Who Do You Think You Are?

Who+Are+You“You don’t have sense that God gave a goose!”

That was something my dad would say to me in his frustration with me when I was growing up.  I have never forgotten it.

You can imagine how it formed my self-esteem.

We grow up with the image of ourselves formed from our upbringing, our life experiences and our relationships with others.

Who are you?

There are some people I have met who are not the person they project on social media.  I have heard of some people who go to great lengths to Photoshop their profile picture.  They are obsessed with their online profile and their appearances to their “friends”.

Sometimes we put up an image to others but it’s not really who we are.  People are afraid to show who they really are in fear that people won’t like them.  We are so tied to what others think about us.  It’s a never ending struggle to meet those expectations.  One thing you should know about that is that you discover at some point that you will never do enough.

So who do you think you are?

God knows you.  He’s not afraid of the real you.  The person you are when your friends aren’t around and no one else can see you.

There was a time in my life that I wasn’t the person I am now.  I was in a prison to other people’s expectations and their opinions of me.  I did what they expected.  I worked at the church and filled the role I was expected to fill.  I found myself miserable because I wasn’t being the person that God created me to be.  I was striving to be what everyone else wanted me to be.  It was someone else’s life.  Not mine.

Sometimes we’re just too chicken to do anything about it.  We continue to put on the face that everyone else sees because we’re so darn afraid of rejection.  We want people to think good of us.  May I tell you the honest truth?  Everyone isn’t going to think good of you no matter what you do.  People won’t like you and they will talk about you behind your back.  Yep, if they talk about others when you are around you can bet they talk about you when you aren’t around.

How am I doing with your self-esteem now?  The truth hurts but the good news is that you can break out of the approval addiction.  Remember that whatever someone thinks about you doesn’t mean it’s true.  You know the real you and God knows you better than anyone.

So what exactly does God know about us?

Here’s what the Bible says:

  • “For the Lord sees not as man sees.  Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)
  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.” (Proverbs 21:2)

I think admitting that God knows who we really are scares us.  We live in denial that He knows us that well.  It really should be a comfort that He does and that regardless of the good, the bad and the ugly about us that He still loves us and he wants a relationship with us.

Don’t believe in Him?  He still knows you and loves you whether you want Him to or not.

It has taken me years to overcome a fragile self-esteem.  I believe I have more sense than God gave a goose now and I have people in my life that care about me.  Sometimes the only way you can achieve that is to make the choice that you are going to be who you are even if it disappoints people.  I will tell you that if you make that commitment and trust in the Lord that you will become the person He meant for you to be.

I will also tell you that life sucks sometimes and people are mean whether you believe in God or not.  Believing in God doesn’t make it any easier.  It won’t be a daily life of a choir singing throughout your day.  Some things only God knows about you.  In fact, He has knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7).  If He knows that much detail about you then He knows you and I pretty well.

I love the new song “God Only Knows” from King & Country and the part that says:

God only knows what you’ve been through
God only knows what they say about you
God only knows how it’s killing you
But there’s a kind of love that God only knows
God only knows what you’ve been through
God only knows what they say about you
God only knows the real you
There’s a kind of love that God only knows

It’s funny how people will tell you to “be yourself” until you actually do it.  We are expected to make allowances for other people to be themselves and have their own opinions but when we try to do it, people get upset about it.  Well, you can be yourself with God.  He knows you already.  You aren’t doing anything that surprises Him.

Who do you think you are?  There’s only one you and you’re pretty special.


Forgiveness = Letting Go

Ball And Chain In PrisonForgiveness is a part of life. We all have an opportunity in life to be forgiven or to forgive someone. In some situations, forgiveness is hard and not so easy to do. When you forgive someone, you also have the responsibility to forget. Now while it isn’t possible to wipe out your memories, you must pardon the past hurts and wrongs that have been done to you.  As difficult as it is, we have to let things go if forgiveness has a chance.

When we are wronged or hurt, our natural response is to seek retribution for it. We need to resolve those hurts. To forget means that we stop seeking it. Going back to revisit situations and moments when we were hurt only reopens those wounds. If we ever want to heal those wounds, we have to move forward. We have to leave the past in the past.

I won’t lie to you. This is hard. Very hard.

Many times we are misunderstood or there are misconceptions about things that led to the hurts. We may never be able to explain those things.  This is something that is very difficult for me because I have always felt like I had to explain or justify things but the reality is that you can’t always do it.  Honestly, it stinks but if forgiveness is going to have a chance to gain any momentum, you just have to learn to let it go.

We can’t force ourselves to have amnesia and forget things but we can push them away to the past and not let it hinder our efforts in the present and future of our relationships.  We all say or do things that hurt people.  We all will have regrets in life.  There isn’t anyone that will get through life without regrets.  We go through life making decisions – some good and some bad – that we have to live with the consequences of those decisions.  We also hurt people.  Most of us do not intend to hurt people but somehow we will.  That’s just a fact of life.

Some relationships with people are hard.  We have a choice as to whether we will make the effort or let those people go.  Is the relationship worth working for or is it best for both parties if we go our separate ways?  Those are some difficult choices we have to make.  I have had to make those choices.  Some where easy choices and some were painful.  Sometimes you have to rebuild the bridges you have burned along the way.

No, forgiveness isn’t always easy.  In fact, most of the time it isn’t.  Sometimes you simply have to eat the hurts and wounds for the good of the relationship.  I can tell you from personal experience that the longer you allow a severed relationship to go on, the harder it is to repair.  Sometimes it becomes an emotional game of chicken where one side waits for the other to make a move.  One side feels justified in waiting for the other party to ask forgiveness first.  This game can go on for years.  Sometimes neither side blinks while the wounds grow larger.

One thing that came to my mind one day as I was praying about a situation in my life.  I wondered if I should make a move or not.  While I was wrestling in my mind about it, the thought came that “doing the right thing is never wrong”.   That pretty much settled it for me and I let go of the stubbornness of who was going to make the effort first.  Now when I say “doing the right thing” that means letting it go.  I had to remember not to try to justify or explain my actions.  I made it simple.  I let it go.

Does it feel good to let it go?  No, it absolutely doe not.  I’m sure I surprised you with that answer but I have to be honest.  It’s like pulling off a bandage on a wound very slowly.  Letting go is the first step.  You take it one day at a time.  I’m sure it will get easier and that time will help as we put one emotional foot in front of the other.  Is it work?  Yes, I’m afraid it is but I think it is worth it.

The past is the past.  The only way to redeem the past is to move forward.  We do not have a time machine that can go back and change even one second.  When can only make the next second in our lives better.  While we have to let go of the past, we still must deal with the consequences of what has happened.  Forgiving is good but it doesn’t work if we are waiting for someone to disappoint us and bring up the past to add to anything new.  We have to give people another chance but not another chance to disappoint us.  If we sincerely do our part to make things better, that’s all we can do.  We can’t live in fear of repeating the past.

The Bible doesn’t use the phrase “forgive and forget,” but the implied concept is one of continual forgiveness without holding grudges. That is, when you forgive someone, it’s like you’re giving them a clean slate. Why should we give anyone a clean slate? Because God does. He pardons our sins and overlooks everything we do against Him so that we can gain an eternal inheritance. “He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love.” (Micah 7:18)

Letting go is the key that unlocks the door to forgiveness.


Do I Really Matter?

lonely-man-on-benchI’m sure you have experienced this situation before – you are in a group of people that you haven’t met before and someone asks this question:

So what do you do?

Then it begins. Based upon your answer to that question you are classified and categorized.

I don’t think that’s really fair do you?

My job or what I do isn’t who I am.

Most of us have had times where we ask ourselves if we matter. I certainly have. We wonder whether or not we are making a difference in our lives.

Although I am very thankful to have a job, I get tired of the routine. Sunday evenings I have to fight off the impending Monday blues.

While others may classify or judge us on the work we do or what degree we hold, that is not who we are. God certainly doesn’t look at us that way. I have witnessed people in the church address others as Doctor or Most Holy Reverend and it sickens me. Sorry, but I have to be honest here. God doesn’t care about the titles so why should we? A person who works flipping burgers is just as important to God as the person who has attended college multiple years. God looks at us each individually and we absolutely matter to Him.

The Bible tells us that we are inscribed on the palm of his hand. (Isaiah 49:16) Now that’s pretty special isn’t it?

So what does that tell us? It means that God is interested in us and cares about our lives.

We matter to Him. Each one of us has the opportunity to impact others every day. Whether it is a co-worker, a child or a stranger we can invest in someone’s life. That’s what our purpose is. God never said that getting a doctorate degree in theology was what mattered to Him the most. People matter to Him. How we treat others is the most important thing.

Quite often I work with people who are unfiltered in their comments. Their words can affect the course of my day if I let it. It’s very difficult not to respond the same way and, honestly, it takes enormous resolve to respond the right way and have the soft answer to turn away their wrath.

Okay, so you aren’t the CEO of a Fortune 500 company but you still matter.  Whether you are a stay-at-home parent or work for a large corporation,  you matter.  You have the opportunity each day to invest in people.  Sometimes you can make or break someone’s day.  This is where you can be the difference matter.  I have had times in my life where I have honestly moaned and complained to God about the people I have to work with or some of the personalities that do not agree with mine but in those situations I have had to realize that I can still make a difference.  Even if we are put in a difficult situation, we can still matter to someone.

We are encouraged to do our jobs and whatever we do as if we are doing it for the Lord.  Yeah, I know.  That’s really hard to do sometimes when your supervisor is less than ideal or shows their lack of integrity.  We can’t look at them.  We can’t control them.  We can control us and what we do.

Sometimes we don’t seem to matter to people around us but we always matter to God.  He cares about everything that happens to us.  I have always heard that He has a plan for us – and he does.  Sometimes we get off the track He has planned for us but if we are sincere and seek His will, He will re-direct us back to where we need to be.  I know some folks believe that God has predestinated every choice and everything in our lives.  Some believe that He already knows the end.  They forget the power of our own free will.  Yes, God knows where we are going to end up if we stay on the course we are going but things in life change and we are totally able to use our free will to change that course.  I know that’s deep but it goes to show that we do matter and what we do with our lives when it comes to the way we treat others matters too.

If you woke up this morning wondering if you matter let me assure you that you do.  Now when you go out, make your life matter to someone else.  Make a difference to the people around you.

Waiting To Be Remembered

In the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, Joseph found himself in prison after he had been falsely accused by Potiphar’s wife of rape. When the baker and the butler were in the prison Joseph interpreted their dreams. The baker didn’t have a good result but the butler did. When the butler was restored to his position Joseph had asked to be remembered but he was not and he spent another two years in the prison before he was remembered.

I don’t think we can fully comprehend what he went through because we already know the end of the story. Two years is a long time to be forgotten.

I have spent many times in the forgotten place. Those are some of the hardest times of your life. It is difficult when you are waiting. It doesn’t matter how many times you have gone through this it is just as hard the next time. Experience doesn’t make it any easier.

At this time in my life I am waiting. I hope that I will be remembered. I will have to confess that I am have been discouraged. It is difficult being Joseph in the prison. The hardest thing is to refrain from forcing something to happen. Yes, here we go with that dreaded patience word again. I have already established the fact that I am not very good at waiting but I have also learned how important that patience can be from my own experiences.

I have always heard the cliche that “God is good all the time and all the time God is good”. He is and I don’t dispute that one bit; however, that cliche has always sickened me. Yes, God is good but I’m a little less interested in some Christian cheerleader chant during these forgotten times. When it seems that you are forgotten or your prayers have been forgotten you really don’t want to hear a cliche and it certainly doesn’t seem God is good at the time. I know this doesn’t sound very holy like but I’m being honest. Yes, maybe some people can whistle their way through being in the prison but most of us cannot.

It is hard to continue to go each day without an important prayer going unanswered. Each prayer seems empty. The energy dwindles with each word.

This week I was struggling with the discouragement of being forgotten by God. It seemed that nothing was happening. I was honest to God about what I was feeling. I simply asked for a little encouragement. I didn’t need anything big just a little something to give me a lift. Yesterday, Steven Curtis Chapman released his latest music video for the song “Remember to Remember”. The song reminds us to remember that God had been there when we’ve been on the mountaintops and the times we’ve been in the valleys of our lives. That song hit me right where I needed it. I am often amazed how God can work through a song but He does. No, it wasn’t a huge thing but something I needed and something that will push me on. I may still be in my prison of unanswered prayers but I am not forgotten.

If you are like me, we have to hold on and keep the faith. It isn’t always easy but it is always worth it. Always.

When God Is Silent

manSilence isn’t always golden. Especially if you are a believer. I don’t care who you are, there comes those times in our relationship with God when things get stale. It happens. It’s one of those dry spells everyone goes through. Even the most religious person goes through it. When I was in the Pentecostal Church they had folks who were “on fire for God”. So what happens when that fire isn’t so hot?

One of the most important things I have learned about going through times like these is to keep talking to God. Silence is dangerous and leaves you open for temptation if you aren’t careful. Keep talking to God even if it feels like a one-way conversation or if you feel absolutely nothing. Whatever ritual you have in praying, keep it up.

During these silent times you simply have to push through. It is difficult and very frustrating – believe me. I totally dread the times of silence. If you go to church you hate it or you look for reasons to miss. It’s not an easy time.

Another thing that always seems to work for me is to find a new song. I usually go to the latest Christian music releases on iTunes and see what song touches me. I love it when I find that favorite new song or a new artist. Music is something that will stir my soul.

The times of silence aren’t fun but you can get through it. I have often wondered why we even had these times. Sometimes God withdraws himself from us on purpose to help us to focus more on Him or on an area in our lives that needs some improvement. He doesn’t necessarily leave us but at times He may not be as present with us as He is at other times. Do I always understand it? Not really. Can I adequately explain it? Hardly.

Sometimes it’s just the fact that we are human. Can I be brutally honest here? Frankly it gets boring. We talk to God and we hear nothing. It can get to where we feel like we are talking to ourselves. He’s God and we’re human. We aren’t on the same level so we can easily get out of synch. When things get boring or when our human emotions temper our relationship with God, we have to push our way through it. Change things up. Study the examples in the Bible when people went through the same situation.

The final thing that always seems to get the spiritual mojo again is thinking of others. It could be volunteering or simply being kind to someone. Reach out to someone who is hurting. Be the Jesus in human form to someone else. It doesn’t have to be religious to make a difference to someone. Quite honestly it is rare in today’s selfie world to find someone that is kind and thoughtful to others.

Maintaining a relationship with God isn’t always easy. The silent times are hard work but it is so important to get through them and make your relationship with God worth the effort.

In the old days, we used to wait for a week of revival meetings to get energized again. Sadly it sometimes was nothing more than a spiritual pep rally to stir up emotions only to leave when the revival was over. We shouldn’t depend upon a dynamic evangelist to do it for us or to be hoodwinked that we should “sow a seed” into someone’s ministry. Contrary to what they may think, a relationship with God can’t be bought. It just takes some inner strength and discipline to do it.

As I am writing this, I am going through the silent period. I have been around long enough to recognize it. I hate it too. When it happens, I want it to be over as quickly as possible. I annoy myself with how inconsistent things are right now. I still keep the faith and keep doing the things I know to do to get through it and I will. You have to be determined.

Yesterday I was sitting in the car waiting for my wife when I heard the song “Broken Prayers” by Riley Clemmons. The chorus says:

You want my tears, every messy word

Every scar and every fear

You want all I have

With no holding back

When I’m hurt, at my worst

You meet me there

‘Cause you see the beauty

In my broken prayers

In my broken prayers

You can watch the lyric version of this song here.

It is tempting that when things are silent in our relationship with God that we feel abandoned by Him. This couldn’t be further from the truth. He may be testing us by allowing us to see the things in ourselves that we need to work on. The silence exposes our fears and gaps in our faith. Life always has a lesson for us. The only way we get better and grow is when we learn from those lessons.

Does this make me feel any better about the silent times? No, not really. I may understand it better but it still doesn’t mean I like it.  Regardless, we still have to push through it.

The Pope, An Atheist and A Hypocrite Walk Into A Bar….

Okay, this isn’t a joke.  In fact, the Pope recently made the following statement:

“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association.   There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”

It took me a while to find the actual statement since it was reported different ways in the media.  

So is it better to be an atheist or a bad Christian?

There was a time when I would have said it was better to be a bad Christian or a hypocrite because at least they were in church and might learn to do better.  I’m of a different opinion on this today.  If you continue to practice bad behavior you will never change.  At least an atheist comes into this honest about the whole thing.  Is it better to stay either way?  Absolutely not.  What the Pope was trying to say is that the bad Christians give the church a bad name and do nothing to convince anyone to be a part of the church.  

In fact didn’t even Jesus say that He would prefer that someone be either hot or cold?   If you are lukewarm He would spit you out.  (Revelation 3:15)  Jesus expects people to be all in or not at all.  Halfway doing it doesn’t do anybody any good. 

And who did Jesus have the most problems with?  The Christian Leaders.  Specifically the Pharisees.  They were all about doing things for show but their motives weren’t always pure.  

In my lifetime, I have seen my share of church people and a lot of the negative side of people.  It isn’t pretty and no surprise that people have no use for attending a church.  For me, it has taken a lot of time and deep soul searching to separate truth from the hypocrites.  Separate the dark side of church from who God really is to me personally.  

You see, I used to “drink the koolaide” as they say.  I attended every Sunday and carried out my responsibilities.  The problem was that I was dying inside.  I left church feeling worse than when I came.  It was terribly frustrating.   I won’t say it was all bad but I was bad.  I was a total hypocrite.  And good at it too.  That’s not what I wanted to be or the life I wanted to live.  It took me a long time to unlearn the things that I was taught that was wrong.  I came to a startling revelation that there were many things that the church taught that wasn’t what God had intended.  Denominational leaders had taken some things and made it the extreme of what it was intended.  Much like what the Pharisees did in the Jesus’ day.  Did you know that some wore the actual law on their heads (and still do)?    Talk about legalism to the extreme!

So is it really better to be an atheist than a bad Christian?  Well, I’ve never been an atheist but I have experience at being a bad Christian.  It has been a painstaking experience reprogramming from the things I had learned.  I won’t say it was ALL wrong but I really had to deal with the legalism.  It would have been a lot easier to learn it the right way in the beginning.  Today, I can tell you that my relationship with God is much more personal and meaningful than it has ever been.  Time alone with God is much more fulfilling than sitting in a church pew for an hour on Sunday morning.  

Are all Christians hypocrites? Absolutely not.  In fact, there are many examples of selflessness, courage, moral action and reform and many other positive influences on the world. These are sincere believers transformed by the resurrected Christ and are models of what a good Christian is supposed to be.  Sadly, we tend to focus more on the bad apples rather than the good fruit.  

The point that the Pope was making in his statement is that none of us are perfect.  Just because we call ourselves Catholics, Christians or whatever religious title we want to wear, we have ALL sinned.  We ALL need that amazing grace every day to do better and be better people.  We aren’t better than someone else because we go to church or belong to a religious group.  

I often say that I was brought up in a church home but it took me a long time to discover God personally.  I’m glad I did.  It doesn’t make me perfect I just hope it makes me a better person.  

Converted To The Extreme

jesus_freakAre you a Christian?  That’s good.  I’m happy about that.  I don’t have a problem with Christians.  I used to call myself a “Christian” until years ago when a guide on an Israel tour said that they prefer to call themselves “believers” since the world Christian has a negative vibe to their Muslim neighbors from the days of the crusades.

I read about Kirk Cameron this morning and found out that he was an atheist until he was 17 years old and on the popular television show called “Growing Pains”.   At some point he was saved, born again, converted or whatever you want to call it.  Kirk has never been the same again.  When someone mentions his name now, I see people roll their eyes and talk about how he’s a “Christian” now.  Most people who don’t really know much about Christianity will say they have no problem that he became a Christian but now he is the other extreme.

There are other examples of where Christians have taken their conversion to the extreme.  Like the guy that went on a rampage on Facebook last year when Starbucks came out with the red cups.  Seriously?   Maybe he just needed some decaf with his Christianity.

It saddens me how Christians have given Jesus a bad image.  In fact, I think most of you may have felt a little cringe when I just typed the name Jesus in that last sentence.  No doubt your mind goes to some religious nut that really turned your mind off.  Let me just say that not all Christians are nuts.  I still prefer to be called a believer.  Not Brother Milton or any of those religious church terms.  I am a believer and I am not ashamed of that.  What I am ashamed of is these people that do not have the right balance in their lives.  That bothers me.

When I was in the Air Force stationed in Greenland, there was a super-religious guy that drove me nuts.  You could not carry on a normal conversation with the guy.  He was always quoting scriptures or speaking in the King James Bible language.  He was an example of the extreme.

If you look at the life of Christ, He didn’t attack people or tell them they were going to hell.  In fact, His harshest words were for the religious people.  With others he dealt with them kindly.  He even went to eat dinner at a tax collector’s house!  Wow.  What a scandal!

Being a Christian is defined that a person is Christ-like but I see a lot of Christians who aren’t Christ-like and they are making the people who are doing good and serving others look bad and making their jobs much harder than it should be.

If have seen first hand what a mess it can be to be a part of a dysfunctional Christian group.  I have had to unlearn so many things and one of those is how to be a Christian without being a nut about it.  I am not going to preach to someone.  In fact, I’m probably going to be quiet and pray for you.   I’m not going to force my beliefs upon anyone.  I have learned that you aren’t going to convince someone by argument or debate.

I have a lot of respect for people that are in the ministry.  I know several who are good people with good hearts.  Their job isn’t easy.  If you think you know people, you should try being a pastor of a church.  Just because people go to church doesn’t mean it is easy to deal with the various personalities. I used to be a greeter at church and had several times when I was fussed out about the smallest of details.  The music was too loud, they didn’t like the message on the church sign or the carpet needed to be repaired.  Yet they were the ones praying the loudest in the church service.

During the election I have seen posts and heard several Christians that have supported Trump and an entire magazine that thinks he’s going to bring revival in America again.  Yep, that one still puzzles me.  So now if someone knows I am a Christian, they immediately assume I voted for Trump.  I never drank the kool aide that he was going to bring God back to America.

I am a believer.  I am a believer in Jesus Christ.  I believe he came to this world and died as a sacrifice for my sins.  That doesn’t give me a license to be extreme about it.  You can choose to believe or not.  I’m not going to stop being your friend if you don’t believe.  I’m not going to shun you if you are gay.  I don’t care who you voted for.  I try to be a better person every day.  Some days I fail miserably.  I’m not going to beat you over the head with a Bible because I’m doing that enough to myself.