Friday, December 31, 2010

Healthy Shame?

Placing our lives in His hands means there exists, what may seem like, conflicting thoughts. His Word tells us we are set free from feeling shame and the lies shame brings, yet  we feel ashamed when we look at the things we used to participate in. Romans 6:21, 22 states, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free…” If we look carefully we begin to see that it is the fruit of those things we used to believe and act on; the attitudes or behaviors themselves. Our participation with those things is the emphasis not their existence within us. They are a part of our humanity. 
By God’s mercy we have been set free of these by the death of His Son on the cross. This fact is undeniable. Those attitudes and behaviors bring a shame response when brought out into the light by God's Presence and Word. Elitism, jealousy, resentment, lying, and unforgiveness are just a few. Living for and walking with the Lord includes the expectation that we will be confronted with the inconsistencies in our heart and life.
There isn’t any way to become like Jesus than to be confronted with the truth of our “self” first. In being confronted with the fruit of our “self”, we will see the death it can bring when not in submission to God. Jesus paid the price on the cross making salvation possible. The price we pay is a healthy sense of shame when God confronts us with our ongoing participation with sin. We are no longer unaware of its presence or our choice as to what we will participate with. That kind of shame we can take because it means we are loved enough by Him to be challenged and disciplined. That kind of love we can live with.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Shame and Honesty

His eyes pleading, his voice desperate, his face red with intensity, he asked “...what do you really think of me?” This question had come after animated discussion around his difficulty in seeing how he works in order to maintain an image. Failing in his ability to do so, he would then punish (with his anger) when those around him failed to recognize how hard he was working to be seen as good. His thoughts, filled with shame around his inescapable humanity created and promoted his suffering. We had talked about how easy it is to worry about the thoughts of others when we feel ashamed of who we are on the inside...about how easy it is to blame than to see choices we have this behavior helps us avoid the pain in our souls. His question was a risk. My answer to him was honest. He welcomed it. Hope washed over him replacing the  desperation on his face.
God is like that with us. He never trivializes the suffering we go through with flippant or dishonest replies to our cries for help. Hebrews 6:17-19a says, “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability (unchangeability) of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation.... This hope we have as an anchor of the soul...” (NKJ) God’s answers to my cries in the face of shame filled thoughts may not always be pleasant to the ear but they will be honest and given out of his determination to reveal His unchangeable character. The answers God gives will be designed to reveal and heal something within me but reveal the love, hope, and depth of character within Him. It is this fact that provides hope to us all and anchors our souls in times of need.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Holding Hands at Christmas

It is early Wednesday morning as I sit with coffee, my laptop, and the lights of the Christmas tree. Last Sunday I had the privilege of ministering to the families of a local funeral home who experienced the death of a loved one this year. As some of you know, we had barely finished having a blizzard.

As each family entered the building, the acute awareness of their vulnerability as well as their need washed over my spirit. They were so courageous to venture out. Inadequate as I felt, the Spirit of God quickened my heart and mind with the things death and He had taught me. Comforted by the Lord's response to those He loved in the face of their grief, I walked over to each of them and thanked them for coming. There commitment to coming spoke to me of their need and courage.

A piece of what I shared with each of them was God's promise of never leaving or forsaking each one of us. In today's language that means He promises to never abandon us, become distracted by a better offer, race ahead of us, or lag behind dragging His feet. The Lord promises to walk with us through this time at a pace that works best for us. In fact, we can ask the Lord to feel what we feel as well as set the pace of our day. I firmly believe the Lord is with us wherever we go; physically, emotionally, or mentally. There were many tears and much laughter as we shared.

This Christmas season may or may not be a time of remembering someone no longer in your life. The reason they are no longer present doesn't matter. What does matter is that anyone's loss is real; that we have a Savior who came, died, and rose so we can be comforted every moment of every day by His presence.

Christmas is not an easy time of the year for many. Christmas is a joyous time of year for many. My prayer is no matter how we feel we can remember the Lord's promise from Isaiah 41, "I the Lord your God will hold you by your right hand saying, Fear not, for I will help you." Ask Him to come and feel what you feel; to hold your right hand and walk through the day with you. Ask Him to help set the pace that works best for you. Allow yourself a few moments of time where the comfort of Him holding your hand seeps into the depths of your spirit. Then...breath...just breath...remembering that He is right there with you.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

When The Messiah Came...

I was a very young girl when these words became meaningful to me. I did not realize it at the time but it was a moment in which I entrusted my entire being to the love of the Lord. I do remember being very lonely, uncertain, searching and educated in the fact that God would love me no matter what. The memory I have is rather simple. Standing in the backyard looking toward the church my father was presently pastoring, I stated the following words out loud; “Even if no one loves me, God, I believe you will love me.” I don’t remember that time as especially emotional or surrounded with a momentous manifestation of God’s presence. What I do remember is the certainty with which I stated those words. I was unaware at my young age the meaning associated with that statement. Rather, it seemed simple and matter of fact. Yet, the Messiah came to me that day.

The woman at the well had no idea who it was she was speaking to when she stated to Jesus; “When the Messiah comes…” That statement is filled with longing for freedom, healing, comfort, etc. What is apparent to each of us who have the privilege of reading about her life, is that she was vulnerable, hungry, lonely, searching and learned. And…the Messiah came. He came and filled every nook and cranny of her empty, starving heart with respect, comfort, correction, love, companionship and revelation.  How amazing!

Christmas is the time of year that often reminds me of when the Messiah came to earth beginning the realization of our freedom. To those of us who have chosen Him, we can say, “When the Messiah came…“ The stable was out of sight, humble, unobtrusive. He came so quietly. He came to me quietly and unobtrusively. My guess is He has done the same for each of you in some manner.

This Christmas, in some way, allow yourself to remember His coming. Allow yourself to drift back in time to the early moments in which He revealed His presence to you, drawing you to Himself. The Christmas season is made just for that. Ask God to come and remind you how he filled every nook and cranny of your being with the realization of who He is. Then you too can find someone and share ”When the Messiah came…”

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Fear vs Respect

Respect...Reading through the book of Acts has always been one of my favorite things to do. Anyone who says there is nothing exciting about serving God is silly! Since I tend to be quite imaginative in my mind, the scenes along with possible surrounding details are vivid and filled with emotion...LOL. I laugh because living life through  my dramas has its good and not so good ramifications. However, it can be fun!

Aside from all the drama in my mind, Luke makes a simple statement in chapter nine that I cannot get away from. He says this, "Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it (referring to the church) increased in numbers." (Vs. 31) There are many meanings that have been associated with the word, fear; most of which have often been negative. As someone who has battled anxious thoughts, it is important for me to remember that this word does not necessarily mean that I must live in a frightened state. In reality, when the word fear first appears in Genesis 15, it references our willingness to stand in awe of who God is. The challenge here is for us to consciously choose to remember and stand in awe of who God is and what He is able to accomplish. I can focus on my circumstances and my physical response of fear, however, those things distract me from " in the fear of the Lord...". When I choose to focus on what God has done for me already, His provision, His companionship, His faithfulness; I purposefully place myself in a position of standing in awe of Him. My emotional response of fear begins to dissipate. 

Even in relationships, the word respect comes from the same stand in awe of. The Holy Spirit will always point us to the characteristics and faithfulness of our Lord. That is one of His many comfort, encourage, guide. The Spirit of God will always focus our attention on the truth, the reality of God's steadfast love and unfailing mercy. I am so grateful for the correction when I become distracted

My prayer for anyone who reads this AND for myself is that as we live in the fear of the Lord and in the encouragement of His Spirit we can be assured of ministry, in relationship and in peace.