Tuesday, June 28, 2016

WHEN GOD WANTS A DIVORCE

If you have experienced a family member, spouse or partner that ignores and humiliates you for a prolonged period of time, you may reach the point of saying that you will not stay with the one who continually hurts you.


Do you think that people with low self-esteem or those with higher self-esteem are more likely to disconnect from those who mistreat them?

Dr. Sally Singer Horwatt said,

People low in self-esteem are more likely to ostracize, but they appear to use it as a manipulative tactic rather than true disengagement. 
High self-esteem individuals are more likely to ostracize to terminate an unwanted relationship. Ironically, people with high self-esteem are more likely than those with low self-esteem to terminate a relationship with partners who ostracize them. [1]


Why do we think that God has no right to distance from those who reject Him? In describing His People as a bride, the God who hates divorce uses language to say that He will divorce them if they continue to deny Him.

God does not abandon his care for the loved ones. He acts on their behalf to remove enemies from their path. He carries through on all that He has promised, but cannot go with them in their present state of disconnect. In loving response, God distances himself from those who stir up his anger.

The strong, shocking words of God through the prophets and through Jesus are meant to stop us in our tracks. Have we taken God’s goodness for granted? Do we think that we can get by with a stiff neck and never do anything about it?

As we move forward through Exodus 33, we will find out that God will not go with us until we change our heart toward Him.

As a child fighting in the back seat, my loving parents would sometimes reach the point of stopping the car and saying, “Do you kids want to walk?” The thought that we would be alone, lost and abandoned was enough to get our attention and we learned to get along.

We should not be surprised that God sometimes stops the car and asks if we want to walk alone from this point or remain with Him. Our greatest fulfillment comes in knowing that we belong to God and are learning to live openly and before Him.


Exodus 33:
When the people heard these distressing words, they began to mourn and no one put on any ornaments. For the Lord had said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites, ‘You are a stiff-necked people. If I were to go with you even for a moment, I might destroy you. Now take off your ornaments and I will decide what to do with you.’”So the Israelites stripped off their ornaments at Mount Horeb.


In all the ways that we put on bling to impress ourselves, God says stop! We need to see the way we are and stop ignoring the kindness of His Love.  Let us return to a posture of humility and honesty.

The truth is that you matter to God. You are invited to belong and nothing can separate you from the love of Jesus. But, do not let your heart grow cold toward God. You may continue in living a blessed life, but God won’t go with you anywhere that you have chosen to shun him. Take off your ornate mask and all the costumes you wear to look good. In the vulnerable place we find mercy and direction for life.



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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF SIGNIFICANCE

Many of Jesus’ stories reference power, money, debt and investment. All of these things have moral implications. The rich man and the beggar story teach about compassion for the poor. The prodigal son story teaches about valuing people over the cost associated. The man forgiven a great debt story teaches about forgiving others who are indebted to us. The lost coin story speaks to the celebratory, redemptive act of recovering what has been lost.

One of the moral tales of Jesus speaks to the importance of investing our lives into the work of God’s Kingdom and the consequence of living in fear and reluctance.


Luke 19:
12-13 “There was once a man descended from a royal house who needed to make a long trip back to headquarters to get authorization for his rule and then return. But first he called ten servants together, gave them each a sum of money, and instructed them, ‘Operate with this until I return.’
14 “But the citizens there hated him. So they sent a commission with a signed petition to oppose his rule: ‘We don’t want this man to rule us.’
15 “When he came back bringing the authorization of his rule, he called those ten servants to whom he had given the money to find out how they had done.
16 “The first said, ‘Master, I doubled your money.’
17 “He said, ‘Good servant! Great work! Because you’ve been trustworthy in this small job, I’m making you governor of ten towns.’
18 “The second said, ‘Master, I made a fifty percent profit on your money.’
19 “He said, ‘I’m putting you in charge of five towns.’
20-21 “The next servant said, ‘Master, here’s your money safe and sound. I kept it hidden in the cellar. To tell you the truth, I was a little afraid. I know you have high standards and hate sloppiness, and don’t suffer fools gladly.’
22-23 “He said, ‘You’re right that I don’t suffer fools gladly—and you’ve acted the fool! Why didn’t you at least invest the money in securities so I would have gotten a little interest on it?’
24 “Then he said to those standing there, ‘Take the money from him and give it to the servant who doubled my stake.’
25 “They said, ‘But Master, he already has double . . .’
26 “He said, ‘That’s what I mean: Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.
27 “‘As for these enemies of mine who petitioned against my rule, clear them out of here. I don’t want to see their faces around here again.’”


It’s a simple enough story. The ‘almost king’ is a man of substance who entrusts some of his wealth to servants. The people of the region do not like the man and oppose the idea of him ruling them. But, the servants still have a responsibility because they work for their master.

The first servant doubles the money. The second has a 50% increase and the third does nothing but return the original amount. Clearly there are varying degrees of ability when it comes to investment, but the fearful reluctance to do anything is not an option. The master expects an attempt to be made. He rewards those who learn to multiply what they have been given.

I think we can draw an application to how we understand our role as servants of Jesus. The Lord is being given the crown to rule over the world, but many are opposed to him. We may find ourselves caught between the will of Christ and the fearful, reluctance of a world that does not want to be disturbed. What do we do with the goods that God gives us responsibility for?

How do we as a local church multiply the love, mercy, grace and wisdom that we have been entrusted with? How do we use our finances in ways that have multiplying effects? We do in fact have a moral responsibility to be investors for God’s Kingdom.

John Fischer said,
Fear deceives us into thinking we are not capable of doing more with our lives. Fear turns us into little, insignificant people. After a while we grow into liking not having the responsibility of being bigger people, making more of our lives, being givers instead of takers, so that our fear actually maintains a sort of comfort zone of inactivity around a huddle of unclaimed riches. We have a bag of gold but it’s buried in the ground and we buried it. As long as we don’t do anything, we can at least assure ourselves of not doing the wrong thing.[1]


I want to challenge you to go to the basement and bring up the bag of gold that God has given you. Take courage as you step out in faith to invest and multiply the goodness you have received. You need to reach beyond what you have safely grasped. Everything you have and are is a seed that can be grown into much more than currently is in your hand.

Start to dream about being more of a giver and less of a hoarder. Understand that you have the authority and freedom to move forward as a builder in God’s Kingdom. I cannot wait to see what you will do as you walk in the Spirit and are entrusted with more.

Do not run from your true significance. With God’s help you will have a great return on investment.



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