Wholeness and Expectations of God

We live in a world that view wholeness as circumstantial. In place of the word wholeness, we have learned to substitute happiness or comfort. So, being complete is not a state of being, but rather an emotional state. When we bring this view into our relationship with Jesus who is the source of our wholeness, we then place the mantle of responsibility for our circumstances upon his shoulders. In our minds the shift may be subtle or not so subtle. If Jesus loves me, then the things in my life should be ok; everything should work out fine. Whether we apply to mindset to parenting, our jobs, healing, addiction, the state of our relational life, the growth of our church or ministry, etc., we have made our devotion completely conditional. In return for our faithfulness, we expect God to restore our circumstances so that we can be happy. Instead of conforming to the image of Christ, we would rather add Jesus to who we already are. Just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make things work out. But, what happens when things don’t ‘work out’? How do we respond when Jesus does not enable our false sense of identity? Frustration with God. Accusing God of withholding what we know is best for us. This may lead to an epic wrestling match with God for control. Questioning God’s presence. We pray for band-aids. God does not enable our false self. Many times what we deem unanswered prayer is God leading us to a deeper awareness. Living in anxiety. If my circumstances are not changing or something bad does happen, does that mean...

Hating this Life

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25 As Jesus is preparing his disciples for his upcoming sacrifice and resurrection, he describes what a follower of his looks like. Like a grain of wheat, that must fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit. A follower of the Christ must be willing do die to the false self in order to begin to experience the blessing of new life. We must all be willing to go through the same Paschal transformation in this life that Jesus stepped into through the cross. But within this passage, Jesus also uses a contrast between one who loves his life and one who hates his life in this world. He likens the grain of wheat that dies to one who hates his life in this world. What does it mean to hate this life? Is it a sin to enjoy a sunset? To delight in a good meal? Look forward to sexual intimacy with our spouse? Does this teaching mean we are to avoid things that are pleasurable? Must the one who follows Christ become an ascetic – abstaining from all forms of pleasure or enjoyment? Historically, this is just what some have done. Practicing asceticism, moving to the wilderness, living in isolation and in intentionally hard circumstances to avoid enjoyment. Yet, we see a lot of this in our churches too. Not that it would be called asceticism, but those whose mindset is that to experience happiness is spiritual weakness. But Judaism is filled with...

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...

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