How activists against racism may be reinforcing it deeper into our culture.

indiangirl2

I watched a video the other day of a passionate young adult working to prove that racism is a very real problem that must be dealt with.  By the time it appeared on my Facebook feed it had been watched hundreds of thousands of times. 

Actually, he did a good job identifying problems that do exist and areas in our culture that need to be improved.  The problem is HOW he was making his viewers aware.  He basically said repeatedly in different ways, “You’re a racist!”  He was bold and passionate. 

Before we proceed let’s assume his information was 100% accurate and his heart was in the right place.

I still think he, along with many others, are making things worse. 

Here is why.

There is an important piece to the maturation process psychologically – identity.  Professional counselors and educators have been aware of this for a long time.

If an alcoholic is trying to improve, it’s one thing for him to admit he has a problem.  It’s something else to have him come home night after night to a spouse that calls him a “worthless drunk.”  Counselors long ago realized that berating and name calling doesn’t help.  In fact, it makes it worse.  Being made aware of a problem is very different than being told your problem is your identity… repeatedly. The wife may hate that he is an alcoholic– and at the same time reinforcing it IS his identity more deeply into his heart and soul! 

In education, it’s the same way.  If you have a young child who struggles with math, it’s one thing to identify there are places he needs extra attention; it’s another to remind him repeatedly he is “stupid.” You can absolutely point out an area in which he needs to improve, but ratifying in him that being “stupid” is a part of his identity will do more damage than good.  He may even actually come to believe it is who he is, accepting it even deeper into his identity. 

Moreover, social uniqueness (identity) is formed by what you are for AND by what you are against, from religion, politics, national identities, even artistic preferences.  Identity IS divisive and being unique is a basic human desire.  What’s important is HOW we approach uniqueness.  Racism (used broadly), by practice, is not only preferring a unique trait, but also believing the PEOPLE who have or prefer other unique traits are somehow less valuable or even worthless.  Our culture has ignorantly tried to throw out both sides of this by pretending to be blind to differences in general.  Trying to say there is no gender, color, intellectual or athletic gifting and the like is silly and limits the beautiful diversity of humanity.  For example:

People need to stop saying things like “kids don’t see color.”  Yes, they do.  They just aren’t bothered by the difference.  In fact, they can openly talk about it because a difference in skin color is a vastly inferior issue to the friendship they have.  What needs to be elevated is the priority of love.

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”- Martin Luther King, Jr.

We don’t want to live blind to the complex beauty that is humanity, or be afraid to see differences in each other. However, the binding agent of this uniqueness is love. 

Lastly, abhorrent name calling, violent marches, and belittling trigger the primal fight or flight instinct.  There are countless articles and research papers showing that people struggle to learn when they are deeply angry or afraid.  Every well-intentioned video or article that provokes the primal fight or flight may be highly effective click-bait (meaning a lot of people see it) but will not help move hearts toward love and respect.  In most cases as your blood pressure goes up, your ability to reason goes way down. 

So, what do we do?

In my home: I will not label my kids as a racist, idiot, bully or the like. Even if I think their values are wrong. That’s not their identity and not who they have to become.  That said they are unique and absolutely can improve themselves in many ways.  Not everything they like or dislike will be right, but that has no bearing on their value as a person.  In Christianity, human value is not subjective but objective. I will teach them there is space to love people deeply and talk about differences, even debate them. As a Christian, I tell them all humans are made in the image of God and have immeasurable value– from the unborn baby to the elderly dementia patient, from those born in the heart of India to those born in the heart of Kansas– and we should treat all as Christ sees them over how we may feel about them.  So, in our home we may challenge each other’s ideas and prefer different music styles, but love remains.

Identity: People are eternally valuable creations of God. 

Objective: Teach my children to approach a complex world the way Jesus did. You can challenge people, wrestle with ideas and ideals, but you cannot take away their transcendent value.  You don’t have that power.

In our culture: The battle is won by education and in relationships. I decided to do a little “research” and spent an evening watching interview after interview on YouTube of people who overcame racism.  I couldn’t find one that overcame racism with more physical or emotional violence.  The victory was always won through relationships and education.  If the objective is to win HEARTS– tangible forgiveness, mercy, and love are far more powerful than taking up arms and stone-throwing. If you want to change hearts, don’t work to prove there is hate without also working to demonstrate how it can be overcome. Don’t divide people further, build a bridge to speak into their life.

There are a lot of people in this world I disagree with and I actually enjoy a well-mannered debate.  Yet, I do not have any power to remove someone’s value. Even if I disagree with them. In my opinion their value is assigned by the Creator. 

He loved people so much that he sent what was dearest to him, his son, to die, so that they may be rescued.  The very people he knew had wrong affections and values.

Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I’ll let pastor King be my final thought…

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

picture: https://www.pexels.com/photo/portrait-dark-black-and-white-eyes-12087/

 

An innocent little girl and a God asleep at the wheel.

Prayer

A few thoughts on what extraordinary prayer is.

This last Christmas as 6-Year-old Ashlynd was playing on her mom’s phone, advertisements started popping up.  Naturally, she clicked on what she liked.  After accumulating about $250.00 of various Pokémon toys, she was prompted to confirm the order. She walked over to her sleeping mother and put the fingerprint scanner on the phone against her finger. 

Brilliant!

When her parents noticed the order confirmation email, they assumed foul play.  As little Ashlynd overheard her parents she said, “No, Mommy, I was shopping. But don’t worry — everything that I ordered is coming straight to the house.”

This illustrates well the way many of us treat faith.  We pray for whatever we want and bring our list in for the big Guy-in-the-Sky’s stamp of approval.  Moreover, most professing Christians live like God is disengaged and that their actions go unnoticed. Somehow many still believe if they show up to church and offer a prayer in just the right way, they can still get their order through. 

Doesn’t the Bible say faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains? (Matthew 17:20) What I want isn’t nearly as difficult as tossing a mountain into the sea! (Matthew 21:21) Come on, doesn’t the Bible also say God wants to give us the desires of our heart? (Psalm 37:4)

This is a good example of how Scripture applied out of context creates heresy. The flaw is pursuing what we want without submission to what may objectively be needed.

God wants to show Himself to us as the greatest source of transcendent wholeness, not because He needs it, but because we do.  Our life is like one period on a page in a library full of books. Your prayers for things that diminish the clarity of needing God only appear good from your tiny perspective, but in the end, might dilute the embracing of the greatest good – becoming metaphysically whole.

C. S. Lewis says it well:  “For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” 

What the old Oxford scholar meant is embracing “your will be done” is vastly more important than chasing “my will be done.”

Phillips Brooks takes it further: “Prayer is not conquering God’s reluctance, but taking hold of God’s willingness.”

Real prayer begins with awareness of how finite we are, followed by submission and trust in Him. Christians don’t follow God because they “get it,” they follow God because they realize they don’t. 

In Christianity, ordinary people become extraordinary not by mighty natural gifts or by controlling the power of God but by humility, trust and obedience before Him. 

Ashlynd: https://www.yahoo.com/news/brilliant-devious-child-used-her-194246787.html

Prayer Picture: https://static.pexels.com/photos/213316/pexels-photo-213316.jpeg

 

I decided to interview actual immigrants about immigration

ellis-island-immagration

I decided to interview actual immigrants about immigration. 

What I learned was…interesting. 

If you watch the news and read through social media the general idea being propagated is this:  all immigrants want the borders wide open, and angry conservatives dislike immigrants and want the borders closed.  Like many, my trust of the news is dwindling fast, and social media is predominantly full of reactionary people who just want to be heard.  If I really wanted to learn about immigrants who live in the Indianapolis area, I had one option left.  Meet them. So, I did and it changed my perspective completely.

Over the last year I have sat down with about a dozen immigrants from different parts of the world who now reside in Indianapolis. 

I ought to offer a disclaimer.  Obviously, this isn’t “real” research.  I wasn’t out to collect statistics for a research paper, but to understand people.  I wanted to hear their stories and understand their hearts, not collect data points.  This wasn’t a double-blind research project, but an open-eyed beginning and honest start to what I hope will become real and lasting friendships.

If you are one of the people I met with, I am so grateful for your willingness to meet with me and to teach me.  Because of the time we spent together, I am a better person.

So, let’s jump into what I found.

Do all immigrants want open borders?  

It’s complicated.  It really seems to depend on what part of the world they are from.  There were some refugees I met with who want the borders tighter for reasons I probably shouldn’t share in a blog.  No one seemed to want totally open borders.  What people want is clarity.  What emerged from these conversations is something I didn’t expect, something we haven’t heard from the media or considered – cultural preservation, both theirs and ours.  They are most interested in what it means to BE American.  This led to new questions I didn’t expect to ask.

Do immigrants want to change American culture?  

Again, it’s complicated, but mostly NO, they don’t.  In fact, they have come here BECAUSE of the culture.  They don’t want to lose their roots, but mostly they DO NOT want America to become like the country they came from.  What was most interesting here is the stark contrast between what disgruntled Americans say immigrants want, and what the ones I talked to actually want.  My guess is there are some angry Americans using immigrants to push a personal agenda.

Are immigrants politically liberal or conservative?  

I went ahead and asked about hot topics in most of the conversations.  Abortion, sexual identity, etc.  Again, I was surprised.  Even non-Christian immigrants were mostly politically conservative.  In some cases VERY conservative. Though the liberal camp has claimed immigrants as theirs, they absolutely do not represent them on most fronts. Even some of the non-Christian immigrants seem to align more on the political conservative side on most issues. Honestly, this surprised me. National news led me to believe this would not be true.

What amazed me most was a few of them said if they could have voted, they would have voted for Trump over Clinton.

You may need to read that last sentence again; when I heard it I was shocked. I was so surprised, I asked for clarity.

There were three things that emerged. First, they really are politically conservative on most fronts. Moral obligations, like abortion, are a big deal.  Second, those in the process of naturalization have worked hard to honor the law.  Some felt it unfair for others to be granted that status without some level of “reasonable” effort, while others felt the process was impossible and too expensive.  Third, refugees are a subset of the immigration situation.  We can’t lump them in with other immigrants.  Their needs are very different. Some truly are fleeing persecution and need asylum and protection.

The bottom line is this:  it’s really complicated.  Postings on social media like “open the borders” or “close the borders” show ignorance.

There is so much more to say, but overall I found the conversation truly enlightening.  There are some amazing people right here in our own communities. Like the immigrants who have lived in America for a few generations (most of us) they came to the U.S. for similar reasons like religious freedom and/or a better standard of living.

What should our government do?  I am not sure.  It truly is complicated.  What should I do as a pastor, and what should my church do?  Some things are clear. We will love the sojourner (Exodus 22:21).  We will help those in need (Matthew 25:35). We will treat all people as valued children of God (Matthew 25:40) created in His image (Gen 1:27).  I am proud to say our church employs immigrants and is working hard to help them.  We are not afraid.  We are honored to love all of God’s people.

I purposefully don’t offer any “real” research in this blog. My intent is to re-humanize rhetoric and flawed stats because it’s not an abstract issue – it’s about real people and complicated situations.

I don’t have easy answers and I don’t know your context or city.

I do know that people matter. I am doing life differently as a result of making new friends. I am going forward by building relationships with the amazing people that have come from all around the world.  When I was younger I wanted to go be a missionary.  It appears God has brought the mission field to our doorstep.  I am choosing to engage.

Will you join me?

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The real reason angry marches, shame filled social media posts, and relentlessly beating someone with “research” doesn’t work.

The real reason angry marches, shame filled social media posts, and relentlessly beating someone with “research” doesn’t work.

“From the first moment a man meets another person he is looking for a strategic position he can assume and hold over him.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

He goes on to say that this alone is enough to destroy any hope of real fellowship.

So what is the answer?  Bonhoeffer says that we must look at others as they truly are – people deeply loved by God.  So loved that in their (our) rebellious sinful state God sent His Son to suffer and die that they (we) might have a way to be rightly reunited with God again. 

If your interactions with people continually lead them to feel belittled and attacked there is a good chance you don’t see them through the right lens. 

If someone you deeply love is in danger you most likely wouldn’t chase them down with a closed fist ready to strike.  You chase them down with open arms.  Equally, if someone you love is about to jump off a bridge you don’t stand aside and wait to clean up the mess, you desperately and lovingly work to win them over.  To talk them down.  Yes, we should stand for truth, but we should do it the way God modeled.  In this age he sent Jesus not an army of angels to level Rome.  Love your neighbor, speak for those that have little voice, give to the poor, offer a helping hand to the elderly person who lives on your block, and absolutely let them know why!  Because you see them as God sees them.  Loved and desired by God.  I fully support standing for what you believe in, but the package, the means, the way that you deliver the truth may in fact destroy any hope of fellowship.  Please Christian, share endlessly about your satisfaction in Christ and gratitude in what He has done for you! Why? Because…

Real victory is seen in your brother standing beside you, not in you standing over him.

We are absolutely called to be his witnesses.  Spurgeon once said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.” Yet, how we go about elevating Christ is very important. 

Do you see people as Christ sees them?  Do you want the same end result for their life as Christ wants?

To my friends that don’t believe in Christ, here is what I say.  I have placed my wholeness in Christ and I am beyond grateful.  My commitment to Christ, though imperfectly lived out, continually grants an ever deepening purpose and meaning that fills me with such wonder.  I don’t want to win you to my perspective so I can win a debate.  I want to win you over because I want you to taste and see how good it is to bask in the grace of Christ.  I want you with me.

Romans 5:8

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Colossians 4:5-6

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

1 Timothy 2:3-4

“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Matthew 28:19-20

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

 

Don’t give it away!

dont-give-it-away

Don’t give it away

By Cathy Howie

This weekend a president becomes a former POTUS, and a president-elect takes office. Very few Americans have an ambivalent opinion about the change. Hysteria reigns on both sides.

There is, however, a massive group of people who won’t be affected by this changing-of-the-guard, even if people in it have strong feelings. These are America’s ordinary folks.

None of them runs in the circles that control much of anything in their lives. They can work hard, but nothing changes much, not really. They hold strong opinions, yet have few opportunities for their voices to be heard in ways that make a difference. It’s not that they don’t care—they care deeply—it’s just that the influence they have is less than the microbe on the mite on the flea on the feather… where the green grass grows.

You may be in this group, in fact, statistically, there is an incredibly high chance you are. Whether it’s the Illuminati, the Bilderberg Group, or the World Economic Forum, you can hope, wait, and plan, but your golden ticket is never going to arrive. Upward mobility is a myth; the Inauguration will come and go; and very little will change in your, and my, life.

Blame destiny, and put your hands up, and throw in the towel. The round is over; nothing to see here.

A good-sized bunch of ordinary folks live this way.

But some don’t.

Some know this is the way it works, but their towels are firmly tied around their waists. They would sooner give away their American dream than their influence and power. A hand reaches through burning ire to welcome a cousin to the table, and both attend to the scalded flesh so it will heal. A word crosses lines landing like a grenade, but ten are returned covering the crater with spring growth– beauty for ashes.

The real secret is that secret societies actually control very little in most of our lives. Attitudes have more power than national elections; kindness outshines all prestige; and charity’s fortune surpasses the greatest net worth.

The former and new president have no power over me. Unless I give it away, unless I abdicate; unless we devolve into a complaining mass of Jell-O that blames and justifies our inaction and unwillingness to initiate and to do what’s right in a thousand little interactions.

Nobody has that kind of power over us. Just ask Corrie ten Boom, Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Nelson Mandela.

Who the president is doesn’t matter.

Don’t give it away.

Do justice.

Love mercy.

Walk humbly with our God.

There is no power or law that can come against these, or the greatest, which is…

Love.

Used with permission.  Cathy Howie blogs at www.cathyhowie.wordpress.com.  Check out her work and follow her.

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Does God want you to suffer?

lookatthestars

Does God want you to suffer?

Pardon the lurid title.  I know it sounds like a mean thing to say.

Especially since one of the most common arguments I hear against God is pain.  Why would a good God allow pain?

The implication is pain is evil.  I am convinced that not ALL pain produces evil.

You find often in the Bible, especially in the Psalms, this teeter-totter of realizing how painful life is and how satisfying and good God is.  Why is this?  The flow of much poetic scripture goes like this: Life is awful, everything is empty and wasting away.  God is so satisfying, like drinking from a deep, pure mountain stream.

This teeter-totter of awareness is really important.  Not just the awareness, but the rhythms of how the Biblical authors become aware.

Imagine with me…

We live life surrounded by a cloak, a veil, of the temporal.  We place our security in it.  From our health to our money.  We place our joy in it, from influence and reputation to temporary quick pleasures.  Inevitably these things don’t last.  Our bodies fail, the striving for positive influence and reputation turns to regret, things can’t take care of us, and quick pleasures don’t last.  When these temporary veils tear apart and let us down it does two things.  It shows us how frail this life really is and also let’s us see through the transient to the imperishable. If you keep your gaze on what is torn, your health, your reputation, your things, your failed pleasures, your heart will be left in perpetual devastation.  You’re looking at the tear.  The flow of scriptures asks the reader to look THROUGH the tear.  If you discipline yourself to look through it, through the very holes that are torn, you will begin to see what is everlasting.

Some of the most whole people I have met have a shredded temporary life fabric.  Their wholeness doesn’t come from what is passing away, it comes from setting their hearts on what isn’t.  For them temporary pain is the window through which they embrace what is everlasting. This type of pain became the very vehicle that brought them face to face with “… an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven…” for them (1 Peter 1:4).

Oh, the depth of joy that comes when people see this!  This is how the martyrs of the past in prison awaiting execution had more joy than the “free” soldiers that stood guard over them.  In the end an untorn veil makes you more frail than a torn one.

Oh that God would allow you to set your heart on what can truly satisfy! Maybe saying God wants you to suffer is more like implying that a good surgeon’s greatest joy is the first incision and not the removal of the cancerous tumor or that the end objective of stitches is the needle piercing the skin.  There is a much deeper healing and much healthier you that comes from shifting your gaze.

The best is yet to come.

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis

*blog photo provided by pexels

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A new year’s resolution the ancient Greek theologians would be proud of.

greek-statue

A new year’s resolution the ancient Greek theologians would be proud of.

“Telos.”  This interesting Greek word you probably have heard, however only those with a background in etymology or philosophy know the powerful weight of it.  A quick google search will give you a definition along the lines of “goal” or “end objective.”  While this is correct, like so much information online it is deeply void of its true historical and contextual meaning. 

There isn’t a good synonym in the English language.  “Telos” refers to the full purpose of something.  For example, an acorn’s telos is not only to grow into an oak tree, but a healthy oak tree that reproduces many more oak trees.  It doesn’t stop here.  Its full telos isn’t achieved until it is seen to continually adapt to its environment and thrive by playing a key role in the ecosystem, when the single tree plays a healthy role within its species by making oxygen, providing a safe place to live for animals, nourishment for other living things to eat, and ultimately dies providing healthy compost for the next generation to achieve it’s telos.  Telos is looking at a grand majestic purpose from the perspective of one seed. Many believe that one of the deepest hungers in the human heart is to understand one’s telos.  What is my purpose and do I matter?  Not does “it” matter but do “I” matter?

Many people who want to debate Christianity or even religion in general miss a very important part of it.  They love to go back and forth on the historical piece.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great place to have debates and fun to do so!  However, it is only a very small piece of the pie.  Christ answers humanity’s telos and does so in a way that also addresses the complex sentient part of us. 

This week I led a funeral for a strong Christian family. In the last days of their loved one’s life it wasn’t historical arguments, apologetics, or even empirical evidence but Christ’s telos that gave deep strength to the family.  Ignoring this part of faith is like picking up a novel and discrediting it because of a misspelled word. Even if your right about the misspelled word you’re missing the point, what the powerful story is doing.  It’s interesting to me how some people can be right in what they observe and yet nearly blind to the actual point. The Bible is a collection of many different literary forms and styles written over thousands of years.  Some are detailed firsthand accounts, others are parables, synecdoche, metonomy, anthropomorphism and so on. However, they all work to explain one powerful telos – Christ.

This year I encourage you to look into the Bible beyond quick Google searches.  I want to challenge you to seek its telos.  Make time for the metaphysical.  It’s powerful and when people see it everything in their life changes.

 

Talk about THIS over the holidays with your families.

Family All Together At Christmas Dinner

What if I told you the way you talk could physically change your brain chemistry? You would probably think I was lying. We are who we are right? Well, that’s not exactly true.

Yes, there are dispositions that different personalities lean toward but your attitude, and dare I say personality, is more pliable than you think. We already know that our memories are greatly influenced by our emotions (click here for more) and now there is strong emerging evidence that the mind can be shaped through a thinking exercise.

Here is where it starts to sound too good to be true. The research states that a specific type of thinking (and talking) can reduce physical aches and pains, depression, anxiety, improve sleep, and can even improve your workout!

So, what is it? Gratitude. Yep, being grateful. Here is the cool thing. Gratitude isn’t just an emotional response to situations you like.

Don’t think of gratitude as a feeling, but a way of choosing to view the world.

Gratitude can precede an emotional response. You can choose to think gratefully and the body, over time, will begin to FEEL grateful.

There are many resources showing this thinking exercise to be incredibly powerful but Dr. Korb, a research neuroscientist at UCLA, says it clearest:

“The wide variety of effects that gratitude can have may seem surprising, but a direct look at the brain activity during gratitude yields some insight. NIH researchers examined blood flow in various brain regions while subjects summoned up feelings of gratitude. They found that subjects who showed more gratitude overall had higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus. This is important because the hypothalamus controls a huge array of essential bodily functions, including eating, drinking and sleeping. It also has a huge influence on your metabolism and stress levels. From this evidence on brain activity it starts to become clear how improvements in gratitude could have such wide-ranging effects from increased exercise, and improved sleep to decreased depression and fewer aches and pains.”

What’s even more amazing is when modern science supports something a two-thousand-year-old text has been saying. Paul in the book of Romans chapter 12 teaches that thinking in the way of Jesus Christ, the way of hope and love, can “renew” your mind. Now we know objectively and scientifically that this is true!

So, this Holiday season when you are sitting around the table with friends and family take a moment to think and talk with gratitude. Try this question, “What are you most grateful for and why are you grateful for it?” The greatest gift you give your family may end up being a way of thinking.

To take this even further let this be your New Year’s resolution.  Every morning take about one minute and write out two or three things you are grateful for in a notebook. I encourage you to start the journey and see what happens to you as the months go by.  Just maybe, under all that fear, anxiety, and negativity that’s literally killing you is a new person.

Want more? Check out Dr. Korbs article.

Dr. Korb https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prefrontal-nudity/201211/the-grateful-brain

God wants to heal you from your view of healing.

heal

Tears began to form in the corners of her eyes as she stopped mid-sentence to compose herself. “It’s over. It’s not fair. I just wish God would heal this relationship.”  Her jaw clenched a bit as her facial expression shifted from sad to frustrated.

She continued, “Does God want me to hurt?!  Why won’t he heal this?!”

Interesting question. This poor young adult wandered into the wrong pastor’s office if she was only looking for someone to support her feelings without critical Biblical analysis. So I responded with, “I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘heal.’”

When MOST people ask me to pray that God would heal them, they really are asking for one of two things:

  1.  That God would give them back the life they had prior to their hardship.
  2.  That God would “heal” them into something that they admire, but what they admire may not be for their ultimate spiritual good.
  • Students want to be “healed” into the kind of person who could be popular at school.
  • People want God to reestablish a broken relationship with someone that they shouldn’t really be in relationship with at all.
  • An absent workaholic parent who lost their job desperately wants me to pray that God would return them to their job or one similar to it.
  • When cancer drives a non-spiritual person into deep spiritual searching,  blind to the real sickness that has already plagued them they want me to pray that God would take away the very thing that may actually be leading to a truer healing.

Most people want God to “heal” them back into their previous life or “heal” them into someone that isn’t really healthy at all from God’s perspective.  Let me be clear – this isn’t healing.

God doesn’t heal backwards or heal you into someone that is further from Him.  God wants to heal you into something new.  God wants to make you into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  C.S. Lewis says it this way: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”  God wants to call you out, to wake you up to what truly matters most! When you get to heaven you may discover your sickness was actually leading to a much deeper healing.

Let me redefine the word healthy as clearly as I can.  A healthy person is someone who is right with Christ.

Anything that makes that relationship stronger is better for you even if it hurts a bit in this brief life.  Maybe that severed relationship, sickness, or job loss could ultimately lead to deeper healing.  I believe God does still heal the temporal things.  However, I don’t believe God wants to heal you into a person that is more spiritually sick.  Health, wealth, and prosperity are not the end goal in life.  The end goal is to be reunited with God through Jesus Christ.

It doesn’t matter if you have more money than the late Steve Jobs, bathe in hand sanitizer, workout every day, and take multivitamins.  You will eventually die and lose all this temporal stuff.  Don’t waste your life praying that God would give you back what may have been adding to your spiritual blindness.

Oh, but the news I deliver is so good!

I believe you are made for more – more than having money, more than looking good in the mirror, and more than quick sensual pleasures.  I believe you were made on purpose and that God is working you out and waking you up to an amazing eternity that will vastly overwhelm the greatest of temporary pleasures we find on this planet!  C.S. Lewis is correct. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.”  The Bible takes it even further in Rev. 21:4, “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Remember your temporal hardship won’t last, but your heart will.

Here is what I pray for you and I believe what you should pray for others:  I pray that God would do whatever it takes to draw your heart closer to Him.  I pray God would make you truly, eternally healthy.  I pray God would make you ready for heaven where there is perfect peace and perfect joy.

 

 

How does the enemy groom a heart to walk away from Christ and despise those who follow Him?

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How does the enemy groom hearts to despise Christ and those who follow him and ultimately be proud of their rejection? (A modern version of Bunyan’s work.)

  1. He turns their thoughts away from the things to come and the promise that all will be made right in the end.  He draws primary attention to the pleasures and pains of what is happening right now.
  1. He convinces people the spiritual disciplines, like prayer and Bible reading, are boring or a waste of time. They may say things like, “It doesn’t make any difference anyhow” or “I’m just too busy.”
  1. They grow annoyed with lively Christians. They may say things like, “Who has time for people blind to what’s going on in the ‘real’ world?  Those people are silly!”
  1. They cease to participate in public faith expressions like worship services. They will continue to groan about how annoying those people are in a pious superior way.   Almost like they are too “good” to be around those who just don’t get it.
  1. They look for fault in Christians and use it as the reason for turning away. Their focus turns even more from the Creator to fallen creation.  They trade away grace towards imperfect Christians for judgement against their deficiencies or failings.  They may say things like, “I know how (he or she) really is.  I would rather they be genuine and open than live a fake Christian life! I would never do that.”
  1. They openly grow in the company of the immoral, sensual, and negative and feel “right” with them. They now praise their willingness to acknowledge sin. They call this “good” by twisting words like “genuine” or “authentic” to really mean acceptance.  You will hear them say things like, “I love being with people who are real!  Christians are so fake, they’re hypocrites!  I wish they would be authentic about who they really are.”
  1. They secretly indulge in immorality themselves and grow ever more entertained by those that do likewise openly. At this point they still feel some guilt in their hearts when they act in sin, only now they are bitter towards Christ, his teaching, and those that follow it because they blame Christian boundaries for the reason they feel bad.  Spiritual conviction becomes the “evil” they want to fight against.  They are blind to the real origin of their pain, a bitter rebellious heart, that will actually grow more unsatisfied if it indulges in what it wants.
  1. They play with little sins openly. They now work to actively defend not just the sinner, but the sin itself. You may hear them say, “Even if there was a god he clearly put this in us.  It’s natural.  To deny it would be wrong!”
  1. They show themselves as they really are, hardened towards the ways of Christ and proud of it. At best people at this level like things about Jesus, but only if it lines up with their subjective version of what is good.  They pick and choose texts to follow.  The central driver of their life they believe is their heart. However, they are blind to what has been grooming them all along.  At this point they see themselves as beyond the Bible, openly proud to flaunt their ways of living as superior or more refined than the antiquated ways of Jesus.

Bunyan believes that only a divine act of God can spare a heart entrenched in this much self-assurance and pride.  “Now, being bogged down… they perish forever in their own deceiving unless a miracle of grace prevents it.” –Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress

There are active agencies working on your heart.  Read that last sentence again.  We even become agents of these greater powers to influence others.  The enemy is conditioning you to become pious, self-pleasing, and hyper focused on just this moment and will lower you into trusting the most dangerous of guides, an unguided heart running aimlessly towards whatever draws its attention next.

Christ is working to prune you, to help you see it is only through His work and our humble acceptance of it that we can become the eternal creatures we were designed to be.

Take a moment and evaluate your heart.  Where are you at?

*I adapted these from The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan to fit a modern audience.