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
Who Am I to Judge?
It’s no secret that before I surrendered my life to Christ, I consumed a lot of porn. Even a year or so afterward. Never did I imagine I’d go from wanting free porn to desiring “porn free”. Until Jesus. Today, 14 years clean (by grace), I rely on Him to daily tear down and fend off images in my mind that I wish I could “unthink” and I meet with men regularly to talk them off the ledge of porn addiction. If you struggle with it or just haven’t made up your mind yet that it’s not healthy for you, let me start here:
I’m not here to judge you. AND… I want better for you, even if you don’t see porn free as “better”.
Porn’s far more accessible and how it’s defined is far more a “Grey” area than ever. It’s headed for the big screen again. So, I’m back after a long blogging absence to point to a few matters of great cultural significance that must be examined through a biblical worldview. After all, we’re all discipled by something.
God calls us to train ourselves in righteousness. A boss may teach us to walk in their footsteps so we can take over the division or organization when they retire. In both cases, it’s got a name: grooming. Grooming is a strategic training process implemented by degrees. Just ask any judge who’s had to preside over a pedophelia trial. Perpetrators groom their victims. Of any story we must ask: “for what is the author grooming the audience?” Love? Or, a new version of love?
What Is Love?
Porn is not love. But, love is under attack: we love tacos, Coca-Cola, that smartphone, those shoes. We love… too easily and out of a weak definition. In embracing the cheapened, modern usage of “love”, we lose the value of love. Speaking of “value”, if you typed Command-H and replaced every instance of the word “love” in your Bible with the word “value”, do you realize how little meaning would be lost?
“God so valued the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16)”
Love is not an emotion and it’s not an event. It’s an expression of value. I stole my working definition of love straight from Voddie Baucham – “Love is an act of the will, accompanied by emotion, which leads to action on behalf of its object.” We love tacos, Coke, that phone, and those shoes because of what they do for us. But, that’s not God’s way: “God loved… [so]… God gave”. Love – true, crazy, sacrificial agape love – is about what we can do for others, not what we get from them.
Baby, Don’t Hurt Me… No More
Naturally, you can understand my outrage regarding the worldwide popularity and excitement surrounding the 50 Shades book and upcoming movie release, right? When we reduce love down to merely a highly sexual relationship, the participants become a commodity (especially when expressed through bondage and sadomasochism ala FSoG) and we miss out on God’s design for love. The economic reality is that every time we “vote” for a book or a movie like this one – and every dollar is a vote – we tell the people who created it “We approve! Make more!” What gets rewarded gets repeated (see article below for the “inside” scoop on “9 Things You Should Know…”). Why are we participating in it… investing in it… rewarding it?
What’s worse, this story is shaping what we believe is “OK” to be on the shelf, on the screen, in our hearts… And, in so doing, it promotes the rape myth and the culture of objectification and enslavement that Jesus came to free us from. In God’s economy, we are not objects. We are the image bearers of our Creator. Let’s not relegate others to any lesser status… God has better in mind for all of us… a clean slate…
Now, What You Came Here For:
Today, I want to share with you
two three excellent articles on the Fifty Shades topic, again from a biblical worldview. Also, a supplemental article on the neurology behind pornography. Last, a little from Paul David Tripp on what love is all about from God’s point of view. I hope you are edified, perhaps corrected, and encouraged by them and pass them on to those who God impresses on your hearts.
For further reading:
Have a Happy Valentine’s Day, God’s way!!!
Don’t forget to watch our new “Death to Delilah” and “Share Frank’s Story” videos on our YouTube channel.
NOTE (02.11.2013): The Seasons of Life Ministries website will be down for a few more days this week while we transfer everything over to WordPress. The blog will stay live, hopefully without any interruption, throughout the process. If you need anything that typically comes from our site – resources, pdfs, giving, “contact us”,”That Day” inquiry, etc., reach out via Facebook at on.fb.me/SEASONS.
Same Old Problem
Hate me if you want, but I’ve already bought my wife’s Valentine’s gift this year. Figuring out what to get is often the hardest part, isn’t it? Sourcing it can be a lot easier once the “big” decision has been made. Shopping on Amazon meant I didn’t pay shipping – I mean, who wants to pay shipping? Who wants to pay for anything, right? Can’t we just have the perfect inspiration weeks in advance and get what she wants for free?
Not a chance. Everything has a price – either now or in eternity. True? So, when I say “under $5”, I don’t mean these gifts won’t cost you anything, I mean there’s no money involved.
Just crack open your bible to 1 Corinthians 13.4. I know, you’re mad at me, because you think I’m pulling a fast one on you. Read on. Trust me for a moment, here. “Love is patient.” Stop. How’s that going for you right now? Now, I’m aware there are 15 more qualities of love that follow, but let’s just start with this one.
I’m not always patient. How about you? Why is it that we’re most impatient with the people closest to us? The easy answer is this: “they should know better not to get in the way of our agenda”. The harder answer is this: we’re never going to get over this hump (or whichever other of these 16 qualities) on our own. In fact, everything Paul talks about up to that point, even in the previous chapter, is an act of God via the Holy Spirit.
What the Self-Help Books Won’t Tell You:
“Try harder” is practically the mantra of the secular humanist movement. “Try different” is the second commandment of the same. But, what God has given us is something far more powerful, far more helpful, and far more lasting than mere “man up, get up, do it again”. The Holy Spirit has been given to us not only as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph. 1:14), but as a helper to walk with us (Greek: paraclete).
This Year, Give God a Try
Love is the first mentioned “fruit of the Spirit”. Implication – love can’t be “mustered”. It’s an act of the will, but it’s only present in its true, 1 Corinthians 13 form by… the… Spirit. So, what if everyday, we paused with our bible, played “tap the bible app”, or just got really silent and recited that verse, but with a hook – “Lord, grow me patient, grow me kinder, kill my boasting…” What if we did that with a long, silent pause in between each of the 16 qualities?
Do you know the voice of God? Do you know the convicting, yet not condemning sound of the Holy Spirit answering your question – “Where have I been impatient, unkind, boastful, etc.?” God doesn’t provide the Holy Spirit to crush us, but to come alongside us and lock arms with us as we walk through every challenging season of life.
What would the fruit of this labor look like? What do you think your love for your spouse, girlfriend/boyfriend, co-workers, overbearing supervisor, or enemy look like if you spent just ten minutes bringing that question before the Lord and waited in silence for the answer? “Lord, where have I been ___?”
Give the gift of honesty before the Lord and repentance to those around you this year. It’ll cost you some time, deep introspection, reliance on the Lord, and less than $5 every time.
This week is anything but “business as usual”. So, instead of trying to articulate during an inarticulate time, I’m letting Tenth Avenue North run the Monday Morning Momentum Minute. They’ve said it much better than I can and if a picture is worth a thousand words, the chalkboard in the background is worth a million bucks. Have a great week – you are loved.
Thanks, for all of your prayers on our behalf.