You and your Like-O-Meter

“Spiritual growth requires that our life with God move from the should category to the ‘want to’ category, and the most basic assessment we have for any experience or event is what psychologist Jonathan Haidt calls our ‘like-o-meter.’ “- John Eldredge

In Chapter 7 (“Let Your Desires Lead You to God”) of The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg introduces the “like-o-meter.”  He observes that as you grow up, experiences subconsciously register on your like – o – meter.  Thus, everything, including people, registers positively or negatively.

So, John asks, consider this thought: Do you like God?  Now, Pastor Ortberg admits, this sounds like a strange question.  However, the author stresses, you won’t be with God much if you have issues with Him.  Furthermore, it’s good to answer this question honestly.  You can’t take God out.  And “should” simply doesn’t possess the power to change your attitude.

Therefore, John states, “spiritual growth . . . means coming to want to do what I should do.”  When you come to understand the depth of God’s goodness, you want Him.  In addition, you not only love Him, you like Him (emphasis John’s).

Also, when you tell others they ought to do something, ought can be understood in one of two ways:

  1. the ought of obligation- our duty
  2. the ought of opportunity- gives us life

Specifically, Pastor Ortberg states, the main “ought” of Jesus’ message = the ought of opportunity.  That’s why the psalmist invites us to “taste and see that the LORD is good (Psalm 34:8).”

The psalmist’s convinced that one taste suffices for you to want all of God.

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, where do you place God on your like-o-meter?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “A God-implanted desire in us”

Forgiveness- our invitation to process the pain

“But forgiveness is our invitation to process the pain so we can be authentically freed from it.”- Esther Fleece

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”- Matthew 6:14

In Chapter 9 (“Forgive Me”) of No More Faking Fine, Esther Fleece discusses the topic of forgiveness.  The author observes that at times we mire ourselves in emotions like resentment and jealousy.  Furthermore, some days we stubbornly refuse a change of heart.  However, Esther believes, one prayer frees us when we’re dragged down by our emotions, unable to move- the prayer for forgiveness.

Ms. Fleece posits that we need the ability to fully lament in order to fully forgive.  Thus, without forgiveness, we live within our own vicious cycle of pain and bitterness.  Esther explains:

“And I am fully convinced that we cannot forgive offenses without first lamenting these offenses appropriately.  We need the grace of God, the example of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit to help us look favorably upon a person who has wronged us.  And we first need to lament the wrong that has been done to us.”

Consequently, Esther points out, you must fight for forgiveness.  However, it’s even harder to carry around a backpack of lies you’ve believed.  Just because you’ve failed to utilize lament.

In conclusion, Ms. Fleece notes that one meaning of the Greek word for forgiveness used in Matthew 6:14 (aphiemi) =”to send.”  Therefore, forgiveness means “to send away,” “to release,” or “to permit to depart.”

Lament allow us to release these hurts through forgiveness.  As a result, those hurts stop harming us.

Today’s question:  How have you used forgiveness to process the pain of your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “When we minimize pain, we minimize forgiveness”

He (or she) didn’t mean it

“One phrase that you should insert into your vocabulary and conversation on a daily basis: ‘He (or she) didn’t mean it.’ “- Judah Smith

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”- 1 Corinthians 13:7

As Pastor Judah Smith continues Chapter 5 of How’s Your Soul?, he cites the Apostle Paul.  In 1 Corinthians 13:7, Paul writes that all the time and in every situation, love does four things.  Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures.  Today Judah examines the first two characteristics of love.

1.  Love bears all things.  The term translated bear relates to the Greek word for roof.  Literally, the term means “put a roof on.”  Figuratively, it conveys the idea of keeping something confidential.  Another interpretation means “to put up with something.”

On a practical level, this means we don’t use people’s faults and failures to openly humiliate them.  Judah continues: “We publically cover them and privately restore them with the goal of bringing about health in their lives.”

As a result, we become a safe place for hurting people as we provide unconditional love and support.  In addition, love establishes us as a solid roof.

2.  Love believes all things.  Even in the worst of situations, love looks for the best.  In contrast, Judah believes the desire to defend, justify, and protect ourselves comes from a lack of God-awareness.  Hence, is God God or not?  Do we really trust Him to take care of us or not?

Therefore, we’re left with two options: (a) choose to let God be God or (b) take it upon ourselves to right every wrong and defend every injustice committed against us.

Consequently, Choice B means spending life in a holding pattern, imprisoned by bitterness.  In conclusion, Pastor Smith explains Choice A:

“You know they meant it, but you are choosing to believe the best, to believe they regret it now, to believe that’s not what they wanted for their lives, to believe they did it in ignorance or haste or pain, but they are really not that kind of people.”

Today’s question: How could you apply “He (or she) didn’t mean it” to your downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: Love knows no limits”

“Try again. Fail better.”

“Try again.  Try again.  Fail better.”- Samuel Beckett

Pastor Tom Eggebrecht writes in Chapter 9 (“Help People” of Fully and Creatively Alive that the way to improve any relationship involves honoring the other person’s dreams.  Therefore, first determine what the other person wants to do, become, or achieve.  Next, help them do it.  Tom strongly encourages:

“Your help will more than likely mean far more than you’ll ever know.  Help someone today.”

Furthermore, listening to the stories of others- or sharing your own- and retelling them potentially becomes an integral part of one’s own passion or dream.  In Chapter 10 (“Tell a Good Story”), Tom notes that people very often identify with a character’s transformation.

As a result, center on the darkest time in a character’s life.  Then, locate the moment when that person crosses a threshold.  At that point, that person does something they wouldn’t have done otherwise.  Part of getting your message out- and across- necessitates telling your story.

In addition, the author notes, it’s surprising just how many people connect with you when you’re honest about all your failures, warts, and troubles.  They’ll want to hear the next chapter of your story!

In conclusion, Tom exhorts us to move forward and take the next step:

“So go ahead and live it [the next chapter].  Then tell it: through your art . . . a blog . . . your website . . . through any means possible.  People need what you have to give.  People want to cheer you on. . . to participate in your transformation . . . to feel like they have a stake in it.  So let them in.  Let them listen.  Let them help.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you learned to fail better?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The help of other people”

 

Some assembly required

” ‘Some assembly required.’  Not the most welcome sentence, but an honest one.”- Max Lucado

Max Lucado begins Chapter 4 (“I Need Help”) of Before Amen by observing that life comes as an unassembled gift.  Therefore, rather than force the pieces of life to fit, take those pieces to Jesus.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, took that track when she attended the Wedding at Cana.  When she informed Jesus no wine remained, Mary’s attitude evidenced no bossiness or critical spirit.  In addition, she neither blamed Jesus not herself.  Mary simply identified the problem, brought it to Jesus, and left the problem with Him.  She trusted Jesus completely!

As a result, Max muses, we’re left to wonder how many of life’s disasters would be averted if, in truth, we petitioned Jesus first.  As Pastor Lucado reminds us, “An unprayed-for problem is an embedded thorn.”

A single prayer may or may not effect the desired change.  However, prayer puts the problem in the hands of the One able to solve it.  Furthermore, our responsibility becomes resisting the urge to reclaim the problem once we’ve placed that problem in God’s hands.

In conclusion, Max returns to his opening theme- some assembly required:

“Pieces don’t fit.  Wine runs out.  Water bottles burst.  These are facts of life.  But Jesus responds with this invitation: ‘Bring your problems to me.’  State them simply.  Present them faithfully, and trust him reverently.”

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how does “some assembly required” apply to your current situation?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Godly grief”

All things work together for good

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”- Romans 8:28

Max Lucado begins Chapter 9 (“All Things Work for Good”) of More to Your Story by observing that we’ve all asked questions about how adversity plays a part in God’s plan.  There are so many things we don’t know.  However,  Max states that, according to Romans 8:28, we absolutely can be certain about four things:

  1. God works.  He works ceaselessly and tirelessly “behind the scenes, above the fury, within the fray.”
  2. God works for the good.  God works for our ultimate good, not for our comfort or pleasure or entertainment.
  3. God works for the good of those who love him.  As Max explains, “behold the benefit of a loving God! . . . Being the author of salvation, he writes a salvation theme into our biography.”
  4. God works in all things.  In “all things” God works- not through a few things, good things, best things, or easy things.

Yet, we question whether or not God could use our ministry downsizing or vocation loss to advance his cause.  As Max states, this question is more than hypothetical:

“We all have seasons that are hard to explain.  Before we knew God’s story, we made a mess of our own.  Even afterward, we’re prone to demand our own way, cut our own path, and hurt people in the process.”

The good news- God instilled, and continues to instill, within you everything you need to fulfill His plan for your life.

Today’s question: During your desert, transformational time, how have all things worked together for good?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the Annotated Bibliography of More to Your Story

Opportunities to demonstrate faith

“We need to view our waiting in the difficulties of our daily living as opportunities to demonstrate faith in a future promised by our sovereign God.”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 11 of Waiting on God by acknowledging that we need affirmation of our hope.  During Joseph’s life, God gave him encouragement all along the way.  Similarly, Wayne emphasizes, “if we keep both eyes open, and stay ready for God’s encouragement, we will see it.”

After you buy a new car, the author observes, you being to see that  car everywhere.  Your make and model of car didn’t just suddenly appear on the streets.  You simply became more aware of its presence.

However, too often we find ourselves waiting on God for earthly solutions.  Yet, the majority of the hopes we wait on God to fulfill don’t happen until our resurrection.  Not an easy pill to choke down. Wayne admits.  Hence, the life of faith enables us to swallow hard and look beyond our earthly life to the reality of heaven.

As Dr. Stiles reminds us, it takes both eyeballs to keep eternity in view:

“A godly mind looks at the hard facts of today, but it also looks beyond them to facts just as true.  That’s faith.  Faith takes the long view and makes decision based on long-term results.”

In conclusion, Wayne reminds us that the Bible doesn’t tell us everything.  But the Bible tells us what we need to know:

“The Bible doesn’t tell us everything.  It doesn’t need to.  It tells us all we need to know in order to live a life of faith.  The rest, we wait for.”

Today’s question: what opportunities to demonstrate faith has God provided following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: the new Short Meditation, “Our Christian colors”

Warning lights- life’s dashboard

“We can disregard most warning lights in our lives for a while.  In fact, they can blink so often we come to see them as normal- and we ignore them.  Then one day that area of our life shuts down . . .”- Dr. Wayne Stiles

As Wayne Stiles concludes Chapter 7 of Waiting on God, he states that we know our warning lights are real.  However, we procrastinate.  We assume that because we’ve always had another day to deal with our issue, that opportunity remains well into the future.  In reality, maintaining the status quo perpetuates our problems.  God’s warning lights come because He loves us.

Dr. Stiles notes God waits on us for a reason.  Most noteworthy, that reason connects to His kindness- as Joe Dallas describes in The Game Plan:

“God gives you room to take care of the problem before the problem overwhelms you.  If you’ve been given space to repent, . . . you’ll either use it wisely by taking action while you can, or you’ll make the common mistake of mistaking space for permission to continue. . . .   we tend to be consequence-driven.  When we get away with something once, we’re inclined to think we’ll get away with it indefinitely.”

Therefore, when God waits, don’t picture Him standing there like an angry, frustrated parent- arms folded, eyes glaring, foot tapping.  Just as the father in The Parable of the Two Sons, God waits for us with outstretched arms.  The time gap in which God waits reflects His grace.  God waits for us in painful places.

Joseph’s brothers felt relief.  Finally, their father Jacob released Benjamin to journey back to Egypt to procure food.  But, Dr. Stiles adds, the Lord truly prepared them for something far greater- forgiveness.

Today’s question: Following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, what blinking warning lights captured your attention?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Entering the ‘what-ifs’ room”

A lot of waiting

“We do a lot of waiting.  But the most difficult kind of waiting?  Waiting on God.”- Wayne Stiles

In the Introduction to Waiting on God: What to do when God does nothing, author and pastor Wayne Stiles describes how it feels to wait on God.  Usually, Dr. Stiles states, waiting on God involves hanging on until God changes our circumstances.  However, from our perspective, God seldom seems in a hurry.

Dr. Stiles observes that often God allows our circumstances to stay the same- or even worsen- while He waits on us to change.  Wayne likens this waiting game to playing Ping-Pong or tug-of-war.  The author explains:

“So . . . both God and we are in a waiting game, idling in neutral until someone moves first.  We want God to change situations.  God wants us to change in them.  We want relief.  God wants repentance.  We want happiness.  God wants holiness.  We want pleasure.  God wants piety.”

The bottom line- God always wins the waiting game.  Yet, we see scant evidence that God is helping us to move forward.  As a result, we attempt to speed up or sidestep the waiting process.  In other words, Dr. Stiles quips, “we can’t microwave God’s plans for us.”

Even though we can’t understand the purpose of the red light, we surely know what that red light means.  Wait.  Since we are going to wait anyway, the question then becomes: “How will we wait?”  We might as well wait well.

Today’s question: How have you experiences a lot of waiting following your ministry downsizing or vocation loss?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “The big picture

 

Our anger toward God

“The problem with our anger toward God is not the anger itself but how we handle the anger.”- Dr. Gary Chapman

As Dr. Gary Chapman concludes Chapter 11 of Anger, he analyzes our anger with God as distorted anger.  Even though no wrongdoing occurs on God’s part, we still experience real anger.  In addition, Gary states, we don’t choose anger.  Rather, we respond in anger.  We believe God could have averted the situation that brought us great pain.

Although God made us with the capacity for anger, we carry the responsibility for handling that anger.  Dr. Chapman ends the chapter with a detailed description of three steps for responsibly handling anger.  Gary discusses the first step today.

STEP ONE: Take the anger to God. Feel free to express your perception of things to God.  Unlike human beings, God doesn’t experience hurt feelings.  He’s neither disturbed nor surprised by your anger.  God desires that you share your thoughts and feelings with Him.  As our compassionate Father, God wants to hear our complaints.  As our sovereign God, however, He does no wrong.

Both the prophet Elijah and God’s servant Job expressed anger toward God.  Their stories illustrate the value of talking to God about our anger, as Dr. Chapman summarizes:

“He [God] will either help us understand His perspective on our present situation as He did with Elijah; or He may, without explanation, simply ask us to trust Him as He did with His servant Job.”

Today’s question: In the aftermath of your ministry downsizing or vocation loss, how have you expressed your anger toward God?  Please share.

Tomorrow’s blog: “Cain or Elijah?”