Discovering deficiencies

“On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5). Paul found some in Ephesus who did not even know of the Holy Spirit. They knew only of the baptism of John. And so Paul explained the baptism of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And when these twelve people heard Paul’s explanation, they were baptized “in the name of the Lord Jesus.” Have you ever considered that there may be some of your understanding of the way of Jesus that is limited and deficient? Are you open to hearing about the areas in which your understanding is incomplete?

Keeping It Real

When the St. Louis Cardinals were in Jupiter, FL preparing for the upcoming season, the manager’s message to his team got a lot of attention: “Maximize your you.” Sounds similar to Paul’s message in Romans 12:3-8. Be real about who you are. Don’t get the big head. Don’t sell yourself short. Use your gifts to their potential. Only we should probably say, “Maximize Jesus in you.”

3 Lies

In his writings, Henri Nouwen warns against these three lies we believe: I am what I do. I am what I have. I am what others think and say. Nouwen says the way to overcome these three lies is to remember this truth: I am God’s beloved. It is my hope and prayer that at Christmas we will be reminded yet again that we are God’s beloved. The message of that baby, the Word become flesh, is unmistakable. God loves me. God loves the world.

Questions for Reflection

Here are some questions I used for a time of reflection and self-examination based on a readin of Romans 14 and 15.

When I feel a judgment coming on…think of Jesus rather than myself as the one to whom that person needs to answer.

When I feel a judgment coming on… think of Jesus as the one who died that I might have acceptance in spite of my shortcomings and sins.

When I feel a judgment coming on… remember that people are all equally sinners.

When I feel a judgment coming on… remember I am saved not by how much right I have done, I am saved by Jesus through the grace of God.

Who am I going to try to stop judging this week?

Who am I going to bear with this week?

Who am I going to accept this week?

A prayer for self-awareness

“For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin” (Psalm 36:2).

The poetry of Psalm 36 paints a bluntly honest portrait of people consumed with sin.

  • They no longer see God clearly (vs. 1).
  • They no longer speak honestly (vs. 3).
  • They no longer think wisely (vs. 3).
  • They no longer discern prudently (vs. 4).

But it is verse two that catches my eye.

It is verse two that speaks to my nature of self-deception.

It is verse two that speaks to my need for self-awareness.

I wrestle in prayer with this psalm.

I wrestle with myself.

I wrestle with God.

And suddenly my focus is  turned from the deceit in the depths of my heart to the faithfulness in the heights of God’s heavens (vss. 5-9).

Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O LORD, you preserve both man and beast.

How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

As I pray through this psalm, laying my heart before God and sorting through my heart’s motives, I am reminded that one of the best ways to increase self-awareness and decrease the pull of self-deception is to spend time pondering the love and faithfulness of God.

As I see God more clearly, I see myself more honestly.

On Self-Awareness

“Those things we cannot accept in ourselves we project upon others. If I do not admit my shadow side, I will unconsciously find another who will carry my shadow for me. Once this projection is made then I need not be upset with myself. My problems are now outside and I can fight them out there rather than within the real arena, myself.”
–John English
in Spiritual Pilgrims

Letting Go of False Security

In chapter three of her book Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry, Ruth Haley Barton writes about how leaders must give up their false sense of security in order to become godly leaders. Throughout the book she uses Moses as a leadership model. Moses learned through his time with God that the answer to leadership was not the physical power that he had previously used.

She includes a wonderful story from Theophane, a Cistercian monk residing at St. Benedict’s Monastery in Snowmass, CO, to further illustrate the point.

I saw a monk working alone in the vegetable garden. I squatted down beside him and said, “Brother, what is your dream?” He just looked straight at me. What a beautiful face he had.

‘I would like to become a monk,” he answered.

“But brother, you are a monk, aren’t you?”

“I’ve been here for 25 years, but I still carry a gun.” He drew a revolver from the holster under his robe. It looked so strange, a monk carrying a gun.

“And they won’t — are you saying they won’t let you become a monk until you give up your gun?”

“No, it’s not that. Most of them don’t even know I have it, but I know.”

“Well then, why don’t you give it up?”

“I guess I’ve had it so long. I’ve been hurt a lot, and I’ve hurt a lot of others. I don’t think I would be comfortable without this gun.”

“But you seem pretty uncomfortable with it.”

“Yes, pretty uncomfortable, but I have my dream.”

“Why don’t you give me the gun?” I whispered. I was beginning to tremble.

He did, he gave it to me. His tears ran down to the ground and then he
embraced me.

Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, pages 55-56

Barton closes the chapter by suggesting that most of us have a gun hidden under the robe of our leadership persona. Most of us have some way of protecting ourselves, some method of making us feel safe, that is inconsistent with the person God is calling us to be. She suggests that we spend time with God in order to identify the gun we carry and have the courage to hand it over.

A Refreshing Confession

“He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ'” (John 1:20 NIV).

In recent weeks I have spent some time in the Gospel of John, reflecting on the meaning of ministry. What can I learn to help me have the spirit of ministry as I live my life as a church leader? What is the key to having a ministry lifestyle rather than just a job at a church?

These words from John the Baptist caught my eye and took hold of my heart. John had a self-awareness that is absolutely essential for anyone serving as a spiritual leader: “I am not the Christ.”

I have made this confession each morning for the last three weeks. The result? This confession has refreshed my soul and released me from bondage to self-will.

“I am not the Christ.”
The church doesn’t revolve around me.

“I am not the Christ.”
The church is bigger than me.

“I am not the Christ.”
The church can and will survive without me.

“I am not the Christ.”
Jesus is the head of the church, I am not.

“I am not the Christ.”
Jesus is the Savior, I am not.

“I am not the Christ.”
Jesus holds all things together, I do not.

Does your self-awareness include a healthy understanding of your identity as servant rather than Christ? Have you ever struggled with a Messiah-complex, acting as though everything depended on you? Do you sometimes mistake the importance of your will with the importance of God’s will? Are you susceptible to an identity crisis, forgetting who you are?

Make the confession with me, would you?
Repeat after me —
“I am not the Christ.”

Say it again —
“I am not the Christ.”

One more time for emphasis —
“I am not the Christ.”

Do you feel better? I do.
What a refreshing confession.
Now if I can just live today like I really believe it!

Sin and Self-Awareness

Psalm 36:1-12
For the director of music. Of David the servant of the Lord.

An oracle is within my heart
concerning the sinfulness of the wicked:
There is no fear of God
before his eyes.
For in his own eyes he flatters himself
too much to detect or hate his sin.
The words of his mouth are wicked and deceitful;
he has ceased to be wise and to do good.
Even on his bed he plots evil;
he commits himself to a sinful course
and does not reject what is wrong.

Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the great deep.
O Lord, you preserve both man and beast.
How priceless is your unfailing love!
Both high and low among men
find refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house;
you give them drink from your river of delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.

Continue your love to those who know you,
your righteousness to the upright in heart.
May the foot of the proud not come against me,
nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.
See how the evildoers lie fallen–
thrown down, not able to rise!
__________________________________________

As I read these words I am reminded of the power of self-awareness. If we do not understand our place in this world — we are children of God, not God — we will never be able to understand what we do or why we do it. When we flatter ourselves into thinking we are something other than God’s, we lose our respect for God and and awareness of our own sin.

O God,

Thank You for Your unfailing love and faithfulness.

May we live our lives in Your shadow.

In Jesus’ name, Amen.