Tag Archives: Conviction

Healthy Shame

I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children.
1 Corinthians 4:9-13 (NIV)

A friend told me the other day of his teenager who had been faced with the truth of their self-centered, uncaring attitude. When the reality of the teen’s selfishness set in, the teen was crushed in spirit and retreated to their bedroom to sulk. The father chose not to rescue the teen from their emotions in that moment, but to allow the realization and resulting feelings of shame to set in.

I have done a lot of study on the topic of shame and have even given messages and workshops on the subject. Unhealthy shame can certainly be toxic to life in an abundant ways. Shame, however, can and does serve healthy purposes as well.

When I was a young teenager I was gently shamed by a teacher when she publicly pointed out in front of my peers that I acted selfishly towards the group. It was not unhealthy shame which says, “You are an awful and completely worthless individual. There is no hope for you.” It was, rather, healthy shame which says, “Your actions are self-centered and hurtful. You can, and should, be better than this. Something in you needs to change.” That moment of healthy shame in the Home Ec room of Meredith Junior High School, and the awful feelings it created in my soul for a long time, was one of the most important moments in leading me to the realization of my deep need to change, and my utter need of a Savior.

My friend chose to let his teen sit in their room stewing in healthy shame, even though it was hard to see his child struggle. There’s a piece of a parent’s heart that always wants to rescue our child from pain, but it is absolutely critical that a parent have the wisdom to know that some pain and suffering is essential to growing up and maturing spiritually, emotionally, and in relationships.

I am concerned as I see a generation of children growing up with parents and a culture intent on shielding them from any and all discomfort or suffering. We seem to be under the delusion that any pain is bad for us: Cheer up. Take a pill. Entertain yourself. Throw a party. Whatever you do, don’t feel bad.

God’s Message says the opposite of that. We should rejoice when we suffer discomforts in this life because of the truth that our suffering produces perseverance, character, hope. I think it’s important to point out that the opposite is equally true. If we avoid suffering it produces in us laziness, foolishness, and hopelessness.

Today, I’m thankful for suffering healthy shame which taught me humility and my need of God. I’m hopeful that I have been wise in knowing when to shield my children from pain and when to let them feel their discomfort. I am prayerful that their continued struggles and sufferings in their young adults years are producing measurable depth of character, perseverance, and hope.

The Pros and Cons of Tradition

 

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
Galatians 1:10 (NIV)

Wendy and I went to see Union Street Players’ production of Fiddler on the Roof yesterday afternoon. It has been a long time since I’ve seen the show. I was a bit surprised how the musical, about changing times within a small, Russian Jewish community in the early 20th century, resonated with me.

We live in a small community with very deep Christian convictions, and our “Traditions” are very much like those of Anatevka, the community portrayed in Fiddler. For many, our Christian traditions provide a deep sense order and temporal peace in a rapidly changing world. When our traditions are threatened by change, it usually meets with loud and passionate objections fueled by anxiety and fear. As with Anatevka, there has historically been strong societal pressure to conform to the community traditions.

Paul was dealing with a very similar situation when he wrote to Jesus’ followers in Galatia. Most of Jesus’ early followers came from Jewish traditions which were then being threatened by non-Jewsish (a.k.a. Gentile) believers. The changes this wrought within these fledgling communities of believers was immense and the passionate divisions it stirred was intense. Those from Jewish traditions saw their faith in Jesus as a mere extension of their Jewish traditions.  Those from Gentile traditions did not wish to adopt Jewish traditions to be followers of Jesus.

Paul, addressing these divisions, makes it clear that he has no interest in doing things simply to bow to human traditions and become a people pleaser. As Tevye and the residents of Anatevka discover in Fiddler on the Roof, the times, they are a changing. Paul makes it clear that he will follow Jesus, even if it means abandoning many of his traditions and raising the ire of the society in which he was raised and from which he came.

Today, I’m thinking about my own traditions, the ones passed down to me by family and community. Some I honor and obey because I feel Jesus clearly commands His followers to do so. Some I honor and follow because I find them beneficial to me and to my life, relationships, and community. Some, I find silly and don’t care about whatsoever. Traditions are a good thing right up to the point they become more about keeping up appearances and pleasing the community than they do about sincere faith and personal spiritual benefit.

Will the Real Scrooge Please Stand Up?

Scrooge's third visitor, from Charles Dickens:...
Scrooge’s third visitor, from Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. With Illustrations by John Leech. London: Chapman & Hall, 1843. First edition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?”
Job 22:5 (NIV)

Along my life’s journey I have bumped into a few individuals who seem convinced that they hold the office of Special Prosecutor of the Almighty. Their mission, it appears, is to charge me (and others, to be sure) with my many sins and shortcomings. Job’s so-called friend, Eliphaz, now reveals himself to be one of these junior prosecutors.

In today’s chapter, Eli’s argument takes a decidedly prosecutorial bent. Not only is Eli convinced that Job is suffering for his many sins, he is now going to write an indictment and list the specific sins that surely must have precipitated such divine retribution as Job is clearly suffering. With Special Prosecutor Eliphaz, justice works in reverse. He first looks upon what he deems to be divine punishment and then decides what laws must have been broken to deserve such a sentence. Eliphaz comes up with quite a list. In fact, as I read it on this chilly December morning it sounds a lot like Ebenezer Scrooge:

“You demanded security from your relatives for no reason;
    you stripped people of their clothing, leaving them naked.
You gave no water to the weary
    and you withheld food from the hungry,
though you were a powerful man, owning land—
    an honored man, living on it.
And you sent widows away empty-handed
    and broke the strength of the fatherless.”

Bah. Humbug. It seems to me that Eliphaz reveals himself to be the one being miserly with wisdom, love and compassion.

Here are three problems I have with individuals like Eliphaz who wish to indict me of all my sins and shortcomings:

  1. Believe me, it is not necessary for anyone to convince me of my failures. I know them all too well.
  2. At least half (probably more) of the things you charge me with are simply not true.
  3. You don’t know nearly half of the things of which I am truly guilty.

Jesus was pretty adamant that “special prosecutor” was not part of the job description for those who wish to follow him. Love is at the top of the list. Forgiveness is up there too, along with compassion and kindness. We’re supposed to lift up those who are down, not stand over them and convince them why they fell.

Chapter-a-Day Haggai 1

source: sualk61 via Flickr

This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Look at what’s happening to you! You have planted much but harvest little. You eat but are not satisfied. You drink but are still thirsty. You put on clothes but cannot keep warm. Your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes! Haggai 1:5-6 (NLT)

As you might suspect if you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, I like to write. In fact, there are a couple of books and plays rattling around in my head most of the time. Ask me the question, “If you were going to write a book, what would it be?” and I’d have to start flipping coins to narrow it down to one. I can tell you for sure that these verses from today’s chapter would definitely be referenced in one of them.

As I look back on my journey, I find that the theme of contentment has largely been ignored by Jesus followers and the church organization. Even though God’s Message reminds us to be content in any and every circumstances, the louder voices of our culture and our economy cry for us to be continuously discontent. Historians will tell you that we are in the “Age of Technology” and nothing has tapped into our spirit of discontent like technology. The must have gadget or device we buy today is replaced by a newer, better, faster gadget or device tomorrow. Welcome to the hamster wheel. Start spinning.

I don’t write this to judge anyone but myself. I am increasingly convicted that I have given in to the spirit of discontent as much as anyone. My daily introspection and self-examination often leads to a conversation with God in which I’m asking forgiveness for not being content in one fashion or another. I am reminded again this morning that Jesus said the road to life is narrow, difficult, and runs against the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the super highway towards death. In God’s economy, godliness coupled with contentment are the means of great gain.

Maybe I should write that book: The Case for Contentment.

I’m afraid no one would be interested.

Chapter-a-Day John 8

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 (NLT)

A few weeks ago, Wendy and I attended an induction ceremony at Grandview College. Our daughter, Taylor, was inducted into the Alpha Chi Honor Society. It was interesting to listen and to learn about the various honor societies. The motto of the Alpha Chi fraternity was  the second part of Jesus’ quote from today’s chapter: “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Along the journey, I’ve never ceased to be amazed at the way we pick and choose what pieces of God’s Message we want to hold on to, and those we so conveniently choose to ignore. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free” is such a powerful quote, but it’s really the consequential end of an “if then” statement. What Jesus said was that the knowledge of truth and subsequent freedom is the result to following Him, and remaining faithful to His teaching. In a few chapters, Jesus will make the claim that He is the Truth. You can’t have the result without the source.

Today, I’m thinking about the ways that I conveniently ignore truths out of a desire to escape uncomfortable spiritual requirements. I’m asking God for a little forgiveness along with the strength and grace to embrace Truth and all that it requires of me.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Chronicles 34

When the king heard what was written in the book, God’s Revelation, he ripped his robes in dismay. 2 Chronicles 34:19 (MSG)

My daughter, Madison, called me the other week. She’d been asked by a friend to discuss what she believed about death. She certainly had some strong convictions about what happens when you die, but when she went to God’s Message to support her presuppositions, she was both surprised and challenged. She had difficulty backing up some of the notions she held with scriptural evidence.

There is no substitute for reading God’s Message yourself. It’s one of the reasons my friend Kevin and I started this chapter-a-day journey several years ago. It’s one thing to hear others talk about what the Bible says, but it’s another thing to step in and personally read it, study it, and meditate on it.

I suggested some passages of God’s Message for Madison to read. As we talked, she was prompted to do some further study on a couple of key concepts about death. As a father, I was quietly delighted to listen to her and observe the process. She’s stepping out, digging in, and through it God is refining her faith.

People have told me that they read and appreciate what I write about each chapter, and I’m humbled to know that others value my thoughts. For the record, however, my thoughts are not what the chapter-a-day journey is about. Chapter-a-day is about reading God’s Message yourself, letting God speak to you through His Word, and personally responding to it. Just like Josiah in today’s chapter, it’s our own personal interaction with God’s Message that makes a real difference. 

Each chapter-a-day post contains a link to the entire chapter. I encourage you to start clicking on it, reading the chapter yourself, and sharing what spoke to you, encouraged you, challenged you, or what it made you think about. Share it with a friend. Share it in a comment to each day’s post. I’d love to know your thoughts.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and jliba

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 141

Pop quiz Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips. Psalm 141:3 (MSG)

I went to a leadership conference last week, and I walked away with a hefty list of personal action items. There was a veritable laundry list of ways I needed to step it up. It honestly felt, at times, as if God was giving me a swift kick in the rear end. One of the items on the list was for me to guard my mouth in the way I talk about others. It's so easy for me to get cynical and sarcastic when I talk about others who, for one reason or another, drive me crazy.

As I read verse three this morning, it was like God was calling a little pop quiz accountability to last week's test. "So, Tom," God says, "how are you doing on being more gracious in how you talk about others?"

Didn't you hate that feeling when teachers called a pop-quiz and you knew you were dead meat?

Like a student who walks away from class and never cracks his textbook, I sit here busted. I haven't done much of anything to consciously guard my mouth or watch what comes out of my lips. Ouch.

We will never change without consciously taking steps down a different path.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and bdunnette