Sometimes, the words of Jesus bother me.
Care to jump in the mirror with me for some plank yankin’?
It’s then that I try to shut my mouth and silence the alerts and distractions around me to examine the bother:
Sharp, yucky bother? Just the enemy trying to condemn me over a thing of which Jesus has already pronounced me “not guilty”.
Warm bother? That’s the Spirit drawing me closer to the mirror for some good old fashioned plank yankin’.
While our written blog has been back burner’d in favor of building a few recently released and soon to be released YouTube video blog (vlog) articles, this week I had a hard time not passing on the following post from a really sharp thinker some of you already know – Daniel Diaddigo. Dan’s had a good look at the plank that was in his eye, my eye, and probably yours…
Allow me to hand the mirror over to Dan so you can stare long and hard at it. I pray you’ll join me for some plank yankin’.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17
We’ve been talking about things that distract us from Jesus, deep things that growl at us from the corners of our hearts. Last time, we discovered that we can trace our fear to misplaced hope. To conquer fear we must confront it and bring it before Jesus. Fear approaches us from the future, with things that might hurt us tomorrow. But what about those things that hurt us from the past?
A college roommate once told me, “Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I have to like him.” The “him” was a mutual acquaintance who had apparently fallen from favor. I was a babe in the faith, begging wisdom wherever I could find it. Here was a friend, more seasoned than I, telling me over milk and cookies that there would be people I just didn’t have to like.
A liberating thought.The fact that I recall this conversation so many years later gives me a clue that I must have made some space for the idea. I see now this is the Spirit’s prompt to shine light into a corner that needs attention.
Live long enough, feel long enough – and you’ll experience the pain that accompanies the human condition. It is a pain born of brokenness. Deep cuts. Wounds of the heart that pump the serpent’s venom into our souls. Wounds at the hand of another.
For some, these wounds bear the scars of physical or sexual abuse. Others carry the weight of an absent dad or a cheating spouse. People who have hurt us, who left us hemorrhaging and gasping for air. People we don’t like. People, if we are willing to go there – we hate.
Jesus says that anyone who hates his brother or sister is a murderer. And somehow we’re okay with that. “You know Jesus, always using hyperbole and parables to make a point.”
“Yeah, like when the disciples asked Jesus how many times they had to forgive their brothers and Jesus said, ‘seventy times seven’ which meant, like, ‘infinity’?”
“I know it. That’s crazy talk.”
How are you doing with loving “difficult” people?
I’ll be honest. If I could write my own story, there are people I would remove from its pages. I would erase them completely. I’d pencil in new characters to take their places. Characters who were neither arrogant nor hypocritical nor small; characters who did not steal from me, or belittle me, constantly compete with me, or otherwise cover my light with their bowls. I would cut the characters that cut off people’s heads in God’s name; and I would dispose of those who sell girls to wealthy bidders. There are people who simply would not exist in my world – if I could write my story. Hmmm. Maybe Jesus is onto something.
Unforgiveness distracts us from Jesus. It diverts our gaze from Him and cements it to our pain. Jesus wants to break the shackles that bind us to our wounds. To fully experience the freedom that Jesus offers, we must choose to walk away from the wounds and to release those who inflicted them. We must… forgive.
Forgiving “those who trespass against us” is not easy. It can be a process. Here are some things that help me. I hope you find them to be useful:
- Surrender your right to not be wounded. Or, as the Apostle Paul wrote, “why not rather be wronged?”
- Cancel the debt. Write down on a sheet of paper what the offending party owes you. Respect? Credit? Dignity? Reputation? Then tear up the paper. Debt cancelled. It is Jesus who makes us whole, not people.
- Embrace Jesus’ suffering. Jesus suffered unjustly. Sometimes He gives us an opportunity to share in that suffering. Truly, an opportunity. I have discovered there is a special flavor of intimacy in that place where we consciously occupy Jesus’ suffering. It’s hard to describe, but I know it when I taste it – and it’s sweet, not bitter.
- Set up my assailant as a prayer target. Have you ever tried to forgive someone but it just doesn’t seem to stick? You find yourself having a thousand imaginary conversations, reliving the offense again and again? Remember, we have an enemy who will leverage our pain to distract us from Jesus. Try this: Every time these thoughts assail you, fight back with prayer. Aggressive, war-footing, prayer. Speaking out loud may help:“Here’s the deal. Every time I hear these thoughts, I am going to pray for _________. I’m going to pray for this person everything I would pray for myself. I’m going to ask the Lord to prosper him / (her) and draw him near and conform him to His image. So, if that’s what you desire as well, I invite you to keep bringing me these thoughts to remind me to pray. Thank you for the prompt.”
Then, allow for the possibility that your persecutors may have been brought to you by the Lord so that they may be set free in response to your intervention. I know, twisted, huh?
Okay, let’s strip this down to its foundation. Is it possible to forgive, to truly forgive at a heart level, absent the life of Jesus pulsing through us? I would say “no”. No, because in order to forgive, something in us must die. Let’s call this something the offended Self.
We who are being conformed to Christ’s image will eventually experience what it means to forgive someone who does not deserve our forgiveness. In this, we are invited to join God in the ministry of reconciliation of which Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians.
Yes, forgiveness will cost us – just like it cost Jesus.
“While we were enemies of God, Christ died for us.”
My roommate was right. We don’t have to like them. We have to LOVE THEM. We have to love them to death.
1 Corinthians 6:7, Romans 5:8
I hope you and your family are richly blessed by this “pass on” post of Daniel Diadiggo’s “Christmas Chronicles”. For previous posts in this series, click below.
Grace and peace,
#5 first steps
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men on whom His favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in a manger.
Every journey begins with a first step. And every first step starts with a choice.
A choice to move forward.
In a direction.
And away from something else.
Choices confront us in the silence of our hearts.
In one moment the shepherds’ view of the sky was blocked by a chorus of angels exploding praises to God. But then the angels withdrew to heaven. And into the gap rushed the deafening silence of distant stars. Silence and a choice.
God will do that. He will shake our worlds. He will paint His glory across our nights and fill our ears with praise and we will find Him equally terrifying and irresistible. In that moment, He will be more real to us than the air we breathe.
Then, He will withdraw into silence. It’s inside the silence we will wonder if it was all a dream.
I wonder what the shepherds felt in that instant where the angels withdrew. Were their ears still ringing? Were there eyes still searching? I wonder how long it was before someone said, “Let’s go…”
The shepherds’ first steps toward Bethlehem moved them AWAY from the world they’d come to know as normal, away from their jobs and the familiar sounds of the night and toward a… baby… in a manger. The ones the angels told them about.
When God says “Go” He gives us plenty of reason to trust Him at His Word. But trust is not trust where doubt is not possible. In the silence – in that place where trust and doubt wrestle for our souls, we must choose.
The first steps can be the hardest. For, with these, we still walk in the scents and sounds of our worlds. But with each successive step, with each planting of the foot, we move from the fear of the unfamiliar and toward the Person of Christ, to the One who saves us from the world we leave behind.
Caleb (Diadiggo)‘s Prayer:
Lord, thank you that when you say “go” you give us a reason to go. For when we “go” we do not go alone. Thank you for help us take our first steps and our last. Draw us closer and closer to you with every step we take. May the scents and sounds of this world grow strangely dim in light of your great glory.
Later today, I’ll post part 5 of this series. But, this morning, I hope you and your family are richly blessed by this “pass on” post of Daniel Diadiggo’s “Christmas Chronicles”. For previous posts in this series, click below.
Grace and peace,
#4 when God speaks
[A]nd there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find the baby wrapped in clothes and lying in a manger.”
The shepherds understood what it was like to be outsiders. These were society’s forgotten, the ones the mothers didn’t want their daughters to marry. They were not, as some might say, relationally connected.
The shepherds were generational outcasts, removed to obscurity from the centers of power and influence.
One night a group of shepherds went to work as they had hundreds of nights before.
… the same as their dads had done
… and their grandfathers before them
The shepherds had no reason to believe that this night would be any different from the others.
And yet this night… would be unlike any other.
This… is the night God broke through…. the night He split the darkness and lit up the sky and declared peace between men and their God.
With the angels and all the universe leaning in… and while Jerusalem slept… God announced the birth of the Christ child – to a group of shepherds.
I wonder why He did that? Why did he choose the shepherds?
Maybe.. since nobody listened to them… they were more inclined to listen to God. For when God spoke the shepherds listened and left.
History remembers the shepherds – the lowly ones who stepped outside their own stories and into the miraculous.
Thank you Lord that you break through into our world and speak to us. Thank you that we hear your voice. Thank you for extending compassion to the undeserving and for drawing us to Yourself. We pray for the outsiders tonight, for those whose hearts are broken and for they who are lonely and afraid.
Angels We Have Heard on High
This Christmas, we’re honored to share with you part three of Daniel Diadiggo’s “Christmas Chronicles”. This is part three – for part 1 or part 2, click on the links.
#3 the inn-sider
[A]nd she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in clothes and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
The Lord determined not only the time, but also the PLACE to insert Jesus.
Consider this place of God’s choosing.
The Lord commanded every possibility for luxury and comfort. He could have embedded among the elite, in a palace or with aristocrats. Instead, He placed Himself in the center of His promise. Here we find Jesus, God of the universe, through Whom all things were made, in Whom all things hold together – contained in the body of a baby.
Divinely swaddled and confined to… an animal trough.
A place where livestock feed.
Where they stick their dirty mouths and crunch their straw.
God placed Himself inside the center of the mess – and outside the mess of Jerusalem’s center.
In Jesus we have a Savior who became like us, so that we might become like Him.
Caleb (Diadiggo)’s Prayer:
Thank You, Lord for becoming like us, in order that we might become like You. Thank you for placing Yourself at the center of our mess so that we may know You and live for You. I ask that everyday You give us a bigger and bigger picture of You. Let us see our true inability apart from You in a way that we will find that there is nothing worth holding onto in this world but You.
Away In a Manger
A few years ago at a local dinner/event, I witnessed one of Dan Diadiggo’s family’s traditions, called “Christmas Chronicles”. For the next few days, as I take some time off from the blog to soak more thoroughly in the word and unclutter some of my own brain at year end, I’ve chosen to pass forward his Christmas Chronicles for your consumption and cogitation.
I hope as you disciple others it will serve as a helpful framework for sharing important truths about Christmas, Christ, and the God who loves us with a crazy, crazy love. It’s a tradition I’m sure the Pina family will adopt in years to come and I hope it proves to be a unique blessing to you as you and your family gather to celebrate the incarnation of a risen Savior.
#2 such a time as this
He went there with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born…
Before God created the world He scheduled Jesus to touch down on its soil. Jesus entered this world according to a plan that God set in motion before Adam breathed his first. Long before there was a you or a me, there was a plan.
God’s plan –
a plan that involves us.
a that plan that requires Jesus.
Jesus took on flesh at exactly the right time to set us free for all time.
The Scriptures tell us the Lord determines the times and places set for us.
Think about this for a moment. He Who created the universe created you – and for such a time as this.
The people you meet, the opportunities you find and the trouble that finds you – these are divine appointments.
Uniquely yours. Entrusted to you by Jesus – Who is uniquely God.
Thank you Lord for assigning me to a time such as this. Thank you for the opportunities and people you have placed before me – and for the good works You created for me to walk in. Thank you for the life You have breathed into me and for the days You have given me. Thank you Jesus, for joining me in time so that I might live with You in eternity.