The Lenten season serves to remind us of many things, including our humanity (really, our mortality!) and our dependence on God. For most of us though, we have the tendency to first rely on our humanity and only turn to God when we have exhausted our human options.
The story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matt.4: Lk.4) is a good reminder to us that if we are going to have the victory over any temptation, we must learn to rely on God more than we rely on our own strength and resources.
Well, it’s that time again when we start thinking about what we are either going to give up or add to our lives for the next 40 days. For many, the Lenten season is a time of reflection and making life adjustments.
In thinking about the Lenten season, two words come to mind: grace and judgment. These two words are central to this season. Because amazing grace was shown to us through the suffering and death of God’s Son, Jesus, we may stand in the Day of Judgment and not be condemned for our sins.
Today we presented our first official deputation service as we continue following God’s leading to South Africa. We are still trying to get our heads around the idea that God has opened the door for us to serve in the same institution He had called us to some 27 years ago. Although we did not make it to Nazarene Theological College South Africa (NTC-SA) back in 1991, here we are 27-plus years later, coming full circle to fulfill the call. At least we came in under Moses’ record by 13 years. It only took him 40 years before he was ready to answer the call to do a task that was way beyond anything he could have done on his own.
“Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.” – Viktor E. Frankl
How do you respond when life treats you unfairly? What do you do when you are hurt by someone you love and trust? How do you respond when things are done to you by powers beyond your control? We all have stories of pain and disappointment. The question is how do you handle your pain and disappointment?
How many times have you said, “I wish I was as talented as, or as good with something as so and so”? We have all said it at one time or another. It is part of the human challenge of always comparing ourselves with others.
We compare ourselves to our parents, our siblings, friends, co-workers, teammates, spouse, classmates, etc. We go through life comparing ourselves. We compare for dozens of reasons such as, wealth, health, job, appearance, race, religion and gender to name only a few.
I grew up hearing the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words could never hurt me.” As I grew to adulthood and became honest with my pain in life, I had to admit that words do hurt. Words can hurt so deeply that recovery time is often much longer than the time needed for a broken bone to heal.
For some of us healing has taken most of our lives, while others struggle to embrace the healing because they have been hurt so deeply. For many of us the pains that are the deepest and the most difficult to heal from, are pains caused by words.
“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
Recall the last mistake you made. How did you handle it? Did you own up to it, and perhaps learn something from it? Or did you try to blame it on someone or something else and move on? If your response was the latter, you have plenty of company: it is the response of most people.
At some point we have had or will have a tough conversation. Whether with a friend, a neighbor, a colleague or a family member, confrontation is never easy.
Because we dislike confrontation, and because it is so difficult, we often do anything to avoid confronting others.
These conversations usually occur because you care about the person, you have been hurt, or you do not want someone else to get hurt.
Whatever the reason, confronting another person is never easy.
In the story of the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-22), Jesus tells him to go and sell everything, give the money to the poor, and follow Him.
The young man left very sad because his riches meant more to him than following Jesus. I suspect he wasn’t aware that the blessings had replaced the Blesser until he was asked to make a choice between the two.
Jesus also said to follow Him we must be willing to hate/give up the most important relationships in our lives (Luke 14:26).
By Jesus’ own clear instructions, we are told we should not allow anything [riches] or anyone [parents, spouse, siblings, etc.] to stand between us and our relationship with Him.
Jesus wants our undivided, uncompromising focus and attention.
Where do you go to be completely honest with what you are feeling, thinking and going through without being judged? Who hears your heart with all its fears, joys and concerns? Who do you have to be straight up in your face honest with you, to let you hear the hard truth even when you do not want to hear it? Many of us, especially leaders, do not have such honesty and accountability in our lives. And for many, the consequences have been tragic.
I have come to learn that such honesty and accountability is essential for us as leaders. It helps to avoid the disillusionment of self-sufficiency. I have heard many people, myself included, say, “I know if I had a place to be honest and be held accountable, I would not have made many of the mistakes I made.”