honestly think about what I did, I concluded I was exceedingly mad at myself more than what my child was doing. I had some unresolved stress in my own life that I had allowed to come out in the form of anger and onto my child. I had failed to protect my child from me.
If you have ever had a similar experience and need to apologize, here are a few tips.
1. Leave your pride at the door.
2. Just say you were wrong. Don’t include any excuses.
3. Look your child in the eyes and say I’m sorry.
4. Ask for forgiveness. Let them decided if they want to give it. Don’t demand it.