The big “V”

Vulnerability, the big V is something that you seldom see in churches. As far as I know…church leaders have never sinned in their lives! They never get discouraged…! They never feel like God has let them down…! Oh, and they do not get sick…! I grew up with this mentality of being a Christian and especially as one who was involved in church leadership. I always had to have it together and be well-composed especially for those who look up to me.

I recently listened to a TED talk by Brene Brown on the power of vulnerability and I will summarize what I learned and how I apply it to my walk with God.  From Brene’s research which spanned over a decade she discovered that:

We are hardwired  as humans for connection however, there is one thing that unravels connection in society and this is shame. Shame is simply a fear of disconnection. “Is there something about me that if people knew then i won’t be worthy of connection?” [This reminds me of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after they sinned; they hid from the presence of God because they were filled with fear and shame].

Shame is universal and is underpinned by vulnerability. Vulnerability is not comfortable or excruciating but it is necessary, and yet people struggle with it so much. According to Brene, we deal with vulnerability by numbing the grief, the shame, the fear, the disappointment, but unfortunately, we are not wired to selectively numb some emotions and leave out others. When we numb all the bad stuff we also numb joy, happiness, peace. We make the uncertain certain- so religion which used to be “I believe in faith and mystery” becomes “I am right, you are wrong. shut up!” We pretend that everything is ok and that the things we do does not have an impact on others.

Through her research, Brene discovered another set of people: A group of people who live life wholeheartedly and have a strong sense of belonging. What she found that those people had in common were that they had courage (to be imperfect), compassion ( to be kind to themselves first, and then to others), connection (the willingness to let go of who they thought they should be, in order to be who they were) and finally vulnerability.

Brene discovered that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and unworthiness but it also is the birthplace of joy, creativity, of belonging,  and of love. After listening to this talk I wanted to see what the bible says about vulnerability and I was led to many scriptures but I will highlight a few:

  • 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
  • Romans 7:23-24
  • 2 Corinthians 13:4
  • James 5:16
  • 1 Corinthians 2:3-4
  • 2 Corinthians 11: 27-30
  • 2 Corinthians 4: 7

If you read those scriptures you will see a common trend. Vulnerability is about declaring our weakness before others and before God. This allows God’s grace to flow. When we are weak, we leave room for grace to pour in. I will take Brene’s conceptualization a little further to say vulnerability is the birthplace of grace. It is the portal that allows us to receive more of God’s grace in our lives.  I am reminded of a parable of Jesus:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. Luke 18:9-14 NIV

The pharisee would not allow himself to be vulnerable even in the place of prayer to take a hard long look at his life. And when you contrast the Pharisee with the tax collector, the tax collector encountered grace and was justified (for we are justified by grace through faith.. Romans 3:23-25). I believe Brene was on to something here: those things that bring us shame, fear of disconnection, and unworthiness in other words those things that make us vulnerable are the things that we need to be the most real about with ourselves (because you cannot lie to yourself), to God (because He knows all things) and to others (because vulnerability in the place of confession with prayer, brings healing)

I come broken to be mended
I come wounded to be healed
I come desperate to be rescued
I come empty to be filled
I come guilty to be pardoned
By the blood of Christ the Lamb
And I’m welcomed with open arms
Praise God, just as I am

Yours Truly.

P.S. you can listen to the Brene’s TEDtalk by clicking here

Losing Control

I tried to fit you in the walls inside my mind
I try to keep you safely in between the lines
I try to put you in the box that I’ve designed
I try to pull you down so we are eye to eye

Just a whisper of your voice can tame the seas
So who am I to try to take the lead
Still I run ahead and think I’m strong enough
When you’re the one who made me from the dust

When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?
I try to take life back right out of the hands of the king of the world
How could I make you so small
When you’re the one who holds it all
When did I forget that you’ve always been the king of the world?

 

Every time I hear this song, I feel openly rebuked by the lyrics because it is so true of me. For those who know me, you know I am a planner. I have backup plans for my backup plans and in every situation, I try to be in control and take charge. Very few people have ever seen me lose control,  or even lose my temper (you do not want to poke that beast though…!) This sunday in church, I was humbled by the sermon that spoke to how 3 groups of people in Mark’s account of the gospel responded to Jesus and I found myself right smack  and sitting pretty in one group. For context, the account is taken from  Mark 3: 20-34. The three groups of people identified are the family of Jesus, the Teachers of the Law, and the disciples that sit around Jesus’s feet. The group I identify with is the family of Jesus so let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” Mark 3:20-21 NIV

Many times, I’m like the family of Jesus. I have heard and read about the miracles and the awesome power of God at work in the lives of the ancients and believers today. I pray for others to see and experience God in wonderful and miraculous ways, but when it comes to my own life…it’s a different story! I need to take charge! I trust God to do X, Y, and Z but I make my own plans in case God does not pull through or He takes too long. My commitment sometimes is half-hearted. With my mouth, I say, “yes Lord I trust you completely!” But in my heart, I am like “Okay so how am I going to deal with this!”

I find myself at an impasse.  I realize that I cannot call Jesus the Lord of my life when I am unprepared to relinquish the reins. For someone who is always in control that’s hard. But more than being in control, I sincerely want to please God and so with this post, I remind myself that GOD IS, HAS ALWAYS BEEN, AND WILL ALWAYS BE the King of the world.  I want to go all in with God and let Him have His way. Today I chose to believe fully and utterly “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 NIV) and I give back the areas of my life that I control right back to the King of the World!

Shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman!

Yours Truly.

He Rejoices Over Us with Singing

We sing to God in praise and in worship but do you know God sings over you too? He not only sings over you. He rejoices over you.

“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid! For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:16 NLT

Today I come with glad tidings! I was recently at a Don Moen concert and I got to experience what it means to have God rejoice over me with singing.   It was a very spectacular thing and  I am going to try to duplicate this in the blog. It involves your participation.

Let’s try this together. I want you to sing this verse (meaningfully) to God:

There is none like you. No one else can touch my heart like you do. I could search for all eternity long and find there is none like you

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnhUh2tt97Q

Now that you have sung it to God, I want you to sing it again but this time close your eyes and imagine that God is singing this same verse to you.

Pretty spectacular right? Can you imagine the King of Kings in all His majestic glory saying to you, “there is none like you?” And indeed that’s true! There is no one in this entire world that’s like you! So

“Cheer up, [insert your name]! Don’t be afraid! For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Yours Truly.

Pursuing God

As a PK, I feel like I have been a Christian since the day I was born, however, in July last year, I made a decision to make a commitment to pursue God with all of my heart, soul, mind, and body.  I committed to fully engage in relationship with God particularly to walk in holiness… no turning back. I even committed to reading The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges (if you are looking for a good book, I recommend this one).

Last week I was taking stock of my life and I started to feel discouraged because I am failing woefully against the measures I put in place to gauge how well this holiness lifestyle is going. I am more than 20 days behind on my Bible-in-a-year reading plan, the things I think about still stink even if I never act them out,  and frankly, some days prayer feels like a chore. I have been asking myself, “what am I doing wrong?” and the answer came to me in church two weeks ago (shout out to Pastor Kirk Cowman).

Like most people who come to know Jesus as their Lord and personal saviour, I started out the year very well-intentioned: to have a relationship with the Lord. But soon enough, it became all about obeying a set of rules as a benchmark of holiness. If I read my bible and pray every day, and do not swear when I am frustrated, or lie, or exaggerate, or backbite, or speak ill of others then I am walking the holiness path- you know that straight and narrow path Jesus talks about. The problem though is that almost every day I go back to square one. These rules are too hard to follow every single day.  It is exhausting! And that’s because holiness is not a result of following prescribed rules and guidelines. Holiness is a byproduct of being in a relationship with God.

At the core and heart of every Pharisee in Jesus’ day was a desire to be holy and they put themselves out there for everyone to see. Oh when they fasted and prayed or gave to the poor, they made a public show of it!  Everything had to be done according to the laws of Moses. If they had computers in their day I bet there would have been one overzealous pharisee who would start a blog called Intentional Pharisee Living so he could show the world what a good Pharisee he was! But hear what Jesus says about their righteousness:

For I tell you that unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 20 BSB

Their holiness and righteousness were simply not enough. The holiness that gets you to see God (for without holiness no one will see God) is not the kind that comes from following rules. It’s the kind that you become because you are in a real relationship with Jesus Christ. Have you noticed that couples start to look like each other after years of being married?…such a fascinating phenomenon! That’s the stuff I am talking about.

The more you spend time in relationship with Jesus, the more you become like Him. I realize that I have missed the most important step to obeying the command: Be Holy Just as I am Holy (1Peter 1:16). And this is it:

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord–who is the Spirit–makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

The more time I spend in relationship with Jesus, the more I will become like Him as I am changed into His glorious image. The holiness I seek will be a natural expression, a byproduct, of being in a relationship with Jesus.

Psalm 42:1-2 NIVAs the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?

Yours Truly.

 

How I make sense of it all

In my last post When God does not show up, I talked about two things that I believe I should watch when things are not going the way I want them to go and prayer does not seem to be yielding answers. The first was my attitude towards God and the second is what I tell myself to make sense of it all which I described as my self-talk.

When I was much younger my favorite question was why? I’d always ask why this, what that. Over the years, my curiosity about life and the world around us has grown to such enormous proportions. I have not stopped asking why. In my finite mind when I do not know the answer to why this or that, I turn to the Dr.  Google. But when it comes to supernatural things or things for which I have no control the story changes.

I was socialized to never ask God why. God is and has always been the unquestionable God and we sing songs about His unquestionability (This doctrine probably has roots in the story of Job and one of these days we will unpack whether we can or should question God or not). To make sense of why things happen though, I fill in the gap with what I think God is doing. When I miss a flight I tell myself God is delivering me from a plane crash. When I did not get the job I applied for, it was because God was saving me from some possible disgrace or from getting fired later. When I lost my baby, God was saving me from having a child who would be born with complex medical issues and so on and so forth.

The problem with thinking this way and rationalizing God’s work this way is that at some point it stops making sense! How does one rationalize not having food to eat, or getting a terminal illness? or failing an exam? What could God possibly be saving you from? Trying to make these kinds of rationalizations have led many a Christian either down a rabbit hole of a debate about the goodness of God. If God is so good then why does he allow famine? Why does he allow devastating earthquakes? If God was so good then why…? At the point where it all stops making sense for many people, they can only conclude there is no God.

This week I have been thinking about better ways I should respond when It seems like God has not shown up and here are my reflections.

First of all, what do I desire most? The giver or the gift? If I desire the giver (God) more than anything then whether or not I receive the gift (answer to prayer) should not change how I feel about the giver. This eliminates the need to rationalize. This reminds me of the three Hebrew boys: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They had been ordered by royal decree to bow down to an idol and I am sure they must have prayed to God to save them from the impending punishment for disobeying the king but hear what they said: But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden statue you have set up.” Regardless of the outcome, their attitude towards God was not going to change. They had chosen the giver over the gift and He was enough!

Another way to respond instead of rationalizing is to give thanks. When Job was given the news of the death of his children and loss of his possessions and his health, his friends came by to explain why a good God would deal Job a bad hand but see Job’s response to it all: “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD” Job 1: 21 BSB.

My final thoughts are that I need to understand and embrace my primary mission on earth: To show forth the praises of God… in every circumstance… in the good times and the bad… Paul summarizes this concept with these bold words: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain Philippians 1:21 NIV.

Now as Jesus was passing by, He saw a man blind from birth, and His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God would be displayed in him John 9:2 BSB

I must believe everything in my life as a child of God brings glory to God. And likewise, my response to everything in life must bring glory to God.

[I am] a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that [I] may declare the praises of him who called [me] out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

In good times and in bad times I must declare the praises of Him who has called me… my life must declare the praises of Him who has called me… and my responses to the situations of life must declare the praises of Him who has called me…

That is my identity. That’s who I am [supposed to be].

Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. Psalm 43:5 NIV

Yours Truly.