Shame Returns, The Sequel

Posted by on Sep 24, 2015 in Character, Jesus, Redemption, Transformation | 5 comments

shameMan, am I vulnerable to Shame!

Those who know me, have heard me speak, or have read some of my blog posts, know I have a passion to see men (and women) freed from Shame. (I even capitalize the dang word because of its significance.)

I’m often reminded that the root of my passion about this subject is my own vulnerability to the message of self-condemnation, and disappointment in self, that rears its head on a regular basis.

Shame is the message that, not only did I do something wrong, but there is something wrong with who I am. Guilt is conviction about our behavior; Shame is condemnation about our identity. Conviction comes from the voice of the Holy Spirit. Shame is the condemning lie from the Enemy.

I know all of this. Yet I am still vulnerable. My guess is I’m not the only one. Because Shame returns.

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Name Above All Names

Posted by on Jan 3, 2014 in Jesus | 0 comments

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” -Juliet trying to convince Romeo that names don’t really have much significance. While it’s true, a rose would still have its attractive qualities even if it were called “dandelion,” most of us hold special significance to some names. My middle name is Morgan, the same as my father’s and his father’s, and one of my sons’. To me it describes the fact that I’m a part of a larger Story. All of us who celebrate the profound significance of this season would also say there is one name that is above every other name. In predicting his coming the prophet Isaiah said, “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Is. 9:6 Later, the apostle Paul wrote: “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil. 2:9-11 What a powerful name Jesus Christ is to us who know him as Son, Savior and...

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Keeping Score

Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in Compassion, Hope, Jesus, Self-sacrifice, Significance | 0 comments

I know a lot of men who get wrapped up in performance—work, sports, even community service or church attendance; competitiveness in any arena. This hard work can reveal an admirable sense of drive, responsibility and commitment. It can also reveal an underlying belief that our performance defines our significance. Or earns us points. For some of us Christians we are vulnerable to no “arena” more than spiritual performance. I am historically vulnerable to that one. Like the older brother of the prodigal son, I can do the right things for the wrong reasons. Luke 15 tells the well-known story of the rebellious younger son who returned home filled with shame, assuming his behavior negated his right to be called “son.” We sometimes miss the reverse assumption made by the older son. Indignant that everyone is celebrating his brother’s return, the older brother says to his father: “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (v. 28-20 NIV) In his mind, the poor performance of his younger brother negated his standing with his father. The older son’s own righteous (though probably resentful) performance should have elevated him to the level of “favored son.” He was wrong on both accounts. The point of Jesus’ story is applicable to both sons: the father’s love for you is not dependent on behavior alone. Neither outright rebellion nor hidden resentful performance will sway the father’s love. When he was in Antioch, the apostle Paul was asked to if he had “a message of encouragement for the people.” The core piece of his message is this: “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:38, 39 NIV) Jesus is the source of our justification. He brings forgiveness. He brings life. He brings freedom from every distorted compulsion of the law of Moses —rule-keeping, legalism, judging, comparison, point-keeping, spiritual performance. Those “laws” birthed Pharisees in Paul’s day. They still do today. Are you personally vulnerable to spiritual rule-keeping or legalism? Paul reminds us that “…the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.” (Gal. 3:24, 25 NIV) Faith justifies us, the law doesn’t. Are you personally vulnerable to spiritual judgment or comparing yourself with others? Paul urges us, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:3-5 NIV) The following verses reveal Jesus’ remarkable spirit of humble servanthood and self-sacrifice: “…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” (vv. 6-7) Yet, one day every knee will bow before him. Are you personally vulnerable to spiritual point-keeping and outward performance? In Matthew 23 we read the account of Jesus’ encounter with self-exalting, other-condemning, point-keeping Pharisees. “Woe to you teachers of the Law!…Woe to you hypocrites!…Woe to you...

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Internal Attitudes vs. External Behavior

Posted by on Mar 19, 2012 in Character, Jesus, Transformation | 1 comment

“Jesus called the crowd to him and said, ‘Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean…But the things that come out of the mouth come out of the heart, and these make a man unclean. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man unclean; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him unclean.” Matt. 15:10, 18-20. We have a tendency to focus on external behavior, legalistic performance, as demonstrations of the condition of our heart. Jesus made it clear it’s the other way around: it’s what comes out of the heart– attitudes, words, thoughtlife, spirit toward others– that reflects the actual condition of the heart. Legalistic performance, especially when carried out so others might see, cannot change the...

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Knocking on the Door of a Brothel

Posted by on Feb 15, 2012 in Character, Culture, Jesus, Legacy, Significance, Transcendence | 5 comments

Have you noticed how frequently men will risk complete compromise of their values, their marriage and their reputation to pursue a short-term enticement? Perhaps you saw the former TV show To Catch a Predator, where a guy in a computer chat room thinks he’s talking to a young teen. He and the girl arrange a meeting at her home, which he eventually enters, thinking he’s fulfilling a sad fantasy. What he doesn’t realize is that the girl is actually a young-looking vice cop, and the home is wired and filled with hidden cameras. The girl excuses herself momentarily, when out from behind a wall pops the condescending host who interviews the horrified victim. The cameras roll. (“It makes for great TV.” What a sad commentary on our culture that is.) The look of horrified shock and pending disaster on the face of the “perp” is awful! Most of them, after submitting to an interview, eventually run out of the house, thinking they’ve been released, only to be captured and arrested by waiting cops outside. Unbelievably, many of the perpetrators have seen the show! Some even say, “I knew it was going to be you guys.” Still, they show up. Like sheep stumbling dumbly toward slaughter, they move toward the irresistible answer to their fantasies. Many are the creeps we’d expect. But some are teachers or respectable businessmen; one is a youth pastor, another a rabbi. They are you and me. I want to weep for them! We could go further and list the politicians and church leaders who have made the same stunning career-ending choices, but we won’t. They are easy targets. Low-hanging fruit. The point is, this pattern is everywhere. If we men are going to guard ourselves against falling to a similar temptation, we need to understand what the draw is. G.K. Chesterton tells us the answer in one of the most arresting quotes I’ve ever heard: “Every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is looking for God.” What?!! Beauty, relationship, adventure, intimacy, significance, transcendence. They are all part of the hunger that God put in our hearts. His plan was for those godly longings to be fully satisfied through an eternally transcendent relationship with him. Horrifically, the first man and woman doubted him, and chose the curse mankind lives with: a core longing that will never be fully satisfied on earth. So we, too, often choose false ways of satisfying this deep longing. Jer. 2:12-14 confirms this: “Be appalled at this, O heavens, and shudder with great horror,” declares the LORD. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” When men (or women) pursue lust, pornography, sex chat rooms, or promiscuous relationships, all of them figuratively or literally the “door of a brothel”, we make two mistakes: We forsake God himself. We essentially say, “God, you are not really enough for me.” We dig broken cisterns. We pretend that our own solutions will truly satisfy. They can’t. They don’t hold water; so they don’t quench spiritual thirst. They leak. Men, we must see the bigger story that is taking place in our hearts. We thirst for something God-given, which is only God-quenched. When we doubt that He is truly enough, we look for our own shallow sources of satisfaction. We dig our own cisterns. We stagger into the girl’s home, we click on the next link, we pursue the enticing flirtation at work or across the street. None of them will ever satisfy. They...

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Truth or Love?

Posted by on Apr 8, 2011 in Anger, Character, Jesus, Transformation | 3 comments

Do we see ourselves as being men primarily committed to telling the truth, or men primarily committed to building relationships? Often it feels like the two are mutually exclusive: telling to whole truth might permanently harm a friendship. In Ephesians 4:15 we are urged to speak the truth in love. Apparently it IS possible. Experience tells me that people tend toward one of these principles more than another. We either lean toward telling the truth at all costs, the burning wreckage of wounded friendships in the rear-view mirror of our lives, or we lean toward keeping the peace at all costs, while realizing we left a key piece of truth unspoken. A consistent pattern of shading the truth is motivated by fear; a consistent pattern of harshly speaking the truth is motivated by anger. I believe it’s to our benefit to take some time to identify where we are on this scale. Which way do we naturally lean? I lean toward valuing relationships. As a result I need to be aware that I can avoid telling the whole truth. I need to make an extra effort to, as Bill Hybels says, “tell the last 10%.” Often that’s the crucial element of truth that needs to be revealed. Jesus was a master of speaking the truth in love. His conversation with the woman at the well in John 4 is one of the shining examples of how well he loved others, while unflinchingly telling them everything they really needed to know in order to be transformed. How about you? Which way do you lean? Which principle do you need to put extra attention to in order to honor others and your own integrity: Truth or...

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