Mining for Gratitude: Some Thoughts from Psalm 118

Are we thankful yet? It’s Thanksgiving for goodness sake lol!

It’s funny how we can’t just make ourselves feel thankful. Gratitude is the result of something done to or for us. Digging into Psalm 118, I found a precious truth that reveals how deep, life changing gratitude happens!

1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
What calls forth deep gratitude from our hearts? It’s God’s goodness and love. But often times, we may be looking for His goodness and love in all the wrong places, which implies we ourselves are not in a place to receive and experience all that He has for us. I’m not talking about physical geography but rather, where we are spiritually / emotionally in our lives. Where our minds tend to dwell and abide when we interact with the world and the people in our lives determines whether we are able to connect with God’s mercy and grace. It really boils down to who we are, where we find our worth, and what we think life’s about. In other words, how we identify ourselves, how we relate to God, and how we understand our struggles.

2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
The psalmist first calls Israelites to proclaim His eternal love. This is our identity at the national level (in a spiritual way) – to belong to a people whose name means, ‘those who struggle with God and men and overcome’. To be able to experience God’s amazing grace, we must be people who engage the spiritual and emotional struggles that God allows to come our way. And we must learn to engage in the way which God determines it as a success. God’s way is always overcoming evil with good. And this is a huge indicator that we are experiencing real, divine love – we overcome the internal struggles against our own ‘evil’ and the ‘evil’ of others with goodness and love from God.

3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.”
Second and more specifically, we need to be of the house of Aaron, meaning, we need to be priests; not in the conventional sense with white collars and what not, but Biblical, New Testament priests, which every believer is called to be. To experience God’s deep, transforming love we need to become well acquainted with the inner life – all the emotions, sorrow, and hurt – so that we can bring acceptable offerings to God as well as intercede meaningfully for others.

4 Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.”
And thirdly to experience eternal kindness that moves us to deep gratitude, we need to take God and His Word seriously, more seriously than we take ourselves, our responsibilities, our goals and dreams, our fears and hurts, and even the incessant stream of thoughts that go through our minds everyday. ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.’ There is a strong connection between wisdom and real, life changing thankfulness. Wisdom is knowledge and understanding into God and His ways which results in a life of joy and peace. Wisdom is humbly walking with God to experience and process all of life (especially emotional pains) in ways that grow beauty and strength in our character and relationships. Wisdom is having inner life skills (business world often calls them soft skills) that enable one to be saved from the ways of wicked men and the adulteress. Those designations refer to unfaithful ways of dealing with desires and pain – ways that don’t seriously consider God’s goodness and power, but rather resort to hostility, hiding, seduction, and manipulation. But none of those ever result in true thanksgiving, only destruction of self and others.

5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.
When was the last time you felt hard pressed? The King James Bible calls it, ‘distress’. The Message Bible phrases it, ‘Pushed to the wall’. The idea is getting backed into a corner with a fear of not being able to get free – trapped with no alternatives but defeat. If left in this place, we would end in despair without hope. It’s being in a place of powerlessness and poverty which prevents us from being and doing what is meaningful for us. People work really hard to not end up in this place. Pursuing financial wealth, power, control, prestige, and physical health are ways to protect ourselves and our families from being hard pressed. There’s inherently nothing wrong with those pursuits but if we use them apart from a transparent and vulnerable relationship with God where we wholeheartedly trust in His love and goodness, then we will not be open to His work and blessing in our hearts to grow gratitude.
And when you did feel hard pressed, did you cry to the Lord for mercy, believing in His love and delight in you, that He would rescue your heart (as revealed and proven through Christ’s death and resurrection for us)? If we don’t believe or feel that there’s grace in the universe, that there’s no one there for us, negative emotions will continue to constrict and suffocate our hope, making our hearts sick. Faith that Jesus reveals the heart of God brings us into a spacious place and opens us to God’s help and healing. “It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.” Slavery is a great metaphor to help us understand what it means to be hard pressed. As a slave, we are totally limited in what we can and cannot do – to the point of letting go of our dignity, succumbing to an existence without love and meaning.
When we are in emotional distress, we feel inadequate and we don’t feel like we have choices. The pain of shame and rejection debilitate us from healing and redemptive actions. We often find ourselves not even wanting to pursue positive change because hopelessness and bitter self-sufficiency might be so ingrained in our hearts. Freedom and spaciousness are the last things from our minds. We get tunnel vision and only see desperation and pain, fueled by the fear of despair. Being hard pressed is that place where are tempted to give up, sever ties, and resign to deep, harmful compromises in our character and relationships.
Crying to the Lord is the wisest and most powerful thing we can do to overcome painful distress. When we believe in the God who is not only a powerful benevolent Creator, but also the perfect Father who is empathy at His core, our hearts are stirred and moved to trust in a childlike way, the healthy way our hearts were created to trust in the One who both made us and redeemed us by His Gospel.

6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
This is the potent resolve which frees us from the fear and pain of being hard pressed. This heart felt confidence opens our minds to the many possibilities that God has in store to heal us and help us to recover from any and every hurt, habit, or hang up. Courage because of Emmanuel (God with us) empowers us to see people as they truly are – mere mortals – all under God’s authority.
Fearing God and not men is essential to being thankful for God’s loving kindness as it expands and clarifies our perspective into the human condition – that everyone is frail, temporal, and susceptible to greater powers such as death. Knowing that the Immortal One is truly with me, not only His presence but His heart, gives us the strength we need to pursue goodness and mercy in the midst of our hard-pressedness.

7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
The Empathizing God helps me overcome the enemy of my soul, ie. distress and fear caused by pain, shame, affliction, rejection and hopelessness. Victory in this internal struggle / trial calms the storm in the sea of my emotions. And I experience sunshine, peace and calm which yields a heart of great appreciation for all that God does for me which I cannot do myself.

8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Trusting people and those in authority is good but not as a refuge from the storms of distress. They are very limited in their strength and ability to comfort us. When it comes to finding ultimate safety and protection from the damages of internal strife, we need to go directly to the One whose heart is 100% with us. He genuinely knows our pain and afflictions and He knows how to lead us to the spacious place, the place of real refuge.

10 All the nations surrounded me, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
11 They surrounded me on every side, but in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
12 They swarmed around me like bees, but they were consumed as quickly as burning thorns; in the name of the Lord I cut them down.
13 I was pushed back and about to fall, but the Lord helped me.
14 The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.

Being hard pressed and in emotional distress is not a small thing; it is likened to having the whole world against us attacking on every side. Like being in the midst of swarming insects, fear and confusion leave us screaming for relief. If we identify with anything or anyone less than the One who is perfect love and strength, we will get pushed back and fall without ability to get back up. But if we find our identity in the God who has revealed His heart through Jesus Christ, we will find strength, defense, and salvation.
No matter how overwhelming the odds and how numerous and powerful the forces and arrows of distress, the identity of God is able to consume them ‘as quickly as burning thorns’. We need to find ourselves in this God.

15 Shouts of joy and victory resound in the tents of the righteous:
“The Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!
16 The Lord’s right hand is lifted high; the Lord’s right hand has done mighty things!”
17 I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done.

Experiencing overwhelming, desperate moments with God’s comfort and help leads us to processions of victorious celebration. Our hearts are filled with praise and thanksgiving for the everlasting love that overcomes our fears and hurts. Rather than being overcome by hostility and wrath, we overcome with faith and mercy; we receive the gift of grace that wins us over to be willing to hope, forgive, and love eternally. And as God gives us these victories, we are able to live and not die to help others find the hope and gratitude that is found in God alone.

18 The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.
19 Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the Lord.
20 This is the gate of the Lord through which the righteous may enter.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:13, 14, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”
The context of this passage is one of judging others and how we need to judge ourselves first to see things clearly. These moments of judgment cause conflict and distress. This is the fertile ground of negative emotions and an environment ripe for hostility. Yet Jesus instructs us to ask, seek, and knock for God’s great gifts in the midst of these times (Matt.7:7-12). Going through distressful moments with faith in God is the narrow gate which leads to life.
Going to God for comfort is a radical expression of faith in the profound, often painful, yet most meaningful moments of our lives. Distress and hard-pressedness create a very narrow entryway which people usually try their best to avoid.
Yet the Lord uses hard pressed moments to discipline / disciple us to become people who bring life and peace to all the places we go each and every day. As we find comfort from God, we are able to comfort those around us (2 Corinthians 1:4)

21 I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation.
22 The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
23 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.
24 The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.

This way of living is foundational to being a child of God, ie. a person full of thanks for God’s mercy and goodness. It is the initial stone to set the orientation of the rest of the building. When we are hard pressed and we apply wholehearted trust in God’s truth and grace, it transforms the orientation of our lives and we marvel at the incredible work of God in our character to reflect His own.

25 Lord, save us! Lord, grant us success!
26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. From the house of the Lord we bless you.
27 The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.
28 You are my God, and I will praise you; you are my God, and I will exalt you.
29 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

As we overcome struggles of distress, emotional hurts, and pitfalls of despair, by God’s saving work and ways, we experience the success He wants for us – to be one who comes in the name of the Lord! And this identity reflects the light of God’s grace and truth, especially in the midst of distress. As we continue to grow in this way of life and love, we grow in greater and deeper worship of the God who is good and whose love endures forever! And being a worshiper is the epitome of wholehearted gratitude!

“But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4;23, 24

As you celebrate and enjoy the holidays, I encourage you to grow hearts of thankfulness by paying attention to your distress and hard pressed moments. More importantly, remember to cry to the Lord with faith and hope in His love which endures forever! Make those crucial identity determining decisions. Then expect to experience God’s great work in your heart to bring you to the spacious place of His grace and gratitude.

Keeping It Real

“Keep it real”. This is a pretty common expression. What do people mean when they use it?
Here’s some definitions from Urbandictionary.com:
To not be fake. Be yourself.
to not inhibit yourself or pretend to be something you are not.
When someone does not change who they are or what they believe due to societal pressures. Especially true with regards to someone who has attained some financial success but does not change their behavior. Alternatively, may relate to someone who maintains connections to their ethnic background in a multicultural environment.
Not only tell the truth, but specifically get to the point of the actual matter at hand, rather than beating around the bush.
a closing statement used to say goodbye and often by Christians as a reminder to keep their faith real – as in not hypocritical.

For my purposes, let’s begin with some dictionary.com definitions:

“keep”
to hold or retain in one’s possession; hold as one’s own: ie. if you like it, keep it
to maintain (some action), especially in accordance with specific requirements, a promise, etc.: ie. to keep watch, keep in step
to cause to continue in a given position, state, course, or action:, ie. to keep a light burning
to maintain in condition or order, as by care and labor, ie. he keeps his car in good condition.
to maintain in usable or edible condition; preserve:, ie. if you want to keep meat for a long time, freeze it.

So whatever ‘it’ is, we should hold onto it as an invaluable possession. We ought to maintain ‘it’ according to Biblical requirements. We want to continue in ‘it’ so we can experience its power and benefit.

“real”
true; not merely ostensible, nominal, or apparent:existing or occurring as fact; actual rather than imaginary, ideal, or fictitious: ie. a story taken from real life.
being an actual thing; having objective existence; not imaginary: ie. The events you will see in the film are real and not just made up.
being actually such; not merely so-called: ie. a real victory.
genuine; not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation; authentic: ie. a real antique; a real diamond; real silk.
unfeigned or sincere: ie. real sympathy; a real friend.
Informal. absolute; complete; utter: ie. She’s a real brain.

Also, whatever ‘it’ is, we should know it is absolute truth and not nominal or just apparent. We ought to be aware that ‘it’ is actually such and not just so-called. Not just profession but sincere, unfeigned confession!

And the most important definition, what is “it”? What do I want to keep real, to be authentic about? Or a better question might be WHO. Who can say to us we’re being genuine or phony?

Well coming from a Biblical faith background, my answer is God and Jesus – the right answers to 90% of all Sunday school questions, LOL. But why? Saying that it’s God makes sense, since He’s the creator and as such, He knows our purpose; He knows whether we are being real humans or not, ie. true images of Himself. But with Jesus, it may get a bit more complicated. After all, He was a human being. But being a Christian, I also affirm His deity.

See, being being both human and divine actually gives Him even more grounds for defining ‘it’. As God, He knows our purpose and design; as Man, He knows our frailty and even our mortality. Biggest thing that makes Him the One to determine ‘it’ is His resurrection. Being able to come back from death pretty much seals the deal. Whatever He says is truth! But enough of that; all I’m saying is Jesus is the sole determiner of what ‘it’ should be.

But before identifying ‘it’, I also want to ask why do we need to keep it real.

There has been so much damage done in the name of Christ and the Bible that it really behooves the church and followers of Jesus to put ‘keeping it real’ at the top of each day’s priorities. It is so common to read the Bible and have little or no idea how it connects to real life. No wonder why many Christians struggle to connect their church life with their non-church life. As such, many professing believers / church goers don’t know what to keep real or how to do it. Yet this is so critically important for those who profess to be followers of Jesus and worshippers of the one true God. Being a disciple means being a learner and being a worshipper means whatever we’re learning should be growing our praise and adoration of God to the point of it directing all we do.

It’s even more important for those who teach the Bible (especially to kids) to consistently and meaningfully connect Bible stories and passages to daily living. Jesus warns against false teaching and causing young people to stumble. The book of James tells us that teachers will be judged more harshly.

Keeping it real actually helps you interpret and understand the Bible in the way it was intended – to address the inner life (relationships, emotions, identity, addictions, etc) and teach what it takes to experience true freedom. Keeping it real helps us be clear about the context of our lives. Scholars and seminarians always emphasize context as primary and essential to faithful interpretation. Ultimately, this means that Biblical clarity requires a grasp of the entire Bible (which gives us a comprehensive context with its 7 genres / sections) and seeing Jesus at the center of all its teachings. We must look to Jesus, who He is and what He did, and the Biblical context to define our ‘it’.

First, what is the Biblical context? From Genesis to Revelation, we see God’s salvation story of a broken relationship between Him and people who’ve lost their way. We see God promising and sending His Son, Jesus Christ to redeem, resurrect, and redefine humanity to give all those who believe eternal life. It’s about God’s rescue of people who couldn’t save themselves from wrecking and destroying their relationships, families, communities, and nations with pride and fear.

Secondly, who is Jesus and what did He do? He is the Word of God become a human being to be a sacrificial atonement for our sins. He fully identified with us so that He could truly be our substitute in taking our just punishment. As one of us, He died in our place and reconciled us to God. Moreover why and how He did this are of equal importance. Jesus’ motivation was love and oneness – He wanted to be one with us just as He is one with the Father, in an intimate, covenant-based relationship (like a marriage). How He did this is even more revealing of the ‘it’. He did this through a Roman execution instrument – a wooden cross. This cruel tool was intended to maximize shame and pain by a public, prolonged display of the condemned, whose hands and feet were nailed thus keeping the person in an exposed, vulnerable position and unable to physically protect himself in any manner. He suffered all this to make a new and living way back to God the Father.

Why God the Father? Because at the core, we have an identity crisis. We are sinners through our lineage to Adam. The choice of unbelief resulted in shame and a loss of union with God. The Garden of Delight (Eden) was no longer their home. Then came jealousy and hostility, the offspring of enmity (opposite of intimacy). Through the fall, people become trouble makers rather than peacemakers. Look at history and it’s easy to see our identity crisis. If not for God, we all die spiritually, relationally, and emotionally by avoidance (suicide) or aggression (homicide).

In Jesus’ words, we need to be born again. Another way to put it is, we need to receive a new identity by trusting in His death on the cross which resulted in resurrection. Put another way, God transforms us when we wholeheartedly believe in Christ as the way, truth, and life and resultingly expose our shame and pain to Him with whatever vulnerability we can muster. Real change requires vulnerability and transparency in the midst of an intimate relationship. This is ‘it’. We need to keep our relationships with God and loved ones ‘real’; intimacy, vulnerability, and transparency as core values. We must prioritize them everyday so that we show up as different people (on the inside) wherever we go and in whatever we’re doing. Most importantly when conflict and tensions arise, we need to be people who seek God’s help to not fall into the temptation to avoid or attack. We also need to be honest about our tendencies to distract and addict ourselves with work, play, or substances to comfort our pain and stresses. When we approach life differently in an authentic relationship with God, we will show up differently in our relationships with people.

In addition, when we mention relationships, we must be aware that we are also talking about identity. Relationships define and affect identity. I guess you could say they are 2 sides of the same coin. If our relationships (with God and others) are healthy and strong, we know who we are, what we’re worth, and what life is about. In the absence of healthy relationships, we’re lost and alone with little or no sense of worth or purpose, spiraling out of control, all the while frantically grasping for control that we’ll never obtain. When we keep it real, it brings health to our relationships which will in turn help us build healthy ways of seeing ourselves.

To sum up the why, we need to keep it real because it moves us into relationship with God, engages us into the very passionate work of God as revealed in His Word to transform us into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Keeping it real is abiding in what is most important to Him as He is the One who determines what’s real or not, as well as who is real or not.

So what is ‘it’?

‘It’ is our identity in Christ.

Jesus said in John 15:1-4, “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me.”

Do you see how central this is to following Jesus? Every fruitless branch is cut off. Remaining in Christ is the ONLY way to experience fruitfulness.

There are 2 very important things to see here.
Pruned: A real connection with God results in pruning by the message of Christ. This means He cuts off other confidences, trusts, and loyalties. In the process of growing up, struggling through adolescence and functioning as productive members of society, we develop many internal loyalties to culture and family of origin dysfunctions. Through the Gospel, God wants to prune those loyalties that are anti-Gospel / anti-Christ so that we can experience fruit in our lives, the outcomes of spiritual and emotional health and maturity – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, faithfulness, and self control.
Remain: In a real relationship with God, we ought to pursue remaining in this pruned state. We have many situations and opportunities to function in a non-pruned state because much of the time, this is a default mode which does not involve conscious thought. An example would be my tendency to avoid conflict when I get into tensions and arguments with my wife, kids, or coworkers. Or perhaps it is the inclination to distract myself with work and play in order to not think about relational stress and dysfunction.

To experience the powerful, transforming results of the Gospel, we need to live from the peacemaker identity of Christ, wholehearted confidence in Him while keeping in mind / abiding in heart the why and how of His death and resurrection. Keeping it real is about being preoccupied with God’s heart, our hearts, and the hearts of those we live and work with. This spiritual focus gets us doing things that God wants us doing – doing what is just, loving mercy, and humbly walking with Him (Micah 6:8).

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matthew 5:9

God calls them His children because they’re keeping it real!

Family Workshop in the Financial District

I am partnering with 2 other brothers in Christ to offer a workshop called, “Growing Your Family’s Significance, Strength, and Security”. The presentation will have 3 parts with the primary one being about discipleship at home; it will be followed by segments on finance and mediation services. Our presentation will provide your members with inspiration, encouragement, and tools to help them fortify their families. We will leave cards and brochures in case anyone is interested in connecting with us after the event.
 
Here are my presentation partners:

Rodney Suzuki has been in financial management for over 20 years.  He is a managing associate at MassMutual Financial in San Francisco.  Rod provides a wide range of financial service and advice for individual families and businesses.  He is a deacon at Christ United Presbyterian Church.  
 
Steve Wilson has been a business lawyer for 40 years.  He is a partner in San Francisco’s oldest law firm, Weintraub Tobin,  founded in 1852.  Steve provides a wide range of corporate and real estate law services to California businesses and to many churches and para-church organizations as well as secular nonprofits.  He has been a Stephen Minister for 20 years and has founded and helped direct succesful Stephen Ministry programs at two churches.  As a member of California Christian Conciliation Services, he also provides experienced mediation and arbitration services to help people of faith resolve disputes out of court and in accordance with Scripture. 
 
 
The workshop will be held at 101 Montgomery, Suite 600 on Monday, June 23rd, 12-1:30pm . Please leave a comment to indicate attendance by Monday, June 9. That’ll help me with food orders.
 
If you are not able to make that meeting, but are still interested in the presentation, please let me know and we will try to work out a way to come to you.
 
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I’d love to get acquainted. Those of you who already know me, let’s get together and catch up! 
FamilyConnectionsCoach@gmail.com
 
Here’s a snapshot of the workshop:
 
“Growing Your Family’s Significance, Strength, and Security”
Presenters: Cecil Wong, Rodney Suzuki, Steve Wilson
Where: 101 Montgomery, Suite 600
When: June 23rd, 12 – 1:30pm
Cost: $10 (to cover lunch)

THE Goal

What is THE goal in life? If we had to single out one, what would it be? How should we even try to determine it? Today is Good Friday, the day on the Christian calendar to commemorate Christ’s death on the cross. Before Jesus breathed His last breath, He said, “It is finished!” He accomplished His goal. What was it and should it be THE goal?

From the Bible, and even the Gospel, it seems like THE goal is rest. Btw, we know physically that rest is really important for our bodies to restore and recharge; we’re supposed to spend a third of our lives sleeping so that’s got to say something! What if there’s a spiritual rest that is equally or more significant? Well, follow this muse with me.

Let’s start at the beginning, Genesis 1 and 2. After 6 days of work, God entered His rest, the Sabbath.

“By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” Gen.2:2

On the 7th day of creation, He stopped doing. Why would a day of rest count as a day of creation? Perhaps resting is the high point or climax? Could it be THE goal? Considering the next verse, it seems very possible:

“Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” Gen.2:3

The 7th day was blessed and set apart to be all about what was most important to the Creator – rest. God didn’t bless and make holy any other day. First 6 days, He spoke, it was so, and it was good; 6th day after people were created, it was very good. But evidently, there’s something extraordinarily special about the 7th. If creation were a mountain, “The good is the base, the holy is the summit.” (Abraham Heschel, The Sabbath, p.75).

So what exactly is the Sabbath about that identifies it as blessed and holy? If we look around Genesis 2:1-3, we see immediately following the passage about the garden of Eden and what happened there. Eden means ‘delight’ and in this delight, man and woman come together to be one flesh, they join together in the marriage union. The Apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:32 that marriage is a profound mystery because it is actually about Christ and the Church. It seems like this rest is about the union of God and Man. Could being united be THE goal of God’s creation?

What if God’s goal for His people is rest? Does it seem reasonable and Biblical that His goal is to be one with His people, to be united in heart, soul, mind, and body? What if the Sabbath / union has been God’s destination for people since creation. It even seems like the Sabbath might somehow be connected to Jesus as Jesus is the union of God and man. If that were the case, THE goal would be Jesus, to worship Him,  to be with Him, to be one with Him. And the Bible reveals an incredibly huge and transcendent understanding of Jesus; check out Colossians 1:15-20

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Really sounds like He is THE goal! If we’re willing to believe that, our destiny / goal is found in who God is in Christ. He defines the maturity of who we are and through His death and resurrection (the Gospel), He has made our maturity a very real and possible reality.

Furthermore, Hebrews 4 gives an even deeper idea of what this maturity is.

A Sabbath-Rest for the People of God, Heb.4:1-16

(Btw, Hebrews is about the supremacy of Jesus)

 Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it. For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed. Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,

“So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.’”

And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world. For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.” And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”

Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience, God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day. There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

JESUS THE GREAT HIGH PRIEST

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

 

See how many times the writer emphasizes the reality of a rest that we need to make every effort to enter. To get a better grasp of this rest, here’s a list of elements I got from this passage:

 

  • belief (vv.2-3)
  • today (v.7)
  • heart (vv.7, 12)
  • no works (v.10)
  • being transparent and vulnerable; deep discernment and exposure of thoughts and attitudes (vv.12-13)
  • empathy (v.15)
  • confidence (v.16)
  • grace (v.16)

Reflecting on that list, it looks like God wants to grow us to a place of spiritual maturity where our hearts are ever-increasingly open to Him. With that openness, we boldly approach Him daily to be in the presence of grace which renews our minds and hearts to live with a confidence born from taking our deepest and most intimate secrets, shame, guilt, fears, pain, and anxiety to our loving Heavenly Father for comfort and encouragement. When we are reshaped through being in God’s rest, we grow to be one with Christ so that we too can be a presence of grace and empathy to help others enter and experience God’s rest.

If Jesus is THE goal, what goal will He take the place of in your life? How will THE goal reprioritize your time and resources? What action will you commit to today that reflects Him as your Sabbath rest / THE goal?

Vulnerability + Desire = Passionate Love

My church is currently (January – March 2014) going through the Song of Solomon, a pretty obscure and unfamiliar book to a lot of people, even church folk. But it is a great revelation of God’s desire for marriages and a beautiful poem of passionate love. The expressions of the lovers requires some homework (pretty easy with the internet) to understand and appreciate but the studious effort is rewarded with insight into what makes for healthy marriages.

So reflecting on this sacred writing got me to think about my marriage. I’ve been married to May, for over 2 decades. I am totally in love with her, really crazy about her but how do I express it? These are the eloquent things that flow from my lips:

“Hey Honey, how was your day?” and of course, “What’s for dinner?”

I do say, “I love you” every morning when I’m off to work and at night before going to sleep. But it all pales pretty pathetically compared to the things that Solomon says to his wife in Song of Songs.

As I read this book, I am overwhelmed by the many expressions of deep desire,  passionate obsession, joyous delight, and even profound longing. How in love are these lovers!. And it is a love relationship which inspires those around them.

So many references to awesome fragrances and delectable food to describe the enjoyment of the lovers for each other. Pomegranates are mentioned quite a bit; I found that Hebrew writers often used this fruit as a symbol for harmony and peace where 2 people are living in authentic oneness or concord, (total opposite of discord). This kind of peace is definitely the foundation for a healthy life of love and sex. But how do we experience this?

By being vulnerable. And God gives us frequent opportunities to do so. If it’s been awhile since we’ve let our guard down, we may miss the more subtle ones but don’t worry, the bigger, louder, attention getting opps never fail to surface, even if we’ve ignored them with previous success.

But why do we deprioritize this value that is so clearly embodied by Jesus, especially when He went to the cross?

Because it scares us to death. And if we’ve experienced a lot of hurt, combined with insecurity, we’ve probably worked hard, really hard, to protect ourselves. Nevertheless, if we’re going to be real in life, love, and family, we must surrender to Christ’s call to deny ourselves, pick up the cross, and follow Him even into something so terrifying as vulnerability.

Following Jesus is a journey into vulnerability. When we are vulnerable, we open ourselves to good and bad. We open ourselves to pain and pleasure. But most importantly, we open ourselves to God. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Christ-like humility is being vulnerable. God’s grace can only be received when our guard is down and we are open to God’s good work in us. And when we receive His unconditional love and grace, we will also be able to give it. This is the beginning of true intimacy. We can’t give what we don’t have. Jesus said in Matthew 6, we don’t have because we don’t ask. We don’t ask because we try to be invulnerable. Invulnerable people don’t ask for mercy and grace on an ongoing basis. But this is exactly what we need to grow unconditional love in our most intimate relationships, most especially, our marriages.

By having this grace-based unconditional love, God makes us open to dealing honestly with the tensions that regularly come up. This also requires us to be brave and aware of our feelings enough to share openly about them. Of course, this too is God’s good work in us. This is what God meant and intended for us in Genesis 2 about being naked and unashamed. This is the essence of a real marriage and it is how I am defining healthy vulnerability. When we aren’t being naked and unashamed, can we be intimate and loving with our spouse? Big time NO! When we aren’t being vulnerable, can we even be faithful reflections (image) of God, ruling / leading according to His will? Definitely NOT.

Maybe the biggest reason we need to be vulnerable (to God and spouse) is so we can be filled with His desire – to love and be loved / to know and be known. Deep loving desire for our spouses, as well as deep, intimate knowledge of them which gets reciprocated only comes from God. Apart from God, we all naturally fill our desires / hearts with non-God things, ie. idols. How do we get pure, genuine desire for Him and others? By being vulnerable. Remember, grace is given to the humble. Grace is God’s favor. God favors intimacy and vulnerability. He favors them because they grow the kind of love that He originally wanted people to have in their marriages.

If we’re going to grow our expressions of loving beauty and intimacy, we need to single out one desire and that desire needs to be the same as God’s. Vulnerability is the way. By God’s grace, we must faithfully choose to open our hearts to Him and our spouse. Our marriages depend on it. Our children need it. We need it. “Love your neighbors as you love yourself.” Being vulnerable and being filled with desire for love are some of the most important ways we love ourselves and each other.

Most of us find our professions relatively easy when compared to the work required for personal relational growth. Coaching can be a great resource to help you move forward and discover greater balance between the work place and home. Message me to try it out!

Transitioning from Learning to Living

 

Effectively going from learning to living is a juncture full of potential and pitfalls. As I reflect on Israel’s experience, (as recorded in the Bible, Exodus to 2 Chronicles) they were freed from Egypt, led through the wilderness, and taught the law by Moses. I’m sure there was plenty of excitement for living in the Promised Land but they ended up getting stuck in the desert. Even after the 40 years of wandering and the repeated teaching of the law (Deuteronomy), the Israelites experienced many challenges in Canaan. And these challenges eventually resulted in a failed monarchy.

So we see that ‘Learning to Living’, especially in God’s ways, is not something easily achieved. This is most true when we get serious about love – loving God, self, and others. Because to truly love like God, we will need to be whole hearted people. Have you tried it recently? If yes, you know how incredibly and profoundly difficult it is because you WILL encounter conflict and hostility along the way; you know, the things that cause you to spiral out of control and drive you to your unrelational coping mechanisms. If not, nothing else needs to be said, lol! We need help and lots of it. And we need to be intentional about rallying this help because it can be a real battle against enemies like busyness, distractions, and fatigue. And let’s not forget the emotional ones (the real nasties) like fear, worry, and discouragement. Like any huge endeavor, a team is absolutely necessary. 

A coach should be an essential member of your team. He or she will help you grow clarity, courage, and accountability. With a coach, you have a partner skilled in listening, questioning, and trust building – the exploration tools which will keep you focused on vision, mission, values, and actions to live out what you’ve learned.  

Why Get Coached?

This is taken from International Christian Coaching Association’s website,

http://iccaonline.net/2014/01/02/everyone-in-the-media-is-talking-about-coaching/

“Everyone in the Media is talking about Coaching!”

Posted on January 2, 2014 by Dwight

“You will never maximize your potential in any area without COACHING. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be.” – Andy Stanley

“If you want to build your business and at the same time have a rewarding personal life, you call a coach.” – Denver Post

“Today’s managers, professionals and entrepreneurs are hiring coaches to help them with time management, a change in career or balancing their work and personal lives.” – Fortune Magazine

“Who, exactly, seeks out a coach? Winners who want even more out of life.” – Chicago Tribune

“Got a nagging feeling that your life could be more fulfilling? Want to change direction but aren’t sure how to do it? Here’s how to jump start your new life today? Hire a personal coach.”- Modern Maturity Magazine

“People who want to stand out at work or face a job crisis increasingly turn to career coaches.” – The Wall Street Journal

“The number of executives hiring personal coaches is rocketing as more and more professionals turn to outside help for advice in how to manage their day, dollars, employee’s, develop better leadership skills and maximize effectiveness.”- London Evening Standard

“Recent studies show business coaching and executive coaching to be the most effective means for achieving sustainable growth, change and development in the individual, group and organization.”
HR Monthly, (published by The Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI)

“If you’re thinking of overhauling your career to achieve a more fulfilling life, consider joining the estimated 100,000 Americans who annually enlist the help of a personal coach each year.” – Money Magazine

“Managers that underwent a managerial training program showed an increased productivity of 22.4%. However, a second group was provided coaching following the training process and their productivity increased by 88%. Research does demonstrate that one-on-one executive coaching is of value.”
Public Personnel Management Journal

“Coaching is an action-oriented partnership that, unlike psychotherapy which delves into patterns of the past, concentrates on where you are today and how you can reach your goals.” – Time Magazine

“Once used to bolster troubled staffers, coaching now is part of the standard leadership development training for elite executives and talented up-and-comers at IBM, Motorola, J.P. Morgan, Chase, and Hewlett Packard. These companies are discreetly giving their best prospects what star athletes have long had: a trusted adviser to help reach their goals.” – CNN.com

“People are looking to coaches as sounding boards and motivators who can offer a fresh perspective on career and life problems – but without the conflicting agendas of a spouse, family member, or even a mentor.” – Fortune Magazine

“How do you define success? For some, obviously, success means money. Others rate emotional happiness as being more important. Yet others rate popularity above all else. Regardless of how you define success, an emerging specialty called ‘success coaching’ (also known as personal and professional coaching) offers the chance to visualize your highest goals and stay on track to achieve them.” – Central New York Business Journal

“For years, business people have used corporate coaches to help their companies work more effectively. Now, an increasing number of individuals are turning to coaches for help in finding balance in their personal lives.” – The Spokane Spokesman Review

“Coaching can certainly help you strengthen your sense of self-worth, focus on your goals – and get there, fast.” – The London Daily Telegraph

“The hottest thing in management is the executive coach – part boss, part consultant, part therapist. Coaches are everywhere these days…Corporate coaches are in such demand that they can charge from $600 to $2,000 a month for three or four 30- to 60-minute phone conversations.” – Fortune Magazine

“Coaching is not about the past or figuring out why and how life got so complicated or overwhelming. It is about moving forward on the things that matter most to you, dissolving barriers and blocks to your own success, and designing a life that you love. A personal coach is better than a best friend.” – Sausalito Networking, Inc.

“Part consultant, part motivational speaker, part therapist, and part rent-a-friend, coaches work with managers, entrepreneurs, and just plain folks, helping them define and achieve their goals – career, personal, or most often, both.” – Newsweek Magazine

“Coaching started in the business world to help stressed out executives cope with their professional and personal lives, and it still thrives in the corporate environment. But, increasingly, individuals are turning to coaches for help with every sort of problem.”- Boston Globe

“Coaching is the number two growth industry right behind IT (Information Technology) jobs, and it’s the number one home based profession.”- Entrepreneur StartUps Magazine

“Coaches aren’t just for sports: They goad you, guide you on the road to success” – Seattle Times

“Coaching simply speeds up a process of change that would most likely occur anyway if an individual had enough time. Without a coaching program that forces a client to focus and make time, people sometimes miss the real issues they need to focus on.” – The Ivy Business Journal

“Part therapist, part consultant, part motivational expert, part professional organizer, part friend, part nag – the personal coach seeks to do for your life what a personal trainer does for your body.” – Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune

“No matter how strong a person mentally is, without proper mental nourishment he or she will crumble. Personal coaching is one of the best ways to help you get that nourishment and to keep you stay focused.” – BeingLive.com

“In the next few years, coaching will become the norm in the business world.” – Washington Post

“What exactly is a coach? Part personal consultant, part sounding board, part manager. For a surprising number of people, it is now the coach – not the boss – who pushes them to hire, to fire, to fine-tune a sales pitch, to stretch.” – Fortune Magazine

“At a time when companies are downsizing and at a time when boomers are facing retirement, coaches are easing traumatic transitions.” – Long Beach Press-Telegram

“A coach maybe the guardian angel you need to rev up your career.” – Money Magazine

“The goal of coaching is the goal of good management – to make the most of an organization’s valuable resources.”- Harvard Business Review

“Coaching usually refers to a relationship between an individual and a trained professional who work on a set of pre-defined objectives with the aim of achieving particular goals or targets. Coaching protagonists believe that as a result of this relationship, greater results can be achieved and an individual can go on to do things that would otherwise have been impossible.” – Journal of Management Development

“Coaches are everywhere these days. Companies hire them to shore up executives or, in some cases, to ship them out. Division heads hire them as change agents. Workers at all levels of the corporate ladder are taking matters into their own hands and enlisting coaches for guidance on how to improve their performance, boost their profits, and make better decisions about everything from personnel to strategy.” – Fortune Magazine

“The leaders of organizations such as Alcoa, American Red Cross, AT&T, Ford, Northwestern Mutual Life, 3M, UPS, American Standard, the federal governments of the United States and Canada are convinced that coaching works to develop people and increase productivity.” – C2M: The Journal of Management Consulting

“Across corporate America, coaching sessions at many companies have become as routine for executives as budget forecasts and quota meetings.”- Investor’s Business Daily

“To get the most out of yourself you need to tune yourself regularly, just like a musical instrument needs regular tuning. Personal coaching is one of the best ways to help you improve yourself and stay focused.” – BeingLive.com

“The demand for Executive Coaches has skyrocketed over the past 5 years- today’s executive coach is intended to help leaders and potential leaders across the rocky, wild, and challenging road of organizational growth in today’s dynamic and unstable work environment.” – The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology

“Asked for a conservative estimate of the monetary payoff from the coaching they got, these managers described an average return of more than $100,000, or about six times what the coaching had cost their companies.” – Fortune Magazine

“I absolutely believe that people unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.” – Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot

“What’s really driving the boom in coaching, is this: as we move from 30 miles an hour to 70 to 120 to 180? As we go from driving straight down the road to making right turns and left turns to abandoning cars and getting on motorcycles? The whole game changes, and a lot of people are trying to keep up, learn how not fall off.” – John Kotter, Harvard Business School

“We’ve done lots of research over the past three years, and we’ve found that leaders who have the best coaching skills have better business results.” – Tanya Clemens, V.P. of Global Executive & Organizational Development at IBM

“I never cease to be amazed at the power of the coaching process to draw out the skills or talent that was previously hidden within an individual, and which invariably finds a way to solve a problem previously thought unsolvable,” – John Russell, Harley-Davidson Europe Ltd.

“People who are coached will be the norm because other people won’t get promoted.” – Jack Welch, former CEO, General Electric

“Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.” – Timothy Gallwey, author

“Corporations believe that coaching helps keep employees and that the dollar investment in it is far less than the cost of replacing an employee.”- David A. Thomas, Harvard Business School

____________________________________________________________________

I hope this gives you the nudge to try out Family Connections Coaching. Experience growth in your profession and more importantly, in your relationships. It is an invaluable investment that will produce highly significant and satisfying returns, financially yes but more importantly, with the people who mean the most to you to have a life you love!

Getting Clear About Wants And What’s Best

Getting clear is so essential, especially when it comes to what we should want for our families. With our demanding careers, busy schedules, children’s education, extracurricular activities, do we really know what we should want for those who are most precious to us?

It’s been said that good is the enemy of the best (or somethin’ like that). Good job, good kids, good grades, good life…but what might be the very best? Could we be missing out on it as we strive for the bazillion good things we’re striving for?

In other words, “What’s most important?” We need clarity on our vision and core values. We do this for business. Why don’t we do it for our families? We promised our spouses, till death do us part. I hope we never make that vow to our work!

And along the same lines, “What’s most important right now?” Here, we need clarity on our mission. What we do daily that will get us to our vision of the future we desire. Most people only think about the tangibles but if we courageously desire the best, we must give equal or more attention to the intangibles. That won’t happen without getting clear about what we want and knowing how to weed out the good to get to the very best.

I’d be interested in hearing what you think is most important and what’s most important right now. No clue? No problem, message me and let’s talk.

Why Be Vulnerable? Part 3

Why do we need to be vulnerable? Because we need to be free!

Stop and think about what controls you, hangups and habits that consume your time and money, while alienating you from others, God, and even yourself. Need some help? Here’s a bunch:

Anger Coffee Finger drumming Ice cream Pets Self-improvement
Approval Comparisons Fishing Images of God Pimple squeezing Sex
Attractiveness Competence Food Intimacy Pistachio nuts Shoplifting
Art Competition Friends Jealousy Pizza Sleeping
Being good Computers Furniture Knowledge Politics Soft drinks
Being helpful Contests Gambling Lying Popcorn Sports
Being loved Death Gardening Marriage Popularity Status
Being nice Depression Golf Meeting expectations Potato chips Stock market
Being taken care of Dreams Gossiping Memories Power Stress
Calendars Drinking Groups Messiness Psychotherapy Sunbathing
Candy Drugs Guilt Money Punctuality Suspiciousness
Cars Eating Hair twisting Movies Reading Talking
Causes Envy Happiness Music Relationships Television
Chewing gum Exercise Hobbies Nail biting Responsibility Time
Children Fame Housekeeping Neatness Revenge Tobacco
Chocolate Family Humor Parents Scab picking Weight
Cleanliness Fantasies Hunting Performance Seductiveness Winning
Self-image Work
Worthiness

Need more? Maybe you’ve got ones that you deathly try to avoid:

Airplanes Boredom Dirt Intimacy People who are addicted Slimy creatures
Anchovies Bridges Disapproval Mice People who are competent Snakes
Anger Bugs Doctors Needles People who are fat / thin Spiders
Animals Cats Embarrassment Open spaces People who are ignorant Storms
Being abnormal Closed-in spaces Evil spirits Pain People who are neat / messy Strangers
Being alone Commitment Failure People of different beliefs People who are rich / poor Success
Being discounted Conflict Fire People of different class Public speaking Tests
Being fat Crowds Germs People of different culture Rats Traffic
Being judged Darkness Guilt People of different politics Rejection Tunnels
Being overwhelmed Death High places People of different race Responsibility Vulnerability
Being thin Dentists Illness People of different religion Sex Water
Being tricked Dependence Independence People of different sex Sharp instruments Writing
Birds
Blood

If any of these inhibit human freedom (yours or others), they are stopping you from loving in the way that God commands, not suggests but COMMANDS. Why do we need to get vulnerable? To be free from these addictions and be able to give real attention to truly important things, like the things that are killing our marriages, our kids, our communities, and even our nation. There is so much time and money wasted on things that rob us of real life, love, and family.  What would life be like if people were free from those deleterious attachments which stops them from daring to love greatly for the betterment of mankind?

Where will liberation come from? Those who follow in the steps of Jesus Christ, those who humbly deny themselves, courageously take up vulnerability (the cross), and follow Jesus to empathetically redeem those lost in shame and despair, ie. addictions. By the cross, Jesus said to the despicable, “I get you and I love you. With Me, in Me, and through Me, you can be healed and strengthened to be all that My Father desires!” We need to be vulnerable to Jesus and the Father’s will for us. Through embracing / owning our shame and despair with Christ, we get on the road to restoration and renewal. And even greater and more complete is our freedom and healing when we help others do the same.

Perfect love is God’s destination for mankind. This life is a journey of choices which either free us towards that place or keeps us enslaved to imperfect love, which ultimately is not love at all but selfishness and evil. When we fail to be vulnerable, we are choosing to be slaves. When we courageously choose vulnerability, we are daring to fight for freedom which is actually a big part of being free.

Why do we need to be vulnerable? So we can deal with the stuff that God has shined the light on (check out the lists again) – the nongod things that control us and stop us from the freedom to love as He loves.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  Galatians 5:1

That’s great reason to be vulnerable and it also happens to be what empowers great coaching to happen!

God wants to leverage you!

Have you ever done something where the results were better than what you expected?

How did that come about? Luck? God showed up? Coincidence?

Usually it happens when the thing we did lined up with who we are. When we engage in activities that draw from our inherent value and worth, we will experience better than expected results.

But why should we focus on ourselves like this? Well, better than expected outcomes are not only about our satisfaction but actually, they are indicators of our calling. God did not wonderfully create us only to benefit ourselves. We have profound purpose which is intended to bring meaningful blessing to those around us and even the world. We all have a transcendent calling. This calling becomes clear when our inherent value and worth (our design / purpose) connect with the significant needs of the world. Our passion driven skills are channels for inspiration, redemption, and transformation. It is essential to really know who you are, what you’re worth, and what your life is intended to be about, so that you can show up in the world to do according to what you were made for.

What can one person do? God showed how He can leverage one person through His Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, He was and is divine but the Bible reveals that He is the first-fruit of God’s renewal of mankind. God showed what happens when His Word becomes flesh and blood – it changes the world! Through Christ, we too can be part of God’s renewal of all things; we are the harvest of which Jesus was the first-fruit. And this harvest is exactly what God intends to leverage for His purposes.

So practically, how do we become a lever for God? The answer plain and simple – abide in Christ. Remain in Him. The times where we experience better than expected results are when we have abided in Him. The times when we get lost and out of control are when we decide to do things outside of who He is, one fully loved and accepted by God the Father. Those times are when we forget the precious truth and listen to lies which tell us we’re not enough, we’re alone, we’re small and insignificant, that no one cares. Those moments are the ones that kill us. Those lies make us feel angry, betrayed, hostile, depressed, dejected, and painfully lonely. When we listen to those lies and believe them, we are not abiding in grace and truth. So this actually brings us to the place where we must decide what do we really believe and what are we going to choose – life or death? This is a critical junction because it will determine whether we live out our high calling or resort to die for the lie.

So it does boil down to belief. We’re saved by grace (God’s part) through faith (our part) so that God can leverage us, the real us, hidden in Christ but revealed as we daily abide in Him. Because we may have heard this message too many times, it seems too simple. But don’t mistaken simple for easy. It isn’t easy. Real belief in Jesus and abiding in Him when the other voices are screaming at us, is serious, heavy lifting. It is being in the war zone of our own liberation, bullets / arrows are flying all around us. It requires incredible courage and compassion to navigate this battle field. It can’t be done without prayer and it can’t be done alone without another person in whom the Word (ie. Jesus, God’s grace and truth) is becoming flesh. We will need to revisit painful, shameful history but with divine objectivity in order to see things truthfully rather than through the bitter, deceitful lens of atheism. We all have that lens and use it when the persecuting voices raise their ugly heads. But the Gospel of Jesus Christ gives us authentic objectivity to view human pain and shame as things to embrace because of their ability to drive us towards perfect love and freedom. When we courageously and vulnerably risk to believe in this amazing truth, the real us shows up.

This is God’s passion! He wants to leverage you because He knows if / when the real you shows up, you are not only in His image, but your heart, soul, mind, and strength will be one with His and together, the two of you will continue to do things with better than expected results!

“When You came down long ago, You did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!”       Isaiah 64:3-4