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Sometimes I’m My Own Worst Enemy

Most weeks everyone of us faces a number of demands upon our life

Events, relationships, circumstances, and situations that demand our time and attention

But, at the same time, there is a personal and private side of life that also needs you to invest some time and effort into it on a regular basis

This is our inner life that deals with the soul and spirit realm – the essence of who we are

But the demands of life can be fairly heavy, consistent, and demanding so we put our soul aside in order to carry on with the demands of life

We all do it

Life goes on, despite our personal struggles

And. Often because of the pace of regular life, we simply neglect our inner life

A friend of mine lost his father on a Wednesday

His company expected him back at the office on Monday

It is hard on our soul

It is hard on our life with God

So, a question arose in my soul the other day:

“Why is kindness toward my own soul so unfamiliar that it is so easy to ignore my own inner need – the wrinkles in my soul – to just ‘carry on with things?’”

Events, demands, expectations

To meet other people’s needs while ignoring my own

Doing what is expected of me instead of what is needed by me 

The world requires us to keep going at such speeds that we end up having only one emotional state towards everything 

A general, haggard, hazy condition of “on”

I’m on for a phone call from Kazakhstan

I’m on for a chat with a leader in Russia

I’m on for writing five blogs this week

I’m on for a phone call with my sister in Montreal

We live life pretty much on ‘automatic pilot’ without engaging our thoughts and feelings

Life is so busy and so demanding that there’s little to no margin for anything else and so the needs of our soul are stuffed into the corner and ignored time and again

We are so busy being kind to everyone else we fail to show kindness toward ourselves

And, in this regard “Sometimes I’m My Own Worst Enemy”

I came to this realization while reading Paul’s letter to  the Church in Ephesus

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

God is “so rich in kindness…”

He has showered His kindness on us

This kindness is so lovely and life-giving, we really need to pause — we really should pause —  and take time to reflect upon it

Kindness

Such a simple virtue that often takes a back seat to more dramatic qualities like bravery and holiness

And yet kindness is such a wonderful thing to receive

Don’t you love it when people are kind to you?

I sure do!

In a world growing increasingly angry and hostile, a little bit of kindness can make your day

You’re trying to merge into busy traffic and instead of cutting you off, the driver ahead pauses and waves you in

You’re returning some item to the store and, after waiting your turn behind several customers, you get to the counter only to realize you forgot the receipt

“No worries,” the clerk says, “We can take care of this.”

Such simple gestures can totally change your day

Kindness is simply wonderful 

If it is so wonderful – so refreshing – I find it interesting that we are seldom kind to ourselves

“Sometimes I Am My Own Worst Enemy”

And, as I have been thinking about all this — I am struck by the power of offering kindness towards ourselves

I was out in the yard this past summer working to assemble 300 pounds of bricks designed to form a fire pit for the yard

I have the base all level and straight – in the center of the yard, well situated

I have read the instructions and moved all 300 pounds of bricks from the front to the side yard and then move them, once again, to the back of the house two at a time

I start lining up the bottom row so they fit tight together and create the circular base of the fire pit

Too wide a circle leaving gaps between … so I move the bricks in closer

Still too wide … so I move all of them again to close the gap

Still too much open space after laying the complete bottom row … so I move them ALL

Now they are too close and I can’t get the last two in correctly … so I move them ALL

By this time I have worked for 90 minutes and achieved nothing but becoming angry and tired with raw finger tips

Finally, I realized what I needed — I need to walk away

I needed to let it go

I needed to sit down and have a coffee and calm down

I needed to express some kindness towards myself

This was totally new to me

Even though I have spent 50+ years telling others how to be gracious to their souls

I have always been hard on my own

So, I began to practice simple kindness toward myself 

Demanding less of myself

Giving myself permission to stop and not just keep pushing through

Allowing myself some slack

The fruit of this has been really good on my soul

The ripple effects are good on everyone else around me

In a book I was reading the other day the author was expressing the need to show kindness towards himself

I was all ears – well, all eyes, as I was reading a book

He wrote:

“A friend was in town last week. I felt I ought to invite him to come over. But before I sent the text, I paused and asked Jesus. Not a good call, He said. You’re utterly exhausted. And it’s true — I was wiped out from a week of meetings, mission, and work, and I was about to spend my one and only evening off on further giving, had not Jesus intervened. His counsel didn’t come as a command; it came in the gentle spirit of kindness. He said, Don’t do that to yourself.

Boy, for me this was and is a whole new way of living my Christian life

Experiencing God’s kindness and, as a result, showing kindness to myself

Let’s review the Scripture again… 

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

So, I began to make some foundational changes

      • I take a one minute pause every hour or so – just to take a deep breath and say thanks to God for … whatever

This is kind

      • I have begun to make room for more walks outside regardless of the weather getting in touch with nature and with my soul

This is kind

      • Unplugging for a short time on a daily basis from the constant barrage of media coming at me — most of which I need for my work and ministry

This is kind

      • Taking whole segments of time when I ignore the phone and all of its related ways to connect with people … they can wait as I am busy being kind to myself

This is kind

      • Taking time both early morning and before bed just to review the condition of my soul 

This is kind

I do these things (and others) because they bring me life

I do these things because they make me more aware of God’s presence and peace

I do these things because they heal and strengthen my soul

I do these things because the results are amazing and I would be a fool not to

So what might practicing kindness toward yourself look like these days:

      • Perhaps in the way you talk to yourself, especially when you blow it, mess something up, let a friend down
      • It might be in the pace you are currently demanding that your soul keep up with
      • What about the spoken and unspoken expectations you live by
      • Or maybe the to-do list you currently have for yourself 

These are four that I am currently working on correcting to show more kindness to myself

To not be so hard on myself

Because: Sometimes I’m my own worst enemy

Jesus said:

“Love your neighbour as you love yourself” (Mark 12:31)

Jesus is implying a direct link between one and the other

Loving our neighbour is clearly an essential to the Christian walk

I think we all get that one

But the qualifier “as yourself” is lost on most people

It sounds too much like pop psychology – self-help nonsense

Something you’d see on the cover of the magazines at the checkout counter, right next to the articles on “brain superfood” and “how to talk to your pet.”

Yet Jesus was pretty matter-of-fact about the comparison:

Treat people like you treat yourself

Think about it: If we treated our neighbours the way we typically treat ourselves, we would not be great neighbours

So, Jesus drives home healthy self-care (being kind to yourself) as tied directly to how we love others

The truth that arises out of this realization (revelation) is: The way you treat your own heart and soul is the way you’ll end up treating everyone else’s

You may think that it is not like that….

“I’m much more patient with my daughter than I am with myself”

That may be so … in the short term

But over time our lack of patience with ourselves begins to show up in our relationship with others and people notice

If you are a “neat freak,” I guarantee that you show more natural delight when your child straightens up their room to your standards than when they do a less-than-perfect job

“Wow — look at your room! You did a great job!”

The point: How you treat yourself is how you will treat others

The point: How you view yourself is how you will view others

                  • Patient with yourself – patient with others
                  • Love yourself – love others
                  • Hard on yourself – hard on others
                  • Judge yourself – judge others
                  • Accept yourself for who you are – accept others for who they are
                  • Expect better of yourself – expect better of others

Here’s a key issue:

Most of the time we are completely unaware of how we treat our own heart and soul 

Our “way” with ourselves is simply our norm 

We have been at it so long we don’t notice how we treat ourselves

In the same way that we don’t notice how much we bite our nails

The way we finish our spouse’s sentences for them

The fact we end most sentences with “eh” (a Canadian thing)

 

A second key issue:

How we treat ourselves has a direct effect on those around us

The father who doesn’t allow himself his own emotions communicates so much to his children by that practice alone

Not being kind to himself regarding how he is feeling teaches his children to ignore or bury their feelings — Feelings are something to ignore and hold at arm’s length

He further reinforces the lesson when he is visibly awkward and uncomfortable with the emotions of his child

He tries to hurry them through a “comforting” process:

“I’m sorry, sweetheart. You’ll feel better tomorrow”

“How about we get some ice cream”

He is trying to rush the child through their emotions to a place of resolution, teaching them to be as abrupt with their own heart as he is with his

Not being kind to himself on the feelings level teaches his children, by example, to not be kind to themselves on an emotional level

The Fact: The way you treat your heart and soul is the way you’ll end up treating everyone else’s heart and soul

We need to learn that God is gentle and that His kindness towards us is gentle

That He has and is pouring out His kindness on us 

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

Then we can be kind to ourselves

Then we can take that kindness and let it flow out to others we relate to

His kindness flows both into us and through us to others – gentle grace

Let me apply this to our everyday life where we often face self-imposed unspoken, unrealistic expectations…

I recently received one of those “you must watch” videos forwarded to me

Normally I don’t read, watch, or listen to anything that is forwarded to me – personal policy

But the person who sent it to me has never forwarded anything to me before

And he included an enticing line” “You’ve just got to see this!”

And it was impressive, no question

A beautifully filmed video of a professional dirt bike racer who had taken up surfing and wanted to combine his extreme adventures

So he constructed a dirt bike he could actually ride at high speeds on the ocean. Really!

The gorgeous project was filmed in Tahiti

The climax of the video is him actually catching and surfing a wave on a motorcycle

Impressive! Outrageous!

In a battle for our attention, this one is an easy winner; it seriously an attention getter

And completely unkind

Because the cumulative effect of this stuff sets up all sorts of unspoken, maybe even unconscious expectations within us

I don’t think we have given any thought to what it does to the soul to live in a culture where that kind of stuff is the daily fare

This stuff shows up in my inbox all the time — I know you get them too

First it was base jumping

Folks leaping off cliffs and tall building wearing a parachute or parasail

That becomes routine, so it elevated to jumping without parachutes in “squirrel suits,” flying through the air to safe landing zones

Now that’s routine, so the video I got the other day was of two guys jumping off a mountain with no safe landing zone within miles, flying in squirrel suits through the air and making their “landing’ into the door of an airplane

The incessant upgrade of everything

Always pushing the boundaries

Extreme this, extreme that

It sets up an unspoken set of expectations in our hearts that, unless your life is YouTube ready, your life is stupid

Your life is boring

Studies show that anxiety and depression — and envy — rise in direct proportion to one’s consumption of social media

Because we’re comparing our lives to what’s online

Creeping in is the message that if your life is going to measure up and be wonderful, it has to be fantastic

Men use to get on bended knee to propose to their beloved

Nowadays you’re a loser unless you do it skydiving or kayaking over waterfalls

This phenomenon is shaping Christianity — or Christian practices — and even more harmfully shaping our spiritual expectations

Modern worship bands not only need to be extraordinarily talented musicians, young, and beautiful — BUT their live events must employ multimedia to keep your attention as well 

Now church services compete with concert-level staging, lighting, special effects, and films.

The terrible, unspoken assumption creeping in is this:

If you’re going to find God

If you’re going to have more of God

It’s going to come through some amazing experience, something wild and over the top

Or we think that once we have God, the proof will be an over-the-top life … “life not ordinary”

Not true of course

Actually unhelpful and immensely unkind to your soul and mine

This expectation actually makes those deeper experiences of God seem inaccessible for most of us

We do need more of God, much more

Little sips between long droughts will not sustain us

We need more of God in our bodies, our souls, our relationships, our work — everywhere in our lives

But when you live in a culture of the incessant upgrade of everything — the sensational 

It gives the impression that if you’re going to have a deeper, richer, amazing experience of God, it’s going to have to come in some sensational way

I have some wonderful news for you: Nope! Not true! Not even close!

Life is built on the dailies

Consider love, friendship, and marriage

Love, friendship, and marriage are not built on skydiving together

Trips to Paris

Kayaking the Amazon River

Perhaps once in your life you might do something like that

But the fantastic is not your daily

Love, friendship, and marriage are nurtured in the context of simple things like…

      • Coffee together
      • Hanging out
      • Getting a burrito
      • Holding hands
      • Taking a walk
      • Doing the dishes
      • Reading to one another
      • Just reading different things while you’re together in the same room
      • Sharing your thoughts and feeling
      • Responding to someone when they have shared their thoughts and feelings

 

It’s the little things that build a beautiful life – and solid relationships

I know we often tend to live for the big events – the break from the normal

But, life is made up of the “daily things” 

If you want to walk in a half marathon – then you start by walking each day and building up the muscles and the stamina 

If you want to bike across Canada and raise money for a worthy cause – you start by getting on your bike every day and riding around your neighbourhood and city

If you have a desire and a dream to see the lost come to the Lord by the hundreds as you share in front of large crowds – you start by sharing with those you meet daily as you live your normal life here and now

You are making it second nature so that when you do go out, you can handle what you will encounter

AND, this is how life with God works as well … small steps daily … It’s in the dailies

I do think that God has amazing things or us

I really do

I have been part of some extraordinary experiences with God

I have had global adventures with Him

But, I don’t live there

Getting there, just like getting to love others or anything else that’s wonderful in this life – is in the dailies

It’s back here at home in the little things we do

That is how we practice kindness to ourselves – in the dailies

So, what does extending kindness towards yourself look like right now?

How do you talk to yourself?

What is your “way” with yourself?

Is it harsh?

Unforgiving?

Demanding?

What about the expectations you currently have for getting things done?

Is efficiency running your life and causing you to see things a certain way?

Pace of life is a good barometer too

What’s the pace you’re currently demanding of yourself?

Would you ask the same pace of someone you love?

Ask Jesus…

What is the pace you want for me right now, Lord?

He might have some things He’d like to say to you about that

Not in the negative sense, but in loving directions toward life and then abundant life

Kindness towards oneself means not being driven – but being led by God

Kindness towards oneself means not expecting perfection or even improvement every day

Kindness toward oneself means taking time to be in touch with your feeling and dealing with them as they rise up inside

Maybe just allowing yourself to have feelings

Kindness toward oneself mean’s being gracious about your heart’s slow journey toward God

Kindness toward oneself means to stop trying to measure up to some ideal that you have of who you should be … accepting yourself for who you are and where you are at right now

Kindness toward oneself means stop comparing yourself to others and just be you

Kindness to oneself may even mean to turn off the newsfeed on Facebook and to stop spending so much time on You Tube

Kindness to oneself means living life in such a way that you have both personal space and personal time

 

God really wants for us to accept His kindness – to receive and live in His kindness

God wants to lead us into rest, beauty, restoration and all that He has planned for us 

“So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.”       (Ephesians 1:6-8 NLT)

 

The Anatomy of a Great Relationship – Part Three

The second benefit of being a man or woman of character (Psalm 15) is found at the end of the psalm. After describing the person of character in detail (see Part One), the psalmist concludes, “He who does these things will never be shaken.”

Now this is a benefit you don’t experience immediately. It’s something that comes from weeks, months, or years of investing in your character and your relationship with the Lord based in that character. It’s the result of adopting a lifestyle. The image the psalmist paints is that of two trees in a storm. And while the same storm sweeps over both trees with the same force, one tree is destroyed while the other is left standing. 

So it is with men and women of character. They are not delivered from the storms of life. But they are delivered through them. For their roots go deep. Their faith is strong. Their resolve is unwavering.

Their pursuit of Christlikeness has gained them the unique privilege of saying to God, “God, I’m just doing what You told me to do. You got me into this. It’s up to You to get me through it.” And so they deliberately and sincerely cast their deepest and most intimate cares upon God. And they live with confidence that He is going to care for them (1 Peter 5:7).

No place in the world is more secure than in the middle of God’s will. It’s the only real security. In that way, to pursue a life of character is to prepare for the storms of life. Remember, “he who does these things will never be shaken.” 

God assumes total responsibility for the life that’s yielded to Him. That’s why men and women of character will never be shaken. Navigating the storms of life is not their responsibility. Being obedient to the voice of God is. 

The greatest tragedy of missing this process isn’t that your marriage might fall apart. Or that you’ll flounder in your career. Or that you’ll be lonely the rest of your life. As tragic as these things may be, the greatest tragedy of refusing to pursue the character of Christ is that you’ll miss Him. There is a price for becoming a person of character. But it’s not nearly as high as the price of pursuing other things.

Character paves the way to intimacy with God. To know Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to live with the confidence that He will not allow you to be shaken. That’s the ultimate promise of character. It is the promise of His presence, a presence you cannot possibly miss. 

The Anatomy of a Great Relationship – Part Two

Let’s turn from looking at the key relationship – intimacy with God – and look at our personal relationships. You’ve probably known someone in your past who pursued a relationship with you for all the wrong reasons. Once you got close to him, you realized he had a hidden agenda. Do you remember how that felt?

How do you respond internally to a person like that? Do you open up and become more transparent? Of course not. You become cautious. Everything he does is suspect. You rehearse old conversations and think, Oh, so that’s why he said that.

Think a minute. If your interaction with God is focused primarily on getting something from Him, what does that say about your relationship? You aren’t coming to Him on terms that warrant a relationship of intimacy.

Still, God listens to your self-centered prayers. Sometimes He actually grants your requests. But as long as you see Him only as a means to your ends, you will never experience intimacy. You will never truly know Him. This unique depth of relationship is reserved for those who respect Him, trust Him, and are willing to communicate honestly with Him. It is withheld from those who dishonour Him by treating Him like a vending machine.

There is a correlation between your personal holiness (character) and your intimacy with God. There is a direct relationship between your willingness to obey God and His willingness to reveal Himself to you. This is THE primary benefit of character. Character brings a heightened sense of intimacy with God, an intimacy available only through the pursuit of Christlike character. 

During His ministry on earth, Jesus modeled this cause-and-effect relationship. He reserved a level of intimacy for a select group. They had left everything to follow Him. They respected Him. They trusted Him. And they were in constant communication. No, the twelve apostles were not perfect. But they had left their businesses and their families to pursue a relationship with Him. He was their priority.

Further evidence of this is found in an incident that took place immediately following the telling of a parable. The meaning behind Jesus’ parables was not always clear. And apparently, that began to bother the disciples. On this particular occasion the disciples pulled Jesus aside and asked Him why He wasn’t more direct with His audience. He said, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but to them it has not been given” (Matthew 13:11 NKJV).

Jesus was suggesting to His disciples that there would always be people who remained on the fringe relationally. There would always be curious onlookers who had a distant interest in Jesus. But special insights were reserved only for those in His inner circle. Did Jesus love the multitudes? Yes. He died for them as well as the Twelve. But the multitudes did not know Jesus as the Twelve did. He chose to reveal Himself to them at a deeper level. After answering the disciples’ question, Jesus took them aside and explained the meaning of each parable. To His special friends, it had been given “to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

We are not talking about a relationship that excludes anyone. This exclusive relationship is available to everyone; everyone that is, whose walk is blameless and who does what is right. In other words, it is available to those in pursuit of character. 

Jeremiah echoed this same idea when he wrote, “You will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). 

So, I was out walking the other day and it was one of those still days when there was little to no wind in my region of the country. An unusual occurrence as there is always a wind, it seems. I walked a long distance in the still air and sunshine. But then I turned around to return home and seemingly out of nowhere there was a gentle breeze blowing. Where had it come from? It had been there all along. I just wasn’t’t aware of it. As long as it was at my back, I didn’t hear or feel it. But as soon as I faced the other way, my ears immediately sensed its presence. 

The same is true of God. As long as we have our backs turned to Him, doing our own thing, living life the way we think it should be lived, we are less aware of His presence. He is there, but we remain unaware. Once we begin prioritizing our lives around His values and principles, it is as if He comes alive in our lives. We have a heightened sense of the reality of God. But again, the sense of His presence is reserved for those who have turned in His direction. 

More next time… 

The Anatomy of a Great Relationship – Part One

Since mid-summer and a three week camping trip in the forests of my region of Canada I have been studying and reading a lot on healthy relationships. The believer’s relationship with God being the foundation for all healthy relationships. It is an interesting study as I learn about healthy and unhealthy relationships. Topics such as friendships in a time when we are ruled by social media; how to end unhealthy relationships; the need for solid character to develop healthy relationships; and how to grow healthy relationships.

As believers, the key to all relationships is our walk with God. Psalm 15 is a wonderful psalm that talks about the character of one who would abide with the Lord and have intimacy with Him. The writer asks (KJV), “Who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?” The assumption is that these are two things to be sought after. However, neither sounds appealing. After all, who wants to live in a tent? And what’s the big deal about living on a holy hill?

The tent referred to the place where God resided. And the holy hill was the hill in Jerusalem where the permanent temple was eventually built. To have access to these places was to have access to God.

The Israelites of that day thought of God as dwelling in the ark of the covenant inside the sanctuary tent. God gave them that picture as a tangible reminder of His presence. In their way of thinking, the closer they were to the ark and the tent, the closer they were to God. The farther they were from the ark and the tent, the farther they were from God. They believed this so deeply that they took the ark of the covenant with them into battle. And who could blame them?

So when you take these questions, steeped in ancient Jewish culture, and translate them into our language, this passage asks and answers one of the most relevant questions imaginable: Who gets an inside track with God? The implication is that intimacy with God is a real possibility.

The psalmist makes it clear that this privilege is reserved for men and women of character. Psalm 15 in full reads (TPT):

Lord, who dares to dwell with you?

Who presumes the privilege of being close to you,

living next to you in your shining place of glory?

Who are those who daily dwell in the life of the Holy Spirit?

They are passionate and wholehearted,

always sincere and always speaking the truth—

for their hearts are trustworthy.

They refuse to slander or insult others;

they’ll never listen to gossip or rumours,

nor would they ever harm another with their words.

They will speak out passionately against evil and evil workers

while commending the faithful ones who follow after the truth.

They make firm commitments and follow through,

even at great cost.

They never crush others with exploitation or abuse

and they would never be bought with a bribe

against the innocent.

They will never be shaken; they will stand firm forever.

Let’s list the description in modern day terms:

      • They walk with integrity
      • They do what is right
      • They tell the truth
      • They don’t gossip
      • They don’t mistreat people
      • They side with those who are right
      • They keep their word
      • They lend money to those in need without interest
      • They don’t take advantage of people for financial gain

That’s quite a list. Clearly, character paves the way to intimacy with God.

Initially, this idea may sound somewhat pretentious. Unchristian. But that is not the case at all. Throughout Scripture, God is described as having a personality. Again and again, we see Him relating to humankind much the same way we relate to one another. In fact, the rules that govern human relationships are very similar the rules that govern our relationship with the Father – God the Creator.

Three elements are always present in a healthy relationship.

    1. Respect
    2. Trust
    3. Communication

To have a quality relationship with someone, you must respect him, trust him, and communicate with him. The same is true about your relationship with God.

The pursuit of character (the list from Psalm 15) entails all three elements of a healthy relationship. When you acknowledge that God’s standard is THE standard, you demonstrate respect. When you commit to follow God’s standard, regardless of what it costs you personally, you demonstrate trust. And as you seek to understand His standard more thoroughly, and as you run up against your inability to live out His standards consistently, you communicate with Him. 

The pursuit of character (Psalm 15) inevitably becomes the pursuit of God, for the standard by which you judge your life flows from the nature of the heavenly Father. You may begin with a list in mind. But eventually, you discover that you are pursuing a Person, not a standard.

More next time…

The Price of Peace – Part Two

The Bible is quite clear about how we can cultivate and enjoy God’s peace, as well as how we can lose it. When we worry and fret over what we don’t have, what we wish we had, what someone else thinks of us, or how jealous we are of others, inner peace remains elusive. Scripture tells us, “Worry weighs a person down, an encouraging word cheers a person up (Proverbs 12:25 NLT).

Whenever technology increases our worry, whenever it helps us fragment our attention and compartmentalize our hearts, it also kills our peace. We worry when we rely on our own abilities rather than trust in God. But His Word tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

When we lack peace, we live stressed and afraid. We’re always wondering when the next problem is going to pop up, the next conflict arise, the next crisis hit. Even when things are good, we hold our breath, constantly expecting that other shoe to drop. (It always does, right?) It’s hard to be whole-hearted in our pursuit of God when our thoughts are polluted by worry and anxiety. Instead, we should, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Now is a great time to be brutally honest.

Are you addicted to something on line? Looking lustfully? Spending uncontrollably? Surfing endlessly? Playing continually? Gambling consistently? Scrolling incessantly?

Tell the truth.

While it’s never going to be fun or easy to kick an online addiction, you’ll be surprised how quickly your peace will be restored once you surrender the problem to God. Because if you’re serious about pursuing God’s healing, He’ll meet you wherever you are.

So if you find yourself overwhelmed with virtual temptations, remember that God isn’t surprised. He knows what you face, and He’s already made a plan to help you find freedom. Paul offers us this amazing promise: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Don’t miss the power of these words. 

God will provide a way out.

What’s your way out? I don’t know. It could be something dramatic. But be honest. You are a sharp person. If some small tweak would have fixed your problem, you would have done it a long time ago.

You way out may be confessing to your spouse, your best friend, your small group, or your pastor. It might be deleting an app and making sure you can’t get it again. You might need to lay down your phone, iPad, iPod, Kindle, Kobo, computer, television, and anything else so you can’t get to anything you shouldn’t see. I don’t know what you need to do. But chances are you have a pretty good idea.

God promises to give you a way out.

James tells us, “Submit yourselves then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8).

If you want to be a man or woman of integrity, then maybe it’s time for you to submit to God like never before. That’s where you start. Then with Christ’s power, you can resist the devil and all his e-temptations. Tragically, so many people do just the opposite. They resist God’s promptings and give in to the temptations of the evil one. But that won’t be you. And it won’t be me.

Instead we will live with online integrity leading to holiness and righteous living. Because our lives are not about us. We will not gratify the self-centered lusts of the flesh because we’re born of the Spirit. We will not allow God’s loving trust to slide into the quicksand or popular opinion sink us into lower standards. We will guard our peace. We won’t allow how we use tech to rob us of our purpose, passion, and power.

As we pray, God will give us wisdom to set up pleasant boundaries and safeguards to keep temptations as far away from us as possible. And when we are tempted, we know that Jesus has already given us an escape route.

We will seek Him, see His way out, and take it.

We have His power to overcome sin. We have His Spirit to lead us into righteousness. We have His presence to keep us pure.

We will be whole.

We will be complete.

We will know the peace of the Lord. 

The Price of Peace – Part One

When you think about it, no one stumbles into righteousness. People fall into sin every day. But no one just falls into holiness. It requires making deliberate, prayerful choices and walking an intentional path. Which bring us around to thinking of the peace that being right with God brings into our life. When we are born again, we finally have peace with God (Romans 5:1) as the war is over. And then as we walk with Jesus we have the inner peace that passes all understanding just as He promises.

However, there is a stress point here in our lives. Because of modern technology we see this peace that is specific to being a believer destroyed by the constant need (or what we think is a need) to respond to every sound that our phones and laptops make when messages are being received. 

Peace is a funny thing. We tend to think of it as the absence of conflict, the period between wars and military battles where opposing sides at least pretend to get along. (Does that remind you of some marriages?) Whether it’s “peace and quiet” longed for by a stay-at-home mom with young children or something negotiated among world political leaders, we all tend to think of peace as this quiet, calm, serene state of being.

But in the Jewish culture, the word peace, shalom, has a much richer, fuller meaning than just “getting along” with everybody. In fact. Shalom is one of the underlying principles of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible that Jews consider foundational to their history. Shalom means not only the kind of personal peace we often crave but also a harmonious environment and a sense that everything’s right with the world.

Shalom is about living out the fullness of who God created you to be and enjoying the abundance of blessings God showers on you. This kind of peace includes a feeling of confidence and blessing because you know who you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. It also encompasses a sense of security, an ability to relax and not have to try to control everything because you’re able to trust in God’s goodness as well as His plan. What’s interesting is that peace, shalom, cannot be earned like a paycheque after a week’s work. It comes as a free gift if we’re just willing to receive it. 

We all say we want more peace, but I wonder if we recognize what we do that often robs us of God-given peace. Like checking our email obsessively because we’re afraid we’ll miss something, when we should be enjoying time with God, our family, or a close friend we’ve been missing. Or like responding to emails to make sure everyone views us as the hardworking, super-efficient people we are, when we should be focusing on more important priorities. Like killing time surfing for an hour or so because we are avoiding a difficult conversation. Like obsessing over the latest hot app game when we should be playing with our kids. Like numbing the paining of life by clicking to the “wrong sites” for a lustful escape from reality.

Here’s what many people miss: when we misuse technology, we’re robbing ourselves of the peace we so desperate crave, because even the momentary escape is followed by waves of intense guilt. We want to numb the pain, but on the other side of our binge, the pain is still there, only worse. We love the momentary distraction, but then reality screams at us and our responsibilities pile up. We love the thrill of the lust, but the fear of getting caught haunts us and robs us of sleep and peace. Like a person dying of thirst who gulps salt water, that which is supposed to satisfy only intensifies our need. So life goes on as usual. More stress. More anxiety. More worries.

And less peace.

Everyone talks about being so busy and longing for more rest, but not many of us are willing to guard our integrity by unplugging and protecting our personal peace.

One way to measure the peace in your life is to think about your level of satisfaction and contentment. Are you always striving for more, trying to keep up with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers? Or can you appreciate the enormous blessings you’re enjoying today — a bed to sleep in, food to eat, a family to love, friends to enjoy, a car to drive, and a job that provides income?

I’m convinced that our peace (or the absence thereof) is directly tied to what we focus on each day. We don’t need a lot of specialized knowledge or superhuman will to achieve peace. We simply need to keep paying attention to what we are doing with our time. If we’re focused on escaping the pain of life, avoiding problems, and trying to control our image to the rest of the world, then we won’t have much peace. And the more we seek to surf porn, feed a shopping or gambling addiction online, or envy others for all they appear to have online, the more miserable, restless, and anxious we’re going to feel.

Guaranteed.

More next time….

Technology Has Changed How We Relate – Part Two

 

Blog of September 7, 2020

We are looking at how technology has changed how we relate to others in our day and age. Last time we saw two of three major changes:

1> The term “friend” is evolving

2> We’re addicted to immediate affirmation

Let’s continue our look and see number three…

3> We have the power to do friendship on our own terms

Not only do many of us have more virtual Friends than real friends and are addicted to immediate gratification in connecting with others, we face another downside to social media: the power to define relationships on our own terms. Let me explain what this means. Let’s say my friend texts me. I have some choices, don’t I? I can read his text right away, or I can read it later. I can reply as soon as I read it, or I can reply later. I can even choose not to reply at all.

I have complete control over what I do — or what I don’t do.

If another friend posts a picture on Instagram, I have the power to determine several things. For example, is his picture Like-worthy? Is it worth the extraordinary inconvenience of double-tapping my finger on it? Or should I just scroll right on by? If this is another of his stupid cat pictures, you can probably guess what I am going to do. A dog picture. Different.

I am in total and complete control of these friendships; I manage them from a distance. If you are my online friend, I’ll show you only the parts of my life that I want you to see and tell you only what I want to tell you. If I don’t want to respond to the things you choose to show me, I’m not going to. If you post too many pictures of your product, or too many duck-face selfies, or too many “inspirational quotes” that the person you credit may or may not have actually said (because you can’t be bothered to check), or too many pictures of your cat making duck faces, I will unfollow you. We are in control of on-line friendships. And that control is changing how we manage our relationships.

Friendship doesn’t mean what it use to mean. 

I can’t speak for you, but to be really honest, I have to admit that the more I dabble on social media, the more I realize I’m delaying the personal interaction I crave. I have also never been more connected and yet feel so alone.

The author of Hebrews says, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24). Wouldn’t it be amazing to get together with other followers of Jesus and discuss this topic? We could start with, “Guys, how can we become so aggressive in how we show love to one another that other people really stop and think, ‘Hey, these people must be Christians. Have you seen the way they love one another.?’”

The writer of Hebrews goes on to say, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 12:25). 

Really let that sink in: “Let’s not neglect our meeting together.”

“Let us not neglect our meeting together.”

“Let us not neglect our meeting together.

Have we fallen out of this practice?

If this passage isn’t enough to convince you, think about friendship in the context of your Christian faith. Think about what Jesus said: “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). Isn’t that powerful? Jesus promises us that whenever we come together with other believers in His Name, we will experience His real presence in a supernatural way. Does that mean you con’t experience His presence when you’re alone? Absolutely not! You can. It’s just something more, something special, something powerful happens when we come together with other believers to seek God. When you join hands with someone, when you join your faith together and go before God on His throne, you experience His power and presence together in very real ways (Acts 16:25-26).

Something supernatural happens when we join together with other believers and lift up holy hands before our God to worship Him (Exodus 17:10-13). 

Something supernatural happens when we join together with other believers and, as believers have done for centuries, open up God’s Word and read it aloud together (Nehemiah 8:1-12).

Something supernatural happens when we unite our faith and passionately seek God together in prayer (Acts 12:11-14).

Presence is powerful!

Think about it this way: God didn’t shout His love from heaven. He showed His love on earth. He stripped Himself of all heavenly glory and became one of us. God became flesh in the person of Jesus. Even one of Jesus’ names, Immanuel, literally means “God with us.” He came and lived with us, He loved people others rejected. He poured His heart into people who the religious community said were not worthy. He hung out with — and even ate with — tax collectors, sinners and prostitutes.

Presence is so powerful. So why do so many of us settle for on-line relationships and neglect the old-fashion way of having friends; actually meeting with them one-on-one, face-to-face?  

Technology Has Changed How We Relate – Part One

I was away on my annual holiday for three weeks in July. And, every morning over my first cup of coffee I wrote a group text to everyone in my home church. Most were not aware that I was away and not at home in my office. It led me to think and briefly research how technology is changing the way we relate to the people in our lives. As we explore these ways, consider how each applies to your life and how you are using technology and social media to relate to others. 

1> The term “friend”is evolving

It used to be that when someone said another person was a friend, you understood exactly what they meant. A friend was someone who shared common interests or bonds, someone you enjoyed being around, someone you did life with. But it’s not that simple anymore, is it? Now a friend can be someone you’ve never met IRL (in real life). Friends can be people who follow what you post on social media. If they follow you, and you don’t follow them back, that’s one kind of friend. If you follow them, but they don’t follow you, that’s another kind of friend. And if you both follow each other, that’s yet another kind of friend. 

Currently, the average Facebook user has 338 friends. But surveys indicate that the average person has only two friends they consider to be close. As shocking as that statistic is, there is one that is even sadder: 25 percent of people in North America today say they have zero close friends! The struggles are real. Does it really matter that you have 338 Facebook friends if you have no one to share your life with? And I’m not even talking about the kind of friend who listens as you pour your heart out or share your latest struggles, Many people no longer have friends they can hang out with or who can drop by unannounced as a welcome surprise. (When was the last time you did that to someone, or they did it to you? Doesn’t it sound intimidating?) Technology supposedly saves us time, yet we seem to have even less time — at least for really relating to people. We have lots of online interactivity, but that doesn’t mean we have any personal intimacy.

Friends just doesn’t mean what it used to.

2> We’re addicted to immediate affirmation

Let’s say you were at home alone back in the old days (ten years ago), and you started feeling a little lonely. What would you do? You might pick up the phone and call a friend. You might even make arrangements to get together. You might walk outside and visit with your next-door neighbour. Any of these were reasonable choices, and they were all pretty easy, right? Apparently, they just weren’t easy enough.

What do we do today when we feel lonely? Text a friend, post an update, or share an old favourite picture. If you’re feeling really creative, we’ll surf for items to pin to Pinterest or make a new YouTube video. We might take a picture of our homemade chocolate chip cookies (gluten free, no GMO, hand-whittled, and carved from organic cocoa) and share it on Instagram. Or we Vine or Tic Tok a little clip about being bored.

Then there’s my favourite. If we’re really bored and lonely, we always have ourselves. That’s right, we can snap a selfie, right there on the couch. It we’re really motivated, we might even go into the bathroom and fix ourselves up a little first, then snap a selfie in the bathroom mirror. We tousle our hair, puff out our lips (duck face), and tilt our heads, snapping picture after picture, trying to get the light just right, determined to achieve a ‘perfect’ shot. We might even go as far as to wear our trendiest clothes, find a local you-wish-you-knew-where-I-was ally, and let the self-timer rip.

But we don’t have to stop there. We can touch up the photo, tweak the lighting a little more, maybe use a filter. We are nowhere near perfect, but we can manipulate images, apps, and filters to create an image of ourselves that’s perfect for the moment. And don’t forget the all-important caption. Is it inspirational? Clever, but not too obviously clever? We can even add a Bible verse for extra ‘Likes.’ Once all is in place we can post it. Then we can compulsively check our updates, hoping to hit the ‘Likes’ jackpot. 

Even if you don’t hit it big, we may score some fun comments. You know, things like: 

    • “Lookin’ good!”
    • “Love that shirt! Where’d ya get it???”
    • “omgosh amazing *swoons*”
    • “where r u? Totes adorbs!! [sexy, smiling emoji]”

We often get immediate feedback. But the problem with this kind of immediate feedback, this quick affirmation, is that it’s addicting. Even when we know it’s shallow, even when we don’t believe the sender is sincere in their flattery, we still love receiving it. To be fair, it’s not our fault. Scientists say that receiving positive affirmation like this release dopamine, a chemical in our brains that gives us a kind of euphoric feeling, a little rush. Just like similar drugs, we can get addicted to that high.

If you don’t believe me, consider the last time you posted a selfie and didn’t get much response — at least in the first hour. Do you remember having an empty feeling and thoughts like these running through your mind?

    • “Where is everyone? What’s up with that?”
    • “How many have clicked on it? Did they ‘Like’ it?”
    • “Who ‘Liked’ it?”
    • “Why didn’t she ‘Like’ it? She never ‘Likes’ my pictures. I’m going to stop ‘Liking’ hers. Just keep that up sister, and you’re gonna get yourself unfollowed.”

Many of us are addicted to immediate affirmation. What is this addiction doing to us? How is it affected our relationships?

Sociologists call all this “deferred loneliness.” We’re trying to meet some short-term need, but in the process of meeting this need, we’re deferring a deeper, longer-term need. We are meant to have deep, sometimes difficult feelings of loneliness to motivate us toward the kinds of contact with others that meet our deepest, long-term needs. Every time we seek instant affirmation, we ignore our basic human condition of loneliness and the opportunity of loneliness that drives us toward real friendship, real intimacy, first with God and then with others.

So our addiction to instant gratification can stunt our relationships. We’re living for ‘Likes,’ but we’re longing for love. 

More next time …

Bad Eyes – Good Eyes

Jesus told us, “The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness” (Luke 11:34 NKJV).

This really hit home recently while I was ministering in Southern California. My glasses were not sitting right on my face (I had dropped them) and after prophesying over a pastor he came up and asked if he could adjust them. His full-time job in Seattle was working with eyeglasses … he was a church planter. He had travelled many hours to be at our meetings. I so appreciated him correcting the fit of my glasses as then I could see properly out of my progressive lenses. 

My eyesight is not as poor as some people’s. But when my glasses fit properly I can read with a lot more ease and catch details that I otherwise miss. Just as people go to an eye doctor to get glasses or have surgery to give them better eyesight, we’re not stuck with our current life paradigm. We can choose a better one!

The word paradigm come from the Greek and is, in a general sense, a reference to a set pattern or way we see the world – not in terms of our physical eyes but in terms of our assumptions, beliefs, and overall perspective. It’s what we might call our mind’s eye.

This is what Jesus was referring to as He explained the eye as the lamp of the body. He was saying that the eye can be good or the eye can be bad, and the condition of our eye affects what we see or don’t see, what we experience or miss out on. If our eyes are good, it’s like turning on a lamp inside of us. We brighten up in our spirits because we’re living with a greater awareness of God’s goodness and blessings in our lives. 

The opposite is true about bad eyes; they miss seeing the good. They may or may not take in darkness, but they definitely don’t take in light. What they don’t see is not what they are incapable of seeing but typically what they are not trained to see.

In a similar way, the only thing that’s different between a negative person and a positive person is what they “see.” Two people can grow up in the same home with similar life experiences, and one will be negative about life and the other will be positive. Even though they have been surrounded by the same environment and have the same parents, what they see and the way they see it is different.

Negative people are not bad. Pessimistic people are not ignorant. In fact, oftentimes negativity is a trait of people who are highly informed in what they call reality. When passing along their perspective, they will tell you, “I’m not being negative; I’m just being real!” And they are being real in what they are aware of and educated in, which is the “life is hard” reality. They have taken pages of notes and have the data to support the fact that life is not a gravy train!

When people are deeply educated in the “life is hard” reality but undereducated in the “God is good” reality they lean towards the unfavourable possibilities versus seeing the possibilities of something good. The reason these people can get stuck in their negativity is that they have accepted that the “life is hard” reality (paradigm) cancels out the “God is good” (paradigm) reality.

I have found that anyone, even people highly aware of the “life is hard” reality, will become authentically optimistic when they educate themselves in the “God is good” reality. You don’t have to deny the realities associated with life being hard to see the realities associated with God being good!

When you look through ‘good eyes’ you see, recognize, and accept that there is a problem and life is difficult. But, you first see it as a challenge and an opportunity to see God move and do something amazing and supernatural. You rise to the challenge that the reality offers to you. You accept the negative reality as something God knew was coming and has prepared you to handle. His grace being more than sufficient. So, both ‘good eye’ and the ‘bad eye’ see the same reality … but the ‘good eye’ sees it as an amazing opportunity for God to show Himself strong in the situation and for them to learn and grow in their walk of faith as a believer. 

Reaching Your God-Given Potential – Part Three

We have been looking at the need for decent and mature friends in our individual journey of life. These are the three types of friends everyone needs to reach their God-given potential…

    • A friend to challenge you and bring out your best
    • A friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith
    • A friend to tell you the truth, especially when you don’t want to hear it

We have looked briefly at the friend who will challenge you and help to bring the best you to the surface and forefront. And, a friend to help you find strength in God and grow in your faith. The third type of friend that we must have is one who will tell us the truth – the whole truth, God’s truth, the truth that brings a reality check. And the more successful you become, the more you need this person in your life and, oddly, the harder they are to find.

King David discovered this the hard way. During the season when kings were suppose to be at war, David decided to stay home rather than go to battle. One night he was out on his rooftop when he saw his neighbour’s wife, Bathsheba, bathing outside her house. His selfish lusts spoke louder than his wisdom, so the king sent someone to bring the woman to him. What’s interesting is that whomever King David sent to get Bathsheba had to know that she was married to Uriah, one of David’s closest friends and one of Israel’s greatest war heroes. But since the messenger was on the king’s payroll (and he might have been afraid of losing more than just his job), the guy did exactly as he was told. He summoned the woman to the king’s palace. And if you don’t know the story well. One thing led to another, and Bathsheba ended up pregnant.

Recognizing that this could become a scandal, David tried to get control of the situation. He called he husband home, figuring Uriah would sleep with his wife and then assume the baby was his. But when Uriah refused to enjoy intimacy with his wife while his men were still on the battlefield, David changed his tactics. He issued the order to move his friend to the front line where he was sure to be killed. And he was.

Unfortunately, everyone in the king’s court was too afraid to tell David the truth. So God sent a man who cared enough to help David see the way back to the right path. The prophet Nathan met with David and told him a story that went something like this. “Once upon a time there were two men. One was very rich and the other was very poor. The rich guy had an unlimited number of sheep and wealth. The poor guy had almost nothing and only one lamb, who was almost like a pet to him and his family. When the rich man had a guest come to town, he took the poor man’s lamb and had it butchered for a meal.”

When David heard this story, he was beside himself with anger. David ranted, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this must die! He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity” (2 Samuel 12:5-6). Fortunately, Nathan loved David enough to tell him the truth. “Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man’” (2 Samuel 12:7). That was enough to jolt king David out of his denial and bring him to his knees in repentance before God. 

Many people around us tell us the things we want to hear, rather than helping us to see the truth. And the more successful we become, the more difficult it is to find people who have our best interests at heart. That’s one reason we must connect with people who love us enough to be blatantly honest. In other words, a true friend. 

David’s son Solomon wisely said, “An open rebuke is better than hidden love! Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy (Proverbs 27:5-6 NLT). 

When was the last time a friend loved you enough to give you an open rebuke? Has someone loved you enough to offer helpful correction? If not, you might be missing one or two very important relationships that could help you grow, thrive, and succeed. Everyone needs people in their lives who will candidly tell them the truth. Maybe you need to connect with someone who’s willing to show you what you need to see so you can become the person you’re suppose to be.

Winding up the three blogs…

Which kind of friend do you need most in your life right now? Someone who helps you be better? Someone who helps you draw closer to God? Or someone who tells you the truth about yourself?

Is one person’s name popping into your head right now? Someone you could consider getting to know better and sharing your need for this kind of connection? If not, ask God to provide the right person at the right time, that friend who can help you grow closer to Him and to make decisions leading you in a divine direction.