What Kind of Man are You Becoming?

How was your Friday?  Mine was full ... and really good. 

I got to meet with two men, both of whom play a significant role in this mission.  I walked away knowing a little more about the inner lives of both men.  I have watched them both deal with different kinds of adversity... over time.  And I was proud of them. They are becoming really good men.

You see, we don't have as much CONTROL as we'd like in this life. And even when we think we do, much of that CONTROL is an illusion. What comes to us in our daily lives is what Paul referred to in Romans 8 when he used the phrase, "all things" and then went on to say that "all things work together for good...to those who love God and who are called according to His purposes." (Romans 8:28)

It doesn't mean that people who are especially 'good Christians' will always have especially 'good things' happen to them because of their 'good performance'.  It means that people who really give themselves to God will experience a broad sampling of ALL KINDS of experiences - some beautiful things and some tragic things - all of them in their totality working together for the good. 

The pivotal truth for Christians is that we get to make significant choices.  When some of the "all things" occur that are particularly unpleasant, we have the option to believe that God is really good -- or not. If we make the choice to trust Him, well,... that is the equivalent of saying "Yes!" to the plans of a perfectly loving Father.

That CHOICE to say "Yes!" to God in the middle of chaos or pain or ... even prosperity is a Big Factor in what kind of man you become. He does the Work. We get to agree. 

In a world where outward religious activity mattered most, Paul reminded the Galatians that one thing mattered.  "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love." Gal 5:6

So, what kind of Man are you becoming? And by what Means?

Both questions are important.  The 2nd question <'...by what means?> gets to the core of whether you believe you are a self-made Man or if you believe you  belong to Another and find his Ability to be the only ability from which you live.  Or, said a different way, are you learning to lean back into God's very real life and allow him to live his Life ... 'as you'.

The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity

C.S. Lewis, as a young man, did not trust God and did not want to believe that Christianity was true.  In fact, it was his association with a group of moral un-believers that contributed to his conversion.

But there was another man (there usually is...) who awakened the imagination of the young intellectual.  George MacDonald was a Scottish preacher and writer who lived one generation before Lewis. 

He wrote prolifically and trusted God deeply.

Lewis later wrote, 
 

"I have never concealed the fact that I regarded him as my master; indeed I fancy I have never written a book in which I did not quote from him."

The Title of this blog probably caught your attention.  It caught mine.  It is one of MacDonald's sermons from a volume called UnSpoken Sermons.

Perhaps the sharpness of the title even convinced you to open this post.  I'll warn you.  He is wordy.  And he wrote in the 19th century. Some of his work is not easy to follow.  But the text of this sermon is included as a link HERE

Let me encourage you to read it long enough to find 2 or 3 nuggets of gold. MacDonald knew the Supreme Goodness of the heavenly Father.  

And if you take the time to ask the question, "Do I know the Supreme Goodness of the One True Father?", what do you think your answer will be?

The one relationship assaulted most in the universe is that between Father and son.  All of our assumptions about God and life, ourselves and others spring from our relationship, not only to the One True Father, but also to our own earthly fathers. 

And so we all ask...

I wonder if God will show up for me.....and I wonder what that might look like?

Shame is Nothing to be ashamed of

Popular, secular therapy proclaims the evils of shame. It’s wrong. Sure, shame is misused and abused, but deep-shame—deep shame alone—offers our only hope of grace-based healing. As J. I. Packer once suggested, “Seek the grace to be ashamed.” (This is a response to the anti-shame rant in the world around us.)

FeelingShame.jpg

Scripture tells two stories of boatload catches of fish, the first at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Luke 5:4-8) and the second at the end (John 21:2-7). In both stories:

  • Professional fishermen fish all night.
  • Their night of fishing is fruitless; not a single fish is caught.
  • The following morning, an amateur offers unsolicited and unusual directions.
  • The fishermen obey and catch so many fish that their boats begin to sink.

Despite their similarities, there is one, huge difference. After the first miracle, Peter exclaims to Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” After the second, Peter casts himself into the sea and breaks an Olympic-record-freestyle to get close to Jesus.

What changed in Peter that drove him to Jesus? He had finally experienced deep shame.

The modern world hates shame

Shame is a feeling that attacks the core of our spirit. Guilt is the thought “I DID something bad.” Shame is the belief “I AM something bad.” Guilt attacks our actions; shame attacks our being:

  • Shame is the intensely painful feeling . . . of believing we are [deeply] flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance. (Brene Brown)
  • Shame . . . is that sense of unease with yourself at the heart of your being (David Atkinson).

Shallow-shame nurtures an intense concentration on ourselves. We feel our flawed nature and we frantically try to fix it. Tim Keller asks,

What is the opposite of Righteousness?  Evil?  No, the opposite of righteousness is shame, and we do everything in our power to try to cover it.

We frantically cover ourselves with desperate attempts at perfection. We “hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving” (Brene Brown).

Shallow-shame breeds self-focus; but self-obsession is the root-cause of every problem in the world. Oppression, betrayal, and greed are all birthed by self-centeredness.

So what are we to do with shame?

Modern therapists suggest we dump shame and embrace worthiness. Secular Brene Brown writes, “The greatest challenge for most of us is believing that we are worthy now, right this minute. As is.” (Without the cross, it’s the opposite of grace.) *

Brown’s therapy teaches non-biblical, gospel substitution, self-hypnosis. It’s The Little Engine That Could, huffing and puffing, “I think I’m worthy, I think I’m worthy.” Scripture disagrees with Brown. Jeremiah says his generation’s problem was lack of shame:

Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were neither ashamed nor even knew how to blush. Therefore they shall fall (Jer. 6:15).

Mark Twain agreed with Scripture (amazingly) when he said,

Man is the only animal that blushes. And the only animal that needs to.

God’s answer to shame is deep-shame

The first time Jesus creates the miracle of the great catch of fish, Peter rightly senses his own unworthiness and asks, “Depart from me because I am a sinful man.” He is saying, “Leave me alone until I claim my own self-worth.” (Brown would be proud.)

Right before the final miraculous catch, Peter finally experiences deep-shame. He had just denied Jesus three times. He is not the brave man he self-proclaimed. He’s a coward. And that deep-shame finally drove him to God’s grace.

This is all that’s required for deep communion with God: to come empty, to admit we are unworthy. Everything else is smoke and mirror therapy.

A life without regret

Shallow-shame leads to self-claimed worth. Just before his denials, Peter exclaimed, “Those other disciples may deny you but I never will.” Then his self-proclaimed worthiness failed. When the cock crows three times, he finally experiences deep shame.

Paul explains the differing results between deep-shame repentance and shallow-shame self-proclamation:

Godly-grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly-grief produces death (2 Cor. 7:10).

Godly-grief (at deep-shame) leads to deep repentance and a life without regret.

Without regret?

Shame isn’t the problem, it’s what we do with the shame. We can be angry and sin not; we can also be ashamed and despair not. In fact, we can finally find life.

Every human wants an enduring love and worth. Therefore we need something stronger than self-hypnosis. We need grace. Grace says God loves us just because he loves us. His love doesn’t depend on what we do or what we claim.

That’s why Paul can write, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God which is ours through Christ Jesus” (not through our self-worth proclamation). Deep-shame can drive us to grace. Let’s seek the grace to be ashamed and yield to grace; no striving, no hypnosis. He loves us because he loves us. That can never be removed.

We come to God in little empty boats till we overflow with more than we can imagine.

Sam

* I like Brene Brown, especially her call to vulnerability and her battle against using shame to bully others. But her secular answers are substitutes for the gospel; they don’t require the death of the beloved Son of God.

Our solution is not: “believing we are worthy at this moment.” Our solution is to receive worth from the Son on the cross.

Note from Buz: Sam Williamson is a friend and guest blogger for the week. I asked Sam for permission to re-post this piece on the 4Streams Partners web site because it is a viewpoint that is both true and completely in sync with the piece of our Vision that seeks to 'restore that essence of the Gospel that has been lost' in all of the nonsense of our current Christian culture.  You can read more of Sam's work at http://beliefsoftheheart.com.  Thank you, Sam!

The Unpretentious Kindness of Atticus Finch

Do you know or just know about the unfathomable kindness of God?

I love to read. I know many of you share that joy as well.

I didn’t always love to read. In my high school years, I held such disdain for school that I only read ‘Cliff Notes’.  Remember those? The high-level summaries of the classics? I could pass the tests because I knew about Shakespeare or James Fenimore Cooper (Last of the Mohicans). Out of spite, I virtually robbed myself of the beauty of some of the greatest books ever written.

 Today I finished To Kill a Mockingbird – for the very first time.  I never even attempted it. I felt it had passed me by and that I could gain nothing from something so…timeless. But I read that Harper Lee was releasing a 2nd book this July; a sequel, of sorts, to ‘Mockingbird’. And I felt the desire to see what I had missed.

I read about the childhood of Scout, Jem and Dill. And I remembered my own. I saw, in Atticus Finch, the kindness that I so long to genuinely demonstrate to people who think or feel differently than I do. I saw his utter goodness, not only toward his family but also toward those who hated him.

Now I feel like I know Atticus Finch – a little bit. Oh… the longing in me to be the kind of man that God has in mind when He sees me now! It is a longing that He placed there when He crafted my new heart. And I am reminded that I cannot reform myself… and that the man, Christ Jesus, is actively at work changing everything about me from the inside-out. (Philippians 1:6)

Finishing To Kill a Mockingbird today was bittersweet. It was a holy moment. It made me look into the face of the only One who is actively at work in me to complete a very good work... a work that He began long ago.

1 Corinthians 1:26-31  “26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence. 30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption— 31 that, as it is written, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”[c]

American Sniper - Our Response

Last Saturday we gathered just 2 days after 46 men converged on the Roswell Studio Movie Grill to see American Sniper.  Expectations were high.  Watching the life of Chris Kyle on the screen was ... sobering. And such a large community of men watched it together; men with widely different political, sociological and spiritual perspectives.  Since there wasn't a real opportunity on the night of the film to debrief as a group, what do you think happened on Saturday?

As a Kingdom outpost, we at BANDO are committed to living in such a way that (from God's perspective) we don't miss the point!  Better yet, we purpose to 'hit the mark' in our Motives, Attitudes, Actions, Thoughts and Words.  And men gathered on Saturday with their insides churning from watching a film full of opposing values and difficult life contradictions. Many men process what they experience when they get a chance to put words to their experiences. It is no different at BANDO.  There was a wide array of thoughts about and responses to the film - as one might expect.  It was disruptive to think about and talk about.

Rather than give the "Christian Answer" to the problems presented by war, we did what we often do.  We asked questions.  And we asked questions of God. As He often does, God asked back.

While we verbally processed the film and our many different opinions about the film (believe me, there were many different opinions...), we also found ourselves talking about our Assumptions about Life, Ourselves, God and others.  It wasn't long before we visited one very popular (and deeply held) Assumption that most people carry with them for their entire lives.  It is popular around the world -- and it is also popular within the Christian community. That Assumption happened to be, "This life is mostly about securing a good and comfortable life here on the earth."

If I backtrack for a moment, let me add context to this short piece.  Our "assumptions" are often unspoken, unnamed and hidden from us. Like the fish swimming in his "wet" environment -- the fish doesn't feel "wet" at all.  He feels normal. Water IS his environment.

In the same way, "culture" is our environment, Christian or not. Most of our convictions and assumptions were "handed over" to us by someone else.  And we accepted them (most often as a young child) as Normal Life. 

Back to the question we sensed that God was asking us.  "Where is it that you are self-deceived?" Where have you made this world your Treasure instead of making God's Kingdom your Treasure?  It's true that Only God has a perfectly clear view of US.  He knows our 'external self'; and so does almost everyone else.  But He also is intimately aware of our 'internal self' - something of which we are often unaware. 

Christianity, by it's very nature, is a way of life that functions only when the supernatural Life of Jesus is given free access in our hearts and minds. By His very nature, God is a Revelatory Being. The understanding of the Gospel comes to humans by way of God revealing it to us. It is far more than accepting a set of intellectual propositions about God.  It is wonderful that we have minds that can think and process. But our minds cannot save or deliver us -- especially from unknown assumptions we carry, some of which are damaging.

So we left the day with that question posed to us by God, "Where is it that you are self-deceived?" Since God is true to His Nature, I fully expect to hear from men this week that God pulled back the curtain a bit to reveal, not only where they have been self-deceived in some way or another, but also where His Truth is making it's way to the core of their being.