Monthly Archives

August 2016

GO FOR THE GOLD

By | Christian Writing | No Comments

“So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:12-14 ESV)

For many of us, the 2016 Olympic Games were a welcome relief. We were able for a short while to turn our attention away from the dark, difficult things happening in our nation and world, and instead be inspired as we watched athletes from virtually every nation “go for the gold” in wonderful demonstrations of ability, desire, training, effort and endurance.

The athletic achievements of these diverse men and women were terrific, as was the enthusiasm of the equally diverse fans, but what I find even more remarkable is how they all treated each other. Mutual respect, encouragement, and good (even great) sportsmanship were the norm, not the exception. It may be true that only one person or team can receive a gold medal in an Olympic event, but I believe a great many more grasped gold in a way God finds far more important. They embraced the Golden Rule.

The Golden Rule, set forth at Matthew 7:12 and Luke 6:31, is most commonly stated as: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is a simple and straight-forward command from the Lord that we treat others the way we want to be treated.

The importance of this command is underscored when Jesus says, “… this is the Law and the Prophets”. The only other time Jesus used such language was when He described the Great Commandment – that you love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself. (Matthew 22:35-40) In short, the Great Commandment summarizes God’s will for our lives. And we obey God’s Great Commandment to love one another by following the Golden Rule.

As I write this column, the closing ceremonies of the 2016 Olympic Games have just concluded. My attention turns back to our nation, where over 75% of our citizens are still professing Christians and, therefore, very much subject to the Golden Rule. How well are we “going for the gold”?

As citizens of a nation more polarized than it has been since the events leading up to the Civil War, I urge all of us to read and re-read 1 Peter 3:8-17 and 2 Timothy 2:24-26. These scriptures explain how we should apply the Golden Rule in situations where there is disagreement or conflict. We are to be kind and gentle, not quarrelsome. We are to stand for what we know to be good, but never repay evil with evil or insult with insult. Instead, we seek to overcome evil with good by showing respect to those who oppose us, and by blessing them.

To make sure we understand how to follow the Golden Rule in such difficult times, Paul also provides in 2 Timothy 3 a description of those who disobey it: the proud and arrogant, lovers of self and money, those who defy the authority of holy scripture, and those who profess faith without actually practicing it. We are told to avoid such people.

So how are we doing? There are notable exceptions (praise God!) but overall, I believe we are failing to make the podium. Many of us are breaking the Golden Rule, and we are vocalizing our support for people on the national stage, both in media and politics, who are smashing it to pieces every day.

Why are we doing poorly? We have failed to understand that the way of the Golden Rule is narrow and hard. It does not come naturally. The things that empower athletes to the incredible achievement of winning a gold medal: ability, desire, training, effort and endurance, are also the things that empower people to follow the Golden Rule. And we have not pursued those things as we should.

We all have the ability because, as born-again children of God, we have the Holy Spirit, who can pour God’s love into our hearts and do far more than we can ask or imagine through His power at work within us. (Romans 5:5; Ephesians 3:20) But do we set our minds on the things that are above? (Colossians 3:1-2, 12-17) Do we seek the Lord and His will with all our heart? (Jeremiah 29:13) Do we train ourselves for godliness through consistent obedience, prayer, worship and bible study? (1 Timothy 4:7-16) Do we “make every effort” to grow in faith and love? (2 Peter 1:3-8) Are we running with endurance the race that is set before us, ridding ourselves of the sins and unneeded burdens that hold us back? (Hebrews 12:1-3)

America desperately needs a powerful and abiding spiritual awakening. That will come when enough of us hear the heart of God and “go for the gold”!

God bless you, and God bless our community.

GOD HEALS THE BROKENHEARTED

By | Christian Writing | No Comments

“The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3)

God heals the brokenhearted. So who are these brokenhearted people God heals, and how does He heal them?
Dictionary.com defines “brokenhearted” as: “burdened with great sorrow, grief or disappointment”. Our culture most often connects this with romantic break-ups or the loss of close family and friendships. God’s loving presence can certainly be a comfort in those situations. (Matthew 5:4)

Scripture also speaks of “a broken and contrite heart”, that is, a person who has become humble and repentant before the Lord after being convicted in their heart of pride and sin. (Psalm 51:17) Again, God’s grace to wash away our sins provides great comfort as He creates in us a “clean heart” and “right spirit”, restoring the joy of our salvation. (Psalm 51:1-12)

When, however, Psalms 34 and 147 speak of the brokenhearted, their wounds and their crushed spirits, I believe God is looking beyond those who mourn and those who are repentant. The Hebrew word used for “broken” (“shabar”) can mean “shattered” or “crippled”. The Hebrew word used for “heart” (“leb”) refers not just to emotions but to the mind and the will – what we might call the inner man or inner woman.

In short, and in modern vernacular, I believe these psalms reveal God’s desire to heal the crippled soul.
Our neighborhoods (and our churches) include many men and women who have been deeply traumatized, particularly in their childhood. Some were abandoned. Many were sexually or physically abused. Even more were verbally abused on a long term basis, and they can all tell you in no uncertain terms that the nursery saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me”, is a lie of the devil.

As a result, these men and women, each beloved by God, struggle with various levels of anxiety, depression, anger, bitterness, isolation, guilt and/or shame. Almost all of them have problems with self-esteem.

Other children, even if not the victims of overt abuse, were taught by their parents or other caregivers what may be the greatest lie of all: that you are supposed to earn love and acceptance. When they did well, they received approval, but when they made a mistake or failed, they received condemnation and rejection. This eventually leads to the assumption that if things go wrong, it must be because you did wrong.

These men and women, also beloved by God, struggle with fear of failure and rejection. Many are people-pleasers or perfectionists, and again, almost all of them have deep-seated self-esteem issues.

God designed human beings to have three basic needs: the need to belong (love), the need to feel safe (peace), and the need to believe your life has value and significance (purpose). Those crippled in soul are challenged in these areas. Yet most of them will not seek healing.

When we are crippled in body by injury or disease, we do not hesitate to seek help. But when we are crippled in soul, the opposite occurs. We fear the stigma of mental illness in our communities. We fear to be seen in our churches as lacking in faith. So we keep telling people, and sometimes ourselves, that we are fine when we really aren’t.

Those who do seek help from secular sources will primarily be provided medication, which may help you cope but will never heal you. The fortunate ones get some benefit from empathic counselors, particularly with approaches in cognitive behavioral therapy that seek to change how you think about life, situations and yourself. But it is almost impossible for secular therapists to help you take those changes in thinking to the deeper levels below your rational mind – to your memories and subconscious where the pain is rooted. You need the power of God to do that.
How can God heal the brokenhearted? Through prayer warriors, biblically grounded Christian counselors (pastoral or clinical), loving Christian community and the experience of God’s presence, the Lord can:

1. Plant hope in your heart that you can be healed.
2. Guide you through forgiveness ministry as to those who hurt you, and often yourself as well, so you can be freed from anger, bitterness, guilt and shame.
3. Convince you both in your outward mind and the depths of your being that you are incredibly loved and valued by God, and that God has family on earth who love and value you as well.
4. Impart His eternal perspective into your memories so that the hurt fades away, leaving behind gifts of wisdom, humility and empathy for others.
5. Free you from any demonic oppression that is aggravating your pain and obstructing your efforts to heal.
6. Set you on the path to the wonderful hope and future God has for you as His child.
Some of this healing can come quickly, like surgery, and some will take time, like rehabilitation. The brokenhearted can be healed by the Lord if only they will respond to His invitation.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
God bless you, and God bless our community