Does Jesus Command Us to “Be Ourselves”?

ourselves

“Be yourself”.

It’s the rallying cry of our generation. Be true to our personalities. Stay in our natural grooves. Stick to our comfort zones. Whatever you’d like to call it. We trade this mantra like a recipe, a handy formula for success in personal interactions, handling of money, dating, choice of college major, what have you. Feels pretty affirming.

At first.

A year or two ago, I remember a time I was myself. I made a joke at someone else’s expense. It was an outgrowth of my teasing sense of humor, and it wasn’t taken well. I apologized, but you can bet that “myself” didn’t look so appealing to me in hindsight, which is always 20/20.

Just how much sin do we keep under the umbrella of “being ourselves”?

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Adventures in Overthinking Prayer

thinking(This ended up becoming a series. Here’s Part 2 and Part 3.)

I have no guarantee that God will grant my prayers.

Disruptive statement, no?

This is not me fishing for reassurance in your comments, by the way. I’m trying to speak honestly about a stark reality. Except for a handful of explicit promises in Scripture (salvation, peace, heaven, etc.), there’s no guarantee that God will grant any prayer of mine. Like the missions opportunity I’m currently examining, or the kidney healing for a friend.

First, to be perfectly frank, my very audience before him is an undeserved gift.

Second, it’s hard to know whether certain prayers – for myself or others – are optimal for the person being prayed for. That can be a huge hangup to prayer confidence. Why invest months or years of heartfelt prayer in something when you don’t yet know God wants it?

Third, I know my theology of suffering too well. Christianity is a call to come and die. If you think it’s about getting your dreams actualized, you’ve got another thing coming. Even Jesus didn’t get all his prayers answered – and there was glory in that (Matt. 26:39). Dare we think that a servant is greater than that Master?

Finally, Scripture gives us every reason to think that God might deny our prayers for our spiritual benefit (2 Cor. 12:9). I wholeheartedly believe that he leaves to each of us at least one lingering heartache, a thorn, a cross to carry all of our days without resolution (do you not have yours?) so we’ll remember that this isn’t our home. Denied prayers transform us; they provide opportunities to allow God to become our all; they lift our gaze to heaven. There is no greater treasure. So why would God grant a lesser one by answering my prayer?

You might begin to suspect that I have an overthinking problem.

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If God Could Change Saul, He Can Change Donald Trump

lightCongratulations, Mr. President-Elect. The odds have proven to be in your favor after all.

You all know that a few weeks ago I posted about my personal reluctance to vote for Donald Trump. I laid out my convictions as best I could; I made clear that we each had to do what we each thought was right. Well, we did, and here we are. (How I voted will remain private to me.) Yet I think I am still safe in saying that some of us retain concerns over Trump’s character. There remain unanswered questions.

So now our question is how a Christian responds to his election in the midst of this fog.

Well, we show respect befitting the office. Hence the formality to open my post. God told us to honor governments and officials, and if I’m going to talk of character, I have to follow God’s commandments about mine. We also remember that God is the only one who really knows where all this is going; he’s the one holding each man’s destiny. It was that thought that led me to think of the Apostle Paul. It was a reminder of HIS life that broke open my fog and revealed a staggering vista of the ocean of God’s grace, compelling me to break an earlier no-more-Trump-on-this-blog promise and write this post.

If God can change Saul, he can change Donald Trump.

This is serious business, folks.

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