Identity Crisis

Who am IMany times we confuse ourselves about people. We categorize them in an incorrect way. Sometimes this can be a misunderstanding. In more extreme forms it appears as racism. The problem is with identification. We just don’t know them. Or we don’t want to know them. We fear them so we hate them. This can even happen when we don’t know ourselves.

When I was younger I didn’t like being Korean. I was especially sensitive to racist remarks. I wanted to have blond hair and blue eyes. At one point I even began to loathe my heritage. I did not know who I was. The world has changed a lot since then, but there is still plenty of hate to go around.

This confusion extends to every sector of society, including Christians. Christians can be racist and hateful… and still believe in Jesus. But maybe it is because they don’t know him, or themselves, completely.

We often tend to place Christ in the role of a good example. He was a good man. He was a wise man. He stood up for people and healed them. He gave his life for them.

These things are all wonderful, but they miss the mark by a mile. I could say similar things about Gandhi. Gandhi liberated a nation without violence. Jesus never did that.

I can read the teachings and study the life of Gandhi and learn a lot. It could make me behave better and treat others in a better way. I might even be able to free a nation if I were to adhere to his teachings without compromise.

But even for all his great earthly deeds, Gandhi could never speak to me the way Jesus speaks to me.

Jesus says:

Do what you want, when you want. This freedom is yours. I will never take it from you. I love you, and I want you to be free. Don’t you know how much I love you? Don’t you know that I think and care about you all the time? It kills me to think of you lost and suffering alone. I would rather die than for you to be without joy. Nothing is more important to me than you, and nothing is more important to my Father in heaven. If you let me, I will help you and heal you. I will come into your heart. I know you are afraid. I know there are things that you would rather forget. In that secret place I will pour out my love upon you. Come, put all your worries, even your mistakes, upon me. Look deep into your heart. See who you are. I want you to realize your deepest desires. You can trust me. Take my hand. Do not be afraid.

Helping Hand

Dignity and human rights are among the noblest causes one can fight or die for. But Christ goes where no other can go. I am not a Christian because of good, or even heroic, behavior.

I am a Christian because I need a Savior.

I can know about great examples and great teachers from history, but I can not love them. Nor can they love me.

When we identify Christ correctly, we begin to understand our own identity clearly. My core identity is as a child of God. From that point forward I can understand and accept everything else. Because it is based on love. And love has no compromise. Love fears nothing.

Prudent Disbelief

Do not enterWhen it comes to matters of faith we live by degrees. Some are at absolute zero. The non-believer elevates their skepticism to a level which ironically approaches religious belief. Then there are those that live by their faith in Christ so sincerely and transparently that it inspires many thousands for generations. But what about the rest of us? Are we too prudent in our disbelief?

How many times have I shielded my life from the blessings of the Lord?

“Oh no, Lord not here. This is a money matter.”

“Oh no, Lord not here either. This is a work matter.”

“Lord, don’t bother here please. This is a family matter.”

“You don’t need to trouble yourself here either, Lord. He/she is a hopeless case.”

“No, not here Lord. This is a PRACTICAL matter.”

“And not in my crude reality either Lord. I better not trust in you here, just in case. Just let me keep you bottled up in my back pocket until I’m ready to call you out. No offense.”

In the past, consciously or unconsciously, I naively convinced myself so many times that God either does not care or will interfere in a bothersome way. Or, even worse, that God was incapable of helping. How silly. How blind. His Word and His Love are infinitely more secure than my prudent disbelief.

How many times have I shielded my life from the blessings of the Lord?

How many wounds did I leave open for far too long?

And finally, the most beloved line of all…

“Well, God understands me.”

How infinitely wise are these words. How deeply the Father understands me. He understands me so intimately that he weeps for me. Jesus identifies with me so well that he takes all my wounds upon himself. Perhaps you can not know a man more intimately than by the knowledge of the depth of his sin.

And Christ embraces this. There is no greater love.

No greater love

John 20,29

Pre-Dawn

I awaken to find you there again, ready to greet me Lord. You know all about me, every part of me. You are not interested in my talents or my strengths. You are not looking where I have it all figured out.

No, that’s just not it. That’s just where I don’t get it.

It’s that scary place. When the lightning and the thunder roared so loud and the house shook as if it might fall to the ground. When I was a child that place made me tremble like a skinny leaf. That’s when I looked for you. When I cried out to you.

Now I’m old and the thunder doesn’t scare me so much. Now I’m hardened with thick scars. Am I not strong? Just look at me and see how strong I am.

Yet in the stillness before the dawn you offer me what I can not give myself. You offer to heal and restore me in places I can not. The places where I am weak and still tremble at the storm.

Take this little boy’s hand. Heal this little boy’s heart. I cry out to you again.

For when I am weak, then I am strong.

. . .

2 Cor 12:10

Excellence

Why are we not afraid? The human race implodes upon itself. We destroy ourselves, our families, our institutions, our nations and our planet. Yet there is no panic. We should be terrified. This is a great denial. This is a tremendous shame as we hide our head in the sand and expect our children and their children to clean up our mess.

Look around, look at the signs. Open your eyes and see, or even better, embrace reality. Things are going bad. So what do we do? Cry out in despair? Maybe there is no other answer, but instead, I say, we must show excellence.

I don’t mean perfection, but rather doing our best to improve our environment. We must look for every means to heal. The sickness of our planet is a manifestation of the sickness of our race. We must provide compassion in abundance. We must look to love as Christ loved. Only this radical response will change things concretely. We are infinitely limited in doing the “right thing”, but we might save everyone if we love enough.

If we rely on technology, science, elections and government to fix our problems then we will get what we deserve. But if we look to heal ourselves and our families we will consume less. The answer to a healed planet is a healed human heart.

So we look to Jesus for inspiration. He showed us the most excellent way. If we love enough we won’t spend so much on pills and drugs and booze and diversion and more things to fill the emptiness in our soul. We will be content with less since we will have everything. Go forth to your family, your work and your community and make amends. Be ready at all times with a kind word and compassion so that your loved ones do not look to the dollar to soothe their pain. Listen and hear them.

Let Jesus in to heal your pain as well. We can’t do it on our own. This is our failure and our shame. The arrogance to think we can solve all things without God, without faith. That’s the answer then… Be Excellent. Excellent in love.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

(1 Cor 13)

98 pound weakling

I always hated when a job or school application asked me to list my strengths and weaknesses. It was like asking me to lie. How many truly dig deep down and take a sincere inventory? “I’m a hard worker, honest, responsible, intelligent, blah, blah, blah…” Even bigger lies hid among my supposed weaknesses. How long I toiled over these to make me look good. “I procrastinate (but I perform best under pressure!)” Or “I’m too hard on myself sometimes” meaning “Look how humble I am!”

Remember Charles Atlas? He promised to make me a real man. How many times was I tempted to order his “free” book and be transformed into the “Hero of the beach”? I wanted so much to be strong.

We focus on our strengths. We cultivate and display them. But a good coach looks for his athlete’s weaknesses and works on these to make a champion. Sometimes strength and weakness might even present themselves in the same circumstance. How many of us feel compassion? I do. When I see someone suffering I feel bad for them. I wish better for them and this is good.

What happens though when it is someone who I dislike or whose priorities and principles stand against mine? When things go wrong for them how do I react? Yes, compassion floats slickly on the surface, but deep down what do I feel? Happiness? Or perhaps more precisely, satisfaction. Do I think, “Well they deserved it,” with a sense of self-righteousness? How odd that I can feel these opposite sensations at the same time. But, like the job application, it is a lie. Because the compassion I feel is false. It is a crafty disguise to let me fully enjoy my self-righteousness. How sad. So I end up being the one that needs compassion instead.

The apostle Paul wrote that in his weakness he finds his strength. He knew that strength keeps Jesus out of our lives. Our strength is a fortress against Christ’s healing grace. Our weakness –be it a wound, illness, addiction, denial, apathy or pride – this is the door to our salvation and it terrifies us. It is the light shining upon our nakedness before God revealing truth.

How afraid we are to be free.

Set aside your strength. Let your weakness be exposed to God in heaven. Let Him enter this door to heal you. To cleanse you. To free you. Let Him make you a champion.

Free Brave Fish

I’m giving my books away…

“When I choose to indulge in the luxury of reading, I seek books that are thoughtful, lyrical, passionate and spiritually compelling. I have fallen deeply, hopelessly in love with Brave Fish. Thank you, friend, for sharing yourself.”

That’s what one reader posted recently on my Facebook wall (Thanks Beth!).

On Amazon, Brave Fish reached #1 in “Biographies & Memoirs-Leaders & Notable People” and #2 in “Inspirational Spirituality” during this promotional period.

All my books, including Brave Fish, are free for download on Amazon through tomorrow June 27th.

Enjoy!

Hurt

It always hurts more when you are already hurt doesn’t it? When you are already wounded every little thing stings twice as much. If you arm is broken and somebody just brushes it slightly the pain sends stars shooting. And we wonder why the world overreacts the way it does. We wonder why people explode. Could it all be just selfishness? Are they all just crazy?

But I ask of you… who has not been hurt?

And when you are under pressure? Be it economic, job related or a family problem — isn’t your fuse just so short sometimes? So you rush the red light or push rudely ahead while someone thinks, “What’s their problem?” as you pass by.

At home it might be the worst. We reserve all our aggression and frustration or deafening silence for the place we feel safe, where we know we can get away with it.  We save the worst for those that deserve our best. We seek solace in substances or a hobby that receives more affection and attention than our own flesh and blood. We entrench ourselves in our wounds and the blood runs freely.

In faith we find the answer. In Jesus we find healing. No, He will not wave a magic wand and sweep your problems away. But He will reveal His glory to you if you ask and trust. He will show you the meaning to it all, and His healing is eternal.

The world is wounded and it shows more and more every day. We scurry around looking for answers in all the wrong places. Be quiet. Be still. Lift your eyes up to heaven and believe.

His blood ran freely for you. He saved the best for you.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

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