Saturday, June 25, 2016

STIFF-NECKED AND SELF-ABSORBED

There is a troubling story where God tells his family off. He has been ignored and ostracized for a very long time and needs to communicate how the people have been toward His Kindness.




Exodus 33:
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Leave this place, you and the people you brought up out of Egypt, and go up to the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants.’ I will send an angel before you and drive out the Canaanites, Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. Go up to the land flowing with milk and honey. But I will not go with you, because you are a stiff-necked people and I might destroy you on the way.”


Look at what the Lord had done for them. God had led his people to their freedom and taking them to a new land to call their own. They experienced God’s kind provision of water and food, deliverance from slavery and their enemies and were given the hope of a new life. God was doing everything He promised.

For the emancipated nation of Israel, the journey that began as indescribably miraculous had become monotonous and common. The initial idealism of seeing God’s Power had not settled into the quiet trust and humble heart walk that God was looking for. Instead, they were stiff-necked.

Occasionally, I will get a stiff neck. It comes from bad posture, incorrect lifting and insufficient rest. When my neck locks up, I cannot lift my head to look up and cannot turn it very much to the left or right.

Have you ever noticed when some people get angry, they stiffen up? Their shoulders, neck and facial muscles all tense up and you can see that they are not feeling at ease.

The stiff-necked people could not lift their head to Heaven or see much of what was happening around them. Instead, they were angry, restless and tense.



Wednesday, June 22, 2016

THE CONSEQUENCE OF SHUNNING GOD


While we are mostly concerned about our own sense of belonging and finding others to instil that sense into-- can there be a false sense of security that comes from mattering in the wrong ways? 


Is this not the gasoline that fuels a criminal gang, hate groups and makes pirates out of rejected sailors?

Clinical psychologist Sally Singer Horwatt said,

Happiness in life is strongly related to having some close personal relationships. Research suggests that it does not seem to make a great deal of difference what sort of relationship one has, but the absence of close social bonds is strongly linked to depression, unhappiness and other troubles…
This explains the power of ostracism as a means of social control.  Ostracism - a.k.a. the silent treatment - is the actions of individuals or groups that ignore, exclude or reject others. Ostracism is intended to deprive the target of the sense of belonging.  It has been called "social death."  [1]

One of the great appeals of the Gospel message is the whole notion of those who do not belong being brought in to God’s family. There is an adoption model in which God finds a way to raise us from the relational death of not belonging.

The Gospel is not one-dimensional though. There is a strong relational message that we have in fact deprived ourselves of belonging to God. We have constructed many walls to keep God out of our lives. God has been shunned and given repeated messages of not being heard, appreciated or welcomed by the entitled family members. We cannot shun God endlessly and think it is okay.

Jesus spoke to God’s People with a strong warning about entitlement thinking.


Luke 13:
23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”


This is a frightening potential. Could the ones who insist that they belong be in for a rude awakening? Why would God turn anyone away? Are there instances in which God has to tell someone they do not belong? The self-described and publicly lauded ‘firsts’ may in fact be the real losers.

It always takes humility on our part to enter through God’s door. Jesus came to open the children’s door and build access ramps for those who cannot walk. I’m not sure the path is wide enough for those who insist on strutting their stuff like privileged brats.

Our illegal sense of belonging comes from believing that we can shun God and get away with it. We cannot.



Sunday, June 19, 2016

THE QUESTION OF BELONGING

There is a conversation in the movie ‘A Beautiful Mind’[1] in which a brilliant mathematician John Nash is having a conversation with his colleague Charles Herman. Nash is brilliant but suffers with paranoid schizophrenia and is driven to excel in the field of mathematics.


JOHN NASH: I need to look through to the governing dynamics, find a truly original idea. That’s the only way I’ll ever distinguish myself. It’s the only way I’ll ever . . .

CHARLES HERMAN: Matter?

JOHN NASH: Yes[2]


We are deeply embedded with a desire to matter. Mattering is defined as the perception that, to some degree and in any of a variety of ways, we are a significant part of the world around us.[3]

Mattering helps us identify who we are and where we fit in. If we matter to others, we feel valued. On the other hand, to be ignored and have no one who shares with you can have a devastating effect on our wellbeing.

The desire for significance is so great that people will act out in good or bad ways to be significant. One will give their time to serve in a soup kitchen while another buys a gun. One will pursue the dream of winning a gold medal while another will steal gold medals in search of notoriety. Some will get pregnant as a loving way to grow a family and another teenage girl may get pregnant to finally matter to someone, especially this baby.

What will you do to achieve a sense of belonging?





[2] Gregory C. Elliott, Suzanne Kao & Ann-Marie Grant, Mattering: Empirical Validation of a Social-Psychological Concept, ©2004 Psychology Press, pp.340-341
[3] Gregory C. Elliott, Suzanne Kao & Ann-Marie Grant, Mattering: Empirical Validation of a Social-Psychological Concept, ©2004 Psychology Press, pp.339-340

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