Spiritual Awakenings

For a long time, I wanted to be admired and liked, so much that I didn’t know who I really was. As I get into my 40s, I have felt more exposed and in touch with my failings. It’s felt raw and overwhelming at times.

But I’m grateful for a spouse and friends who remind me of who I am. They’ve been a presence of encouragement throughout my inner struggles to shed false identities and claim belovedness.

There’s more to come. There’s more I’d love to accomplish. But I’m grateful that if I don’t hit my personal goals, I’m loved.

During Holy Week, I long to know that my false self doesn’t inhibit God’s grace and compassion towards me. I long to know this new reality that Jesus offers through death and resurrection.

Healing from Loss

During a grief counseling visit, a family member of the deceased shared some wisdom with me. They said, “if I’m sad, I allow myself to be sad. If I’m mad, I allow myself to be mad. And if I cry, I allow myself to cry.”

Losing a loved one breaks the heart. There is no way to explain the amount of suffering and pain some may feel. But there is hope. Like grief, hope also comes in waves. The heart does heal. Memories give life. And we learn to live again.

God’s promises to heal our broken hearts is seen in the following story…

My friend recently wrote this beautiful depiction of how healing and hope have visited his heart. With his permission, I’m sharing it for all my friends and people I serve who are currently in the healing process:

Yesterday morning I received a text message from [my wife] asking if I was ok… I was totally confused and so I asked her why she was asking if I was ok. She then reminded me that it was the anniversary of my my dads going on with the Lord.

You know that for the first time since his passing I actually felt PEACE. It is a sign that healing has taken root in my life.

Of course I remembered him on Friday when I heard of the loss of a childhood friend and I began to feel the pains again of the moment I saw him take his last breath but… yesterday… when I was reminded of his passing… I actually had a day free of tears but then just smiled and thanked God for giving me peace at last.

Some people heal faster than others and remember to give those in their process plenty of love and support.

Healing False Images of God

They said, “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NIV;MSG

I once heard someone say that the moment you ask “why”, you’re a theologian. And we all ask why, which means we all have some kind of working image of God.

The Christian faith says Christ Jesus is the full revelation of God. God incarnate. Emmanuel, God with us. For 3.5 years, Jesus is near and revealing Himself. Most don’t get who He is. His 11 disciples (one of them betrays him) don’t get Him completely.

We’re constantly imposing our image of ourselves onto God.
“Isn’t he the son of Joseph?”
“Jesus can’t be the bread of life!”
“We grew up with him, in Nazareth. We know His parents!”

Thankfully, Jesus doesn’t react to our images of Him. He is “self-differentiated” enough to be who He is: King of kings and Lord of lords. Our idolatrous impositions don’t move him.

Yet we are to pray for a truth based image of God that rightly sees Him as King and Lord, aligning our lives to His purposes and goodness. Jesus is admonishing the pharisees to see Him for who He really is. This will take some self-reflection on their part.

Our prayer today is that we would be people who allow God to be God, imaging Him for the King and Lord that He is.

Mystery Reveals My Heart

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

In Christian tradition, one great claim and aim is to be made in the image of God. This means to experience a transformation such that we become who we have always been: children of God who imitate the One who creates and loves. Orthodox theologians call this theosis: the process of becoming one with God.

In this union with Christ, we become as He is. “Christ becomes like us (incarnation) that we might become like him (theosis).”

My assertion is that this process of theosis most happens in mystery and suffering. Moses becomes a holy person through his own desert experience after leaving everything he knows: Egyptian living, customs, and rites. His Egyptian identity is shattered when he learns of his Hebrew roots. This crisis of identity leads him to act in ways contrary to God-like character, shifting him into the desert for 40 years. He enters a mystery, a great unknown.

Jesus enacts the Christ identity most on the cross when He takes on sin and death, trusting that the Father is not limited by death. Since Christ is the ultimate icon of theosis, we might dismiss the example and say, “Well, this is Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” and be done with the story. But incarnation and theosis are claiming that we too will go through our own process of desert/cross/mystery.

I’m in a season of mystery and am handling more like Moses, pre-desert. I’m more like Peter who is sold out and convinced one moment, but then betrays Jesus the next.

To be in a season of mystery and the great unknown shake my core of trust, destabilizes my devotion to Christ, and causes a feeling petulance. How’s that for someone who claims to trust and follow God?!

The word mystery is about hiddenness and is closely related to mystic. To be a mystic requires a self-surrender (a kenosis…self-emptying) to the Great Mystery. I don’t know what this all means, but I’m comforted by the reality not all of life is explained away in three easy steps to success.

It brings my comfort to know that I am called to surrender to Mystery and be shaped by God to be like him in all things. During this lenten season, life feels dark, foggy, and cloudy. There are a few unknown variables in my life that are driving me crazy. I can’t control them or make them go away. I’ve been angry and irritable, much like Moses and Peter. The mystery of circumstances has revealed my childish and immature response. Mystery has revealed my heart…and it’s not pretty.

Last night during a worship time at our church, Christina broke script and sang a song that was not our list. I don’t remember the lyrics, mostly because I was confronted with a sense of the Holy. I put my drumsticks down, stood up, palms up. I was frozen and paralyzed in what felt like God’s focused presence. I remembered Isaiah 6:

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=isaiah%206&version=NIV

In that moment, all I could do is surrender to Mystery and the Holy. When I got up this morning, I had a deeper hope and one that had the courage to surrender to Mystery.

I don’t have answers to some of my perplexing questions. But I have a sense of God’s presence in the Mystery and a grace to surrender.

Article: Sacred/Secular and loss of divine action

It seems like today’s cultural view on God has shifted mainly towards His inaction. Faith in our culture seems to have little to no transcendent quality. There is no more “mystery, transformation, and ontological encounter”. The writer’s use of baptism and the ontological reality that happens is getting lost.

Taylor’s perspective gives us both a window into the challenges we face and an explanation of why faith-formation initiatives have missed the mark. Seeing secular3 as the construct of an immanent frame allows us to see why a deeper theological construct is necessary, for the believability of divine action itself has come under question. To discuss faith in ministry, we are compelled to do so theologically, exploring how transcendence might be testified to in a secular age of unbelief.

https://www.catalystresources.org/faith-formation-in-a-secular-age/

Empathy in Parenting

This was a great podcast by Mark Labberton, Kara Powell, and Steve Argue (all from Fuller Seminary). Their research has shown the different landscape that our kids are growing up in: economic challenges, social media, technology, vocational pressures. One reminder I needed to hear was how difficult it is to parent. It takes much more effort than I’m willing to put in sometimes.

Click here for the podcast.

Brene Brown on Midlife Unraveling

I felt my life start to unravel last year. Questions of life significance, my body feeling different “chronic” conditions, and feeling the depression of “is this IT?” Unraveling is a better way to describe what is happening.

Midlife is not a crisis. Midlife is an unraveling.
By definition, you can’t control or manage an unraveling. You can’t cure the midlife unraveling with control any more than the acquisitions, accomplishments, and alpha-parenting of our thirties cured our deep longing for permission to slow down and be imperfect.
Midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear:
I’m not screwing around. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

https://brenebrown.com/blog/2018/05/24/the-midlife-unraveling/

From Nominal Faith to Holy Obedience

Nominal Christianity.
Convenience/Consumer Christianity.

There is nothing nominal or convenient about Hebrews 4. Theme’s of trusting God, obedience, and praying in a manner that we are honest about our motives don’t give us the option to pick and choose.

Nominal/Convenience Christianity won’t allow us enough time to sit in prayer, becoming aware of our hidden agendas and motives, in the light of God’s holy presence.

Hebrews 4 is the ultimate #checkyourheart. The writer is recalling a story of when the people of Israel did not enter into the promised land because of their disobedience. It would have been a time of rest and trust in a God who called them the beloved, the apple of His eye. Instead, they turned to ideologies and beliefs which were more convenient.

Followers of Jesus are in constant dialogue with the King. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we are reminded that it’s about His Kingdom and His will. We pray about everything! For our decisions, kids, marriage, work, finances, hidden motives! Everything!

Relying on God’s work to shepherd us–to guide, feed, protect, and care for us–is to enter His rest. We go at His pace, asking for what He wants in all situations. And how liberating it is to admit that I’m limited in power, wisdom, and humility! I’m not meant to be ruler of my life.

I used to think obedience, trust, and faith were heavy tasks and so demanding. But then life kept smacking me. Failures turned into prayers of help. Seeing my limitations in full display have brought me to my knees. I need a King! I need a Savior. I need the God of Scripture who longs to guide and lead for His good purposes, which somehow end up being good for all of us.

Are you burned out? Stressed? Hiding your twisted motives? Living in constant worry and fear? Lacking direction? The Gospel (good news) is that Christ longs to shepherd us. But it requires an active trust and obedient heart. It’s okay. If you don’t have that kind of mind/heart, admit it and ask God to change you.

Unbelief as Mistrust

Hebrews 3:12,14 (The Message)So watch your step, friends. Make sure there’s no evil unbelief lying around that will trip you up and throw you off course, diverting you from the living God.If we can only keep our grip on the sure thing we started out with, we’re in this with Christ for the long haul.

Observation 1: Biblical trust is more than doing a free-fall and letting others catch you. Trust is more like a relationship you build with a local favorite restaurant. The waiter/waitress knows your order and they deliver every time. You keep going back because you feel cared for, the food is good, and the service is worth it.

Observation 2: Unbelief (mistrust) usually causes a turning away. We don’t feel safe. It feels too vulnerable to trust so we hide or turn away. There is an evil force working to create mistrust between us and the Living God. Can we confess our unbelief and how it’s caused us to turn away? It’s caused my heart to be distrusting and skeptical. And this has led to nothing good.

Observation 3: The phrase “Living God” and unbelief would go together. Living God is about a God who is active, present, and cares about us and this world. I don’t always feel or trust that. Nothing good has come from it.

Observation 4: To be in Christ means that it’s the power of Christ that is moving us towards a deeper trust, relinquishing all mistrust and unbelief. Christ is an active reality in our hearts and minds that is renewing us to have hearts of deep trust.

Can I trust that the Living God is present and actively longing to be Lord of my life? To guide, lead, and provide?

Can I confess my unbelief knowing very well that it’s led to hurt and pain?

Can I trust that I’m not missing out on anything because God is active in our lives?

Resource: The Church Needs Business People (A theology of Work and Church)

First off, I’m posting this a resource and saver for some really good stuff on business and how the church has mucked it! Working within a business environment, I see the disparity between church and the workplace. I really enjoyed reading through these posts and hope you’ll take the time to read carefully through them. Michael Kruse is summarizing a book that I’ll be using for one of my doctoral courses (at some point): “How the Church Fails Businesspeople (And What Can Be Done About It)”, by John C. Knapp. I haven’t read it yet but am really looking forward to it.

We need more ways to live our lives in public ways! We need more robust, creative theology to help us do that.

Here are the series posts…read them in order:

#1 post
#2 post
#3 post
#4 post

Thanks to Scot McKnight for his work. Check out his work at his site.