Shame on You!


It lurks in the darkest recesses of your mind, nibbling like a starving rat at your peace and joy.


Any attempt to drive it away turns it into a monster, as it reminds you it has every right to be there. It's not an impostor. It's not an undeserving guest. You've earned the right to keep company with it and it's now here to stay.


It masquerades as humility, but that's only a disguise. In fact, it is the exact opposite of godly humility. It is toxic shame.


That event, that moment when you could have done something different but you didn't. Those choices, those actions that got out of hand now loom like Goliath in your conscience. You've prayed for forgiveness so many times you're afraid God is weary of your pleas--but still it hunkers, glaring at you every time you try to feel good about yourself.



You're right. God is tired of your whining, but not for the reasons you think.


Scripture warns us, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble."


Proud??? (I can hear your incredulous gasp from here.) Proud? I feel anything but proud. If you knew what I did, how I failed, you'd know that I just can't forgive myself.
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Oh really? Has God forgiven you?
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Well yeah, sure. He always forgives when we ask, but...I can't forgive myself.
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So what you're saying is that your standard is higher than God's. You're saying, "Thanks God for letting your Son die for my sin and promising to forgive me when I ask, but frankly...that's not enough. I need to punish myself."

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No! No, that's not what I'm saying...well...maybe it is.

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Toxic shame is pride flipped upside down. The shame that lingers long after God has cast your sin as-far-as-the-East-is-from-the-West is not from God. It's coming from inside you. Your pride. God isn't as hard on you as you are, so you're taking his offer of forgiveness and trying to improve on it. You know better than God whether or not you should be forgiven. Isn't that pride?

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Satan loves to taunt you with your failings, throw them up to you any chance you give him. Scripture even reminds us that he is an "accuser of the believers," and we glibly go right along with him, believing every acidic thing he tells us.

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So what's lurking in your past? Having trouble letting go of the shame? Feel as though you don't deserve to get off that lightly?

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You don't. None of us does. That's why God's grace is so amazing. But trying to add to what He's already done is tantamount to a slap in His face.

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God is the ultimate authority on right and wrong. If you've repented of your sin, ask his forgiveness, and trusted in His Son's sacrifice to make you right with the Father, then nothing is left for you to feel shame over. It's done. It is finished.

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Don't let pride keep you from enjoying it.

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Thank You, Andrew



"For Those Who Gave Their All"


This week, another young life I had the privilege of knowing was cut short in service to his country. That makes 2 in less than 3 years from my former home church--odds I don't like at all.


His parents, kind and decent Christian people, have lost a treasure. A piece of their hearts that will never be replaced. I cannot imagine suffering such a loss and all I can do is keep them lifted up to God, trusting Him to bring the only comfort possible right now.


Every one of us owes undying allegiance to those who've laid aside their very lives to ensure our freedom and hope. Whether or not you agree with the particulars of the battle, you cannot question the integrity and sacrifice of the ones who are fighting it.


"Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."


God has done that for us--setting aside his glory and holiness to become one of us, choosing to be tortured and murdered so that we could go free.


If we owe our loyalty and respect to human soldiers of freedom, don't we owe God much more? How can we withhold our love and allegiance from Someone who gave His all for us?


You would never think to show disrespect for a fallen soldier, but do you disrespect God? Do you toss His name around in vain? Do you trample his commandments underfoot as though they were merely irritating suggestions? Do you ignore His Word? Shrug off His company? Excuse sin as though it was your call to make?


When you see that row of white grave markers, notice the crosses on top. They are a reminder that Someone else died for your freedom, too.
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Thank you, Andrew. And thank you, Jesus.
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How Bright Is Your Moon?



The moon. So mysterious, so eerie or comforting, depending on your frame of mind. It has inspired love songs, ghost stories, and dreamers for centuries.


We talk about moonlight, moonshine, and the phases of the moon as though we knew what we were talking about.


But we all know the moon has no light, shine, or phases of it's own. It's just a hunk of rock, quite ugly and completely unromantic. Without the power of the sun, it's worthless.


Yeah, you already know where I'm going with this, don't you?


I thought about the moon tonight as I finished my walk later than usual. Its yellow glow lit the dark sky around me, and although I could still make out its shadows and craters, they scarcely mattered.


I want to be like that moon. When I look at it, I'm not really seeing the moon. I'm seeing the light of the sun reflected in it. I can tell what it looks like on its own without the sun, but it isn't very interesting by itself. It's nothing beautiful without the sun.


Just like me. When people look at me, I want them to see God. It may be my lips moving, my face they're watching, but I want to disappear and just reflect God's truth, wisdom, love, and beauty.


The goal of my life lately has been to empty myself of ME so there is more room for God. When I counsel a client, my goal is to fade away until all they are aware of is God's love flowing from me, God's truth in my words, God's power to change their hearts.


I want to be like the moon, simply reflecting a greater Light. It's only then that I will accomplish what I was created to do--bring glory to God.

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Those Bloomin' Flowers


I found these pretty lavender flowers growing wild in my pasture. Since lavender is my favorite color, I assumed God planted them there for me to pick and bring into the house.

But no sooner had I gathered a bouquet than the delicate blooms started to fall off! Only seconds after picking them, a tubular bloom slid out of it's housing and fluttered to the ground. Then another. And another!

I held them as gently as I could and hurried toward the house, but by the time I got to the front door, this was all that was left! And now they're gone too.

I know wild flowers don't make very good bouquets, but I thought they'd at least make it to the house. Unfortunately, the moment they were separated from their life source, they were worthless.
We're like that too.

Jesus told us that he was the vine, and we are the branches. Apart from him, we can do nothing. That's not a statement of arrogance; it's a statement of fact. Just as the flowers had no strength to continue to bloom once they were disconnected, neither can we continue to thrive and bring forth all the great things God planned for us to do when we disconnect from our spiritual roots.

How many times have you found yourself slogging through life, trying as hard as you can to live right, obey God, keep everyone happy... And it's a drudgery. No life. No joy. No bloom.


That's a good time to take a root check. Have you become disconnected with your life source? Are you trying to accomplish God's will in your own strength?
No wonder you can't bloom.

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Why I Do It


His eyes were pools of hopelessness. Shoulders sagged, hands shook as he slumped into the chair and stared somewhere over my left shoulder.

Twenty-five years old and he'd already seen the worst life could dish out. Was it worth sticking around for more? Who would care? The only person who had ever loved him died last year.

He'd been through a fleet of psychiatrists, sampled the drug buffet, and ingested reams of worldly wisdom, but here he sat. "They don’t help me. Nobody can help me. I was...I was hoping God could."

Two hours later, tears misting both our faces, he gave me a crooked smile. "Yeah, I can do that," he said and looked at me as though I'd just descended from Mount Sinai.

He held out two scarred arms and studied them as though seeing them for the first time. He was a cutter. "I’d never thought of my arms as belonging to God. I'm glad I came. I was hoping God could help me."

As I watched him walk away, God spoke: "He's the reason I called you to this. There are lots more like him. Keep feeding my lambs."

They come in without options; they leave with a glimmer of hope shining in their eyes. It's not me. I don't know anything. I'm just the tool God uses to pour his love, truth, and hope into desperate hearts. But I get to watch Him work—and nothing compares to a thrill like that.

"Do you get paid to be a counselor?" my son asked last week.

I remembered the trembling lips of a young man not much older than my son. The ray of hope that hadn't been there before. The frantic grasping for the hand of God.

I swallowed hard and smiled at my son. "Yeah, Sam. I get paid."

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I'm So Mad I Could...



ANGER!

ANGER!

ANGER!

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The world is full of it. We're usually full of it too. We fly off the handle about the slightest things, let rage simmer in our big cauldrons, and wear offenses on our sleeves.

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Road rage, parent rage, teen rage, marital rage...Not a segment of society escapes it.
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The uncomfortable truth is that there are only 2 kinds of anger: righteous or selfish. Now I just heard every one of you rush to the righteous side and fold your arms, daring me to disagree. We usually consider our rage righteous. After all, that's why we're mad, right? Because we're right! Didn't Jesus get angry? So we're being just like Jesus.

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The Bible records several instances where Jesus was angry, but each time, it wasn't about him. He was angry at the hardness of people's hearts, at thieves making a mockery of his Father's house, and at the legalists trying to rewrite salvation.

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But for us... ?
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Anger flares when we perceive our needs are not being met by the people or situations that we believe should meet them. Your pride is trampled. You feel unloved, unappreciated, unwelcome.
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But anger left unresolved becomes a part of you. That's one reason Scripture advises us not to let the sun go down on our wrath. Who wants to try to go to sleep like that?

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Anger is God-given energy to resolve conflict. But if we can't resolve the conflict, what do we do with the anger?

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Humankind has come up with all kinds of things to do with it: violence, lying, cheating, abuse, depression. None of those has a good result. Angry responses breed more anger.
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Fortunately for us, God has a giant storage tank just for our anger. It's called Grace and He can't wait for you to dump all your fury in there. He'll stir it around, mix it with a little mercy, a sprinkle of forgiveness, and bake it until all the passion evaporates.
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"'Vengeance is mine. I will repay,' says the Lord." He does a much better job than we can at evening the score. And when He handles it, you don't have to suffer the fallout.
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But His way of handling it usually looks a lot different from ours. "Do good to them who despitefully use you." "Love your enemies."
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Doesn't look much like vengeance, does it? What about a little fire and brimstone, Lord?
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Giving your anger to God means you take your hands off of it. All of it. The right to see justice done. The right to have personal satisfaction. The right to tell God how He ought to resolve this. You're leaving it totally up to Him and walking away.
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Sound painful? Uncomfortable? Like leaving unfinished business behind?

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It is. The same way you leave unfinished business when you see a rattlesnake curled in the grass. The way you drive out of your way to avoid massive road construction just ahead. Might be a little out of your way, a little frustrating, but well worth the effort.
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As Joyce Meyer puts it, "Unforgiveness is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die."
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Your reward is that peace returns to your spirit. The poison is gone. You have room in your heart for all the joyful things God has for you.
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When you let go of it, God goes to work---and that jerk is God's problem now!

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Does Truth Need a Defense?

Should lies go unchallenged?
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I've often wondered why Jesus didn't at least attempt to defend himself when he was put on trial. Liars spoke against him, crazy accusations were hurled, and question pelted him like sleet. But the Bible says he just stood there and took it.
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"...and He opened not His mouth."
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Do you ever wonder why He didn't at least say something to defend himself? The urge must have been intense as lie after lie slammed into his head as forcefully as the thorns would a few hours later. Wouldn't it have helped? How could he stand hearing such lies, knowing others were hearing them and believing them?
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I was reminded of his example this week as someone I love has decided to create and then believe lies about me. My first reaction is to cry out in defense, refute the outrageous accusations, defend my honor and the truth.
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But when I ran to God for help and counsel, He reminded me through a sleepless night that my example was Jesus. He knows what it's like to be lied about and to know that no defense is necessary when you know the truth.
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"...and He opened not his mouth."
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Sometimes you have to let the truth speak for itself. If there was truth or even half-truths buried in the distortion, I could repent and ask forgiveness. But when it is complete nonsense, there is no point in dignifying it with a response. No angry defense is as powerful as Truth. The Truth is what sets us free. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.

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If your heart is right before God, then that is enough. The truth needs no explanation and no defense. Regardless of how it may look on the outside, Truth will always triumph.
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Prince or Pauper?


Around the turn of the century, a young boy found himself orphaned and living on the cold, unforgiving streets of New York City.
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He stayed alive by scrounging what scraps he could find in the trash bins behind restaurants. He wrapped himself in discarded blankets to keep from freezing and would find occasional work in boiler rooms or kitchens, more thankful for the warmth than for the few pennies he earned.
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One frosty day his wandering took him to a part of town he'd never seen before. Here, stately mansions kept their distance from the dirty streets. Rolling lawns and towering trees lined circle drives, where ornate carriages awaited passengers.
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He had never imagined such places existed. He gaped for long moments as an idea tickled inside his head. Summoning all his courage, he trudged up the first drive and knocked on the heavy double doors.
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A woman answered and seemed surprised to see a child.
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His heart turned over under his tattered coat, but he plunged on. "Ma'am. I don't have a home and I noticed you have a lot of room. Would you like a little boy?"
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The woman stared at him for a long time. Then tears misted her eyes and she stepped back and ushered him inside.
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Warmth from a crackling fire greeted him and tantalizing smells from the kitchen made his mouth water.
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The woman said that yes, she would like a little boy. Would he like to be her son?
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She commanded servants to bring him whatever he wanted to eat, and when he was full, she showed him to a room all his own with books and toys and more blankets than he would ever use.
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But when it came time for a bath, he drew back. The old butler reached for the torn and filthy coat he had worn for months, but the boy clutched it tightly around himself.
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"C'mon, boy. You gotta gi'me that. You got the finest clothes in the country waiting for you, once you get cleaned up."
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"No. It's mine. I might need it."
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The old man chuckled and a grizzled brow lifted. "Need dat? I don't think so. You know who jis took you in? Yor new ma is one of the richest ladies in the country. Nice, too. And she jis tol' me you's her new son. Her heir." He swept a bony arm to encompass the room. "Man, all this is yours now. Don't you get it?"
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The boy shook his head and clung more tightly to the coat. "No. I got a bread crust in my pocket. I might need that too."
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The old man shook his head in amazement. "You kin have anything in the kitchen anytime you want it. You don't have no needs any more. None. You jis hit the jackpot, boy! Why don't you enjoy it?"
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But the boy backed away and refused to give up his precious rags. And so the new heir to a fortune spent night after night, curled on the floor, clutching his smelly clothes to his shaking body, fearful that one of these strangers might try to take what was his.
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Are you doing the same thing?
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"But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the Sons of God...(John 1:11)
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If you're a child of the King, He has already provided everything you need to live abundantly. You don't need those trinkets from your past, the ones God wants to deliver you from.
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What smelly rag is keeping you from experiencing the life of joy your Father has planned for you? Is it really worth it?
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Describe Bliss


You can't look at this without smiling.
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You smile because you know exactly how the old guy feels.
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You can almost feel the cool breeze flutter over your sweaty face. You remember how it feels when the heat evaporates from your neck and for a delicious moment, you know total happiness. Other needs disappear in those fleeting seconds when you're basking in sensory relief.
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It's the same feeling you get when you take a long drink of cool water after a hot run. Or when you finally hold your new baby or the returning soldier in your arms. For that instant, there's not a single thing you want but to relish the sensation.
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I think that's what Heaven is.
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Many people imagine elaborate celebrations, joyful reunions, and entertainment that makes Hollywood look dull. And that may all be true.
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But I believe what will startle us is the complete lack of need. The sensory satisfaction only experienced in fleeting moments on earth---before a fan or in the embrace of someone we love.
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But what's even more startling is that God offers that to us now!
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"My God shall supply ALL your needs, according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:18)
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Those aren't words meant to be rattled thoughtlessly from the innocent lips of VBS kids. They are a gold-embossed guarantee from the Creator of Heaven. The One who understands what need means.
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We often approach prayer almost apologetically, as though embarrassed to admit to God that we have needs we cannot meet. As though He'll say, "Really? You're scared (hurt, lonely, angry)? I had no idea. What's wrong with you!"
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God created our senses. He created our hearts. He embedded within us the ability to be filled as well as giving us opportunities to know deprivation. He understands need and He recognizes that one of the greatest gifts He can give us is the total lack of need.
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We can wait for Heaven to experience that delight. Or we can take Him at his Word and experience bits of it now. For every need you entrust to God, delight increases. It's no longer your responsibility to meet that need. It's God's. You can wash your hands of it and turn your attention to something else.
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And in doing so, you've tasted a drop of Heaven.
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