Saving the Saved

savingthesaved
I received Saving the Saved by Bryan Loritts for the purpose of reviewing, the thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

A couple of years ago, I lamented to a friend that I was a terrible evangelist.  She looked a little surprised, because in all of our encounters I didn’t exactly shy away from talking about the gospel.  She asked me to clarify my statement.  I confessed that I was fine talking about God in certain environments and situations, but heading out in to the unknown and sharing it with strangers was very hard for me.  I was broken over it, feeling like I was not fulfilling The Great Commission very well.

As we continued to talk, and I was admittedly sobbing at this point, I had come to a conclusion about myself. I realized that I had a heart for the lukewarm believer, the people who should know better but don’t.  The big things that mattered to me, were topics like bible literacy and strong prayer lives.  I was undone by what people didn’t know because they didn’t take time to read the scriptures, or when scripture was being twisted to fit agenda.

It was at that point, she giggled just a bit at me.  She told me that I had a heart for discipleship, and that was Great Commission work.  As we continued to talk she pointed out that each of us have our role in The Great Commission.  There are the missionaries and evangelists who bring the gospel to people for the first time.   There are the apologists who defend the faith well, to those who question and doubt.  Then there are disciple makers, who have a heart for studying and teaching the scriptures well.  She freed me from the disappointment in my poor evangelizing by helping me to recognize that wasn’t my gift.

It also helped me pinpoint my role in serving the body, that I loved to teach and equip leaders.  My heart was bent toward knowledge and wisdom from the scriptures, and that i desired to know it well myself in order to make sure I teach it well to others.  Integrity in my teaching was highly important to me.  Just this year, a woman asked me if I would consider being her mentor.  After prayerful consideration, I responded that I didn’t feel right mentoring her.  I still had a lot to learn, and quite often I learn from her.  Ultimately we agreed instead on a mutual relationship, like the disciples had, where we could learn form each other.

There is so much freedom in the scriptures, and I am someone who loves a to do list.  It is very easy for me to find myself looking for clear cut directions, and frustrated with the scripture are vague on a topic.  I want God to tell me in His Word exactly how I am to live every single day of my life.  If I am not careful, I can allow myself to become too legalistic.  At the same time, I must also be careful that I don’t go into the deep end of “everything is permissible” without remembering that doesn’t mean it is beneficial.

I’m already a fan of Bryan Loritts, and I was excited to read this book.  It had everything I loved about sharing the gospel with those who are saved.   The pages speak of mercy, grace, and love.  It tells me to be generous, put my pride in check, and to find peace instead of worries.  It affirms my marriage priority as my first ministry and reminds me that I need to get out of my own way.  Oh… and then it trips me up… when it talks about forgiveness.

Forgiveness is hard.  Like, REALLY, hard.   And, honestly it doesn’t even matter who I am trying to forgive.  In fact, I often have an easier time forgiving others than my own self.  It can be a real struggle to forgive, because our Christ-like heart says YES and our fleshy mind says NO.  Who hasn’t uttered the words…  “How many times do I forgive {insert person, situation, self}?”

Bryan Loritts takes us right to the truth of it…

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me,

and I forgive him? till seven times?  Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee,

Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. 

Matthew 18:21-22

Ouch.  That many times, Lord?  Really?  Really.  For a moment, let’s take this literally.  If the Lord has set the limit at 490 forgivenesses… I’m in trouble.  I’ve stopped long before that number.  I can’t think of a single person in my life that has wronged me 490 times.

If we take it in concept, that is STILL a lot of times to forgive someone.  UGH!

I know that there are times where I am really hurt, and I don’t want to forgive.  But there are other times when I know that I am being petty, or I know that it’s more about how I perceived the wrongdoing than what was actually done.  One of the most reoccurring themes for me in 2016 has been about forgiveness.  That forgiveness isn’t easy, but necessary.  Forgiveness is a choice, that I sometimes have to make every day despite my flesh.  Forgiveness is not reconciliation but part of that process.  Forgiveness won’t always make sense, and by the worlds terms, they may not deserve my forgiveness.  Forgiveness may cost me something… and yet forgiveness is freeing.

It’s funny to me, the terrible evangelist, that I purchased a book about saving the saved… and it was a book I needed to read.  I continually need to be reminded to forgive.

Seventy times seven times.

Lord, forgive my unforgiveness.  Let grace, mercy, and forgiveness fall from my lips. Amen.

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Failure…

Failure is a funny word to me, because I truly believe that we rarely utterly fail at something.  Sometimes, it is simply a matter of perception.  Follow along with me for just a moment on that thought before we get into the meat of this topic.

Below is a series of photographs from a wedding, several years ago.  At the time, I owned my own confectionary.  This was not my first big event, but it was my first wedding.  The bride wanted a confection bar full of candies, sweets, and treats.  She didn’t want a traditional wedding cake at all.  We decided upon some cupcake towers and a small cake at the top, which was adorned with their wedding topper and serve for the “cake cutting” part of the reception.

What you see here is a very well executed plan, right?  Wrong.  I had a MAJOR failure.  I promised her Jolly Rancher Cotton Candy.  I woke up that morning to make the fresh cotton candy, only to find that there was just too much humidity in air.  The cotton candy, which I had made dozens of times before, was melting before I could even bag it.  So, I bought some cotton candy that was pre-made and portioned it out into the bags.

The bride was happy, there were no gaping holes in the table set up, and there was not a single bag of cotton candy left over.

I failed.  Yes, it was due to circumstances outside of my control… but I still failed to deliver what I promised.  Even if, ultimately, I was really the only one who knew about the failure.

 

The next large event I catered was for a fundraiser.  I met with the planning team and they presented an adorable center piece concept.  They brought out super cute little tiered dessert stands. The plan was to have the stand filled with cupcakes. There would be a giant cupcake “topper”.  The small cupcakes were part of the dessert for the evening.  They would have table drawings for the centerpiece (inclusive of the giant cupcake topper, plus an additional 1 dozen mini cupcakes).  In addition they wanted gift bags for the VIP sponsor tables.  I was super excited to get started.  I measured out the centerpiece they provided to determine the number of cupcakes that it would hold.  Sent them a quote.  The order was set.

When I arrived the morning of the event to set up, to my shock… the tiered center pieces had be replaced.  They made the decision to go with something nicer, which was the right decision.  However, they neglected to inform me of the change.  These new centerpieces were MUCH larger.  Almost twice the width on every tier.  I placed the topper, the dozen mini cupcakes, and it was SPARSE.  I flagged down the coordinator, explained the problem, and she made the decision we would forgo the dozen cupcakes as part of the table prize and instead use them to fill up the tiers.

The following Monday, I received an email from the main chairperson.  She wanted a partial refund because I failed to produce the dozen cupcakes per table for the prize.  She was never informed by the coordinator, and thought I had shorted their order.  I explained what happened, who authorized the decision to use them, and apologize profusely.   In her response, she was very kind and canceled the request for the refund.  However, I never received another order from her or their organization again.

In this case there was a perception that I failed.  I knew that I hadn’t, and that I met my obligations.  However, based on what she could see… the chairperson perceived that I failed to come through.

This weekend I was reading an blog piece in which the author was brutally raw about her feelings, as she declared that Jesus had failed her family that year.  I was really stumped by those words. Jesus… who is perfect, flawless, dependable, truth… failed you?  I couldn’t understand it.  It didn’t seem possible.

In all the years of unanswered prayers, I’ve never felt like Jesus let me down.  Not once.  I can’t think of a time where I looked up to the heavens and declared “Lord, you really let me down this time.  I needed you to come through.”  I was struggling with every single time her words “Jesus failed me” flew past my eyes.  Yet, I not offended … angry … or hollering out “heretic”.

Perhaps, that is because in all of those times where things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to… I blamed myself.  I told myself that the reason my prayer wasn’t answered or the Lord didn’t show up was because I failed Him.  I feel like I fail God daily.  I never feel good enough.  I question why in the world He would want to use me in ministry.

What I realized was that how we see things was very different.  I was seeing failure in the way I described the first scenario.  In some way, I failed to deliver on my end of the bargain… even if I did my best.  Even if I made up for it in someway.  Even if no one in the world knew or cared about it.  I knew.  I failed.  My focus was there on that place where I failed, versus the ways that I succeeded.

The woman who wrote the blog piece was more akin to my second example.  She was the chairperson who had expectations on how things were going to turn out.  She brought in the right people, and through no fault of her own in that scenario, something wasn’t right.  She turned to the person she trusted to come through, and she said “you failed me”.

You see, she ascertained that failure based on the limited amount of information she had.  She didn’t know that the centerpieces were different sizes, or that it would make a difference in the end product presentation.  She didn’t know that I was never informed of the change.  She wasn’t brought into the decision making being done on the spot to accommodate the changes, nor filled in after the fact of what happened & why.

When the Lord is working out things for us, we are not always clued in to what is going on in the background.  We can’t always see the people or situations that the Lord is coordinating into just the right places, at just the right times.  In fact, sometimes we never will.  We may never see those fingerprints where God was moving mountains and mustard seeds.  So, when the end product (or process) isn’t what we expected… we may feel like God failed us.  He didn’t come through.

On the other hand, we can become so focused on all of the areas where we ARE messing up… that we think we have failed God to the point He is ignoring us.  We may think He is deliberately keeping blessing from us.  We may even think that he is disciplining us.

In the first case, we are so focused on our perception of the situational outcome that we can’t see those who kept their word and did their part.  We don’t appreciate the people who were pressed into hard decisions.  We lose the ability to give people the benefit of the doubt.  We make assumptions, assign unjust blame.  Our vision becomes clouded to the work God is doing, the blessings that are coming, the people who did care, and the hundreds of little ways God came through with something BETTER.  Jesus never fails us, we just perceive that He did because we didn’t get the outcome we desired.

Or, we become so focused on how wrong and sinful we are.  We become so inwardly focused that we beat ourselves up, disqualify ourselves, and stamp FAILURE on our foreheads.  We make vows to never try again, step away from commitments or ministry work, and wallow in how terrible we think we are.  We put up our hands to the Lord, shouting STOP… I can’t be used.  I’m a failure, not Jesus.

Christ died because we are failures at keeping God’s statutes and commands.  Throughout the Old Testament, on a repetitive cycle…   God would move, the people would celebrate, the people would forget, the people would fall & cry out, and God would rescue.  By the time of the New Testament, when Jesus enters the arena… God’s ultimate plan of redemption for his people who just can’t keep it together on their own.  In her piece, she repeated a few times that she waited for Jesus to rescue her… and He didn’t.  I would contend… HE ALREADY DID, ON CALVARY.

And, in that moment we were given victory over sin and death.  We are not failures, but perfected in Him.  By His stripes we are healed.  We need to keep our eyes on Him, not ourselves.  Trusting His word, even when we don’t understand what is happening around us… or God seems quiet or far.

Then, I read the article a 2nd time.  Something else jumped out at me, and we are going to talk about that next time.

So… I saw Bad Moms, and I laughed.

In case you don’t have any clue what movie I am talking about, here is a promo shot:

badmoms.jpg

First, I’d like to admit right out of the gate I didn’t walk into this movie with naive expectations.  The trailers gave a pretty good indication that there would be some inappropriate humor.  Second, I am not planning on giving away any spoilers.  There were definitely some parts I thought the movie could have lived without, not only for the story line but even in the presentation.  Sometimes it could go too far.  Third, there were some parts of this that were REALLY unrealistic when you are talking about any group of moms.  Lastly, there were also a LOT of truths.

Overall, I laughed and I laughed hard.  At one point I laughed so hard (as I was taking a sip from my straw) that I pushed air through the straw, which caused a small tidal wave in my cup, and that resulted in my drink landing in my eyes.  Which just caused a whole other fit of laughter for myself and those sitting around me.  I laughed until I cried and my stomach hurt.  Yet, there were some moments that I nodded in solidarity.  There were moments that were uncomfortable.  And, yes… as I said before totally unnecessary.

What I want to write about (and I’m up for conversation too) is WHY a movie like this not only resonated with moms but was drawing us in like moths to a flame.

My first thought is probably the most obvious, there is an enormous amount of pressure on moms to be it all, do it all, and do so perfectly.  Whether it is the perfect birthday party, bento box lunches, or simply making it to every school and sport activity… we feel the pressure.  We notice so much of what is around us, like the mom who has the perfect hair and make up in the parent pick up line… when we were struggling to get out of the house with a bra under our pajama shirt.  We see the kids with the perfectly styled hair, accessories, and sparkling white sneakers…. and we just spent the last 40 minutes looking for eyeglasses or a belt.  Other moms dropping their kids off early, and we are 10 minutes late because we had to go back home and pick up the flute that was left behind… or because our darling child took 15 minutes to brush her teeth.

How do these moms do it?  We cast shade in their direction, but really we are asking ourselves… why can’t I do it?

I think there are a number of moms who have run the scenario through their head of just saying no.  No to the requests by the husband, kids, school, coaches, etc.  An opportunity to just walk away from the pressure and enjoy life again.  To make the choice of not being the perfect mom anymore, and instead be the bad mom.

This brings me to my second thought, as you watch the trailers you see a group of women having fun. We are not talking bunko party fundraiser fun, but the kind of fun we had as teenagers  and young single adults.  The fun we had when we didn’t care what others thought, where it was ok to be silly, and there was an expected freedom in the general knowledge we were going to make mistakes and bad choices.  It takes us back to a time when we didn’t have to be an adult, and could just let loose and be free.

With motherhood came some sort of unwritten code of conduct, that we couldn’t be silly anymore.  We began to take everything too seriously, including ourselves.  Let’s face it, books and the advice of television “experts” reinforced this.  Reminding us over and over again that it was time to grow up, put away childish things, and get our heads out of the clouds.  As we did this, many of us sent fun sailing away for good.  We stopped smiling, we stopped laughing, and we stopped being silly.

The movie Bad Moms called out to that free spirit inside of us, that desperately wanted to laugh… and laugh hard.  So, it pulls out all the stops.  The women let loose in a way we couldn’t, and we live vicariously through them.  They say the things that roll through our minds & do the things we secretly wished we could.  (Ok, maybe not all of the things they say and do, but you get the point).

I also believe this appeals to Christian women so deeply because of the bar that is set for our expected behavior.  If other moms are feeling the pressure to be perfect in their every day life, Christian moms understand the additional expectations put on the Christian mom.  To have perfect children that love Jesus, quote the bible, volunteer with the elderly, and gladly donate all their birthday money to the missions fund.  To be women who are serious about the study of the Lord, leading small groups, inviting women over to mentor and pray together, to dress in simple clothes, and be ever diligent in our choices of entertainment.  There is a pressure that all of our time should be so seriously focused on Christ, that we can’t let loose and laugh until our sides hurt.

Confession… I saw the movie on opening night.  It’s taken me almost a month to admit I saw it, because frankly… I expected to be judged for it.  I was worried about what my church friends, my readers that look to me for wisdom, the women or leaders who are reading through my blog trying to decide if I would be the right speaker for their next women’s event… what would these people think of me?

I learned something from the movie though… my eyes were opened to how long it had been since I had laughed so much and so hard.  I realized how seriously I take myself and made the decision not to.  I embraced that silliness is okay and even healthy for my kids to see.  I made the decision that I wanted to laugh more, but with those whom I am the closest to… not a theater full of strangers.  I want that girl posse who has my back, in the most biblical way possible… and who will be silly with me.  Women who know how to laugh, smile, and stop trying to be something that is impossible to attain… perfect.

All of those parts of the movie that I thought were unnecessary, they don’t have to be part of my life.  But the good stuff… I welcome it.  We are all GOOD MOMS despite our imperfections and the times we muck things up… because we are LOVING MOMS.  In the end that is what matters.  The Lord didn’t call us to a life of misery, but of fulfillment and joy as mothers… and laughter.  So much laughter.

Avert Your Eyes

MBA

Women are a funny creation, I’d love to have a one on one conversation with the Creator of the World about how women work.  I want to know how much of our way of thinking, behavior, etc is just “how we are wired” and how much is a result of the fall.  How emotional did God really want for us to be?  How complicated were we intended to be?  When woman first bit that piece of fruit, why is it that her mind became a pile of yarn balls all unraveled and going in so many directions at once?  Why did men get the capacity to compartmentalize things and function so differently with thought and deed?  We both ate of the tree of knowledge, yet our brains work so entirely differently.  Why?

It is a mystery.

Interestingly enough, what also happened after woman bit that apple… she saw herself.  She felt shame and guilt.  And, she hid from God.  Until that moment, the Lord had blinders on her eyes.  She saw Him, she saw Adam, she knew her God given task and purpose.  When she bit of the apple, those blinders fell off.   “What if” entered the world.  “What if God didn’t say ….”.  “What if I take a bite…”.  “What if I didn’t hear God correctly…”.

What if.

Throughout the scriptures there are cries out to God to be seen.  See me, search me, do not cast your face from me, see your people, hear your people, help your people…

Eve hid from God.  Eve said… do not see me.  Do not find me.  Do not cast your gaze upon me.  Do not search me.   She didn’t want to be found in her shame and her guilt.

Avert your eyes.

But the Lord looked for them, he sought them out in their shame, held them accountable, and then as He always does… he made a way out.

I’ve known so many women who want to be seen.  They want their spouses to see them, instead of take them for granted.  They want their children to see them,  and consider them worthy of praise.  They want their parent to see them and apologize for past hurts.  They want their boss to see them and recognize their efforts.  They want their church to see them and welcome their gifts.  They want world to see them and say you add value and are worthy to know.

And yet, some of these same women will hide from those who see too much.   When a spouse gets too close, and they feel vulnerable… they push him away.  When the children begin to see through her perfect mom facade, she builds up taller walls and come up with new covers to her sin.  A parent who desires to fix the past will be kept at arms reach because of fear, we do not want to be hurt again.  Women don’t want their bosses to know how much they sacrificed for the job, because they fear it shows weakness vs. strength.  A woman  who wants the church to see her gift but hides the journey to faith that brought her there.  Women who want the world to see them, but only the parts they want to be seen.

Women are complicated creations.  By our design or as a result of our choices, we seem to have the ability to complicate our lives even more than they need to be.  We say we want authenticity in our friendships, but we do not want vulnerability.  We say that we want iron sharpens iron friendships, yet we do not understand that for iron to be strengthened it’s weaknesses must be exposed.  We would rather our friends look up at us as a model of inspiration versus walk with us through our valleys.  We put on a show, get a circle of friends, build relationships… always keeping our arms stretched out so that no one can get too close.

From a distance our cracks and fractures are not as noticeable.  From a distance we can put on a show and no one can see us reading from the cue cards.  From a distance our grand actions are easily seen but our slight of hand goes unnoticed.  From a distance we look holy and righteous, masking our sin and deprivation.  From a distance we appear to have it all together, all of the right answers, the perfect family… no one can see the brokenness behind our closed doors.

Social media has made the perfect playground for superficial relationships, because we can connect with hundreds and thousands of people… posting our perfectly thought out words, edited photographs, and stories spun to make our lives look like a highlight reel of perfection.  When those people began to infiltrate our real lives, and see how we really live… that facade can only last so long.  When they get too close and begin to the see the truth, we cut them out and replace them with someone new.  Cycling our “friends” in and out of our lives to protect the image we have created for ourselves.

We tackle authenticity from a place of mentor to mentee versus a mutual relationship of accountability.  We want others to be authentic with us, so that we can use our gifts, talents, knowledge, wisdom, et’al to help them.   Yet we dare not expose the thorns in our sides, the planks in our eyes, and our sin to those whom we consider our closest friends.   When they come across them and call our attention to it, we are quick to dismiss it.  Quick to blame, and quick to create distance.  We speak truth in love, but I question how much love is really there.  We speak personal conviction as biblical mandate, standing on a soap box of righteousness that is filled with worms.  We are quick to label others sins and quantify them as more terrible than our own, so that when the time comes we can stop the friendship and feel no remorse.

Righteous indignation is easier than self retrospection.

So, we hide.  We hide from God under the guise that our sin is not as bad as others.  We tell ourselves that God is angrier about greater sins in the world, than this little thing I have done.  We hide from those who love us, because we fear that if they see us for who we really are they will leave… judge… or hold us accountable to change.  We hide from ourselves by focusing so much on how others have wronged or hurt us, that we can put our own sin on the back burner.

We want others to avert their eyes to us, while we look at them under a microscope.

Lord help us to be vulnerable with one another, to walk our roads not alone but in the company of our family of believers, let us not fear accountability, and help us to stop hiding from you.

In the Midst of Azusa, Forgiveness Was Found

azusa

First, just in case you don’t know what AZUSA is…. 110 years ago, on Azusa Street a revival began. On the 110th anniversary, many church leaders, congregations, believers, musicians, etc came together to pray for a new revival.  The church is calling out for a third great awakening.

I have never personally witnessed an event of this magnitude, in fact the only revival I have ever attended was a community one held at a local church.  I was in middle school.  There were a LOT of people, but nothing like Azusa on Saturday, April 9 2016.

First, I want to comment on the diversity of those who came to worship together.  I was not their live, but watching online as much as I could throughout the day.  When the camera would pan the audience and the stage, there were so many colors… ages… genders… just, people.  God’s people.  Together.  In one accord.

I found myself brought to tears each time I heard the Word of God spoken, prayers, or songs of Praise… in a language that is not my own.  English. Spanish. Native American. Hebrew. Arabic. Latin…  it was just beautiful.

Second, I want to point to the overall theme of the event… while the church was calling out for revival… they were acknowledging that we have to get ourselves in order before it can.  There was so much emphasis on getting our own houses in order, so that the spirit of revival can be unleashed.

If we want to usher revival in we have to clean our house first. 1Tim3:5 If anyone can’t manage his own family, how can he manage the church

If you look at the great revivals of the past, those who witnessed it would tell you that there were small pockets of revival happening at the same time in various locations.  Small movements that grew into great movements and spread like holy wild-fire!

What was the core issue that Azusa pointed to, that the church needed to get in order?  Unity under Christ.  We’ve been divided too long, doing what seems right to men and our own minds.  We have allowed man’s notions of what is “godly” to divides us against each other.  Denomination vs. denomination.  Christian vs. christian.  In order to unify under Christ, we must begin with forgiveness.

We must get our house in order as a church, to be a vessel of revival into the world. Forgive and seek forgiveness

Division is one of the things that breaks my heart about the current day church.   We have put ourselves first, our way of thinking… interpretation… worshiping… praying… studying… etc.  We hold people to our “standard” of what righteousness looks like and quite often we are incapable of living up to that standard in the first place.  We allow pride to take root, and then we elevate ourselves about other believers because they are not as wise or knowledgeable as we are.  And then we see friendships divide, churches divide, denominations divide.

We watch our family crumble.  Then a bitter root takes hold, because that bitterness helps us justify our choose to separate, judge, and criticize our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We justify our sin of division, when Christ has called us to reconcile to each other and be one body, one church, under Christ.

We wonder why our prayers are not answered, yet we are in active sin while bitterness, pride, and unforgiveness are sewn into our hearts.  We wonder why our ministry isn’t moving forward, when we have become our own stumbling block.  We wonder why God is not blessing us, when we are constantly building up a wall between us and Him.

If you are holding bitterness, a bad word about God’s anointed, anger toward someone, hate… we are in sin.

When we allow that bitterness to take root, we can speak and act terribly about those God calls His children.    We are criticizing God’s creation, the work He is doing in a person, the mission He has put on their heart, and even God himself!  Because, we are created in His image.  This doesn’t exclude the moments when we are holding unforgiveness, bitterness, or critical thoughts about our own selves.

Every time we criticize our sister/brother in Christ, we are being critical of Jesus who lives in them. God help us.

If it goes unchecked and that bitterness takes root, it can make itself a comfy home in our heart and lives, and it will choke out everything good that tries to come into our life. We can become so focused on the root and it’s offshoots… we miss what God is doing around us.  We become wrapped up in it’s vines and become slaves to it, unable to serve God because we are bound to anger and hurt.

Holding unforgiveness in your heart toward someone, you both are slaves in bondage to it. Free your slaves. Jer34:8

We will keep adding to the weight of the baggage we carry, and we will carry that baggage far longer than God would have us.  It will become heavier, slowing down our walk, weighing us down, stealing our energy, our hope, and our future.  We can’t reach the blessing, when we are dragging dead weight behind us.  Eventually it will win, and break you down until you just give up.

What is the baggage you have been carrying for TOO LONG, that is slowing you down & holding you back from blessing?

We are told in the scriptures that if we have an offense between us and our brother, we are to put our offering down and go handle that first.  We are not to bring our offering into the temple until we have reconciled.  So, until then, every offering you make is empty.  Who is it that you need to forgive?  A friend, relative, church… yourself?  Are you carrying the weight of your own sin?  The sin Christ died for, and cast to the depths of the sea… did you fish it back up?  Are you taking it back from the foot of the cross?  Are you saying… “everything but this Lord, this sin is too big for you.”

God help us.

We can’t bring our offering to the table if we are holding a grudge against someone. Who do you need to forgive?

When we are focused so much on our own pain, bitterness, anger, and what we see as unfair… we miss the fact that our world is mourning and crying out in pain.  Instead of crying out on their behalf, we say:  WHAT ABOUT ME?  What about my pain?  What about my situation?  What about my hurt?  Where is my help?  Where is my blessing?

People groups around the earth are crying out in pain, will you cry with them. Will you mourn with them?

We can not unite under Christ when we are too focused on our own selves.  When we are seeking my own needs or blessings first.  The first shall be last, and the last shall be first.

If Christ can call out to the Lord to forgive those who stood against him, accused him, crucified him… why can we not say of our oppressors, “Lord… forgive them… they know not what they do.”

We need to get on our knees and pray.

Lord, let there be a sweeping release of forgiveness across the country between all people, unite us seventy-seven times seven!

We need to forgive others, and ourselves.  Our past, is our past. It was washed clean and we need to stop picking that back up.  We need to take that stronghold of shame, and let it go.  We need to believe that we are that new creation in Christ, a new thing… a new work, where we are continuing to grow in our pursuit of holiness.  A good work He continues in us until the day of fruition when we are united with the saints in Heaven.

Lord, free of us of our bondage to sin… our wayward steps… our critical words… and our flesh. Spirit come.

Lord we repent of our attitudes of separation and division, let us reunite under you! Amen.

Lord, set the captives free! Spirit, move us to mourn as one body & move us to unite under Jesus

And, we need to pray as if we are the only ones praying.  We need intercessors who are standing in the gap for those who are too weak to pray, or too broken.  We need intercessors to pray for the lost, the prodigals, the ones who have gone astray.  We need to pray fervently, as if everything depends on our pray.  Then when we are all praying, as if we are the only ones, there is a complete community of intercessors praying on behalf of YOU too.

Pray as if no one else is praying. If we all pray, as if no one else is praying we will all be intercessors.

As forgiveness and healing sweeps across our body, and we unite we become a city on a hill, shining the light of the Son, for the lost to find their way home.  We begin to look different from the world, not because of our dress or the words we speak. Instead we look different because we love differently, we forgive even the unforgivable.  We will not be divided but united under the Truth.  Standing in agreement of His Word, and let by His Spirit instead of our own thoughts and our own flesh.

— John 16:13 —

When the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.

In our brokenness HE is magnified because in our healing HE gets the glory.

We must pray that the Holy Spirit will flood our hearts & compel us with your Word, let it pour out of our mouths, a sweet song to a weary world.   So that we can go out and disciple the nations, starting here in our country.  One person, one family, one community at a time.  The mission field is here, in our own back yards.  We still have unreached communities here.  We have missionaries coming INTO the United States in order to preach the gospel!  We must get our house in order, and then we go… we go out beyond our backyards, into the unchurched communities, and then into the world.   Sharing the gospel, baptizing the people, making disciples, and building up leaders to continue the good work.

Lord, send a fire of revival into the hearts of your people. Let us touch the communities around us in a mighty way.

Praise God for what is about to come.

This brings me to my third point, what I took away from Azusa.  I watched church leaders…. catholic, messianic, denominations, cultures/ethnicities… forgive each other.

If others can forgive, so can I.  And, so can you.

#Write31Days – Post 17 – Difficult People

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Dot was an ornery woman.  I had just transferred work locations,  and I was being given the tour.  Introductions to the staff, learning where everything was located, etc.  When I was introduced to Dot, that was the description whispered to me as we approached her.  She was an older woman, who had been with the company since it’s inception.  Her employee number was a single digit (mine was over 7 digits long).   I realized quickly that she was someone who should have retired a long time ago.  She smiled at me as we were introduced, but quickly that smile turned to a scowl as she barked orders at a fellow employee who had passed by.

Ornery indeed.

The thing about me is that I see people like this as a challenge.  In that moment where her smile turned to a scowl, the challenge was issued… and I accepted.

For the next year, I poked that bear every single day.  I was going to make her smile, I was going to make her laugh.  She was going to like me, and I was going to like her.

I learned a lot about Dot.  I learned that she was married and had a son.  I learned that her husband went in for routine surgery, and died.  About two years later, the same happened with her son.

Dot was alone.  Dot was still grieving.  Dot was angry with God.

This would culminate into a woman who was very, very difficult.  She wasn’t pleasant to be around.   To be brutally honest, she was MEAN.  She wasn’t respectful to others, no one wanted to be around her, and she made life difficult for every employee in that building.  Despite her attitude toward others, the more we unraveled about her … the more compassion and empathy people had toward her.  It took one person willing to invest some time in trying to break through her wall, to understand who she was and what she had gone through.  The softer their hearts grew toward her, the more she began to let her guard down.  She was starting to smile more, and then began to laugh… a lot.

It first revealed itself when she fainted during a morning meeting, and she was able to see the concern that everyone had for her.  It was several of the men on staff that insisted she leave with the paramedics, and one even followed her to the hospital.  Several years later, Dot was waiting for the building to open and she was brutally assaulted when a man robbed her.  The staff surrounded her during her recovery and sat with her during the trial.  Due to the injuries she sustained and her age, she was unable to return to work.  That didn’t keep the staff from rallying around her until the day she passed away.

Dot was a difficult person.  She was raised to be tough.  Circumstances made her hard.

What I have observed over, and over again, is that people who are difficult are rarely so for no good reason.  Something has happened in their life that has shaped who they have become.  It could be a result of childhood trauma, abuse & mistreatment, discrimination, suffering, or even just a culmination of smaller difficulties in their life.

When dealing with difficult people, my first response is always:

If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

Romans 12:18

In order to do so, I remind myself that there is a reason why they are such difficult people.  I would rather assume that, then accept that they are choosing to intentionally behave this way.

I will always be nice & respectful, regardless of how mean or disrespectful they are to me.

I will give the benefit of the doubt, instead of assuming the worst, about them as a person.

There will be times, however, where no matter how nice we are … the person is bent on being difficult, angry, mean, hateful, etc.

  • Limit Time :  You do not have to spend every waking hour with this person.  Limit your time around them to only the occasions where you must be present.  Get your task done quickly, and leave.  Also, avoid giving them presence in your head once you are not around them.  Do not spend a moment thinking about their negativity, or replaying that day’s encounter.
  • Pray Regularly:  If we are going to assume that there is a reason they have turned out the way they are, then we ought to be praying for them.  Choosing to pray for someone who is difficult is different than replaying that day’s encounter.  Praying for them is a positive action, that comes from a place of love and compassion for God’s creation.  We can pray for a person while creating boundaries that keep ourselves emotionally & mentally healthy. 
  • Involve Authority:  I am not suggesting that you call the cops on someone who is just being cranky all the time.  However if you must work or serve with this person, and their attitude is creating problems in your workplace or in the ministry… involve your manager at work, or your leader/Pastor if it is within the ministry service. 

Some practical advice for the every day:

  1. Keep your answers short, sweet, and too the point.   Answer their questions, assign their task, and move on.  You can be polite, respectful, and even nice without engaging in their negativity.
  2. Purposefully go out of your way to do something nice for them, even if they don’t deserve it.  This doesn’t have to be an every day thing, but a simple pat on the back for doing a good job, a card on their birthday, etc. are small gestures that can mean a lot.
  3. Do not feed their attitude by being exclusionary.  If your team is going out to dinner, you invite the person.  They are part of the team, it is the right thing to do.  Let the difficult person decided if they are going to come or not.

If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;  For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will reward you

Proverbs 25:21-22

In the verse from Proverbs above, I am reminded that when I am good to a person who is my enemy… it affects them.  It may even convict them of their poor attitude toward/about me.  When we are nice to those who don’t deserve it, it softens their hearts.  That process can take a very, very long time and will require copious amounts of divinely given patience.

God has loved us far more than we deserve, shouldn’t we at least, in kind, love His children (our brothers and sisters in Christ) in the same way?

Christ, at the crucifixion, even prayed for God to “forgive them, they know not what they do”.   His love and compassion fell on the heads of those who drove in the nails.

What right then do we have to be angry with those who we view as enemies? Or, to mistreat those who are being difficult to get along with?  Are we being Christ-like in how we respond to them?  Are we following the scriptures?  Or, are we giving into our flesh?

Keep in mind, however, that the heart of our intentions will also be revealed.  If we are being nice as a show to others, we are not being sincere.  If we are being nice to make the person feel guilty or convicted, we are not being sincere.  At some point that insincerity will be revealed to those around us.  Others will know it was just a show, not authentic.  It won’t change that difficult person, it will damage our relationship with others, and it will ultimately have a negative affect within ourselves.

When we respond in kindness to difficult people with sincerity, we are being Christ-like, we are being obedient, and we are being genuine.  Over the long term, it will have a positive affect on those around us, including our own selves.

#Write31Days – Post 8 – Unacknowledged Hurt

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Have you ever had someone hurt your feelings, and no matter how you try to address it with the person… they just won’t own it.    They may try to blame you for the issue, or even shift blame by giving you the “if you didn’t ___, then I wouldn’t have ___” excuse.  You may have even apologized for the things you did in the situation that were wrong, and yet the other person is incapable of even acknowledging their part in the problem.

Unacknowledged hurt, hurts.  It really does.  And, I have found, the longer that it goes unacknowledged the more it hurts.   Whether you have been quietly waiting for the apology or out right demanded one is totally moot, because you are not going to get one either way.  Some people are totally incapable of admitting to their wrongdoing.

In my opinion, it boils down to one of three options:

1. Victim Mentalityvictimmentality

The victim won’t admit to being wrong, because they are incapable of doing so.   They have a skewed perception of reality, and will even project guilt onto you that is actually rooted in someone who previously abused, mistreated, or took advantage of them.  You end up paying the price because of harm that someone else had done long before this situation.  The more people who mistreated them, the more victimized they become.  The more victimized they become, the more they will see everyone out in the world is out to get them.  They are unable to see anyone through an objective lens, unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt  or accept that they may have hurt you. 

2.  Martyr Complexmartyrcomplex

Martyr’s are a bit different than victims because they WANT to be a victim, or at least appear like one.  It’s not that they are incapable of knowing that they hurt you, they just don’t want to bear the responsibility of owning it.  So, they PLAY the victim in order to garner sympathy from others outside of the situation.  They also want you to feel bad, like it is your fault, and bear not only the brunt of the blame … but to do all the work to repair things with them.  Which usually means that you will go above and beyond to try and make things right.  The martyr knows that they were wrong, in whole or part, but you will never hear an admission or acknowledgment from them.

3.  Haughty or Prideful Heart haughtyhaughty

The prideful person actually believes that they are totally innocent of any wrong doing, but not like a victim.  On the contrary, the prideful person is always right and everyone else is always wrong.  This has nothing to do with past experiences or victimization, but instead is a heart issue.  If you are hurt, that is YOUR issue… they did nothing wrong.  You are either too sensitive, have no right to be hurt, were the one who was wrong, etc.  And, the thing is, they totally believe this.  It’s different than the person who knows they are at fault (or at least partially at fault) and tries to pass the blame.  The prideful person truly believes they are totally innocent of any wrong doing what so ever.

The victim will usually make you feel horrible for hurting their feelings, so that you will bend more toward their sensitivities.  The martyr wants everyone else to see how they suffered and how terrible you treated them.  The haughty person would rather walk way from you in their “rightness” than admit to being wrong and try to do the right thing.  But, what is really interesting to me is that there are some people who are mixture of all three.  I didn’t realize it until I wrote this piece, so I suppose there is a fourth category.

There are those who are so certain they are right, that they will put all the blame on you. (Pride)

They will also make sure you feel absolutely terrible about hurting them, even if you are the one who was hurt.  (Victim)

And, they will make sure the whole world knows what you did to them and how you treated them so poorly.  (Martyr)

So what do you do, when you have been hurt…

… and the other person in never going to acknowledge that hurt?

  1.  Pray for clarity over the situation.  Is this a relationship that is otherwise healthy and this is just a particular situation, or is this a toxic relationship and this behavior is repetitive?  Is it time to let this relationship go, or is there restoration possible now or in the future?
  2.  Pray for forgiveness.  Pray for God to forgive you in the areas you failed in the relationship, and then ask God to help you forgive the other person.  Forgiving the other person will be freeing for you, as you will no longer be captive to their dysfunction or the situation any longer.
  3. Pray for discernment.  We usually can not just entirely remove a person from our life.   It may be a family member, a coworker, someone we attend church with, or part of a circle of friends.  Pray that God will help you determine what kind of boundaries you can put in place to protect yourself.  This may mean removing yourself from that person entirely, but it may be a few key decisions that help keep the person at a safe distance.
  4. Pray for healing.  You can cry out to God about your hurt and pain, and ask for Him to heal you.  His healing is not dependent on their acknowledgement of wrong.  His healing can help you move on, more forward, despite their inability to be accountable and reconcile the relationship.

Regardless of their ability to acknowledge the hurt they caused has no bearing on your right to call it what it is.  You can be frank with them, making sure they understand in no uncertain terms that they have hurt you (and perhaps even identifying the level of hurt).  You can choose to draw a line in the sand that can not be crossed until they are willing to acknowledge the hurt they caused.  It’s totally appropriate to do so in a manner that is straightforward without being catty, disrespectful, or mean. 

You can acknowledge the hurt.

God will acknowledge your hurt.

Together, God will help you move beyond it to greater things.

Stop thinking and caring so much about a person, who was able to not only hurt you so deeply… but who didn’t care enough to try and make it right.