Authentic Life

To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man. William Shakespeare

What does being true to one’s self look like? This often quoted line from Shakespeare is so accepted as wisdom that many people think it is Biblical. Seldom is it pondered upon. Being true to ones’ self means at the very least knowing what the core self is. If I am going to be true to myself, I must first know what that standard is so that I have a measuring stick to compare by.

The self — what is that? Who are you? The current “educated” elite whose god is science have written knowledgable papers and given TED talks on what makes up a person. They have delved into what defines consciousness, the chemical inner workings of the brain, the response of neurons to stimuli. Biologists have sliced and diced the human organism down to the microscopic cell components searching for more and more insight into what makes us tick. As the many branches of scientific inquiry look deeper in, astrophysicists look farther out looking for origins, or better yet, signs of life elsewhere in the universe. There are ongoing arguments throughout the scientific community about how even to define life. This seems to be akin to pulling the wings off a butterfly to see how it works.

Looking to science for answers to our question is therefore fruitless. The Bible, however, does declare with assurance just what life is and why there is life anyway. It is there we must look for answers to our questions of what is the true self. It is there where we find the purpose in life revealed. Yet, although that true purpose of life is revealed in Scripture for those who seek it, it has remained hidden from the eyes of many if not most people. Like the popular hidden objects games, the truth is in plain view, but sometimes almost impossible to find in the clutter that comes in from many directions. In our frustration we look for a ‘clue’ button which will highlight for us that truth we seek.

I encourage everyone to stop for a moment. Think, ponder, meditate on who you think you are. If I were to ask you face to face “How would you define your true self?” how would you answer that? Akin to that question is this: “Do you live an authentic life?” The authentic life is an outgrowth or expression of a person whose every action is true to their identity and purpose. In touch with the true self, the God-created and sustained self, everything from the inside out is authentic, balanced, in equilibrium, and peace. That sounds like a tall order, a pie in the sky quest. But I believe it is possible. It is definitely scriptural.

In some parts of Christendom there has been much preaching and teaching about “Identity.” Other parts of the Body of Christ have not considered the topic in any way. Whether taught or not, the result seems to be the same: No change in the people, no change in the way we maintain relationships, no change in moving in the power of the Spirit, no change in making a positive impact in the culture around us. Could it just be possible we are missing something?

A second popular topic is our purpose and destiny. Those who are seriously seeking for answers to that question gradually begin to glean a few truths such as: man is created to take dominion; man is created to glorify God; man is created to love God and enjoy him forever. I believe this is only a small gleam of truth coming through a crack in the door; it is not the full story. Even if man’s purpose is learned, his destiny clearly laid out, that does not mean he is automatically living a true, authentic life. Again, are we missing something here?

I encourage you to consider seriously the importance of pressing toward the goal of living life out of your authentic self, with a clearer understanding of your purpose, so that you will be surprised and satisfied, fulfilled and fruitful. The journey to that end may not be a smooth, straight line. There may be some hard work and even pain as you address some dearly held mind sets which have to go. You will be challenged to alter some of your behavior patterns and risk stepping into new ways. All of life, all of your life, is ultimately the outcome of choices previously made. You have the opportunity, if you are alive and reading this today, to choose to change toward all that is authentic. If you decide things are just fine, thank you, then expect no change in the peace and power levels of the life you live. But if you are not satisfied, it is time to move to a better way. As an old dictum has it: If you don’t want a Coke, stop putting money in the slot.

Advertisements

We’re In!

Many people with whom I engage do not have a grasp on their identity, although they have been self-identified as Christians for years. This failure of knowing is revealed by insecurity of being, search for significance, hair-trigger defensiveness and the like.

For this I fault the traditional church which has been big on pointing out sin, you miserable wretch, you, and all the ways you need to follow to remain in the fold of their acceptance. Although they teach “It is by grace you are saved, and not by works,” their very requirements whether stated or implied, are translated as works-to-earn in the mind of the believer so that there is much “doing” – with its accompanying sense of never enough, and little “being,” with its feeling of rest, acceptance and joy.

What scripture shows, and the Church tends to overlook, is that the Almighty, God of Everything, has come to this little planet, down to our level, and has self-identified as our Father. He has (already) dealt with the sin problem and now incorporates us into Himself in a huge, other-worldly embrace so that we experience life two in one, as it were. We really do become His children, not just His creation along with lemmings and butterflies. Since we are (already) accepted and loved, we should not have to prove it, or strive for it. Instead, we rejoice that He is within our very beings and go forward into fullness of life totally loved and unafraid.

Loveable

“I desire to be worthy of Your love.”  I mused this morning.

Hmm. That’s a wrong thought. Of *course* I am worthy of His love. Not because I have done anything to make it so. Not because of my “sufferings,” times of dying to self. Not because I have tried to clean up my act. I am worthy for one reason: He has chosen to make me the object of His love. He has sent His love out to envelop me. That one act has thus verified that I am worthy. I could be, and probably am, a confused mess in my thinking and perceptions. It matters not.

When I choose to love someone or thing, that makes them loveable – at least by me. It matters not what others think. If I love you, you are loveable, by definition.

As my wise grandmother said, “Love goes where it is sent,” from lover to lovee, often beyond our understanding. Who has not said at sometime, “What does she see n him?” “Why does he seem so drawn to _______?” You fill in the blanks.

Whatever the object of our affections, it becomes automatically loveable, pursue able, desirable. The love of God, always flowing outward toward His created ones declares them to be worthy of love.

I then can state with no embarrassment that as an object of His love I am totally loveable. No matter what the world thinks. No matter if you unfriend me on Facebook or don’t like my personality. I am loveable and that makes all the difference.

P.S. I know the “correct” spelling is lovable, and I have had to fight with autocorrect to keep it at loveable. But I did so because it then says we are love able. Able to receive love, and then able to give it away. Selah.

 

I Get It

I’ve got it down now. I get it. I even have my teaching notes in order so that I can impart this understanding to others, those who have not grasped the truth of this concept. It’s scriptural, too, and should be very clear. “Your life is not your own; you have been bought with a price. Therefore, glorify God in your body.”

Of course, I glorify God. Everyone knows I lead a moral life and am not “that kind of girl.” My shelves are full of Christian books, manuals from endless courses and seminars, soaking CDs. I am known for being a counselor to the troubled, a safe listener, a source of wisdom to the confused.

Yes, I belong to Christ. I am indwelt by the Triune God so that I may re-present Him to the world. Overcomer, too. Walking in victory with authority over the evil one. I’ve dealt with my issues, forgiven every offense, laid any personal ambitions on the altar. Therefore, life is good. What more could God want?

Oh. The attitudes of the heart, too? The lingering selfishness? That sense of ownership of my time? He wants a cheerful giver? I thought that referred to our tithes and offerings. Oh.

I am suddenly faced with the truth that there is another triunity jostling for space within: Me, Myself and I. Suddenly it becomes clear that idolatry has been lurking behind the polished exterior, waiting to exert its presence, elbowing God aside for the right to my life.

Oh no. Faced with that truth, I also encounter another one – I am weak and unable to wrestle it to death on my own. Helpless now, I throw myself, the good, bad and the ugly, upon His kindness, grateful that He gets it. Really.

Emotions: the Color and Chaos of Life

Emotions: the Color and Chaos of Life

Created in God’s image, man was given among other things, the gift of emotions. Can you imagine life without feelings? It would be flat, colorless, gray, robotic, boring beyond measure. But with anticipation, excitement, hope, happiness, fondness, caring, love, satisfaction, and joy we feel fully alive, participants in the world around us.

The Bible reveals God as having some emotions, but not nearly such a long list. He is described as having joy, delight and satisfaction with his creation, anger at sin which twists and defiles that creation, and love which is a constant – the fabric of his being.

All the negative emotions in mankind are the result of our fallen nature. Here we find the source of most of the earth’s troubles. Anger, hatred, greed, domination, anxiety, fear and dread, desire for power and recognition, hopelessness, despair, jealousy, the pain of rejection plus a host of others contribute to the breakdown of relationships and eventually every society.

It seems only natural to conclude that if there is to be any hope for our society and mankind in general, we must deal with those negative emotions at their root, bringing our lives more in in line with those of the One who created us. Or, in short Bible-speak, be conformed to the image of Christ.

This has to happen, I submit, before the Christian world will have any impact against the forces of the secular world. With our unhealed emotions our behavior is often no better than the world around us, and is made worse by the addition of our self-righteousness.

How is it that people can spend years of their lives as Christians without dealing with the root causes of their negative emotions?

One major reason is simply unawareness that life could be any different than what they have known. Their lives are shaped by the box of their experiences. The box contains their original personhood as designed by the Creator, but it is also filled with memories, events, emotions, pain, teachings received from the culture around them, and their interpretation of all this. All of the box is considered normal, the way things are, the way they are. It is all they know, and it is real and true to them. Accepting Jesus Christ and the message of the church becomes an addition, an external, much like a coat of paint on the outside to make the box more attractive. A common phrase used by them to explain or justify their more negative behavior patterns is “That’s just the way I am!” The idea that there may be another way to see things, another way to live, has not been received or believed, often because it has not been taught. “You mean to say I don’t have to live in fear? Or with this short fuse? Or this shame? How can that be?”

Another reason for the continuation of the status quo is the deception of pride which says “I’m cool the way I am. If you don’t like that, there is something wrong with you. Certainly not me!”

This line of thought is akin to those who have grasped 2 Corinthians 5:17 as a shield against any need to change. Declaring that verse without reading it in its full context is to misunderstand it. “Old things have passed away; behold, all things are new.” Or as the NIV has it: 2Co 5:17    “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” The next several verses expound on that by saying it is all about being reconciled to God, from whom we are estranged until Christ enters our lives. That’s it. Reconciled, yes. Healed from our bad selves, no. If we were all totally cleaned up from our emotional pain and ungodly reactions there would be no need for all the Scripture admonishment to “put off the old self which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude if your minds.” Eph.4:22. We are told to renew our minds, work out our salvation, become mature, not babes. That means taking our “perfect” selves and doing something about them!

One major blockage to dealing with our boxes of negative emotions and pain is the fear of looking within. We don’t know what is in there, but we have a pretty good idea it could be too nasty, or scary or shameful to bear coming to the light. There be dragons and beasties, things that go bump in the night! The fear of revelation with its accompanying shame makes us keep a strong lock on the tight lid of our boxes.

At base, the failure to deal with these pesky emotions reveals a lack of trust in the goodness of God. Not entirely sure that He really has our best interests in mind, we stay safely on the perimeter of life, putting up with our “normal” and never coming to that place of peace, joy and abundance Jesus talked about.

Want high adventure living? Take the risk. Dare to pursue dealing with your issues. You know you have them; so, sadly, does everyone else. The end result will be a delight to all.

Going to Bethel

Morning in the Word

In Amos 4:4-5 I read “Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. Bring your sacrifices every morning, your tithes every three years. Burn leavened bread as a thank offering and brag about your freewill offerings— boast about them, you Israelites, for this is what you love to do,” declares the Sovereign LORD.

You can hear in His tone that God is obviously displeased with this worship, this way of approaching him.

Deuteronomy 12:4    You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. 5    But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put his Name there for his dwelling. To that place you must go; 6    there bring your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tithes and special gifts, what you have vowed to give and your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7    There, in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the LORD your God has blessed you. 8    You are not to do as we do here today, everyone doing as they see fit.

There is only one way to do it right, He is saying, and that is His way.

We use a lot of words in our worship and prayer, words to prove our acceptability to God, words of which it is a question if we actually believe. Do we stop to ask if all this is pleasing to Him? Are our words and worship methods really arm-twisting to get a leg up? God obviously does not expect every believer on the earth to go to Jerusalem. His Spirit departed from the temple there centuries ago, but is still active today in the lives of millions. So what exactly is the right way, the God-ordained way to worship?

Thinking about the power of our words, and where I could find Scriptural basis for my thesis of their importance, I was then led to search for “the word is nigh thee” and came to Matthew 12:34    You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. 35    A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. 36    But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. 37    For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Jesus undoubtedly knew the Scriptures in Deuteronomy 30:11    Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. 12    It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 13    Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” 14    No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.

This led me to Paul’s statement in Romans 10.
Romans 10:3    Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4    Christ is the culmination of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. 5    Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.” 6    But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) 7    “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8    But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: 9    If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10    For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

Ok, so I had read this passage hundreds of times without ever truly understanding what Paul’s illustration in vs 6 and 7 had to do with his point of confession of faith being connected with being righteous.

So what does one do then? Ask Holy Spirit for the clarification.

When we ask for someone to ascend to heaven to bring us righteousness, we are establishing our own way of approaching God, just like those who went to Bethel with their strange fire. We “bring him down” by declaring our goodness, our works, our sacrifices, our right behavior. We want someone like a priest to offer us holy food, holy ritual, holy anointed service to confirm our (self-made) righteousness.

We are in “the deeps” knowing our unworthiness, sin and defilement which has to be covered; our self flagellation, our self punishment, our hours of good works and suffering toil serve in our mind to atone for us. We look for someone who will be a priestly go-between, a buffer between our unholy selves and a holy God. Every time we beat ourselves up and shrink back from God because of what we have done, we are crying out “Who will descend into the deep?”

And Scripture declares the Jesus provides all the righteousness we will ever need. Ever.

Our attempt at works to prove to God our worthiness to be accepted is just the same to Him as the worship offered by the Israelites at Gilgal and Bethel. There is no worth in it. The only way is Jesus’ work and righteousness. We don’t have to tramp to Jerusalem to offer our sacrifices; we need only to believe in Him and speak it out.

This should bring a huge sigh of relief. I don’t have to be good, or hide my badness. I can just BE and move on from there. There is a life to be fully lived, not spent in endless self-justification. What a concept!

This of course means we have come into agreement with God with our words (thoughts, heart). And coming into agreement is another whole topic.

“Just You Wait!”

860275_58506555

 

Those words usually strike terror into the heart of the child who hears them. “Just you wait” until Father gets home, or until we get home from the store so that punishment can be adequately applied. Waiting, waiting is a lesson to be learned, seldom if ever connoting something good. I can think of a few unpleasant, fearful waits: waiting while the mechanic fixes the problem on the airplane; waiting outside the O.R. for the surgeon to come out to speak with you; waiting for the court date; even waiting in stuck traffic on the Interstate when you have an urgent call of business.

I was stopped by these words in Psalm 27:14. “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

There are three commands here – indicating things we are capable of doing because God does not command the impossible from us. The first is “Be strong.” This implies that we can make ourselves overcome our self-doubts. There is no room for the escape clause “This is too hard for me!” or “Let someone else go, do, fight the battle.” It also implies that the capability of strength is built into us as part of our packaging. Whether we believe it or not does not change our inherent potential to exhibit strength. Often the accumulation of life experiences has occluded this truth; God’s word indicates we must deal with them to uncover the strength within.

The second command in “Take heart.” This speaks of values to center our lives on – courage, joy, belief in God’s goodness, letting hope for the future rise within. All of these and more will push back depression and fear which sap our very beings of the strength needed for living, thus destroying our effectiveness in the Kingdom in the process.

Finally, we are told to “Wait” for the LORD.” This is where the real battle is for many, if not most of us. Once He has appeared or acted in a situation the battle is over, the problem resolved. It is the “wait” that reveals our hearts the most clearly. Our fears begin to leak out. Do I really trust Him? Is He really going to do something? Should I not step in here and solve the problem myself? We get into the helping-God-out mindset – and it is clear from the Isaac-Ishmael story that helping God out is not a good idea.

Waiting on the LORD is in truest sense a leaning on Him in full expectation of His fulfilled promise. It is to be a place of rest and assurance. That is ultimately a definition of faith. There is no terror in it.