Awakenings – a series inspiring the spiritually restless, hungry and weary to start 2017

confess

The first step required for any kind of change is ultimately confession, admitting a problem exists and change is imperative. Not just a private confession to God, and not within the safety of anonymity, openly presenting your personal failures to another human being at the risk of rejection (but also risking love). After 37 years on this planet, the person I have the hardest time relating to without a filter is myself. Unless we strip away the curtain  that hides the reality of our imperfection from ourselves, authentic relationships with another human being is impossible.
The Bible recounts the tale of shame entering the world in Genesis 3. The world is exploding in color and life, leading up to this point. The figures of Adam and Eve are figuring out who they are and how to navigate the world around them. Then, they get arrogant, thinking they have it all figured out. They cross a clear boundary God set for them, symbolized by taking a bite of fruit off a forbidden tree which was a step down a path not meant for them. In that moment, recognizing they failed their creator, shame blanketed them both.

In a popular Ted talk, Brene Brown tackles the nature of shame and exposes it as the root motivator of destructive and broken behavior.

Human behavior leads us to conceal our faults and avoid that which has potential to hurt our spirit, at least from our perspective. Physical threats create the option of ‘fight or flight’, but, as physical beings, we are powerless to combat threats to our spirit so we hide ourselves away in hopes of avoiding them. A child who has disobeyed their parents avoids facing the consequences of their failure by physically hiding. An employee who has failed their employer hides their mistakes by redirecting blame or covering up the error if blame is unavoidable. We naturally want to please others and avoid failure. When Adam recognized his failure, he hid himself from God. When God came looking, He did not angrily cry out “Boy, what have you done?!” or “You had better hide. Don’t come back until you get yourself right!” No; He came asking one simple question. “Where are you?”

God didn’t come searching to place blame or scold, He searched to find His creation so by seeing, acknowledging and confessing their failure, the would no longer feel like they must hide. Exposing faults, then being accepted despite them, renders shame powerless.

The key to defeating shame is finding someone you can lean on to be completely vulnerable and authentic, exposing your soul without fear of judgement or rejection. Someone who will listen while you confess your darkest thoughts and your deepest failures, loving you at your worst simply for who you are. This doesn’t mean overlooking or justifying blatant negative behavior; it is loving you through it, taking you by the hand and finding a way out of it together.

Being completely known and not being loved is a deep fear of man; being completely known and loved anyway is one of man’s greatest needs.

Risk being loved just as you are.

Wake up from your self-induced tranquilization. Where are you?

Do you want to stay there?

Week 1 made us recognize where we are at; in some, exposing truths about ourselves we’d rather ignore and confessing our role in getting us there. For week 2, we spoke about how to get moving and knowing which path to follow.

Jesus emphatically desires a relationship with each of us, but it is not demanded from us. We find and develop that relationship by following His example, obeying the life principles and philosophies He embodies. Jesus’s life and example recorded in the Bible are our map, the Holy Spirit acts as our compass.

There are many paths in life. The Holy Spirit guides us, showing us direction, but we can’t know where we’re going without also looking at the map.

the-road-to-obedience

It’s not always black and white, knowing what we are leaning on for direction and which road is “right”. One thing I have learned through my life is to have multiple resources. The compass tells you what direction you are facing, the map gives you a glimpse of possible routes and the terrain that lay ahead. Using either of these tools exclusively leave you with only half the information.

Moving ahead through the this installment of our series, we’ve talked about what we need to do to awaken and free ourselves (confessing and accepting our faults) and we’ve talked about how to find our direction and move forward, stepping beyond our failures. The third installment encourages us to be confident in the steps we take and let the world see the light of our God and feel his love through our scars and brokenness.

be-seen

I’ve always been intrigued by the interwoven shapes and light refraction of broken glass. Glass is so much more beautiful and interesting after its been broken. Such is the human life. Broken glass inspired this drawing. To create this broken effect in a two dimensional drawing, I paused in the middle of creating the image to crumple and damage the page with seams and wrinkles.

No one is immune from being broken. Some of us have more scars than others, some scars are self-inflicted.
God did not give us the example of Jesus to teach us how to disguise and bury those scars, He illuminates our world when we risk being present and being seen, despite our scars, loving people without reservations or minimum requirements.

Jesus is the light, beautifully refracted through our brokenness.

 

The fourth and final installment of Awakenings was a commission to take assessment of our lives and purge it of anything that clouds our relationship with ourselves, our relationships with others and our relationship with God. The message was titled “Remove Doubtful Things”, but I believe “Questionable” is a better word than doubtful, in this case.

It is part of our nature to push our limits, to question authority and discover ourselves through experience. This is a double-edged sword that does not cut cleanly.

is-anything-righteous

Michael referenced Sodom and Gomorrah in this message this morning. The main focus of his message was about removing “doubtful” (I think questionable is a better word) things from you life to make way to be who you are designed to be in your life.

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were held to to the condition of only 10 faithful people in the entire population to avoid destruction and they could not even meet that.

The point of remembering that story is not about the cities, its not about how terrible the people in those cites were, and its certainly not to condemn specific sin.
The story of Sodom and Gomorrah is the story of you and me.
I am Sodom, I am Gomorrah. I it is my responsibility to look in my life to create and keep any righteousness inside me. Check your own life. Is anything righteous? Focus there.

The last four weeks have laid out methodical steps to re-awaken our complacent and sleeping souls, to come alive in who we are meant to be.

It’s time to wake up.

O Death

‘O, Death’ author unknown

O, Death
O, Death
Won’t you spare me over til another year
Well what is this that I can’t see
With ice-cold hands takin’ hold of me
Well I am death, none can excel
I’ll open the door to heaven or hell
Whoa, death someone would pray
Could you wait to call me another day
The children prayed, the preacher preached
Time and mercy is out of your reach
I’ll fix your feet til you can’t walk
I’ll lock your jaw til you can’t talk
I’ll close your eyes so you can’t see
This very air, come and go with me
I’m death I come to take the soul
Leave the body and leave it cold
To draw up the flesh off of the frame
Dirt and worm both have a claim
O, Death
O, Death
Won’t you spare me over til another year
My mother came to my bed
Placed a cold towel upon my head
My head is warm my feet are cold
Death is a-movin upon my soul
Oh, death how you’re treatin’ me
You’ve close my eyes so I can’t see
Well you’re hurtin’ my body
You make me cold
You run my life right outta my soul
Oh death please consider my age
Please don’t take me at this stage
My wealth is all at your command
If you will move your icy hand
Oh the young, the rich or poor
Hunger like me you know
No wealth, no ruin, no silver no gold
Nothing satisfies me but your soul
O, death
O, death
Wont you spare me over til another year
Wont you spare me over til another year
Wont you spare me over til another year

Two things in life are guaranteed, death and taxes. Well today, April 15, we started a new series; Afterlife: What the Bible says and what we’ve made up. Naturally, before we can really dig into the afterlife we talk about what gets us there, death. Something else that is certain in life, what you believe about death and eternity will affect how you live.

Physically speaking, the mechanics of death is simple, the parts of the human body that must function to sustain life simply stop working. Spiritually, death marks the moment when the body and soul separate. Our bodies are nothing more than the vessels we use while on the earth. Upon death, the body is nothing more than a mass of dead matter that is slowly returning to dirt(Genesis 3:19). The soul does not die, it lives on after it is free from the body (Matthew 10:28). The question that has to be answered is where? The answer is determined by the choices made while you’re confined in your body (John 11:26).

Even for the Christian, death does not mark immediate transportation into paradise. We will all face judgement. Some will sand before a great white throne for this spiritual review. White is often a color associated with the positive aspects of the Christian faith, but in this case, white is not where you want to find yourself. The souls whose lives are judged in front of the white throne are there because there is no place for them in heaven (Revelation 20:11). These are the people who did not place their faith in Jesus, choosing to trust in their own ability to obtain righteousness. For them, judgement is swift and disastrous.

Contrary to popular belief, Christians will also have their lives judged. Not a judgement determining whether they will enter heaven, Jesus already opened that door. This judgement will decide their reward once they enter heaven. What!? We won’t all receive equal pats on the back and “well done good and faithful servant” ego boosters? This passage in Revelation refers to two books being used during judgement. One is the book of life, the other has records of what each soul had done with the life they were given (Revelation 20:12) When a person genuinely accepts Jesus’s sacrifice and resurrection as  necessary for their own righteousness, then begins living to emulate Christ’s example of selflessness, their name is recorded in the book of life. Without this record, you doom your own soul to a dreadful eternity in what John could only describe as a lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).

So if having our name in the book of life gets us into heaven, what’s the purpose of the second book? Getting into heaven is the goal, right? Wrong, at least not completely.

Heaven is where we all want to end up, an eternity in paradise with your creator and savior can’t be bad! Jesus taught us to be more than that, though. His life pointed us to God, yes; but He also showed us how to navigate life, interacting with creation and each other as God designed. He taught us social lessons as much as He did spiritual ones.

That is the purpose of the second book, to keep us accountable for how we live on earth. Christianity is more than just picking spiritual sides by saying some magic words and making sure your name is on the guest registry. It is a decision to live a life dedicated to serving other people, deciding everyone else is more important than yourself (Matthew 22:36-40). While the Christian’s entrance into heaven is not dependent on our deeds in life, the reward we receive is. Several places in the Bible speak of crowns some will receive as reward for their deeds (1 Corinthians 9:25, 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20, 2 Timothy 4:7-8, 1 Peter 5:2-4, Revelation 2:10, Matthew 6:20). The Bible also speaks of people who claimed to be Christians but were punished for their lack of deeds (Matthew 25:31-46).

My drawing this week is a simple representation of death, an eye closing.

I drew an open eye first, using dark, soft lead, then erased it to leave a mirage-like image. Using a charcoal pencil, I drew the closed eye on top. The eye is closed, but the iris and pupil are still visible to show it was once open and full of life.

The open eye plays a second role, gazing back at you. The eye looks at you as if to ask, what are you doing with the days you have? Much like my piece ‘Torn’, this one is meant to make you reflect on your own life, inspiring changes as necessary. Tell me, does it work?