Friday, April 9, 2021

Wholeness: Foundation of Identity

There is an episode of the Flintstones where Fred becomes a rock star for a week. In the show, we see a group of teenagers swearing allegiance to Fred since he's the latest thing that understands their problems. Granted this scene is an exaggeration made for laughs. However, for it actually, to be funny, there needs to be a thread of reality behind it. Teenagers are indeed apt to wrap their identity around anything that acknowledges a feeling that the world will not, or their parents actively try to quench. The reality of it is anything but funny though.

Adolescence is often a confusing time for teenagers as they grow into and try to understand their new feelings. This can be compounded greatly when parents refuse to roll with the inevitable changes. There is far more to this stage of development than we give it credit, so we shouldn’t just blow it off or scoff at it. We are all born with the eight basic emotions, yet as teens, the eight higher emotions emerge. So our emotional spectrum doubles at this critical time. Do most parents realize this?

Maybe on some level, parents don't really want their children to grow up. We want them to remain good boys, and nice girls, since we know exactly what they will have to face as adults. As futile as it may seem to fight it. Maybe we just want to force them down the path we wish we would have taken. Which often produces the opposite result we want. Maybe on some level we really do believe in a one size fits all path to prosperity, and are trying to impose it on our children. Regardless, These are all too common mistakes that most experience from one end or the other, if not both. Which can stunt our sense of identity.

This is often the genesis of teens looking to something else for the acceptance, approval, and validation we all crave. Which ultimately leads to all the cliques that public schools often revolve around, which serve as substitute families. As social philosopher Eric Hoffer once said, "When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other." So at that critical time of self-discovery, we break ourselves into factions, imitating a group of people who have no better sense of self than we do. All bound together via some rather superficial element of pop culture. The irony of it all is; it's done in the name of "individualism." Maybe this is why the word unnecessarily has such a negative connotation in the Church. Naturally, this is not a very good foundation for identity.

As a long-time adult Christian educator, I can assure you this very poor start in life can linger far into adulthood. Most are motivated by mere survival, comfort, and convenience; not an "abundant life" as Christ indicated. (John 10:10) Not that we have any idea what he means by that. Yet, we wonder why so many succumb to the mid-life crisis and try to go back to that time before our life went off course. To reclaim what we lost, our sense of identity. Not that these mid-life crisis behaviors ever achieve that.

One other big issue in identity is the world makes it all about self-indulgence, fame, fortune, comfort, and convenience. The church should be showing people what it means to really live, not just avoid the fires of hell. By helping people find their individual role in the body of Christ. Revealing who we are in the creator, as well as the wholeness we can have in Christ Jesus. Yet since we get so hung up on the singular dimension of holiness that is righteousness, we aren’t doing that. So we don't seem all that "set apart" from the jr. sr. high school experience we all endured that has lead to our emptiness.

There are ills in the world, and the church has answers. Yet, it doesn't seem like it when we try to skip over the process of holiness, to jump to the result of it. The church has problems right now too, and the solution is right under our nose. But, we can't see it because we just aren't going deep enough, and only addressing the surface. It is time for the church to step up, and ironically enough that means taking a step back. So we can embrace the full spectrum of holiness again.

The Visual PARABLEist

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. ” -Jeremiah 1:5

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. -Jeremiah 29:11

A girl seeing a distorted image of self in the mirror

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Wholeness: doubt

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: -Luke 24:1-6

At the Easter service I attended, the pastor pointed out that the women taking spices to the tomb of Jesus was a sign that they did not believe Jesus would be rising from the dead, as Christ said he would. Then posed the question, why did those closest to him doubt this? A valid question for Easter Sunday, but another valid question we need to pose to ourselves beyond Easter is, why do we still doubt Jesus? It seems rather evident that many often still doubt that they can be forgiven. Many still doubt that they can be delivered. Many still doubt that they can be made whole again. With such doubts, it is no wonder that we continue to seek life among the dead. 

Why do we always think of ourselves as an exception? Why do we think things like this only happen to other people?

It would seem that faith has a big role in our wholeness, just like most everything else in our Christian walk. I would advise that you honestly ask yourself, do you believe your wholeness is a priority to God? As well as, do you doubt that you can be made whole again? If yes, then really consider the why behind it. Then have a heart to heart with God about this.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. -Hebrews 11:6

I also challenge you to specifically ask God, what does that mean for you? For some, you may have never even considered the concept of wholeness before now. For others, you may have very specific ideas about your wholeness. Especially if you have a physical ailment or limitation. Will you still have faith, if God defines it differently than you do? Will you still earnestly seek him, if God is more focused on your heart than your flesh?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”-1st Samuel 16:7

A sad person being enveloped by a patient God that the man can't see.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Wholeness: The old self & the Idol of Excuses

In a recent YouTube video that I made, called Wilderness Training. I went into detail how idolatry is just as rampant today as ever. That we still look to created things, instead of the creator, for the hope of fulfillment. Even if they are not as literal as they once were. However, there was one thing about them I didn't get into there, which is better suited for this blog series anyway. A detail that's revealed in this verse.

But their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths, but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears, but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands, but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk, nor can they utter a sound with their throats. Those who make them will be like them, and so will all who trust in them. -Psalm 115:4-8

While one would think we would want a God that can hear, see, and respond to us. However, an inanimate idol will not question you, it cannot correct you, and it won't convict you. Nor do they expect us to face our fear of change; hence, the appeal of them. While I am sure humanity has always been intolerant of being questioned, we have become all the more blatant about it in the 21st century. We have even gone as far as to vilify anyone who convicts people and makes them feel bad. No matter how self-destructive their actions may be.

As adults, we become so very attached to our old selves. As imperfect and problematic as they can be, they are still familiar, and ultimately manageable. Even if it is through the virtual idols of pleasure, power, and self. Not only that, our old selves come with built-in excuses. If there is anything that humanity likes better than mute idols, it’s excuses. “Because this happened, I’m entitled to do that. Since my parents did that to me, I should be able to do this, my old self needs this virtual idol to cope.” Shedding our old selves means relinquishing our excuses, and the virtual idols tied to them.

Idolatry, excuses, our old selves, three seemingly unrelated things, yet often found together backing each other up. Keeping us in a static state upon the plateau, and impeding our path to wholeness. Making us as blind as the virtual idols we serve, which is a constant obstacle to the resurrected life of victory.

And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is still one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, for he never prophesies anything good regarding me, but always bad. He is Micaiah the son of Imlah.” But Jehoshaphat said, “May the king not say so.” -2 Chronicles 18:7

. . .in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. -Ephesians 4:22-24

The Visual PARABLEist

A man using another man as a footstool to worship a mirror
 The Narcissist 

Monday, March 22, 2021

Wholeness: Scars

They say time heals all wounds, yet some people seem to go years and sometimes even decades without finding wholeness. Maybe the reason they are not healing is that they are still trying to go back to the person they once were before the trauma, and they expect it to come painlessly. Maybe, they confuse healing with restoration. Also, anyone who has had surgery can attest, healing is often a very painful process. Hence, our tendency to avoid it. However, Christ still bore the scars of his excruciating crucifixion after the resurrection. (John 20:26-27) A man who cleansed lepers surely could have restored himself scar-free if he really wanted. Yet, maybe there is a lesson in this for more than just Thomas.

Yes, this world can wound you, that's a constant for everyone. If we respond to them negatively, they can turn necrotic, which keeps the wound from healing properly. Which only magnifies and prolongs our misery. Ultimately, leading us down an all-encompassing path of protecting our feelings. Often, leading us to be just as hurtful as the people who wounded us. Whether it's a way of keeping people at arm's length as a defense mechanism; or just taking pleasure in using and abusing people. The irony of it all, by repeating the actions of our abusers, we only rationalize their behavior and ultimately invalidate our bitterness over the whole thing. Do you really want to be that person?

Yet, if we respond faithfully, and face said pain, we can experience grace from said wounds. While scars remain after the healing process, those scars transform us into something slightly different from before. After all, can we truly have empathy for others if we haven't experienced pain as well as grace? Can we truly appreciate loving kindness if we haven't experienced bitter hatred as well? So we in turn can become an instrument of grace for others via that change.

So as you can see, our scars can define us as much as our DNA does. The question is, will it define us in a Christ-like graceful way. Or will it define us in a devil-like destructive way?

Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself (Jesus) likewise also partook of the same, so that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For clearly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendants of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brothers so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.-Hebrews 2:14-18

Christ has scars; they are a big part of his identity. So as disciples of Christ, we should have scars as well. So by shunning our pain we in turn are only robbing ourselves of our identity in Christ, as well as the grace that comes with it. One must wonder, is this not part of the reason so many don't know what their purpose is. They have faced their wounds with fear instead of faith. So they are naturally suffering necrosis of the heart that keeps us from experiencing true wholeness.

scars in the shape of wings

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Wholeness: The Season of Resurrection?

As I type this, we are in the season of Lent. Even if you are part of a church that does not embrace Lent fully, you may still observe Holy Week, or at least Good Friday. A time where the cross is put even more front and center than normal. We spend 364 days of the year around the cross, but only dedicate one day to the resurrection come Easer Sunday. As I have already indicated often, this seems a little backward to me. So I thought I would share my thoughts on the emphasis of a symbol of death, albeit in a watered-down way, instead of a promise of new life.

Ever play one of those match-three games? Every level has a goal, but there are often obstacles to that goal as well. Sometimes we can get so fixated on removing the obstacles, that we forget about the goal. But, we don't realize it until we fail miserably at that level. It can be the same with working out our salvation. We get so fixated on dealing with the obstacle of sin, we lose sight of why we are doing this. The church could surely help out with this by putting more emphasis on the good news of the resurrection.

We like our symbols since they serve as easy to understand reminders. Which is Biblical. (Numbers 15:37-41) There are few more iconic than the cross after all. I have put much thought into symbolizing the resurrection to make it equally iconic. However, this saying reminded me there is one already. "Every flower of springtime holds the promise of the resurrection." There is a reason why Easter happens when it does. When the church was reaching out to the pagan tribes of Europe, they would draw parallels between their spring festivals and the resurrection to help them understand the gospel.

Imagine if a church painted lilies behind the altar instead of the traditional cross. As opposed to just bringing them out seasonally. A symbol of life, not just death. We could even do multiple kinds of lilies to add an element of unity in diversity to it.

origami lilies

Even in my artwork, there is a recurring symbol of the flower, which is a combination of a rose and a tulip. Which represents the things we are waiting to bloom in our life. Is this not the essence of seeking wholeness, or the resurrected life?

a man letting weeds grow under him waiting for his rose to bloom

There is a saying "progress, not perfection." While there is definitely a valid truth in that. I sometimes think we let this idea lead us onto a halfhearted effort when it comes to wholeness, salvation, and the resurrected life. Hence, the average Christian playing ring around the cross for forever and a day; only experiencing the resurrected life for fleeting moments. We should seek better if we want our churches to expand because growth starts from within. It's the "whole" individuals who delight and inspire the most people with their everyday lives. Not the loveless broken-hearted legalists.

Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow him, but follow him where? The same place it led him, the tomb that leads to the resurrected life. So eventually, we need to step into the tomb and let the old self die already. Then shed off our burial clothes and step out of the tomb to embrace the recreated life. Then, we will naturally want to become participants in the kingdom of God as fully adults heirs. Not just as an immature observer. That won't happen if we are too in love with the ways of the world, and settling for our brokenness.

a man exiting a tomb, but is hung up on his burial cloth

 The Visual PARABLEist

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. -Philippians 3:10-11

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Wholeness: From Death Life Comes

Humanity often has a strange relationship with death. Generally, we have a negative view of it, often associating it with darkness; even when we believe in life after death. Counter cultures that openly embrace the darkness and romanticize death, often help reinforce this negative perception. Yet, death is an ongoing theme in The New Testament, ironically enough. A concept we often fail to understand, let alone live by.

As disciples, we really need to probe deep into the scriptures to discern the actual truth by distinguishing the literal from the spiritual ramifications of death. Instead of letting our fears, and those who twist the truth to unholy extremes steer us off course. Understanding this distinction is vital for achieving wholeness.

Biblically speaking death is the means we let go of our old selves. We embrace death not to cling to darkness, but rather to leave it behind. So many of our failures and struggles all come back to clinging to things that hinder our path to eternal life, instead of letting them die. The basic truth of the cross is, through death life comes. Yet, somehow we gloss over this idea of "death of self" to make it more palatable. Yet, by doing so we diminish our ability to overcome the sinful nature and embrace eternal life. Baptism is also symbolic of this spiritual death. (Romans 6:3-4) Being submerged representing burial, and rising up out of the water is a symbolic resurrection or rebirth. Made whole via the new creation. (2nd Corinthians 5:16-17) Don’t let it remain merely a symbol.

What is your relationship with death? Is it based on solid Biblical truth, or just worldly fear, and desire?

The Visual PARABLEist

A man stripping off his burial cloths

Some passages to meditate on to wrap our heart around this important concept.

John 3:1-21 & 12:23-26

Romans 6:5-14

2nd Corinthians 4:10-12

Philippians 3:10-11

Colossians 3:1-10

Galatians 2:20

1st Peter 2:24

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Wholeness: Emotions

What is your relationship with your emotions? If you are like most people, you probably never even considered the question, let alone know how to answer it. One could write a whole book on the subject, but to simplify the notion to blog proportions, let me put it within the broad context of the "goal-oriented, avoidance-oriented-spectrum."

I think we can all guess what goal-oriented is. We decide what we want, in this case, the emotions we want to experience, then develop strategies to experience them. We live in a culture that tends to elevate the goal-oriented. (Only not as much as it used to) Most motivational speakers follow this mantra after all. However, the method is really only as good as the goals themselves. When we are letting our feelings dictate them, they can very easily become shallow, superficial, and selfish.

Avoidance-oriented is just the opposite. We identify what we don’t want to experience, and implement methods of avoiding them. The risk here is that we can allow trauma to dictate the course of our lives; since everything is perceived through the filter of fear.

While different personalities tend to favor one side over the other, everyone is capable of both. We all have compartments of our lives where we have goals; and others where we have avoidances. However, if we really want to achieve wholeness, we need to look beyond that. Learn to act deliberately, not just react emotionally.

In our goals, we need to make sure they are established in righteousness, character, and integrity; not just what feels good. Otherwise, we may end up on an unholy path, and as someone else's avoidance. Which can come back to haunt us.

Yet in our avoidances, we need to make sure they are based on truth, and not just fear. Trauma has a way of keeping people from seeing things clearly and objectively. Causing us to project our fears upon everyone, and every situation. This only sabotages our goals; and keeps us from moving forward in life, including our walk as disciples.

Consider this, there is a reason why we have love-affairs with our favorite shows, movies, and musicians. They frequently affirm or validate our emotions. They help us to understand the emotions that we put no effort into examining ourselves. Most artists are naturally more self-aware than the average person after all. Understanding through an artistic proxy if you will. This can be a good thing, but here is the caveat. These industries are run by people who are more interested in profit, than the good of the public. So they tend to promote those projecting the lowest common denominator.

This brings up the age-old question, does entertainment affect society, or merely reflect society? Since people are more apt to respond to what rationalizes their feelings, I lean towards reflect. Which places these problems in our own house, not just on an outside source. Hence, our reluctance to accept reflection. However, breaking the mirror destroys only the reflection, not what is being reflected. It only makes the problem less noticeable; it doesn't actually deal with the issue at hand. The world has real problems, and they lie deep within human souls. So dealing with them means having more than a casual acquaintance with our emotions, and facing the brokenness behind them. As opposed to just putting a candy coating on everything as we tend to do.

So again I ask you, what is your relationship with your emotions? Is it intimate enough to achieve wholeness? Or only superficial enough to create the illusion of wholeness.

Jesus consoling a man who hates himself
John 4:1-26, Matthew 19:16-22

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Wholeness: Want VS Need

Want and need, two words with very different meanings. Yet, we still manage to get these ideas transposed. I started this series because I believe we truly NEED wholeness, yet neglect to pursue it because we are too busy chasing our mere wants. Without wholeness, we will never experience peace and contentment. Without wholeness, we will never achieve true holiness. Without wholeness, we will never find our genuine purpose. Yet, we often mistakingly believe our wants will give us at least some of that. Yet, our wants are often so impatient and superficial; and fueled more by feelings than spirit. So how could holiness and purpose ever be fulfilled through want? Any peace we find via want will be temporal at best, and will often lead us down the path of the sinful nature of the flesh, and in extreme cases the hedonistic paradox. Which is ultimately a path towards emptiness. A concept King Solomon lifted up the book of Ecclesiastes.

Most importantly, our ability to discern the want from need comes down to maturity. For example, a growing child NEEDS plenty of protein in their diet for their developing organs, yet that doesn't stop them from WANTING only candy. Our spiritual needs are not much different, what is good for the soul, and instant gratification is rarely the same thing. Even when we consciously know this, we still have a hard time following it. We currently live in an age that follows the mantra of "People should be able to live the way they WANT, without consequence." The phrase itself reeks of emotional immaturity. Yet, as often as we see people placing mere WANTS ahead of basic physical necessities, only seems to prove it. Such short-sightedness tends to bring betrayal with it since want doesn't consider how our actions affect others. Repeated betrayals inevitably invites retaliation, since want favors vengeance over forgiveness. So how can want ever be free from consequences?

Do you really understand the distinction between want and need? Do you really comprehend where our spirit and flesh play into that? With all that being said, will you explore the idea deeply by examining the brokenness behind our immature wants? Or will you merely try to alter your surface behavior yet again?

A man forsaking water to reach for a diamond with a spider hidden behind it.

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you NEED them. -Matthew 6:31-32

“Our longing for life keeps confusing us about the purpose of life.“-John Eldredge

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it. So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? -Romans 7:14-24

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Wholeness: Forgiveness

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. -Matthew 6:14-15

Someone once tried to tell me this passage wasn't meant to be taken literally. Despite the fact, it's stated so straightforwardly without a hint of metaphor or hyperbole. They couldn't really back up their stance with anything tangible other than that was what they were told. I'm sure it all came back to a feeling that certain people in their lives were clearly in the wrong and deserved to be punished for their actions. Even if they were, is that really our place to decide? Are we really qualified to judge people objectively? We see only the result of how it affects us after all, not the motives, or even the brokenness behind it.

Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.-Romans 12:19-21

As I stated earlier in my state of shalom post, wholeness has a lot to do with reconciliation. No matter how wrong or evil a person's actions may be. Our ill will towards them changes nothing on their end, even if we hold onto that anger for months, years, or even decades. All those negative emotions simply overtake our lives and steal our peace of mind. Which keeps us perpetually in a broken state.

Even when we consciously know this, we have a hard time living it. We often still long for the right moment to throw something in these people’s faces. We hope to see these people get what they deserve. Then again, maybe we should be asking, are we getting what we deserve by not trusting God’s judgment.

Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them. -Proverbs 24:17-18

From God’s point of view, it’s often just as much about our bad attitude, as it is their sinful actions. If God considers you one of his own, he will discipline you, and he may even use sinful people to do it. It is times like this that we need to drop the attitude of entitlement and respond with humility. Wholeness is a transformation process, and some things need to be demolished before they can be rebuilt. Are you willing to let go of your unforgiving attitude for the sake of wholeness?

“So much of what we misinterpret as hassles or trials or screw ups on our part are in fact God fathering us, taking us through something in order to strengthen us, or heal us, or dismantle some unholy thing in us.” -John Eldredge

A standoff beween two people who have buried the hatchet, but left the handle sticking out.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Wholeness: selfless vs selfish

Let me tell you a story of two women. While I won’t share their names here for privacy's sake, I assure you, they are actual people that I know. One was very selfless, always giving of herself and helping others; a generous person for sure. The other was very selfish, always demanding more than offered. Never considering how her actions may affect others. Those actions often did have negative consequences on others, myself included.

Both women lost someone very close to them. The selfless person received an outpouring of support from everyone in her time of need. Most wanted to be there for her just as she had been there for them. Where the selfish person was abandoned in her time of need, at least that is the way she tells it. I'm sure most people around her were of the frame of mind that, she is difficult to deal with when her needs are small, so she will likely be impossible to deal with when her needs are big. Best to draw a line early so we don't get taken advantage of.

That sums up selfish versus selfless. Selfish actions may have benefits in the short-term, but have severe consequences in the long term. Where selfless behavior may not be as beneficial in the short-term, but in the long term it can have wonderful benefits. So the plight of the selfish all comes down to short-sightedness. They can't foresee how their actions may come back to haunt them.

With all that being said, this concept is not as straightforward a concept as it may seem. Our motivations can warp the results. Some people are so motivated by approval, that they will do everything they can buy people's acceptance. On the surface, their actions may seem selfless, but their true motives are for self-validation, not the benefit of others. Such people often end up getting emotionally drained and victimized by users.

Jesus himself admitted that our human flesh is weak. (Matthew 26:41) While he wore a body of flesh, even he would take time out for himself. If Christ himself did that, shouldn't we also need to as well? We can't help and serve very efficiently if we allow ourselves to be completely used up after all. So why do we dismiss self-care so much?

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. -Luke 5:15-16

From a purely practical standpoint, we need to find a balance between these two extremes in our search for wholeness. Whether we are provoking payback and retaliation through our selfishness; or inviting parasites into our lives by being selfless to a fault. Such actions will only add to our brokenness. In a world so overrun by users, we must stop and consider if we are truly helping people find wholeness with our service to them, or only enabling them to stay broken.

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. -John 6:26

“Charity is injurious unless it helps the recipient to become independent of it.” -John D. Rockefeller

"I have come to think that care of the soul requires a high degree of resistance to the culture around us, simply because that culture is dedicated to values that have no concern for the soul. To preserve our precious hearts, we may have to live economically against the grain, perhaps so as not to be forced into soul-maiming work just to place bread on the table or put our children through college." -Thomas Moore

a man praying in the middle of nowhere

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Wholeness: Conviction

Conviction and condemnation, two words with similar meanings in the church, a negative feeling over our sin. With the main distinction, being conviction leads to repentance, where condemnation leads to defeat. Granted, it can be a very fine line. So we need to do whatever we can, as far as it depends on us, to stay on the right side of it. Making sure our correction is always acted upon in love, not reactionary anger, even with ourselves. However, it is not always up to us, there are people who are so prideful, hypersensitive, or fragile in the ego that even the most gentle rebuke feels like condemnation.

But, what does this have to do with wholeness you may ask. One vital part of finding it is being teachable. If we don't possess a correctable attitude, then we will never even be able to let go of what we need to, to take hold of what's truly missing. Playing the victim card over constructive criticism would seem to indicate you believe that there is no room for change or growth. If that is the case, why are such people so defensive and emotionally fragile? A whole person should be a strong person.

As a Christian educator I do try to convict people, induce self-reflection, make people think, to question our own motives. Yet, when I do this with my online posts, I rarely get much of a response. As opposed to warn and fuzzy posts that garner lots of praise.

So naturally, I question the teachability of many people in the church. However, my skepticism of your teachability is unimportant. What really matters is, do you question it in yourself. You won't be able to take a positive step towards wholeness unless you shed off that inflexible and un-teachable attitude.

Every believer worth their salt will come face to face with an untruth in their thinking, or a crack in their heart that they just had no idea about at some point. This whole series spawned from the idea that we have such a one-dimensional notion of holiness after all. We should not count on convention or feelings to lead us on the right path. We must seek to understand it for ourselves. The true disciple who wants wholeness does not fear the inevitable changes required when conviction arises. The one still in love with the broken self will dismiss or make excuses for what they find. Which are you?

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. -Romans 12:3

As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart. -Proverbs 27:19

A man cringing at the sight of a heart shaped mirror

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Wholeness: Fear

Once I heard someone equate selfishness with fear. Initially, that seemed like a stretch to me. However, after thinking about it, I started to see their point. For example, shopaholics are often trying to provoke the feeling of being loved. Underneath it all, they fear that nobody will love them so they are trying to love themselves by gifting to self. Narcissism often starts with a fear that nobody will respect and admire them the way they feel they deserve. So they embark on attempts to control and manipulate the people around them to create the illusion of superiority.

I once knew a very compulsive person, as opposed to an obsessive one, although we often lump them together, there are a few differences. Specifically, compulsive people are the ones constantly checking locks, double and triple-checking if they left the stove on, things like that. This person was so bad that she would take candles and their curling iron with them on trips to the store for assurance. The thing is compulsive people do the same thing with their relationships because they are needing continuous affirmation. So they are constantly fishing for signs that you still love them. If you overlook the bait or don't respond the way they think you should, you will encounter a very strong fear response. Being in a relationship with such a person was very overwhelming for an introvert like me. I often longed for another opportunity to tell her how wrong and selfish she was to treat me the way she did. Now, that I see her as a fearful person, and not so much as a self-centered one, her lack of wholeness is far more apparent. I understand that all her unkind behavior was a misguided attempt to create wholeness for herself in her own strength. So that, desire for retaliation has eased off.

Is there a self-centered person in your life that you judge very two-dimensionally? Maybe people accuse you of being selfish, but you just don't understand why. Consider the fact that all these seemingly selfish behaviors are attempts to alleviate fear. They really do go far deeper than we give them credit. Irrational fears in such cases are but a symptom of brokenness. Such people really need to seek the source of the fear, not just appease the negative feelings themselves. Otherwise, they will never find true wholeness.

The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” -Romans 8:15

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. -1st Peter 5:6-7

fear coming alive and exiting the heart to attack self

Friday, February 12, 2021

Wholeness: Valentine's Day edition

It occurred to me that Valentine's Day brings with it a unique opportunity in my series on Wholeness. I say this for the simple fact that humanity has this tendency to look to romantic relationships for wholeness. A more tangible thing than what we have and will be talking about in this series; hence, the appeal I'm sure. A trend we see in both the church and the secular world. That in itself makes this desire suspect. So I think it's time we take a long hard look at this notion.

I think the average Christian’s rationale in looking to marriage for completion all comes down to this passage.

And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no person is to separate.” -Matthew 19:4-6

In many ways, I think people tend to read way too much into this passage. It specifically says; two shall become one flesh. However, it does not say one soul, one spirit, one mind, one heart, or even one set of emotions, but one flesh. Of all the words, Jesus could have used, he said flesh. Yet, we often try to project these other ideas of one soul or heart into our relationships, and end up judging our parters by this ridiculously impossible standard. Looking to someone else to complete you is in reality a very burdensome expectation to heap upon another. If anything it will more likely break a person than make them whole. It's not something I think we should do to those we claim to love, but often do.

Granted, marriage is meant to be a holy sacrament. Yet, Jesus' choice of words doesn't necessarily imply anything supernatural about it. Considering what scripture says about the flesh in other parts of the Bible, which is seldom positive, tends to bring the notion out the clouds and back down to earth where it belongs. So let's not try to turn marriage into something mystical, simply because we wish it were so.

If anything I think Jesus was warning us to not take marriage lightly. To illustrate just how devastating separation can be to our wholeness, and overall well being.

If you find this post convicting at all, maybe you should apologize to your spouse for trying to expect them to be more God like than they are capable of being. That should be the best Valentine's Day gift ever.

‘’My orphan heart thought love was to complete someone else and to be completed by them. I didn’t understand that when two people who aren’t whole try to complete each other they both end up with less than when they started. I didn’t understand that the only one who can make a person whole is God.”
- Lacey Sturm, The Mystery

A couple pulling themselves apart at the flesh

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Wholeness part 3

In my 8/18/20 post, I made the rather bold statement of "Most Christians are too busy playing ring around the cross to embrace the resurrected life." As great as forgiveness is, it's meant to give us a chance to work out our salvation (Phil. 2:12) not as a license to sin. (Rom. 6:15) Weather we are consciously doing that, or just lack the persistence or know how to pursue greater glories. The result is the same, a plateau in our spirituality. We will never find wholeness while we are stagnating.

I don't want to over simplify this and make it seem easy, because it's not. Those that portray it as easy tend to be very prideful and arrogant, so it seems that they have merely traded one sin for another. The sinful nature of the flesh is indeed a powerful force, a force that cannot be overcome in the strength of the flesh. Yet so often that is just what we try. So in essence, we apply a fight fire with fire scenario, which creates an inferno. Believe me, trying to resist sin via the flesh can indeed turn into a virtual inferno of passions.

We truly need something more powerful than the flesh to be able overcome the flesh. That is where the Holy Spirit comes in. We may hear this continually, but still, the Spirit can be a very abstract concept to wrap our mind around. He cannot be rendered down to a formula approach, or a systematic definition. Maybe this is why we tend to downplay him in our faith. Yet, we wonder why the church seems so powerless. See my previous post for more on the Holy Spirit. 

Keep in mind, the Spirit will not just give you the strength to overcome. He will reveal to you the truth behind your sin as well. Which in may ways can be the most daunting part of the process, but necessary for long term change. See my Enter the Wound Challenge post for more on this.

You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. -Ephesians 4:22-24

It's not just a matter of putting on a new life, we must shed the old one as well. Anything old that we miss can soil the new. While this verse may make it seem easy, Jesus used more graphic imagery in Mark 9:43-47. While it may be off putting to some, I find it comforting that Jesus lets us know that he understands just how deeply attached our sinful nature is and recognizes that it's no easy task dealing with it.

Trying to drag too much of our old life into the new one can indeed impede our wholeness, but it is a process. A process I dare say we can be such procrastinators on. Like anything else, when we know we have a lot to do and not much time to do it in, we can be very deliberate with our time and get things done. Yet, when we have lots of time we can get very inefficient with our days, and leave much undone. A very dangerous game to play with our wholeness.

a man reclining on a cross rather than taking it up


Thursday, February 4, 2021

Wholeness part 2

God the father created us, the world broke us, and Jesus the son can recreate us. This is a significant statement in the creed of Christianity; one I don't think we take seriously enough. I say this because I don't think many people stop to consider the distinction between these three states.

The vast majority of men in prison have no relationship with their fathers at all. Most convicted serial killers were physically abused before the age of 5. Children of narcissists who don't become narcissists themselves will often have people pleasing tendencies as adults. Children of alcoholics can be such habitual liars that they will often lie, even when there is no need to. I could name a dozen other examples, but I think I've made my point. That point being, our brokenness can go to the very core of self, which can have a tremendous negative effect on our path in life. This world is so fallen, few escape childhood unscathed.

Despite this, the world still tells us to just follow our feelings blindly. Even when the world does acknowledge brokenness, it's often just as a rationale or excuse for destructive behavior. Yet, when we follow the wolds advice to embrace our brokenness, we will inevitably choose the quickest and easiest way to provoke the feelings we want or cover up the ones we don't. Which can lead to compulsive and self-destructive patterns as aforementioned. We may also transform ourselves into whatever validates us and grants us a feeling of acceptance and approval from the world. How can this lead to the true self, or healing?

If the church does not take this into consideration when dealing with the lost, their attempts to correct will only end up being critical, hurtful, and alienating. Which begs the question, would a truly holy new creation in Christ act this way? Well Matthew 7:1-6 would indicate no. (See my video Bad Judgment for more on this) Yet with this tactic being so common, it would seem to indicate that many in the church are not going far enough in their walk as disciples. They are stopping short of actual wholeness. Which is a huge obstacle in the growth of the church.

It's no wonder wholeness is such an alien concept to us, seeking it truly is the road less traveled. Where indulging your brokenness is a six lane highway. While God does indeed want you to embrace your true self, but you are probably will need to go through re-creation to get there. Where the world wants you to embrace your brokenness, so they have twisted and confused everything so much that many believe that it is the true self. The church isn't really helping by not leading by a good example, instead of a legalistic surface one. What state are you in?

The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. -Jeremiah 17:9-10

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. -Ezekiel 36:26

Ezekiel 36:26

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Wholeness Part 1

I don't think anybody would doubt that we live in troubled times. For the church, it has led us to point many fingers of blame at the world. Yet maybe, the world is the way it is, is caused by the church not doing its job as it should. Have we repeated all the same mistakes that Pharisees of Christ's time did? Has our weak faith failed to delight and inspire the outside world? Have we lead more by definition than example? Have we imparted knowledge, but not necessarily understanding? Have we portrayed the "good news" very negatively?

While the reasons for this possibility are numerous and diverse, I want to take a closer look at one thing specifically; that being wholeness. As I indicated in my Three-dimensional holiness post, our lack of wholeness often prevents us from succeeding in the moral side of holiness. As well as lead us to seek acceptance, approval, and affirmation from the world, instead of being "set apart" from it; as holiness requires. Also, as I indicated in my Cart before the horse video, by leading with the moral side of holiness, instead of viewing it as the destination, we are setting ourselves up for failure.

So I think it is time that we take a long hard look at this concept of wholeness. It is apparently a very foundational truth that has been tragically neglected, which shows in our lack of fruitfulness. Once the church gets themselves into a better place, we should be better equipped to disciple the world as Christ did, instead of as the Pharisees did.

Maybe this is what I have been working towards all along. My recent series on the heart surely fits, as well as my State of Shalom post way back in 2014. As well as countless others. Time to bring all my efforts together.

This is way too big a concept to cover in a single post. But one must start somewhere. I can't honestly even say where it's all going right now. All I can say for sure is I need to take this journey. Will you be joining me in it?

seeking wholeness