Sep 30, 2011

What to do with people who wound us...

Sometimes in life we face situations when friends wound us, or get offended with us and break off relationship. Maybe you stood up for what was right and someone got mad. Maybe you did something wrong and someone became offended, and refused to forgive when you asked for it. Whatever the situation, it can be difficult to respond with love to someone who is bitter towards us.
What do we do in times like that? How do we respond as a Christian?

Recently I was reading in Psalm 35 and was comforted, first by the fact that I am not the first person that has ever dealt with hard relationships, and second, by the wisdom David gives for how to handle people that hurt us.

First note: That the person is not your enemy.  Remember, "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Ephesians 6:12) Your enemy is a very real devil who would like nothing better than to cause you to stumble through anger, or hate, or offense of your own. Forgiveness, mercy, and love extended to the relationship is your best defense against him and your only hope for restoration of that relationship.

Plead my cause, O LORD, with those who strive with me;fight against those who fight against me. (verse 1)
Let God be your defense. He stands as our attorney in times when we are wronged. You cannot--must not--attempt to defend yourself.  Do as David did and take your complaint to the Lord only. Do not whine or complain to other people about how bad the person is treating you. Don't try to gather people to your side against that person; that will only serve to damage even more relationships.

...Say to my soul, 'I am your salvation." (verse 3)
Take refuge in God. HE is your Helper, your Comforter (John 17:7). You can hide in Him and find complete safety for bruised emotions and a wounded heart.

And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; I shall rejoice in His salvation. All my bones shall say, "Lord, who is like You, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?" (verse 9-10)
Make your soul take joy in the Lord. The most important key in relationship is not having a victim's attitude. Reject self-pity and anger before it has a chance to take root. Get out of the mulley-grubs. Don't let yourself become depressed by another's view of you. Stop and make a focused effort to fix your focus on God.  Remember, no matter what you face He is worthy of all praise and all thanksgiving. Besides, a joyful heart is "good medicine, but a broken spirit dries up the bones." 

Fierce witnesses rise up; they ask me things that I do not know. they reward me evil for good, to the sorrow of my soul. (verse 11-12)
Recognize that sometimes people will be unfair. Sometimes they will not treat us well. Also remember that God is always, always faithful. ( 2 Timothy 2:13) He does not change based on our response or our worthiness, He is consistent.

But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth; I humbled myself with fasting; and my prayer would return to my own heart. I paced about as though he were my friend or brother; I bowed down heavily, as one who mourns for his mother. (verse 13-14)

Here's the part that makes me stop and ponder. Our attitude must remain one of tenderhearted kindness. In fact, it looks as though David extended even more kindness than normal to this person.
Pray for them when they are sick or hurting. Fast for them. Wow, intense! Deprive yourself of food and pleasure in order to intercede for them. Allow yourself to remain emotionally attached to their well-being as though they were a best friend or brother. That's Christ-like love!

Vindicate me, O LORD my God, according to Your righteousness; and let them not rejoice over me. (verse 24)
Realize that God will vindicate you in time. Everything in life will someday pass before the judgment seat of Christ, and at that time all wrongs will be made right. For now, lay the case to rest within your own heart and be cautious not to exact vengeance for yourself.

Our God is a God of reconciliation and restoration. Those that are His have a ministry of reconciliation. As such we must be watchful that our hearts remain forever soft towards those that have wronged us. Don't burn the bridges of relationship. Pave the way back in to the person's heart. Sure, you can't change them, you can't fix their attitude. Sometimes you just have to stand at a distance and hope they are willing to reconcile with you someday. But if the day comes that they return, receive them with open arms and willing the father did to the Prodigal Son (story here) Christ did with you when you returned after rejecting Him.

We who have been forgiven so much will find we have many opportunities to love much.

Sep 12, 2011

The World Through People-Colored Glasses

You look at the world and see that you were abandoned when you didn’t deserve it.
You were wounded beyond repair.
Your bitterness is excuseable.
You have been horribly wronged.
You see those that hurt you owe you much.
You see you are a victim.
You see your future has been warped by your past.
You see you may never reach what you were destined to be because of the circumstances you had no choice but to endure.
You see that you are broken.
You see incompetence.
You see that you are a failure.
You see insignificance.  
You see pointless days stretched before you.
You see that you must be respected to have value.
You see that you must strive for approval, because only then will you succeed.

You are wearing people-colored glasses. You filter all you see through how people have treated you and how they view you. Your viewpoint is clouded by their perception of you. It is brightened only by their approval of you.

Take of these glasses and you may you are suddenly disillusioned for a moment.
Perhaps the best place you could be. Disillusionment means losing illusions. It means being faced with reality—with truth.

Take them off and here you are, lying bare before your own eyes. Seeing yourself as God sees you. And what will you see?

You will see that you have never been left alone.
You’ll see that in wounding, you have a Healer, and He who created can heal completely.
You’ll see that you have been forgiven much.
You’ll see that you do have the capacity to forgive much.
You’ll see that you have a Defender.
You’ll see that you are the debtor, owing a debt of love to the One who loves you best.
You’ll see that you are a victor.
You will see a future, shaped perfectly by every circumstance that you have walked through.
You will see that nothing and nobody but you can hold you back from the destiny God has planned for you.
You will see that you have been made strong by what you have endured.
You will see that you are made whole.
You’ll see that God perfects His strength in your weakness.
You’ll see that you are a child of God.
You will see that you are held, cared for, sung over, safe.
You will see a beautiful world.
You will see a bright future.

Sep 11, 2011

Hope in Disappointment

What do you do when disappointment crashes into your bright world and scatters your precious dreams?
Do you cry? Do you pout? Do you shake your fists at the sky? Do you try to make God tell you why?

When God removes something that is important to us, our first response is usually, "Why?" If no answer is readily given, our next response is often anger. Anger at God. Anger at the people who "caused"our pain. Anger at ourselves for having hoped.

Then discouragement sets in. Like a virus is sneaks in removing our desire to hope again. Leaving us numb, cold, lifeless. It steals our vision, causes us to react in fear and frustration, we become self-protective, and crawl into a metaphorical hole to hide from everyone. If the pattern of discouragement isn't broken, we are liable to stay in that hole forever--having dug ourselves a grave where we spend a living death locked away from the brilliant destiny we were made for.

Disappointment will come. That I can promise you.  Discouragement does not have to. One of the hardest battles any of us will have to fight is the battle of repeated disappointment. Some may deal with career failures--never being able to rise out of the cycle of business failures.  For some it may be relational brokenness. Perhaps it seems that your closest friendships always end badly. Perhaps you have a history of failed romances, or broken your heart repeatedly. Perhaps your dreams have been crushed by circumstance.

Discouragement is a deadly enemy because often we have to face it alone. Others may be aware of adverse circumstances in life, but seldom do they realize the deep emotion battle we face. Many times people do not realize it is our destiny--the rest of our life--at stake.

Joseph was a man who faced great disappointment.
As boy, God gave him a dream. He was going to be a great man someday. He would save thousands of lives.
But first, he had to be tested in the fires of disappointment.
He was sold as a slave by his own brothers.
He was taken to a foreign land.
He became a trusted steward to his master.
He was falsely accused.
He was thrown in jail.
He was forgotten.
He was left for dead.
...and the word of the Lord tested Joseph until the time came to fulfill his dreams. (Psalm 105:19)

In slavery Joseph was being taught by God. In prison, he was being shaped by God. God never once lost sight of Joseph's dream--it was His primary focus as He led Joseph through the different seasons of his life.
Walking out the dreams of God will require great strength.Disappointment serves to make us strong. Disappointment is not made to crush our dreams. It is made to test our dreams. It strengthens our dreams. It adds value to our dreams. Disappointment does not cancel our dreams; it simply postpones them until we can contain their full potential.

Recognize this. It will give you courage to face disappointment without despairing. Be excited that the Lord is preparing you for a time when the dream will be fulfilled.

Sep 6, 2011

Calvary Love

By Amy Carmichael

If I belittle those whom I am called to serve, talk of their weak points in contrast perhaps with what I think of as my strong points; if I adopt a superior attitude, forgetting "Who made thee to differ? And what hast thou that thou hast not received?" then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I find myself taking lapses for granted, "Oh, that's what they always do," "Oh, of course she talks like that, he acts like that," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can enjoy a joke at the expense of another; if I can in any way slight another in conversation, or even in thought, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can write an unkind letter, speak an unkind word, think an unkind thought without grief and shame, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not feel far more for the grieved Savior than for my worried self when troublesome things occur, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I can rebuke without a pang, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my attitude be one of fear, not faith, about one who has disappointed me; if I say, "Just what I expected" if a fall occurs, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am afraid to speak the truth, lest I lose affection, or lest the one concerned should say, "You do not understand," or because I fear to lose my reputation for kindness; if I put my own good name before the other's highest good, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am content to heal a hurt slightly, saying "Peace, peace," where there is no peace; if I forget the poignant word "Let love be without dissimulation" and blunt the edge of truth, speaking not right things but smooth things, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I hold on to choices of any kind, just because they are my choice, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I am soft to myself and slide comfortably into self-pity and self-sympathy; If I do not by the grace of God practice fortitude, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I myself dominate myself, if my thoughts revolve round myself, if I am so occupied with myself I rarely have "a heart at leisure from itself," then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If, the moment I am conscious of the shadow of self crossing my threshold, I do not shut the door, and keep that door shut, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I cannot in honest happiness take the second place (or the twentieth); if I cannot take the first without making a fuss about my unworthiness, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I take offense easily, if I am content to continue in a cool unfriendliness, though friendship be possible, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel injured when another lays to my charge things that I know not, forgetting that my sinless Savior trod this path to the end, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I feel bitter toward those who condemn me, as it seems to me, unjustly, forgetting that if they knew me as I know myself they would condemn me much more, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it, because the spirit of discernment is not in me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the praise of others elates me and their blame depresses me; if I cannot rest under misunderstanding without defending myself; if I love to be loved more than to love, to be served more than to serve, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I crave hungrily to be used to show the way of liberty to a soul in bondage, instead of caring only that it be delivered; if I nurse my disappointment when I fail, instead of asking that to another the word of release may be given, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I do not forget about such a trifle as personal success, so that it never crosses my mind, or if it does, is never given room there; if the cup of flattery tastes sweet to me, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If in the fellowship of service I seek to attach a friend to myself, so that others are caused to feel unwanted; if my friendships do not draw others deeper in, but are ungenerous (to myself, for myself), then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I refuse to allow one who is dear to me to suffer for the sake of Christ, if I do not see such suffering as the greatest honor that can be offered to any follower of the Crucified, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I slip into the place that can be filled by Christ alone, making myself the first necessity to a soul instead of leading it to fasten upon Him, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If my interest in the work of others is cool; if I think in terms of my own special work; if the burdens of others are not my burdens too, and their joys mine, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I wonder why something trying is allowed, and press for prayer that it may be removed; if I cannot be trusted with any disappointment, and cannot go on in peace under any mystery, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If the ultimate, the hardest, cannot be asked of me; if my fellows hesitate to ask it and turn to someone else, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

If I covet any place on earth but the dust at the foot of the Cross, then I know nothing of Calvary love.

(Amy Carmichael was a missionary to India. She began a ministry to the orphaned children and temple prostitudes. She is an amazing example of great faith and unwavering commitment to Christ, and one of my personal heroes. Read more about her life at

Sep 3, 2011

Lines in Sand

There comes a moment in our lives where a line must be drawn.
A point where we say, "I have made my decision and I'm not going back." A time when we choose our side, and raise our battle-flag so our loyalty is unmistakable.

This last week has been one of choosing sides, for me. I knew what God wanted, and I knew what I felt like doing. The decision was not a momentous one, and yet I knew it would affect my destiny quite a bit.
The choice came down to taking the hard, the steep, the world-changing path or settling for normalcy.
I knew which way God preferred. I also knew He had left the decision to me.

You see, God never forces us. He shows us our options. He lays the cost and the benefits out plainly. He tells us His perfect plan--the one that we were made for. But then He steps aside and lets us choose.
Remember Samson? He was a man with a great call. A very unique call. He was called to live like no one else....and yet he craved the life of everyone else. He wanted parties, and women, and luxury. He wanted fame and respect. He lived for the moment. He fulfilled his own cravings, and when it came down to it those cravings got the better of him. They cost him his freedom, his sight, and in the end, his life.

For me the decision I had to make had nothing to do with anything that anyone else saw.  It was all in the realm of thoughts and confessions of the heart. But not only will this decision effect a great deal of my personal life from here on out, it will also effect my ability to make future decisions correctly.  I have begun a pattern of correct choices, which means the next one will be that much easier.

What is the first thing that happens when we make a decision?
It is tested.
That's how it was for me.  I made my choice, I drew the line...but then I had to walk it out.  All week long the other option would ride up in my face, flaunting its so-called benefits, trying to seduce me to back down from the choice I had made. The only way I cam make it through times like that is to fix my eyes on God and not even look another direction.  The pages of my journal are full of prayers and God's responses, my voice is worn from reading the Bible aloud to myself, and my stereo has been playing worship music non-stop for days now.

Sometimes that is the hardest part of all.  Setting new habits of life or new patterns of thought is not easy.  The trick is not making an excuse to do it one more time.  It takes vigilance, carefulness, and a great deal of will. It takes the strength of the Lord. It takes grasping Him by the hand and not letting go.
Remember the story in Genesis of Lot's wife? She was miraculously delivered from a horrible situation, told to run for the mountains and not look back.  But she could not resist one last parting glance of the life she had known. And there she stayed. Looking back forever.  A pillar of salt. A warning for anyone else that would look with longing back to the old lifestyle.

You will reach a crossroad in your life. Actually you will probably face many. The first will be the initial choice to follow Christ.  Then after that, you will have many days where you will need to choose your way or God's. Selfishness or love. Offense or forgiveness.  Purity or compromise.  Sleep or prayer. Indulgence or discipline.  Normalcy or victory. Worldliness or holiness.

Often they will come when you are tired, or frustrated, or weak. Usually they will have a much larger impact on your life than you may realize at the time. When the time comes, make the decision that God wants. Then walk it out, Don't go back, don't look back, don't consider another way, don't make even one excuse, don't leave a back-door option.

Fly your standard high so the world will recognize whose side you are on. Make certain that when the Lord looks down for one whose heart is turned perfectly to Him, He will spot you in an instant and know you for one of His own.

Sep 1, 2011


" Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?....But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you."
-Matthew 6:28-30, 33
Sometimes our problems can completely so completely fill our vision that we can't see around them.
God knows that we are weak and finite, prone to doubt, and easily distracted with worry. So He gives us instruction for how to overcome worry...

Consider the flowers.

Beautiful, temporary, yet each one painted with care by the Maker.
Details confuse and worry us. Details never confuse or worry God. He has the whole picture perfectly mapped out.  Day upon day, minutes at a time, each second that you live He knows, He plans, He sees, He walks with you through it.

I admit, I have days where problems become overwhelming. This morning I had to count the small victories. I got out of bed. I made it to work. Just surviving seemed to take all the focus I could muster. As I drove to work, frustrated and hopeless, God arrested me in the middle of my fretting. "What are you looking at?"

I stopped for a moment. Long enough to realize what He meant. My eyes were on my problems. I was consumed with my failures, other peoples' failures, hopeless situations, frustrations, worry...

Are my problems bigger than me? Yes, they are.
Are my problems bigger than my God? Oh, no, they are not.

Consider the flowers....

Small, insignificant, no value except that God crafts each one. He clothes each one.  A flower cannot make itself grow, cannot protect itself, cannot beautify itself. So it sits quietly, patiently, and just does what it was made to do. It grows where God plants it, becomes what God planned it, and looks like what God made it.

I can learn a lot from the flowers...

...and from sparrows

Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.-Matthew 10:29-31

Just think about it.

My next question for God was how to stop worrying. He, of course, had an answer ready.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.1 Peter 5:6-7

Releasing worry will take humility, for, in essence, it is releasing control of my life and situation to let Him deal with it in His way. It is the better alternative, though. He carries my cares and gives me rest. He details my life with more carefulness than He details each lily. He watches over me with greater concern than He watches the sparrows. All I have to do is do what He made me to do.

Be encouraged today to take your cares to God and leave them there for Him to deal with. Accept His rest instead. Take the time that you used to spend fretting and use it to enjoy the journey He's put you on.  Consider the lilies....and the sparrows....and His great care for you.