Praying for the Storm

I live in the land of hurricane season. This year we had a couple of very active weeks that saw several hurricanes pass very close by and one slow-moving storm that took a path directly up the center of the state of Florida. Watching hurricane tracking charts is very emotionally draining. A refrain that becomes common is such seasons – particularly as the storm bears down on your location – is to offer prayers and hopes that the eye of the storm will change directions and follow a new path. But, the more I thought about this line of reasoning, the more unsettled I felt. At the most basic level, I was praying that the storm would move on and hit someone else. This was not prayer that was offered in humility with Christ at its center. Such desires had me at the center. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that so many of my prayers and the prayer requests I see from others have the same misplaced center. Little thought is given to the implications for others, instead I ask God to ensure my comfort, security, and affirmation. Such requests of God are rooted in the false self. Christ in the garden faced a storm and asked for another way. But His prayer did not end there. Almost immediately He offered “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus returned to the proper center for His prayers – the Father. We hate storms. With good reason. But, good can happen in the storms of life. They can help us release our...

Seeing Jesus

It is election season. From things I’ve read, if Jesus were alive today, He would support every political candidate. Or at least that is the case people make. There is a proliferation of bumper stickers saying that “Jesus is an environmentalist” or “Jesus is a capitalist” or some other such identification. Many churches teach their opinions as if they were doctrines of Jesus. Things like kids must be home-schooled or that some standards of discipleship are old-fashioned. Here is the truth: we view Jesus through the lens of what builds up our false sense of self. We want Jesus to affirm the things from which we are seeking value. Thus, we don’t see Jesus as He actually is, we see a Jesus created in our own image. Jesus did not come to affirm our broken philosophies, He came to show the world the love of the Father. When we make Jesus in our image, that leads to division rather than unity, condemnation rather than acceptance, and judgment rather than forgiveness. Jesus was concerned that we do two things: love God and love people. Loving God is about rooting our full sense of identity in Him. Loving people is a fruit of the freedom that source of identity provides. Where loving God and people conflicts with our desires we are to abandon our self. In what ways does Jesus look more like you rather than you looking more like Jesus? ————————————————— I work with followers of Christ to energize discipleship, improve relationships, decrease anxiety and facilitate leadership development. I am a certified coach specializing in pastoral leadership, relationships, discipleship, life transitions, and...

Understanding Your Identity

Before I understood the importance and power of identity and its relationship to my spiritual life in Christ, I drew a sense of significance from the statements “I am liked” and “I am a pastor.”  These were not just simple descriptors, but rather statements of being that represents facets of my source of identity. My desire to be liked and my role as a pastor worked in conjunction to provide for me a foundation. What I did not understand was that these identity statements were competitors for my allegiance with Jesus. The idea of not being able to serve two masters extends beyond money (Luke 16:13) and to any source of being that you adopt. Here are other ways our passion for self turns into statements from which we draw significance: I am right. I am successful. I am different. I am loyal. I am obedient. I am happy. I am strong. I am content. Which statement(s) resonate with your experience working out your relationship with Christ? Can you think of any additional statements? Jesus was the word made flesh, and in his flesh he knew exactly what his identity was. In addition to stating things like “if you have seen me you have seen the Father”, “I an the Father are one”, and affirming that he was the Son of God, Jesus spoke these words to the Jews who questioned him: “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” – John 8:58 Jesus was equating himself with the title spoken by God to Moses in Exodus 3. From that identity, Jesus’ flesh was secure in his significance and purpose. There was no...

We Are Dust

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. – Genesis 3:19 Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the season of Lent. The occasion is marked, literally, with ashes on the forehead and the words “you are dust, and to dust you will return.” It is the very same reminder that God gave to the man and the woman in the garden after their disobedience. They chose to break communion with their Creator and instead followed the allure of being like God. But they weren’t like God, a fact they were deceived into forgetting; the man and woman were a part of the creation. Above every other created thing, yet less than God. So, rather than the deathless existence for which they were intended, God made their life a fight against the ground that would provide their food, a reminder of the dust to which they would now return. Just like the first man and woman, we break the communion with God that the death and resurrection of Christ enables, and attempt to pursue wholeness apart from our Creator. We get deceived that this is possible, and attempt to grasp onto a semblance of value the identity we create provides. We do what is right in our own eyes. Selfishly. Rebelliously. The ashes on our foreheads today remind us that it is not our eyes that determine what is right. We are not God. It is appointed that all men and women will return to dust. As much...

Adultery – Identity and the Seventh Commandment

You shall not commit adultery. – Exodus 20:14 Sex is firmly tied to our identity. How we approach sex, who we do it with, and our motivation for having sex are all products of our sense of self. In our culture, we have taken this one step further, and make sex not just a product of identity, but an identity in itself. But, that is a topic for a different post on a different day. Because his nature is faithfulness, God hates adultery. It is not a fruit of an identity centered in Christ. It is a sign of a problem. Sex is connection on a soul level and is powerful. As such, sex can be used as a source of approval, control, or security and give a perceived sense of value to the self by answering the questions of identity: What do I do? What do I have? What do people think of me? When sex is part of the basis for identity, it is used to manufacture a sense of value. Sex is self-centered. I have lots of sex. –> Which makes me better than those who don’t. I satisfy my spouse. –> Which means my performance is good. I am desirable. –> Which provides a source of positive affirmation. I give (or withhold) sex to get something I want. –> Which is a source of power. Sex makes me feel secure. –> Which is a false source of wholeness. Which brings us to adultery. Issues of identity always lead to misusing the gifts of God. Said another way, when we seek wholeness apart from God, we use the...

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