Archive for December, 2012

What Makes Us Tick?

There are many important things about ourselves that we just do not know about. Why not? One reason is that the stuff that makes us tick is often unconscious and buried deep within us. Jeremiah pondered this when he asked the rhetorical question about the heart, “Who can understand it?”

One reason is that from the day we were born, we have been trained to live life in ungodly ways. The reasons why we did what we did made sense to us as children. But now, they often do not. Now, we often do not understand what makes us tick.

For example, I was trained as a child to get good grades to feel important and loved. I got praise, avoided being criticized, and got respectful looks from my dad when I brought home a good report card.

As a result, I was trained to pursue achievement to feel worth and love. Some of this I brought into my adult world. Except the adult world did not always reward me the way I got rewarded as a child. Often in the adult world no good deed goes unpunished. Also, “The race does not always go to the swiftest” (Eccl. 9:11).

Nevertheless, I had been trained to find worth and love in doing good deeds and winning races. If I had continued in not knowing what made me tick, I would have likely beat my brains out trying to do good and win races for all the wrong reasons. Knowing that I tend to be this way has helped me to avoid the pitfalls of despair and workaholism.

We may find it hard to believe that what we thought was true as a child is what we still think is true as an adult. Even when the Bible clearly teaches otherwise, we can stubbornly cling to childish dependencies and “truths.” They do not automatically go away even when we become Christians. They have become so much a part of us that we are largely unaware of them.

This is dangerous. Someone once said, “It is not my problems I know about that scare me. It’s the ones I don’t know about.“ You and I have many lies we believe and wrong dependencies that rob us of living the abundant life that God promises (John 10:10).

Many times I have heard people dismiss the value of knowing themselves as “psychobabble” or “navel-gazing.” Yet, we cannot cooperate with God to solve a problem that we do not know exists. Knowing what makes us tick is a vital step in living in the glorious truths of God’s Word and not just knowing them (James 1:22)

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The Fear of Failure

Many of us will not try to do certain projects or responsibilities for fear that we will fail. So, we tend to only do a project or take on a responsibility that we are pretty sure that we will succeed in doing. Many of these activities are ones that we are familiar with and know we can do reasonably well.

As a result, we often become limited in our willingness to learn new skills and new ways of doing things. We become like old and foolish kings who no longer know how to receive instruction (Eccl. 4:13). So, why are we so afraid to fail?

The sad truth is that many of have drunk the cool aid that tells us that our failure decreases us as a person. We often feel inadequate, unimportant and a loser in general when we fail in some specific effort. So, we stick with the familiar to avoid failure.

However, as Christians, we learn that our failure does not decrease how important we are to God. So what if people think we are a loser? God does not (1 Peter 2:9). His opinion is the only one that counts.

Sure failure hurts. It always does and always will. Failure to meet our expectations and the expectations of others will often have painful consequences.

Yet, those consequences do not need to include the belief that we are losers and not important. We are important! This will never change no matter how often we fail as far as God is concerned (Luke 12:7).

I have been testing living in this reality more in the last few years. This is the reality that I do not need to really fear failure. I do not need to shy away from attempting to pursue over-my-head goals for fear of failure. If God seems to be leading, that is enough reason to pursue them. God will not think less of me for trying and failing.

As a result, I have been willing to risk starting a writing ministry in the last couple of years despite having little experience or education for it. Many times I have felt like a loser doing this ministry. Many times I felt like I must be crazy for trying and feeling so bad at the results. Many times I have had to recall that I am not decreased as a person to God by my failures.

For some of us, we have taken decades to get the way we are. We have been drinking the cool aid for a long time that failure is something big to fear, something that can be devastating. So, we need to be patient with ourselves.

It will take time before we will become intelligent and bold risk-takers. It will take time for our deep beliefs and feelings to change. In the meantime, we still need to act on the truth that failure does not hurt us with God, even when it feels like it does.

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Let Go and Let God

I am sure you have heard the statement, “Let go and let God.” It sounds wise and something we should strive to do. However, do you really want to do this?

We have many good reasons to not let go and to let God. We have inherited a nature and have been trained in not letting God get his hands on our life. Yes, I am talking about us Christians.

We have done pretty well for ourselves running our own life. In many areas we have become quite skilled at muscling God out of our lives and doing it our way. In fact, we have made it a lifelong habit of making things happen our way and in our time. It works! Why change?

Or has it worked?

Has it worked if we have reduced our faith down to following biblical principles that we can do in our own strength? Has it work if we have created a watered down Christianity to avoid letting God take us on a supernatural journey? Has it work if we have missed a journey of living an exciting and godly life that makes a lasting impact on this world.

Most of us have relied on ourselves to control our world for a long time. We like it this way. It feeds our pride. We feel safe most of the time. Yet, God wants us to let go of control and let him control our lives for our good.

I think often failure after failure can help us to let go of our control. This has certainly been true in my life. Only then will many of us become like children and allow our heavenly Father to help us.

Letting go and letting God can only happen as we rid ourselves of lifelong beliefs that support our controlling behavior. One belief is that that we know best what to do and how to do it. This needs to be replaced with God knows best and will lead us to live this best (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Mere exhortation to let God have his way with us is not going to cut it. Mere will power to do this right thing will not overcome the deep inertia we have to changing. No, we need to invite the Spirit to transform us. He needs to make children out of us. We can no longer be proud adults to let go and let God.

So, I challenge you to let go and let God help you with a challenge you have today. Ask him to help you identify what that challenge is. Then ask him to help you with that challenge. What happened? Please let me know.

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I have sought to hear the voice of God over the years to determine his will regarding many big decisions. “God, is it your will to marry Adele?” “Lord, do you want me to be an elder?” “God, which church should I go to?”

I have used the following principles hundreds of times in the last forty years to hear God’s voice:

  • What biblical principles apply?
  • What does wise counsel say?
  • Do I have peace about the decision?
  • Which direction do the circumstances seem to be pointing?
  • Which option do I desire the most?
  • What are the pros and cons?

I am reasonably confident that in almost all instances I have been able to discern God’s voice on which direction to go. However, I do not have that same confidence when it comes to the little decisions I make everyday.

In the last several years, I have grown to realize that what God wants from me is my companionship throughout the day. He wants me to talk to him, but he also wants me to listen to him as well. He really wants to do life with me.

If this is so, then you need to ask yourself how you can do life with him if you do not listen to him? Sure, you may listen to him in the big decisions of life that you seek his guidance on. But what about the big decisions that you neglect to seek him on? What about listening to him about other things that he may want to speak to you about today?

It is amazing that he wants more from us than just following the orders of a commander.  He also wants an intimate relationship with us. He wants to talk to us. Are we listening?

I have grown over the last several years in my ability to hear God’s voice in daily life. It has not been easy because I have often clung to tradition, do lists, and old habits that make me think I do not need to hear his voice. However, as I have grown in living life with God, I realize more than ever how much I need to continue to grow in my skill to hear his voice.

One big reason to hear God’s voice is so we do not get misled or deceived by other voices. Our voice can be one of these. Satan’s voice can be another and all the people he uses to lie and lead us in the wrong direction. Therefore, we need to become good discerners of the voice of God.

One practice that helps me hear God’s voice is silence. I can often hear God’s voice when I am quiet. I have to work at being quiet by turning off the TV and other distractions. Then, I sit for several minutes listening for God’s quiet voice in my thoughts and impressions.

Another practice I am using more is to write portions of Scripture as if God were speaking to me personally through that passage. This practice combines meditation on the Word, application, and journaling. God speaks to me in profound ways through this practice.

So my challenges to you are two. First, ask God to bring to your mind why it would be good to hear his voice throughout the day. The second challenge is to ask him one thing you could do today to better listen to him. Please let me know what he said.

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We are a people who love success. We are obsessed with it. We love winners! Sometimes we are tempted to be successful at any cost. We sometimes forget the idea that it is not about winning or losing, but how we play the game.

Recently, I think I became too focused on results in my ministry. The results were meager and I wanted to quit. I thought that perhaps the lack of results was God’s will to quit.

So, I prayed to God and meditated on Scripture. However, he impressed on me that he did not want me to quit. He wanted me to keep going.

This reminded me of the prophet, Jeremiah. God gave him a ministry without much success. Israel did not pay attention to Jeremiah’s messages from God. As a result, he was called, “The Weeping Prophet.”

If I continue in this ministry, like Jeremiah, I may be facing a lot of obeying without much success. This is painful! I often use success as a measure of my worth.

Without success, I often feel a loss of worth. However, my worth is great and fixed in God’s eyes (Isaiah 43:4). Nevertheless, the lack of success makes it hard to live in this reality.

Therefore, I think it is helpful for me and for you to know and remember the following truths about obeying God versus success.

  • God’s definition of success is often different from ours (Isaiah 55:8-9)
  • We always succeed when we obey  (1 Corinthians 15:58)
  • Obeying God will always have a greater reward than success  (1 Corinthians 3:10-15)
  • Success will never increase our worth (Ephesians 1:3-14)

May I  challenge to you today to ask God to show you where you may be pursuing success at the expense of obeying him. Ask him to show you what to do about it.

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