distortion….

And I gotta be more stubborn than this wall that I’m pushin’ at — convinced of the vision like ‘What are ya’ll lookin’ at?’

–Propaganda

I recently saw a documentary about people with eating disorders.** What really stuck out to me was the way these people perceived themselves.  One person at a doctor’s office was asked to draw an outline of themselves using a magic marker on a life-size sheet of paper taped to a wall—the outline was supposed to be a reflection of their self-image.  Once this person sketched the outline, the attending physician then stood the patient up against the paper and drew a true-to-life outline with another color marker.  The results were amazing to see.  The origdistortioninal outline was completely inaccurate—pitifully thin and a total distortion of reality.  Until the person could step back and look at themselves, they could not understand how warped their worldview had become.

That documentary made me think of how distorted human beings’ ways of thinking can be.  Sometimes our own perception of truth is so distorted that we actually have to step out of the situation that we are in to realize the truth.  I hadn’t thought much about this idea until we began a teaching series on love that we have been learning for months in our church services.  The series made me reflect on the record-setting movie “The Passion of the Christ”, written and directed by Mel Gibson, who went through a very intense process trying to get the film approved.  Many people tried to prevent the movie’s release because it portrayed a particular group of people in a very negative light. In this case, one might argue, this group held a distorted view in the opposite way – thinking more highly of themselves than perhaps they ought (Romans 12:3). As a result there didn’t seem to be much positive interest in the movie, which didn’t make sense to me until I read an interesting online commentary. The commentary’s author basically made the point that the movie was embellished to depict Christ’s crucifixion as being driven by emotion rather than by commitment to a Divine mission to save humanity (Romans 8:3-4; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

The media knows that such an emotional sentiment is easier for humans to relate to because we are all emotional beings.  But sometimes emotion is what prevents us from loving people unconditionally, often because of the hurt we might feel from a painful emotional experience.  Ironically, The Passion left many viewers feeling deeply saddened about the horror involved in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ—yet these feelings can make us forget the reasoning behind why this event was necessary.  In fact, it was not such a terrible event, but a glorious one.  Because of Christ’s crucifixion, all people can now be forgiven for all our sins against God.

The response to this movie gives us an idea of how distorted our ways of thinking can be.  We must seek to love unconditionally just as Jesus loves us—based on God’s enabling and not based on our own fickle emotions.  Jesus loves us so much that he sacrificed His life so we could have a chance to live eternally.  Yes, Jesus felt hurt and anger over the sinful condition of the world (Mark 3:5; 11:15-18), but not once did Jesus stop loving anyone because of His hurt.  Not once was His love distorted, which is one lesson that Jesus wants to teach us (Mark 12:30-31).  He used His own life to teach us how to live ours.  When we base our lives on feelings, our views of life become distorted and that is not the way God loves and cares for us.  When drawing an outline of our lives, nothing will ever be distorted from God’s view, only from ours.

**Note: This article is an update of the original version written in 2011.

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do you know?

As part of my quest to grow as a spiritually mature Christian, I am currently reading a book titled Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. Although I will not focus on that specific concept in this blog, the introduction of a chapter titled “Going Back in Order to go Forward[i] ties into a thought I have been meditating on lately. The chapter begins, “Emotionally healthy spirituality is about reality, not denial or illusion. It is about embracing God’s choice to birth us into a particular family, in a particular place, at a particular moment in history.”

This passage only reinforces my gratitude to God for birthing me into a family of believers. I am so thankful that from very early on in my life I have known about Jesus. That name was never foreign to me. I wasn’t introduced to Him by a friend at school, or by a distant relative, or by some history teacher; and I didn’t have to search far to find out about Him. My family consisted of weekly church-goers, and because of this upbringing I knjohn 17.3ew who Jesus was. And I am thankful.

However, as I got older, my knowledge of Christ would not suffice. I found this out when my father passed while I was in the 11th grade. It wasn’t enough for me to know of Christ, I had to know Christ—and there is a difference. Knowing Christ is established by gaining and developing a personal relationship with Him (John 17:3, 20-26). Just knowing about Him will not carry you through personal struggles and storms. Knowing about the God of my mother did not help when my mother passed. Knowing of the God of my grandmother did not relieve the lonely distress of my two-month stint in the hospital. Only through a personal relationship with Christ can I say that I made it through losing my only brother at the age of 35. Knowing of Christ would not have sustained me when life hit me and crushed me so deeply that I saw no hope for my future.

I am fortunate. I did not have to search high and low for my Savior. He has been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. I did not have to wander in the wilderness, jumping from one belief system to another, before I eventually came into the knowledge of Christ. I am eternally thankful for that. However I learned at a very early age that knowing about Jesus Christ—the God of my mother, father, sister, whomever—was not enough to sustain me through life. I learned that I needed to know God for myself. Developing a personal relationship with Him for myself was the only way I could be here today, sane and in my right mind.

Wouldn’t you like to know Him also?

knowing Jesus

[i] Scazzero, Peter. “Going Back in Order to Go Forward.” Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ. Nashville, TN: Integrity, 2006. 86. Print.

Pre-Existing Condition

 

pre-existing condition

While my husband and I were still dating, I experienced the crushing loss of my older brother—he was only 35. My brother and I both suffered from the same medical condition known as familial adenomatous polyposis. The mere fact that I inherited it means there is a 50% chance that I will pass the same condition on to my children. If gone untreated, FAP invariably becomes a high risk factor of colon cancer during the adult years. So at age 19, my brother had most of his colon surgically removed. Unfortunately, the procedure was not fail safe. In his early 30’s, my dear brother was diagnosed with colon cancer, and it eventually got the best of him. My husband understood the seriousness of my condition prior to our engagement, yet he married me regardless. Because he loves me.

I thought about this one day and felt exceedingly grateful for my husband. He looked past my condition and chose to spend his life with me. I would consider myself to be sort of “high risk”. Not only with the cost of medical bills from frequent check-ups, but also the chance of what could happen with our children. High risk for sure, yet he chose me. And then I began to think of the risk Jesus Christ took when choosing to be my Savior. I mean, I was born with a pre-existing condition, one that goes deeper than any physical condition could ever reach—a condition called sin. We were all born into it, and there is a 100% chance that our children will be born into it.

It is in our nature to sin, and sin separates us from God. It’s pre-existing and perpetual. And if not treated, it’s deadly. We are all considered “high risk”. It’s in our nature to turn away from God in our sin, and yet, Jesus wants a relationship with us anyway. So much so that He established a new covenant with us through His death, burial, and resurrection. Ephesians 2:3-5 says, “3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh,fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath,even as others. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love where with he loved us, 5Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)”. Jesus understood the magnitude of our sin, prior to purchasing us by His own blood, yet He offered Himself regardless. “Why?” you may ask…because He loves us.

love, covenant

Finding Your Altar

So what does it really mean to have an altar?

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Lest you find me vague, let me give you a back story. After enduring a tumultuous and stressful couple of weeks, I laid in bed one day talking to God. I began by giving Him every excuse in the book that I could find as to why I refused to seek Him to relieve my pain and move on with my life. My main excuse was that I wished I could just run to an altar, kneel down, and with tearful repentance of my pride and stubbornness, cast all my burdens on Him. But I could not do so because my husband and I had not yet found a church home, meaning I have no such altar. And then the Holy Spirit gently reminded me that I actually have the freedom to do all this, and more, because of Jesus Christ.

Jesus sacrificed His life to give us the opportunity to have a relationship with God (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). We no longer have to wait for a priest to enter the Holy of Holies once a year and offer burnt sacrifice to the Lord on our behalf (2 Chronicles 29:19-29, Hebrews 2:17). We no longer fear condemnation or execution for being imperfect, unclean creatures in the presence of the Almighty. We may freely enter His presence just the way we are, at any time or place, because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. And that’s a wonderful thing.

We have the now. We need not wait for ideal conditions. While a church home is important, I don’t have to wait until I find the perfect church with a perfect altar. I can kneel at my bedside, or walk around in my living room, or sit in a parked car. If I truly am a child of God and have a relationship with Him, my altar is portable. It walks with me. It’s a part of me. So I no longer have any excuses.

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So, where is your altar?