Teaching to Learn and Learning to Teach

God Did This
January 17, 2012, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Christian Living, Counseling, Discipleship, Friends, Lessons Learned, Life

I saw a lot of guilt and bitterness  both in my own life and in the lives of others last semester, that stemmed from not believing God’s sovereignty. Many of us will say that God is sovereign, but then turn around and  say things like, “I know this is beyond my control, but I want there to be something I can do to change this so it doesn’t hurt so and so.” “I’m ruining everything.” “So and so doesn’t know what their sinning against me has cost me. I’m not ready to forgive him yet. He is going to have to earn my trust back.”

Let me clue you in on something. The sovereignty of God means that you or I can’t bring anything into each other’s lives that God does not orchestrate. Stop feeling guilt about not being good enough for that friend or spouse. Stop moping about how your difficulty has affected another when it was something beyond your control. Stop accusing others of harming you or bringing you more than you can bear. Those claims are actually accusing the Lord of not being good. It is accusing Him of being unkind to the person who you have affected or of his unkindness in allowing you to be hurt by another. Instead, we can be certain that nothing comes our way that is not loving and divinely orchestrated. That’s good news! That includes break-ups, financial struggles, limitations, sins, and the whole gammet.

Yes, that boy may have been insensitive. Yes, your illness may have come at some cost to your roommate. Yes, your moving away brings great sorrow to those who love you. Yes, that teacher is harder than the others and yes, his B may have cost you a scholarship… this trial was dealt to you by the hand of God. Take it as such and rejoice. Rejoice at seeing your heart. If you didn’t sin in response to this trial, rejoice at seeing the Spirit at work in you. If you are suffering and not sinning, rejoice at coming to know the Lord more fully. Rejoice at sharing in his suffering. Rejoice at your need for Christ. Rejoice at your opportunity to not only model Christ’s response but to help that other believer that wronged you look more like Christ too.

Let the sovereignty of God cure you of moping and bitterness and instead be replaced with rejoicing and loving service to God and others.


Tyranny of the Urgent

Usually when things feel urgent, it is because you have pressure from someone else making you think it is urgent. I have learned sometimes it is better to miss that phone call as an Admin Assistant. The student, parent, or coworker learns to rely on the Lord and after not reaching someone immediately, by the time I get back to them it isn’t such a crisis. John 11 “Let us go back to Judea … Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” He waited two days. Others thought it was urgent, but he was more concerned with God’s glory, their sanctification, and being a faithful servant than meeting their urgent demands.

Not only is it for the other person’s benefit that I don’t always take their phone call or meet their urgent demand, but it is also for my good and God’s glory. I am a human. I am finite. I am not God. I need sleep and nourishment. I have limited time and resources. I need to be faithful to not confuse myself as the Infinite, Limitless One. I need to be faithful to do the mission He has sent me on and not to take over the Kingdom. Faithfulness each day looks different. I need to be faithful with the task I have been given by the Lord. I need to be wise about using Kingdom Resources. I can’t dilly dally or waste time doing what every citizen of the kingdom or of another land wishes me to do. “Non Important – Urgent. Although unimportant, these activities in the guise of urgency conjure up an illusion that they are of value to us. They include interruptions of many kinds: some phone calls, meetings, visitors, requests for information. They can keep us busy for hours meeting other people’s expectations.” (37)

“Jesus did not meet all the human needs he encountered – many urgently desired by family and friends, and by others along his path. But he completed the mission his Father gave him” (Tyranny of the Urgent, 23). If Jesus didn’t meet everyone’s demands or stated needs then why should we think we can? We need to be faithful. They need to encounter a Savior often and not us.

Counsel and Comfort from Good Friday
April 22, 2011, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Christian Living, Counseling, Gospel

“Isn’t God concerned for His glory? Didn’t He promise to work for believers’ good? I don’t see how that is happening. Where is God? There seems to be no hope here.” Perhaps you recognize some of those phrases. There have been times in my life where those thoughts weighed heavily upon my heart and where I cried out to God in tears, because I didn’t understand. If you are in the midst of a trial or helping someone else in the midst of sorrow, find comfort in Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday. Those questions were asked by disciples on Good Friday. Good Friday seemed like the darkest day in church history to the believers in Jerusalem. It seemed that God’s plan was defeated, but He was still in control. It seemed like His promises were not sure and were not in effect, but they were. He was more concerned with His glory and believer’s good than they were and He knew how to best achieve it, better than they could have even imagined. God crushed His son for all of us (Isaiah 53:5). Apart from that dark day, there was no salvation available. He was and is the only way. He was sovereignly in control orchestrating the whole thing, but that’s not what it felt like! It felt like the Romans and the Jewish religious leaders had defeated God. The disciples were hiding and were scared.

Luke 24 gives the account of two despairing disciples on the road. They were despairing, not realizing that Hope Himself travelled with them. They could not see at that moment how God was a work. Their eyes were kept from recognizing their travelling partner as the resurrected Christ. They were sharing with Him the events of good Friday, not realizing that Resurrection Sunday had already come. Here was their interpretation of the events: “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people and how our chief priests and rulers delivered Him up to be condemned to death and crucified Him. But we had hoped that He was the one to redeem Israel and now, some women are saying He was resurrected.” Their hope had not been misplaced. He was the one to redeem Israel; but they failed to understand how God was accomplishing that. Jesus responds to them saying, “O foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”

The wise and full of faith believe the promises of God even when they can’t understand how those promises are in effect in that situation. The wise and those who are quick to believe know that even though it is Friday, Sunday will come. The wise and those who are quick to believe understand that even though the wicked may seem to prosper and the righteous appear to be punished, that there is a different end. That God’s righteousness reigns and will continue to reign and eternity looks different than today (Psalm 73; II Cor. 4). They understand that although “my heart and flesh may fail, God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

Perhaps you are tempted to despair as you question a family tragedy; the abuse of the helpless; a bitter argument; the sorrows, griefs, and persecution of believers; painful circumstances; or the public, blatant sin of believers. Perhaps it is a church split and you say, “Lord, don’t you care. Don’t you see what this is doing to Your church, to me, to Your reputation?” Remember that the darkest day in history was shortly followed by the brightest day of history: Resurrection Sunday. God knew what He was doing. He could be trusted even thought the outlook seemed grim for believers in Jerusalem on Good Friday as God himself hung on a tree, died, and was buried. Who could have orchestrated such beautiful events and procured eternity for us in such a way, the only way, except God Himself? God is at work. He is faithful and cannot deny Himself. He who did not spare His own son, but gave Him up willingly as a propitiation for our sins, will He not also give us all things? Believe in faith and wait patiently. Trust His promises.

“For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been His counselor? Or who has given a gift to Him, that he might be repaid? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:34-36)

Perfectionism, Guilt, and a Savior

There is no such thing as false guilt. We are all guilty. The Scriptural idea of guilt is the actual state a sinner is in as the guilty party. My feeling of guilt, however, may or may not correspond to my actual guilt. My problem was I had set up my own kingdom with my own laws and when I failed to keep them I felt the need to pay or blame. Jesus didn’t die to make me sovereign, for me to be perfect at everything I do or for me to be praised by others. He didn’t die so that my will might be done, so I didn’t run to the cross when I came up short, but the cross is where I needed to turn.

Piper speaks of this sense of guilt or shame and of the true guilt behind it:

We are so focused on the sense of guilt that comes from failing in front of other people’s eyes, that we fail to recognize our true guilt of being “self-centered” rather than “God-centered” (134).

Another author speaks of what sin truly needs to be repented of in this case:

Setting up one’s own standard is not only pride that needs to be confessed and repented of, but it is god-playing the “essence of sin” (Freedom from Guilt, 15).

This world isn’t meant to be perfect. I’m not the one who is supposed to be in control. I sought to be perfect, almighty, provider, with infinite resources and all wisdom. This is God’s role. He is the one that should get the glory and will get the glory and that might happen through my failure rather than through my accomplishments (Psalm 76:10; Acts 4:27-28; II Cor. 3:4-5; 4:7)” (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety 98). God never promised I would be perfect, but He has promised to work everything, even my failures, for my good and His glory (Romans 8:28-29;  Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety, 98). I wasn’t meant to be perfect apart from Christ (I Cor. 2:6; Phil 3:15; Col 2:10). I needed to repent of perfectionism that sought a coup d’état and when I did that I took my place as a loyal subject who is living for the Sovereign’s kingdom purposes.

His opinion and his standards are really what matter and those have been met in Christ’s life, death, and resurrection. If I seek my own kingdom or my own righteousness, I will come up short, experience guilt, and payment will be required. This will affect all of my relationships as I will seek to punish those who frustrate my plans. When my kingdom fails with no one to blame but myself, I might then try to punish myself or to run to escape the guilt. Everyone has an ingrained understanding that they are guilty of a penalty because of sin, “consequently, some people nurse their regrets and cling to their grief… to punish themselves. Unconsciously they want to pay for their sins” (Here’s How You Can Handle Guilt, 9). The other option, would be to turn to the Savior who already paid the penalty for sins.

It seems at first that one who has set up their own standards could not turn to the savior because he didn’t die for their standards and their kingdom, but all are truly guilty before God. The fact that Christ did not die for my kingdom and yet I was setting up my own kingdom was exactly
what I was guilty of and what I needed to repent of. Satan would love to tempt me to be so focused on feelings of guilt from violating my own law that I don’t look to Christ to forgive my pride, arrogance, and my self-sufficiency. He would like me to continue to contemplate my own lack of perfection, instead of turning to Christ’s perfection being imputed to me. He would like me to continue to strive for self-sufficiency instead of seeing the sufficient completed work of Christ who rose again and is seated in the throne room of God. He would like me to continue to strive to “serve” people in a way that brings glory to me and shows me to be the provider instead of a way that is dependent and points to Christ.

Once I recognized my idolatry, my pride, my arrogance of setting up my kingdom against God’s, I realized that was what I needed to take to the cross. Jesus died to pay for that. He died so I didn’t have to live that kind of a futile life. He died so that I might stand complete in Him. He died so that I could make much of Him and not of me. This was liberating. My sin and pride, my laws and rules, had kept me from turning to Christ, but that is exactly where I needed to turn. Not to confess my failure to keep the refrigerator well stocked or to keep every machine in the office running but to confess my self-sufficiency, my independence, my pride, my glory-seeking, and my people pleasing. When I turned to the cross, I tasted of the truth of Jesus’ words, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and lowly in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Perfectionism, Guilt, and Skedaddling
March 10, 2011, 6:07 pm
Filed under: Christian Living, Counseling, Lessons Learned

Guilt calls for punishment. When I can blame no one else and when I am threatened by exposure as a fraud, a failure, or a sinner I have two choices, I can punish myself or I can choose to run.

I often have this woe is me attitude. The printer doesn’t work, I must be a failure at my job. I didn’t realize there was no half and half for my bosses coffee, I’ve failed! I messed up at work again, why don’t they just yell at me. That would make me feel better. There is tension in a relationship, I’m out of here. People can see my flaws or my sin, I’m out of here.

The answer, though,  isn’t in blaming others, or in trying harder to meet your own standards, or in wallowing in your failures, or in running from problems, it is in running to the cross. Stay tuned for more on this.

Perfectionism, Guilt, and a Scapegoat

While I was thinking through perfectionism and guilt, I found that I was having difficult, grumpy conversations with people.

I wasn’t able to meet my own standard of perfection and now I was looking for someone else to blame. I was devastated when someone pointed out my error and frustrated when someone upsets my plans or what I felt I had to do. It’s my standard and I can’t meet it so I have to blame someone otherwise I have to bear the guilt.

By making myself the lawmaker, I erected my own laws according to my own kingdom purposes, and I judged anyone who got in my way. This may take the form of depriving one’s children of the appropriate amount of food or of adequate clothing in order to be a good steward or one may think that loving one’s neighbor means she has to have every neighbor over for dinner each month, or that working as unto the Lord means that one must put in 80 hours a week.

Elyse Fitzpatrick explains that “elevating personal preferences to the status of moral rightness ultimately makes life oppressive.” (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety 91). It leads to fear when one cannot obey his own standard, panic when others fail expectations, and “the nagging feeling that everything is about to blow up” (Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety 91). Amen! I now see that that was true of my life.

Recognizing that I was punishing others for my failure to meet my own standards has made a huge difference in my social life. I now spend more time with others and am more gracious to others when they fail, even though I have a long way to go. I see things as more of an opportunity and less burdensome.

One key moment illustrated this change in my life. One of my intern messed up. It was a small thing, it wasn’t eternal, but it was a common sense thing and she messed up in front of my boss. That would have absolutely devastated me five months ago and I would have punished my intern with my disdain and coldness. In this case I let her know how she should do that task in the future.There was a second of “I want to run away. I’m not good enough at this job,” but instead of lasting anywhere from one day to a week and starting a downward spiral, it lasted less than a minute.

Perfectionism, Guilt, and Social Settings

Enter friend #3 who was faithful to speak into my life. While chatting with a coworker/friend one day about how I thought I was antisocial, she said,

“Jenn, why do you feel like you don’t do well in social gatherings? How come you think you aren’t social?”

“I don’t know how to end conversations and I can’t talk to everyone in the room.”

“Do you have to talk to everyone in the room? Sometimes is it good to continue that conversation with that one person? I think you set up rules and standards for yourself.”

She was right. I did set up laws for myself. When I sets up rules, standards, and laws for myself and I failed, my law had been violated and now someone needed to pay or there needed to be some atonement. That left me with two options: punishment or run.