If someone else thinks they have reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal,persecuting the church; as for righteousness based on the law, faultless……
For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers. But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being. I did not go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went into Arabia. Later I returned to Damascus……
But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law,but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ.
~ The Apostle Paul
The Bible gives us a remarkable example of transformation through the man named Saul as he finds his true identity in Christ and becomes the Apostle Paul. He would become one of the greatest missionaries to the Gentiles and Jews and many of his writings are canonized as part of the New Testament. Saul was a man possessed with defining who he was through a skewed belief system. His life was polarized by who he kept company with and who he disassociated himself from.
Until one day when Christ stepped into the picture and redefined what his Identity was in truth and how that would clarify his mission and community. This would not be an overnight transformation for the man formerly known as Saul. His own words tell us that he had to spend some time in Arabia away from those who he would ultimately serve. I believe he had some soul searching to do in order to work through some pain of what he had been and done. He would need to be prepared to endure some of the hardest tests of his new identity and that took preparedness.
My friend and pastor, Chis McAlister, just released a book on Amazon yesterday which is titled SightShift. Chris details in his book how he had to go through a time of transformation, an Arabia if you will, in order to understand what healthy and true identity looks like. He also provides the reader with actions that can help them through this process and how to understand the triggers that come about which would challenge or skew the identity that we have in Christ. He is so passionate about this teaching that he is providing the book free in Kindle format for a few days. So hurry and get a copy before the time elapses but before you take off from here, I wanted you to read a few words from Chris about his book and teachings. So I asked him provide answers to three questions that I would have liked to ask so many authors that I have read before. Please take a few moments and see the heart of this man through the answers he provided.
Me: How do you respond to the reader who is thinking about reading your book and thinks, ‘Wow, another Christian self-help book’? (Especially non-Christians)
Chris: I tire of the message that says, “Try harder” or “You should live your life like mine”. SightShift isn’t a discovery of new information but a re-discovery of what is true. The truth is that your journey may look very different than mine. And it isn’t about trying harder. Instead it’s learning who you are uniquely in Jesus and how to embrace the uniqueness of your journey.
Me: How does your book help the reader navigate the tensions found in the American Christian Heritage (Fundamentalism vs Christian Liberty)?
Chris: When you learn to experience a secure identity in Jesus you are empowered. One of the implications of that empowerment is you get to think for yourself. Rather than respond to pressure from others you learn to follow where Jesus is leading you. This isn’t hyper-individualism either. It is acknowledging systematic approaches reduce God to what we can figure out. Legalism reduces God to a task master. But learning who God is in truth and who we are liberates us to embrace mystery and relationship. In this framework theological systems aren’t cup-de-sacs but stepping stones in our journey with God.
Me: What is your greatest hope for the message in your book?
Chris: My biggest hope is for the freedom of my brothers and sisters in Jesus. A wave of leadership went through the church and now people for the most part recognize inactive and passive leadership. What if a wave went through the church where we learned to recognize shame and guilt with the same accuracy? What if we made the church about people discovering who they are, the uniqueness of their mission, and how to build healthy community rather than completing a checklist to build a machine disguised a church?
Get over to Amazon and get your free Kindle copy before they are gone at http://www.amazon.com/SightShift-Identity-Chris-McAlister-ebook/dp/B00GIQ7U8A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384645487&sr=8-1&keywords=sightshift
Welcome to week 3 of my asinine questions.
I brought the following question up during a Wednesday night men’s bible study that I have belonged to for about 3 years now. The question:
When we reach heaven, will we still have freewill to choose?
That question needs a little fleshing out to make more sense, so consider these points:
- This question is about the ability to choose to obey or not
- Heaven in our minds is purportedly perfect and free from sin
- Angels appear to have freewill as Lucifer and the third of the heavens that were cast out should attest
- What do our thoughts on this question say about our beliefs on the character of God?
So, do we lose freewill? Or is it more of the fact of having lived a life here on the fallen earth that by comparison there really is no choice as it would be like choosing between a plate of dog feces or brownies for dessert?
Feel free to weigh in on your thoughts. Don’t be afraid to tell me if you feel this is a silly question that needs no answer.
com·pas·sion (k m-p sh n). n. Deep awareness of the suffering of another coupled with the wish to relieve it.
The story behind the photo:
As described in Time magazine, the scene Carter captured in his now-famous photograph was one he stumbled across during a trip he made on his own in order to cover the civil strife in war-torn Sudan:
In 1993 Carter headed north of the border with [friend and fellow journalist] Jaoa Silva to photograph the rebel movement in famine-stricken Sudan. To make the trip, Carter had taken a leave from the [South Africa] Weekly Mail and borrowed money for the air fare. Immediately after their plane touched down in the village of Ayod, Carter began snapping photos of famine victims. Seeking relief from the sight of masses of people starving to death, he wandered,into the open bush. He heard a soft, high-pitched whimpering and saw a tiny girl trying to make her way to the feeding center. As he crouched to photograph her, a vulture landed in view. Careful not to disturb the bird, he positioned himself for the best possible image. He would later say he waited about 20 minutes, hoping the vulture would spread its wings. It did not, and after he took his photographs, he chased the bird away and watched as the little girl resumed her struggle. Afterward he sat under a tree, lit a cigarette, talked to God and cried. “He was depressed afterward,” Silva recalls. “He kept saying he wanted to hug his daughter.”
After another day in Sudan, Carter returned to Johannesburg. Coincidentally, the New York Times, which was looking for pictures of Sudan, bought his photograph and ran it on March 26, 1993. The picture immediately became an icon of Africa’s anguish. Hundreds of people wrote and called the Times asking what had happened to the child (the paper reported that it was not known whether she reached the feeding center); and papers around the world reproduced the photo. Friends and colleagues complimented Carter on his feat. His self-confidence climbed. But Kevin Carter was also a troubled soul, struggling with issues such as financial insecurity, drug problems, failed relationships, and the horrors of having witnessed multiple scenes of death — enough of a burden for anyone to struggle with, but in Carter’s case it was a burden made extra-heavy by the critical condemnation heaped upon him for taking the photograph that had made him world-famous:
Though the photo helped draw enormous attention to the humanitarian crisis that was engulfing Sudan, it was criticized by others who felt that Carter should have helped the girl and was instead exploiting her suffering for his gain. The real vulture, they said in vitriolic hate mail, was Carter himself. Some photojournalists might have easily dismissed such criticism, but it hit Carter hard and fed his self-doubts.
On 27 July 1994, barely two months after having received his Pulitzer Prize, 33-year-old Kevin Carter could shoulder that burden no more and took his own life:
The Braamfonteinspruit is a small river that cuts southward through Johannesburg’s northern suburbs — and through Parkmore, where the Carters once lived. At around 9 p.m., Kevin Carter backed his red Nissan pickup truck against a blue gum tree at the Field and Study Center. He had played there often as a little boy. The Sandton Bird Club was having its monthly meeting there, but nobody saw Carter as he used silver gaffer tape to attach a garden hose to the exhaust pipe and run it to the passenger-side window. Wearing unwashed Lee jeans and an Esquire T-shirt, he got in and switched on the engine. Then he put music on his Walkman and lay over on his side, using the knapsack as a pillow.
The suicide note he left behind is a litany of nightmares and dark visions, a clutching attempt at autobiography, self-analysis, explanation, excuse. After coming home from New York, he wrote, he was “depressed … without phone … money for rent … money for child support … money for debts … money!!! … I am haunted by the vivid memories of killings & corpses & anger & pain … of starving or wounded children, of trigger-happy madmen, often police, of killer executioners … “
It would be easy to feel compassion for the little girl in the photo and, ultimately, we should. How could we not? Can we feel compassion for the man who took the photo and then did nothing to change the little girl’s situation? Maybe that is impossible for some and still hard for others.
I was thinking on what compassion is tonight after reading the following passage from Matthew:
“But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
I am still thinking on it. I am wondering if compassion can take on many faces and levels of degree. I posted the definition of compassion at the top of this post because it resonated with me – deep awareness… wish to relieve it. I can find myself having those reactions for both the child in the photo and the man who took the photo. In different measures.
I think the question that is sticking with me most tonight is this:
When was the last time that I was deeply moved by compassion to make a difference in someone’s life?
How about you? When was the last time you were given opportunity to practice a deep form of compassion?
So what has possessed me to to start running? I can tell you it is not a sudden urge to join a marathon or find my twenties. I am not having a mid-life crisis and there is no new love to impress.
I am learning the ‘joys’ of running as a way to encourage my daughter to keep up her running regime now that her Cross Country season is over. She is much better at this than I am as she has had two seasons to learn how to run longer distances and has spent the last 12 weeks working out every day. Life lesson coming ahead – even those who are more experienced or seasoned still need encouragement from time-to-time.
While I am doing my best to be an encouragement to her and not an anchor that she has to worry about putting CPR into practice over, I am learning a few things about running that apply to life:
- It is easy to be energetic and passionate during those first few steps. I can run with the best of them for about 10 steps.
- It can be very tempting to give up when you realize this ‘run’ is work and is getting harder than it was at the beginning. After about 2 tenths of a mile, I am trying to figure out where I coughed up my lung. It would be so much easier to stop running, lay down on the ground, and call 911 for emergency oxygen than to take one more step.
- Picking milestones helps to break up the bigger run and keeps my spirits up. I have to pick a point about 10 yards ahead and say, “I can make it that far”, and then set the next 10 yard mark after I attain that goal. If I thought about the mile mark when I was still in the first quarter mile, it would be too easy to be overwhelmed at what I am trying to accomplish.
- Keeping a record of how I am progressing from day-to-day, gives me perspective into how I am growing. Setting up some ‘Ebenezer Stones’ called statistics lets me know where I was yesterday, where I am at today, and where I can be tomorrow.
These are some early lessons that I have learned as I have just started on this course of action. I may gain some more insight if I survive the next couple of weeks and I may even post some statistics once I have enough to tell a story.
Here is today’s question:
Is one’s relationship with the Father based purely on Love, Performance, or both?
This question was prompted after a sermon that my pastor gave on this topic. My comments here are not a reflection on his sermon or the content of the sermon (just for the record, he did a great job).
So here are some of my thoughts on the subject. I believe that God the Father loves us more abundantly than we could ever understand as displayed by the sacrifice of Christ the Son (John 3:16). I don’t believe His love for us is diminished in any capacity by our performance (the things that we do or don’t do) but how does He ‘respond’ to our actions and what does that reaction have to say about the state of relationship?
Some things that come to my mind on this subject are:
- Moses not being allowed to enter Canaan
- David not being allowed to build the temple
- Ananias and Sapphira being struck dead
- John falling as if dead in his Revelation before Christ in Glory (I know this is a weird but I see that as a response of fear-why?)
- Passages in Matthew about the sheep and goats
- Christ’s messages to the church from Revelation
Feel free to discuss openly. I am not looking for the one ‘right’ answer but a dialog concerning our relationship to the Father and how that is reflected in scripture.
Recently, I found myself recalling a time when my eldest daughter was just about a year old and my wife was feeding her cantaloupe. My daughter was enjoying the fruit so much that she became upset when a piece fell from the fork and landed on the floor instead of making it into her mouth.
She began to wail incessantly. My wife and I found the situation hysterical because our daughter had never shown this type of passion for food in her short life. We also understood something that she didn’t – we had more cantaloupe to give her. The piece on the floor was not the last piece.
During my recollection, I found myself desiring to hold the 1 year old daughter from my memory once again. As I thought about this desire, I became aware of a distinction between wanting to hold her more and hold her again.
The word more seemed to communicate that there had been a lack of something that needed to be filled while the word again seemed to communicate a desire to celebrate something that had been a joy to experience in the past.
Some examples may drive these concepts home:
- “I wish I had more money… “
- “I would like to visit Disney world again…”
- “Can I have more cheese on my spaghetti…”
- “Daddy, throw me in the air again…”
My desire to hold my daughter in my past was not born from a regret that I had not held her enough at that time in our lives, but instead it was the celebration of how wonderful it had been to experience those moments when she had been small enough to fit in my arms and rest there comfortably.
Our lives are full of moments that we feel lack or the need for more. But they are also full of moments that we can look forward to the ‘agains’.
What are some things that you are looking to celebrate? What would you like to do again? These seem to be positive questions. And while noticing a lack of something can be negative, it can also be an opportunity to realize more. I have found that in Christ I can have abundantly more. That is something that I can celebrate again and again.
So what do you find yourself wanting to do again?
Today’s question is this:
What do you think goes through God’s mind as He looks down on a singular man or woman that He has created and watches them progress through life from birth to death?
I would give two proof texts from scripture to consider while pondering an answer to this question. Both texts come from the book of Psalms.
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Psalms 8:3-4
You have searched me and known me.You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is too high, I cannot attain to it. Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. Psalms 139:1-8
David was a thinker. In the first quote he seems to contemplate the absurdity of an immense, perfect God taking notice of what could seem insignificant in comparison. But then when we read his thoughts from the second quote, we see that he has reasoned that God has taken very close attention to the details of his life.
And so I reason 3ooo years removed from David’s musings, that this question is significantly answered or sought by each individual who contemplates their position in a world not their choosing under the watchful gaze of a God not fully realized. The sufferings, the blessings, the acts of life that we must entertain as we move from birth to the eventuality of death – what do these mean to the God who created us for those moments?