The Power of Authenticity

Be real! Be authentic! Be honest! More and more Christ-followers are embracing the idea of transparency and authenticity in life and ministry. None of us a perfect; no one ever has been, except for Christ. The unchurched and dechurched world hates the plastic version of church and Christ-following, and, uh, so does God.

In the bible, Jacob walked with a limp; Moses shuddered, Peter struggled with his tempter, Elijah struggled with depression, Thomas doubted, Paul had a thorn in his flesh; John was banished to an island, abandoned and alone.

We connect with these types of biblical characters because we’ve all felt the plight of stumbling in our walk, dealing with pain, and feeling alone, and insecure. The shame of brokenness does not turn us away from these biblical characters but, in fact, draws us near. Fragile vulnerability exposes humanity.

Some people place a high value on being authentic or “real,” but others view vulnerability as nothing more than weakness. To some vulnerability seems unmanageable, and even dangerous. They would say that vulnerability leaves people open to physical harm and emotional attack because it exposed the fear and anxiety of never being enough; not being smart enough, strong enough, educated enough, not being tall enough, cool enough, beautiful enough… the shame of not ever being enough.

If we are honest, we can never really be “enough”, can we? The needs and challenges are always greater. Actually, it takes stupidity, short-sightedness, naivety, denial, or just plain ol’down home arrogance to think that we can ever truly match up to all that life is going to throw at us. Scripture says, “we all fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). We just can’t match up.

Fear and insecurity permeates so many lives. We become afraid to talk about being afraid… which actually, works to only strengthen the hold fear and insecurity has on our lives. It is a vicious cycle. We become afraid of public opinion and criticism. We become afraid of failing, of losing our identity, of being viewed as the dumb, or poor. We become too afraid to follow our dreams and passions. We become afraid that one day “everyone” will find out that we have no clue how we got to where we are in life.

Fear and vulnerability both play a part in authenticity. According to sociological research, fear is the proponent that will keep us from vulnerability. As beings hard-wired for connection and acceptance, our relationship with others is threatened by exposing our fear or shame. But it is the deconstructing of our shame and acknowledging our fear that connects us on deeper levels, allowing those in our community to sort through redemption, acceptance, and find the beauty in brokenness.

Being authentic without feeling the fear of shame, the embarrassment of failure, or the fragility of vulnerability is impossible. Here is the key to working through the fear of vulnerability, and moving toward true authenticity; without Christ, I am nothing, and can do nothing of lasting value. I have failed, and will fail. But because of Christ, I am loved, accepted, and filled with hope.

My Thoughts on National Women’s Day

So people are dumb. Petty. Short-sighted. Vain. Driven by agendas. I’ll stop there 🙂 I realize there are some (on every side) who are trying to politicize every single thing they can, make issues of every thing they can, and stir up as much drama as they can, Welcome to our world. Whatever. This is not a political post. I don’t do those.

I’m not a big holiday guy. I think a lot of things like Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, etc are just marketing ploys or whatever. I don’t feel obligated to wear green on St Patricks Day either hahhahhahaha  So having a national “whatever” day does matter to me.

But I will comment on how I feel about the women in my life. I am surrounded by strong, intelligent, life-giving, hope-filled women. I see the power of women every single day.  I see it in my home, I see it in my community, and I see it in my church.

I pastor a great church. We are healthy, effective, life-giving, and a bright light in the darkness. I have some great men around me. Men that are great reflections of Christ, love their families, and love their church. However, there is not a single church in this world that functions without women. Women are play significant roles in every church.

CrossChurch is as healthy as a church can be. But at the end of the day, women are carrying the ball in the vast majority of areas. They lead, they serve, and they make a difference in countless ways.

I have a personal relationship with many of them. Those relationships give me life, encourage me, strengthen me, and remind me I am loved every single day.  They make me laugh. They make me think. Sometimes they send me a text message at just the right time or leave me a gift or a short hand-written note in my office when I’m not there. I love surprise notes hahaahahahhaaha  Sometimes they make me shake my head too hahaahahaahahahahhaha

CrossChurch has three campuses, lots of women, and I am so grateful for each of them. I could name names and tell heartfelt stories for hours. I won’t, but I could.  My point is, I could simply not function at the level I function at without the women who surround me. CrossChurch as an organization simply could not be what it is without women who make a difference.

It is not a men vs women thing. I have relationships with men just like I described in the previous paragraph. My wife can guess what man is texting me many times because of my laugh. I actually do “LOL”, except I spell it “ahahhahahaha”  I couldn’t function without my boys either, but its not national boys days hahaahhahahaha

And I could say the same thing about children and students. There is nothing like a little kid busting my office when I am deep in some project, just so they can get a hug or tell me about their day. I have relationships people of all age groups and both male and female that are very meaningful to me.  But again, it is not national kids day or national teenager day either hhahaahahahahaa

All of us are needed to play our parts on the team, or in the family, or in the community, or in the church. But I can say there is not a single day that goes by that I am not deeply grateful for the women in my life; the little girls, the middle schoolers, the high schoolers, the young adults, those going on 29 for the 8th time, those going on 39 for the 20th time, or those proud of turning 80 soon.

I won’t use this post to gush on my wife and daughter, but let’s just say, they are irreplaceable in my life. Anything from them is life-giving to me. Just hearing their voices makes me happy (well, not so much with some specific tones ahahhahahhaaa)

In my community there are so many women who are everything from stay at home moms to business owners to young entrepreneurs to waitresses to dental assistants to nurses to school teachers to secretaries to our mayor. Think about how boring and lifeless this world would be with the smiles and energy that women of all ages give us. I cannot imagine a world without the women who have invested in me over my lifetime, or the ones who are investing in me at this moment in time.

I am blessed everyday by the women in my life. They don’t need to have a “national day” for me to recognize that.

40 Things the Holy Spirit Does

The Trinity is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Spirit (Holy Spirit). The moment a person truly accepts Jesus as their personal Lord (Leader) and Savior (Forgiver) the Holy Spirit begins to live inside of them. However, I have found that many people do not understand very much about the person and work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.

My personal opinion why so many people who consider themselves “saved” do not understand the Holy Spirit is that through our disobedient choices without repentance many have so “grieved” (#24) and “quenched” (#25) the Holy Spirit that He merely becomes inactive until we are willing to yield and surrender to Him. The purpose of this article is to list forty things the Bible clearly says about the Holy Spirit.

  1. He is like Jesus. (John 14:16-19)
  2. He teaches. (John 14:26)
  3. He testifies (John 15:26)
  4. He guides. (John 16:13)
  5. He convicts. (John 16:8)
  6. He intercedes. (Rom. 8:26-28)
  7. He commands. (Acts 13:2,4, 8:29, 16:6)
  8. He empowered Jesus. (Luke 3:22, 4:1, 14)
  9. He produces fruit. (Gal 5:22-23)
  10. He reveals. (Eph. 1:17-19)
  11. He unifies. (1 Cor.12)
  12. He is gift giving. (1 Cor.12, Rom. 12:3-8)
  13. He is Christ-exalting. (John 16:14)
  14.  He is jealous and envious. (James 4:5)
  15.  He can be lied to. (Acts 5:3)
  16.  He can be resisted. (Acts 7:51)
  17. He can be blasphemed. (Matt.12:32, Mark 3:29-30)
  18. He can be obeyed or disobeyed. (Acts 10)
  19. He fills us. (Acts 2:4, Eph. 5:18, Luke 4:1)
  20. He indwells us. (Rom. 8:11, Eph 3:16-20, John 14:16)
  21. He clothes us. (Luke 24:49)
  22. He empowers us. (Acts 1:8)
  23. He is a gift to us. (John 7:37-39)
  24. He can be grieved. (Eph. 4:30)
  25. He can be quenched. (1 Thes. 5:19)
  26. He has intellect. (Eph 1:17, Rom. 8:27, 1 Cor. 2:1)
  27. He knows the thoughts of God. (1 Cor. 2:11)
  28. He has emotions. (Eph. 4:30)
  29.  He has a will. (Acts 16:6)
  30. He was involved in creation. (Gen. 1:2, Ps. 104:24-30, Job 26:13)
  31. He impregnated Mary. (Matt. 1:20, Luke 1:35)
  32. He inspired Scripture. (2 Pet. 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:16, Heb. 5:12)
  33.  He enables a believer’s rebirth and renewal (regeneration). (Titus 3:5)
  34. He is God’s seal and deposit guaranteeing a believer’s salvation. (2 Cor. 1:21, Eph. 1:13, 4:30)
  35. He enables a believer’s growth in Christ-likeness (sanctification). (2 Thes. 2:13, 1 Pet. 1:2)
  36. He confirms the believer’s salvation. (Rom 8:16)
  37. He empowers witnessing. (Acts 1:8)
  38. He enables a believer to answer tough questions. (Luke 12:11-12)
  39. He enables people to hear God’s voice. (2 Pet. 1:21, 2 Tim. 3:16-17)
  40. He helps believers to pray. (Eph. 6:18, Jude 20)

The bottom line: It is the God-assigned task of the Holy Spirit to make a difference in you so He can make a difference through you so that you can be the person God intends you to be. Our job is simply to surrender to the process. There is a battle raging in each of us between our flesh and the Holy Spirit for control (Gal 5:16-23), and our choices determine who wins. Yielding to our flesh can forfeit the forty items listed previously. Do yourself and your family a favor; surrender your life to Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in and through you.

Grace: God Runs to Meet You

I’ve been writing about grace, “unmerited favor of God”. Grace, unlimited in its width, depth, scope, and power, is God’s gift to you. It is His undeserved kindness, generosity, and favor. Grace is God giving us what we do not deserve. Grace is other-focused. God gives grace to us, and His expectation is that we show that same grace to others.

In Luke 15 we find the picture of grace in the story of the prodigal son and his father. The story begins with a self-centered, younger son. He requests his inheritance and then squanders all his father’s hard earned money, ending up working for a pig farmer. In a state of horrible desperation, he remembers his father and decides to return home as a slave.

What was going through his mind as he trudged homeward? Maybe he realized what a failure he was. Or did he think about the money his father gave him that he had foolishly thrown away. Possibly he feared a harsh rejection, one he was sure he deserved. Whatever he thought, he was not prepared for his father’s response.

Imagine: He sees his father’s house in the distance as he shuffles shamefully forward. Another glance toward his old home reveals an unidentifiable person hurrying toward him. As the figure draws nearer, he recognizes him as his father. He prepares himself for the worst. In that culture, killing the son would have been the “honorable thing to do” due to the disgrace he brought to the family name.

He’s bewildered by his father’s loving embrace. Shame and condemnation wash over him, an indicator of his self-hatred and guilt. The father’s love faces off against the son’s self-degradation. He goes limp in the father’s embrace unable to hold back the tears.

He absorbs the father’s senseless love until he’s full. He notices the smile on his dad’s face. The father is smiling because he is overjoyed at the son’s return. This is too much for the son. He only hoped for a job as a slave, and yet he is treated as a son despite all his filthiness and poor decisions.

The father continues to extend lavish grace by having a ring put on his hand, sandals put on his feet, and a robe placed on his back. Each is a visible sign of full son-ship. The father completes his bountiful acts of grace by inviting the community to a joyous celebration of his son’s return. Rather than being embarrassed at the wayward son, the father responds with merriment and celebration. The father’s response to a rebellious son is a beautiful picture of transforming grace.

Each of us has had our prodigal experiences. Prodigal behavior is common because our heart’s default setting is “trust yourself at all cost”. Self-trust is rooted in the belief that I will be more gracious to myself than God will. Who are we kidding anyway? Turn your heart back toward your heavenly Father. He will run to meet you. Then you can recklessly heap His grace on others.