Thursday, July 22, 2021

Wholeness: Through not around

According to counselors, people deal with external conflicts in one of three primary ways, avoiding, fighting, and dealing. However, I dare say when it comes to an internal conflict we have a tendency to all become avoiders. There is no point in fighters dumping their emotions on themselves since they are already there. Those same fighters can't shift the blame on internal conflict without turning it into an external one, which they often do. The high amount of interpersonal intelligence that gives dealers the insight to actually understand conflicts with others doesn't necessarily translate to internal ones. That takes the rare trait of intra-personal intelligence, which gives the individual the self-awareness to deal with internal conflicts. Avoiders can avoid, no matter where the conflict comes from. These are the people keeping themselves busy with trivial matters to avoid what's really important right now. As you can see, it's very easy to try to detour around the issues within. The world not only offers many options for this; it encourages it. Yet, if we truly want wholeness, the real answer is to go through it, not around.

The practice of psychoanalysis asserts that all our disorders stem from trauma in our childhood. Then seeks to identify that trauma. While identifying the root cause through therapy will take you to the issue, that in itself will not take you through it. Even modern psychology now recognizes that identifying the core of the issue doesn’t automatically change anything. There are a lot of learned patterns of behavior revolving around said trauma to overcome. Again, that requires going through it.

For the Christian, that means inviting Jesus into it. That is what brings healing to our wounds. Yet, the uninformed believer often does the opposite. They feel that they have to become perfect to invite Jesus in since we are often ashamed of what lies within. What we must remember is that Jesus already knows what you are trying to hide, and it won't be made perfect until you allow him in to fix it. We need to stop projecting these immature Old Testament ideas upon our New Covenant lives. In the end, the putty must go in the gap, not around it, the bandage must go over the wound, not around it. It is no different with our heart,

As I have already indicated, emotional trauma often lies at the heart of our issues. So naturally, we assume facing it will be like reliving that trauma all over again. Even the highly self-aware can become reluctant at the worst of it. So we will often do anything to avoid that, even if it means endlessly circling around the issue in a never-ending cycle that just keeps you static. All the more reason to invite Jesus into it, he is more than willing to hold your hand to guide you through the minefield of your heart. He is eagerly awaiting for you to do so. What are you waiting for?

a man avoiding the right answer, as well as the wrong one.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Wholeness: For your own good

"It's for your own good." We hear this statement a lot, especially while growing up. Sometimes it's actually true, sometimes not. Sometimes we honestly believe it's true when we say it ourselves, even when our motives are not absolutely selfless. Sometimes we can't see past our nose well enough to realize others may need something different from us. Even when it is true, if we frame our demands so negatively, people have a hard time believing it. This practice of saying things are for their own good critically, or when it's more about us, can end up causing people to believe what is actually for their own good, isn't. 

Holiness truly is for our own good. It doesn't always feel that way, but much of that comes back to a poor understanding of the concept, and faulty teaching methods. The often-overlooked wholeness aspect of holiness that I have revolved this series on is proof that holiness is for our own good. Since true holiness leads to healing and completeness, not just surface righteousness. This is how agape love fits into the gospel.

Yet, those who try to bypass this dimension of holiness obviously care not for the brokenness behind the sin or the trauma that caused it. They obviously only care about the part that affects them, your behavior, or their pride. This is how agape love gets removed from the gospel. The irony of this is that such people often act as if they are the superior ones, despite this blatant omission from the gospel.

It's such a basic yet fundamental truth. Yet, its exclusion or inclusion can have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of our ministry. Notice I used the word effective, not successful. Our craving for success in large numbers can often cause us to cut corners in our holiness, and ministry. Which is absolutely about self, not God's will.

"My biggest fear is that I'll have a good preacher, pretty worship, raise money, and the right people, and not make one disciple."

"If your vision is for a big church and not a big impact, you've got it wrong"

"We've minimized discipleship so much that we tell people what to do instead of walking with them." -Albert Tate

I said this last time, but it's worth repeating. Purpose gives us a place in the kingdom of God. Living out our purpose leads to fulfillment, as well as touching the lives of others in a positive way. This can lead the people we touch to walk the path of wholeness, and eventually purpose themselves. So this model has a self-perpetuating dynamic to it. Not embracing all three dimensions of holiness will absolutely throw off this dynamic. Being more concerned about your own good, than the good of others can derail this vital cycle in the church as well. Yet in our shortsightedness, we have indeed broken the cycle. This heresy has gone on long enough that we are reaping much rotten fruit; as a result. It's about time we revisit our foundation and patch the holes that we have left. It’s for your own good, as well as the church.

The Visual PARABLEist

a man offering a round peg for a triangular hole in somebodies wholeness.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Wholeness: Shortcuts & Rest Stops

Rick Warren initially struck a chord with the church universal with his book; The Purpose Driven Life. However, before it was all said and done, he left many people feeling dejected. Many people just had no idea how to incorporate this idea into their lives, having no clue what their purpose is. For me, this is a clear symptom of a lack of wholeness in the church. So maybe it's time to stop taking shortcuts around our holiness, to get to this coveted purpose. Since the only thing we have cut short is our progress. This often leads to a spiritual rest stop if you will. While there are seasons in this life where that is necessary. Yet, if that time can be measured in years, I dare say we are just avoiding, not resting. So let's have a closer look at a few points so you may have a better idea of what I mean by shortcuts and rest stops.

Impatience. It seems like there is always another preacher, teacher, self-help guru, or motivational speaker selling shorts cuts. They are capitalizing on humanity's impatience. This isn't always realistic for the simple fact we can't always see the entire path clearly from the starting point. We can't possibly anticipate every obstacle along the way. Unexpected delays often send the impatient into a tither. Yet, the irony of it all is their tantrums often only delay them further.
Getting ahead of ourselves. In many places, and at various times I've pointed out that holiness is something we become, not just what we do. However, Christ-likeness is something we do. If we have indeed become holy, this behavior should be the natural by-product of that. Purpose is absolutely a Christ-like behavior that we should be doing. So if it just isn't happening, even when we try to force it. We should really consider taking a step back and address the three dimensions of holiness. Instead of idly waiting at a virtual rest stop, which most of us naturally do.
Validation. As I have also indicated often. People are often more motivated by acceptance, approval, and inclusion than purpose. So if our talents and gifts don't happen to be one that the world wants to praise right away, then we won't necessarily want to follow that path. Purpose really is the "road not taken" for this very reason. It often seems far easier to take the highway to quick and easy inclusion. Even if we have to betray God's design to do it.
Fame and fortune. Not everybody wants fame, yet it seems that everyone wants a fortune. Yet, if we did find fortune all eyes would be on us anyway. Everyone always knows who the richest person in town is after all, so fame and fortune inevitably go together. My point being that Holy purpose is about touching the lives of others. Where fame and fortune are about serving self. Let's face it, the richest and most famous people are not always the holiest people, yet they are envied anyway. Even in ministry, the most famous often get that way by watering down the gospel to more palatable levels. While we may equate the envy of millions to self-worth, in the end, it's a way to cut corners to genuine worth. Remember, God is always more focused on the Holy remnant, not the largest gathering.
Thinking too big. In the Information Age, all eyes are on those at the top of their field. So we often compare ourselves to them, which we can rarely live up to. This often leads us to not bother. This can lead to a spiritual plateau. As I indicated in the last point, the top in their field is not necessarily the best people. Even so, it likely took years of effort to get there. Yet, we didn't see any of that because they were nobody back then. Even good ministries grow in stages, instead of instantly. I don't know whether we need another Rick Warren. But, I do know your local church needs volunteers. That makes you somebody in God's eyes, if not the world.
Comfort. The path to holiness is not one of comfort, since it requires us to face our brokenness and imperfections. So the path to purpose can't be comfortable either, since we ultimately only find true purpose along our path to becoming holy. This lack of comfort is one of the reasons why the subject of holiness is not popular. As well as why so many teachers try to skip over this step. But there really are no shortcuts around this. I liken this to trying to put gas in your car without taking off the gas cap. The fuel won't get where it needs to. So this won't take you very far at all. So if you truly want a holy, purposeful, and fulfilling life; you need to set the idea of comfort aside and disciple up.

Purpose gives us a place in the kingdom of God. Living that out leads to fulfillment. If we are doing this right we will be touching the lives of others in a positive way, a way that leads them to walk the path of wholeness, and eventually, purpose themselves. So this model has a self-perpetuating dynamic to it.

However, if we try to take shortcuts, and skip over necessary milestones of growth, maturity, and wholeness, we can end up broken down at a rest stop. Not that I’m saying you have to be perfect to start said purpose, God obviously believes in on-the-job training. Jesus did just that with his original disciples. Of course, he was there to mentor them. So, unless you are connected to the Holy Spirit, and engage in daily prayer, that’s probably not going to happen for you. Until you can recognize that small voice of rebuke, you can potentially do more harm than good with your purpose. God will not reveal your purpose until you’re ready for it.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons why you don't know what your purpose is, and much of it comes back to a lack of holiness in some respect. I'm willing to bet you have a better idea of what your purpose is than you let on, you just don't like the answer. Even if you don't really know, then you probably have a good idea of what your obstacle is. Whatever your specific obstacle may be, to sit and wait is not the thing to do. So it's time to step up and face it already, things won't change until you do.

A man camping on the side of the road ignoring an obvious sign of direction.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Wholeness: Inclusion?

According to sociologists, the primary cause of suicide, especially among young people, is the lack of social integration. However, there is another disturbing phenomenon among the excluded who manages to find inclusion; they often commit suicide anyway. Apparently, the price of acceptance is just too high, so they refuse to compromise themselves that much for the sake of approval. In the end, the value of validation through social integration just doesn't equal what the world promises. My point being, overcoming the perceived cause of suicide was not actually the answer for them.

I bring this up because this idea of looking to approval and relationships for wholeness is a very common perception. Hollywood perpetuates it in almost every show they produce. Even when it's irrelevant to the story, they shoehorn in a romance somehow. The worst part is, manipulative people know just how high a pedestal we put inclusion on, so everyone from politicians, advertisers, to cult leaders uses this to exploit us. Again, all their promises of wholeness never match reality. So we need to learn to put all this in perspective, and three-dimensional holiness actually does this.

Granted, God created relationships, and they hold a special place within the church. However, whenever we exalt the created above the creator, things inevitably go askew. Even getting one degree off course can lead us miles away from where we are supposed to be if we continue at it long enough. This fear of exclusion has definitely gotten us off track with our holiness. Remember, one of the other meanings of holiness is, set apart. So by definition wholeness, and the desire for inclusion is at odds with one another where holiness is concerned. This desire only makes us part of the world, not set apart from it. It has caused us to compromise ourselves in service of our feelings, not a distinct mission to serve each other. This has led to a vast crisis of identity since we look for wholeness by conforming to imperfect people, not God's perfect will. The church shouldn't be just another faction catering to our childish desire for inclusion, yet sometimes it becomes just that. In reality, we need to offer something more mature than that. Something that includes us into something far greater than this fallen world, the kingdom of God.

The holy should emulate the image of God, with the understanding that we cannot ever replace God. Trying to do so only causes us to taint our love with unrighteous parasitic behaviors. God does not want you to compromise yourself either. However, he doesn't want you limiting yourself to the shallow, superficial, and cosmetic definitions that your peers and counter cultures prefer. Nor, does he want you revolving your life around your broken state. God values you even when the world does not. God values your gifts and talents, even when the church does not. If we truly valued God we would set aside the ambiguous tradition, blind convention, sociological norms, empty culture, human validation, and everything else that breaks us. Then seek the creator who made us and the re-creator who can heal us. Only then, will we be whole enough to retain true fulfillment. A peace that naturally perpetrates more wholeness, not more brokenness.

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. -Jeremiah 2:13

Fear not exclusion from this broken world, fear being excluded from the book of life.

The Visual PARABLEist

A man wanting to be excluded from a culture than centers around their brokenness

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Wholeness: Just one side of the triangle

The church has a long history with factions. Someone is always starting a new church or denomination to emphasize a detail they feel has been forgotten, sometimes only to neglect something else. It may seem as though I am doing just that myself with my wholeness series. So let me remind you, the value of each dimension lies within its integration with the other pieces. Complete holiness is truly greater than the sum of its parts. So our pursuit of holiness can fail miserably if we don't understand and utilize every aspect of it or hold onto false notions about the God it's modeled after. (1st Peter 1:15-16)

Take the obedience VS love debate within the church. Many are under the impression that they are mutually exclusive concepts, and that one side needs to be uplifted more than the other. This is completely wrong no matter which side you favor. So it's no wonder that both sides are failing miserably at genuine holiness. As I've already indicated before, you can't succeed at the obedience-righteousness side of holiness without wholeness since our brokenness tends to drive our sinful nature. Nor can you lead people down the path of wholeness without loving them. So you can't separate or uplift one higher than the other without maligning the image of God and failing to produce strong disciples.

Another thing we need to keep in mind in serving with both love and obedience is that people have a hard time separating the person from their actions. In the world's mind, to love someone is to accept everything they do, including every imperfection, sin, crime, and selfish act. The other side of it being, we feel obliged to hate everyone who we see as unrighteous. How do you seek and save the lost if we are hating on them? Yet, if we are only making excuses for the sins of the lost, we aren't really saving them either. It's a very human way of doing things, and it fails in the same way from either extreme. So one-dimensional application just doesn't lead to the righteous life God desires. The people of Jesus' time struggled with this as well. There was a reason Jesus called them whitewashed tombs, it's about as good as you can hope for when only applying selected dimensions of holiness, a phony surface faith. (Matthew 23:27-28) Two thousand years later we still struggle to set ourselves apart from our natural instincts so we can embrace the divine nature that is three-dimensional holiness. (2nd Peter 1:3-4)

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. -Matthew 5:43-48

But let's not forget the third dimension of holiness, set apart. I bring it up because our notion of love is becoming more saturated with acceptance, and validation from the world continually, not being set apart from it. Which makes their version of love more about gratifying our emotion that is ultimately about self, not God's will. This often leads to parasitic behavior and toxic relationships. Not to mention it makes us vulnerable to manipulative people who are willing to exploit our desire for approval for their own gain. That only creates more brokenness and unrighteousness. No wonder true Biblical Agape love is not defined that way. So neglecting this notion of being set apart, can do great harm to a church's spiritual formation. Just remember, looking at the concept of being set apart alone may seem like holiness makes you superior, and lead you to act arrogantly. However, if we look at it along with its other parts of wholeness and righteousness, then we realize holiness needs to be tempered with humility. A superiority complex is a product of a broken unrighteous person, not a whole righteous one after all.

The church has gone wrong and mishandled so many key issues over the years. It all comes back to not understanding and applying holiness completely, which means we don't really understand God properly. The church needs to step up and seek the face of God, and ultimately his holiness more deliberately, instead of relying on common yet incomplete knowledge, and mere feelings that have led to all this misapplication. This has only benefited the secular world's attempts to redefine right and wrong in self-centered terms. This technically makes those who follow an incomplete definition of holiness guilty of leading people astray. Don't be that person. (Matthew 18:6-7)

Jesus weeping over the churches conflict when neither side is absolutely right.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Wholeness: Attitude

At church this last Sunday the pastor posed an interesting question. "How does your attitude impact your prayer?" One person even admitted that when they are in a bad mood they tend to distance themselves from God. That is probably a common emotional response, and we may even believe that this is showing God proper respect. But is it really good discipleship? This got me thinking about some of the blunt prayers to God in the Psalms, here is but one example.

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” -Psalm 42:9-10

On the surface, it may not seem like the psalmist is being very humble or respectful; however, it is very honest and sincere. One thing we must remember about God is that he is not as fragile as we are. Unlike people, he is not afraid of our emotional outbursts. He is not intimidated by our attitude. Nor is he made uncomfortable by us unloading on him. While we do need to be cautious about how and when we unload on people, we need not apply that to God.

Maybe this is one of the major obstacles we have in seeking wholeness. We can't be truly humble before God, because we haven't truly faced our feelings yet. We can't face our feelings because we won't let ourselves be honest with God about them. Speaking as an artist, there is an incredible catharsis in unloading your feelings into your art. It also grants you incredible perspective and a better understanding of said emotions. Facing our feelings is just so much easier when we release them purposely, instead of holding them in on the inside until they find their way out explosively. While we may not all have an art language to speak that through, we all have a God to unload on. He does want what's best for you, if purging our attitude onto him helps us to move forward, find wholeness, and become more righteous, then he is definitely not offended by it. He is in fact, all for it.

Mankind may be afraid of being questioned, and try to project that onto God. Especially the disreputable denominations and cults. What does that tell you? However, God is far bigger than that. Jesus took on the sin of the world after all, if you truly believe that, then there is no need to censor your attitude in front of him. It's obviously a necessary step in finding wholeness. God doesn't want to stand in the way of that, so stop standing in your own way by whitewashing your attitude before him, and clinging to your brokenness; as a result. True holiness is a change of heart after all, not just a surface action.

a girl with lightning emanating from her that takes on the form of a face

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Wholeness: objectivity

Have you ever watched the show Restaurant: Impossible? In the show, a successful restauranteur comes in and tries to turn a failing business around in two days. It was recently put back on the air after receiving countless requests to give their restaurant the "impossible" treatment after cancellation. Which begs the question, why? I say that because when you get down to it, every single episode revolves around one or more of the same handful of issues. The show had already given everyone the information they needed to self-diagnose most issues. While I am sure there are some people who have done just that, everyone in these new episodes obviously couldn't do that. This leads me to the point of this post, the ability to be able to look at self objectively. Let's face it, if we can't see ourselves and our actions objectively, then we won't be able to instigate the right kind of change that will lead to wholeness.

This can manifest in two different ways. First, we can perceive things far worse than they are; this can be very overwhelming. It can lead us to think we are beyond repair, and if you believe that you have missed a vital aspect of the gospel. So the inevitable response to this false notion is making excuses, and ultimately passivity in our walk as disciples. The other side of that is we see things much better than they really are, which can stem from simple pride. We can’t address what we don’t recognize after all. Yet, nobody is so perfect that there is no room for improvement. So again this lack of objectivity can lead to passivity instead of transformation.

There are many ways to describe our lives as disciples. However, passive should not be one of them. This leads to yet another example from Restaurant: Impossible. A pattern I’ve noticed about once successful restaurants that go downhill. It often starts by cutting small corners. This leads to even bigger corners being cut, which snowballs into their downward spiral. It can be similar for the disciple, small compromises, lead to bigger ones, the changes are so subtle that we can’t even see how far off course we have gotten. Since in our mind’s eye, we are still back when and where we were still on track. This makes us blind to the trouble that’s right in front of our face and only adds to our broken state.

So again it comes back to having the humility to face ourselves honestly. The more this comes up, the more I realize just how much the current church is lacking in this area. This is obviously a far bigger deterrent to our wholeness than I realized. I know for a fact that many ministers feel as if they are screaming at the dead much of the time. While I'm not prepared to say that this is the only reason, I'm sure people's inability to see themselves objectively is preventing us from seeing how their messages on holiness apply to us. Until our ministers stop trying to skip ahead to the final objective, then address the obstacles to their goals, nothing can change.

A woman seeing herself as more beautiful than she is via a funhouse mirror.