25 April 2014

Pearls

"Pearls before swine" is a phrase used by Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:6), where He warned about putting what is valuable in front of those who will not recognise its value - they will either ridicule it or destroy what you offer.

These words have been bouncing around in my head this afternoon. 

The things of value in my life? My time and energy, the opportunities I get in this world to help others; the abilities I possess.

But I know what it is like to have these ridiculed. And, interestingly, from those that I would have thought would know better... 

It's a little tricky to determine when to offer these 'pearls' and when not to do so. However, I'm beginning to understand about my critics. I'm told that we can "know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:20). 

Matthew 7:6 (NIV)
"Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."

18 April 2014

My Brother

"You're my friend and You are my brother
Even though You are a king
And I love You more than any other,
So much more than anything..."


A group of us were deep in study at our local House Fellowship group as part of our Lent course, looking at various names that people have used over the years for Jesus. A little light came on when the words 'my brother' came up. This brought to mind one of the verses from 'As The Deer' (lyrics by Martin J. Nystrom, verse noted above). It also planted a little thought in my head which led to this post.

Now, if I start to think about Jesus as my brother, it doesn't necessarily bring with it any pre-conceived ideas. I never had a brother or a sister when I grew up. Well, strictly that's not true. I have a half-brother and a half-sister (my dad was married and had two children with his first wife; after she passed away he married my mum and they had me). However, these two of my family were that much older than I, therefore they never grew up with me; I never developed that sort of closeness you get with siblings. So, essentially, I was raised as an only child.

Which of course means that I never climbed trees with a brother; we never had adventures together; we never went through the same life experiences together. There wasn't that brotherly bond that this term seems to imply.

So, how can I begin to identify with Jesus as 'my brother'? Perhaps I should take some examples from modern popular culture?

Bart Simpson and his sister Lisa?
Sherlock Holmes and his brother Mycroft?
Barry and Paul, The Chuckle Brothers?

Err ... perhaps not.

Well, a quick glance along my science fiction DVD shelf gives me quite a few examples of sibling relationships, unfortunately many of these don't seem to work very well either. Here's a few of the better-known ones, after a few minutes brainstorming:

Data and Lore (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
Thor and Loki (Marvel Comics)
Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch (Marvel Comics)
The Human Torch and The Invisible Woman (Marvel Comics)
Peter and Nathan Petrelli (Heroes)
Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia (Star Wars)

I guess that I have more chance of understanding this if I take a broader view of 'brotherhood'. More than just simple genetics, this sort of 'brother' would be closer than a friend, indeed becoming so trusted and so close that you would be close as a member of your own family. And closer still ... sticking together, no matter what ...

And that's the kind of relationship Jesus wanted with mankind. He gave up so much when He came down to Earth as a human being, yet He wanted to become our 'brother' so he could have a chance at achieving that sort of intimacy. Closer than just friends. Closer than shared blood lines. Closer even than shared parents. Shared lives. Walking each step of the way together.

Hebrews 2:11-12 (NIV)
Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
in the assembly I will sing your praises.”


The offer is still open.

Happy Easter to you.
:)

11 April 2014

Letting Go - Part Four

We've reached the last part of this expanding series on forgiveness and how hurt people can reach a state of healing. It's a lesson that I've had to learn the hard way! It's been a constant effort to push myself out of my comfort zone in order to complete this series. It has occupied my mind for pretty much the entire Lent period. It wouldn't go away; kept coming back, and back... And we're here now. :)

The last three parts of this strand have all focused on reviewing and revealing your hurts - depending on who you are, that could the trickiest bit, although some of us are good at this, figuratively 'licking our wounds' as a way of attempting to heal our wounded emotions. Having recently been through this stage, I've uncovered other hurts that I never knew about...

Others, though, try to bury their hurts and internalise their pain, reliving it again and again. That was me a few years ago. It doesn't work. You need to bring things out in the open in order to heal and move on. I don't necessarily mean announce it to the world - but it might come to that.

You need to make a start - even if it's small. Find a friend or counsellor who has been through the same experiences as you. Confide in them. Believe me, it's a significant step toward to letting go of it. They will tell you from their own experience and confirm that it's essential to the road to healing... bring things up the surface. You wouldn't put a plaster on a cut arm without moving the sleeve out of the way...

And then it's time - the key step to moving on... make some appointments with the Great Healer.

Bring all this - what has been uncovered, all your feelings, your hurts - to Jesus. He is the healer of wounds par excellence. The Gospels teem with examples.

"If you want to, you can heal me."
And Jesus answers, "Of course, I want to."

Tell Him the whole story. How much it has hurt, how you've lived with feelings of revenge, of bitterness. Relive the bad experiences - with Jesus at your side. There will be tears. Let them come. Then take note. Listen to Jesus' own response to your suffering. Open yourself up to Him. Let Him assure you that you are loved. 

Come to Him. And keep coming - I am reminded that results may take a while (Mark 8:22-26). There may be a lot to fix. God may have to heal wounds so deep that they are still unknown to you. Remember that 'hidden hurt' I mentioned before? A hairline crack that no-one else can see. But He can...

He'll ask you to put aside your hurts, your concerns, your thoughts, your feelings. He may want a regular 'appointment' - (perhaps 20 minutes, twice a day) - centring yourself on Him. This is where I am at the moment. 

How do you know when you're healed?

We'll, I am assured it is not when you have forgotten that you have been hurt. 

It's when Christ's victory in your life completely overpowers these destructive memories - and any pain you may have felt before.

Ephesians 4:31-32 (NIV)
Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

3 April 2014

Letting Go - Part Three


In the first two parts of what has turned out to be a series of blog entries on forgiveness, and whilst studying how to let go of things in the past, I have arrived at the inevitable conclusion that I had been hurt much harder by some past experiences than even I had imagined. In fact, there are a couple of hurts that are only now coming to light, hiding beneath what was an obvious injury. It's like I had only dealt with the flesh wound, without realising that there was a broken bone just below...

In this 21st Century world of ours, society expects us to put on a brave face to pretty much everybody. If you show any sign of weakness, you are assured of being a 'wuss', or at best of 'having your heart on your sleeve'. Somebody told me (coincidentally, the same one who said recently that I was 'too nice') that I was 'too easy a target'. Maybe so, kind sir - but did you have to take the shot?

So I have been taking a more realistic look at my 'hurt'. And how I seem to come over to others. Am I trying to maintain a 'poor me' image? I really don't think so. If anything, the opposite. I think I've been trying to convince people that I am strong during times when I was far from it... in essence, faking it until I felt better.

For instance, I used to have a problem with answering questions like "How are you today?" on a day when things haven't gone so well. I didn't want to lie and say "fine" ... and if I told the truth and said something I could be accused of fishing for sympathy... which is not what I am looking for. Sure, maybe the person asking doesn’t really care how you are. But he or she did ask, so I need to respond...

You see, "fine" is simply mundane. And possibly a lie... Unless, as one website said, it's an acronym for "Feelings I’m Not Expressing". I'm working on some better responses now; don't find this easy (it's too much like 'small talk', ugh!) but it's a work in progress.

**** **** ****

These times of reflection over this Lent period has done much to underline the terrific promise that, when I can eventually let go of these hurts, I can then take hold of something far, far better. Including God's unconditional, overflowing love for each and every one of us.

And here's another little problem; I know in my head that I am loved. However, sometimes I have trouble feeling this in my heart. Especially on those dark days when I can't keep but dwelling on that one negative remark that someone has made, simply ignoring all of the good things that have happened that same day... Why do I have trouble feeling this?

The Lent course that we have been studying at our Corps reminded me that we all have bad days as well as good. There needs to be difficult times. It's all part of life. Throughout His period on this Earth Jesus taught us all that pain, suffering and death precede resurrection and freedom from pain. He was mocked, scourged, and spat upon. And it wasn't His fault.

So, it's really OK to feel angry when you get emotionally hurt - in the same way that you feel pain from a physical hurt. However, it's not good if you continue to live in that moment of pain - never moving beyond that feeling, never healing and recovering from the 'hurt'. Numb to anything else...

There's so much to this topic - so there's more to come!!!