Balance

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child railroadIt’s tough to keep our balance. I have a weakness for losing my balance in the literal physical sense and metaphorically in life. I have a tendency to fall/slump to one side and this leads to pain on the other side, or in compensating I can over correct and ouch again.

So where do I get off priding myself on my balance?

On theology and general controversial issues,that’s where. When I don’t have anything better to do, I carefully study a matter of interest online, here both sides’ arguments, and find as many ways to tick off both as possible with my take. It usually is fairly easy to do in our deeply divided society. An us versus them mentality reigns today. If they take X stance, they are the enemy, so I will take Y stance, which is the exact opposite, because they are the enemy.

That isn’t the way Christians are supposed to decide where we stand. We’re supposed to prayerfully turn to the Bible for moral guidance through dark and troubled waters and seek out where Christ stands and seek strength from Christ to stand with Christ, regardless of where the rest of “our” group or the rest of “their” group happens to be, if God’s shown us from the Word, and we’re not making God our puppet and forcing the Word to okay our own sinful desires.

No doubt I am not nearly as good as that as I like to think. Like I said starting off, balance is a weak area that I struggle with a lot in the flesh in many areas. Most left of center would at a glance pin me down as a far right-wing conservative, a “legalistic nut job” who only wears skirts, would home school if God gave me children, who married my best friend after a one-week courtship that came after months of pretending my boyfriend was still only my best friend and finding dozens of ways to say “I love you” without actually saying “I love you” to get around a self-imposed definitely legalistic rule. Hey, we were young and still learning wisdom.

In this heavily divided “us” or “them” climate, I don’t expect to impress “them” or “us” with my efforts at fairness, listening to all sides and evaluating scientific facts for whether they’re actual science or mere propaganda, at showing I am in fact listening despite stubbornly staying standing on the Bible. I expect “them” to call me one of “us” and say everything they say about “us” about me anyway. I’m also braced for “us” to accuse me of being a traitor, etc.

Sometimes, I hope to be clearly a conservative Christian who isn’t stupid and knows how to think for myself rather than just repeat party lines. To be fair, my ears truthfully hear from all sides party lines being mindlessly repeated without really digging into a matter, including from some who pride themselves on being intellectuals or even free-thinkers. No doubt I have done that kind of thing myself in lazy moments where something was “obvious” at a glance.

Perhaps balance isn’t easy for anyone. Perhaps sometimes we’re stronger in weak areas when we know we’re weak and seek to overcome it. Perhaps some of us have medical conditions that give us difficulty balancing in some areas, but not in others, and the problem won’t just go away if we try hard enough. Perhaps we do all need sometimes to latch onto Christ’s hand and let him lead us. He may leave physical imbalances to remind us to stay close, but he’ll slowly bring us into spiritual balance.

[tweetthis remove_twitter_handles=”true”]Seek to be balanced, not to impress either “us” or “them” but to be like Christ, the true center.[/tweetthis]

Judging Righteous Judgment

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purpleheart
“If you feel someone is judging you, feel free to judge them back and punish them until your wrath has been fully satisfied.” These words do not appear anywhere in the Bible. Yet how often do we, God’s people, behave like God said that? Who among us has never responded tit for perceived tat? We may do this based on assumptions founded on past experience or based on how we felt in response to something someone said.

To begin with, the past isn’t a reliable predictor of the present and future, and the hurt we feel in response to someone’s words isn’t an innately reliable indicator of whether the person intended any judgment. Our flesh’s pain and fear responses are ways of warning us of danger, but let’s remember our flesh’s warning system is broken. Galatians 5:17 (ESV) puts it, “The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do.” So let’s practice resisting our flesh in how we respond.

Especially if we’ve been abused, there’s a risk our negative feelings reflect our own self-condemnation. If we stew, thinking how dare they judge us, we are vulnerable to the trap of transferring onto someone else our heart’s self-condemnation. When that happens, we commit the hypocritical kind of judgment that Christ forbid. What I mean by that is, we’re judging them as judging us, judging them for it, and we feel entitled to judge them because we’ve judged them as judging.

Such circular reasoning is illogical and dangerous for our soul. However, I’ve known people who quote Mathew 7:1 out of the biblical context. Sometimes I wonder if some folks consciously think Mathew 7:1-5 justifies them in going off on anyone who admits to trusting God’s judgment when the Bible says God has judged X behavior that they admit to doing to be a sin.

Why would God say “don’t judge” the way the world says “don’t judge”? God does reserve for God alone the right to judge what is right and what is wrong. However, in the dominant culture today, people “don’t judge” because people have assumed God’s right: “You judge what’s right for you, and I’ll judge what’s right for me, and we’d better leave each other alone ‘cuz it’s Mutually Assured Destruction if we don’t.” That is the world’s way, brothers and sisters, not Christ’s.

If we’re still not sure the Bible doesn’t sanction us for judging someone if you feel judged by them, such behavior also violates the law of love, turn the other cheek, forsake wrath, answer softly, forgive one another, be respectful to one another, etc, etc.

To make the irony of the world’s abuse of Mathew 7:1 complete, the Lord was not saying to ignore God’s judgment of behavior that someone admits to. 1 Cor. 5: 12 does say, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” Let’s leave unbelievers alone unless they ask, a situation arises where we feel a need to explain why we can’t join them in sin, or we feel a strong urging to warn them that we are certain is from God.

However, most of 1 Cor:5 consists of Apostle Paul rebuking a “non-judgmental, loving” church for boasting about not disciplining a brother for unrepentantly engaging in sexual sin. The citizens of the Kingdom of God don’t get to follow God when we feel like it and do things the world’s way when we don’t feel like it. We need to choose. Are we going to follow Christ or not?

Don’t get me wrong. Making that decision doesn’t mean we won’t ever be weak, loose our footing, and stumble into the ways of our flesh. It doesn’t mean we won’t have blind spots or that we will always win our battles with sin. We are saved by grace, through faith in Christ’s full atonement on the cross, not by works, not by our obedience. God wants us to obey God out of sheer gratitude, trust, and love, not out of the fear of Hell. We all fail; We all give in to sin, we all fail to see the true nature of what we’re doing and how it breaks God’s heart. Thank God for grace.

All I’m saying it is dangerous to walk in sin because we’ve flat out ignored God’s judgement. That is self-idolatry. We set ourselves up as our own god when we judge what God’s word says is wrong as right for us. That robs us of a close relationship with God, it hinders us from operating in our spiritual gifts, and it stifles our spiritual fruits. It makes us vulnerable to the enemy influencing us by phone: getting us thinking down is up and that up is down, provoking us to hate Christians who haven’t also been taken captive by the enemy, and using us against the God we love and against God’s people.

I am not writing to this to condemn anyone. The goal is to open our blind eyes so we’ll seek deliverance from bondage. While I hope I never fall as far into self-idolatry as I’ve just described, I’ve struggled to some extent with such tendencies as we all do.

When we see others in the grip of what I’ve warned us about, let’s remember we too struggle with self-idolatry and deal with us first, then we may see clearly to offer our brother help.

Lord, help us to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. Give us supernatural power to react to verbal abuse not in the flesh’s wrath but to respond in a loving, kind respectful tone as we explain calmly how their words hurt and why they offended. When our hearts condemn us, help us to remember the words of 1 John 3:19-24

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; and whatever we ask we receive from him, because we keep his commandments and do what pleases him. And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.

[tweetthis]#Jesusneversaid “If you feel someone is judging you, feel free to judge them back.”[/tweetthis]

That Offensive Gospel

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“I hope this doesn’t offend you, but . . .” Whenever I hear phrases like this, I can almost guarantee you what will follow will be unkind, hurtful, and rude to the point of offensive.

It’s pretty much an apology in advance meant, we hope, to excuse us for daring to speak our minds. Sharing an honest opinion isn’t wrong in and of itself, but apologizing for it while taking a tone and posture that dares the person to get offended is problematic to say the least. So is speaking without any regard for the other person and how they might be benefited or hurt, but simply out to demand/defend our right to think for ourselves and have our own opinion.

I am sympathetic to those of you who struggle with this, believe me. I’ve done this plenty myself.

In fact, I’ve often left off the apology in advance and just stated my views in an unconscious dare to loved ones to get offended at me for having a mind of my own. See, as a kid, it seemed like a simple difference of opinions could lead to me being punished, ultimately, for not going along with the dominant position/view in the family. If my perception was at all accurate, it seems my kin were all raised to value group think and feel threatened by individual thought.

While I am grateful for everyone in my life today for whom this isn’t true, I see too much of this kind of thing in our society, especially in relation to politics and religion.

Don’t get me wrong. Truth is absolute. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the father but by him. God never changes and neither does the Truth. There is a right and a wrong.

The thing is, we’re not God. He is the holy, unfailing definer of Truth, of what is right and wrong. We are not. We are all imperfect human beings and flawed seekers of Truth if we are following Christ. We can seek to be secure in the revealed truth of God’s word and to be confident in who Christ is. If we grow in these qualities enough, we can stand firm on this solid foundation in how we conduct our own lives and also allow others to be wrong, to allow sinners to be sinners and not be threatened by it.

We can learn to listen respectfully and to compassionately ask, “Why? What’s your story?” If we are secure enough in what we believe to do that, and listen to their testimony respectfully, we will have a stronger case when we politely ask them to respectfully listen to our testimony. I am not sure I know what we can do to change ourselves, but I know who can change us if we ask with a sincere desire to grow. Let’s stop making excuses to offend unnecessarily and ask God to teach us to give the respectful listening we want to receive.

[tweetthis]God, teach us to give the respectful listening we want to receive, lest we offend unnecessarily.[/tweetthis]

Dads & Handling Wolves in the Pulpit

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A married church leader is tempting one of my family members to have sex. My family member is innocent, doesn’t want to get involved, and is evading the situation. How can we confront this sinning member, how can we solve this effectively in a Christian way? Please guide us.
Thank you,
Myrah

Dear Myrah,

Your remedies and solutions will depend on the exact position of this person in the church and your organizational structure. For instance, if it’s the senior pastor, report him to the denominational authorizes or the church board, or whoever is responsible for disciplining/firing him. If there is no such structure, no higher authority you can appeal to, and no one this person is accountable to besides God, don’t walk, RUN from the church. Out of concern for others, you should warn the other members of the church and let it be known why you are leaving.

Otherwise, handle this according to the scriptures (see Mt 18:15-17). Assuming this is a young female her father (throughout this, insert husband if she’s married) should first confront the man in private and give him a holy telling off. Yes, Dad has every right to get in the face of someone threatening his family like this. You can be both loving and firm. Stand on the scripture and politely but firmly confront him.

The next step will be take one or two others with you. At this point (or sooner if the holy spirit leads) bring in the the church leadership, those in place above him, such as a senior pastor, elder, or board member. They may stick to the biblical structure and go with you to confront him again, or go right into whatever disciplinary structure they have in place.

Biblically, in the last step, it’s taken before the entire church and they’re ex-communicated if they still don’t repent (stripped of membership and office and treated as an unbeliever). But you’ll have to follow whatever procedures are in place at your church. If the remedy doesn’t lead to his dismissal or repentance, again, don’t walk, run from this church and warn your brethren, as I detailed earlier.

First and foremost is protecting the victim of this harassment. If Dad isn’t in the picture or isn’t able to fulfill his biblical role, Mom can step up, but it’s preferable to ask another male friend or relative who can be trusted to fulfill the father’s natural protector role. Do not go light on this guy. He’s most likely a wolf, not a sheep. If you have reason to believe you’re dealing with a sociopath, do not confront him, but go directly to church authority. A sociopath will not respond favorably and will take measures to ensure the leadership believes him rather than you if you tip him off that you’re on to him.

That said, your average wolf is a coward at heart and will back off when Dad gets in their face. Once they discover their target for dinner has someone keeping watch over them, they will typically prefer to move on to easier prey who don’t have fathers protecting them. Sorry, Mom, but predators usually don’t find you particularly scary. Dads with a backbone, however, they usually don’t want to mess with. All I’m saying is be firm and assertive, standing your ground on the word of God. With the Holy Spirit’s guidance, Dad can politely and lovingly tell this guy off without getting violent, screaming, etc. This is not a time for meek and mild. This calls for strength. The Lamb of God we emulate is also the Lion of Judah. So long as Dad goes in under prayer covering, having sought God’s guidance and leading, Dad should be fine.

Again, if Dad’s not available, Grandpa, big brother, Uncle, Pastor, close family friend/spiritual father can be effective as well, especially if he’s committed to being involved in her life as a paternal substitute. As a last resort, Mom, go yourself in the power of the Holy Ghost and let Father God do the telling-to through you. This also goes for older sisters, aunts, and grandmothers if you happen to be the only person keeping watch over the lamb.

Note to Husbands: as I said in the parenthetical earlier, this all applies to you if the victim in question happens to be your wife. Your father-in-law handed the responsibility over to you when you said I do.

In Christ’s Love,
Andrea Graham

Laser & Sword Magazine–first e-issue free!

Hope for the Drifting

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Dear Andrea,

I live in the UK and have four children under three, so over the past three years I have been working day and night and no longer have a good relationship with God. I have been saved over ten years, but feel each year I am drifting farther away. Is there hope of having a renewed and energetic relationship when I have very few moments to myself?

I have started shopping on the internet to make myself feel a little bit more alive. I look forward to the packages coming because it makes me feel someone cares about me, but when they get delivered, I feel just sad and empty again.

Please advise me, I feel like I am in a never ending desert.

Thank you,

Sister A.

Dear Sister A.,

I’d stop with the internet shopping, though relatively tame, it’s still just an attempt to fill a void in your heart that only God can fill. In this life, no matter how busy (this Andrea needs to listen up to this, too) we always have time for the things that really matter to us. Take time to write out your daily schedule, including how you spend the little down time you do have and you should find that to be true. It’s often quite embarrassing what our actual daily routines, the parts we have control over at least, indicate we value most.

Relationships don’t have autopilot. Left alone, they don’t coast on, but drift apart. It’s the same with Christ. To move forward, we have to keep our foot on the gas and the gearshift in drive. Shift into neutral, and you will slide back down the hill, guaranteed.

If you have an appointment book, write God in, fifteen minutes or half an hour, and keep your appointment. If anyone finds out, let them laugh, or inform them He’s the most important appointment on your daily schedule. Don’t listen to the devil, either, it’s never a waste of time to pray. Keeping in touch with God daily is the best time-investment you’ll ever make. He gives us strength to carry on, focus to stay on task, and wisdom to know what we can/should cut from our schedules. When we pray daily, we stay closer to Him and stray less from His will, which always means a lighter load.

If you’re a morning person, try getting up half an hour earlier than usual. The spiritual refreshing will more than make up for the lost sleep. If you’re a night owl, reserve part of your lunch break or the last half hour before bed for God. If you like to take bubble baths to relax, that’s also an excellent time to pray.

Also consider purchasing a daily devotion, I’m certain they have plenty designed for busy moms on the market. They tend to be short and can offer guidance on a bible reading schedule, which is another idea. Commit yourself to reading a portion of scripture every day. Either topical, as from a passage linked to a devotion, or just, “I’m going to read the book of Proverbs this month” or “I”m going to take the next fifty days (or more if you break up 119) to read the Psalms” With your schedule, don’t try the, “I’m going to read the bible in a year” one. The new testament alone might be an attainable goal, but three years would be more realistic for most of us, for both the New and Old Testaments. If you do something like that, mix up the new and old testament readings. Trust me, if you make it through Leviticus, the last thing you’ll feel like reading is Numbers. Even meditating on a single proverb a day would make a difference.

If kids are making it hard to find time, most kids like to read. Especially if you pick an easy reader version, you can share your bible reading with them. You’ll be learning together and growing in God together. Whatever version you choose, in explaining the Word to them—our most sacred duty—you’ll learn so much yourself.

The busier the schedule, the more we have to commit ourselves to “pray without ceasing.” That doesn’t mean pray 27/7, that means to include Christ in every decision you make. To make Christ your focus, no matter what you happen to be doing. Take a moment before that meeting to pray for peace between rivals, when a kid defies you, take a minute to pray for wisdom before responding. Jesus is the easiest relationship to repair in that regards. We usually can’t correct the drift in our marriages by taking our spouses to work with us, but we can take Jesus with us. In fact, He wants us to take Him with us everywhere we go and consult Him on everything we do.

Of course He has this thing about being the Boss, too. More often than we like to talk about, that’s what’s coming between us and God. When we’ve wronged someone, or harbor ill thoughts towards them, we have a tendency to avoid them, and God is no exception. Sometimes, we have to travel in the desert to reach the promised land. And sometimes, we’ve gotten there and our disobedience has turned us back out into the desert. Thankfully, we don’t have to stay there forty years. Get that appointment book I mentioned out, and spend your first appointment with God examining yourself and asking Him to reveal any sin in your heart coming between you. If you want a vibrant relationship with God, you’ll have to settle any accounts He brings up to move forward.

Even when sin isn’t an issue, Christians do go through seasons of dryness, that’s natural. It tests us to see if we will believe He’s there even when we can’t feel Him. If we persevere by faith in our devotions, He will make rivers in the desert (Isaiah 43:19,20) and make the fountain of living water to flow in us again (John 7:37-39, John 4:7-14)

If you’re not in church, find one, and if you are, you might want to pray about going to a different one, sometimes this emptiness can come as a result of the wrong church, ie, a house of bread that’s empty or serving spiritual donuts. Also, fasting can release the flood, and the Lord dwells in the praises of his people.

If you can’t remember the last time you really worshiped, take five to fifteen minutes, turn off all distractions, turn on your favorite worship CD, and sing along. Or, if you have the capability, you might want to burn yourself a CD, or put together a play list on your computer, of worships songs that speak about water. As to what to do with the kids, put the baby in the crib or playpen and tell the toddlers it’s time for family worship. Doing this with them will draw you closer to God AND each other. Can’t sing? No problem, God said make a joyful noise, not a beautiful melody. Add dancing (He also doesn’t care about coordination!) and you’ve got your workout routine taken care of, too.

Teach your little ones to worship and they’ll remind you what a fresh, energetic relationship with God looks like. Yes, worshiping may be a little humbling at first, but God loves humility. In James 4:10, he promised if you humble yourself in His sight, He will lift you up. And unlike internet shopping, even when the music stops, the joy continues on.

Love in Christ,

Andrea Graham

linked to: Adam’s Blog