What do we do when we have been betrayed (or at least it feels like it) by a friend or a ministry – when our whole world has been shaken?

Paul tells us, “See to it that you do not refuse Him who speaks…’Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ …the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.” (Hebrews 12:26-27)

Typically, our initial response with painful lose is to “put the pieces back together”, but here we are admonished to leave on the ground whatever is shaken off (detached) and embrace what God is revealing as the truest parts of our life.

As C.S. Lewis said, “Don’t let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

To do this, I believe there are several things we must do:

Right Your Heart, Not The Wrong (the kingdom inside)

Focus on the condition of your heart vs. the conundrum of the betrayal.

“We have little control over the circumstances of life. We can’t control the weather or the economy, and we can’t control what other people say about or do to us. There is only one area where we have control–we can rule the kingdom inside. The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart.” Warren Wiersbe

Don’t Be Naive Or Cynical About The Power of Sin (genuine faith vs. naïve optimism)

“At first glance, genuine faith and naïve optimism appear identical since both foster confidence and hope. But the similarity is only surface deep. Genuine faith comes from knowing my heavenly Father loves, enjoys, and cares for me. Naïve optimism is groundless. It is childlike trust without the loving Father. Optimism rooted in the goodness of people collapses when it confronts the dark side of life. Shattered optimism sets us up for the fall into defeated weariness and, eventually, cynicism.” Paul Miller

Look For What God Is Up Too (the story the Father is weaving)

Joseph factored God’s Providence into his pain. Many long years after his brothers sold him into slavery, Joseph looked into their anxious eyes and said, “It was not you who sent me here, but God.” (Gen. 45:8)

“The cure for cynicism is to become like a little child again. Instead of critiquing others’ stories, watch the story our Father is weaving.” Paul Miller

Connect, Don’t Isolate (don’t let pain be the choreographer)

The natural reaction to pain is to pull away from it’s source which, in the case of betrayal (or the sense of it), is people. Deep, meaningful, Godly friendship is what we need, especially in a time like this. We must be prayerfully discerning about who we share our heart and story with.

4-cowboys-picture

Shortly after my experience of friendship betrayal, God drew my attention to two pictures on my bookshelf. One was a print by G. Harvey, of 4 cowboys crossing a river on horseback.

indian-chief-picture

Another was a picture postcard by Wayne Cooper, of an Indian Chief alone on his horse in full war-dress focused on something in the far distance.

After gazing at these two pictures, God asked me which I wanted. I wanted the camaraderie I once had in the earlier days. As I expressed this to God, He said to me, “then go get it.”  This saved my life and ministry.

My desire and the mission of The Noble Heart is that you not be sidelined discovering, deepening and deploying your calling – the life you were created to live that bring life to others.
Please consider a gift this month to help us do this freely and effectively.  Thank you so much.

donate-button

In appreciation for a donation of $100 or more, we will send you The Glory of Your Life 7-CD set.

I hate the presidential election season, the rhetoric, emotional responses, hushed conversations, and mud-slinging candidates. I especially hate those damned, political phone polls! Don’t worry, this is not about the election. It’s about when good Christians do bad things.

And yet, weeks after the elections, the rhetoric is still meteoric and the mudslinging has not abated. Friends of mine from both political camps willingly participate in this mud bath. And it gets nasty. Winners ooze smugness and losers dribble bitterness. We all get spattered.

And both believers and non-believers, from the right and the left, hurl slurs. Their opponents are racist or communist, uncaring or unthinking, dumb or dumber.

This absence of distinction bothered me. I had hoped Christians would handle their victory or defeat with better grace. But we didn’t. Just this morning a thought raced through my mind:

A “good” Christian knows that our atheist neighbors are often better people than us.

How Can This Make Sense?

The difference between a believer and a non-believer is not their degree of goodness but their awareness of neediness. That’s why the Pharisees hated Jesus. He didn’t applaud their virtue so much as point out their judgmentalism:

“Before you take out the speck in your brother’s eye, get rid of the log in your own.”

Jesus came for the sick, not to the well. (Not that the well are as healthy as we or they think; it’s just that the sick know they are sick, and go to the doctor.) We become “good” Christians only when we admit we are not good.

Christianity begins with the need to recognize our neediness. It probably ends there too.

But Aren’t Christians Supposed to be Moral?

Each of us have natural virtues whether we are “converted” or not. Even years after your conversion, your naturally gentle (and atheist) sister may still be gentler than you. What comes effortlessly to her seems impossible to you. Because it is impossible for you. Without God.

Yes, let’s work to be more gracious and honest, but we need outside help.

Jesus says, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. It grows without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain” (Mark 4:26-28 MSG).

In many areas of our lives, maybe only our stem is showing.

So What is the Value of Being a Believer?

The seed that is growing up in us is God himself. Not just “good deeds,” nor just “wisdom,” but the literal life of God. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us;” That is, God himself makes his home in our hearts. He lives there.

We have all seen it. In a surprising moment, we are unusually patient, and we say, “I wasn’t expecting that!” The very life of God is at work in us.

It is God’s indwelling that makes all the difference. We grow in intimacy with him, we hear his voice, we participate in the divine dialogue. And something inside us changes. His life is growing.

Bit by bit. A stem. Then a bud. And then a bushel of fruit. We find ourselves inexplicably generous. Was that really me? We are hold our tongues when we would normally speak without thinking. We are shocked with delight. (Our neighbors appreciate it as well.)

It all begins with hearing God’s voice in our lives. Of course, it helps to cooperate with his growth. You’ll be happier, as will your family, friends, and neighbors.

If you don’t believe me, we could take a poll.

Sam

Who Does God Talk To?

The angriest emails I’ve ever received were responses to my articles about self-love and self-esteem. And yet . . . yet I remain convinced that the greatest obstacle to hearing God lies in precisely our self-love and self-esteem.

Most of us unconsciously believe that God speaks only to those who are mature and pure.

To cover our inadequacies, we jury-rig our hearts with positive self-talk like, “I’m a good chap” and “I really feel bad about what I did.” Or else we excuse our failures with, “I was deeply wounded as a child” and “If you had a spouse like mine, you’d understand.”

We disguise our shortcomings because our thinking is distorted: we believe God is attracted to the spiritually successful. So we scurry for good feelings about ourselves and we explain away our faults.

The trouble is, positive self-talk forms barriers to hearing God: he loves thebroken-hearted.

Who are God’s constant conversation partners?

Who does God tell us he loves to talk with?

  • My sheep [the dumbest of livestock] hear my voice. (John 10:27)
  • I didn’t come to those who think they are well but to those who know they are sick. (Luke 5:31 paraphrased)
  • The Lord is near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Ps. 34:18)
  • Walk humbly in the company of our God. (Mic. 6:8)
  • I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children. (Luke 10:21)

When we forget the gospel, our spiritual hearing takes a vacation: God can make the littlest of us great, but he can’t use the greatest among us until we become little.

Who does God find attractive?

Each culture and every age devises its own attributes of attraction. Feudal societies adored daring knights and Victorian England loved demure “domesticated” women.

Hollywood drives today’s desirability: its women are blond, skinny, and big-busted and its men are cool, suave-talking, and sport the day-old beard. But the waists are liposuctioned, the busts are silicone, and the savvy quips are read from scripts.

It’s all fake, bluster, and swagger; even the casual beards require makeup-artist-scheming to make them look unplanned. The details of attraction rise and fall with the tides of time.

Except one: God has always been attracted to the humble.

The Imitation of Christ

The almost six-hundred year-old Imitation of Christ has recently captivated me. I read it slowly in 2014 and I’m re-reading it even slower this year. Three weeks ago I began the chapter called Self-Abasement in the Sight of God, and I can’t get past the first page. It starts simply:

I will speak to my Lord, I who am but dust and ashes. (Book III, chapter 8)

His total poverty, lack of pretentions, and utter emptiness, they move me. He approaches God with complete humility, nothing to offer, no self-justification, and no excuses. He asks to converse with God on the basis of God’s great mercy alone. He continues,

If I abase myself, if I humble myself to nothingness, if I shrink from all self-esteem and account myself as dust, Your grace will favor me.

The God of Scripture is attracted to the humble, and it is the humble he loves to raise up. That’s why Jesus invites the broken-hearted: “Come to me all who are weak and heavy-burdened.” Thomas à Kempis continues,

“If You look upon me for an instant, I am at once made strong and filled with new joy.”

Jesus didn’t come to us astride a war horse, the high and mighty son of Caesar; he came riding a donkey, the meek and lowly son of a poor tradesman. Why would we come to him any different?

We can approach God full and walk away empty; or we approach him empty—no excuses and no self-esteem—and walk away full.

Sam

Bring Life to Others

What causes us to become sidelined with our calling, with the life we were created to live that brings life to others?  Among the possible reasons, one that appears most frequent and devastating is betrayal – in friendship, in work, in church or ministry.

Betrayal, or at least the sense of betrayal, wounds at the deepest level – trust.  It can diminish, if not destroy, our ability to trust in every direction: with others, ministry, ourself and God.

I didn’t really understand the devastating effect of betrayal until I experienced it myself with a friend.  Now I can understand it and spot it in a person’s story and behavior.

It is such a common element of life that is a frequent theme in books and movies.  It is also a frequent theme in scripture.  Most remembered is Joseph betrayed by his brothers and Jesus betrayed by a friend and disciple.

What makes Judas’ betrayal of Jesus so real to us was when Jesus said, “This is to fulfill this passage of Scripture: ‘He who shared by bread has turned against me.’” (John 13:18)  The scripture Jesus was referring to was Psalm 41:9:

“Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

David talked about his sense of betrayal when his friend and advisor, Ahithophel, joined Absalom’s conspiracy against David:

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship at the house of God…”  Psalm 55:12-14

This ought not happen in friendship or ministry, but it does.  What possible good could come out of betrayal?

The Beauty of Brokenness

Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”  2 Corinthians 4:7-12

There is an ancient Japanese craft called Kintsugi where china is repaired with a lacquer that is laced with powdered gold, so that the cracks and the joins become visible seams of gold. (Pictured above)  It highlights the cracks and repairs as an event in the life of an object rather than allowing it’s service to end at the time of its damage or breakage. The damaged and repaired object it now more beautiful and valuable.  So it is with us as the life of God is seen in our wounded and redeemed life.

Becoming Very Much More

C. S. Lewis said, “When a man turns to Christ and seems to be getting on pretty well, he often feels that it would now be natural if things went along fairly smoothly. When troubles come along he is disappointed. These things, he feels, might have been necessary to rouse him and make him repent in his bad old days; but why now? Because God is forcing him on, or up, to a higher level: putting him into situations where he will have to be very much braver, or more patient, or more loving, than he ever dreamed of being before. It seems to us all unnecessary: but that is because we have not yet had the slightest notion of the tremendous thing he means to make of us.”

It is often through the “pressed”, “crushed”, “perplexed” and “knocked down” times of life that we are pushed “on, or up, to a higher level”.  God knows the “tremendous thing he means to make of us” and he won’t be dissuaded.

Seeing Invisible Realities

Paul finishes this thoughts about out clay jar experience of life by saying,

“Therefore we do not lose heart…For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  2 Corinthians 4:16-18

There is always something greater going on.  Evil may have the loudest voice, but it does not have the last word.  We need to always ask God what is going on that is yet unseen.

Next week I will finish my thoughts about the experience of betrayal by talking about what to do in the midst of the pain and disorientation of it.

The Noble Heart wants to help every believer live the life they were created to live that brings life to others.  Please consider a gift this month to help us do this freely and effectively.  Thank you so much.

donate-button

In appreciation for a donation of $100 or more, we will send you The Glory of Your Life 7-CD set.