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My calendar wasn’t lying. The appointment was there. Mocking me. The standard ding of my iPhone alarm became an ominous melody of doom (or was that just Black Eyed Peas halftime highlights?).

It was time to visit the dentist.

Twice a year, every year, for the past three-plus decades, I’ve been the recipient of the same dental speech. The proper mixture of conjured sweetness and implied judgment must be a pre-requisite for every graduating hygienist. It’s not a long oration. Less words than a Bill Belichick press conference, but equally as intimidating.

“Floss.”

Come on lady! What kind of super hero do you think I am?

But every six months I make another empty promise that lasts for exactly 9 days. And then the night before my next dental shakedown, I find myself frantically rifling through the cosmetic cabinets looking for a strand of that dreaded nylon string. I’m not really a flosser, but give me 10 minutes and a bottle of mouthwash and I’ll convince those professionals I’ve been rehabilitated. Surely they’ll never notice my swollen, bleeding gums.

Don’t you think we can do the same thing to God?

Fake it.

Put on the show.

Cram in some frenetic religious-type activity that makes us feel spiritual again, even if it’s making no long-term difference.

But Jesus longs to be so much more than something we go digging through a cabinet for the night before we need it. His words more than just screen savers, Twitter posts, or something we hear the pastor quote every once in awhile on Sunday morning. Here’s one of the things He had to say:

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.
Mathew 7:24-27 MSG

While I’m at it, maybe I’ll go ahead and start flossing, too (OK, let’s not get carried away).

Ashamed

Erik Cooper —  May 26, 2010 — 3 Comments

Shame comes in all shapes and sizes:

A big zit on your nose.

A past full of brokenness and abuse.

A rip in the seam of your pants.

A failed marriage.

Silly or serious, we’ve all felt it. The exposure of a vulnerability or apparent shortcoming that drives us to run away. To cover up. To hide. And unfortunately, The Church (my church, even me personally) can foster environments of shame, even when we’re not intentionally trying to.

It makes sense. The Church, a place of grace, hope, and unconditional love, is also an environment full of expectations. Standards of behavior naturally emerge in any culture, but engaging in Church culture comes with a built-in assumption of moral superiority. We profess faith in God and innately feel our lives should reflect that (even if we don’t).

And while some shame is understandably innate, some is undeniably overt. We’d be lying to ourselves if we didn’t admit there are many in the Church who willingly use shame as a means to control. To maintain power over people. To protect their personal preferences. To manipulate others towards their desired outcomes.

Innate or overt, when we fall short (which we always do), shame moves in. Becomes a constant companion. And shame is a horrific house guest.

God deals in conviction, not shame. Shame is based in condemnation, in pointing out deficiencies with the intent of rejecting, judging, or looking down on another. And Jesus didn’t come into the word to do that:

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. (John 3:17 NLT)

Yet in so many church environments shame is still a primary motivator, filling our sanctuaries with guilty people. Hiding people. Manipulated people. Self-righteous people. Frightened people. Fake people. Or in more and more cases, empty seats.

So how do we know when God is convicting or when shame is condemning? Here’s some thoughts:

Shame is an ego-protection mechanism that focuses on how we appear to others.
Conviction is an inward re-alignment with who God is and has called us to be.

Shame conforms us to man-made expectations.
Conviction leads us to repentance.

Shame causes us to create false perceptions of reality.
Conviction leads us to openly face who we really are.

Shame manipulates and imprisons.
Conviction heals and frees.

Shame misuses aspects of truth to manage and control.
Conviction reconnects us to absolute truth.

Shame formulates outward behavioral modification.
Conviction births true inward transformation.

Shame pushes us towards self-protection.
Conviction pushes us towards Christ.

Shame asks us to do the work.
Conviction drives us towards the One who already did it all.

Which one is driving you? What is being fostered in your environments? What do you think?

Naked

Erik Cooper —  January 20, 2010 — 7 Comments

4:32AM: I was startled from my blissful slumber to the tiny little voice of our four-year-old son standing next to our bed.  He was soaking wet, the victim of a failed attempt to get him sleeping through the night diaper-free.  Some nights he crosses that finish line.  This night, not so much.

I sent him to our bathroom, instructed him to remove the wet pajamas, and then headed off through the dark to his bedroom to retrieve some dry ones.  Just a few groggy moments later, I returned to find a skinny, soaked, and completely naked little boy shivering miserably on the freezing tile of the bathroom floor. It was pitiful.

I quickly dressed him, gathered him in my arms, and returned us both to the down-comforted warmth of my bed. Snuggled firmly between my wife, me, and our 4 pound Yorkie named Buzz, we all slowly drifted back to sleep.  All was right with the world again.

But I can’t forget the heartbreaking image I returned to find in our cold, dark bathroom that night.  It reminded me of…me.

“You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see.(Rev. 3:17-18 NLT)

We’re good at trying to clothe ourselves. We’re tough.  Rich.  Smart.  Religious.  Self-confident.  Educated.  Put together.  Relationally savvy.  Pick your preferred brand of “clothing.”

But all too often these are  just facades we manufacture to mask our need for Someone bigger than us to enter the garment-making business.  Underneath it all, we’re just as pitiful as my shivering, naked, four year old son standing on a cold tile floor in the middle of the night, waiting for Daddy to return with dry pajamas.

I wonder what God is waiting to do if we just admit it?

http://www.beyondtherisk.com