Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Who is Sitting at Your Table Revisited

A while back I wrote a post entitled Who is Sitting at Your Table? With the number of covid cases growing in our state, the shut down of our state, economic issues, and the postponement of our ministry I have found myself struggling with a lot of negative thoughts. So, I went back and listened again to Louis Giglio's talk on Psalm 23:8 and decided to revisit the truth in his sermon on the blog. 

I loved the word picture Giglio presented. The negative thoughts I was experiencing, were the enemy whispering in my head. As I watched his sermon, I was reminded again that God has prepared for us a table in the presence of our enemies. Those enemies can be anything from a person who has verbally attacked us, spread rumors about us, or someone who acted like a friend and then stabbed us in the back. The enemy could be things like hard circumstances like this pandemic, threats against our safety, and addictions raising up their head during a time when support is difficult to find. The enemy can also be Satan or one of his cohorts, whispering ugly lies into our heads as they were mine when I postponed our support groups. The lies the enemy whispers are many--you are not good enough, you are too much, you are not smart enough, you are crazy, your not a valuable part of the body, and you not loved. The lies can also be lies about God--He isn't hearing your prayers, He doesn't care about the things happening in your life and country, and He no longer is working in your life or your ministry. 

I think our natural tendency (at least mine) is to beg God to destroy or remove our enemies and to make life easier. But Psalm 23:8 tells us that He actually prepares a table for us in the their presence. Wow, this tells us is in the midst of battles, in the midst of temptations, in the midst of the ugly things we hear in our heads our God is ever present and serving lavishly what we need to survive. Giglio says we need to remember God has given us the power and authority to choose who sits down at our table. As believers, I imagine we are sitting at a beautifully decorated table with a lavish feast the Lord Himself has prepared. As we engage with Him through His Word, He reminds us of His Holiness, His goodness, His power, His strength, His faithfulness to us, and His great love. He also reminds us that we are redeemed, we are accepted, we are reconciled to the King of kings, and we are chosen to be a royal priesthood. He also reminds us that through Jesus we have been made good enough, beautiful enough, are fully known and loved, and have been adopted as sons and daughters into His family with the full rights of sonship. He also reminds us that His Spirit empowers us, comforts us, and dwells with in us so that all we need is to live holy lives that is pleasing to God. 

When we are focused on the One forever seated at our table, I envision our enemies hovering over our table. We are safe even with them there hovering. I picture the enemy walking repeatedly by our table and whispering lies into our ears--If God really cared He would have wiped out covid, you could use a drink to deal with this stress, that man (or woman) over there could make you happier than your spouse, you really aren't good a enough teach to teach your classes on line, you are a failure as a parent--and the list of lies could go on and on. If we are really focused on the Lord, we probably don't even notice the whispered words. 

But when we get triggered, exhausted, lose focus, struggle with temptation, are dealing with traumatic events, or are ignoring the Savior seated at the table, Satan sees it as his opportunity to pull up a a chair and join us at out table. Sometimes, we  recognize the Enemy for who he is and we tell him he is not welcome. But, at other other times when we are vulnerable the Enemy speaks a lie or a half truth that resonates with what we are thinking or feeling in that moment and we get hooked and begin to ruminate on the lies. Before long we  have turned our chair away from the Lord and are fully engaging with the Enemy and buy into one ugly lie after another. Before we know it, we have forgotten the Lord who is sitting at our table and we are feasting on the lies. You are ugly. You are fat. You are a failure. You are unloved. You are unwanted. You are too broken. You are too much. You are not enough. You are nothing but damaged goods. You deserve to be battered. You are too weak. You are invisible. You don’t deserve God’s forgiveness. You deserved the abuse you experienced. Something in you caused the man to do those vile things. Everything wrong is your fault. You are responsible for everyone’s happiness. And the ugliest lie of all--Jesus didn’t really love you, what you experienced has proven that. God has forgotten you. He is not really good or all these things would not be happening.

But, Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He understands our weaknesses and our thought patterns because He lived in a fallen world and rubbed shoulders with people just like us. He is the Good Shepherd who lay down His life for us. He demonstrated His lavish love when He was wounded, beaten, rejected and hung on a cross, bearing the blame for things He didn't do. Because of His love and His faithfulness, Jesus never leaves our table even when we turn our attention to the Enemy. When we are engaged with the enemy, the Lord may gently nudge us, but when we are struggling with confusion, shame, fear, pain, or anger, we may not notice His nudging. After a moment or two, an hour or two, a day or two, a week or two, a month or two, a year or two, or maybe more, we realize we have been listening to the Enemy and have given him power that is not rightfully his. The Holy Spirit within us may get our attention or send someone we know to remind us that we have the authority to decide who sits at the table with us. And, we yell, “STOP, LEAVE!” And we turn back to the Lord and reengage with Him, hanging on to His truth and begin, once again, to live out our faith. 

It sounds easy, but it isn't. When there has been trauma the lies Satan uses are deeply are often embedded deeply into our core. To overcome them, we must change our core by taking our thoughts captive to God's truth twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. We want to remember that at Calvary, our Jesus stared into the face of our Enemy and defeated his hold over us and all we have to do is use our God given authority to boot the enemy from the table. 

So, we need to ask ourselves who is sitting at our table today? To whose voice are we listening? God's God’s voice isn’t a condemning voice, that is the Enemy’s. We would do well to remember that we, as believers, decide who sits at our table with us. Fear, insecurity, lack of peace, condemnation, bitterness, the ugly lies we think about ourselves, and the paranoid things we think about others usually indicate that we have let unwelcome guests sit down at our tables and we can dismiss them and focus on Him who is ever present, ever loving, offering His peace even when we are surrounded by enemies. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Real Radical Risky Relationships

There have been times in my life that I have been richly blessed with deep relationships. There have also been times that real relationships were so few and so shallow that I struggled with deep loneliness. Ironically those lonely years occurred when I was struggling with emotional pain. And even while I was begging God for deep friendships, I guilty of isolating and pushing people away. My isolation didn't look like living in a cabin in the woods, it took the form of hiding behind the busy roles I played--a wife, a home-schooling mama of five children, and being involved in busy ministry as volunteer youth worker.

After one long season of loneliness, I began to crave connection but realized I was somewhat terrified of being vulnerable enough with others to connect. I searched the Scriptures for what relationships should be like. I started with Matthew 22:37, "...You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Saw and the Prophets." To me this verse indicates that the Christian life is a life that can only be lived out in the context of relationship--first in our relationship with God and then i our relationships with other people.

I looked at Jesus life and realized and realized real relationships are both radical and risky. Jesus' relationships were radical as they were governed by sacrificial love. Of course His greatest sacrifice was His life. Most of us will never have to lay our physical lives down for others, but to love well requires many daily sacrifices Jesus made in His relationships. This includes the sacrifice of time, of comfort, of energy, of plans, of emotions, and of resources. This is a radical concept in our culture, which tends to applaud isolating qualities of independence, business, and self sufficiency. We can learn a lot about radical, risky relationships by looking Jesus' relationships in the gospels.  

Christ took risk simply by calling people into relationships. Some happily came, some didn't. To offer friendships is risky for us, too. We may experience rejection. We may experience having someone  accept us, but be unwilling to give us as much as we pour into the relationship. We may experience someone accepting us, but then bailing out at the first sign of distress, conflict, or hard stuff. Hopefully some of our relationships will become mutually balanced relationships with staying power like Christ had with most of disciples. And, yet we shouldn't be surprised by these risks, for even as Christ's friends who were the most committed to Him deserted Him when the going got rough.

Real relationships are risky because they require disclosure. Christ took many risks in disclosing things about Himself and His mission to others. As He disclosed, many flocked to Him--some with good motives and some with bad. As He disclosed some got so angry with Him that they rejected Him and eventually had Him killed. In these days, we are beginning to experience similar risks and have similar outcomes when we take those risks. When we share our hearts, our pasts, our dreams, and our beliefs, some will like us while others will be hostile towards us. Yet, we're called to be like Christ and to reach out to others, pouring both love and truth into their lives.

Without real relationships our thinking and viewpoints can become skewed and distorted. This is because we have the tendency to develop blind spots. I have fortunate enough to have had precious friends point out parenting flaws and give me creative ideas for disciplining and discipling my children. I have had other friends point out disrespectful flaws in my relationship with my husband, giving me the opportunity to grow and change as a woman and wife. I have also had friends who lovingly pointed out the differences in what I said I believed and what I was showing I believed through my actions, giving me the opportunity to help my head beliefs become heart beliefs that drove more consistency in my life.

Real, radical, an risky relationships draw others to the faith. Acts 9:36-42 describes Dorcas as a woman who was always doing good and helping the poor. The poor in her days included women who were widowed and she often made them clothing. When she became sick and died, the widows gathered to grieve and they sent for Peter. When Peter arrived, the widows showed him the robes and other clothing Dorcas had made for them. Peter cleared the room and raised her from the dead and widows rejoiced to see her. The Bible says many believed after the miracle, but I can't help but also believe that some were initially drawn by the love they had observed.

Radical, risky relationships have the potential to be avenues of healing. When I think of healing relationships, I think of the relationship between Naomi and Ruth. Naomi was grieving and had became depressed and somewhat and bitter. Who could blame her. She had lost her husband and both of her sons. In her bitterness she doesn't seem all that loveable to me and does what she can to push her daughter-in-laws away. She decided to move to her home town and pushes so hard against her girls that one actually leaves, but Ruth refuses to leave her. Even though Naomi is so bitter she claimed God has come against her, Ruth makes a committment not only to stay with her, but to follow Naomi's God. Naomi's pain ran deep in the loss of a spouse and both sons. Yet, Ruth, even in her own pain as a young widow was committed to helping Naomi bear the pain she felt. Ruth loved so well that others in her home town told Naomi she was better off with Ruth than her own sons. Eventually God provided a kinsman redeemer and provided a husband for Ruth and a grandson for Naomi to love.

I love that God created us for relationships. I hope that we, as believers. don't ever just settle for shallow and comfortable relationships. I hope that we will find the courage to form real, radical, and risky relationships, for it is in those types of relationships that we become the most like Jesus.


Several years ago I realized that I often sped through my Scripture reading and gave it little thought. Yet, when I had meaningful conversations with friends or family members I replayed them over and over in my head. One day it occurred to me, that if I thought more about what God says in his word that I would not only know more about Him, but I would come to know Him in a personal way. I would know more about His thoughts, His character, His intentions, His passions, and His actions. So, I began to take one verse at a time and think on it and then journal about it. At the time I was served as a volunteer in youth ministry and shared my “Thoughts on God” with those girls. For a while I have been rewriting and posting them on this blog. I have realized when I am in the Word or move through my day focusing on God's presence that I have wonderful opportunities to Meet God in the Everyday. The Everyday can include storms, blessings, hard things, scary things, exciting things...just any where, anyplace, any time. I hope that you will be able to engage with what I write with both your head and your heart. I also hope you will be challenged to love, trust, and know the God of the Scriptures. It is my prayer that as you read you will experience Him at a deeper level and share pieces of your journey in the comments. It is my desire that we form a safe community of believers who pursue the God who loves us radically, eternally, and without reserve. As a precious pastor once told me, "Don't forget, Wendy, God is Good!" I find myself compelled by His Goodness and His Love to share so others can know Him through all the ups and downs of life. Please feel free to dialogue back and to share how each passage impacts you. If if there is a passage you would like me to write on or if you would like to be a guest blogger, please let me know. I am just learning to navigate this blog and appreciate the kind comments you have made in the past...I promise I will even try to respond if you leave a note. If you are blessed please share the blog with friends!