The Context of Relationship

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by Ben Robinson 

In my previous post, I stated that nothing had more of an impact on my theology than becoming a father, and that is true! I want to spend a little more time discussing that idea before I move forward and share my thoughts on other topics related to healing. Here is a big example for how fatherhood has drastically affected my theology.

My kids have a playroom in our basement that they have a lot of fun completely destroying while playing. I have no problem with this as long as they are willing to clean it up after they are done. A few days ago I gathered up my kids and had them go downstairs to clean, and of course, they started belly aching and carrying on about how terrible and impossible it was to pick up the room. I talked to them and laid down the law with them by explaining the importance of cleaning up. After about a half hour Josh came up and was so upset that Levi was not helping as much as he should be. The truth was that Josh was right, Levi was not helping as much as he should be. But Josh was missing the whole point. He thought that my primary objective was a clean playroom, and he saw himself and Levi as the vessels to carry out my goal. The truth is, if my primary concern was to achieve a clean room, they would not be involved in the process. My wife and I could handle that playroom in no time at all without the headache of trying to get little kids to work together.

The truth was that my main goal was not a clean playroom, but my focus was the heart of my children. As their father, I wanted them to learn hard lessons about responsibility. I wanted them to experience the consequences of their earlier actions. I also wanted them to experience and discover that I am with them through those hard processes. I will help them, encourage them, and love them. My children will learn that when they encounter things they feel they cannot overcome, a father’s love steps in and empowers them. A father shows them who they truly are, what they are capable of, and makes it clear to them who He truly is.

I believe that we often make the same mistake when we relate to God. We can easily believe that His main objective is cleaning up the world that is dirty and awful, but that is not true. Our hearts are his primary objective. Both the hearts of His children that already know Him and the hearts of His prodigal children who do not yet know how much He loves them.

I believe that the only way for us to understand the Bible is within the context of a relationship. It is living and active, after all. The Bible tells a story of a relationship between God and Humankind, the breakdown of that relationship, and what it has taken to restore that same relationship. The Bible even ends with a peek into the future where the relationship is completely restored. If we lose this concept of relationship, it becomes impossible to answer tough questions like, “If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world?”. Whatever conclusions we may draw will be incomplete without that foundational perspective of relationship. This question alone has caused so many people to turn away from God because many times the provided answer has been unsatisfying, or frightening, or perhaps altogether non-existent, but the reality is that answers matter a lot to everyone, and it is good that they do. Those answers matter a lot to each of us, if we are truly honest, and to God himself. Those questions are often used to drive us into a deeper encounter with Him.

When we lose this lens of relationship, through which we see the Bible, or for that matter the heart of God, we begin to misread and misapply scripture in our lives. In other words, the Bible can become about behavior modification. It can turn into a sharp tool of conformity and control when the perspective relationship between ourselves and God is lost. God gives us two primary analogies for how he wants to relate to us. The first is Father-child, the second is Husband-wife. God is always framing the discussion that He is trying to have with us in the context of a loving, intimate relationship.

One of the primary goals that Jesus had when he was on earth was to reveal the heart of God to a lost and broken world that has missed how God felt about it. Jesus uses an analogy in the form of a parable to give us an understanding of God’s heart. The parable Jesus told was the Prodigal Son. It is compelling and complex and surprising. This picture should always be a foundational perspective we use to approach our faith, the scriptures, and other people. Many lessons can be drawn from it, but central to this parable is the heart of a Father whose desire is for restoration between himself and his prodigal son, no matter what the cost. Jesus told this parable knowing that He was going to be the ultimate demonstration of how far God was willing to go to see His children restored to himself.

The idea that relationship is the context for how we should understand what is written in the Bible might be new to some people and offer an enriching perspective on our faith, values, and understandings. Throughout history, relationships have been viewed by the hearts of people in countless different ways. Time itself, along with an array of cultures that exist across the globe, and our personal experiences all can affect how an individual values and approaches relationship. For example, I can sit here and think of people close to me who have felt like relationships are a source of worry and fear. They know how pain and torment increase as relationships deepens and grows in intimacy. It is no wonder that the enemy targets relationships as a primary offensive tactic in his plans to destroy what God created for good. He tries to break us away from our Father in heaven and then begins to break us up from each other into smaller, more manageable pieces through things like hate, fear, and lies. God meant relationships to be the primary reason for our existence. First, a relationship with Him, then with each other, and finally with the world that He created for us to dwell in. When relationships break down all around us, the enemy does more than instill hate and fear in the individual people. He will try to grow bigger things like bigotry, racism, exploitation, and all kinds of evil that our world currently suffers under today.

In light of this, I guess it should not surprise me that God already gave us the key to healing relationships. He gave us this key to healing the division that sin creates between God and ourselves; but also to cultivate healing with each other (person to person). That key is forgiveness. Forgiveness is not of this world; it is a gift from God! Forgiveness is a miracle, a work of the Holy Spirit that takes place inside of our hearts when we ask God to do His healing work. God often starts this miracle inside our hearts first so that we may flood others and this world with it when we are made full. That is truly a powerful healing key.

The Bride of Christ must lead this world in forgiveness. Healing and restored relationship with the Father is not going to come from any other source. We have been given the key. If we continue to hide this key to healing, we should not expect anything other than the breakdown of relationships and division to embed itself in our families, cities, churches, and cultures. And even the bigger “isms”(like racism, sexism, etc.) that the enemy cultivates all around us to continue to increase. We must resume the spiritual work of cultivating forgiveness and healing where God has called us to. (Galatians 6:9-10a) “So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up. Therefore, as we have the opportunity, we must work for the good of all.”

Remember, as Jesus was being crucified, he prayed, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!”. That blows me away because my heart attitude is usually very different than that. I need to be willing to take my heart before the Lord and allow Him to perfect the work of forgiveness inside me. Only then can I pour out that healing power to others. As soon as I conceal the gift or stop the inner work, the enemy can resume His. Let us not grow complacent or weary. May we instead truly flourish within the loving relationship God has already restored with each one of us and become a witness to all that He cultivates in our world.

 

Ben has been married to his wife, Charity for 11 years and together they run the Elijah House prayer ministry school in Audubon, PA, which is part of Redwood Ministries. Ben has 3 children, plus a 4th arriving in late January.  He loves the holidays, but since finding out he has to eat gluten free, he is not too happy about missing out on Christmas cookies.

Our Cultures Foundational Lie Part #1

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There has been nothing more profoundly impacting on my theology than when I became a father and began to see things from the perspective of a father. So almost everything I have learned about the heart of God, I have learned in conversations with Him, as we have watched my children. It is for this reason that the most cherished role that I play in life is that of a father! That is one of the main reasons why many of my posts will start with observations about my kids.

My boys started at a new school this year, and one of the things they started saying as soon as they came home was a little mantra they repeat in class. It goes like this, “I must do my best, so I can be the best!” I did not think much of it until later in the year, my boys became less accepting of their own mistakes when it came to schoolwork but also anything else they were doing. Every mistake they made became a big deal that they seemed to have less and less ability to overcome.

This struck me that a very deep level because for most of my life I did not like the person that I was for the main reason that I was not perfect. This caused me to question whether people could actually love me if I were not perfect and so fear drove me more and more into many ways of trying to earn other people’s love and acceptance. I hated seeing this trend beginning to develop in my children because the truth was that I loved them and accepted them the moment they were born. They never had to do anything to earn my love. I began to ask them questions each day especially when they would get overwhelmed with the fact that they were not getting all their spelling words right on the first try. After a few nights of investigating they both finally were able to share how they felt. They both were able to say that they felt like if they made mistakes that they would not be the best that they could be, and if they could not be the best that they could be then we would not love them anymore. It was at that moment that I realized that the subtle little mantra they had been saying had done its work. It had taught them that their Identity was tied to what they do. They thought they had to do good things to be a good person, and if they were doing things wrong that meant that they were wrong!

That lie is foundational and deeply embedded in our culture! The lie that our identity is based on what we do is simply not true! The truth is that our value is based on what Christ did on the cross, He paid the ultimate price so that we could be defined by his best moments here on earth, and not by our worst. When our value is determined by Christ’s sacrifice and victory we are free to be defined as He defines us. External actions are no longer a looking glass into our soul that tells us who we are and how important we are or are not. Christ and His love tell us that. When we determine our value by our actions (like having to be the best but failing to do so), we will lose our grasp on who Jesus says we are. Our identity is established in His love for us and when that grasp of His love for us is eroded, so is our grasp on our true identity.

My wife and I sat down with both boys and explained to them the truth of who they are; that they are strong, because He is their strength, and they are good because He is their goodness. Then we prayed with them. We have seen the crushing weight of not being perfect and the overwhelming frustration when realizing a mistake all but disappear. Love is becoming the foundation for their identity as they began to see themselves the way that God these them; through the lens of grace, not the lens of sin.

This has had a profound effect on my father’s heart knowing that God has not left us without the ability to heal the hearts of our children, as parents it is part of what it means to be made in God’s image!

However, this idea goes beyond us as individuals and for me, begs a few questions! If I could not see myself through the lens of grace that the Lord looked at me through and this affected my attitude toward myself, then how could it not also be affecting the way that I see other people around me and my attitudes toward them? If I could not distinguish between the sin that I commit and the person that I am, how could I distinguish between the sin someone else commits and the person that they are? The Truth is that I could not! I saw people through the lens of the sin that they committed. This did affect my attitude toward people in a major way and cause sin to erode any relationship that developed between myself and anyone else I knew.

I know this happens on a larger scale also. The church struggles to see themselves outside of what they do, or fail to do! We have whole denominations that name themselves based on how they perform Baptism or declare themselves based on the way that their church government is established and run. Then we take the things we do and miss the fact that they do not tell us who we are, but rather who is in us also holds the rights to define who we are! And because He is love, Christ will also do a better job (than ourselves) in settling our identity.

I also see this lie destroying people outside the Church! Whether it is in the Political arena or the urban verse rural cultures, or any other artificial division that we want to superimpose on our society with false labels that are be created when we try and define ourselves by something we do! We begin to allow other people’s actions to shape our attitudes towards people, rather than Christ’s actions and heart shape our attitude towards people.

I pray that we see this lie in our own hearts first! We repent of it, and receive the forgiveness that Jesus has for us! Then, we take the first steps in reaching out to the world that has believed a lie about itself, that it too has been wrongly defined by the things that it has done; rather than who Jesus says it is.

I do want to explore the effects of this lie inside and outside of the Church in future posts.
I’d love to know your thoughts or comments or what I have written thus far.

 

Ben has been married to his wife, Charity for 11 years and together they run the Elijah House prayer ministry school in Audubon, PA, which is part of Redwood Ministries. Ben has 3 children, plus a 4th arriving in late January.

 

Past Pain Effecting Our Present

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by Ben Robinson

My oldest son came to me a few days ago and with the heaviest heart and the saddest face asked if he could have a piece of candy. His sadness expressed with that voice of desperation moved my heart, and I gave into his request. He instantly perked up and ran out of the kitchen, into the living room, toward the Halloween candy. Joining him, from the shadows, was his brother and sister as they all ran for candy, knowing that if I allowed one of them to have a piece that I would not say no to the other two. In their excitement the truth slipped out of my daughter’s mouth as she yelled, “It worked, It worked!” My kids have manipulated me, and it hurt!

Two days later, my oldest son came to me again, with the same look and the same tone of voice, asking me if we could invite friends over because he had not seen them in a while and he missed them. I said, “No!” with a tone of anger, and I then listed all the reasons why that was not going to be happening that day. My son left upset and went back to his brother and sister to report the bad news that friends were not going to be coming over that day.

I am reflecting on that interaction now because I must be honest and admit the fact that this was not one of my better parenting moments but I have learned a lot from it. The truth was I could have at least tried to see if their friends could have come over, but I was still hurting over the fact that I had been manipulated for candy just two days before. I was determined not to be manipulated by my son again, and I was quick to stop to any future attempt! At first, I felt justified in my harsh response, but the Lord convicted me of that fact that I failed to evaluate my children’s needs apart from my past pain! He showed me that I was trying to make up for a fast parenting failure by redoing it in a future situation. But is that even possible? Can I fix my past failures by not making the same mistake in the future? Or does that just cause me to make new mistakes in the present? It’s like if I was walking along a path and I tripped on a root, then I got up and continued walking, but instead of watching where I was going in front of me, I kept looking back at the same root I had tripped over expecting that to safeguard my journey. This would not make any sense, but it is exactly what we do in our relationships!

I cannot parent out of pain, and I cannot parent out of fear because it blinds me to what the Lord is doing in the present! 

When I parent out of pain, the only thing I can see is my own heart, when I parent out of love I can see the pain in the heart of my child, and I can move to heal it! 

The biggest mistake I made in the situation was I failed to be honest with my kids when they manipulated me for candy, and tell them they hurt me, because they caused me to feel like candy was more important that our relationship. If I had done this, it would have opened the door for forgiveness to enter into the relationship, and thus the power of God!

As a father, this was very convicting, and I need to spend time with my kids asking for their forgiveness and talking with them about all that had happened. I believe there is nothing more powerful for a child than to see their father ask them for forgiveness and repent, in prayer before God.

It did not stop there. If I cannot parent out of fear and pain, won’t those things have the same impact on all of my relationships, not just on my children? What about my friends, my extended family, my church, and my community! I realized that this happens on a larger scale all around us. There have been times in the Church where people have taken things like Spiritual Gifts or worship and taken them to a place that was not good. We get hurt by this and become so focused on making sure that it never happens again we fail to evaluate the needs of the present apart from our past pain! It’s like we are always fighting the battles of the past, which we lost, in the present, where they do not exist! We miss what God is doing in the present, in the name of preventing what he was not doing in the past! This principle needs to be looked at seriously so healing can happen in our churches!

Does this occur in our nation also? Are we as Christians still mourning the defeats that were suffered many years ago in the relationship with our culture? Are we trying not to make the same mistakes again and living in the pain of the past rather than seeing what the Lord is doing in the present? Could this be what is preventing us from being the Salt and Light that Jesus called us to be? Have we held onto the pain of the past only to find ourselves siding with the enemy of Love in the present? And won’t this only cause more pain in our country and drive a wedge deeper in the relationships? Won’t that move us farther away from the healing we all so deeply desire?

When we do this aren’t we missing the fact that moral defeats happen first in the Spiritual, in the hearts of people, and then are reflected in the physical or the Political realm? 

I know that those are a lot of question, but I believe they are worth asking and need to be answered for us to begin to move toward healing the relationships in our country.

Hasn’t our mistake always been failing to lead in the direction forgiveness? Forgiveness invites the power of God into our relationships on all levels. Shouldn’t our hearts, as the Bride of Christ, always be crying out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”

 

Ben has been married to Charity for 11 years and together they run the Elijah House prayer ministry school in Audubon, PA, which is part of Redwood Ministries.  Ben is gluten free, which He finds really annoying.

 

Healing Our Brokenness

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by Ben Robinson

A few years ago I got a trampoline for my two boys to play on because I always wanted one as a child. As a thank you to me for getting them this present, my youngest son promptly pushed my eldest off the thing, breaking his arm! We had to go to the Urgent Care, then down to Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, where they put a cast on his arm. He spent the rest of the summer jumping on the trampoline with a cast, happy that I was able to talk my wife out of selling it after the accident. I could not help think about this over the past several days as I thought about the fact that our society spends a lot of time and money learning how to heal our physical brokenness, but we are completely inept at being able to heal our emotional and spiritual brokenness! Especially, when that brokenness extends into our relationships on a corporate level (As in relationships between families, races, genders, or political parties, etc…).

I sat in my living room thinking about the results of the elections and contemplating the fact that there is so much brokenness within our nation! But the political brokenness is only the tip of the iceberg when you begin to look “under the hood” of this country and see the fact that, there is racial division, religious division, and generational division, etc. This division is destroying our Love for one another, our trust, and thus our testimony and strength. I do not see the division getting better without the Bride of Christ acting like the salt and light that Jesus wanted us to be! I do not think that this is easy in any way shape or form, and must be part of an ongoing discussion of self-examination as to who we are, and how did we get here? It is essential that we begin to discuss some of these things within our lives, our families, our churches, and our country.

Now, the Lord has placed a word inside of my heart that I cannot help but express, and this blog is to give voice to that word. This word that the Lord has placed inside of me has been pressing on me for a while now, and I believe it is important to be explored in detail. The word is, “The Lord wants to Heal you!” It is this concept or more impression that has been burning inside of my heart for a while now, and I have felt compelled to discuss it. I am not trying to write about Religion or Politics, but rather relationships and how they can be healed on an individual level and a corporate level.  I want to explore Healing in this blog with you!

 

Ben has been married to Charity for 11 years and together they run the Elijah House prayer ministry school in Audubon, PA, which is part of Redwood Ministries.  They have two sons, a daughter and a fourth child on the way.

 

Update on the happenings

Thanks for checking in to find out what’s going on at Redwood.

You can check out Ben and Charity Robinson’s Newsletter about Elijah House by CLICKING HERE.

Elijah House will be starting in September and we look forward to another great ministry year of people growing in their understanding of the identity God created them with and moving them towards greater healing in Christ.

We are still working through the process of 501(c)3 status with Legal Zoom. Please keep this in prayer as it is a grueling process, but needs to happen so we can move forward with the other exciting things God has planned and has placed on our hearts for Redwood.

Elijah House Applications Due Soon

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The application deadline for the 2016-2017 Elijah House school year are fast approaching. Your applications are due by the end of the day on July 31st.

The school will be meeting on Tuesday nights from September through May.
Spots are limited so please get your applications in ASAP.

if you have any questions you can contact info@redwoodministriespa.org