Archive for January, 2013

Let’s Be Real!

Being authentic seems to be important to us today. And it should be! It is spiritually healthy to be real with others and God (Psalm 51:6). Yet, so much of life seems to block us from opening up and being real. We often do not know what being real is.

Real for us is living in the reality of being who God is creating us to be (Ephesians 2:10). Being real comes as we live in the reality that though we are flawed and limited, we are still deeply loved, valued, and accepted by God.

Nevertheless, we fear rejection when we are real. We think we need to impress and receive people’s approval in order to be okay. Because our parents and other important influences did not perfectly meet these deep needs in our development years, we have become skilled at using the world around us to get our deep needs met.

For example, I used school to gain worth and acceptance from my parents. I did not study to be equipped to better function in this world, but to get good grades so that I could feel important and accepted.

The Challenge

What happens over time is that we lose track of who we really are. We forget what our true interests and abilities are, and the grace that makes us special and loved. Instead, we substitute a frantic pursuit of not being real so that we can better get our needs met.

So, we become an engineer because we think that then Dad will give us worth. We may become “nice” because people will think well of us. We leave behind the fact that we may hate engineering, and that our being loved (by God) is not affected by not being liked by everybody.

We become afraid to be real. Instead, we often give power to others to love us, value us, accept us, and keep us safe. But this is not always safe to do. This often requires us to hide and not be real. We choose to present a false self to get our need for approval met from man, rather than from God (John 12:42-43).

However, if we were living in true reality, we would know that God already knows our flaws and sin, and still accepts us. Relying on our acceptance by God is the key to being real with others.

One way we can tell the extent that we are being real is how sensitive we are to the praise and criticism from others. This helps us assess to what extent we have allowed others to define how important, acceptable, and loved we are. Certainly, God uses people to help us realize how much we mean to him. However, people are not a reliable gauge to always depend on to communicate to us our intrinsic worth and acceptance by God.

However, experiencing who we are to God, and being real with others is a process. We are profoundly influenced by how people treat and react to us. All of us have become skilled at leaving God out of our lives. This leads us to use people and things to get our great needs for worth, love and acceptance met.

Becoming a Christian and growing in faith does not automatically cause this over-dependence on people and things to get our needs met to disappear. It is a daily battle to rest in the security of a warm, loving, abiding relationship with God. And it is a daily battle to be real with others.

Nevertheless, being real with others is worth seeking. The alternative is to stay in the turbulent and scary world of using people and other things to give us our importance, acceptability, and safety. Relying on the Spirit enables us to experience a loving relationship with God (Romans 8:13). This reality gives us the power to be real!

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I have struggled with being a good listener for many years. I have tried hard to listen better. I have also taken a course on how to listen better. Yet, today I still struggle with being a good listener.

Recently, when confronted once again by someone who felt I did not listen well to them, I began to ponder why I struggle in this area. Is it just a matter of bad technique, or could it also be a heart problem? Could there be beliefs down in my heart that keep me from choosing to listen to people?

After pondering this, I concluded that my struggle with listening was not just a matter of bad technique, but also was a heart problem. In these moments, I make choices to focus on other things. Perhaps, I am relying on solving a problem so that I can accomplish something impressive that will make me more important. This is a lie.

Instead, the truth may be that I need to be relying on God’s sovereignty to listen to this person as part of what God is doing in this world. By relying on a lie, I miss the most important thing I could be doing in the moment. Thus, my heart has been betraying my sincere efforts to listen better.

The Bible says to “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). This means our capacity to do right, like listening well to others, can be helped or hindered by the lies or truths we depend upon deep within in our hearts. So, any attempt at doing right needs to include getting our hearts on board with the effort.

So, how do we get our hearts on board? First, we need to ask God to reveal to us what is really going on in our hearts as we seek to do good. Only God understands our twisted hearts and motives (Jeremiah 17:9).

Keep in mind that God already knows any ugliness that is going on in your heart. In spite of this, he still loves you, regards you as important and totally accepts you (Isaiah 43:4). So, don’t be afraid of God “flying off the handle” because of the ugliness deep within you.

Then, we need to ask God to help us know what the truth is about the good we seek to do. In my case, is this person talking to me really an interruption and blocking my goal? Or, in God’s sovereignty, is this his goal for me to listen to this person?

If you find that your heart is not relying on the truth, then ask him to transform you so that you are relying on the truth. Your strong efforts to live truth will not be enough (1 Cor. 3:6-7). Ask him what you can do to cooperate with him to change. Let God change your heart so that you can do that good you are seeking to do.

I am convinced that only God can make me a good listener. I will need to cooperate with him by practicing good technique and choosing to follow his guidance. However, for deep change to happen, he must change my heart so that I want to listen because it pleases him and blesses the other person.

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God has been taking me through a forgiveness process towards someone that has lasted for several years. In that time, this person that I am seeking to forgive has hurt me often, disappointed me and has blocked some important goals of mine. I am angry and disgusted by all of this.

My natural reaction is to pursue an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” strategy in getting even. I want justice and I want it now. Jesus describes this strategy in Matthew 5:38. However, God expects more from me.

He not only wants me to not hurt this person, but he also wants me to pardon this person, love them, and do good towards them. What? Are you kidding? This is crazy!

But it is not crazy. We are the primary ones who are hurt when we fail to forgive. However, we cannot truly forgive without divine help.

God does not want us to deny how we have been hurt. He does not want us to repress the anger, hurt and disgust. He wants us to get the poisonous feelings out of us so that we are freer to love. He wants us to be like him. He wants us to love the unlovable (Matthew 5:44).

So, lately I have been journaling how I truly feel and think about the person’s character and behavior. I do this spontaneously and try not to cleanup what comes out on the paper. It is not pretty.

It is even downright embarrassing at times. But this is what is in my heart. God knows it and now I know it better.

I then ask God to change my heart where it needs changing. I ask him to help me to see this person through the eyes of grace and mercy as God sees me (Matthew 18:33). I also pray for what I believe are this person’s most important needs.

As a result, I am seeing a difference. I am starting to actually love this person. I am letting loose of my demand for justice and starting to tap into God’s unlimited mercy and grace towards me. I then pass this mercy and grace on to this other person. I am learning to be like God in forgiving those who have sinned against me.

There are several other things that I could say that may help the forgiveness process. However, just this simple process mentioned above can go a long way in helping you to forgive someone with God’s help. Don’t let Satan trap you in bitterness and unforgiveness. Forgive as you have been forgiven!

My challenge to you today is for you to pray and ask God to bring to mind someone you need to forgive. Then, journal your thoughts and feelings towards this person. Do not worry about how ungodly they are. Pray over what you have written. Ask God to help you to forgive and to change you where he needs to.

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