How Are You Addressing Your Root?

“‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. – Luke 13:8 All of us tend to classify people into categories. Good or bad. Saved or lost. Successful or lazy. Jesus was talking to a group of people that had assumed they were better, or more righteous, because something bad had not happened to them. In reply, Jesus confronted this belief by asking if the people who had died suddenly were more guilty or bigger sinners than others living in the same place. Then Jesus went on with a parable about a tree that was not producing any fruit. When the man who owned the vineyard asked that the tree be cut down, the caretaker made the reply that is quoted above. “I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.” Notice what the first impulse was – to address the root of the tree. In response to the lack of fruit, the caretaker did not look to the branches and leaves. The same principle can be repeated for unhealthy fruit. A problem with the fruit is the result of a problem with the root. Repentance requires that we address our root. Becoming more aware that we realize the depth to which we look to the world for significance. Authentic fruit is the result of being rooted in Christ. Having an identity that is defined by God’s love for you is an intentional process of knowing your lies and when you are prone to shame and applying truth. What areas are you tempted to root your identity apart from God? In...

‘Tis the Season to Be Busy

With one of my clients, the subject of coaching has turned to discipleship. A one size model does not fit all, that is one major structural hurdle. Another hurdle is the obstacle of busyness. What does it mean to be a disciple in a busy culture? People are too busy to attend a group or a workshop. Perception is that there is not enough time to read the Bible, or slow down to pray, or to be still and listen for the voice of the Father. What is true for those we observe is also true for us. We all live in a culture that demands busyness. To be still is not just counter-cultural, it is cause to be labeled lazy or unproductive. This view pervades the workplace, at home, on vacation, and – very sadly – this perception is common in our churches. Now we are entering the season where demands upon our time amp up even more. Being busy, having a never ending to-do list, saying yes-yes-yes, is a product of identity. It is an attempt to cover feelings of worthlessness with productivity and affirmation. The decisions we make are based on what we value. Our values are a function of where our identity is rooted. If you are empty before the Christmas season, then the coming weeks will present many opportunities to perform or accumulate or generate affirmation. It is hard (or impossible) for an identity apart from God to say no to new possibilities. For the church leader, this season is a minefield of comparison and expectations. Services to reach the lost and programs for the devout on...

The Three Temptations of Identity

Jesus knew who he was. More to the point, Jesus knew whose he was. His humanness, his place, his purpose, his affirmation all came directly from the Father. Early on this secure identity was evident. After their days long search of Jerusalem for him, Jesus answered his parents frantic questions with “didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) Fully human, Jesus’ identity was rooted in communion with the Father. It is that identity that was the basis for the behaviors, decisions, and ways of relating to others that we see in the New Testament accounts. In Luke 3:22, Jesus received the blessing of the Father “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Not only was this declaration of truth a confirmation for those who witnessed it, but it was affirmation and approval for Jesus. It was well timed. The next scene after Jesus receiving affirmation from the Father is of him being led into the wilderness where He would experience three temptations to his identity. Twice in Luke 4:1 – 13 satan begins the test with “if you are the Son of God…” – if you are indeed who you think you are and claim to be, then prove it. In between, Satan challenges the Father as source of Jesus identity by saying “if you worship me…” – if you put your worth in me, I will give you what you need to sustain your sense of purpose and place. Remember, the three questions of identity are: what do I do?, what do I have?, and what do people think of me? They are related to the desires for control, security, and affirmation that are...

An Encounter with the Older Son

In Luke 15 we find one of the most memorable stories of our faith, the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Chances are, even if you are not an avid church goer, you have heard of or read this story. The younger son wants identity outside of the father’s household – he lives to satisfy the false self. So, this son pursues a life that seeks wholeness apart from the father and his standards. Yet, this path ends with the son becoming aware of his own brokenness and his lack of satisfaction. Within it are many of the qualities that make following Jesus unique – grace, God’s faithfulness, mercy, and covering to name just a few. What makes this story of God so beautiful is that it is the father – the father who was wronged, disgraced, and sinned against – who waits for the son. The father runs to the exhausted, repentant son. The father forgives. The father provides the sacrifice. The father declares righteous. The father clothes. The father celebrates. There is an oft overlooked character in this parable. He is treated as an insignificant addendum. The older son. The one who will inherit all that is left. What if the father had left him in charge and given him the ability to speak on his behalf. How would the parable be different if these two brothers had interacted directly? Adapting their words from the text of the parable: Prodigal: “I have sinned against heaven and before our father. I am no longer worth to be called his son.” Older: “Look these many years I have served him, and never disobeyed his command, yet he has never given me a young goat, that I...

The Older Brother’s View

As we develop our identity in Christ, the process of sanctification, one of the first and necessary steps in renewing our minds is to consider our preconceptions about who God is. We need to see him rightly because God wants us to see our-self and define our-self as his people, with him being our God. This relationship is one of trust, Adam and Eve were placed in the garden to experience it, the Israelites were to have God as King to experience it and we are to experience it through Christ. But one major mistake we make is hanging onto our impressions of God formed through our relationships – often from our experience with our own father or another close authority figure. Or we let our circumstance dictate who we think God is. Or even let the systems of the world drive our conception of God. So we may see God as angry, driven to make decisions out of anger. Or withholding. Or not present. Or Santa Claus. Or the senile grandfather. We have so many false impressions, and ultimately that affects our experience of who God is. In the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15), this is true of the older brother’s experience. The older brother thought that relationship with the father was found by obeying the rules. Because of that filter which formed the foundation of his false self, the older son’s experience was not one of the father’s grace and mercy. In fact, discovering the father’s grace and mercy incited anger because it seemed unfair. The older brother verbalized this by saying “Look! All these years I’ve been...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

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