WHO ARE YOU? Identity is Destiny

WHO ARE YOU? Identity is Destiny

The question stumped me. I was in my early thirties, wrestling with deep disappointments, anxieties, and frustrations. Phil was a retired pastor and WWII vet who had become my mentor. Ever so gently, he asked again, “Who are you?”

My mind flashed back to some things my father had said to me in anger, to memories of singing in church and musicals, to adventures with friends, and failures as well. But did those things define me?

“I guess I don’t know,” I said.

The answer I found over the next couple of years changed my life for the better, and it can change yours too.

Some of us look in the mirror and see only disappointment. Some of us see failures or victims of childhood abuse or at least parental malpractice. Some of us see the unlovely and unloved. But that is not what God sees. Consider what scripture says about us when we become believers.

  • Col. 2:13 – You have been “made alive with Christ” and are no longer “dead in trespasses and sins.”
  • Col. 3:1 – You have been “raised with Christ,” and your life is now “hidden with Christ in God.”
  • Heb. 10: 10 – You have been “made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Christ once for all.” 
  • Rom. 5:1 – You have been justified – completely forgiven and made righteous in the sight of God. (See also 5:19)
  • Rom. 8:1 – You are free forever from condemnation.
  • 1 Cor. 1:30 – You have been placed into Christ by God’s doing.
  • 1 Cor. 6: 19-20 – You have been bought with a price; You are not your own; You belong to God.
  • 1 Thess. 1:4 & Jude 1:1 – You are loved by God, chosen by him, and called by him.

In Christ, you are a righteous, complete, accepted, beloved, and chosen person. You may not feel like it all the time or act like it. And it is not an excuse to indulge in sin.[1] But this is what God says is true of you and every believer.  This is what Christ accomplished for us. Christ exchanged your life with his. Christ secured your future in him. We were taken out of Adam’s lineage, adopted as God’s children, and given the inheritance of Christ.

But some of us have a hard time accepting that. We see ourselves as something less than God sees us, something inferior. That stifles our development because what we believe about ourselves determines our destiny.

An example.

Tom Friends of The New York Times asked Coach Jimmy Johnson what he told his players before leading the Dallas Cowboys onto the field for the 1993 Super Bowl.

“I told them that if I laid a two-by-four across the floor, everybody there would walk across it and not fall because our focus would be on walking the length of that board. But if I put that same board ten stories high between two buildings, only a few would make it because the focus would be on falling.”

Johnson told his players not to focus on the crowd, the media, or the possibility of falling, but to focus on each play of the game as if it were a good practice session. The Cowboys won the game 52-7.[1]

What kind of people will we be if we see ourselves as unholy, unlovable, unworthy, and incompetent: depressed, insecure, resentful, and angry, right? Why? Because life for a defeated Christian feels like a script you can’t remember in a play where you don’t belong, a set of expectations that are impossible to meet. It feels like crossing a two-by-four ten stories high. Jesus didn’t rise from the dead to leave us feeling like that!

Depressed people don’t dream dreams. Insecure people won’t take risks. Angry people can’t build loving relationships.

But what happens when we believe in our worth, value, competence, and goodness? We become world changers. We invest ourselves in life, in dreams that change things, and make life better for everybody.

What does God think of you? Is he proud of you? Does he love you? Who are you?


[1] See Romans 6.

 

FINDING PEACE IN ANXIOUS AMERICA

FINDING PEACE IN ANXIOUS AMERICA

I was approaching agoraphobia—the inability to be in a crowd—and didn’t know it, but then, I didn’t know much of anything about anxiety disorders in 1980. All I knew was that I had trouble sleeping, I was constantly worried, I felt terribly alone, incessantly churning down inside. I had been a confident, risk-taking teen, but by age twenty all that was gone. I was so uncertain of myself that I stayed in my car between classes at the junior college and drove straight home after lunch to spend the rest of the day alone and miserable. The only way I could describe it was that it felt like I was free-falling, with no bottom in sight and no rope to stop me.

If any of that sounds familiar, then you may be among the thirty-odd percent of Americans who, according to the National Institutes of Health, have an anxiety disorder. It’s even worse among college students, 62% of whom reported “overwhelming anxiety” in 2016 according to The New York Times.[1]

The search for peace is driving unprecedented sales of anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications, over 15.2 billion dollars and rising in 2015.[2] The medications have helped many people. And the more we learn about the brain the better. But finding peace is about more than balanced brain chemistry. It’s about inner harmony. Bottom-line: if our souls are out of balance the medications will only mask problems, problems that, if resolved, might preclude the need for medications.

It behooves us to ask then, what exactly is peace?

Peace means wholeness. Shalom—fullness of life—is the old Hebrew word. Harmony, which comes from the Greek Ireinei (pronounced I-Ray-nye), “at one again,” is another. When I have inner peace I am at one, I am whole. My mind and heart are in harmony and every part of me is in agreement. Inner peace has little to do with external circumstances and everything to do with how my mind and heart respond to those circumstances. One thing is certain: I cannot have peace with others if I do not have peace within.

We chase peace in many ways.

Fame is one, the search for which is exacerbated by social media. Teens especially are vulnerable. When we are well-known (translation: many “friends” and “followers”) and well liked, the center of attention, we have peace. But the peace of fame is fleeting. It leaves us empty and anxious when the spotlight turns, as it inevitably will, to someone else.

Perfection is another. Pursuing perfection makes us feel an inch taller than everyone else. Ben Franklin had thirteen rules of virtue but found he could never keep them all at once. Eventually we hit the wall, the end of our ability to achieve whatever goal we set be it athletic, musical, moral or financial. When that happens, peace is replaced by frustration, another word for anxiety.

Finally, some pursue peace through conformity to a sub-culture: We’re Goths or Gays, Progressives or MAGA’s, Baptists or Brethren. Conformity is sturdy, reliable. The boundaries are clear and so are the “ins” and the “outs.” But conformity offers peace only to insiders. It erects barriers to outsiders. In the end, conformity is the peace of prison. Life stops at the gates.

The Bible explains where our anxiety comes from. We are fragmented, incomplete creatures, created whole in the image of God but broken at the fall. We are jigsaw puzzles with missing pieces, un-synchronized and incomplete without relationship with Him who made us.

The Bible also offers the path to peace: Jesus. “For he himself is our peace,” wrote Paul, “who made the two one.” Jesus is our peace because of two things: His personal wholeness, he is shalom personified, and his work of redemption. He restored our broken relationship with God.

Jesus is the only unfragmented person who ever lived. He is complete, lacking nothing. “In him the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form.”[3]

Jesus restored, synchronized and harmonized, our relationship with God. “We have peace with God through” him.[4] He filled up what was lacking in us by “making us complete” in himself.[5] He unifies our minds in peace, overcoming our mental fragmentation by the control of his Spirit.[6]

In March of 1980 I gave my life to Christ, asking him to take control, and experienced the “peace that passes understanding.” The falling stopped, and my feet were finally on solid ground. I have had many ups and downs since then, but the rock beneath my feet has never moved. Aren’t you ready to do the same?

[1] https://www.eab.com/daily-briefing/2017/10/18/why-extreme-anxiety-is-at-an-all-time-high-among-american-students

[2] https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/anxiety-disorders-and-depression-treatment-market

[3] Colossians 2:9

[4] Romans 5:1

[5] Colossians 2:10

[6] Romans 8:6 & 9.

FAKE NEWS, SPIN, & HONEST JOURNALISM

FAKE NEWS, SPIN, & HONEST JOURNALISM

The Headlines Scream:

“JOY BEHAR FIRED FROM THE VIEW,” but she wasn’t.

“MICHELLE BACHMAN SAYS JESUS CREATED ASSAULT RIFLES,” but she didn’t.

And my all-time favorite: ANGRY COW KNOCKS HELICOPTER FROM SKY: Udder Destruction! Which never happened but is still hilarious.

The BBC defines fake news as:

  • Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform.
  • Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new.
  • Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people.[1]

Fake news used to be limited to the grocery store checkout line, but the web gave it legs and Twitter gave it wings. Now it’s everywhere all the time.

Fake news is easy to spot, spin not so much. Spin isn’t completely false information manipulated to deceive. It is editorial selection of facts based on undeclared presuppositions along with the imposition of a particular point of view designed to bring about specific conclusions by the viewer or reader. The same reader or viewer might arrive at different conclusions were all the facts delivered—or spun—in a different way. In other words, spin is not fair or balanced.

To spot spin we need to know some things about message crafting in general and journalism in particular.

Every reporter, indeed every message maker from the shortest Twitterer to the longest documentary film-maker makes editorial choices. The choices are limited by time and space and are guided by the story’s theme, as chosen by the writer, and the production’s priorities, specified by the editor or producer. That’s where spin begins, and all communication has some.

Every writer has a purpose which guides the selection of material including, for example the Apostle John who, as an evangelist, chose the stories most likely to convince any reader that Jesus is the Christ.

“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples,” he wrote, “which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” [2]

But John and the rest of the Bible’s writers knew that God would hold them accountable to tell the truth.[3] Many publishers, producers, and editors today forget that, or never believed it in the first place. “Too much of the media acts like a special interest group,” said Michael Goodwin, chief political columnist for the New York Post. “It exists to promote its own interest and the political party with which it is aligned.”

Goodwin began his career as a clerk at the New York Times under legendary editor Abe Rosenthal whose commitment to fairness made the Times the flagship of American journalism. No more, says Goodwin. “Standards are like laws in the sense that they are designed to guide your behavior in good times and in bad. Consistent adherence to them was the source of the Times’ credibility. And eliminating them has made the paper less than ordinary. It’s only standards now are double standards.”[4]

Savvy news consumers winnow the facts from the spin and discern which facts have been deselected. Watch for concrete detail, specific examples, and definitive quotes. Ignore generalities and nonspecific adjectives or adverbs.[5]

True, total objectivity is impossible for fallen creatures. All of us are prejudiced. Ethical journalists reporting from a secular worldview usually attempt fairness by quoting person “A” on the left and person “B” on the right. But “conventional objectivity,” as Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World News Group writes, “balances subjective views that may be ungodly.”

Biblical worldview journalism takes “the God’s-eye view”.  Its editorial priorities and conclusions are guided by Scripture. Of course, Scripture doesn’t address everything, so Olasky and company devised a six-tiered system—called rapids, after whitewater rafting’s classification system—by which they set their priorities and draw their conclusions. The lower the number the more certainty about God’s take on an issue. The higher the number—the more difficult rapid—the less likely World is to take a hard and fast stand. Either way, World reports all the facts, or at least all that they can access prior to press time, under the standard of biblical objectivity.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,” says Olasky, “but the streets declare the sinfulness of man. Biblical journalism emphasizes God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness.”[6]

When it comes to journalism, that’s the real thing.

[1]http://www.bbc.com/news/world-42487425

[2] The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Jn 20:30–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

[3] See: Acts 24:13; Romans 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 John 1:3 etc.

[4] Michael Goodwin, The 2016 Election and the Demise of Journalistic Standards, Imprimis, May / June 2017.

[5] Marvin Olasky, Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism, p. 33. Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1996.

[6] World Journalism Institute’s World Policy Book & Writer’s Guide p. 7