Chasing Validation

How do you know it works? Is this worth it? Are you worth it? What value do you have and how many followers do you have? Is it worth my time, money, and energy?

Ever ask yourself these questions? Does anyone ever ask you these questions? Apparently someone asked PUMA these questions and they felt compelled to answer with this bite size note on the pair of shoes I just got:

Clearly – people wear it. No one person in particular, just the people that you imagine they are talking about which are the same people that you often dream to be more like. Famous people, people dressed to the nines, athletes and perfect body people. Also those who aren’t bound by “the grind”. So whatever the “it” is that you desire, Puma knows that they have “it” and “it” is working.  These imaginary people validate the “it” I just bought.

This Christmas I am wondering, what or who am I pointing to for my validation? Where are you finding your validation?

If you are at all like me a lot of what I spend my time, money, energy chasing in hopes for validation are truly a figment of my imagination. Success, fame, followers, notoriety,  and “one-better-than-that-guy”. Sounds like something but is truly imaginary. No substance there, no final product or finish line.

Christ was born in a barn, laid in a trough full of half eaten hay. Not long after his birth to unmarried parents his family found themselves as refugees in Egypt only to enter illegally as immigrants into a land that was not their own. Where was Christ’s validation? What could he point to? Who could he point to? He had nothing! (Cue imaginative constructions of success or possession…oh, he didn’t do that either.)

Christ abided in his validation. He did not chase it.

He abided in God’s presence.

LUKE 2:48-49 And when his parents saw him they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress. And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I mus be in my Father’s house?”

He abided in God’s blessing.

 MATTHEW 3:16-17 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went  up from the water, and behold, the heavens opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

I am sure there were times, Christ in his humanity felt the need to validate his presence, worth, or value through the standards or imaginations of man. Yet he chose to not chase an empty imaginary goal but to abide in the tangible presence of God our Father.

In your last few shopping days, preparation days and travel hours I challenge all of us to reevaluate where our validation comes from. May our conscience decisions to abide in God’s presence and blessing that came to us in Christ strike a different chord in the hearts of the world this season. May they see our peace, works, faithfulness and love and be able to say, “I’ve seen how they’ve abided in God, so, we know He works.”


To Be a Beneficiary of a Divine Interruption

This morning my 18 month old daughter very clearly and simply reoriented my eyes towards Christ in a very pure and basic sense while I was trying to model for her the complexities of faith.

I’ve learned a lot through participating in Fuller Youth Institute‘s Sticky Faith Learning Cohort. Many of the things I’ve learned I’m trying to implement into the ministry I lead as well as practice practically in my own home. One of the things we’re trying to do is live into the truth that, as parents, Christina and I are, whether we like it or not, the greatest and primary spiritual influence on our children.

As our daughter was playing in her room this morning I decided I’d take the opportunity to sit at our dinner table and spend some time reading my Bible. What greater way to help instill a desire to read scripture in my daughter than for her to grow up seeing her dad spending time doing the same? Her initial interest in anything I’m doing brought her to my lap at the table. Yet the fact that my Bible didn’t have any pictures, animals, and was relatively “untouchable” to her drool-drenched fingers proved to be deal-breakers for any further inquiry in my spiritual practice. She jumped out of my lap, ran to her room, and brought out a Farm Animal board. The kind of board that has outlined pictures of animals that match pictures on large wooden animals that fit in each outline. The competition began. Me vs the puzzle. Spiritual Parenting vs. the tempting lures of the world. Clearly her future “Christ-following” was in the balance!

Realizing that I needed to quick switch to something more “relevant” than the Bible as to keep my daughter’s spiritual attention I dove into my work bag and pulled out the hippest, trendiest book I could find that even had a relevant/trendy/edgy name, “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream. Surely this will at least model for Brylie the importance of reading! Well, while I was reading, she would walk to her room, pick up one of the animals pictured from the board, come back to climb into my lap, then place it on the board. She did this one by one until all pieces were found.

Except one.

The sheep was missing. She went back and forth from her room probably half a dozen times bringing out different pieces from different boards each trying to fit into the outline of the sheep with no avail. I became annoyed that my attempts in modeling a holy Christian discipleship and love for formational spiritual disciplines were being lost to the adventures of “Farm Board”. So I went with Brylie to find the sheep with the same result as her prior 6 attempts.

I sat back at the dinner table, picked up my book and was content with continuing reading whether Brylie was going to appreciate my exceptional parenting or not. Then all of a sudden Brylie crawls up into my lap one last time holding in her hand the lost sheep. She had found it! Where? I have no idea. But I do know that I celebrated with her! We danced, we sang, and we took pictures! Because I realized in that moment I had been the beneficiary of a Divine Interruption!

I became so caught up in the “doing” of Christianity this morning that I was not seeing the board as Brylie was seeing it. She saw the board as the home of each animal (and farm!) and was determined to make sure every piece was found! She saw the board in the same way that God sees his Kingdom! We all men, women, and children have a place marked out for them and he will relentlessly pursue till every lost sheep is found! This is why Christ came to earth as a baby that night in a stable! God was determined that each one of his created, his sheep, would be found when the world had given up looking! This is why we celebrate and this is why we as Christ-followers must be more concerned about seeking the lost than proving a posture of holiness!

My 18 month daughter taught her 28 year old father a greater perspective of Christ birth and the season of Christmas.

Culturally and Contextually Discerning Gospel

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the Gospel. Not the “Gospels” as in the first four books of the New Testament but the “Gospel” the Good News that Christ brought with him through his birth, life, death and resurrection here on earth. With Christmas just around the corner we’re going to be hearing of the Good News either directly from the Church or indirectly through Christmas carols, songs, and traditions.

All these different ways of hearing the Gospel this season are simply different modes for communicating the Good News of Christ. The modes of communication are not the Good News in and of themselves, simply cultural and contextual avenues to bring and bear truth. If we look at Paul’s letters in the New Testament there are reasons why he spends a lot of time talking about circumcision to one group of people and justification through faith to another. He took time to discern the cultural and contextual modes that would be most effective those he was speaking to hear the Good News of Christ. It is easy to get caught up in right vs wrong, sacred vs passing, tradition vs relevant modes of story telling during these seasons so I wanted to share three filters that I use when trying to discern which modes are edifying to people, glorifying to God, and consistent with the Gospel truth.

1) GOOD NEWS TO ALL MEN (Lk. 2:10):There is very little in this world that is Good News to every single person but this is the bold truth that the the “Heavenly Angels harked” when then proclaimed Christ’s birth. The Gospel we are proclaiming needs to be Good News at a heart and soul level of all who hear it. Any Gospel that comes at the expense of another person or people groups’ humanity and/or dignity is no Gospel at all.

2) RESCUE FREEDOM (Lk 4:18): All men, women, and children are in desperate need to hear, know, and experience the freedom that is offered from God through Christ. The Gospel that we are proclaiming must call out the freedom given in Christ through the contextual lens of whatever physical, social, emotional, and social oppression is present. We can best be “bringers” of His freedom when we’ve been “receivers” of His freedom.

3) PROCLAIM THE GOD’S FAVOR (Lk 4:19): God is not angry, disappointed, or filled with spite when he looks at me, your or us. God’s wrath was met in full with Christ on the cross for all men, women and children. THIS IS THE GOSPEL!! The Gospel that we proclaim must include this reality and it is up to us to know how to best bring this news to all men, women, and children.

Do you similar or different filters in discerning how you communicate the Gospel in your cultural and context?  

What modes or avenues are you using in your context this holiday season to bring the same Gospel that Christ brought 2000 years ago?