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Category Archives: acceptance

Can you be Jonathan?

We are living in times now where so many desire the spotlight, or at least their fifteen minutes of fame. This holds true for even those of us who profess to be in the Kingdom of God. Lord knows I have been guilty of this mindset and still have to cast it down at times. I remember when my pastor spoke on Jonathan and David, and for some reason, I have been thinking a lot about the life of Jonathan. Questions have arisen in my mind about various aspects of his life and whether or not I could handle myself in those times when I appear to be in the position he was in with David. In the past, I’ve read and listened to the story of Jonathan and David a few times and ended up feeling kind of sorry for Jonathan. Yes… To me it seemed like he got screwed over big time! He gives up his right to the throne because God chose David. But then to add insult to injury, then he dies in the midst of war at a young age. But of course, my perspective has changed because I’m now more spiritually mature… (smile)

I admire people that seem to be “wired” like Jonathan. They are comfortable being in the background and seem to have no desire to be seen. And I’m not talking about fear either, but genuine people who naturally like being behind the scenes. After David killed Goliath, Jonathan knew that David was the chosen one, despite him being heir to the throne after his father Saul. Check out I Samuel 18:1-5. (NASB) Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. 2 Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. 3 Then
Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. 4 Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. 5 So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and prospered; and Saul set him over the men of war. And it was pleasing in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants.

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Dang… That’s some serious HUMILITY right there… He willingly gave up all of the rights and privileges that came with being king. He gave David all of his “princely” attire and weapons because he loved David as much as himself. He made a covenant with David, meaning that he would always support and protect him at all costs. If you read further, you’ll discover that Jonathan even helped hide him from his own father Saul who was trying to kill him. Yet, at the same time he still loved his father until the end when they were both killed.

One thing that seems obvious with Jonathan is that he was in NO way threatened by David’s anointing. Unfortunately, many of us today are quite the opposite. I would like to think that if I’m in a position to be around someone who is in a position of honor, I would sit under their tutelage. I believe that we miss opportunities to grow and develop when God places people in our lives that are in a higher place of authority and/or who are experiencing a greater level of success. We get threatened because we compare ourselves to them, usually not knowing the price(s) they have paid and the character they have developed in order for God to trust them in that high place. Instead of learning from them, we compete with them or find ways to get offended. So sad. Our egos must die! They have no place in the Kingdom. It is all about Him.

Something else I can confidently conclude about Jonathan is that he was COMPLETELY SECURE in who God created him to be. He didn’t need to be king in order to be affirmed or feel accepted. We obviously knew that God smiled upon him and that was enough for him. Serving David was a great joy because he was the ultimate servant. He knew that he was called to under-gird David and was perfectly comfortable in doing so. Paul said it best in I Corinthians 12:14-18. 14For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body,just as He desired.

We have forgotten that we are all on the same team, which is the Kingdom of God. We all have one purpose that is carried out through the different paths and unique gifts. Jonathan was obviously more than okay with this reality. I also believe that he saw the bigger picture. He knew that Israel would be restored under David’s rule. He embraced his path and trusted God with his life even unto death. I realize now that Jonathan died an HONORABLE death and that the generations of his relatives were blessed for it. This is a teaching point. Our blessings, whether we see them or not, often lie in our willingness to be HUMBLE. Some of us could be missing out on promotion because God is requiring us to be a Jonathan before we can be a David. Very simply, you have to learn how to follow before you can be an effective leader. There are many people in high places who will tell you about their small and humble beginnings. They will tell you of the character-building situations that they have endured.

So are you willing to die to yourself for the sake of the Kingdom? If God has chosen someone for a certain task or role, who are we to question or to get offended because it’s not us? Do we really believe that God’s plan for our lives is the best? The truth is that we are all CHOSEN, but to walk down our own unique paths. Jonathan embraced his path and as a result, we are reading about his life thousands of years later! His legacy of being a servant still lives on…

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2011

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Thicker Skin: The Benefit of the Doubt

I’m currently in a season where I believe the Lord is molding me into having thicker skin. This is simply a part of growing up and maturing, not only as a Christian, but even just as an adult. I’ve learned that overly sensitive people have a pride issue that they are usually unaware of and they require so much validation and affirmation to the point where it pushes people away. For me personally, one way of developing thicker skin is simply giving people the benefit of the doubt. I am learning to choose to believe the best about people, despite their actions or inactions because this is the only way to remain at peace with others and not allow offense come into your heart. Because in actuality, I’ve found myself getting offended with people for a variety of reasons, but I realize that it’s solely based upon my perception of what they did or didn’t do. I’ll give you a couple of examples…

I was part of a men’s small group at my church for about a year and overall it proved to be somewhat of a hurtful experience. However, the good news is that I also learned from it. God will sometimes allow us to experience situations in order to grow us up and to remind of us of our need to keep our focus on Him. During my time with the group, I would often get left off of the email list when it came to group activities and overall, I just seemed to remain on the outside looking in… I would think I was making a connection with some of the fellas through conversations before, during and after group but would soon realize that the connection was only in that setting… However, some of their relationships amongst each other clearly extended outside of the group. Yes, rejection sucks (especially within the body of Christ), but I now realize that it is not always intentional and sometimes it can be more perceived versus being reality. Yes, it would have been nice to have connected with some of the guys on a deeper level, but friendships can’t be forced. Being in the same small group with someone doesn’t guarantee friendship, no matter how much you might try to show yourself friendly, like the Bible says. Hard lesson learned, but it has made me stronger. As a result, thicker skin is forming in my personhood. Now in retrospect, I don’t believe the rejection I experienced was necessarily intentional or malicious. The other men are genuine followers of Christ and just have different interests and have had different life experiences than I.

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As I said earlier, I’m in a difficult season of growth and maturity. Unfortunately, I lost my grandfather and father within months of each other. What shocked me during this whole experience was the number of people whom I’ve known for a long time who didn’t seem to show a whole lot of compassion or empathy. Some folks still to this day haven’t reached out to me or even asked me if I needed anything. As a result, I began questioning my relationships and was very hurt by my perception of their lack of compassion. However, Holy Spirit reminded me that there were those that prayed for me and my family, even though I was unaware. Also, through conversations with others, I also had to consider that people respond to situations differently simply because of the fact that they’re human. What’s best for me is to release the offense and move on. I can’t expect everyone to respond to situations the way that I would. I now realize that’s unfair. People are different and process life events in their own way, and so another layer of thicker skin is being added to me, as I choose to believe the best about folks, even in this situation. I must have peace because offense only keeps me internally conflicted and suspicious of others. Thick skin is a must in order to get promotion from God. Thick skin is a must in order to walk with Him even when you’re disliked and/or ignored. I must have thick skin if I’m ever going to truly be Christ-like. I must have thick skin if I’m going to love God’s people in a way that truly honors Him.

Colossians 3:12-14 12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. (NKJV)

Jesus Christ’s willingness to the cross as a sinless man was evidence of His thick skin. He had to rise far above human emotions as He was beat, marred, mocked and ultimately killed. But I also notice that he evangelizes one of the thieves on the cross, despite the horrific brutality that He had already suffered. That’s the ultimate example of having thick skin!

Lord help me to continue growing layers of thick skin that will help serve as armor on the battlefield so that I’m not unhealthily dependent on others. I will be the clay as you shape and mold me into who You desire me to be. Help me to love people even when that love isn’t returned and help me to keep my eyes fixed on You. Affirm me with Your love and hide me in the shadow of Your wing so that I am free from the opinions of others. Amen.

 

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“Yuck”

A few weeks ago I was walking into a Family Dollar Store (yes I go in there once in a blue moon) and I walked past a young lady who was talking on her cell phone. She was a couple inches taller than I and had long braids that went down to her hips. I didn’t get a close look at her but thought nothing of it. As I walked through the store, it appeared as though she was following me. When I stopped to look at something, she walked past me while still engaged in a phone conversation. That was when I got a closer look at her and realized that she was in fact a he

My immediate thought was “yuck,” and I even said it under my breath… I saw him again and noticed that he wasn’t cross-dressed per se, he was just extremely effeminate. Well as soon as I began to walk down the aisle, Holy Spirit instantly convicted me… Yuck? To a person and soul that Jesus Christ died for? To a person who is obviously very broken and whose sin just happens to be more visible? Yuck to someone for whom God has a plan for his life and someone who God loves just as much as me. I judged this young man without even knowing his story, his deepest hurts, his darkest secrets, his inner being that has obviously been severely wounded…

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Matthew 7:1-5 Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. (NKJV)

I’ve always considered myself to be very compassionate towards others. I believe that a good part of my calling in this life is towards social justice. Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love kids and that I hate seeing injustice. Something gets under my skin when I see people suffering wrongfully. However, this particular experience showed me that I still have some growing to do. Because to tell you the truth, seeing guys like him isn’t exactly out of the norm in Atlanta, GA. Spiritually speaking, there is a very strong principality of sexual sin that rests over this region and one would likely see guys like him quite often, whether it’s at the gas station, the grocery store, or any other retail store. Personally, I’ve found myself mouthing silent prayers for them when I’ve crossed their paths. But I guess this incident revealed that there is still some haughtiness and/or arrogance within me that needs to be purged out.

Leviticus 19:15-16 You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor. 16 You shall not go about as a talebearer among your people; nor shall you take a stand against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. (NKJV)

So as I drove away from the Family Dollar store, I began to ponder how many other people react to guys like him in the same way. I imagine that this young man gets judged all of the time. Sadly, too many of us who are followers of Christ Jesus react to people like him no different than the world. We should be the ones to show these individuals love and compassion. The love of Jesus Christ should flow forth from our words and actions towards everyone. After I walked into my house, I continued to think about him and how so many of believers would never be willing to be a light to him. Not to be too presumptuous, but I believe too many of us would even be afraid to be seen with someone like him. My lord… We have a LONG way to go in terms of truly emulating Jesus Christ. This young man represents a group of people who are ignored and maybe even feared by the Christian community. Have we forgotten that they are souls who need the same salvation that we were privileged to access? Father God loves these individuals too and desperately wants them reconciled back to Him. Father God wants to heal them and restore all that has been lost to them. We are the vessels that He yearns to use to show forth His love. What I should’ve said under my breath that day was “Be healed in Jesus’s name.”

Father I’m sorry for judging this young man. I pray that he will repent and be made whole, and that You will send the right vessels to minister to his soul. I pray that this young man’s heart will be healed and that his mind will be renewed. May he be a walking testimony to bring hope to others who are facing the same identity crisis. And Father God continue to change my heart that I may lose any pride that would prevent me from being a light to people like this young man. Amen.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2014

 

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The Redemption of Fred Phelps: From Victim to Victor

Many of us have endured various sorts of tragedies and personal traumas that date back to our childhoods. Others have suffered through prolonged adversity and negative circumstances over many years of their lives. What separates certain people from others is their response to these different situations. Many people use these situations as justification for the various behaviors and mindsets that they exhibit, as a result. Unfortunately, these individuals never really move forward and hold on to their crutch for dear life so that they don’t necessarily have to transform. Their spiritual growth is actually stunted, whether they realize it or not. In other cases, their stories end tragically due to the lifestyles they led that were influenced by the sins that were done to them in their early years. They never move from being a victim to being a victor.

Well, I’m privileged to know such a man who is not only an example of someone who is no longer a victim, but someone who is totally sold out for the cause of Jesus Christ. His name is Fred Phelps. He is a devoted husband, father, friend, disciple of Jesus Christ and mentor who continues to be a light, a peacemaker and someone who will always speak the TRUTH in any situation. I don’t know many men who possess the level of sincerity that he does. This is a man who has truly been transformed and his diligence in pursuing righteousness has rewarded him greatly. But the path he has walked is not one from which many emerge victorious.

Starting when he was a toddler, Fred was sexually abused at the hands of his father. This abuse continued, as well as many other negative circumstances that the enemy would use to destroy him. The emotional abuse and evil words spoken over him by many others began to create not only a poor self-image and insecurity, but also a perversion of his identity as a man. He would go on to live and embrace the homosexual lifestyle, and he would look to men to fill the void left in his heart by his abusive and absentee father. The enemy had seemingly succeeded in perverting his identity and attempting to thwart his ordained destiny, but God had other plans…

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Despite the direction his life had gone, Fred had always remained in the church. The hand of God was on his life and would eventually direct him to a ministry called “Living Waters.” There he would address all of the wounds that were done to his person and experience the presence of God in a way in which he never had. Because of his repentance, he began to recapture his true self and God-given identity! However, tragedy would strike again, as he was forced to cope with the murder of his sister. But God… A changed man emerged from the ashes of abuse, neglect and tragedy. He committed his WHOLE life to Christ. As a result, he would go on to minister to others who were sexually and relationally broken, and he will always be a treasure to the healing community.

The beauty of this testimony is how God always does a COMPLETE work. The Father always seeks reconciliation, if we are willing to get out of His way and allow it. Fred’s father was constantly in and out of prison and was never in Fred’s life consistently; even during the times when he was out of prison. As a result, they were estranged for seventeen years, but God intervened… He reunited them and the process of healing began. This all occurred as Fred dealt with his father wounds in the Living Waters ministry. Isn’t it amazing and even exciting how God loves to heal and reconcile His children? For the next couple of years there was forgiveness, reconciliation and the sealing of his true masculine identity. The Lord spoke to him and affirmed, “You are not what your father did to you.” Sadly, his father was terminally ill, but a week before he passed, Fred prayed over his father. Peace descended and fell upon them. God was simply confirming that the reconciliation was complete naturally and eternally. Two weeks later, the Lord instructed Fred to take on his father’s last name because he had always had his mother’s maiden name. I know this was his way to honor his father and spark a new legacy with the Phelps namesake. Look at God…

Some years later, Fred would be introduced to the woman who would become his bride. They would be blessed with two beautiful kids, and they were just recently blessed with a third child. He is living proof that the love of God can transform anyone. Along with being a living testimony and mouthpiece for those whose voices have been silenced, he is a mighty warrior who chose LIFE over death. Fred Phelps is no longer a victim; he is a VICTOR.

Nathan Allen Copyright ©2014

 

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“Super Saints”

There are people in the body of Christ who are very serious about developing the character of Christ and who live consecrated lives.  These individuals have conquered much of the sin issues in their lives and have an anointing that they carry because of their obedience to the Father.  Favor follows them and they seem to change the atmosphere everywhere they go.  These kinds of people are rare and unfortunately subject to criticisms from fellow believers in Christ.  They are usually accused of trying to be superior to others, all because they value holiness and have a sincere reverence of the lord.  These individuals live differently than almost everyone around them and people are sometimes naturally convicted of their sin when they interact with them.  These individuals exhibit the love of Christ and go out of their way to respect others but again, people respond to these individuals out of their hurt and brokenness.  These individuals are wrongly accused of elevating themselves above others.  However, these individuals are NOT to whom the following open letter is addressed.  I have been compelled to proclaim a message to the “super saints.”  These are those who only resemble the people I just described, however, they lack humility and are part of the reason why people outside of the faith have distorted views of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ.  So with that being said…

Dear Super Saint,

It is admirable that you know the scriptures backwards and forwards, and I see that you are well-meaning in your proclaiming of the gospel.  You admonish those around you to be doers and not just hearers of the Word of God.  You are sold out for the cause of Christ and the church desperately needs people like you to be an example to others during these end times, but I notice that people tend to avoid you instead of being drawn to you.  Your ministry isn’t really growing or flourishing and people often feel belittled (not convicted) when they encounter you.  Now I will let you know that it is NOT the “Christ in you” or your “righteousness” that is pushing people away.  It’s simply you…

You have an OBSESSION with being right and have issues with anyone who doesn’t support your theology one hundred percent.  You communicate with people in a way that somewhat devalues them and so their experience with you is rarely ever pleasant.   What I sincerely want you to see is that you can know the Word of God like the back of your hand, yet still fail to love people the way God intended.  Whether you realize it or not, many have actually been DISCOURAGED by you in their walk with the lord instead of encouraged.  Your words have ripped people to shreds but then when people lash out at you or simply cut you off, you believe that you’re being persecuted.  I’m sorry beloved, but this is not true.  You see yourself as a “martyr” of sorts and believe that people avoiding you is somehow evidence of the anointing on your life.  You believe that people not liking you means that you’re on the right path and you often use “being a part of the true remnant” as an excuse.  You carry an aura that says “I’m the only one who is really saved,” and trust me; it stinks like rotten eggs.  I know because I have been to ministries and been around people who operate in that kind of spirit.  They don’t seem to understand that they are a detriment to the body of Christ and not a blessing.  Or other times you have compared yourself to the biblical prophets as a justification to being unpleasant towards others.  I don’t believe the prophets were intentionally nasty to people, they just stood for the truth and people wanted to stay in their wickedness.

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So beloved, please know that I am praying for you, whether or not you heed this message.  Understand that the love of the Father doesn’t manifest in the ways in which you act out.  Yes He does chastise and correct, but He does not belittle and demean.  You have become somewhat of a “spiritual bully,” when you could really be a wonderful encouragement to those around you, and I’m not talking about your friends or faithful followers (if you’re a pastor).  I believe what is really going on with you is a heart issue.  There are some serious wounds that are embedded deep in your heart and they manifest in the behaviors that I have described.  Spiritual pride is just as bad as all the other forms of pride and in some cases probably worse.  Please take a serious inventory of yourself and ask yourself the hard questions.  What is the real reason why I start debates concerning scripture?  Do I have to win every argument or debate?  Why do I always focus on what is wrong with others instead of their strengths?  These are just a few examples.  Please hear these words with an open heart and know that you are needed for such a time as this.  Get healed.  Repent.  Apologize to those whom you have hurt.  Be humble.  Then take your rightful place in the body and be the blessing you were ordained to be.

Sincerely,

The Brethren

 

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