Life has really changed. With all of the amazing connectedness we have through social media, we are more alone than ever. We see people via Facetime but we cannot touch them. We “chat” without talking. We “like” without truly feeling emotion, we “follow” without knowing where we are going and we “join” without ever going anywhere. As a result of all of this non-active activity, when someone crosses us in any of these virtual environments we can snap back at them in so many ways with without having to actually face them. We tweet, post, Instagram, email, text – all with anonymity. Funny, Jesus specifically taught us to “turn the other cheek” - not to virtually smack them upside their head! What does turning the other cheek even mean and how do we apply it in both our real and virtual worlds? Is this teaching of Jesus still as relevant and powerful as it was centuries ago?
Everyone has had and will have the experience of being wrong, of making mistakes and of not understanding something well enough to properly represent it. Everyone! The question is not about what to do IF these things happen; the question is how do we handle it WHEN these things happen? Making mistakes and being wrong are never comfortable experiences, but they are priceless in their value if we allow them to be. So, how do we allow them to be priceless? When we are wrong, do we face it or ignore it? When we make a mistake, do we 'fess up or bury it? Further, how can we identify the thought and behavior processes that bring us to wrong conclusions and actions so we can avoid repeating the same old mistakes over and over again?
It was just a few weeks ago the events in Charlottesville, Virginia, sparked a firestorm of vitriol and reaction throughout our country. What happened, what didn’t happen, who reacted and how - all of these things became the fuel for more protests and more protests against the protests and reaction of a very negative kind everywhere you looked. Let us be abundantly clear on one point – those who would paint themselves as any form of supremacist, white or otherwise, are servants of a deep and destructive darkness. Period. Those who take the law into their own hands and use violence and threats as their primary tools to eradicate all whom they consider supremacists are also choosing to borough down that dark hole as well. NONE of this is good! All of this provokes hatred, and rightfully so. Shouldn’t we as Christians hate such evil? Yes we should. The bigger question here, however, is HOW do we engage our hatred for evil in a Christlike manner?
Revenge – the desire for it can be a powerful and even overwhelming emotion. Sadly, thinking about revenge can be a fun motivating and bonding experience, as it occupies our minds with creative and yet often diabolical means with which to carry out our purpose. It is amazing how the development of such a negative action can spur such positive feelings. So wait – if all of these positive feelings come from planning revenge then can we rightfully label revenge as wrong? Absolutely! Just because something makes you feel good or empowered or focused doesn’t mean that you are becoming a better person because of those things. Remember, Satan felt good and was empowered and was focused when he rebelled against God – and we all know how that will turn out! Can revenge ever be good? How do we recognize, manage and direct our feelings of revenge?
We all do wrong. We all hurt other people. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is the result of oversight, ignorance or immaturity, or careless words and actions or sloppy and selfish thinking. We hurt someone, but we don’t really mean it. Sometimes the hurt we deliver is a result of anger or vengeance or jealousy and we absolutely mean to create havoc and turmoil. Either way we do hurt others and we therefore do need forgiveness. So how do we receive forgiveness from others and especially from God? What do we have to do or say or think for forgiveness to take hold? How can we truly know that we are forgiven? Is forgiveness really worth the effort?
Most of us really don’t like ourselves. We are too tall or short, too fat or thin, too reserved or too lazy. We don’t like ourselves because we don’t think before we act or we think too much and don’t act at all. We don’t like ourselves because we are not attractive enough or we don’t have enough charisma or we are too lonely or we run away from our problems. Maybe we think we are too forward and forceful or too confrontational or maybe we think we are too analytical, too self-conscious or just plain wimpy! Whatever the case, we seem to be unhappy with ourselves, which brings us to the question – as a Christian aren’t we supposed to not like ourselves so we can be more like Jesus? So, shouldn’t we be happy in our unhappiness? Let’s stop already! Too many questions – let's find some answers!
We live in a time of great contradiction. There are voices that shout, rant and insist for all in our society to embrace and accept everyone no matter what their choices in life are and no matter what their actions in life may be. Their message in many ways is framed as one of love – love for those who are opposite, love for those who are different. Then there are those like myself who say that while I am willing to accept and love people regardless of their choices, I will not embrace anything I believe is not moral or righteous. I will love the person but not the action. For this I have been called a "hater" by those who preach that you should embrace those who are different than you. Jesus told us to love our enemies, but what exactly does that mean? Am I not loving enough? Do I need to change?
Regret can be a killer! We often carry around and dwell on regrets from some of our past experiences. Not only do we dwell on them, but we sometimes build those regrets into shrines of discontent and sorrow that overrun our present and then take hold of and manipulate our future. Pretty nasty, huh? On the other hand, if we know the secrets of managing regret, it can become a tool of peaceful acceptance for our present and a deep personal motivation for our future. How do you change from one result to the other? A few weeks ago, we began unveiling the powerful biblical lessons on managing regret and on this program we get to finish that unveiling!
We all have regrets. We all have times or decisions or moments in our lives that, if we could get a child’s game “do-over” we would take it in a heartbeat and go back with clearer thinking or firmer courage or more patience or deeper conviction or a bridled tongue or solid self-control. But we can’t get a child’s game “do-over.” We can’t change what we have already allowed to happen or what we have already said done or thought. So, what do we do? How do we handle our regrets in a way that keeps them from playing again and again in our heads? This is a good question and we think we have a good answer!
We all know that Jesus taught us to forgive. If your brother trespasses against you seven times in a day, Jesus says to forgive. Okay, while this may be difficult, we can see its value and strive to live up to that standard. But, but what about when someone commits a horrible crime – what about when someone guns down in cold blood, innocent God fearing people in church – at a Bible study? Is the same lesson of forgiveness relevant? Do the teachings of Jesus include forgiving those who are simply and purely evil in their actions?