Hope in the midst of captivity: an excerpt from Chapter 1 of Refining Relationships entitled "The power of perspective in relationships"
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT)
While many people can quote Jeremiah 29:11, most people do not realize the context in which the verse was written. God was speaking through Jeremiah to the Israelites, who were taken captive to Babylon. Not only were they in exile, but the Bible says that God caused them to be taken captive. It is hard to grasp that God, who brings abundant life, would allow His children to be taken captive. However, God provided a way for them to have peace, even in captivity. He tells them to continue living life as normal and to seek Him to bring peace into their place of captivity.
Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captive, and pray to the Lord for it; for in its peace you will have peace. Jeremiah 29:5-7
If you are one of the many people who feels captive in your own home, I encourage you to seek God for peace there. Contrary to what you see, your situation is not hopeless; God can bring peace to your place of exile. Hang on and see Jeremiah 29:11 come to pass! (Note: The exception to this is if you are in an unsafe place; know that abuse is not OK and that God may be removing you from the situation for your safety.) If you continually focus on your bondage, your perspective will steal your hope. Proverbs 13:12 tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” It is imperative that we allow hope to rise within us if we want to see seemingly hopeless relationships restored and refined. Imagine your hands grasping on to all the pain from a hopeless relationship. Now, imagine hope entering and your fingers loosening off of the pain one finger at a time. You are still holding the pain, but hope positions you to let God take it. Your hands are then open and ready to receive what God has for you in place of all the pain you were previously holding.
“Shut the door on the enemy!” I was just woken up by a sound of a door shutting and heard those words. God, I pray you kick the enemy out of America and shut the door on him! He cannot have our country! He cannot have the church! He cannot have my family! He cannot have my friends! He has done enough damage with his lies, and I say that is enough! Your truth will prevail in our land, oh God! Thank You for hearing the cries of your people and intervening as only You can do! Thank You for reversing all the enemy has done in Washington, DC and for using all he has done to backfire on him and on all people who have been his pawns for corruption! Reveal all the corruption that has been brewing in the darkness in Jesus’s mighty Name! Amen!
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia. This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open: “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love. “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name. “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
So, I spent quite a bit of time typing a post on fear and when I hit "post" in order to publish it to the web, the only part that posted was the title, not the post itself...not once, but twice! Imagine that! Let's try that again...
It has been a while since I updated this journal blog. The holidays came, life happened, and to be honest, I got out of the habit of writing. However, my complacency in writing was challenged when COVID-19 hit the world bringing with it panic like I have never seen. It is time for Christians to rise up and communicate to everyone that there is no need to fear! Should we be wise and take precautions? ABSOLUTELY! Should we panic, buy out all the toilet paper and food, and hunker down in total isolation? NO! Jesus conquered death, hell, and the grave in His death and resurrection...that includes coronavirus! He is our Prince of Peace, and He will bring peace now if we allow Him.
Below is an excerpt from my book, Refining Relationships. I have taken a portion from Chapter 5, "Spiritual Warfare in Relationships." In that chapter, I talk about how the enemy wants to destroy relationships. Part of the chapter talks about his first go-to tactic to bring division: FEAR. This excerpt is also a good reminder that we do not have to fear during this time the whole world seems to be falling into pandemonium over COVID-19:
We know it is not God who gives fear because of 2 Timothy 1:7: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” The good news is that as we develop our relationship with God and receive His unconditional love for us, fear cannot stay.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
God is the only One who truly loves us with a perfect love. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more than He already does. There is also nothing we can do to make God love us less. When someone really understands this truth and receives God’s love, she realizes there is absolutely nothing to fear. The moment we look to someone else to love us perfectly, fear will start to creep back in, since no human besides Jesus can fulfill our need to be loved perfectly. In other words, the antidote to fear is the perfect love of God; expecting others to love us perfectly will only create more fear.
The Bible has much to say about the dangers of the type of fear that comes from the enemy, but it also has much to say about a positive fear that comes from God (the fear of the Lord). I pondered this and prayed for God’s perspective on this paradox. I then had a realization that fear is the act of acknowledging that someone or something has power over you. Think about it: when you fear anything other than God, be it a person, heights, public speaking, spiders, or any situation, you are really believing that whatever you fear is more powerful than you are. However, when you reverently fear the Lord, acknowledging that He has power over your life, you will consequently have peace of mind. Why? First of all, He loves us perfectly—so we know He will never take advantage of us. Secondly, God has ultimate power over all and knows everything; thus, we know that He will protect and guide us into what is best for us.
Here are just a few selections of the Bible’s passages about the fear of God:
And to man He said,
“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.” Job 28:28
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7
In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence,
And His children will have a place of refuge.
The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
To turn one away from the snares of death. Proverbs 14:26-27
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord,
Than great treasure with trouble. Proverbs 15:16
The fear of the Lord leads to life,
And he who has it will abide in satisfaction;
He will not be visited with evil. Proverbs 19:23
Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Acts 9:31
When we fear the Lord, we have assurance that He is our refuge and defense. We know this because He is the most powerful being of all. No one is greater. He has the final say over all other gods. When you acknowledge God’s power and surrender your life to Him, you can rest assured that you are more than a conqueror through Him!
God's Love For Us
Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called
children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be,
but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 1 John 3:1-3
Our relationship with God is not just about us receiving Him into our lives and loving Him, but it has everything to do with how much He loves us! He did not just create us and leave us to live our lives the best we can. We know that God the Father loves us so much that He sent His Son to pay the price for our sins. We also know that we are Jesus’ joy and the reason He endured the cross. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, God lovingly sent us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and be our helper, teacher, and guide on our journey here on earth. Finally, God’s ultimate desire for us is to be with Him forever in Heaven after we die. This divine love that started before we were born continues throughout eternity in Heaven and gives us a deep hope that actually purifies us!
The Bible calls the Church the Bride of Christ. I remember how I felt when my husband first started pursuing me. I felt valued, and I longed to be with him, especially leading up to the wedding day. We both wanted to spend time getting to know each other better. Similarly, God pursues us and longs to be with us; however, He already knows us better than we know ourselves. Even so, He longs for us to be with Him so that we may get to know Him better. He does not expect us to perform in order to earn His love--He already loves us! There is nothing we can do to make Him love us more. Likewise, there is nothing we can do to make Him love us less. When we respond to His loving pursuit of us, we will find that in His presence is fullness of joy. Though we will face adversity as long as we live on the earth, He has promised to be with us and give us His peace in the midst of trials.
The world would be a better place if we could resolve misunderstandings between people! What causes misunderstandings? The main answer is simple: perspective differences. Our perspectives shape the way we perceive situations. For example, someone raised in the southern United States is taught to treat older people with respect. Southerners say, “Yes, ma’am” or “No, sir” as a sign of honor. However, someone raised in the northern United States may be offended if someone calls them “ma’am” or “sir” because they do not want to be thought of as old. Unfortunately, one person’s actions meant to promote respect can be misunderstood as offensive.
Before you continue reading, I encourage you to look at Figure 1-1 and contemplate how each of these areas has influenced your interactions with other people. No one else shares your personal experiences; thus, no one else can bring what you bring to a relationship. Likewise, God intentionally places specific people in your life because of what they bring to you. When we consider perspective differences according to their benefit to us, we will celebrate each person’s unique qualities instead of being critical of those who do not share our same perspective.
If we stay stuck in our own perspective, we will likely build walls between us and the people who do not share our same viewpoint. Since everyone has a different point of view, we cannot expect others to see things exactly as we see them. I have personally come to realize the importance of seeking God to show me my own perspective, the person’s perspective with whom I have conflict, and, more importantly, God’s perspective. The good news is that “in his own body on the cross, [Jesus] broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” When we allow God to tear down walls between us, we will see how He can then build incredible connections with others. If we place Jesus as the cornerstone in each of our relationships and let Him build each relationship, we will then be “built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
For Barnabas was a good man [privately and publicly—his godly character benefited both
himself and others] and he was full of the Holy Spirit and full of faith [in Jesus the Messiah,
through whom believers have everlasting life]. And a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Acts 11:24 (AMP)
Do you ever have a time when you read one verse in the Bible and it seems to jump out of the page at you? This happened to me when I read this verse out of the Amplified Bible. Sometimes when that happens, I get one gold nugget for my faith that helps refine my faith. Other times, like this time, God unfolds a whole sermon from that one verse!
Barnabas was mentioned many times in the book of Acts. According to Acts 4:36, his real name was Joses, but he was so known for encouraging others that the apostles started calling him Barnabas (which means "Son of Encouragement.") This verse (Acts 11:24) says that he was a "good man." What constitutes a "good man" to one may not be the same from another person's perspective. In this case, it meant that he was full of the Holy Spirit and faith in Jesus. What I like is that he lived this life day in and day out whether he was in a group of people or all alone. There is an old saying that goes, "Character is who you are when no one else is looking." Seeking God and following Christ was a lifestyle for Barnabas. He didn't just say he believed in Christ; he lived it!
I love how it says that "his godly character benefited both himself and others." I believe that the way it benefited himself was for his focus to not be on following Jesus for selfish gain but merely because he knew that Jesus is the source of true, eternal life. He let Romans 15:13 become a reality in his life ("Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Romans 15:13, NKJV). He knew that when we seek God first, everything else works out (Matt. 6:33), and he was motivated to encourage others in the faith, thus benefiting them as they, too, surrender their lives to Christ.
That is how I want to be! It can be challenging to stand for Christ in a society that often tries to silence Christians and even persecute them for their faith in some instances. However, if we can be like Barnabas and have a true commitment to serving God day in and day out when no one is looking, then we will be shining lights to others without even trying! We will rejoice when a great number of people are brought to the Lord!
The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men,
To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. Psalm 14:2
The only way we are going to understand what is going on around us and receive direction for our lives is by seeking God. When we do, we will be prompted by the Holy Spirit to confess pride which keeps us from having pure motives. These wrong heart motives hinder us from walking out God’s divine purposes for our lives with His blessing.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray
and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways,
then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
This verse shows us that when we truly lay down our pride, seek God, and stop our destructive actions, then God will heal us, forgive us, and heal our land! In context, this verse is talking about land in a drought that is dry and barren. Symbolically, this dry land represents people in our lives, both loved ones and strangers, who are spiritually dry and thirsty.
How can our actions of seeking God bring much needed rain to the “dry land” around us? What most people would say is that God will answer the prayers we pray from pure hearts and “rain down” on the people around us. That is correct. However, I believe that after truly crying out to God and seeking His face, He will actually heal “our land” through us! We will be in a position of seeing others as He sees them; we will see the complacency in them, but we will not criticize them for being dry. Rather, we will have compassion and follow God’s lead in our prayers and actions to bring revival to them.
Oh Lord, we ask that You draw us even more to seek Your face. Thank you in advance for transforming our hearts to be pure vessels through which You bring healing and revival to our land!
How often do we find ourselves obsessing over thoughts of how a family member or friend "just doesn't get it!"? What good is that doing for ourselves or the ones of whom we think are so clueless? Meanwhile, we also think, "There is no way this relationship will get better, because S/HE won't change! I am either stuck, or I have to leave!" Really, now?! Hmmm! When we think like that, we are basically saying that another flawed human being, like ourselves, determines whether or not we have peace and joy.
Don't get me wrong, as a professional therapist, I know that there are times when a relationship has to end, even marriage that is intended for life, if one person continues in a path of destruction without seeking God for transformation. However, cases like that should be rare. The decision to leave a toxic relationship should be after much time in prayer and seeking God for healing, guidance, and direction.
Most people know the story of Job in the Bible, how he lost everything including his wife, children, health, and possessions. (If not, read the book of Job in the Old Testament.) At a time when he needed support of friends the most, his friends were not helping him with their flippant advice. However, rather than dwelling on how they were not meeting his needs, Job chose to pray for them instead, and look what happened next! "And the LORD restored Job's losses when he prayed for his friends. Indeed the LORD gave Job twice as much as he had before." Job 42:10 (NKJV) WOW! Think about what that just said!
So, maybe it is time to pray for our friends and loved ones! Before we pray, we need to ask God to show us our motives in praying. Are we praying selfishly so that our needs will be met and things will be more comfortable for us? Are we praying so that the other person realizes that s/he is wrong and we are right? Or, are we praying because we love the other person and want to see him/her set free from the enemy's clutches so that s/he can be free to walk out God's divine purposes for his/her life?
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil
desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill
to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and
wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because
you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your
motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. James 4:1-3 (NLT)
As we seek God, our only source for true peace and joy, we will be healed of inner wounds that rob us of the right perspective of others. Then we will be able to pray the prayers God stirs us to pray for our loves ones and see them and our relationships transformed! Remember, nothing is impossible with God!
With over thirty years of experience as an educator, minister, and licensed professional counselor, Tammy Melton, LPC holds ministerial credentials with Harvest Network International and is the founder of Legacy Ministries for Christ, Incorporated and Legacy Freedom, LLC. Tammy desires to see people set free with tools of inner healing and relational unity. Tammy and Bill, her husband of 33 years, live in Fayetteville, GA and have two adult daughters.