Why I Write

In the movie, Chariots of Fire, Olympian and future missionary Eric Liddell famously told his sister, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast.  And when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  When and where do you feel God’s pleasure?  I feel it when I write.

Admittedly, I began this blog several years ago with an agenda.  I perceived an imbalance in our common teaching on living the Christian life.  I felt the emphasis was too negative, too focused on the overwhelming power of sin in our lives, too critical of ourselves and our fellow believers.  I sought to bring the pendulum back by explaining all that became new at our new birth.  I unpacked the provisions of the New Covenant – including our new label as holy and beloved (Col 3:12) – and what they meant for living the supernatural Christian life.

When I started writing, I probably had 20 or 30 posts in my head.  To my surprise, the more I wrote, the more the ideas came flooding in.  Now, 300 posts later, my motivation has changed.  My emphasis is still the same, but I no longer write to put forth a theological agenda or a persuasive argument to support my position.  Without being presumptuous, I write to be God’s messenger and to feel His presence.  As I read God’s Word, I am compelled to explain – in the clearest terms possible – the Message He has conveyed.

As a geophysicist, I also have an unusual platform and maybe an uncommon approach.  Geologists and geophysicists have the whole world as a laboratory.  Hence, we are trained to think “big picture”.  We are trained to process large amounts of data – some of it contradictory – and uncover the “truth” about what is going on beneath and on the earth’s surface.

When I apply this training to reading Scripture, I see the Bible as an epic story of redemption.  I am not bothered by apparent contradictions.  I am not concerned with mysteries that seem to remain mysteries.  I have no problem separating the “Old” from the “New” while also celebrating their combined contribution to the story.  I see the Old Testament for what it is:  God’s old arrangement with man.  And peeking through that arrangement are pictures of something new; the coming Savior.  I see the New Testament for what it is:  God’s new arrangement with man, and the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan.  I think because I have learned to change my geophysical interpretation with new data and information, I am comfortable with God changing His arrangement with man without any diminishing of His sovereignty or greatness.

Geophysicists are not 100 percenters.  We can celebrate, explain, and understand what we do know without having to know all of it.  Does that make sense?  I don’t need everything in the Bible to fit into neat theological pigeonholes to get excited about the Message.  I am content to let the Bible speak for itself.  And I believe when we do that, we encounter a Message that is coherent, dynamic, and mysterious all at the same time.  It is a Message that is alive, filled with resurrection power.

Early geophysical pioneers, with their primitive listening equipment had a phrase, “Let the earth speak to you.”  It seems a little corny now.  But I guess that is what I am saying about Scripture.  In my writing, I try to let Scripture speak for itself without a lot of theological system overtones.  I try to provide just enough commentary to help others put the big picture together, including how all these incredible concepts like the New Covenant apply to our daily lives.

Anyway, several of you have asked about where I get my ideas and my motivation.  A surprising result of “just starting” with post #1 several years ago has been the sense of God’s presence as I write.  May you experience His presence in the endeavors He has given you to do.

Freedom From the Performance Trap

Another freedom our new identity affords us is freedom from the performance trap.  How many of us measure our worth by our performance; or more specifically, by how others react to our performance?

Ryan Kwon writes, in the context of church planting, about the performance trap.  “The gospel says, it was through Christ’s performance, not our performance, which makes our adoption possible.  So now He accepts us as His own, and that is our primary and supreme identity.  The world tells me, ‘I am what I do.’  But the gospel tells me, ‘I do what I am.’  For the Christian, our identity precedes our activity.  So our identity is not based on winning, or losing, on a big church, or a small church.  God can’t love us any more, and He can’t love us any less.  He cannot give us a higher identity than the status of perfection.  Through this gospel identity we release our insecurities and our turf wars.  As a result, it releases the mission of God into our cities.”

“Our identity precedes our activity.”  I like that.  We so often get this turned around.  We think we earn our identity by our performance.  Take, for example, the gift of generosity.  We think we earn the label of “generous person” because we give our money away.  But in reality, if generosity is one of your gifts, then you already are a generous person because God gave you that gift.  Giving money away is not to earn the label, it is the fruit of the gift.  Are we splitting hairs here?  Does it really matter which came first, the identity or the activity?

I think it does for this reason.  When we recognize that our identity is wrapped up in who we are in Christ, we find our joy, our confidence, our self-worth in that new identity.  We do not rely on the opinion of others to validate who Christ already says we are.  When we find our value in what we accomplish in our activity…our joy, our confidence, and our self-worth are much more fluid being carried on the whims of what we or others think of our performance.

The world says, “I am defined by what I do, by what I have accomplished.”  God says, “You do what you do, you accomplish what you do, because of who you already are.”  Do you see the distinction?  It is not an excuse for laziness or lack of accomplishment.  God has given us plenty of good works to do.  It is a matter of motivation.  Stop seeing success as the key to your identity.  Instead, see your identity as the driving force behind doing what you do.  And when you do this, you will be set free from the performance trap.

Humility and Dignity

I once heard a speaker in a business setting say that he had no ego.  I had the same reaction that is probably going through your head right now, “Of course, he has an ego.  We all do.”  But as I thought about it later, I conceded that maybe pride is not an issue for him.  It is easy for me to project my challenges with pride onto others.  Do you think it is common for us to project our own besetting sins onto others and assume they are weighed down with the same issues?

Because of reactions like mine, humility is a hard topic to write about.  You can’t very well say it is something you have attained and come across as genuine.  It is even hard to give tips on how to reach for it.  I think one of the challenges is the way Christians confuse humility and dignity.

We too often equate humility with a denigration of dignity.  We assault our New Testament dignity by calling ourselves poor wretched sinners.  We somehow think seeing ourselves as basically worthless is a sign of humility.  I actually think it is calling God a liar since he has labeled us holy and beloved saints.  His label for us is where our dignity begins.

Our dignity comes from the fact that we are worthy to appear in God’s presence as holy and beloved saints; infused with the very righteousness of Christ.  And this righteousness is not just a covering of our sin, but is a real life infusion; an indwelling of supernatural proportions.  Our dignity comes from the fact that we are worthy to boldly approach God’s throne.  And our humility comes from the fact that we had absolutely nothing to do with it.  Our dignity is pure gift.

I like this distinction between dignity and humility.  I have said before that humility is not a bright person thinking they are unintelligent.  It is not a generous person thinking themselves a Scrooge.  It is not a talented person thinking they have no skill.  It is not a successful parent thinking of themselves as a failure.  Humility is giving God the credit for all those accomplishments.  It is giving God the glory for your talent, your brain, your understanding of the Word, your ability to communicate, your generosity, your parenting skills, and thanking Him for these gifts.

Humility is an attitude.  An attitude of thanksgiving and deflecting the glory from ourselves to our God, the giver of all good gifts.  It is not a denigration of our dignity.  You are deeply loved, completely forgiven, fully pleasing, totally accepted, complete in Christ…and there is no inherent arrogance in believing that!