Masking the Real Question…

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It’s time for me to confess something that is not only embarrassing, but painfully truthful. It is something I have struggled with for years; probably as far back as I can remember. It is a part of my DNA that has remained hidden, even in the most open and loving relationships.  Ready for the truth? I’m actually asking myself that question, not you…

I’m a liar; a deceitful, shame-filled liar.

I lie to you, I lie to my family, I even lie to my pastor. I could not even begin to count how many times I have lied, even this past week! And what I lie about is what is so surprising, especially belonging to a church with the vision “real with ourselves, God and others.” Please hang with me though because this confession may turn around and hit you on the backside faster than a bullet-train zipping through the green inland of Japan (WHOOOSH).

There happens to be one question, just one simple question that we all tend lie about when asked. I know that may seem doubtful, but you may be just as big a liar as I am.  It’s a question that begs for a mask to be put on; to cover up the deepest recesses of our soul.  A question that demands relief, sews fig leaves and necessitates hiding in the garden.  Are you ready to see if you are a big fat liar like me? It’s about to get real here folks. Here is that question…

How are you doing today?

Huh?

Yup, you heard it right. “How are you doing today?” It is a simple question indeed.  It is a “surfacy” question that actually bids for an answer from deep within the heart; a question that immediately puts you and I in a predicament we are not willing to address; rather we desperately search for wiggle room to slide out of a truthful response. Seems so inconsequential, doesn’t it?

Think with me for a minute about this elementary question that everyone asks, or are asked nearly every day of their lives. It comes in many shapes and sizes too. The variations include:

  • “How are you doing today?”
  • “What have you been doing with your life?”
  • “How’s your family doing?”
  • “What’s been happening at work lately?”

As I sit here and reflect on that question (or those questions), it really is not a very fair question to ask in the first place. I mean, think about it, you’re asking someone to give a response that digs to the core of their being. Most of us, from time to time, are facing immense pressures in life that would find us putting on a proverbial mask. I do not blame you one bit for lying in moments bearing this type of insolent questioning. But could there be a better way? Might there be a way to ask this question, or even answer this question allowing the “real” you and me to come out in that moment?

Wilson-home-improvement-tv-show-33144924-1024-768.pngThis all reminds me of Wilson from the 90’s hit TV show, Home Improvement. In a twist of blog irony, Wilson never showed his full face to the public. He had many ‘thought-provoking’ conversations with Tim “the Toolman” about the struggles of Tim’s life and the difficulties he was facing with his business, marriage, kids and more. And isn’t that exactly what we do?  We hide just a little bit of our real selves behind a fence. We are never really able to come out from behind the veil and allow our full selves to be shown in all our less-than-perfect glory. Please hear what I am about to say; it is so key to our growth.

Hiding behind the fence or putting on a mask never affords us the opportunity to truly heal from whatever is plaguing our lives.

Hiding is a defense mechanism. We falsely believe that it will keep any more bad from happening to us. In one sense it may just do that. It actually might keep more harm from infiltrating our broken spirits. But, something else is left out as well, something extremely vital to our lives gets shut out as we lock the door on the emotional boogey-man.

Nothing good ever gets in either…

I really hope that hits your core. When we shut out the bad, we also slam the door on the good. As we put up walls, wear masks, hide behind fences and operate in the shadows, we may be shutting out the bad stuff in life, but we are also preventing any of the good stuff from entering in as well. What is that good stuff? Healing.

As we begin to open up our lives to Godly people; you know, the people that love you and are willing to encourage you, speak truth to you, provide grace to you and have deep compassion on you, they will help you heal from your emptiness. Your situation may be your past, it may be your present or it may be something you will be facing in the future. In any instance, a good man or woman of God can help lead you to calmer waters where a fresh drink of crystal clear water awaits. But, it takes a risk. It takes the willingness to answer the question, “how are you doing today?” with truth.

Two final, yet important thoughts. First, I am not suggesting you answer that question with just anyone or at any time it is posed. There is wisdom in determining the appropriate time to share and with whom. I am giving you permission to continue lying when asked that question from the general public. Not everyone needs to know your junk, especially if they are a casual encounter or someone that lacks wisdom. Sharing your life with just anyone can result in further damage, so be wise in this area.

But secondly, this message, this blog is about being real. As I mentioned earlier, the vision of Sandals Church is “real with ourselves, God and others.” I have found, alongside thousands of other people at church, that healing begins when we get real with our lives. It begins first with our selves, second with confession to God and finally a disclosure of our full selves to another person. Yes it can be (and often is) embarrassing to share our dirty, deeply held secrets, but the payoff if monumental. If you have a desire to grow and heal in your life, I can absolutely promise you that being real is a major key to breaking through the barriers that keep you from full restoration.

Yes, I may be a liar. And, I confess it! But I am learning to risk being real, especially with people that I know love me and want to see me grow. As the years have waded on, my lying has given way to being “real” and has shown up in many more of my conversations. The kicker? Scores of people come to me about getting real with their lives, and I’m seeing them heal left and right. It is no shortage of beauty to experience lives changing.

Love you guys! Praying for you, please pray for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Real Me: Deceitful

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I hate to even admit this, but I have realized over the past few years just how deceptive I can be. It all started with the realization that when I was a kid, I would make things up just to look good. I would come home from school, my mom would ask how my day was, and I would blurt something out like, “I hit a home run today in softball.” A seemingly un-harmful variation of the truth, but it was setting me up for a very deceitful future.

As the years went by, I found myself lacking in self-value. I didn’t think much of who I was, so I had to paint a different picture. My inside never matched my outside. So, on came the exaggerations, amplifications, elaborations, embellishments and aggrandizements. A new version of truth became commonplace; became my reality.

Fast forward to today and I still find myself struggling in this area. “I didn’t wake up at 6am, I got up at 5:30am.” Why would I say that? Because I look better getting up earlier than when I actually did. “It took me 5 hours to complete that assignment, not the 3 hours it actually took.” Same reasoning, I’ll look better by stretching out the truth.

“A person making things up tries to make himself look good. But someone trying to honor the one who sent him sticks to the facts and doesn’t tamper with reality.” (John 7:18)

There was something in this verse that really struck me this morning. First of all, it states the obvious, “A person making things up tries to make himself look good.” Yup, I get that one. But when it goes on to say that honoring people is sticking with the facts, it makes it less about me and more about you! I want to honor you with my life, not stretch the truth with dishonor.

It has truly been a terrible curse to feel the shame and guilt that goes along with these overstatements. And, it’s sinful to boot! I end up heaping on even more shame when something shameful is actually sinful. But I need a way out of this wilderness; a rest for my soul that is grounded in truth.

I’m learning every day how to fight this twisted side of me. I’ve confessed this to my boss, my close friends, and I’ve even asked them to hold me accountable. I know I’m on my way to a more truthful future. I’m fighting this battle and with God’s help, I will win.

Why is this all coming out this morning? Two reasons. First, it feels SO GOOD to confess my stuff, to be real. I know, that sounds really strange. But, there is immense truth in confession (James 5:16). Our vision at Sandals Church is to be real with ourselves, God and others. I’m committed to living out that vision. (But please be careful who you share your stuff with. This isn’t an open invitation to just blurt out all your sins. There’s wisdom in when, how and to whom).

The second reason? I want you to find healing yourself. Perhaps you are an exaggerator? Maybe there’s an area in your life that you’re not exactly pleased with? Would you do one thing? Confess those sins to someone that loves you. Confess to a person that wants to see you heal and grow! Being real will be the best step you have ever taken. You will find yourself honoring people, honoring God, with your becoming an authentic person.

Love you all!

Shamelessly, join us at Sandals Church any time! We’re located in Riverside. You’ll see what being real really looks like!www.sandalschurch.com

What a mess!

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My heart is absolutely broken.  My wife Kris and I drove down to Brownsville, OR to see where the movie “Stand by Me” was shot.  We had a wonderful time playing in the treehouse where the boys played cards, ran down the gun-shot ridden back alley, and took a Kodak moment picture on the famous bridge where they entered the little town.  It was a surreal time, especially for my precious girl.  But it was on the drive home where I saw it…

“STOP SINNING.  COME TO JESUS.”

Yes, a glaringly obvious sign on the side of a church building.  It could have easily read, “Clean up your act, then you’ll be good enough to approach God.”  How sad is that!  And I’m sure the pastor and the church meant well by this exhortation.  I do not for a minute doubt their sincerity.  But there is something fatally flawed with that statement.

It’s kind of like saying…

  • Fix your car, then take it to the mechanic…
  • Turn on the light, then put a lightbulb in the socket…
  • Watch TV, and then turn it on…

Does that make any sense?  These are impossibilities.  You never fix your car and then take it to a mechanic.  Why?  Because a mechanic is only necessary when the car needs fixing.  And that’s where we come into play.  We (yes, you and me) are in need of a mechanic.  We are all very broken people with very real problems.  And yes, we need a mechanic, the Great Mechanic!

I’ve been attending Sandals Church for about 5 years now.  Their vision?  “Real with ourselves, God and others.”  It’s the vision of authenticity.  It’s about reaching out to real people struggling with a real life problems.  I think if Sandals Church was to put a sign up similar to the one above, it might read…

“STILL SINNING?  COME TO JESUS.”

Yes!  Because we are all still sinning.  We are all struggling with tragedies, let downs, anger, un-forgiveness, sin and a slew of other things that most people wear a mask for in order to avoid being outed.  And so, that mask is proudly displayed by the many parishioners that attend churches like the one I saw in Brownsville.  Unfortunately that only leads to fake Christianity.  I’m not about being fake, I’m about being real.

The fact of the matter is that no church in America, or the world for the matter, should ever put conditions on coming to Jesus.  Jesus never required anything but love from His followers.  They flocked to Him in droves!

I’ve sat and pondered the reason why so many people, in the tens of thousands, followed so closely to Jesus as he walked the streets of Jerusalem or traversed the shores of Galilee.  It’s so simple, He loved them just the way they are.  He never put conditions on his love.  The only people he challenged were the fake religious leaders that put conditions on people.  Here’s a modern day look at what the Pharisees did to people (Matthew 23)…

  • They walked around with a big bible in hand telling others how to live, but in secret spent little time living out what they preach.
  • Like modern day televangelists, they guilt you into giving sacrificially while they jet-set to their third house in Miami Beach.
  • They love to show everyone how much money they give to the church, yet they won’t life a finger to help someone in need.
  • They go around showing everyone how holy they are, but in private, their lives are riddled with all kinds of sinful behavior.

And that’s what I saw yesterday; conditions on approaching Jesus.

Maybe you’ve thought about Christianity and wondered what all the fuss is about.  If I could sum it all up in one word it would be FREEDOM.  Jesus came to give you and I freedom.

  • Freedom from religion
  • Freedom from a world that is constantly tearing at our soul, and…
  • Freedom from the plight of sin.

Here’s the truth, sin is something we all struggle with and Jesus is the answer.  Jesus is the freedom.  But His freedom looks very different from what many churches suggest.

Freedom in Jesus is when he said to the people following him, “Come to me all you who are tired, struggling, hurt, angry, frustrated and in a lot of pain, and I will give you a rest you could never imagine.”  This is my version of Matthew 11:28.  And my guess is that many of you could use some much needed rest.

Is that where you’re at today?  Do you need some rest?  May I suggest you find a church that allows you to be a complete mess.  Jesus would say to you today, “Just come to me how you are.  I will take you, mess and all!”  And if you do just that, you will find rest like you’ve never found before.

Please remember, Jesus is about restoring you, not slamming you for your faults.  He knows everything about you.  And you know what?  He loves you right where you’re at.

Faith isn’t always what is seems…

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As many of you know, for me this past couple of weeks has been nothing short of grimm.  It’s been difficult, but it’s also been wonderful.  This morning I spent some time milling over something incredible that I believe God has shown me about my faith.

Just to recap my week, it started off with feeling so sick that I literally passed out.  It then moved to a family situation that struck me to my core as I realized how much I’ve failed as a father and husband.  My week then moved forward into a situation completely out of my control that cost me quite a bit financially.  And to cap it off, I found myself dealing with these crises by indulging in food and looking at things I shouldn’t have on my computer.  Yes, it’s been a very hard week.  But God was always there.  His faith demanded faith on my part.

Sandals Church had an annual staff retreat that allowed me to refocus my life and begin a new chapter of faith.  But faith has begun to change for me.  I’ve always defined faith to look something like this.

  • If I believe strong enough, God will come through…
  • If I stop doubting, God will begin to work in my situation…
  • If I have faith the size of a mustard seed, God will then move in a way that otherwise He wouldn’t have.

I’ve always viewed faith as something that is tied to the fact that if I believe hard enough, strong enough or just plain old enough, THEN God would decide to move on my behalf.  Have I ever been so wrong!  And maybe you’ve believed something similar.

As I prayed this morning, I was taken to a passage of scripture that most of us are probably familiar with.  And if you aren’t familiar with it, you may look at it and say, “See, we have to have faith in order for God to move.”  But there’s a flaw in that argument because God is continually moving in our lives.  He never stops.  He doesn’t sleep.  He is always working on our behalf because He loves us.

“But Jon, does that mean I don’t have to have faith in order for things to happen?”  NO!  It means that faith might have a radically different meaning than you and I might think.  Here is the verse that God brought me to.

James 1:6-8 “But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

What an encouraging set of verses!  But something stuck out so hidden yet so obvious to me.  It’s found in the very last verse, “Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” Faith isn’t simply about what God will do for us, faith is about what we will do in our situation.  And I’ll repeat it again, God is always at work, even when our faith is weak or non-existent.

Please know that I’m not saying we all just need to pull up our bootstraps and work really hard in order for God to work.  HE IS ALREADY WORKING.  What I am saying is that our unbelief drives our faith and our actions.  If I lack faith, it will drive everything I do.

I have a very close friend who is in a situation that he believes will never change.  I have told him time and time again that nothing is impossible with God and that his lack of faith is impacting his walk with God.  But, I continue to hear excuse after excuse…

  • The reason things won’t change is because…
  • I can’t see how this will work out because…
  • We really won’t be able to do this because…

Over and over I hear excuse after excuse why God won’t be able to work in his circumstances.  The truth of the matter is that his lack of faith has rendered him sterile and not the God he serves.

Friends, a lack in faith doesn’t put God on the back-burner.  A lack of faith doesn’t cause God to say, “Oh well, if you believed enough I’d be there for you.”  No, a lack of faith causes you and me to give up on our situation.  We actually begin to believe that things will never change or that we aren’t spiritual enough for God to work, causing us to halt our own walk in faith.

Want the real truth?  Not one of us has enough faith to make God move because He is already moving.  However, all of us can move with God in our circumstances.  The key here friend is that we move; and it always begins with where our minds are at.  If we don’t believe, if we don’t have faith, then we will be like a ship tossed around on the ocean.  If we wait around for God to do something, then we’ll be waiting for a really long time.  God is waiting for you and I to begin believing that He is already at work.  He is patiently asking us to begin putting one foot in front of the other and walk out our faith.

  • Are you ready to start walking out your faith?
  • Do you believe that God is already working in your circumstances?
  • Are you willing to look at faith as action on your part and not solely action on God’s part?

If you answered yes to these three simple questions, I believe you have the faith it takes to move mountains.  God is in the business of restoration, healing and changing circumstances for the better.  I think He might just be waiting for you to take the first step of faith.