Wonder Bread & Other Perils

Wonder Bread

When I was a kid, Wonder Bread seemed like a major food group. We used it for toast to dip in our egg yolks…sandwiches for our school lunches…and French toast as a treat on the weekends. Wonder Bread was so soft you could squeeze a slice into a tiny ball the size of a nickel.

But what I remember most about Wonder Bread was its marketing blurb: “Builds Strong Bodies 12 Ways.”

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the Wonder Bread slogan was false advertising, to say the least. The company first stripped flour of all its fiber and nutrients, then added some synthetic vitamins so the flour could be called “enriched.” Their heavily processed bread was full of questionable chemicals, and I’m not sure it should even have qualified as “food.”

Yet the company boasted that their product was helping Americans build strong bodies 12 ways.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with you. Here are a few takeaways from the Wonder Bread phenomenon:

  1. Be careful what you remove or add to your life. For the sake of cost or convenience, we’re all tempted to remove “nutritious” elements of our life in favor of easier alternatives that have no real benefit or value. For example, we’ll spend time watching mindless entertainment on TV rather than going to the gym or prioritizing quality time with our spouse, children, or friends.
  1. Don’t fall for empty slogans. Over the course of my childhood, I must have heard the Wonder Bread “builds strong bodies” sales pitch thousands of times. In today’s world we’re surrounded by slick marketing blurbs that often have no basis in reality. It probably would be more accurate to say that Wonder Bread destroys healthy bodies 12 ways!
  1. Pay the price for healthier options. Wonder Bread is cheap, convenient, and relatively tasty. Prior to the launch of Wonder Bread in 1921, most bread was sold unsliced, so it took convenience to a whole new level. In contrast, bread that hasn’t been stripped of nutrients will cost much more, and you may even have to slice it yourself.
  1. Make your decisions on the basis of long-term outcomes. Wonder Bread won’t kill you—at least not right away. Neither will smoking, eating Big Macs, or drinking Coca-Cola every meal. The problem is the cumulative effect, the long-term outcome. If you’re wise, you’ll realize that the small decisions you make each day are contributing either to positive or negative outcomes in your future.  

Perhaps I’ll write a blog someday about how these Wonder Bread lessons apply to the church. Have we stripped away the power of God and vital disciplines such as prayer and fasting? Have we opted instead of an easier, cheaper, more convenient form of Christianity that is palatable but powerless? (2 Timothy 3:5)

I encourage you to take a hard look at your life today. Not just the food you eat, but the spiritual and emotional nutrients you’re consuming or omitting. You don’t have to settle for Wonder Bread!

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Resurrecting the Dead Things in Your Life

Dry bones

One of the Bible’s most incredible statements is that the same Spirit who raised Christ from the dead now lives in us (Romans 8:11). Why then do I meet so many people who have dead areas in their lives, still awaiting Christ’s resurrection life?

I’m convinced that just about everyone has some aspect of their life in need of a resurrection. Dead hopes and dreams. Dead careers. Dead marriages. Dead relationships with parents, kids, or siblings. Or perhaps physical ailments in need of a touch from the resurrected Christ.

Can you relate to this? Is there some area of your life that has become stagnant, dry, or even dead? If so, some powerful lessons to be learned from Ezekiel’s stunning vision of God resurrecting the “dry bones” of the nation of Israel (Ezekiel 37).

As the vision began, Ezekiel found himself “in the midst of a valley” (v. 1). Isn’t it interesting that some of our greatest revelations from God come when we’re in a valley of some kind? We all crave mountaintop experiences, of course, but more often our biggest breakthroughs occur when we’re down in some valley or pit.

In this valley, Ezekiel didn’t just see one dead object. The valley was full of bones,” body parts that once had been alive, but now were dead. In the same way, when we find ourselves sitting in a hopeless place, it’s hard to see signs of life anywhere. Death seems to have a cascading effect, spreading almost like cancer. Perhaps it started with a job loss, but then it turned into marital disharmony, depression, or addiction.

Surrounded by death and dryness on every side, the prophet is asked a very important question: “Can these bones live?” (v. 3) When an area of your life has seemingly died, this is a question you will have to confront. Is there any hope? Is it still possible for resurrection to come?

The temptation, of course, is simply to say, “It’s over. Once something has died, there’s no hope it will ever return to life.” Despite being a man of faith, even Ezekiel had little confidence this story was going to have a happy ending. Instead of boldly proclaiming that the dry bones would surely live, all he can muster is the lame response, “O Lord God, You know” (v. 3).

At this point in the story, God gets Ezekiel involved in the recovery plan, instructing him to “prophesy to these bones” and tell them to “hear the word of the Lord” (v. 4). If you’re ever going to experience the resurrection of a dead area of your life, it’s unlikely God will allow you to remain a passive bystander. No, He will give you an assignment, something you can do to spark the turnaround.

Ezekiel is told to speak to the troublesome circumstances, commanding them to heed God’s Word. That’s a pretty good starting place for us as well. We need to start speaking words of life and hope to the dead things in our life, telling them to line up with the Word of God.

When Ezekiel obeyed the Lord and prophesied, “there was a noise, and suddenly a rattling” (v. 7). It can be a scary thing when our dead things begin to rattle, shake, and make noises! But this is often what happens when God begins to restore dead things to life. Rather than bring us fear, these should be signs of hope.

Next, “the bones came together, bone to bone” (v. 7). There’s power in agreement and relationship (Matthew 18:19-20). God’s plan is to bring us together, but if the devil can keep us separated and isolated, our dryness and defeat will continue unabated.

Finally, the Spirit of God breathed on these dead bones, bringing them back to life. The Israelites had said, “Our bones are dry, our hope is lost” (v. 11), but the Lord brought them resurrection and pointed them to a hope-filled future.

Notice that this is not a self-help story. Dead bones don’t come back to life by trying harder. Something supernatural  needs to happen in order to bring dead things back to life.

This great story is about resurrection and hope, but it’s also about purpose. Although the bones had been lifeless and nonfunctional for a long time before, they “stood upon their feet, an exceedingly great army” (v. 10). You see, it’s not just about God resurrecting your hopes and dreams so you can have a happier life. It’s about rising up to fulfill your purpose in His mighty army.

Can you hear the Spirit beginning to breathe on you today? It’s not too late for a resurrection!

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You, the Magic Kingdom & Happily Ever After

Magic Kingdom

I had a strange dream last night. I was doing a Q & A session at a Christian conference, and someone unexpectedly asked, “What do you think of Mickey Mouse and the Magic Kingdom?”

Considering it a very odd question, I initially started to brush it off. “Well, I don’t really have much to say about Mickey from a Biblical perspective,” I said.

But suddenly I had a flash of insight…

“One thing I would point out, however, is that the original Disney franchise thrived because people were thirsting for something magical—which we would call supernatural or miraculous in the Christian life,” I explained. “Glass slippers, fairy dust, magic wands, and kisses that can raise the dead were symbolic of the kinds of things we’re yearning for God to do in our lives. We inherently sense that we’re unable to accomplish these things without His supernatural involvement.”

As the dream continued, I pointed out other parallels. “God’s kingdom IS a ‘magic’ kingdom. When Jesus preached on the kingdom of God, He performed healings and did all kinds of miracles. In His kingdom—as in an old Disney movie—each of His sons and daughters is a prince or princess, and we should treat other Christians like that today.”

Right before the dream came to an end, I went on a rant about how our churches and our Christian lives today should rediscover the “magic”—reflecting more of the miracle-working power of God.

Living Happily Ever After

After waking from this unusual dream, I’ve been reflecting on why we love the Disney fairy tales so much. Yes, there have been some great love stories, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. But it’s not just  that the protagonists are handsome, beautiful, hard-working, or intelligent. They’ve needed something magical  and supernatural  in order to get to their happy ending.

In the same way, the Christian life is a magical, supernatural life, energized by the Holy Spirit instead of mere human effort. Without Christ living His life through us, all we have is dead religion—which doesn’t make for a good fairy tale at all.

Just as in the Cinderella story, we all need three things in order to experience a happy ending in our Christian life: (1) A love relationship with Jesus, the Prince; (2) Recognition of our glass slipper, the customized purpose we were born to fulfill; and (3) Reliance on the power of the Spirit to bring about His “magic” in our life.

Cinderella’s life was dreary until she experienced these three things, and ours will be as well. But the good news is that God wants to come on the scene and work some of His magic to turn things around for us.

Yet you may ask, “Is it really possible to experience a ‘happily ever after’ kind of life?”

I understand why you may be skeptical. This world is full of discouraging circumstances, making it exceedingly difficult to “wish upon a star,” as the Disney theme song prescribes.

Nevertheless, King David’s words at the end of Psalm 23 show us that “happily ever after” is possible, after all: Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

David was a king who had met the Lord as his loving Prince and Good Shepherd. And He was confident the “goodness and mercy” of that Prince would last him all the days of his life.

And notice that while we all hope for a “happily ever after” outcome in this present life, God gives us something even better to look forward to—happiness with Him for all eternity…forever.

No wonder the classic Disney movies are so popular. They tap into our heart’s longing for our Heavenly Prince, our glass slipper, and the magic available by His Spirit.

It’s fitting that we’re treated to these classic Disney stories decade after decade. We all need periodic refresher courses in the supernatural, love-filled Christian life, reminding us of our high calling as princes and princesses in God’s magical kingdom.

Some stories never get old, nor should they.

 

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The Parable of the Turtle

Turtle 2

I love the old maxim about risk-taking: “Behold the turtle. He only makes progress when he sticks his neck out.” You see, although you may feel safer while tucked away in your thick protective shell, you’ll never get anywhere in life. Your fears  will block your fulfillment, and your comfort  will turn into your coffin.

I’m convinced that fear is holding many people back from the necessary steps to make progress, enjoy life, or have a significant impact. My fellow baby boomers are especially prone to this common trap. We took risks in our younger days, some of which paid off, while others were brought devastating losses. But now we find it all too easy to play it safe and hedge our bets.

If you’ve talked with any financial planners recently, they’ve probably advised you to limit your risks as you get older. Be safe. Be conservative. Hang on to what you have. Don’t be too adventurous in your investments.

But those same advisors will admit that you’re unlikely to receive a substantial return on those “safe” investments. Small risk, small rewards. No risk, no rewards.

The same is true about our spiritual lives. Remember Jesus’ story about the guy who decided to bury his assets instead of risk losing them? Sadly for him, he ended up losing them in the end anyway (Matthew 25:14-28).

No decision could be riskier or more shortsighted than to opt for a risk-free life. First of all, such a life is impossible to find, since there will always be risks along the way. And even if you somehow succeeded in eliminating all risks, your life would be incredibly boring and unproductive.

Several decades ago, God gave me a vivid mental picture while I was praying. I saw myself playing poker, and I had amassed a very large stack of chips. Suddenly, however, I pushed the entire stack to the middle of the table and shouted, “ALL IN!”

Hmmm… I can’t help wondering if I would still be willing to take such a risk today. Although I claim to be entrusting my entire life to the Lord, lately I’ve only been giving Him the chips I’m willing to lose. And while I’ve succeeded in minimizing my risks, my rewards clearly have diminished as well.

As a student of the Bible, I’ve concluded that we need to grasp a couple of important lessons about risk-taking:

  • If God truly has told us to do something, obeying Him doesn’t constitute a “risk.” Before walking on the water, Peter wisely sought and received a green light from Jesus. Things were going fantastic at first, as they always do when we trust and obey. Peter only ran into trouble when he took his eyes off the Lord (Matthew 14:25-32).
  • Often we must take a step of faith, even when we have no direct guidance from God or assurances about the outcome. I love the story of Jonathan’s plan to defeat the Philistines, despite his lack of resources and manpower. His message to his armor bearer shows a commitment to do “the right thing,” even though God hadn’t told him what to do nor promised him victory: “Come and let us cross over to the garrison ofthese uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). What a challenging statement this is for those of us who want ironclad assurance from God before we embark on any endeavor. He doesn’t always work that way! Sometimes we need to “take a chance” on a noble venture, hoping God will come through for us.

After they each took a bold step of faith, Peter and Jonathan both received supernatural assistance. Peter had gotten direct encouragement from the Lord in his quest to walk on water. Jonathan, in contrast, trusted God and hoped for victory solely by virtue of his worthwhile mission.

When was the last time YOU took a significant risk, relying on God’s help? Like Peter, has Jesus been beckoning you to take a seemingly risky step, leaving the safety of your “boat”? Or do you find yourself in a situation more like Jonathan, where your heart says to take action, despite an uncertain future?

One thing for sure: You don’t want to be like the turtle who allowed fear to keep him hiding in his shell. If you’re trusting God with your life, you’ll need to stick your neck out from time to time. Your life will surely be more exciting and fulfilling that way.

The Bible is pretty clear that God prefers risk-takers to those who insist on playing it safe. Yes, when you take risks there will be some losses as well as gains. But if you ever start to sink among the roaring waves, He will lift you up again—and I bet He will even applaud your effort.

 

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How to Know When You’ve Found ‘the One’

Wedding ring

My friend Jon is a young, single Christian who has been actively looking for a wife the past few years. Recently he threw me off guard when he asked an important question I hadn’t heard in a long time. “Jim,” he said quite seriously, “how am I supposed to know when I’ve found ‘the one’?”

Since there’s a good chance you aren’t looking for a wife or husband at the moment, I want to expand Jon’s question a little bit. Perhaps you’re searching for the right career, the right city to live in, or the right sense of “calling” for your life.

The first question to ask is whether there truly IS just “one” answer to your search. Is it possible God wants you to enjoy serving Him in the career, city, and calling of your choice, but there’s not just one right answer?

Well, that’s a controversial theological question, but Romans 12:1-2 is a good place to start. It says that when we unconditionally present our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord, we will ultimately discover His good and acceptable and perfect will.” Our aim should always be to walk in His perfect will, but sometimes our choices fall short of that. So maybe “good and acceptable” isn’t such a bad outcome either.

Yet Jon’s question got me thinking about some stories in the Bible where people learned crucial lessons while searching for “the one.” If you’re seeking a husband, for example, you can learn a lot from Ruth, the Moabite widow who was blessed with a fantastic marriage to Boaz.

So how can you know for sure whether you’ve found what you’re looking for? There are some great lessons in the story of how the prophet Samuel sought “the one” who would be Israel’s next king (1 Samuel 16). God had told him the king would be chosen from among the sons of Jesse. But when seven of Jesse’s sons marched in front of the prophet, he was told, “The Lord has not chosen these” (v. 10).

Hmmm….what is the lesson here? Samuel was sincerely trying to find the Lord’s will, yet it seemed like nothing was working. Instead of finding “the one,” Samuel had found no one who met with God’s approval. Perhaps you can relate.

Lesson 1: If you’re looking for “the one,” don’t be surprised if the initial prospects turn out to be rejects. You might think I’m being crude here, but there’s some truth in the old maxim, “Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you discover your prince.” And the corollary is this: “It’s probably unwise to marry the first frog you kiss.”

In this story of Samuel seeking the next king, he had to turn down Eliab, Abinadab, Shammah, and four other sons of Jesse before finally discovering David. So you can’t be in too much of a hurry if you expect to find God’s best. Your “David” may be right around the corner, hidden from view at the moment. If you’re too quick to make your selection, you may end up settling for second or third best in God’s eyes.

Lesson 2: Make sure you aren’t overly impressed by outward appearances. In one of the most profound verses in the entire Bible, God told Samuel, “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (v. 7). Can you imagine how many poor choices in marriage partners could have been prevented if people had followed this basic principle?

Sure, physical attraction is wonderful and a person’s outward appearance can be a wonderful asset, but such things will be trumped every time by a person who is beautiful on the inside. For example, while Saul had seemed a logical choice for king based on his physical stature, David’s most important attribute was his heart after God (Acts 13:22).

Lesson 3: If you’re making the right choice, the Holy Spirit will bear witness. Verse 13 says, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward.” What exactly does this mean? Did people see some kind of supernatural display of power in David’s life? Did he manifest a greater measure of the fruit of the Spirit (character traits), described by Paul in Galatians 5:22-23? Or was there just a deep, abiding sense of God’s peace, signifying that He had confirmed this important choice? (Colossians 3:15). Whatever the answer is, it’s important to note that you’ll never find “the one” you’re looking for unless the Spirit of God is leading you, giving you discernment, and endorsing your choice.

Lesson 4: If your choice is correct, it will eventually be confirmed by wise, godly friends and leaders. When God led Samuel to choose David as the next king, no one initially even knew who David was. However, later we read that all Israel and Judah loved David” (1 Samuel 18:16). Although sometimes our decisions are misunderstood or must “go it alone,” things always go better when we are accountable to others who can see our blind spots and give us feedback on our important decisions.

I heard about a funny example of this recently. A friend really liked a woman he met on Match.com, and there was immediate chemistry on the first date. But he was surprised that on each of the next two dates she brought along Christian girlfriends to meet him.

Although a bit unusual, her strategy was actually very wise! She basically was saying, “Hey, I could be deceived by some sweet-talking man. But the danger of that happening is much less if the guy passes inspection from those who know me well and are willing to tell me the truth.”

My friend, there’s so much more that could be written on this subject. But I’m praying for you to find what you’re looking for.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” Proverbs 13:12 says. But then it adds, “A desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” May this be a wonderful new season in your life, when you delight yourself in the Lord and He gives you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

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Watching God Connect Your Dots

Big Dipper 2

Being old has its benefits. And I don’t just mean the senior coffees at McDonalds.

I’m old enough to know that “what goes around comes around,” and King Solomon had it right when he observed that “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). History really does have a habit of repeating itself, particularly if we fail to learn its lessons the first time around.

But recently I’ve come to appreciate another benefit of having lived awhile: I’ve seen that God is a skilled Artist who delights in “connecting the dots” in our lives. Perhaps you haven’t lived long enough to see this fantastic divine pattern yet, but I believe you will in time.

By “dots,” I mean whatever experiences, events, relationships, successes, failures, pains, or pleasures you’ve encountered during your life. Some of these dots you’ve no doubt categorized as “bad,” and other ones you’ve probably described as “good.” And if you’re anything like me, many of the dots in life simply seem random—without any apparent purpose…making absolutely no sense at the time.

Yet I have good news for you today—news so good you probably will find it hard to believe: As time goes by during your life, the Lord will increasingly connect the dots and reveal an intricate, well-planned masterpiece. Yes, He’ll connect even the dots that once made no sense. And if all the dots still don’t seem to be perfectly connected by the end of your earthly life, He will surely finish the job in eternity.

By the time God gets done with His handiwork, EVERY dot will be connected, and NOTHING will be wasted (John 6:12). He will find a use even for your most painful dots or and the events you considered your greatest failures.

You see, the Bible has been right all along when it told us that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Read that one more time. It doesn’t say just SOME thing work together for good—it says “ALL THINGS!”

Now take a few minutes to consider some of the “dots” you wish you could erase from your life. Believe it or not, God can do something good even with those painful or ugly dots. In the next few weeks, I’ll be launching an e-book on preventing, surviving and recovering from church splits. Sad to say, I’m one of the world’s foremost experts on the subject—but the Lord is going to use my painful and unwanted experiences to help thousands of pastors who are dealing with such things in their own churches.

And if you still doubt God’s ability to turn around tragic events and use them for His purposes, consider King David. I’m sure he wished he could erase his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah (see Psalm 51). But Bathsheba ultimately gave birth to Solomon, and she ended up in the family lineage of Jesus, the Messiah! (Matthew 1:6) God is great in mercy, isn’t He?

And in case you think God only loves you or offers you His favor when you are “good,” let me share one more connect-the-dots illustration.

Although I’ve never been much of a stargazer or astronomer, the Big Dipper is one constellation that’s always blessed and intrigued me. First of all, note that it’s not a “dipper” at all until you connect the dots of the various stars.

But what amazes me about the Big Dipper is that it’s continually tilted in such a way as to pour out its contents. My friend, that’s exactly how God wants you to see His love and favor for you. It’s not something that comes and goes, nor is it so fragile that it can easily be lost. In fact, Paul assured us that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God…nothing (Romans 8:28).

So take heart today. Nothing has happened in your life that is too awful for God to forgive or to redeem for His glory. Go ahead and give Him the dots—all of them—and you’ll be amazed by the beautiful tapestry He’ll produce.

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Brokenness, Vulnerability & Scrambled Eggs

eggs broken

I have a new theory—I would even call it a discovery—about two of life’s greatest mysteries. The two mysteries are related, and my theorem explains both.

The first mystery is why there are so many unhappy marriages, and the second is like it: Why is it often so difficult to find fulfillment in the modern-day churches we attend?

I call both of these “mysteries,” because God intended something far better. He created marriage and the church to be enjoyable, life-changing institutions.

So what has gone so terribly wrong?

That brings up my theorem, which I discovered while cooking eggs for breakfast recently. I’ll start by applying my discovery to churches, then proceed to marriages.

Most modern churches are like a carton of eggs. People come and sit together in neat rows of stadium seats, never touching, never relating, never sharing their hearts. They just sit there and observe the show, which probably would be more enjoyable if popcorn were served. After an hour or so, it’s time to leave. But the churchgoers, like eggs still in the shells, are usually unchanged by the experience.

How sad! No wonder millions of Christians have chosen to opt out of the egg-carton church experience. They’ve concluded that they might as well stay home and listen to a podcast.

Here’s the problem with this scenario, as my theorem so beautifully illustrates: Life-change only happens when there is vulnerability, and vulnerability requires brokenness.

Put simply, the eggshell must be cracked open if anyone is going to enjoy the egg. I don’t know anyone who eats the shells—it’s what’s inside that counts.

So if you’re going to have a meaningful experience with other believers, there must a touching of hearts (involving the egg whites and yokes), not just a superficial touching of the shells. That’s why so little transformation occurs while you sit, unengaged, as a spectator in a church congregation. The experience failed to reach your heart, will, or emotions in a meaningful way.

That brings us to an even more illuminating application of my theorem: unhappy marriages…

Last year I overheard a conversation that really troubled me. A recently divorced man was complaining to a married friend, saying he didn’t like being single. The married man just smiled and said, “Brother, do you realize how many million men would gladly trade places with you?!”

Ouch. The statement reflects today’s common view that it is preferable to be single than to be in an unhappy marriage. It’s a pretty sad commentary, but King Solomon reached a similar conclusion (Proverbs 21:9, 21:19).

Fortunately, my egg analogy helps to explain the demise of marriage in our culture, and it also offers hope for better outcomes if we learn its lessons.

The Bible says marriage involves TWO people who become ONE (Genesis 2:21-25, Ephesians 5:22-33). However, this phenomenon is often misunderstood, as my egg theorem shows:

  • Eggs in a carton are like individuals who live in close proximity, yet never interact on an emotional or spiritual level. This could describe singleness for many people, but it also helps to explain unhappy marriages. Many husbands and wives today start with prenups, move on to separate bank accounts, and end up with separate bedrooms. They are under the same roof, but become more akin to roommates than marriage partners. Do you see why this would be unsatisfying? The eggs are together in the carton, but they are back in their shells.
  • At the other extreme are scrambled eggs. Although many people think churches and marriages are supposed to model this kind of extreme “oneness,” that is NOT what the Bible teaches. Just as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are “one” but retain their separate identities, so it is with happy marriages. The husband and wife each have a unique role and some individual interests. They have not become “scrambled eggs,” where their identity is forever lost. No, God made us to remain distinct, “male and female” (Genesis 1:27)—and marriage is meant to enhance that fact, not erase it. You are who you are, and getting married shouldn’t radically alter your God-given personality or love languages. So if you’ve allowed your identity to be swallowed up in a relationships that resembles a pile of scrambled eggs, it’s no wonder your unhappy. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always preferred my eggs cooked over easy, touching and overlapping in some ways, but still separate.

If you are unhappy in your marriage or church, I wish I could sit down with you and apply my theorem to your specific situation. The good news is that it may not be too late to unscramble your scrambled eggs. But there’s no time to waste.

To rediscover the joy of intimate relationships, here’s what I recommend:

  1. Make sure you are broken and vulnerable in your relationship with the Lord. Let Him get past your hard outer shell and deal with the issues of your heart. You’re never going to restore your marriage or find a life-changing church experience unless you first have a tender heart before God.
  2. After you’ve been broken before the Lord, you can expect a new fragrance to emerge in your life, affecting all of your relationships. In a pivotal story in the Gospels, a woman broke an alabaster jar of perfume in order to worship Jesus. The resulting fragrance filled the house and changed the entire atmosphere (Mark 14:3-9, John 12:1-8). The same can happen with the atmosphere in your home or church.
  3. As hard as it may be, you must let down your guard (i.e., remove the eggshell) and expose your heart and your emotions to the people closest to you. Men tend to have an especially difficult time with this. Too often, we come home from work, curl up on the couch to watch our favorite sports event on TV, and never take time to become emotionally vulnerable. Hmmm…no wonder that scenario doesn’t lead to a satisfying marriage.

Wow. There’s so much more I could say about my eggshell theorem. I’m praying for you to regain your tender heart and the joy of true intimacy—starting with God and then working outward to your marriage and close friendships. You’ll be amazed by how the atmosphere can change.

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Disinfecting Your Emotional Wounds

knee wound

When I was a student at Dominion Junior High in Columbus, Ohio, I had a rather idyllic life and absolutely no concept of emotional wounds. But in the past few years I’ve found myself reflecting on the lessons I learned from a physical wound I experienced in gym class one morning.

We were running track events that day, something I never was very good at. While trying to jump over a hurdle on the school’s crude cinder track, I caught my foot and plummeted to the ground. Although the main thing hurt was my pride, I also incurred a bad scrape to my knee during this mishap.

This didn’t really seem like a big deal at the time. I just vowed to be more careful and jump a little higher the next time I ran over hurdles.

After gym class I took a shower and tried to wash my knee the best I could. I figured it would be red for a while, but certainly nothing serious.

However, a few days later, I noticed there was some white pus on the area of the grapefruit-sized wound. And by the following day, the original red wound couldn’t be seen at all—just a disgusting thick layer of yellowish white pus.

Things got so bad that my mom had to take me to the doctor to address this repulsive condition. He warned that the infection might have spread throughout my body if I had waited any longer.

With the help of some antibiotics, the infection finally cleared up after about a week. But this experience provided a lesson I would never forget: Often our original wounds are relatively minor, but the secondary infections can cause us serious problems.

Emotional wounds work the same way. We’ve all been wounded emotionally at one time or another, to one degree or another. Just like my scraped knee in gym class that day, our emotional wounds are seldom debilitating or life-threatening in themselves.

However, I’ve met many people over the years who’ve allowed their emotional wounds to become infected. Because they weren’t diligent to keep the initial wound clean, toxic conditions such as unforgiveness, resentment, and bitterness set in. What started as a temporary, treatable condition grew into something much more severe and chronic, robbing them of their joy and peace of mind.

If you’ve been emotionally wounded by traumatic events in your life, there’s no need to panic. Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6), ready and able to heal your wounds. But you have a vital role to play in keeping the wound clean so a secondary infection doesn’t set in.

This means forgiving anyone who has hurt you, allowing the crystal clear waters of God’s love and mercy to regularly cleanse you of any resentment or bitterness. And if you see that some yucky white pus is developing at the site of the wound, you may need to ask God for spiritual antibiotics to keep the infection from taking over your life.

Is this an easy process? No, not at all. But the longer you wait, the harder the healing process will become.

And don’t be deluded by the old line that says, “Time heals all wounds.” That is only true if the site of the wound is kept free of secondary infections.

Remember that you aren’t the only one who has ever had to deal with infected emotional wounds. The Scriptures are full of instructions like this:

Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma (Ephesians 4:31-5:2).

My knee is perfectly fine today. There’s no on-going infection or scar. And I’m convinced our emotional scars can disappear as well.

But unforgiveness will delay your emotional healing or even lead to dangerous, widespread infection. You must allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and cleanse away any remaining bitterness or toxicity from life’s traumas (Psalm 139:23-24).

Once your emotional wounds have been disinfected, you’ll be amazed at how much better you feel. You may even be able to hurdle some obstacles you’ve been avoiding for years.

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