Archives For Bitterness

Until Then

October 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

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brokenroadUnanswered pain won’t go unanswered forever…but it sure feels like it sometimes. Pain is a former thing that will one day pass away. Life has a way of bringing challenges into our lives that at times seem too much to endure. Aches, limitations and even permanent limitation haunt many this side of eternity. Depression that is inescapable and scarring that runs through the soul unhealed, call for many to give up…and they do.

For all the bad things pain brings…pain also acts as a signpost pointing to an end to pain forever. Pain has a small whisper calling for you to endure anyway. Pain speaks with a faint voice of courage and resourcefulness; calling us to take hold of the future that will one day be ours. Pain calls to you to help others who are going through similar pain until the pain is no more.

Revelation 21:4b stands true, “neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” You will have a new body in the age to come. You will be untouched by the things of this present age. Pain, disease and any limitations will be forever cast aside.

For now, there is a call to press on, a call to endure by the power of His grace, which is sufficient for all things and all circumstances. Paul asked the Lord three times to remove his thorn in the flesh. The answer he received from the Lord was simply this, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:9

Until then…

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glass

Samuel Hamilton in East of Eden once wrote, “Two stories have haunted us and followed us from our beginning. . . . We carry them along with us like invisible tails—the story of original sin and the story of Cain and Abel. And I don’t understand either of them. I don’t understand them at all, but I feel them.

Original sin is the story of the fall of humanity. Adam and Eve disobey God and death had a birthday. The story of Cain and Abel is the story of violence finding its first platform of death and destruction.

Brian Zanhd in his book, Beauty Will Save The World, teaches that the picture of individuals going wrong is seen in the story of Adam and Eve and the picture of civilization going wrong is seen in the story of Cain and Abel.

Separation from God and violence was never God’s plan for us as individuals or for civilization. We were created to reflect the image of God. We were designed to take care of each other. Violence is not the way of the kingdom of God.

God’s rule and reign in the here and now is not through violence and power. His rule and His reign are through the work of the Holy Spirit working not only in us, but through us toward others by the power of love.

Love is the greatest power ever known to man. Love was perfectly demonstrated on the cross. When violence taunted Jesus to fight back, He fought back with love and not violence. He took all the sins of the world and its violence upon himself and said, “It is finished!” He defeated it with love. So must we!

We can only love like God when we move toward God in submission. We must not be violent to get our way. The Gospel was never gifted to us to force upon the sinner. It was gifted to us to love the sinner to the foot of the cross. Violence will always and only be seen as corrupt in God’s sight. (See Genesis 6:11-13)

The Church is called to be God’s new humanity in the world. We are not called to call down fire like James and John wanted to do when Jesus was rejected. They asked to call fire down, and Jesus warned them that they knew not what spirit they were being lead by.

When we live God’s peace to the world, we show forth His lordship. The world system cannot bring peace. Only God can do that, and He did it by the cross. When we follow the politics of forgiveness and redemption, we find that we are following Jesus.

When you and I answer the call to deny self and take up the cross and follow Christ, we are baptized to the imperative call to love our enemies. Christ sending His sheep out among wolves is about love and never about retaliation. I’ve heard it said many ways and it is true…the beauty of love and kindness is most strikingly seen in the darkest of places.

We are called to be light. We are called to walk in His love. Both are done in the darkness, and both cast darkness out. Now walk bold today my friend. Walk in love. You will find you are walking in the footsteps of Christ Himself.

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bandaid

Wounds can produce the most amazing and beautiful testimonies for God’s glory. The story of your wounds becomes His glories story when you put them in His hands. Wounds show that we as Christ followers are being healed toward a future where wounds will be no more.

Holding on becomes easier when you know He is holding you instead of you holding on to Him. Meaning for your wounds may come, meaning for your wounds may not come, but soon and very soon you will understand- when eternity breaks in to heal the earthbound wounds of this age.

In the now, we count the times we pray for complete healing, but then, prayer will not be needed. He may heal you now, but He will certainly heal you then. Keep moving; keep believe, and keep living because He, with wounds in His hands, side and feet- lives for you. In fact, His wounds were for your ultimate healing.

Wounds that remain don’t mean that He doesn’t hear you or care for you. In fact, wounds that continue testify to the fact that He is true and alive. Jesus said in this world you would have trouble. However, He went on to say, “But take heart! I have overcome the world.” We walk through the shadows now only to eventually walk into the eternal day He promised.

You were not called to conceal your pain. As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “my tooth is aching” than to say “my heart is broken.”

You are a wounded healer being healed.

 

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Have you ever felt numb emotionally and spiritually? I’m sure you have. Maybe even today you find yourself in just such a place. You don’t have any feelings because they seem to be gone. The effect of sadness and depression over the many closed doors in your life have slowly cut off your faith blood supply, and you feel only numbness.

Numbness! That place in your faith life where you want to completely give up, but you know you can’t, and you know you won’t. Numbness is the part of walking by faith that personally haunts me the most. Maybe you know the feeling I’m referring to?

You are doing everything right and still all the doors in your life seem to close with a dull rudeness. You break out your faith check list to make sure you are walking pleasing to the Lord and sure enough everything for the most part seems to be right on track. Why then is every door closing, and yet for everyone else around you, the doors seem to not even have a close option?

Numbness will take you to the place of Elijah. Elijah had just witnessed an incredible miracle in his life. He witnessed God move on Mount Carmel in such a way that human involvement couldn’t be credited with any part of it. Yet, not long after the open door miracle, we see him whining that he’s all alone as a follower of God. He is numb! He is in the perfect storm.

Numbness led him to isolation but even in the isolation God was there. Numbness can’t push God away from you. He is commanded to get up and eat and to his surprise food and water have been supplied for him. Numbness can’t cut you off from your needs being supplied.

Then he was told, “Go, stand on the mountain at attention before GOD. GOD will pass by.” We are informed that a hurricane type wind passed through the mountains and shattered the rocks, but God wasn’t in the wind. Then after the wind there came an earthquake, but God wasn’t found in it either. Next, fire came, and God was not found in the fire. Finally, a whisper! God was in the whisper.

Numbness can’t be blown away. Numbness can’t be shattered away. Numbness can’t be shaken away. Numbness can’t be burnt away. However, numbness can be whispered away.

The whisper always comes. The whisper always comes. I’m waiting on my whisper. It will come!  How about you?

sheepfence

Caution! Looking over the fence can lead to cutting your chin. A better usage of your chin is to bow it in prayer, thanksgiving at the feet of Jesus. Bowing your chin in prayer and thanksgiving acknowledges Christ as Lord. Cutting your chin on the fence revels the desire to be the center of the universe and last I checked, neither you, nor I can run the universe. The call of the Christ follower has never been to look for what we already have. We have everything. We have been rescued. We have Him.

I guess looking over the fence started in the garden. God assured Adam and Eve that He had everything in control and hadn’t missed a detail. He even gave details about the tree to leave alone. Guess what? That tree soon became their “fence.” The enemy introduced a very seductive word. That word was introduced to get them to look over the fence. That word was, “surely.” The serpent spoke, “You will not surely die.” In other words,  the lie was, “You don’t have all that you need.”

Looking over the fence is a hard one to resist. We all want answers that fit with how we think it should be or how we think it ought to be. Therefore, we often think to ourselves, the answers I’m looking for are surely on the other side of the fence. After all, I can smell the barbecue goodness coming from the other side. I can hear the laughter of plenty. They never seem to hurt or want for anything on the other side of the fence.

Life always seems better elsewhere, but it’s not.  What is out of our touch, or inaccessible, often seems of more wealth than what is present and sanctioned in our life on God’s side of the fence. It seems to be in our human nature to desire what we can’t have, and at the same time despise what we have right under our feet.

I’ve often found I start looking over the fence when I stop ministry to God. Ministering to God is the safest place to be. When I totally surrender to the beauty of sitting at His feet, the fence has no power and the voices on the other side grow strangely dim, and my soul gives way to a song.

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.” Psalm 23:5-6

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There are 365 days in a year. I’ve never tried, but I would be willing to bet, if I placed the word happy on each day of a calendar when I finished the day happy, there would be less happy days than not. If it were one big wall calendar, you could back away from it to get the whole view, and it would look like a hopeless sight. However, that’s not the way I would see it as a Christ follower.

As a Christ follower my goal is not happiness. My inheritance is joy. Joy is not even a goal. Joy is a gift. I don’t have to fight for it. I don’t have to earn it. The Spirit of God living on the inside of me gives Joy. Now, back up from the same calendar and take another look and you would see the word joy on every day.

Happiness is an emotion. I enjoy experiencing happiness, but it’s not life giving. Joy, on the other hand, is a bi-product of the Holy Spirit. Joy arrives each day on the wings of mercy and walks with me through the ups and down of everyday life. When I walk with joy, happiness often merges along side of me for a while, and it’s nice, but when happiness leaves I don’t grieve because joy is always there.

Joy can’t leave because it’s a gift of God. Weeping might endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning.  If happiness is your goal there are many things you can do that brings it to you temporary. However, once that experience is over, happiness runs off and begs for you to wear yourself out chasing it again.

You never have to chase joy. Joy is part of the DNA that was given to you when the Spirit of God came to live inside of you. You are a temple of God, and His temple is a temple full of Joy. At times, you might sing a song of unhappiness, but underneath the unhappiness is a river of Joy that can’t be explained or shut off. It just is! Enjoy your joy and you are enjoying God Himself.

Galatians 5:22-23

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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.

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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.”

In John 16:33 Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

We are promised tribulation. We are promised suffering. Suffering can be embraced as a wind of advancement or suffering can be embraced as a wind of retreat. The choice is yours to make. If you choose to retreat, then you will need no armor. If you choose to advance through it, then God has the power you need to do so.

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

1. They were beaten and charged to not speak in the name of Jesus anymore (A wounding of the flesh and a wounding of the spirit)

2. They rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name

3. 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, around and down and realize you are following Jesus.

The eyes of suffering see clearer when they look forward at the kingdom to come, instead of backwards at the suffering it takes to get there.

Out of the Darkness

Out of the dark forbidding soil The pure white lilies grow.

Out of the black and murky clouds, Descends the stainless snow.

Out of the crawling earth-bound worm A butterfly is born. Out of the somber shrouded night, Behold! A golden morn!

Out of the pain and stress of life, The peace of God pours down.

Out of the nails — the spear — the cross, Redemption — and a crown!

Author Unknown.

trust

Letting God into your problems is different from letting God watch your problems. Letting Him into your problems means you allow God to have control of what you are trying to run. On the other hand, letting God watch your problems is an insult to the work of the cross. He endured the cross so that you might be free in Him.

Psalm 46:10 says, “Cease striving and know that I am God.” (NASB) You and I fight against God when we try to control and win against the problems of our lives. It can’t be both ways with God when it comes to the subject of control. You can’t control and surrender control at the same time.  Either you are in control, or God is in control. One works to bring Him glory, and the other points to our own pride as the answer.

In order to have peace, the surrendering of your problems must be laid at the feet of Jesus. You must stop striving by taking your hands off the proverbial wheel of control. You long for peace and rest but you will never experience either until you give your problems to the Prince of Peace.

God loves to speak to His children, “The battle is not yours; it’s mine. You don’t have to fight in it.” You need to take the discouragement, the tiredness and the fatigue that comes along with carrying all the troubles and realize that it doesn’t depend on you. God is calling to you over and over to let Him  take control. Bless God today by giving Him the gift of your rubbish.

Turning your rubbish over to God means you must trust Him. When you don’t understand, or life seems unfair and makes remarkably little sense at all, that is a definite signpost pointing you to turn it all over to Jesus. Don’t be the person who says they trust God, but when trouble hits they run it through their own filter first. Remove the filter and let God be God in your life.

Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths”

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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.