The Struggle

  Before seminary, before working in church leadership, I was a mathematician. For me, the fun of mathematics was not so much about content, but about how people engage the learning of, what for many, is an extremely difficult discipline. For those, learning math begins with mindset ; actually believing they CAN learn and that difficulties and struggles are not related to their intelligence and worth. We all encounter obstacles in our relationships, jobs, leadership, and trying to achieve our goals. It is our reaction to these obstacles that determines ultimate success or failure. This very same principle translates very well to the spiritual life. When some encounter The Struggle, it sometimes becomes a wall to be retreated from. There can be a cost to an identity based on performance, perfectionism, and results. But The Struggle is part of growth and change and development. There are two mindsets we should intentionally foster that are contrary to the false self. Confront The Struggle. It is essential to remind yourself that struggling needs to be separated from your perceived value. This is very hard to do in a culture that is based in results and performance. It is that culture that has seeped into and runs amok in our churches, marriages, and decision making. When The Struggle is intertwined with our identity and sense of significance, backing away becomes a way to preserve a sense of value. This is why in our spiritual lives we fall back to the comfortable and familiar decisions, behaviors, and ways of relating. In this situation, it is not about health or wholeness, but rather about...

Right or Wrong

The Bible is replete with stories of those who did what was right in their own eyes. Adam and Eve head this list that would then be followed by almost every other biblical character. Abraham and Sarah. Jacob. The Israelite nation. Peter. To name just a few. When we do what is right in our own eyes, the flip side of the coin is that we do what is evil in the eyes of the Lord. No where is this pattern illustrated more clearly than in the book of Judges. Over and over we read the phrase like this from 3:12a, Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, Doing what is right in our own eyes is a product seeking wholeness apart from God. Attempting to find our worth – our identity – apart from our Creator, we will do whatever it takes to sustain that false sense of self. Identity forms our filter for decision-making. Our identity forms the lens through which we see the world and our place in it. In Christ or out, we make decisions that support our identity. Giving us a sense of worth and providing a covering for our shame. So for instance, if your sense of wholeness is related to being married or even in a committed relationship, then if you are single you are going to make decisions that lead to finding a partner. If you are married, then your decisions will be filtered through what is going to keep my spouse happy with me. Identity forms the lens of our values. What is right and what is...

No Lies – Identity and the Ninth Commandment

You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. – Exodus 20:16 Throughout the Bible, God has been fighting for our identity. Beginning in the garden, to the nation Israel, and now in Christ, God’s desire has been for us – the jewel in the crown of his creation – to see our selves as his people. How we define our self matters. It is our identity. Hence our worth, our significance, our value, our purpose, should all be questions that are answered by being his. This is made clear with the first commandment. After the first, the commandments are not simply a list of do’s and don’ts, but rather a list of symptoms of the identity that is misplaced. Sin that results when we seek wholeness apart from God. Giving false testimony is a strategy basic to the false self – the self defined apart from Christ. A false testimony is saying that something is true about someone when it is not. This can take the form of slander or flattery. Or, the false testimony can be denying something is true that is. It is an effort to tear down another. Thus, by comparison, the one giving the testimony is elevated. Our life’s values are determined by what is good for our identity. Thus, giving false testimony is deemed acceptable because it benefits the one who lies. The cost to you is a price the one giving false testimony is willing to let you pay. Notice that? The cost is not paid by the liar. What comes out of our mouth indicates where our heart, the seat of identity, rests. See Jesus words on...

Robinson Cano, Twitter, and Dehumanization

Jimmy Fallon had a funny bit on his show a few months ago. In it, a former New York Yankees baseball player – Robinson Cano – was back in the Big Apple playing with his new team. So Jimmy had a large picture of Cano in his new uniform and invited New Yorkers to boo and yell what they wanted to at the picture. After they were done, while they were talking with an interviewer, Robinson Cano would walk out from behind the picture. The reactions of the former hecklers was priceless. Here is the video for you to watch. What I found most interesting about the video was how it illustrates our tendency to dehumanize people. Whether it is an athlete, entertainment personality, homeless person, or a victim of a disaster far away, our tendency is to categorize people and respond to the role or category rather than their humanity. For the people in the video, that became hard to do when the actual person, complete with feelings and responses, was standing in front of them. This attitude toward people is epidemic on Twitter, where anonymity and 140 character create a false sense of bravado in people and the words they use. Ever check out the replies to a female celebrity picture? It is quite an education to see what people can spout off, everything from what they want to do to them in bed, harsh denouncements of what the person originally said, to judgments about appearance and their last performance. Quite the opposite of what you’d expect, social media dehumanizes people to each other. Rather than a person,...

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