Tuesday, September 29, 2015

How to have a good Pity-Party

Some days are meant for pity-parties. I mean it. Some days, you just need to throw something or cry into a pillow because life is too hard. You know how to have a good pity-party. Just let somebody try and stop you. Two boxes of tissues, 2 candy bars, and maybe some uncontrolled behavior.

The downside to a pity-party is the aftermath. On top of feeling overwhelmed, pitching a fit provides very temporary relief; it might even reinforce your feelings of desperation.

I love reading the book of Job on those occasions when life seems unfair because you can't read about Job's life without feeling a little bit of relief. You just can't. Job had it worse than anybody I know, and it happened in one fell swoop. Talk about unfair.

Let me share one of Job's laments with you, so you can feel at least justified in having Biblical tantrum. I must point out one interesting fact, however. What makes this lament usable is that Job is taking his frustration to God. He's really not taking it out on God or on anybody else. He knows that only God can help him, and when the big complaint is over, Job sits and waits for God to intervene. (And he waits a really long time. And throws a few more tantrums. And has more pity-parties. But who wouldn't?)

Here's how this one went, in my modern paraphrase (Job 3):

"I should never have been born! Or I should have died in childbirth! At least now I'd be sleeping peacefully instead of never sleeping.
Why bring me into this world and let me experience joy, and then snatch it away from me? Who does that? That's just cruel!
I want to die, but instead, you're killing everyone I love! I have to live on in misery alone!
What kind of God are you?
I've always been afraid something like this would happen, and now it has! I can't believe I trusted you. I thought you loved me.
I will never be happy again."

Ever say anything like that? I have. It doesn't feel spiritual at all--and certainly not prayerful.

Except that it is. It's a lament. It's crying out to God instead of just crying. It's looking up instead of looking around.

And that's a good place to start when life stinks.

Do we really have to forgive everyone?

Today I read a great post about forgiveness by Gwen Theilges, appearing on Rodney Coe's website "Lift up your day," for which we both guest-write. I wanted to share it below:
I’ve knelt at an altar, placing the names of people at His feet before. I’ve felt anger and betrayal, and if I told you each story, I’m willing to bet you’d agree that I’m justified in feeling wronged in at least a few of the situations.
But, here’s the thing. Well, the things…First of all, there have been people kneeling at literal and figurative altars placing ME at the feet of Jesus before.
I’ve wronged people. Sometimes I had the best of intentions, but unfortunately did something to hurt another person.
And other times? I just got it wrong.
No, let me use the real word – I sinned.
And therefore sent someone directly to an altar trying to forgive me, or worse yet, directly in the opposite direction – where bitterness increases and peace is elusive…that place where we go to not lay people at the feet of Jesus, asking God to give us the ability to forgive them, but instead where we justify our feelings of betrayal and anger.
That place where we dwell in a heap of self-destructive self-righteousness.
And the other thing? God forgives us without fail, repeatedly, and with arms wide open. We’re ALL sinners saved by amazing grace. Who are we to keep forgiveness from someone else?
We put others on a mental list entitled, “Not worthy of forgiveness,” while we couldn’t imagine our own names being on it. Do we truly think we are any more worthy of forgiveness than others?
I mean, think about it…every sin has the same root: we think our way of doing things or our way of thinking is better than God’s way. The sins themselves have different degrees of how they shake out, how many people are affected, and how the world categorizes them.
But, the root? All the same.
Does this also apply to the people you would least like to forgive? We’ve done things equally as ‘unforgivable.’ We can’t say that they don’t deserve our forgiveness if we want to speak the truth.
That leaves us with the only option left: we have to forgive them.
Wait! We don’t have to. On our own, anyway. We can’t! However, we have a God that upon being asked, will replace our feelings of unforgiveness with His peace that passes understanding.
I’ve experienced it. It’s the most free and liberated feeling. It can only be from God. It’s beyond-words-wonderful.
WE don’t have to forgive everyone, because in our ‘humanness’, WE can’t. However, with God by our side, we, plus God, can! We can forgive the ‘worst’ of offenses with the power of God.
Forgiving others in your own strength? Good luck. And thank God you don’t have to!
However, going boldly to the throne of God (Hebrews 4:16) and asking in expectancy (Matthew 7:7-8) for Him to help us forgive others? That’s doable. And right. And necessary in order for us to live the life God planned for us. (Jeremiah 29:11)
So throw away your list of ‘unforgivable’ people, get on your knees prayerfully, and get up feeling lighter than you’ve ever felt before. And know that most likely, you’ll be on your knees again.
However, if you ask Him to be, God will be there WITH you, imparting HIS power to give you the ability to forgive others.
No worries.
As it turns out, WE really don’t have to forgive everyone.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Confessing self-righteousness

Dear Holy Father, 
I confess my sin to you—my selfishness, my jealousy, my vanity, my ambition. I know I'm full of my own goodness. Continue to show me my arrogance and humble me. Cleanse me and make me holy like you so I can accurately reflect who you are. I desire to become blameless and pure, a vessel ready to be used! To you belongs all the glory. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

How to confess your sin

Feeling bad about something you've done? That's a good start. It's not enough to gain forgiveness, make it right, or change the behavior, but it's a good starting point. This little explanation below might help you to understand how to confess a sin and get victory over it (in other words, stop doing it again and again!).

The whole thing begins when you do something bad (i.e. selfish, unkind, harmful, cruel, debilitating, disrespectful, addictive, etc.). God's standard is holiness, so pretty much that dumps most of our behavior in the unholy category. Event most of the nice things we do, we do with ulterior motive--being nice to others helps our lives function better. But after we do something wrong, the need for confession begins--

1. You feel guilty. The question to ask yourself is--how does this behavior line up with God's standard? Then you know if the guilt is from God or you mother. (Sometimes they agree on the standard.) If God says it's wrong, it's wrong, no matter what the government or your friends think or what great reason you can give for its occurrence.
2. You apologize for the behavior, to the person you hurt and to God. This is confession. You must call it what God calls it so you consider it in all its nastiness. Without looking at the depravity of your choices, you won't want to change them; you will only hope to change the ramifications of your choices. Don't make excuses about how you didn't mean it or how you reacted to their actions out of habit. You sinned. If you don't own it, you will continue to do it. And it will own you.
3. You ask for forgiveness. This is a crucial step for you and for the offended party. It frees you both to continue the relationship. Without forgiveness, bitterness and resentment build up, and they will destroy you.
4. You ask how you can make it right and make it right. This is called restitution. Correct the gossip, return the money,  give up whatever is needed. Restitution hurts. Because it hurts, it's a great preventative for repeating the behavior.
5. Replace the behavior with the opposite behavior. This is called repentance, a turning away from and moving in the opposite direction. In Eph. 4:25, the Apostle Paul says to "put off lying and speak truth." Whatever you're doing wrong, stop doing it and start doing the opposite. If you don't replace it, you will slip back into it.

Victory! Yes, confession and repentance is a process, but it's a process that leads to victory. Don't take any shortcuts to repentance just to assuage your guilt. Do the work. You will reap the rewards of peace and victory in your life. You will change.

1 Jn. 1:9--"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

image from www.thisfamilytree.org

Friday, September 11, 2015

3 Encouragements on 9/11

Yesterday I taught a Bible study on learning to praise first when you pray. I mentioned that the focus of my prayers should always be on God rather than me, because when I focus on God's character--his goodness, faithfulness, and grace--only then will I have faith to pray for the things I need. Only then will I have the right perspective and the right motive to pray. Prayer is about sitting in the presence of God, not getting something from Him.

I suggested forming prayers of praise around three important components:
1. God’s character—who is He?
2. God’s actions toward you—how does he treat you?

3. God’s history of provision—what has he done for you/others in the past

This morning I clicked on the website "Lift Up Your Day" to read an encouraging post by Todd Benkert about 9/11. This was his advice:

1. Remember the character of God
2. Remember the promises of God
3. Remember the works of God

Yes! This is why we praise, and this is why we don't despair in hard times. Because God is faithful, He is good, He is loving, He is just, He is gracious, He is awesome in power and majesty. He's got this covered. And He can see the future.

He's got a plan for glory all worked out, even though we can't understand or imagine it.

Even on 9/11.

Praise the Lord, everyone. God wins in the end.


image from padresteve.com

Saturday, September 5, 2015

How to form a prayer of praise

Praise is a curious and unique activity.
Flattery puffs you up. Thankfulness warms you up. But praise makes you look up.

Praise provides the groundwork for all prayers, whether requests for deliverance or confession of wrongful actions. Without praise, I all too easily look past God's authority and grace, and I only see the answers I'm hoping I'll get.

Without praise, my prayers are nothing more than "Honey-do" lists for the spiritual genie in the sky. Without praise, I lose perspective of whom I am and who God is, the Creator and Sustainer of Life. The Author and Finisher of my faith. The Great I AM. Think on that for a second. (I bet you will begin praising Him!)

Choose from this little checklist for suggestions on how to praise God:

  • Describe God's character
  • Affirm God's intentions toward you
  • Express your love for God
  • Count the blessings God is already providing for you
  • Remember God's past faithfulness
  • Express your faith in God, regardless of present circumstances
  • Affirm your allegiance to God
  • Promise to obey God, even when life gets hard
  • Anticipate God fulfilling your destiny and your dreams
  • Reiterate God's love for you
Praise away! You will change. And your prayers might just move some mountains.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Psalm 8

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise
because of your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.

When I consider the heavens and the works of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
the son of man that you care for him?
You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.

You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
you put everything under his feet:
all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Image from www.suttonplacehotelcompany.wordpress.com.webloc