A Question Of Identity

Figuring out who we are and who we’re called to be is a lifelong endeavour. The paths we take on this journey are often determined by factors that we’re not always conscious of.

Some of these factors are pain, doubt and fear.

As Christians, it goes without saying that the source of our identity is God. He should be the One guiding us through our journey of life.

But what version of God have we embraced and how does it affect how we see ourselves?

Is our God the sum of what we know to be true about Him and the work He continually does in us and through us?

Or is He the sum of what our pain, doubts and fears have made Him out to be?

We can all point to fundamental moments or seasons of our lives that shaped the course of our trajectory from that moment on. But it’s one thing to acknowledge the role that a significant experience (whether positive, negative, or both) has played in shaping your life. It’s entirely another to build your life on the foundation of that experience.

It’s the difference between setting up camp on the way to your destination long before you arrive, and proceeding on to your destination until you get there.

We can allow our experiences to be tools in the hands of our Maker that He works for our good. Or we can take them into our own hands and use them to define ourselves.

So much of the latter is happening. Perhaps because life has a way of undressing us…leaving us naked and vulnerable for the world to see. In our mad rush to make sense of things and restore some sense of dignity to ourselves, we end up clothing ourselves with the very thing that undressed us in the first place.

All around I see individuals, movements, ministries, etc whose very existence is driven by pain, anger and tragedy.

It sounds like it could be a redemptive thing except lemons will never bear apples. Seeds of pain can never birth fruits of peace. Seeds of disappointment and sorrow can never birth fruits of contentment and joy. Seeds of anger can never birth the fruit of peace. At best, they can serve as catalysts to get us on the right path. At worst, they only result in a multiplication of themselves under the guise of being a testament of survival.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;

in your book were written, every one of them,

    the days that were formed for me,

    when as yet there was none of them.

Psalm 139:16 ESV

Every day – every single day – of our life on earth has been intentionally mapped out by God. We were always meant to be more than one experience, one high, one low, one phenomenal success, one devastating tragedy.

Our lives are meant to be centred on our Creator; not merely our experiences as created beings. Only divine healing can birth testimonies centred on the Healer and not the disease and the diseased.

God cannot use us to redeem that which we have yet to overcome. If Christ is not at the centre of all we are and all we do, there are plenty of idols waiting to take His place. Our experiences – good and bad – are some of the most underestimated idols we worship…and in the process, lead others to the very same idolatry.  

While we may be able to work people up to a frenzy with these idols, and build a name for ourselves in the process, all we will have done is build a house on sinking sand. It’s only a matter of time before just the right wind of life brings it all crashing to the ground.

We need to think long and hard about what we’re consuming as Christians even from fellow Christians and the Christian world. I always say the simplest test to whether something is good for you is this – is it bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit in your life: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control?

Or does it just tickle your flesh and make you feel justified about holding onto the fruit of the flesh: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like?

For the record, orgies don’t have to be about sex. There are plenty of orgies of jealousy, hatred, anger, selfishness, etc happening online each day that we partake of without second thought.

We need to think long and hard about what houses we’re building as Christians. Are they monuments to our survival from what we (secretly) think God should have saved us from? Are they Christian-shaped idols that point people to us and our ability to overcome relegating God to be the sidekick to our stories?

Or are we in service to THE house of the living God? The One who takes every dart the enemy meant for our downfall and uses it to propel us to our destinies. The One who gives every triumph and every tragedy the right perspective and position in our lives.

Our experiences devoid of God’s mark reduce us to gods who can only give the illusion of salvation. But when we place our very existence in the hands of our Maker, there’s no limit to redemption His presence and power in our lives can bring about.

May everything we are, and everything we do, point the world to Jesus. Because it is Him, and only Him, who is THE way, THE truth, and THE life that the world desperately needs.


The Power Of Perspective

So much of what we think and say about the world is centred on what we perceive of it as individuals. What I see, feel, hear, experience… Even in the Church, many of conversations revolve around me, myself and I.

Indeed, there is a place for our introspection as individuals. After all, no one sees the world in the exact same way as the next person. Each of us is the unique total of our past, present and future.

But I constantly wonder about how much faith and trust we put in what we perceive as individuals. Especially as believers.

Our perspective of life as individuals is limited. Extremely so. In a world as vast as ours, and with a God whose magnitude is beyond our comprehension, it’s a lofty thing to imagine that we could possibly know enough as individuals to be accurate judges of life.

Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything?

But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it. How strange a body would be if it had only one part! Yes, there are many parts, but only one body. The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”

 In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.  And the parts we regard as less honorable are those we clothe with the greatest care. So we carefully protect those parts that should not be seen,  while the more honorable parts do not require this special care. So God has put the body together such that extra honor and care are given to those parts that have less dignity. This makes for harmony among the members, so that all the members care for each other.  If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honored, all the parts are glad.

All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.

1 Corinthians 12:14-27 NLT

If we don’t understand why the Body of Christ exists, we will not supply into it and benefit from it as we should.

If we don’t understand why we express our faith differently as believers within the same church community, we will miss out on the blessing and breakthrough we’re carrying for each other.

Many of the faith arguments I come across remind me of this analogy of two blind men trying to describe an elephant. One is touching the elephant’s trunk and describing it accurately. The other is touching the elephant’s tail and describing it accurately. But because of their blindness they don’t realize they’re both right and keep arguing over whose description is correct.

Truth be told, we’re wasting so much time as believers arguing like the two blind men over trunks and tails. Only, we don’t even seem to realize just how blind we are.  

Maybe the reason we see and experience God differently is because He has positioned us in life in different ways. No single believer, ministry, church, community, tribe or race has the ability to fully comprehend all there is to God. Each one of us gets a different piece of the puzzle and only when we come together can we get the full picture.

Now, this is not an excuse for erroneous doctrine and errant practices in the name of God. There’s a fine line we must all walk in discerning what we simply don’t know and what is completely wrong.

Unfortunately, we often collapse the two. Because I have no record of this thing you’re saying/doing in my journey of faith, then you must be wrong. As if God is obligated to move in their life in the exact same manner that He has moved in yours.

Yet, if we were truly to connect with each other in love as the Body, we would be better able to keep each other in check. It’s always ironic to see believers on opposing ends of a matter who don’t realize that if they were to genuinely acknowledge each other’s perspectives, they’d realize they’ve both been right in some things and both been wrong in others.

What if we laid down our pride and humbly admitted to ourselves and others that we do get it wrong sometimes?

What if we laid down our pride and humbly accepted that we don’t know everything there is to God and faith and Christianity, no matter how many years we’ve been saved?

What if we laid down our pride and humbly submitted ourselves to the Holy Spirit to help us discern that which is beyond our experience?

What if we laid down our pride and humbly acknowledged that our Christianity is incomplete without the rest of the Body and we truly need each other?

What if we laid down our pride and humbly created bridges with each other as members of the same Body?

It doesn’t mean that we’ll always understand one another or agree on everything. But it does mean that we’ll be looking beyond ourselves to someone greater – Jesus.

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

John 17: 20-23 ESV

In this last prayer Jesus made before His ascension, He prayed for the unity of the Body. Out of all the things He could have prayed for in this pivotal hour, this was one of the critical things He chose.

Christ is the Head of our Body. Not any believer (in leadership or not) or denomination or church community or doctrine or race or nation. Christ. Maybe if we step out of our little cultural, denominational and faith bubbles, we’ll realize just how blind we’ve been to the greater work of His kingdom that’s at stake. A work that cannot be done by one church community and requires us all to do our part, not in silos but together in fellowship and in unity.

If the sum total of your Christianity doesn’t include anyone or anything beyond your typical Sunday Christian circles, it may be time to widen your gaze and start looking for some bridges to walk across. If you can’t find them, build them.

We cannot afford to let our pride and fear get in the way of our unity anymore. Not in this day and age. Find your place in Christ’s Body. Do your part for its well-being. It’s far from easy. It will require you to do hard and holy things, as Ann Voskamp puts it. But what lies ahead of us in light of our unity makes it all the more worth it.