Tools of the Trade–Mirrors or Hammers?

On the heels of an amazingly extravagant weekend celebrating my daughter’s 5th birthday came blowing in the whirlwind of rejection. Don’t get me wrong—our weekend in Disneyland and California was fantastic; wonderful memories were created and I’m sure my daughter will remember it for the rest of her life–as will I. But the joy was tainted by a letter of “rejection” received just a few moments ago. And while I knew this was a possibility, and it’s not the first “rejection” I’ve received, it stings nonetheless.

Satan uses one rejection to bring up memories of others—people rejection, publisher rejection, performance rejection…etc. Feelings of rejection began early in my childhood. I was a heavy kid with bad acne so the attention I got was not the kind I wanted. I learned how to be a people pleaser very early so I could receive at least some positive reinforcement. Everyone likes to be happy, right? So I went out of my way to help the people around me be happy. It’s what I wished someone would have done for me.

All weekend long I had been thinking about a recent “people-rejection” situation in my life. I prayed over it continually and asked God to help me move past it. Just as I was getting “over it” I received a letter of rejection from a publishing company. Another gut blow.

Satan uses people and circumstances in our lives to assault us with a common “theme”. The theme assaulting me throughout my life is “you are rejected” and “you are not loved”. Even though I do my best to “live peaceably with all men”, trying  to recognize and acknowledge my faults, apologizing, trying to make amends, and continuing to encourage others, I find I am still misunderstood more often than not. My intentions are questioned and my motives are doubted. Through all of this is the same message, “you’re not good enough and nothing you do or say ever will be good enough”.  Over the years these feelings catapulted me into severe depression, physical self-abuse, and even attempted suicides.

I have since learned to ask God to show me how to deal with these feelings biblically (What can I learn? How can I allow God to change me through this situation?). I also ask God to prevent me from being used as an instrument of negativity in someone else’s life, because we are all being assaulted with a message from our Enemy. I do not want to be used by Satan to deliver a message to someone that they are not good enough, loved or appreciated, or whatever the message may be. I realize that many times I have been this “tool” and I continually ask God to open my eyes and eliminate these occurrences from my life.

Perhaps God is calling you to the same area of self-examination. You see an individual  or think of them and immediately have unpleasant thoughts. Maybe you think they’re out to get you, out to hurt you, or that they’ve rejected you. If you feel this way you may be dealing with un-forgiveness. Ask God to help you deal with these people as He would have; treating them as you wish they would treat you (Matthew 5-7).

And if you are battling rejection either relationally or circumstantially, ask God to help you deal with those feelings biblically. It may be tempting to retaliate against such people—wanting them to feel the way they make you feel by ignoring them, sending hate mail, “unfriending” them from social media and the like, but there is a reason God has allowed it and you will never grow spiritually in that area if you pretend like it isn’t a problem. When we fail to see people (or circumstances) through the eyes of Jesus, we will likely face similar situations again and again until we learn to deal with them appropriately. God never gives up on us or teaching us His ways, and I am thankful for that even if it hurts!

Whatever you are feeling today, whatever messages your Enemy has tried to send you or use you to send others, God wants to help you recognize and combat them with His word of truth. If no one else ever understands or accepts you, God does. He will never leave you, forsake you, reject you, misunderstand you, or ignore you.

So, the next time you’re tempted to react a certain way, ask God if you’re being His tool, or a tool of the Enemy in that situation or person’s life. What messages are you delivering with your words and actions? I recently read something and it’s a good thought to end on:

“If my life was the only source of God someone was introduced to, what conclusions would that person make of God’s character based on my reflection of Him?”

In other words, is my God a God who rejects, withholds love, criticizes, assumes the worst, and condemns, or is my God a God who forgives unconditionally, displays compassion, and gives grace? Am I a hammer or a mirror?

“The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion.” Psalm 116:5

“In the same way, let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

 

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do…

“This is my prayer: that your love may abound more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:9-10

Under the conviction of the Holy Spirit I recently made several dramatic changes to my lifestyle (1 Cor. 6:12-13, 19-20). I’ve found, through the implementation of these new habits, many “bad” habits came to light I was unaware of. As I mediated on such things I discovered three sources of influence over my choices:

#1-Parents

Some of the things I’ve done my whole life are a direct result of how I was raised (this is not a ding against my parents but merely a fact-see Proverbs 22:6). It’s extremely difficult to replace habits practiced for more than twenty years-but it can be done. The Holy Spirit has strengthened and enabled me to follow His will for my life today. (Phil. 4:13)

#2-Media

If I spend too much time reading/viewing secular media, I find it tempting to become overwhelmed with a wide variety of opinions (Rom. 12:1-2).  One week something is bad for you and the next week that same thing is good for you. If I choose to believe everything I read without seeking the will of God through His word and prayer, I will be on a constant roller-coaster of frustration.

#3-Christians

Many well-meaning Christians have a variety of opinions based on their interpretation of Scripture and their own experiences in life (often relating to how they were raised-something we all do). More often than not, I have experienced a great deal of criticism within Christianity regarding lifestyle choices, especially anything that contradicts what someone else is doing. Everyone has an opinion, interpretation, and a judgment. (Matt. 7:1-5) The only way I can really know what is best for me is to spend time in the word and prayer. (Phil. 4:6-7)

This isn’t the first time I’ve received negative feedback regarding a personal choice, but I do believe I am following God’s will for my life (recognizing this is not His specific calling for every believer). I’ve done research and made, what I believe to be, an informed decision based on that research and my relationship with God. I am the one who will answer for my choices; it is imperative I do whatever it takes to maintain a clear conscience before God. (James 4:17)

I’m now questioning every choice I make under this light: is it God’s word and Spirit guiding me or the habits and opinions of others?

Dear Critical Christian….

Dear Critical Christian,

I was so delighted to hear your request to understand my purpose in your life and the life of other Christians. I will address a few issues you seem to have recurring trouble with, and offer suggestions to help eradicate those feelings.

Critical Christian, I realize the family around the corner may appear to be in constant financial distress, but please try to refrain from suggesting the wife get a “real” job. What you may not understand is she is doing exactly what God has called her to do by raising her children at home and teaching them as instructed in Deuteronomy 6.

Critical Christian, I know the music is a bit loud every week at church but your mind may be put at ease through demonstrating your acceptance and understanding of your Pastor’s worship decisions. Reading 1 Timothy 6 will prove beneficial in this area. If it seems more than you can bear, you could consider a different congregation with the more aesthetically pleasing sounds you prefer.

Critical Christian, I understand you hold personal convictions regarding the use of alcohol, but I must refer to Romans 14. The family across town may not hold the same convictions as you. Just as you believe going to the theatre is perfectly fine while they choose to not own a television or view any secular media. Each person is subject to God equally, and will answer for their choices. Pointing fingers at everyone else’s decisions is tiresome work and I wouldn’t want you to get an ulcer.

Critical Christian, I know you feel bitter about the success of the family next door, but I would like to point out they have worked hard for more than three decades to attain what they have. They did not win the lottery but saved and sacrificed most of the time to make ends meet. Their hard work paid off, and now they enjoy the fruits of their labor as well as generously sharing their goods with their neighbors.  Be assured if you work hard, be a good steward of God’s blessings, make wise choices and generously give to those in need as God leads, you too will reap great rewards. I cannot promise your reward in this life on earth but can assure your reward in the Kingdom of God will be great. Matthew 25:14-30 illuminates this principle well.

Critical Christian, I sympathize with your ill feelings towards the family across the way and their poorly behaved children. I understand they are loud, rude, and often troublesome. I thought you may want to know that despite appearances, their parents have recently given their life to the Lord. As new believers they are uncertain how to apply Biblical principles. It may be good to remember you never really know what’s going on behind closed doors, and it’s probably best to focus on your own family and training your kids as commanded in Deuteronomy 6. As you understand my work in your life to a greater degree, you will be given opportunities to share it with other believers.

Critical Christian, my time is running short and there are many others requesting my presence in their lives, so I must end this letter.  I pray you come to a perfect place of peace, letting nothing offend you as is written in Psalm 119:165.

Love God’s law with all your heart and serve Him with gladness. Memorize Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 and practice it always.

Preach truth with your life always more than your words, for your life will validate your words.

Read Matthew 5-7. Study Matthew 5-7. Invite the Holy Spirit to live Matthew 5-7 in your life daily.

You may also enjoy reading words of wisdom in James 1:20-26.

Finally, Critical Christian, remember that to speak the truth in love first requires a heart of love. Any words of truth from a heart divided will certainly fall on deaf ears. You may consider memorizing Ephesians 5:1-2 as well.

Study Jesus and His example, for he and I are intertwined as one. There is no greater demonstration of my work than through His life and message.

A final warning: your experience of me may be hindered if you become deceived with your fleshly desires or the Enemy’s lies, so keep in fellowship with the Father always. John 15 explains this well.

The best advice I could leave with you regarding my work in your life is found in 1 Peter 5:5-10. Clothe yourself in humility and my presence will pour over your life continuously.

Sincerely,

Grace