Tag Archives: forgiveness

Teach Your Children Well…12 Essential Lessons of Life

Photo Credit: Pixabay

I married late in life, and the children came even later. Parenting wasn’t an instinctual process for me. Fortunately, mentors came along at pivotal times, as did parents whom I did not want to be like. Between the two, I found my way.

Feeding, clothing, and protecting children are all crucial…but what do we teach them? What are the essential lessons of life?

Two old songs come to mind when I think of the sober nature of teaching our children what they must learn for life. The old folk/rock group Crosby, Stills, and Nash & Young wrote and performed Teach Your Children. Graham Nash wrote the lyrics out of his painful relationship with an absent, sometimes imprisoned, father. Nash’s message is that we have to teach our children to make a better life…if not better world.

You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught is the other deeply emotional song out of the musical South Pacific. This song points to racial prejudice and cultural bias, and how hatred must be taught to children when they are young. Mandy Patinkin‘s version of this song communicates its meaning powerfully.

Although hatred or bias can be taught, even from an early age, such dreadful things can also be caught over time in culture. Things like entitlement, dishonesty, greed, and irresponsibility. We as parents (teachers and employers also) have a huge role in guiding children and young people to mature into caring and responsible adults…even in a culture that may cut across the grain of our own values.

I’d like to explore what we must teach our children. Intentionally, with meaningful purpose. Catching those teachable moments and seasons. Some things are more “caught than taught”, as the saying goes. Kids will catch some values living in close proximity to us and others. That makes the case, as well, for how we choose to live and what companions we seek for ourselves and our children.

More Is Caught Than Taught – Gabbie Nolen-Fratantoni

When our children were young, we taught them a set of rules which we honored in our home. The 21 Rules of This House by Gregg and Joshua Harris. These rules were, in ways, simplistic but also comprehensive enough to help us create a safe, orderly, and loving home, where children AND parents had the same expectations. Photo Credit: Choosing HomeSchool Curriculum

Our children are grown now, out on their own. Two of them are already in the season of small ones and will establish their own essentials for teaching their children.

This is a reminder to them of their own family values…I hope it’s also a help to you. These are 12 essential lessons of life. They are not comprehensive. I would love to hear what you think should have been there as well, in the Comments section below. Thanks.

1) Love God – You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” – Jesus – Matthew 22:37-38 If you are reading this and don’t share a faith in one God, then this won’t have meaning for you. Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandments of the law (in that day, they were burdened by the weight of over 600 laws). His answer? Love God with everything in your being. Clearly it’s good for us to do and something parents can model and teach from the time children are tiny.

2) Love others – You shall love your neighbor as yourself.– Jesus – Matthew 22:39  Jesus didn’t stop at the greatest commandment. He added this one as just second to the most important. Love others. Not just your buddies. Not just those like you…but whomever neighbor is…the nobody, the every man. Jesus was clear in his instruction in “as yourself”. However it is we would serve ourselves, we give of ourselves to those around us. Wow! Great wisdom to teach our children.

3) Be obedient (honoring) – Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” – Ephesians 6:1-3 What a struggle it is for us to teach our children to obey! What a developmental milestone when they get it! Not after we count to 3, or 10…or whatever other enticement to obey comes to mind. Immediate obedience – in attitude and action.

Raising in our children in huge cities made it crucial for them to obey the instant they heard us speak to them, especially over the noise of the city. One thing we did was a bird call (a whistle sounding “bob, bobwhite”. When they heard they looked up and started heading in our direction immediately. I still marvel when even today, that still gets their big grown-up attention.

More on obedience can be found here.

Photo Credit: Flickr

4) Be grateful. – Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. – 1 Thessalonians 5:18  God’s Word is filled with examples and encouragements toward being grateful (here are just a few). Jesus’ life was a testament of thankfulness to God the Father, and He taught us to pray with thanksgiving. Our kids grew up with The Thankful Song (from the Veggie Tales Madame Blueberry video) – “A grateful heart is a happy heart; that’s why we say thanks everyday.”

The Power of Gratitude – 21 Verses of Thanks to God – Debbie McDaniel

Avoid Raising an Entitled Child – 5 Strategies That Really Work – Amy McCready

5) Speak the truth. – Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight. – Proverbs 12:22 The worst offense in our home was lying. Jesus spoke of Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). Telling the truth is something we model and something, I hope, our children value highly in their adult lives. No spin, no deception…straight-up truth. Truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

6) Work with diligence and excellence. – Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.Colossians 3:23   In grasping this lesson, children learn perseverance, patience, and an understanding of the value of work. Our youngest struggled with academics and he would say, about homework, “I just want to get it done!” As he matured, he moved his lament to more of a charge of “get it done and done well”. Watching him grow in that continues to make us so proud of him.

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work – Jose Etter

7) Seek joy. – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer. – (Romans 12:12) Grumbling, discontent, and whining are such a part of human nature. When we count our situation joy, whatever it is, everyone wins. Other verses here.

8) Seek peace. – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” – Jesus (Matthew 5:9) Sometimes we crave peace, and we’ll do anything to get it. Our children don’t need to learn how to be peace-keepers but to be peace-makers. It’s not about giving way to the one causing trouble, for instance. It’s developing relational skills to bring peace to a situation, resolving the conflict. More verses here on peace.

9) Be forgiving. – Bear with each other and forgive any complaint you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.Colossians 3:13 Holding grudges and distancing ourselves from others in un-forgiveness is no way to live. Forgiving because we are forgiven carries with it a deep loving perspective. Helping our children understand how to forgive, especially little ones who have been gravely hurt by others, is huge. More on forgiveness.

10) See beauty; create beauty. – He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, He has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 My children tease me sometimes because they say I think everyone out there is handsome/pretty. God has given me eyes to see, maybe as He sees. He creates beauty and He means for us to see and appreciate it…and create beautiful things ourselves.Photo Credit: Public Domain Pictures

Our children are all musicians (one professionally) or writers . They create beauty as we all can…in some way or another.

Nathan Mills -Beyond The Guitar

Top 10 Bible Verses about Art with Commentary

Saying Beautifully as a Way of Seeing Beauty – John Piper

11) Be kind. – Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – (Ephesians 4:32) Again, years ago, when our kids were very young, they participated in a Vacation Bible School and learned a little song on kindness. “K-I-N-D, Love Is Kind”. I couldn’t find it anywhere for today’s blog, but the message stuck in all our heads. One of the simplest ways to show love is to be kind – to be generous and caring in our consideration of others. The Scripture points often to kindness in loving each other.

Be Kind to One Another – John Piper

12) Serve others. – Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.Hebrews 13:16 This lesson of serving others is one I actually struggled to teach well. I fell into the excuse (like many in America do) that they had so much homework, so many assignments to complete, that they should just have fun when they had the time. Serving could have totally been a “fun” way of life. I hope our children do better with teaching serving than I did. More on serving here.Photo Credit: Niagara

In closing, I’ve left off many things. Critical thinking is one. Physical purity another. In fact, do you remember that little song, “Be Careful Little Eyes What You See.” Our kids knew that in English and Arabic.

Still probably the greatest lesson across the years of childhood (which goes along with the two greatest commandments Jesus taught) is the one Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision, taught us.

Let (your) heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.

We want to teach our children to do right, for for the sake of others and for themselves, and to stand up for what is right.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.Proverbs 22:6

Let Your Heart Be Broken – Jeremiah 8, 9 – Rick Ezell

Bible Verses on Injustice

Wednesday Worship – Exhale – Plumb

Photo Credit: Chintermeyer, Flickr

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Our saving is not by our own works! Hallelujah! How is it then, that we trip ourselves up on a daily basis with trying to please others when God Himself is already pleased? He sees us through a grace-colored lens…not that His vision ever needed correcting. From forever, we were made in the image of God and, as His forgiven ones, He sees us as Christ-redeemed and Spirit-filled.

Why then are we wooed into thinking that we must perform a certain way to be accepted? Even from the beginning, as complete and perfect and beloved as Eve was, the persuasive other-than-God message of our needing to be more has been driven into our flesh (Genesis 3:4-5).

God saved me as a young child out of the bondage, even then, of wanting to be good for my weary mama. She was raising four children on her own, and I thought if I could only just be good for her it would lighten her load. She didn’t require it of me; I required it of myself. The Gospel message of Ephesians 2:8-9 above was so winsome to me, even at nine years old.

Unfortunately, through the years, I have listened to my own flesh and those not-of-God messages (whether from Satan or the world or church culture). I have often struggled with needing the approval of men and women over God. Needing my own approval (as if mine was more substantive than God’s…sigh).

A concept that became very real to me in my 20s was performance-based acceptance. Measuring myself up against others (or my own evaluation of those others) was a struggle. Then when those others are also Christians, it can get even darker. These are my brothers and sisters. Our gains individually and together reflect the work of God. Full-stop. Any measure otherwise discounts Him.

Even the Apostle Paul who all-out raised the bar on performance understood the error of that and how meager it was compared to knowing and enjoying the love and grace of God:

“…although I once also had confidence in the flesh. If anyone else thinks he has grounds for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised the eighth day; of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; regarding the law, a Pharisee; regarding zeal, persecuting the church; regarding the righteousness that is in the law, blameless.

But everything that was a gain to me, I have considered to be a loss because of Christ. More than that, I also consider everything to be a loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. Because of Him I have suffered the loss of all things and consider them filth, so that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own from the law, but one that is through faith in Christ—the righteousness from God based on faith. My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Apostle Paul, Philippians 3:4-10

The glorious life God means for us to have is drenched with His love and grace. No safe or controllable grace here…it is the magnificent, sufficient grace of God that breathes out of us in every circumstance of our lives…in our response to Him in us.

Tiffany Lee (Plumb) writes about this in the worship song Exhale. The physical act of breathing is a new interest of mine. We can all forcibly exhale (to blow out a birthday candle or set dandelion seeds in flight), but it isn’t a natural state. To exhale is the response to inhaling. It follows. It always follows.

Photo Credit: YouTube

What are we breathing out to the world, including to those we most love? It follows what we’re breathing in. No guilting here. It is the quiet reality of our lives. What we take in informs what we give out.

Worship with me.

It’s okay to not be okay
This is a safe place
This is a safe place
Don’t be afraid
Don’t be ashamed
There’s still hope here
There’s still hope here

No matter what you’ve done or who you are
Everyone is welcome His arms

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Spirit come tear down the walls
That only You can
That only You can
Reconcile this heart to Yours
Right now God
Right now

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale

Oh God we breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Oh God We breathe in your grace
We breathe in your grace
And exhale
Oh God we do not exist for us
But to share Your grace and love
And exhale

Just let go let His love wrap around you
And hold you close
Get lost in the surrender
Breathe it in until your heart breaks
Then exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale
Exhale*

Too often God’s grace is communicated as something we enjoy for ourselves. His grace is not meant to be kept for ourselves. The deeper we understand God…the more we experience His grace for our lives…the more we naturally want to lavish it (Him) on others. Not to please Him by our performance, but in our pleasure of Him.

Closing with John Piper‘s message on this (from over 30 years ago):

For some of you these are the very days in which for the first time the beauty of the gospel of grace is beginning to shine on the horizon of your soul. But others of you look back months or years or decades, to a golden era of faith when Christ was powerfully taking shape in your life. But something has changed. There has been a kind of settling into the world, and the vibrant sense of being an alien and an exile in the world has faded. And the powerful shaping forces in your life are not coming from Christ within but from the world without.

The word of encouragement and admonition to us all this morning is this: the Spirit of the living Christ can be poured into us afresh today… Therefore, I urge you, take your amateur hands off the clay of your life and yield yourselves into the sovereign hands of God. Disavow the praise of men and all your efforts to achieve it. Turn your hearts to Christ and say: I am not my own; you have bought me; forgive me; be formed within me. Not to me, O Lord, not to me, but to your name give glory (Psalm 115:1). Amen. – John Piper

Breathe Him in, Dear Ones, and your exhale can refresh a weary world.

*Lyrics – Exhale – Written by Josh Silverberg, Matthew Armstrong, and Tiffany Arbuckle Lee

Behind the Song with Kevin Davis – Exhale – Plumb

YouTube Video – Plumb – Exhale (Official Music Video)

YouTube Video – Behind the Music – Exhale by Plumb

Performance-based Acceptance – Richard J.

My Performance-based Story – a Synchroblog

Breaking the Bondage of Performance-based Acceptance – Deb Welch

O, That Christ Would Be Formed In You! – John Piper

Worship Wednesday – You Are Faithful – From David Crowder’s Neon Steeple Album

blog-you-are-faithful-cardensdesign-saved2000Photo Credit: CardensDesign; Saved2000

Let them praise His name with dancing; Let them sing praises to Him with timbrel and lyre. For the LORD takes pleasure in His people. – Psalm 149:2-3

And David danced before the Lord with all his might. – 2 Samuel 6:14

The last time I danced in public was with my son at his wedding…but there are times when I’ve come close to just letting loose…and here’s why.

The seriousness and sorrow in this life can draw us down without our even being aware. Then…when our attention is drawn back to God, and the wonder of His beauty and love and constancy…even the hard of life takes on a different hue.

Joy in knowing God and the truth of His Word sometimes just takes us out of ourselves and into worship. Our arms go up, hands raised to Heaven. Our bodies sway maybe. Our feet throw their own party.blog-dancing-in-the-church-fred-luterPhoto Credit: Blog.al

When worshiping with the gathered church, I’m pretty reserved…not wanting to draw attention to myself in any way. Still…unbridled joy might make us come outside of ourselves at times.

Yet Jesus himself said “the very stones would cry out” in worship…if we are silent (Luke 19:40). For those who observe a jubilant gathering of God’s singing church and think it odd, we are just trying to stay ahead of nature. Declaring and reveling in His magnificent glory.

David Crowder‘s music and how he (with writers Cash and Bentley) describes God resonate with my heart so much…it makes me feel like dancing!blog-david-crowder-godtubePhoto Credit: GodTube

Worship this great God with me.

Never moving like a mountain
Never ending like the sea
Like a sunrise, bringing blue skies
Your light is all around me

Though I’m prone to leave Your side
You chase me like the tide

You are constant in my wandering
You are brighter than the dark in me
You are the love that sets me free
You are faithful, You are faithful, You are

Ever waiting for the weary
Ever wanting them to see
There’s ransom, there’s forgiveness
Your hope is all around me

Though I’m prone to leave Your side
You draw me like the tide

You are constant in my wandering
You are brighter than the dark in me
You are the love that sets me free
You are faithful, You are faithful, You are

Never leaving or forsaking, You are
Holding me when the waves are crashing, You are
Pulling me like gravity into Your arms
Into Your arms, into Your arms

You are constant in my wandering
You are brighter than the dark in me
You are the love that sets me free
You are faithful, You are faithful, You are*

Joy…overflowing in my heart! Thank You, God.

*Lyrics to You Are – Written by Hank Bentley, Ed Cash and David Crowder

Crowder Music

Album Neon Steeple by David Crowder of Crowder Music

My Favorite 10 Crowder Songs of All Times by Elise Cleary

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

Blog - Bitterness or Brokenness - oldpathsjournalPhoto Credit: Old Paths Journal

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30-32

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:10-13, 17

Bitterness. It’s been described as a poison concocted for the one who wounded you but you are the one who drinks it.

We may have situations in our lives that are truly grievous and undeserved. We rail against those situations, and the persons who created them, and our hearts are altered…hardened. It’s not intentional at first – almost like the formation of a scab or a scar. If not recognized and repented of, bitterness becomes its own enemy in our lives.

Blog - Bitterness - Lee Strobel quote - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

I have seen the damage bitterness can cause in the lives of others…we all have. It’s frightening to watch it grow in someone we love. My older brother struggled with a lifetime of losses. His regret at his part of them was taken over by blaming others. I will be forever grateful that he did not die in that place, but began reckoning with his bitterness before he died.

It’s a dangerous place to find ourselves – that hardening of our hearts in response to grave injustices, deep losses, and dreams dashed. No matter what the cause – whether the hits we take are from enemy or friendly fire – bitterness will not only hurt us but those who love us the most…and our fellowship with God who loves us best.Blog - Bitterness and Brokenness - Henri Nouwen - quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: QuoteAddicts

John Piper has preached and written so much about anger and bitterness (see links below). Don’t miss his  piece on battling the unbelief of bitterness. Here are his 4 points (gleaned from Ephesians 4:30-32 :

  1. Believe that what the Great Physician says is good advice. If he says, “Put away anger,” don’t ignore the counsel. Put it in your mind and resolve to keep it.
  2. Believe that you are forgiven, and that being forgiven by an infinitely holy God is an awesome thing.
  3. Believe that vengeance belongs to God, that he will repay those who do wrong.
  4. Believe that God’s purpose in all your trials is to turn the cause of your anger for your good.

We have beautiful trees in our neighborhood and seedlings pop up across our yard. Dave pulls them up regularly. The hardest ones to get up, he says, are the oak seedlings. They quickly and seriously drive a woody root into the ground, extending beyond the taproot, holding onto the soil, as if with a vengeance. Blog - Bitterness - airpotPhoto Credit: Air-Pot

As beautiful as oak trees are, the image of that stubborn and strong root reminds me of bitterness. It spreads and takes firm hold.

The writer of Hebrews talks soberly about resisting a “root of bitterness”.

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness, springing up, causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”Hebrews 12:14-15 (12:14-15). John Piper again gives “warning not to treat holiness lightly or to presume upon more grace…[a bitter person] defiles many and can lead to the experience of Esau who played fast and loose with his inheritance and could not repent in the end, and find life”.

As much as we might feel justified in nursing our bitterness, it is a treacherous thing…a terrifying thing for those who love the one struggling with it. Our souls may cry out for justice, and God will do justice. What He requires of His children is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We cannot, with His blessing, exact justice without both administering loving kindness and practicing humility. Whew….

To get out of the burden and yoke of bitterness, we must allow God to break our hearts toward Him and the situation…a brokenness that will penetrate the hardness of heart and restore us to ourselves.

Piper prescribes a practical way out of the grip of bitterness:

“By the work of the Holy Spirit, God defeats temptation (like the temptation to be angry and depressed that you are suffering) by awakening joy through belief in the word of God which is at work in us. And that word is most centrally the good news that Christ died for us so that all the promises of God are Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

By the Spirit, we trust the promises which bring joy which defeats temptation. And all the while we are praying!

So now let me illustrate how this works. It helps me to have an acronym called APTAT.”

  • A – I admit I can’t in myself do what needs to be done.
  • P – I pray for God’s help.
  • T – I trust a particular promise He has given.
  • A – I act to do whatever God is calling me to do.
  • T – I thank Him for His help when I am done.

Worship with me to Keith Green‘s rendition of Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
Take not Thy holy spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

[Repeat x 3]

Don’t give up on God. He doesn’t give up on us.

[One last thing – for anyone out there who read this thinking of someone else…we all have it in us to wound others, sowing the seeds of bitterness. In a callous casual word, in a decision made with wide ramifications, and an act of preference, exclusion, or judgment. Examining our own hearts is always wisdom. Confession when needed and repentance as widely as the offense requires…may be a Holy Spirit response. Peace.]

Bitterness or Brokenness – Tony Shirley

SermonsandSongs.Org – A. W. Tozer – The Root of Bitterness

7 Bible Verses to Help Overcome Bitterness – Crystal McDowell

YouTube Video – Bitterness and Forgiveness – John Piper

The Word of God Is at Work in You – John Piper – [the video above is a portion of this sermon transcript]

Top 10 Christian Songs About Forgiveness

How Christ Conquered Bitterness – John Piper

Why Can’t I Overcome My Bitterness and Anger? – John Piper

Fighting Bitterness – Interview with John Piper

YouTube Video – Donnie McClurkin: Create in Me a Clean Heart

Friendly Fire in the Family of God – How to Go Forward When You Are Hit by Surprise

Blog - Friendly Fire - thecripplegate

Photo Credit: The CrippleGate

We expect attacks from those we know don’t care for us or, in fact, want us gone. They want our jobs or view us as threats, or they can’t stomach our beliefs or ideologies. These confrontations are a part of life and work and we take them in stride; hurtful as they may be, they are expected.

It’s the surprise attacks that catch us off-guard, especially when we come under-fire by those who should have our backs. “Friendly fire” is a phrase coined from military situations when something goes very wrong in battle, and a fellow soldier is wounded or killed by a comrade in arms. Too often, we have experienced the sting of friendly fire.

We may endure long periods of hardship at the hands of difficult bosses or through relentless attacks by acquaintances or colleagues who think very differently than we do. What happens, though, when those who believe as we do (in this case, fellow Christ-followers or true believers) fire on us…sometimes over and over again?  Here is where the breath is knocked out of us and we straighten up again, bewildered, disoriented, and hurt deeply.

This isn’t supposed to happen. As Christians, we know to love one another, even our enemies, to forgive without exception, and to bear with one another and be deferent toward each other. This is not the stuff of doormats or deer “in the headlights”. This is living life in community (whether, work, family, or church) as Jesus calls us to live. I think that’s why we’re caught off-balance when someone who identifies with Christ fires away at us…and especially if there’s no repentance of that “friendly fire”.

How are we to respond in those situations? In fact, how are we to live with our eyes wide open, knowing friendly fire happens, and understanding that we might be the perpetrator the same as anyone else.

Michael Milton wrote an excellent piece on this entitled Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You. If you are right now dressing the wounds of such an attack, his counsel may be hard to bear. The truth is, though, that the wounds you have right now will never really heal until you do what is necessary for a full recovery. In fact, as we follow Jesus’ example of enduring such attacks, then we can recover much quicker and refuse to retaliate ourselves. We also restrain from launching such barbs ourselves in the heat of some battle.

Milton offers 3 steps in responding when someone hurts you – and this someone can be a family member, friend, colleague or one in authority over you (a Christian boss or pastor).

Step 1 – Take up Your Cross – Followers of Christ are not kept from pain; it is part of our lives as much as it was part of the life of Christ Himself. Even looking back to Old Testament accounts, we see betrayal, deceit, and hurt of every kind. The story of Joseph (Genesis 50:15-21) sold by his brothers into slavery, and then falsely accused and placed in prison for years is a great example. Joseph would finally end up in a position of influence where he was able to save his whole family from famine. He told his terrified and repentant brothers, “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” (Genesis 50:15-21).

Milton points out the lesson of taking up our cross in the face of friendly fire: “Every sorrow, every act of treachery, every act of betrayal [becomes] a point of identification with Christ.” He calls us to deny ourselves and take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). Even when we are hurt or offended or betrayed. “You and I are called to take up our cross in every way, including our relationships. It is true that you may be hurt, but you are a disciple of One who was betrayed, who was hurt, and you are no better than Jesus.” (Milton) As we wrestle with this truth, we actually move from being victims to victors in Christ.

Step 2 – Take Off Your Crown – When we are injured by another, we want that person to pay for it. We want to be in control of determining the punishment that person deserves. The truth is we are not sovereign, not in control; only God is. The crown of sovereign rule belongs to Him, and we really wouldn’t want it any other way. In the Genesis account, Joseph “escaped being a victim and became a victor by naming God, not as the author of evil, but the One who caused it to work together for good…The crucial step in coming to terms with any pain that has come against us, including getting hurt by someone close to us, is to say, “God, You are in control. What do You want me to learn?” (Milton)

Step 3 – Go to Your Gethsemane – The Apostle Paul trusted God through his many hardships and imprisonments to use that suffering, sometimes at the hands of people who knew him well, to make him more like Jesus.

I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ..that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” – Paul (Philippians 3:8, 10)

Milton urged: “Gethsemane is the place where, like Jesus, like Paul, like Joseph, you come face-to-face with your crucifixion and with the fact that God is in control. If there is to be resurrection – a new life to emerge from the pain, the betrayal, the hurtful words – there must be a crucifixion, and if there is to be a crucifixion – by the Father for the good of many – there must be a Gethsemane moment when you say, ‘Not my will but yours.’ There must be a moment when you say, even when the shadow of pain is falling over you, ‘They meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.’

God loves us so much. He knows very intimately the pain of the cross. He knows the weight of sovereignty. He knows the deep surrender of a Gethsemane moment. He calls us to a life gloriously beyond being victims, or “walking wounded”. Milton closes his piece with this proclamation of truth: “He will transform you who have been hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, from a victim to a victor by trusting in the One who was hurt, wounded, abandoned, sinned against, betrayed, but who pronounced forgiveness from the cross. In Him there can be no more victims – only victors.”

I pray for us all who have come under friendly fire, for months or a moment, to trust God to bring us through victoriously…for His glory and our good…for the good of all of us.

Hit By Friendly Fire: What To Do When Christians Hurt You by Michael Milton

Christian Friendly Fire: With “Friendly-Enemies” Like These Who Needs Christianity? by Kevin Benton

8 Responses to Friendly Fire by Jim Stitzinger

My Story by Jenny – Surviving Friendly Fire by Ronald Dunn

Surviving Friendly Fire – How to Respond When You’re Hurt by Someone You Trust by Ronald Dunn

Blog - Friendly Fire

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

Worship Wednesday – He Knows My Name – Francesca Battistelli

Blog - He Knows My NamePhoto Credit: Alan Grant, Pinterest.com

Thus says the LORD, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine! “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they will not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched, Nor will the flame burn you. “For I am the LORD your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”Isaiah 43:1-3

Can a woman forget her nursing child and have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands“. – Isaiah 49:15-16

My older brother, Robert, struggled for much of his adult life with anger and depression. Then toward the end of his life (he died young really from a lethal cardiac event), it was more regret. God in His mercy, before Robert died, was able to pierce through the bitterness. We saw our brother begin to live more in hope, allowing God to speak truth to his heart and allowing us to begin to get closer to him. I wish we had had more time…but Robert had enough time to know God’s love for him, and that’s what mattered most.

For some of those years, after a second divorce and during a time of great grief in the death of his son, he lived with our parents. Our Mom believed in the life-giving power of words. On his bedroom wall was the print above (from a painting by Alan Grant). These verses from God’s Word have always been a comfort to me – in remembering my brother…and in other situations since then when I’m tempted to wonder if God is at work in my life…in me.

If you are in a time of wondering…whether who you are matters or whether what you’re doing has any significance…take heart in the character of God. He is a God who remembers…and He is a God who knows everything about you and loves you. Your name is known to Him…because that is the kind of God He is.

Worship with me, singing/listening to the lovely lyrics of this Francesca Battistelli song (lyrics follow).

Spent today in a conversation
In the mirror face to face with
Somebody less than perfect
I wouldn’t choose me first if
I was looking for a champion
In fact I’d understand if
You picked everyone before me
But that’s just not my story

True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made something out of nothing, so

CHORUS
I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes
Make no mistake
He knows my name
I’m not living for applause
I’m already so adored
It’s all His stage
He knows my name
He knows my name

I’m not meant to just stay quiet
I’m meant to be a lion
I’ll roar beyond a song
With every moment that I’ve got

True to who You are
You saw my heart
And made something out of nothing

CHORUS

He calls me chosen
Free, forgiven
Wanted, child of the King
His forever
Held and treasured
I am loved

I don’t need my name in lights
I’m famous in my Father’s eyes

CHORUS

Song Writers: Francesca Battistelli, Mia Fieldes, Seth Mosley

[P.S. The YouTube video below is the same song but with stories of young women whose lives were restored and healed through Mercy Ministries (Mercy Multiplied).]

YouTube Video – Story Behind the Song He Knows My Name

Story Behind the Song Interview – He Knows My Name – with Kevin Davis

Mercy Multiplied – Residential Program for young women – “Mercy Multiplied is a nonprofit Christian organization dedicated to helping young women break free from life-controlling behaviors and situations, including eating disorders, self-harm, drug and alcohol addictions, unplanned pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking. We hope to help every woman we serve experience God’s unconditional love, forgiveness, and life-transforming power.”

 

Worship Wednesday – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Debbie - self-portrait

“I will restore to you the years of the locusts…” – Joel 2:25

If ever a song spoke to my deepest heart hurts, it’s this one. Laura Story’s Til I Met You. In my younger years, even after coming to faith in God as a child, I strayed far from Him. If you were a casual friend, you might not have noticed. I was in church, and fairly religious. That was the problem…I spent years tuning my affections toward the cheap shininess of the world, and missed a joy-filled intimacy with God…all at that same time.

He wasn’t the One who moved. I had walked away…deceiving myself that I was still following Him, serving Him, devoted to Him.

Then, like the Prodigal Son, I woke up to the darkness in my own heart and remembered where I belonged. By God’s grace, I crawled out of the pit dug with my own poor choices. Laura Story’s song Til I Met You could be my testament of a life restored – not by my own resolve or a force of nature but – a genuine encounter with God Himself.

I first met God as a nine-year-old. Unchurched until two years before, I was not schooled in the person of God. Even as a child, I became an eager student of Him. The Truth of God’s Word was so freeing for my little heavy heart. Even then, I knew the weight of sin – the wanting to be good and kind and helpful and the chronic tripping over myself in failure.

When I heard it was possible to be forgiven of that sin and to experience the power of God in my life, enabling me to become more and more like Jesus, I was completely captivated and drawn to Him.

Three different occasions I lost touch with God and my place as His child. Brief but significant periods in my mid-teens, mid-20s, and mid-30s. Sin and self-justification had wormed their way into my heart. For a season, even in the midst of being involved with church, I went my own way. The joy and peace that were mine in following Christ drained out of me as if I were a cracked vessel.

Then, like in Laura Story’s song, the darkness of my sin and deception was illuminated by the Spirit of God, and I saw what mattered. What really mattered. My relationship with the Lord.

It’s been many years now, and the Prodigal is home for good. I understand so well Peter’s response to Jesus, when Jesus asked His disciples if they would leave Him:

So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.”John 6:67-69

When we have an encounter with God, and receive Him in saving faith, He begins a transformation in us that trumps anything the world holds out there for us. He adopts us into His family; we are His. What happened before…the terrible choices, the regret, the brokenness – are carried away by His perfect love for His children.

Worship with me. If you are still struggling in some dark pit of your own choosing, He will set you free from that. I know. He did it for me.

I’ve known pain and deep regret
I’ve known the weight of my mistakes like the back of my hand
I’ve known deception and all its games
I’ve known the way it feels to drown in my own shame

But I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You.

I’ve known rejections
I’ve bought the lie that I could never overcome the hurt inside
With arms of mercy You reach for me
Tore the veil away and gave me eyes to see
You’re all I need

And I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release that brought me through
I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (I’m accepting I was hopeless)
Till I met You (I was stumbling in the darkness)

I never knew love
I never knew truth
I never peace, the sweet release; You’re the one Who brought me through.
And I never knew freedom, what grace could do
The broken chains, the hope that saves, a life made new
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You (till I met You)
Till I met You

Do You Know Jesus? – The Gospel in Four Minutes

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus – Spoken Word – Jefferson Bethke

Lyrics to Til I Met You

YoUTube Video – Official Lyric Video – Til I Met You – Laura Story

Story Behind the Song – Til I Met You

Laura Story Music

Worship Wednesday – Forgiveness by Matthew West

Blog - Worship Wednesday - ForgivenessPhoto Credit: Godtube.com

“Our Father…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.  And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”Matthew 6:12-16

If I asked you is there someone in your life that you struggle to forgive, what story would you tell? Matthew West wrote the song Forgiveness out of a story someone told him. A mother who lost a daughter to a drunk driver – a mother who chose to forgive.

BLog - Forgiveness by Matthew West 2Photo Credit: Amazon.com

We all have stories – either of people we struggle to forgive or of situations where we struggle to forgive ourselves. God is supremely merciful in His forgiveness. He calls us to forgive as he forgives us.

If we don’t forgive we are the ones must hurt by that unforgiveness.

We still grieve the loss, the wrong done to us, but we can forgive, with God’s help. As the mother told Matthew, it’s the only way to have peace, in the end.

When I think of my own sin and all the people I’ve hurt or disappointed over a lifetime, what a gift to know the forgiveness of God and of those wronged by me. What a God to take away those wrongs!

Who is a God like You, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession?  He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in unchanging love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities under foot. Yes, You will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. – Micah 7:18-19

Worship with me. Pray for God to help us forgive…as He’s forgiven us…

It’s the hardest thing to give away
And the last thing on your mind today
It always goes to those that don’t deserve

It’s the opposite of how you feel
When the pain they caused is just too real
It takes everything you have just to say the word…

Forgiveness
Forgiveness

It flies in the face of all your pride
It moves away the mad inside
It’s always anger’s own worst enemy
Even when the jury and the judge
Say you gotta right to hold a grudge
It’s the whisper in your ear saying ‘Set It Free’

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away
It can even set a prisoner free
There is no end to what it’s power can do
So, let it go and be amazed
By what you see through eyes of grace
The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness
Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable
Show me how to reach the unreachable
Help me now to do the impossible
Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free
So show me how to see what Your mercy sees
Help me now to give what You gave to me
Forgiveness, Forgiveness.*

I would love to hear your story of how you got to forgiveness.

Godtube Video – Forgiveness by Matthew West (Official lyric video)

*Lyrics to Forgiveness by Matthew West – KLove Radio

YouTube Video – Forgiveness (live) by Matthew West

Story Behind the song “Forgiveness”

Into the Light album by Matthew West – all the tracks are inspired by stories shared with him from his Tell Your Story – Change a Life project.

Forgiveness – Overcoming the Impossible – by Matthew West – a volume of stories of forgiveness

Matthew West

Blog - Forgiveness by Matthew West

 

Worship Wednesdays – Shoulders – for King & Country

Blog - Shoulders - 2“I will lift up my eyes to the hills–From whence comes my help? My help comes from the LORD, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to be moved; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; He shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out and your coming in from this time forth, and even forevermore.” – Psalm 121

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” – Matthew 11:28-29

There are wonderful and terrible things in this life I do not understand. The cycles of seasons. The next breath. The birth of a baby. The death of a young mother. A world crumbling under the weight of its own sin. At the same time, a world still sustaining life in exquisite beauty in the face of centuries of war. How is all this possible?

We are carried. By a God who loves us, comes alongside us, and lifts us up out of the muck and mire of our troubles. He shoulders our burdens. I am daily grateful to Him for that, because my shoulders are too small and weak for the task. Even when I don’t see God in a situation, I know, by faith and by experience, that He is present. How would we bear the wonders without Someone to praise for them? How would we bear the wrongs of this world without knowing, deep in our hearts, that He carries us?

Charles Spurgeon once said, “Some of you go forth to your daily labors and you find the place of your service to be a real wilderness, full of trial and everything that is unpleasant to you. Yet look again, with eyes touched with Heaven’s eye-salve and, instead of seeing the bitter poverty, and the grinding toil, and the daily trial, you will begin to see that God is in it all and, “underneath are the everlasting arms!” You shall go cheerfully home to Heaven, borne up by God. He who made you will carry you! He who loves you will bear you all the days of old till you shall come unto the Mountain of God and stand in your lot at the end of the days!”*

Luke and Joel Smallbone, of the group for King & Country, write so honestly about the Shoulders of God. The writing comes out of their personal experience of both a life-threatening illness and the birth of a child. Watch their video linked below which visually tells stories some of which we have also experienced. Thankful for these guys who help me to worship God as He is. Strong and true.

Worship with me:

When confusion’s my companion
And despair holds me for ransom
I will feel no fear
I know that You are near
When I’m caught deep in the valley
With chaos for my company
I’ll find my comfort here
‘Cause I know that You are near

CHORUS
My help comes from You
You’re right here, pulling me through
You carry my weakness, my sickness, my brokenness all on Your shoulders
Your shoulders
My help comes from You
You are my rest, my rescue
I don’t have to see to believe that You’re lifting me up on Your shoulders
Your shoulders

You mend what once was shattered
And You turn my tears to laughter
Your forgiveness is my fortress
Oh Your mercy is relentless

My help is from You
Don’t have to see it to believe it
My help is from you
Don’t have to see it, ‘cause I know, ‘cause I know it’s true.**

Blog - Shoulders - for King & Country

*The Everlasting Arms by Charles Spurgeon

YouTube Video (Lyrics) – Shoulders – for King & Country

YouTube Video – Shoulders – for King & Country – Official Video

YouTube Video – Shoulders Live on K-Love with For King & Country

See It First: Go Behind the Scenes of For King & Country’s Powerful Video, ‘Shoulders

**K-Love – Lyrics to Shoulders by songwriters Luke Smallbone, Joel Smallbone, Ben Glover, Tedd Tjornhom

Story Behind the Song – Shoulders – NewReleaseTuesday.com Interview with Luke Smallbone

For Hope: Luke Smallbone Finds Grace in the Darkness

Bio Page – for King & Country

Rebecca St. James – singer, songwriter, author, and sister to Joel and Luke Small bone

Photo Credits: YouTube and www.forkingandcountry.ccom website

Family, Fights, & Friendship

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My older brother taught me how to fight. He won most of our battles and yet I would keep on coming. He was a formidable foe. Then…well into adulthood, I learned not to take the bait, and we became friends. None too soon, because short years later, he died, too young. Today I want to talk about him, and what I learned about fighting…and friendship…from him.

First, some background on how he stayed on my mind all day today, though he’s been gone seven years now. This morning, I found a fascinating article online from the Wall Street Journal. It is a timely piece entitled Family Meltdowns: When Everyone is Arguing and No One is Listening by Elizabeth Bernstein.

Bernstein reported on how holiday gatherings tend to push buttons with family members who already have issues with each other. Fights ensue and the day becomes another chalked-up disappointment. In these family fights, is there always a single culprit or do we each have a part to own in these conflicts?

If you are in such a family, Bernstein’s description of how the family gets embroiled in such a fight is all too familiar. She lists seven different roles in family conflicts. Take note if you see yourself in this mix.

The Trigger – the person who starts the uproar by getting offended by what another has said or done. [I actually think there may be co-triggers in a family argument. We know after years of growing up together what buttons to press with each other. We know sometimes exactly what it takes to get a reaction out of a sibling or parent, and when the time is just right, we strike. So like the bullied child who gets in trouble while the one who started the commotion looks wide-eyed innocent at the teacher, a family disturbance can proceed in the same way.

The Prosecutor – this is the family member who reacts, either in defense of the offended one or the one who did the offense. He is the accuser and is ready to call out the “trigger” for his own offending behavior.

The Defender or Peacemaker – she is the one who will try to calm down the two above. She may try to get each to see the other’s side, or she herself may side with one and try to convince the other. Finally, she may actually attack both the “trigger” and the “prosecutor” for spoiling the day for the family.

The Enablers – sometimes the parents try to stop the conflict without offering any real solution for those fighting with each other. Often the mom just wants it to stop, trying to salvage the holiday for the family, rather than dealing with the issues underneath the fight. The dad at times is more a passive enabler, disappearing in the noise of the battle.

The Deserter – lastly, there are the family members who feel most removed from this family history repeating itself. These are the usually (but not always) the in-laws who will actually remove themselves from the situation, taking the children with them.

The article is a quick read and fascinating in its familiarity with family dynamics – especially those that surface when faced with holiday pressures to have fun together. Bernstein gives counsel on how to prevent such family trauma on special days, or at least how to minimalize it.

My brother and I had no such helps during our years of fighting with each other. He was often a trigger in our family rows, and I was the tireless prosecutor. I feel, however, that we were all sometimes co-triggers because we just “waited” for him to start a ruckus. We didn’t have to wait long, and then we all did the usual.

I finally got a clue after years of this thanks to the wise words of two friends. They were often a part of our gatherings and they loved us all. It helps sometimes to have that extra set of eyes looking in onto family communication…especially eyes attached to a person who loves all involved.

One friend counseled me not to “take the bait”. When my brother took offense at something one of us said or did, a fight would begin and continue to escalate until someone left the room, or the house altogether. My role always was to react, but when I checked myself and didn’t, a strange and wonderful transformation happened (over time). He softened and didn’t pursue the offense or offender. He let it go.

The other friend reminded me of an old adage “Hurt people hurt people.” We’ve all heard this but when we feel attacked we also want to return the attack. My brother, over the course of his life, had experienced enormous losses – marriage, jobs, his health, the death of a child, his own helplessness, it seemed, to have close relationships with the rest of his family. These losses bent his heart, and dulled his thinking, and he struck out at the very people he loved most in the world.

Once my own thinking cleared, I stepped out of the “prosecutor” role, and began to just love my brother. Don’t get me wrong, I did not become a doormat for his abuses at all. If there was ever a time in life, I gave a person grace, it was in those (what would be the) last years of his life. We became friends. We learned to laugh together and share news instead of barbs. We both worked at understanding each other and actually looked forward to our visits together.

I thank God for this brother of mine. I was not the hero here…he was. He took a chance with me, and my sense is we both won. I know I did. Before he died, he rejoiced at time spent happily with our other two brothers. In the last moments of his life, he even began to reach out to his daughter, the one he loved the most and the one he most hurt…if there had only been more time.

One day there will be. My brother died on an operating room table, but he opened his eyes in Heaven. We will see him again, and all the pain of being part of frail, all-too-human families will be behind us. Every day will be like the Thanksgiving or Christmas we wanted. For now, we don’t give up…even though it’s tempting. For in not giving up on family, we may win a friend.

2007 SepOct 092

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. – Proverbs 14:29