Tag: insecurity

The Self-Talk That Is Killing You

There is no drama playing out in all the world that is more significant than the one being continually staged in the auditorium of our heads. Ours is an inner life filled with an ever developing script of characters dressed with the personas we give them, the sentences we write, the blanks we fill in—friend or foe, villain or hero, threatening or benign, hope or despair, regret or satisfaction, all a constant inner conversation striving to interpret and navigate our human experiences and direct them into a positive plot that circumvents pain and resolves dissonance into harmony.

Of all the scenes that are set under spotlight, the exclusive conversations we have with ourselves form the dialogues that leverage the strongest pull on the strings of our story. Nothing directs the chapters of our lives more than our self-talk—so much that our future is rarely the sole product of what manifests on stage, but rather the narration we pen of it in our inner conversations. Within seconds of every life interaction, we translate our experiences into internal, emotional and cognitive storylines and conclusions that forever shape our steps.

Above all that unfolds in front or behind the curtains of our psyche, we are the director of the drama in our inner life, and our directing, a sure product of the perceptions we embrace of the Author. If God exists, does He write scripts of hardship, adversity, or even pain into our lives for some kind of divine purpose? Is His affections for us filled with limits, conditions, inconsistencies, or even existent at all? Are the characters that fill the world’s stage fundamentally good, bad, or something in between? Is He mad, disappointed, or undecided about me? Is God truly love, or is He some kind of bipolar mixture with moments here and there of convenient amnesia? Should I place complete hope and faith in Him, or is it best that I live with one eye open? Are the plot lines in my life, negative or positive, written directly from the pen in His hand, or is something or someone else at play? So many factors and influences take the stage—parents, upbringing, faith, circumstances, and life experiences, all auditioning to write a verse or even commandeer the entire script as the Author in our heads.

That’s the reason why, for many of us, the person we are to ourselves isn’t so much in concert with the true Author of life, but far more in step with the Accuser of it—a constant voice of condemnation interpreting all of our existence towards the verdict of personal guilt and shame. Somehow, it’s always our fault. We are wrong even when we are right. Every moment of every day, drinking in and regurgitating out volumes of evil, twisted verses to our souls—I’ll never measure up, I’m a square peg in a round world, always a step below, a length behind, a stumble too far gone. Things will never get better, this is as good as it’s going to get. God hates me, I’m an abomination—the reason this is all happening. My life is a bitch in the ditch, a mess far beyond repair. I’m a misfit, a misprint, a miscue, and fundamentally, a grandiose mistake.

The truth is, the Accuser cannot speak to you what you aren’t first willing to say to yourself. Often, the lens through which we see our lives is so skewed by inner condemnation, shame, and inadequacy that the person gazing back at us in the mirror reveals the image of one who has been repeatedly and brutally raped by our self-talk to the point that our true beauty, strength, wholeness, and divinity is nowhere to be seen—buried under the bed of our self-inflicted adultery. Tainted by a diabolical world that’s been allowed penetration onto our cerebral stage, our self-talk is killing us—and not just killing us, but unceasingly thrusting Jesus back upon the cross in full declaration and conclusion that when all is said and done, His Grace is not sufficient—at least not for us. The words we speak, the evils we echo to our soul are the nails that crucify us and Him, over and over again—our self-talk, locking the shackles that are imprisoning our every step.

The verbal selfie you take in your mind is the most influential image in your life. Like a resurrected Lazarus who was nothing more than a card-carrying member of the walking dead until his burial wraps were removed, we will never be fully alive until the death we speak to ourselves is shown for its utter uselessness and imprisonment, and thus unraveled and replaced with words of life—because we have finally become convinced by the Convincer, we are not dead, but teeming with divine Light.

For you are the loveliness of Jesus, the prize for which He became a person. You are whole, complete, forever without blemish—never discarded or labeled as damaged goods. Nothing less than pure delight and affection has come from God’s heart to yours. On the cross, Jesus did far more than ankle-yank you out of hell into heaven, He remade you, and all that is Him is all that is now you. Nothing can revoke or remove God’s perfect, unconditionally unconditional love for you. You are fully qualified for every good thing. No sin, past, present, or future shall ever define you nor cast a shadow upon your image. As far as the east is from the west, inadequacy and shame are forever removed from your path.

My child, there is nothing wrong with you, no doubts to haunt your potential nor twitches to sabotage good things. Your capacity to face life is nothing less than Jesus’ capacity to face death—resurrection and redemption are who you are. To God, you are not merely a person to love, you are the reason God is love. Above all else, you are an experience to Him, the candy in the store that fills the heavens with joy, satisfaction, and pride. The mere thought of you tickles His sides with laughter and sends Him blazing through streets of gold with a gleam in His eyes brighter than a thousand suns.

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time where the God who is perfect love does not perfectly and completely love you—all of you, everything about you. Every feeling, decision, and conclusion in your regard has already been formed and sealed in ecstatic, irrevocable and unremovable love. There is nothing you can do or become that can undo or improve upon what God has already put to rest—the internal, tormenting conversation you constantly wage with yourself wrestling with the value, worth, essence and summation of your life. There is nothing left to talk about or debate—there is nothing unsettled that hasn’t been settled. You are divine beauty, God’s best idea—no matter what others, and more importantly, no matter what you might say.

When we are the person weighted with depression—engulfed in the quicksands of discouragement. When we are the person held captive by self directed unforgiveness—hopelessly circling on sin’s merry-go-round, spinning our lives out of control. When we are the person eclipsing ourselves, standing in the way of shiny new things—striving, trying, and performing our way to somehow redeem our storyline and make a name and a significance of ourselves. Before all, and in all, we are first the person whose self-talk is diseased with words of condemnation and condition that ooze out a soul-hemorrhaging puss dripping from our mouths as we sing from the Accuser’s songbook.

Seeking to change our circumstances often proves futile, seeking to change our self-talk is the good fight of faith—the work of God that is to fully rest our souls and our self assessments on how deep, wide, scandalous, and expansive is the love of Jesus upon our every atom.

The greatest battle in your life is to be convinced of the Author’s conclusions when the Accuser blows his hallucinogenic smoke into your eyes hoping you’ll believe something less. There is nothing to work on in your life, there is only everything to believe on about your life. Jesus did not die to save you from an angry God, but to save you from believing He is. For guilt is anger turned inward, the death cocktail of the Accuser served for the consumption of your self-talk to rid you from seeing all that His hands have made—the perfection that is you.

God is good, He is love. He has nothing but grace, joy, hope, acceptance, affirmation, and freedom to speak into you.

Never let a thought be in your head of self evaluation or conclusion that is not first a thought in His, nor a conversation ensue within you that is not first wrought from the Father, Son, and the Spirit as they brag about you.

Then, the self-talk that is killing you soon becomes the Jesus-talk that frees you to fully be who you fully already are… Jesus anew.

How to Truly Love Yourself Always

You aren’t stupid. You are just honest. You want to love yourself, but find it hard at times. You see the imperfections, the mistakes, the areas where you feel you don’t measure up. You are your own worst critic, spending most of your day analyzing your every move and people’s reactions to you. At the end of the day, you turn in your score card. Some good moments, some in between, some not so good.

Now, for the real question, the closing question of the day. How much can I truly love myself? How can I truly love a less than perfect performance. I know my secrets thoughts, my hidden desires, my concealed decisions. How can I truly love myself with all the contradictions in my life?

The truth is, if you focus on your performance in life, true love of self will always elude you. We can never measure up, make the mark, turn in a perfect report card. At best, we learn to accept ourselves and tolerate our shortcomings. But love ourselves completely… no so much.

The problem lies within what we are using to measure our lovability. Most of turn to our performance in life as the measure of our lovability. This is where we have gone wrong and given Satan the keys to our heart.

The truth is, your identity and true self is not attached to what you are doing or not doing in your life or with your life.

When Jesus died on the cross, He did much more than merely doing something FOR you (making it possible for you to go to heaven), He did something TO you. On the cross, the old you was put to death, and through His resurrection, an entirely new you was created. All of what God has done TO you on the cross becomes awakened in your life the moment you believe in Him and His performance on your behalf.

Loving yourself is about loving the real you. The real you is separate from what you are doing or not doing. The real you, the Bible teaches, is a “new creation.” The real you is holy, sanctified, whole, lacking no spiritual blessing, having the mind of Christ, a partaker of the divine nature (not sin nature), seated with Christ, and having the full righteousness of Christ. You are completely forgiven, past, present and future and stand with no condemnation whatsoever. You are an heir, priest, son (or daughter), and king in the Kingdom of God. Jesus lives in you and as you in this world.  This is the real you, this is who you are NOW, regardless of your performance.

The key to loving yourself is in loving the real you. It is in loving the Performer (Jesus) not your performance. It’s about loving His finished and perfect work in your life, not your unfinished and imperfect work. On the cross, all of the work on your life was declared “finished.” There is nothing left for you to do “on” yourself but to enjoy and live out what God has already done TO you. It’s not becoming who you aren’t, but fully being who you already are. Who you are is based on Him, not on you, it is based on what He has done TO you, not what you are doing WITH you. You identity is not defined by your performance, but rather your performance is defined by your identity in Him. The more you believe completely in the real you, the more you will live better, wiser, and more secure. Our actions always follow our beliefs.

Truly love yourself. God does. It is not based on what you are or not doing, but His love for you. He loved  the old you no less than He loves the real you. Don’t focus on your lovability, but on His loveliness. Why? Because His loveliness has now become your loveliness. The more you see Him, the more you will see the real you.

There should now never be another moment where you do not truly love yourself. There is no reason and will never be a reason why not to, and there is every reason to… love you.

Stupid Stuff We Believe

Sometimes it isn’t until we hear ourselves say it, or read it on a page that we realize just how stupid some of the things we believe truly are. These are the kind of things we hate to admit, and would probably never say out loud, but we really do believe them in our hearts.

Take a look at the list below at some of the stupid stuff we secrety believe. We would never tell anyone to believe these things, yet we do so everyday.

1- If 10 people compliment you about something, you should really listen more to the 1 person who criticizes you about it.

2- When you don’t always please the people around you, you are not as good of a person as you should be.

3- You need to have it all figured out before you start anything new in your life.

4- God loves you, but sometimes He is disappointed with you, shaking His head with frustration.

5- Someday you will be happy, once things come together or you find the right person.

6- You need your children to like you in order to feel good as a parent.

7- You need to punish yourself or alteast keep yourself from being too happy because of the mistakes you have made in your life.

8- You can change them

9- The more people value you, love you, and think well of you, the more valuable, loveable, and likeable you really are.

10- Jesus mainly wants you to be really upset about your sin, get your butt to church, clean up your act, and do more good than bad.

Which of these do you believe deep down?
What would you add to this list?

Navigating People’s Opinions of You

God has created us, in part, for relationships with people. Relationships are a huge blessing from God. He desires for us to be skilled at healthy relationships and experience intimacy with others.

Yet, relationships can become a source of unhealth in our lives when they take on poisonous dynamics God never intended.

One such dynamic is when people’s opinions of us gain more influence in our lives than they should.  Everyone seems to have an opinion regarding just about everything, including you. Perhaps everyone is entitled to their opinion, but they aren’t entitled to have you automatically taking their opinions to heart. Between someone’s opinions of you and you taking that opinion to heart should be a lot of filters and checkpoints.

Unfortunately, it’s hard not to be negatively influenced by people’s opinions or rejections of us.  We care about what people think, but often, way too much. Some of us still hold on to negative things people have said about us years ago and allow their opinions to rule, dictate, and influence our thoughts, emotions, and lives. The good news is, it is possible to be a good listener, and a loving and a caring person without letting people’s opinions of us rule our thoughts, emotions, and decisions.

Problems with relationships in terms of insecurity, codependancy, and a lack of healthy boundaries (especially when it comes to people’s opinions of us) can often be traced to having wrong or distorted beliefs. When you and I believe rightly about ourselves, people, and relationships, we are far more equipped to navigate people’s opinions of us. Right believing is the key to having right relationships and handling relationships rightly.

Here are some things that are working in my life as I try to navigate people’s opinion’s of me.

1) Believe in who you are in Christ-   Believing in what Christ has done FOR you is important, but equally important is believing in what Jesus has done TO you, especially in our relationships with other people.  I can’t be secure in a relationship until I am secure in myself.

Jesus has made you into His righteousness; no matter what people say, there is nothing wrong with you! You are completely forgiven (past, present, and future), whole, and possessing every spiritual blessings. It is no longer your nature to sin, that was completely put to death on the cross. Sin, shame, guilt, and failure are not your identity. There is no condemnation over any aspect of your life. You are not just a child of God, but a son, daughter, king, and priest. Jesus has put everything under your feet as you sit with Him at the right hand of the Father. You are a new creation, a new species, more than human, perfectly and completely loved by God. Jesus lives not only in you, but AS you in this world. This is what Jesus has done TO you. As you believe this, you will walk in life with a new assurance, security, purpose, peace, and strength. No circumstance, person, issue, challenge, insult, or accusation can unravel what God has knit together in you. You are unstoppable. Fear, insecurity, anxiety, and guilt are no longer your master, nor can people use them to manipulate and discourage your life.  You are poised to meet every challenge with Grace. As He is, so are you in this world.

This is who you are, in Christ.  No person’s opinion of you should gain more influence over you than what Jesus has done TO you, the moment you believed. Let people say what they want ABOUT you, because they can never change what Jesus has done TO you. Believe that!

2) Believe that your goal in life (and relationships) is NOT to have people like you- People don’t have to like you, agree with you, value you, nor accept you in order for you to be in truth a caring, loving, and good person.  People’s opinion of you don’t and shouldn’t be allowed to define you, God’s opinions should. People have been known to believe one thing one moment, and another, another moment. People believe some of the most ridiculous and misguided things. Chasing after the positive opinions and reactions of people will leave you spinning like a breakdancer on crack. The goal of your relationships with people is to love them, not to derive your value and worth from their opinions or reactions to you. When it comes to God, it is better to receive than to give, but when it comes to people, it is better to give than receive. The goal of your life and relationships is not orchestrate and direct the applause and acceptance of people towards you. Nor is it to gain their approval so that you can approve of yourself.  The goal of your relationships is to love and bless, where possible.

3) Believe that God is your best supply for your sense of value, approval, and worth– God knows you better than anybody, and God is the one who determines your worth, approval rating, and value. Believing this is true of God over that of people is critical to say the least. God’s approval, and the value and worth He places on you should be your emotional and relational home base. The approval or disapproval of others should never become our emotional foundation. God is your best supply. He loves you with an everlasting love. He created, saved, and sanctifies you. No one can carry out the good work He has begun in you, nor does anyone hold His position to speak most clearly, accurately, consistently, and truthfully in and about your life.

4) Believe that not everybody’s opinions of you matter- If you believe every person’s opinions or reactions to you should be valued equally, you will for sure be a relational and emotional basket case. Some people’s opinions of us should have more value and influence than others.  Stop taking to heart the opinions of people who don’t matter. And the truth is, there are going to be a good number of people in your life whose opinions should matter very little, if at all.  No, it’s not about being rude or caring yourself in a rude way, it is about stewarding the life God has given you.

At the same time, you should surround yourself with people who love, value, and encourage you for who you are in Christ and His purposes in life. These are people who will never leave your side, and yet are willing to speak the truth in love to you, even if it hurts. You will likely only have a handful of these people in a lifetime, and with them, you should give more value and thought to their opinions.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Essentials to Healthy Relationships

Relationships can be complicated, and figuring out how to have healthy ones can be a difficult puzzle to put together.  Obviously there are tons of books written on relationships, but here are 5 essential principals to having healthy, fulfilling relationships.

Become Complete in Christ– Here’s a game changing truth… no one can complete you other than Christ.  The moment we look to relationships to complete us is the moment we are placing an expectation on another that they were not created to nor do they have the capacity to fulfill. Danger Will Robinson, DANGER! Unfortunately, we often approach and carry ourselves in relationships expecting other people to convince us of what we cannot convince ourselves… that we are valuable, important, and worthwhile.  In short, we look to them to complete us and validate our worth.

By being complete in Christ, we are not talking about being perfect, but being assured and convinced of your true identity in Christ. This is a healing to your soul that no other person can accomplish for you. Only God can make you into a new person, and faith is what enables you to believe it. No person can replace nor substitute for the voice from God that must be received by faith that declares who you truly are in Him. Without this identity in Christ and believing it to be true, you will likely turn to human relationships to prop you up and convince you of what you are not convinced. You will operate out of insecurity, uncertainty, and selfishness.

No one can make you happy, complete you, or heal you. They can only share in a happiness you already have, compliment your strengths and weaknesses, and grow with you (not for you or because of you).  Two incomplete people do not make for a complete relationship.

Find your Worth and Value in Jesus

In marriage, a man and woman become one flesh. They are joined at the deepest point of their identities, their souls. Yet their worth and value are not conditioned on the other person. They are two, separately complete persons joined into a complete relationship.

Often times we look to other people to show us how we should feel about ourselves. If they love us, we love us. If they are happy with us, we are happy with us. This is why some people have a hard time being without certain kinds of relationships. They need someone to love them so they can love themselves; to feel good about them, so they can feel good about themselves.  Furthermore, they will do all kinds of unhealthy things in order to get or keep that person in their lives and happy with them. Indeed they have connected the tubes of their identity to the supply of another person. This, as you might guess, is a recipe for relational unhealth.

Relationships work when we are giving to give, not to ultimately receive. We are blessed by what others give us, but when we turn to people for our worth and value, we are trying to satisfy deep needs with things only God can satisfy.

Jesus is more than happy to show you your tremendous and eternal value and worth. He loves you like no other in a way that no other can. Look to Him as your supply, not others, then you will be capable of true love and loving relationships.

Communicate with Openness and Honesty

Nothing sabotages healthy relationships like a lack of openness and honesty. You can’t expect from another what you aren’t willing to express to another.

As a pastor of 18 years, I have counseled hundreds of people in various kinds of relationships. Hands down, when a marriage or friendship is in trouble, 95% of the time in can be traced back to a time when one or both of the persons in the relationship were not being completely open and honest. Things that needed to be said, weren’t said. Boundaries that needed to be asserted, were not asserted. Expectations and disappointments that needed to be communicated, were not communicated. Instead, things were watered down, swept under the carpet, and shoved into the shadows with the false hope… it’s no big deal, things will get better in time, it’s not worth a confrontation, time will heal things.

What’s the result? Bitterness and resentment enter in. Wedges and distance begins to develop. Passive aggressiveness and revenge are given a cause.  And ultimately, the relationship erodes.

Trust God’s Timing

Relationships can’t be rushed. If all you want are disposable, hot and cold, shallow relationships, than by all means, rush ahead. Microwave the heck out of that relationship.  But the truth is, the things that build a healthy relationship can’t be rushed.

I am amazed how the same people who can’t seem to keep their pants on and wait, are the same people who cry foul when the relationship plummets to the ground.  If you are going to build your relationship out of a house of cards, don’t be surprised when even the slightest wind sends it falling to the ground.

Relax. Rest in Jesus. Trust God’s timing, don’t rush to find friendships and relationships just because you look around and compare your life to other people. God knows what’s best for you and when it’s best for you. Stop trying to get people into your life and to be interested in your life.

Remember this, when it comes to relationships, if you rush ahead and try to take it for yourself, don’t be surprised when it slips through your finger. But if you wait and let God give it to you, you can have it forever.

Own Your Blindspots

When it comes to relationships, we are all damaged goods in the sense that we have all been hurt in relationships. It’s hard not to let those memories influence our attitudes and actions within relationships.

The worst thing you can do is try to hide and deny your blindspots. This will surely lead to unhealthy relational behaviors and patterns.

Blindspots are simply areas where we don’t see things clearly or even at all because of past experiences. For example, maybe you have a hard time trusting because you were betrayed, or maybe you feel overly insecure because of some physical abuse that happened in your past.  These kind of spots within your history become blind to us when we aren’t willing to be honest with ourselves about their existence and/or impact on our lives. If you have healed from these experiences, praise God. As a part of your story, you are going to want to be aware of how God has and is using that experience in your life.

We all have areas where you need to grow, don’t live in denial. God’s grace is sufficient for you.  He is not attracted to your strengths, but to your weaknesses. Where you are weak, God is strong. Believe in His favor over you! Trust Him with the dark places of your life, allow Him and trust Him to heal and grow you. Let Him take the wheel of your healing and wholeness. Don’t try to become better, let Him make you brand new!  God wants you to rest in His Grace, and receive His favor. It’s not about your performance, its about His performance on the cross for your behalf!

Being aware of these blindspot areas is critical to partnering with God to having these areas becoming a blessing in your relationships and not a curse. Allow God to love, heal, and forgive you.  Out of that love, grace, and favor, you can truly give to another!

Much More Than You Think

One of the things that breaks God’s heart the most is when we underestimate or under-prize the depth and expanse of His love.

We have portrayed God far too long as primarily a heavy-handed, temperamental judge who takes pleasure in throwing His weight around.  For many, they see God’s deepest desire for them as to spend their life constantly undressing themselves of the garments of sin as they simultaneously try to contribute more good than bad to their performance account.  They sadly see the foundational desire of Jesus upon their life as “Do more good, sin less” That’s the stride and striving of their life.

Somehow, we have called this pursuit “faithfulness.” But this term has really become a spiritual veil to an empty faith. A house of cards covering a secretly abandoned trust. The very thing we call “faith-full-ness” is the very thing that focuses our hearts and satisfactions “fully” on our performance and away from the performance of the only One who “Is good, and sins not.”  We are not trusting, we are trying.

Meanwhile, God is dancing to gather our attention away from ourselves and our striving. Like a playful, smiling father trying to capture the attention of his preoccupied children, God desires to turn our eyes away from sin and striving to His heart and His cheerful Grace-giving.

What a sobering thought, maybe we have missed it? The meaning and desire of Jesus upon our life. Maybe in all our thinking about sin and doing more good, we missed what our heart and minds were suppose to be captivated by. Has Satan distorted our sights once again with his not-so funhouse of mirrors.

God loves you much more than you think, and probably more than your ego can stand. Isn’t that our resistance? Our ego. We want to earn our part, to have merited our standing. Can’t we just have a little of the credit, or have paid a little bit of the price?  His love for me now has gotta have something to do with my living somehow.  Let me just have a piece of the performance pie, I’ll make the grade, or make up for the grade. Everything else works by a merit system, why can’t Jesus and living for Him.

God loves you much more than you think. He is not mad at you or passive-aggressively waiting to pull the carpet out from under you. He’s not like Lucy who entices you to kick the football with flirts of trustability only to wrench it out of your stride the moment you extend your faith. He loves you perfectly, completely, currently, and eternally. His love is not bound or influenced by your past, present, or future. The Grace card is not a score card, it’s a pre-paid card. You are forgiven all your sins and sinfulness, whether you asked or not. Your only escape from Grace is disbelief not disobedience.  Faith is what makes God’s Grace a transaction applied to your account. What was “paid in full” becomes “applied in full.”  In fact, when you look at the quality of Jesus, He is an overpayment for your transgression.  Faith is not asking for something to happen, faith is believing it has and will happen. While you are striving to live better, Jesus has already made you better. While you are trying to side step sin, Jesus has given you an entirely new walk. While you are trying to do good things, Jesus made you more than good, He made you righteousness.

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want your life, or for you to “give your life to Jesus.” In fact, He put your old life to death on the cross, knowing of it’s deep decay, deceit, and doom. How can you give what you don’t have? The cross was the second flood, this time of blood, drowning the old broken life of sin. You don’t have a life to give. Filthy rags, yes. Life, no. In His resurrection, He made you brand new. When you believe in Him and His work on the cross, you become reborn. What God has done becomes what is now. You are no longer you, you are “Christ in you.” You are forgiven (past, present, and future), righteous, having every spiritual blessing. You are a partaker of the divine nature. Not just a child, but a son (or daughter) of the living God.  You are an heir of the promise of God to rule and reign with Christ now and forever. You are seated with Christ at the right hand of God (from such a high view how can we have such a low sense of self and God).  You are royalty. A new creation. Without blemish. There is no condemnation over your life whatsoever. You are no longer by nature a “sinner.” You are not defined by your performance, but by your faith in Jesus’ performance. Hallelujah!

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want you to live a sin-conscious life of striving, but a Grace conscious life of resting. He doesn’t want you to see yourself as a sinner in obedience training, but a saint in faith training. Right belief leads to right living. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. That’s why the job of the Holy Spirit is no longer to convict you of the sin of your disbelief in Jesus, but to convince you of your righteousness in Christ. He wants you to be free from the painful and exhausting  shackles of religion and all it precepts and prescriptions. No more going through the motions, much more living from your promotion from death to life, solely based on Jesus’ behavior, not yours. His work, not yours.  No more fake it to make it, much more believe it to live it.

God loves you much more than you think. In Him you are successful and significant apart from your achievement. He doesn’t want you living stressfully towards some future success or significance, but from the current and complete success and significance you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you trying to become something, He wants you living from the everything you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you pursuing life from a foundation of performance that can easily break down and brake away, but from a foundation of faith in Jesus who’s performance is perfect with His love, work, Grace and presence in your life never breaking down nor breaking away. Jesus doesn’t want you living with any insecurity, fear, or sense of lacking in who you are. He doesn’t want you walking into any moment or setting with even the slightest sense of insecurity, but with a complete assurance of the royalty and wholeness you already are in Him.

God loves you much more than you think.  He wants your life and living to be wrapped in peace and assurance, knowing of God’s full love and Grace for your life. If you were to do nothing more and become nothing else, He would love you just the same.  He is proud of you, as is. Your faith is what pleases Him, not your striving and do-gooding. You are blessed to be a blessing, so find what you love to do and enjoy God using it to build His Kingdom and manifest His love and Grace into the world. He will lead and prompt you each step of the way. So rest instead of rush. You don’t have to do anything, you get to do it, it’s a gift. Discover the joy that comes from manifesting the Grace of Jesus to the world in the way God designed you to do it, and enjoy it.  He loves you.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! –Romans 5:17

The Secret Behind Your Inner Struggles

For many years, I lived a life where I was ruled by insecurity, worry, guilt, and failure. I was pouring a lot of effort into trying to be a better person, but with no real success.  Many inner (and outer) aspects of my life were a struggle at some level or another.  My thought life and self-talk were overly negative, my faith was riddled with doubts, and my character was lacking and cracking.

I am sure there were contributing factors, including a difficult childhood. Yet, the bottom line was, like many people, I became ruled by my inner struggles to the point they were allowed the power to define much of my life. Even worse, I didn’t realize the effect this was having… spiritually, emotionally, and physically.  I suspect a lot of people currently walk around like I did, where the outside might look all put together, but the inside… not so much.

When I was a boy, part of my chores during the summertime was to pick the prickle weeds from our 2 acre lawn. This task would take hours each weekend as the prickle weeds quickly grew back during the week.  One Saturday morning, my dad gently pulled me aside and instructed me to adjust my strategy and pick the prickle weeds out by their root, instead of justing cutting off what appeared on the surface. He suggested in a whisper, “This will keep you from having to do this every weekend because they won’t grow back”  He was right, taking a little more time to pick them from the root saved me a lot of time later.

We all have weeds in the lawn of our inner lives… pain, guilt, insecurity, failures, inadequacies, worry, fear, secrets, doubts etc.  Each and every day we spend hours of mental and emotionally energy trying to keep these weeds from showing up as we attempt to trim the surface of our lives. Yet, the same struggles keep growing back, hour after hour, day after day, week after week. Why? Because we never get to the root.

And yet, our heavenly father gently pulls us aside and says, “If you like, I can show you the root of your inner struggles and how they can be healed.”

Condemnation is the Root of your Struggles  

The deepest and most subtle card Satan can play to steal, kill, and destroy from your life is condemnation. Condemnation seeks to have you conclude that you are guilty as something or for something and that your circumstances or actions are doomed to or already determine a negative conclusion. Something is wrong with you and/or your actions that define you and/or your future as lacking in some way. Condemnation produces stress an causes us to feel like if there is any chance to move forward, we will need to perform our way out.  Yet, most of the time, condemnation cuts right to the chase and sends the message, “there is no way out, no matter what you do.”

Condemnation comes in almost limitless forms, and Satan loves to plant it in our spirits in often very subtle ways.

In fact, I am convinced that the reason why many men don’t attend church is because of Satan’s success at sowing in them a spirit of condemnation.  At home, their wives unknowingly take cues out of Satan’s play book as they send a subtle or not so subtle message that their husbands are behind spiritually and will never catch up to their expectations.  The message is quite clear no matter how it is packaged, they aren’t doing what they should be doing for their spouse, children, and family. Condemnation, condemnation, and more condemnation. Additionally, once they do come to church, they are given message after message of how their behavior doesn’t make the grade and they are failing as fathers, husbands, and men. And very likely, if they ever do finally come to church, the pastor greets them with a “Hey dude, where have you been? It’s been like years since you have been at church.”   For most men, they are insecure enough already, and Satan just loves to add on more and more messages of condemnation to cage them in.

Satan loves to take what is intended as constructive correction and shape it into condemnation through an inner thought life of insecurity and shame. And the messages of condemnation are everywhere in our culture for men and women alike to absorb.  It’s the look in their eye as they size you up, the model on the cover of a magazine that you can never live up to, it’s your employer who never seems satisfied with your work, it’s the correction that leads to you to concluding that you should be ashamed and filled with guilt, it’s the joy or rewarding of another that leaves you comparing and concluding yourself as less of a person.

Condemnation is the root, and  things like insecurity, stress, disease, pride, fear, anxiety, depression, religion, legalism, anger, impulsive decisions, perfectionism, performance, a critical spirit, rules, shame, and guilt are the fruit. All of the areas of your life where you find inner struggle can be traced back to a spirit or feeling of condemnation Satan has sowed in that or some connected area of your life.

The ultimate healing in your life is when God’s Grace is applied through faith to the deepest and widest areas of condemnation in your life. Grace is the ultimate game changer!

Condemnation blocks God’s Favor

God has extravagant, endless favor for your life. His mercy and transforming power are miraculous. That’s why one of the greatest costs of condemnation is that when you believe it about yourself, segments of yourself, or your circumstances, it blocks God’s favor. Why? Because the result of condemnation is disbelief, and God’s favor will not move in your life without your faith. A person who feels condemned is not going to truly believe in the love and Grace of God for their life.  They might go to church, sing the songs, say the prayers, and go through the motions, but they don’t truly believe in the loveliness of Jesus and His complete and thorough Grace for their life. Instead, they hold onto some portion of their performance (or bad performance) in life, works, and obedience (or disobedience) for their sense of security and identity. This blocks the release of God’s favor because they are putting their faith in themselves rather in the finished work of Jesus on the cross. As you believe it, you receive it, as you receive it, you live it.

The true, comprehensive graciousness of God releases us to truly put our entire faith in Jesus, and faith releases God to move in our lives. It doesn’t take a lot of faith, but it does take faith. Condemnation is the great faith-killer, that’s why it’s Satan most priced weapon to steal, kill, and destroy in your life.

Yet, God says, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” Romans 8:1. The job of the Holy Spirit in the non-believer’s life is to convict (not condemn) that person of their disbelief (or wrong belief) in Jesus. The job of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life is to convince that person of their righteousness in Christ.  God’s wants people to first get the identity of His Son Jesus right through faith, and then get their own identity right as forgiven, righteous children and sons of God, also through faith.

Condemnation Poisons your Identity

In the same way, condemnation poisons your identity. Satan knows if he can get you to believe the wrong things about yourself, he can easily get you to do the wrong things in life. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. The Bible says, “as a man thinks, so he is.”  God wants you believe that in Christ you have everything and are everything, Satan wants you to believe you are nothing and lack everything.

Condemnation is the root of all insecurity and identity distortion.

What you believe about yourself can only be cured by what you believe about God and His work in and on behalf of your life. When you see and believe in the loveliness of Jesus and His Grace for your life you will see and believe in the loveliness of you. The quality of Jesus becomes the quality of you.

In fact, the bible states that, “if you are in Christ, you are a new creation.”  You’re sins, past, present and future, have all been forgiven. You are the righteousness of Christ, with nothing “wrong” with you.  You lack nothing and have every spiritual blessing. You are a partaker of the divine nature. Greater is He that lives in you than is in the world. You are no longer defined by your performance, but by the beauty of Jesus and His finishing work on the cross.  You stand with no condemnation in your life. Guilt and same need no longer to rule your heart and actions. You are totally complete in Christ.

Satan wants to reduce or completely take away your sense of who you truly are. His greatest weapon to do so is condemnation.

 

Moving Away from Insecurity

So, do you want the real solution to insecurity?

I believe as the Bible declares, “as a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”  The way we see ourselves is foundational to how we go about living our lives, especially when it comes to dealing with things like insecurity. This is a critical truth to understand. Identity problems lead to living-life problems. It’s hard for people to make you feel insecure about something in your life that you first don’t have a certain amount of insecurity about within yourself.

Much of how we see ourselves (our identity) has been influenced by how we believe God sees us, even if the reality of God hasn’t been a significant topic of care or concern in your life. The perceived reality of or absence of God is a concept all humans give much mental and emotional attention, and much of the conclusion we draw are of great influence on our thoughts and conclusions about ourselves.

It is our sense of identity that has tremendous influence in our security of self. Whether we are secure or insecure as a person has much to do with our sense of identity. The challenge is, in order to truly deal with issues of security and insecurity in our lives, we need to examine our beliefs about God and our beliefs about our self in order to get to the root and vines of insecurity. For it is within our identity (which is deeply influenced from our sense of God) that we find the issues and remedy for insecurity.

With that in mind, not that I want to box in or label anyone, but for the sake of this post, there is one of 3 general categories people will likely fit into when it comes to their beliefs about God and how they are worked out in their lives, especially their identity.

Category 1) You don’t see Jesus as your Savior.

Category 2) You see Jesus as your Savior, but still live your life with a reoccurring sense of condemnation, guilt, and lack.

Category 3) You see Jesus as your Savior, and live you life with no sense of condemnation and believe you lack nothing.

All three of these have critical things in common. All three bottom line on 1) how you see (or what you believe about) Jesus 2) how you see yourself 3) how you see that your life should be lived. Additionally, depending on which category you fit into best, each will have a huge impact on your sense of security in self. In fact, only one category truly leads to having victory over insecurity, the other two lead to insecurity.

Let’s take a closer look into each of these categories as you discern into which one you might best fit.

People in Category 1 don’t see Jesus as their Savior. To them, He might be a very wise teacher, a very spiritual man, or simply a great motivator, but He is not seen as their Savior.  Some people in this category don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they have intellectual issues with doing so. Perhaps they don’t even believe there is a god at all or that all religions represent or lead to God. Others don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they are applying other methods and solutions to remedy or improve their life. They don’t see Jesus as their Savior because they believe in simple terms they don’t  really need to. Some are outwardly satisfied with their lives as is, feel they can make it through on their own, or don’t believe they need anyone or anything to “save” them.

People in Category 2 are Christians by profession. They believe they need Jesus and that Jesus died for their sins.  Yet, they believe that their closeness with God and many other aspects of their current life with God are based on their spiritual performance.  Though they might be saved, much of God’s presence and blessing are based on their performance in life. As a Christian, they believe they need to continually ask God for forgiveness to maintain their right standing with God.  They believe that they are still by nature, prone to sin and must battle to feed the old self (they believe still exists within themselves) more than then new self in order to have victory. When they sin, they still harbor levels of shame and guilt as they conclude God’s judgement and condemnation are still upon them. For them, God’s punishment is an every present possibility, and whether or not His favor is upon them is in direct proportion to their performance.  Though they received God’s salvation through a sure sense of Grace, they approach their spiritual walk with a sense that God’s love for them and His work in their life has many conditional elements upon which their performance hinges.  They tend to believe that  too much Grace leads to furthering a life of sin and encouraging unfaithfulness. Beyond having faith and belief, their efforts are seen as a critically important part of determining the closeness, stability, and standing of their relationship with God. For them, a primary job of the Holy Spirit is to convict both the unbeliever and the believer of their sin.

People in Category 3 are Christians by faith. They believe they need Jesus and that Jesus died for their sins. Yet, they believe that they have become completely new creations (creatures) in Christ.  Other than their earthly flesh, their entire self including their old sinful (Adam) nature is completely gone as it was crucified with Christ. As a new person, they see themselves as the righteousness of Christ, receiving every spiritual blessing, having had their sins (past, present, and future) forgiven on the cross. They don’t believe it is any longer their core nature to sin, but rather that sin has now become unnatural to them.  Additionally, they don’t believe they need to continually ask God to forgive them (sin that was accomplished on the cross) but rather to continually apply their faith in His finished work on the cross, knowing that it is not their performance that determines their standing, closeness, or favor with God, but rather their standing that is to determine their performance.  Their spiritually life is not a battle between two natures within themselves, but rather the desires of the flesh verses the leading of the Spirit of God.  For them, the primary job of the Holy Spirit is to convict the world of their unbelief of Jesus and convince believers of their righteousness in Christ. They believe that having been given Grace and having been graced with many blessings, it is their privilege, passion, and honor to live their lives diligently building the Kingdom and cooperating with the Spirit’s work in their life. It is because God first loved them that they love.

So let’s talk about how these categories effect our identities and thus our sense of security in self.

For those in category 1, their identities are based on their performance, other’s opinions, or the circumstances around their life. If they believe in a different religion than Christianity, their belief system will dictate that much of their standing with God and His feeling towards them are directly related to what they do or don’t do in life.  All other religions apart from Christianity have this conditional moving-upward-to-God system of beliefs. If they don’t believe in God, they are left with themselves, others, and/or their circumstances as the source of their identity and self evaluation.

At times, for those in category 1, the opinions of other have a profound influence on their opinion of themselves. Furthermore, the circumstances of their life have a great impact on their self evaluation. Many internal and external factors dictate their self esteem. For example, for some, if their physical appearance is pleasing, they feel adequate. Perhaps for others, if their financial circumstances cast them in a positive light, they feel good about themselves.  With or without their religion, there are many “ifs” in their performance or circumstances that have a strong baring on their identity and self-esteem.

For these reasons, insecurity is common for those in category 1.  Our ability to perform and get things right certainly fluctuates as so does the opinion of others and our circumstances.  When our abilities, outward circumstances, and the opinions of others become the source of our identity, insecurity is just a mistake, inadequacy, misfortune, or rejection away.

For those in category 2, though they might feel that their eternal identity may be secure (though not all Christians agree in this) in Christ, much of their relationship with God in the here and now is not.  Sadly, as with category 1, much of their identity is based on their performance as a Christian. Though many would claim they are “forgiven” their trust and sense of identity is measured much more by the level of their faithfulness, particularly in the area of obedience. For some, when they see they fall short in their faithfulness, they resign themselves to an identity as a “sinner saved by grace” having the identity of a “sinner” as their core sense of self.  Many Christians in category 2 live their lives with significant layers of guilt and shame and find it very hard to apply forgiveness to themselves, believing deep down that they are unworthy of continued Grace or that they are still under a certain amount of condemnation. They conclude that God may have forgiven them, but he certainly isn’t happy, nor does he like them, and therefore, might withhold His favor and blessing at any given moment. Many Christians in category 2 see their identity as both sinful and yet forgiven with a sense of having two opposing natures. The goal therefore of a Christian in category 2 is to subdue the old self and somehow stay true to the new self. Here again, it’s their effort and performance in this area that is used to evaluate not only their closeness with God but also how God feels about them and thus their sense of self. Indeed, there are many performance based Christians that turn to their efforts, work, and making headway for significant aspects of their esteem.

For these reasons, insecurity is common for those in category 2. In fact, you may find as many religious Christians being as insecure as people who don’t share in their Christian profession. Since so much of their stance with God hinges on their performance, the foundation for a secure identity is shaky at best. Furthermore, since they believe God still looks against them when they sin (a distance and disgust is created) and their nature is divided between good and evil, they see themselves as broken people who are sinners at heart.  If only they could pray more, do more, take more steps, and sin less, they would feel secure in themselves. This is at the core of the religious spirit that infects many Christians today.

For those in category 3, their faith in Christ is deeply connected to what Jesus did on their behalf. For them, they believe not only are all their sins forgiven (past, present, and future) but that God has remade them into a completely new person, with a new identity. When they sin, instead of believing this a moment where God’s condemnation, disgust, and distance are given and thus they should feel ashamed, they apply their faith in claiming their identity in Christ as forgiven, continually cleansed, and the righteousness of Christ. Sin does not define them.  This claiming by faith and applying Jesus finished work on the cross to their identities does not make sinning easier, but enables them to sin less.  Their performance in life doesn’t determine their stance with God, but rather, their stance with God determines their performance.  The emphasis in their identity isn’t placed on their work, but on Christ’s finished work applied to their life through faith. For them, the Old Covenantal system where so much of one’s relationship with God is based on following rules and being obedient has been fulfilled through Jesus, and a New Covenant of Grace has been brought through Jesus that focuses not on rules to produce obedience but rather through the Grace of God giving people a new identity and standing with God. The more you think you are a sinner at heart, the more you feel you need to perform in order to have God be on your side, the more you think God’s favor and blessing depends on you, the more you will rely on yourself and not on Jesus and ironically, the more you will be prone to sin. As the Bible declares, the strength of sin is the Law.  The more you place yourself under the rules, the more you end up disobeying them. For those in category 2, obedience is the root, faith is the fruit. For those in category 3, faith is the root, obedience is the fruit. The foundation is what is different.

For these reasons, people in category 3 have far less moments of insecurity in their life. When they do, they simply apply their faith in who they are in Christ and the assurance of God’s grace and their new life/identity in Christ. Instead of trying to improve their behaviors to make things right, they apply their faith that all is right because of Jesus, and thus their behaviors follow their identity. An obedience problem is first an identity problem. Jesus isn’t into behavior modification, but life transformation. To be sure, people in category 3 have learned the secret that you can’t become a secure person until you become a new person through Christ, and believe it about yourself.  Right belief leads to right living. Right belief in the pure Grace of God through Jesus applied through faith leads to secure living.

Let me encourage you today as you finish reading this post to become a person in the category 3 club.  God completely and perfectly loves you and has a “new you” ready to be given the moment your heart leaps to what He has done for you on the cross. A life of complete security, assurance, peace, and confidence is waiting for you, and it’s all wrapped up in one person, Jesus.  Walk in freedom and strength, and allow your old life of condemnation, shame, guilt, searching, emptiness, inadequacy, and insecurity to be put to death with Jesus on the cross, and a new life of wholeness, salvation, security and freedom be yours.

Looking forward to your thoughts…

My Top 3 Leadership Mistakes

My Top 3 Leadership Mistakes

If you are a leader, you surely have made mistakes.  And chances are, you have made the same mistakes more than once. Why?  Because we all have leadership blindspots, areas where we tend to make repeated miscues because we don’t see things within ourselves or those people or systems we lead clearly.

Over my ministry, I have made three general mistakes several times. The good news is that for so long I didn’t even see it, but only the pain these mistakes caused, but now I do.  A great prayer leaders should pray is, “God help me to see the blindspots in my leadership”

Mistake #1  Raising Up Leaders too Quickly

I am a guy who likes to say “yes” and who likes to believe in the best, especially in people.  I want to be a builder of people and groups so much that at times, I rushed ahead. So, when a person comes with an idea, or a position is needed, instead of taking the time to discern and delegate gradually overtime, I would quickly commission, send them up the mountain, and wish for the best.  I didn’t delegate, I abdicated. On so many occasions, my instincts would tell me, “this person isn’t the right fit” or “this person isn’t quite ready” or “we need to take this one step at a time.” However, I would ignore my instincts in an effort to move ahead. Big mistake. As the saying goes, “It’s a lot easier getting married than getting divorced”  Most of the greatest challenges I have faced in ministry have been because I raised someone up too quickly, and knew I was doing it in my spirit.

Can you believe it? I knew in my gutt I was doing the wrong thing, but I pushed ahead anyways.  As Alex McManus once told me in a coaching session, “The moment you stop following your gutt is the moment you stop leading” Ouch.

No one is perfect, nor perfectly ready for any task or appointment, that’s a given. But, in the name of blazing ahead of God and wanting to say “yes” I rejected the model Jesus displayed of taking time upfront to discern, train, develop, and delegate over time. I ignored passages like, “Be careful in the laying on of hands” and “He who is faithful with little will be faithful in much”  And every time, I payed dearly on the back side when that person got in over their heads, couldn’t handle the power, moved too slowly or quickly, spun out of control, or flat out became a renegade. In moving ahead prematurely, I failed them, God, and the ministry as a whole. All in the name of saying “yes” and a trying to be an overnight builder of people and groups.

Mistake #2  Believing I Could Fit where I Didn’t Fit and Change what Really Didn’t Want to Be Changed

No where in ministry has my ego caused me more pain then in thinking I could do what is really impossible, and that is, to change people and circumstances that were set up and bent on resisting change.

On at least two occasions, I have signed on to ministry challenges that in my spirit I knew were set up to fail, but my ego told me, “You are a great leader, you can do the impossible, you can love them on board, pray them on board, and cast enough vision that everything is going to work out all dreamy!” Not. Wise, spirit-filled people even told me ahead of time, “don’t go there” but my ego said, “I can handle it.”  The common sense check/warning in my spirit God gave me ahead of time, I ignored again. How stupid is that? Very.

It doesn’t work well to try to take a square object and jam it into a round hole. Both the object and the whole end up loosing in the end. Yet, I have thought in ministry that I could find a way to fit in or change the shape where there was an obvious misfit.  Do I believe in change? Absolutely. Do I believe people and groups can be transformed, absolutely. But not apart from a comprehensive move of God and the comprehensive openness of the person or group. Furthermore, some organizational systems and strongholds within a group are change killers, and to think one is going to go in and turn it around a part from the spiritual surgery of God and the openness of the patient, is not wise. Even Jesus couldn’t accomplish this among so many groups and individuals. So, why did I think I would be any different? Pride.

The scriptures are true, “Pride comes before a fall” and to be sure my pride has led me down ministry paths I never should have never traveled. I love a challenge, I love to believe in the impossible, I love going where the chance of failure is greater than the chance of success, I love facing the odds and rising above.  But, what you can lead in your own life cannot always be led in the lives of others and groups of people. Discernment and listening to the Spirit of God to only face the challenges He assigns is key.  I will no longer try to lead that which God has warned me not to lead.

Mistake #3  Internalizing Conflict

Conflict is a part of all ministry. So a leader must learn to deal with it without internalizing it. For me, this has been much easier said than done.  I love people, and honestly, like to be loved. Who doesn’t?

For most accomplished leaders, they have those tough conversations, they make the tough decisions, they face the floggings and the oppositions. Does it hurt them? Yes. Does it break their heart? Yes.  Do they consider their own brokenness and shortcomings? Yes.  But do they internalize it and let it all eat them alive? No. Somewhere they have learned to “turn it off” and “let it go.” They have become skilled at resisting second guessing themselves to death and emotionally nose diving into a tail spin.

I don’t like the idea of getting thick skin. I like the idea of coming into the secret place of God. I’ll take His skin over any thickening of mine.

I am learning how to come into the presence and strength of God in such a way that enables me to be secure and safe while still being as direct, decisive, and assertive as good leadership requires.

May God bless you and your leadership!

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