Questions that Get to the Heart of Life

computer-tomography-62942_1920In his book, Seeing with New Eyes, David Powilson offers some very helpful diagnostic questions to uncover the ways we find life and significance apart from God.

On these questions, called “X-Ray Questions”,  Powilson writes

“The questions aim to help people identify the ungodly masters that occupy positions of authority in their heart. These questions reveal ‘functional gods,’ what or who actually controls their particular actions, thoughts, emotions, attitudes, memories, and anticipations.”

Consider these questions as a way to get to the bottom of your heart, to identify and confess the sin and “functional gods” you might be looking to for life, worth, and significance, but more than that, to be at the point where you come to the end of yourself and find the loving, grace-filled arms of God meeting you in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I would suggest using these as part of a daily, weekly, or monthly review of where you are in relationship to your goals and aspirations for your devotional life and walk with God.

1. What do you love? Hate?

2. What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? What desires do you serve and obey?

3. What do you seek, aim for, and pursue?

4. Where do you bank your hopes?

5. What do you fear? What do you not want? What do you tend to worry about?

6. What do you feel like doing?

7. What do you think you need? What are your ‘felt needs’?

8. What are your plans, agendas, strategies, and intentions designed to accomplish?

9. What makes you tick? What sun does your planet revolve around? What do you organize your life around?

10. Where do you find refuge, safety, comfort, escape, pleasure, security?

11. What or whom do you trust?

12. Whose performance matters? On whose shoulders does the well-being of your world rest? Who can make it better, make it work, make it safe, make it successful?

13. Whom must you please? Whose opinion of you counts? From whom do you desire approval and fear rejection? Whose value system do you measure yourself against? In whose eyes are you living? Whose love and approval do you need?

14. Who are your role models? What kind of person do you think you ought to be or want to be?

15. On your deathbed, what would sum up your life as worthwhile? What gives your life meaning?

16. How do you define and weigh success and failure, right or wrong, desirable or undesirable, in any particular situation?

17. What would make you feel rich, secure, prosperous? What must you get to make life sing?

18. What would bring you the greatest pleasure, happiness, and delight? The greatest pain or misery?

19. Whose coming into political power would make everything better?

20. Whose victory or success would make your life happy? How do you define victory and success?

21. What do you see as your rights? What do you feel entitled to?

22. In what situations do you feel pressured or tense? Confident and relaxed? When you are pressured, where do you turn? What do you think about? What are your escapes? What do you escape from?

23. What do you want to get out of life? What payoff do you seek out of the things you do?

24. What do you pray for?

25. What do you think about most often? What preoccupies or obsesses you? In the morning, to what does your mind drift instinctively?

26. What do you talk about? What is important to you? What attitudes do you communicate?

27. How do you spend your time? What are your priorities?

28. What are your characteristic fantasies, either pleasurable or fearful? Daydreams? What do your night dreams revolve around?

29. What are the functional beliefs that control how you interpret your life and determine how you act?

30. What are your idols and false gods? In what do you place your trust, or set your hopes? What do you turn to or seek? Where do you take refuge?

31. How do you live for yourself?

32. How do you live as a slave of the devil?

33. How do you implicitly say , ‘If only…’ (to get what you want, avoid what you don’t want, keep what you have)?

34. What instinctively seems and feels right to you? What are your opinions, the things you feel true?

35. Where do you find your identity? How do you define who you are?

Manhood as Cheap, Grownup Adolescence

This YouTube clip disturbed me this morning.  It may be old news to you guys, but I just stumbled upon it.  I’m all for being a fan of certain things, or teams, or people, but this is excessive to the point that it alarms and frightens me more than entertains or informs how we should act as men.

When our love for a team eclipses our love for our children, or spouse, we have held our manhood cheap.  Instead of being a man, we are infantile boys with the rights to drink, drive, marry, vote and own a gun – none of which we are mature enough to handle.

I wish this Dad would man-up, love his family more than the Red Sox, repent to his younger son and honor his older son who was more of a man than the child nearly 10x his age on the other side of the counter.

Full link and story here: http://www.sportsgrid.com/mlb/father-threatens-to-disown-crying-son-for-yankees-fandom/

Why Looking for a Political Savior Can be a Bad Idea?

Loved this article. David Brooks picks apart the notion that what we typically look for in our political candidates is not a good man or woman for the job, but a shock-and-awe savior. History alone can bear out how silly and futile this expectation can be.

“The central problem is that Mitt Romney doesn’t fit the mold of what many Republicans want in a presidential candidate. They don’t want a technocratic manager. They want a bold, blunt radical outsider who will take on the establishment, speak truth to power and offend the liberal news media…

“They don’t want Organization Man. They want Braveheart.”

“The question is: Are they right to want this? Well, if they want an in-your-face media campaign that will produce delicious thrills for the true believers, they are absolutely right. But if they actually want to elect an effective executive who is right for this moment, they are probably not right.”

Here’s another good snapshot:

“It’s exciting to have charismatic leaders. But often the best leaders in business, in government and in life are not glittering saviors. They are professionals you hire to get a job done…

“The strongest case for Romney is that he’s nobody’s idea of a savior.”

While I hope you do not hear me endorsing anyone in particular with full, undoubted support, I do think that Brooks argument has a lot of credence.  My hope and prayer for the upcoming election is that we would vote more with our reason, than responding to the sensational.

Link to full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/04/opinion/brooks-in-defense-of-romney.html?src=tp&smid=fb-share

Sometimes God seems to be killing us

“Something is safe for us to maintain in our lives only if it has really stopped being an idol.  That can happen only when we are truly willing to live without it, when we truly say from the heart: ‘Because I have God, I can live without you.’…Sometimes God seems to be killing us when he’s actually saving us.”

– Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods:The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power,  and the Only Hope that Matters

 

Below, you’ll find a short video of Keller explaining why he wrote the book in the first place.  Enjoy!

Can You Hear Jimi?

I hate myself.

Yeah, I said it.  I hate myself.

I came across this epiphany while sitting in my newfound favorite spot for self-loathing; Starbucks.  As I sit here, I witness business people collaborating on projects, soccer moms just coming back from their grueling morning walk, and dudes (young and old) that have better fashion sense and physical health then myself.

Me.  I look like I will be that guy who will be 50 years old trying to dress like he did in his late teens to early 20’s, without much sense or purpose.  No pressing, important or urgent activity, but to come to a coffee-shop and sip on his drink, because, well, I look like I did when I was irresponsible, haphazard and sloppy.

I hate myself because I can’t fit into the clothes I own, let alone the ones I would like to own.  I shop at Old Navy, occasionally the Gap.  These are the Banana Republic for “bigger” people.

The clothes make the man.  This is what Starbucks, indirectly, tells me.

I hate myself because I have let myself go too far down the road I’m on and I don’t know if I can make my way back to a healthy place.   I’ve always been on the heavier side.  In high school I weighed as much as a Freshman as I would later come to weigh in college – 190lbs.  In college this was healthy.  I was active, hitting the gym several times a week.  I also was on the Rowing team and on weekends would play flag football.  I could run 4-5 miles with no problem.

In high school I lost the weight by not eating for a summer.  Sure I worked out (a ton) and played basketball (religiously for hours a day, ever day, 7 days a week), but the real difference maker was refusing food.  The food I would eat was bad, not even healthy.  I subsisted on 1 meal a day for the better part of a summer.  After that, I would eat lunch and dinner, ocassionaly skipping one of those meals.

Now, I eat.

I eat alot.

I eat regular meals, and sometimes I squeeze in an extra snack or two.  Or three.  Call it stress, call it middle age, call it metabolic slow down.  I call it pathetic.  I don’t monitor what I eat, let alone how much.  And I know better!

Now, I weigh 252 lbs.  This is 20 lbs. less than what it was 2 months ago.

Progress, right?  So why do I still hate myself?

Because its not enough.  I want to weight a healthy weight.  I want to look attractive, especially to my wife.  Not only has she had to put with me (a feat in and of itself) but she’s had to put up with a fat me.  Not cool.

I want to buy clothes that fit, and are from Banana Republic, without having to go into emotional meltdown each time I try to put a shirt on and stuff down the feelings of insecurity that well up inside like a tsunami, with no forewarned reverberations from the earthquake that is getting dressed in the morning.

I want to like me.  Instead I hate the me that I have become.

And I have become what I have eaten.

In a backwards way, the old yarn about “You are what you eat” is actually a stones throw away from a theological truth – “you become what you worship.”  This is idolatry.  It wasn’t necessarily that it was wrong to fashion something out of wood, to have it in ones home or even to sell it to a neighbor.  What was wrong was that you looked to it to satisfy you.

When the bible talks in cryptic language about “hearing, but not understanding” or “seeing but not perceiving” (Luke 8:10; cf. Isaiah 6:9), it isn’t merely providing one of the better dialogues between Wesley Snipes and Woody Harrelson in White Men Can’t Jump. Its pointing to the ultimate and sad reality that, “What you revere you resemble, whether for your ruin or your restoration.” (G.K. Beale, You Become What You Worship).

“Oh I can hear Jimi, you say?”  No, you’re just listening.  You’re not hearing.

Self-fulfilment through personal effort is self-destruction.  This is the insatiable law of human life.  We all are seeking to carve out the life we think we want.  But in the end it turns around the carving knife we’re fashioning our idol out of   and chips away at us until there’s nothing left.

We are destroyed by the work of our own hands.

Why do I launch into a discussion on idolatry after having cathartically cleansed my consciousness of self-loathing thoughts of angst against myself and expressions of envy towards others?

Because if I’m not careful, I’ll just trade one idolatry of comfort, ease, emotional security and gluttony through food, for another one of status, discipline, arrogance and pride through “the culture of cool.”

This is how sin works.  It promises us something, and we work to fashion something in our life to provide meaning, satisfaction and fulfillment, and before we know it, we’re “seeing, but not perceiving”, “hearing but not understanding”, “eating, but not being satisfied.”  “Living life, but hating the life you’re living.”

What’s funny is this is how Paul the Apostle felt too.  In a weird way, he may have been able to write this little blog post (of course, he would have different details), but he said something very similar to my own opening line.

“Wretched man that I am!  Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

“Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ!” (Romans 7:24-25)

That’s who!

The answer to the problem of my self-destructive behavior is not to jump out of  my Starbucks-pot of self-loathing only to land in the fire of the “culture of cool”.  The answer is found in someone who lived the life I should have lived (but didn’t) and who died the death I should have died (but won’t – now).

Can you hear Jimi now?  Or are you just listening?