Friday, June 5th, 2009
The Journey of Thomas
By John J. Smid
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:
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.
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
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183
Printable PDF Click Here
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.
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
PO Box 382277 – Germantown, TN – 38183
Printable PDF – Click Here
Monday, January 19th, 2009
Hallmark Movie; The Nanny Express
“The Nanny Express,” a new romantic family drama, on the Hallmark Channel. It stars, clockwise from left, Vanessa Marcil, Brennan Elliott, Natalie Dreyfuss and Uriah Shelton.
Vanessa Marcil plays Kate Hewitt, who takes over as nanny to a couple of precocious kids who have driven away all of their other nannies. Kate, however, is up to the challenge. Not only does she win over the children, but she also strikes up a romance with their widowed father (played by Brennan Elliott).
This movie has a theme in it that very significantly portrays the very spirit of Grace Rivers Ministry. The 16 year old daughter, Emily, is struggling because her mother died, which brought this family to the need for a nanny. In her grief, she set ablaze any attempt to “replace” her mother by hiring a strange woman to take care of her and her brother.
The difference came when Kate was hired. What Kate didn’t talk about upfront was the fact that she too had lost her own mother to cancer when she was a teenager. Without sharing this information, she just unconditionally and patiently gave herself to the rudely rejecting Emily. She understood her plight and the pain in her young heart.
At her sixteenth birthday, Kate gave Emily a gift. It was a book wrapped in colorful paper. In her rejection of any love, she threw it on the bed, said “wow, I really need another book” and ran off to her larger than life celebration. After her party she went to her room and in a very poignant moment, she opened the gift grudgingly.
Kate had given her more than just a book. She gave her more than she could have every purchased with physical dollars. She gave her a journal from when her own mother died. Immediately Emily’s walls of resentment and rejection of Kate’s love tumbled down.
This was the changing moment in the plot of the entire movie. Not only did the daughter begin to accept the relationship of her nanny, her father ended up marrying her and in the end she found a new authentic woman to share in her life.
Grace Rivers is all about “relating to those in prison as though you are fellow prisoners with them” (Hebrews 13). Kate walked back into her own emotional prison once again to give her experience to Emily that needed so desperately to know she wasn’t alone.
Great move! Great message!