Identity and Humility

I recently came across a beautiful poem that I would love to share with you:

IF – Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you

    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

    But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

    And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

    And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

    To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

    If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

    And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

 

This powerful poem brought to mind two key constructs  – Identity and humility, and by humility, I mean a real and intent filled preference for the will of God

By myself I cannot simply be all that this beautiful poem embodies. I personally do not think anyone can attain to it

I look at the essence of the poem and the only way I can get there is through Christ, through my identity being rooted in Christ’s sacrifice for me. Why? Because the essence of “If” points to an identity that is firm and not tossed to and fro by the whims of life.

Without the right identity, “If” is simply a collection of noble words that rings hollow, just like a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal

When I start grasping (which implies more than head knowledge) what Christ has so graciously done for me, I start becoming the type of person who wears this world loosely and carries myself lightly  i.e. I start morphing into Christlikeness.

Essentially, I become the one who denies himself, picks up his cross and follow Christ. And what is this posture if not that of humility?

Therefore, the leanings of my identity is a foundation for the posture of my heart, which is an expression on the continuum of pride and humility.

“If” reminds me of my desperate need for Christ, and calls me to redefine what I value and esteem. I am reminded that perhaps the success metrics I employ are deeply flawed.

Instead I am nudged to make Christ my ultimate treasure! So help me Abba

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ

“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up…Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary, beholding your power and glory. Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you.

Identity and Humility

Do not waste your weaknesses

Ps 46:1-5

1 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

3 though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.

5 God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

Do not waste your weaknesses and flaws. As much as it might be hard work re-orienting how we see our weaknesses, do not hide from them or quickly shuffle them under nice categories in your mind.

Rather explore those weaknesses.

Become intimate with your weaknesses, which are likely symptoms. More importantly, get to know the root issues. Of course, I would ask that you apply caution and wisdom if diving into these things brings an unhealthy level of condemnation. If so, I suggest you dive into these things with someone who can help mediate the grace of God to you

Ps 139:23-24 is always helpful for me when I engage in some soul searching. I am reminded that this is not a witch hunt but a “knowing” that is empowered by the Holy Spirit. He is the one doing the searching (more like unveiling) and he is the one that determines the way we should go.

Ps 46:1 speaks of God as a companion who is exceedingly available to us, especially in the midst of trouble. It’s like he can’t wait to help but please remember that He is the Sovereign King and how he decides to help is best. He will not necessarily conform to what you want, and He acts in love not simply to play games or punish. Maybe the right approach is to be humble enough to receive his help because if we could fix things, we would’ve already.

Be humble – admit your powerlessness and cry to Him for help. There is little need for dramatics, only an honest longing is required.

This is the first step in not wasting your weaknesses. Humility is a real and intent filled preference for the way of God. Desire his way of doing things, get wisdom through the mundane routine activities you engage in.

Verse 2 to 3 aptly describes what we are familiar with and we only need look at our lives, especially our inner world and we see traces, if not the the same picture portrayed in the aforementioned verses. These verses point to the instability of the world all around us. It’s almost like things are moving in reverse of creation language in Genesis. Something de-creation like seems to be happening.

In verse 4, the “there is” is actually not present in the original language and it is added as an interpretive rendering. When you remove it, it becomes clear that the raging seas in verse 2 to 3 is what God has made into a river (and we get this impression of a calm, gently flowing, powerful, yet life giving river) that makes glad the dwelling place of the Most High.  The city of God likely refers to the temple of God, a place of worship and we have become temples of the Most High if we are in Him.

So the raging waters become an instrument in the hand of God. Now do you see why verses 2-3 speaks of not being afraid because of verse 1, where God actively seeks to be known by you?

And this is exactly why I believe we are not to waste our weaknesses

John Newton said “Everything is necessary that he sends. Nothing can be necessary that he withholds!” and I couldn’t have said it better. Yes it can be a difficult truth but it is a liberating one. All that is happening to you is to make you become more Christlike, if you would let God use it

We see a similar cry from Paul in 2 For 12:7-10

Let God leverage your weaknesses to make you into who he intends you to be.

Now, how might that happen?

Fortunately, there is no formula or x steps to take but a process, and a journey that takes place in the mundane routine acts of your life.

Here are some guidelines I am learning about on my journey with him:

1. Take time to reflect and contemplate the realities around you through the lens of God’s word and principles. To do this means you must have some margin and space in your life to be quiet

2. Hang on to the grace and truth of God. Arm yourself with truth from scriptures of his undying love for you.

3. Be objective about yourself. Be brutally honest with yourself. Apply truth rigorously to every area of your life. This you can do with God’s help

4. Know that it is a process, you will fall many times but his grace is abundant – Rom 5:17.

Trust me, you will need His grace.

You will come to see that you are more of a sinner than you ever understood (Jer 2:13, Jer 13:26, Jer 17:9, etc.) and you are more loved than you can begin to imagine (John 3:16, Isa 43:1-7, Isa 49, etc).

5. Keep moving on. God will never give up on you. I know this, for it is impossible for one who is love (not that he has love) to give up on his beloved.

Know that if there was an easier way for God to make you into who he intends you than the process you are in, he would rake that road. Why? Because he is love and love compels him to do so.

In the same breath, know that he is more than willing to take you through the wilderness (Hosea 2:14-15) if that is the way to make you into Christlikeness. Why? Because he is love and love compels him to do so.

Here is a great article that inspired this post: http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/don-t-waste-your-weaknesses-in-2014

May you always be with God as he is with you

Do not waste your weaknesses

One last call to action

When I imagine Paul writing the passage below to Timothy, his protege, I imagine a gentle yet firm posture from Paul.

It is gentle because he understands the many pitfalls and opposition Timothy faces and will face. It is firm because it is what loves demand

I am reminded that if there is any better way for God to mold us into who he intends us to be without the struggles and affliction, he would do that. Why? Because love demands it. And this gives me great comfort

I imagine there is a somberness to this letter to Timothy as Paul senses his end is near – 2 Tim 4:6-8, and with that posture Paul delivers a clarion call to Timothy. It is a call to arms of sorts, a final message to keep his beloved son, on the straight and narrow

“…Understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.

For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful,

unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.

Avoid such people.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

preach the word;

be ready in season and out of season;

reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”

May we ever be so ready to take up this charge, for His sake. Amen

 

One last call to action

Owning my journey

A farmer plows his field, sows the seed, and fertilizes and cultivates—all the while knowing that in the final analysis he is utterly dependent on forces outside of himself. He knows he cannot cause the seed to germinate, nor can he produce the rain and sunshine for growing and harvesting the crop. 

For a successful harvest, he is dependent on these things from God. Yet the farmer knows that unless he diligently pursues his responsibilities to plow, plant, fertilize, and cultivate, he cannot expect a harvest at the end of the season. In a sense he is in a partnership with God, and he will reap its benefits only when he has fulfilled his own responsibilities.

Farming is a joint venture between God and the farmer. The farmer cannot do what God must do, and God will not do what the farmer should do.

– Jerry Bridges, Pursuit of Holiness

In my opinion, the analogy given above is an accurate reflection of the tension between our responsibility in relationship with God and the part God plays. It paints a practical picture of Phil 2:12-13

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Therefore there is an ownership dimension to our walk with God. There is a responsibility that we are to take on and in love, God will not do it for us. We are to do this. It is part of what builds us into Christlikeness, into union with the Triune God.

Inasmuch as we avoid this responsibility, there can be no true transformation into Christlikeness.

Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Grace is not opposed to action, it is opposed to attitude. It is true that without God we can do nothing but you must also realize that if you do nothing, it will be without God. (Dallas Willard)

We are not waiting for God or grace. God is waiting for us. His grace, which is God coming to help us do what we cannot by ourselves do, is more than enough and in abundant supply.

May we truly be with him as he is with us. Amen

Owning my journey

The Gospel to Myself

Recently I have come to see my own depravity with certain things, not in a new light, but with a certain consistency and depth

As I mull over these things, I find the false humility waiting there to further expose my pride. It seems I can’t catch a break at all. I recall Martin Luther saying our entire life is that of repentance (or all of life is repentance).

My mind races to a story I have been coming across frequently – the rich young ruler in Mark 10:17-31 and Matt 19:17-30, and the phrase that keeps coming to convict and encourage me is this:

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (ESV)

Jesus looked hard at them and said, “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off yourself. Every chance in the world if you trust God to do it.” (MSG)

The truth is this phrase tires me out for I often do not know when I cross from depending on him to the prideful disposition of “I gat this”

I find that as I submit and grow in an area, and the wheels seem to be moving in the right direction, I often find that I want to run the show, and so often I find myself facing my (too) familiar depravity. and here’s the kicker…sometimes I knowingly embrace that depravity…Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me

While there is certainly a side of “owning” your journey, I do realize, it can never be done by your strength, and a coming to the end of yourself is required. You simply do not have what it takes to make “this” work out

And so I am coming to understand that I must see my own selfishness and sins as being more important than that of anyone else I am relating to. Indeed all of life is repentance, and I must regularly film my mouth with the bread of my sins, in confession to my King

And so as I recall Jesus’ famous words of “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”, I am encouraged.

Thank you Abba for being so, so merciful and loving. Words fail me to express my vastly insufficient gratitude for your grace. Thank you for being so willing to step into my world and be a part of this unworthy space.

As he so often does, I found God winking at me with this quote from Jerry Bridges:

To preach the gospel to yourself … means that you continually face up to your own sinfulness and then flee to Jesus through faith in His shed blood and righteous life. It means that you appropriate, again by faith, the fact that Jesus fully satisfied the law of God, that He is your propitiation, and that God’s holy wrath is no longer directed toward you.” “This is the gospel by which we were saved, and it is the gospel by which we must live every day of our Christian lives. … If you are not firmly rooted in the gospel and have not learned to preach it to yourself every day, you will soon become discouraged and will slack off in your pursuit of holiness.”

Thank you Abba!

The Gospel to Myself

Sin and Satisfaction

I sin because I seek satisfaction in something else other than what God offers. When I sin, it is because I believe there is something better than the promise of God.

Maybe I do not know what God offers; maybe I simply do not believe/trust in what he offers. Maybe I know it but I do not really believe it.

Regardless, my sin is choosing satisfaction in something or someone else other than God. And maybe this is why it is often said that pride resides at the base of most sins

Pride, here, refers to my presumption that I know what is next and/or best. It speaks to my rejection of the wisdom of the Sufficiency of All things and my dependence on finite human wisdom, if it can be called wisdom at all

This is a terrible decision on my part because of His faithfulness and eternal love for me (Jer 31:1-3)

It really is a travesty knowing that I cannot even see 5 minutes into the future yet I choose to ignore the One who created time itself

Here are two scriptures and a quote that God has been bringing to mind to convict me

Jer 31:3, AMP

The Lord appeared from of old to me [Israel], saying, Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn you and continued My faithfulness to you

Ps 16:8

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore

 JI Packer, knowing God

What matters supremely is not, in the last analysis, the fact that I know God, but the larger fact which underlies it — the fact that he knows me. I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind.

All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is not a moment when his eye is off me, or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, when his care falters.

This is momentous knowledge. There is unspeakable comfort — the sort of comfort that energizes, be it said, not enervates — in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me in love and watching over me for my good.

There is tremendous relief in knowing that his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery now can disillusion him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench his determination to bless me.

Abba, help me to choose you, to be overwhelmingly satisfied in you. Please convict me more and more. Draw me nearer unto you

Embed these truths into me, by your Spirit, so that they are second nature to me – for the sake of me living a life that is worthy of you, a life that is fully pleasing unto you.

Sin and Satisfaction

Thankful for Afflictions

There are times I am truly thankful for the challenges before me. I am grateful for the painful trial and the aches in my heart. It isn’t that I relish these seasons but I am thankful for them

I am thankful for such seasons as God has a creative way of using such pain to show me my frailty, weakness, blind spots, and most importantly my utter complete need of Him

Think with me for a bit. If God is Sovereign and All-sufficient then he must have known about such seasons before they come to be. Since He allowed it, it has to be that in his love and mercy, he has a purpose for it. It could be a singular purpose or a multi faceted one. It could be limited to you or to other parties.

If there was another, easier, way for God to continue to forge you into who he intends you to be, without the pain or ache, then love demands he takes that path. However if there is no other way, love compels him to take you through the valley of shadows

When I consider things the right way, I have this joyous hope (certain expectation not optimistic expectation), not in the end result that I desire, but in God, knowing that whatever He purposes for me, it will be good!

With such hope (certain expectation) I am better positioned to be fully dependent on Him. I can be more yielded because I have a certain expectation that good is coming out of this

Seasons of affliction aren’t easy (Heb 12:5-13). It usually is quite uncomfortable. There will sunlit and overcast days. Dependence on God becomes a life line not just for this season, but for the rest of life.

In some ways, I am beginning to see affliction as being a necessary part of our growth curve in God

Let me share certain outlooks that I have found helpful in my journey. As always, please do compare these ideas with the Word of God

1. In the midst of this painful time, do not rush out of the season. Do not be so quick to look for a way out. The journey is the goal for God, this is where you are are molded, bit by bit. It might take a while and sometimes it is downright uncomfortable but do not avoid the process. Stay with it. 

Let the pain drive you to God, to utter dependence on Him and stay in that place. Do all you can to stay in that place of dependence on him. Engage Him with that heart attitude that is associated with the poor in spirit 

2. Be open to follow God. Let go of all the deadlines and timelines you have. He exists outside of time and when he is leading, understand that he has taken all other things into consideration, even your hesitation to follow

Carve out time and space with God. Be faithful with this and churn on God’s words to you as much as possible. 

3. Do not let the pain or loneliness drive you to activities that dull your senses to the Holy One and what God has called you to do in this season. The activities do not have to be sinful. In my experience, the activities I run to usually make good sense but they are weights that are distracting

However by engaging in them, I am distrusting the One who called me and chose me from he end of the earth. By stepping out of the process, I am saying (through my actions) that I have a better way than the Almighty

Ruthlessly eliminate anything that subtly or directly stand against (or isn’t in complete alignment with) what God has said to you – even if that has to do with eliminating staples of your life like certain routines, friendships, harmless pleasure pursuits, etc.

4. Do not let “fun” cover up your “lack.” Rather let that “lack” humble you and drive you to God. Whatever the lack might be, let it spur you to cast yourself unto God. 

In this sense, your faith (which really is submission to God) or relationship with God should never be an accessory of something nice to have or something to engage when trouble stirs.

It should be to you, what air is to your lungs and physical health, what blood is to your internal physical system, what food is to your physical energy

5. Confess your sins often to God and trusted folks around you. Confession is not for God. It isn’t because God doesn’t know what you did. It also isn’t just an official statement so that you and God are on the same page.

Confession, as is with all of God’s directive, is primarily for your benefit. It is meant to help you see where you really are, to see your need of God, the necessity of his presence and to create godly sorrow that leads to repentance (2 Cor 7:9-10)

Confession for me has been powerful as it has been quite humbling. I do not see His rebuke (no matter how painful the realization) as condemnatory. Rather I see it as mercies that have a way of making me see my wretchedness. It also helps me mediate grace unto others because I see the extent of his love

Write down your confessions and revisit them so they serve to break your heart over and over again – leading to godly sorrow and repentance. 

There are times the enemy can leverage our inner critic to put us down and we must be careful here to ensure it is God doing the search and rescue (Ps 139:23-24)

6. Engage in disciplines/practices that open you up to God. For me a couple practices help:

  1. Worship reminds me of who He is and helps me look at things through His lenses. Worship heals my heart as I recall that I am His beloved! And yes so are the other millions of His children. His love is more than enough to go around lol
  2. Scripture Meditation (actively reviewing, repeating and/or thinking about scriptures to get different views) helps me get the truth of God into me such that it becomes second nature. It’s the same way how you respond to your name anytime because you have been called that all your life – your name has been actively repeated to you for so long it is second nature for you to respond to your name, sometimes even while you are asleep
  3. Reflection helps me stay aware with what God is doing in me; of what He is weaving in and through me. With reflection, I, potentially, connect dots that I would normally not connect. It is a wonderful thing  to see the trees that make up the forest and the forest itself. Seeing the synergies between both helps you to potentially distinguish between correlation and causation, to ultimately know God, to know myself and to see that man does not live by bread alone (Deut 8:2-3). Many times you see God admonishing us to “remember” who He is, to remember who we are, to recall His deeds, our history and the journey. Reflection helps me do this. Journaling helps me capture my reflections

This piece is not meant to glorify pain or encourage silly acts that leads to pain. This is also not meant to minimize anyone’s trials or make it seem like it is walk in the park. Not at all. Quite frankly, to come out refined you will have to truly rely on God. It is no mistake that apostles felt they were under the sentence of death in 2 Cor 1:8-9

While it is easy to think all the above applies to circumstances beyond your control. I believe it does also apply to situations you brought on yourself, where your mistakes have brought affliction on you

For those going through rough times, I leave you with the words  below for you to see and know you are in good company. May grace be multiplied to you for the sake of Christ:

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake (Phil 1:29)

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God (Acts 14:21-22)

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (2 Tim 3:12)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you (1 Peter 4:12-16)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Rom 5:3-5)

Thankful for Afflictions