Friday, August 31, 2012

God On The Inside

“God is watching us.  God is watching us.  God is watching us from a distance.” 
Bette Midler


The words of songwriter, Bette Midler, reflect the perception of a generation of people who view God as a distant, disconnected being who is out of touch with His creation.  Yet the searching words of Joan Osborne express dissatisfaction with such a perception and the inner longing for a more personal and relational experience of God:

“If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question”

“What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home”

Our understanding or perception of God is distorted by an incomplete image of His character that emphasises only one aspect of His nature at the expense of the others. Such an incomplete image can only be remedied by reshaping our thinking about God through a complete revelation, which can be found in the person of Jesus Christ. Evidence of this is revealed in Colossians 2:9 where Paul declares that “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity [God] lives in bodily form”.  Therefore, in Jesus, God is fully revealed.

Charles Sherlock, in his chapter “God on the Inside,” provides us with a detailed description of how Jesus can provide a complete image of God and why this is important in shaping our thinking about who God is:
  

1.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of Life

       “Christ like spirituality entails an integrated life.”

       Through Jesus we encounter the harmony of God’s ‘grace & truth’, ‘justice & 
       mercy’, ‘holiness & love’.

2.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of Time

       “It is thus Jesus who makes the difference between our knowing about God’s 
       eternity and our coming to share in God’s eternity.”

       Through Jesus God has entered into our existence and provides us with hope for 
       today and the future.

3.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of Matter

       “From the womb, through human life, work and relationships, even to death itself, 
        God is intimately involved in all human living, through Jesus.”

       Through Jesus God shares in the limitations of our humanity.

4.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of Love

       “Jesus has made it possible for us to pray to God as to a loving father who cares 
        for us.”

       Through Jesus God reveals the depth of His love for humankind.

5.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of All

       “Jesus has done all that is needed for us to know the limitless love and life of 
        God.”

       Through Jesus God has overcome the limitations of humanity, so we may experience 
       His divinity.

6.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of Space

       “God is God of everywhere, not despite, but precisely because God was 
        somewhere.”

       Through Jesus God “makes room for us” allowing us experience His presence.

7.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of Wisdom

       “Jesus shows us the wonder of God’s wisdom in his teaching, and in his deep 
        knowledge of God.  Such knowledge nevertheless had its limits.  These limits 
        reflect once more the genuine entering into our world made by God in Christ.”

        Through Jesus God has an intimate knowledge of us that allows us to know God 
        personally.

8.    Jesus reveals God as the Lord of Power

       “The mighty power of God is seen precisely in the just, loving life and death of 
        Jesus.”

        Through Jesus God exercises his “delicate power” that both corrects and heals.


Through Jesus our understanding of God is completed through the revelation of His divine and human natures, embodying the mystery and transcendence of God in human form, thus enabling us to move beyond a mere knowledge of God into an intimate relationship with God.  To quote Sherlock, “God’s goodness is not abstract.  It reflects the inner being of a God who acts – to create, to protect, to rescue.  Jesus himself testifies to the goodness of God.”

In response to Joan Osborne’s searching lyrics, God did indeed become one of us so that we may know Him fully and fulfil the purpose for which we were created, that is, to live in relationship with our Creator.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Hypocrisy

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Hypocrisy
It is one of the biggest challenges of my leadership to discern what is real when the face of the people I lead hides a contradicting attitude of the heart.

Religion or Relationship?

“Christianity is not a religion or a philosophy, but a relationship and a lifestyle.”
Rick Warren, “The Purpose Driven Life”

As I interact with people from various walks of life and with different worldviews, one of the consistent messages I hear is that they are not all that into religion.  It surprises those who know that I am a Salvation Army Officer when I tell them that neither am I!  You see religion is a static system of beliefs centred around a spiritual ideal.  Whereas, Christianity is a dynamic relationship centred around Jesus Christ.  Religion offers rituals as a way of trying to reach God, Christianity offers a relationship with God.  Religion demands human initiative to earn God’s favour, Christianity depends upon God’s initiative that grants us His favour.  Religion complicates life, Christianity transforms life.

As you interact with Why Christianity, you will not encounter a theoretical philosophy about religion, but an experiential relationship with Jesus who has radically changed our lives.  You will read about a faith journey which has led us to a fuller revelation of God through the life of Jesus Christ.  Wherever you are on your faith journey, whatever knowledge of God you have, I hope you too will encounter Jesus and engage in a life transforming relationship!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: A Question of Character

Our character is a window into our true selves and provides the foundation upon which our leadership is built.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Who Are You Listening To?


As I engage in a variety of coaching, mentoring and pastoral relationships I observe a concerning pattern in how people navigate through challenging life issues.  When life gets tough there is a tendency to take the path of least resistance by withdrawing from people who will confront and gravitating towards people who will comfort.  In other words, we look for people who will tell us what we want to hear rather than those who will tell us what we need to hear!  This is a pattern that I see manifested in almost every area of life:

A couple going through a marriage crisis withdraws from mutual friends who see both sides of the relationship and gravitates towards people who will affirm their respective points of view.

A Christian who is struggling with faith withdraws from the fellowship of the Church and gravitates towards people who offer a more humanistic worldview.

A leader overwhelmed by the demands and expectations of leadership withdraws from positive networks and gravitates towards other disillusioned leaders.

While I don't pretend to understand the psychology of this pattern of behaviour, it is indicative of a 'fear of conflict' and 'avoidance of accountability' that seems so prevalent in our society.  This is not just an external observation, but one that comes from self-awareness of similar patterns I've wrestled with in my own life.  It is a strange paradox how human beings will withdraw from the very people who will contribute to our growth and gravitate towards people who will perpetuate our struggle.

In my discipleship and leadership journey I have learned the value of pursuing relationships with people who are further along their journey than me.  If I want to develop as a leader, then I need to align myself with leaders who are more experienced than I am.  If I want to seek marriage advice, then I need to interact with couples who have a strong and healthy relationship.  If I want to grow spiritually, then I need to worship and fellowship with the body of Christ.  For these relationships to really impact my life there needs to be a level of vulnerability and accountability where I am not afraid to engage in tough conversations and hear the things I don't want to hear.  It has been my experience that this is usually the point where people disengage.

We all like to be comforted during challenging times, but it is the willingness to engage in the conflict, in the context of accountable relationships, that we will grow through these challenges.


LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Commanding Loyalty

I can only command people’s loyalty by winning their hearts and minds through building authentic relationships.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Passionate Life

“To be apathetic is literally to be without passion.”
Erwin Raphael McManus

I was once told that I am too passionate and intense as a leader!  Rather than being offended by this feedback, that was meant as a criticism, I embraced it as a badge of honour - not for my glory, but for the glory of the Holy Spirit who has ignited an unquenchable passion within my spirit.

According to McManus the antithesis of passion is apathy, which can be described as a state of indifference that suppresses concern, excitement, motivation and passion.  I couldn't imagine anything more contrary to the nature of the Spirit who came upon the disciples at Pentecost with such power that the people observing this spiritual encounter thought the disciples were drunk!  

I believe one of the greatest threats to Christian faith is apathy or indifference which robs the Church of the very life that is given by the Spirit.  Without the Spirit of life we are subject to the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).  In contrast, life according to the Spirit is a passionate response to the love of Jesus Christ who sets us free from an apathetic existence.  A Spirit-filled life cannot be constrained nor should it be criticised as being too passionate, for a life without passion will not change the world!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Handling Stress

Stress can either be a positive force that stimulates productivity or a negative force that suffocates potential...