Saturday, June 11, 2011

Don't Let Your Jokes Become Yokes

It is true that laughter is the best medicine, but what about times when jokes bring about laughter at someone else’s expense? Have you ever heard someone cut another person down with a “joke” and then proclaim, “JUST KIDDING!”? More than likely, the jokester was really not kidding. He was probably trying to get across his message of offense. He may not even realize that what was in his heart of offense came out like arrows to the victim causing a yoke of bondage (not just for the victim of the joke, but more for the one who told the joke). Proverbs 26:18-19 (NLT) - “Just as damaging as a madman shooting a deadly weapon is someone who lies to a friend and then says, “I was only joking.”

Another way of letting jokes become yokes of bondage is the use of sarcasm. The definition of the word “sarcasm” is “the use of irony to mock or convey contempt: his voice, hardened by sarcasm, could not hide his resentment.” The Greek word for “sarcasm” is “sarkazein” and it means to “tear flesh.” OUCH! We need to check ourselves before we open our mouths to use sarcasm. Do we really want to tear someone’s flesh? In the Hebrew culture of the Bible times, they often used word pictures to convey deeper meanings of words. The word picture for bitter words people say is arrows. Psalm 64:2-3 shows this truth: (NLT) “Hide me from the plots of this evil mob, from this gang of wrongdoers. They sharpen their tongues like swords and aim their bitter words like arrows.”

God is not pleased with this kind of “joking.” In fact, He lists that in the midst of a list of sins to avoid in Ephesians 5:3-4 (NLT): “Let there be no sexual immorality, impurity, or greed among you. Such sins have no place among God’s people. Obscene stories, foolish talk, and coarse jokes--these are not for you. Instead, let there be thankfulness to God.” Going on to verses 7-8: “Don’t participate in the thins these people do. For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light!”

If you have a tendency to offer “coarse jokes” at other people’s expense, pray about it. Ask God to show you the deeper wounds in your own heart that would cause you to lash out in sarcasm. Pray for God to reveal His perspective about what is in your heart and why the other person does things that grate on your nerves. He will show you things about yourself and about the other person that will help you to show kindness instead of shooting arrows with your words.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Forgiving God

In the last post I talked about separating the actions someone does from him as a person. That will lead the way to "let him off the hook" so you can forgive him of the things he has done against you or the things he did not do that you feel he should have done. Let's take this one step further. What if we did that for God?

Too many Christians are so consumed with focusing on what God DOES for them that they forget to worship Him for who He IS. Maybe it is a time for a "self check" on this. When is the last time you got alone with God WITHOUT a prayer request list and just enjoyed His presence? That is probably a foreign concept to most people, but it is a very important question to pose. Think about any person you love. The closer the relationship, the more the desire to just be with him/her. You really don't need to be entertained; you just want to be with the person. Couples who have been married for years and have a close relationship can simply be together holding hands and not even have to talk to enjoy one another. God is not interested as much in what you can DO for Him as much as He in in just being with you. You reach a deeper level of intimacy with Him when you are more interested in being with Him than you are in what He can DO for you.

Yes, God wants to bless us. In fact, the Bible says that "it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom." (Luke 12:32 KJV) However, what happens when we don't get our prayers answered the way we think they should be answered? What happens if we don't get the job we thought we should have? What if we don't get healed the way we thought it should happen? What if we don't see relationships restored when we think they should? If we don't separate what God does or does not do from Him, we will blame Him and get angry with Him. We get so focused on our situations and "needs" that we forget He sees the bigger picture and knows what is best. We forget that ultimately He has the last word and "He will cause all things to work together for those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28)

We do praise God for what He does for us, but we worship Him for who He is. Don't get stuck in the outer courts just focusing on His deeds. Go on in to the Holy of Holies and worship God for who He is. You will then get all of who He is that includes what He does! Then when you receive His blessings, you will also know His heart. You will start to see the bigger picture and understand why God does or doesn't do things in our ways or timing. You will be like Moses instead of the Children of Israel. The Children of Israel knew God's deeds, but Moses knew His ways. (See Psalm 103:7)

I pray for God's wisdom on how to communicate this truth. I see many people who need to forgive God before they can go on the forgiveness journey and forgive others. WHAT? Forgive God? He hasn't sinned! That's right, but He has allowed things to wound us. It's when we can separate the things God does or does not do from Him that we can release God from the offenses we hold against Him and be free indeed from a root of bitterness that we may not even realize we had. We will then start seeing why He allows hard times and begin to actually thank Him for those trials that burn out all the "dross" of self-centeredness and draw us closer to Him.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Separation in a Positive Light

Most of the time when we think of "separation," it is in a negative way. Division is often an occurrence that includes offense. Oh the other hand, there are times when separation is a good thing. One of those times is what I learned from Bruce and Toni Hebel in their new book Forgiving Forward. They teach that in order to forgive someone, you first have to separate his actions from him as a person.

That's what we ask God to do for us when we pray the Lord's prayer. "Forgive us our debts." When we learn to separate the person from his actions, we learn how to love the sinner and hate the sin. We need to remember that "we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places." (Eph. 6:12 NKJV) The person that did an action (or lack of action) that offended us is merely a person. The source of the offense is truly the enemy of our souls, the devil and the demonic angels that follow him. That's not to say that we don't have responsibility when we commit a sin, but we are dealt with by God. We cannot truly deal with people who hurt us. We have to release them to God; He's the only One who can truly deal with them.

This act of separating the person from his actions not only helps us to forgive him from his negative actions, it will also help us to not put someone up on a pedestal when he does positive actions. Just as we remember that the negative actions someone does toward us comes from the true enemy, we also need to remember that the good actions someone does to us come from the Lover of our souls, God Almighty. If I do great deeds to help someone, I want that to point them to God, not me.