A Disease to Please – A Testimony of Freedom in Christ

There is an incredible freedom to behold when we place ourselves and our decisions in the rightful hands of our Creator. Today, I can truly say that I have experienced that freedom in Christ and it is a joy and peace that I have been seeking for years and which I have finally found.

Over the course of my life, I have allowed my childhood wounds to subconsciously follow me. While our parents are supposed to represent to us the love and acceptance that God has for us, not all child-parent relationships follow this model. We cannot excuse the fact that, unlike God, our parents are flawed and even in their best efforts (which I appreciate), they will ultimately fail in some aspect of their relationship with us.

Throughout the course of my childhood, like most children, I wanted to be loved and accepted by my parents. ‘Doing things’ for them, seemed to make them happy at first, and soon I learned that if I was to be loved by them, I needed to ‘do things’ to please them, even if it made me unhappy. As I became older, my efforts to make them happy continued, but their satisfaction appeared to diminish and I never seemed to be good enough but it did not stop me from pursuing their love. Throughout this experience, I learned that my needs were unimportant and that I should put myself last and everyone else’s needs first, if I was to be loved. I never truly understood what it meant to be loved unconditionally, and was never able to fully understand the love that God has for me.

As I became an adult and left home, I still found myself making immature efforts to seek approval, by replaying the same efforts to ‘people please’ with my spouse, my co-workers and my friends. I would talk to a variety of people about the choices I needed to make, some people would agree, others would disagree, and I would often sit confused, in an ocean of analysis paralysis not knowing which way to turn. In my efforts to be loved and accepted, I outsourced many of my critical life decisions. I allowed people to make choices for me about my life, even when I wasn’t entirely sure or happy about the decisions, I believed that they knew more about (my) life than I did.

Like Jonah, God had to get my attention and He took me on an epic journey of discovery to finally get me to look at what I was doing to myself. Ultimately, the reason I was unhappy, was that I was being disobedient to God’s will for my life as well as being idolatrous. I was not living the life that God had created me to live, I was living a life to please the will of people who I had subconsciously placed on a (parental) pedestal.

Through a variety of painful lessons, God had to teach me who I am. I had to learn that God is my Father and that I do not have to do anything for Him to love me, He loves me unconditionally. I am learning to embrace the fact that I am a Child of the King and that my needs and desires are just as important as anyone else’s. God has given me an amazing personal gift of life with the same ability and right to breath the same fresh air and occupy a physical space on this earth just as everyone else does . I learned that no one else’s opinion or approval matters, except God’s because He is the One who created me. To seek approval or validation from anyone else but God, is to make that person my god, my idol.

So today, I walk with a renewed sense of who I am, knowing that for me I have had a huge victory over an enemy that has been subconsciously destroying my life – ‘people pleasing’ or idolatry. I can confess that this will be an ongoing journey of recovery, a ‘disease to please’ does not disappear overnight. Nevertheless, I am blessed and thankful that God took my hand and walked with me through the pain and hurt of a road less travelled, so that I could learn to accept that He loves me simply for who I am.

‘I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made’  Ps 139:14

‘We have known and believed the love that God has for us.  God is love and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.  We love Him because He first loved us’ 1 John 4: 16 – 19

Jesus’ Last Will and Testament

SCRIPTURE

“Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.   While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name.”  John 17: 11-12

OBSERVATION

In John 17, this appears to be the last recorded prayer that Jesus has with His Father and contains all of Jesus’ desires. Jesus recognizes that the hour has come when He must be handed over to die. It’s almost as if this prayer could have appeared in a legal will.  In fact, this prayer was Jesus’ last will and testament, with God being appointed the Executor.

Jesus prays for His disciples. God had given to Jesus the disciples to teach.  Now Jesus was leaving behind the biggest investment He had made on earth, in His disciples.  He had given to them everything He had and knew.  He had spiritually equipped them with all of His wealth of knowledge of His Father, how to heal and love others as per God’s request.  As per the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), Jesus had received his share of talents (disciples) and He had invested in them wisely, and He was returning them back to God with added interest (spiritual discernment) and asking God to look after it for Him.

Jesus’ now asks God to provide the disciples with joy, protection and sanctification as they go into the world  to share the gift of eternal life that He also left to us in His will. Jesus also petitions God, asking that the disciples and believers may be one as He is with God and they may love each other as God has loved Him.

APPLICATION

Jesus’ last will and testament is truly beautiful.  It is a selfless expression of concern and love.  Jesus wants protection for the disciples because He knows that His death will fulfill God’s purpose and Satan will be defeated.  He knows that because of this defeat, Satan will seek to stop the disciples spreading the Gospel message and hinder people from accepting Jesus and salvation through Him.

Recognizing this as Jesus’ last will creates in me a desire to honor His requests, especially since He has requested the ultimate protection and love from God while I am doing this.  I want to commit to unity between believers, to love others as He has loved me and to use my talents to share the Gospel message so that others may be saved.

PRAYER

Dear Father in Heaven

Thanking You for Your steadfast love and protection.  Thanking You for taking care of us since the time Jesus left the world.

I pray that you will continue to sanctify us by Your truth and set us apart from the world so that we are different.  May that difference be one that draws people to You, because they sense a love that they have never experienced before radiating through our testimony of You.  For if we truly know You Lord, then we should be able to declare your love to others in the way that You have loved us.

Jesus, we look forward to Your return, so that we can finally meet You and thank You for leaving us this wonderful gift of eternal life in Your last will and testament.  But for now, we will rejoice in serving You and fulfilling Your will.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Did Jesus Accept Divorce?

SCRIPTURE

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”  The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”

OBSERVATION

I have always wondered about the purpose of the conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman.  I notice that following Jesus’ request to call the Samaritan’s woman’s husband, she responds by saying that she has no husband.  Jesus agrees and says that she has spoken the truth.  He then goes on to say that she has had five husbands and the one she is with is not hers.

But how can she have married five husbands, yet according to Jesus, have no husband?  Surely, according to traditional views, Jesus would say that she has at least one husband, with the first marriage (where there is no death) being the only spiritually acceptable one?  Furthermore, how could she have gotten to her fifth husband without being stoned for adultery because she remarried four times?

Or did all of her husbands die? It seems unlikely, even so, what Jesus said would then be correct, she has no husband for they are all dead.  But why mention her dead husbands?  All He could have said is, that the man she is with now is not her husband.  Why would it be relevant to raise her past?  After all, Jesus says everything for a reason.

Another explanation is that she ‘had’ – meaning had sexual intercourse with five men who are another woman’s husband.  However, the term generally used in the Bible for sexual intercourse is ‘to lay’ or ‘to know’.

Lastly, could she have had five husbands and was legally and spiritually divorced from them, hence she really had no husband.  As a consequence of her five failed relationships, she decided to live with the last man so that she would not have to go through the humiliation of another divorce? If so, was Jesus accepting the validity of a legal and spiritual divorce by stating she has no husband?

While I believe and fully support the ideal for a marriage partnership to be life-long, we know that Moses allowed divorce due to the hardness of man’s heart.  However, according to some studies, the word divorce has been wrongly translated.  The original Hebrew word used for ‘divorce’ actually refers to an old practice of men who ‘put away’ their wives (separated  or left them with no legal divorce).  For her survival and that of her children, the ‘put away’ wife would remarry rather than prostitute herself. But because she was not legally divorced, she committed adultery and this is why God hates ‘divorce’ that is the practice of ‘putting away’.  Moses requested that a legal document be produced to protect women who were often oppressed, impoverished and unjustly stoned, (Deuteronomy 24:1-3).  A legal document allowed the woman the freedom to remarry without condemnation of adultery.  It has been suggested that the word ‘divorce’ in the Bible should be read using the words ‘to put away’. (For a general read on Divorce and Remarriage –  http://www.bethelministries.com/divorce.htm). Let us not forget that God legally divorced Himself from Israel, also issuing them a certificate of divorce (Jeremiah 3:8).

APPLICATION

What was the purpose of this conversation Jesus had with the Samaritan woman such that He raised her past and present?  I think that Jesus gently brought her into the awareness of her failed relationships and her current actions living with another man, but I think it was the reason behind her failed relationships that Jesus was asking her to explore.  Before He mentioned her husbands, Jesus told her that He  has living water, and if she drinks His water, she will never thirst again.  I believe Jesus was saying to the Samaritan woman – whatever you are seeking in these men, can be found in Me.  He was stipulating that He (Jesus) is the love that she has been searching for and once she accepts God’s love, she will never search for this love in another man or earthly relationship again.  I know this is a lesson I need to hear and accept.

PRAYER

Father God

Thank You for another day enjoying this miracle called life.  I thank You for the institution of marriage which ideally should be a life-long commitment.  I thank You for the opportunity to look at divorce from a different perspective.  Help us in this day and age to learn to treat people who are divorced with more compassion and care, rather than with judgment and failing.  I know that You understand because You Lord were also divorced from Israel and You bear no shame.  I thank You for the example of love and empathy that You showed to the Samaritan woman while explaining to her that we need to find love in You first.  Without the knowledge of Your love it will be difficult for any of us to truly know what love looks like and this may eventually lead to failed relationships.

Help us all to be grounded in Your wonderful gift of true unconditional love.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

Note:  Your comments are welcome, but please note that this a controversial and sensitive topic. I ask that all words are written respectfully and with love.

Miracles: Lessons from the Blessings of the Supernatural ‘Servior’

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:45

The “Servior” might look like a typo, Jesus makes it clear in this verse what His entire mission on earth would be, and that is to be our Loving Server and our Lord and Savior. One of the many ways that Jesus served the people was through the miracles he performed.

Jesus performed miracles – around three dozen, depending on how you count them-but the Gospels actually downplay them. Though He never denied someone who asked for physical healing, He always turned down requests for a demonstration to amaze the crowds and impress important people such as King Herod & Pontius Pilate even when His life depended on it. Jesus recognized early on that the excitement generated by miracles did not readily convert into life-changing faith. Rarely did people find it easy to believe in miracles; they seemed as peculiar in the first century as they would seem if performed today. Just imagine your own reaction of seeing a televangelist on one of the Christian networks that “heals” members of his audience. Then, as now, miracles aroused suspicion, contempt, and only occasionally faith.

Now even though we cannot perform miracles as He did and still does, we can still learn lessons from Him in how we serve others in our community.

Lesson #1. When you do community service, or any volunteer activity to benefit others, you must expect suspicion and skepticism.

We live in such a cynical world, that even random acts of kindness to strangers will have them thinking there is a catch. Also when we go out to serve the community, like Jesus, we cannot do it just so we can get attention, give ourselves a pat on the back, or just make our church look good. Read Matthew 6:2. Imagine if you will, the mentality of the arrogant modern day apostle, “Look at me; I just gave away a free water bottle and two bags of Cheetos and Skittles! I’m such an awesome volunteer”. Service should be who we are and not just what we do. Christian writer E.G. White says in the book “Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing” that “Those who desire words of praise and flattery and feed on them as sweet morsel, are Christians in name only.”

Jesus’ first miracle in John chapter 2 (turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana) was perhaps the strangest of all. He never repeated anything quite like it, and the miracle seemed to take Jesus by surprise as much as anyone else.

As emergencies go, this one falls well down the list. It caused embarrassment, to be sure, but should a Messiah who had come to heal the sick and liberate the captives concern Himself with a social mishap? “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied when His mother mentioned the problem. “My time has not yet come.”

Can you imagine what crossed Jesus’ mind? If He acted now that would mean His time HAD come and from that moment on, life would change. If word of His powers leaked, He would soon hear pleas from needy people from Galilee to Jerusalem. Crowds would flock: the blind, the lame, the deaf-mutes, and the demon-possessed, not to mention any street beggar who wanted a free glass of wine. So finally He reached a decision, for the first but surely not the last time in His public life, He changed HIS plans to accommodate someone else.

Lesson #2-When we serve others in any capacity, like Jesus, it would require us to change plans to accommodate someone else.

Serving others is not about us. It requires sacrifice of our time, money, our energy, and some of our material possessions. Also serving others requires us to step outside of our comfort zone. Like Jesus, we have to meet people where they are. We actually have to step out of the ivory towers of the church building and go into some of the most undesirable neighborhoods to serve those in need. We can’t expect those in the community to come in here, if they feel we are too good to go meet them out there.
The people back then blamed the victims of blindness, deafness, and paralysis on their sinful conditions. So the sicker you were, the more sinful you were. But Jesus overturned common notions about how God views sick and disabled people. He denied that the men’s blindness came from sin, just as he dismissed the common opinion that tragedies happen to those that deserve them. Job refuted that theory right? Job was the most upright man in the land and still got hit with more tragedy than anyone else. Praise be to God that Jesus, the only perfect Man who ever lived, served the most imperfect of people.

Lesson #3-When we serve others, like Jesus, we must not look down on them or stand in judgment of their circumstances as if we’re superior and they’re inferior to us. We must dismiss the ideology that bad circumstances mean they’re bad people. But if you read the Holier Than Thou version of Romans 3:23, it says “Most have sinned..some have fallen short”, no ALL have sinned and not only have ALL sinned but no matter how high and mighty you think you are, or how big a deal you think you are, you STILL come short of the glory of God. We are all just nobodies telling somebody that anybody can be saved by the Man who died for everybody. So let’s serve with humble hearts of compassion like Christ.

Let us talk about the only miracle in all four Gospels, the feeding of the 5,000. The daunted disciples were vexed and perplexed on how to feed the multitude, but the Savior was the solution. When we focus on the problems, we lose sight of the promises. When we focus on great obstacles, we miss out on golden opportunities. So I can imagine Jesus telling the disciples “I healed the sick, made the blind see, made the lame walk, raised the dead, and calmed a storm with My voice alone … so do you honestly think hunger is something I can’t handle?”

Lesson #4-When we serve others, we need to remember that little becomes much when we place it in the Masters hands. Just like the 2 fish and 5 loaves fed everyone AND created an overflow and spillover, God will take whatever gifts and talents you have to serve others and will multiply it so that it would exceed even YOUR expectations so that it will spillover and overflow to have a huge impact on so many that would greatly benefit from it.

The author Philip Yancey once said, “Jesus never met a disease He could not cure, a birth defect He could not reverse, a demon He could not exorcise. But He did meet skeptics He could not convince and sinners He could not convert. Forgiveness of sins requires an act of will on the receiver’s part, and some who heard Jesus’ strongest words about grace and forgiveness turned away unrepentant.” In the context of service, we can help so many people when we give of our time and energy, and they can still end up being ungrateful and unappreciative, but serve anyhow. And why should we serve others? What’s the point of it all anyway? Let’s look no further than Matthew 25:37-40. It wasn’t the wicked, the unbelievers, or even the Gentiles that asked those questions, it was the righteous that asked these questions. It was His followers, the believers, the Christians. He wants us to serve others we SEE just like we serve Him that we DON’T see. Matthew 20:28- the Son of Man did not come to be served, but TO SERVE, and give His life a ransom for so many.” Besides dying on the cross for our sins, out of His own mouth, serving was His only other purpose on earth. We are saved to serve. God saved us so we can serve others…God saved us, so we can serve others. So let us serve with compassionate hearts and sincerity. Francis of Assisi once said, “It is not fitting, when one is in God’s service, to have a gloomy face or a chilling look”. I believe that God not only loves a cheerful giver, but a cheerful servant.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” -Muhammad Ali
We all need to ask ourselves, are we current with our “rent” payments with our LandLord? Or are we delinquent?

Suggested listening music to reflect on.
Keith Pringle-Saved to Serve

Open the Door

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock…” Revelation 3:20

A recent article described the importance of maintaining healthy boundaries with family, friends and co-workers. It stated the benefits for our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual health to create boundaries that allow healthy, positive, and encouraging people into our lives, while limiting or denying the access that negative, critical people have.

It is wonderful news that God’s amazing unconditional love of sinners means that He does not create boundaries to keep any of us out.  Despite our sinful nature, God created a way through His Son, Jesus Christ to enable us to have fellowship with Him such that nothing can separate us from His Love. The Parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15 : 1-7) tells us about how God looks for us. God is gracious and does not turn his back on us, but He actively seeks out the fallen.

It is even more incredible that Almighty God wishes to respect our human boundaries, such that He knocks at our doors and waits for us to answer! God wants us to remove our barriers, open the door and invite Him in. No  boundaries, no limits!

Even if we place boundaries on others or they do the same to us, we can take comfort in the fact that God’s love is always available to us. He is a healthy wholesome God who is willing and able to heal/comfort those who are emotionally, spiritually, mentally and physically unwell – especially when we let Him into our lives.  God invites us all to limitless fellowship with Him through prayer and meditation on the Bible. God’s promise in Revelation 3:20 (NKJV) is:-

Image courtesy of ponsulak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If  anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.”

God’s door is always open to us and yet He patiently stands and waits at our doors. Is He knocking at your door? Will you let Him in?