Questions everyone is asking

Every person around the world is asking three important questions.  Questions that need answers for our lives to have meaning and purpose.  Who am I?  Where do I fit?  What difference do I make?

The first is a question about identity, meaning a young person’s conception and expression of who they are. This question holds up the mirror and scrutinizes me.  Often this is a question that goes unanswered.  For a great many people the discovery of self is pushed aside in favor of being a part of the crowd, getting that big job or promotion, or something else that forces us to look away from who we are and instead forces us into a mold.  The church is one place that this happens and everyone is squeezed into the same cookie cutter and asked to conform.  And yet it is in the church, at least the one that Jesus is building, where we were called to find ourselves.  We were meant to discover our identity by coming to know the One who created us and called us to be. The Bible says, “It’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone” (Ephesians 1:11, The Message).  

We were all created with purpose and meant to live with passion.  And when we ignore this first question these get robbed from us and we instead live lives of mediocrity and conformity.

The second is a question of belonging, or a person’s quantity and quality of life-giving relationships. This question looks around the room, eager to explore us.   Answering this question without answering the first one is where many people get led astray.  We learn early on in life to adapt ourselves for a desired outcome.  ‘If I behave this way then people like me.’  Often the desire to fit in over rides our need to be ourself.  Both questions are important but they need to be answered together.  One cannot look for a place to fit in without taking the time to know who they are inside, and how to express that in the world they live in.

If we look to fit in without knowing ourself we will always be squeezed into the closest mold we find.  It is important that we all have a place to belong.  A place where others can communicate worth to us.  The first place is in a relationship with Jesus.  It is the first place and the most secure place to find this value.  And it is the place where we will have the highest value.  Jesus declared that you and I were worth dying for, and then He proceeded to do just that so that the door of relationship could be opened again.

The third is a question about purpose, or a person’s commitment to and ability to engage in meaningful activities that impact others. This question peers out the window and wonders about our world.   All of us start with the dream of changing the world.  It often doesn’t take very long for that dream to be taken away.  Life keeps coming and the demands it places on us are extreme.  And often just being able to pay bills and keep food on the table takes precedence over changing the world.

But every one wants to make an impact and to leave their mark on the world we live in.  We all cannot be Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King.  But the opportunities to change the world are available to us if we are willing to know ourselves.  Because that is the foundation we all build from.  Without that foundation the drive to conform will be to high.

“What I really lack is to be clear in my mind what I am to do, not what I am to know… The thing is to understand myself, to see what God really wishes me to do… to find the idea for which I can live and die. SOREN KIERKEGAARD”

The world is looking for people who will rise up with passion and say that there is a better way.  To live a life full of purpose and passion is something that we all can do if we are willing.  It is up to each of us to determine how will we answer these questions?

How Big is Your God – Pt 4

God is truly amazing.  He is the beginning and the end, our faith started with Him, and He is going to see it to completion.  He is the bright and morning star.  He is our all sufficient one, which means He is everything we will ever need, and more than we can ever want.  He is our healer, He is our peace, He is our provider.  He goes before us to prepare our way, and stands behind us guarding our back.  He leads us beside still waters, He restores our soul.  He is infinitely accepting and His mercy never ends.  He called us by name before we were even born, and He knows all of the stars in the sky by name.  And yet He still knows how many hairs we each have on our heads.  God created everything we see with a word.

God is a God who defies description.  There are not enough words in any language to begin to adequately describe how awesome, mighty and powerful God is.  God is incredibly huge, awesomely powerful, without equal and without end.  At the sound of His voice all of creation trembles, and at His name every knee will bow.  How big is your God?  If your finding like me that your God isn’t big enough let me share with you three things that will help you change the size of your God.

First you need to experience God personally

It doesn’t really help you for me to tell you how great God is.  The Israelites only had a theoretical understanding of God’s greatness.  Which is why they ran and hid from Goliath.  They heard the stories of others, and the great stories of their history of when God moved in the past.  God was meant to be experienced.  God desired to make Himself know from the beginning of time.

He walked with Adam and Eve in the garden

He was called the friend of Abraham

Moses talked with Him face to face

Joshua met with Him personally

The disciples turned the world upside down because of their relationship with God, and the experience they had with Jesus which changed their lives forever and they said we have the opportunity to have the same

From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in—we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.

We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this, too. Your joy will double our joy! 1John 1:1-4

God desires to be experienced.  David experienced God.  He fellowshipped with God while looking after the sheep and he had a personal relationship where he got to know God deeply and personally.  God proved himself strong on his behalf many times.  David killed lions and bears who came to steal his sheep

34″I have been taking care of my father’s sheep,” he said. “When a lion or a bear comes to steal a lamb from the flock,  

35 I go after it with a club and take the lamb from its mouth. If the animal turns on me, I catch it by the jaw and club it to death.

36 I have done this to both lions and bears, and I’ll do it to this pagan Philistine, too, for he has defied the armies of the living God!

37 The LORD who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine!”  1 Samuel 17

David knew His God and God’s greatness was a personal experience for Him, and it resulted in David’s boldness and confidence.  And everyone of us has the opportunity to experience Him as He is and to know Him in all of His splendor.  We all need to experience God personally.  Without it we will have a god of our own understanding and that leaves us with a pretty small god.

What’s Going On God? – pt. 6

Every time God wants to do something in us or through us He brings us through 4 stages.  Every stage is about critically important to who we are becoming so none of them can be bypassed.  The first stage is where we receive Revelation.  It is where God speaks to us and reveals some of His purpose for us.  Once we have received Revelation God begins to show us what needs to change in our lives.  This is the stage of Confrontation and every time God speaks to us He brings us to this stage.  Often we miss out on His plan because we misunderstand what He is doing and don’t submit to what He is trying to do.  It we do submit to Him we move into the third stage, Transformation, where we allow Him to change us.  God never allows anything in our lives that He is unwilling to see us through if we allow Him to.  And the purpose for our struggle is that we can be more and more like Jesus.  Once we go through the stage of Transformation we enter the stage we all want to see in our lives.  The final stage is Manifestation.  This is where God releases in and through us the fullness of His promise and we begin to see the fruit of the process He has brought us through.

God desires greatly to bring us to the fulfillment of His purpose He specifically designed each of us for.  God is extremely interested and heavily invested in each of us.  And we cannot reach the stage of Manifestation unless we are willing to walk through the middle ground where God deals with our nature and shows us our character.  Character is always proven in the fire. It is the stages of confrontation and transformation that Character is formed and proven.

  • Things happen TO me,
  • So that things can happen IN me
  • So that things can happen THROUGH me

Every follower of Christ wants to be able to hear “Well done good and faithful servant” when we face God one day.   To live in the destiny and plan that God has for each of us.  The encouraging part of this process is God never gives up on us.  Paul wrote in Philippians 1:6 “I am sure that God Who began the good work in you will keep on working in you until the day Jesus Christ comes again. NLV

Folks there is light at the end of the tunnel. And it isn’t a train. There is a reason for everything you are walking through.  Every situation and problem in our lives has been “Father Filtered”.  God is sovereign and He allows things in our lives for the express purpose of bringing out the manifestation of His life in us.  Psalms 105:19 “Until the time came to fulfill his word, the LORD tested Joseph’s character”.  “Things happen to me, so that things can happen in me, so that things can happen through me.”

So if you’re in the stage of confrontation, allow God to show you who you really are.  Then allow Him to change you by facing your giants and move forward into what God has for you.  I can guarantee that despite the pain, if we allow the process to come to completion, we will never regret what God has brought us through.

Let me share how a wise servant of God endured this process.  He was a retired missionary who served in the Andes of South America. He said,

“Storms are a part of life; God made it that way,” he said, “but I learned a secret that’s helped me all these years, and it is still helping me: Always look for the rainbow. The world looks for the silver lining and sings ‘Somewhere over the Rainbow’ . But we have something better.  You can’t close your eyes to the storm and pretend it’s not there, but your can look for the rainbow in the storm.  It’s always there.  Expect the storms and don’t be afraid of them, because God is always faithful.  And always remember to look for the rainbow.

So if you’re in the middle of this process and the storm is raging all around you, remember God is in control and look for the rainbow.  There are three questions to ask to help you find the rainbow because when the storm is roaring it can sometimes be hard to find.

  1. God do you still love me?

    Jeremiah 31:3 “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” NLT

    • God told them, “I’ve never quit loving you and never will.
      Expect love, love, and more love! Message
  2. Do You still have my best interests at heart?

    Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. NLT

  3. God will You see me through?

    Hebrews 13:5 “I’ll never let you down, never walk off and leave you,” Message

Absolutely everything God brings us through is for good, both for us and for the kingdom.

Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me

So that things can happen THROUGH me

What’s Going on God? – pt 1

Many times I have wondered what God was doing (or where He was) during the difficult moments of my life.  And I have asked questions like

What’s Going on God?

Why is this happening to me?

What are you trying to teach me?

Why do I keep getting the short end of the stick?

I can’t take this anymore. What is going on?

Any of this sound familiar?  I have asked these questions and others like it on several occasions.  How about you. Have you asked these questions of God? Or ones like them?

Why did this have to happen to me?

What did I do to deserve this?

God is up to something in the difficult moments of our lives.  He hasn’t walked away from us or left us alone to wonder what is happening.  He is moving in us and preparing us so that He can release us in the future.

I’m sure Joseph had some of these same questions when his brothers threw him in a pit and sold him into slavery. And as he spent years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit I’m sure several times these questions played through his mind.  I don’t know about you but I could never seem to get an answer from God when I asked these questions. And this often added to my frustration.  I often felt like I had missed what God was trying to accomplish.  I discovered over the years that I haven’t missed God many times, and it brought peace to my heart because I realized I hadn’t missed out on God’s plan.  I had just misunderstood God’s methods for fulfilling His purpose in me. And I would like to share some of my journey with you.

God has given each of us a purpose to fulfill.  One poster my parents had when I was growing up said “I know I’m somebody, ’cause God don’t make no junk.”    God doesn’t make mistakes.  And God made you and I.  Jeremiah 1:5 states

Before I shaped you in the womb,
I knew all about you.
Before you saw the light of day,
I had holy plans for you:

God pre-planned and designed each us with a purpose to fulfill.  The question we most often have is how is my circumstance helping get me closer to what God has planned for me.  Our purpose is uniquely crafted specifically for each one of us, and God lays out a path for us so that we can choose to fulfill our purpose or to walk away from it.  God qualifies us all for the purpose He has designed us for.   What we do with what God reveals determines whether or not we disqualify ourselves.

There are 4 stages that God brings us through that enable us to live out His purpose for us. And they can be summed up in one statement by John Stott.

“Things happen TO me,

So that things can happen IN me

So that things can happen THROUGH me.”

Change – A love/hate relationship

1-change4Change is a powerful force in our lives.  And our lives are always changing.  We don’t always like change, and people can feel differing levels of anxiety when things are changing around them.  And yet when a change is valuable enough to a person they are willing to adjust and make the necessary changes in their lives.  Even the most anxious person who is against change will willingly adjust at times and accept change as important and necessary.

Change is something that we cannot escape even if we try.  As long as there is life in us change is happening.  As we get older our bodies undergo constant changes.  The relationships we are in change over time.  Some change for the better and others begin to come unraveled and the changes are less than pleasant.  We are constantly undergoing changes in our lives, relationships, careers and families.  Harold Wilson said “Change is inevitable. He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.”

Even though we are continually changing we as humans resist change instinctively.  A group of scientists placed five monkeys in a cage. Inside the cage, they hung a banana on a string with a set of stairs placed under it. Before long, a monkey went to the stairs and started to climb towards the banana. As soon as he started up the stairs, the psychologists sprayed all the other monkeys with ice-cold water. After a while, another monkey tried to get the banana.  As soon as his foot touched the stairs, all the other monkeys were sprayed with ice-cold water. It’s wasn’t long before all the other monkeys would physically prevent any monkey from climbing the stairs. Now, the psychologists shut off the cold water, removed one monkey from the cage and replaced it with a new one. The new monkey saw the banana and started to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all the other monkeys attacked him.  After another attempt and attack, he discovered that if he tried to climb the stairs, he would be assaulted. Next they removed another of the original five monkeys and replaced it with a new one. The newcomer went to the stairs and was attacked. The previous newcomer took part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, they replaced a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey tried to climb the stairs, he was attacked. The monkeys had no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they were beating any monkey that tried. After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys had ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approached the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that’s the way it’s always been around here.”

While this experiment never really happened this way it does illustrate a trait in human nature to resist change.  How many times have you heard or said something to the effect of “That’s the way we’ve always done it.”  Many things is our lives are simply the result of us having done them that way enough that we develop a pattern which we don’t have to think about, and anyone challenging the behavior gets the same resistant response, and we resist the idea of change even if the change would be simple and valuable to us.  Henry Cloud wrote “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.”

What changes are we resisting that are necessary in our lives.  When we begin to see change as inevitable and see change as valuable to life we can then be more willing to accept changes in our lives and see the value of those changes as we grow and develop.  As Christians this is extremely important.  We cannot keep fighting changes if we want to see God impact our world.  Society is changing all around us, and we all know that the world that once was is no longer, and the changes are not slowing down.  If we don’t change our methods we will lose our impact on the people we encounter.  What once worked is not working any longer.  And yet God’s mind hasn’t changed.  He still desires that all people come to know Him personally 1 Timothy 2:4.  And He sent us out into the world with the same mandate that Jesus had, to “Seek and save the lost.” Luke 19:10

But the methods that we choose to use need to change to be useful to impact the society we are trying to reach.  Pastor Rick Warren said “don’t confuse methods with the message. The message must never change, but methods must change with each new generation”.   Change is important, valuable and inevitable.  Life is changing all around us.  Will we accept the need for change allow changes to happen in our lives?

Authenticity, A part of the journey

authenticWe all live searching for that one possible way of being that carries with it the gift of authenticity. We are most conscious of this search for identity during adolescence, when it takes front stage. At this stage of life we try on identities like clothing, looking for a style of being that fits with how we want to be seen. But even long after adolescence has passed, most adults know the occasional feeling of being a fraud—a sense of being not what they pretend to be but rather precisely what they pretend not to be.”    Benner, David G.

In a world of fakes we all search for authenticity.  We live in a society that prides itself on conformity.  Our styles are led by Hollywood and popular music.  We work usually at becoming what will make us accepted, instead of what we truly are.  Everything from the clothes we where to the homes and cars we buy.  Even the friends we have in our lives.  We fit in as much as we can, and do our best to learn and conform to the rules.  And we have all tasted the rejection when we don’t fit in.

People have always admired authenticity in others.  We all have hero’s that led from who they were and strove not to fit what society told them to be, but instead discovered themselves and entered life from a place of confidence and security which drew many people to them.  People like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa.  People who just lived life knowing who they were and rising to the challenge to be themselves no matter what happened.

Authenticity is defined as;

  • real or genuine : not copied or false
  • true and accurate
  • not false or imitation:real, actual
  • true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character
  • being really what it seems to be

via Authentic | Definition of Authentic by Merriam-Webster

We all have the ability to be authentic, and to make a serious impact on our world and our society.  But only if we make the journey to discover who we truly are can we actually be authentic.  Making the journey allows us to strip away all the things that family and society formed in and around us that are not us.  At times this can be painful because some of our actions are determined by protecting us from painful memories and situations.  As we journey we begin to separate who we actually are from who we were made to be.  We may find our choices changing.  We may even begin to actually like ourselves.

All of this happens as we make the effort to discover the roots of our behaviors, and to start making choices based on who we are and not who we were told to become.  Jesus was a man who deeply knew Himself.  There was a complete confidence in Him that allowed Him to face every obstacle and difficulty.  His purpose and presence was based in who He was.  And regardless of if you bgenuine-sealelieve He was God or not He changed His world powerfully.

It is within us all to be world changers.  To seize the moments of life given to us and to live them for all they are worth.  This can happen as we discover ourselves and truly become authentic.

Knowing me

Most of us go through life detached from the most important person in our lives.  We wander though life never getting in touch with the one who can make the biggest impact on us.  We accept whatever comes our way and miss out on a passionate existence, and usually blame the world around us for what we see is wrong.  We miss out completely with connecting with ourselves.

A friend once asked me “What are you passionate about?”  It was a question I couldn’t answer.  I had never got into the habit of looking within and learning what was going on inside.  Life was full of external stimuli and little inside understanding.  Life was happening to me, instead of me taking life for all it was worth.  And when I talk with people, most times they have the same responses.  They don’t often know what is inside.

know yourselfFor many years I never came to understand who I was.  And missed out on some great understandings of me, and great experiences which I could have seized on if I truly understood me.  So I started a journey of self-discovery.  Because I am worth knowing and if I don’t know myself, I cannot expect anyone else to be willing to either.  Without knowing yourself you cannot value yourself.  And if you don’t value yourself, no one else will either.

The struggle to know oneself is a difficult path, but one that leads to rich rewards.  Your relationships get better, because they are no longer based on circumstances but on who we are.  Conversations can go much deeper because we have evaluated what we think, and why.  We have also evaluated what we feel and why, so then instead of exploding at random events when everything comes to a head, or blowing up at family after a few hard days, we can begin to see things in a different light, and respond appropriately.

The journey begins by taking a look under our hood and determining what is there.  For many people this will be a hard thing to do, because many don’t really like what they see.  But as we do this we begin to see past the grease and the oil, and we see past the damaged areas, and we see things that are actually worthwhile.  There is great value and priceless treasure inside each one of us, and unless we are willing to take a hard honest look inside, and get past the things we don’t like, we will never become who we were meant to be.

Jesus said to “…love your neighbor in the same way you love yourself.” Mark 12:31 (Voice)  When we look around us at the world we live in very few people actually love themselves.  This is evidenced by the way they treat the world around them.  If we don’t love ourselves, we have nothing to offer others, and we treat them the same way we feel would treat us.  You cannot love yourself without knowing yourself.  And others cannot know you either if you don’t know you.  And the world is crying out for relationships that matter.  We are fed up with the empty social world, and are hungry for something deeper.  And it begins by me knowing me.

know yourself quotes