Archives For mind

Set Apart

November 10, 2012 — Leave a comment

unique

I’ve been struggling for a while about something major – what sets me apart? What makes me unique? What is there that’s special about me?

My wife is a musician. She sings, writes songs, plays several instruments. With just a little nudge, she could be a pro. She could be famous.

My daughter Trinity can draw. Not just draw. She sees unique and original pictures in her head and can transfer them onto paper or canvas and they are beautiful creations. She’s only 11, but she has some serious talent.

I could go on – and I guess I will. There are people who are extremely gifted in this world – whose abilities outclass the mere mortals around them, and wherever they go, whatever they do, people take notice. They change things, they challenge themselves and those around them. They are, more often than not, heros.

Well, what about the rest of us? What about me? I’m not being down on myself. I’m very smart, and I’m really good at a lot of things. A LOT of things. In fact, almost everything I’ve ever done, I’ve been really good at. But not great.

What am I great at? What will define me and my life? What will I contribute? What will I do that’s important?

Everyone will agree that I’m unique, and I have a certain way of seeing things that’s different. At work I approach things differently than most people, and its been that way regardless of what job I have had. But at the end of the day, unique is just a way of saying different but mostly the same. I’m just me, and I’m really not that much different than any other person.

I really only have one thing that makes me special. And I’m not all that good at it. I’m God’s kid. He’s my father, and I’m his son. Maybe if I can be a better child, I will find what I’m really supposed to do or be.

Thing is I can’t make myself better. I have to rely on the father for that. I have to follow his lead, and live the life that his Son lived. That’s something I’m still learning. I’m more of a prodigal who has been off squandering and is just now waking up in the pig pen wondering what brilliant idea I can hatch to get me out of this mess.

The problem is the same one that everyone faces. Not what am I going to do with my life, what am I going to be, but who am I? It’s all about identity.

We all struggle through life trying to find our place, carve out an existence, muddle our way through. I used to think (and still stuggle with thinking) that there were some really lucky people who knew someone or had the right daddy who actually got to be someone in life, and the rest of us just got regular jobs and lived and died and were forgotten.

I really don’t want that to be my life, but I don’t know anyone, and I’m not too terribly lucky. But I do have the right daddy.

In spite of all of my wrong thinking, which I am obviously still working through, I’m still set apart. Those are not my words and I stuggle to believe it. I know it in some part of me, but I don’t act like it sometimes and have trouble believing it in my head. It’s funny how different parts of your body can be in a war against each other sometimes.

My spirit tells me I’m living in the Kingdom, I’m God’s child, he has a dream for me. My soul tells me I’m pretty much average and pretty much out of luck. My heart yearns for freedom and to know what God’s plan is for me so I can just do it already.

Basically I’m out of whack.

So I have to keep on going. I’m at least pointed in the right direction right now. Three years ago there was no hope at all. No. Hope. I have to keep giving more of myself to God, I have to keep keeping less for myself. Because one thing I do know – it’s not about me. All those things I’m good at…what are they but gifts from God, that I used for my own glory for so many years.

We are set apart – unique, different. The bible says we are aliens – not of this world. Or maybe that’s an old Petra song. Either way – what we need when we are stuggling with these things is to remember that we are transformed by the renewing of our minds. That’s Romans 12 right there by the way.

The battle for my spirit is complete. My body will keep getting older, then fail at some point. No way around that unless Jesus comes again while I’m alive. What stands in the middle is my mind, and it’s still crammed full of the world. This is why I stuggle – because my mind needs to be transformed. As Bob Hamp puts it – I don’t need to think different, I need to think differently.

The problem is I’m in bondage to being me. Jesus came to set me free from that. I need to repent from that – I need to think differently. Right now I’m trying to think different – I’m trying to control my thoughts by plugging other things in – good things! Classes at church, Christian music, listening to great sermons. It’s all good! The content of my thoughts is not so much the issue, though, as is the actual way in which I think.

I can’t exchange bad thinking for good thinking and hope to do any better. This is my effort – and it’s in vain. It’s fruitless.

To repent means to think differently – not new content, but a whole new way of thinking and seeing things. The renewing of my mind. And as I’m discovering, like everything else, it’s a process – one that I’m in the big middle of.

So I will keep on going. But sometimes I may still wonder from time to time – who am I, why am I even here? I think that is thinking the old way and only glorifies me. I don’t want to do that anymore. Maybe it’s a baby step, but that’s where I am.

Where are you?

Broken

July 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

broken

We are broken. Both as individuals and as a species. We see the result of our brokenness played out on the evening news, by the side of the road, in alleys. We see it in our churches and in our homes as well. There is brokenness everywhere we look.

Part of being broken is denial. We know there’s something wrong, we might even know exactly what it is, but we don’t know how to be unbroken, and it seems hard anyway. It’s easier to stay the way we are. Maybe we even think we are happy, and why change it? Why fix what ain’t (too) broken?

We are deluded by how broken we actually are, and by the way, we will never know just how bad it is until the brokenness is repaired. We can’t see that far or that high. But when we’re away from the things that are holding us in bondage, when we actually get a taste of freedom, it’s easy to look back and see just how bad it really was.

Myself, the journey began about two years ago. I was miserable but I hid it pretty well. My wife knew, I’m sure my kids knew, and if you looked at me long and hard and deep you could have seen it. But I really did put on the happy church face for everyone. I couldn’t let anyone know just how dead I was inside, how alone.

When I saw it though, when it was pointed out to me – well, my first reaction was shame, then acceptance, then repentance, then healing. And probably some steps I’m not even thinking about right now in between all those. It took time, it took self examination, it took prayer and counseling. But more than anything it took getting to know God.

What was actually wrong with me? What is wrong with us? With people? I think our hearts are broken.

There was a time and a place when all of creation was in perfect fellowship with God. People – people like you and me – walked with God himself, talked to him just like we talk to the person in the cubicle next to us at work. Maybe with less cursing though. Adam and Eve walked with God and gave names to all of creation. They walked in the garden together, in perfect fellowship.

And then, when faced with a choice, they chose to distrust the source of all that they were. They were tempted, which in itself is not a bad thing, but instead of taking it to God, instead of saying, “You know what that crazy snake said?” they took the fruit from the wrong tree, they ate it – they made it a part of themselves – and then they hid from God.

What’s so bad about knowledge? Isn’t it a good thing to know good and evil? If you know one from the other, you should be able to make the right choice – do good and you’re a good person, do bad and, well, you’re bad. Right?

Not so fast. The choice was between knowledge and life, not between good and evil. There were two trees in question, not three. The Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Two trees. Adam and Eve chose knowledge over life.

Their choice has doomed us to brokenness ever since.

Oh, we try. We try so hard to do the right thing, to be good people. We know right from wrong, and we struggle to do the right thing. We give to the poor, go on mission trips, work for churches. There’s always going to be someone in need, some soup kitchen where you can serve to try and make your guilt take a back seat for a day, but when the day is done, when you’re alone in the dark, it always comes creeping back in and you know this one thing – you can’t save yourself. No matter how much good you do, no matter how much you give, you will always be broken.

There is an easy answer to your brokenness, if you’re interested. Choose life!

You may want to ask, just like I did, “But can it really be that easy?” Yes. Yes it can.

The problem with me is how strong I am, how willful. Bob Hamp says in his book Think Differently, Live Differently that “The stronger the person, the more they struggle, and the quicker they become entrenched.”

I had a great job, good friends, beautiful wife, beautiful kids – they all supported me, loved me, thought the world of me, and still I was stuck. I was miserable, and even though I was a Christian man seeking to know God, I was lost. The more I tried to do the right thing, the worse I got – further from God, more depressed, more stuck.

I was trying to know God on my terms. He can’t just be known! He reveals himself to those who seek him! I was seeking – I was reading some pretty deep stuff by some great Christian writers, and the more I read the more lost I felt. I was trying to get to God through knowledge and through doing good. Which is the same path everyone is on, until they aren’t.

Why did Jesus come to the earth? Why leave his glory in heaven and come here? What is sin? What is it that keeps us from knowing God the right way? Well, Jesus came to set us free – free from being who we are. And sin is being disconnected from God. The result of sin, of being disconnected from God is death, even while we are still physically alive. That’s why we act and feel the way we do. Because we are not connected to the source of life.

We all start out broken, many people stay that way. Some people, however, find a source beyond themselves and are renewed – we become who we were intended to be. Not by our own strength, but by the power of the Holy Spirit within us.

So the question is, how do we find this renewal? How are we connected again to our source of life? How can we not be broken anymore?

Remember when Jesus was speaking with the Samaritan woman? Read John 4 – Jesus told her, “If you knew who I was you would ask and I would give you living water.”

Jesus is the living water! He was sent by the Father to restore us – he paid the price for all people and what we need to do is repent! We don’t need to make up our minds, we don’t need to think different kinds of thoughts or do different kinds of actions. Our actions won’t save us, save one – repent! Be transformed by the renewing of you mind! Matthew 4 says, “From then on, Jesus began to preach ‘Repent! For the Kingdom of God is near!’”

Yes this is on my mind a lot lately – because it’s happening to me! The more I seek Him, the clearer it all becomes. I was lost and broken and like everyone else I was trying to do the right thing, say the right thing, think the right thing, act the right way. I can’t! I failed constantly and couldn’t understand why! Because I was depending on me to change me and I couldn’t change me and I thought God hated me and I was a failure. I was right in one thing – I can’t change me. That level of change comes from outside ourselves and like a new broom, it sweeps clean.

Repentance is not trading one way of doing things for another. That’s the same mistake we always make. Repentance is not changing bad behavior for good – repentance is death. Putting those thoughts and actions to death and having a completely new way of thinking implanted into you. Only then can you be who you were meant to be, who you were born to be, who God designed you to be.

Crazy right? It’s either that or stay broken. I couldn’t do it that way anymore. I’m strong and willful, but even the strongest, most stubborn people get tired and come to the end of what they can do.

Where are you? At the end? Still hanging on? Barely making it? Jesus came to make you new, to give you a new beginning, to give you life. To read this and know it and to go on the way you always have is crazier than following Jesus and allowing Him to heal you. He will do it right now. Ask and you shall receive!

It was springtime, 1984. I was 18, my nephew John was a few years younger. We were mowing one Saturday, and had come to a patch of ground that was guarded by a pretty mean bumblebee. He was a kamikaze – every time we’d get near, he would dive-bomb us. We were both scared to death, and my dad was yelling at us to just get in there and get it done.

I would grab the mower, rush in, cut a small section, then run away, then John would do the same. It was going to take hours though, and we were all getting frustrated. The very last time I ran from the bee, I saw an acorn on the ground, scooped it up, jumped and twisted in mid-air, and threw the acorn as hard as I could. And it knocked that bee right out of the sky.

John said, “That’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.” How right you were, John. And it’s in the top 5 coolest things I’ve ever done.

As Christians, we hear a lot about “hitting the mark.” We’ve been taught that sin is missing the mark, so we struggle and strive to hit it – whatever “it” is. Sometimes, the result of this is a theology based on performance – “I must do XYZ or God will not love or accept me.”

What I have learned is, there is nothing farther from the truth. God IS love! He already loves you, and since he is God, he could never love you any less because of any bad thing you have done, and he can’t love you any more because of any good thing you have done.

We have heard that sin is missing the mark, but what if our definition of sin is wrong? What if sin is not something we do or don’t do? What if the things we do are just the outward signs of sin? What if sin is actually a condition – the condition of being separated from God?

Definitions are important, or so I have learned, from a pastor at my church. His name is Bob Hamp, and his book Think Differently, Live Differently: Keys To A Life Of Freedom has helped me redefine a lot of things in my life. Starting with sin.

The metaphor of hitting the bee with an acorn is appropriate when discussing trying to hit the mark. I really did hit the bee. How unlikely was it that I would, though? I hit an acorn size flying insect with an actual acorn. It’s a once in a lifetime kind of deal. I couldn’t have done it on purpose, and I think the purpose of that happening is so I can share these things with you now.

We can’t hit the mark. Most of us will spend a lifetime trying, a lifetime striving, a lifetime feeling guilty when all God wants is for us to be free. We can’t wake up one day and decide we will stop drinking or cursing or lusting or whatever symptom of sin we are struggling with. We can’t exchange one set of behaviors for another and declare we are free. We can’t change ourselves. Only God can help us to think and live differently.

In Bob’s book, he tells the story of the creation and fall of mankind. Adam and Eve had a choice – life or knowledge – they chose knowledge and we have been trying to gain life on our own ever since by trading the knowedge of evil for the knowlegde of good. In other words, we make resolutions, we go to 12 step programs, we read self help books, we wear a nicotine patch, we improve ourselves by learning and even doing good things. But trading one type of knowledge for another doesn’t really change anything, when you consider eternity.

The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is all one tree, and it’s still not life. God offers life to us, and we choose to do good things and call it even, while on the inside we are killing ourselves trying to do what we think is right.

When we choose life, everything changes. It’s like a blind person seeing for the first time, a deaf person hearing for the first time. We don’t have to have intentions anymore, we don’t have to struggle to gain God’s love and acceptance anymore, we don’t have to worry about whether or not he loves us. He does! We don’t have to worry about our lives making a difference or being important – they will, and we are!

We can be transformed by the renewing of our minds. This is what repentance is. Another definition – I was taught that repentance is me choosing to turn the other way, away from my sin toward God. This goes back to making it about me and my performance. No – repentance is me doing the only thing I can do that is right – submitting my will to God. When I give my soul to him, he changes my mind, and he frees me from the trap of being me.

What is the Spirit saying to you right now? Have you been laboring under a false definition of sin, of repentance? Let God renew your mind, let him show you a new way of thinking – not thinking different, but thinking differently. You have nothing to lose, everything to gain and all you have to do is one thing – the only thing you can do - release control of your will and give it to God.