maandag 25 mei 2015

Growing up

1 Corinthians 13:11-13 (NIV)

11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

The ability to trust (have faith), have a positive outlook on life (hope), and to be able to give and receive love by being committed to treat oneself and others as innately valuable with respect, care and kindness is a sign of true maturity, both emotional and spiritual.

Unfortunately we live in a world where not everyone who becomes an adult also becomes mature.

It is a normal part of growing up when young children entertain fantasies of unlimited success, popularity, superior power and unequaled brilliance. Also the books they read and cartoons they watch cater for this fantasy. Underlying these fantasies is the child’s awareness of his/her dependency and vulnerability and desire for survival by becoming a strong ‘grown up’. Often the biggest heroes are the children’s own parents whom they may idolize.

Adolescents having become more aware of their parent’s failures and shortcomings will project their need for a ‘grown up’ role model on heroes who somehow represent the success, popularity, power or brilliance they crave. At this stage preoccupation with bodily beauty or sexual performance also starts playing a role, or ideal, everlasting, all-conquering love or passion.

Some children and teens take it for granted that they are unique and, being special, can only be understood by, should only be treated by, or associate with, other special or unique, or high-status people. Those with a low-self esteem may want to associate with special, unique, or high status people in order to boost their self-image through association.

Preteens and teenagers require excessive admiration, adulation, attention and affirmation while at the same time given clear boundaries. It is a transient phase that eventually makes way for self-regulation and a sense of inner worth based on conviction and self-confidence instead of being based on an external supply. Through the process of socialization, young adults learn the benefits of collaboration and acknowledge the innate value of each and every person and not only of self. They develop empathy and respect for the boundaries, needs, and wishes of other people.

Some people actually never reach this stage of maturity and remain dependent on others for their self-esteem and self-confidence. They are fragile and fragmented and thus very susceptible to criticism, even if it is merely implied or imagined. Like toddlers, they still demand automatic and full compliance with their unreasonable expectations for special and favorable priority treatment. They are "inter-personally exploitative", i.e., use others to achieve their own ends. They are hardly able to identify with, acknowledge, or accept the feelings, needs, preferences, priorities, and choices of others.

Such immature adults like young children are envious of others and sometimes seek to hurt or destroy the causes of their frustration. They may behave arrogantly and haughtily, feel superior, omnipotent, omniscient, invincible, immune, "above the law", and so on. They may resort to rage when people do comply with their demands or when their ideas or plans are frustrated, contradicted, challenged, or confronted.

In order to legitimize such child-like conduct with its underlying infantile mental world some adults actually refuse to mature: They do not fully take responsibility for their lives and to grow up and always blame others for their failings. They usually have very unrealistic expectations of life and demand a worry-free, responsibility free and unrestricted life without being held accountable and responsible for what they do to themselves and others. Unfortunately this behavior eventually alienates those who refuse to grow up as people, even the strongest and most patient and emphatic among them, are unable to carry the burden of toddler-like behavior from adults for a prolonged period of time. They will either withdraw themselves or fail to live up to the excessive demands of the adult-child and be punished for their failure and pushed away.

The sad truth is that the adult-child is actually a victim of unresolved trauma, either due to spoiling and smothering or due to (emotional) violence and abuse in early childhood or early adolescence. The refusal to grow-up and the regression to toddler-like behavior when faced with challenges or the demands of life is actually an infantile defense against abuse and trauma. The inability or unwillingness to grow up is therefore inextricably entwined with the abused child's or adolescent's emotional make-up, cognitive deficits, and worldview. Inwardly they are tortured children, suffering themselves from the internalized abuser and making others suffer by externalizing their anger, frustration, fear, loathing and insecurity.

vrijdag 22 mei 2015

Renouncing lust

Thoughts on lust

Sexual lust does not agree with the Biblical command to love your neighbour as you love yourself. Love nurtures, cares, gives and protects, lust takes.

Lust is different from feeling physical/biological attraction or involuntary sexual arousal. Lust means that we consciously view another’s body mainly an object for our own self-gratification. It is selfcentred and disrespectful as it dehumanizes. It fails to define the person fully as a human, created in the image of God to be cared for, protected, nurtured and respected. Instead it objectifies the other as a means or thing to be used for our own pleasure.

Even within marriage lust is a sin and can lead to marital rape, infidelity and other forms of sexual sin. To feel sexually attracted to our partner is normal and healthy. To desire to express our love and appreciation for them by pleasing them romantically and sexually is healthy as is evidenced by a whole Bible book devoted to the celebration of this theme (Song of Songs). However, if we mainly appreciate how our partner can please us, sexually and otherwise, then we fail to respect and love them fully as human beings and treat them less than they deserve.

I have written about sexual lust for someone’s body but it applies to all forms of dehumanization. For example to lust for someone as a source of attention, affirmation and our happiness is just as wrong. Or to lust for someone because of the stability, wealth, lost innocence, youth, worldly or spiritual status they represent is just as wrong. Even as employers the lust for money can make us dehumanize our workers and treat them with less respect and care than we should. The same happens if as artists or politicians or even pastors fail to view and treat people as more than an audience to boost our fame and coffers. It means we predominantly see them in terms of what they can mean for us and not so much as human beings equally deserving of our care, attention, respect, nurture, love, kindness, protection and so on. This we ought to repent from for we owe it to people that we love them ( Rom. 13:8).

Love comes from God and is well described in Gal. 5:22-23 and 1 Cor. 13. If we view, approach and treat people from this perspective we do what pleases God. However, if we lust then we are allowing ourselves to be dragged along by evil self-centered desires of our flesh which leads to harm to ourselves and others:

But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (James 1:14-15).

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12).

donderdag 21 mei 2015

Do not break Gods Holy Law

Many adults shake their heads when they hear teens putting other teens down for not having the latest Nike or I Phone. However, the competitive “Teen” culture in which some seek status at the expense of others really is a reflection of a sick adult culture which does exactly the same, albeit usually a bit more subtle. The difference is not in mindset but in the kind of status symbols adults use to put themselves above others. A bigger car, a nicer house, a higher paying job or nicer holidays. One can only be different if one breaks free from the matrix of this evil way of life based on a narcissistic mindset of considering ourselves entitled to a larger share of the world’s wealth and resources than the ¾ other citizens of the globe. Love does not show favoritism James reminds us (James 2:1-13) and God has chosen those who are poor in the eyes of this world to be rich in faith and to enter the kingdom of those who love God. But if we insult or mistreat the poor and kiss up to the rich we do not live in accordance with the righteousness of the kingdom of God. Instead we will be lawbreakers of Gods Holy Law of love your neighbour as you love yourself.

dinsdag 19 mei 2015

A long march to freedom

Following Christ is not a matter of ‘buying’ the right ticket and get in the right bus so we are comfortably taken to our destination by the Holy Spirit as the driver. Nothing is further from the truth. Following Christ is a matter of daily turning away from the temptation of the world to live selfishly and its focus on wealth focuses and status in the eyes of man. It requires a daily decision to remain focused on Christ no matter what happens and follow in His footsteps step-by-step. This road is narrow and often uncomfortable and full of peril and requires us ro remain close to the Good Shepherd. For we must go through  many hardships before we will finally enter the Kingdom of God and reach the destination planned for us by God (Acts 14:20). It is not a comfortable and easy ride but a daily march in which we must choose to listen to the inner prompting of the Holy Spirit and throw of all that hinders or side-tracks us and live in a manner that emulates Christ and glorifies God. It is indeed a long march to freedom, eternal freedom in which ultimately even our bodies will be set free from the decaying power of sin and death.

maandag 11 mei 2015

Everybody lies

Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices
Col. 3:9

Many people, including Christians will agree with Dr. House's assessment in the series House MD: "everybody lies". To communicate a falsehood, paint a wrong picture or mislead people either by keeping them ignorant, hiding information or communicating misleading information is something all human beings do by nature. For some people living in dangerous or oppressive situations communicating the truth could mean severe punishment and in order to survive they became such experts in hiding and evading the truth that lying has almost become natural. Often they do so without giving it much thought. Unfortunately even when they are no longer really need to lie for sheer survival. Although they no longer need too they struggle to stop lying. Even when they turn to Christ they often keep struggling to get free from this trap of the devil who is the father of all lies and a murderer. After all persisting in living a lie eventually brings destruction as well as spiritual death to oneself and the people in one's life. To lie is not only disrespectful to them but it is very unloving for we are deceiving them while they trust us. Not only does this undermine our own self-esteem and self-love it also brings us under Gods judgement as we are breaking His royal law of love. So how to repent and to break free? The best way of dealing with lies in our lives is to admit that we are not living rightly and need to change course 180 degrees. We also must recognise that underneath the lies there is often a hidden fear of being abandoned, rejected or hurt.

This fear can only go if we firmly decide to trust God for if we trust in His love, protection and care for us we will not feel the need to protect ourselves through lies. Unfortunately lying has a lot of evil brothers and sisters. For example it encourages more fear such as the fear of being found out and exposed. It also causes us to mistrust and fear others as we fear they may also be as deceitful as we are. There is only one way out: Make a firm choice to from now on tell the truth and nothing but the truth, trusting that God will protect and help us deal with the consequences. Secondly come clean to your loved ones about past lies so that they do not continue to undermine the relationship. You will be surprised how many of your "convincing" lies were never that convincing and caused them to have doubts in you. In fact the more we lie to someone the more we undermine trust and kill intimacy. However, people who really love you will be quick to forgive you and will be happy to hear that you decided to change your ways. Those who will reject you after coming clean they are themselves in need of repentance. Finally remember that when God says "do not lie" it is for your own good. Lies are an open door for the kingdom of darkness in your life and will ultimately destroy your relationship with God. It also hurts your loved ones and even yourself for deep down you will know that what you are doing is wrong and lose respect and love for yourself and so in the end hurt yourself too. The father of lies is an evil taskmaster, so be courageous and break free with Gods help and start living in accordance with the truth.

vrijdag 8 mei 2015

Let us be humble and considerate of others

Philippians 2:3-5 3 Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. 4 Care about them as much as you care about yourselves 5 and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: 6. Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God.7 Instead he gave up everything and became a slave, when he became like one of us.

Christ himself is our example in considering others and their needs as more important than our own comfort. He had it good, comfortable and secure but in obedience to the Father He put it all aside to serve and save us. No servant is higher than his Lord and with acknowledging Christ as Lord comes responsibility to serve the Father by caring as much about others as we care for ourselves. It is a great honour to walk in His footsteps and sacrifice comfort, security and our material resources in order to serve Him by serving people in need.

8 Christ was humble.

He obeyed God

and even died

on a cross.

9 Then God gave Christ

the highest place

and honored his name

above all others.