Lip Guards

In some professional sports like football and hockey, each player has to wear a mouth guard to protect their teeth in case they get hit by another player or puck.  Athletes probably value their teeth, and like myself, hate going to the dentist. If something is important to you, you protect it.
For some reason, this year I’ve been paying closer attention to the news, sports, etc., and have noticed that many people like to speak their minds without giving much thought as to how their words will affect others.  This, of course, doesn’t just happen with Twitter or Facebook, etc, but in marriages, too.  To speak one’s mind quickly and tell people how you feel just feels good to do. Maybe it feels powerful.  Maybe it just feels right.  But often times, it is not good.  How many times have you heard of people having to apologize for things they said “off the cuff”? How many times have you had to apologize for doing the same thing?
Proverbs 13:3 says, “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.”  I’m convinced that some people need lip guards all the time and all people need lip guards some of the time.  Although there hasn’t been such an invention yet (perhaps I will invent one and go on the TV show, Shark Tank!), we will have to guard our lips the old fashion way…through self-control and humility.  Self-control because…well…that’s obvious.  Stopping and thinking first is highly under-rated.  We also need humility because when we vent quickly, we often place ourselves, our needs, our desires, etc. above everyone else.  We don’t care how or what others think, including God.  We see our opinions as worthy of being considered and listened to when perhaps what we need to do is consider where our words may take us first.  According to Proverbs, our words may lead us to “ruin“…ruined reputations and ruined relationships.

Don’t let your reputation or relationships end up in ruins.  In humility, consider others’ thoughts and feelings first and whether what might be said would either build up or tear down.  Until the official physical lip guard is invented, this will have to do!

The Fear Factor: Part 2 – Finding the Peace in Perfect Love

In the last blog, The Fear Factor: Part 1, I shared how fear can have a significant impact in our lives, but that a relationship with Christ will help us combat our fears.  I Jn 4:18 says “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment.”   How does this happen?  How can “perfect love” drive out the fear that we experience?

First, when we see (or hear) the phrase “perfect love,” we need to understand that perfect love can only come from a perfect person (God or Christ).  Our love can hardly be seen as perfect as it is often intertwined with selfish motives and agendas (though I admit that it is possible through Christ in us!).  The evidence and understanding of God’s perfect love in our lives through a relationship with Christ will drive out the fear in our lives.  Let’s look at how a relationship with our Savior helps us to face our fears:

a. Fear of Rejection: Though it hurts when we are rejected by others, we can rest in knowing that God will not reject us (that is, for those who have accepted Christ).  Accepting and believing God’s opinion and perfect love for us as greater than the opinions of others will decrease and eradicate the fear of rejection in our lives.  We can be secure individuals through accepting His perfect love for us.  We must also understand that Jesus has been rejected by his closest friends, by his bride (the church), and by us.  He knows the feelings of rejection.  He’s felt the pain.  You’re not alone and he will lift your head as you lean on him. (For in-depth understanding, read The Search For Significance by Robert McGee & When People Are Big & God is Small by Ed Welch.)

b. Fear of Suffering/Death:  No one wishes to suffer, but one may be willing to go through it for those they love.  Jesus knows suffering.  He knows physical pain.  He knows emotional pain.  He was willing to be “obedient unto death,” to place himself in suffering because of his perfect love for you and me.  He knew that his obedience to the plan of salvation would dictate his suffering as he placed himself under his Father’s will.  Rom 8:28-29 explains that “all things will work for the good of those who love him” and that he is conforming us “to the image of Christ.”  To be willing to go through suffering (or at least, choose to go through it well) means trusting in His perfect love, character, and plan that it will work out for good.  Christ’s willingness to endure worked out according to his plan and our good (as well as his good!).  When we know that our ultimate fate rests in the hands of God, we can have a peace that rests upon His perfect love demonstrated for us on the cross.  He endured suffering and defeated death by raising from the dead.  When we believe this, we too will endure suffering well and will defeat death to have everlasting life through Christ.

c. Fear of Intimacy: A Fear of intimacy is often a masked fear of rejection or suffering.  “If they get too close, they will reject me and I will be hurt.”  “They will see me for who I am, know all of my faults, my failures, my quirks….me.”  God knows all of these things already.  He loves you for who you are, warts and all.  When we accept His perfect love for us, one that is not dependent on what we do or did, but depends on His character alone, then we can begin to accept ourselves as we are (not who we think we should be) and allow others to accept or reject us.

d. Fear of Failure:  Is this a fear of failing or being labeled a failure?  Failing at something occurs all the time.  Every day we fail to live up to perfection as defined by God (though often redefined by ourselves).  Often, the guilt of failing turns to shame as we label ourselves a failure.  In God’s eyes, for those who have accepted Christ as Savior, we must begin to see ourselves “soberly.”  Though we have failed and in many senses of the word are failures, we are not seen by God as such.  We are seen as holy, righteous, and perfect.  Why? Because of His perfect love.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”  Our failures have fallen upon His Son on the cross, and the Son’s righteousness has been given to us.  When we believe in the Son, God chooses to see us as His Son.  As holy, righteous, and perfect.

We must change our thinking and our hearts so that our lives reflect these truths of God’s perfect love.  Our fears will not be cast out simply by knowing these truths, but when we apply these truths of God’s perfect love for us through Christ, we will achieve peace and victory in our lives over our fears.  Need help?  Call Foundations Christian Counseling and set up a time to discuss in person (570-402-5088).

Dealing With Disappointment

ImageA husband comes home from work hoping to be greeted with a warm kiss, but his presence is barely acknowledged.  A wife comes home from work, hoping her husband started dinner or cleaned before her arrival, but she does not get either wish.  A child opens up a gift on Christmas hoping it is a Nerf gun, only to find socks and underwear.  A Pastor meets with a member hoping to help, only to hear that the member is leaving the church.  A person hoping to accomplish their personal goals falls short…again.

Disappointment.  Being let down.  A familiar feeling for all of us, I’m sure.  As 2012 begins, gym membership rates are reduced, exercise equipment on sale, and new hopes are born as resolutions are made to improve the appearance of self.  Perhaps 2012 will be better than 2011.  Maybe this new year will bring about reduced weight and calories and increased confidence and determination.  I hope that is the case for you…but for many, the valiant efforts in the beginning of the year are overshadowed by giving in to the temptations of chocolate in February.  Disappointment.

As a perfectionist (only in looking at myself and not in cleanliness), I deal with disappointment often.  Too many times it is a disappointment for failing to measure up to my standards for myself.  Other times it is because I have not measured up to the standards of others.  Let’s face it…isn’t this what disappointment is?  It is the inability for ourselves or for others to measure up to the standards (or expectations) we have for them or the standards they have for us.

As I continue to grow in my relationship with the Lord, He has continued to reveal to me that when I am disappointed, it is often because I am living by the law, my law (or standards or expectations), and not by grace.  I need to continuously remind myself that if I live by grace, then I accept the reality that I am a sinner, that I will constantly fail, and that others will fail as well.  Failure to do this is living in pride.  It is prideful because disappointment comes from the expectation that I or others will not fail.  OF COURSE WE ALL FAIL, it is because we are sinners!  Other people will fail us and no one is excluded.  Pastors, friends, spouses, children, bosses, co-workers, postal workers, other drivers, etc., etc.  They will all fail us.  Sometimes their failings come from them falling short of our expectations of them, and sometimes it is because they just screwed up.

How do we deal with disappointments?  We accept that we fail.  We accept that others will fail.  We ask the Lord to search our heart’s expectations and unmet desires, we confess our pride and self-centeredness, and we ask for his help to live by grace.  We remind ourselves that we are sinners saved by grace through faith and we extend this grace to ourselves and others.  As long as there is sin and as long as people sin, we will all deal with disappointment.  But let’s not deal with it alone…but deal with it with Christ, through Christ, and for Christ that he be glorified in our lives. Amen.