Being Defines Doing

A common problem that many of us share is defining our identity and value based on our work and performance. We let the roles we fill (wife, mom, student, athlete, employee) become the central, orienting piece of our life and identity. We also evaluate ourselves based on how well we perform. In a nutshell, we tend to operate out of the belief that our doing defines our being.

But Scripture points us to the fact that, for those who are disciples of Jesus, reality is quite the opposite. Our core identity consists of two parts: being created by God in His image in order to display His glory; and being redeemed by Christ and adopted as a child of God, so that we may know God and make Him known.

This identity is where our value and worth are derived from. We did nothing to merit our creation or salvation, so the quality of our performance cannot touch our value. And with our core identity being rooted in Christ, the job we do and roles we occupy do not define us. Instead, the identity given by God shapes and drives what we do and how we live. Our roles become unique avenues for us to know God more intimately and live as His image-bearers.

So let us hold our work loosely, remembering that we are defined by something more eternal. And let us humbly and boldly live in a way that exalts our Savior, in whose perfect righteousness we stand secure.

Advertisements

Playlist: Hope for the Journey

Music has had a big impact on my journey, and always ministers to my heart. We’ve been walking through some hard places lately, so I really wanted to put together a playlist of songs that speak of hope and will remind me of truth when I’m struggling. I pray these songs will be helpful to you as well. Be on the lookout for more playlists in the future.

Why Community is an Important Piece of Your Counseling Journey

Sometimes people operate from the position that counseling is an entirely personal, private matter. They won’t tell people they are close to that they’re even in counseling, much less share details about what they’re learning and how they’re wanting to change. But this attitude toward counseling eliminates an important element from the process: community. Why should you consider sharing this intimate journey with your community? Here are just a few key reasons…

  1. The counseling relationship is limited and temporary.

    At best, you may see your counselor for an hour each week. Your counselor can’t walk through daily life with you. There are certain limitations in your counselor’s insight and impact that are inherent in the nature of the relationship. While some people may need a longer period of counseling care than others, it’s generally a temporary situation that concludes or becomes less frequent once its purposes are met. As counselors, our goal is to help you address the current issues and struggles, give you tools for growth and change, and then launch you back out to continue the journey in the context of a gospel-centered, discipling community. You shouldn’t rely on your counselor as your sole source of encouragement or nourishment.

  2. Sanctification happens in the context of relationships, and within the local church body specifically.

    Biblical counseling is all about sanctification — pursuing heart change as we walk with God and are shaped by His Word. And that kind of change doesn’t happen in isolation; we’re designed to live and grow in community. The church has been united into a family, and we need one another. It’s in relationships that we are sharpened and challenged, and where we learn to love and forgive.

  3. You need other people to help you remember truth, to hold you accountable, and to encourage you.

    I’ve found that counseling is so much more effective when the people you live life with are aware of the content and progress of the counseling. This allows them to be involved and supportive in specific, tangible ways. And you never know how God will use your story to impact their lives as well.

Counseling can be a painful process, and it’s intensely personal. But sharing it with your community will be invaluable. What’s holding you back from opening up and including others in your journey?

 

 

How the Church Can Care for Those It Sends Out: Getting Started

Your church may be enthusiastic about sending people out on mission, but are you prepared to support them well?

In the New Testament we get to see some beautiful examples of how the church can minister to those who are sent out on mission. The church supported Paul with prayer, financial and material provisions, relationships and encouragement. Paul knew the church cared for him and he could ask for their help when it was needed. The church also welcomed him back and was eager to hear about all that God was doing.

The role of supporting those we send out is a task the church should take seriously, as both a responsibility and a gift. There are so many ways that a church can care for its sent ones. For those who are trying to figure out how to even get started, here are a couple key ideas for laying the foundation…

CARE — Choose two or three people to serve as advocates on a care team, with one team assigned to each family unit overseas. Each team would be responsible for checking in with their sent one regularly, encouraging them, and staying aware of how the church can meet their needs.

CONNECT — That same care team would function as the sent one’s representatives to the church so that they stay connected. In conjunction with the church leaders, the team can figure out the best way to regularly communicate the sent one’s prayer requests to the congregation. There are many other ways to connect, but establishing and maintaining this work of prayer is vital.

Those who are sent out to serve overseas can feel forgotten by their home church. They face many unique struggles, and often without a strong community of local believers supporting them. With the intentional love and care of the sending church, they can be spiritually and emotionally healthier, and able to be more effective in their work.

Whether your church is preparing to send out its first overseas workers, or you’re looking to improve your support of existing workers, it’s important to think well about how to start. Focus on care and connection, then grow from there.

Seeing Through the Fog

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”  – Philippians 4:8

I’ve found that there are times when my mind can’t wrap itself around words. Maybe you’ve experienced this too. It usually happens when my emotions are especially strong, and I can’t see through the fog. I know I need to align my thoughts and feelings with what God says is true, but it’s hard to remember what I know and it’s hard to grasp the written Word.

How can you fix your eyes on the Lord when the words on the page aren’t communicating to your heart? How do you let truth pierce through the fog? One helpful tool is the many images that Scripture uses to describe God’s character and the ways He interacts with His people.

God is our refuge.

He is our firm foundation.

He is our Shepherd.

Jesus is the Bread of Life.

Christ is the Lamb of God who bears our sin and takes away our shame.

God is the Holy One on the throne.

He is the light to our path, the One who led His people by a pillar of fire.

Dwelling on these images can help fix your mind and heart on God’s character and promises. He is sovereign, strong, gracious, sufficient, loving, holy, and faithful. Even when the words aren’t sinking into your heart, seek to know Him and draw near.

“Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know Him.”  – Hosea 6:3a

Our Daily Bread

In Exodus 16 we find a story that displays God’s character and teaches us how we’re designed to relate to Him. He had delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt and was personally guiding them. But the people began to complain about the lack of food in the wilderness; they forgot God’s deliverance and presence, and questioned His character and intentions. In response, God fed the Israelites with a daily supply of manna that He provided, sustaining them in the wilderness for 40 years.

DEPENDENCE & REST || The Israelites were utterly dependent on the Lord for their daily bread. They needed Him to provide what they could not produce for themselves; they couldn’t go even one day without Him. The Israelites were taught to rest, and to trust that God would provide a double portion to enable that Sabbath rest.

HUMILITY || The dependence on God’s daily provision was meant to produce humility in the Israelites. In Deuteronomy 8, Moses reflects this in his warning to the Israelites to not become proud. They were called to remember that it was God who delivered and sustained them and to respond in praise and thanksgiving.

TRUST || God’s character and faithfulness were on display as He sent the manna each day. Even though the manna itself was mysterious, something the Israelites had never seen before, they could trust God in the unknown.

OBEDIENCE || Part of the purpose of the manna was for God’s people to learn obedience, listening to His voice and following His instructions. His intentions toward them were pure, and His commands were for their good.

Just as God revealed Himself to the Israelites as He provided for them, so we too can learn these lessons as we draw near to Him. We are made to walk in humility, dependent on our Creator and overflowing with thanksgiving. He is always good, always trustworthy. And in Christ, God has offered provision for our deepest need—salvation and rescue from the bondage and penalty of sin. Jesus is the Bread of Life, given by God so that we might have life in Him:

“Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, Moses didn’t give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now He offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…. I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.’”  — John 6:32-33, 35

In salvation, and in all of life, we are fully dependent on the Lord — for grace, strength, growth, joy, life. He knows our need, and He is faithful to provide. He is our rest.

Whatever you are experiencing today, remember this story of a God who sees, loves, teaches and provides… and look to Him for your daily bread.

Current Reads You Don’t Want to Miss

Made for More, by Hannah Anderson

51oE2p8o39L._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_We have been created in the image of God, and that determines both our identity and our purpose. We are designed to live in dependent communion with God and to display His image as we walk in relationship with other people. We cannot seek our identity in anything else — it’s only in God that we can understand who we are.

I’m reading this book with the ladies of my church and am loving it so far. The sequel, Humble Roots, will be on my reading list soon.

 

The Dynamic Heart in Daily Life, by Jeremy Pierre

51eX0AgZErL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

Our hearts are always thinking, feeling and choosing. Everything we do is an expression of an intricate matrix of beliefs, desires and commitments. Those functions are designed to be unified and directed toward the worship of God.

This is a well-written, practical text full of great examples of how the heart is expressed. It’s an excellent read so far, especially for counselors and pastors.

 

Humility, by Andrew Murray

31NfxHOPt+L._SX355_BO1,204,203,200_ Humility is the place of complete dependence on God, and is the only rightful posture of the creature.

This is a book I first read years ago and go back to continually. It’s short but weighty, so I’m chewing through it slowly.

Reframing Your Story

Have you ever taken a photo and zoomed in really close, but later wished you had captured the entire scene? When people go through a period of suffering or intense emotion, or experience any kind of trauma, their thoughts and feelings are zoomed into the pain and it’s all they can see. Even once they are far-removed from the event, the memories often hold nothing but grief and heartache. Their vision is limited and they can feel completely paralyzed. The pain is in focus and everything else has been cropped out of the picture.

Unlike that photo, when it comes to your current or past experiences, you still have the option of changing the focus and reframing the story. Instead of keeping the pain front and center, zoom out and seek to view your story from God’s perspective. This doesn’t mean ignoring or dismissing the pain — just taking it out of focus so you can see the bigger picture.

The rest of the scene includes God’s character and how He displays His faithful love. In the midst of suffering, God promises His presence and comfort. He draws His children near in order to know Him more and experience His love in times of struggle. He is always good and He is always at work. Ask your loving Father to expand your vision and reframe your story by seeing it as part of His story. Then those memories won’t consume you with a flood of pain, but will inspire you to praise God and give thanks for His grace and faithfulness.

 

His bow is on the strings
And the tune resonates in the open space
To show us how emptiness sings:
Glory to God, Glory to God!
In fullness of wisdom,
He writes my story into his song,
My life for the glory of God.

 

-from “How Emptiness Sings” by Christa Wells

The Humility of Image Bearers

We were each created by God, made in His image. Though the image in us has been marred by our voluntary enslavement to sin, it is still present. This identity as His image bearers is what defines our value and our purpose.

As creatures, our natural right position before God is one of humility as we yield to Him His rightful place of honor and authority. We exist to glorify and exalt Him. Just as the moon has no light of its own but merely reflects the sun, so we are only reflectors of His glory and image; we are not the source or center of anything. Humility is “the sense of entire nothingness that comes when we see how truly God is everything.” We are to be empty vessels that are filled up and used by Him. Our design as God’s image bearers is to be wholly dependent on Him — that is the essence of humility.

Pride is the loss of humility and the root of sin. Pride can be expressed in a multitude of ways, including taking control, exalting ourselves, going our own way, rejecting God’s leadership, and redefining our own identity. The kingdom is for those who have nothing in themselves and seek nothing for themselves. So here’s the question — who or what are you seeking? If we would grasp the fact that our value and identity are found in God, we could stop seeking them elsewhere and instead let Him define us and give us purpose. In pride, we constantly strive to exalt and protect ourselves. But humility rests in our union with Christ, remembering that our life is hidden in his…

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”

Colossians 3:1-4, NLT

When it comes down to it, humility is a matter of worship and affection. Who will we serve, and what will be our posture before God? Humility is a basic component of our salvation — admitting the depth of our sin and our need, and quietly resting in His grace rather than relying on ourselves. And humility is “the first and most essential element of discipleship.” The initial step toward obedience is recognizing the holiness of the Father and submitting to His authority.

Humility is often misconstrued as something negative and undesirable, but that is far from true. In reality, the path of humility and service is the way to freedom from sin and self. Humility is joy — living as we have been designed to live…in dependent communion with our loving Creator.

 

* quotes above are taken from the book Humility by Andrew Murray

 

This is God’s Story

Have you ever struggled with feeling discontent? Missing the good old days, or wondering if and when those good times will ever come for you. Trying to find the meaning and purpose in your life, your work, your relationships. Inevitably, you end up either living in the past or in an imaginary perfect future. You walk through life always waiting for something better, something different, something that will satisfy.

It seems that we continuously hunger for more.

I’ve dealt with discontent at many different times in my life. During one particular season, I wanted so badly to go back to the past, to what was familiar and comfortable. I was out of my element, fearful and alone. I felt completely ill-equipped to do the task set before me, and I desperately wanted to give up — pack up my bags, go home and stay home.

“I don’t want to leave here, I don’t want to stay
It feels like pinching to me either way
And the places I long for the most are the places where I’ve been
They are calling out to me like a long lost friend …
I’ve been painting pictures of Egypt, leaving out what it lacks
‘Cause the future feels so hard and I wanna go back”
— from “Painting Pictures of Egypt” by Sara Groves

But the Lord has been teaching me two important truths that come to bear on my discontent. First, the purpose and goal of our life is to know God and be transformed into His image. The sweetest gift we receive during difficult times is His presence with us to comfort, protect and guide (Psalm 23). When you’re struggling, lean hard into Him, and seek to know Him more through whatever situation you’re in. Enjoy His nearness rather than trying to run from the pain or discomfort. Use this opportunity He’s giving you to draw near and learn to trust only in Him (2 Corinthians 1:3-10).

The second important truth we need to remember is that God is the one writing this story, and it’s all about His character and His glory. “He guides me along the right paths for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3). As God’s children, we belong to him… so this life is not about our desires being met, us feeling fulfilled, or our name being made great. We’re called to make the Lord known and exalt Him. So, we should focus on knowing Him and sharing His love and grace with those around us. The story probably won’t look like you thought it would; it probably won’t be what you would’ve planned for yourself. But it will be infinitely better… a story full of God’s presence and work, a story of a life surrendered to Him.

“This cup, this cup
I wanna drink it up
To be right here in the middle of it
Right here, right here
This challenging reality
Is better than fear or fantasy”
— from “This Cup” by Sara Groves

The “more” that we hunger for won’t be satisfied by anything in this world. Our desires are met in God, and in Him we have all that we need… we lack nothing. Our joy and our worth are not defined by our situation or our accomplishments. In the Lord’s presence is fullness of joy… and that’s something that doesn’t change or fade; He is with us, and He is always good and faithful.