Monday, February 22, 2010

Being Cold Hearted

Sometimes Jesus was just downright brutal with the things He said.  "I can't throw the food meant for the children to the dogs," He told a suffering mother. "Go let the dead bury the dead," He told a young man  concerned about his father's funeral.  A group of mourners cries over the death of a little girl, and He rudely asks them "Why are you crying?" and then proceeds to kick them out of the house. And one of the toughest: "If anyone comes after me and does not hate his own father, mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters - yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26)  That sounds like the most unChristian teaching there ever was.

I can just picture people I've known getting all in a huff and giving Jesus an ear-full after hearing something like that.  "How dare He speak to me this way!  And who does He think He is being so insulting!  Doesn't He know that family comes first? And He calls Himself a man of God!  Well I never...!"  Jesus knew exactly what He was doing: separating the wheat from the chaff.  Those who are truly His can take the heat and have the humility to say, "Yes, I'm a dog, but I can't I at least have a crumb?" They're the gutsy ones who adamantly hold onto Him, knowing that He has to bless them, and they're the ones who receive their answers.

God created us to be like Him, abounding in love, peace, joy, patience and all the fruit of the Spirit, but tough as nails when it comes to acting our faith.  There are times that joy only comes after the painful sacrifice of our flesh, of turning our backs and walking away from people who are demanding our attention so that we can please Him first.  Peace can only be won after killing off the selfish desire to moan about our suffering, and fight back against the evil one who whispers in our ears that peace is  impossible.  We want answers to questions that are not for us to know at this time, but the answers that we do have, we don't like!

So the choice is, live out our life in a constant state of feeling offended because God expects too much of us, or cold-heartedly turn our back on our feelings, obey Him anyway, and determine that he has to - He HAS to - honor our act of faith.  He will heal and deliver us because He says He will.  Period. And through that choice to put our faith over our emotions, miraculous changes happen. That was the way the demon possessed were freed, the blind were healed, the dead were raised and disciples of steel were raised up to turn the world upside down.  It seems like a contradiction to find the warmth of His peace and love through becoming cold-hearted, but who ever said He does things our way?


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fair Weather Friends

Since the Sisterhood began here in Houston, it's been a real study in human behavior; how eager young women are to have good friends, to connect with others who will encourage and affirm who they are, and to be guided and given constructive criticism about how they can improve their lives.  Of course there was a rigorous screening process to make sure only the girls who were ready for the challenges of real change were allowed to be initiated into the group.  But the outpouring of how many more are excited about joining this wonderful world-wide support group, really has me amazed!

Among women, probably from time immemorial, the bonds of friendship have played a crucial part of keeping us strong, focused and emotionally healthy.  Women who lack such a network of care, often struggle to keep depression and negative attitudes at bay.  And when the friends they thought they could rely on are shallow and self-seeking, their sense of worth can easily be shaken, especially those who don't have a firm relationship with God.

I've seen a lot of sweet poems and lovely words about friends and caring and sisterliness on our blogs and Facebook pages, and it's so good for women to have that freedom to express how we feel.  But long-term friendships can go through ups and downs, misunderstandings and moments of disappointments that really test whether the sweet words are true or just words.  So before the rough patches in the road come along, take these into consideration:

Your friend may be going through some struggles that she may not feel free to share with anyone, but she still needs your support.

Your friend does not have all the same strengths or weaknesses that you do, and can't be expected to react exactly like you.

You can remember how bad it feels to be judged unfairly.  Don't be so quick to become judge, jury and hangman just because she doesn't do everything the way you would.

If you considered her worthy of your friendship before, don't you think she deserves your help in steering her back on course?

When faced with a small amount of information about someone else, we all have the vile tendency to jump to conclusions - and negative conclusions - and we enjoy entertaining them, justifying them, and feeling superior.

Don't imagine for a moment that no one has to endure your flaws as well!

As Jesus said, "If you only love those who love you, what reward will you get?" (Matt. 5:46)  Making friends with someone who is a mirror image of you is easy, but learning to love those who are not just like you is an exercise in becoming a Woman of God.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Smart Aleck Kids

Nothing makes me want to slap someone as much as a smart aleck kid.  Sorry, I know that sounds horribly violent but don't worry, I promise not to smack your child even though I may feel like it.  It's just when I see a child act disrespectfully towards their parents and other adults I see a harmful spirit that has the power to destroy so much of that child's life unless it is stopped.  I have no problem with punishing children when it's done right, but the problem of being disrespectful has a root that needs to be dealt with, that punishment alone is not going to resolve.

Teenagers that roll their eyes, make snide remarks and always have to answer back to their parents are, believe it or not, looking for a strong example of a parent to look up to.  They may not be balking at your firm hand of discipline as much as the fact that they feel unsure of your authority.  Parents can give very conflicting messages:  "I have slept around with a lot of guys, your father was a loser just like your brother's father, but don't you dare go out to that party with those boys tonight!"  Or the mom who is always trying to cut corners at work, gossips constantly about her boss and her neighbors, eats like a slob and shouts at her son, "What kind of grades are these?  All you do is text your friends and your homework is a mess!"  If you've ignored their emotional needs, sent them off to school for others to teach and raise, had no time to invest in shaping their lives as they've grown, you've created your own monster.

Do you want your kids to respect you?  You should, for everyone's sake.  But if they see that you are unstable, insecure, hypocritical and inconsistent with what you say you believe in, they feel frustrated that they don't have a mom they can rely on.

If a mom has failed at teaching her children well by example, and now has to deal with teens with a bad attitude, it's not too late to change.  They will always long to have a home where they can safely rest knowing that you lead with God's wisdom, order and confidence - they'll never put that into words, but all children desire that from their patents.

First of all, face up to your own hypocrisy.  Talk to them about the mistakes you've made: the promiscuity, the gossip, the lying, the selfishness, the ignorance etc.  And then truly change.  Show that you are not that person any more and that because of your faith in God, you will never return to that old life.  Don't allow them to use your hypocritical behavior as an excuse to disrespect you.  If you are sincere and show them how useless a life like that was by acting completely different than you used to, they will begin to feel a measure of respect even if they don't show it right away.  If you stubbornly defend yourself, you lose.

Secondly, make it clear that any talk or behavior that cuts others down is totally unacceptable.  From you all the way down to the youngest, words that are spoken to each other should be pleasant and encouraging, even when you're showing that you're unhappy with what they've done.  Hateful arguments between the kids where they throw out angry words has to stop.  Completely.  Maybe you've always treated that as their right to "express themselves" - maybe they even learned it from you - but even if no curse words are being said, curses are still flying through all the negative, destructive things that are being said in a moment of anger.  Selfishness cannot exist in your home, and apologizing should be a natural occurrence, from forgetting to take out the trash to apologizing for any unkindness.  If you have taken the first step of changing and are doing it with all your heart, you have the moral authority to enforce the second step, and with punishment included for those who don't obey.

Yes, they will complain, they'll try to test the boundaries and try to throw your past in your face as if you were still the same person that you once were.  But stand your ground.  Reinforce to your kids that you are not that old person, that you learned your lessons and have changed by God's power, which is why everything at home needs to change too.  But act swiftly every time you see that attitude of selfishness and rebellion rise up in any of them, and the punishment should be appropriate for their age and what stings the most.  Spanking a 14 year old may work for some, but confiscating their cell phone might hurt even worse - or grounding, or extra chores - God will inspire you to choose what's right.  And then when those bad attitudes subside, even for the moment, be sure to praise them, hug them and reward them in some way that they'll be able to see that a loving home is so much better than one in conflict.

Kids with bad attitudes developed them over time and as a reaction to the confusion of your life.  It will take time to undo all of that negativity, but if done with prayer, with God's leading and with a faith that He will do the supernatural as you do your best in the natural, changes will come much sooner than you may think.  The older they get, the window of opportunity narrows.  Once they're adults, healing in this area becomes much harder and more complex, so don't think for a moment that they'll just outgrow it someday.  Make the changes now, and have a happy home for the rest of the time you have them under your roof.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Finding the Real Thing

A true blue Christian - that was me.  I was taught to be good, honest, caring and a faithful attender of church.  Time quickly proved that my goodness couldn't protect me from the loneliness, depression, fear, and eventual illness that was swallowing me up.  I asked Sunday School teachers, parents and friends about this in general ways so as not to imply that I actually had any of these problems myself, and I was given general answers about just trusting in the Lord and waiting on His timing, that sometimes He allows bad things to happen for our own good.  Basically, just keep smiling and don't complain.

Struggling to be the good happy Christian while the fear of what would become of me, felt like a gaping wound in the center of my chest that made it hard for me to even breathe; many unresolved questions and issues that I had shoved into the back of my consciousness kept it raw and bleeding.  But you never would have guessed it if you had seen me at the weekly prayer groups and Bible studies on my college campus.  I was funny, outgoing, always had a lot to say... and terrified.

Years were spent crying out to God and wondering why reading His Word left me feeling so bereft.  How beautifully He healed that woman with the hemorrhage.  How compassionate He was to set that demon-possessed man free and to give sight back to the blind.  "What about me?  Why are You so silent now?" I'd ask.

But when I felt like He just doesn't care, and hadn't heard a word, I kept on praying, and things happen.

It's been 23 years since I found this church.  But it wasn't just the church or the organization or the founder - it was the practice of that Early Church kind of faith that made me know that I had found God's answer.  Miracles happened there - all the time.  Demons were cast out, and church members knew without a shadow of a doubt that God was real.  No apologetics class needed!  That's where I learned to face down my problems, with a living and active faith that WORKED.  That's where I learned how to have a level of faith that had no room for fear or emotionalism, but treated the Word of God as alive and something to be acted upon every day.  That's where I found my healing from all of my wounds, both inside and out.

I know that God's Church is greater than all the church organizations in the world, and that many are truly His from every place and walk of life.  But one thing I know is that playing church is a sure way to be disappointed in God.  Find the real thing - I did.

We're opening our newest Succeed in Life Center this Sunday, Feb. 7th in Houston - see the video below, and come find me there and let's pray, fight and overcome in Jesus' name.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Our New Church in Houston!

Come on Sunday the 7th of Houston at 10am , 7075 Southwest Freeway, Houston, TX 77074 - I'll be there, how about you?