Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Are You Pulling Away from Others?

When I go to the grocery store and run into a friend, I'm always excited and we usually stop and catch up quickly, but we both have lists to shop for, dinner to cook and errands to run so the time we spend catching up leaves much to be desired, though it is nice because it keeps us up on each others lives.  I call those the "grocery store encounters".

Then there are the "coffee shop encounters" I get to have with friends.  Those are the ones that can last up to three hours (sometimes more if time allows!) where we get a lot deeper in conversation, we talk  about things that are on our heart and really get to know what's going on in each others lives.  I've had far too few of these encounters lately, and I will explain why.

Lately, I must confess, most of my encounters with friends have been "super market encounters". I have had a tough year, where I have inadvertently hurt some people in my life due to some important choices I made for me and my family. We left a wonderful church and I left a great job - leaving people in the wake of my decision wondering why. Some took it personally. Some assumed there were big problems and that's why we, as a family, made the decisions. But in all honesty, we were just following God's leading. No big gossip or story. No problems with anyone. No anger. No regrets. But I have carried around guilt in spite of that! It's like I've picked up a burden that Jesus never wanted me to carry. As a result of me unintentionally hurting people, I have pulled away from many people in my life out of fear of hurting them and I've refrained from forming new, deeper relationships.

I've heard of people pulling away because they didn't want to get hurt. That's not my case. I, of all people, know that hurt is inevitable as we put expectations on people that are unspoken but assumed and they can never live up to them. I would venture to say that the majority of the time you are hurt by someone, the person did not set out to hurt you, but they probably just didn't live up to an unspoken expectation you put on them. I know this, because I've done the same thing with others and have been hurt, too. But I'm learning that is not Biblical. We can never assume we know a person's motive. We can never know their heart. Only God can.

In the process of trying to "spare" others from being hurt by me (I'm such a, I've realized it can be pretty lonely when you don't have community. God never intended us to walk out this life alone. 

How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1) God loves when we are unified and in healthy relationships with each other. As a matter of fact, that is one of the prayers Jesus made right before He went to the Cross: "I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one - as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me." (John 17:21)

Relationships are that important. Jesus clearly communicated that our unity will show the world that He is sent from God. No wonder Satan is after our relationships! No wonder there are so many divisions in the churches and in Christian communities! We are allowing our pride and fear to determine our relationships and many are destroyed as a result. My fear has kept me from opening up, from reaching out and from developing intimacy with others. I have to trust that God will protect their hearts from me "hurting" them and I have to believe that He will give me wisdom as I seek out strong, godly, loving people with whom I can have healthy connections. 

It's like God shined a big Light on my fear and showed me what was holding me back. And now, I'm just opening up and being honest about my struggle because in 1 John 1:7, we are told, "When we walk in the Light as He is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all of our sin." Walking in the Light means I am no longer going to hide my struggle, but I'm going to put it out there, confess it and deal with it. Notice - only if we walk in the Light can we have fellowship! When Christians get together in community, we call it "fellowship". Such a churchy word, but honestly, a beautiful one. 

My husband gave me great advice as I was feeling overwhelmed by all of this the other day. He said, "Leslie, there are people in your life already. Pray and ask God who He wants you to spend some more time with. Then, be intentional with them. Spend time with them. And don't worry about going out and connecting with a ton of other people yet. Just nurture a couple of relationships at a time and let God help you heal. He will then bring people into your life with whom He wants you to connect." Such great advice. I have already had a coffee shop encounter with one of those friends and plan on connecting with the other soon. I can do this! :)

I'm curious - how are the relationships in your life?

Are they more like "grocery store encounters" or "coffee shop encounters"?

What is holding you back from being open, honest and real in your relationships with others?

What step can you take this week to connect with someone?

I want to encourage you to take a step today and begin to heal. Our unity matters to God! And you were not meant to walk out this life alone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Desperate for a Cure

Today's news headlines remind me of a movie I watched a few years back called Contagion. I would not recommend this movie to a hypochondriac. With all the talk about Ebola and other viruses running rampant in the world, it seems like the plot of this movie is pretty relevant. The virus in the movie spread quickly around the world and you get a glimpse at how easily it spread.  People were panicked.  It didn't take long for complete chaos to break out and for the people all over the world to get very desperate to get their hands on a cure.  There was even a guy who said he had a cure but he was just out to make money - he was bamboozling millions of naive people and they died as a result of his selfishness.  That always makes me sick when people capitalize on something so terrible just to make a quick buck.

The tag line for the movie is, "Nothing Spreads Like Fear."  So true!  These people were terrified.  At the first sneeze, it was a wave of panic as they began to quickly get sicker and sicker and within days the virus would unmercifully take their lives.  Of course they were scared, I would be too!  There was no hope, it seemed.  Finally, after a few months, there was a cure but only so many people could get the cure at a time, as the demand was far greater than the supply.

As I watched these frightened people, so desperate for a cure, I couldn't help but think I wish we would all truly understand the fact that there really is a virus that is worse than the one in the movie because it isn't spread - we are born with it.  But nobody seems desperate for this cure.  Nobody seems fearful of this very real virus.  Many pretend they are not infected or think they aren't sick enough for it to be a problem.  That virus is called sin and its mortality rate is 100% if not cured.  There is only one cure and that cure is Jesus Christ.

Why aren't we desperately seeking this Cure?  In Contagion, I was struck by how people would go to great lengths to get their hands on a cure that would save them physically - but spiritually, where did they stand?  Because when it all comes down to it, we know we will all eventually pass away someday (the mortality rate for humans is 100%, as it turns out).  Why is this not something about which we concern ourselves?  Our eternity is at stake and we are basing all of our efforts and striving on this short life on earth! Are we blind?

In a way, I suppose we are. I'm pretty sure it's because we are being bamboozled by someone sinister and evil who wants not to make a quick buck off of us, but to make us his victims, his trophies of deception.  Satan is the master deceiver and his desire is that we all feel comfortable in our sinful state.  He wants us to think that when people talk about him being a real threat to us and that we are all sinful, they are crazy.  He wants us to believe that everyone will be fine after this life.  His desire is that no one would survive and that we will all join him in his eternal home - separated from the God who so desperately loves us and longs to have a relationship with us.  Satan is not dressed in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork as he would want you to believe.  No, he usually shows up in a much more welcoming package.  After all, before he decided he was equal to God (delusion, by the way), he was the most beautiful angel in heaven!  Doesn't sound like a creepy looking, pitch-fork holding, cackling character to me. Don't be deceived, my friend. He comes as an angel of light and he's very convincing. 

If, as the movie states, nothing spreads like fear, then why are we not fearing God, the only One worth fearing?  The kind of fear I'm talking about is different - it's a reverence, a respect, a submissive fear.  If we fear God, we have nothing left to fear.  But here's what Psalm 36 says...

1 Sin whispers to the wicked, deep within their hearts.
      They have no fear of God at all.
 2 In their blind conceit,
      they cannot see how wicked they really are.

I'm here to tell you that Satan is a liar.  All of us are born with this "virus" called sin.  All of us.  It's hard to fathom, I know.  It's easy for us to say, "But I haven't killed anyone, or I'm not as bad as so-n-so.." But even one bad thought is more sin than a Holy God will tolerate.  Sin must be judged and according to the Bible, the payment for sin is death and separation from God for eternity.  But Jesus paid our sin debt!  

Maybe you think this is my opinion, not the truth.  Why not research for yourself, in the pages of the Bible, what God says about our sinful condition?  Here are some scriptures for you to read.  I pray He will grant you wisdom and truth as you seek the pages of Scriptures for answers.  There is a cure for our sinful condition and God has provided it because He cannot stand one more moment of being separated from us.  He loves you desperately and He proved it by giving His life for you.  His desire is that no one should die and live their eternity out away from Him.  He loves you.  Read for yourself...

Yes, the news is grim. Ebola and other horrifying diseases are a reality. But what about after this life? Why aren't we thinking eternally?  If we truly understood the importance of this, we wouldn't waste another moment worrying about things that won't even matter on the other side of this short life. We would be desperate for a cure.

Monday, October 6, 2014

New Blog Post

I am a contributor for Faithlife Women, a blog site that is an incredible encouragement to women! They are through Logos Bible Software (by the way - if you haven't tried their Bible software, you are in for a treat when you do!). This is my latest post from Faithlife women, where I talk about our greatest gift to God:


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