zondag 31 oktober 2010

Courage to be different?

Sometimes I get the feeling that we don’t really live the full life that we read about in the Bible. It seems that we are more concerned with trying to fit in with the culture around us, making sure nobody might me be shocked or turned off by anything in our life that might be a little strange.

I recently started to read the book “Crazy Love” by Francis Chan. This book has been confronting. The following lines jumped out to me:

“Taking the words of Christ literally and seriously is rarely considered. That’s for the “radicals” who are “unbalanced” and who go “overboard”. Most of us want a balanced life that we can control, that is safe, and that does not involve suffering.”

I love to read biographies about different men throughout history that have given their lives completely in the service of God and the spreading of “the good news”. Their stories inspire and confront me. These men seemed to be consumed by just one thing, their love for Jesus and sharing the salvation and joy which they received with as many people possible. They gave up everything for this purpose and went through much suffering for it. When I read their stories I’m shocked by all the difficulties they went through. These difficulties were sometimes so many and so great that I’m amazed they didn’t loose their faith but kept on going and kept on trusting. Their lives with God were not easy and comfortable and they didn’t fit in, but many of the revivals that have started throughout the world are the fruit of their efforts a long time ago.

As Christians we are supposed to encourage each other to live a life completely devoted to God, but sometimes it seems we are discouraging each other to live this kind of life. The following passage I read yesterday stuck out to me as an example of how this can go. It is coming from a book that shares the biographies of Christians in the 18th and 19th century that have made a great impact through their life and service:

“One day he (Hudson Taylor) called on the Congregational minister and asked to borrow his copy of Medhurst’s China, explaining that God had called him to missionary service in that land. “And how do you propose to go there?” the minister inquired. Taylor replied that he did not know but in all probability he would go forth as did the Twelve and the Seventy, relying solely on the One who sent him to supply all his needs. Placing his hand on the lad’s shoulder the minister replied: “Ah, my boy, as you grow older you will become wiser than that. Such an idea would do very well in the days when Christ himself was on earth, but not now”.”
Heroes of Faith on pioneer trails by E. Myers Harrison: Hudson Taylor

If you read Hudson Taylor’s life story you can see what God did through his life and how He provided in great ways…

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45,46)

Link Song "Motions" by Matthew West

Song lyrics "Motions"

This might hurt, it's not safe
But I know that I've gotta make a change
I don't care if I break,
At least I'll be feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of life

I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

No regrets, not this time
I'm gonna let my heart defeat my mind
Let Your love make me whole
I think I'm finally feeling something
'Cause just okay is not enough
Help me fight through the nothingness of this life

'Cause I don't wanna go through the motions
I don't wanna go one more day
without Your all consuming passion inside of me
I don't wanna spend my whole life asking,
"What if I had given everything,
instead of going through the motions?"

take me all the way (take me all the way)
take me all the way ('cause I don't wanna go through the motions)
take me all the way (I know I'm finally feeling something real)
take me all the way

woensdag 27 oktober 2010

Family context

As old and static this family picture might seem, the patterns within family relationships are a constant flow of great influence that run through many generations and will continue to do so for many generations to come…

Last year in September I started to do a two year study of contextual therapy. The basis of contextual thinking is the importance of the relationships people have with each other and the giving and receiving within these relationships. The basic element to measure the health and sustainability of any relationship is the amount of trust that has been built up in this relationship. Trust is formed when the giving and receiving in a relationship is in balance. Both parties know that the other person is aware of their needs and is caring and responsible in meeting those needs. When one or both parties starts doubting this, the basis of trust is disturbed and the strings that binds two people in a relationship together will start to loose their strength. Other less healthy patterns, which have been lingering under the surface, will start to take over, trying to keep the now dying relationship alive. These patterns are controlling and manipulative in their nature. This can be very subtle and the people using them might not even be aware of them. Both parties feel they have very much the right to behave the way they do, but instead of investing in each others life’s in a loving and fulfilling way, they more and more use each other to get their own needs met. This will be the source of many conflicts and problems. This can happen in any kind of relationship; family relationships, friendships, dating relationships or marriage.

Contextual thinking places much emphasis on the family relationships with it’s history as being the context in which people learn how to relate to each other. The basic philosophy is that our family should be a place of care, a place where we are encouraged to give of ourselves in a way that fits with who we are, and a place where we receive care, love, stability, attention, guidance, safety, encouragement, etc. If this is not the case then the child does not receive what it is entitled to and this will have destructive consequences in the long run. All our future relationships are influenced by the patterns we learned when we grew up. Contextual thinking therefore sees our family relationships as the key place to bring forth change and healing in our lives. Contextual thinking sees family relationships as bonds that cannot be broken; even when you try very hard to cut the strings, still your life will be influenced by your constant conscious or unconscious striving and efforts to do so and the bitterness and anger that comes from this.

Contextual thinking looks at the destructive patterns in relationships with hope, because it says that no matter how unhealthy someone’s family history may have been (or still is), a person is able to break the patterns in their life that might have been influencing them and their family for many generations. A person is able to change the way they relate to people and create a different future for themselves, their relationships and their children. At the same time through the changes they go though they can be an influence of healing and change in the family context they come from. All of this might be a difficult and painful process, but in the long run it will be of great value.

This was an attempt to summarize a little bit of what contextual therapy is about, although there is much much more to say… In the future I might write more posts on my blog to process my thoughts in learning and studying about contextual therapy and to give an oversight of all the important factors that are involved in bringing about changes within relationships.

zaterdag 16 oktober 2010

Identity, son or slave?

With church we are going through the book of Galatians. Last Sunday the chapter we went through was about being redeemed by Jesus to become God’s son (or daughter) instead of being a slave. We came to the conclusion that being God’s son is not so much about doing, but more about being.
Being has to do with identity and identity is formed out of the way we view ourselves. Believing that God loves you and cares for you and that you are of value to him will change the way you view yourself. Of course our Christian theology tells us that we are God’s sons and daughters, but do we really believe this from the heart?
The followinghandout has helped me to see how much of an influence what we believe about God’s heart for us can have on the way we live our lives:

orphan or son handout

God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father”. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir. Galatians 4: 4b-7

Song: "by your side"

zondag 10 oktober 2010

living water

They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.
Jeremiah 2:13b

I wonder if this applies to the rich world today, including the church, including me…The picture comes to mind of a person sitting in a prison cell. He fills his cell with self manufactured toys he can play with. God wants to help him to go out of his cell into the world where he can enjoy real life and where he will be free, but he is so occupied with his toys that he doesn’t even notice and when he does notice he becomes afraid that God will take away his toys and will leave him alone with nothing in an empty prison cell.

"Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost. Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare. Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.
Isaiah 55:1-3b

… many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. "You do not want to leave too, do you?" Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life
John 6: 66-68

Jesus answered, "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life."
John 4: 13,14

You say, 'I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.' But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
Revelation 4: 17,18

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
John 10:10b