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The Journey of Thomas – Respect

Friday, July 24th, 2009


Ephesians 5:21
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

 

Rom. 14:3
Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him.

 

The term “respect” can mean many different things for different people. Here are some definitions to help us enter into this subject on the same basis of understanding:

 

1. Esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.
2. The condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.
3. To hold in esteem or honor: e.g.” I cannot respect someone who does that”.
4. To refrain from intruding upon or interfering with: to respect a person’s investment or time.

 
I am going to use two definitions from the list above, number “2″ and number “4″. God has given an intrinsic value to each of us. To respect what He has created without judgment is to agree with God’s assessment of value to His children.

 

I would also like to call attention to learning to value one another through maintaining commitments and paying attention to one another’s time and resources.

 

Esteeming Actual Value

Respect is a practical way of esteeming actual value. When we were created, God spoke into our lives a value that is not negotiable no matter what the world says or does. Just because we were treated poorly or we’ve acted poorly this did not remove or change our actual value. By respecting others we are communicating to them that they are worth whatever God says they are without regard to what they’ve done or based upon the world’s perspective.

 

When I was on a television program with others that were outwardly contrary to my way of thinking I learned a valuable lesson about relating to them. One man in particular was very outspoken and at times rude and the audience was cruel towards him in return. I watched what was happening and found the words “respect doesn’t have to agree” enter my head.

 

I was reminded of Jesus going through extensive insults and abuse and yet there was a respect that came out of His life that was hard for me to understand. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.

 

Rom. 14:1
Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.

 

When I consider others that I might be tempted to disrespect in my own mind, I must admit that I do not always know or understand their history, their life circumstances, or their heart. How do I know what may be underneath their opinions? Without listening to them, I won’t.

 

I have all too often been mistaken in my outward assessment of where others are at. Maybe a person was appearing to be unconvinced of something I would deem immoral. It is entirely possible that they may be seeking for freedom and deliverance from a habit right at that time? Weak in their faith could mean they are on the same road I am, just at a different place along “their” road than I can see.

 

Respect for one another’s choices

I learned a valuable lesson in respect when our country went through a very challenging election in 2008. The country was divided over race, moral values, and certainly political concerns. How did each of us make a decision as to whom we were going to vote for? Each of us had our own reasons for our choice. I am certain that we could argue our own points that we would want others to agree with. Maybe we felt threatened by the differences that were at stake. But in the end, who is right? Well, from a Christian standpoint, God’s word tells us that He selects the person of His divine choice no matter what my opinion might be.

 

I heard that a close friend of mine, who happens to be African American, was going to attend the inauguration of Barak Obama in Washington D.C. After the event I asked him how it went. His comment was heartening to hear. He said, “John, it was all worth it when I saw the tears on my dad’s face”. So much went through my mind when I heard about his experience. I know nothing of how it feels to be African American in our country. I haven’t walked the path that so many have. I absorbed someone else’s experience in my heart through their words.

 

There are so many who had strong opinions about Obama vs. McCain. Their lives, their personal experiences, their values are something I need to respect. I would do well to listen to the roads they have travelled, the reasons for their convictions, and to hear their hearts regardless of which side they may have been on. My opinions are not any more important than anyone else’s. Yes, there are absolutes in God’s Word but there is also much room-as acknowledged in Romans 14:3-for personal freedom or conviction. Sometimes we just don’t know the bigger picture. In the end people have their own perspectives and we must respect their right to think and act as they choose.

 

Learning from difference

I found that I could learn a lot more about life if I would practice listening to others even if they disagreed with my position. Once I saw value in the differing opinions I saw them as food for thought and I began to learn. I heard someone once say that you learn from listening to your worst critic. I believe this can only be the case if you are willing to hear what they are saying with respect, and then you may find yourself growing in wisdom and in perspective.

 

Respecting one another has to do with pushing down our own pride and gaining a perspective for others that Christ may want us to see. Jesus loves everyone equally; He sees things in our lives and hears things in our hearts that we cannot always see and hear for ourselves. Respecting others will require us to see deeper into each other and look for what God sees.

 

Respect for authority

I remember sitting at a picnic table with some friends of mine. I was upset about some things going on in our church and was speaking negatively about the way our pastor was running things. My friends challenged me by saying, “John, God has not made you the pastor”.

 

I quickly did an evaluation of the truth of their words. I didn’t sit in his chair, his office, nor did I see things from his perspective. I was not right to assume I fully understood his reasoning for the decisions he had made. God had called me to respect his position, not because it was greater than mine, but because I was called to submit to his perspective, and that I didn’t know it all.

 

This didn’t mean that I was less than, or “underneath” him. Rather, there was an intrinsic difference between my view and his. When Ephesians 5:21 says to “submit to one another”, scripture is saying that we are not above or below one another, rather just different. We are called to understand this truth, that we each have different positions, different perspective and to submit to one another is to embrace this reality and not to push for our way being the right way.

 

Heb. 13:17
Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.

 

Respecting the authority of difference around us will be a blessing to all of us.

 

Respect for Wives and Husbands

One of the most interesting things I have experienced is the multifaceted interpretation of the biblical instruction for a wife to “submit” to her husband and for a husband to “love” his wife. To submit in this context is a willing subjection, not to be “lorded” over, rather to understand perspective. God has given the husband a mantle of understanding from his role in a marriage. God has also given the wife a mantle of perspective. A mutual submission here is an understanding of respect that will set us free! It is not designed to place us into bondage.

 

For a wife to willingly subject herself to her husband is to understand that he may see what she doesn’t. To choose to allow him to walk in the position of husband and to support what God has put into place by His design is to respect the role.

 

The husband on the other hand, is equally called to respect the role of “wife”. To grasp that God has also given her a viewpoint that is to be heard and embraced, not fought against and resisted as though there is a supreme authority in the husband.

 

Eph. 5:33
Nevertheless, let each individual among you also love his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see to it that she respect her husband.

 

Through Jesus’ eyes

An acquaintance of mine, Tim Miller, once said, “When you look into the mirror and begin to see more of Jesus, the mirror will turn into a window and you begin to see what He sees – hurting people needing our kindness and respect.”

 

We must also see that there isn’t a “pecking order” in the kingdom of God. There isn’t a hierarchy, or someone who is bigger than or better than someone else. There are some who are more talented than others, or who have a different type of responsibility but this doesn’t mean that others are less significant, less valuable or those who have all the answers.

 

When the man who is cleaning up the office speaks to the President of the company about how his job of cleaning would be made more efficient if some things were handled differently, it would behoove the president to listen because he isn’t the one mopping the floors each night. The Janitor therefore is to be respected for his perspective. At the same time, the president may have knowledge about the budget that the janitor needs to hear and submit to as well.

 

Respect for time

Another way to respect is to value one another’s time. I have known some people who are habitually late for things. I am not talking about the situation where an unforeseen matter comes up that causes someone to be late, rather the person who just doesn’t get up in time or dawdles around to make them late. Being on time is something that is really important if we are to respect one another. Being habitually late may communicate to a friend that “our” time is more important than “theirs” and therefore they can just sit at the restaurant and look at the menu until we arrive.

 

Have you made a commitment to do something for someone? Than do it out of respect. Have you made a promise that you would follow through with something? Than make it happen – out of respect.

 

Respect for yourself

Always remember to respect yourself as well. Taking care of ourselves in our health, our rest and personal maintenance all affirms to us internally that we are worth respect. Sometimes we don’t receive respect because we aren’t communicating to others that we respect ourselves.

 

Developing healthy boundaries, healthy relationships, and allowing God to remove unhealthy patterns of behavior will all say that we respect ourselves. Saying no when we feel the need or conviction to do so will say “I am worth taking care of myself”.

 

Matt: 22:37-39
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

 

Printable PDF – Respect

 

The Journey of Thomas – Sensitivity

Thursday, July 16th, 2009


By John J. Smid

 
Prov. 15:23
A man finds joy in giving an apt reply- and how good is a timely word

 

Prov. 16:24
Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones

 

I love you! How many times in your life have you heard someone verbally say they love you? How often as a child did you hear your dad or mom say these words to you without shortening them to “luv ya”? Or did you hear this at all? I find that it can’t be said too much.

 

It is so important when showing the love of Christ to others that we develop an awareness of how much people need to know they are loved and cared for. Affirmation is so important and it is much more significant when it is attached to something specific.

 

John 13:34
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

 

God loves us, period.

God’s word here says basically two things: First, God loves us, period. Second, it says that we are asked to share that love with others through personally loving them.

 

This kind of love isn’t necessarily romantic, nor is it intended to be erotic. In our contemporary world, the word love is so misunderstood because it has so many meanings. The love shown here is a command that may or may not have a mushy, affection attached to it. It is the kind of love that we chose to give away. It may be very sacrificial! In fact, most people that we chose to love will likely bring us to a point of sacrifice at some point or another in our relationship.

 

Some of us have received a comment such as “good job” for things we have done well. Or maybe we have received kind words of thanks when we have given something to someone as a gift. And in some cases, we might have heard “I Love You” from unexpected places. But what about affirmation of whom we are as God has created us to be?

 

This love is not connected to performance!

I was at a weekly men’s support meeting at my church about 12 years ago. I was in a really tough spot and feeling a lot of self pity. One of my friends spoke emphatically to me about how I really needed to “get over it”. His words were true and I received them in the spirit in which they were meant. I was thankful for his response which was intended to somehow “shock” me into a better reality. But, at the end of the meeting my friend said, “John, maybe I was too hard on you and it might have been better if I had just told you, “I love you.” Wow! That was powerful for me to receive. I was moved to tears hearing this man spare his own machismo to tell me clearly and succinctly that he loved me.

 

One of the most meaningful kinds of love is unconditional love. This kind of love isn’t attached to what we have done or given, it is just that we are loved by God and as His children we are commanded to do likewise, love each other just because we are called to, because He loves them.

 

If you happen to be a parent, check to see how often you tell your kids, “we love you” as though you and your spouse are one person. While it is very important to be united and show you are a team, in marriage, it is also important to show your kids you are individuals too. Try to tell them you love them as a dad, or mom separately from one another. “I Love You!” There is a lot of meaning in a son hearing from his dad, “I love you, Son.” There is a lot of significance for a daughter to hear this from her dad or vice versa as well. The eye to eye, verbal, with personal contact, “I L O V E You” is very important.

 

This certainly doesn’t mean we are to avoid giving affirmations on behalf of a group or couple. Being sensitive to that is very important as well. Showing appreciation for someone’s involvement in our lives is equally important – however it may be easier because of less vulnerability involved.

 

The power of a poignant pause……

Think about it just for a minute. It can be very personal to enter someone’s day with an “I love you” that just hangs there and isn’t associated with a tradeoff nor does it expect something in return. This is the love of Jesus, His love for us without us giving anything in return and expecting nothing in the future. Sounds a lot like the Gospel, doesn’t it?

 

The Blessing – without it we may search in all the wrong ways to find it!

There is a book by Garry Smalley and John Trent called The Blessing which I have found teaches an important lesson on sensitivity. This little book is powerful and effective in showing us how to truly bless one another, not by affirming something we have done, but rather affirming the character that God built into us when He created us.

 

When blessing an adult child, as a parent, it is important to think of them when they were growing up. There are times when we are looking at our adolescent or adult children and a blessing is far from our minds. We may be really challenged by their lives or choices. But this may be the most significant time to share a blessing; at times when they may not feel they deserve even a kind word-much less a blessing.

 

What kind of person were they when they were 7 or 8 years old? What was their natural bent? How did they see their world or other people? This may have been a time before they were wounded or hurt by the world. It might have been a purer time in their life for their personality to have shone.

 

A blessing for them when they are grown would contain many of these characteristics within it. The same would apply to a child blessing their parent. Look back over your life and see if you can find things about their character that you can bless regardless of their current behavior.

 

 

Blessing people in general

Sometimes we have challenging relationships with others that might require us to dig deep for a blessing to be written or shared but it is possible if we put aside surface things we see and look for the positive character traits that we have observed over time.

 

As we learn to live honestly, entering into one another’s lives, we must learn to become more sensitive in regards to loving each other. This is not a perfect world and we are certainly not perfect people, but God asks us to love each other actively.

 

1 John 3:18

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

 

If we have been honest, put aside our rights for a special time, heard their hearts, and released our judgment, it becomes so much easier-maybe even natural-to sacrificially love someone else.

 

Physical Affirmation

I grew up without much physical affirmation. When I was a teenager I felt hungry for hugs. I thought this through and figured the easiest person to get a hug from would be my Grandma Smid. I was at her home and when we left I reached out and sought a hug from her. It was so well received; I thought “who would be next?” So one by one I reached out to other family members and found that when I hugged them, they typically responded with a warm hug in return.

 

Later in my life, I went too far with hugs. I lost all sense of healthy physical contact and moved into inappropriate physical contact and sexuality. When I was convicted to return to a healthier lifestyle those simple hugs didn’t seem to mean anything anymore. I was starved for the way it felt to hug my grandma but my excessive physical boundary crossing had damaged my physical receptors.

 

I was in a really good church where hugs were often given and I received them with resentment due to my unhealthy hunger for more. But over time, something amazing happened! As my flesh detoxified from the abuse of touch, I found that God had healed my failed nerve endings. Simple hugs, holding hands to pray, and a pat on the shoulder became a lifeline to my soul, healing many places that were damaged.

 

I never thought it would happen, but the hunger was finally satiated. Today, I give physical affirmation to others rather than trying to manipulate it from someone else. I realize how important physical touch is when it is healthy. I know how many may be starved for the touch of a trusted friend who isn’t looking for something in return.

 

Seeking permission to touch

I have also learned that some people may be wounded in such a way that touch may be something they can’t accept from someone they don’t know or without their permission. For some, physical touch can feel unsafe and potentially dangerous to their personal circumstances.

 

I learned that it was vital when at church, or in a social setting that if I don’t know someone I need to ask permission to hug them if it is healthy in that setting to do so. I also learned that there are safe ways for people of the opposite gender to hug. A safe “side to side” hug can not only communicate healthy physical touch but it can also communicate that I desire to protect them by not assuming they are comfortable with other types of physical hugs.

 

Learning sensitivity for others hearts, souls, and physical boundaries is vital in developing respectful relationships.

 

Printable PDF – Sensitivity

 

The Journey of Thomas – Protect Confidentiality

Saturday, July 11th, 2009


 

Proverbs 11:13
A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.

 

Prov. 25:9-10
If you argue your case with a neighbor, do not betray another man’s confidence, or he who hears it may shame you and you will never lose your bad reputation.

 

Prov. 12:14
From the fruit of his lips a man is filled with good things as surely as the work of his hands rewards him.

 

One Type of Gossip

I learned a valuable lesson a few years ago about gossip. There are two aspects to protecting one another’s confidentiality. The first pertains to what is commonly understood as gossip; it is our responsibility not to speak out of turn with regards to someone else’s story.

 

When someone shares something with us that is personal or when we become aware of something in someone else’s life that we intuitively know needs to be protected, we ought not to speak of it to anyone else.

 

There isn’t a better way to ruin the health of a relationship or the unity of a group of people than to talk about things we shouldn’t. I have added the word “protect” to the title of this topic because it brings to my mind the nature of my responsibility, which is essentially to protect someone’s “nakedness” in life.

 

When we become close to someone through really hearing their heart and through our own personal honesty connect to their story, it would be my hope that the natural outcome would be to be protective of them and not share their story out of turn.

 

I have listened, understood, and related and now I can actually put myself into their shoes and think about how I might want my personal story protected. Even as I write this I am thinking of someone I know who is going through a very hard time. I reflect back on times when I have struggled intensely with something very personal. I wonder how I would have felt if someone carelessly told my story without purpose or redemptive intent. I wonder if they would rather tell my story just to have something juicy to share with their friend.

 

A More Subtle Type of Gossip

For the last 30 years, my life has been a relatively open book. When I chose to go into a sin-filled lifestyle of homosexuality my family and friends all knew of my choices. I didn’t necessarily make the decision to tell everyone but in that situation, no one attempted to hide my choice or pretend in any way so as to hide their perspectives. Actually, this became a good thing in the long term. There was no information that was left unturned.

 

When I made a decision to leave my behavior and associations with it behind, that too was public information. Then for the next 25 years, my life became an open book to the public. There isn’t anything further to find out about me. All of the skeletons that could have been in my closet never moved behind the closed door. It has been pretty hard for someone to gossip about my life. There isn’t anything further to tell that I haven’t already publicly told. I find that quite freeing!

 

I have learned there is another aspect to gossip that is a bit more difficult to discern as such. Gossip can also be a pursuit of “untold” information. I find that when it is appropriate to share something about our own lives, then sharing enough pertinent information about the circumstances will actually slow down the temptation to gossip from others. When we hide things from those around us it is more likely there will be gossip.

 

I remember a time when a spiritual leader had fallen into sexual sin. The leadership of the church saw his repentance and felt the spiritual leading to have this man share his struggle and seek forgiveness with those in the sphere of his influence. Due to the fact he had sinned against them in his disobedience they had him share in front of his group. When this was done, the details were not kept to just “he has had a moral lapse” but rather, he shared that he had gotten into pornography and had committed adultery against his marriage. The leadership supported his desire to seek restoration and he was then prayed for and subsequently supported into his restoration.

 

The facilitator of the sharing time closed with this statement, “when you leave this place, don’t talk about anything you didn’t hear here” I was amazed at this because it was as though there was a release to talk, to process, to work through the effects, but there was a boundary set in place. “Don’t go digging for things you don’t need to know. You have all the information you need to deal with this appropriately!”

 

The outcome of this situation was a surprising lack of gossip within the circle of people involved! People were loving, supportive and went away with the questions in their mind settled. I learned that gossip often comes out of unanswered questions. It can be for some an attempt to seek answers but without honesty and authenticity this can become a breeding ground for gossip. The “did you hear about” pursuit often ends up in a fact-finding pursuit that leads to gossip.

 

Our Responsibility

We have two responsibilities here. The first is to not share things out of turn or to seek answers to our questions through the guise of “please pray for them”. The second is to live our lives with integrity, honesty and not seeking to falsely protect our reputation. Live in the light!

 

The biblical encouragement to confront sin in Matthew chapter 18 starts with the one on one confrontation of what has happened or is going on. If it becomes clear that the sin continues, scripture says to take two others with us. This would require telling someone about what is going on. This step has a spiritual responsibility to share the situation and if done with redemption in mind, is not gossip – that is unless you have the wrong motives.

 

The spirit of this lesson is to have a protective heart for others no matter what our relationship is. In building healthy relationships it is imperative to not speak out of turn. Some of the deepest wounding in our families and relationships come from not protecting one another’s hearts.

 

Proverbs 16:28
“A perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends.”

 

Let’s become trustworthy people and build a strong supportive community so that when we have problems, we have a community to help.

 

When we have engaged in gossip

I struggle with my lips being too loose. One of the hardest things I have had to do is to go to someone and confess that I have said something out of turn. There is a lot of shame associated with gossip. This tells me in my spirit how much this hurts the Father and others. Gossip is listed in the same places as sexual sin, adultery, stealing and prostitution!

 

1 Cor. 6:9-11

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 

So often we hear of the abomination of “bigger sins” and yet, slander is listed amongst them. Gossip is slander. It is engaging in conversation that would leave someone’s reputation in worse condition than before we spoke. I am speaking to myself here! I feel much conviction when I have spoken about someone negatively.

 

As I evaluate the times I have spoken out of turn I realize that I have often been feeling resentful, entitled or betrayed. I have been looking for validation or for someone to vent with instead of handling the situation with maturity and love. There have also been times when I have felt “powerless” to change someone else but instead of having a redemptive attitude or plan in place, it was just empty and unproductive “talk”.

 

A common passage on the tongue was written in the book of James.

 

James 3:3:-12
When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

 

All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

 

This passage tells me that without Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit, we will allow the tongue to control our lives and relationships.

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183

 

 Printable PDF – Protect Confidentiality

 

The Journey of Thomas – Non-Judgmental

Friday, July 3rd, 2009


Matthew 7:1-5

Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when at the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

 

“Arthur, I have been really struggling with something I did recently that I just can’t seem to shake. I don’t know what happened but when I talked with Sarah yesterday it seemed that I made things even worse for her. She failed her test at school and I studied with her and knew she could have passed. I tried to help her but in the end, she went away in tears.

 

“Well, Jim, you just need to understand, these things happen and your daughter is responsible for her own failure. She should have studied more. You probably shouldn’t have studied for her like it seems you did. You know what the Bible says about those things, “Each man should bear his own load.” Your daughter is responsible for her own grades. She is old enough now for that.”

 

(Gosh, maybe I am really a bad dad and have made more mistakes than I thought I did.)

 

What just happened? Jim started out the conversation seeking Arthur’s camaraderie and friendship in something that was troubling him. His friend quickly became a teacher and with arrogance just shut him down. I am certain Arthur didn’t intend on hurting his friend Jim. But in the end, Jim may have just needed a friend to listen; instead he got a teaching session and a Bible scripture to boot!

 

No questions or active listening here. It is almost as though this friend had a script memorized ahead of time, ready for bear. Arthur’s answers were plastic, empty and prescribed instead of empathetic or caring towards his friend.

 

When I Listen….

When I look into someone’s life with sincerity-listening to their heart with mine-it is very difficult to be judgmental about their choices or circumstances. However, when I put myself in the role of detached instruction I likely devalue their life experience or perspectives on challenging issues.

 

All too often I can get into my “better than you” stance and look down on others as though somehow I have the definitive answers to life’s problems and questions. I must remember that I may see outward circumstances and may have my own opinions on things, but I cannot see their heart with full clarity.

 

Of course, this passage from Matthew does not negate our ability to make “sound” judgments and to make appropriate decisions about things that we encounter. Instead, this kind of judgment means to assume the office of “Judge” in someone’s life.

 

There is only one judge, and that is Jesus Christ! When we face His judgment we will be assessed fairly and with perfection so who are we to think that we can do that? It’s when we express this attitude that the world turns to us and says, “Don’t judge me”. When they see us with a “holier than thou” attitude their comments are often accurate about us. They are telling us the truth – we can be arrogant about what others do or think and it isn’t right for us to have that attitude.

 

I can quote the second part of this scripture like this, “Oh, here, little one, let me fix your problems since I don’t have any of my own, I can sure help you out here.” Meanwhile I am using this situation to distract myself from the gashing wound that may be present in my own life.

 

So, how do we learn to be more non-judgmental? By working diligently to evaluate our own lives truthfully. Then we are more likely to have compassion towards others and stop pointing our accusing fingers. We build towards this process as we become honest with ourselves. When we see we are capable of the same shortcomings, we can then see ourselves as fallible as everyone else. When we realize we are attempting to “cast the first stone”, we lose our power as accusers.

As we grow less judgmental our relationships will very likely improve. Our decision to assume the office of “Judge” does nothing more than to build walls and barriers with others. Personal honesty gives us the ability to better see our walls so we can begin to tear them down.

 

Teachy-Preachy Communication

Another concept of learning how to relate to others in a healthier way is to put down the proverbial pointing finger in our communication. This “teachy-preachy” way of communication is very prideful and off-putting and it may prevent relationships to flourish. It is with this “closed ears” posture that people feel invalidated and dominated. The “I know better than you” attitude that comes through parent/child style of communication between adults can invalidate a person’s heart and therefore produce walls between us.

 

Can you remember a time when someone pulled out the visible or invisible finger pointing, telling you what to do, or using the “I know what you need” kind of communication? How did you feel? Maybe feeling small or insignificant comes to mind? Or, did it just bring about feelings of invalidation, or intimidation for you? Certainly this is not going to be fruitful.

 

I am thankful that there are people who have walked the road ahead of me and have learned some life lessons that will help me. However, when I am trying to sort through my feelings or pour my heart out, I don’t handle someone telling me what to do or how to do it very well. There will be a time later when I am ready to hear wisdom from someone’s life experience and my ears are situated to hear it.

 

Covering Up My Own Insecurities?

I believe that teachy-preachy communication has closed more relationships off than many other communication errors we can make. I recognize that there have been times when I have gotten into teachy-preachy responses because I began to feel uncomfortable with overwhelming reactions and I just didn’t know what to do. So, instead of learning how to find a sense of peace with someone else’s sorting out process, I tried to fix them and their problems by all the things I know will help. In the end, I don’t think I helped them at all.

 

Bible Bullets

As Christians, we can be so quick to bring another bible passage to the conversation. So often when we find ourselves with a challenging situation with a friend or family member, we can default to some seemingly wise repeating of a bible scripture. I have heard these referred to as “bible bullets” and it sure can communicate an underlying message – “here, let me shoot you with this”! Maybe that will kill off the terrible choices you are making or about to make.

 

If the person isn’t a Christian, then I am reminded that the unsaved man doesn’t understand the things of the Spirit. (I Cor. 2:14) If the person is a Christian, the heat of a challenging conversation is really not the best time to bring out a Scripture. I have learned the best thing we can do in that situation is listen and wait for the right time for our own spiritual input to be relevant. A good time for this might be when they ask.

 

There is certainly a place for God’s holy, inspired Word to be shared. There are teaching moments and situations that provide the best venue to bring Scripture into a situation. But this must be discerned with wisdom and typically only after a person feels valued and heard by us as members of the Body of Christ. Then we might see a better receptivity for some of our best scriptural insights to be shared.

 

This doesn’t let us off the hook! The practice of personal honesty is work. There are times when we look at another person’s life; the splinter we see in their eyes can call us to be reminded of the logs in our own eyes. This humbling experience is just that – an opportunity to regain some honesty in my own life.

 

What will we do when we see someone troubled? What about someone who has just made a terrible mistake? And what was our response to the store clerk that didn’t help us like we would have liked. Or the church friend who has just slammed the reputation of someone we love.

 

Our response is one of humble evaluation of our own lives so that first of all we understand that if we haven’t done it, we may be tempted to do it or we may end up doing the very same thing we are critical of someone else doing.

 

I try each day to live with this in mind; the fact that I am breathing today, is God’s grace on my life. In my imperfection and humanness, I deserve death as compared to God’s standards of complete perfection. Due to my human nature, God provided Jesus Christ to die in my stead so that I may have life – life abundantly. Isn’t this the same for everyone?

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 3818

 

 Printable PDF – Non-judgemental

 

The Journey of Thomas – Active Participation

Friday, June 26th, 2009


James 1:19
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.

 

Prov. 18:13
He who answers before listening that is his folly and his shame.

 

Part Two: The Way

The Journey of Thomas has been built in three sections. The first one is based on gaining honesty in our own life. It was a time to develop a better understanding of our own hearts. Each session was designed to help us to become more aware of our own life experiences with the hope we would be more able to share them with others.

 

The second section is called “The Way”. We are going to introduce some practical tools and skill development to learn more about what we can do to connect more intimately with others. The Way is the “how to” of this curriculum. It will involve building new habits, learning new ways of relating to others that are more effective. We will also have to break some old habits. We begin with Active Participation.

 

The Art of Listening

Listening to another person’s heart can be one of the most affirming actions we can enter into. Hearing the heart cries, the joys, the desires of another person can build a rich deep relationship and create a connection that will promote a stronger desire to spend time with one another.

 

Sometimes we are remiss and allow distractions to get in the way of hearing some important things from someone we know. Television, cell phones, busy schedules, or even our own life issues can all interrupt significant interaction with others.

 

Or when we are faced with a challenging conversation it is easy to respond to defend ourselves or to attempt to “fix” the problem that has arisen rather than to take the time to truly listen to what is being said. Sometimes the details we hear lead us to a misunderstanding of the real issues and our reaction can be to feel hurt or misunderstood and we react out of our own wounds.

 

So many of us are habitual “fixers” and try so hard to find solutions for our hurting or challenged friends or family. Sometimes the frustration that may come from the conversation can come from our “fixing” ways. Maybe our friend doesn’t want to be fixed; they just want to feel heard. Fixing can be a way of trying to get someone else’s problem out of my already overwhelmed life. Or, it can take focus off of the person and onto how skilled I am at fixing someone else. The motive to overrun another person with our own goals will often thwart listening to their heart.

 

Relating in a “fixing” mode will often lead to arguing, bantering, and overall a lack of effective relationship.

 

Prov. 20:3
It is to a man’s honor to avoid strife, but every fool is quick to quarrel.

 

Active participation requires of us to practice the art of listening. Psalm 116: 1-2 is my life verse because I felt so unheard most of my life.

 

I love the LORD, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.

 

My journey towards Christ started from knowing that He heard my heart cry for help. His personal response to my hurting heart drew me into His hope.

 

We must learn to listen in such a way as to turn our ears to one another when it is important to do so. It is important to know when it is time to put down the book, to turn off the television, to shut off our cell phones. Can you imagine how much it would help you to know that when we really need to share our heart with the person we have chosen to allow in, that they would turn to us with an undivided ear? I believe that everyone really desires to know they are significant and the when they are in trouble, there will be someone who will care. No matter what kind of bravado we can put up around ourselves, we are all human and I believe need a listening ear at sometime in our lives.

 

Enter With Our Whole Heart

When we decided to enter into honest, authentic, and transparent relationships we must choose to enter in with our whole heart. This requires of us to set aside our lives for the sake of one another.

 

Phil. 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

 

Letting go of our personal agendas or rights for the time needed to affirm something in someone else’s life that deserves our attention is a skill worth learning. When we have become honest enough with ourselves to know how much we desire to feel heard, to feel significant, we can be much more aware of this need in others.

 

Maybe that television program can be let go; or the score of the game can be seen at a later time. We might be out to lunch with a friend and we just heard something that pricked our heart and we can put down the drink or sandwich at least for a moment to gain eye contact with our friend letting them know we are listening.

 

Defensive Posture

We might have found ourselves involved in a difficult discussion with our spouse and we feel defensive about what is being brought out. It would be helpful to develop the self control to not respond in defensiveness. But rather it would be great to learn to turn our ears to the other person to hear them. This will go a long way at staving off fruitless arguments.

 

Many years ago in my growth as Christian one of the most important things I learned is that I do not really have any “rights”. I realized that without the grace of the Almighty God, I am dead and my very breath is a gift from Him. The fact that I am alive is God’s provision for me at His will. This helps me to be a lot less defensive with others when I feel challenged or threatened by something someone has said. I also have learned to be honest with myself. At least inside my heart I know that more than likely, there is a lot of truth in a challenging comment or situation. I know that I may hold at least some of the blame for the rift or accusation. It is a pretty thin pancake that doesn’t have two sides!

 

A friend of mine told once that when a conversation is really heated up, it can be like a racing herd of rhinoceroses and not the best time to try to stop them because they will trample you. It was wise to let them run themselves out and then go and deal with the issue that may have caused them to run. I have found this to be such wise counsel. Don’t try to come running into a hurting situation with your best memory of God’s word. It would be best to listen to their heart.

 

Listening to the Wounded Heart

I have worked with a lot of wounded and abused people over the years. I have been wounded too. I have learned that what I needed more than anything else in order to experience healing was an ear of concern or validation. I typically figured out the rest with the Lord and over time. Because I knew this about myself it has made it much easier to learn the skill of listening to others rather than trying to remove the pain by my insights or instruction for them. I can easily slip into a teaching way and therefore I also learned that this is a skill that must be practiced.

 

An example of this is when I was in my forties, I told my sister that my step father had crossed some serious sexual boundaries with me when I was only ten years old. After I shared this with her, she just looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “John, I never knew this happened to you. I am so sorry”. I cannot tell you how much healing occurred in my heart that day just because someone that was there, who knew the people involved, said they heard and understood. I felt validated, and a salve of healing poured over my wound that day. All she did was to hear my heart and I felt it deep inside. She didn’t try to minimize, fix, or over compensate through her own efforts.

 

Can You Relate?

Active participation in one another’s lives requires the sacrifice of our own. Jesus modeled this in setting aside His own life for ours. He is asking us to do the same for one another.

 

Can you relate to what someone has shared? When I was in a terrible situation in my life with broken relationships and increasing shame, a friend told me to go to an Al-anon/Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. He said that I might find a better group of friends there. I had nothing to lose so I went. I will never forget the impact I experienced at that first meeting. I don’t remember what it was but I openly shared something about my life and a lady across the room stood up and said, “John, I can relate to what you have shared”. That one act of listening moved me to a brand new life with God. I learned the Serenity Prayer and felt led to seek God the next time I was experiencing the pain I had gotten myself into. Her active relating that day helped me to feel less alone and more motivated to seek help. I believe this was the first time I sought God from my heart to His.

One of my favorite scriptures is:

 

Heb. 13:3
Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.

 

As Christians one of the most powerful tools we have is the ability to share the testimony of our life experience with those who are stuck or bound by their own prisons. Active Participation leads us to put our own lives in the shoes of someone else’s experience, because we recognize we have been there. We have all known a prison, a shame filled experience where we were so bound we may have been unwilling to leave the prison cell due to our own fears. We needed desperately to know we weren’t alone. Someone coming alongside us who would just listen can be the trick!

 

To actively listen to someone’s heart will require us to get into our own hearts. It may be a vulnerable place for us to go but taking the risk is worth it. It is a personal sacrifice we become willing to make for the sake of God’s kingdom and His people.

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 3818

 

Printable PDF – Active Participation

 

The Journey of Thomas – Transparency

Thursday, June 18th, 2009


 

James 1:19-20
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

 

To be transparent means to be free of pretense or deception. As Christians we are often accused of being arrogant, or plastic. We have been called hypocrites. We are sometimes accused of being unrealistic and fake. Transparency renders such accusations without merit. Living a life of transparency is one “clear” enough that God can write on our lives His message, but to have enough substance to be the vehicle that He wants to use.

 

As a Christian, if I am not careful, I can easily put myself above someone else because I can be judgmental towards others, seeing what they are doing compared to what I am not doing. In my younger years while I was living a very rebellious life I would often grade those around me in such a way as to make myself out to be better than they were. I would say to myself, “Well at least I’m not like that”. Here I was sleeping around, drinking, lying, and many other despicable things but at least I didn’t do that! Well, it was the “that’s” that I was tempted to do next and often did.

 

Being transparent is going deeper than honesty or authenticity; to be “clear” through and through. It means to not cloud up my life with pretense and deception. This doesn’t mean I lose myself and become so invisible that there is no substance to my life but rather allow others to see my true self infused with the spirit of Christ when I communicate with them. For example, when I was in school the teacher would use an overhead transparency to write on with the so that we could see what she was saying to us; or to draw an example of what he imparting to us.

 

Transparency also means that we are of such a special design that the purposes are clear for how God wishes to use us. We also know the limitations of our lives and therefore we have an understanding of how we are not to be used. Again, referring back to the transparencies my teacher used, there are transparencies for color enhancement or to change texture. There are permanent transparencies so the message is never lost, and there are erasable ones that can be used over and over again.

 

I have a friend who is a part of our home group. I can’t tell you the number of times he has come to report some interesting, God inspired, divinely appointed opportunity to help someone, to encourage someone, to pray with someone, or just to tell someone he loves them. His life not only challenges my selfish heart, but it challenges my ears to hear from the Lord and obey what He is asking of me.

 

A transparent life does not demand its purpose, but is available to be used when appropriate to do so. Just recently, I was driving down the street and saw someone I knew in the car near me. I saw him turn into a fast food restaurant for lunch and thought of the transparency of my friends openness to being flexible. I drove by thinking, “I should call him to tell him I saw him”. I didn’t have his number with me, so I decided to make a u-turn (legally!), go back and say hello in person.

 

I went in while he was in line. He asked if I was eating as well. I said, “No, I saw you come in and decided to stop in to say hi”. He said he didn’t typically go to lunch at that time but was glad that his day turned out differently because it gave him the opportunity to share a little time together.

 

As it turned out, this was a great blessing for both of us. It is not usual for me to go out of my schedule or convenience to do this. But my friend’s life and the blessings he receives from living ready and available make me want to have some of what he has. That day, I got a taste of what can happen if I listen and move according to the opportunity that comes my way.

 

I am picturing in my mind a stack of brand new transparencies all ready for their uses to be discovered. As we line up our lives, is it possible to wait, to ponder, to be ready for our Heavenly Father to take us off of the pile when he needs us? Are we available and ready?

 

I remember getting into a pile of transparencies and found one that was not clean and had to put it back for a later time when it could be cleaned up. When I am ready to use one, I need a clean one right then.

 

I’ve also found that there are the ones that are wiped clean to use over and over. There is also the one right out of the box that I have used for the permanent printing purposes. I can’t say the used ones are less valuable than the brand new ones. Each one has its own place. But sometimes I think I’d rather be the older ones. I would see a whole lot more that way. The new ones might be permanently printed on and then put away in a file box only for only special occasions. Each of us has our own special place in the kingdom!

 

I have missed opportunities for my Father to use me because I just wasn’t ready yet. I must understand that He will do the cleaning when the time is right. I guess in the end, living a transparent life means I have to learn to be flexible and ready to be used at any given point for whatever He wants.

 

Whatever Lord!

 

If I am going to grow in my passionate response to the Great Commission, I will have to open my heart to living a transparent life. Loving others and sharing the life of Jesus with them through my life will not often be convenient and will likely call me to make a u-turn on short notice.

 

Another form of transparency is being free to alter a challenging situation rather than to continue in it. I have learned a great tool that has helped me on numerous occasions to ward off an argument or a conflictive conversation. I call it the “24-hour rule”.

 

Prov. 25:8 (NAS)
Do not go out hastily to argue your case. Otherwise, what will you do in the end when your neighbor humiliates you?

 

One day I opened up a dialogue with my wife in which I felt indignant and smugly correct about the conflict. As I continued to attempt to prove my point, my wife said, “John, I’ll have to think about what you said and I’m not going to continue the conversation at this time. I’ll get back to you tomorrow with my thoughts”.

 

I felt shut out and even more indignant, but I couldn’t argue with someone who had just said, “I am not going to respond.” At the same time, I felt free from the discomfort of my own challenging perspective and glad that she had the forethought to utilize this tool.

 

The next day, in that same integrity, she came back to me after both of us had time to process. We discussed the matter quite differently this time than we were trying to do the day before.

 

There are two elements to this particular tool that make it work.

 

• Number one, a willingness to establish the boundary that comes with the tool in the middle of an emotional discussion.

 

• Number two, having enough conviction and integrity so as to not forgo the discussion but to bring it back up so as to resolve it the next day.

 

This tool, as simple as it is, will work with parents and children, spouses, work situations, and any other situation that can become unhealthy if it continues without a healthy process. This tool values the person who is conflictive because you are saying to them that you really want to take the time to think and pray about what they have said. It also values them because it can keep them from continuing in a conversation they both of you may regret later, and requires transparency.

 

 © 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 3818

 

PDF of Transparency Article

 

The Journey of Thomas – Authenticity

Sunday, June 14th, 2009


by John J. Smid

 

Luke 6:45

The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

 

Authenticity is a word that is very poplar these days. It seems everyone is looking for authenticity and is saying they want this from others. The definition of authenticity is to be genuine, real, not false or an imitation of yourself. Are we sure we know what we are asking for?

 

The challenge to a discovery of authenticity is that it requires of us to know ourselves deeply. To live out an authentic life means that we must be willing to live as who we were created to be.

 

Psalm 139 14-16

 

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

 
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.

 
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.

 
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

 

If God knows us intimately and formed us for His own purposes and design, then our role is to seek Him for who He made us to be. Authenticity can therefore only be lived out if we know the original plan. This would require of us to speak to our Creator and hear His responses. Hearing from Him His original design for our lives can be a lifelong process but in our discovery process we are given the option to accept it or to reject it.

 

God’s created design is not so complicated. First, we are humans. He has shown us many things in His Word about how He designed us to live as human beings. Then, he created us “male and female, He created them”. There are clear designs for men and women as well. After that, we are individuals with many unique qualities.

 

What are our talents, our gifts? Do you know how you were designed to function within our human culture? Have you hungered to be like someone else thinking life would be better if you had their gifts? In some cases, trying to be like someone else would be like putting a Toyota emblem on a Chevrolet; not only would it not be honest, but it might look awkward to the discerning eye.

 

There are many questions that we have concerning whether or not God intentionally created some people with birth defects or weaknesses. Without getting into a theological study on this; living an authentic life includes the acceptance of things the way they are without trying to hide this reality.

 

For example, I remember a speaker that was born with half of one of his arms missing. He wore a prosthetic arm. When he got up to speak, the first thing he did was tell us the story of his arm. His authenticity put us all at ease and took the attention off of the curiosity that could have been there had he not mentioned it.

 

False Images

We can also learn to apply “false images” to ourselves through the course of our lives that can deceive others as they get to know us. When I was figuring out how to live my life I went through stages of clothing styles, haircuts, and mannerisms that I remember with embarrassment today. I am sure I looked pretty weird to some people as I passed through my phases of self-discovery. I realized that there were also times when I conformed to what I thought others may have expected, blending in so as to not draw attention to myself. Either of these can be an extreme if it isn’t lined up with my own authenticity.

 

Sometimes we misrepresent ourselves to others. I have known a couple of young men who are artists. When I first saw them they appeared to me to be counter-culture. Therefore, I judged them to be cold and emotionally hard due to their tattoos and ragged clothing. I later had the opportunity to hear them talk about their lives. I was so wrong! They were both sweet spirited, kind, and very connected to the real spirit of the Lord. They were mature in their walk with Christ as evidenced by displaying His heart. The sad thing is that they had adopted an appearance that was misrepresenting their true heart and likely were rejected by many who were thrown off by their external attire.

 

When we lack authenticity, others can sense that and steer away from us, avoiding something they perceive is not genuine. I believe we can experience this more than we know. People don’t always know why they may avoid someone or walk in separation from others and sometimes it’s because they don’t sense genuineness about them.

 

I was at a conference once where a young man was dressed in a very unusual manner. He was wearing clothes that were too big, dyed hair that was a strange shade of red and overall just kind of clownish. During our conversation I felt the open door to ask him about his clothes. He said the he wore them because he didn’t trust people. He explained that if someone were willing to get to know him through the strange appearance then he believed they could be trusted more. I was very honest with him in my reply. I said, “I feel manipulated by your clothing and appearance. That isn’t fair to me or anyone else that comes in contact with you and it isn’t fair to you!” He was not living authentically and I am sure it created loneliness for him and much discomfort for others.

 

I ran into this same man when he came to hear me speak about six months later. He told me that when I saw him previously he had just become a Christian about two weeks prior. He had learned a lot in those six months and was no longer dressed in such an extreme fashion. I was really grateful that the Lord allowed me to see the change in his life.

 

Another situation I ran across had to do with a man who came from a certain ethnic background. He was talking about a sense that he was being judged harshly at his place of employment. When he told me the story he was speaking with an ethnic lingo as well as a posture that was recognizable in a stereotypical way. I questioned him about this and asked him if that was the way he was at work because I had not seen this from him in our previous interaction. I suggested that he talk in his non-affected manner and lose the ethnic posture and he might find a better reaction at work. He took the challenge and things did change for him. His accent and posture were false images and stemmed from self-protection. They did not truly represent who he was authentically.

 

Not Always Comfortable

No matter how much we may want it, true authenticity isn’t always comfortable! I have found that when we stop playing the games of pleasing, cloaking, and hiding, this can create realness that many people aren’t used to. The unfamiliarity with true authenticity can be uncomfortable. We need to discover who God made us to be and find the best way for us to reflect the genuine model of whom we are even in the face of making ourselves or others uncomfortable.

 

Authenticity May Not Look “Normal”

I also knew a lady who was a very creative lady. She saw the world through colorful eyes and unique perspectives. She dressed in flowing fabric, colorful and creative collections of jewelry, and hair that was tossed in very random ways with color that was off the shelf for sure! There was no falseness in her appearance and she was very comfortable if not very pleasurable to be around. In her case, she was creative from the inside out and she remained true to who she was.

 

Authentic Christianity

So, as we think about those that we may judge to be so different from us, how do we look to them as Christians? What is an authentic Christian life? Is it a man in a suit or a woman in a nice dress? Is it the two parents with delightful little blonde children? Does it mean we speak with “Thee’s and Thou’s”?

 

I think we can all agree that these do not define an authentic Christian. However, there is a sense from our world that Christians aren’t authentic. So what’s the problem? I think it is often that we carry an image that we don’t have problems or that we just “love” Jesus so much that we hang around in the clouds of religious romance.

 

I have found in my walk with Christ that I have many unanswered questions about life; I also remain in bondage to sin that causes me to struggle with my faith. I don’t always “love” Jesus in an emotionally relating way and as a believer in Jesus Christ; I know why He offered me forgiveness from my sin because I need His forgiveness each and every day.

 

As I think about what it means to be a Christian, I find myself confused and not always in sync with other Christians I know. I can feel lonely, fearful, and not always as well received by my Heavenly Father as I hear preached from some pulpits. I recoil at some of the proverbial plastic Christian rhetoric and at times feel cautious around some Christians who seem to be “in love with Jesus” without ever exhibiting any real doubts or struggles. I can be judgmental, critical, and rebellious in making wrong choices that I know will not benefit me in the end.

 

What I do know is that all of this is in fact why He died for me and offered me a new life that includes an eternal destination of living in His kingdom of perfection at the appointed time.

 

Our Daily Lives as People

What about the man who goes to work as a corporate executive who as a youth had his heart set on working with his hands in creating order out of mechanical disorder? Or how about the church pastor whose heart is more in foreign missions and finds himself frustrated each day with his congregation’s lack of interest in missions?

 

Or think about a woman whose most significant desire is to raise her children and yet she gets in the car each morning leaving her children for a job that she is not truly invested in. Or, maybe her job gives her the financial ability to maintain an image she desires and yet her family could live on less.

 

These people, by emotionally shutting down, will begin to experience the consequences of living a daily life of confusion. Maybe they have feelings of disconnectedness from their soul in their daily lives that leaves them deeply searching for more in places that are unsatisfactory. There may be an invisible barrier around them that keeps others at a distance or that keeps them from reaching out for true relationship.

 

Prov. 10:9
The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.

Choosing to walk in authenticity is a choice of integrity. A lifestyle of integrity is to be the same all the way through. It is costly to develop a willingness to be just what God created us to be. The simple life may not feel so simple until we rid ourselves of those things that don’t fit us and get comfortable with who we are.

 
Prayer for today: Lord, I know you made me the way you wanted me to be. I trust that you knew what you were doing at that time but I’ve done a pretty good job of covering that up. In my life, I have allowed others to make me into what they wanted me to be rather than what you created me to be.

 

Please show me who I am and give me the grace to live that out. I want to glorify you in all that is seen and unseen. I know that the only happiness I will find is to be who you created me to be. I want to figure that out and find your joy in it.

 

© 2009 John J Smid

Please do not reproduce without permission

jjsmid@gracerivers.com

PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183

 

 

 

Printable PDF Authencity

 

The Journey of Thomas – Honesty

Friday, June 5th, 2009


The Journey of Thomas

Honesty

By John J. Smid

John 8:32

hen you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

 

Truth? What is truth anyway? At a core level, Jesus is Truth. In this passage of scripture, I am certain that the core meaning implies that if we know Jesus Christ, He will set us free from the laws of sin and death. Knowing Truth in this very personal and redemptive way is the foundation of our lives and the avenue to living life eternally with our Creator; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

In the Grace Rivers’ Core Values we begin with Honesty. This kind of honesty stems first of all from a willingness to be honest with yourself. It is important to develop the skill of self evaluation. Why do I do what I do? Where do my reactions come from? What were the motives that underlie my actions today? Why did I shut down yesterday when I was talking with my wife? Why did I walk away from my husband when he began to discuss our daughter?

 

When I was a young Christian I read a little pamphlet titled “Your Reactions Are Showing.” I’ll never forget the wisdom and challenge I read in the words compiled in that little life changing booklet. It challenged me to look deeper into my life to find out what was underneath my unhealthy attitudes and thoughts. This was the beginning of my own pursuit to know my heart. I stumbled through life making many mistakes and allowing poor judgment to enter into many relationships, now is the time for truth.

 

When I began to evaluate my own motives and unhealthy reactions I saw marked improvement in my own decision making. I found a dramatic decrease in my own anxiety and a much improved process of developing healthier relationships. I also found peace to be the outcome of my own personal honesty.

 

When I was driving on the Interstate a man in a light blue pick-up truck cut right in front of me to go around the car in the middle lane. My first “reaction” was to feel angry and to wonder why he would do such a stupid thing – I mean didn’t he see me? My heart immediately went to a personal honesty. I had to be honest with myself about having done the very same thing many times. I am sure others had responded the same way when I cut them off. Knowing this brought me to an almost immediate forgiveness in my heart and a release of the frustration and judgment I had been experiencing.

 

On another occasion I was driving to a Bible study with a few other people in my car. We entered a subdivision of homes and we needed to go down a street that was immediately on our left after the entrance. I looked up and saw a “no left turn” sign and feeling inconvenienced by this seemingly ridiculous sign I decided to ignore its’ instruction and turn left anyway. I didn’t want to have to go any further out of my way since our study was starting very soon.

 

Well, you guessed it. A police car came immediately up behind me motioning me to stop. I felt so embarrassed in front of my friends. When he took my information back to his car I was drawn to personal honesty. I turned to my friends and said, “I deserve a ticket, I was wrong”. I had accepted my potential consequences admitting my error. The policeman came back to our car and told me he was giving me a warning. In my thankfulness I turned once again to my friends and said, “That was grace”.

 

In both of these situations, personal honesty gave me freedom; a freedom from the attempt to circumvent truth and live a lie. First, a lie that somehow I was more perfect than the man in the light blue pick-up which ended up in my highly critical reaction to the situation. Second, I was attempting live out a lie that somehow I was privileged to go around the law because I wanted to.

 

I can go on and on in examples where personal honesty brought freedom to my life. I can mention many times where personal honesty was very uncomfortable and on the surface brought about challenges that I didn’t want to have to face. But, in the end, the truth wins out and honesty really is the best policy.

 

Some other great scriptures for internal honesty are:

 

Prov. 14:8

 

The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways, but the folly of fools is deception.

 

I find this scripture particularly interesting since covers two very important sides of this point. Giving through to our ways is exactly what I am trying to bring forth here. Personal evaluation is so important in living an honest life. The last part of this scripture speaks to living in deception and that will lead to folly.

 

Prov. 14:10

 

Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy.

 

I see in this passage the reality that somewhere in our own hearts lays bitterness as well as joy. Both are important to know and understand if we are going to live an honest life. I also find that it moves us to see that if we are honest with ourselves, we will see the truth. We do know our own bitterness and yet, without understanding, others will not relate to it by osmosis, rather we need to share it with them.

 

Prov. 14: 13

 

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and joy may end in grief.

 

Are we tempted to hide our aches underneath laughter? Living dishonestly is at times hiding our pain in fear of someone else seeing it and putting ourselves as a perception of risk if we open up. I believe it is important to see if we can’t learn to trust more freely in the Spirit of Christ to rise up in His people. Can we trust in people? Not always. But we can trust Christ in people.

 

For further reading on personal honesty I highly recommend the book, “Telling Yourself the Truth” by Backus and Chapian. This book has laid the foundation for personal evaluation of my internal process. I have never been the same since reading that book.

 

Prayer for today:

Lord, today, filter my mind through Your truth. Help me to be more honest and less defensive in my reactions toward others. I desire your truth in my inmost parts. In your sovereign grace, help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me.

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183

 

Printable PDF Click Here

 

The Journey of Thomas – Healthy Relationships

Saturday, May 30th, 2009


The Journey of Thomas

Building Healthy Safe Relationships

By John J. Smid

The Journey of Thomas is rooted in the value of healthy relationships. It is founded on developing the skill of building relationships rather than just falling into them. I have taken the opportunity to begin this series on relationships with a foundational message. In subsequent lessons we will learn more specific practical skills that will help to undergird this chapter.

 

John chapter 15 verse 15
“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends.

 

When I look back on my understanding of the history of our world, I see most of the wars, the division, the rise and fall of many world cultures; I see that relationship seems to be the root problem of all of the problems of our world!

 
If we are going to be a part of the solution of the breakdown of our world, we must choose to be a relator and in that, to be a person who is committed to good relationship building. The problem often is that we don’t know how to build good relationships!

 
Scripture clearly states that we have two basic commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Love your neighbor as you love yourself. All of the commandments are summed up in these two.

 
When the Lord God instructs us to refrain from some behavior or to abstain from something, it is not just an arbitrary rule that He just thought He would throw down and see how we respond! Sin is sin because it negatively affects relationship either between us and God, or between us and someone else. That is the bottom line. This shows God’s heart for us; that we learn how to love Him and how to love one another. Please allow me to share what I see as a model for healthy and godly relationships.

 
John chapter 15 verse 15 – 16 says: “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you. You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. This I command you, that you love one another.”

 
I firmly believe that when I am introduced to someone I will know them forever. I may forget their name, I may forget that I have met them but in a situation where I am reminded of our meeting, I will likely remember that we had met. I may get to know someone then experience something that could bring this relationship into disrepair or distance but this doesn’t change the reality that I know them. Knowing this brings me to be so much more careful to respect each and every relationship that I have and to follow, to the best of my ability, godly stewardship of my relationship with others.

 
If you are introduced to someone new you may have no earthly idea of where that relationship will go. If it is someone of the opposite sex and you are single, you could be married to them someday. If it is a meeting of happenstance, you could end up being an employee of theirs, or you could become quite intimate in friendship. Do you have forethought about how you will relate to others before you even meet them? I believe we all should develop personal relationship ethics that we stand on so that we are not stumbled by meeting new people. I believe that these verses in scripture give us a structure to build those ethics on.

 

Honesty

In this passage I see three basic elements in healthy relationships. Jesus has called us to first of all, be honest. In building new relationships I try to always begin with one rule, honesty. Without honesty, all relationships have the potential of damage. When we meet someone, if we are not walking in the spirit of honesty then we could be heading towards a faulty foundation for the relationship. If I may be so honest as to say that we could even be building the relationship in fraud!

 
Jesus said that he told us everything that His Father told Him. He held nothing back and informs us of all that we need to know to have a good relationship with Him. I have seen relationships go to ruin over dishonesty and lies. Marriages go to separation and divorce over deception and holding back from one another.
Song of Solomon exhorts us to deal with “the little foxes that destroy the vineyard”. I believe this means to be honest with our intended marriage mate and to allow God to heal the wounds before the marriage. Being honest about our past is imperative if we are going to make a healthy marriage.

 
Can you imagine meeting a new friend and they invited us to go see a movie with them. It may come about that the movie they picked out is not something I would find edifying and given my usual pattern I would not choose to go. But, this time rather than risk this new friend’s questions about my life I say yes and against my better judgment I go ahead anyway.

 
Well, if this friendship continues to build I have laid a foundation that I am open to seeing movies that in my conviction are not for me, I have in effect given an image of me that is not true and I may have to later confess that really didn’t enjoy the movie and made a wrong decision by attending it. This is laying a wrong foundation for honest relationship and can be fraudulent.

 

Choose our Relationships

Of course, I know that we meet people that we do not choose to meet. I understand that we engage in relationships with others that if given the chance we might not choose to build a close friendship with but none the less, we are in a relationship with them. I know full well that given my broken life, Jesus might not really appreciate all of the sin in my life and relates to me in spite of my wrong choices. So, what does it mean to choose our relationships?

 
When I shake the hand of a person I have just met I have the opportunity to make a choice right there. How will I choose to relate to this person? What will I do with what I begin to know about this person? What internal boundaries may be appropriate as I move into life with this individual?

 
Do you have a set of personal relationship ethics that you operate by? Things like, I will not spend alone time with anyone until I know them well enough to trust them. I will not ride in the car with someone that I have just met. I will not give out my personal information until I feel safe enough to do so. These are just a few possibilities but there are many more we can all think of I’m sure. Relationships can be much more successful if we build them on well thought out frameworks.

 
You may work closely with someone of the opposite sex. Will you drive to lunch with them alone – even if you are married? Will you go out to dinner with them alone just because you are the only ones eating? How will you spend time with them when you are at work? Will you have closed door meetings with them? If we think out the possible scenarios ahead of time we will be safer and more likely to walk in integrity. It is not as personal when the decision of how we will function is made without someone right in front of us while we try to decide these types of very important guidelines for our relationship experiences.

 
So, do you choose your relationships or do they just happen? When you have met someone new have you experienced confusion and distrust that you have to back paddle away from? Choosing our relationships also allows you to make healthy decisions about which you will spend time with. Not everyone we meet is appropriate for us to spend time with. There are those who can stumble us into temptation. There are those who can be harmful for us. If we do not choose our relationships wisely, we could find ourselves in a great big mess!

 

Relationships that Bear Fruit

Jesus chose for a purpose. He chose us so that we would bear fruit for the kingdom of God. There is an end result that He hopes will occur. When we choose people in relationship it is always for kingdom purposes. Sinful relationships that we get ourselves into often come from a lack of honesty, a lack of healthy boundaries, and a lack of personal choices and end up damaging us in relationship with God’s kingdom.

 
There are relationships that are designed just for fun! That is great. Golfing buddies, cooking clubs, God certainly blesses fun when it is healthy and productive. But there are also relationships that have a serious impact for the kingdom. When you meet someone new do you ask God for His plan for this meeting? Have you considered seeking Him for the purpose He might have in mind?

 
Be mindful of the way sexual sin, co-dependency, chemical dependency and other addictive sins, damages relationship. When I realized that I was in the habit of attaching myself to people in emotional dependence, repentance brought me to make a decision. I will no longer bring someone into my sin. I decided their lives may have enough troubles, they don’t need mine too. Sexually, it would behoove us to make the decision that we will no longer bring another person into our sin practice. Whoa! This could certainly change the way we live. If we begin to see others as people, loved by God, then maybe we will be strong enough to not involve them in our drug addictions, our sinful relationship practices, or our relational dysfunctions.

 
How will God’s kingdom be benefited by this meeting of someone new? Will you grow as a result of this new person in your life? Will they grow? Will this relationship develop into a team of support, encouragement, or support of others? Will this new friend become a marriage that will bear and raise godly children who will serve the kingdom of God?

 
So, how will you handle that new person you are going to meet tomorrow? Before you do, I urge you to consider:

 
• Honesty, begins with integrity
• Relationship ethics – make healthy godly choices about those you meet
• Seek first the kingdom of God in all relationships – allow Him to bear fruit in them

 

© 2009 John J Smid
Please do not reproduce without permission
jjsmid@gracerivers.com
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183

 

Printable PDF – Click Here

 

The Journey of Thomas – Feelings

Saturday, May 23rd, 2009


Feelings: Should We Live By Them?

by John J. Smid

The Journey of Thomas begins with Thomas’ question of Jesus, “Lord, I don’t know where you are going, and I don’t know how to get there”. He answered with, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus said to Love Him with all of our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

 

Before we can even consider how we might build and maintain healthy relationships it is very important to learn more about ourselves. I believe with everything in me that the core of my identity lays in my soul, my heart. What drives me? What makes me tick? Where does my passion lie? I am certain that you have likely asked those same questions at one time or another.

 

Our Father has also said to bury the Word of God into our heart. I think we can far more effectively process the Word of God when we know more about our heart. I have a far deeper connection to those parts of scripture where I have emotionally connected to its meaning and application.

 

I might simply say that the way I feel can often tell me the answers to some of the most significant questions I might have about life. Some might say that we shouldn’t live by our feelings – I would say we MUST live by our feelings. I certainly do not mean we should do what we feel like doing; rather we should know what we are feeling so we can do what is right. If I do not identify my feelings and make appropriate decisions about what to do in light of my feelings, I will walk blindly through this world and potentially making horrible mistakes.

 

Our feelings are the warning lights on the dashboard of our lives. They keep us from harm; they help us to express passions inside of us. They even bring forth the joy of the Lord! Why would I want to ignore something that God has given me that is so valuable in helping me to live a successful life?

 

This session and the practical tools incorporated are available by printing the link below. This material takes a very significant message from Paul to the Ephesians and it helps to flush out its depth of meaning. Please read on to find the entirety of this foundation to the Journey of Thomas and see if it may not start a renewal in your life and relationships.

 

For the entire article and tools – click here  PDF