Tag Archives: Bible

Out of Exile: Day Six – I Didn’t See This Coming

On Day Five I gave a brief overview of the many exile stories in the Bible.  Today I want to look at one story in particular: Abram. I think anyone who has ever been called of God can relate to Abram’s calling:

pastors

Called to Exile

The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram left, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Haran.  He took his wife Sarai, his nephew Lot, all the possessions they had accumulated and the people they had acquired in Haran, and they set out for the land of Canaan, and they arrived there. Genesis 12:1-5

It’s interesting, in retrospect, to see what I focused on when I sensed God call me into ministry. I focused on the words “great” and “blessed.” I didn’t think much about the cost of leaving what was familiar to me. I didn’t think much about “being 75,” that is, my limitations. And I didn’t think much about the “Lot’s” in my life (unhealthy people) who would go with me. 

When there’s a famine in the land, you doubt your call or you doubt God’s goodness, or both. 

I focused on verse two: I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing

I bet that’s what Abram heard too. He was convinced that Canaan would be amazing. Sarah probably wasn’t so sure, but Abram was sure she’d come around once she saw what a great place it was.

In Canaan, Abram was going to establish God’s kingdom. In Canaan, he was going to be the GUY. God’s guy. He was going to call the shots and make things happen in a way that he never could as long as he was under his dad’s oversight back in Haran. Canaan was definitely the land of promise! Abram couldn’t get there fast enough

Did you respond to God’s call that way? All you saw was the glory?  But what did Abram find in Canaan?

At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Genesis 12:6

Wait a minute. Canaanites? God never said anything about Canaanites. God never told me that I’d have elders that disagreed with me or worse, undermine me. God never told me that I’d have people complain when new people came to the church and upset the balance of power. I thought God would send me to people that loved Jesus.

But that’s not all. There’s more. Or I should say, less:

Now there was a famine in the land…   Genesis 12:10

A famine? If God called me, how could there be a famine? I thought God would take care of my needs. I shouldn’t have to take a second job. I thought this would include a good health insurance plan. I thought I’d be able to afford a vacation.  

And then come the doubts: Maybe I didn’t hear God. Maybe that was just youthful ambition. Maybe that was zeal without knowledge…or bad onions for supper last night. I’m not so sure of what I’m doing. 

When there’s a famine in the land, you doubt your call or you doubt God’s goodness, or both.

There are many losses associated with the call of God. That’s not bad. But you need to name them, assess the loss , and grieve it; otherwise you will bury the pain of loss and it will rot and smell and undermine your life and ministry.

More on Abram on Day Seven. Subscribe to the blog to join the journey.

What did you expect in ministry that never materialized for you?  Share it below. Go ahead. Be honest. I bet others can relate.

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Four Inputs For Your Decision-Making Process

Every day you are confronted with opportunities to define your life by making a decision. What is your decision-making process? More specifically: Who are you listening to? Where do you turn for advice? (…if you even turn anywhere for advice). How you answer these questions tells me how likely you are to succeed, fail, or just get by.Decision-making

Does your decision-making lack a rudder?

In the preface to STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, I write:

I’m struck how this present generation lacks mentors, guides, and sages. These counselors exist, but we don’t have the same access to them that we once did. Many of us grow up in broken families, often moving from place to place, overloaded with options from our media-rich world, and disconnected from the churches and civic organizations that once held us together and served as anchors for our lives.  It’s as if we have to find the answers to life on our own, reinventing the wheel with each problem we face. It can be a lonely place not knowing where to turn for some of the most basic and important decisions in life.

As a result, our “advisors” in life  become our favorite TV shows, our favorite musical artists or authors, or the group consensus around the water cooler at work. But what seems to work on TV, or sounds insightful through the radio waves, doesn’t mean it’s true or helpful for you in the long run.  Our lives can become like rudderless ships, pushed in whatever direction the wind blows.

Good decision-making is often counter intuitive.

I was reminded of this recently as I watched Les Miserables.  The story is of an ex-convict who encounters the love of God through the forgiveness of a priest. He then commits himself to offer that same grace to others, at great expense to himself.  His decisions throughout life go against what most watercooler counselors would advise. Yet his life offers compelling evidence that sacrificial love and forgiveness are worth the price you pay. His decisions weren’t based on selfishness or common wisdom but in timeless spiritual truths.

Quality decision-making pays a high return.

I received an inheritance this year. The first thing I did was turn to a financial expert to help advise me in how to invest the money so it will serve me in years to come. Every day we inherit another 24 hours but we aren’t always so quick to get the expert advice we need that will benefit us in years to come. Maybe you suffer a few regrets for that reason.

Four Inputs For Quality Decision-Making.

As you enter this new year, I hope you’ll consider your source of advice. When facing the big decisions about career, relationships, finances, or faith, where are you turning? To whom are you listening? Here are four advisors to consider:

  1. Successful people. Whom do you want to be like? Talk to people that have proven themselves to be good decision makers. Ask them to mentor you and seek their counsel.
  2. Experts or Counselors. These people deal with hundreds of people: thousands over a span of years. What is unique and overwhelming to you is old hat to them. The Bible says that wisdom is found in those who take advice (Proverbs 13:10).
  3. Expert authors. In the column of this blog I’ve listed some of my top picks for books. They will give you great advice in important areas of life.
  4. The Bible. No book has keener insight into our hearts and what leads us astray or to success. The book of Proverbs in the Bible alone offers an abundance of time-tested advice. One Bible character (David) said that God’s words were like counselors to him (Psalm 119:24).

Most of this advice is yours for free. Why would you want to make any major decision without the benefit of these inputs?  You can save yourself a world of hurt with just a little bit of time and the humility to listen.  Don’t let pride or impatience cause you to settle for for what “seems” good or what “others are doing.” Get the input you need that will serve you and others well for years to come.

I hope 2013 will be a year of good decision-making for you!

Question: What/who has helped you make good decisions in the past? Leave your comment below. Thanks!

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Finding Your Life After Living in Exile

A while back I did a series of posts on how to recover from a “Crash and Burn” experience.  It came from a series of talks I did about the Bible stories that tell of the years that Jews lived in exile.

Living in exile

I’d like to revisit that idea. In fact, I’m toying with the idea for a future book. I thought I might just explore the idea here with you for a minute.

The Bible is a Story of Exile

As I looked at the Bible, it dawned on me   that you could look at the entire narrative as following an exile motif, that is, an overarching theme of exile.  You barely get into the Bible when God sends Adam and Eve into exile from the Garden of Eden. Humanity is still in that exile today.

Or in Genesis 12, God calls Abraham to the Promised Land. But when he arrives he faces a famine and goes to Egypt, “in exile”.  After returning to Canaan his descendants again return to Egypt to live for over 400 years in exile.

Even after they escape they remain in the Wilderness for another 40 years.  At last they return to The Promised Land, but a few hundred years later they land in exile again, this time in Babylon.

Finally, both Jews and Christians scatter from Jerusalem after the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D.  As the Bible says, we travel as aliens and strangers in a foreign land.

Exile is Our Story

I find the Bible’s theme of exile comforting because it was in those hard places that people met God.  So when we find ourselves in a personal exile: divorced, unemployed, grieving a death, displaced, de-friended, or any one of a number of lonely places in life, we can find a Bible story that speaks to us.  We learn of a God who is present to comfort us and lead us back to a land of promise.

Question: What exile are you in now or have you been in the past? Please leave a comment below.

STUCK is coming.  When you subscribe to this blog I will send you a 50 page sampler from the new book. If you are already a subscriber, let me know in the comments below and I’ll send it to you.

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Defining Forgiveness: Five Things Forgiveness is Not (part one)

forgiveness

Forgiveness is Not Forgetting or Excusing

Yesterday I started to define forgiveness with three explanations for what it is.  But today I want to bring more clarity by describing what it is not.

One of the reasons so many people refuse to forgive is they think it’s more than what I’ve already described. So here are two of five things that forgiveness is not.

1. To forgive is not to forget.

Some people think that all you have to do to forgive is just forget what happened. Maybe someone has said that to you. Just forget about it. What’s the problem? Why can’t you get over it!  Then they will quote the Bible where God said… For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. Jeremiah 31:34.

These people say you just need to do what God does…forget. But when offended people hear this they shut down. They often say… if forgiving is contingent on my forgetting then I can never forgive because I’ll never forget what was done to me.

Look back at the verse from Jeremiah. It doesn’t say that God forgets our sin. It says he chooses to not remember it. That’s a big difference. The truth is…when it comes to the big hurts in life, we don’t forgive and forget. We forgive what we can’t forget.  We can forget the little offenses. It’s the big offenses that stick with us. The big offenses need something more powerful than forgetting. They need forgiveness.

2. To forgive is not to excuse.

I’ve seen many people recoil at the thought of forgiving because they think that if they forgive it will send the message to their offender that what they did wasn’t really that bad.  This is especially true for victims of abuse and betrayal. But that’s not what forgiveness is about.

God doesn’t excuse us. He doesn’t minimize what we’ve done. The Bible gives us many examples of this. Listen to what Peter said to a group of people…

You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.   Acts 3:13-15

Peter’s accusation couldn’t be any stronger. Yet he still offers forgiveness.

Now, brothers and sisters, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders…Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord…Acts 3:17-19.

God’s forgiveness doesn’t excuse what we did. And neither should ours. Two authors put it this way…Forgiveness acknowledges that moral violations in relationships are wrong.  But forgiveness cancels a debt that a person legitimately owes rather than simply lets the person off the hook.  Forgiveness does not wink at the moral violation (condoning) or deny the offender’s responsibility (exoneration).  Forgiveness chooses to cancel a debt that is serious and real.  To Forgive is Human, p. 33

If you are afraid that forgiving someone will communicate the wrong thing to your offender then you need to be clear just like the Bible is clear. Outline the severity of what they did but let them know that you won’t hold it against them. You won’t treat them like less of a person or with any less dignity.

Tomorrow I will look at two more words that forgiveness is not. Learn more in the book STUCK.

Question: What are some reasons you’ve used for not forgiving? Leave your comment below and please consider “sharing the knowledge” with others.

  • Download the podcast or text of the full message “Defining Forgiveness” here.
  • Defining Forgiveness – Three Things That Forgiveness Is (readingremy.com)
  • Moving On From the Hurt (readingremy.com)
  • Why Can’t I Forgive? (readingremy.com)
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The Missing Piece to the Shame Puzzle

Shame Puzzle

The Missing Piece to the Shame Puzzle

This is part five of a six part interview/overview of my book Healing the Hurts of Your Past conducted at WWIB.com radio with Mark Halverson. Click the links below to see the previous guides. Listen to the interview here.

This session turned the corner on our discussion as we started to look at how to overcome the pain of shame.   My book offers a different solution than a purely secular approach to shame. Secular approaches typically do a good job of identifying what shame is and offering ways to start processing it.

Brene Brown on Shame

Brene Brown’s book on shame

For example: Brene Brown’s book called I Thought it was Just Me. This is an excellent book that I highly recommend. Brene does a great job of using both her research and personal stories to explain what shame is and how to unmask it.  She doesn’t take a biblical approach (I wouldn’t expect her too since she is an academic reporting her research) but her research and teaching strongly back up biblical teaching. I’d love to talk to her about this some day.  Her insights into relationships, connection, compassion and courage will help anyone seeking to crawl out of the pain of shame.

 

The Gold Standard of Self-Esteem

But…having said that… I still think there is a piece missing from the shame puzzle.  What I talked about on the radio program was “the gold standard” that backs up our statements, such as “you are valuable”. The problem I have with most self-esteem teaching is that it isn’t rooted in anything. We tell people, “Don’t listen to what people say…YOU ARE VALUABLE! YOU ARE A WINNER! YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!”  My question to that is…Who says? YOU say that. Who are you?  You might be wrong.

It’s like our currency. I have two pieces of paper in front of me. One is an actual twenty-dollar bill. The other is a green slip of paper. I say they are both worth $20. That’s nice. But who am I to make that declaration?  Stores dont’ care what I say. They care what the government says.

The government backs up the worth of the twenty-dollar bill  (it was originally backed up by gold, hence the term, “gold standard”).  The government can point to their paper and say, “We declare that paper valuable. We created it and we back it up.” But they can’t say the same for my alternative piece of paper. My word means nothing.  The point is; value comes from people who can back it up. Not just wishful thinking.  Watch a two-minute tv interview using this analogy.

God Defines Our Worth

In the same way, the “gold standard” for self-esteem is the word of God (if you believe in God and the Bible as his word to us). The Bible tells us that God created us in his image. You can’t get any more valuable than that. The Bible also tells us that God came to earth in the person of Jesus and laid down his life out of love for us. Again, we MUST be valuable for God to do that. That’s our gold standard. That’s what we stand on. Don’t take my word for it!  Who am I?  Take God’s word that you are valuable!  It doesn’t matter what others say about you.

If you worked your way through my book and Brene Brown’s book you will have a great package to help you overcome the pain of shame.  My book will help you identify the lies you are believing about your worth (and where they came from) and help you hear from God the truth of your value. Brene’s book will help you identify your shame as well but she offers steps for people to start to tell their story and create connection with other people (connection being the opposite of the isolation that shame produces).

This is just a taste of what the radio show was about. I hope you’ll take the time to download the MP3 and listen to it.  Please forward this on to others on Facebook and Twitter. I’m sure there are people hungry to hear how valuable they are.

  • The Spiritual Implications of Brene Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability (readingremy.com)
  • How to find Self-Worth Apart From Your Performance: TV interview (readingremy.com)
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Four Keys to Restoring a Broken Relationship

Restoring a Broken Relationship

How do you restore a broken  relationship? Many of us have a relationship that has died. You didn’t plan it. You don’t like it. You wish things were different. It just is.

This broken relationship haunts you like the garden you planted with so much hope but now lies dormant with stunted plants and choked by weeds. It started with so much hope but is now an embarrassment. The best remedy you have is to ignore it…avoid walking by it so you won’t feel so bad.  But deep down you know there  is more you could have done…maybe even more you can do right now. You just don’t know what and you are not so sure  it’s even worth your time if you did.

How to Restore a Broken Relationship

Thankfully God gives us a perfect model for how to restore a broken relationship. Maybe you’ve never thought about it this way but Jesus didn’t rise from the dead so we could live forever. Jesus rose from the dead so God could be in relationship with us forever. The resurrection was the last step in God providing a solution to the broken relationship that existed between God and humanity.

Here are four keys to restoring a broken relationship that God  modeled for us;

  1. Great Love – You can’t seek to restore a broken relationship half heartily any more than you can restore a garden half heartily. You have to be “all-in” from the start if you want to have a chance. The Bible tells us that God “SO LOVED” the world that he sent his Son. (John 3:16). God’s love was the driving force to restoration. You need that as well.
  2. Deliberate Action – Love isn’t passive. It acts. Love isn’t an emotion. It’s something you do. God DEMONSTRATED his love for us by moving toward us, not away from us (Romans 5:8). Many people hope for the best but never do anything to make the best happen. You need a plan of action.
  3. Servant Humility – I don’t like humbling myself when I’m wrong. And I don’t think I should have to humble myself when I’m right. The person in the wrong needs to take action, not me. Thankfully God didn’t have that attitude. The Bible tells us that Jesus emptied himself of his right to being God (Philippians 2:5-8), humbled himself like a servant, and willingly died to put things right between us. If you really want to repair a relationship you’ll need to lay down your pride and your rights. You’ve got to do whatever it takes.
  4. Amazing Power – One of the main reasons people don’t restore a broken relationship is because it’s dead. There is no life. There is no hope.  There is nothing in them that motivates them to move toward the other. That’s why we need God. In fact, we need him for all four of these keys; great love, deliberate action, servant humility and now power. He’s got what  we need. Reconciliation is a divine act. So don’t give up on a broken relationship just because it’s dead. Give God a chance to breathe his resurrection life into it. You might be amazed at what rises from the dead.
Stuck broken relationships

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Question: What are the biggest issues that keep you from restoring a broken relationship? Have you ever seen  God resurrect a relationship for you? I’d love to hear back.

To learn more about broken relationship check out my new book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships.

 Download the message (audio/text) Restoring Broken Relationships here.

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What Does the Bible Say About Shame?

What does the Bible say about shame? This is the first of a six-part study guide for my book Healing the Hurts of Your Past . You can also download the podcast version.

Let’s start by laying out a biblical foundation for shame.  Shame could really be used as a motif or a framework to read the entire Bible. It goes like this…

What does the Bible say about shame?

God created the world and it was very good. In fact, it was AMAZING. And get this…God created men and women IN HIS IMAGE (See Genesis 1:26-29). You can take that to the bank and close the book on shame right there. Really, what more do you need to convince you of your worth? To deny YOUR worth would be to deny God’s worth and that’s not even possible.

what does the bible say about shame?

What does the Bible say about shame?

The Naked Truth

In Genesis 2:25 it says that they were NAKED and UN-ashamed. The word “naked” means so much more than “not wearing clothes”. After all, they had no concept of clothes. So “naked”  had to mean that nothing was hidden. They were totally vulnerable. Nothing was held back. How many relationships do you have like that?

Glory Lost

But then Adam and Eve chose to disobey and that was a GAME CHANGER. It was like they let the air out of the balloon. Suddenly they looked at each other and felt naked. (See Genesis 3:7). Something had to visibly change with them. I think they previously radiated a glow…a glory. But that disappeared. So they grabbed for anything they could find to cover themselves… to hide the loss of glory.

I speculate this to be true because after Moses spent time on Mt. Sinai with God it says that he radiated the glory of God (see Exodus 34:29-34). When the glory faded Moses COVERED HIS FACE to hide the fact that he lost the glory. Hmmm…sounds familiar.

Hiding is the essence of shame. You cover up your imperfections because you believe  they disqualify you from engaging with others. You present a false self, an imposter, just to fit in. As a result all your relationships are superficial never fully connecting in intimacy and never producing the joy that only intimacy can offer.

The rest of the Bible is about recovering lost glory…overcoming shame and regaining their God-given value.  It isn’t until Jesus comes on the scene that humanity regains their glory. Jesus says to his Father…I have given them the glory that you gave me (John 17:22).

Glory Regained

Flashback to the creation story when God created us in his image… once again God shares his glory with his human creation.

What this means is that our value doesn’t come from our daily performance (what have you done for me lately?). It is conferred upon us by God. It’s a gift. You can’t earn it and you can’t lose it.  Once you believe this and let it really sink into the depths of your soul you will be FEARLESS. No one can take this away from you. No foolishness on your part can disqualify you from it.

I think this is one of the BEST MESSAGES in the Bible.  This is “shout it from the housetop” kind of stuff.  If you think so too then maybe you can at least click a link below and share it with a few friends!

Download the radio interview podcast here.

Question: What questions do you have  about what the Bible says about shame? Leave your question or comment below.

  • You were made for glory (andrewejenkins.wordpress.com)
  • Defining the Pain of Shame (readingremy.com)
  • Seven Reasons Why Every Leader Needs to Understand Shame  (readingremy.com)
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