Archive for May, 2007

#100

As you have figured out by now, I like benchmarks.  That is, I like to know where I have been as well as where I might be headed.  So I mark even the small events in my life with some evaluation and on this blog write a post about it. 

Today’s post is #100 on this site.  A few have been Linda’s but The View From the Juniper Tree has 100 individual posts over about 130 days.  These posts have been viewed 26,697 times, at last count.  There have been 365 comments by over 160 different people.  I mentioned this before but because it means so much to me, I am going to mention it again;  more people read what I write here in a week, then I spoke to on a weekend during my days as a preaching pastor. It has been a lot of fun and good therapy.

Mostly I write about the church, my concerns for it and the changes I think must take place for her to become the Bride she is destined to be.  I have great concern for the institutional church but the concern is mostly a retrospective concern because I am convinced of the need personally, now and in the future, to seek the Bride rather than the institution claiming to be the Bride.  Jesus is not going to come back to claim an institution.  He is not in love with leaders, boards, committees, focus groups, programs or any other of the many institutional ideas common in the church today.  Jesus is going to return to claim His chosen Bride, the Bride He gave His life for–redeemed people.

I know it has all been said before and yes, I do think there is a place for what we call the church, but Jesus is not in love with that.  He did not die for your church, He died for you and for the rest of the human race.

The Father did not call us to build a church, plant a church or do anything else to help Him along on His mission.  The only thing we are called to do is to love Him back in response to His love for us.  This is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1John 4:10).  The beauty of the Bride is seen in how well we respond in simple trust to His love, in spite of how we feel sometimes about what appears to be His absence or what He allows to take place in this world. 

The Father loves, we respond in trust to that love and we find security and wholeness–shalom.  When that is true of us the Bride is beautiful and ready to receive the Bridegroom.  I believe the Father is waiting for the Bride to be appropriately dressed before He sends the Bridegroom for His Bride.  More on that subject another time.

We are not commanded to hold meetings, elect elders or deacons or many of the other representations of the church as we have come to know it.  We were given one command: To love others as we have been loved.  When the Bride is secure and confident in the love of the Father then it freely gives away what it has in abundance. 

The Apostle Paul placed love on a higher plane than knowledge.  While knowledge may make us feel important it is love that really builds up the church (1Corinthians 8:1).   Since that is true, why do we spend 90% of our time on acquisition of more knowledge compared to 10% on loving others.  (I made up the percentages but you get the point)

Paul thought it was absurd for believers to trample those for whom Jesus died over disputes about what foods to eat and what days to celebrate.  It still happens today because the institutional church always makes it about right doctrine rather than about loving people.  You either conform or get trampled.

So, for me it is fitting that the #100 post on the juniper view would be about the importance of love and the shalom that is ours when we trust in that love and share it with others.

Who knows how many more posts there will be but you can expect that at least a few of them will hammer on the critical importance of the Bride of Christ to freely receive and freely give love.  Over the last 19 months and especially the last four this has become clear to me:  Until we know how much we are loved by our Father we will never give it away. We will do church instead and invest our energy in knowing more instead of loving more.

I hope and trust as you read the next hundred posts on this site you will find yourself being drawn more to the Father’s love than to a study of the Father’s love.

Thanks for reading.

May 30, 2007 at 5:20 pm 2 comments

Account ability

What if accountability was not about judgement and correction?  What if being in an accountability relationship was not about being “held”?  What if accountability was not about one person sitting in the place of accountant and the other in the place of accountable?

So much of the accountability I see around is where the more mature person (usually judged on the basis of position) holds the other, less mature person, to some level of growth because they can’t or won’t do it themselves.

But what if accountability was more about having friends who know, care and understand about the dreams the Father has implanted in your heart?  And what would accountability look like if others cared about you and your dreams enough to remind you about them when you got discouraged, sidetracked or hurt along the road toward fulfillment of those visions?  Instead of looking for areas of weakness, failure and compromise in your journey, what if they were instead looking for opportunities to hold you up and support your destiny?

Perhaps this is a role of the prophetic Word as it comes from the Spirit to one and then to another. 

Yesterday in church I was sitting by a “younger then me” man who I recognised but couldn’t place.  During the ministry time the Spirit directed the pastor to invite us to pray and speak prophetically over this man.  Several of us prayed and then one woman spoke what I heard as a Word of accountability.  She said something like this:  You have been trying so hard to be a man of God.  You have been reaching for it for a long time and you always feel you have fallen short of the goal.  God wants you to know you are going to reach it, He is for you, He loves you, you are the apple of His eye.

While she was praying the Spirit revealed to me who this young man was.  I had counselled with him many years ago when he was struggling with heroin addiction and other deep issues of fear and hopelessness.  He was a sensitive, bright and hurting young man. His parents brought him to me in hopes I would hold him accountable.  Unfortunately, my view of accountability was more about judging what I thought was wrong with him and trying to bring correction.  It was my responsibility to hold and his to be.  It didn’t work and I did not see him again until yesterday.

I wondered, as Diane spoke the love of God over him, if what he had gotten from me was accountability to help him find his destiny and encourage the extent of the dreams the Father had given him rather than an accountability of correction and discipline if it might have worked better.

All around us are people who do not need us to hold them accountable so much as they need us to see, and help them see, what the Father has destined them to be and fan it into a flame of hopefulness and reality. 

This is the kind of account ability I want the Spirit to lead me to.

May 29, 2007 at 5:03 pm 2 comments

Maybe it IS all about me. (by Linda)

From time to time Linda has things she wants to say so she takes a turn on the Juniper View.  What follows is one of those times.

After Greg wrote his post on why forgiveness is hard, I felt the urge to share something about forgiveness.  As I asked the Lord what I should share, this is what He said.  I invite you to eavesdrop on our conversation.

 Lord, what do you want me to share about forgiveness?

Forgive my sins as I forgive those who sin against me.  (Matt. 6:12)

(As I pray the Lord’s prayer at least once each day, this seemed a logical place for my Father to start, and frankly, it has kept the subject of forgiveness firmly in front of me since I began the practice of saying this prayer over 2 years ago.)

Forgive me my sins –  as You forgive me.  So, how do You forgive me?

If we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (I John 1:9)

I confess, call it what You call it, I repent, turn from my sin, and You forgive.  That’s what happened with Greg – he confessed, I forgave.  But…people don’t or can’t always confess – sometimes they don’t know they have hurt us or they are now dead.

Why did Jesus come?

To heal.

Confession brings healing – between you and Me and between you and others.

To set the captive free.

Sin keeps you in prison – a captive in bondage.   And…unforgiveness is a sin.

So…it’s about me, not the other person.

It isn’t about the other person(s) and what he/she does or doesn’t do related to confession, restoration or reconciliation; it’s about you.  I want to set YOU free, to bring healing into YOUR life.  It won’t happen when you hang onto the pain and hurt that someone else caused, when you won’t forgive.

Our conversation ended, but here are some thoughts that followed:

The Bible tells me that love, the kind I am to have for another, doesn’t keep a record of wrongs.         (I Cor. 13: 5)   When I don’t forgive, that is just what I do – I keep a record of the wrong – I hang on to it. 

Jesus came to set the captive free.  When I live in unforgiveness, I am a captive; I live in bondage – in sin.  The solution for breaking that captivity is forgiveness.  I cannot be healthy – spiritually, emotionally, or physically -if I hold sin (unforgiveness) in my heart.  God wants to bless me with Himself, freedom and His peace.  Blessing/restored relationship will only come when I confess my unforgiveness to Him and ask Him to forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me.  

When I harbor unforgiveness in my heart, when I hang onto the hurt, I grieve the Spirit, I am telling Him that I don’t want to do what it takes to be free – I’d rather whallow in the ugly thoughts, feelings, and anger I have toward the person(s) who has hurt me. 

I experienced this just last week – as the Spirit prompted me to let go of a hurt, I said no – maybe not with that word, but I headed down the road of ranting and raving about someone.  As a result of my not letting go, my relationship with my Father was broken and I “rained on” a pleasant time Greg had with a friend.  I ended up hurting him – because I wanted to be selfish and live in the hurt.  When I confessed my attitude of unforgiveness to God, I felt free; I then had to tell Greg I was sorry for my attitude and the things I said.  He forgave, but I couldn’t take the discouraging words I said about his friend back.  If I had chosen to forgive the new hurt I was made aware of, I would not have hurt my Father or my husband.  

When I say, “I am going to forgive, even if the other person(s) doesn’t confess or know he/she has hurt me,” I am setting in motion the breaking of the chains that bind me. 

When I confess my unforgiveness and say, “I can’t forgive on my own, help me,” I am setting in motion the breaking of the chains that bind me.

If I want the rich and satisfying life Jesus came to give (John 10:10 NLT), if I want my relationship to my Father to be whole and healthy, AND if I want to be of use in the kingdom – Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done – then I must forgive.  Forgiveness is His will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

 It isn’t about the other person, it’s about me.  What will I choose?  What will you choose?

May 27, 2007 at 5:11 pm 3 comments

Just when you think you’ve seen it all.

For your weekend enjoyment click a few of these links for a good laugh or cry.  Either way I heard it releases good endorphins.  Click the highlighted word or words for a spiritually enriching time.

 For all your shopping needs.

Fire up your Bible reading.

The conversion experience for everyone!

This one even scares me!

Get in the no sin zone.

Now we’re cooking.

You’re gonna find some use for this.

What else were you going to do today? A couple more of my favs.

Big Macs, anyone?  Double cheese for sure.

And the winner is.  I hope this isn’t real.

Yup.  Way too much time on my hands.

May 26, 2007 at 4:29 pm 2 comments

It is so damn hard.

Why is it so damn hard to forgive? 

There is nothing easy about forgiving someone who has hurt you, slightly or deeply, and I am pretty sure if you think it is you are most likely burying the problem not really forgiving.

I have resisted writing on this subject simply because I have not known how to say what is in my heart.  I could say a lot about forgiveness from my mind, but the real stuff flows out of the heart, not the mind.  The problem with mental forgiveness is–it doesn’t work.  All intellectual forgiveness amounts to is talk and talk is cheap.

So what follows is my attempt to understand why forgiveness is so hard in order to find a way to forgive, really forgive.

We have been taught we must forgive and the sooner the better rather than the more realistic truth that forgiveness happens only when we first admit our hurt and scream our hate (Lewis Smedes).  Evil cannot be sidestepped or ignored if there is to be forgivness so it is very hard. We have to find a way to deal with the feelings of “hate” that we have and just saying we forgive doesn’t get it done. Speaking truth doesn’t always alter feelings. 

So forgiveness cannot begin until love can be re-extended to those who have hurt us.  Only when we can begin again to see the hurtful person’s value, recognize how precious they are as a human being and choose to understand where the hurt came from can we move toward forgiveness.  Unfortunately doing that takes a lot more time than we were ever taught it would or should.

Linda often quotes Oswald Chambers where he writes about the “irreversible past.”  For forgiveness to really take place, at some point we have to accept that the past cannot be changed.  Forgiveness is so hard because what happened in the past keeps leaking over into the present and making us angry again, just when we thought we were past it.  Smedes says: …you reach into the unchangeable past and cut away the wrong from the person who wronged you; you erase the hurt from the archives of your heart. Hard to do and so forgiveness is hard.

To accept another person is to accept them now, as they are now, not as you have remembered them and not as they were.  The only way to come to terms with reality is to leave the past in the past.  Anger is reliving the past and living in the past and forgiveness is not only hard it is impossible while living in what was.  We are not our past.  We are people fully capable of repenting, changing and turning away from past behavior.  Forgiveness cannot take place until we accept the possibility of change.

Forgiveness must begin where we are, not where we should be, or even where we might want to be and so forgiving today does not assure forgiveness in the future.  Sometimes we can really forgive, even forgive from the heart only to discover later on, there is more forgiveness needed.  The new need does not negate the earlier forgiveness it only points out why forgiveness is so hard.  We can only forgive what we know right now, we may need to take another run at it again later.  Don’t know about you but I was never taught that nor did I teach it.  We want forgiveness to be quick  and painless as possible so we can get on with our lives with as little disruption as possible.  True forgiveness does not have to include forgetfulness.

David Augsberger writes: As we work through our anger and pain in reciprocal trusting and risking, …we come (over time) to recognize the genuineness of the other’s intentions.  Our repentance needs to be authentic, honest and complete as possible at the moment. 

Remember the words of Jesus where He seems to be saying forgiveness is a process sometimes requiring multiple visits?  If your brother wrongs you, reprove him; and if he repents forgive him.  Even if he wrongs you seven times in one day and comes back to you seven times saying “I am sorry” you are to forgive him. (Luke 17:3-4)

Forgiveness is hard because it often doesn’t take the first time, especially when the hurt is deep and complicated.

Whatever else makes forgiving so hard, wondering what the relationship will be like post forgivness makes it harder.  When relationships break they seldom are ever what they were and since we only know what they were, we struggle to understand what they will be, if we forgive. 

Getting to forgiveness means reopening the relationship at a level acceptable to both parties.  Augsberger says: not every forgiveness leads to a continuing conversation between the two. Not every healed injury will result in the resumption of the previous relationship. Forgiveness is hard because we can’t see what a resumed relationship might look like, so often the estrangement is permanent. 

Like so many things in the life of faith, when we see with the mind we only see what is possible but when we see with the eyes of the heart, the future is open to possibilities we might not know now.

Forgiveness is hard, damn hard and it is hard because it always takes more to actually forgive than saying we do.  Intellectual forgiveness is nice but it doesn’t work. What happened has to be dealt with.  It has to be.

It is hard because we can’t seem to keep the past in the past. It finds its way into every thought and every decision and weakens our resolve.  The past is irreversible and we must accept it.

Forgiveness is hard because it is hard to pin down all the hurt into one issue and so if we are to find true forgiveness we must live with the reality of repeated visits to the altar of forgiveness. 

Forgiveness is often made difficult because our humanness can not conceive of a relationship different than the one that was broken and since we don’t want that again we stay where we are.  People repent, they change, they become something other than what we knew.  They really do.

Does knowing how hard it is change anything?

May 24, 2007 at 1:23 pm 5 comments

Don’t work so hard.

Many times in my ministry life I have said to people when talking about the Spiritual life: “don’t try so hard, relax, you don’t have to work so hard to walk with Jesus.”  It really is possible to put too much effort into our relationship with the Father.  It is religion that tells us to work harder, do more, and it is religion telling us to take on more tasks to “help” us get closer to the One who is never far away.

Have you ever found yourself feeling like you if you just read another book, joined another study, served more at your church, went to another seminar you would be more godly and then after working yourself to exhaustion it felt so fruitless? 

The people I have found who wander the farthest away from the Father when trouble comes are those who felt they had given their all to serve Him and worked their hardest to do everything there was to do in order to please Him and then, because what they had was religion and not a relationship, they felt abandoned when things went wrong. 

Of course there is nothing wrong with giving one’s life to serve and please the Father but the problem comes when we allow religion to tell us God’s love for us is dependent on what we do for Him.  Religion tells us our relationship with the Father is dependent on our diligence, our commitment and our effort.  Religion is always based on performance and tries to get us to produce the things Jesus wants to see in our lives.  Religion has lied to us and the institutional church depends on us living the lie.

The word I am hearing the Father say to me over and over again when I fall into the performance mode or fall under the guilt of failing to perform is RELAX!  Relax and live in My affection and give up trying to earn or gain My approval by performing well or doing more.

How often I was critical of myself because my performance at something fell short of what I thought the Father expected of me.  Regularly I felt estranged from Him because I just knew He was displeased with me for some failure or some thought or action I knew was sin.

The other day I heard a young person raving about the spiritual depth of someone we both knew.  They were so impressed because the person was up every morning at 5 (or some other ungodly hour) to read the Bible and pray.  They effused on and on about the things this person did that appeared to the young person as the way you do it if you want to be Godly. 

This person may in fact be a deeply spiritual and Godly person and part of their spiritual depth may have come from this rigorous devotional life but what it told my young friend was “if you want to have a relationship with God you better perform in this way”.  Their response?  “I could never be that way” and implicit in their response was, I will never be Godly!

Please don’t do that to yourself.  You are too unique and too special and Jesus is too creative to resort to formulas.  Have you ever thought about the truth that the Father wants a relationship with you more than you could ever want one with Him? 

RELAX, invite His presence into your life and enjoy Him when He accepts your invitation.  Enter fully into personal and corporate worship times with abandonment and uninhibited. When you read the Bible, read it as the love letter from Dad it is.  Rest in the truth of His deep and total love for you and above all don’t work so hard. 

May 22, 2007 at 1:50 pm 4 comments

“Till then I trust”.

There is no higher calling for a follower of Jesus then to trust Him.  There is no harder calling for a follower of Jesus then to trust Him.  Agree?  First we trust Him with our salvation, then we trust Him with the day to day stuff and then we trust Him to bring us to our earthly and eternal destinies.  It truly is all about trust.

How are you at trusting?  Frankly I have not been very good at it.  In fact the most important things  I have learned the last dozen years have been in the area of trust.  Will I trust that the very nature of our Creator is love?  Will I trust that the humans created in His image will love me for who I am?  Will I trust, no matter what happens, there is nothing that will separate me from His love?  That is a lot of trusting.

One thing I have learned is this: To the degree I am able to put my trust in God, I will trust the humans He has created, in His image.  So learning to trust God is a requirement to learning to trust people.  Many of our day to day problems with people are rooted in our inability or unwillingness to trust our Father.

When Paul was killed, I went through a long struggle to trust the goodness and love of my Father.  I had so many questions, so many problems with a good and loving God allowing, causing, choosing to not protect a young boy simply out doing what young boys do (it is good to remember, God does not choose to love us, it is His nature to love us).  Finally I had to come to the place of trust.  God is either by nature, good and loving or He isn’t and over time I have come to trust He is.

As I have learned to trust my Father I have slowly learned to trust His children.  Again, if it is His nature to love and to be trustworthy because of His love, then when He tells me to love others part of loving others is trusting them. 

Over the weekend, one more time, I had to choose to put that truth into practice.  I was put into a place of choosing to trust my Father in order to trust someone else.  Broken interpersonal relationships are often complex and usually take more time then we want to invest to repair, but because of a choice on the part of two people to trust, a relationship took a big step toward being restored.

I just read an email from a friend who is going through the “hell” of questioning the reality of a good and loving Father.  As she came to the end of a list of questions she was struggling with, without finding resolution, she landed just where we all need to land in those questioning moments and summed it up with these words: “till then I trust.”

Whether it is unanswered questions, broken relationships, or any other unresolved struggle that is part of the life of every follower of Jesus, the only place of hope is in my friends words: “Till then, I trust.”

May 21, 2007 at 3:07 pm 4 comments

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