This week Cheyenne and I discuss Shame.
Ephesians 5:1-20The Message (MSG)
5 1-2 Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.
3-4 Don’t allow love to turn into lust, setting off a downhill slide into sexual promiscuity, filthy practices, or bullying greed. Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.
5 You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God.
6-7 Don’t let yourselves get taken in by religious smooth talk. God gets furious with people who are full of religious sales talk but want nothing to do with him. Don’t even hang around people like that.
8-10 You groped your way through that murk once, but no longer. You’re out in the open now. The bright light of Christ makes your way plain. So no more stumbling around. Get on with it! The good, the right, the true—these are the actions appropriate for daylight hours. Figure out what will please Christ, and then do it.
11-16 Don’t waste your time on useless work, mere busywork, the barren pursuits of darkness. Expose these things for the sham they are. It’s a scandal when people waste their lives on things they must do in the darkness where no one will see. Rip the cover off those frauds and see how attractive they look in the light of Christ.
Wake up from your sleep,
Climb out of your coffins;
Christ will show you the light!
So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times!
17 Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.
18-20 Don’t drink too much wine. That cheapens your life. Drink the Spirit of God, huge draughts of him. Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ.
When I fear from the bottom of my soul, what am I fearing? There is a daily or typical fear of losing something nice, or that the weather won’t cooperate with my plans. This is not real fear. This is a disdain for discomfort. When I speak of fear, its of deep abandonment from all hope. That scares the heck out of me. What do I have, after all, if there is no hope. Hope and excitement of something bigger and happier in the future was the foundation of my childhood. I grew up dreaming Christmas morning. It wasn’t particularly spiritual for me, but it wasn’t without religious thought. Mainly it was a super fun time to be with family, experience the stability of tradition, and the joy of gifts. As I grew into a teenager, summer vacations and summer camp added to the hopeful splendor of the near future. It fueled my everyday waking and moving. Where is this hope in my life today?
Paul gives both a big picture and little picture view of not just WHO to hope in but HOW to hope in Him.
This, above all, is something I just can’t hear enough.
I don’t have to do anything or be anything to receive his love.
As a result, God in his kindness has given us his approval and we have become heirs who have the confidence that we have everlasting life.
By keeping company with Him (Scripture, prayer, contemplation, etc), I will gain a broader view of what loving others should truly look like. In his inspired wisdom, He doesn’t stop there. He knew me, 2000 years before my birth. He knew me and all my contemporaries.
In this era of social media, instant knowledge, and constant connection, we have new idols. The scariest part of this is that most of us are not aware of our new idol worship.
God does not need productivity from me. He doesn’t need me to do anything. He wants my love. As I spend more time getting to know Him, I will become one with His will. While my human nature will make it impossible to do His will 100% of the time, the Holy Spirit, whom I invited into my heart, changes the game. God knows of what I am capable. He has a plan for my life that will be of greater use to the kingdom beyond anything I can imagine. Paul reminds me in vs. 17 to be in tune with God’s will. I must not live on autopilot thinking I know what I am doing. Without a prayerful and discerning approach to every day, I will begin to lose touch with that plan.
My first line of communication for God’s plan for my life must God Himself. After that, there is nothing. God is my first line, second line, and third line. Everything must pass through discernment before it becomes a part of my routine.
I’ve had some spiritual disconnect recently. While I ultimately found God in the midst of the silence, it made me think deeper about my personal attempt to connect more with God in my own ways, and where my spiritual gifts fit in.
This would explain why the stuff I write doesn’t help me but helps others. For others it may be their speaking, or preaching. The common thread is that we are struggling to fill our own spiritual tank, and that is not how God intended things to be.
Why do the words I write impact others much deeper than the effect me? It really doesn’t seem fair, after all, that I spend so much time reading, and writing on scripture, yet for the most part, feel very disconnected when I read my own words. Strangely, I feel connected to God when I am writing, like I’m in a spiritual state of flow. It’s usually short-lived and cannot be called upon at will. Only when I am writing. It is as if I the flow state is the catalyst to get the words from my mind to the keyboard. Once the words are out, they are no longer for me, rather they are for others.
This idea came to me the other day, as I reflected upon a post I wrote about spiritual disconnectedness [Click Here to Read The Post]. Fellow writer/podcaster Matt Cochran and I spoke about some mutual feelings of Godly distance. The feeling led Him to call me, and we lifted each other up through a 90 minute conversation.
It seems this is how God works. At least this is how He is working around me. When I was a kid, I heard a priest give a quick story of How Heaven and Hell are so different, yet so similar:
Feasting at the Table of Heaven or Hell
Imagine the dining hall of both. They look identical. Long tables filled with feasts of the tastiest food adorned with fruits and deserts. On each side of the table sit the guests. They are sitting in front of a plate and very unusually long utensils. The only rule they are given, is that they must eat with the provided utensils. It seems impossible to eat with silverware that are 4 feet long. The dinning hall of Hell starts to erupt in confusion. The frustration evident and the hunger mounting. The dining Hall in Heaven is identical. But as we approach it, it sounds calm and even a bit festive. The heavenly guests see the opportunity to provide fruit (literal fruit) to others. By using the utensils to feed each other, they are able to enjoy the feast provided as well as connect with others around.
This story provides a simple framework for us as Christians. We all have our own spiritual gifts. We do, however, have a choice to act like those feasting at the table of Hell or the table of Heaven. Looking at my spiritual gift for writing and speaking as a gift for others to receive, opens me up to great opportunities. First, I am reminded that I cannot find spiritual connectedness through myself and by myself. While a rare few are able to live in solitude and be totally connected to God, I am not meant for the brotherly hermitage. Second, I know I must share my gift with others. It is not for me to hold back the gift God has given me. He intends it to feed others. Third, and perhaps the most difficult, I must seek my own gift from others. This is a key element in the Christian life that many people miss. Seeking fellowship with believers as well as deeper and equally yoked relationships will bring me the gifts God intends for me to receive.
What are your spiritual gifts? Do you find yourself feasting at the table of hell? How do you intend on sharing them with others who desperately need to be fed.?
New Christians have all the fun. Do you remember what it felt like when you first believed? I remember the bible being so fresh and new. Something jumped out at me daily. It really took no effort. All I had to do was open the crisp cover of my brand new leather bound Bible. I remember feeling like a million bucks after I tabbed it. I felt goofy wondering if James was before or after Ruth. Or if John 1 was the same thing as the Gospel of John. There is a lot to glean from new and eager believers. God gave me, and most likely gave you consolation. This is the “warm and fuzzy” you may remember. As time goes by, it takes a particularly moving sermon or powerful worship music to get me there.
As the warm and fuzzy feelings disappear, does that mean God is done with me? Does that mean He is distant? After all, he seemed so easily “there” when I was a new Christian.
We can see different levels of “believers” even in the early church. Paul refers to many in the church at corinth as being fed by milk and not solid food. He wasn’t referring to actual food, but spiritual food. As we grow in our relationship, just like a baby with his mother, we move from simple to a more complex spiritual diet.
I spent some time this week in the letter to the Hebrews.
2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Anytime scripture reaches out from the pages of history and pulls me in, I know I am on to something big. Here I am reading from this 2000 year old text, a story about Jesus being pummeled, persecuted, slandered, wronged, humiliated, and ultimately crucified. Do you remember what Jesus did at the end of all this “opposition”?
I put myself in this situation. Whether I’m fighting for custody of my children, or arguing with the IRS over taxes, I have a choice to make. You may be facing challenges at work, or health challenges, or just having a rough season in life. This isn’t about changing that situation. That is another article for another day. Today is about dealing with the struggle. As the popular hashtag says “the struggle is real”, you have a choice to make. Jesus let it all go and forgave those her persecuted him:
33When they came to the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on His right and the other on His left. 34Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His garments by casting lots. (Luke 23:33-34)
Here we have the Son of God showing us how its done. Forget the struggle. I look to Hebrews 12:3 as a reminder of who to look at when things seem dark or even just quiet. I wonder how Jesus actually felt in his heart the few moments before He died. He didn’t leave much doubt as he cried out to the Father:
“MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME? ( Mathew 27:46).
Today, as a growing and not so “new” Christian anymore, I have more of an active choice to make in my reactions. I must chose whether or not to recognize God’s presence through the struggle. Click To Tweet God has not abandoned me. In fact, He sees me as more able to handle struggles without the added warm and fuzzy. I can choose to get angry and frustrated with God. I can cry out with an eternal “WTF”. Don’t misunderstand me, I do this. I forget, because as the hashtag says, “the struggle is real”. However, as I mature in my spiritual journey, I will more often chose to consider [Jesus] who endured such opposition from sinners…and not grow weary and lose heart. As I do this, my spiritual muscles will strengthen. I won’t need anything but my faith in God.
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We all find ourselves in arguments and struggle with others. Over the years, I often found myself struggling with anxiety and frustration. Typically this is because I am always right (or more typically, I THINK, I am right). unfortunately for me, others did not always agree.
All kidding aside, the Bible teaches us some practical wisdom about when and when not to engage with others.
This week I share Proverbial wisdom from Proverbs 9:7.
He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself.
And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you.
Friends, you do not have to argue with everyone. Here are a few tips I learned from Pastor Ron’s sermon:
I hope you find value and peace in this. God Bless.