Seven Lies We Tell Ourselves

lies

I lie to myself; so do you.  We try to create our own fake news to keep real reality at arm’s length.

Lies we tell ourselves:

  1. “I’m not that bad.” Compared to whom?  Maybe I’m not that bad compared to the drunk driver who kills someone; compare me to perfection – Jesus – and I don’t even make the chart.  Believing the lie that “I’m not that bad” means I’m constantly measuring to see how my morality stacks up with everyone else.
  2. “I don’t succumb to peer pressure.” We declare we are individualists, then get in a car a celebrity told us to buy, listen to a song that our friends think is cool, and then stop to pick up some beer we saw featured in an ad with flat-stomached guys and pretty girls who were having a good time around a campfire in the mountains.
  3. “I can stop anytime I want to.” This is the lie addicts tell themselves.  Addicts falsely equate change with willpower.  John Ortberg said, “Habit eats willpower for lunch.”  Perversely, it’s not until we admit we can’t stop that we have any hope of change.
  4. “I make my own rules.” Call the bank and tell them you made your own rules and its okay for you to skip a few payments.  Tell the doctor that you make your own rules, so the cancer won’t kill you, like it does everyone else.  Tell the trooper you make your rules about the speed limit (Tried it.  Doesn’t work).
  5. “I know how to fix this.” I hurt my wife.  I buy her flowers (or jewelry or a car or a house), because I know how to fix it. Then I’m surprised that she’s still mad.  I get mad back because my fix isn’t working.  I never stop to hear her pain, to understand her.  I’m not really trying to fix the problem; I’m trying to get her to forget the problem so I don’t feel guilty.
  6. “I can make it up to you.” Closely kin to lie number five, we tell ourselves if we say “I’m sorry” enough times, or if we go into super-servant mode, or if we just declare enough that we’ve changed, the past goes away and we get a clean start. You may be forgiven, but you can’t erase consequences of past choices.
  7. “God wouldn’t be mad at me.” A third century theologian, Lactantius, said, “He who does not get angry, does not care.”  Any parent who truly loves his or her child will be angry when that child does something that harms himself or herself.  If God is love, doesn’t it make sense that He would be angry that we harm ourselves?

What happens if you believe your own lies?  You center on yourself.  You expend tremendous energy and resources trying to keep your false version of reality intact.  If you live in the land of fake reality too long, you become a narcissist.  Your fake version of reality shuts out others.  Relationships wither and die.

There is a reason Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.”  Here’s the truth – you don’t get to define reality.  You need help coping with real reality.

That’s what Jesus offers.  He offers you help.  He offers you love.  He offers you grace.  He offers to set you free from your own lies.

What truth is Jesus speaking to you right now? Are you listening to Him?  Or your own lies?

Who is God?

camping under the stars

A Cub Scout troop was sleeping out under the stars; at least, that’s what their Scoutmaster thought.  He was snoring away while the boys were telling stories, pondering life, and looking at the Milky Way.  One boy said, “What do you suppose God is really like?”

The boy whose dad ran a manufacturing plant said, “God is like a plant manager.  He goes around telling the angels what stars to make.  After they make one, he inspects it to make sure it’s quality, and then he ships it out so another crew of angels can install it in the sky.”

The boy whose dad was a policeman said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like a policeman looking for people who break his laws.  When they do, God catches them and makes them pay for what they’ve done.”

The boy whose dad was a lawyer said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like a judge.  The angels go out and catch everyone when they die.  Then God judges them based on what they did.  Then he sends them upstairs if they’re good or downstairs if they’re bad.”

The boy whose dad was rich said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is like Santa Claus.  All you have to do is ask him for something and he brings it to you when he gets home from his trips.  And if you don’t get what you want, you hold your breath until you turn blue and then God will give you what you want.”

The boy whose dad left when he was born said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God makes you and then leaves you alone to figure everything out for yourself.”

The boy who was being raised by his grandfather said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God is old and he has arthritis.  You have to be real quiet around him.  But you can get away with a lot of stuff because he doesn’t see too well, or hear too well either.”

The boy whose dad was an accountant said, “No, that’s not who God is.  God makes sure everything is in its place.  God doesn’t tolerate mistakes.  You’ll be okay with God as long as you stay within the lines.”

The boy whose dad was a solider said, “No that’s not who God is.  God fights the devil.  He and the angels are fighting the devil and the demons.  The angels fly around and shoot arrows of gold, while the demons catapult balls of fire back.”

One boy, who didn’t have a dad, stayed quiet.  The other boys prodded him: “Hey Billy!  Who do you think God is?”

A moment passed.  Then Billy spoke up and said, “God is my Father in heaven.”

In heaven, God sighed and cried at the same time.

Walking Away…

walk away

A re-telling of an old story:

There was this young, hot-shot politician who was on the fast track. A sharp young man, he was shrewd enough that he wanted to cover all his religious bases. He had heard about a new preacher in town and wanted to be sure and get him on his side.

The young politician couldn’t help but be impressed with the crowd that surrounded the preacher at his regular preaching time. He was more amazed that unlike other preachers, this one did Q and A with the crowd. From personal experience, the young politician knew this took courage.

The young politician worked his way to the front of the crowd, nodding, grinning, and shaking hands as he went. His mind was flying about the best way to get the preacher on his side while impressing the crowd at the same time. Being a clever man, he hit upon just the right question. When the preacher paused for a breath, the young politician spoke up, loud enough so everyone could hear him: “Preacher, you are so wise! So what do I need to do to have the best life possible?”

The preacher looked at him with a dry smile and said, “Why are you calling me wise? Only God is wise. I’ll bet you already know the answer. Keep your life between the ditches. Don’t kill, sleep with someone else’s wife, take what doesn’t belong to you, tell a lie, or cheat anyone; and do right by your Momma and Daddy.”

With the perfect touch of humility and pride, the young politician said, “Preacher, I’ve done all that ever since I was knee high to a grasshopper.”

The crowd murmured approval, because this young politician had the reputation of being an upright guy. They looked at the preacher, certain he was about to heap praise on the young man.

But the preacher looked at him with a look that conveyed affection and truth. He said, “You’re missing one thing. Go back to your office and put everything up for sale. Liquidate it all. Empty your bank accounts. Take it all the money down to the wrong side of the tracks and give away. When you empty your bank account, your account balance in heaven will go way up! Once you’ve done that, find a spiritual adventure to go on.”

You could hear the air sucked in by the crowd. The young politician looked stunned. He’d come thinking he would get a high five from the preacher. Instead, he was blindsided by a reality about his life: He’d rather be rich than be right. He’d been born into money; it meant status and security. He didn’t want a spiritual adventure; he wanted an endorsement of his life as it was. The preacher didn’t cooperate with his agenda. With a heave of his shoulders, he turned from the preacher and headed back to the office.

Years went by. He heard how the preacher was lynched for his teachings down at the capital. Then there was the crazy news that after a few days, people saw him alive again. The crazy nuts that had sold everything and followed him were telling everyone the best life you could ever have would be to follow him. The now old politician still didn’t believe it, though every now and then an ache in his soul seemed to say: “Is counting my money all there is?”

The old politician had dismissed that thought so many times, it rarely came up anymore. But whenever it did, he went back to the day of his encounter with the preacher. He made the right decision, he reminded himself. After all, what would he have gained if gave up all his money and saved his soul?

(see the original version of this story in Mark 10: 17-22).

Is Your Character Growing?

growth

Your mind is amazing.  It thinks so fast you don’t know you are thinking.

Like right now.

Your eyes receive light patterns.  The patterns are sent to the brain.  The brain recognizes the patterns as words.  You don’t read the individual letters.  You don’t sound out the word.  Your brain translates the sentences into meaning without you thinking about thinking.  At the end of this article, without thinking, your brain will send a message to read what’s next.

Every day you take a thousand actions without thinking.  You make a choice and take action changing your future without thinking.   You act on what you believe is good and what is bad without thinking.   You justify to yourself your behavior without thinking.

Character is the way you structure your world.  Your inside world shows up in your external behavior.  It shows up without thinking.

We do not slow down life enough to think about our thinking.  We should.  Slow down and think about you.

Your soul is the operating system of your life.  Your character is how you program your soul.  It is the system architecture.  Your character is the patterns that come from your soul.

People structure their soul differently:  People can’t stand the tension of an open ended problem.  They must decide, even if it is the wrong decision.  Their heart is in the driver’s seat.

People feel sad and sadness guides their decisions.  Or people think someone is a bad person and they withdraw from a relationship.  Their mind is in the driver’s seat.

People have an appetite for sugar.  They eat a box of Pop-Tarts.  They repeat the pattern         the next day.  Their body is in the driver’s seat.

People want a “significant other.”  They take “the first available.”  They endure neglect, abuse, and unfaithfulness.  Their relational need is in the driver’s seat.

What if you could restructure your character?  What if you could restructure your system architecture?  What if you could restructure your soul programming?  Where would you start?  What pattern would you choose?

What if you started with the model of the happiest person who ever lived?

Jesus.

Your objection:  I’m not sure Jesus was the happiest person ever.  Wasn’t he killed?

Yes.  So?

Your response:  That doesn’t sound very happy to me.

That’s the problem.  We define happiness by what happens in a moment.  God defines happiness by what happens from birth to infinity.

We don’t know how to define happiness.  Jesus did:  Happiness is being blessed.  Happiness is life fully lived.  Happiness is satisfaction.  Happiness is being the being God made you to be.

That is exactly who Jesus was.  This is exactly who Jesus is.

The more your character is like Jesus’s, the happier you will be.  Maybe it’s time for you to slow down, think about your life, and pray to grow a character like Jesus.