Is This Not the Carpenter’s Son?: When people won’t let you grow up

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This is crazy, but it’s true. You know it is. Sometimes the same people who demand that you change are the ones who erect fences around you when you try to change. With their mouths they say “Change!” but with their actions they say, “Change back!”

This is the biggest reason prophets are not welcome in their own towns.

Sometimes this is the reason young adults move to distant cities, why marriages break up when one partner replaces unhealthy habits with better choices, why promotions skip over the person who is actively trying to prove they are more diligent than they used to be, and why people who are are growing spiritually find they need to leave their old church before they can walk that out.

They are all surrounded by those who demand change but don’t make room for it.

Change is messy. Most people want order and predictability in their relationships. Say, for example, people are used to Molly showing up late, so they tell her the meeting starts at 7 o’clock. When Molly shows up at seven for an event that actually starts at eight, it’s embarrassingly inconvenient. How dare she change?

I did something like this to my husband. As long as I have known him he has ordered his steak well-done. Very well done. We have family jokes about burnt offerings and bovine charcoal on a plate. When we were at a friend’s house for a barbecue I told the grill master my man liked his steak on the edge of charred. I didn’t feel I needed to ask first; I had observed his taste for years ( although steak’s appearance on our menu is an increasingly rare event).

When the platter of steaks arrived at the table my husband said, “I would like the rare T-bone please.” The look of horror on the host’s face as he saw his rare steak land on another person’s plate broke my heart. The exchange of glances between the cook and I, when we realized one of us would have to take the black thing was almost a moment for tears. He felt like he just wasted an expensive cut and I felt betrayed and embarrassed.

The discussion in the car on the way home was the kind of loud one that occurs between couples on the brink of a course change. (I gave up the opinion-less “submissive wife” thing a decade before when I realized it nearly killed me – and our marriage.) His final point (which I did listen to) was, “I am trying to change, but you won’t let me. You think you know me so well and make jokes about my ways but when I try to change you want me to change back so you don’t have to adjust.”

Ouch. But he was right.

How we relate to teenagers is also a good test of how we make room for change. The primary job of adolescents is to discover who they are. Adolescents are frustratingly self-centered because they are supposed to be; they have a job to do – work on themselves. A conciliatory, conforming, unquestioning teenager is merely delaying the process. (I didn’t go through adolescent defining of myself until my thirties – at the same time as my kids. Awkward moments abounded.)

Since a teenager doesn’t yet know who they are they are constantly trying on new roles and personas to see what fits. The only thing they know for sure is that they are not their parents. If you are the parent of a teen in transition hold your most valuable ideals close to your chest because everything is subject to sifting in this process. More than one mother has heard herself say, “I don’t know who you are anymore!” Neither do they.

Our job in leading teens is to set safe, healthy boundaries while providing latitude and unlimited love at the same time -like God does. (No one said it was easy.)

A person growing into their identity in Christ is in a transition phase his or her whole life. Ideas developed in times of selfishness, or fear, or unempowered self-sacrifice, or zealous idealism based on faulty foundations need adjustment. Pride can get in the way of transformation, but, alas, so can the people who know you best. Friends, neighbours, colleagues, relatives, and bosses make their plans based on assumptions that some things, however annoying, are at least consistent .

When Jesus showed up in his home town after stepping into his full identity as the Son of God with demonstrations of power his former neighbours were shocked. Perhaps they also felt embarrassed or betrayed or even disoriented by his unexpected behaviour.

“He [Jesus] came to His hometown and began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’

And they took offense at Him.

But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.’

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.” (Matthew 13:53-58 NASB)

“Is this not the carpenter’s son?” Oh, the burden that one phrase carries.

Is this not the son of the guy who sued everyone in town?

Is this not the daughter of the young mother who dropped out of school at 15?

Is this not the one who is always late?

Is this not the quiet submissive wife who never speaks up?

Is this not the Sunday School teacher who bores everyone to death?

Is this not the crazy guy who lives for the weekend keg party?

Is this not the critical church elder who disapproves of everyone and everything?

Is this not the whining woman who always has something wrong with her?

Is this not the well-known TV evangelist with the iffy theology?

Is this not the son of our enemy?”

“Don’t mess with us! If you change we will have to change. Our opinions painstakingly formed over time will be invalid. Change back!”

If you are seeking to hear the Holy Spirit as he shows you the way the Father sees you, if you are changing as a result of allowing the way you think to be transformed to align with the mind of Christ, don’t be surprised if the folks who were once your greatest supporters are not thrilled at first. Change in you requires change in them. It’s uncomfortable.

If you are encouraging others to step into their destinies give them room to grow. Be flexible. Rejoice with them, especially if they surpass your own progress. They are the new agents of grace in your life and you are now subject to change.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lift

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“We must learn to live on the heavenly side and look at things from above, to contemplate all things as God sees them, as Christ beholds them, overcomes sin, defies Satan, dissolves perplexities, lifts us above trials, separates us from the world and conquers fear of death.”

– A.B. Simpson

It’s easy to see sin, satanic influence, perplexities, and trial after trial. It’s easy to listen to the voices pointing out that we are not taking threats seriously enough, that we need to listen to the world’s point of view and ramp up the fear motivation.

It’s easy to respond to suggestions with “The problem with that is...” It’s easy to look for escape routes and to distract ourselves with entertainment or bury ourselves in denial.

It’s easy when that’s the way we’ve always responded.

And how is that working for us?

What does God want to do instead?

Jesus lives to intercede for us. He never stops. How is he praying? What is his perspective? How can we join in his plans? How do we access the provision of joy he has set aside for us?

Lift up your heads, O gates!
    And be lifted up, O ancient doors,
    that the King of glory may come in.
 Who is this King of glory?
    The Lord, strong and mighty,
    the Lord, mighty in battle!

(Psalm 24:7,8 ESV)

 

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Grace Like Rain Pouring

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It’s raining. Again.

This may be the coolest, wettest July I have experienced in years. Our grandchildren are here and we have not been able to hike or go to the beach even once. The sun comes out and by the time we get our act together it’s raining again.

Now when you live in the middle of thousands of hectares of fuel in the form of forest summer rains are usually welcome – except when you want to go to the beach with the kids. This is unseasonable. Different.

This morning I read about an explanation of the Greek words of a phrase in Romans 5:20 – “but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” The tense here means sin that is continually increasing. It also means grace that is continually increasing exponentially more.

Grace upon grace upon grace…

This has been a week where we have seen sin increase. Shootings, riots, the murder of innocents, the fall of trusted leaders, the exposure of faulty foundations, division, exploitation, panic…

It’s horrible actually. To all appearances sin is increasing and there is nothing we can do about it except (as some propose) to await for for evil to gain so much control over the world that God will zap his people off the planet and leave the rest to their own devices.

The good news is: grace is also increasing – faster and bigger. He has plans for our good. He is not defeated.

(And no. I do not define grace as license to sin so let’s just get that out of the way right now. Grace is the means by which we are changed to become fully who God intended us to be.)

I asked the Lord (trying not to use my pouty voice), “What’s with all this unseasonable rain? At the moment it is so loud on the roof it’s drowning out our conversation about how terrible the news is today.”

Then I hear a line from a song:

“Hallelujah! Grace like rain falling down on me…”

 


 

Thank you, Lord! Grace in abundance like showers that keep coming and coming and coming is available when sin in abundance keeps coming. But grace is greater. Greater than evil. Greater than despair. Greater than pain and loss. Grace that is greater than all our sin.

When we are tempted to return hate for hate grace enables us to return good for evil. The fruit of the Spirit has to be a supernatural response from heaven or it is merely more human effort. And seriously, how have our own efforts been working for us in this season?

It’s time to turn from our own methods, access the grace for change that flows from the throne of God. It’s time to see the salvation of our God. This is the season of abundant rain.

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God has more for us than we can ask or even think.

Just ask.

Come What May…

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I have heard a song in the night. Abba (Father God) sings over his child.

Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing?
Telling me to give you everything
Seasons may change, winter to spring
But I love you until the end of time

Come what may, come what may…

(From “Come What May” Songwriters David Baerwald, Kevin M Gilbert, Rudy Amado Perez)

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Ask, and it will be given to you;

seek, and you will find;

knock, and it will be opened to you.

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.

Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone?

Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he?

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

(Matthew 7: 7-10 NASB)

Our heavenly Father sings over you. Can you hear Him?

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Just Ask

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“Call to Me and I will answer you, and I will tell you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”
(Jeremiah 33:3 NASB)

I am learning to pray about how to pray before launching into giving God advice. Sometimes I am surprised at his response. Very surprised.

In 2 Kings 6 enemy army strategists complained that their plans were continually thwarted. The prophet Elisha seemed to have inside information on troop placement. “The prophet tells the words you speak in your bedroom!” they whined to the general.

God doesn’t give you an assignment without providing the tools and intelligence to do it. We don’t all work at the level of someone like Elisha, but even as toddlers in God’s Kingdom we have access to the very throne of God. We can ask. God encourages us to ask.

As we observe the systems of men falling to corruption, revenge, and more of the hatred and lack of honour for others that caused the problems in the first place, many people are calling out for a concerted prayer effort. They quote: “If  My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chron. 7.14)

But how do we pray?

Ask!

Humility is the ability to say, “I don’t know. But I know who to ask.”

Prayer is about communication with the One who knows and loves us perfectly. It’s about relationship. Prayer is not like ordering from an Amazon wishlist. Prayer is leaning on the chest of the Creator of the Universe and listening to what is on his heart.

There is a war going on most people are not aware of. A war in high places. A war in the spiritual realm. A clash between two kingdoms in which one has already been defeated but has not yet relinquished its hold on all territory.

I don’t usually hear about troop placements, in case you were wondering. I do hear about God’s overwhelming love for hostages of the one who comes to kill, steal and destroy. Jesus came to set the captives free. He invites us to intercede the way he is interceding.

Do you feel the call to pray for your nation or other nations? He is ready to show you great and mighty things which you do not know about yet.

But you will.

Just ask.

 

 

 

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