15Sep

Jesus or the waves?

We are hardwired to a default position of trusting ourselves. I wish that wasn’t true. I wish I could say that in every decision, every thought, every step, I am actively living by faith and not by sight. But even the maintaining of this focus, of knowing where my focus is, requires faith and trust.

I don’t think we are nearly self aware enough, take seriously enough, or even fully grasp how true this is, in our assessments of situations, our perceptions of people’s actions, and what is and isn’t possible based on what we think.

It is this contrast between truth and perception that can really weigh us down, and when we choose to trust ourselves, we quite literally sink.

Look at Matthew 14:25-33
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

“Lord, if it’s you…”
Peter knows Jesus for who He is, and he knows that if it really is Jesus out there, then Jesus has power enough to allow Peter to walk on water – something naturally impossible! He calls to Jesus, and when given the green light, he steps out of the boat focused on His master.

“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid”
Peter is walking on water! He had enough faith and enough courage to step out of the boat in the middle of this storm, believing Jesus was more powerful than the natural order. And yet, as Peter steps toward Jesus, he changes his focus. He went from assessing Jesus for who He is to eyeing up the dangers around him. It’s a perfect demonstration of the contrast between truth and perception. Peter perceived the danger and began to second guess his safety.

Peter knew that Jesus was greater than these perceived issues. Before, literally seconds before, he was defying physics to stand on top of water. But he defaulted back to trusting his assessment rather than the truth.

“You of little faith, he said, why did you doubt?”
Jesus confirms that Peter’s sinking was a trust issue. Jesus didn’t want Peter to come out onto the water as some sort of cool magic trick or to show off. No, He wanted Peter to experience the truth – that Jesus was above all things. That, despite perception, Jesus had him and Peter was in no danger at all. When Peter changed his perspective from focus on Jesus to focus on circumstances, he couldn’t see the situation for what it really was – that Jesus was bigger than the waves.

In an earlier post, I said: “When our perspective is aligned with Jesus, we see things for what they really are and ourselves for who we are meant to be.” When Peter was focused on Jesus, he saw things for what they really are – completely under his master’s control. And when he was focused on Jesus, he saw himself for who he was meant to be – someone who knew Jesus could be trusted, and someone who could do anything Jesus told Him he could do. So why did he shift his focus? Why did he doubt when in principle, he knew the truth? Why do we?

1. It’s what we’re used to. If we’re honest, we might just be more used to trusting ourselves that God. The less often we place our feet on uncharted territory (like water) and trust God fully despite what we see, the less used to trusting Him we’ll be. Are we simply so used to leaning on ourselves – our skills, our discernment, our trust in ourselves – that defaulting to trust in God isn’t a reaction we have? We need to cultivate this, and ask God to expand it within us. When we face difficulty, are we seeking Him or working up a plan? When we feel overwhelmed, are we placing that burden on Him or trusting ourselves to dig out?

2. It feels good to be in control. Things are being handled on our terms, in our timing, and with the conditions we prefer. We don’t have to wait for answers or worry about the outcome, and it feels good to be in control. It’s all within our view (so we think) and so we control all the variables. We don’t have to be patient. We don’t have to be reliant. And so we deceive ourselves into thinking we can handle it. When the waves come, we try to tread water instead of rely on Christ.

3. We feed our pride. We feel good when we can handle it; when we step up and stretch ourselves and things work out. We begin to convince ourselves that we’re the big shot and can handle more. It’s pride that says “I got this – I don’t need help.”

God doesn’t want us to live where we can trust ourselves. He wants more for our lives than that. Like Peter, God wants us to experience walking by faith, far beyond what we can see as being possible.

We should be able to say that it is true of us that “we live by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) If we’re not living by faith, leaning on God and his strength, then we are living by sight and by our own strength. And we’ll soon discover how weak we are on our own.

If you are walking through a difficult season right now, I’d ask you:
– Are you focused on the wind and waves, or on Jesus?
– Do you believe that Jesus is greater than circumstances and can be trusted?

If you’re not walking through a difficult season right now, then I’d ask you a few questions:
– Are you ready to trust Him? Are you postured for dependence or independence?
– Are you feeding a pride in any way; a sense of “I got this.”

 

5Sep

So good to be known

Theme_From_Cheers_(Where_Everybody_Knows_Your_Name)It feels good to be known. That feeling and desire is captured perfectly in the theme song for the TV show “Cheers” in which the lyrics say, “you wanna be where everybody knows your name.” We do, don’t we? We want to walk into a room and have people know us, care about us, and be interested in what’s going on with us. We want to have people – acquaintances, co-workers, friends, or family – who know us at some level. Being known makes us feel loved and valuable.

“We’re on a first name basis.” Have you ever heard someone make that statement? When you first interact with someone, especially someone with a title or rank, you will likely address them formally – Mister, Misses, Doctor, etc. If I met the President of the United States, for example, I most certainly would not shake his hand and say “how’s it going Barak?” It would be disrespectful, because I’m not on a first name basis with the president. But imagine if I walked into the oval office, and out of a crowd, I heard my name called out. “Jon…Jon Cook! How nice to see you buddy.” I would still likely reply to him formally, saying “hello Mr. President,” but imagine if he insisted on me calling him by his first name. There begins the basis for knowing and being known personally. This is the idea behind dating, right? To get to know each other, a couple will spend hours together, talking, sharing about themselves, and asking questions. For my wife and I, we’ve spent so much time together and know each other so well now that we have similar responses to things – we literally finish each other’s sentences. We do that because we know each other well. Read More »

4Sep

Right perspective brings clarity

Perspective is a really interesting principle.  It’s defined as something that “gives the right impression of height, width, depth, and position in relation to each other when viewed from a particular point.” That last part is the critical nature of perspective – that “particular point” that puts us in alignment with a right view. When we’re out of alignment, the perspective gets skewed.

Have you seen these artists who are using the principle of perspective to create immersive images out on the streets?

Their intention is to completely immerse you in an experience that you wouldn’t expect to see in the middle of a public road. Objects seem to have depth or height, or even float off the ground.

The key though is to stand in right alignment so as to experience the correct perspective. When you’re out of alignment, the images start to look really strange, even confusing to view.

Perspective is interesting because it’s so personal – we experience everything based on how we’re positioned. Again, thinking about the chalk art, you can be standing in right perspective and see the art for exactly what it was intended to be, and at the same time, someone ten feet from you can be staring at the ground confused because they are out of alignment from the correct perspective. Read More »

28Aug

Patience as we wait on the Lord

In a previous post, I shared what God has been reminding me of in the need to remain postured toward dependance on Him in the midst of uncertainty. If you missed that post, maybe consider reading it first: Dependance within uncertainty

At the end of that post, I said that sometimes we can feel as if we are trusting God and dependant on Him, yet still feel directionless, alone, and without peace. When we feel this way, it can be really challenging – you feel like you’re trusting and doing what God would want, and yet you still feel overwhelmed, you don’t know what the future looks like, and you want answers. You become tempted to start forcing things – to make decisions or take actions to get things going. In this moment, the Bible teaches us to wait on the Lord. Patience actually becomes part of our decision to rely on God and trust Him.

Lamentations 3:24-26
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Did you see that? “The Lord is good to those who wait for him.”

Too often, I’m guilty of putting God on a timetable in my dependance. Of saying “this is yours God. I depend on you.” But then, when I see no results, I revert back to myself. In truth, that shows that my trust was in me all a long. I just trusted my own ways and used God as one possible way to get results. That’s not trust at all. Read More »

28Aug

Dependence within uncertaintity

uncertainty_scr

UNCERTAINTY. UNPREDICTABILITY. CHANGE. INCONSISTENCY. INSECURITY.

None of these words above come with good feelings. I think all of us desire a clear path forward. We want to be sure of where we’re going and want to get our “ducks in a row” as we make plans and structure our life. In fact, we often delay decisions as we wait for “clarity” – a better understanding of that decision in the future. And yet, there are seasons where we just feel totally out of control. New experiences are especially good at making us feel this way. Going away to school, getting married, moving, having your first child, starting a new career – all of these experiences bring about an enormous feeling of uncertainty, and it can be scary, even if it’s also exciting.

I’m a planner by nature. It’s therapeutic for me to look weeks and months into the future and start to create structure. It makes me feel like I’m getting ahead, and if I’m honest, it makes me feel like I’m in control of that time before it gets here. When I’m facing a super busy season, calendars and project timelines are like a stress ball to me. They ease the pressure, because they make me feel as if I’ve mastered the uncertainty. I can trust the plan. So it feels worst of all to me when a plan is in place, and then utterly falls apart. It feels the worst, not only because I feel uncertain about that future plan now, but because I already had that one figured out and could confidently reference it and point to where we were going. Now, it’s back to the drawing board and there’s even less time to figure it out. Read More »

21May

Ministry is personal

Ministry is personal. By it’s very definition, when we engage in ministry activities, we’re engaging with people. I hope you view it that way. In my previous post, I wrote about how we’re called to relationship, not to function. And based on the reality that this activity is relational, it impacts me personally.

Sometimes personal is encouraging, and sometimes personal is heavy and tough. Sometimes it’s both at the same time. The past several weeks, I’ve been encouraged and heartbroken simultaneously on many occasions in several different scenarios. One thing I haven’t been is unaffected.

Regardless of where you find yourself in your ministry service, it must to be personal. If we ever get to a point where every conversation or interaction can be handled in a clinical way, it’s a red flag. We need to pull back the curtain between our function and task to see the people who are affected. And when we pull back that curtain, we will be impacted by the personal nature of those people who we’re ministering to.

Ministry is personal because the gospel is personal. Jesus didn’t deal with us from afar. He came here and personally got involved. And in His interactions, Jesus didn’t demonstrate a macho man, emotionless reaction all the time. Read More »

21May

We’re called to relationship, not just a role

When we hear the word “calling,” we often associate it with a specific assignment or function that God has given us. While that can certainly be true, it’s secondary to the calling that He’s placed on us universally as a believer in Christ. Consider three places in scripture where the word “calling” is used:

Romans 8:28-39
- All things work for good for those who love I’m and who have been called
- Those He predestined, He also called, justified and glorified
– Who will separate us from Him? Read More »

16May

He must become greater; I must become less

Every day, I’m surrounded by a bunch of really gifted people. Engineers, designers, musicians, leaders, creatives of all types, encouragers, administrators – staff and volunteers, all really good at what they do! These people produce great results, and those results often attract compliments and encouragement (which is good, by the way!). We talk often as a team about our responsibility to point
others to Christ; to put Jesus on display and bring Him honor. But regardless of where you find yourself serving the Lord, I think we often set that as our focus but assume that our good work – our gifts and abilities – are needed and important, and should be recognized as such.

The book of John captures an incredible conversation between John the Baptist and his disciples, talking about Jesus and the start of His ministry. Remember that John the Baptist had seen many people coming out to him to be baptized. I’d say it’s fair to assume that John was identified with the function of baptism (the name kind of stuck). Even Jesus had gone to John and was baptized by him (Mark 1:9-11, Matt 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22). But John also knew his place in God’s story, so much so that when Jesus showed up to be Read More »

22Apr

Rest

It’s been a busy season. When you’re working in ministry, the Easter weekend and the time that leads up to always is. And as I was coming through the other side of that particular time frame and setting aside a day to be home and rest, I gave some thought to the question: How best to rest? Knowing that I hadn’t seen my family as much in the week prior, and knowing there was a lot I could fill that time with, I was reminding myself about the truth behind what it means to really rest…

How do we view rest?
The concept of rest can be uncomfortable for us sometimes. I think society has linked all kinds of assumptions and thoughts onto it’s real meaning and can get us feeling funny about prioritizing it. It’s a two-sided coin in how we view our need to rest. Read More »

19Mar

My lesson on patience

Psalm 130:5: I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope

 

You’ll have to forgive the public post here, in which I’m fleshing out a lesson really aimed at myself. Hopefully it’s helpful for you as well, but this is a lesson God taught me this week…

By nature, I am not a patient person. Thankfully, it’s an area of my life where God has been working on me and forming me more and more into how He wants me to be. But it’s definitely an area that I wrestle with. I’m wired to move quick and keep moving; to press hard for results and assume that if I insist on getting them, that I’ll get it done. When that doesn’t happen, I can get easily frustrated. It’s ugly when I’m not surrendering that to God.

Read More »

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