Unleash ’09 – Breakout Sessions

12 03 2009

Thoughts and Highlights

Main sessions

Breakout Session 1: Communications & Web Strategy with Suzanne Smith and Josh Blankenship:

  • All communication needs to reflect who you are as a church and your vision.
  • Keep it simple and streamlined – don’t give so many options that it will confuse people.
  • Define the win first – decide NOW what you want your communication to do
  • Clear communication with staff & volunteers is key.
  • “How can I help you?”
  • Same team. Same mission. Same vision. One church.
  • Specialization of position does not make life easier.

Breakout Session 2: Student Ministries with Brad Cooper

Ask two questions (taken from Henry Ford):

(1) What’s business?

  • One directive. Many strategies.
  • The church is about people meeting Jesus!
  • Say no to some good things in order to say yes to a very few great things.
  • A good thing is the opposite of a great thing.
  • Are we proud of Jesus? Would anyone know it when they enter our services?
  • Youth ministers must join with the vision of the Senior Pastor.

(2) How’s business?

  • What is your succession plan? If you were gone tomorrow, who would take over? Are you putting people in position to become ministers?
  • Delegate. Involve. Empower.

Four levels of student involvment at FUSE:

  1. Consumer – the first-time visitor; checking things out; hooked by the fun maybe
  2. Relater – someone learns their name; pays attention to them; makes them feel welcome
  3. Disciple – a decision of faith is made
  4. Producer – makes disciples; moved into a position of minister (even as students, because no one reaches a teen better than another teen)

There is a culture of intrigue… CHANGE IT UP!

Lastly, healthy things grow.


Unleash ’09 – Main Sessions

12 03 2009

Thoughts and Highlights

Breakout sessions

AM Main Session: Perry talked about three questions the church must ask, based out of 2 Kings 7:3-11:

(1) Are we willing to embrace change? (vv.3-4)

Now there were four men with leprosy at the entrance of the city gate. They said to each other, “Why stay here until we die? If we say, ‘We’ll go into the city’-the famine is there, and we will die. And if we stay here, we will die. So let’s go over to the camp of the Arameans and surrender. If they spare us, we live; if they kill us, then we die.”

Change or die! The church in Acts HAD to change!

(2) Are we willing to work (vv.5-7)

At dusk they got up and went to the camp of the Arameans. When they reached the edge of the camp, not a man was there, for the Lord had caused the Arameans to hear the sound of chariots and horses and a great army, so that they said to one another, “Look, the king of Israel has hired the Hittite and Egyptian kings to attack us!” So they got up and fled in the dusk and abandoned their tents and their horses and donkeys. They left the camp as it was and ran for their lives.

Something has to be done!

(3) Are we serious about reaching the world? (vv.8-11)

The men who had leprosy reached the edge of the camp and entered one of the tents. They ate and drank, and carried away silver, gold and clothes, and went off and hid them. They returned and entered another tent and took some things from it and hid them also.

Then they said to each other, “We’re not doing right. This is a day of good news and we are keeping it to ourselves. If we wait until daylight, punishment will overtake us. Let’s go at once and report this to the royal palace.”

So they went and called out to the city gatekeepers and told them, “We went into the Aramean camp and not a man was there—not a sound of anyone—only tethered horses and donkeys, and the tents left just as they were.” The gatekeepers shouted the news, and it was reported within the palace.

These terms are overplayed: Contemporary, Blended, Missional, Emergent

We just need to hit the gas and go!

PM Main Session: Perry spoke about Moses and shared four questions leaders must ask God, based out of Exodus 33:12-18:

“…and they said it was gonna be easy…”

(1) Who is with me?

Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’

  • Buy into the people, so they buy into you.
  • Get behind your pastor!!

(2) Am I pleasing You?

If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

  • Do you please people for a paycheck? If so, you’re a prostitute. God calls prophets, not prostitutes.
  • Ministry is received not achieved.
  • Am I placing limits on me that God isn’t placing on me?

(3) Who will see You?

The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?”

And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.”

  • Do you want attendance or repentance?
  • If God’s not there…nothing!

(4) What’s next?

Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory.”

  • No monuments to what happened 20 years ago!

Encounter with Christ – Mary of Bethany

22 02 2009

encounters-mary-of-bethanyThe city of Bethany is situated about two miles from Jerusalem. Jesus had visited there many times. On this occasion he was back in town to visit his close friends: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Bethany had only recently experienced its miracle: Lazarus’ emergence from the tomb after four days. To celebrate, the sisters and Lazarus had Jesus into their home for an evening. Jesus and Lazarus reclined by the table. Martha was slaving away to get food on the table. The disciples were busy in their own conversations. And then, it happened… Mary stooped at Jesus’ feet. She began to anoint him.

This is one of the most memorable stories of the scriptures, but it starts much further back than this. It begins in the same place, much earlier in Christ’s ministry. Our first Encounter is Mary of Bethany.

Mary had heard Christ’s words

In Luke 10:38 and ff, the story of Christ’s first visit with Mary, Martha and Lazarus is related. Martha opened up her house to Jesus. The story continues as we first meet Mary: [she] sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

First we see that Mary heard Christ’s words. She sat at His feet and soaked up His wisdom. Picture it. Mary took the time to hear. She would not waste a moment of time with Jesus.

Martha, upset that Mary wasn’t helping her complained to Jesus. “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.” And Jesus, responded so well by saying, “Mary has chosen that…which will not be taken away from her.” Martha was slaving over a meal – something temporary. Mary was listening to everlasting truth.

Mary had seen Christ’s power

Mary had heard Christ’s words and she had seen Christ’s power. The scriptures seem to imply that Jesus had built up a very strong relationship with the Bethany siblings. When Lazarus fell ill, the sisters sent word to Christ to come and see the brother. But Jesus waited. Lazarus passed. This is a long passage, so bear with me, but I’d like to read it in its entirety.

John 11:17-44: So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days. Now Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles away. And many of the Jews had joined the women around Martha and Mary, to comfort them concerning their brother. Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” And when she had said these things, she went her way and secretly called Mary her sister, saying, “The Teacher has come and is calling for you.” As soon as she heard that, she arose quickly and came to Him. Now Jesus had not yet come into the town, but was in the place where Martha met Him. Then the Jews who were with her in the house, and comforting her, when they saw that Mary rose up quickly and went out, followed her, saying, “She is going to the tomb to weep there.” Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.” Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled. And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!” And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?” Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

When He finally arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had already been buried for four days. Why four days? Jesus referenced an answer a few verses earlier in John 10:14b,15: “Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe.” Why in the world would He be glad that He wasn’t there?! His friend Lazarus had died and He missed it. He could have healed him and saved everyone the pain of a friend’s death. Oliver B Greene states that “their faith would be strengthened and they would be made better witnesses through the raising of Lazarus.”

Back to Mary…she was at home when Martha informed her that Jesus was calling for her and when she arrived, she fell at Jesus’ feet and cried her heart out to Him and they wept together.

But then Jesus does what she cannot expect. He calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Imagine her emotions. Imagine what changed inside of her at that exact moment. She moved from exasperation and anguish aimed at Jesus’ seeming lack of concern for her brother to absolute love and adoration for the One who called her brother from the grave.

Mary gave Christ her very best

Mary had heard Christ’s words, she had seen his power and then she gave her very best. Fast forward and Jesus is back in Bethany. This time Lazarus and the sisters have Jesus over for dinner, most likely to celebrate the recent raising of Lazarus.

John 12:1-8: Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus was who had been dead, whom He had raised from the dead. There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil. But one of His disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, who would betray Him, said, “Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, “Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always.”

Halfway through the party, Mary interrupts everything. She stoops down and begins to anoint Christ’s feet. Over and over , we see Mary at Jesus’ feet. When we first meet her, she drinks from the fountain of wisdom at Jesus feet. At Lazarus’ tomb, she pours her heart out at Jesus’ feet. And finally at this meal, we find her again at Jesus’ feet. Is there something we are missing? Have we lost the compulsion to spend time at the foot of our Savior? Listening to Him speak…crying out to Him with our prayers and our pains…worshipping Him with our best.

This last action of anointing his feet in itself was a sign of absolute servitude. No one of any status would dare touch another’s feet. The feet were the dirtiest part of the body. Not only that but she poured what the Bible calls pure nard over his feet. This was a perfume used to anoint the dead during or after burial. And it was NOT cheap! Judas Iscariot raved when he saw her pouring out the perfume. He claimed it could be sold for 300 denarii. A denarius was one day’s wage. This was no Wal-Mart perfume. This was a lifetime investment. Mary gave her very best!

Principles of worship that we can learn from Mary:

1. True life worship involves our time – listening to Christ

2. True life worship involves our money – her perfume was very expensive

3. True life worship is noticeable – the fragrance filled the room

4. True life worship requires our very best – nard was a lifetime investment

5. True life worship gets labeled as crazy – people might say it’s too extravagant/ too expensive


Have you heard Christ’s words? His words confront us each time we read Scripture. His words enter our lives as we take time to pray and meditate. His words challenge us when we sit in these pews and hear a sermon.

Have you seen Christ’s power? His power saves us. His power changes our lives and the lives of people we know. His power heals even today.

Have you given Him your very best? Does your tithe and offering speak to the change Christ has brought to your life? How do you spend your time? Do you dedicate yourself to His service? Does true life worship identify you as someone who has had an encounter with Christ?

Who will cry at your funeral?

16 02 2009

Acts 9:36-39 (NIV)

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!”

39Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.

What will you be remembered for after you have left this world?

Will it be your job? Your position in your church? Your money?

Or will it be a piece of clothing that warms a homeless person?

Or a meal when there’s no food on a family’s table?

Will you be remembered for granting hope where none could be found?

Who will cry at your funeral?

Keeping Christ out of Christmas

17 11 2008


[Note: If you are unable to catch extreme sarcasm, do not proceed reading this]

There is a story told by a pastor in Florida concerning his son. One day while they were praying together, the son bowed by his bedside and prayed, “God, thank you for sending your only forgotten Son.” Though an obvious mistake, the Son had spoken a great truth. Jesus is so often forgotten, especially in the coming season of Advent, even though it’s basically the season of year centered on the incarnation of Christ. It’s His party and He isn’t even invited.

It is somewhat ironic that the Gospels recount the story of one Passover at which Jesus, Mary and Joseph made the journey to Jerusalem. After all the celebration and ceremony, Joseph and Mary packed up and headed out of the city only to find that they had left their son behind. They had forgotten Jesus! It was a celebration that would one day point to Him! It was His party!!

Isn’t that how we treat the Advent season? We get so caught up in all the parties and decorations and gifts that we miss the guest of honor. We forget Jesus. It’s His party! So, if we, as a church, want to maintain the status quo and keep Christ out of our Christmas this year, I’ve got some principles and tips to help us all out:

Principle #1: Forget that Christ came

Tip #1: Ignore how Christ came

In coming to us, Christ gave up so much. He surrendered the immediate presence of His Father.

He also gave up His place of honor. Philippians 2:6-7 says that Christ, “in very nature God, [did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant…”

Christ also came as one of us. Philippians 2 continues, saying that Christ “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself…” John 1:1 and 14 also reveals this truth: “In the beginning was the Word” (speaking of Christ) and “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

He moved from his place of honor to a place of shame. He was born in a manger in a stall behind an inn located in the tiny town of Bethlehem in the small country of Israel. This was no king’s welcome.

In this lowly way, Christ shattered the darkness of this world. Just as the nativity star stood out unmistakably in a sky filled with thousands upon thousands of stars, that manger-born child would stand out as an unmistakable beacon of light among the billions of lives lost in darkness. John 1:6-9 narrates about this Light: “God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe…the one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”

All this we choose to ignore.

Tip #2: Ignore why Christ came

Christ came to give us the great example. Hebrews 4:15 says of Him, “[For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but] we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” He came to set the standard.

Christ also came to give His life up. Back to Philippians 2 we see that Christ “humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!”

It was in this that we find no higher love. “[My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.] Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” – John 15:12-13.

Christ also came to save us. Paul encouraged Timothy, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy…” ( I Timothy 1:15-16)

This too we must overlook.

Principle #2: Forget that Christ is coming again

Tip #1: Do not be ready

We must ensure that we are not ready!

Procrastination is the primary key. Tell yourself every day: “I have all the time in the world.” Don’t fret about Matthew’s warning to us: “keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (Matthew 24:42-44)

Once you get into the habit of time-wasting, keep in mind that there is no need for a Savior. Disregard our sinful, human condition. Paul states that “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Furthermore, we need not have Jesus for salvation. Though Jesus plainly stated “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me,” I’m sure we can find a way around it.

Jesus for abundant life? Who cares if Jesus said “I am the gate…I have come that [you] may have life, and have it to the full.” I’m just fine. Keep repeating that to yourself. “I’m just fine. I’m just fine”

In these ways, you will be sure to be unprepared for Christ’s return.

Tip #2: Do not let anyone else know

Do nothing. Don’t tell anyone! It’s that simple. Do not let anyone else know that Christ is coming again.  It’s as easy as sitting at home and watching your favorite TV show, or walking right by that depressed co-worker you see every day or even changing the conversation when people bring up spiritual concepts.

All your friends, family and acquaintances can be clueless to Christ’s return!

Principle #3: Forget that Christ is with us now

Tip #1: In our hearts

If we are to keep Christ out of this Advent season, it is imperative that we deny that He is with us now in our hearts. If we acknowledge that He is saving and transforming us into a new creation as 2 Corinthians says, then our holiday quest may be much more difficult to achieve. No, Christ is far away and doesn’t care about our lives. Remember, “I am fine. I am fine.”

Tip #2: In our prayers

Christ is not in our hearts and He certainly is not in our prayers. Hebrews 4 argues that “since we have a great high priest…let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” I say, prayers, who needs them?

Tip #3: In our service

If Christ is not in our hearts and absent in our prayers, then He is surely not in our service. Incarnational living is a farce. We should not help those who are less fortunate than us. That whole Body of Christ thing sounds pretty morbid anyway. Our church simply exists as a social club for those that just need a place to belong. Evangelism, missions, discipleship, servanthood, love…not in our church!


As ludicrous as this all sounds, how much different is this from the way we act? Do we go through the holiday hoopla and ignore the guest of honor? I challenge you to change the way you think this Advent season. Instead of the forgotten Son, let’s put Christ back where He belongs in our lives. He is the reason for the holiday, so let’s invite Him to the party.

Do remember that Christ came into our world 2000 years ago. Think about how He came: as one of us, sacrificing so much just to be here. Think about why He came: to live as the perfect example and save us from our sins.

Do remember that Christ is coming again. Make sure that you are ready and make sure you share His good news for everyone.

Do remember that Christ is with us. He IS in our hearts, continually transforming us. He IS in our prayers, always helping us. He IS in our service, powerfully using us.

Do not make the mistake of forgetting Christ this Advent season.

Identity – The Blame Game

23 10 2008

The newest series at The C.O.R.E. is entitled “Identity: The Search for Significance” which is based on Robert McGee’s The Search for Significance – Student Edition, 2003 [W Publishing – based on The Search for Significance, 1998]. The substance of this post comes directly from or is based on the content of the book.

Week 1 – The Performance Trap

Week 2 – The Approval Addict

Ask yourself: When I see someone else suffering, do I wonder what they did to deserve it? When something goes wrong, do you catch yourself thinking that God must be punishing you for something you have done? Do you get angry with God when someone who is bad gets rewarded with success?

If you said yes to any of these questions, then you are playing the Blame Game.

We each carry a powerful weapon everywhere we go: our ability to send a message of condemnation or blame to another person using words, physical force, facial expressions, or silence. It says, “I’ll make you sorry for what you did.”

Life has taught us that those who fail are unworthy of love and deserve to be judged.

But we all fail. None of us measure up to the standards our culture pushes for beauty, talent, intelligence, popularity and success.

While parents and pastors are concerned about the effects of watching excessive violence in movies and videos, no one seems to notice the burn of violent words and labels shot at you every day in real life by your parents or peers. Life isn’t fair.

The fear of rejection and ridicule causes people to switch into survival mode. Every man for himself. We keep the condemnation and blame away from our own fragile self-esteems by aiming the abuse at someone else.

Parents shape their children’s lives with the influences and ideas that were poured into them. They get mad and blame their kids when they make a mistake because, in their minds, their success as a parent is tied to what their children do. Chances are, if parents didn’t get much verbal encouragement or support as kids, they probably don’t know how to show it to their children now and they won’t know how to break the cycle of blame and condemnation, unless they have a breakthrough experience that exposes the deadly lies and opens us up to the truth about who we are. If things don’t change, we could injure many people we love with these same weapons of blame and condemnation.

When we make mistakes we wonder what is wrong and who is to blame. When we can’t find the answer, sometimes we start assuming the problem must be rooted in who we are and what we have done. Too many of us operate on the theory that if we punish ourselves enough, then God will not have to punish us.

If we believe that what we do [The Performance Trap], how popular we are, and what other people think of us [The Approval Addict] are the standards for “success,” then we are going to feel okay about condemning those who fall short of that mark, including ourselves. We must stop blaming others and forgive.

God is the only one who has a legitimate reason to condemn us. God sets the standard for what is right and wrong. For Him to overlook one sin would pollute His holiness, like smearing a beautiful white dress with black tar. GOOD NEWS! Jesus’ death on the cross appeased God and made amends with Him for the sins of everyone in the world.

Romans 5:7-11 – Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. 8 But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 9 And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son. 11 So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.

Our status with God isn’t based on the good things we do or how many mistakes we make.

John 3:17: God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

The way God handles our failure is through forgiveness and total acceptance. And He then expects us to give the same. We have all been hurt by others – either by what they have said or done. God’s love teaches us by example to forgive others.

I John 4:9-11 – God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.

We have worth because God loves us.

Here are some steps to take when you find yourself playing the Blame Game:

First, we should look at what we want to do to people who hurt us. Is it revenge or forgiveness?

Second, God challenges us not to blame others when they fail.

Third, God has one job that He doesn’t want us to do. He doesn’t need us to speak for Him. Judgment is God’s responsibility alone.

The woman caught in adultery.

John 8:1-11 – Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. 10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

11 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

Throwing stones of blame and punishment is not your job. Even Jesus didn’t condemn the woman CAUGHT in adultery. He was the only one who had the right and He CHOSE instead to forgive and love! HOW CRAZY IS THAT?!

We know the truth about who we really are, our bad habits and our long list of failures. What’s more, God knows about them too. And yet He chooses to forgive when we ask. Have you ever felt like a failure as a Christian? God wants to use you even in your failures. It just goes to show both us and others that God is in the business of love, mercy and forgiveness. Let’s share it.

Next week: Identity – Shame

Identity – The Approval Addict

16 10 2008

The newest series at The C.O.R.E. is entitled “Identity: The Search for Significance” which is based on Robert McGee’s The Search for Significance – Student Edition, 2003 [W Publishing – based on The Search for Significance, 1998]. The substance of this post comes directly from or is based on the content of the book.

Satan’s formula for teens (and anyone, for that matter):

Self-worth = Performance + Others’ Opinions

So, how do we convince them that their self-worth should be based in God’s unending and unconditional love for them?

"Please don't reject me"

The first lie teens are convinced of is the necessity of participating in The Performance Trap – “I must not fail.” The second lie is called The Approval Addict, which says “Please don’t reject me.” It is the idea that getting the approval of others and comparing ourselves to our peers is the only reliable way to tell how we are doing on this awkward journey toward adulthood.

Walking down the halls of our schools, students constantly ask themselves these questions:

“What do they think about me?”

“Am I cool?”

“Am I funny?”

“Am I attractive?”

Then the insecurities begin: “There’s something wrong with me. If only I could change [insert quality or appearance].” And then they dream that they have done something that would impress everyone…that would change everything. This is the “topper syndrome,” the need to outdo everyone else in conversation. “Oh yeah, that’s nothing, I…”

A person who struggles as an Approval Addict needs to ask the question: “What am I willing to do to impress others?”

When we compare ourselves to others we never win. We are either totally down on ourselves, depressed; or we’re stuck up and conceited, better than everyone else.

You don’t want to be in the dork group at your school. You want to be popular, have friends, and have fun. Why? Rejection hurts. The fear is so real that we are willing to do almost anything to keep it from happening to us. Living according to the false belief that you must be approved by certain others to feel good about yourself causes you to fear rejection, making you willing to change your attitudes and actions to match the expectations of others.

There is a solution to the Approval Addict. God offers us total and complete acceptance, with no performance demands and no threats of rejection. Zacchaeus was a tax collector, one of the most hated professions in his day. He was a Jew working for the Romans, which would have earned him zero love from his neighbors. He was also a cheat, stealing money from everyone. Zacchaeus found out that God loved him unconditionally and accepted him completely. He realized that his life was valuable and significant to God.

Reconciliation picks us up out of the need for approval. Col. 1:21-23a – Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.

Cue the Prodigal Son…

He got his money from his father, left home, and went to love the good life. He made friends who approved of him because of his money and his lifestyle, but when the money ran out and he could no longer afford the life he was on his own and subjugated to the lowliness of a pig feeder. He had trampled his father’s money, his father’s name and his father’s honor. But what happens when he comes home begging to be a servant? His father hugs him and calls him son! Reconciliation. When someone loves you like that, you don’t care what others say about you. This is God’s love!

That unconditional love of God changes people from the inside-out, whereas our culture says to change from the outside-in. Change the behavior and change the person…LIE! BELIEF DETERMINES BEHAVIOR!

We are totally accepted by God because Christ’s blood paid for our sins. Without God’s approval, our self-worth depends on what our friends, culture, and even parents say, and how we measure up to what they expect of us. Living in the confidence of God’s unchanging opinion of us gives us the freedom to develop the gifts He gives us, without worrying that He will reject us.

Next post: Identity – The Blame Game