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Leave-The-Past

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 When we hang on to our painful past memories, we either become withdrawn and unsociable; or explosive, cranky, critical, judgmental, reactive and mean towards others.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.

Genesis 45:1-3

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

Genesis 45:4

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.

Genesis 45:5

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.

live-like-jesus

The latter part of the verse found in Luke 6:35 rocks my world and I think it will rock your world if you read it slow enough for it to read you. Jesus of course, if you will remember, is talking about loving your enemies.

Jesus is saying things like, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” He then goes on to take His grace and mercy to deeper extremes that often causes our flesh to cry out, “INSANITY!”

I can’t speak for you, but if I wrote those verses myself, it would have to read something like the following to make sense to me. I would write, “Crush your enemies, do the worst thing to them before they can do something bad to you, don’t pray for them that abuse you, they deserve what they have coming.” I think you get my point.

It’s deep in us to seek revenge on those who mistreat us, and to point the accusing finger at the unjust and evil people of the world. However, the latter part verse 35, found in Luke 6 deals the ultimate conviction to the soul.

Luke 6:35 says, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, (THEN HERE IT IS) for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

Yes, that is correct! You read that right. God is KIND to the ungrateful and the evil. Now that is love. That is God’s love, and it should be our love. If He can love like that, then He can still love like that through us if we submit to His control and leading.

Anyone can have a ‘invite a friend to church Sunday,’ but can you have a ‘invite an enemy to church Sunday?’ Now that would change the world- don’t ya think?

I know you can love the loveable, but can you love the unlovable, the ungrateful and the evil? God does and I’m convinced that you and I can also. It’s hard but not impossible.

I challenge you with the words of N.T. Wright,“Think of the best thing you can do for the worst person, and go ahead and do it.

God has called us to be like Him and being like Him means you must love and seek to do good to the ungrateful and the evil. I bet if you do, you just might smell a little bit like Jesus.

Serving Jesus can’t be detached from serving others; otherwise you are not serving Him at all. Also, serving Jesus without serving your enemy is not serving Him at all also.

Peace

Problems-of-Faith

Acts 5:40-42 ESV

And when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.

 

It has been said, “God doesn’t simply want us to feel good. He wants us to be good. And very often the road to being good involves not feeling good.”

Suffering can be embraced as a wind of advancement OR Suffering can be embraced as a wind of retreat

In Acts 5, Peter and the apostles suffering pressed them forward and not backwards

  • They were beaten and charged not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore
  • They Rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name
  • They daily taught in the temple and from house to house, preaching Jesus

They could live through suffering because they had a view that looked higher than the suffering right in front of them.

Suffering becomes beautiful when you look up, down and around and realize you are following Jesus.

chrome-split-lock-washers

Many years ago when my children were small, they wanted a swing set. We lived in California at the time, and all the rest of our family lived in North Carolina. Several times a year, family would come and visit, and we always had a great time together.

Once, my in-laws came to visit, and they brought my brother-in-law also. The kids were so excited to see them and to be able to spend time with them. It wasn’t long however that the subject of the swing set came up and before another hour has pasted we were at the store picking out just the right one.

We bought the swing set and headed home. The kids were so excited they couldn’t contain themselves. We arrived home and unloaded the swing set in the back lawn and my father-in-law, my brother-in-law and me began the joyful job of putting it together.

The first thing we did was throw the instructions to the side. After all, that’s what any red-blooded male does, right? Anyway, we finally got it put together, and the kids were playing on the swing set and loving it. I began to clean up the trash and boxes, and while doing so, I came across a bag of lock washers we had left out.

That’s is correct! We forgot to put any lock washers on the swing set. It was at this time we made a choice I would so regret. We decided it was sturdy enough without them, and it would be okay. Over the next several months,  I saw first hand just how important the lock washers were. The swing set began to move in places it had no business moving. I was constantly tightening and re-tightening bolts to keep the swing set functioning properly.

Often, in our walk with Christ we can leave out what looks like is not needed and then we find out it’s not only needed but vital and necessary. In 1 Peter 3:17-22 there is a portion of scripture if you are not careful you will read over and leave it in the box so to speak.

Peter is moving along and has talked about physical suffering. Then he moves us behind the curtains to the spirits of suffering and how they have been defeated in Christ Jesus.  In other words, he doesn’t leave the washers in the box.

Jesus has defeated the unseen evil forces of this world that afflict you and me. It may not seem like it because we still suffer this side of heaven and earth coming together. However, I want you to know today that your suffering doesn’t determine your identity because your identity is in Christ. The powers of darkness have been broken and defeated. (Now but not fully yet)

I like to think of it this way. The President-elect of the United States is the title used for an incoming President of the United States. There is a period between Election Day and Inauguration Day.  The President-elect has a vision that those who believe in him follow. They follow and act out that vision even before his final taking of the office on Inauguration Day. The same is true of us as Christ followers. We live out what Jesus has accomplished by the cross and resurrection. We wait by moving forward with the help of the Spirit in this sinful and broken world.

You might find yourself suffering in the now, but one day suffering will be no more. Until then, follow the path, the same path Christ walked for each of us. The path of suffering that leads to the eternal sunrise of the 2nd coming, where death, hell and the grave will be casted away forever.

scab_healing

Don’t pick at your scabs! Healing can’t fully take place if you’re constantly picking at the very healing your body is trying to do for you. The same thing is true with emotional and spiritual wounds. They hurt and often feel like death is to follow, but soon, if you allow the Holy Spirit to do His work in you- scabs will form, and the healing underneath can actually begin.

It will be tempting to pick at the scabs. They will turn red and swollen. They will itch like crazy from time to time also. However, don’t pick them. Scabs are for a reason. Healing is taking place below the surface. You can’t see it, but one day you will see the beauty of the healing when the scabs naturally fall away.

Will any scares remain? Sometimes scars will hang around.  If scars show after the healing, don’t get upset. Instead of getting upset, try smiling because you are in good company. Jesus had a few scars also and even showed them off to the disciples.

1 Peter 5:10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Pain is no evil, unless it conquers us.  ~ Charles Kingsley

The Ugly Grudge Bucket

February 21, 2013 — 4 Comments

bucket

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.

people

Those outside of Christ have a perception of you. They know you are a follower of Christ; but how do they label you? Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

I once heard it said, “It should break our hearts that often we are known more for what we are against than what we are for, for who we have excluded than for who we have embraced.”

Years ago when I gave my life to Christ, I became part of the youth group at the church where I surrendered my life to Christ. It was an enthusiastic group of kids. They loved God very much. However, there was one thing that confused me much.

They spent a lot of time after the message in the altar praying. Now of course there was nothing wrong with that but it was some of the prayers I heard that confused me. The prayers didn’t confuse me because they were wrong. I think they confused me because they seemed incomplete. The prayers were one-sided prayers.

I would often hear prayers of repentance over sin they had committed in their lives. Of course,  there is nothing wrong with that because it’s the right thing to do. However, I would also hear prayers of repentance over things that were not sin. I’m not sure why they did that, but I can only assume it was motivated by the desire to be holy and closer to God. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with that, other than you’re repenting over something that doesn’t need repentance.

The thing that was missing were prayers that would accompany them out of an altar into the darkness of their world with the love, grace and mercy of Christ as their battle cry. Instead, I often saw these same kids walk into the darkness preaching their convictions onto those outside the faith. Therefore, many of them became known for what they were against, instead of what they were for.

I once heard Billy Graham say, “It’s the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.” I love that! I don’t have the ability to convict anyone. I do have the ability to bring guilt to someone but that not the same as the conviction the Holy Sprite brings. I much rather leave the task of drawing the heart of the outsider to Christ in the hands of the Spirit of God.

I don’t have the right to judge the outsider. That’s the job of God when He sees fit to do so. (Judging one another in the church is for another post) However, I will share just one scripture. 1 Cor 5:12, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders, but it certainly is your responsibility to judge those inside the church who are sinning.”

It’s my job and your job to love! When we love and show God’s love to the world it melts and convicts the heart of the outsider. When people met Jesus, they didn’t walk away with an opinion of what He was against. (Well, the religious Pharisees did because they needed to be shook up) When people encountered Jesus, they walked away hopeful because of what He was for.

So, allow me to ask you one last time. Those outside the faith, Do they define you by all the beautiful life-giving things you are for, or do they define you by all the things you are against?

Live like Jesus. Love like Jesus and He will change the world through your witness.

Stage

 

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.

Philippians 4:8-9
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.

jesus-betrayed-by-a-friend

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.

Matthew 18:21-22(ESV)
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.

 

dontlike

In a perfect world, every person you know would like you. However, this is not a perfect world as of yet. You can be the kindest and most compassionate person in the world, and yet there will be people that just don’t get you. There will be people that just don’t like you at all.

Right now, I bet you can see them with your minds eye. They don’t like you and it is just driving you crazy. It doesn’t occupy all of your thought life, but it pops up from time to time, just enough to keep you just off center in your walk with Christ.

Don’t misunderstand me, there might be a legitimate reason someone doesn’t like you very much. I’ve found in my life when that happens, it’s a excellent time to take an inventory and see if there is any truth there. If I think they are correct in their opinion of me, I take it as a chance to make some changes.

On the other hand, I know that no matter what I do, everyone is not going to like me, and the reality of the matter is, not everyone is going to like you.  The other person may have a low self-image, or they might be just insecure, and something about you just draws out the worst in them. The key is to not allow what they think of you to own you, or control you, or to fill you with questions about your worth.

Deep inside you want them to like you and that okay to want, but when you try to get people to like you; it most often leads to more frustration. You must remind yourself, that you can never please everyone. The focus needs to be taken off trying to please them.

The fact is, when you try and get the other person to like you…you are waste valuable friendship time with those who do like you. I often will find myself thinking way too much about someone who I know doesn’t like me, and when that happens, I’ve learned a little secret. My secret is to stop thinking about them, and start thinking and praying righteous thoughts over a friend that does like me.

Don’t misunderstand. I also pray for those who don’t like me, but I don’t have to purse them to my own detriment.

Allow me to give you a few tips to help you navigate people that don’t like you.

1. Don’t over focus on people that don’t like you (focus on positive relationships in your life)

2. Don’t treat those who don’t like you the same way they treat you (Kind of a Jesus thing)

3. Set a positive boundary in your life (You can only control you-not them)

4. Make a list of what bothers you about the other person (Then throw it away)

5. Forgive them (It’s the greatest thing you can do for you, and for them)

Remember Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”