Critical mass

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Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth;
for I am God, and there is no other
(Isaiah 45:22; NIV).

1. Lord Jesus,
May so many give up sinning
That all the world
Will glimpse your shining presence.

2. Lord Jesus,
May so many seek forgiveness
That all the world
Will learn to live in peace.

3. Lord Jesus,
May so many find salvation
That all the world
Will listen to your teaching.

4. Lord Jesus,
May so many grow to love you
That all the world
Will come to share your feast.

 


References

1. Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all (1 Corinthians 15:34; NLT).

Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us (Colossians 3:11; NLT).

I am the light of the world (John 8:12; NLT).

2. Therefore, my friends, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you (Acts 13:38; NIV).

Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it (Psalm 34:14; NLT).

In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all (Isaiah 11:6; NLT).

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9; NIV).

He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more (Isaiah 2:4; KJV).

3. Let all the world look to me for salvation! For I am God; there is no other (Isaiah 45:22; NLT).

All the people will see the salvation sent from God (Luke 3:6; NLT).

The grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people (Titus 2:11; NLT).

This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him (Mark 9:7; NLT).

4. The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord (Isaiah 11:9; NIV).

People will come from all over the world – from east and west, north and south – to take their places in the Kingdom of God (Luke 13:29; NLT).

The Lord of Heaven’s Armies will spread a wonderful feast for all the people of the world (Isaiah 25:6; NLT).

My dilemma

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Introduction

Two people have hurt me badly in the last few weeks. In both cases, after some thought, I was honest with those involved, expressing my response as lovingly as I could. However, they both reacted with anger and blame. Sadly, offering to meet for reconciliation has brought no response.

Since then, I repeatedly go over all that happened, which generates a constant, painful, and exhausting sense of dread.

The crux of my anxiety is that when someone hurts me, I don’t know whether I should speak out, or say nothing. Each approach has different consequences.


What did Jesus say and do?

As always, I look for guidance in Jesus’ teaching and example. However, he taught, and displayed, both outspoken and silent ways of responding to hurt and injustice, which I find confusing.

Until his arrest, Jesus always spoke the truth in love when people criticised or insulted him. He was, in fact, very direct. His honesty made him a lot of enemies, and contributed to his death.

After his arrest, Jesus said very little, no matter what he was accused of, and how he was treated. This puzzled his captors, perhaps antagonising them even more.

Over the years, I’ve tried both approaches. What happens when I follow Christ’s example in these two, very different, ways?


A. Speaking out

When I “speak the truth in love”, it almost always backfires. The person I’ve been honest with turns on me, angrily blaming me for what I said, even though it was their own hurtful behaviour towards me that I spoke about. I then react to their hostility with my characteristic chronic dread.


B. Saying nothing

When I say nothing, I simply allow the other person to hurt me, absorbing the pain and damage, just as I did with my emotionally abusive mother. Without feedback, of course, there is a risk that they may continue to damage me. This makes me feel helpless and powerless, worsening my chronic depression.

Either way, I can easily end up feeling as if life is not worth living.


Forgiveness

Fortunately, Jesus is absolutely clear that whether we speak out or say nothing, we should always forgive those who hurt us. This applies even if they never recognise what they have done, and never say they are sorry.


Conclusion

When people hurt me, I ruminate endlessly about how I responded, and what went wrong. Whether I speak out or say nothing, the outcome is equally damaging for my mental health.

Worse still, I also feel guilty for having “caused” the other person to strike back angrily at me, and to hate me from then onwards.

So, when someone hurts me, should I speak out, or say nothing? I still don’t know the answer to this question, which has plagued me all my life. All I can do is to pray for those who hurt me, asking God to guide and heal us all.

Image: Himsan, Pixabay


References

Introduction

Even my best friend, the one I trusted completely, the one who shared my food, has turned against me (Psalm 41:9; NLT).


What did Jesus say and do?

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell? (Matthew 23:33; NIV).

The leading priests kept accusing him of many crimes, and Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer them? What about all these charges they are bringing against you?” But Jesus said nothing, much to Pilate’s surprise (Mark 15:3-5; NLT).

If you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God (Matthew 5:23-4; NLT).


A. Speaking out

Speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church (Ephesians 4:15; NLT).

If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them (Luke 17:3-4; NIV.

The churning inside me never stops; days of suffering confront me (Job 30:27; NIV).


B. Saying nothing

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth (Isaiah 53:7; NLT).

You have taken away my companions and my loved ones. Darkness is my closest friend (Psalm 88:18; NLT).

Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me (Psalm 42:7;NIV).

Why wasn’t I buried like a stillborn child, like a baby who never lives to see the light? (Job 3:16; NLT).


Forgiveness

When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NIV).

When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins (Mark 11:25; NLT).


Conclusion

Love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you (Luke 6:27-8; NLT)

The Lord of Hosts […] is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance (Isaiah 28:29; NKJV).

He will heal us (Hosea 6:1; NLT).

Image: czu_czu_PL, Pixabay

Your example

Image: downloadwallpaper.org, Yandex


Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example,
that you should follow in his steps
(1 Peter 2:21; NIV).

1. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Silence
In response to blame.

2. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Courage
In the face of fear.

3. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Pardon
As you bowed to pain.

4. Thank you, Lord,
For your example:
Help me, please,
To persevere.


References

1. When the leading priests and the elders made their accusations against him, Jesus remained silent.“Don’t you hear all these charges they are bringing against you?” Pilate demanded. But Jesus made no response (Matthew 27:12-14; NLT).

2. If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine (Matthew 26:39; NLT).

3. When they came to the place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross [and] Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23:33-4; NLT).

4. You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36; NIV).

I look to the Lord for help (Micah 7:7; NLT).

Only one race

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1. There’s only one race:
God calls it humanity;

2. Only one path:
His Son’s way of love.

3. There’s only one truth:
The heart of the gospel;

4. Only one life:
Our chance to do good.

5. There’s only one gift:
The joy of forgiveness;

6. Only one faith,
One Spirit, one call.

7. There’s only one hope:
Our goal of salvation;

8. Only one God,
Who lives in us all.


References

1. All humanity will come to worship me (Isaiah 66:23; NLT).

2. Walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:2; NIV).

3. We want to preserve the truth of the gospel message for you (Galatians 2:5; NLT).

4. Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone (Galatians 6:10; NLT).

5. He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

6. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:5; NLT).

There is one body and one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4; NLT).

He calls people (Romans 9:12; NLT).

7. Let us be sober, putting on […] the hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8; NIV).

8. There is […] one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all (Ephesians 4:6; NLT).

To pray

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Pray constantly (1 Thessalonians 5:17; RSV).

1. To pray
Is to stand in God’s presence.

2. To pray
Is to walk in his light.

3. To pray
Is to glimpse his transcendence.

4. To pray
Is to share his delight.

5. To pray
Is to know his forgiveness.

6. To pray
Is to learn what is good.

7. To pray
Is to savour his kindness.

8. To pray
Is to live in his love.


References

1. Stand in silence in the presence of the Sovereign Lord (Zephaniah 1:7; NLT).

2. I can walk in your presence, O God, in your life-giving light (Psalm 56:13; NLT).

3. Transcendent power belongs to God (2 Corinthians 4:7; RSV).

4. He will take great delight in you (Zephaniah 3:17; NIV).

5. He forgives all my sins (Psalm 103:2; NLT).

6. You are good and do only good; teach me your decrees (Psalm 119:68; NLT).

7. How kind the Lord is! (Psalm 116:5; NLT).

8. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).

Today

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May all the nations praise you (Psalm 67:3; NLT).

1. Lord,
Today, may many hear your voice,
Starting their journey
Back to your embrace.

2. Lord,
Today, may many turn to you,
Asking forgiveness;
Welcoming your grace.

3. Lord,
Today, may many follow you,
Serving their neighbours;
Learning to do good.

4. Lord,
Today, may many join with you,
Knowing your presence;
Living in your love.


References

1. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts (Hebrews 4:7; NIV).

He returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him (Luke 15:20; NLT).

2. Repent of your sins and turn to God (Matthew 3:2; NLT).

Perhaps even yet they will turn from their evil ways and ask the Lord’s forgiveness before it is too late (Jeremiah 36:7; NLT).

God saved you by his grace when you believed (Ephesians 2:8; NLT).

3. If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23; NLT).

Even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others (Mark 10:45; NLT).

Learn to do good (Isaiah 1:17; NLT).

4. When we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death (Romans 6:3; NLT).

His name is the Lord – rejoice in his presence (Psalm 68:4; NLT).

Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them (1 John 4:16; NIV).

God is love

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You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful,
slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love
(Nehemiah 9:17; NLT).

1. God is shelter, and space;
Mercy, and grace;

2. Forgiveness, and care;
Wrathful, yet fair;

3. Salvation, and might;
Darkness, and light;

4. Tumult, and peace;
God is love, without cease.


References

1. All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings (Psalm 36:7; NLT).

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1; NLT).

There is […] one God and Father, who is over all, and in all, and living through all (Ephesians 4:5-6; NLT).

2. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies (Psalm 103:2-4; NLT).

God is a raging fire (Deuteronomy 4:24; ESV). 

Everything he does is just and fair (Deuteronomy 32:4; NLT).

3. The Lord is my light and my salvation (Psalm 27:1; NLT).

He shrouded himself in darkness (Psalm 18:11; NLT).

4. I hear the tumult of the raging seas as your waves and surging tides sweep over me (Psalm 42:7; NLT).

The Lord is peace (Judges 6:24; NLT).

God is love (1 John 4:16; NLT).

Wholeness

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Be thankful in all circumstances
(1 Thessalonians 5:18; NLT). 

1. Thank you for my body,
And thank you for my mind,
Thank you for my heart, Lord,
And my soul.

2. Thank you for your care, Lord,
And your forgiveness, too,
Your healing, and the faith
Which makes me whole.


References

1. You, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand (Isaiah 64:8; NIV).

He himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else (Acts 17:25; NIV).

2. If God cares so wonderfully for the flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you (Luke 12:28; NLT).

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases (Psalm 103:3; NLT).

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8; NIV).

Thy faith hath made thee whole (Luke 8:48; KJV).

I love you

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1. I love you, Lord,
Please help me
By forgiving all my sins,

2. By healing me,
And saving me,
And giving my soul wings.

3. I love you, Lord,
Please help me
By redeeming me from death,

4. And crowning me
With mercy, Lord,
Beyond my final breath.


References

1. I love you, Lord (Psalm 18:1; NLT).

He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy (Psalm 28:7; NLT).

He forgives all my sins, and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! (Psalm 103:2-5; NLT).

2. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Timothy 1:15; NLT).

Those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles (Isaiah 40:31; NLT).

3. God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave (Psalm 49:15; NKJV).

4. The dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it (Ecclesiastes 12:7; NIV).

A letter (with thanks to M.R.)

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Trigger alert
Today’s blog is about emotional abuse, and its consequences.

Introduction
The following quotation sets the scene, though its relevance might not be clear until you have read the whole article:

Turn your steps towards these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary. Your foes roared in the places where you met with us; they set up their standards as signs. They behaved like men wielding axes to cut through a thicket of trees. They smashed all the carved panelling with their axes and hatchets. They burned your sanctuary to the ground; they defiled the dwelling place of your Name. They said in their hearts, “We will crush them completely!” They burned every place where God was worshipped in the land (Psalm 74:3-8; NIV).

An open letter to my mother
Mother, despite claiming to love me, you established control over me from my early childhood onwards. You did this through scorn, criticism, bullying, condemnation, rage, and bouts of violent destructiveness. These behaviours made me fear you deeply. I lived in dread of your next outburst.

You continued to maintain control over me during my teenage years and adulthood, too, using intrusion, disapproval, and anger when I dared to express personal feelings, thoughts or beliefs you didn’t like. Similarly, you reacted with fury and threats of coercion if I tried to make my own decisions about what I wanted to do with my life. When I made mistakes, or got things wrong, you never forgave me, or forgot it. All this made me dread seeing you and spending time with you. I particularly hated the sound of your voice, and loathed you touching me, but was afraid to stand up to you, or to say “no”.

Your ways of controlling me have had severe, pervasive, long-term consequences for my mental health, in the form of low self-esteem, anxiety, dread, panic attacks and agoraphobia. I have also had to cope with a constant sense of not wanting to be alive, with chronic depression, and with episodes of acute depression. Furthermore, one question has always preyed on my mind:

How could you say you loved me, yet behave as you did towards me?

It didn’t make sense. I just couldn’t square what you said with what I experienced.

Then, on the 24th of May, 2020, a friend sent me a message she had seen on a Facebook site about domestic abuse. It read:

It’s not CONSENT if you make me afraid to say no.

I stared at these words, instantly electrified by their brevity, clarity and profound truth. Within seconds, a personal variation flashed into my mind:

It’s not LOVE if you make me afraid to say no.

Deeply stirred by this insight, further phrases began tumbling out of my unconscious mind. Here are just a few examples:

It’s not love if you make me afraid to disagree.

It’s not love if you criticise me all the time.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to be myself.

It’s not love if you make me afraid to choose for myself.

It’s not love if you belittle my achievements.

It’s not love if you only approve of me when I behave like you.

At last, in my late sixties, my friend’s message had given me the answer to my question: your behaviour towards me shows clearly that you did not, in fact, love me in any meaningful way at all.

This shocking realisation made me consider what kinds of behaviour do, in fact, reflect and express genuine love. Here are the best answers I’ve found so far:

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, or boastful, or proud, or rude. It does not demand its own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-5; NLT).

It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5; NIV).

I know that none of us is perfect, mother, but when I confronted you, you could at least have admitted what you did to me, and said you were sorry. Over the years, I managed to raise the subject of your behaviour with you several times, always at huge personal cost. However, you never responded with genuine understanding or honesty, instead always trying to justify, minimise, or deny what you had done.

For many years now, I have worked hard to forgive you. Sometimes I even think I’ve succeeded. Fortunately, God understands and accepts the intense anger and bitterness that can still occasionally emerge from my mind, heart and soul. Slowly, gently, he gives me the insights I need in order to be healed, for which I am profoundly thankful.

Ruth.


References

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other (Romans 12:9; NLT).

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them (Ephesians 6:4; NLT).

I am the Lord, who heals you (Exodus 15:27; NIV).