You answer this question a dozen times a day. At least your heart does. And how your heart answers impacts everything.
(This is why the enemy goes after your heart’s view of who you are relentlessly.)
Just to be clear, your heart thinks about you on a more profound level than your bio on Facebook or what you say during the get-to-know-you portion of a typical Church small group.
Your heart answers in ideas and images, sometimes incomplete, often imperceptible. And yet, as much as these may fly under the radar of your everyday awareness, how your heart answers will manifest in other ways.
- John is successful on all fronts. He’s respected at work, in his neighborhood, and at church. And he’s been involved in a series of secret extra-marital affairs for years.
- Judy is a star on the track team, made honor roll every year, and is a leader in her youth group. And at night in her room, she’s viewing porn and visiting chat rooms in ways she hopes no one ever discovers.
- May is super involved in her church’s inner-city outreach, volunteering to help in any way she can. And her emotions rise or fall based on the affirmation she does or doesn’t receive from the leaders in her church.
- Tim is a pastor who loves his congregation. Many in his church share enthusiastically how much Tim has influenced their lives for good. Often when Tim drives home after Sunday services, he ruminates on how well or poorly he feels his sermon went.
Long-standing faulty beliefs undermine our best efforts to live the lives God intends for us. Without getting to these deep-seated beliefs, change and growth will be hindered. Biblical precepts, practical strategies, solid accountability, and all the know-how in the world can be trumped by hidden faulty beliefs a person carries about him or herself.
So what can be done?
1. Acknowledge you have deep-seated beliefs about yourself. We all do, and they’re not all true.
2. Begin asking, “Father, reveal the faulty ideas and images I carry of myself.” Take time with this. Sometimes these things trace back to early childhood.
3. As He reveals faulty beliefs, press them into Christ on the cross. He bore our faulty identities so we could come to know who we really are in Him.
4. Ask the Father to tell you the truth about who you are. As your Creator, He knows. Take time with this as well, write down what you hear. Be assured, what He says will be thoroughly biblical, and yet He knows the language of your heart, so don’t be surprised if He speaks to you in ways or times you don’t expect. (One of the most meaningful things God has spoken to me about who I am was in the middle of an action movie, of all places.)
You’ll need help with these. Find a trusted friend, mentor, or advisor who can pray, listen, and discern with you.
When I first started coming to Regeneration to break free from lust, I read a lot. And it was incredibly helpful. But it wasn’t near enough.
At least since the enlightenment, we’ve operated under the ideology that knowledge is our most important need.
And it is incredibly important. Even so, we can (and I believe we do) elevate it higher than it deserves. This is where I found myself in my own journey.
Knowing the ins and outs of what was going on for me, knowing quality strategies to replace my negative behavior with positive alternatives, understanding why I was returning to these sins again and again, and even knowing applicable Scripture passages, all of it was tremendous for me. Yet it fell short. I was confounded how I could know so much and still return willingly to my sin.
There’s something far more important.
This is why Paul wrote that “knowledge puffs up, but love builds up” and that if I have all knowledge but not love, “I am nothing.”
And even more to the point, this is why, when God sought to rescue us, He didn’t send helpful articles, or start a blog, or even remind us again how important it is to read our Bibles (which, to be clear, it is).
He came to us.
There’s a difference between learning about God and getting to know God, between learning God’s truth and becoming one with Him.
What the law could not do, perfect as it was, Christ did. He came near, lived with, dwelt among. Gave Himself to become one with us. This is what the gospel is about—union with Jesus Himself. The vine and the branches speaks to this, baptism is all about this, and so is the last supper.
And this is why the image God uses most throughout Scripture to convey His desired relationship with us is not Teacher and student (one conveying information to another), but Bridegroom and bride (one uniting himself with another, giving his life to her, even pouring his life into her). He means for us to be “naked” with Him, to spend time with Him, to get to know Him and to be known by Him, intimately.
This is His desire with you. He’s inviting you nearer even now. You’ll need grace. He gives it. You’ll need faith. He has that, too.
This is what I want. And oh how I forget it and too often settle for knowing about Him. Jesus, have mercy. I want to know You.
I’d love to hear your thoughts: What are ways other believers have helped point you to or usher you into the presence of Christ?
Wanting to know,
My 6-year old recently decided he was going to learn to juggle.
He started out enthusiastic, confident. Within an hour, he was rolling on the floor, crying, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it! I’ll never be able to juggle!”
The absurdity of his premature despair almost made the scene laughable.
Sometime later, God casually asked me, “You know you do the same thing, right?”
There are several areas of my life I expected would be different by this point. And some days it feels tempting to accept this is just the way things are, rather than to persevere, to grow, to pray, to hope.
- It’s hard to keep praying when the sky’s been cloudless for years.
- Hard to watch the horizon, when your prodigal left for a far country so long ago.
- Hard to conceive your brother will live, when he’s been dead for three days.
Doesn’t humility demand we accept that some things will never change?
No. Not humility. It’s pride that stands before the eternal Creator and His resurrected Son and declares, “Never.”
One of the greatest deceptions of the enemy is twisting God’s Not Yet into a Not Ever. We, on the other hand, keep our eyes on the crucified and resurrected One, and exchange despair’s Not Ever for God’s Not Yet.
Throughout the pages of Scripture, this is exactly what God’s faithful did.
For some, the Yes they’d waited for came while they walked the earth (see Heb. 11:32 – 34). For others it came after death (see Heb. 11:35 – 40).
Doesn’t humility demand we accept that some things will never change? No. Not humility. It’s pride that stands before the eternal Creator and His resurrected Son and declares, “Never.”
Not yet is, in essence, what Jesus answered his disciples when they urged him to assume his place as king (Mt. 16:21-23, Lk. 9:51-56).
And the Father must have been whispering something like, “Not yet,” to Jesus when he was tempted with a shortcut in the desert (Mt. 4:8 – 10) and a way out in the garden (Lk. 22:39-44).
A few months ago, I got an email from Steve. I first met Steve in 1999. In his forties, he’d felt homosexual desires most of his life. He participated actively in Regeneration groups for a few years and made good progress, deepening his relationship with Christ, experiencing healing for some past wounds, and gaining freedom from acting upon his homosexual urges. His homosexual desires remained, however, which was a disappointment to him. More than a decade passed.
In his recent email, he told me his homosexual attractions were finally gone: “Nothing specific and nothing special happened to mark the occasion of my deliverance from same-sex attraction. It just happened . . . As for when, it’s been several years, now. At first, I told no one and kept it to myself to make sure it was real. Gladly I can tell you, it is.”
I don’t know why God chooses to do miracles in some areas of our lives and not yet in other areas, why he chooses healing for some and not yet for others.
What will you do? Will you keep walking, keep asking, keep knocking?
- Though you’ve never gone a week without it, keep seeking freedom from lust.
- Though the fairy tale is ended, keep praying for love like Christ’s in your marriage.
- Though every ‘happily ever after’ around you includes a couple, keep seeking contentment in Christ as a celibate single.
- Though you’ve stumbled a thousand times, keep getting back up.
- Though everyone around you seems to find a shortcut, take up your cross daily and follow.
When the veil of time is removed, when eternity rolls out before us and our lives on earth seem no longer than a few minutes, when we stand before the One who suffered for us and rose again, how many of us will seem like little children who threw ourselves down on the floor after only an hour?
O Lord, grant us to be faithful.
Where are you still waiting? Leave a comment below.
As we approached the field, I noticed several little boys in baseball caps, pants and cleats. It was my 6-year-old son’s first ever baseball practice. A pace or two behind me, he wore beat up tennis shoes, a pair of jeans, and the glove I’d bought him (which suddenly looked more to me like a toy than an actual mitt).
Like it has for so many years, fear sidled up like a friend beside me. “Dressed like that, he’s going to look and feel foolish.”
I looked back at my boy who was now bent over trying to tie his shoe. Fear goaded, “And he’s going to be late, too.”
Somewhere in just this short walk, insecurities from my past came flooding up, fueling my anxious father’s heart. I yelled, “Come on! Hurry up and tie your shoe or you’ll be late!” My voice was seeping fret and frustration.
He fumbled with his laces. I winced. Little fingers don’t respond well to a parent’s urgency.
Sometime early in my life, fear came knocking like a door-to-door salesman. Seeming to know me well, it promised its protection in exchange for a home with me.
I don’t remember making this bargain. But looking back, I can see the evidence of it smudged all over my life like greasy fingerprints on a mirror: All the things I didn’t do, the relationships I ran from, the thoughts I held inside, the good image of myself I tried to project.
And now, harassed by fear that Saturday morning on the way to baseball, I turned fear loose on my boy.
Graciously, the Father edged closer than fear. He affirmed me and called forth something more in me than I was aware I had.
Like a man waking from sleep, I remembered the truth that all that had my attention isn’t what gives a kid confidence. A father does.
Still tying his shoe, I looked again. What a great boy. What a joy to be his father. Fear didn’t want me to see. God did.
“You know what, buddy? I’m sorry I raised my voice. We’re doing just fine on time. And you’re going to have a great practice today, I’m sure of it.”
I can’t guarantee my son a life free from pain. But I can walk with him. And I can point him to the courageous One who, with the Cross before him, felt greater fear than either of us ever will, and still obeyed.
If you’re in the Baltimore area, I hope you’ll join us this Thursday from 7 – 8:30 in Towson for our final night of our “Growing Digital Natives” seminar. Elise Rittler, LGPC, will be speaking to us about how to handle anxiety in your home. Elise’s insights have been a huge gift to many, myself included. I know they will be for you and your family, too. For more information or to register, click here.
Question: Has fear tried to keep you from seeing and loving others well? How have you responded? Leave a comment below.
I’m a digital immigrant. I remember my family’s first PC. It took up half the desk, the printer was as loud as the dishwasher, and when it was first set up, we crowded around to see the rectangle, green cursor as it blinked against the dark grey screen like a robot dog awaiting a command.
My kids are digital natives. They’re growing up in a home with six computers, some of which can fit in their pockets. For them, it’s more of a phenomenon when something with a screen isn’t connected to the Internet than when it is.
And just like immigrant parents raising their kids in a foreign land, my wife and I have to think carefully and creatively about how we’re raising our kids in this new world. We want them to be able to thrive here, to be fluent in the language, to be employable, and to be able to build relationships.
We’re also the keepers of all that’s good from the land we grew up in. There are good traditions and ideals that our kids can’t remember and won’t get naturally in today’s world without us.
And we’ve got to balance these (sometimes competing) realities all the while we nurture our relationships with kids whose normal is not so normal for us.
Jesus is our model in this. The culture in which he walked the earth was rich with tradition—some good, some neutral, and some bad. Certainly what he experienced was different from the Kingdom that had been his home. Some of the differences he adjusted to (Lk. 20:22-25), others he quietly opted to do differently (Mt. 9:11, Jn. 13:5), some he corrected (Mt. 23:23, Lk. 6:1-5), and some he actively sought to change (Mk. 10:42-45, Lk. 18:15-17).
I heard recently from a parent who said it’s the norm at his kid’s high school for a guy to text a girl when he wants to ask her out. In the world I grew up in, that would have been an act of disrespect and cowardice. Maybe that’s not universally true anymore.
So what are my choices as a parent? I can rant about it, I can insist my kids do it the old-fashioned way, or I can throw my hands up because I just don’t get “kids these days.”
Here’s another option: I can drill down to the essence of what I really want for my kids and go after those things. This involves prayerful discernment to recognize where I resist the digital world because it’s bad and where I resist the digital world because it’s different.
So if the norms in the digital world are different than what I grew up with, my kids can teach me that. My job isn’t to hold them back from knowing and operating within the cultural norms in this new land, my job is to look for teachable moments in this new world (yes, even online) to help instill the ideals my wife and I hold dear.
So looking at the example above, underneath the act of asking a girl out face to face, I’m after seeing certain characteristics instilled in my son:
Yes, secretly, I’m still hoping when my son reaches high school the culture holds to (or revives) the good old custom of a guy asking a girl out face to face. But whether it does or doesn’t, I can be about the business of helping my son grow to become a good godly young man who practices courage, vulnerability, respect, and service.
Hey, if you didn’t join us last week for the first week of our mini-series on Parenting in a Digital Age, I hope you’ll join us this week. Click here for more information or to register.
One more thought: As nostalgic as we may get for the “good old days,” our true Home isn’t there any more than it’s here in the digital age. As disciples of Christ, we were strangers and aliens then no less than we are now.
Share your thoughts below.
Old and crotchety,
To experience significant change in our lives, a great deal is needed. But one of the key ingredients may surprise you:
Self-acceptance is to look honestly at who you are and to treat what you find not with hostility but hospitality, just as you would a weary traveller on a journey.
When I was first exposed to the idea of self-acceptance, I bristled. I was struggling with a longstanding pattern of sexual sin that I seemed to alternate between hating and loving. Like many people, my strategy for change was more adversarial toward this part of my life than self-accepting.
And this is understandable. Why would I be hospitable toward something in me that God hates?
There is a difference between hating that which is evil and hating ourselves or parts of ourselves for doing evil.
Those parts of us that are most lost, most twisted and strange to us, most vile need Christ most. To refuse to accept them as a part of who we are today is to refuse them access to the One who can transform them into something beautiful, strong, helpful, and good.
Self-acceptance is a key to change.
But don’t confuse this with a skewed version of self-acceptance.
The skewed version is to look at who you are and to treat what you find with reverence, as you would the master of a house.
Note the difference: A skewed self-acceptance is about accepting the way things are as settling on a destination. Your experience up to this point becomes master of your fate. You accept the way things are as the way things always will be.
Admittedly, walking out a true self-acceptance without slipping into the skewed version can be difficult. You’ll need wise counsel along the way, particularly because messages affirming the skewed self-acceptance abound in subtle and overt forms.
For me, I must return repeatedly to the cross for help in this. Like nothing other, the cross of Christ reveals the grave nature of my sin and the immense love God has for me all at once. I cannot behold Christ there and shrug at my sin. But I find there a place to come as I am that my sin might find its end. And I might come to know myself free from it, as he intends.
We spend a lot of time looking at screens. One 2014 study revealed that between TVs, computers, smartphones, and tablets, the average American looks at screens over seven hours a day.
And it’s no wonder. With a mere swipe of a finger, screens serve as a gateway to so much: music, books, information, education, news, advice, community, and so much more.
- We can talk with loved ones face-to-face, even though they’re thousands of miles away.
- We can enjoy the creativity of people who would have otherwise never been on our radar (Zach King, Kid Snippets, and Lennon & Maisy, are a few examples for my family).
- We can find out the most up-to-date information on things happening all around the world. Or simply the quickest route to our destination considering current traffic.
It’s incredible, really. The digital revolution has changed and is changing the world around us in big and small ways.
From my perspective, what fuels the digital revolution is not primarily money or efficiency, but two of the deepest needs of the human heart: Identity and relationships.
We use screens in our search for an identity that is valued and affirmed by others. Being valued and affirmed is a basic need of us all, and our screens offer us numerous platforms to go after this.
And we use screens in our search for relationship. Not only in direct ways like texting, chatting, or FaceTiming with others, but also in more indirect ways like seeking to accumulate friends or followers, likes or comments.
More than asking if this is good or bad, I think we do well to ask another question: Are we finding what we’re looking for in our screens?
If we are, how can we help others do the same, particularly our kids or others we lead?
And if we’re not, how can we use the various screens in our lives differently to help us find what we’re after? And are there any ways we’re asking screens to do something they can’t?
The digital world isn’t going away. I for one am glad it’s not. I think it is a great servant. And I also know from both personal and professional experience, it makes a horrible master.
Paul’s words to the Corinthians come to mind for me here:
“Everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial.”
“Everything is permissible but I will not be mastered by anything.”
“Everything is permissible but not all things edify.”
Beginning next Thursday, Regeneration is holding a 3-part series of 90 minute Parental Guidance Needed conferences on parenting in the digital age. On April 16, we’ll kick off the series by facilitating a conversation on Social Media, Identity, and Relationships.
I hope you’ll join us. (You can learn more about all three evenings and register here.)
Here’s an observation and a question: For 500 years, the word screen denoted something that served as a partition that provided division or protection (from light, heat, drafts, wind, insects, uninvited onlookers, etc.). What do you make of how we use the word today in relation to technology? Leave a comment below.
From my screen to yours,
God created human beings uniquely as both body and a spirit.
But if you listen to the language among many of us, you’ll hear hints that we actually don’t live as though we believe it’s true:
- “Spiritual life” is a separate matter from “daily life.”
- Aesthetics shouldn’t matter in worship.
- Death of the body “frees” the spirit.
- Male and female are superficial (surface) elements of personhood.
- Sex is just two bodies enjoying each other.
Each of these exposes an erroneous belief that humanity is primarily spirit, or perhaps a spirit encased temporarily in a physical body.
Jesus was fully human—both body and spirit. Any question that He may have been primarily spirit is washed away in the gospel texts as we see the passion of the Christ, his three days dead in the tomb, and his resurrection.
Why does this matter for us? What difference does it make for us to believe we are not primarily spirit encased in a body, but rather we are both spirit and body?
Because to love and receive love as a body-spirit creature means the body must be involved.
Christ demonstrated this in his life as he touched, spoke, fed, listened, healed, and raised people from the dead.
Where we view the body as secondary, we will inadvertently downplay the importance of others’ bodies. In other words, we will either be prone to mistreat or neglect their bodies. But when we know them as body-spirit creatures, it encourages us to be more mindful of them as a whole person.
And where we downplay the central role of the body in human experience, we downplay the role of the body in our own relationships with God. Your body is not just a vehicle God has issued you so you can get around down here. Your body is you (as is your spirit) whom God loves.
God loves your body. (And if you’re like me, you may need Christ’s help to purify twisted versions of what that means.) He looks at your body and sees . . . you.
Pause for a moment and pay attention to how that idea feels to you. Where you notice tinges of shame, sadness, fear, discomfort, threat, these are likely indicators you carry some faulty views of your body, your gender, God, or all three. Good Friday and Easter Sunday hold something for you.
God desires to love and be loved by you bodily.
This Friday as you partake in the Eucharist, receive afresh Christ’s body and blood into your own. Let the essence of who He is unite with the essence of who you are. And be transformed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and reactions. Leave a comment below.
I prefer to say I’m “on a journey.” But sometimes, that sounds a bit too certain, like I know where I started, where I am, and where and when I’ll arrive.
In so many areas of my life, I don’t know any of these things. I’m wandering.
- As a father, there are times I feel like I’m reaching for an internal “dad” map that’s missing long stretches of road. Did I miss a turn back there?
- When my temper flares and I hurt the people I love most, it’s hard to hope, hard even to be patient with the process of sanctification. Aren’t we there yet?
- As a Christian, an adherent to an ancient faith with a set of relational and sexual ethics that sound either absurd or intolerant to many of my neighbors, I struggle to know how to navigate those relationships. Do I go east or west up ahead? Or should I just pull over?
In these and many other parts of my life, I’m wandering.
And I’ll bet the family farm that in some areas of your life, you can relate.
(And just to be clear, my family doesn’t own a farm.)
The paths we’re on all share in common that they happen within time that we do not control, community of which we are only a tiny part, and a universe we cannot come close to fathoming.
So we can strain and strive and grasp. That’s one option. Not a great one, but many of us default to trying to control as much as we can, to minimize variables, to mitigate all risks. I try this too often, and usually no one’s happy that I do.
We can opt to give up. This is especially appealing when we feel we can’t endure another step without knowing how many more steps we still have to go. I’m not talking about resting. To give up is to refuse God in some area of life, to tell Him, “I have gone this far and will go no farther.”
Or we can accept that life’s overall journey includes seasons of wandering. This isn’t the same as giving up, far from it. Accepting our wandering state is to accept we cannot walk, let alone lead, on our own. Accepting our wandering is the starting point of learning to depend on the One who, though He does not always show the way, affirms He is the way.
It is to trust Jesus as a more trustworthy Leader.
Looking through the pages of Scripture, this option does not guarantee us a quick, painless journey. But it places us on a good path and in good company.
I hope you’ll join us this Thursday, March 19 at 7 p.m. for Welcome, Wanderer. Come worship the One who leads us, hear stories of His faithfulness, and partner afresh with His work through Regeneration. RSVP today here.
“[By faith the heroes of faith] went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.” (Hebrews 11:37b, 38).
A young woman, cold, wet, and shivering, makes her way through a storm to a well-lit castle. She raises her mud-spattered hand and knocks on the huge, ornate door. Upon entering, she’s greeted by the king and queen and their son, the prince.
She tells them she is a princess. Her horse, frightened by the storm, threw her as she rode home, and she has made her way here through much hardship. The queen, although good enough to provide the girl lodging for the evening, is unconvinced.
“Oh darling,” she snickers scornfully, “You’re no princess. Just look at you.”
The prince, however, is taken immediately with the young woman, and as they talk through the course of the evening, he falls in love with her.
You know the rest of the story.
The impossible test, a pea under the mattresses, princess doesn’t sleep a wink, queen changes her tune, prince marries princess, and happily ever after.
An odd story, but we’re like the princess—soaked to the bone, wandering, beat up by the journey, not quite ourselves, and desperately hoping someone will see and believe we’re more than we appear.
And like the princess with the queen, we are scrutinized and looked upon doubtfully:
- You’re nothing special. Just look at you.
- You can’t say no to temptation.
- You’re only as good as the shape of your body.
- You’re gay, and there’s nothing to do but embrace it.
- Because you won’t affirm gay relationships, you’re hateful.
- You’re a teenager, we don’t expect much of you.
- With what you’ve done (or what’s been done to you), you’re tainted goods.
We long for one who sees, one who stands up to the critics and cynics and accusers. One who bears their blows for us.
One for whom our condition matters not because it defines us, but because it distorts who He knows us to be. And One who can make what He sees true in our lives.
This coming Thursday, I hope you’ll join us for Welcome Wanderer*. You’ll be encouraged and reminded that there is such a One as this.
And we need you to stand with us. While the landscape shifts quickly around us, Regeneration provides an unwavering source of support and restoration just as we have for over 35 years. And we’re building on those foundations for the good of future generations. We are humbled and excited to tell you more about it.
Please RSVP today to join us next Thursday, March 19! Register here.
Hope to see you there!
P.S. We’re excited to announce that several friends of the ministry have already generously pledged to match donations given on the 19th up to $30,000!
*P.P.S. If you’re one of our Northern Virginia friends, please join us on Saturday, March 28, for Let Your Light Shine! RSVP here.