There Is No Other …  So Stop Looking!

Frontline.jpg

I was listening to Isaiah 45 this morning and one phrase seemed to punctuate every paragraph.

I am the Lord and there is no other
— Isaiah 45:5 NIV

By my count, it is repeated 4 times in this one chapter.  It doesn’t take genius in biblical interpretation to come to the conclusion that God is trying to get a message delivered. So what is the message?

Stop searching for other gods – they aren’t there!

Few of us are carving idols in our garages or putting statues of the god Molech in our living rooms. But we are just as guilty as the Israelites in creating our resources to meet the needs that only the true and Living God can meet.

So what do you and I really need? What is essential to our happiness? If there is anything we can name other than the Lord then that has become a god to us. It really is that simple.

Turn to me and be saved,
    all you ends of the earth;
    for I am God, and there is no other.
 By myself I have sworn,
    my mouth has uttered in all integrity
    a word that will not be revoked:
Before me every knee will bow;
    by me every tongue will swear.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
    are deliverance and strength.’
— Isaiah 45:22-24 NIV

Sometimes we need to be reminded – to refresh ourselves with the thought that all that we are striving for, all that we are hungering for is only found in him. This is his story and we are blessed beyond measure to be a part of it. To the extent that we fulfill our destiny and bring glory to God it is to that extent we experience our soul's satisfaction. Likewise to the extent we look to other gods for our fulfillment to that extent our souls wither and die.

We need to be constantly reminded of this for there are so many distractions – so many other gods that are vying for our worship. This is why many of us “believers” are empty, tired, depressed and anxious. We have lingered too long at the world’s stagnant pools.

So …

On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’
— John 7:37,38 NIV

This is a time for deep soul-searching. Now is the time to ask the hard questions about what we are seeking and why we come up empty time and time again. It is a call to repent and be refreshed with the true and living God. To be restored and renewed in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let’s return to what our hearts are craving.  

And when we are in the presence of someone who is experiencing the profound emptiness of seeking other gods let’s not comfort them with empty words and temporary solutions. Let’s lead them to the one true God who says …

I am the Lord and there is no other

If you'd like to receive these articles which are written to encourage spiritual leaders please subscribe below.

Miss This One Thing and Nothing Makes Sense

Ever wonder why things turn out the way they do?

As a Christian Counselor I am with my clients at a time of their deepest sorrows and often the question that is most asked is – why?

Why did I lose my job? Why did my spouse leave me? Why am I faced with this health issue? Why? Why? Why?

At times like these, there are no quick and easy answers. Pulling out the systematic theology book and explaining original sin or the curse does nothing to comfort a broken heart. So I want to take these few moments to see if we can come to a basic understanding of how the universe works so that when we come to those inevitable times of crisis we have something solid to under-gird our faith and bring perspective to our suffering.

And this is it –

This universe does not revolve around you and it was not created for your comfort and ease.

Does that sound harsh? Maybe, if we somehow hold the belief that the greatest possible good is that we be happy, satisfied and free from pain. Not too many Christians would outwardly express this belief but many of us live this philosophy by de facto. We see anything in light of how it betters our lives. Therefore anything that would cast a shadow over our dreams and ambitions is considered contrary to the way the world is “supposed” to work.

But that is not what God says. He holds exclusive rights over the purpose of the universe and he has that privilege since HE CREATED IT.  

So what does God say is the purpose of the universe? One thing – to show forth his glory!

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
— Psalm 19:1 NIV

Glory: The outward manifestation of the invisible character and attributes of God

And when it comes to us humans we were also created to bring God glory.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do
— Ephesians 2:10 NIV

It this narcissistic of God? Is he some sort of self-aggrandizing despot who demands all the attention? That would be correct if it weren’t true that he rightly deserves all the glory. Just as air and water are to life so is God’s glory to the universe. It is a fundamental fact we must understand, otherwise we live in a continued state of confusion and frustration. If we deny this reality nothing else makes any sense.

Like it or not we live in God’s world and we find our true place only when we are in alignment with this true purpose – to bring him glory.

So how does this affect the way I live?

I just received an email from a friend who was ranting about another friend who was about to go through cancer surgery. This person was saying that it was definitely God’s will that they are healed and that this surgery was a lack of faith. Is that true? Let’s look at the premise.

  1. Cancer causes pain.
  2. Pain is bad for humans.
  3. Whatever is "bad" for humans is not God's will
  4. Therefore, it is God’s will that we are healed.

This premise is based upon the belief that whatever is perceived as “bad” for humans must not be God’s will. Therefore, our “good” is the primary goal. But what if it gave God greater glory that we go through the trial rather than escape it? You see, when we stop and ask the question – “Lord what would bring you the greatest glory?” it completely changes the dynamic of the trial. We become open to the new possibility that God can grant us the strength to go through the trial and in that time reveal himself and deepen our character. This is how we find ourselves in alignment with the true purpose of the universe. This is why God answered Paul the way he did when he was going through a time of trials.

“My grace is sufficient, my power is perfected in weakness”. 2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV“My grace is sufficient, my power is perfected in weakness”.
— Corinthians 12:9 NIV

Our cry to our Lord is “Lord glorify yourself”

How else can we make sense of what Jesus prayed to the Father the night before he was crucified?

Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you
— John 17:1 NIV

Jesus’ death on the cross was the physical demonstration of his great love for us – it showed us beyond any doubt that we are cherished beyond measure and have unimaginable value. It revealed the heart of the Father and the Son to us.

We are an extraordinarily blessed people for it is God’s will that he shows his glory through loving and redeeming us. But never mistake his love, mercy, and kindness as somehow diminishing his rightful place.

I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another or my praise to idols.
— Isaiah 42:8 NIV

So our prayer when we enter into hardship must be, “Lord, show me how you can be most glorified in this situation – help me to show you as you truly are and reveal your greatness”

This attitude requires real maturity. But if we ever want to find true life we will inevitably come to this place. Because apart from this understanding this whole existence thing just doesn’t make sense.

Love you

James

The One Absolute Necessity for Success

I know that my title seems a bit over the top, but I am tired of talking about creating successful strategies to people who have absolutely no capacity to put them to action. So, I’m going to get really basic and real simple.

What you believe about yourself and the universe are the most crucial pieces of knowledge you will ever possess. They are the common denominators in all events, relationships, and goals in your life.

  • Overcoming failures is completely dependent on your view of yourself
  • Pushing through trials and enduring through prolonged times of frustration is a factor of how you see yourself.
  • Your level of satisfaction with living is dependant upon understanding yourself in context to the universe

Yet, I find so few of us really comprehend this fact. Instead, we are continually looking to other people or circumstances as the arbitrator for our lives.

When something bad happens. (and it happens to everyone)

  • Some resign themselves to their fate and give up
  • Some see it as an insurmountable obstacle and choose a lesser path
  • Some see it as a temporary setback and press on

The only difference in these responses in how one sees themselves and what they believe about the universe.

Your view of yourself is a consequence of how you view the universe.

I have had the privilege of traveling the world and in some places, I have seen unimaginable suffering. When asked why this is so the answer I receive is something like this, “it is their fate”.

  • Karma
  • God
  • The random nature of the universe

It all comes down to whether the universe is cooperating with or in opposition to our success. This will determine whether we have the internal resources to achieve the life we desire to live. If that answer is our lives are under the control of some external force then the next logical step is to forfeit our dreams and abandon our hopes because we are powerless to achieve them.

Some would challenge me on this and say, “You’re a Christian – aren’t you a fatalist?

I say no. In fact, it is entirely the contrary. Since I believe in a supreme being who has demonstrated his great love and compassion through the life of Jesus Christ I am convinced that the universe is not an obstacle to my happiness - that I have the ultimate victory no matter what circumstance or peril I find myself in. In fact, the present obstacles serve as a tutor to mold my character and deepen my faith. Therefore no person, no event and nothing else in this world can thwart my inevitable triumph as promised by God.

So you see – my self-confidence is derived from my view of a good and loving God and anything and everything must yield to this truth. Therefore ...

  • When I become discouraged I return to the belief that God is my helper and he has and will provide all that I need.
  • When I am doubting my own wisdom he has said that I can come to him with any question and he will give me understanding.
  • When I am feeling alone and rejected he has said that I am unconditionally loved
  • When I am disbelieving my own value he reminds me that he died for me and I have infinite worth.

What other religion, philosophy, or world view can offer this confidence?

So the bottom line is this.

As goes your view of the universe so goes your view of yourself.

As goes your view of yourself so goes your life.

Next time you feel stymied by a situation in your life or paralyzed by debilitating emotions look to where your confidence lies. Look at your view of God and integrate that view into your identity. 

If I can be of any help you to you don't hesitate to reach out

James

Hypocrite Syndrome Prayer

Many of us suffer a debilitating condition that keeps us from effective and intimate prayer. This condition is called Hypocrite Syndrome Prayer or HSP. But before you tune me out I want to tell you that every one of us faces this same challenge. We all have a very difficult time coming to God honestly and openly. It’s part of the unredeemed human condition. (Remember, Adam and Eve hid in the garden)

Somehow we have the impression that prayer is like a job interview. We try to figure out what the interviewer wants so we can get hired. So when we pray we talk to God the way we think he wants us to talk to him so we can get the answers that we’re looking for. We clean up our words, thoughts and even desires and make them “acceptable”. Good grief we wouldn’t want to offend him with what we’re really thinking or feeling! We might get fired.

I remember the day I first heard a prayer said as if he was having a conversation with a real person. Up until that day my idea of prayer was formal, clean, theologically correct and always, always proper. It was at camp and a surfer dude was praying like he was talking to another surfer dude. It blew me away!

So what makes us think that God is impressed by our measured and careful prayers? Why do we even pray like that?

I’ve been giving this some thought and I have come up with these observations from my own HSP file.

  • I don’t really believe that God loves me unconditionally so I try to make myself “acceptable” to earn his love
  • I’m afraid that if I am honest about how I truly feel he will reject me.
  •  I just don’t believe (or have never fully comprehended) the omniscience of God (i.e. He knows EVERYTHING)
If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.
— 1 John 3:20

The bottom line is this. I am not loved by God because I’m so good – I’m loved by God because He’s so good! My play acting righteousness will do nothing but put a barrier (of my own making) between me and experiencing his love. This is because until I tear down the façade and stand before him in all my unkempt splendor I will never truly believe he loves me for who I am – not who I should be.

The real kicker is this; the only way I will ever get to become the man I should be is when I allow his redeeming and transforming love to penetrate my hypocritical shell. The love of God is a transforming love. When we are fully exposed to it – it changes us.

So there it is fellow HSP friends. Our Father is waiting for us to come into his presence as we are so we can be transformed into something more wonderful than we can imagine. But it requires throwing away the mask – being real – and speaking plainly.

He’s been waiting for this time with you – don’t postpone the awesome!

Love you;

James

I've Got a Problem With Self-Esteem

Where do we find our real significance?

True confession – I have always had difficulty with the term “self-esteem” and for a therapist that is like a pilot having a problem with the laws of aerodynamics. I thought it might have been my Baptist “worm theology” up bringing where we were taught that to feel good about one’s self was a sin. Or maybe I’m just such a non-conformist that when everybody says something is vital, essential and absolute I stand in the corner and snicker.  

But tonight I was meeting with a client and we were talking about their self-esteem and it finally came to me just what my real problem is with that phrase. My problem is with the word “self”. I have absolutely no problem with people feeling good about themselves and I love it when those feelings spill out bringing love and joy to others. I truly believe that people who feel good about themselves are the happiest and do the most good in this world. The real issue is I don’t believe that my self-assessment is adequate to produce a true appraisal of myself. I am hopelessly flawed therefore my apprehension of myself will also be flawed and consequently my ability to rightly esteem myself is - impossible. In fact, when I do measure myself I have no true plum line for a proper evaluation and am in great risk of either thinking of myself too highly or too lowly.

When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.
— 2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV

Ultimately I am in danger of becoming a fool. That is because a fool looks only to themselves for their valuations.

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.
— Proverbs 12:15 NIV

Let me give you an illustration. Let’s say I want to build my dream home, so I pick out an ideal spot on a beautiful hill overlooking a lush valley. I stake out where I want the house to sit and plot out all the rooms. Then I go to work laying the foundation but I never use a measure, a level or any other objective tool to ensure that my new home will be aligned correctly. No, I just take a good look at it and say, “Yep that looks like it’s straight, or yeah that’s level all right.” How well do you think that home is going to turn out?

That’s just what we do if we rely on self-esteem to measure our value and worth. I can’t esteem myself high enough because I don’t have the ultimate authority. The best I can come up with is some kind of comparison with another’s performance or their flawed human opinions. If that is the measure of who I am then it will shift like the blowing sand with every wind of society’s fancies. Like an A list movie star who made a series of unpopular movies and ends up at conventions signing his head shot for five bucks a pop. He wasn’t that great when he was a star and he’s not that bad now when he’s all but forgotten; because his popularity never truly defined him.

So here’s the bottom line question: Who do you believe you are, and why? If you believe you are created in God’s image and of such infinite value that God himself would suffer and die to redeem you; then what other opinion do you need?

And here’s an even more difficult question: If you believe that then why are you still ruminating on your failures and paralyzed by your regrets? Why are you setting human limitations on your dreams and editing the amazing story God has written for you? You see, it’s not the acknowledging of truth that transforms us it is the integration of truth into every fiber of our being that brings about true metamorphosis.

We at Total Wellness Resource Center are here to help you in discovering all that you were created to be. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us.  

Meaning – The First Condition to Finding our Identity

I attended a workshop that was designed to help the participants become more self-motived with limitless possibilities. One of the mantras of this workshop was:

We are meaning making machines

The goal seemed to be that we were to create our own meaning that best suited us and assisted in achieving our goals. But first they wanted to strip us from any “meaning” that may be encumbering our ability to truly live life. So they taught:

Life is meaningless and it is meaningless to state life is meaningless

So what does that mean? Ugh! Guess I’m not supposed to ask that question since it is a meaningless question.

Somehow the question of meaning arises from every part of our existence. From the smallest child who hounds his parents with the around-the-clock question; Why?  To the astrophysicist who looks out into the universe and utters a silent plea; Why? We can’t escape it. We can suffer any trail or go through any adversity if only we know the answer to this fundamental question.

Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.
— Viktor E. Frankl

Meaning is the first and last question that brackets our existence. We search for the reason we were born and we are obsessed with it at the time of our deaths. What was our legacy, what did we truly accomplish?

At the time of this writing the President has given his farewell address after being in office for eight years. He enumerated his accomplishments and gave examples of what he believed to be his true legacy - the meaning of his presidency. But many if not all of these accomplishments can be overturned by future administrations and his legacy will have no more staying power than a bouquet of flowers or summer grass.

All people are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field;
the grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord endures forever.
— I Peter 1:24,25 NIV

As followers of Jesus Christ we are obliged to listen to his words on this subject and not follow the whims and dictates of our culture, family or any other source. Our meaning is ultimately derived from our Creator who formed us for a specific purpose. Until this is our mindset we will not find our true purpose and live irrelevant and futile lives no matter how “successful” we are in the eyes of the world. We will also find no true peace in our spirits because deep and abiding peace comes when we have a right relationship with our Creator with whom we will ultimately be accountable for the life he has given us.

But how is this practical for living our daily lives? That’s just the point – there is no “just daily lives”, there is only living in a right relationship with truth or living outside of truth. We are not here for a brief amount of time and then gone to some other existence to live eternally. We are here and our present lives affect are a part of that eternity. Ever thought about the part of the famous John 3: 16 verse that says, “…should not die but have eternal life” What is that about not dying, don’t we all die? And when does that eternal life start? Tomorrow … the next day? No, eternal life has no beginning and no end because it is – eternal. And there is no real death for those who “believe in him”. So whatever meaning our lives have in a billion years from now is the same meaning we have in this moment.

As spiritual leaders we need to help our people ask the question; why? It is the right answer to that question which will bring purpose to every other part of our lives. It will give us a reason to get up in the morning and empower us in all we do every day. And if we ever become stuck for an answer here’s a verse to ponder.

As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.
— John 20:21 NIV

If we want to find our true meaning and purpose we need to look deeply into the life of Jesus Christ because that’s where we will find it. If we lose our way the only path back is to road that Christ lays out before us through his own obedient path to the Cross.

Next week we will look at the next significant element of our identity – Significance.

Identity: The Hub of the Problem

At Total Wellness Resource Center we have made a bold commitment to seeing our clients as a whole person and helping them in every area of their lives. This is because we have found that becoming out of balance in one area can lead to problems in other seemingly unrelated areas.  For example – marriage difficulties can effect job performance.

But there is one facet of life that has the greatest effect upon our client’s growth. This area supersedes all others and if not addressed can lead to stagnation and futility. We liken it to the hub of a wheel. The spokes of the wheel proceed from the hub and if they become detached then there is no possibility of moving forward. The hub from which all areas of life are connected is our identity. The reason I share this with you as spiritual leaders is because we are often duped into focusing on the peripheral issues because they are so much more visible.

We will never surpass our identity and our identity will never surpass the basis from which we derive our meaning, value and purpose.

This leads inevitably to God because all other philosophies create a black hole of hopelessness as they are inherently meaningless. Meaning requires intelligence. The universe has no intrinsic meaning except for what utility provides if there is no intelligence behind its creation. Therefore, in order for our lives to have meaning that meaning must be found in why we exist - which is God’s territory since he is the Creator.  

We can never know who or what we are till we know at least something of what God is.
— A.W. Tozer

What we think of ourselves (our identity) is the one absolute life altering belief and is a constant for all ages, education levels, and social strata. No other belief will impact our life more than what we believe about ourselves other than what we believe about God. The problem is our clients almost never come to us with this as their primary complaint. Identity issues never show themselves plainly, they hide in the frustrations and failures of our lives. For as Henry Ford once said;

Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right
— Henry Ford

So where do we see identity beliefs hiding? Here are a few of the places:

The search for a satisfying career

  • The food addiction
  • Depression
  • Loneliness
  • Sexual Promiscuity

At the heart of these problems is an underlying belief that keeps the person stuck in their difficulty.

We become whoever we think we are.

But it’s not just a matter of thinking positively and mentally forcing ourselves into good self-esteem. Contrary to popular belief, we are not the creators of truth. Physical laws apply even if we don’t believe in them. For example; if you don’t believe in gravity just jump out of an airplane and see which way you fall. If physical laws are true why would we expect something as important as Meaning, Significance and Purpose to be relative? Understand, I am not saying we can’t psych ourselves into thinking things about ourselves that are not true. We do it all the time and that is a real problem. I have sat in front of countless clients who tenaciously believe a lie about their identities and are reinforcing that lie by their actions. (i.e. I am nothing but a stinking drunk so that is why I drink) But if we want to have the wind of absolute truth at our backs we must build our identities upon that which is changeless and unassailable. Where we derive our meaning, significance and purpose must be as true as gravity or the rising of the sun. 

Over the coming weeks I will devote the Frontline Blogs to the challenge of developing our true identity and how to lead others in that process. I believe that we will never be set free from the symptoms until we have found the freedom that is in knowing our God and then understanding our rightful place in his universe. As always this journey of discovery will be practical and I will always attempt “to keep the cookies on the bottom shelf”. For in the end our success as spiritual leaders is judged by not what we understand but on what we are able to impart to others. 

How to Live With Criticism

None of us like to be criticized and yet criticism seems at epidemic level in the Church. Those that enter into spiritual leadership positions have a dream that we are entering into an encouraging, uplifting environment where blessings are abundant and conflict is at a minimum. But what we often find is we’ve landed in a war zone where factions are vying for power and if we’re not careful we’re going to either get our head blown off or worse wake up with a dagger in our backs.

But I digress - let me get back to criticism because even in the best of churches we will face criticism and it is how we deal with it that will often determine if we can move forward in our ministries. Here are some basics that we must get straight before we can discuss how to deal with criticism. This is because if we fail to understand ministry realistically we will be ill-equipped to deal with what we experience.

Criticism is inevitable. 

This is because everyone has their own agenda (or if we want to spiritualize it “vision”) and when you do something that is not in alignment with this you will be criticized. Nowhere is this more evident in than in Jesus’ ministry. He upset the status quo and was persecuted for it. The Apostle Paul also had his fair share of criticism and because of those critics we can thank for the writing of Corinthians and Galatians. The sooner we accept this as a fact the healthier will be or response to criticism.

Criticism is most damaging when we are needing the approval of others.

Don’t get me wrong, nobody likes criticism but many of us who enter into the area of spiritual leadership are especially sensitive to it. In this case we need to seriously ask the question if we are in some way addicted to the approval of others. Too many spiritual leaders derive their identities from the approval of others so that when that approval is not forthcoming it leaves them anxious and empty.

Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ
— Galatians 1:10 NIV

There are some people who should not like you if you are indeed standing for righteousness.

Or as another put it.

A man’s greatness can be measured by his enemies.
— Don Piatt

Criticism is redemptive. 

Even the worse critics can actually benefit us even if that benefit is we develop the godly qualities of perseverance and long suffering. Why it is that character is most developed in the crucible of trials? Don’t really know except that as one person told me a long time ago “James, God is much more interested in your character than he is in your circumstances”. I really didn’t want to hear that then but over the years it has proven true over and over again. So let the critics drive you to your knees so that you deepen your dependence upon God and learn to stand firm in his grace. It is also true that in almost every criticism there is an element of truth. Don’t make the mistake of missing the truth because of the way it is presented or because it is accompanied by so many lies and distortions. Learn from your “enemies” and you will have greater appreciation for the counsel of your friends.

Let criticism transform into holy union with Christ.

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.
— Colossians 1:24 NIV

If we think that those afflictions are merely physical think again. In his list of afflictions in 2 Corinthians 11 he states his “concern for all the churches” as the coup de grâce of his trials. And isn’t that the case? It’s not the long hours, the lack of money or other hardships that usually get us dreaming about another career - It is the people. Let that become unit us with the suffering of our savior and draw us into deeper intimacy with his heart. For the real pain of the cross was not the nails in his feet and hands. It was not the lashings or the crown of thorns. The real pain was caring our sins. We as servants of our Savior also carry the sins of our people when we are unjustly criticized and maligned. Should we ask for better treatment than our Lord?

Whose Kingdom are We Seeking?

But seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you
— Matthew 6:33 NIV

A famous verse that most of us can quote from memory but lately I’ve been thinking about it in a different way. If I am not seeking God’s Kingdom whose kingdom am I seeking? The answer to that question is not easy for me to take because the only other rival kingdom is my own. My kingdom is often camouflaged to look like God’s Kingdom but if you strip away the thin veneer it is my kingdom through and through. How do I know? Here are four signs that I may be seeking my own kingdom.

  1. My kingdom is not a kingdom of peace - but of worry. I find myself anxious about so many things because when I’m in control (which is one definition of seeking my own kingdom) I’m full of fear.
  2. My kingdom does not satisfy my deepest dreams and desires. When I run hard after what I think I need it vanishes like an ethereal mirage. But when I turn aside to the narrow road – the way less traveled – I find the satisfaction my soul yearns for.
  3. My kingdom is one of confusion. Wisdom is promised to those who seek God’s kingdom but confusion and uncertainty is the reward for those who seek their own.
  4. My kingdom is lonely. Jesus said: "…wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." Matthew 7:13 NIV Funny thing about the broad road, no matter how many people who are on it with us we always feels alone. But the opposite is true of the narrow road, when we’re walking with Jesus no matter where we are or what our circumstances might be, we’re never alone.

So what do I need to do to ensure I am seeking God Kingdom and not my own? Here are a few questions to ask ourselves.

What legacy does my work leave?

Jesus said that everything he did was for the Father’s glory … can that be said of our work? Or in other words – in 1000 years will the life we are so diligently building for ourselves matter? I have heard it said that there are only three things that are eternal; God, man (for God made us eternal) and God’s Word. If we want to make sure we are seeking God’s Kingdom we need to be committing all we do to those three areas.

Am I trying to meet someone else’s expectations?

We often quit seeking God’s Kingdom because we are caught up in working on other’s kingdoms. When Jesus was 13 years old and was found in the temple at Jerusalem by his parents his astonishing response was, “Didn’t you know that I would be at my Father’s business?” Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we too were caught doing God’s business rather than fulfilling the world’s expectations?

Am I doing what I was created to do?

Similar to the last question this question goes to the heart of our purpose. There are a great many things we can do – we can take on many tasks in God’s Kingdom, but what is it we were designed to do? If we can’t answer that question then we may be an underperforming servant in the Kingdom of God. This results in frustration, anger, feelings of worthlessness and sadness. The Apostle Paul said: “This one thing I do” not these hundred things I dabble in. If you are unclear as to your purpose and place in God’s Kingdom then it is imperative that you stop the mad dashing about and let God tell you what he has specifically designed you to do. When he does, and you get to that task, you will find a fulfillment and a sense of rightness in the depths of your soul that is beyond wonderful.

If you need to talk about this or anything else please let us know … our part of God’s Kingdom work is to help you get free to do what you were designed to do. 

The One Thing We Dare Not Miss

This is going to be one of my shorter blogs because I really only have one thing to say. But the one thing I have to say is arguably more important than all the essays, teachings, sermons and commentaries put together. It is the essence of our experiencing life and if we miss it we wander into darkness and lose not only our life’s direction but become disqualified from leading others. Although this truth is woven into the fabric of every page of the Scripture still we find ourselves missing it. When we do we lose hope and worry about “so many things”. This truth is the well spring of wisdom and the source of strength that will neither cease to produce abundant life nor falter no matter what trial we experience. Abraham knew it and it became his salvation. Isaac discovered it and would not let it go though he wrestled with God throughout the night.

David also knew this truth intimately and when he failed it was always because he turned away to something he thought would be more satisfying – it wasn’t.

I said to the Lord, ‘you are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing’
— Psalm 16:2 NIV

So here it is; what good thing do we have that is better than the Lord? Is there anything that we cherish more than intimacy with the Most High God? This is a tough question for those in ministry since so much of our daily activity is serving God and this can often become a substitute for being with God. When serving God becomes a greater priority than being with God we are in great danger of losing the vitality that makes ministry more than an activity but life changing transformational work. In fact, everything we do and say enters into the world of the miraculous when we are with God – not just serving God.

So here’s a question; What good thing in your life has become better than intimacy with God? For me an indication that I am wandering away from intimacy with God is when my heart begins to fill up with concerns, worries and fears. I find myself starting my day trying to work out problems before I seek my Lord’s face in thanksgiving and adoration. And throughout the day my master is not the Lord but the duties and tasks of the day. All good things to be sure but not the best thing and certainly not the source of my life. David also said later in his Psalm:

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand
— Psalm 16:11 NIV

What can be better than that?

Please let us know if we can ever be of service to you. If you'd like to reach out with a comment, concern or prayer request please put it in the box below. 

Breaking Through the Stonewall in Relationships

The last of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is Stonewalling.

Stonewalling is:

A response to conflict evidenced by an unwillingness or inability to connect with the other party.

When someone is stonewalling they remove themselves from the conflict by either offering no response or physically distancing themselves. (i.e. running away) For some it’s literally like talking to a stonewall, whereas for others it’s like the person disappears when any signs of conflict arises. Stonewalling is a strategy that is employed as a means of self-preservation because the one who is stonewalling feels like they are overwhelmed, threatened or inadequate to successfully enter into conflict.

It is a tremendously frustrating for the other person because, no matter how hard they try they can’t break through and have their feelings understood. Ultimately, if stonewalling persists it leads to isolation and relational destruction.

So why do people stonewall? Here are some causes:

  • Physical flooding: When we feel threatened our sympathetic nervous system produces neurochemicals in the brain that reduce our ability to think rationally. In short, we are reduced to survival mode. When this happens we are unable to connect with the person with whom we’re in conflict much less have empathy with their concerns. Signs of this physical response can be detected when our pulse exceeds 100 and we find our respiration labored, muscles tense and thoughts tangential. At this point it is futile to attempt to have a meaningful conversation until the parasympathetic nervous system has been activated and the offending neurochemicals have subsided. Studies have shown that in marriage counseling when one or both parties become flooded during a session taking a ½ hour break allows the couple to come back to the same argument with good results.
  • Learned response to conflict: Some of us have learned to avoid conflict because healthy conflict was never modeled to us. We grew up with a deficit of confidence that we could be in conflict with another and still be in relationship.

Two scenarios of childhood are:

  1. We grew up on a family where we were ridiculed and emotionally abused
  2. We grew up in a family where conflict was never seen openly. Although it existed (because it always exists) it was hidden and was often demonstrated in passive aggressive behavior and/or sarcasm. (i.e. no clean arguments or disagreements.)

So how do we remove stonewalling from conflict?

When the physical manifestation of flooding becomes evident, learn how to self-sooth. The fastest and easiest way to reverse the effects of flooding is to develop an ability to relax by learning how to breathe slowly. The breath is the golden pathway to quieting our fears and reducing stress and anxiety. Try it. Breathe in through your nose slowly for five seconds and hold for five seconds and then exhale slowly through your mouth for five seconds. Do that ten times and you will effectively trigger your parasympathetic nervous system.

Develop a mindset that your value, worth and identity does not come from another’s opinion of you nor from your performance. If you discover your intrinsic self-worth and are able to integrate that understanding into your identity and your relational interactions you will be far less vulnerable to fearing conflict. Conflict is inevitable, in fact all healthy relationships have conflict. Studies show that 69% of all marital conflict is perpetual. So we need to learn the skills of handling conflict well if we are ever going to have healthy relationships.

As always if we can ever be of assistance to you we’re here to help!

Criticism: The Not So Silent Killer of Relationships

This is another in the series where we’re looking at John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and how they destroy relationships. I believe this is important for Spiritual Leaders to understand because you are called to be the instruments of God’s peace in bringing understanding, peace and unity within the family of God. Gottman did his research on marriages but these principles are found in every human interaction and applicable to any relational conflict.

The next horseman we will look at is Criticism.

Criticism is when we see an action or attitude that we dislike and personify it in that person.

For example, instead of saying that we are angry that our partner is late we call our partner a late person. It becomes the label we slap on that person so instead of just having been late they will forever be known as a late person. How incredibly damaging is that. Think about the labels we unconsciously put on people – or the labels that you have been saddled with. Did you ever get a bad grade in school were called stupid? Or maybe you dropped a fly ball and someone called you clumsy. Are you stupid or clumsy? Absolutely not. But what’s it feel like when you get labeled? Here are two options:

  1. You accept the label and eventually your world becomes smaller and your possibilities become limited. Because clumsy people don’t win ballgames and stupid people don’t go on to academic achievement.
  2. You fight against the label and attack the one who is labeling you or withdraw and stonewall. (We’ll discuss stonewalling next week).

The first option will destroy the person and the second option will destroy the relationship.

So how do we express our anger, frustration or disapproval without becoming critical? It is by separating the action from the person. We all have times when we are upset at another’s actions and we need to be able to express it to them. Good relationships are not conflict free; they learn to resolve those conflicts in a way that deepens and strengthens the relationship. Let’s take the example of being late (my personal favorite pet peeve)

Here’s the critical way of expressing your displeasure:

"You’re late, you were late last week and you’re late today. What it wrong with you! Why are you so inconsiderate!"

Here’s a way of expressing your displeasure without criticism:

"I need to tell you something that hurts me. I know you may not realize this, but when you are not on time it makes me feel like you don’t care about me because you know how important it is for me to be on time. I really don’t want to feel this way about you. How can we solve this problem?"

Okay, some of you may be saying; “when I’m angry those words don’t come out of my mouth” And maybe that’s one of the problems. We confront when we’re angry and we make things much worse. So calm down, share how you feel and believe that your partner really wants the best for you. It is ALWAYS best to default to the positive.

I hope this is helpful.

As always if we can ever be of service to you don’t hesitate to let us know.

Removing Another Horseman

Last week I shared one of John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Contempt. By way of reminder, these are the four attitudes that, if they show up in a relationship, will destroy it. This week I will share another Horseman – Defensiveness.

Defensiveness Defined

It is the attitude that creates a barrier to true listening and understanding because of a real or imagined threat. Defensiveness is primarily concerned with self-preservation, it focuses only on ones own perceptions and therefore poisons real communication negates empathy.

Defensiveness can be aggressive or it can be passive. Aggressive defensiveness comes mainly in the form of an attack which tries to set the opponent back to weaken their argument. In a conflict this often shows up as an attempt to flip the quarrel. For example when one person in the relationship expresses a complaint the other person immediately fires back a negative example of their behavior.

Passive defensiveness is a tactic that can be described by this phrase; “talk to the hand because the face ain’t listening”. There is a stubborn unwillingness to consider the other persons complaint and will change the subject, avoid contact or do anything else possible not to be in the conversation.

How do you know you are being defensive? A good rule of thumb is when we are creating a response in our heads when another person is talking. When we do this we are not listening to understanding but rather listening to defend. Another way of telling we are slipping into the defensive mode is when we feel attacked or condemned. Defensiveness is a natural response in these cases. But unless it is a physical attack our being defensive will only escalate the conflict – it never resolves it. Conflict is reduced when the parties feel understood and their feelings are honored. By the way, did you know according to research that 69% of all relational conflict is perpetual? That means that we really don’t resolve most arguments we simply learn to understand and create some accommodation or compromise. Good marriages are not conflict free – they just learn to live with inevitable differences in a way that shows kindness, patience, long-suffering and love. Sounds a lot like the Fruit of the Spirit doesn’t it. 

The great antidote to defensiveness is the willingness to die to oneself – for that is what it feels like when you feel misunderstood and attacked and don’t in turn defend ourselves. As a believer in Christ I find my identity not in my performance or in another person’s perception of me but in who God says I am. I have already been condemned as a sinner and I have been forgiven and raised up as a Child of God so the worse and best has been said of me. I can handle the revelation of my imperfections because I have the sure hope that God is continuing to work on my character.

… being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6 NIV

Here are some of the keys to removing defensiveness from our conflicts

  • Be determined to listen for understanding not for rebuttal
  • Calm yourself with the confidence of being loved by God and that this is an opportunity to grow
  • Attempt to connect with the feelings of your spouse even if you can’t understand their logic
  • Remember that this problem may be perpetual and therefore look for compromise not for ultimate solutions
  • Don’t let past unresolved conflicts emerge. Stay in the present moment.

 

As always if there are questions or anything else I can help you with don’t hesitate to reach out.

How to Tell When a Relationship is in Critical Condition

John Gottman’s over forty years of research has uncovered a few telltale signs that a relationship is in serious trouble, he calls these the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I will share one of these in my Frontline Blog each week with the hopes that if you see any of these showing up in relationships that you are counseling you can take action to expose them and remove them so that they don’t bring death and destruction to that relationship.

The first and most deadly is Contempt. Contempt is defined as:

A complete lack of empathy. An inability to understand another’s thoughts, feelings or motivations so that the other person no longer registers as someone worthy of serious consideration much less compassion or love.

When contempt shows up relationships wither and die.

Contempt often masquerades as intellectual superiority, or justifiable condemnation. We hear it when someone says; “they deserve what they got” or “you made your bed now sleep in it!” Whatever form it takes it always separates and isolates with the ultimate response being “you are not worth my time and effort”.  It shows up in relationships when one partner says to another, "I have had enough of your (fill in the blank) and I’m simply not going to take it anymore."

Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment and he give us two. To love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. When asked to clarify the second he told a story of a Jewish man who was attacked and left for dead. Along came a Priest and a Levite who passed him by and left him in his miserable condition. This in contempt in its purest and most vile form.  But then a Samaritan (the hated race) came along, picked him up, took him to an inn and made sure that he was cared for. This Samaritan had every reason in the world to walk on by too. He was culturally indoctrinated to see Jews as the hated race deserving no compassion or kindness. Yet he broke from his culture and loved this man. This is love in its purest and most holy form.

I will share two principles that we can take from this that directly relates to relationships.

  1. We must never, never allow contempt to creep into the way we treat any person. Be they the most unlovable, unreasonable or unworthy person ever born. We break the second commandment of Christ if we hold contempt in our hearts. Jesus is our supreme example when he looked down from his agony on the cross and proclaimed, “Father, forgive them they don’t know what they are doing”. We therefore have no excuse for contempt.
  2. We must never, ever allow contempt to enter into our most sacred of relationships; our marriage. This means that no matter how many times we are tempted to “blow off” our partner or no matter how many times we believe we’re justified to think we’re the one that is being treated unfairly we are commanded to listen, to serve, to care and to understand. This is an impossible commandment to keep unless we also have the same power that possessed Jesus living in us. We have the Spirit of Christ giving us the power to love beyond our meager human capacity.

As spiritual leaders we must be ready to spot contempt in all its forms and rebuke, encourage and teach those who have been entrusted to us. We are to exhort them to put on a heart of compassion, kindness and humility. 

I could speak more on this but I don’t want to weary you with words. If ever I can be of service don’t hesitate to reach out. Next week we’ll look at another of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

Helping Marriages in Conflict

I’m going to focus on helping you help marriages in my Frontline blogs over the next few weeks because as go the marriages so go our churches. Fundamentally marriage was the first institution given to man and it is the fabric that holds our society together. Conversely an attack on marriage is an attack on the sovereignty of God and our ability to fulfill our true purpose to give him glory.

The problem lies in getting practical in helping marriages. Platitudes don’t work. Exhortations and encouragements often fail to make real change. Marriage is in crisis and we as spiritual leaders often feel desperate to help. So, over the coming weeks I am going to give you some tools that have been developed by The Gottman Method for Couples Therapy and have been proven effective in helping couples develop closer and more intimate marriages. But let me make this clear, these principles are not true because John Gottman made them true in the same way an astronomer who charts a new solar system did not create it.  These principles are true because they are the way we were created and they work because we were made to relate to each other in certain ways.  So let’s get at the first principle.

Opposites really do attract –

But that’s a part of the problem

There is no truism that emerges from marriage counseling more evident than we marry someone who is different – on purpose! The problem is summed up on this phrase; “opposites attract and then they attack”. How many times do we think; “if they could just not do or say that things would be so much better.” But they do and say those things precisely because they are different, and that’s a good thing. The Gottman research has shown that couples who accept the influence of their partner have happier more harmonious and less conflictual marriages. This is because when we accept our partners influence we are saying, “Okay, I may not have all the answers here and I may not see something that you see, so I am going to listen with an open mind and really try to understand your perspective”. This is hard. We are addicted to being right. But when we marry we are making a pronouncement that we don’t have all the answers and we are not the center of the universe. We are accepting as fact that we need someone else in our life and that someone is gloriously different than we are. Remembering this fact and becoming truly humble in our deficiencies is essential to having a good marriage. So here are some points that may help when you are facing a couple who are struggling with the “attack” side of attraction.

  1. Normalize the fact that they have married someone different than they are. You can help them see this by helping them recount what it was that initially attracted them to each other. Most of the time it is the same quality that created the attraction that is now causing the conflict.
  2. Help them learn the discipline of active listening. Truly listening is a very tough skill to learn because we cling to our own prejudices. One of the most helpful exercises to help develop listening skills is to have the listener repeat what they think they heard until the speaker is satisfied that they got it right.
  3. Pray for a soft heart. Jesus said that the cause of divorce is a hard heart. (Matthew 19:8) It is so easy for a heart to become hard over time through bitterness and resentment. So the antidote to divorce is a soft heart. I am convinced that this is impossible apart from a powerful work of the Holy Spirit. So we should pray every day that God would soften our hearts. We must continually do “heart checks” to see if our hearts are becoming hard and if we sense the slightest rigidity creeping in quickly confess it and ask for a softening. 

I hope this helps as you serve those whom God has given you. If I can ever be of service to you please let me know. We at Total Wellness Resource Center are here to support you.  

Show Your Work!

There is a tingle - an inexpressible energy that comes upon us when we’re in the pulpit or in front of a group that is hanging on our every word. We feel a “rightness” about doing what we are gifted to do - weaving a phrase, making a point and putting an emphasis upon something we believe is vital for our listeners to know.

But there is also another feeling that we know all too well. It is sense that we have a unique ability to pronounce truth because of our special gift. And all too often our audiences walk away with the same feeling; and that’s a problem. 

When those whom we are teaching begin to believe that the teacher has a unique ability to interpret the Word of God then our teaching has become a performance and our insights do not move them forward on their own journey toward spiritual maturity.

I remember a math homework assignment in High School where I answered all the questions right but when I got my paper it came back marked up with red ink. At the top of the page, in bold print was this message. SHOW YOUR WORK! I remember thinking to myself, “how unfair! I got all the answers right, what more does he want?” What I have learned was it was not enough to have the right answers; I needed to know how I got the right answer so I could use that skill to answer other more difficult questions. (It might also be because he was afraid I was cheating, but that’s another story)

This is what I believe Paul was saying to his young disciple Timothy in his second letter.  

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.
— 2 Timothy 2:2 NIV

The point is we are called not only to communicate truth but we are called to teach the skill so that truth can be passed on again, and again and again. The only way this is going to happen is if we are willing to “show our work”. In other words, we must not only uncover beautiful truths and articulate powerful insights from God’s Word but we need to do it in such a way that those listening can say; “I see how he got that!” We do this with the hope that the next time they pick up their Bible they will follow the same process and feed themselves directly from the Bread of Life. Here are some questions to ask ourselves next time we prepare a talk or a sermon.

  • Will those listening be able to see how I came to this truth and do it on their own?
  • Will my listeners learn to “rightly handle the Word of Life” through my example?
  • Am I using the Word as a vehicle for supporting my point or is my point derived from the Word?

A Preachers Prayer

O Lord I pray that I would approach your Word with fresh eyes and an unpretentious spirit. Teach me O Spirit to preach only what is true and to teach it in a way that inspires those listening to love and learn from your Word on their own. Keep me humble in my delivery but inspire me with a deep passion for your truth that is infectious. Let the truths you speak through me be not for these alone but be passed on to future generations so that your Church grows and you are greatly glorified. 

I would love to hear from you. Please let me know if I can ever be of service ... we are here to help!

What Kind of Counselor Should I Refer to?

 

This could get sticky and might elicit some push-back from a few but it needs to be talked about.

Do we only refer to “Biblical Counselors” or do we refer our hurting people to other types of counselors?

 In the spirit of Frontline (being brief and to the point) I am not going to go into great detail about the differences between “Biblical” and “Integrated Christian Counselors” but I will try to briefly make some distinctions.

The hard core Biblical Counselor does not use any theories, research or interventions that are not explicitly taught in Scriptures. The basic belief is that all human problems stem from a broken relationship with God which then results in broken interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. (How we relate to ourselves and others) A Christian integrationist would agree with this core belief but also believes there is complexity in humans that should be considered and therefore research based psychology and brain physiology can be very helpful in the counseling process.

The bottom line question is this: If we would not turn away from modern medicine to treat our physical ailments then why reject modern psychological medicine? The relationship between emotions and brain chemistry is a clear and indisputable. Likewise the science of how humans interact with one another has also been clearly established through decades of research. All this science is merely discovering what God has already done. 

Yes, it is true that there is much to be warry of when dealing with “secular” psychology. Often the goal of the pastor and the goal of the secular therapist are not in alignment. Secular Therapists are taught to alleviate suffering and hold no absolutes and for the Christian who is held to an eternal perspective this could be extremely dangerous leading to “gaining the whole world and losing one’s soul.” But do we need to exclude anything that is not explicitly taught in Scripture or can we expand our understanding of truth to include all of God glorious creation whether that be physical, social, or psychological.    

… but let every good and true Christian understand that wherever truth may be found, it belongs to his Master
— St Augustine, Bishop of Hippo
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows
— James 1:17 NIV

The real question is what a Christian does in the field of psychology? Does he or she seek God’s discernment to identify truth that is in alignment and consistent with Scripture? Too many have neglected the real work of Christian counseling by either ignoring the science of psychology or disregarding the teaching of the Word of God. I consider both paths to be negligent and should be avoided.  So here are some guidelines that may be helpful when qualifying counselors that you may what to use.

  • Do they have a thorough understanding of the science of human behavior and how the brain produces neurochemicals that effect moods?
  • Are they continually growing in learning about the empirical research that supports healthy thinking and relationships?
  • Have they thought through the empirically proven therapies in relationship to the clear teaching of Scriptures and are able to design interventions that are true, effective and lead to ultimate life?
  • Do they have a dependence upon and a commitment to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit in their counseling?
  • Are they living a life that is consistent with godliness and discipleship?
  • Are they willing to partner with you in the healing process and assist you in becoming a more effective minister of the Gospel?

I hope this is helpful. Please let me know if

I can be of any service to you.

Oh No! ... Now You're Meddling!

There are few topics that make spiritual leaders squirm more than the topic of how we care for our bodies. We would like to stay on the “spiritual” topics and far away from what we eat or how much we exercise. Or as one pastor said; “now you’re meddling!” We like to think that we can get a free pass on at least one area of our life and not give up our glorious Italian Beef, dipping with juice. (or whatever your particular guilty pleasure is)

It is easier to see our daily devotional time as more “spiritual” than an exercise program. Clearly the maintenance of our bodies doesn’t get the same focus as other aspects of discipleship. (not a lot of nutrition classes in seminary) Additionally, we don’t disqualify spiritual leaders because of being obese.

I am not advocating instituting some sort of diet inquisition, but let’s turn the light on in this subject because it does matter how we care for our bodies. Our body is the vehicle that we were given to do the work he gave us to do. In other words, it is hard to preach from a hospital bed or minister from the grave.   

Robert Murray M’Cheyne was an extraordinarily gifted Presbyterian minister who died at the age of 29. He was a tireless worker often going without food or sleep to proclaim the gospel. On his death-bed he recognized he had made a crucial miscalculation.

Robert Murray M'Cheyne
God gave me a message to deliver and a horse to ride. Alas, I have killed the horse and now I cannot deliver the message.
— Robert Murray M’Cheyne 1813-1843

 

So what will be your excuse if your ministry is cut short because you have not cared for your body? Do any of us want to show up in heaven early because we weren’t able to discipline our eating habits or get out of bed to exercise? If you’re feeling a little convicted by this line of questioning … good. Just remember that the strength you have to live every other area of your life is available in this area too. One of the fruits of the Spirit is discipline therefore God grants us the ability to control what we put in our mouths and the power to get into an exercise routine.

I love this verse …

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him
— 1 John 5:14,15

 

Is it God’s will that we honor him in the stewardship of our bodies? Does he get glory when we maximum our bodies performance and fulfill our calling? Of course he does! Therefore, he will grant us whatever we need to make this happen.

Pray for it! 

If there is anything we can do at Total Wellness Center to assist you in fulfilling this desire just let us know. We're here for you!

The Leadership Quality Nobody Wants

 

I was asked by a friend to write some thoughts about Elder selection and training and I suppose that I could comment on the lists of qualifications in I Timothy and Titus or set out some curriculum that would help in the development of spiritual maturity. All that has been done and I don’t think I can add much to that store of knowledge. So I am going to briefly discuss what I believe is most on my heart concerning leadership. It is the quality that I admire most in a leader and it is the lack of this quality that causes the greatest harm the Church. It is summed up in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”.

Above all we need leaders who are uninhibited conduits of God’s grace in all its multiple forms. Contrarily, what we don’t need anyone who is being opposed by God in leadership. So humility seems to be a pretty important quality. Let me define humility.

Humility is the attitude that allows one to see themselves truthfully in relationship to God and others. In order to possess humility one must first be willing to strip out all the false beliefs and receive humbly God’s instruction. In other words, it starts with an attitude of the heart and flows out from there. This is where I see our error in leadership selection rise. We mistake confidence, competence and success (and sometimes arrogance) for true spiritual leadership. We must look instead for competent leaders that find their confidence not in themselves but in the Lord.

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves but our competence comes from God
— 2 Corinthians 3:5

This is the person whom God pours out his grace upon and this is the leader that inspires the Church to live in true spiritual power.

Pride in all its forms limits this work of the Holy Spirit in a leader (and others) and it is what we need to be ruthless in removing from our lives if we are to receive God’s grace. Let me share some of the consequences of pride that are easily overlooked.

  • Pride limits a leader’s ability to see the gifts of others and serve them in growing using those gifts.
  • Pride puts ones accomplishments at the center of their self-worth
  • Pride presents it’s self as caution because of the fear of failure which would damage the leader’s reputation
  • Pride deadens a leader’s ears to waiting for the Lord to speak
  • Pride greatly limits a leader’s ability to feel compassion and empathy for those who struggle in ways they have not
  • Pride holds onto titles, positions, degrees and awards as proof of their qualification to lead.

So what is the litmus test for pride? I don’t know if there is any assessment available but here are a few questions I would ask a potential leader to see if they have wrestled with their pride. Because that is the best we can do. Pride is not eradicated in any of our lives until we are finally fully transformed. But the awareness of it is a great prescription for keeping it in check.

Questions to ask to reveal the awareness of pride.

  • Tell me about a time when you failed. What lessons did you learn?
  • What do you think are your greatest weaknesses? (If they say they work too hard … run!)
  • What do you think A. W Tozer meant when he said...
I doubt that God will ever use a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply
— A.W. Tozer
  • What are you most grateful for? (Gratitude is antithetical to pride. When you see it you know that is the work of the Holy Spirit)
  • What scares you? (fear of anything but God is an indication of putting one’s trust in something other than God)
  • What does it mean to you when Jesus said:
If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it
— Luke 9:23,24 NIV

As always we at Total Wellness Resource Center are here to walk beside you in your ministry so let us know if there is any way we can serve you.

Fighting for Transparency

 

Hiding has been a part of human history from the beginning.  Yes, we all hide but as spiritual leaders the consequences of hiding are multiplied.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
— Genesis 3:8 NIV
  • Hiding impedes our ability to be spiritually connected to our true source of wisdom and strength
  • Hiding encourages hypocrisy
  • Hiding isolates us
  • Hiding makes fear our primary motivation
  • Hiding encourages pride

We need to become authentic grace-driven leaders who have a clear view of ourselves and therefore willing to be true examples of followers of Christ.

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
— 1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV

It is so easy to hide. The pressure to accept the complements and adoration of those we lead is intense. We don’t want to burden them with our personal problems. So we learn to smile and stay silent. The result is they don’t know us and we end up not being known. And that is the real danger. When we live in a secret internal world that is guarded; off limits to those who are “closest” to us we are in a very dangerous place.

I am not advocating pouring out your darkest thoughts and fears on those you’re leading. That would be abusive and self-serving. My point is this; if you have no one who knows you fully (your secret thoughts, your consuming fears, your most guarded secrets) then you are in danger of having these become “dry rot” for your soul. You may look completely sound on the outside but be disintegrating on the inside. And what is on the inside will eventually always become evident on the outside.

Transparent relationships are modeled after God’s relationship with us and built upon these three basic principles:

  1. Unconditional love and forgiveness: There is none that knows us more and yet loves us more than God. It is his forgiveness that draws us to him and keeps us from drowning in our shame. This is what we must offer to one another.
  2. Uncompromising truth: God never “winks” at sin and we must not either. Truth is absolutely antithetical to hiding and will create an environment where real transparency exist.
  3. Unending encouragement and support: God never gives up on us and we must never give up on one another. There is something very healing in having someone who will go the distance with you; bearing your burdens and believing in God’s sanctification process in your life.

If you have this kind of relationship you are blessed … protect it and deepen it! If you do not make a commitment now to seek it out and fight for it. This is truly a matter of life or death.

As always if there is anything we at Total Wellness Resource Center can do for you we are your servants.