Are We Afraid of Authenticity?
I love the Psalms because the writers are often authentic with their thoughts and feelings. For instance, in Psalm 22 (NIV), the writer writes, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer, by night, and am not silent." The writer begins in despair but finishes in hope. I believe that people usually cannot get to hope without feelings of some form of sadness or unfortunate circumstances. The problem is that we are all uncomfortable with anything perceived as a negative feeling.
As pastors, ministers, or other helping professionals, we try to rescue them from their despair. The other day, I saw a social media post that stated the writer was tired. A response from someone was that Jesus was tired on the cross. That might have been true; who would not be exhausted if they were hanging on the cross! However, the response was like slapping someone in the face, telling them they were not allowed to feel tired because Jesus was on the cross for us.
I do not know the writer's motivation for the response. I will assume it was supposed to encourage the tired writer. I thought about how we sometimes come across saying things that do not affirm the other person and, in fact, shame them or guilt them for being authentic. It is ok to be tired, physically, emotionally, or spiritually. It is ok to experience a broad range of feelings because it makes us human. The most significant examples for us in the bible are the Psalm writers. The most important model for us was Jesus himself when he cried out, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabach-thani?" - Which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" See Matthew 27: 46, NIV. Yes, the Psalm writer had penned the Psalm many years before Christ was on this earth. I encourage pastors, ministers, and counselors to allow the parishioner or client to express their feelings. Walk with them in their journey, and be empathetic to them.
There is a time for crying!
The other day I tearfully processed grief or despair in my life. At least, that is the only reason I could think of why I was crying. Yes, Mikey, men do cry, and it is ok. It was an incredible cleansing for me to be able to shed tears in anguish. Solomon said there is a time to weep and laugh, notice how they are opposites. Ironically, after my emotional process, I realized something significant.
It has been a rough three (3) years. Approximately three years ago, I left the VA system as a Chaplain, doing well actually-financially speaking, just graduating with a second Masters's degree. I know, for some of you that may not mean anything. It does to me, reflecting my following God's purpose for my life. By the way, I am so grateful for a wonderful, supportive wife.
I can't imagine what life would be without her. She has found a purpose here in Clarksville, Tennessee, as a private school teacher of Spanish. It was a miracle how she got the job. She went in for an interview, and they hired her right away. She does not teach one grade, but all students, Pre-K to 6th grade (adding the 7th grade next year). Anyway, Maribel is a wonderful wife, mother, and grandmother.
Since I retired from the Army in 2013, we have moved four times to land here in Clarksville. We moved from NC to minister for three years in Medford, Oregon, as Pastors. We moved to Dallas, and I worked at the VA Hospital in Dallas for three years, during which I completed a MA in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I knew there was something else and I had more to offer in life. So I prayerfully applied to a few Ph.D. programs. I landed at Trevecca Nazarene University, of which I am about halfway to completion. I have to complete an Internship in counseling and a dissertation.
So we moved from Dallas to Nashville, landing in an apartment. We went from a lovely large brick home to an apartment. (Did I say I have a wonderful wife)! We lived in Nashville for almost a year before purchasing the house we live in now. I reflect on the people I have met and what has transpired, the classes, discussions, papers, the professors' feedback, and the two years of counseling I have conducted. The unexpected loss of a family member. I reflect on how I am in this change cycle every three years, and to top it off, I had some significant things happen that impacted my experience in the counseling field. It is nothing terrible, just a bump in the road on this journey towards licensure.
I just realized I am making significant changes (at the three-year mark) in my journey in life and towards licensure. The changes are positive and sound and will result in getting licensed and a job in academia. However, we are beginning to make another change, perhaps a change in how Maribel and I will live out our faith journey or our ministry to others. I am not sure, but I know it has to come with loving and care towards the pastoral couple we have met and joined their house church. They are considered friends who we met 32 years ago. So, I think my tears were from exhaustion and grief, and the body/brain is telling me it is expecting change (because it has experienced it every three years). There is a time for everything.
The Philippian's Good Work
Many preachers use Philippians 1:6 out of context, "being confident of this, that he that began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." The preacher usually encourages someone to continue what they do, whether in career or ministry, quoting the scripture. However, to fully understand and appreciate the scripture's context, we have to start reading from verse 3 through to the end of verse 5. "I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." What a great pastoral response to Philippi from Paul.
Paul's relationship with the church at Philippi began on Paul's second missionary journey, which you can read in Acts 16. Paul's time at Philippi is marked by gospel preaching, persecution, deliverance, and miracles. At Philippi, Paul meets Lydia, a local businesswoman, and she converts to Christ. Paul (and Silas) also meet the Philippian jailor and his family, which all become converts to Christ. In Philippian 1 introduction, we begin to understand at least two themes: Joy and Partnership.
We can feel Paul's joy for the believers at Philippi because of their love and partnership between them and Paul. It is a partnership of ministry and they have supported Paul in his ministry. One author, David Demchuk (Full Life Bible Commentary to the New Testament), refers to "good work" as kindness, reflecting God's work of grace and salvation in the Philippian church. Paul's pronouncement in verse 6 refers to God's salvation work in the Philippian church. Why do we refer to Philippians 1:6 when we, ministers, feel the need to show support to a member or members of our congregation; or a friend in need of encouragement? Our encouragement, using Philippian 1:6 should be in regards to salvation, but not in terms of career, positions, job, etc.
In many ways, we do not know how to respond to the ambiguity of life, specifically coming from another person to whom we perceive some spiritual authority over. In some cases, a parishioner may ask for prayer for a career decision, and our immediate response may be Philippians 1:6, which does not meet the immediate need because the scripture applies only to salvation. The best thing to do is listen, then pray. No scripture encouragement is necessary. If it does seem necessary, use the appropriate scripture. Moreover, what is the appropriate scripture? I do not know because it is specific to the need at hand (and the Holy Spirit will guide, but I do not think the Spirit of God will give a scripture out of context).
Israel, The Prodigal Nation
When I read Psalm 106:40-46, I remember the story of the Prodigal son, yet here we see an image of a people, a nation, that act out their self-indulgence, rather than one person.
Again, let’s remember that the people were God’s people--a people from a promise made to Abraham, a people that represent Jehovah. Just as the father of the prodigal son let his young son go, so too does Jehovah give way to his people, to their free will, to do as they wish. In his anger toward his people, God let them go and allow their enemy to treat them as they wish. Just as Egypt enslaved them, so too do other nations subject them to their power.
The story of God’s people can be a reflection of how we live today--in self-indulgence, not all of us, but many of us. We live as if there is no relationship between God and us.
However, in God’s great love, he continued to deliver his people. Today, he still gives us deliverance through Christ, our Lord. Jesus was born, lived, died, and rose again to deliver us from sin (self-indulgence) and death. Jesus chooses mercy as a Father who loves his child would give mercy.
Losing your identity is very harmful to yourself, much more to a people group, i.e., the Hebrew people. The Psalmist of 106 verses 34-39 continues his historical reflection of his people's journey through the wilderness and into Canaan. In these particular verses, the Hebrew people find themselves in the promised land. The very last verse gives us a visionary tale of their story after arriving in the promised land, "they prostituted themselves" to a people that did not know God, Jehovah.
What can we learn from their story, from the slavery of another people to slavery of self-indulgence, neglecting God? To answer this question, we must consider our spiritual identity. Who are we in relationship to God, creator of the heavens, heavenly father to Christ? Once we can identify with Christ, as Lord, then we can move forward to answer the question about learning from the passage in psalms.
The lesson is to be careful whom we hang with, not culturally, but in terms of morality. Yes, we can befriend people with different cultures, unlike the Hebrews in this passage. Their life was about establishing a people who are monotheistic in their belief system. They moved into a polytheistic neighborhood, that believed in many gods, and sacrificed their children to their gods. Since Christ arrived and sacrificed himself for humanity, we do not need to do what the Hebrew people were to do in their history, as the Bible reveals.
We can befriend others, hang with folks that are not like us, and be careful with boundaries. We can hang with others, that struggle with morals, show them the love of Christ, be the light of the world. Again, know yourself and know your boundaries and keep your limits. We can do all this through the Bible; the psalmist elsewhere stated that he hides the Word in his heart, that he may not sin against God. The Bible informs our morals as Christians.
Five Tips to Raising Adolescents
(1) Spend time with them. Your presence means something.
(2) Show an interest in the things they like.
(3) You do not have to teach; Be a model.
(4) Be yourself; be authentic.
(5) Be the parent.
Life is hard and challenging, I know. I have spent the majority of my kid’s adolescent years chasing the dime so that I can take care of my family. I served in the United States Army, missing some of the most important events of their adolescent years. The five tips I listed come from personal experience as a teenager and as a father.
I learned that doing things for our kids is less important than being with our kids. Presence means more than money or things. Our presence alone means that we care. Many of us parents know what we want for our kids, yet they may be struggling with what they want to do in life. They may be trying to understand themselves as a person. Yes, we can force them to play football, or we can encourage them to express their desire to play tennis, chess, or be part of the drama club. Many of us want to teach our kids, and we forget that modeling good manners or emotional control is teaching. We will mess up and make mistakes, perhaps lose control and become loud (yell) when a quiet answer would have sufficed. We are not perfect. When we do make a mess, clean it up by being authentic or admitting when you are wrong. Finally, be the parent. It is ok to set healthy boundaries, “No, Johnny, cell phones off at 10:00 pm." Perhaps an excellent and healthy model would be for every hour of computer play, the child spends two hours outside playing. By the way, go outside with them and throw the ball around or rake the leaves with them. Being with our kids will take intentionality and is challenging with today's faced-paced world.
Psalm 106: 32-33, ESV
They angered him at the waters of Meribah, and it went ill with Moses on their account, for they made his spirit bitter,[c]and he spoke rashly with his lips.
This passage is a reflection of two narratives: Exodus 17:1-7 and Numbers 20: 1-13. A reader may also consider Deuteronomy 32: 48-52.
Well, it has been some time since I had written a blog post. I have been in a "reflective, anxious, zone" as I am preparing for an academic challenge in the next few weeks. I have started reading some of the textbooks, more specifically the APA Manual. Meanwhile, my wife and I are slowly integrating into Tennessee. We have found a new community of faith, a local church. We live in a friendly community, apartment living. However, we have not sold our home in Texas. We need someone to purchase the house. Please agree with us that the house will sell soon.
I can't help to think that our journey is minor compared to that of Moses. In the scripture noted above, Moses is leading his people in the desert, and they begin to argue with him because they felt forgotten by God. They wanted water, and they wanted water now! Around the same time, Moses is grieving the loss of his sister. The people were anxious, and Moses was grieving his loss. The combination of anxiety, grief, and anger can cause us to lose focus on God and what he has done for us.
What can we learn from Moses? First, Moses went to God in prayer after hearing the problems of the people. Second, Moses allowed his anger to get to him, and he referred to himself and Aaron as to whom was going to meet the needs of the people, "must we bring you water out of this rock?"
It is this event, in particular, that led God to tell Moses that he wasn't going to go into the promises land. Why, because Moses broke faith with God. Moses did not attribute the miracle of the water to God but to himself (and Aaron).
I encourage you to focus on your relationship with God as you struggle with real-life issues of grief, anxiety, or anger. As you focus on God, it is ok to tell God the feelings that you are experiencing. Spend time with God. Worship and listen for the voice of God or the move of God in your heart. Through prayer and worship, we may keep from acting out in our grief, anxiety, or anger.
May the Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace, Numbers: 6:24-26.
© Daniel M. Kinjorski, August 2019
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalms 37: 3-4, NIV.
Some of you may know that we moved from Dallas, Texas, about three weeks ago. I had a great paying job, a position of ministry to veterans and their family members. It was a place where I could have settled with no fear of being able to pay the bills. It was a dream job for a retired Army Chaplain. However, it was a tiring job and I was exposed to trauma every day from Sunday evening to Thursday evening (I worked from 4pm to midnight). The hours were not the only challenge but being isolated from the rest of the Chaplain department was also a challenge (some would say a blessing). The bottom line was that the position allowed me to explore Counseling as a career and to attend school again. I graduated with my second Masters in May, in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. I also applied to another school to begin work on a PhD in Counseling Education and Supervision.
What makes a person of middle age make a decision to leave a comfortable position in life? For me, it is a belief that there is much more that I can do in life (or what remains of it). It also includes a belief that I have a calling to work out. I have a lot more to offer. My wife has a lot more to offer as well and being closer to her sister helps (within driving distance) and it makes her happy. When she is happy, I have a much comfortable life (no matter how much bacon I bring home). Coupled with my belief in having much more to offer is a desire to do more than what I have already accomplished. I do think that my belief, desire, and wife’s proximity to family leads us to be comfortable in the decision that we have made.
At this point, we are still building a community within our community. I am part of a counseling group and we have started attending a church that we believe that works for us as we transition into the greater area. Overall, we are very thankful in what God is doing in our life.
Blogs will continue. I will complete the series in Psalm 106. I will attempt to write twice a week but I do want to do more in videos. Please continue to be on the lookout for my materials—they will be life enriching.
Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever.
The psalmist recalls a very unholy incident as he continues to reflect on the history of Israel. The incident is recorded in the book of Numbers, chapter 25. While they are in the wilderness Israel is becoming a people of monotheism, a belief in one God, compared to the other people/nations around them that believe in many gods (polytheism).
In this one particular incident, sexual relations were beginning to happen with the men of Israel and Moabite women-while in pagan worship. It seems that Balaam is the one that was a catalyst to bring this onto Israel (see Numbers 31:16). He presented himself as a friend to Israel and we find that he was not their friend.
Many years ago, a former Pastor spoke of the intermingling of faith and used this text as an example of ‘Syncretism” – (meaning the intermingling of different faith groups; cultures). The incident as recorded in Numbers 25, if continued, would have taken Israel out as a nation. The negative impact was happening pretty fast, according to the reading—to the point of men participating in the worship of Baal. God, in his nature of holiness and righteousness became angry at Israel. They were a stiff-necked people; Like many of us can be.
God was angry at the sin that was happening and what adverted his judgment was the anger and action of Phinehas, son of Aaron. An Israelite man flaunting his sin brought a Midianite woman into his family tent in front of Moses and all of Israel. They knew what he was doing, so did he. Phinehas became righteously angry and killed them both in the act and adverted the wrath of God.
Lessons that we can apply today: (1) Be careful of your anger. You can experience an anger that is righteous. However, recognize it, and be careful not to physically or verbally harm another person. Killing and stoning is not part of our New Testament covenant with God. (2) Have a yearning for God and his holiness; A relationship with him through Jesus Christ our Lord. Let that yearning for relationship drive you closer to God. (3) Stay in your relationship with God and focus your relationship with others that have a same worldview. In other words, don’t give up your faith or relationship with God due to a friend’s faith that is different than yours. It is ok to stay in relationship with your friend, just be careful not to give up what you believe in for the sake of your friend. Represent God and your faith and relationship in him. The relationship with God can be made stronger as you read through the Word of God; the Bible. (4) There are some narratives in the bible that speak of killing, like the story of Phinehas. Read these narratives in the context that they are in and do not make an attempt to justify the action in the narratives as something that would be appropriate for today. If Phinehas would have taken that action today, he would be arrested for murder. Remember the narrative, story, it had taken place 3,000-4,000 + years ago in a different culture than ours today. I am not advocating what Phinehas did was right or is right for today.
God, the creator of the heavens and earth, was developing a Nation of people that believed in him, a monotheistic people. Israel, as recorded in the bible “acted out” as they were being developed, much like we do in our humanness and in our faith. We can learn from Israel about God and his character.
Psalm 106: 24-27 What can we learn from this text?
Then they despised the pleasant land, having no faith in his promise. They murmured in their tents, and did not obey the voice of the Lord. Therefore he raised his hand and swore to them that he would make them fall in the wilderness, and would make their offspring fall among the nations, scattering them among the lands.
The Israelites grumbled against the Lord because of the work that it would take to capture the promise land. A land that was theirs from the time of Abraham. What is grumbling? How does one get to the point of grumbling?
The synonyms to grumbling are irritable, touchy, complaining, (and more). We grumble because we do not get our way. Picture a child throwing a fit because the mother or father told the child “no” or “you have to do your homework before you are can play.” That is how Israel responded. They had a fit, complained, because they lost their faith in God. It was all about them and their needs.
God’s reply was to allow the nation of Israel to travel the desert, wilderness, for a generation (forty years). In other words, the generation of Israelites that literally saw the miracles of God passed away, with few exceptions (Caleb, Joshua, and Moses).
However, during that time in the wilderness a nation, a people, were well developed and ready to take back the land of their Father, Abraham.
The lessons that we can learn are: (1) Be content with where you are in life, unless God has given you a strong desire for something. The Israelites were not content enough to trust in God to meet their needs. They wanted what Egypt offered; What they thought of as safety and security. (2) Be careful not to lose your faith in God. In their day, faith came by hearing the stories—the narrative—of God and Israel. Today our faith is added to in the Word of God and through our life experiences, as the Word of God intersects with our life. (3) continue to remember your story, how you came to personally know God. Share that story with your children.
May the Lord bless you and keep you, may he make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; May the Lord turn his face to you and grant you peace. Amen.
© Dan Kinjorski, 6/3/2019
Dan is in a second career, that of Counselor, but he is a pastor at heart. He desires to present the Word of God in its context and then challenge the reader in its application to our lives. It is the Word of God that brings revival to our souls. The psalmist writes, "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.
Dan and Maribel Kinjorski
Dan and Maribel are Bible Teachers. They love to expound on the Word of God. Maribel has been involved in Church since an early age. A graduate of the University of San German, Puerto Rico, in Business Administration and Economy. Dan is a graduate of East Coast Bible College (now shuttered) and the Pentecostal Theological Seminary with a Master of Divinity (1999) , Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling (2019), and now working on a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology: Counseling Education and Supervision.