Hurricane Sandy, Power, and God

Hurricane Sandy has come and gone, leaving behind her trail of devastation and destruction. The New York and New Jersey shores have seen the worst in decades. Homes destroyed. Numerous deaths reported. Cars lost. Gas supplies declined. And the electric power, that which we have grown so fond of and depended on, failed. In many ways, people were powerless literally, and they felt powerless figuratively.

As one of the preparations for Hurricane Sandy, electrical line workers were flown in 

Imageand drove in from distances to help cities, townships, and power so that our necessities of heat, food, and water, and our conveniences of TV, lights, and web access may be returned to us. These line workers literally have spent 14-20 hour days working hard to bring our lives back to “normal.” neighborhoods restore 

In some manners, Jesus was like that line worker. Sin had disconnected us from the Father. We were powerless and in need, but we could not connect to the Power ourselves. Sure, we set up generators, temporary solutions that needed to be constantly replenished with gas to work, but this temporary solution was just that…temporary. We needed a real fix to the problem. We needed to be reconnected to our Power, to our heavenly Father. So Jesus sacrificed His life, so that through Him, we might be connected to the Father forever. And yes, even He was ridiculed and persecuted for doing what He came to do, even when it was in the people’s (our) best interest.
 
Believers have been chosen to bring attention to this. We are called to help people put aside their temporary solutions from life’s struggles and to ask Jesus the Line Worker to connect them to God.  At times, we may even hear the complaints, ridicule, and even receive persecution for their perceived thoughts of us. As unpleasant as that is, that is what we are chosen to do.  This connection with God, through the sacrificial work of the Son, will satisfy our deepest and greatest needs.
 
If you are not connected to the Father, ask Jesus to forgive you from your sin (that which disconnected you from Him), believe that Jesus connects you to the Father through His death on the cross and resurrection, and now live with the Power of the Lord. The power to change, the power to withstand temptation, the power to live life to the fullest, and the eternal connection to Him are only a decision away. How easy it is to call your electrical supplier to let them know you need them. Now, will you call upon the Lord and tell Him that you need Him? 

Playing Golf with Jesus

In June, Foundations Christian Counseling Services held our 2nd Annual Golf Tournament to benefit the Karen Hoffner Memorial Fund, our scholarship program to reduce the rates for low-income families in need of Biblical counseling. This is a written summary of the message given:

How do you deal with making bad shots in golf?  Do you get mad at yourself?  Do you curse or throw your club?  Do you shrug it off?  Does it mess up your confidence level?  Do you carry your failure from hole to hole remembering it at each shot?  Henry Longhurst, a renowned British golf writer and commentator said, “No man can succeed at golf until he has mastered the art of not permitting one bad hole, or indeed one bad shot, to affect the rest of his game.”

What are the worst things that you have ever done?  You know what they are because you carry them in your memory only to be brought up on occasion to feel the guilt and shame and then to be buried again.  One terrible shot can bring us down for a hole.  A series of terrible shots may cause us to give up the game.  But it is the one good shot that keeps us coming back.  In life, one big mistake will bring us down awhile.  A series of mistakes may keep us down and ashamed for the rest of our lives.  Now there are some good things that we do that keep us in the game, but at best, they do not bring about what we need to play perfectly.

In golf, the perfect score is 18.  A hole in one…every hole.  You may, at best, get 1 hole-in-one, but for 18 holes it is impossible for us.  In life, the perfect score is O.  If every sin is a stroke against us, it is impossible to obtain.  Today, we played in a four person Scramble.  We each took our turns and made our best efforts to get as close to perfect as we could and we went with the person who had the best shot (or best ball)…the one that’s closest to perfection.  In life, we are in a two-person Scramble.  It’s you and Jesus.  In order to get to the 19th Hole of Heaven and the Trophy of Eternal Life, you need to score a perfect score.  This is impossible for us.  With each stroke we take, we fall short of that perfection.  The only way we can receive the prize is by Jesus’ efforts alone.  He met the standard of perfection.  We might as well put our own efforts down, lay down our clubs, and let Jesus do the work that is required…for the only work that we must do is believe in Him and accept the work that He did for us on the cross.  This can be difficult as we want to do our part, but our best shots (and efforts) end up being unplayable.  

Remember those things that you did in the past that you carry with you and cause shame?  All of those acts can be wiped clean.  You can begin a new round in life with Jesus.  Just ask Him to be your partner in the 2 person Scramble of life, lay down your clubs, and believe.  

The Great Cover-Up

My son cut his thumb the other week while cleaning a can.  The fact that he was cleaning his soup can…awesome.  The fact that he cut himself…not so much.  An ER visit and 4 stitches later, he is healing well.  While living in the age of Facebook, I decided to post this news as I knew the world would want to know about this tragic event in the Jacoby household.  However, I later learned that my son did not want such information posted for the world to know.  Thus began the great cover-up where I asked all who saw the post not to say anything to my son about the event or that they learned it from dad posting it on Facebook.  Why the cover-up? So my son would not become mad at me.  Did I do anything wrong?  Not exactly as I didn’t know about his request until it was too late.  Though perhaps I did do wrong while trying to cover up my actions…

Covering up is so natural (that is, in our sinful nature), isn’t it?  It started with Adam & Eve covering themselves with fig leaves and hiding in a covering of bushes from God and it continues to this day.  What is the purpose for the cover-up?  To hide our embarrassment & shame.  To avoid a punishment or consequence.  For Adam & Eve, they were naked and unashamed, but as soon as they went against God, they felt the need to cover up.  They were embarrassed.  They were ashamed.  They were naked before God and one another and they could not bear (bare) it.

Adam & Eve’s  fig leaf clothing cover up was insufficient.  What would happen after a day or two?  Exactly.  They would need a longer lasting covering for themselves.  God knew this, and so in His love and mercy, He sacrificed an animal to use the garments of skin to cover up their sin, guilt, and shame…their nakedness.  This was the first death recorded in Scripture and it was done by God providing the need for the covering of sin for Adam & Eve.

How often do we use our own fig leaves to cover up our guilt, shame, and sins?  Our fig leaves of busyness, alcohol, food, entertainment, self-deprecation, and blame-shifting, to name a few,  are insufficient.  Even some of the mental health disorders that plague our society can be attributed to our inability to deal with sin, guilt, and shame.

Like He did in the garden, God provided a covering for our sin, guilt, and shame.  He provided it through His Son, Jesus Christ.  The first sacrificial death was for the covering of the sin of Adam & Eve.  The sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross was the last death needed for the covering of sin, guilt, and shame.  The first sacrifice required Adam & Eve to put on the garments, the second sacrifice requires us to put on Christ by faith.

We can try to cover-up our sin, guilt, and shame, but in the end, our coverings will always fall short.  However, when we accept the coverings provided by faith in Christ, our sins, guilt, and shame are no longer seen by God.  Instead, when He sees us, He sees what we are covered by…He sees Christ.  He sees Christ’s righteousness (not our sins), He sees the One who is innocent (not guilty), and He sees the One with whom He delights in (not shame).   Yes, He sees Christ in us.  May we accept His Son by faith and accept His covering for us through Christ!

For more information on overcoming shame through the gospel, read Shame Interrupted by Ed Welch.

The Bully In Me

The past two years, I have noticed a greater attention in the schools on bullying.  Walking into my kids’ school, there is a large banner hanging in the hallway saying, “This is a bully free zone,” and another banner stating “Be a buddy, not a bully.”  I wish we could make bully free zones where children would be accepting to others and stronger children would not prey upon the weaker ones.  But in reality, can we truly achieve this?

If we are to be honest with ourselves, many of us have been on both sides of bullying.  We have been victims of bullies and we have been bullies ourselves.  Bullies are not simply the people who try to intimidate us to get us to do what they want, but there is a bully inside us, too.  The bully came out with our younger siblings, when we told them what to do and when to do it.  The bully comes out in marriage when a husband intimidates his wife (often using his physical strength or hurtful words) or when a wife criticizes her husband for not doing what she wants him to do.  Bullying in all cases is not a “give me your milk money” kind of thing, but can be on different levels or extremes.

I remember a time in 8th or 9th grade when a classmate would “bully” me by using his strength and popularity in the class to give me a “purple nurple” (twisting a guy’s nipple until it bruises).  Then, when a less popular classmate would try to empower himself by trying to do the same to me, I shoved him against the locker threatening him with force.  I was bullied.  Then I bullied.  I was the weaker and intimidated.  Then I was the stronger and the one who intimidated.  Bullying empowers us to change others and get them to do what we want…and you know, often it works, but at the expense of another.

To bully is to “use superior strength or influence to intimidate (someone), typically to force him or her to do what one wants.”  Bullying involves fear and intimidation (often using threats of physical or emotional harm) to get others to do what we want.   It stems from our sinful nature, the part in us that says, “I want what I want when I want it….and you need to do what I want you to do…or else.”  

Often, we think that in order to be happy, we need circumstances to go as we want them to go.  But because others are unpredictable and don’t always fall in line with what we want, we feel the need to influence them to do as we want.  In other words,  we try to control others.  Other people, therefore, exist for our happiness or for our pleasure.  We are the kings and queens of our worlds and our spouses, children, peers, congregations, coworkers, etc. are our subjects to do our bidding.

If we are to get rid of the “bully in me,” we need to go to the cross of Christ, seek forgiveness for our self-centered ways, and consistently make Him the center of our lives (not ourselves).  Like Christ, we need to accept others as they are and not for who we want them to be (our subjects).  It is impossible to love others as Christ if we only see them as our subjects to fulfill our purposes.  Ed Welch, in his book When People are Big and God is Small, says, “we need other people in order to accomplish God’s purposes and most accurately reflect his unlimited glory.

The bully in me says that I need people to make me happy.  Christ in me says that I need people to reflect his glory.  The bully in me says I need to control others.  Christ in me says I need to be self-controlled to love others.   The bully in me says others must do my bidding.  Christ in me says I must do His bidding.

Though I applaud the schools getting involved more to stop bullying (It is needed!), I believe they will fall short as they only police behavior.  In order to change the root cause (our sin nature), we must address the sin issue at the heart level and look to Christ to change us there.    The result of such efforts will be Christ in us, Christ in the schools, and glory to God.

Believe!

This morning, I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of being called a liar by one of my children. Well, he actually said, “you lied,” but that is essentially saying the same thing.  The thing is, we remembered things differently, but instead of saying that he does not remember that or saying how he remembered the event, accusations were made as to my intent or motive.
Tonight, I have the opportunity to speak to about a dozen women from Truth For Women about mentoring women in the Lehigh Valley. One of the topics that we are going to touch on is leading people to Christ in the mentoring relationship. One key term continues to be raised in my preparation: the term “believe.” As I searched the Scriptures for the term “believe” on http://www.biblegateway.com (I recommend doing that, by the way), I was pulled towards the importance of belief in the eyes of God.  What is it about belief that is so important?  Well, that we believe he exists, that we believe He sent His son to die for our sins, that we believe Christ was raised from the dead, that we believe His Word, that we believe without doubt, etc.  One verse that hit me was this:

1 John 5:10
… Anyone who does not believe God has made him out to be a liar, because he has not believed the testimony God has given about his Son.

If we choose not to believe Him – that He is telling the truth, that He stands for truth, that He is the truth – we instead believe that He is lying…that He is a liar.  If another person tells you something that you do not believe, you are saying that they are either lying, they are wrong, or they mis-remembered (that’s my new favorite term – sure beats saying that I forgot!), all the while believing that you are right and they are wrong.  When we choose to dis-believe God, or believe He does not exist or that what He revealed about Himself in His word is fictitious, we are accusing Him of lying.  God does not mis-remember (He remembers all – though “forgets” our sins or chooses not to hold our sins against us).  God is never wrong (He is always right). So therefore the logical conclusion must be that He is lying.

When we accuse others of lying, we make two assumptions:  #1) We are right; and #2) Their intent was to purposely deceive.  When we “know” that we are right, we take a position of holding the truth…the truth is within us.  If the truth is within us, and our truth is right, then the other person is wrong.  Their truth simply cannot be.  They are a liar.

God has been moving me more and more towards understanding his grace, that my actions will never win his favor or cause him to keep his love for me.  His number one concern is whether we believe in His Truth.  Belief in Him, in His ability and in His love will bring forth the necessary changes and fruit in our lives, but apart from this belief (or faith) in him, we cannot please Him (it is sin) because it comes from disbelief (or is not done in faith – see Rom 14:23).

For there to be change in our lives…to forgive, to fall back in love, to restore a broken marriage, to refrain from addictions, to become a godly wife or husband…all of this must be done with belief.  We must first believe that God can and will change our hearts.  Belief in Him is a submission of our lives, putting aside what we once believed would bring us what we wanted.  It is saying #1) God, you are right (and true) and #2) Your intent is to love me and set me free…therefore, I believe.

If you’re looking for change in your life, believe in Him and the one He sent.  Anything less is disbelief & sin. It is calling God a liar. Believe, my friends. Believe.

Letters to Sin: Part 2

Dear Sin,

I said goodbye.  You said hello.  Didn’t I say that we were done?  So why are you back?  Oh.  It’s because I wanted you back.  I’m just confused.  I know that God loves me more than you do, but there’s a part of me that loves you more than God.  That’s why I can’t seem to break free.  Every time I try to follow Him, you are right there with me, pulling me back to you and I find it hard to resist your pull.  I do want to spend time with you, but you’re just not good for me.  (sigh) I don’t know.  I’m going to try to avoid you tomorrow.

Love,   Confused, Me

Dear Sin,

Why is this drive to be with you so strong within?  I just can’t seem to be free from you!  It’s like….it’s like there’s this bungee cord attached to us.  Every time I try to get away I only get so far for so long only to be forced to return to you.  I’ve asked a friend of mine to help keep me away from you.  I know I can’t do it alone, so I won’t.  I once thought that you were there for me.  You tricked me into thinking that I could find joy and comfort from you.  But I see it now that you did not wish to bring me joy or comfort, only slavery.  You deceived me and only wanted your own way without a care for me.  How could I be so stupid?  I want this relationship to end.  I will not be your slave.  I will choose to love God more.  I will choose to be free.  God help me.

Sincerely, Me

Dear Sin,

This will be my final letter to you.  Do not expect to hear from me again.  I kept trying not to see you, but I was trying on my own strength.  I realize that what attached us was not a bungee cord, but a rope.  You did not pull me back in, but you just tugged and in my desire to return, I was caught like a fish on a hook.  Not anymore.  You see, I decided to give you up.  I’m letting go of the rope.  I decided to surrender to Him.  I confessed to God about our relationship, our affair.  He forgave me.  God said that He already provided a Savior for me and let me tell you this, I needed saving.   He died for me, so that I don’t have to be with you anymore.   You’re leading me to death, but I want abundant life.   I’m choosing to love Him more than I have loved you.  Don’t bother trying to write me or contact me.  I won’t be answering.  Goodbye for good.

Me

Letters To Sin: Part 1

Dear Sin,

It was great seeing you again!  I can’t tell you  how much you had helped me during my difficult time.  When I needed you, you were right there with me.  You comforted me.  You helped me to forget what was troubling me and you gave me my escape.  I know we shouldn’t be seen together, but you are so much fun and you bring me up when I feel down.  It’s like a high when we meet.   You’re intoxicating.  Anyway, thanks for being there for me.

Love, Me

Dear Sin,

Once again, thank you for being there.  You know, every time we get together, I look forward to it.  Sometimes I plan for us to meet while other times I don’t plan on it, but we get together anyway.  I know we shouldn’t be meeting like this…in secret.  If others knew, they would be upset.  But what they don’t know won’t hurt them, right?  Truth is, I don’t really think of others while we’re together.  It’s just me, myself, and I…and you.  Catch you later!

Love, Me

Dear Sin,

Well, together again.  You know, I’ve been thinking.  Maybe we shouldn’t be meeting like this.  Please don’t take that personally.  I like you and all, but something doesn’t seem right.  I’m starting to see areas in my life that are not going so well and it’s been happening since we’ve been meeting.  I don’t know, what do you think?  Anyway, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Love, Me

Dear Sin,

OK.  I’ve made a decision.  Though you’ve been there for me in the past and I’ve enjoyed it, we just can’t keep going on like this.  You see, after we get together, I feel real guilty and ashamed.  It’s not you, it’s me.  So I have a choice:  I can either make myself stop feeling guilty by hardening my heart and then we can keep seeing each other, or I can follow my conscience and stop.  I know that God does not want us to meet and I am hurting Him each time we meet…So, I’m going to get back together with God.  He loves me more than you do.  So, goodbye sin.

Respectfully Yours, Me