He stood with the boy: a story of how weakness was turned to strength.

As a parent, I feel as though it is my job to instill in my kids how to be a functional human being. Sometimes us parents get it right, and sometimes we don’t. There are moments when they can look at how we interact with others and see Jesus in our example, while there are other moments when we find ourselves giving them the opposite pattern. At best, I hope that the positives outweigh the negatives, and they don’t need too much therapy.

There are also other moments when your kids surprise you. The hope is that there is more good than bad; however, there are no promises. There are no promises that your kids will listen to the good things you teach them. There are no promises that they will choose to live out the good examples that you set rather than the bad. A parent can only hope. The best parents can have a child who lives in a cycle of destructive patterns, and harmful parents can raise a well-adjusted child. Parenting can sometimes be a great mystery.

The other day my wife and I had one of those surprises. When the teacher called us, it left us in tears. Luckily for us, it was positive. The most perplexing is that we don’t know where it came from, why he thought to do what he did, but it was a day we were proud that he was our son. To go further, my son showed me what it means to be like Jesus. I was proud and convicted. First, at his age, I would have never done what he did. I probably would have done the opposite of my son. Secondly, I don’t know if I would have the courage as a grown man to do what my son did.

When the phone rang, and it was my son’s teacher, we thought there was maybe an injury or had an allergic reaction. His teacher went on to tell us that during class, a boy was trying to read a poem to the rest of the class. The boy was struggling greatly. It was embarrassing for him. That is when my son, my beautiful son, who is so much braver and caring than me (he must take after his mother), stood up, walked to the front of the class and stood with the boy to help him read.

Even now, it brings tears to my eyes.

There is something you need to know; my son isn’t a great reader. Just like his dad, he’s in Resource because his reading isn’t up to par.

My son was Jesus to that young boy.

Through weakness, there was a great strength.

In our weakness, we can turn to Christ, who, in ultimate weakness, the cross, demonstrated great strength. When we are weak, we can trust that Jesus is standing there with us.

The Apostle Paul writes to the Chruch in Corinth,

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 cor 12:9-10

My son reminded me that just as Christ comes to stand with us in our weakness and makes us strong, so we, too, are called to do the same for others. Though we are weak, we can stand with others amid their weakness through the strength found in Christ—relying entirely on His grace to bring us through.

Let’s be Jesus in someone’s weakness today. Let’s learn a lesson from a seven-year-old boy.

The most overlooked Book in the Bible, just might be one of the most important

I’ve recently been on a preaching journey through the book of Lamentations. To be honest, I’ve never heard a sermon on the subject, and my theological library only had half a book on the subject (minus my commentaries). While Lamentations is a difficult book, it’s a rich piece of art that, when we read with foresight that Jesus comes as the Christ, becomes a very powerful book speaking to the darkest moments of our life. Christopher Wright tells of this fantastic book,

“There is hope in this book, not just because it is set within the whole Bible story with its redemptive heart and glorious climax, but because the book is saturated with prayer. Even when it is angry, pain-soaked, protesting, grieving, questioning, prayer, it is prayer anyway.”

It is an important book that challenges God, their circumstances, and dives deep into our emotions. In a society that is all about speaking our truth, we need this sacred text to show us how to mourn.

A little about Lamentations, it originally bore no title. In Hebrew, they called it “Alas, How…” In the Septuagint, which is the Greek NT, they call it Threnoi, which means wailings. The Vulgate, which is the Latin translation, kept this name and added the subtitle, “It comprises the Lamentations of Jeremiah the prophet.” Thus, the name slowly became known as Lamentations. It is usually attributed to Jeremiah for many reasons. However, we don’t know the author. What we do know is that they seem to be an eye witness to the events of Babylon invading Jerusalem, and it is a man. Lamentations is called a Dirge poem. While the Sumerians were the first to write sombre works commemorating the destruction of their great cities from enemies, I think Lamentations perfects it.

It is a sad commentary on the outworking of the prophetic that you reap what you sow. Nevertheless, I believe it speaks to all of us to remember the dark realities of life. I think it’s especially poignant today as we see wars and threats of wars around the world. It speaks of the pain of the casualties. In a day and time when the world seems to be at each other’s throats, Lamentations is an essential reminder that there are casualties in war, and they too have feelings of loss, pain, and deep mourning. Lamentations bears witness and pays heed to Israel and Judah’s voice. A voice we need to hear as we look at those under the attack of another country, regime, or force. Understand this is the voice of the everyday person, the mother, father, and child who are affected by governments and regimes.

Lamentations has been ignored too long. It’s a powerful book that teaches us about the consequences of our choices. However, when we view this book with Jesus as the answer to the questions, the book becomes even more powerful.

While Jesus comes as the answer to the eternal questions, he comes to be the shepherd to help us learn and make it through the hard times of life, and we see that as we apply this book to our life, just like Judah and Israel in this poem, we have to struggle through the hard times. Still, we realize we have a God who hears our cries and has answered them himself, through Jesus.

Next time you are told not to question God or not to have doubts remember Lamentations. It is a book of questions and doubts. It’s a book about mourning. And when we read it through Christ, we see that it is okay to mourn, but we, in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians,

“…do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13

Don’t ignore Lamentations. Dive in deep. Feel the raw emotion that has been poured out upon the page. Also, remember Christ, our hope in the midst of the mourning.

Check out the resources used in this post

There's More to Love than the Fall

Some beautiful thoughts from my wife just ahead of Valentine’s day.

Sarah Faith

I got married young, like really young, and because of this I had a lot of opinions come my way when I was engaged. People would say, “You’re too young … it won’t work … you’ll change too much!” The thing was, I didn’t really agree with the way they viewed marriage. I still don’t.

Really at the root of it, I don’t agree with the way the world views love.

Love is and has always been a hot button word. People are obsessed with the idea. They search for the euphoria that is “falling in love”. I think the problem when it comes to love is that it is viewed simply as an emotion. Love is an emotion, but it’s so much more than that, it’s also a choice. It’s a decision to love them when they have swept you off your feet, AND when they disappoint you, or…

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Glory Days—overcoming our past triumphs

You don’t have to look very far to find a book, blog, podcast, or whatnot, that will tell you how to overcome your failures. They are important messages on how your failures are not what define you. I have even written about it. However, there is another side. It’s a side that can be just as debilitating — overcoming our past triumphs.

“We’ve all seen those guys (it’s girls too) who are still holding on to their glory days. All the stories that they tell are from when they were back in High School or College. They talk about their awards, athletic prowess, and their youthful romances (usually there is very little romance involved). 

You know what I’m talking about. 

The guy who talks about how he was the starting running back and how he was the biggest and the baddest, and still acts as though he is. Yet, he probably couldn’t run a block, let alone through one!

There is the woman who talks about how she used to party and all the guys wanted her. Yet, though that was twenty years ago, she’s still partying just the same, and that lifestyle is damaging her career, marriage, and children.”

Hidden Faces: Discovering our true identity in Christ

Whether it is a professional, academic, athletic, beauty, or whatever arena you find yourself, the success you once had can be crippling as you move on to the next chapter of your life. We can become dependent on being the top dog or the best looking, the strongest, smartest, richest in the crowd, or maybe we achieve our goal—no matter what it is that we have depended on to find our self worth, the success can be just as damning as the failure. 

Where do I go next?

Did I peak too early?

What if I’m not good at anything else?

What now?

We wonder and too often can become crippled. We can chase the next thing we can succeed at, ending up just like a dog with its tail.

What I find happens is that one of two things. 1) We live and want to relive our past success. Just like the people I spoke of earlier, we tell the same stories over and over, trying to recapture what is lost. We either live in a delusion that we are still as we once were, or we realize how far away we truly are and fall into despair. Or 2) We chase what’s next, trying desperately to find the next triumph we can use to define ourselves.

What we find at the end of the day is that the victories and success can be just as cementing as our failures.

Whether triumph or failure, the risk of defining ourselves by what has happened is an alluring temptation, it’s is also a trap.

In ancient Jewish wisdom literature, the book of Ecclesiastes lays out what happens when we depend on our success to fulfill and define our lives.

“I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
    I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
 and this was the reward for all my toil.
Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
  and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
    nothing was gained under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 2:4-11

So what do we do? How do we overcome our triumphs—as strange as that sounds?

The answer, the same way we overcome our failures. We realize that what has happened isn’t who we are. We are more than failures and successes. What defines us isn’t looks, accomplishments, or whatever other things you can fathom. What determines our value is whose we are. And whose are we? We are children of God whom He loves dearly.

We can set the bar high, and we don’t have to worry because even if at one time we were known for success and even if we fail, it is God who determines our value. We can risk the ocean in pursuit of what we love because, in triumph or defeat, God’s love is spread upon our hearts indiscriminately. We can move forward into the unknown, knowing that whatever happens isn’t what determines our value. 

Triumphs are just as hard to overcome. As soon as we let whatever past success we once had, stop us from pursuing what is on the next horizon, it becomes a failure. In the same way, failure is only a failure if it prevents us from what’s next — no matter which end, we must overcome. We must push past—drive-through—move forward into what God and life have for us.

Please don’t live in the Glory Days, let’s overcome our past triumphs.

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Treating Symptoms; we forgot about the disease

The news, articles, blogs, reports, books diagnose symptoms. I don’t think this is a new phenomenon. Historical research has shown that humans have been content to treat behaviours and actions rather than the malady of the heart.

Whether it be pills or legislation, we think if we give people the upper and down or take away their tool or means of violence that we have solved the problem. We pat ourselves on the back for fewer suicides, murders, violent crime. Meanwhile, countries become national pharmacies and police states.

I’m not saying that treating symptoms is wrong. I hope we can all agree that fewer suicides are better, and if fewer automatic weapons lead to fewer mass shootings, then why not. However, don’t be confused; popping pills doesn’t cure the feelings of hopelessness and more police in rough neighbourhoods doesn’t cure the violence in human hearts. It delays, suppresses —which can be an excellent thing when it comes to human life.

It’s not that we should never treat symptoms; it is that we stop there. Like Dr. House trying to treat an unknown disease, we run from symptom to symptom, trying to make the patient healthy. The difference is Dr. House tries to find the disease underneath the symptoms, while we ignore the hard work of fixing broken lives.

In my book, Hidden Faces: Discovering our true identity in Christ, I begin by sharing about the lie from the serpent in Genesis 3. I write,

The serpent becomes the first advertiser.

Look more beautiful—Buy this.

Be stronger—Drink this.

Be envied—Wear this.

Be powerful—Eat this.

According to the serpent, Adam and Eve could finally find that fulfillment, all they had to do was have a little taste of the fruit, the fruit God had told them to refrain from eating. Genesis 3 tells us that Eve believed the serpent, ate the fruit, gave some to Adam, and brought deadly consequences on us all.

What are these deadly consequences?

This deadly consequence is believing the lie. The lie that we aren’t who God says we are. That God’s lying to us—we aren’t very good—we aren’t made in the image of God. The lie is believing that somehow we can do something to fill up our life through our own devices to achieve this “very good” ideal that we seek.

We pick and prod at our faces.

We buy clothes we cannot afford.

We work hard to keep up appearances.

We strive for status and power.

We get rich or die trying.

We ignore broken homes and overworked parents. Turn a blind eye to materialism and vanity. The blatant disadvantages of the poor and the powerful people whose job it is to keep them there is the elephant in the room.

Maybe our hierarchy of needs says that we have to have these social constructs and possession to find basic fulfillment, and perhaps that’s right. However, so much of what consumes our life is an endless pursuit for meaning, fulfillment, and hope. Like the ancient Jewish wisdom literature says,

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

May I put this forward. Until we are willing to lay aside the perishable and put on the immortal—dare I say not seek fulfillment in the temporal things of this world and turn our gaze to the eternal Christ—we will not begin to find treatment for the disease.

Just as God deals with Adam and Eve’s shame, so Jesus comes to deal with ours. Adam and Eve’s shame is represented in their nakedness, but with the skin of an animal (Gen 3:21), representing the replacement of the perishable (fig leaves) with the imperishable (animal hide), it thus shows us that it’s only God who can deal with our shame.

For us, God does this through the work of His son, Jesus. The Apostle Paul writes, “God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” Though we’re wrong to put on all the false identities and attempt with futility to cover our shame with our own merits, Jesus still comes to make us right.

Hidden Faces: Discovering our true identity in Christ

Let’s not be content with the pursuit of curing symptoms. Let’s look deep and try the cure the disease. Yes, let’s fix the apparent problems, but don’t ignore your soul. Look inside and be honest with yourself on why you do the things you do, what hole are you trying to fill, what are you trying to grasp? Today let’s strive to shed the imperishable and put on the immortal. Today, let’s put on Christ.

Learning to wear my skin

Last night I did something I’ve never done before. It started so innocently. I was watching the Super Bowl in a mixed crowd of couples and singles, men and women from my church. As the crowd dwindled and came to an end, I found myself hanging around after the game watching something I never imagined I would just 24 hours earlier. As the game came to an end, one thing led to another and there, for the first time, I sat with my mom watching the Masked Singer.

I had only ever seen a part of the Asian version of the show, and Ryan Reynolds was dressed as a big fluffy mascot, singing.

As I watched, I was riveted. Mystery, clues, singing, and crazy outfits—how could something this cheesy be so captivating! As one of the characters stepped up to the microphone, they told her story/clues. She spoke of adversity and scandal—of trying to make a name for herself again. Then this costumed character sang exquisitely, afterward sharing that hidden in a ridiculous boxing kangaroo costume seemed to be the only way she felt comfortable to share who she is again.

I thought, how sad.

To be comfortable in our own skin should be a given, but I fear that for most of us, we’re not. Whether introvert or extravert, a 1, 4 or 9 on the Enneagram, or a D, I, S or C, there is an internal struggle to accept and be who we are.

No matter who you are, there are expectations placed upon you. A spouse wants you to be more of what they wish, a parent wants you to follow a particular trajectory when it comes to education and career, or a job expects you to look, live, and speak in a foreign way, continually expectation that we feel we need to live up to—a box we seem to be squeezed into—becomes reality.

As an extraverted introvert, the pressure is real. As one who serves in the public space as a pastor, it’s real. To be comfortable in my skin is a struggle I’ve dealt with my whole life.

Trying to fit in will only work for so long. We have to learn to be comfortable with who we are. We look at our abilities, interests, aptitudes, and we find ourselves in a crowd, viciously trying to stay there. We can also classify others, imprisoning them into the category we’ve created for them in our minds, a life sentence of sorts in the confines of the cell we’ve created, never released unless an appeal is heard and won. We imprison others, and we are imprisoned, sometimes even doing it our self.

While we wrestle with voices from our past and a lack of confidence in ourselves, we try and tackle the question, who are we really? Who are we behind the expectations, interests, social class, possessions, or abilities? To be honest, I find the question extremely hard to answer. What I have found is that it’s the wrong question. It is a great question. However, I believe it is a question we will grapple with for as long as we live. What I have found is that I have found my place in a much richer way in not asking who I am, but whose I am.

In moments of insecurity, I try and keep on the tip of my tongue three crucial scriptures.

So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

Psalm 139:14

You are not your own; you were bought at a price.

1 Corinthians 6:19b-20a

It reminds me that I was created with intention and purpose and that I have enough value that I can try and fail, search and discover and not worry about what others think, that I don’t have to dress up in the proverbial big fluffy boxing kangaroo costume to be comfortable in my skin. I can trust and know that I have purpose, intention and am loved. I can know that no matter what others think that God ascribes to me great value, so much so that he bought me at a great price. A price so costly that he was willing to give his life and all for you, me, and anybody else in any category they happen to find themselves in. Learning to wear my skin has been a process of learning who gave it to me, learning God’s heart and learning God’s love.

P.S. The kangaroo is SOOOOOO Natalie Imbruglia and the Tiger is Rob Gronkowski.

Photo from: https://www.goldderby.com/article/2020/the-masked-singer-spoilers-who-is-the-kangaroo-natalie-imbruglia/

Keep the conversation going: Let's keep talking about mental health

In my country, the phone company Bell has started a movement called Bell Let’s Talk. Over the years, it has brought a lot of awareness to the issue of mental health. Throughout January and February each year the conversation is revived, lingers for a few moments and then disappears. To be honest, it is a commercial for Bell, but at least it’s a commercial that benefits a good cause.

As great as the one day a year is at heightening mental health awareness, it’s more than a one-day event in a person’s life. Mental health is an issue that, for some reoccurs seasonally, others it is situationally, and unfortunately, for many, it is a struggle that will last years or even a lifetime.

Mental health should never be exploited. It is not a publicity stunt, it’s real life.

Bell Let’s Talk day needs to be the beginning of the conversation, not the start and finish. Depression, anxiety, bipolar, and the like affect families, careers, and friendships. It is life and death and not a conversation we should have once a year as part of an advertising slogan.

What we need to do is to keep the conversation going.

It is why I talk about it so much on this blog. Over the last few years, I have had to wrestle with my mental health. Better sleep, physical activity, better eating habits, recovering from injuries, has helped, as well as sharing it openly. The reason I write about engaging in community, having love and grace for others and ourselves, and sharing our heart with God is that it is a must.

The dark feelings that sometimes overshadows our light should never be a conversation but a continual conversation. We need outlets. As long as we hold the words in, they keep us captive. We find freedom when we speak our truth. It doesn’t have to be loud. It just has to be loud enough for a caring person who’s close to us to hear.

We need friends, therapists, and God.

Keeping our broken spirit to ourselves isn’t even Biblical! I’m sick and tired of a “positive confession” faith that says trust in Jesus, believe and it will happen. I once heard a preacher say that if you are Christian there is no room for lament. Well, what a burden that is. It’s certainly news to Jesus and the Apostle Paul.

The Scriptures spell out to us in numerous places that we must express the pain. Moses and Jonah ask God to kill them. David and the other Psalmists mourned, raged, praised, and poured out every imaginable emotion you can fathom. The book of Lamentations, one of the most beautiful pieces of art ever, is a book all about pain and anger. It is a book with no resolve.

Yes, Jesus changes the lament. He turns the cry, the mourning, the rage, but it’s not extinguished.

We must not forget.

You’re not a bad Christian. Jesus wept. He cried over loss. He wept over a city. He mourned in a Garden. King David sang song after song of struggle. Moses travelled through all of the emotions while trying to lead. These stories are not stories that say bottle it up, keep it hidden, stuff it away for one day a year. It is a plea for us to share all the broken pieces of our lives. Kinnaman and Lyons write,

“Pain, brokenness, and suffering are not to be avoided; they are to be endured because God redeems those experiences in order to renew us and bless others.”

Or as the Apostle Paul says,

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Romans 5:3-5

There is no need for shame. Let’s share the pain. When we do, I believe that is when we produce perseverance, character, and, ultimately, hope through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us and others. In turn, the shards of our broken soul are formed into a beautiful mosaic that articulates hope.

Check out the resources used in this post

In what ways have you dealt with your mental health?

Hidden Faces — Are you defining yourself by possessions or Christ?

THE FOLLOWING IS A EXCERPT FROM MY BOOK HIDDEN FACES: DISCOVERING OUR TRUE IDENTITY IN CHRIST

If our base of who we are is the view of the Scriptures, we need to begin where it all started. I mean the very beginning: Genesis 1. It says that we were all made in the image of God: 

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…”
So God created mankind in his own image, 
in the image of God he created them… 
male and female he created them.

I love the insight that John Sailhamer gives about this verse. He writes, “God’s command…is not an impersonal (third person) ‘Let there be,’ but rather the more personal (first person) ‘Let us make.’” If you read the whole of Genesis 1, you see the birds, trees, and unicorns (okay, it doesn’t say that one, but I’m still hoping they’re real) were all created with, as Sailhamer points out, “Let there be.” Adam and Eve’s creation, on the other hand, denotes something much more intimate. This passage reveals a personal God who does His creative works out of a community. Sailhamer continues, 

Whereas throughout the previous account the making of each creature is described as ‘according to its own kind,’ the account of humankind’s creation specifies that the man and the woman were made according to the likeness of God… The human likeness is not simply of himself and herself; they also share a likeness to their Creator.

God has sewn His divine image within us. As the Psalmist writes, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” God declared that this creation (that means you) is “very good” (Genesis 1:31). We see in Genesis that this “very good” creation had a special relationship with God. 

We also see in Genesis that there was nothing that inhibited the relationship. Everyone was in right standing with each other. That’s when the enemy of God and humanity came to sew lies, attacking who we are. 

Genesis 3 records that the serpent came and put seeds of doubt in Eve’s head. The serpent begins to tell her that though God has told her that she’s “very good” and made in “their image,” the image of God, that she isn’t good enough. The serpent tells her that there is something else she needs. Something is missing.

The serpent is smart. The lie isn’t that we’re garbage, although often we often believe that. It’s much more subtle. The lie becomes that God’s holding out on them; that God didn’t give them everything that they need. Erwin McManus writes, “The serpent, of course, questions the truth of God’s story. He becomes a conflicting voice. He convinces the woman and the man that God isn’t telling them the whole story, that the voice of God isn’t the one who would guide them to life—that he is, in fact, holding out on them, keeping the best for himself.” 

The serpent becomes the first advertiser. 

Look more beautiful—Buy this. 

Be stronger—Drink this. 

Be envied—Wear this. 

Be powerful—Eat this.

According to the serpent, Adam and Eve could finally find that fulfillment, all they had to do was have a little taste of the fruit, the fruit God had told them to refrain from eating. Genesis 3 tells us that Eve believed the serpent, ate the fruit, gave some to Adam, and brought deadly consequences on us all. 

What are these deadly consequences? 

This deadly consequence is believing the lie. The lie that we aren’t who God says we are. That God’s lying to us—we aren’t very good—we aren’t made in the image of God. The lie is believing that somehow we can do something to fill up our life through our own devices to achieve this “very good” ideal that we seek. 

We pick and prod at our faces.

We buy clothes we cannot afford.

We work hard to keep up appearances.

We strive for status and power.

We get rich or die trying. 

I believe that all the brokenness in the world stems from this one lie. I think that this lie is the root of it all. Whether we believe we’re worse than everyone else or better, this is the lie we believe; we’re not who God says we are. One of the first leaders in the church, the Apostle Paul wrote that the “wages of sin is death.” Paul was speaking of the whole fallout from our decisions, thoughts, actions, and words. 

The reason for the fallout? We‘ve rejected God’s truth and declared our own. When we believe we need something other than God’s love and grace, we begin to compensate emotionally, materially, and relationally. Instead of finding worth in the love of God that can never be lost and will never run out, we try and fill that void with perishable things. 

In the shadow of their choices, both Adam and Eve looked and saw they were naked. They tried to do what we all do, cover up what they now believe they are with perishable things. They tried to cover their shame and their guilt and their brokenness with fig leaves.

Just as Adam and Eve hid their brokenness with a fig leaf, something that will eventually decay, so we fill our lives, sometimes even unintentionally, with stuff. This stuff may be physical but often is emotional. The physical items are usually the compensation for our emotional depravity. It’s a longing to compensate in some way. There are times when this can be dangerous to both us and others. Whether it’s dangerous or not, it’s not healthy.

This compensation can be the most popular topic to talk about in church circles. Too often we side on moralism and doing the correct things. All the while we screech from our perch to not do bad things. Our moralism, in the meantime, turns a blind eye to our brokenness that manifests itself in more socially acceptable ways.

That’s the problem!

For most of us, what we try and cover our life with is what is deemed admirable, a  worthwhile pursuit, one might say even responsible. However, when we  allow our morality to define who we are, all we’re doing is trying to compensate for the brokenness we all have. These things should never form our identity, mainly because they’re all perishable. It’s only when we begin to cover ourselves with the imperishable that our identity begins to come into focus.

The Apostle Paul put it like this: “For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” The immortal/imperishable is what Adam and Eve forsook all because of a lie. Ever since we‘ve been trying to compensate for it.

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Worshipping God like a junkie

They travel from church to church, going from one experience to the next. For some, it’s a liturgical experience. For others, it is contemporary. They are Calvinists, Arminians, and Openness. They chase the next spiritual high—from music to preaching to programming—is what it comes down to. 

The flavour of the month becomes the true spiritual experience. Attractional models, Bethel builds (a fancy name for a crescendo), and Stanley stylizations can become the sacred idols we chase. Or we go after the next greatest spiritual fad, from Taizé to whatever Francis Chan’s into that year.

In one church that I pastored in the youth would go to conference after conference, to whichever church or youth group had it going on. They were seeking experiences, spiritual highs, and emotionalism and had little want for the commitment of a relationship.

We say we are seeking God, but how we determine how something is good says it all. If a sermon was engaging, it is a good sermon, true, but we need content. If the worship music is played well, singing in key, has a rousing feel it’s excellent worship. Yes, musicality helps, but what about the direction of our worship. Is it pointing toward our needs and wants, or is it declaring who God is? If the atmosphere is right, then God’s presence is in the room, when really it’s the dim lights, smokey haze, and the Febreeze air freshener that is pumping through the ducts.

I am just as guilty. I am a part of the problem. I admit I like what feels good. I want a church service to feel good. Unfortunately, this too often becomes the drive of our pursuit. We seek a God whose one aim is to make us feel good—worshipping God like a junkie—trying to get our next fix. Leonard Sweet writes,

“God is already there. It’s not God who needs to show up for us; it’s us who need to show up for God.”

It’s us who need to show up, not God. When we choose to engage, you will be surprised how the mediocre music focused upon our king becomes uplifting. Or how teachings from the scripture, though not eloquent and creative, end up ministering, convicting, restoring, and compelling our heart toward Christ.

When it comes to healthy trees, the mighty oak stands head and shoulders above the rest. I want my spiritual life to be like the oak, standing strong and tall, with roots that grow deep and wide.

But too often we are like the pine tree. The pine tree is the only tree that changes the direction of its crown to reach toward the light. The pine chases the experience—the heat, the light. The problem is it’s reaching and chasing makes it weak. Out of all the conifer trees, it breaks the most. The wind blows, limbs bend and break. As the snow accumulates upon the branches, they fold and snap under the weight. Instead of using its energy to grow deep and wide, it has chosen to chase the sun.

When we chase experiences, we miss the depth of discipline, relationship, and consistency. We never form a healthy roots system, attached to others who are strong in the faith. We need good spiritual food, not to feed on the spiritual equivalent of Redbull and gummy bears.

If we want a spiritual life that stands, we must reject our junkie like mentalities, looking for an emotional and spiritual fix, and dig deep, spread wide and engage our hearts in the local Christ centred church that is pointing people to God.

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The Grips of Gossip

Loose lips sink ships is accurate. When you share too much about a person or your feelings toward a situation or person, it can sink whatever it is you are trying to get going. It’s an easy way to wreak havoc on a relationship, organization, or a dream.

While gossip can be one of the things that sinks a ship, what it does is cause a much bigger hole in the boat, and it has a greater impact on all involved. 

Gossip grips our heart and distorts it. We may think that we are taking another’s ship down when, in reality, we have surrendered ours.

Most think of gossip as having to do with lying about another person. However, this is only one manifestation.

I like how Timothy and Kathy Keller define it,

“Gossip…is negative information that may or may not be true, designed to make the speaker and hearer feel superior to the object of the gossip.”

How often do we have a conversation and within the midst of it bring up someone who is not there? Whether consciously or not, do we elevate our self. Maybe, we are not elevating ourselves so much as placing the person to whom we speak beneath us. 

I’ve heard the defence,

“It’s not gossip because it’s true.” But as the Keller’s point out,

“Gossip is not necessarily spreading untruths. It is revealing information that should be kept confidential (Proverbs 11:13, 20:19). It is giving news about a person intended to lower him or her in the regard of the listener.”

As I point out in chapter 4 of my book Hidden Faces, gossip is a manifestation of our inadequacies. We wear our brokenness all over our face whenever we allow gossip to slither out between our lips. Each time it tells people that we cannot be trusted, we’re small, we have something to hide.

The problem is that our whole culture’s entertainment builds its empire on gossip. From TMZ to late night, to your local news, is built upon gossip. Afternoon shows built upon who said what. Have you heard politicians speak of each other? So little policy—so much chatter. It has been ingrained in us that this is how we are to interact with one another. I have been apart of many conversations where others were gossipping. I have gossiped too many times to count. It has become natural to us all. It’s Western society’s greatest skill.

In her book, Braving The Wilderness, Brené Brown speaks of the heart-wrenching pain that people experience when hearing gossip about them. Yet we still do it. We know how we would feel, but we don’t stop. We may have experienced it, yet we continue to be guilty of the same sin.

So what can we do about gossip? Are we merely condemned to a fate of slippery verbiage continually flowing from our jowls? Or can we do better? 

I believe we can, and I believe we must.

What if whenever we felt the urge to share a conveniently applicable story about someone else, we instead share about ourselves? What if we decided to only talk about people and that we were in conversation with? No talk about your mom or kids, no discussion about that celebrity or Youtube star, not your neighbour, boss, teacher, or friend. 

I bet it would revolutionize your life and change your heart. It would reveal how many of our relationships are based on what we are against rather than what we are for.

A wise man, named John Wesley, once addressed this issue in his spiritual community. It was a much different time in so many ways in the mid-1700s. Though it was different, Wesley was dealing with broken people just like us—people with hurt, pain, disappointments, inadequacies, seekers of affirmation—in the ways that count. To address the issue, Wesley gave this instruction, an instruction that we need to heed and apply.

1) ‘Now we are to talk of no absent persons, but simply of God and our own souls.’

2) ‘Let the rule of our conversation hereto be the rule of all our conversation. Let us observe it (unless in some necessarily exempt cases) at all times and in all places.

It seems sage advice. Maybe extreme, but a severe and rampid disease requires drastic measures. The grips of gossip need to be broken, and until we can learn to love our neighbour, maybe John Wesley is right. Follow these, loosen the grip. And then move to the phase of fixing your heart.

Check out the resources used in this post