Jealousy Killed the Cat

Jealousy killed1

“For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and every kind of evil.”    – James 3:16

Has someone ever got exactly what you wanted?

I’ve experienced this many times. I remember one time, when I was just starting out in ministry, another guy was offered a staff position at our local church in Gainesville, Florida. Man, I was eaten up by envy! Even though I was still a college student, I quickly went into scarcity mode thinking that if this guy took a staff position, then I wouldn’t get one when I graduated. Of course, this was total foolishness, and I ended up being offered a pastoral apprenticeship by the senior pastor only a few months later.

What about you? What was your initial reaction the last time someone got exactly what you wanted? Was it positive? If we’re honest, many times our immediate response—our default setting—is not to jump up and down for the other person. Human nature almost has this knee-jerk reaction,

“THEM?!… WHAT ABOUT ME?!”

If we don’t check this attitude, we may even start thinking to ourselves, “You know, I never really liked that person anyways.”

How quickly that person with “our” stuff starts to become more and more offensive. “I mean, would you look at Mary over there, just chilling with all her sweet stuff… Who does Mary think she is, anyways?”

Go ahead and smile, you know it’s true.

Jealousy can make us do some weird stuff. It can twist up our attitudes real quick and have us, as my buddy says, “throwing shade” before we know it. When jealousy fully takes root in a human heart, it’s a very ugly thing. The Bible calls this situation “bitter envy”. And it can have serious repercussions. Proverbs warns,

“Wrath is cruel, and anger is an overwhelming flood, but who is able to stand before jealousy?” (Proverbs 27:4)

When I see a person easily eaten up by envy, I just think to myself this person needs a lot of love.  

I didn’t always think this way. When someone was uncomfortable with me, or slighted me, because of envy, I would quickly take it personal. I would retaliate. Other times, I’d internalize their negativity and assume there was something wrong with me. But now, I know the problem is with them, not with me. (This is NOT to say I am immune to criticism, but thank God, I certainly have thicker skin than I did twelve years ago!)

Here’s the truth: Jealousy can only take place in an insecure person.

Insecure people easily fall prey to jealousy because their souls are not secure in the affirmation of Christ. They’re not yet fully convinced how much God loves them. They see someone’s blessing, and get mad. They hear somebody else’s dream, and they scoff— or worse, they seek to pull it down.

Why? They obviously do not believe that God loves them enough—or is big enough—to bless them, too.

And sometimes, insecurity runs so deep in a person, they don’t even know it’s jealousy they’re feeling! These types of people are totally blind to their bad attitudes—or maybe they disguise their envy as “spiritual discernment” or “just telling it like it is”.

I know this from experience. When Jesus saved me, I was deeply insecure. If a person got what I wanted, I was instantly unhappy, and out throwing a pity-party for myself. Super successful people made me uncomfortable. People with confidence and big dreams bugged me. Thank God I’ve grown in grace.

But no matter how much we grow, ALL of us can still be tempted to be envious from time to time.

That’s why you must continually remind yourself, God is big enough to take care of you and them.

In the Gospels, Jesus took five pieces of bread and fed thousands. The Kingdom of God has no place for a scarcity mindset. He has more than enough to take care of you and anyone else He wants to bless.

Even more encouraging: this same God of unlimited resources loves you personally. And He has given you access to all things through His Son, Jesus! He has invited you to dine with Him as a son or daughter of Heaven.

Do you struggle with jealousy? Me, too… Let’s learn to trust God.

Your Heavenly Father wants to meet your needs more than you do! Allow His word to build up your faith in His love. And the next time jealousy tries to rear it’s ugly head, you’ll stop that “stinking thinking” in it’s tracks and give your “what about me?!” over to God, who cares about you immensely!

Prayer:

Father, thank You that You love me!

Thank You that You’ll take care of me.

When You bless others, I will rejoice!

By faith, I can get excited about other people’s success.

By faith, I know that what you do for others, you can also do for me.

Give me deeper revelation of Your care for me.

My hands shall be open to receive all the good things you have for me!

AMEN.

The NEED to be loved

We love, because He first loved us.

-1 John 4:19 

I’m convinced that on the inside of every one of us is a need to be loved.

I believe it’s a basic human need. As real as our need for food or water or anything else. We humans crave acceptance,  affirmation, and a sense of security for our souls. God created us this way. He designed us with a drive to be valued, cared for, and esteemed. We want something or someone to tell us we’re good enough. That we are validated. It’s like we’re desperate to hear, “This person is valuable; this person is worthy of love”.

It’s why we all want to achieve some level of significance and purpose for our lives: we want to ascribe value to ourselves by belonging to someone or something great.

If you look at the world today, I think it’s a lot like the old country song says:

We’re “looking for love in all the wrong places”.

We run after affirmation in the form of money, success, alcohol, food, romantic relationships, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. As crazy as it sounds, we can even run to religion, without running to God. I would define being “religious” as “about God without God”. Driven by shame, religion performs for God. But it never receives from God.

We’re running to dry, empty wells—things that cannot ultimately satisfy.

I have seen this in my own life. I was enslaved to people’s opinions—and terrified by their disapproval. If enough people could like me—if enough people could validate me, then I would be something. I would have significance.

My identity was so tightly locked into what other people thought of me because my self-image was shattered. Like, I am talking it was extreme. I was violently tossed to and fro by the waves of human opinion. One harsh word. One weird look. Even the thought of someone possibly not liking me could totally ruin my day. I even cared about the opinions of people I didn’t even like! (Have you ever been there? How silly is this, huh?)

I was terrified of what people thought about me. I may have seemed like a confident club DJ on the outside, but on the inside I was desperate for love and affirmation. Like many people, I carried around a broken record player in my head,

“There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you…”

The inner critic, my constant companion. This self-loathing and embarrassment would fade if I experienced some success, or my “approval tank” was full. It was like a high! But a public failure, a single slight, or a disapproving look would cause the voice to flare up again:

“Ah, you see, AJ! You were right! There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you…”

I was running to empty wells. People and their opinions make for a poor god.

But let me ask you: what are you running to?

Romans 5:8 says this,

God demonstrates and clearly proves His own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

Jesus is God’s overwhelming affirmation towards us! The Cross is God’s invitation to you. Receive His love for you today.

His opinion of you will become louder than any other voice in your life! His great and surpassing love will become a tangible reality in your life! If you will seek Him, and open up your heart to Him, He will show you His powerful love. It’s a love that never fails. And it becomes an unstoppable force in your life and overflows as grace and strength for successful living.

I’ve seen this in my own life. I share about what I’ve seen and what I know. I am not where I need to be… but thank God I am not where I used to be! I can still slide into manpleasing, but I’ve come to know one thing:

the love displayed at the Cross is real. And it’s for YOU!

PRAYER:

Father, thank You that you love me. Thank you that you affirm me in Christ.

Father, I entrust my heart to You. I turn away from any fake gods in my life.

I want to know Your love for myself.

Lead me deeper into Your great and surpassing love.

Allow Your love to become a tangible reality in my life.

Let me receive mercy, so that I can show mercy.

Father, I believe God loves _______(your name).

 

A Tribute to the Father

A TRIBUTE TO THE FATHER

As Father’s Day approaches, we take time to remember the fathers in our life. We take a day to honor the role that fathers play in our society, and we celebrate the men who work so hard to provide and love us.

But for many, all this father talk can be hard to bear. It only brings up painful memories we’d rather keep buried. Some of us have lost fathers. Others have had ugly falling outs with their dads. Some fathers, we never knew. And some we wish we never had known. For a wide range of reasons, many of us will not be buying a father’s day card this year.

I’m in this boat: I lost my father at 19 years old. I thank God I was saved through watching my dad’s powerful conversion, but I never had a chance to build a real relationship with him before he died. He was a very closed-off man. I don’t hold this against him—my dad never had a father himself. Growing up near the famous 8-mile road in Detroit, Michigan, he learned to rely on himself. The man worked hard to give a better life to his sons; but he never learned how to show love.

Looking back, I can see a handful of times where my dad made attempts to build a relationship with me, but I too had become severely closed off. Eventually he gave up on me all together—he was very vocal about this, and made it a joke (everybody knew my dad for his biting sense of humor), saying I was too “artsy” for him.

Why are we so easily hurt by fathers?

Even people who grew up in a loving home can carry wounds from fathers who fell short to provide the care and affirmation we needed.

How can unintentional neglect or one harsh word cause such pain?

I think it’s because human beings have an intense need for love, affirmation, attention, and care. It’s a need—a bonafide, legitimate need—just as real as our need for food or water or air.

Both Psychology and Neuroscience have identified the importance of this basic need in human beings. Studying brain development from babyhood into adulthood, scientists have built an entire theory around it called the “Attachment Theory”. You should check out the research—it’s fascinating—but I’ll boil it down for you in one sentence: the human psyche is literally built on love and care.

I’m talking LITERALLY. Not in some far off spiritual sense. I am talking neurons and physiology and brain stems and stuff like that. Our brains physically grow strong and healthy through love and affirmation from others. Even a picture of a smiling face will light up a baby’s brain on a brain scan. And our brains stay willing to respond to love; adult brains well into their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s who suffered neglect and abuse as children—called “attachment trauma”—have been shown to resume healthy brain growth in response to love and affirmation.

We all need love!

And this leads me back to fathers. Can you see the importance of fathers in society? Can you see the potential for a father to meet this need? The sheer power a father has to bless or curse a child? The importance of a father cannot be over emphasized. There is nothing like the care and attention of a father.

If you’re a father, let me encourage you: there could be no higher purpose—no more noble of a call—then to showcase the love of a father to those around you. To shower your kids (and your wife) with love! There is no role like yours on planet earth! You cannot be replaced! Your words cannot be replaced! You’ve been given a supreme honor—a great privilege and responsibility—to stand and represent the Heavenly Father to your kids. Any words of encouragement you give will sink deep down into their hearts, and become cement for their souls, creating a strong foundation for them to stand on for the rest of their lives.

But how do we father someone when we never had a father ourselves? Or maybe you’re a single-mother—is all hope lost for you?

No! God takes your situation personal! He rises up and declares,

“And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Cor 6:18 ESV

So now we can say,

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.” Psalm 27:10 ESV

My life is a testament of this. My father died, and a few years later I was cursed and cut off by my mother. I felt like I had nothing. Just pain and brokenness and fear. I still remember lying in my studio apartment in Gainesville months before graduating college frozen in fear—terrified of the future, overwhelmed by the feeling of being alone and powerless.

But in my suffering, I was found by the One who suffered for us all!

Tweet: But in my suffering, I was found by the One who suffered for us all!

Like a nobleman beckoning an orphan off the street, He called my name. Smiling and wavering a nail-pierced hand, He said,

“Weary one, come! Do you not know My Father is a father to the fatherless? Take heart; He will surely receive you. Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

So on this Father’s Day, I want to speak on behalf of Heaven and say to you:

If you’ve never had a good father—if you’re an orphan-at-heart—you are blessed!

Why? Because God takes your situation personally. He will not stand for it. He has pronounced Himself a defender of orphans and widows. He will come, and make Himself real to you. He’ll pour out an extra measure of grace, blessing and revelation onto you for all your troubles. You will come to know for yourself how great His love is.

When God comforts you—when God steps in to love you— it becomes a witness for all to see! Yes, you will be blessed! Because if God fixes something, don’t you know it’s ends up better than if it had never been broken at all?

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

The Man on the Bus

IMG_2906

by AJ Hall

The people were amazed at His teaching, because He [Jesus] taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

Mark 1:22 


I sat down on the bus after a long day of classes. It was my first semester at the University of Florida and I hadn’t been sleeping well. My father was dying. And this harsh reality did not make adjusting to freshman year any easier. Drugs and alcohol whisked me away at night. But grief visited me again each day. I was really hurting. I think I might have smoked my weight in cigarettes that day, as I attempted to be a good student and stay for all my classes.

I had always been a hardcore partier, and extremely compulsive, but my current state of depression caused me to be over the top with my addictions.

The bus was crowded. People kept pouring in. I noticed a young African-American man sit down in the row in front of me. Psychologists say you size-up and form an opinion about someone within seconds of meeting them. For this guy, I thought he looked fairly cool—sort of a successful type dude, maybe somebody I could relate too. I don’t know why I remember thinking this. But he struck me as cool.

My initial impression of the man made what happened next all the more unbelievable. Moments into our bus ride, this guy turns around and looks at me. He looked a little nervous. He said,

“Hey man, I don’t normally do this. I am not trying to be weird or anything. But I feel like I need to tell you: ‘God loves you'”

Now, let me stop right here and say something: if you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard that statement a thousand times. To you, “God loves you” might even seem played out. But these words were anything but cliche to me. I hadn’t grown up around Evangelical Christianity. I had never heard anything like that before. Nor had I ever heard somebody use “God talk” with such conviction.

There was something about this young man. Something genuine. More than his words, it was the way he said it—this intangible, yet very felt, dynamic behind his words. Like a power of some kind.

I imagine this is what the Bible is speaking about when it says…


The people were amazed at His teaching, because He [Jesus] taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

Mark 1:22 


 

I was deeply impacted by the kindness shown to me by this young man. I’ve always been a pretty open book, so I quickly went into my dad’s situation. I told him all about the religious stuff my dad was experiencing. I told him how my family had been telling me all about it. And how I believed in God too. Then for some strange reason I blurted out:

“I know God loves me. And that’s why I think it’s no big deal to sin, you know? I mean God loves me, so I don’t think sin is that big of a deal.”

No joke. That’s what I said.

This young man was so gentle with me. He just smiled. And without skipping a beat, he said:

“Yea, God still loves you. But He doesn’t want you to sin, because sin keeps you apart from Him. And He wants you close.”

Mind-blown. I sat there speechless. What a revolutionary concept! I had never thought about it like that before: sin had a practical impact on my life. This was life-altering revelation!

My self-justification had fallen flat. Love had prevailed. I didn’t say another word.

Then the young man asked if he could pray for my dad and proceeded to pray—I had never heard anyone pray like this. He actually sounded like he was talking to somebody. It sounded like music to me—I was struck by the rhythm, and the way he referred to God as “Father God”.

Then it dawned on me: he was praying on a public bus. Not only that! A public bus packed with high-minded college students! This dude went from the unbelievable to the unthinkable.

I started to feel the looks. I could just imagine the other students sitting there rolling their eyes at this archaic display of mysticism, their “Da Vinci Code” books open in their laps.

As soon as he finished praying, the bus reached his stop. As he stood up to leave, I seriously considered whether or not this guy was an angel. I had seen enough movies to know that’s what angels do: when they’re done doing their thing, they stand up and leave all smooth like. And this guy sort of had a Denzel Washington thing going on…

Okay, so upon later consideration I’ve decided this guy most likely wasn’t an angel. He was probably just a fellow college student being obedient to God’s leading.

And that brings me to my point: This guy probably has no clue the level of impact his one act of kindness had on me. I mean I had quite an arrogant vibe back then! To him, I could of came off like I didn’t receive what he said! Little does he know he faithfully demonstrated the reality of God to me. He showed the care of Heaven for my dad. He probably doesn’t know days later I took that message to my dying father—it was my first sermon, as I shared about how God showed Himself through this boy on a bus. He doesn’t know my father’s awe and gleeful shock that a random person would ask to pray for him.

How could he know? Just one small act of kindness—just a little concern for a stranger, just a small act of obedience—could impact me so deeply that eventually one day I would leave my life of drugs, alcohol, and wild living. That this hard and haggard guy—the one reeking of cigarettes—would go on to give his life seeking to demonstrate and display the same love demonstrated to him.

So let me encourage you today: you have no idea what one act of kindness can do for somebody! And to the young man who spoke with me on a bus in Gainesville in 2003, if you ever happen to come across this article. I want you to know your act of kindness towards me was not in vain. God has used it more than you could ever know.


Now to Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.

Ephesians 3:20