Posts Tagged With: Love

Learning Spiritual Insights

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At a church I attended some time ago there was one guy who would say things about me, and to me, that sounded like veiled criticisms. It had the same affect on me as fingernails on slate—it was really irritating. His words came out as feeble attempts at joking jibes, and this was a constant thing. But underneath it all, I could detect a hurt feeling, as if I made him feel a little “less-than.” I didn’t realize this in the beginning, but thankfully I have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and He is super wise. Cutting me down, while making it sound as if he was only kidding was a way for the poor fellow to express what was going on inside, without anyone calling him on his badmouthing.

Lots of people suffer insecurities, and often those feelings will rise to the surface in both word and actions, often distinguished through facial expressions and body language. These feelings, though usually unfounded, do stem from legitimate needs that are not being met: such as the need for self-worth—healthy self-esteem. Sometimes there are deep rooted emotional injuries from childhood that have never been addressed, hence, have never healed.

At first, his words hurt my feelings and stirred a bit of anger. My knee jerk response was to let fly right back at him with a wittier slam than his, and being a writer I’m quite able in that respect. In fact, I actually did that, and later felt really bad about it. So I repented, and then told the man I was sorry for saying what I did.

A couple days later, while in prayer, God’s Spirit of wisdom showed me that there were underlying hurts and heartaches in that man—some past trauma at the root of the problem. This is something God teaches us to do—be discerning. The Lord has even given us His Holy Spirit so that we’ll have the power to know and understand things that are going on in the spirit world, in our own spirit, and in that of others, like my criticizer. God knows all things, even our most secret motives, and often He shares needed information with us, if we will remain open to receive it. God then affords us the power to respond in the right way, with discernment, discretion and healing love.

God has taught me to pray about everything, and this was one of those things I definitely needed to talk to the Lord about. For one thing, I had to be certain I wasn’t saying or doing things that would perpetuate this man’s feelings of some form of inferiority.

“Lord, why does he feel that way in response to me? Have I said or done something wrong to him?”

Well, as usual, God did not answer in the way I wanted or expected Him to. Perhaps I was hoping for something like, Oh no, you’re fine, Sheldon. It’s that man’s problem and he should not be talking like that.

But instead, I was simply given direction as to what I should do. I sensed God speaking inside me. You may be wondering, ‘How do I know it was God talking?’ Because it’s not what I myself would have thought of, or done in response to the situation. And, it was in keeping with God’s very nature of love and compassion. And, it was in harmony with other things that, as my educator, God has instructed me to do in the past. I’ve already told you what my own human response was, which came from the sin nature. Yes, I’m still growing, but so are all believers.

The Lord said something to the effect of “Ask him to do something for you—something that you don’t know how to do yourself.”

Hmm, that makes sense, I responded. Yes Lord, I will. It’ll make him feel better-than, instead of less-than, and I’ll get a lesson in humility.

“Now you’re thinking,” is what I believe the Lord was saying at that point.

As it turns out, the guy is a whiz with computers, and I owned a laptop that had crashed. Fixing it would require a set of skills that are completely out of my purview. Now I can fix a car and sell it too—I can write some pretty fancy words and even pitch some woo. But when it comes to computers: software, malware, Tupperware; all that jazz, I have to leave it to those nerdy types with skinny necks and pocket protectors who look as if they may take over the world some day.   Sorry about that, I got distracted by my funny bone.

He did a great job fixing my laptop, for free, and he even gave me a beefed up hard drive. That guy was tickled rosy to show me how smart he was, and I made sure to stoke that sensation in him. Ever since that day, he has stopped criticizing me and sometimes he even asks me questions about the bible. I think he and I are becoming friends outside of church too. Now, if I can get him to open up about his past, maybe I’ll have the opportunity to counsel him, and get him to seek the Lord’s help in addressing whatever the root of his dilemma may be. God sure does know what He’s doing. All I have to do is pray, then listen…and then do.

Blessings.

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Categories: Christian Living, Faith, Growing in Faith, LIstening to God, Uncategorized, Wisdom & Discernment | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Children Need Acceptance

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Most folks hate these social ailments, which often act as triggers for disparaging tragedies.

Bullying, shaming, varied prescribed medications and illicit drug abuse, among other uglies, have been blamed for a tremendous rise in teen-aged suicides. Another horrifying stat is how many children become active members in violent youth gangs, or simply develop behavioral issues. It’s my belief that teen suicide and gang involvement are two maladies that share roots in the same detriments.  

Results (of polled police departments) contradict the long-standing perception that gangs are primarily an inner-city phenomenon. Granted, the prevalence is highest in large cities, with 74 percent of those jurisdictions acknowledging the presence of gangs. But suburban counties aren’t far behind, at 57 percent, which is considerably higher than small cities (34 percent).”—Healthy Children Organization 

Come back to this link to an organisation in-the-know: Healthy Children Org.

 

It’s one of the worst feelings in the world. There are many teens who find no other escape from their heart wrenching emotional agony than ending their own lives. It’s like a bandit stealing off with the soul’s sense of self-worth—as a valueless object to be discarded by society as worthless. Many suffer this malady and spiral down into deep depression, even developing physical illnesses. Some of them become criminals, maybe even psychotic killers.  

 

Below’s a link to just one of thousands: News reports on teen-aged suicides. There’s just as many on the increased danger of children joining street gangs. But you can come back to this later. 

Teen-Suicide

 

Imagine feeling that nobody wants you, nobody loves you—you just can’t seem to find any place where you fit in, a place to belong. It’s a hollow ache. Have you ever experienced being totally convinced there’s no group of people anywhere with whom you could have a sense of belonging? Street gangs prey upon young boys and girls who have this belief and offer them a sense of acceptance and camaraderie. Sometimes, it’s excitement and action that draws kids into gang life. But their emotional and social needs are legitimate. A healthy Psyche’ includes a sense of belonging—everyone possesses a need to be loved.  

 

I watched several videos of little orphan children from all over the world, many of whom lived on the streets. They were picking through garbage bins trying to find something to eat. Their little melancholy faces stirred my heart—I wanted to break down and cry. But some orphans reside at orphanages or missions. At least they are fed a little. All of them apparently have the exact same hope of acceptance, and to have a family. They need to belong somewhere, with someone—other souls. Love is a fundamental need. 

We have an extensively vast foster care system here in America. Dismally, many of the people who serve as foster parents only do so for the money. Unscrupulous ones even use the orphans as a free labor force, treating the children like slaves, as objects to be manipulated into profits. 

 

What do you suppose every orphan hopes for? 

 

That’s right, to be adopted by someone who will love them, protect them, and give them a home, and care for them. Someone who will give them a place to belong. Just one person to accept them would be enough, but better a group of people who would say “You’re one of us!” What they need—what they hope for, is a family. 

 

Well then… 

 

When a couple has a child born to them they have no way of choosing what that child will look like. They can’t even choose whether it will be a boy or a girl. Parents try to teach their children moral values and rear them in a way that they’ll turn out to be good people, but there are no guarantees about that either. So, I want to share something with you about ADOPTION.  

 

Those who have been adopted have been chosen over other people. There’s a whole lot of children to choose from. That makes a child feel very special. Adoptive parents have looked out across the whole world at the many thousands of orphaned children. Think of it, out of all of them, they choose YOU! That makes you pretty special. 

 

To God, all of us are just like young Children. 

 

My point here today, besides drawing attention to these social ills, is to highlight a stellar fact. If you trust the God of the bible, and you have made Jesus the Lord of your life, and you’ve taken Him as your Savior, then:  YOU’VE BEEN CHOSEN BY GOD TO BE ADOPTED INTO HIS FAMILY. 

 

I’ll begin an explanation, but then, I’m asking us to follow the reasoning of the selected scriptures provided below. 

 

When you’re born into a family on earth your parents cannot choose you, you’re just born to them. But God knew all about you before you were ever born, and He chose you to be His child. (Later on, read Psalms chapter 139.) 

This, and other passages reveal that God knew everything there is to know about you, before He chose you. And the following scriptures assure us that God did in fact, select us, and it tells us at what point in time He did so. 

 

For He chose us in him before the creation of the world… He predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will. Ephesians 1: 45.  

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15 NLT 

Jesus said, “For the Father himself loves you dearly, because you love me and you believe that I came from God. John 16:27 

 

So what is it to love Jesus? What does it really mean to love Christ? He tells us. 

 

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. Let that part sink in for a minute.

Then it continues: 

And I will love them and will reveal myself to each of them.” John 14:21 NLT 

 

Think about this: How has Jesus revealed Himself to you? 

 

So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Ephesians 2:19 

 

When we are saved, or, born again, we’re born into the family of God, and that’s what the bible is talking about when it says He adopted us. It also calls us “Children of the light.” 
 

Those who have been born into God’s family do not make a practice of sinning, because God’s life is in them. So they can’t keep on sinning, because they are children of God. 1 John 3:9 

 

Now then, what are some of the benefits a child receives by having a family? 

I’ve listed several of them. We’ve already established that they will be loved. 

 

LOVE 

 

Provision for every need 

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19. 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26  

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11  

Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the LORD Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. Malachi 3:10 (There’s many more). 

 

Protection  

Psalm 144:2, “How often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you wouldn’t let me.”  

“The LORD keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” Psalm 121:8  

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10  

“(You) who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Peter 1:5  

 

Inheritance  

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs–heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Romans 8:17 

“The righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever.” Psalm 37:29  

“Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32  

“And giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light.” Colossians 1:12
  Romans 8:32 Eph. 1:18, 

 

Security  

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” Romans 8: 35 

 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8: 38-39  

And Jude 1:24 “To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.”  

 

There are other benefits too, of course, such as guidance, wisdom, a name, and lots more! 

If you’re not already a part of God’s wonderful family, you can be! Feel free to contact me via Email at Penman4u@gmail.com. I will be happy to share with you how to do that. God Bless You. I hope you enjoy this version of a great old hymn as much as I did: “The Family of God.” 

 

Categories: Addictions & Suicides, Christian Living, Faith, Family, People, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When An Unsaved Loved One Dies

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The Lord has whispered in my heart concerning you, and His spirit urges me to pray, and to speak His truth into your difficulties which in turn brings strength and peace. In times like these we can go to our well of hope and strength to bask in the Lord’s glory. Suddenly, our burdens lift under the light of God’s wisdom and loving providence. John Piper offers good perspective for difficult times of grief and loss. He writes, “What we must keep our focus on is that God is just, God is good, and God does not do anything that we will not ultimately approve someday.”

The Lord has affirmed this truth to me in a personal way during a time of deep grief and loss.

 

One day we will look back upon all that was painful in our lives and nod in agreement with God. We will understand that He allowed the right thing to transpire at precisely right time, every time. I am glad that God is so big and mysterious. If I were to understand everything He does and all that He allows to happen, He might not seem quite so big and all knowing.  His infinite immensity is more than our imaginations can fathom. As we focus our thoughts upon God’s love, being absolutely convinced of His faithfulness to always do or allow what is best and good, we cling to the knowledge that we belong to Him. Doing so has often helped me to reconcile difficulties in my mind. Like the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to Trust and obey,”—It rings from the hearts of those who can say along with Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”

 

Genesis 18:25 is like the voice of a clarion proclaiming the righteous faithfulness of our majestic Holy One, saying “Will not the Judge of all the earth do right?” We can rest in the understanding that God will always do precisely what is right and best for His children. He is the only one qualified to judge because He is holy and pure, and He makes judgements on our behalf that display the grandeur of His delectable mercy. But He also has the paternal passion for you and I that elicits tsunami sized waves of compassion and comfort. Let’s lift our voices to our Heavenly Daddy saying, Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  2 Corinthians 1:3-4

 

Go to Him, and rest in His loving arms while trusting that God knows all things and we do not. Trust Him.

 

When Christ returns and gathers you and I to be with Him forever, there will be no sorrow, pain, suffering or tears. This is His promise. How will He accomplish this? I don’t know—nobody does. But what we do know is that God is faithful to keep His word. He will keep all of His glorious promises to you. I know a lot of people, many of whom I do not believe to be saved. I love them, and my finite mind cannot reconcile how I will not be bothered in the least by the fact that they will be in hell while I am in bliss. But I trust God, and I know He can and will keep His promise to wipe every tear from our eyes. Never doubt His love. He has inscribed your name upon His palms. That’s what He said. Rest in the glorious warmth of God’s mighty love, He will comfort you.

In summary, the one thing that will salve our hurting hearts during times of grief and loss is faith in God. Personally, I can feel His love for you in my own heart as He confirms His words of promise that He’s given to us all. Hope is found in Christ Jesus and His love will comfort us.

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Living, Death of Unsaved, Faith, God's Faithfulness, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reciprocal Healing

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Today I tackled my normal 

Intently viewing strangers 

Listening to sad and happy souls 

Sweet melodies of hearts 

Ever stretching impatient fingers  

Toward comfort, acceptance, gladness 

 

Probing a refracted image 

Peeling back layers of façade 

Unveiled tender, vulnerable, me 

In shades darkened by misery 

I studied who I am 

 

Strange, how poorly I can see 

When perusing the heart of me 

How clear an image is portrayed 

In stranger’s hearts displayed 

Until it comes to my own 

 

Again I flee the inner me 

Finding solace  

Blindness to the mirror 

Soothing  

Somebody else’s woes 

A balm 

Ignoring my own 

 

 

Strange, someway, I know not how 

Miracles of healing within  

The inner me, when only I see 

Others’ needs 

When warmly caring for thee 

Somehow, I too am made whole. 

 

 heal

Categories: Christian Living, Faith, People, Poem, Poetry, Self Improvement, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love Fills The Void

Time flies by so quickly, and during this my time of being tested and strengthened by hardships I’ve neglected this blog. My apologies to those who regularly seek encouragement or edification or even spiritual understanding from this little blog.

In a weekly writing challenge from a community of Christian writers FaithWriters, I had won an Editor’s Choice Award for this little poem. I was shocked at the attention it garnered, because of how simple it is, and easy to write. It’s one of those that sort of writes itself once the thoughts have been established. I believe some of you may be blessed by it and for that reason I present it here today.

Love Fills The Void

Each day is now a mirrored image,
Of all drab days crept passed before,
Solitude, living a lonely scrimmage,
As a life approaches that final door.

Silvery wisps stray over age splotched face,
Drooping, wet eyes gaze at the telephone,
While setting the table for just one place,
Pleading, “Lord I don’t want to die alone”

Memories bring fuzzy warm light, until,
Her husband’s face, dissolved in time,
Flies away from off the window sill,
Alzheimer’s dark halls of larcenous crime.

Knock-knock, hope on other side of the door,
Burst, turtle’s pace surges, bent back shuffle,
Is it a friend, neighbor, a smiling face to adore?
She wrestles the knob like a slippery truffle.

Leaping heart dances answering hope’s call,
As the door thrown wide reveals no-one there,
Muffled sounds on her inviting ears fall,
Beneath boxed up blankets placed with care.

Four hungry eyes clumsily appear,
Mewing, yipping and springing to share,
Wet lickety kisses with furry faced stare,
Abandoned unloved yet not shedding a tear.

Puppy and kitten fly from their cart,
Summersaulting into an open heart,
In through the doorway to jump and romp,
The house is alive with youthful pomp.

Puffing for air after delightful chase,
Two critters are scruffed, then set down in place,
Till into her lap both snuggle and moan,
For love is what makes any place home.

Three love starved creatures found one another,
Healed by caring instincts of a mother,
Companionship sates ravenous hunger,
Her mind rewound to twenty years younger.

 

Categories: Christian Living, People, Poem, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Love is Powerful

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The Everly Brothers hit the music charts with a wildly popular song titled LOVE HURTS. That was back in 1960. The haunting lyrics were first written in 1957 by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant.

 

A year later Roy Orbison remade the song in his own distinct and endearing sound, bringing it into the top five on the Australian Single Play.

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Then in 1975 the heavy metal band Nazareth re-popularized: Love Hurts. The song moans out words that expound the hazards a heart in love may encounter: Love hurts—Love scars—Love wounds and marks—Any heart not tough or strong enough to take a lot of pain… And so on.

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Country artist Emmy Lou Harris also included it in her repertoire. The song Love Hurts has always resonated with us, because most everyone has at one time or another experienced the pain that love has the capacity to inflict.

 

This leads us to one irrefutable truth concerning love:  It wields tremendous power. It has the power to heal or to hurt, to sway, or to bring us in line—to kill, or to save. And it possesses many other dynamics as well. Of course there are also lots of other songs that elucidate Love’s dynamics, like The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News.

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While most folks equate these facts only with a romantic type of love, it is true of all kinds of love, such as paternal love, and even brotherly and social love. Who would be foolish enough to argue that the love of a mother is not scary powerful? The nature of paternal love can quickly become a protective juggernaut that is not to be taken lightly.

 

See the links at the end of this short piece for some exciting true stories of heroic mothers protecting their children.

 

Love has been the cause of many notorious actions, and notable deeds.

 

But there is absolutely nothing that can measure the lengths that a Father will go to in protecting his children.  You will also find the amazing story of a father’s love included in the links below.

Try to wrap your head around the fact that you and I have a Heavenly Father who feels more strongly for us that any human parent is capable. His love is exceedingly great. Imagine that every soul who has ever lived, all throughout history is your child! That’s the burden our Heavenly Father carries.

Oh, how many have turned their backs on our Heavenly Father and rebelled against Him? A rebellious child always brings deep, indescribable pain to their parents’ hearts. What about when one of our children is struck by a car and is killed? Or is diagnosed with cancer? Sent to prison? What if someone were to deliberately injure our child? Just think of the intensely strong feelings that would produce in us, and then multiply it by several billion. Actually, even that would not come close to the monolithic ache and power of God’s awesome love.

 

God’s love is pure and much higher than ours, and likewise the pain that His love produces in His own heart is greater than anything we could possibly fathom. It was this same paternal love that caused Father God to send His only begotten Son to die in our behalf—so that His created children could be saved.

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 1st John 4:9

 

The Author of Life willingly gave His life to save ours. In John 15:13 Jesus said, Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Not long after teaching this profound truth, Jesus stretched out His hands to be nailed to a cross beam and brutally suffered a horrendous death. He had the power to stop it—He could have wiped all mankind off the face of the earth and started over, with just a single word from His lips. But the power of His love held Him up on that cross. He endured it all. Besides, He knew He was going to rise again, and usher in a new path for you and I, that we may live forever with our awesome God in His new world of mansions, where even the streets are made of gold. Love has made a way.

 

Motherly Protection                                 A Father’s Love

 

Notation: For those waiting for the Bible Origins Series to continue I extend my apolgies for taking so long. I’m not going to offer excuses, but please know that God is working, and His timing is always right. Blessings!

 

Categories: Christian Living, Community, People, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fear of Weakness

GraciePictured above is my 10 pound Morkie, “Gracie”. She has a very big, courageous & loving heart.

 

Asthenophobia is the fear of weakness, and it is a widespread psychological ailment which causes great harm to those who are affected by its false notions.

Before we proceed, I hope to assure each reader that this is an interim post. We will continue the series on the “Origin of the Bible.” But it is very lengthy, and so I’m offering other stuff (technical term?☺) in between the origin posts.

Wimpy Dogs

It took a few times to work it out, but eventually the realization struck that I was gaining discernment into some people’s psychological and emotional states by how they reacted to various types of dogs. There have been nearly a dozen instances. Like when a man showed disdain for a very small dog that was quivering. He so despised the poor little thing for its weakness, that it became evident something more was in play than simply a preference for more stalwart pets.  People possessing a character opposed to his, usually act in a caring manner—more inclined to protect the helpless little creature, even comfort it.

I supposed correctly that this man has a character flaw, and yet the root from which it thrives is where his psyche’ breaks down. He views weak areas in himself. Anytime he sees someone, even an animal that resembles what he believes to be inside himself—he wants to turn away, and if he cannot do so, he lashes out. He has a deep sense of inadequacy. Unable to love himself, he cannot love something that reminds him of his own weakness, ugliness or flaw. But this is on a subconscious level. The man has no idea that his dislike of things that appear weak stems from his low self-esteem.

There are millions of us out here that tend to automatically dislike such a man, and dismiss him from any future contact. But knowledge always changes our actions. Love changes our responses. God changes the way we interact with the world around us through the wisdom He teaches. Compassion is not only for the weak, but for all, even for those we think do not deserve it. Ah, I believe we’re now talking about mercy, which is grown from love.

Please don’t take this as some sort of formula to psychoanalyze a person. There are several reasons why someone may respond in a similar manner to a tiny dog that trembles at shadows. We have healthy young men who are still trying to convince themselves they are real men. Walking down the sidewalk with a cute, but wimpy little dog is just not masculine. At this stage of their growth they avoid anything that might be construed as feminine. Toy dogs are for sissies, is the mindset. For such a young fellow, under the right circumstances his thinking will be outgrown, unless there comes a fracture in his identity, and then he may become like the first man.

When we begin to understand the difficulties people face on the inside of themselves, we can better perceive what is needed for their hearts to heal. My own response to the same dog was the opposite of that man I spoke of. The furry little ball of cuteness that he hated so much, drew me right to it. I picked him up and spoke softly to him, stroking its downy soft fur. By the way, I believe myself to be excedingly masculine. Mine was similar to a paternal reaction to the dog, because it was afraid, and yes, I began to not like that man at all. But then, the Lord began to show me this stuff, and everything turned around. Instead of disliking the man I began to pity him more than I did the dog. The unfortunate guy was miserable. Some past trauma had robbed him of a deep need of the heart: the ability to like and love himself.

Every good counselor, psychologist or social worker can tell you, “You cannot love others until you can love yourself.” Yes, there’s a lesser type of love we can have if we do not like who we are (by the way, that’s our cue to change). But it’s far from the kind of love God wants to make us capable of employing. When we don’t like ourselves, in every single one of our relationships we will eventually come to a barrier standing in the path of loving as we should.

Consider for a moment Jesus’ words “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” We cannot love our neighbor if we don’t love ourselves. We’re not talking about egotism, or being prideful and arrogant. On the contrary, every soul was created by God, in His own image, and has tremendous value. We were created to love God and to love one another. When we don’t like who we are, we should go to God and ask Him to help us change. As we communicate with God we begin to understand how much He loves us, and that’s a huge boost to our sense of self-worth.

The world is filled with deluded people, not knowing their own worth, and the world perpetuates their fallacious thinking by putting them down ever further. Let’s not be a part of that cycle, creating injured souls. We are to be a part of God’s construction crew, building people up, rather than on the devil’s demolition squad, tearing them down. Be nice. Be loving and kind. Be the light of truth in this dark world where there’s already far too much hatred. It’s not easy sometimes, but that’s why we must also encourage one another as we work towards the time when hate shall be no more.

God Bless You!

With Eternity in View,

Sheldon

 

 

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Creating Community

canal

During my bicycle commute to downtown Indianapolis I have time to reflect on the things God teaches us. The thoughts He brought to mind were of a good life and the importance of being good neighbors who care about making the place they live the safest, most vibrant and economically healthy Community possible. It always begins with a sense of camaraderie and working together. In a word it is unity. This was a lesson the Lord was teaching during that peaceful respite from my labors.

bike

White River State Park is about a mile from our Indianapolis home; I cross over the river itself, which is a tributary to the Wabash River, and stretches for 362 miles. I pause often on the bridge to bask in the beauty of its verdant waterway. The park, too, is a delight. Riding a bicycle enables me to experience the outdoors and the people as I pass through it on my way to do business downtown. Along the canal winding through the park, puppies frolic and excited dogs tug on their leashes, as children laugh. And even the joggers smile.  Ducks eye you closely for any sign of a bread bag while the squirrels display their acrobatic prowess in the surrounding trees. When people are there, they are at their friendliest. By your fifth greeting or so, you are caught up in the vortex of souls longing for community—community unity demanding to remain intact. It’s an assuring feeling to know your neighbors hope for the same kind of world that you do.

There are some things that every descent citizen hopes for: things such as world peace, old fashioned hospitality and charity, safety, prosperity, community mindedness. The need for togetherness is evident, in order to build such a home. How do we achieve the utopian lives we envision for ourselves?

museum

Nearly two thousand years ago God’s Son became a man. He taught and demonstrated the singular path to the kind of life for which every sane soul longs. His name is Jesus.

What is the first step towards the abundant life Jesus came to give us? If a soul is to manifest the dynamic of God’s Spirit indwelling them, where would they begin, and how? Assuming a person has placed their faith in Christ and is saved, they must possess particular knowledge if they are to learn God’s truths and mature in that faith. Most important is belief in who God is, and what He is like. This is the foundation of theology and of biblical Christianity.

Our worship leaders at West Park church in Indianapolis have made a habit of proclaiming one of God’s glorious attributes at the beginning of each service. We hear it often and in many congregations around the world. It began as “God is good!” And the congregation responds with “All the time!” That is the primary belief we must have if we are to trust Him with our lives. Is this simply a slogan, or a platitude to make us feel spiritual? Often I feel we do not dwell upon the depth of meaning those words carry. It’s a hazard any time we over use any statement. I like the fact that our congregation changes it up to include many of God’s other attributes. “God is faithful all the time,” or “God is love all the time.” God is all-knowing, almighty and holy all the time. The list goes on and on.

meerkats

It jolted me when the Lord brought the words, “God is good” to mind during a moment of my weakness. A decision was required of me to either speak out to vindicate myself against a false accusation, or heed the Spirit’s instruction to remain silent. My reputation and honor were at stake.

Thankfully, in this instance, I did the right thing and kept my flapper shut. But in order to do so, I had to trust that God is good and faithful. For obedience to occur it is absolutely essential that we are fully convinced of God’s goodness and His faithfulness. The Lord did vindicate me! And the truth came out in a way that had everyone involved hugging each other with joyful tears of Christian love and unity. It was a beautiful moment—one that is cherished.  God’s power was released into that situation because I believed and then acted upon that belief. I’m convinced that taking the matter into my own hands would have precipitated hard feelings on both sides, along with pain and deep regret.

Then, I realized that every temptation at its root was the same temptation. It’s what the enemy suggested to Eve in the garden. Satan tried to get her to doubt God’s goodness and His faithfulness. Will He act for my best interest? He will if He is faithful. The question is, can we trust God in every area of our lives and be obedient to Him all the time, especially when we don’t understand His reasoning? Is He good and faithful all the time as we say? Do we believe that he will satisfy us when we release the things He tells us to let go of? Will I be happy if I obey? Will all of my needs be met? If God is faithful the answer is a resounding “Yes!”

The clearer God’s revelations of Himself become to us the greater our power will be to enter into that life of work that brings rest and peace. We find ourselves possessing joy and finding deep fulfillment. The hope received offers a view of holiness upon which to focus, as love permeates and motivates our works, our words, and our lives together. I pray that you too are a member of this heavenly community that is forming down here regardless of the dirtiness and ugliness in the world, and amidst hardship and pain. The kingdom of God is in you and me, and you and you and you who are in Christ.

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.—Jesus    (John 13:35 NLT)

You and I have a great responsibility to reflect the righteousness of Christ to the world through the lives we live, and in the love we share. After all, our community is actually a kingdom. Soon, you and I shall reign with our glorious King, Christ Jesus, and we too shall shine with glory as priests and kings. This world is rough, but a Christian is tough. And it’s more than worth the short lived suffering we may face. Paul declares in Romans 8, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not even worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

Come and be one of those who have overcome the world through faith in Christ and through the word of your testimony— and we’ll do it in love.  

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Love—It’s All In Your Head

love

Part One: Love and the Human Psyche (By the Scientist in Me)

Part Two: Loving Loved Ones Who Are Hard to Love (By the Minister of Christ in Me)

 

Love & the Human Psyche

Neuro-Psychiatrists tell us the human brain is hardwired in a way that we crave intimate relationships—that we long for love. Yet often those relationships end so horribly in heartache. A bad relationship leaves our fragile psyches bruised, or even completely shattered. Once bitten by love, some fear a repeat of that emotional trauma so much that they close themselves off and never again open themselves up to love.

A young man attending college sees a beautiful woman in class, and immediately he is attracted to her. Several weeks pass, and he’s made a few heart-felt, yet feeble attempts to speak with her, but every time he sees her the attraction is intensified. Something has been happening within the neural network of his brain.

Love has a way of rewiring our neural network. We meet someone, and similar to a virus, they occupy and alter our synapses. This causes our brain to release chemicals that produce arousal, attraction, or obsession. That special person becomes an ever present distraction; we can’t seem to focus upon anything but them. But we are not simply thinking about them all the time. Our brain is building a model of that person—a simulation of who and what we believe them to be. Our mind is actually predicting what they think, or rather what we want them to think, and even how they feel. So let’s say we’ve begun a relation with them. It may go well for some time.

Then suddenly our illusion of that person meets who they really are. Our simulation of them and reality finally collide like two trains heading in opposing directions. That person had no chance whatsoever of living up to our expectations of them, because we had a false view of who they were. Our mind was in love with the depiction our brain created of who that person was, rather than the actual person. This brings up the all important question: Did we ever really love their true person, or were we simply in love with our perception of who they were?

 

Loving Loved Ones Who Are Hard To love

(Previously published in “Christian Focus Magazine” June-July issue 2013 pg.42)

 As Phillip sat across from me with his elbows on my desk, his face in his hands, the quaking voice he emitted dripped with disappointment and sorrow. He was adamant that his wife Maria had changed completely after they were married, saying that she was not at all what he had expected her to be. When I also spoke with Maria, she said almost exactly the same thing about Phillip. Then, counseling both together, we discovered that they each had held very unrealistic expectations of the other, as well as a false view of each other from the beginning.

If we do not love God first, and understand our desperate need for the grace He gives, then the people we love will never meet our expectations of them. We will expect conformity to an illusion of what the perfect candidate for that particular role or relationship looks like.

When we come to Christ and see ourselves with clarity in the light of His holiness, how utterly detestable our own sinfulness becomes to us! It is only when we see ourselves for who and what we truly are that we can know what unconditional love is, for God has sent His own Son to die for us while we were yet sinners, while we are still in that wretched condition. The question is then begged: Do I really love this person who is so far from my illusion of what they should be? Our answer lies in the question: Has God demanded that we conform to a pattern of perfection before He loves us, or after His act of grace and mercy, after He has proven His love? He loved us first, and then acted upon that love with grace.

Speaking of our old sinful nature, Paul writes in Gal.2:20 “I am crucified with Christ”. In dying to the old self, we crucify our illusion of who and what we ourselves are, and of what that loved one should be. The weakness of the flesh perpetrates and perpetuates these illusions in our mind. The Spirit of Truth, or Holy Spirit, reveals truth. Jesus Christ is the truth, (John 14:6), and ALL truth can be found through a relationship with Him.

 

Expect your expectations to change!

 

With our illusions shattered by the illuminating reality found in Christ, we can decide to love unconditionally. We must begin granting grace and mercy to our loved one. Suddenly, our expectations are pure. They have not been lowered, but are now reasonable, having grown out of an accurate knowledge of who we really are, and hence who they truly are. We are now empowered to lead them to the same truth in Jesus to make the changes they need to make. We certainly cannot judge them (we are or were in the same condition) and we can now truly love them, for our disillusionment—the breaking of our illusion, has given us the ability, the power to love them into change.

There are 3 steps toward our loved one becoming what we need in that relationship.

Know the truth found only in a relationship with Christ Jesus.

Love unconditionally as we have been loved by God. 

And grant them the same kind of grace we have been given.

“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Romans 16:20

Phillip and Maria just had their second child. After fifteen years of happy marriage, they say their love for each other has now grown to a beautiful maturity, and life together is wonderful, thanks to Jesus Christ.

 

 

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Orange Blossom Blessing

Anyone can be an orange blossom blessing.

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4: 29 

 Every year the citrus groves in Florida waft the sweet aroma of their blossoms, spreading their scent for many miles. I like to think heaven smells just like orange blossoms. As a young teen, I’d pick and vend assorted citrus from our family’s dozen trees for extra income.

It didn’t take long to learn I had to watch for mold growing on the outside of the fruit. If the effected fruit was not quickly removed from the bushel, the entire basketful would rot. The mold spreads very quickly, infecting and corrupting the fruit it is close to. The same is true of the words we speak. Others are influenced by what comes out of our mouths. Either good or bad.

The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. Proverbs 18:21

 Cursing and foul language acts just like citrus mold, spreading out to corrupt others by its rottenness. Criticism and harsh judgment tears people down. Yet, the tongue of the wise, will speak comfort, healing and encouragement. Like the heavenly aroma of orange blossoms, sweetly going forth to build up the good in everyone.

The bible warns us not to speak any corrupting words that will contaminate ourselves and those who are near. One can either be on the devil’s demolition squad, tearing people down, or on God’s construction crew, building them up.

Father, I praise you for your wisdom. Help me to think before I speak. And guard my tongue from saying anything that does not honor you. I want to speak blessings and not curses—beauty rather than ugliness. And praises instead of criticism. Thank you Lord. I ask these things in Jesus’ name, amen.

See what James 3:1-12 has to say about the power of the tongue. Here’s hoping you have a productive day. Spread sunshine wherever you go. You’ll be surprised by how contagious it can be. ☺♥

 

 

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