How Big is Your God – Pt 3

When I thought about how big God was I found  I was no different that most other Christians.  My life certainly didn’t reflect the God of the scriptures.  When I prayed I didn’t really see much results.  People I prayed about didn’t get healed, didn’t get delivered or set free, didn’t get saved.  And to be honest I was getting frustrated

What about you?  Have you ever faced these situations?  How’s your frustration level in spiritual matters?  Just how big is Your God?  Think about the people you have given up hope on.  People whom you think are a lost cause, feel like their never going to change.  Or think about the times where we turn to the credit cards and bank loans or pawn shops because there are bills to pay, instead of allowing God to provide.

Do we stand in the face of opposition and difficulty confidently assured of our God who stands with us, or do we cower in fear of what people think or may say.  Do we accept all challenges boldly, jumping in with both feet because we know “God will provide”, or do we shy away from difficult situations.  Do we willing step out into the unknown simply because God said ‘go’, or do we try to figure out all the angles first.  These were all questions I asked myself.

Just how big is your God?

Enter David in our story found in 1 Samuel 17.

Davids brothers were part of Saul’s army facing the Philistines.  And as David was to young to enter the army he would travel back and forth with supplies for his brothers.

So David left the sheep with another shepherd and set out early the next morning with the gifts. He arrived at the outskirts of the camp just as the Israelite army was leaving for the battlefield with shouts and battle cries.

21 Soon the Israelite and Philistine forces stood facing each other, army against army.

22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies and hurried out to the ranks to greet his brothers.

23 As he was talking with them, he saw Goliath, the champion from Gath, come out from the Philistine ranks, shouting his challenge to the army of Israel.

24 As soon as the Israelite army saw him, they began to run away in fright.

What I found interesting is Davids response to Goliath wasn’t fear.

“Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?

David response wasn’t to cower and hide.  He saw and heard the same things his fellow Israelites were hearing.  He served the same God they did.  He had grown up hearing the same stories they did.  If you were to ask him how great God was he probably would have the same answer his countrymen had.  But something was different in David because he didn’t even hesitate in his response.  Instead of running away to hide like everyone else had he charged headlong down to meet the giant saying

“You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD Almighty – the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied”

David personally knew how great God was.  God’s greatness for him was not a theory talked about in church.  It was a confident assurance that gripped him in the center of his being  and it caused him to have great boldness.  He absolutely knew God was going to back him up and defeat this giant, and it was a boldness that none of his fellow countrymen had.

How big is your God?  Is it a theory?  Its a tough question isn’t it, and it is one each of us needs to ask ourselves, because God doesn’t want to remain a theory we simply talk about.

Unmasking our false self Pt 2

true-identity.jpgLast time we looked at the nature of our false self.  In every person there is a true identity which is a gift from God when we were created and not something that we have to create, and a false identity which we have learned to become by our lifestyle, upbringing, and circumstances.

Our sense of identity is built up over the years as we grow.  It begins as we discover that our behaviors create responses in others that if worked correctly will get us what we desire.  These behaviors are added to by the early realization that we can create ourselves so that we are seen in a positive light and helps us maintain our self-esteem.  And so our identity becomes something that we create around ourselves.

“Our basic style is often built around the things that were reinforced for us as children. It usually starts with the things we do well. Over time our repertoire of competencies grows, and we learn to live in a way that we think will work for us. This becomes “our way,” or what we simply think of as who we are.”  David G. Benner  Our abilities or lack of abilities form our sense of identity.  Those around us challenged us to achieve, or made us feel we could never be good enough, or we were told we were  a failure.  These and many other things created in us our sense of identity early in life, and have become the basis and foundation for our current behaviors.

Identifying our false self can be difficult if we are not willing to see ourselves differently than we currently do.  Because the false self is a facsimile and is not a secure state it can be very uncomfortable to look inside ourselves.  Our false self and the sense of security it brings us can be hard to let go of.  But the reality of who we are, and the great blessing that comes as we discover ourselves and the resulting sense of peace and security completely outweigh the risks of looking inside.

There are some trustworthy clues to discovering our false self if we are willing to look.  One of the first clues is a sense of defensiveness.  “Because of its fundamental unreality, the false self needs constant bolstering. Touchiness dependably points us to false ways of being. And the more prickly a person you are, the more you are investing in the defense of a false self.
Some people bristle easily if they are not taken seriously, thus betraying a need for others to see the self-importance that is so obvious to them. Others take themselves too seriously, perhaps being unable to laugh at themselves. Both reactions suggest ego inflation. Others have learned to mask these outward displays of defensiveness, but inner reactions of annoyance or irritation still point toward the presence of a false self.”

Touchiness and pettiness are fundamental characteristics of a false identity.  And the things that bother us most about others, our pet peeves, point to the falseness in our own identity.  “If laziness in others is what really bothers me, there is a good chance that discipline and performance form a core part of the false self that I embrace with tenacity. If it is playfulness and spontaneity in others that I find most annoying, then seriousness may be a central part of the self I protect and seek to project. If it is moral disregard that is particularly irritating in others, my false self is probably built around moral rectitude and self-righteousness. And if emotionality in others is what I most despise, emotional control is probably central to the script I have chosen to live.”

Compulsive behaviors are also an indicator of a false identity.  Our false identity is rooted in the perception that our value is dependent on external things like owning the latest and greatest things, or being the best at something.  As a result we compulsively pursue the things we see create value and security for us and preserve our sense of identity.

The constant pursuit of a false identity is the root of our unhappiness.  As we discover and grow into our true identity we find fulfillment, meaning and happiness because we are living life as we were meant to live.  And our value comes not from external things but on the value that we have as people.  As we begin to value and understand ourselves it opens the door to us valuing and understanding the people we come in contact with each and every day.

But it begins by being willing to take an honest look at ourselves even if we may not like what we see, and being willing to see some of the ways we live as actually supporting a false identity and not who we really are after all.  “The bondage in any false self is the bondage of having to keep up the illusion.”  David G. Benner

Unmasking our false self pt.1

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Everyone is on a search for authenticity.  It is something that everyone has a deep desire for.  We may not know what it looks like when we see it, but we all have an expectation and idea of what it may be like.  It is like the idea of perfection.  Know one really knows what perfection looks or feels like, because no one except Jesus has ever attained it, but we have an idea of what it would be like.  What we know about authenticity is how we give it our best shot to scramble after what we think it is and what will give us fulfillment personally.

We seek after authenticity and seek a way for living that leads us to happiness.  Unfortunately not all routes we may take are equally authentic.  It stands to reason that if there is a true self we are working to become, that there is a false self we can also be.  “If there is a way of being that is true to my deepest self, then there are also many other ways that are false.” David Benner.

It didn’t take us long in life to discover that we needed to look after ourselves.  Early on we began to develop a plan of coping with life and achieving our definition of happiness.  We began to figure out what made us feel good about ourselves and we worked at trying to fulfill those needs for love, survival, power and control.  This is where our basic identity began to form, and the way we lived and the experiences we had began to form in us an identity and a way of seeing the world around us.  It also began to form in us the deepest desires which will drive us throughout our lives.  Many of the behaviors we now have are a simple result of our souls searching for its needs to be met.  And a lot of it is subconscious, because we don’t even recognize the behaviors for what they are.

We grow up learning what our strengths are, or the things we thing we do well that bring us the things, or feelings we are looking for.  But some grow up learning what their weaknesses are, struggling to simply enter the world feeling like they have any value at all.  These feelings and behaviors make up our sense of identity.  And many times the identity we portray is not who we are at all.  It is just the way we handle life and we have lived it for so long we never question it at all.  It is something we simply accept, and expect others to as well.  The problem is we can often see the false identity in others, but it is very hard to spot in our own lives.  Because it is our “normal” approach to life that we simply accept is the way we all live.  It has become like the air we breathe.  We are so accustomed to it we are no longer aware of it.  In order for us to change we have to be willing to see ourselves as different from we see ourselves currently to be.  Our self-image and our desire to hold on to it, or be willing to let it go will decide whether we can break free from the molds we were put into, or we will continue to live in bondage to a way of living and seeing life.  A bondage to a self that was created for us and is not who we are.

Saul is a perfect example in scripture of someone with a false self-identity.  He was fanatically zealous and ruthless, consumed by personal ambition and terrorized the early Christian church.  After he encountered Jesus his life was completely changed, and he saw himself completely different.  He had exchanged his image of self for a new one.  He came to understand who he was, and who he was in Christ.

The core of our false self is “the belief that my value depends on what I have, what I can do, and what others think of me.” Basil Pennington.  Thomas Merton describes it as “… winding experiences around myself… like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and the world as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface.”  Our false identity is always wrapped up in something other than us.  We make ourselves feel important by what we do, or how others think about us.  We place a value on ourselves by how many friends we have on Facebook, or how many people agree with our opinions.  “Because it is hollow at the core, the life of a false self is a life of excessive attachments.  Seeking to avoid implosion and non-being, the false self grasps for anything that appears to have substance and then clings to these things with the tenacity of a drowning man clutching a life ring.”  And so we have the race “keeping up with the Jones’ ”

This isn’t much of a way to live and without the willingness to see ourselves as different that we are we will never be able to break free of the cycle and discover our true identity.

The tragic part of your journey

tragicInside every one of us is a desire to know ourselves.  Many are able to numb this desire by a great variety of pursuits and focuses which allow them to be distracted from the search for self.  This is the biggest tragedy.  The fact that people can go through life never knowing themselves, never seeing and realizing their potential, never coming to know and release the gift that they are into the world.

Everyone of us was created with purpose, and there is not a single person born who was a mistake.  Every person was created with meaning and purpose and gifting.  And far to many of us miss out on the blessing we are by not taking the time to seek out ourselves.  Our world has an ability to exert great pressure on us and without an inner sense of purpose we will always get squeezed out.  The choice before us is never one of becoming.  We will always become something.  Becoming is a certainty.  The question is always what will we become.  If we do not decide to search out and become ourselves, our world and our relationships will decide for us.

The problem with identity is that there is a false identity.  For every truth there is a false.  And we have all developed a false identity.  The mask that we choose to wear that makes us acceptable to those around us.  We all have a false identity.  One that we use to protect our vulnerabilities, and that drives us forward to gain the things that our souls are longing for.

It didn’t take us very long to learn in life that we could manipulate the way people saw us to gain something we wanted to have, or  to elicit a certain response from people.  We began to develop mannerisms that we used to gain the things or relationships we desire.  This is how we began to build our false identity.  Add to that the situations we grew up in and the expectations of those around us to fit in and measure up to and we have an identity that is built on illusion.  One that we have had for so long we don’t even think about it any more

Because our false identity is build on illusion it will always fight hard to protect itself.  One of the easiest ways to identify our false identity is to begin to name the areas of our lives that are the most sensitive to outside influences.  We all have irrational defense mechanisms that almost instinctively arise within us.  These are the defense mechanisms of our false identity.  “Because of its fundamental unreality, the false self needs constant bolstering. Touchiness dependably points us to false ways of being. And the more prickly a person you are, the more you are investing in the defense of a false self. Some people bristle easily if they are not taken seriously, thus betraying a need for others to see the self-importance that is so obvious to them. Others take themselves too seriously, perhaps being unable to laugh at themselves. Both reactions suggest ego inflation. Others have learned to mask these outward displays of defensiveness, but inner reactions of annoyance or irritation still point toward the presence of a false self.”  Benner, David G. (2009-09-20). The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery (p. 83). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

As you begin to know yourself and remove the false identities you no longer have a need to defend anything.  Because you are built on conviction instead of illusion there is no need to defend something that cannot be destroyed.  And this causes those around us who have not chosen to begin their own search for identity to become uneasy and defensive, and many times they will begin to attack the person we are becoming, usually without realizing they are doing it.  We are simply a threat to their sense of identity and they are responding because of the insecure nature of their false self.

Which means that there is going to be some pain along the way.  Unfortunately we cannot avoid it.  But it shouldn’t keep us from digging.  It should cause us to seek out those who are on their own journey of discovery, and we can then seek support from those who are working on the same things.  It is very important that we don’t make this journey alone.  As we begin to see ourselves for who we are it is a fragile state to be in, and we will need the support of others to carry us through the early stages of discovery.

A great benefit to us growing into who we really are is that we will inspire others to do the same.  As others see the strength and security growing in us they will begin to ask the same questions that got you started, so the journey is exceedingly worth making.  Don’t allow the tragic attacks of those around you stop you from discovering who you really are.  Otherwise you will add to the pile of people living out the greatest tragedy of never discovering who they are.

Discover Identity

who am iEveryone needs an identity.  It is something we search for from the day we are born.  And all through life we have opportunities to change our identity.  We are born and our identity is related to our mother.  As we grow we begin to relate with our father.  Then somewhere around two we begin to separate our identity from those around us.  We begin to look for our own identity.

Many people try to create their identity.  They adapt and mold themselves to be more acceptable to those they want to relate to, or those they think are cool.   All of us have had this struggle throughout our school years.  We find ourselves accepted by many of those around us, or not accepted by them, because of the way we act and dress.  And that changes as we try to make ourselves acceptable.  We all know someone who can change who they are depending on who they are with.  There is no sense of security build inside that allows them to simply be, and let the cards fall where they may.

The struggle to be accepted, and the struggle for identity can often seem to be in opidentity maskposition to each other.  If I am the way I want, they won’t accept me.  But if they accept me I won’t be the way I want.  Peer pressure is a powerful influence in our lives.  It causes most of us to live with masks that we change and wear depending on our situations.  Unfortunately this means that we don’t ever become who we were meant to be.  Our identity isn’t something we can create to fit our situations, or to fit our goals.  David Benner wrote “Identity is never simply a creation. It is always a discovery. True identity is always a gift of God.”

Identity is something we were born with.  Our passions, desires, goals and dreams arise from our identity.  And we discover and grow in our identity as we find acceptance for who we are, and for who we are becoming.  Without acceptance we fit the mold we are given.  Without acceptance we and our world miss out on who we are.  Finding those people who can accept us simply because we are is extremely valuable and necessary.  They can be hard to find, but they are out there.  Don’t let people fit you into their mold for you.  There is someone extremely valuable inside that is worth becoming if you will look for them.

Securely Anchored

anchorAnchors have been around as long as we have had boats on water.  They are a means of securing a boat to keep it from drifting away.  On larger vessels capable of ocean voyages they also secure the ship against the storms that come.  Oil drilling rigs are often stationed in some of the worst areas in our oceans for storms and they are anchored securely and even the worst of the storms the crew can remain secure in the fact that the anchors have been designed to keep them secure and in place.  They won’t drift or blow away.

In our lives anchors are important as well.  We live in a world that is going crazier every day.  With new bombings happening in Belgium, and Turkey, and terrorist attacks on the rise all around the world our lives are become more and more unstable.  People are beginning to question much of what they had counted on for securing.  With global instability rising, and markets crashing even the finances we had set aside and based some security in for our future is disappearing.  Overnight people are waking up to realities where the moneys they had worked so hard to set aside and plan for had disappeared.  Many lost thousands as the market values crashed and world currencies devalued.  Security has become an illusion for many people.  With home invasions on the rise, and gun violence all around us many have become disillusioned with what we had at one time considered security.

In all of this there is an opportunity to have real hope.  An all-encompassing sense of security inside, even when the world is going crazy outside.  There is an ability to have a confident peace that is secure and quietly allows you to weather all that life may send your way.  It isn’t an absence of things going wrong, but a confidence and hope that fills us regardless of things going wrong.

1 Peter 1:3 talks about this hope that is available to us.  Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” NIV Jesus is alive.  He was dead, and was raised to life again, and because of this we can have a deep-seated hope and confidence that is not dependent on our circumstances.  A hope which anchors us securely through all that life sends our way.  This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. Hebrews 6:19 NLT

As we enter the season where we as Christians reflect on what Jesus did for us, and offers to us because of His death and resurrection we need to refocus our lives at times.  We can get distracted and allow ourselves to let go of our anchor and tie ourselves to many other things which will never be able to hold us true and steady.  In this season we need to ask ourselves what are we anchored to, and will it hold no matter what comes?