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
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I was reading Lindsey Nobles’ post With a Heavy Heart and I was reminded of times when I have faced or come through something that challenged the way I thought or believed. It is almost cliche to say that they were life changing moments. I don’t remember when but at some point in my life I began to think of those times as cocoon moments – times when I needed to take a pause and just become introspective.
One of those cocoon moments in my life was during the weeks following my return from an international mission trip. I had visited a country where I was challenged in my understanding of true poverty and the unpleasant realities that accompany it. That time on foreign soil had also been training in what it means to be fully immersed in kingdom work for every waking moment. It is easy for us, or at least for myself, to forget that we are always on mission in our everyday lives in the status quo existence that we call normalcy. Returning from the mission trip had been more of a shock to my system than actually visiting that foreign land had been. I was suddenly faced with bringing those two realities together and figuring out what that meant. I was dissatisfied and restless with a life that I had looked at as fulfilling just a few weeks before. Many things that had held meaning for me had suddenly become meaningless. I needed time to cocoon.
Through the cocoon process I was reminded that God did not change instead He had been working a change in me. There is a quicksilver feel to that transitional process as one reality is traded for another. As I write that sentence I am reminded that we are always discovering new truths in this present reality that point us to a fact that there is something beyond which is more concrete and substantial. It is that assurance that causes our heart’s heaviness because we are aware that we are just strangers passing through a landscape here in which we have a short time to bring part of that future substantiation to bear in the lives of those who have not yet awoken to an awareness of that future reality.
And sometimes it just all seems so futile – too big to be accomplished. Maybe those thoughts come from feeling mired between where we were in the past and where we would like to be in a future that we have so many questions about. The present just appears to be quick sand that fights progress in any direction.
Maybe that is what a caterpillar experiences. It spends so much time just focused on the purpose at hand which in its case is eating. Then one day something happens. Something strange and foreign. Something it has never experienced before. And so it cocoons. What does it experience inside that cocoon? Is there pain? Or excitement? Does it ever feel the process of whatever is happening is just taking too much time?
Who can speak for the thoughts of a bug? One thing we know is that it eventually emerges from its cocoon and it is no longer what it used to be.
Its new reality allows it to take flight.
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles… Isaiah 40:31
I arrived safely back in Ohio on Saturday evening – completely worn out. I needed to spend some time with the family and prepare a lesson for Sunday morning so it wasn’t an early-to-bed kind of evening and I was back on my schedule of getting up early on Sunday morning so by the time I finished with church service, teaching, and having lunch with church family, I was wasted. I spent several hours on Sunday afternoon and evening just napping and was still able to sleep through the night once I went back to bed.
A week of physical labor and attention spent on kids can wipe a person out. All of it in a great way.
So, I am back and ready to start posting again. I have decided to do a series this week about my adventure to World Changers in Watertown, New York. Here are some of the upcoming posts that I will be offering:
- The Insignificant Niagara Falls
- Northern Church done Southern Style
- Meeting the Happy Neighbors
- Joshua Knocked Down the Walls (could be titled, “Don’t pee on me”)
- Tuesday Night Chats with Future Men
- White Water Rafting on the Black River
- Cutouts from Life’s Photo Album
- Finishing Strong and Gas Station Appointments
- Washing Your Feet before Leaving the Mountain Top
- Coming Home
As I look over the list of things that I could post about from that one, week-long trip, I can’t help but be amazed by all of the lessons and moments of inspiration that can happen when we are fully aware of our mission in life. There are more things that I could have chosen to blog about from that trip than what I have selected to write about.
Its truly amazing what we can see while we are awake.