Wednesday, August 12, 2009



The theme of being out of control continues! Fear appears when your future is out of control. Anger shows up when your present is out of control. And, guilt gnaws away at your gut when your past is out of control. All three of these render you paralyzed, damaged and ineffective. There is a fourth kind of paralysis-shame. Shame is the residue of having been seized by fear, anger and guilt. It manifests itself in a similar way to a low-grade infection-even a low-level depression. Shame is a tainting of your personness-a blight that leaves you feeling inadequate or feeling not good enough. With shame it's not that your past, present or future are out of control, but you are out of control; like a small boat being tossed about in a storm or a ping-pong ball that is driven by the wind and once in awhile experiences a hard hit.

There is a rule of survival in the harsh Australian Outback. If your vehicle breaks down in a remote area, stay with your vehicle. This is contrary to how you might initially want to react. I mean, you have no alarm system or phone whereby you can call for help. You are stopped in a very remote place where it might take several days before another human being happens to drive by. Many don't follow this survival rule and attempt to walk to a place where they might find help. Eventually, they are reported missing, a search locates their vehicle, but no one is there. The Coroner's investigation later confirms that vehicles are more easily located than walkers, there was more water in the vehicle than walkers can carry, and the extra exertion demanded of walking hastened the dehydration and sunstroke that led to death. They died because they tried to save themselves. This survival rule is so counter-intuitive that it's just too difficult to sit still and wait to be found-to trust that someone is on his way to rescue them.

This introduces a most foundational principle that defines most of our lives most of the time. This principle simply stated is: God is God and I am not! The tendency is for man to play God to some extent. "God, I can handle this one. I'll call you if I need anything." The most deceptive thought of all is that somehow we can live our lives without God and His empowerment. It's a self-centered belief that we can and must solve our problems, make our way out of our predicaments and save ourselves. It's the pride of believing that somehow we are in control, when just the opposite it true. Our past, present, and future are out of control with the result that we are personally out of control.

Jesus lived this way. He confessed: "By myself I can do nothing," (John 5:30). This principle of survival is not just a rule for the Outback; it's a principle for life. There is a story Jesus told about the Pharisee and the tax collector: To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other people-robbers, evildoers, adulterers-or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

"But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.'

Who is the winner here? The one who is full of himself (the Pharisee) and believes he can somehow perform well enough to save himself is the loser. Jesus says of the tax collector: "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted."

The world says love yourself-save yourself, Jesus says deny yourself-lose yourself. Now, here is where the great exchange occurs! Jesus says: "Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Matthew 16:25). He also says: "What good is it for you to gain the whole world, yet forfeit your soul? Or what can you give in exchange for your soul?" The great exchange here is: you try to save your life and you will lose it, but if you lose your life for Jesus you will save it.

Remember the little boy in the midst of the hungry thousands. For the boy to offer the crowds his lunch would be a noble but futile gesture. So rather than give the first hundred people half a crumb each, he gave his lunch to Jesus. Making Jesus the central focus transformed the situation. Then, not only the boy, but thousands were being fed with something that moments before was totally inadequate by itself.

The secret is to hand everything over to Jesus and then wait for him to move. Give yourself to Jesus and he will give himself to you. Lose yourself in him and you will find yourself in Him-no longer restricted to human possibilities.

Just as the boy could not expect to be fed after giving away his lunch, so people cannot expect to thrive emotionally if they give away their self-esteem-unless they give it to Jesus. Then a miracle takes place.

One of the thoughts that helps to hold my focus together is found in Psalm 127. I repeat it to myself frequently. Check it out. Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. I desperately want God to be my builder and to watch out for my security. How about you?

Maybe the ultimate expression of the mystery of the great exchange between Jesus and you is: You get God and He gets you! Such a deal!



Out of control! Life just gets out of control no matter which way you turn. When your future is out of control, fear grips you. When your present is out of control, anger pops up. Today I want to discuss being out of control in the past. When your past is out of control, it's usually due to guilt.

Dealing with your past can be so destructive. Most tend to dwell on the past so much that it becomes impossible to move forward. Some spend so much time focusing on the past that they just can't see anything else. They are stuck there. It's like having a rear-view mirror that is larger than your windshield. You have to stick your head out of your window to see where you are going and that's dangerous!

What must happen is to take the past out of your future and put it back into the past where it belongs. But this, in itself, is not enough. You see, you might think you are burying your past, but when you bury it alive, your past will nag and haunt you, working toward your destruction. Somehow you have to do something to put your past to death, then your past will be under control.

One of the first things to do with your past is to identify its source. In II Corinthians 7:10, Paul compares two kinds of sorrow: Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. One kind of sorrow that surfaces out of past mistakes is a sorrow that comes from God. This kind of sorrow is good in that it causes you to make changes, which is called repentance here. Sorrow that causes you to change is Godly sorrow and you will have no regrets. Note when you are moved to make changes, you are out of your past and are very much alive in the present. The other kind of sorrow brings about death and destruction. This is the kind of sorrow that rises up out of your past to condemn you and to spiral you down to your destruction.

The second thing to do with your past is to resolve it. There are three ways you might attempt here: FIRST-Sometimes you need to remove yourself from the annoying, toxic connections from your past. This is very necessary for those who are in the recovery process from chemical and relational addictions. You have to get some new playgrounds and playmates.

SECOND-Sometimes you need to let it go. Simply let it go. There are times when you can do nothing to resolve your past or to do so will stir up more trouble. The common illustration of this is when you have been wronged, maybe financially and you choose to spend an enormous amount of negative energy to correct this wrong. It just isn't worth it. Let it go!

THIRD-Sometimes you may need to seek the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness moves in two directions-either people you have hurt or people who have hurt you. When you have hurt others, it's important to solicit forgiveness. Make a list of people you have hurt. Write out what you want to say and be completely honest. Keep it simple and be specific, taking personal responsibility for what you have done. Then, you must be willing to face any and all consequences. By the way, when you solicit forgiveness, make your method of communication as personal as possible.

Jesus taught us to solicit forgiveness: "Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to that person; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24) It's interesting to note that if don't solicit forgiveness, you can't work well for God.

When others have hurt you, it's vital to forgive them. This is the ultimate act of "letting go". Forgiving is not forgetting, excusing or tolerating another person's hurtful acts against you. Jesus taught how important it is to forgive: For if you forgive others when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15) In other words, God will not work well for you.

There are 5 steps to forgiving those who have hurt you: 1. Remind yourself that they are only human. 2. Relinquish your right to get even, because you never will. 3. Be ready to hurt in order to heal-willing to take the pain without making anyone pay for it. 4. Pray for them and wish them well. 5. You may have to repeat the process. When you forgive, you don't do it for others, but for yourself! This will set you free from the paralysis of guilt that haunts you from your past and is the ultimate way to resolve your out-of-control past

Recently, I was given a terrific visual on how to handle a past that is out of control. After listening to a client emotionally rehearse how many people had victimized her over the years, the attorney cut her off and handed her client a porcelain frog. She said, "Take this as a reminder for your life. A frog cannot jump backwards-only forwards. Don't be quick to jump into your past and dig it up. Stay in the present and when you jump, jump forward."

When your past is out of control, make like a frog and jump forward!