Tangled Webs

“Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”  (Walter Scott)

shutterstock_217580560Sometimes it can get really discouraging when you are continually faced with people who are not honest.  We’ve all been there, those times when you are either lied about or lied to. Sometimes it is intentional, and sometimes it happens out of exaggeration without thinking.   Either way, it reveals something about a person’s true character when it happens, and if it is us doing the lying, it reveals the same about our character as well.  Recently, I have been lied about and lied to.  When it occurred, I was both discouraged and disturbed by it.  Although I forgave the people involved and tried to understand why it might have happened, I lost a great amount of (if not all) respect for them.  I was blessed to have had the lie revealed in these situations, but that doesn’t happen every time.  Sometimes we just have to continue walking in integrity and trust that God will take care of the situation(s) in His time and in His way, even if we never know it happens or get to see the result.

The battle against dishonesty is often difficult because lies are based in so many other negative things.  There are countless reasons why a person would lie about (or to) someone else.  Here are just a few examples:

  • Guilt or Fear – Being confronted with something done wrong can entice someone to lie in order to avoid the consequences of their actions. (“The dog ate my homework,” or if you’ve ever watched a real-life cops show, “These aren’t my pants.”)
  • Embarrassment – Making a mistake can often make a person feel embarrassed. Rather than just owning up to it, someone might lie to cover it up.  (“No one told me I needed to do that,” or “My phone must not have been working.”)
  • Insecurity – When someone feels insecure, it isn’t uncommon for them to lie or exaggerate about a situation in order to make themselves look better, or sometimes to even establish themselves as a victim. (“I have a degree in _____,” or “They never listen to me.”)
  • Anger – When anger flairs, for whatever reason, someone may exaggerate the circumstance in order to gain the support of others, or a person may outright lie in order to get back at someone who hurt them. (This one certainly speaks for itself.)
  • A desire for power, status or money – Sometimes people are so consumed with getting power and status (which usually comes with money), they will step on anyone in their way to attain it. They will say whatever they have to in order to gain favor with those currently with power and status, even if it is totally untrue.  This includes taking credit for things they haven’t done or not taking blame for things they have messed up.  (“You know, Sally thinks you aren’t very smart,” “That was my idea,” or “I told them not to do it that way.”)

My point in the few examples above is that a lie isn’t just about the untruth being told; it is rooted in much deeper issues within a person or situation.  In other words, telling the truth is simple; Lies are complicated.

shutterstock_656855419The only way to battle dishonesty is with truth.  If we try to battle against lies with reason or even anger, we will probably just end up frustrated with the results.  That’s because lies breed other lies!  When someone lies to or about you, and they are confronted, don’t be surprised if another lie is told to try and get out of the uncomfortable or awkward position in which that person finds themselves.  Depending on the reason for the untruth in the first place (as mentioned above), that same force will often drive a second or third lie in order to cover it up or keep the charade going.  The ONLY way to face dishonesty is to shine the light of truth on it.  But before you start cheering, “Yeah, expose it,” we probably need to consider something else.

Our natural response to a lie is to be hurt, upset, sad, or even downright angry!  We feel (and are) justified in those emotions, but if we react out of those emotions, we are in danger of committing our own exaggerations and untruths.  It is just as easy for us to fall prey to our emotions or insecurities and make decisions or say things that might be inappropriate because we feel so wronged.  We want to expose the person and their untruth to everyone else.  We want to clear our name or tarnish theirs, but before we address an untruth or misrepresentation, we need to step back, take a breath and ask God for wisdom and guidance in how to proceed.

Over the course of my life, there are times I have reacted with an instant indignation toward the person(s) involved in an untruth.  I barely take a breath before I react and let words came out of my mouth!  However, in other times, I didn’t react or say a word in that moment.  Instead, I walked away and prayed about what to do.  Those prayers were answered sometimes by delaying the ability to address it for a few days, but it has always been much more profitable to wait on God’s timing than to insist on my own.  By stepping back and asking Him for wisdom and guidance, it removed the anger and frustration, but it did not remove the hurt and disappointment associated with the situation.  Our relationship with God works that way sometimes; our tempers may calm, but the pain often remains.  Anger is fleeting, but wounds take time to heal.

shutterstock_102143122As people of faith, we know the guidelines of forgiveness.  We know we are to love our enemies and pray for those who mistreat us (Matt 5:43-48).  On one occasion, Peter asked Jesus how often he needed to forgive, thinking seven times was plenty.  Jesus responded with “seventy times seven” (Matt 18:21-22). That doesn’t mean 490 times and then stop, but rather that forgiveness is a process.  We are human, and forgiveness does NOT come easy to us.  It isn’t usually enough to forgive someone just once and walk away.  In our hearts, we tend to hold grudges and hang onto hurt, pain, and betrayal.  We may not outwardly give someone a cold shoulder or treat them poorly, but inside we often have to forgive them every time the hurt, anger or pain rears its head again.  We need to forgive so that we can let it go.  We need to sometimes forgive over and over internally until we reach that point.  We read in Matt 18:23-35 about a servant who was forgiven of a huge debt he had no way of ever paying back.  He begged for mercy and forgiveness and his master granted it and forgave his debt – lavishly!  Almost immediately, that same guy went out to someone who owed him a very small amount and when that man begged for mercy and forgiveness, the guy not only didn’t forgive the debt, but he threw the man into prison.  When the master found out, he went back to the servant and scolded him for his lack of mercy.  As a result, he also rescinded the debt forgiveness and put him into prison himself.  Jesus follows this parable with the statement, “This is how the Heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you  forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”  OUCH!

Before moving onto another thought, let me add what I believe is the most revealing aspect of how we are to forgive.  We often read or repeat what we call “the Lord’s prayer,” but the first thing we need to understand is that Matt 6 is not Jesus’ prayer for us, but rather Jesus giving us the way in which we should pray.  Most of us have said the words, “and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” (Matt 6:12). “As” does not mean “while;” it means “the same way.”    We say those words, but do we really understand what we are asking God in that prayer?  We are saying to God, Himself, “Forgive me the same way and in the same manner that I forgive others.”  Uh oh, that changes things doesn’t it?   The truth is we really love God’s mercy and the way He forgives us time and time again.  We love that He lavishly forgives us, but we don’t want Him to do that for the people who have wronged or hurt us.  We want Him to act out of justice, not mercy, in those cases, but Jesus tells us we should be asking God to forgive us in the exact same way we forgive others.  Now you can start to see why the illustration of “seventy times seven” is so important.  Yes, we are human.  Yes, we struggle to forgive and let it go, but when we find ourselves in that spot, we need to remember that having to internally forgive over and over again is not unusual.  Jesus knows it is a process and that we may have to walk through these truths again until we can forgive on the inside, no matter how many times that takes us.

shutterstock_82458775As I said earlier, “lies are complicated,” and spending our energy trying to figure out why someone is dishonest will rarely bring an answer we find satisfying.   Lies or misrepresentations can quickly become a web in which most of us do not want to be stuck – no matter if you are the spider or the fly.  Instead of focusing so much on the dishonesty we come across almost every day, wouldn’t it be better to focus on the truth?  Turning from anger to forgiveness frees us to live abundantly.  And if, perchance, you are struggling with a “justice gene” of your own, maybe it’s time to go back to that model prayer Jesus gave us.  Maybe it’s time to remember how lavishly we have been forgiven, with no strings attached, by the One who has every right to demand justice, but instead, chooses love.

“Forgive me of my own wrongdoing in the same way I forgive those who have hurt, wronged, or mistreated me.”  Be careful what you ask for from the One who sees and knows everything, but rejoice in the fact He will give you whatever you need in order to love and forgive as He does.  The choice is totally up to you.

Blessings!

Love Really Does Win

shutterstock_290942954Hate.  Anger.  Turmoil.  It seems we are surrounded by it constantly these days.  We could attribute it to recent tragedies or the political season, but I think it’s more than that.  We are a rich country.  I’m not saying everyone is rich, but even the poor in our country have access to more food, shelter and services than many other places.  Here’s the thing about prosperity:  It’s easier to have more time on our hands, and when we have more time, we have the choice to think about the blessings in our lives or all of the things that are not as we would like.  We have more time to think, and yet our thoughts don’t always rest on what the Bible tells us in the book of Philippians: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise – meditate on these things.”  (Philippians 4:8) Instead, it seems our thoughts go to those things that are more selfish and divisive.

In our country, we’ve endured a long period of time in which a very strong focus was placed on noticing and appreciating our differences.  As a result, we have gone to great lengths to point them out more and more.  Maybe it is race or heritage, lifestyle or political beliefs, or a host of other things, but we’ve focused on continually highlighting what is different about each other rather than pointing out what is the same.  Diversity (in all of its buzzword glory) has been celebrated and our sameness has been ignored.  The problem is that when we see ourselves as different, it becomes much easier to judge or fear, or to be angry and lash out.  So as a result of our nation’s prosperity – the prosperity our parents and grandparents worked so hard to secure for us – we have had more time to nitpick and tear each other apart.  We have celebrated our differences so much that now our differences are most often the only thing we see.  The beautiful thing about God is that He doesn’t see what we see when we look at each other.  He doesn’t see what is on the outside (and I am not referring only to our appearance); He sees our hearts.  Unfortunately, I think what He now sees disappoints Him more than we can probably imagine.  After all, He suffered and died for every single one of us regardless of our race, heritage, preferences or even our sins!  To Him, sin is sin even though WE like to pick and choose which ones He disapproves of the most.  Of course, it’s never the ones with which we personally struggle, but that’s a blog for another time.

shutterstock_300707297I am a white, conservative, heterosexual Christian.  I also have friends and loved ones who are of all colors, religions, backgrounds and creeds.  I love them all equally.  I may have more in common with some, which leads me to spend more time with some, but I do not love them more.  As a result of my perspective on love, I have some very deep and meaningful relationships with people that others may not understand.  Some would even say I should not have these relationships based on my own “classifications.”  What a load of crap!  I would not turn my back on those relationships simply because we have different opinions or perspectives.  Even the people I encounter and find extremely difficult to even tolerate (let alone love), I am still to love them.  Loving as God has commanded means that I will love others and see them as God sees them.  And in God’s eyes, they mean so much to Him that they are worth dying for!  Do I always succeed at that?  Sadly, I do not.  Like many of you, I struggle to not get caught up into the anger that comes as a result of one side or another (on any issue) becoming belligerent, uncaring and unloving – even if I might agree with their actual position.   Everyone likes to point the finger at others and say they are the “judgers,” but everyone shares that trait in common!  Everyone is a hypocrite at one point or another.  As a result, we end up living lives that are not abundant.  We stress and fight and get tied up in knots internally over the issues that face us, while at the same time God is looking at us saying, “Come unto Me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt 11:28)  God wants us to rest!  He wants us to rest because resting from our labor should be refreshing.  When we get quiet, our minds should turn to Him and to a true reflection of ourselves – not the image we try to portray to others.

The  truth is that if I am honest and understand exactly who I am, then it doesn’t really matter who you are.  Let me explain.  If I’m focused on my own relationship with God and what I need to adjust in that relationship – whether it is to ask for forgiveness or to be more committed or love more purely – then I will not be focused on what you are doing in your relationship with Him or others.  If I am going to try and love the way I am commanded to love, the only way I can succeed in doing so is if I am keenly aware that without Him I can do nothing – without Him, I am nothing.   That isn’t meant to be a self-depreciating flagellation; It is a reality that I did not and do not deserve His love, mercy and grace, yet He gives it freely and continually.  I should be keenly aware of that fact – without any rationalization of who I am, the impure and sinful thoughts that I have, the words that I say, or acts that I commit.  If I am honest with myself and recognize how imperfect, and even hypocritical, I am, then I won’t see you as less than me.  That’s what love is.

shutterstock_419615524After the recent Orlando tragedy, there are a lot of “love wins” quotes once again being circulated.  I realize that phrase has been used for one particular cause, but the reality is that truest love DOES win – the love of 1 Corinthians chapter 13 DOES win!  It wins because it will cause us to be honest with ourselves and take off our masks so that we can see ourselves for who we are.  It allows us to face the truth of Matt 7:3-5 that says, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite!  First take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” 

So in light of recent tragedies, and tragedies that are certain to come over the course of time in an imperfect world, love wins.  In light of a political season that is filled with hate and anger from both sides of the aisle love wins.  In light of selfishness and meanness, love still wins.  Why?  Because loving as God love will allow us to not be first and be perfectly okay with it.  It will allow you to forgive, even if no one ever says, “I’m sorry.”  Love will allow you to treat others with compassion – even those with whom you disagree – and trust God to sort it all out.  It may not be the way we want, and it may not be in the timing we want, but my responsibility is to “do what is right, love mercy, and walk humbly before my God.” (Micah 6:8)

After all, God didn’t say it was an option.  He didn’t say, “Love the way I do if you feel like it.”  He said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”  (John 13:34).    And if you aren’t sure what that kind of love looks like, then I would encourage you to take the time to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13.

Blessings!

(For an in-depth post on the nature of pure love, click here: Love Is Not Grey)

Over-salted and Blinded by Light!

I recently happened across some words from a person involved in spiritual ministry that bothered me to the point that I could not sleep.  Quite frankly, it sickened me.  This person had gotten fed up with what some would refer to as “sheeple” (those who refuse to think or study for themselves) and felt the need to point out their stupidity.  I’m not saying the emotion behind the comments was invalid, as there were some really ignorant comments and questions made by some folks.  What I am saying is that as “Christians” (and especially leaders in worship and ministry) we need to be careful of the manner in which we interact with others in these situations.  The way in which we approach a perceived lack of understanding in someone else is so very crucial to not becoming a hindrance that is contrary to the very thing we say they believe.

shutterstock_119205439Let me ask you a couple of questions: 1) is it possible to have too much salt in something and  2) is it possible to have a light that is too bright?  The obvious answer to both of those questions is a resounding “Yes!”  Jesus tells us that we are the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.”  Salt and light are both very valuable things but if there is too much of either one, it can actually be harmful.  Having too much salt in a dish will ruin it as quickly as not having any at all.  As a matter of fact, having NO salt is actually fixable.  Have too much salt requires destruction of the dish and starting over.  You can always add salt but you cannot remove it.  Then there is the issue of light.  If we are surrounded by darkness, light can be a valuable tool.  If the power goes out in our homes, we immediately start looking for flashlights, candles, lanterns or any other method through which we can illuminate the dark.  Light reveals where darkness hides.  It is wonderful and necessary but if it is too bright, it can actually cause harm.  The sun is necessary for life, but if you stare at it with the naked eye, it can cause irreversible damage and cause.   The same can occur with the arc of a welder’s torch or other various sources of light.  Light can cause blindness if it is used inappropriately.  So what’s my point?

People of faith today, especially those in leadership positions, seem to be developing a cloaked pride that eats away at the very fabric of what they profess to believe or have been called to do.  What I mean by “cloaked pride” is they are condescending, judgmental and even downright rude with others in an attempt to “correct their mistaken point of view” or “share the truth of God’s word with them.”  When these “spiritual” people are confronted on this attitude, the response is often some rationalization about Jesus being bold and “calling a spade a spade.”  Believe me, I get it…and Jesus WAS bold!  But do not confuse boldness with pride.

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  Jesus was the only perfect man to ever live.  Everything He did was done from a heart of love.  That doesn’t mean He did not address “stupidity” head‑on, but it means every time He addressed anything at all, He had the absolute best interests of that person or group in mind.  His motives were completely pure and never self-serving.  Good grief, look how many times He would say things to His own disciples and they wouldn’t “get it” and He would have to keep going at it from different angles until they finally understood what He was trying to say.  He never once referred to them as “stupid” or tried to make them feel like He was better than them…not in public or in private.  He also never talked down about them to others.  Instead, He simply kept doing exactly what He was called to do and did it with patience and long-suffering because He loved them.  Unfortunately in today’s world, we have “leaders” who act like they are simply being bold in Christ and “setting the Pharisees of today straight” when THEY, in fact, have become the Pharisees of today.  Yet, they continue to cloak their behavior by saying it is “righteous indignation” or they are standing strong on the truth of God’s word!  There are better ways to stand strong on the truth of God’s word.

Jesus was not bound by His humanity and there was no risk of Him becoming arrogant or prideful, no matter how many people followed Him.  This cannot be said about anyone who is not perfect, and therefore applies to every single human being.  As humans, there is ALWAYS the risk of becoming arrogant or prideful.  The more people follow us or listen to us, the more power we begin to feel we have.  The more they flatter us, the more wonderful we start to think we are.  WE start to take credit for things instead of giving God the glory…even if we don’t say it out loud.  And when we have power, knowledge and influence, it is easy to start doing things that are in accordance with OUR will or protect OUR interests instead of remaining submissive to the will of our Father.  Let me be clear about this:  I do not believe most people start out with ulterior motives, but it is a natural progression to end up operating from a place of pride, arrogance and condemnation when we do not continually and truly humble ourselves before our God and remember that no matter what position we hold in a church or in life, we are ALL sinners saved by grace.  Every ability or shred of intelligence we have comes from our Father and without Him, we aren’t even smart enough to get out of bed in the morning!

shutterstock_104022092So back to my illustration of too much salt or too much light.  When it comes to people of faith being salt and light, the most important thing to remember is that we are the actual salt and light, not the One who MEASURES the salt and light!  We are the instruments and God is the one who is in control.  He knows the exact amount of salt to use or how bright to make the light.  It is up to us to get out of His way and let Him work!  We are not skilled enough to know how much is enough so it’s our job to be the light and allow God to choose the wattage.  It is up to us to be the salt but let the master chef choose the amount.  If we don’t, then we will end up harming the very people we say we are trying to help.  When we force our measurements of salt and light upon others, we end up with people who are “over-salted and blinded by light.”   When that happens, we do so much damage to our influence that only God can repair it.    

It is time to hold up a mirror in front of our faces and see things as they are.  Quit trying to disguise pride by calling it boldness.  Quit trying to say that your condescension and judgment is holiness…because it isn’t.  Stop making it your personal quest to correct the “wrongs” around you.  IT IS NOT OUR JOB!   It is not our job to condemn or look down on anyone!  It is our job to simply learn God’s word, be obedient to His will and then live (not talk) our beliefs in such a way that reflects the nature of the One who created us and leave the judgment up to Him.

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We are to love others, and if we act as Jesus truly acted and with His perfectly pure motives, then we will be sure to check ourselves before we speak or act so that we can ensure those words or actions are in accordance with God’s will AND come from a heart of true love and compassion for those around us.  John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.”  And before we say we love anyone, we need to read 1 Corinthians chapter 13 again and find out what love really looks like.  We might just be surprised.

Blessings!

Love As He Loved!

shutterstock_132424436We have just come through the Easter Season where many people of faith celebrate the resurrection of their Savior and King. I realize it is not always popular to believe in the truth of God’s word, especially in a society that has made the ridicule of “Christians” the only remaining acceptable ridicule. Jokes and vitriolic statements toward Christ, or those who believe in Him and practice their faith in His teachings, is accepted by most. And if, by chance, there should there be any outrage expressed, it is immediately dismissed as overreacting or invalid. If there is any other vitriol spewed at any other race, religion or creed, it is regarded as completely unacceptable and it should be! I simply believe that the same outrage should apply when the vitriol is directed at those who follow Christ.

Every group of people in life, no matter what they are called or what their common bond may be, has people who are narrow-minded, mean-spirited, discriminatory and hypocritical. As a person of faith, I do not like to call myself a “Christian” because more often than not I fail to truly act Christ-like. More often than not, I can identify with the Apostle Paul when he said, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do, I do not do but what I hate, that I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.” (Romans 7:14-25) I know all too well that I am just a sinner saved by grace. I need God’s grace and mercy every moment of my life and when I remember who I am and who HE is, I don’t have time to judge anyone else. It doesn’t mean I agree with everything else going on around me or the choices of the people around me but it does mean I understand that the same God who loved ME so much that He was wiling to endure the unthinkable and die the most cruel and terrible death so I didn’t have to, is the same God who loves every other person just as deeply. If that isn’t the great equalizer, I don’t know what is! I’ve heard people of faith say, “If I was the ONLY person on the earth, He would have still come and died just for me because He loves me personally.” I couldn’t agree more but He loves us all the same. His word tells us He is “no respecter of persons.” shutterstock_74446510One sin is not worse than another and He does not love one person more than another. Religion does not like to hear that truth proclaimed because religion is man-made and divides things into compartments. Religion is subjective and conditional but God is NOT! Our human nature tries to tell us that one “wrong” deed, word or thought is worse than another because if that is the case, we can make ourselves feel better by saying, “I’m not as bad as that person.” I hate to break it to you but “that person” is not the measuring stick! It’s easy for us to understand that God can love us, but we find it hard to understand that He loves the “worst” person on the earth exactly the same way! We, as people of faith, need to remember that He sacrificed everything not only for us, but for ALL. Do you know who was drawn to Christ? The sinners, the criminals, the rejected, the poor and anyone else that society (or religion) has turned away from or persecuted. Do you know why they were drawn to Him? Because He IS love! He loved them and did not treat them differently than anyone else. He didn’t condone their misdeeds, but He ate with them, talked with them and loved them through it. Religious people today have made themselves an increasingly easy target for ridicule because they have forgotten who they/we are and who God is.

shutterstock_118936651For those of us who try to live by our beliefs, it is heartbreaking and injurious when we are ridiculed for our faith. We know we are not perfect but neither is anyone else. True people of faith are more likely to forgive than to kick and scream about the wounds inflicted but please don’t mistake our silence for an absence of pain or as permission to continue to inflict injury. Not all people of faith are narrow-minded, mean-spirited, discriminatory and hypocritical. We are not stupid and we are not weak. And when we lose our way and become like the Pharisees of old, please forgive us. When we spew vitriol at others, forgive us. We, like you, are a work in progress.

So as we celebrate the One who died for us and then rose again to conquer sin and death, let us return to our “first love.” There is a God and He loves you. He died to save not only your eternal life, but your day to day life on this earth. He wants only for us to trust Him with our entire selves and to follow His leading day to day. He is someone who is with us when the world turns its back. He wraps His arms around us when we are lonely, hurt, or sad and mends our wings so we can fly again. He wants us to live an abundant life but will not allow us to have more than we can handle. It never ceases to amaze me that I have access to the absolute essence of love and power every moment of my life.

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He paid the ultimate price with His own life so that I might have an abundant life on this earth, and an eternal peace with Him one day. I did nothing and He did everything. I stand in awe of what He has done which then drives me to my knees in gratitude for the gift of life He gave me through the sacrifice of His own. He lives! He lives! Praise God He lives!

Blessings!