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.

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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Do We Deserve God’s Love?

I want to pose a question, do we deserve God’s love? Depending on my mood that day, the answer may be different. There are days when I feel the hope of the hope around me, in me, and in the lives of others—I see the promise of humanity—and I say yes, we deserve God’s love. After all, we are His children.

There are other days when the darkness abounds. Hope seems but a paradise lost, and I can’t help but think or our unworthiness. After all, doesn’t the immense holiness of God cause him to be repelled by our misdeeds?

So what is it? Do I need to taper the hope with a reminder of my misdeeds? Or do I need to see my self as more than just actions but as an image-bearer of God?

Yes.

To what? Both.

Yes.

This question was posed to me, and others in a group that I am a part of that explores and asks some hard questions about our faith. As we gathered that Sunday night a few weeks ago, reflecting on that week’s chapter from Brian Zahnd’s book, Sinners in the Hands of a loving God. The room gathered different sexes, races, denominations, and upbringings. The room was divided but strangely united. Yes, people fell on either on one side or the other, but no one felt they could blatantly reject the other side.

To find the answer, we need to start at the beginning. Genesis 1:27 has become one of my most favourite verses.

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

Three times, in a row I might add, God declares that he created us. Not only that, but God created us in his image. We are God’s children. After Genesis 3, however, the relationship changes. Suddenly, through the belief in a lie from the tempter, man and woman no longer believe that they were made in the image of God, but instead, think that they need something more—something other than God—to complete them. Thus they are marred with their misdeeds.

While one camp believes that this angered God so much that he wanted to destroy us (not sure what has taken him so long), the other, which I tend to find myself in, would say that God loves us despite our mistakes and longs for us to see who we truly are as His children. I believe the former idea has become so dominant in recent thought that it has marred the truth of the second claim.

So I believe we can move the question to, do children deserve their parent’s love? I think most people would say yes. Have they done anything to deserve it? No. Their existence qualifies them to be loved, not for what they have or have not done, but because of whose they are. Children are created in the image of their parents. 

But what if that child steps outside the purpose their parents willed for them? Is Mussolini less deserving of his mother’s love because he was a fascist dictator? Is Stalin disqualified from his Father’s love because of his cruel dictatorship? I might argue it is the lack of love that drives many children to hate, not unconditional love.

When describing how sin affects our made-in-Gods-image, one member of the group mentioned above stated, “It is like this indoor table I have on my back deck. It’s not meant to be outside, but it has been through all the elements. It wasn’t meant to be outside in the rain. It deserves to be inside.”

After all, it was made for the inside. The person who made the table made it for the inside. It deserves to be treated the way the initial builder intended. Did the table do anything to deserve to be inside? Of course not. It was meant to be.

So it is with us. We were meant to live and be in the love of God. We deserve God’s love because we were made in His image. We are his children. Though we find ourselves places we should not be, out in the rains of life—maybe rains of our own doing—we deserve more and better. It’s what we were created for. Instead, we accept a lesser fate believe what was meant to be inside should be outside. We think we can compensate for it. We reject the love of God, filling our lives with everything but what we deserve.

I write in my book Hidden Faces,

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. 

Only God can deal with our hearts, bring the table in from the rain, and restore it to how it is supposed to be.

But table, don’t be fooled. You have done nothing to be brought in, just as my kids have done nothing to earn my love. We don’t earn God’s love. We receive love because we are the King’s kids. 

So, do you deserve God’s love? Of course, you do, for you are a child of God.

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A Response to John MacArthur

The Christian world either cheered or booed as the most recent words from John MacArthur, rang. It wasn’t that long ago that MacArthur was throwing those in the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement out of Christendom with his “Strange Fire” teachings.

Though the Pentecostal/Charismatic is a large contingent, it is nothing compared to the most recent victims of his vitriol. While aiming at Beth Moore, MacArthur spoke against all women who have some inkling to want a position that might have to do with teaching men, and further, wanting powerful positions.

MacArthur and I would fall on opposite ends of the theological spectrum. Though he may not consider me to be, I consider him a brother in Christ. We are both a part of the body.

And this is why I wanted to wait a few days after the uproar to respond to his comments. It is also why I will respond the way that I am. I feel that 99% of what I’ve seen in response is not Christ-like.

Name-calling has no place in the Kingdom of God. We must challenge and push each other–holding one another accountable, in love.

John MacArthur is Complementarian: This means that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere. It is because of this view that MacArther, while asked to comment about Beth Moore, a popular writer and teacher in and outside the Southern Baptist Convention, said, “Go home!” Both MacArthur and the other guest stated that she was arrogant, and MacArthur said something of the sort to her just “Hocking jewellery.”

Unlike MacArthur, I am on the other side of this view. To make a long story short, the prophet Joel in the Old Testament declared that when the Spirit of God dwells in God’s people, that it will equally be poured out on all.

I will pour out my Spirit on all people. 
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, 
your old men will dream dreams, 
your young men will see visions. 
Even on my servants, both men and women, 
I will pour out my Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28–29

Also, if Jesus’ death and resurrection have broken the curse of Genesis 3 (“Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. Ge 3:16), then why do we force women back under that curse?

Saying this, we are still brothers in Christ. Beth Moore is our sister.

Despite the deep chasm that lay between us theologically, I still love him (though he makes it really hard sometimes). I don’t want to get into a theological debate with him or anyone else over his comments. He is entitled to his interpretation. Though I think it is wrong, I do not believe that it is the main issue.

What troubles me the most is that MacArthur, a respected and important voice in some circles, was rude, dismissive, flippant, and frankly not in a tone, tenor, or word choice showed an ounce of love.

This is what disturbed me the most.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

John 13:34–35

This is what I would to say to you, John MacArther…

John, if I may call you that, I was disturbed by your lack of love. I was disturbed that those who do not know Christ heard such wrath directed toward another child of God, furthermore, a person who is also a follower of Christ. This is not how you speak to anyone, let alone a woman who longs to see people encounter the risen Christ, as you do.

I hope I am assuming correctly, John, when I say that I believe that you want to follow God with all that you are. I hope that you want to see God reign in your heart as well as this world. It is because of this I want to remind you of love.

God is love, as Jesus disciple, John tells us. We are to be known by that love. We must remember that the second greatest commandment, to love our neighbour, is like the first, loving God. As we love God, we love our neighbour, and as we love our neighbour, we love God. There was no love in your words. What is most troubling to me is that this is not the first time. You have allowed vehement words of hate spew from your lips without consideration of the destructive and demeaning nature of them. To quote U2, “Love’s the greater law.”

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Corinth

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

1 Co 13:1–3

We can disagree, but we are not to not love. Though there is disagreement in belief and function, we are to engage each other in love.

Love

Love

Love

Please, for the love of God, LOVE!

In the meantime, ladies, think, What Would Aimee Semple McPherson Do (minus the crazy stuff)?