Monday, February 23, 2015

Four Questions To Ask the Voices in (and outside of) Your Head

Four Questions To Ask the Voices in (and outside of) Your Head




This summer, three of us girls had our own version of manic Mondays. It was the “last hurrah” of a mom and two daughters before the final one left the nest.

One of those took us on the train to downtown Chicago, always a good place to encounter the unexpected. While sitting down to rest, I noticed something odd about the two young men we had just passed. They left the corner they had been standing on to sit down about ten feet to our right. Then, one of them picked up his things, crossed before us, and sat down about ten feet to our left, nodding to his friend and looking over us.

Mom radar beats NORAD every time. Very quietly, I said to the girls, “We have to go. Now.” Without hesitation or question, they got up, and we stepped quickly to our destination. End of questionable scene.

I would like to say that in all their 18 and 22 years that has always been the response of my children. Instant, unquestioning obedience. I would also like to say that I am on the short list for the next Pulitzer Prize in Literature. There would be equal validity in both statements. So why the compliance then? Because they knew the serious mom voice. And they knew to follow it.


We've been talking for several weeks now about identity. Who ar we? Who were we born to be? Today, let's turn a corner and talk about a new question.

Why are we not being that?


Here's a recap in case you're joining the story now.

We are people created in God's image to enact his character, cast his vision, and work under his authority to release His kingdom around us. Part of that character is absolute respect for his image in others and in ourselves.

But what makes that so hard to put into practice? Why do we wake up ready to “be all that we can be,” only to go to bed wondering what the heck we were?

(OK, full disclosure. I never wake up ready to be anything. It requires a full hour at least and one cup of Earl Grey before that is even thinkable. But some of you manage it. Kudus to you.)

Why don't we hear the voice of our parent every day and instantly follow? What keeps us from hearing the voice of God and saying, I know that voice. I love that voice. I trust that voice. I'll follow that voice? What about understanding our identity as images of God would take down our barriers to living out that identity with purpose and passion in this world?

Well first, I think we need to be able to recognize the voice.

Four years ago, we spent six weeks riding the rails of Europe. (Yes, we like trains. Trains are cool.) Usually, it was a blast. Sometimes, it was a confusing mess. You haven't lived crazy until you've stood in the middle of a train station listening to speakers blare at you from five different directions, informing you of this destination, that track, those trains. Add to that scenario the fact that all the German I know I learned form Hogan's Heroes reruns growing up, and you get the picture. Confusing. Easy to listen to the wrong thing and get on the wrong train headed for the wrong place. There are simply too many voices telling you where to go.

Same goes for life with God.

We listen to too many voices that tell us our identity.


I tell you the truth, anyone who sneaks over the wall of a sheepfold, rather than going through the gate, must surely be a thief and a robber! But the one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. After he has gathered his own flock, he walks ahead of them, and they follow him because they know his voice. They won’t follow a stranger; they will run from him because they don’t know his voice.” (John 10.1-5)

What's the first thing we get from Jesus' words here? He's plainly telling us—there are thieves. They're out there. And they want you. They will sneak in and and they will look good, sound good, and try to confuse you completely. They don't want you to know who you are. If you know who you are, you have power, and the thieves don't like that. They prefer you powerless and willing to listen to anything. Jesus clearly warns--don't be surprised when thieves try to steal who you are. It happens.

How do we know who is a thief and who is not? How do we know which voices to listen to?

There are a few questions we can use to make it easier.


  • Does this make sense? Really, would an intelligent person believe this? You are an intelligent person. I know you are, because only intelligent people read my blog :)
One of my pet peeves is when people post a story on Facebook and then preface it with, “I don't know if this is true or not, but . . .” Um, if you don't know, how about don't post it until you do? Put it through the “does this make sense?” filter. And Snopes. Please.

But you, my friend, are smarter than that, and you know that if something looks too good to be true, it's probably been photoshopped. Question everything that tries to tell you who you are or should be with a simple—Does this make sense to a sensible person? You'd be surprised at how many ideas that boots out right away.

  • Does it appeal to making me feel good? And the corollary--are they trying to sell me something? Thieves make their livelihood from our willingness to listen to them. Of course they tell a story we want to hear. Of course they appeal to our sense of well being, adventure, rebellion, power, happiness, whatever. How else will they convince us to empty our wallets into theirs? Sure, sometimes what people are selling is a good thing. (Um, I write books and speak for a living. I would prefer to sell some. Yeah. It's kind of how that eating and heating the house thing works.) But think about the answer. What does this message appeal to and why?
  • Will it really be good for me? Like long-term good. Not short-term happy happy joy joy. Real, like “don't text and drive is a pain when I want to communicate now but saves my life long-term” good.
  • Does the Bible agree? Why is this the most important question? Because this is the plan laid out by the only one in the entire universe who has never tried to sell us anything. In fact, it's the word of the one who gave us everything instead, up to and including his own life.


Jesus says his own hear his voice. They can distinguish it. They know the good voice from the many, many competing ones. They will get on the right train because they are concentrating on the right destination.

Jesus said that He gathers his flock and leads them—that means he goes in front to see any danger, to clear a path, to lead to food and water and all kinds of nourishing things.

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10.10)

Which voice do you want giving you an identity? The thief or the shepherd? Who are your thieves?


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Monday, February 16, 2015

One Shade of Love (But Four Imposters)


I know, I know. Everyone else has already jumped into this party. I'm a tad late. And no one wants to read anymore about Fifty Shades of anything. (Although, in fact, I'm not late. I was early, a few months ago with this previous post. This is merely a follow up to me being ahead of the game. Truth.)

But we must, because this thing is not going away. I want so badly to say it's just a movie and three terribly written books. I want to believe it will fade quickly. I want not to offend my friends by telling them they are wrong to consume and advocate for “Hey whatever you prefer as long as its not hurting anyone” media.

But I can't. I'm a mom, and a pastor, and in neither capacity can I afford a don't rock the boat stance on this one. Because I don't believe it's going to be a one night stand of a movie with our culture or our young women. I believe it's a barometer of what's already there and a bar setter for what we believe about relationships.

I have to at least tell the young people I love that that bar is at a level they can't live with. Literally. And that they can totally change it if they choose. So here, young women I know and any I don't who give me the honor of reading this, are the things I want you to know as the amazing women you are.

To my daughters (literal and otherwise),

1. You are not responsible for making another person happy. 


This is true in any relationship, not just a romantic one. If a parent, child, friend, or partner pins all his or her happiness on your actions, that's not adoration. It's manipulation.

You may feel adored. It feels beautiful, and powerful, to believe you alone can make him smile, and only you can fulfill his dreams. But think about that. Do you really want someone who cannot find it in himself to be happy and fulfilled without relying on you? Would you want to be a person who could not find joy apart from a specific relationship? How limiting is that?

Is there nothing in the entire rest of his life? If not, that's kind of scary. Maybe there's a reason for that. It sounds quite romantic for a man to tell you you're the sole reason for his existence. But really? Maybe you don't want to be that. It's a lot of pressure.

And, more importantly, what happens when he's not happy anymore? Because anyone who has no sense of who he is outside of you has no capacity to be happy, long term. Eventually, there will be chinks. Cracks where dissatisfaction leaks through. Big, gaping holes where you were supposed to make his dreams come true and you failed. And then what?

Don't mistake those feelings of power for feelings of love. A real relationship is never about power. It's about mutual, loving care.


2. You cannot rescue anyone. 


For this Fifty Shades thing, millions of women are excusing what in any other context would be rape and torture because, in the end, the guy is “redeemed.” It really is a love story, see, because he turns out great in the end. Never mind the means taken to get there.

So, it's OK for a woman to submit to any sort of violation of her dignity, physically and emotionally, if it all turns out well in the end. Not only OK, it's a good idea. Go for it. You won't be sorry.

Except not.

Hear one woman's story on this topic, one woman who was nearly killed by the man she would redeem: “I never once thought of myself as a battered wife. Instead, I was a very strong woman in love with a deeply troubled man, and I was the only person on Earth who could help (him) face his demons.”

That's the fantasy. Young women buy into it every day. Usually young women who themselves feel powerless, unremarkable, even unloved. The needy but otherwise awesome boy chooses them, and they will rescue him.

I'm a mom. I've read the stories. They are horror stories, every one of them, to a mother. I can't tell you how many times I've seen the stories in the news. Girl gets new boyfriend. Girl spends all her time with him. Girl drops all other contact in order to keep the boy she plans to “save.” Girl goes missing. You know the end.

Young women, it's a lie that you can save someone from himself. Only God can do that. You're not God. You are not even close to the pay grade. A romantic relationship is a terrible arena for helping someone who needs counseling. It is never OK to submit your dignity and well being for any reason. No one who asks that of you short term has your long term good in mind.

Being a friend to someone in pain? Pointing a person to help? Supporting a troubled soul? Yes—those are things worth spending your time on. But not in a relationship that hurts you. Not in a way that makes you the only one who can help. Leave the salvation to Jesus. He's good at it; we're not.

3. You are not responsible for the actions of any man. 


Period. That goes from the way you dress to the plans you make for your future to any words you speak. You are responsible for your actions, he for his. In a documentary on domestic abuse, I recently heard one woman, who declined to press charges on her boyfriend for punching her against the wall. Her reason for his behavior? “I just kept running my mouth. I shouldn't have done that.”

Her mouth didn't force his fist to hit it. The laws of physics argue against that.

Young women, you are brought up to believe this bullcrap. And yes, that's what Im calling it. There are not fancy words for it. If a man chooses assault, abuse, or any other behavior, he chose it. You did not entice it. You did not bring it on. You did not ask for it. 

Can I get you to believe one thing today? That's it. Please believe that. You make your choices, and I know some of them are lousy ones. I know, because some of mine are. But you don't make choices for anyone else. Good grief, your own are enough of a load to bear. Don't take on someone else's, too.

4. You are not meant to be the center of anyone's world. 


See #1 above. When God created human beings, indeed he did say that it was not good for man to be alone. He created woman to be his partner, his equal worker in this thing called life. But there is a difference between being a partner and being an idol.

The first step in any relationship that is headed for abuse is for the abuser to tell her he loves everything about her. She is the most important thing in his world. If she ever left he would be destroyed. He'll make a million Facebook posts about how perfect you are. How could anyone that adoring be bad?

It can be bad because it's setting you up to feel responsible for his welfare. And women, we eat this up. We like to feel responsible. We love to feel that able to heal and nurture and make someone whole. We love to be told we are the center of someone's universe. It makes us feel like, maybe, we are valid human beings ourselves. If another person feels that way about me, could I deserve to be loved after all? So this must be love.

Fact—if a man is telling you this, you are not the center of his universe. He is. There is no room for anyone else in his universe who is not willing to be controlled and used to make him feel better. He's making you responsible for his life, because he knows that will make you stay.

You are not responsible. Step out of the center and off the pedestal, no matter how heady a feeling it is to be put there. The fact that someone put you there should be a hint right away. Never agree to go where you didn't put yourself.

I said at the beginning of this post you could totally change things, didn't I? So don't leave on a note of discouragement.

Young women, you are the ones targeted by this nonsense you are told is empowering. But I know a secret. I know it, because I gave birth to three girls I have watched grow into truly powerful women. I know you are smarter and stronger than that. I know you can see through the bullcrap. And I know you can end it.

"In the United States, women ages 16 to 24 are three times as likely to be domestic violence victims as women of other ages, and over 500 women and girls this age are killed every year by abusive partners, boyfriends, and husbands in the United States."

Your population is the one most affected. So you are the ones who can stop it.

If you've read any recent posts on this blog, you know I've been running a series on identity. It would have continued today, but I thought this was more important. Yet, it is also part of the same topic. The truth is, if you, young women, know who you are, you are not going to fall into the lies about who you should be. You will not accept the role of being responsible for someone else's dysfunction. You will stand up and tell other young women to truth and help them out of this cycle. But you have to know.

In order for you not to be enticed by the power, the pedestal, the attention disguised as love, you have to know without doubt that you are already loved. You are already powerful. You are already chosen and destined and accepted. You are already enough. If that goes deep into your soul? You will recognize the false love when you see it.

So today, I'll leave you with this. It may seem like an easy out, to quote Scripture and just say “that's all folks.” Sometimes, it is. But this time, I believe it says all it needs to. More than I could. Will you allow these verses to sit in your soul? To bury deeply into whatever scars you have? To not let go of you until they have wrestled through whatever lies you have believed about what you need to do to be good enough or accepted and loved? That's all I want for you, my daughters.


O Lord, you have examined my heart

and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.




You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!



I can never escape from your Spirit!
I can never get away from your presence!

If I go up to heaven, you are there;
if I go down to the grave, you are there.
If I ride the wings of the morning,
if I dwell by the farthest oceans,
even there your hand will guide me,
and your strength will support me.




I could ask the darkness to hide me
and the light around me to become night—
but even in darkness I cannot hide from you.
To you the night shines as bright as day.
Darkness and light are the same to you.


You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.




You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.


How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.

They cannot be numbered!
I can’t even count them;
they outnumber the grains of sand!


Monday, February 9, 2015

Fly Like an Eagle (and now you're singing that song)




It takes a lot to get me out of the house in winter. I'm trying to renegotiate the basic human need for food so I can eliminate grocery store trips, but so far that hasn't worked so well. I don't like cold. Or snow. Or . . . you know, Amazon and PeaPod deliver . . . 

Still, almost every winter I love to venture down to Starved Rock State Park with my family to hike the trails to see the frozen waterfalls. Usually, we manage to choose one of the coldest Saturdays of the winter. So you know I believe it's worth it to see those frozen sheets of water. 

Another required stop is the bluff to watch the eagles. Soaring over the Illinois River, bald eagle pairs are a sight to make cold seem less relevant, somehow.

I started to imagine, while thinking about this topic of identity in God—what would it be like not to know you're an eagle? What if an eagle thought it was a mole? What if it spent its days digging through the ground, eating beetle grubs, wondering all the time why it was so incredibly ineffective at this digging thing. Why did it hate the feel of dirt in its feathers so much? And why, oh why, were grubs so disgusting and unfilling? The eagle would feel like it was a failure. Like it had one job and it not only was no good at it, it didn't even care.

Identity. Reprise.


That sounds like a lot of us. Last week, I talked about how being made in the image of God means that we should respect that image in others. We need to be about the business of seeing others as mirrors of ourselves, with their pluses, minuses, failures, and successes reflecting back our own. God included all people in his declaration that humans made in his image are very good. No exceptions.

But what if there is at least one person I don't treat with that kind of respect? And what if that person is . . . me?

What if one of the reasons we have such a difficult time understanding and living out our true identity in God is that we do not believe we are eagles? We spend our time digging away at pointless things, crying out to God Why? Why do I feel like I can't ever get better at this? Why is this so unfulfilling? Why am I not making any headway at all?

And God looks at us and says—Because you're not a mole, you idiot. You were never meant to paw at the dirt. I made you to soar.

“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2.10)

Eagles are some of God's most incredible creations. But you? You are a masterpiece. Right up there with the Mona Lisa and the Pieta. God's stunning creation. You should be hanging in a museum and having people gawk at you.

OK, maybe not. That wouldn't even be very much fun, I'm guessing.

Be An Eagle


But what if I don't feel like a masterpiece? At all? Well, the good news is it doesn't matter how we feel. God called us one. His word is the rule. If He said it, it is fact. God called human creation very good. He called people in his image three times in Genesis 1. That's significant, as we discussed in the first week of this topic. If He has declared it to be so, my feelings don't change it one way or another. That's excellent news for someone whose feelings of worth vary as much as the tide level in the Bay of Fundy.

However, it's going to be hard for me to treat others with the respect of God's image in them if I haven't practiced treating myself the same way. If I sell myself short in a hundred tiny ways every day, I'm highly likely to do the same to others.

God wants me to stop selling myself short. He wants me to be an eagle. Maybe that's going to be your hardest battle in 2015 when it comes to retaking your identity in Christ. Believe that you are an eagle. (This is starting to sound very Karate Kid. Whatever.)

We hear that we are to be God's representative on earth and we think, I can't do that. I'm not good enough. Holy enough. Smart enough. I'm not Mother Teresa or Billy Graham or that doctor in Africa on the cover of Time. I'm not even my pastor or youth pastor on a good day. They're trained/educated/just plain born good. I'm not. I'll leave that ambassador for God thing to them and go on digging around down here. It's good enough. I'm not cut out for more.

God says—stop being a mole. Stop selling yourself short. The truth is, every time we choose to be less than an eagle, we disrespect the image He gave us. We choose to be a cheap postcard reprint of a Thomas Kincaid when we could be a Monet.

No one can figure out his or her God-given identity sitting an assembly line of identical knockoffs of the real thing.

Who Does God Say We Are?


Things God says about you if you have given your life to Him:

  • You're his image—with all that includes. (Genesis 1.27)
  • He knew you before you were born and had a plan for you. (Jeremiah 1.5, Psalm 139)
  • You are a new creation—you can start over. (2 Corinthians 5.17)
  • You are chosen, and you belong to Him. (1 Peter 2.9)
  • You're his child, and you will become more like him all the time. (1 John 3. 1-3)
  • You are his friend--trusted. (John 15.15)
  • You are wonderfully made. (Psalm 139.14)
  • You are reconciled, holy, and blameless. (Colossians 1.19-23)
  • You are fearless. (Romans 8.14-15)



That is just a short list.

We all have the choice to soar into those things or to ignore them and keep digging around in the ground.

--It takes stepping into that belief, knowing we might fall and get hurt but taking the chance anyway.

--It takes continuing those flying lessons, even after we tumble down because we lost sight of where we were meant to be. Like Dori said, Just keep swimming. Or flying. Same thing. Sort of.

--It takes looking at a situation and thinking about it not through lenses of fear but through a lens of “What would God's image-person do here?”


--It takes looking at the thieves who try to steal your identity in Christ and saying, “You know what? I don't think so. I've seen the list. I know who I am.”

Today, I choose to soar.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Stamp of the Almighty -- If I'm God's Image, What Are You?

Twelve years ago, we took our family on a mission trip to China. As part of our daily activity, we went into classrooms where kids would ask us questions and practice their English skills. Usually, we fielded generic questions like: What's your favorite color? What do you like about China? What do you do? And, once they found out our family was from Chicago, Do you know Michael Jordan?

But one day, a boy raised his hand and floored me with something else. “Do you hate Osama bin Laden?” 

We think we've got large class sizes.
This was October, 2002. 9/11 was not yet history. I struggled for the right words, and out came something like, “No, I don't. I am a follower of Jesus and he asks me to love my enemies. So I hate what he did. But no, I do not hate him.”

I could sense a climate change in the room. A room filled with communist atheist kids had just heard something they did not have the resources to comprehend. I wasn't sure I did. But their skepticism that our God was relevant turned to interest. What could make someone not return hate with hate?

Remember a time when people got along all the time? No one blamed anyone else for their dumb decisions, and no one got all defensive in your face about it either? We never bullied or inflicted hurt on purpose or put our own wants above someone else's needs? No one died in mindless acts of hatred.

Yeah, neither do I. Because none of us ever saw it. Only two people ever did. They didn't hang onto it for long.

It Was All Good. Very Good.


I imagine looking up in the garden was like this.
When God created the first two people, he declared that the original partnership was very good. It was the only part of creation that earned the adverb “very.” In that beginning, the original pair did not blame and fear one another. They worked together with grace and dignity. Humanity had that “let's all hold hands and get along” thing down, I tell you. But then, there were only two of them. How much conflict can you get into?

Enough.

It ended. Rather abruptly. 

We've been talking about the image of God and what that means every day. How do we discover our identity, what we were born to be and do, by knowing more about that image? 

We've figured out that being created in God's image means displaying his character and growing up, like kids, to “look” more like him. It means having his vision for my future and the future of the Kingdom. It means taking on the responsibility of being his ambassador of light in a dark world. Doing what he would do. 

One huge aspect of “doing what he would do” lies at the heart of the Genesis story. If all people are created in his image, and if that image is still to be protected and valued even after we completely messed it up (Genesis 9.6), what does that mean for how we value other human beings? 

If my purpose is to hold his vision dearer than anything I can dream of myself, I need to seriously look at that original relationship—and then at how we relate to one another now. God's vision was made clear in the garden. People are equal. People are precious. People are the most beautiful thing He created. 

What am I going to do with that?

What I should be going to do is let the rest of the world see how it was meant to be. Let them know God had a plan. Make it clear that I'm committed to restoring that original plan. Even if it's not a popular commitment.

Who Is God's Image Again?


I listened to a panel of pastors and others recently talk about racism, privilege, and power. One of the young men told the story of going to Ferguson to participate in nonviolent protest. He spoke of standing face to face with police officers and looking into their eyes. “I could see clearly that neither one of us wanted to hurt the other. We were both people, looking in one another's eyes. Looking at another person who wanted peace. But we were stuck on opposite sides. Most people don't want to hurt anyone—we know we're all the same people.” 

Those aren't his exact words, but that was the scene he painted. People who want to treat one another right, but a world that is so filled with complication, so far from what the original order was meant to be, we don't really know how. 

  • Osama bin Laden was made in the image of God.
  • Michael Brown and Darren Wilson were made in the image of God.
  • Every illegal immigrant you've ever seen, talked to, or read about was made in the image of God.
  • Every girl trafficked for sex was made in the image of God. So was her pimp.
  • The person who annoys you next door or in the next pew was made in the image of God.
  • The kid in youth group who just unleashed the longest string of profanity you've ever heard put together was made in the image of God.
  • The slow old lady up ahead, the grocery checker who made a mistake when you were in a hurry, the kid you just cut from the team are all made in the image of God.


What am I going to do with that?

Darn, but I don't think God made any exceptions when he said humans were made in his image. And that we are to love them. I don't see any annotations next to those pretty all-inclusive verses. 

Why not? Because as his image, we know two things. One, we are called to restore what his original plan was. Two, the moment I look at you as a lesser being, I forget that I am you.  [tweet this]. I am of the same materials. If I look in the mirror, I should see you as much as I see me. I should be able to look at those who stand against me and recognize myself. If I'm living as God's ambassador, I should look into any eyes at all and see like Jesus would. In fact, I should see Jesus himself.

The world around us tells us we should treat everyone equally and be kind to all. Why? Because . . . well, we're not sure really, but it seems like a good idea. It's warm and fuzzy and gets a lot of Facebook likes. It often works out well in practice. So yeah, love your neighbor. That's a good thing to do.

No wonder it doesn't motivate a lot of us to change.

The Real Reason


How about this? Treat everyone equally because everyone has the same stamp of the Almighty on his or her soul. And as his ambassadors, we have the chance to help them uncover it. To help another human soul recognize his or her identity as God's own. To see the spark of joy and empowerment and pure light that comes from that recognition dawning. We get to be a part of that. We get to see it happen--when we start seeing others as fellow image bearers, no matter what.

The other thing to understand, though, is that love is a verb, not a nice feeling. We can't get away with, “Hey, I love them with the love of God. But they've got to conform to my standards before I'll do anything more.” Love always does something. It never pats someone on the head and moves on. It gets in the mud and pulls people out of it, because no one can discover their true identity covered in muck. And no one can get out of it alone. I couldn't. 

Respecting the image of God means we can't turn away from damage that is done to it. It requires us to call out injustice. It begs us to stand up for others until they can stand for themselves. That's what God did, still does, for us. Jesus stood up for us on the cross. We never could have. 

Yet some days we can't stand up for our neighbor, friend, coworker, or that person at church. They are to blame. They should apologize first. They should prove they care for me first. Guess what? Jesus didn't require that, and I'm glad. While we were yet sinners, he died for us. He didn't ask for apologies or qualifications first. He didn't inspect skin color, economic status, gender, nationality, or morality. He didn't say he'd die for only those who agreed with his politics, word choice, ideas for how to run a church, or theology. While we still rejected him, he died. Thank God.

To be his image is to see the “very good” of Genesis in everyone.  [tweet this]. It's to look at another soul and recognize the same image that is in you. Every human soul. How can I act hatefully toward my own face?


Next week, we'll actually ask that question. It's not as easy as it sounds.





Monday, January 26, 2015

Legacy Leaving and Statue Building -- What Is Your Vision for 2015?

The kings of old didn't do things small.
Our kids are a huge disappointment to us. Seriously, the Richardsons are leaving nothing in this world when we exit, and it is all those kids' fault.

In several short months, one of them is going to be leaving that name behind for a new one. Eventually, it is assumed (but not a necessity) the other two will marry as well. Not that they could not keep their names—they choose not to. (Unless one of them gets engaged to a guy named, say, Snuffleupagus or something. Then, please reconsider, kiddo.)

Nor will they carry on the family business. None of our daughters wants to be a doctor. (Their mother may have swayed them a bit with her horror stories. Or her preference for Shakespeare over intestines.) They will never be practice partners with dad. In the ways traditional families measure legacies, we're slacking. Fortunately, we don't care. There are more important legacies to leave.

Last week, we talked about how our children reflect our character. It's an analogy for how we reflect God's character as his children and his image. But there is even more to being a child, and an image, than reflecting behaviors and ideas.

Our children are the ones we entrust to carry into this world what we find important. They are the ones we hope and believe will take on our values and visions for the future.

Sometimes it's a family business; sometimes it's a family name. I hope, more often, it's treasured beliefs like caring for others, protecting family ties, and persevering through a difficult task. We won't be here to continue what was important to us. We dream that they will.

God has the same dream. 

He not only made us to reflect his character--he created us to see his vision.  [tweet this]. We're not meant to simply be nice people in this world. A computer knows how to generate good manners. We're meant to spread God's values like rain after a California drought. To make our world loving and just, not settle for making ourselves good people.

Giant Statues and Kingdom Stakes



In the ancient world, kings set up images of themselves in the outer regions of their kingdom. Why? Other people might just send an email with a photo attachment. A strongly worded memo. But these guys figured, hey, I'm a king. I don't do things small. Giant statues? Let's get on this thing!

There was a reason. See, when your kingdom is far flung, and your transportation system is a chariot, and there is no satellite programming to get your message out on 347 channels, you've got to have a Plan B. And their plan was to establish statues that would stand in for them. The figures would have their authority. Whatever a person would be expected to do in the king's actual presence he is expected to do for the statue. The image was a representative of the real thing. It had the authority of the king.

That's the idea we're supposed to get from being told in Genesis 1 that we are created in the image of God. You (you as in people--you and I) have been placed in the outer reaches of the kingdom as God's own representative. You have his authority to do what he would do. You're like an emissary sent our from your country to offer aid to this government and counsel to this other one.

This makes for an entirely different plot line than just looking at the image of God idea as “Wow, maybe I should kind of act better.” It's, “Wow, there's an entire kingdom at stake here, and I'm spending my days hanging out on Facebook arguing over who should have won the Golden Globes.” Arguing nicely, understand, because I'm the image of God.

We are a people called to mirror his character and his vision into a crazy world. That's way bigger than “Share this picture if you love Jesus.” Crazy bigger.

We're the delegation he has sent out to accomplish what the King wants for His kingdom. You're an envoy. For the King of the universe. That's serious stuff right there. Potentially scary. And unbelievably exciting.

(Side note: If we're sent to do what he would do? We'd better be quite sure what he would do. And fyi, I don't think launching hate campaigns against people who don't think like us is on the short list of things God would do.)

Giant Changes and Kingdom Strategies


For this little guy? She is Jesus.
How would it change your day to day priorities if you got out of bed today thinking, “I'm an emissary for God?” How would it mess with your agenda? Change your schedule? Slow your hurried walk past people you work with, shop with, go to school with? Deflect the criticism on your tongue or push out the encouragement? Keep you from thinking “someone should fix that problem” and start you fixing it yourself?

If we looked one person in the eyes and thought, how can I represent God to her? Right here, right now? Not in a 4-Spiritual-Laws shove the gospel at her kind of way but in a Jesus-would-do-this style. If we saw one social issue of our time and, instead of wringing our hands or focusing blame on one side, thought, how does God see this? How can I bring light and love into the darkness of this bad situation?

I used to think I wanted to go into politics. Now I know I'm not cut out for the mind games involved. Yet I have the responsibility of standing in for the King.

God says He's looking for someone to go on an adventure. Are you ready?



Next week—What does being in God's image mean for how we treat others? How about ourselves? Which one is harder for you?