What Do You Need to Know?

Carefully consider what you NEED to know about the world. Technology makes it easier and easier to be aware of almost anything and everything that’s going on… in every place. 


Not only is the noise overwhelming, but the gap between what you can CONTROL and what you are AWARE OF is growing larger and larger. 
Consider the fact that possibly this is NOT good for you. 

Every day, you come into contact with dozens of people who need your presence, who need to encounter something of God from you. If you are so disturbed and focused on so many things that you cannot control, you may find yourself unable to be truly present to yourself, your vocation, and to the people who need you most. 

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Perfectly Imperfect

What is your brokenness for?

It’s easy to believe that your brokenness—the thoughts and actions that you are ashamed of, or embarrassed about—is there to make you feel ashamed, or somehow less than human.

But that is not the point.

In the first place, to be human is to be broken. While you are full of incredible potential, and carry within you divine DNA, simultaneously you are simply a flawed creature. You fall victim to the ambition to be perfect, and the ILLUSION that you can accomplish it, but all you really ever do is set yourself up to be disappointed. 

Accept yourself, “warts and all.” It is the truth of you. It may not be who you are BECOMING, but it’s currently who you are. 

Furthermore, the deeper illusion that lures you is that “perfection”—or more specifically PERFECTION WITHOUT GROWTH—is to be desired. This is when you should try to remember that our brokenness is there to help (or FORCE) us to grow, to change, to evolve. 

In that sense, you might even say it’s God-given. Not in a mean, masochistic way, but in the sense that one the central desires God has for your life is GROWTH, and to the degree that growth does not happen without brokenness or pain, you have the opportunity to befriend your brokenness and accept it as an invitation to grow. 

Brokenness is your invitation: first to be human, and second to grow, transform, and evolve. 

How Bright Does the Light Have to Be?

The metaphor of God’s presence, especially with this people, runs throughout the Bible.

Jesus tells his followers (building on an Old Testament metaphor) that they are the “light of the world.”

At the end of the entire Bible, the writer of Revelation has an image of major churches as lampstands, but in danger of having their lamps removed due to various struggles and shortcomings.

There’s some room for debate, but probably the original though behind all of these metaphors is from Exodus. More specifically, you can see the symbol in the building of the tabernacle—where God’s presence resides within the people of Israel—and the placing of a symbolic lampstand inside the tabernacle, to illuminate the “bread of the presence.”

So how bright was that light?

I think Dietrich Bonhoeffer said something along the lines of, “we who live in the era of electric light have no true concept of the dark.”

I think it’s true. Living in an era where we can make the night practically as bright as day, we forget how truly deep and dark the night can be.

And a lamp stand simply is NOT that bright.

In Florida, we lose power a few times a year without fail, and when that happens at night, trying to read by candlelight is pretty instructive:

It’s REALLY DIFFICULT.

A candle just doesn’t give off much light.

Whether thinking about OURSELVES or our CHURCHES, sometimes we think that being the “light of the world” means having a white hot burning spotlight that gives day-for-night to the largest radius we can imagine.

But the lamp stand in the tabernacle simply wasn’t that big. It probably had a very, very smalll radius of light.

But it wasn’t the radius that was important, it was what the lamp SHOWN ON. It’s what was illuminated: the bread of the presence.

It’s not how large, or how bright our light burns: it’s simply whether or not our light is illuminating God, Jesus Christ, and the life he offers us with the Holy Spirit.

It might seem like your personal (or your church’s) light is too small, but maybe that’s not what you should focus on. Maybe you can just focus on keeping the lamp lit, and keeping it shining in the right direction.

Ego and Craft

There are things you do and places and ways in which you serve that instantly resonate with people. Although thoughts like “craft” and “excellence” are often in play, one of the other reasons that people will instantly gravitate to you in these areas is because they are often devoid of EGO.

It is very easy to serve with an eye towards results, particularly results that involve human accolades and rewards. But sometimes there is an area of your life where, because of GRACE, you are able to separate yourself from the results, and just stand and serve in a sort of eternal flow and current.

You do, or say, the thing that you are meant to do, and are utterly unconcerned with getting anything back. Not in an egotistical way at all, but actually in a completely selfless way. In fact, practically all issues of “performance” melt away, and you are merely existing and reacting as Grace leads you.

The irony, or course, is that people naturally are drawn to this. Manipulation and performance surrounds us, and so when people (with eyes to see and ears to hear) experience an ego-less offering, it is like a breath of fresh air, a drink of cool water in an aridity.

Of course, you shouldn’t think of this too much, and you certainly shouldn’t let it affect your thinking and motivation.

Rather count yourself as blessed to be able to offer something to the world that people need and value.

Wisdom and Identity

In your life you have the ongoing opportunity to move between “wisdom”  and “identity.” There can be a tension between these two ideas, but navigating them successfully can yield a peaceful, centered growth and maturity.

Wisdom is the idea of seeking out new ideas and insights into life. It involves a humility that says, “I do NOT have all the answers, and need help sometimes.” Wisdom invites voices from other perspectives into your life, and can bring about wide-eyed realizations of wrong-thinking, and thus opportunities for growth.

Identity, on the other hand, comes about from deep, thoughtful, and courageous self-reflection, and ultimately results in the awareness of who you uniquely ARE. At its best, identity emerges with the ego, and through identity you are able to understand your place in the world.

Shutting yourself off from new ideas—from wisdom and counsel—can put you into ruts, and even cultivate a sort of arrogance in your life: that you have it all figured out, and that you “know the way the world works.” On the other hand, not ALL wisdom is effective and useful for YOU, and an identity that is humbly and loosely held can help filter when to allow new ideas into your life, and when to graciously say, “no, thank you.” (Or “Not Now.”)

The truth is, you need both wisdom AND identity, and though you going back and forth between the two may feel exhausting sometimes, it’s a necessary tension to manage, AND one that can yield beautiful results.

 

The Classroom is Your Life

Your spirituality IS your life. 

Your life is a classroom, a lab that tests your beliefs, that gives you space to practice (oh, that word is so much more important than you think) the things that you believe to be most true about the world. 

Don’t be surprised if you discover that you’re struggling in this classroom. 

Don’t be surprised to find out that judging people comes faster than—and as natural as— breathing, or that anger is lingering right underneath the surface, or that desire and envy are your constant companions. 

Don’t be surprised, but don’t be content either. 

Realize it, name it, and stay committed to the path of growth. 

And keep practicing. 

 

How Deep Does Grace Go?

You will be constantly tempted to underestimate how deep grace actually goes.

It’s easy to believe that “grace” is some kind of theological or spiritual hocus-pocus magic trick that somehow gets God to love you.

But this shallow version of grace misses the abundant life that God really wants to give you. What’s more, it can create inside you this tension that even though God may have “let you in to heaven,” He still really doesn’t like you. That’s not really “unmerited favor”—the Biblical definition of grace—that’s some kind of qualified tolerance, like the Father has to grit his teeth and bear with a family of loud and misbehaving children.

It’s easy to to believe that “grace” is the mechanism that gives us the good things of life: family, friends, homes, paychecks.

But if that’s all grace is, you can start to believe that when those things are absent from your life—or when others do not possess them—that you are “in trouble” with God, or that He has overlooked certain people groups or parts of the world.

But God’s fundamental posture towards the world—and the people in it—is one of LOVE, brought about and infused by His essential unmerited favor… GRACE.

So how deep does grace actually go?

Grace goes so deep to say that God is present in every time and in every place.

In all circumstances. In all places. At all times.

And what does grace require of us?

Really not much, except gratitude.

And so the depth of grace really means that at all times—in good times and bad times—in success and adversity, our fundamental posture towards life and God should be one of humility and gratitude.