Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Burden of Guilt

Do you struggle with feelings of guilt? It seems that so many people do. It isn't just that people feel guilty when they do something wrong. It is that they can't get over this feeling of guilt. They let the guilt wear on them and become a burden in their life. Why is this? Why do people have difficulty getting past these guilty feelings?
As I was thinking about this topic of guilt, I came across an article on the Internet by Doris Jeanette, Psy.D. The article is titled: "Living a guilt free life for healthy relationships." Here is how the article starts out:
"Guilt is the worst experience
known to humans. It ties us up in knots and makes us feel unworthy and miserable. First let me explain that It is not a real feeling.
It is caused by thinking that we have done something wrong. We think we have done something wrong because we judge ourselves or someone else judges us. A child does not "feel guilty" until someone tells her that she has offended someone or hurt someone's so called "feelings." Psychologically "feeling guilty" is a conditioned response, not an authentic feeling. In other words, we are taught to feel bad and thus guilty when someone judges us..."
There are several things I want to say about this passage:
1. Guilt isn't the worst experience known to humans, sin is. Sin is what causes us to feel the guilt. But guilt can tie people into knots because they don't know how to let go of the guilt. When you do something wrong, it makes you feel guilty because your conscience lets you know that you've done something wrong.
2. Guilt is not about having others make us feel bad, but feeling bad because we know we've done something wrong. It is not something that is 'taught,' but something that is in us to help us move to that place where we again seek to do what is right.
3. Guilt is not designed to be ongoing, but to lead us to Jesus so that we can ask for forgiveness. Once we have admitted our wrong, and received forgiveness, the guilt has served its purpose and needs to be let go.
I like what was said in my Daily Prayer Book (Copyright 2000, by Tyndale) on April 18:
"However much our culture denies the reality and effect of guilt, there are many
today who live under its burden. Many people still have the sense that their lives
are not what they ought to be. This sense of guilt may actually be a gift from
God to help redirect us to God's way...God's greater gift to us is His mercy,
which enables us to start anew..."
Guilt leads us to God, who reminds us that He loves us, and He helps us to start anew. How can you let guilt not be a burden? Take it to the cross of Jesus, where it is forgiven and removed. Then go anew and live your life with joy!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Power of Three

What would you do if you were all alone in the world? Some might say that they would like the solitude. Others, who love to be around people might think that it was the worst thing that could ever happen to them. Some people feel all alone like this even when there is people around. The truth is, just because we have people around us, doesn't mean that we aren't alone.
Why do we struggle to let others into our lives? More and more the world seems to be getting less connected, and increasingly isolated. When you walk down the street it is difficult to get others to look at you, much less say "hi" to you. And if they say hi, they usually aren't smiling.
In the Bible, there is a wonderful verse in the Old Testament (Ecclesiastes 4:12). This verse says: "Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
This verse reminds me of the importance of having other people in my life. IfI let others be close to me, then when I need some help, or when I need some support, I have that help available to me. I think that we have to find a way to get people interacting together more. If you look at Genesis 2, you will discover that God created us to be in relationship with others. "It is not good to be alone." This doesn't mean that you have to have a partner, but you do need to have "close" friends. Just like 3 cords wrapped together becomes strong and almost unbreakable, so having other close friends with you in tough times can help you from breaking.
Why is the world so individualistic? What can we do to break this trend? Tell me what you think (

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Church of Oprah

I recently viewed a youtube video where Oprah had spoken about denying Jesus Christ. She says that this came about when she was in her late 20's and her pastor talked about God being a "jealous God." It didn't make sense to her that God, who was supposed to be all-powerful, and all-loving could be jealous of her. How could that be?
This led Oprah into a new venture of faith where she sought answers outside of the framework of the all-powerful God she had believed in as a young adult. She got to the place where she believed that there couldn't possibly be one way. On her show when she was challenged by a member of the audience about Jesus being the only way, all she could do in response was to repeat over and over again, "There couldn't possibly be one way." This led her to New Age doctrines and the development of a "New Earth Web class."
Why should we be so concerned about this? Because Oprah has a faithful following of millions of viewers who are easily swayed by her philosophies. Any time that she promotes a book through her book club or television show, it instantly becomes a best seller! By offering this new earth web class, she is seeking to lead people away from Jesus Christ, and towards this doctrine of:
"Who you are requires no belief." "Heaven is not a location, but refers to the inner realm of consciousness." "The man on the cross is an archetypal image. He is every man and every woman." "My mind is part of God's; I am very holy." "My holiness is my salvation." "My salvation comes from me." "Let me remember there is no sin." "Do not make the pathetic error of 'clinging to the Old Rugged Cross.'" "The only message of the crucifixion is that you can overcome the cross."
If there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in the lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mom, and a garbageman, and one person had to be thrown overboard to save the others, which person would we choose?”
This type of thing is done every day. You see it in the school yard when teams are chosen for dodgeball. The weakest players are seldom chosen first. Why? The team captain doesn’t want them in the lifeboat. It carries over into adulthood. It seems that Oprah is afraid that she will be kicked out of the lifeboat.
But this is not the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus says: "For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him, shall not perish, but have eternal life." With the message of Jesus in mind, everyone who believes has a secure place on the boat.
What do you think? Do you agree? Share your thoughts.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Growth Trend

In the spring 2008 issue of "Congregations" magazine, there was an interesting discovery in growth trends. I quote: "One of the findings that has generated the earliest buzz is the dramatic growth of what the researchers call the fourth largest religious tradition in America. After the evangelicals, which make up 26.3 percent of the adult population, the Catholics (23.9 percent), and the mainline (18.1 percent), come the unaffiliated (16.1 percent). Almost equal in size to mainline Protestantism, the unaffiliated have as much internal diversity as the rest of America’s faith communities. Consisting of small groups of atheists and agnostics, this “tradition” included 12.1 percent of Americans who identified themselves as “nothing in particular.” For those interested in emerging trends, it is important to note that this group experienced the largest net growth of any of the major religious groupings, climbing from 5 percent in the 1980s to 16 percent today."
The group has grown from 5 percent to over 16 percent in the last 25 years. Why is this? What is leading people to become "nothing in particular"? Could it be that people are seeing the church as irrelevant?
As I have done much reading and searching, it seems to me that people have lost of sense of meaning to the their lives. In the loss of meaning, people come to feel that "nothing in particular" is important. They feel like God does not care, and has left them to their irrelevance. As the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes said in chapter 2, verse 1- "I said to myself, 'Come now, I will make a test of pleasure; enjoy yourself.' But again, this also was vanity."
I think we can get too caught up in trends. The current trend leads us to where people are active, but that doesn't mean it is a meaningful answer. The one true answer is JESUS CHRIST, WHO IS THE SAME YESTERDAY, TODAY, AND FOREVER. Jesus, who is "the way, the truth, and the life." It is really in Jesus that we will be able to believe something of meaning, and gain purpose to our life.
While people are feeling "nothing in particular," there is One who can lead us to "something of value." Tell me what you think (

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Beyond the Boundaries

When I was in Junior High, I decided to learn the saxophone. I would bring home the saxophone from school so that I could practice. At first, it must have been a horrifying sound for my family to endure as I learned to play. But in time I got better and better through practice, until the sound wasn't so horrifying, but was actually a harmonious sound!
Life is similar to this. We are called to relate to and love others around us, to be in harmony with people in this world. But at first we find that there are some who are difficult to love; some who we don't feel comfortable being around; some who are not like us or who we can't relate to.
The challenge in life is learning how to go "Beyond the Boundaries" of what is comfortable, what is expected, so that we can live as Christ showed us how to live; live how God created us to live.
There is a story in the Bible of a Canaanite woman who came upon Jesus and His disciples, and told them: "my daughter is tormented by a demon," expecting Jesus to right away agree to help.
The disciples ask Jesus to send her away. They didn't want to be bothered by her. They didn't want to have anything to do with her. They didn't think that they should interact with her at all. They didn't think that Jesus should interact with her at all or help her at all.
And Jesus' answer makes it sound like he agrees with the disciples in Matthew chapter 15, Verse 24, where Jesus says- "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." This statement makes us think that Jesus didn't care about this woman or her concern. This statement makes us think that Jesus was not going to help her. How could this be? The messiah not interested in so great a problem?
There is an illustration of a judge who is frustrated because one of the prospective jurors has just told him that he can't serve on the jury. "And just why is it that you don't want to serve on this jury?" the judge asks. "Well, judge, the truth is, I'm biased. One look at that man convinced me that he is guilty," says the juror. The judge then responds, "That man is not the defendant, he is the district attorney!"
How often do we see someone who is not like us, or who makes us uncomfortable, and we judge them, and decide we don't want to have anything to do with them?!
Even though it sounds as if Jesus is telling the disciples that he is only interested in the "lost sheep of Israel," he is actually just stating to them what they expect him to say. He is stating to them what they believe is the purpose for the Messiah. He is stating to them what he knows they feel and believe.
But this is human thinking, not Godly thinking. These are all just excuses for our prejudices and fear. This is not really what Jesus thinks, but what is expected of him to think. This is not how Jesus will truly act, but only how he will be expected to act as Messiah.
And yet, in spite of Jesus being a Jew, this woman doesn't give in to the expectation of who he is or how he is supposed to act. This woman is attempting to break through the boundary that is there before her. She is not willing to accept that just because she is a Canaanite, and Jesus is a Jew, that Jesus is not willing or able to help her. In essence she is saying: "The need of my daughter, and your ability to help, is greater than any barrier that exists!"
So she again says to Jesus: "Lord, help me." She acknowledges who Jesus is, He is Lord. She acknowledges again that Jesus can help her. She truly believes this.
Jesus responds: "It is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs."
Now this statement could sound like a great insult, calling her, because she is a Canaanite, a dog. And yet, again, we must understand, that this from Jesus' perspective, is more a test of her faith and determination than any kind of insult. Has she just heard about Jesus and think there is some magic in him, or does she truly believe that he is the Messiah, the Lord of all?
Sometimes the tone of voice, and look adds as much to the statement as what is said. If you say something in jest, with a smile on your face, then people know not to take it seriously or be offended by it. I believe this is how Jesus meant it, and how the woman took it, for the woman was in no way offended, but plays along with Jesus and answers him with wit: "Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters table."
The woman here is saying, even though some might think of me as a dog, still, a dog needs to eat, and whatever little you might have for me, a Canaanite woman, I will accept from you!
You see, this is what is going on here with this woman. She has the faith to believe that God will take care of her need, and all of a sudden Jesus shows up. She makes sure that she takes advantage of this opportunity, and continues to pursue Jesus, until he responds to her.
Jesus is touched by this woman's faith, which caused her to not be deterred by the apparent slight that Jesus was giving her. Jesus responds to her by saying: "Woman, great is your faith." How those words must have touched her, to be spoken so sincerely to her by Jesus, the Messiah. And don't forget that this is in contrast to Jesus being amazed at the disciples lack of faith and understanding, even though they were continually in his presence and seeing his works.
But he says more to the woman: "Let it be done for you, as you wish!" Jesus heals her daughter. Jesus showed the love and power towards an outsider, even though it went beyond the expected, beyond the boundaries of what was comfortable for the Jews. The grace of God is not limited by boundaries, and Jesus here gives the disciples another lesson in God's love and grace. There are not insiders and outsiders, but all are children of God.
Where do you need to expand your boundaries to include others?