Archive for April, 2010

If Not Self-Esteem, Then What?

self-value                        self-worth                       self-abasement                 self-acceptance

self-criticism                    self-defeating                  self-idolatry                     self-mastery

self-policing                    self-understanding            self-deprecating           self-worship

self-denigration                self-validating                 self-doubt                      self-absorbed

self-expression                self-help                         self-revealing                   self-centered

These are just a sampling of the current 213 self-hyphenated (I guess that could be added to the list) words in the English language.

Not only are these words abundant in number, but they saturate the way we think about life. They influence the way we think about our purpose cheap canadian viagra in life, the function of relationships, how to parent, what the church is about, why Jesus came, and a myriad of other things. This is why it is imperative we understand what the Bible actually tells us to do with self.

There are many places one could begin exploring the Bible on the subject of self: the implications of being made in the image of God, the fall and our sinful nature, the price Christ paid to redeem us, or our identity as children of God. This chapter will approach the subject by examining the New Testament passage that contains Jesus’ clearest, and possibly most misapplied, teaching on what we are to do with our self.

The questions we will strive to answer is, “Does low self-esteem the cause our problems in life? Is low self-esteem by-product of our struggles? Does the pursuit of self-esteem directly or indirectly exacerbate our struggles? Should we try to solve our problems by raising our self-esteem, or would that effort only increase our problems and distract us from more pertinent solutions?”

Registration Information

Part One: Saturday November 9, 2013
Part Two: Saturday November 16, 2013
Time: 4:00 to 5:30 pm or 6:00 to 7:30 pm
Location: The Summit Church, Brier Creek South Venue
Address: 2415-107 Presidential Drive; Durham, NC 27703
Cost: Free
RSVP: Part One (Nov. 9) // Part Two (Nov. 16)


Engaging & Discipling Your Teenager

*** This is a paper presented at the 2010 Eastern Regional Conference of the International Association of Biblical Counselors held at Grace Bible Church in Mountain City, Ga.

Connecting with your teenager can be a hard thing to do.  For many parents it is equally hard to figure out what to do or say (productively) once they have their teenagers attention.  This presentation seeks to provide practical tools (which are built around the approach Jesus used with His twelve disciples) for parents to disciple their teenager.

As you listen to the presentation, it is important to keep two things in mind.  First, this is not a presentation on discipline.  There are other resources that discuss this needed subject.  This presentation is about engaging your teenager in conversations and activities that allow opportunities to shape his/her character.  Second, this presentation is more like a grocery list than a recipe.  You will find an assortment of ingredients that can be put together in many different ways.


What God Wants – Exodus 35

A Generous Heart (35:5)

It is beautiful to see how God allowed Israel to give for the building of the tabernacle.  God did not prescribe a specific gift or a specific amount.  God called on people to give out of their character – “whoever is of a generous heart (ESV).”  People were called on to give a wide variety of gifts.  They did not have to have one certain thing to be able to contribute.

Reflection One:  Do you have the character of a generous heart?  Giving is an exercise intended to make us more like our generous, joyous God.  When we give under compulsion we might obey the law, but miss the intent.  God does not need our stuff.  We need to be more like God.  That is how we celebrate God through giving – we love and strive for God’s character more than we love and cling to our possessions.

Reflection Two:  Have you considered what you have to give?  In Exodus 35, this is not a tithe offering, but a free will offering.  When you read through the list there are gifts that could be given by families of most any trade.  Examine your life – skills, possessions, time, relationships, opportunities, etc… — what do you have to contribute to God’s work?  Resist the urge to weight some gifts (i.e., gold or silver) as more important than other gifts (i.e., goats hair or ram skins), because they are in the same list and contribute to the same cause.


Who Is Bezalel?

If you haven’t noticed Bezalel is the star of the next several chapters of Exodus.  For a character of Scripture who gets multiple chapters of attention, there may be few people that we notice less.  Notice his introduction.

A proper listing of his family heritage
Filled with the Spirit of God
Filled with Skill, Intelligence, and Knowledge

We would think we were meeting Joshua (Moses’ successor), but the passage continues.

Filled with All Craftsmanship (with specific listings)
Inspired to Teach (artistic skills)

It is encouraging to see God give such attention to this work.  Bezalel was not the prophet, priest, deliverer, or leader.  Charleston Heston never auditioned for his part in the movie (if he even had a part in the movie).  Yet God gives him no less credit or attention.  In light of Bezalel, consider the following questions.

  • Who in your life or the life of your church needs to receive more credit for their role?
  • How do you think of the service they provide and the gifting that enables their service?
  • How does their effort contribute to the worship of God’s people and the impact on the community?
  • How could your appreciation be expressed in a way that highlights God’s hand on their life?

We serve a great God who never misses any service offered to His kingdom.  Let us strive to be more like our God in noticing and encouraging His servants.


Givers, Gifts, and The Giver (35:32-25)

We serve a God who wastes nothing.  It is important to note that for all the gifts collected in Exodus 35:5-9 that God also provided a suitable craftsman.  Often it is said, “We cannot out give God.”  This is true, but it applies to more than the sacrifice behind our gift.  Whatever we give to God, He is able to use.

As you thought through the second reflection above, what things did you list and subtly laugh to yourself, “What would God do with that?”  I would ask that you be willing to offer that to God and pray that God would show you more of His wisdom and power in how He uses that gift for His kingdom.  Make it a regular matter of prayers.

When God creates the opportunity to use your gift, be willing to share that testimony with your church or group.  Share this passage, your initial thoughts, your doubts, your faith, and the fruit God created.  Use the testimony to draw attention to God’s ability to permeate the seemingly insignificant details of our lives for His glory and our joy.

God Was Incarnational Before the Christmas Manger

There are many reasons why Christians have been tempted to draw a distinction between the tone of the Old Testament (God the Father) and the New Testament (God the Son).  For some it is a contrast between law and grace.  For others they find they have a negative view of the authority of God versus the relationalness of Jesus.  These contrasts between the two Testaments or members of the Trinity are false, but often appealing.

In this post I would like to eliminate one false distinction that can arise – that being that Jesus is more concerned about our life than God the Father, because He lived it.  Oddly, I would like to remove this distinction by considering the Sabbath. The false logic might say God the Father was a stickler for the Sabbath, going so far as to put it in His Top 10; while Jesus was more understanding, only emphasizing the heart behind the principle.

This would miss the significance of the Sabbath “in the beginning.”  God created a world of space and time for us (as finite beings) to live in.  However, neither space nor time were, have been, or ever will be an impingement on God.  Yet the first thing God did after creating the world was to step into the constraints He created for our example.

In the same way that Jesus took on human flesh and breathed sin-stained air, God the Father stepped into time and, like a parent lying beside a young child in the early afternoon, rested to show us the healthy way to live.  When Jesus put on His earth-suit and submitted to the constraints of food, water, and shelter, He was only continuing in the character of God the Father.

Even more, the progressive nature of revelation (the fact that the Bible was recorded over centuries) is evidence of the incarnational heart of God the Father.  God’s knowledge is complete and absence of a history to makes things clear is no difficulty for God.  Yet stepping into the world of our finiteness God began building one truth upon another, generation after generation, building symbol after symbol until we could grasp the full meaning of the Gospel.

This should prevent us from playing good-cop-bad-cop with Jesus and God the Father or the New Testament and Old Testament.

More than this, it should give us a wonderful picture of what it means to do ministry for one another.  Ministry is incarnational.  We enter the world of another person, learning their current knowledge of truth, life struggles, abilities, and approach to life.  For a period of time we live there; learning what life would be like if their reality was The Reality (compassion and understanding).  Once they know we know their world (trust in relationship), we point them to the life God intended and tell them how that life is possible through Christ (truth filled with grace).

As you reflect on these things I would offer one passage of Scripture for you to mull over from three different perspectives.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Hebrews 4:15

  1. How should I understand this verse as it is evidenced in the whole Trinity, not just Jesus?
  2. How should I take greater rest in the character of God in light of this verse?
  3. How should I be challenged to be more incarnational in my life, church, and evangelism?  How can I slowly build one truth upon another, as God did for us, as I get to know the “world” of those around me?

Two Sets of Tablets – Exodus 32 & 34

Dealing with Delays (32:1)

Before we throw Israel and Aaron under the bus, let’s ask ourselves, “How well do we deal with delays?”  Think about the last several times you got stuck in traffic, had a doctor running behind, or had a kid jump in a mud puddle on the way to church.  How was your reaction?

Now think about being stranded on a long journey in difficult terrain wondering if the only guy with wilderness experience (all the others were ex-brick makers) is coming back down the mountain.  This was delay multiplied by fear of survival.  “We have to do something, don’t we?” must have been the common refrain.

Reflection:  Delay is one of the times when we are particularly called to trust in God.  Yet it is also one of the times of a great deal of nervous energy and the feeling that “waiting” is just another word for passivity.  In what situations have you recently been required to wait?  How did you interpret the situation (i.e., a call to patience, a “closed door,” evidence of God’s failure)?  How do you see yourself in the Exodus 32 passage and what do you learn?

A Stiff-Necked People (32:9)

Take a moment and stiffen the muscles in your neck.  What expressions tend to emerge on your face?  What dispositions begin to come to mind?  What recent events with your kids, spouse, work, or friends do you remember?

Chances are the themes that emerge are: anger, defiance, battle-of-the-wills, resistance, condescending, etc…  God says that is who we are.  As a rule that is how we respond to anything or anyone who violates our best wishes – including God.  God’s will and our will clash enough that a common description of humanity in Scripture is “a stiff-necked people.”

Application:  This week pay particular attention to times when you tighten the muscles in your neck and facial region.  Use these bodily responses as a trigger to reflect on your character before God.  When you tighten these muscles ask yourself, “Am I loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Am I loving my neighbor as myself?”  When God gives us such tangible alerts to our disposition we should use them personal alarms.

More of God Revealed

Exodus 34:6-7 is one of the most revered passages on God in the Jewish faith.  Due to their love for the law, this description of God when the law tablets were (graciously) given back to them provides both the content and powerful example of God’s character.

In this passage five aspects of God’s character are revealed.  In order to place yourself in the shoes of Israel, consider a time when your sin did or almost cost you something very precious.  Allow both the content and context of these attributes minister to your heart.

  •  Merciful and Gracious – God does not give us the full extent of what we deserve.  Even the consequences that we do experience are muted to the degree possible without removing the life lessons necessary to prevent further harm.
  • Slow to Anger – Our every moment of non-awareness of God is deserving of God’s offense for trivializing His role in our lives.  Yet God is patient with the finiteness of our attention, awareness, and understand… not to mention our actions.
  • Abounding in Steadfast Love – God’s love is rooted in the constancy of His character.  God’s love is as eternal and unchanging as His nature.  God’s love fills the earth and our lives every bit as much as His presence.
  • Forgiving Iniquity and Transgressions – Something must be done with our sin.  An all-knowing, never-forgetting, just God cannot just look the other way or pretend something never happens.  God acts towards sin with forgiveness.
  • By No Means Clears the Guilty – With all that has been said of God, He is not a permissive Father.  His grace is not cheap; not is it mocked.  Our God, with love so tender and hand out-stretched, also has the will and power to right any unrepentant wrong.

As you reflect on these attributes of God, reflect on two things: (1) how these attributes relate to the situation in which they were revealed; and (2) the significance of these attributes for your current life context.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Reflections on a 10 Year Anniversary Trip

Recently I was blessed to go on a trip for my 10 year marriage anniversary.  We took the opportunity to travel up the Eastern side of the United States and stay in various bed and breakfasts from Richmond, Virginia to Marblehead, Massachusetts trying new foods and looking at old things.  It proved to be a wonderful way to celebrate one of the great blessings of my life (my marriage).

This reflection is meant to spur thoughts in your mind about how you might best celebrate, enrich, reflect on, and appreciate the marriage or close relationships in your life.  I know many readers have been married longer than I and some long to be married or have a healthier marriage.  But I hope these reflections can find a way to serve you where you are.

  • A trip does not make a good marriage, but a good marriage can make a trip.  Don’t get caught thinking it is the special events that make a strong marriage.  It is the daily investing yourself and sacrificing for one another that gives you something to celebrate.
  • If you don’t have the habit of talking regularly, you will have to plan a trip of entertainment to fill the silence.  Work hard to develop a close friendship with your spouse.  If you need help with this consider the 2010 Conversation and Prayer Topics tool .
  • If you are going to drive, make sure to get a GPS unit.  It is a worthwhile investment, but don’t trust it in New York City.  My TomTom and I had a falling out when it took me through the Bronx and Queens, thereby treating us to much “Northern hospitality.”
  • Save for the trip.  As Dave Ramsey says, “The best trips are ones you don’t have to pay for when you get home.”  The sacrifice of saving is a healthy marital discipline.  The fun of the trip balances this discipline with delight.
  • Remember, your spouse is the trip.  The goal is not to get away and be entertained.  The goal is to remove yourself from distractions.  With this in mind, don’t over plan the trip.  Full schedules make for stress and less conversation – that’s what you’re getting away from.
  • Fancy foods don’t taste that much better than regular foods.  Chilean Sea Bass isn’t that different from Georgia pond bass.  The one exception would be the Lamb Osso Bucco at B’asta in Cranston, Rhode Island.  I’m pretty sure that is the first dish we will get to taste in heaven.
  • Take time to reflect on the way God has changed you as individuals and as a couple.  Without this conversation God will likely get left out of the trip.  This should be a time of encouraging your spouse and strengthening your faith as you remember God’s faithfulness.
  • Take time to anticipate the challenges that likely wait in the coming years.  What will be different about the next season of life?  This is not a time to try to develop a Plan A, Plan B, Plan C, etc…, but to discuss the key priorities and values with which you would face those challenges.  You will likely guess wrong on the particular challenges, but the unity of values will prove very worthwhile.
  • Plan a trip that fits the two of you.  For us this was antiques and history for Sallie and new foods and country views for me.  Once we gave ourselves the freedom to forget about what “we should do” on a trip up the East coast, we were able to plan one we would actually enjoy.
  • Celebrate your marriage daily (not just once a decade).  Don’t let a day go by without pausing longer than you have to and telling your spouse how grateful you are to get to take your one trip through life with them.  Thank God for this blessing regularly in your prayers and treat your marriage as if it is one of the primary ways God will work in your life (to shape your character and deepen your joy).

If this post was beneficial for you, then considering reading other blogs from my “Favorite Posts on Marriage” post which address other facets of this subject.

God’s Presence – Exodus 25 & 29

God’s Presence (25:8)

For God to have a mobile home was about as odd sounding to Israel as it is to us today, but for different reasons.  In ancient times gods were associated with places.  For Yahweh to say, “My place is with My people,” was paradigm shifting.  It reinforced and foreshadowed the words God would speak at the end of the Exodus journey, “I will never leave you or forsake you (Joshua 1:5).”

Likely we have become too comfortable with God’s presence to be appropriately moved by this verse.  We are four stages ahead of where Israel was here – from sanctuary, temple, incarnation, to indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  As any history teacher will tell you, “We must appreciate how we got here if we are to appreciate where we are.”

Reflection:  How would having a God who was willing to travel with you have encouraged and challenged Israel?  What aspects of God’s character are revealed through His command to build a tabernacle? When are you tempted to doubt those aspects of God’s character?  How does this reflection on the tabernacle increase your understanding of and appreciation for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?

Mercy On Top of Presence (25:21)

God’s presence is a double edged sword.  Honestly, it is a blessing that none of us can handle on our own.  The construction of the Ark of the Covenant reminds us of this.  For this reason, on top of the Ark of the Covenant was the mercy seat where offerings would be made for sin.

As we read of the Ark of the Covenant’s construction, we should be struck by God’s holiness, wisdom, and grace.  Holiness – as we recognize that the mercy was absolutely necessary due to the difference in God’s character and ours. Wisdom – as we see the foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s heart to prepare our understanding.  Grace – as we realize what God saw (His Son) each time lamb’s blood was shed on the mercy seat.

Reflection:  When you think of God’s presence in your heart do you also reflect on what Christ did to tear the veil in the temple of the Holy of Holies?  Allow this to deepen the appreciation you have for the indwelling Holy Spirit.  How does this imagery affect your identity as the “Temple of God”?

Sanctified By God’s Glory

 Exodus 29:43 (ESV)
There I will meet with the people of Israel, and it shall be sanctified by my glory.

Ultimately, what is it that motivates us to put off sin and pursue holiness?  There are many answers we could give which might capture some truth.  We see here, however, that the final answer is – the glory of God.

Sin is living for self and now.  It is only the glory of God that can penetrate the lies which seem so appealing, right, wise, good, understandable, or acceptable.  With that said, how much do you know about God, His character, and His ways?  Does your vocabulary stop with words like great, good, powerful, or smart?  If so, then chances are your view of God has a hard time penetrating and impacting your moments of temptation.

If you want to have a more robust view of God which will shine forth and stand up in your moments of temptation consider reading one or more of the following books.

As you read, or as you just reflect on temptation, always be asking yourself the question, “How did a particular temptation diminish or discredit the glory of God in my life in order to make itself look more appealing?”  Remember the fight against and away from temptation is always a flight towards and for God.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.

Relating to God as Father

*** This is a paper presented at the 2010 Southeast Regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society held at North Greenville University.

One of the most striking teachings of Jesus is that we can call the God of the Universe “Father.”  Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven… (Matthew 6:9).”  Paul went so far as to say we should call out “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:4-7) which is the English equivalent of God “Papa” or “Daddy.”

Yet for many it is quite difficult to have that intimate of a relationship with God.  We don’t necessarily try to refute Jesus or Paul.  We just don’t get it.  This presentation draws upon several images from the Psalms to illustrate God the Father interacting with His children.  The Psalms are some of the most personal and intimate texts in Scripture and provide a fruitful place to reflect on this subject.


The 10 Commandments – Exodus 20

Commands From Freedom (20:2)

It is not natural to associate commandments with freedom, but that is what Exodus 20 is all about.  Israel has just been given freedom.  God reminds them of their new freedom as He provides the 10 Commandments.  Unless we understand this connection between God’s freedom and God’s commands we will run from God in the name of personal liberty.

As human beings made in the image of God, we will worship and we will serve.  For us to resist this in the name of “freedom” is like a fish who hates water because it wants to swim on its own terms.  God does not take our freedom by giving us commands.  His commands define the only environment in which our freedom can be satisfyingly and lastingly experienced.

Reflection:  In what ways do you see freedom and commands as opposites?  What authority figures contributed to this distortion?  How have you made God in the image of those authorities?  How would seeing the synonymous nature of God’s commands and God’s freedom increase your trust in God and reliance upon His Word?

A Jealous God (20:5)

God is the only being in existence for whom it is completely right and holy for Him to be self-centered.  For God to delight in anything more than Himself would be idolatry.  It is God’s mind and will that fill the world with beauty, order, and life.  When every eye is upon God and every heart focused upon God the entire world runs without friction, resistance, pain, or sorrow.

For this reason, God is a jealous God.  It is for the love and preservation of the world (God’s great masterpiece) that God demands no rivals, imitations, or off-brands.  In this seeming contradiction (just like God’s grace and justice), God is both self-centered and other-minded at the same time.  He delights in Himself and demands this of the world for the best interest of all.

Reflection:  We are not called to be like God in jealousy for self.  This can be hard and seem unfair.  Imagine a parent and child on a plane.  There is turbulence and the air masks have a reason to come down.  The most loving thing the parent can do is put on their air mask first.  Unless they do, the child is doomed.  Once that is done the child can be served.  While God does not have any of the survival needs we do, this captures some of the compassion of God’s jealousy.

Family Values

In Exodus 19 God was reclaiming His children from exile.  One of the first things God does with this unruly people was to establish the moral principles of His people.  God’s instructions were more than “be nice, treat others well, and don’t get on my nerves.”  After laying down 10 foundational laws, God spent three more chapters unpacking and illustrating them (Exodus 21-23).

Christian families need to establish and communicate their moral values.  These values need to be well thought out.  Notice the structure of the 10 Commandments – numbers 1-4 discuss our relationship with God and have the most detail; number 5 orders the home and has some detail; and numbers 6-10 cover broader social contexts.

Here are suggestions for establishing these types of values within your home.

  • Parents should be able to demonstrate how they live out the values and be willing to be held accountable to the values of the home.
  • During discipline the infraction should be explained in lights of its violation of the family’s core values.  Specific rules may change with season of life, but emerge from the guiding values of the family.
  • Occasions of blessing and joy within the family should be times when the effectiveness and “true freedom” of these values are discussed and celebrated.
  • As more specific rules are developed (and they will be) time should be taken to show how the specific rule gives wise guidance to the current situation.  By this process the values provide a way to teach not only what to think but also how to think.
  • Parents should be able to use the values of their home as a basis for evaluating the balanced and complete character development of their children.  These discussions between parents allow for discipline and instruction to be more accurate and concise.

As you seek to lead your family into a greater experience of God’s freedom, use these suggestions to evaluate how you use the core values of your home.

Introduction to the “Living Our Faith” series.