Tag Archives: Authenticity

Authenticity Precipitates Sanctification

Authenticity Precipitates Sanctification

Once a week my family meets with three other families in someone’s home. We all eat and catch up and tell jokes. After dinner the kids loudly play in the basement while the adults circle around to discuss life and faith. We have a chosen curriculum we are following, though that will change with the seasons. It’s in this small group that we wrestle with how to live out our faith given life’s circumstances. We all face challenges on a weekly basis that make us wonder how to walk by faith as we move towards the chaos. Together we discuss how to accomplish this.

Each of us is at a different place in our faith journey. Some of us are mature believers. Others are brand new to their faith. It’s in these conversations (and prayers) that we are crafting the next steps: What to do at work or with a family member, how to approach someone with a loving attitude, and how to live with both truth and grace.

It’s in these conversations that we slowly learn to trust each other. Here as the trust is built, the conversation becomes more vulnerable. It’s because of this authenticity that heart matters are shared and believers can encourage and give guidance in the things that really matter. Authenticity is the pathway that allows the sanctification process to move forward. The process of moving towards holiness is our desire. Living life in authentic community is the way to live out the gospel.

Lindsey Ungs
Connection & Communication Architect

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A True Soul-Friend

A True Soul-Friend

Authenticity is at the heart of our current teaching series, LIFE TOGETHER. I want to share with you a story from The Walk by Michael Card. Michael had been going through a difficult time having recently broken up with his girlfriend. One Monday morning, Michael’s mentor, Bill invites him out for breakfast. After they are seated Bill makes a bold but loving statement:

“I’m worried about you, Michael. This is perhaps the third young woman you have dated since we’ve known each other and now you’re breaking up again. I’m concerned about your ability to sustain a relationship.”

Wow! That is being authentic about your concerns for a friend. Also, being bold enough to say it, even if you know they might have difficulty receiving such truth. Michael goes on to explain that out of his own immaturity he responded:

“How can you say that to me! After all, you are divorced. At least I never did that!”

Ouch! Burn! Michael shares this story in his book so that we could all see Bill’s response:

Bill grew quiet. He had risked genuinely loving me and, like so many others, I had hurt him for it. “Worked at that relationship as hard as I could for as long as I could.” He said, almost in tears, and there the discussion ended. Anyone else would have decided, at this point, that walking with someone like me was not worth the trouble. Not Bill. As best I remember, he never brought up the subject again. A few months before his death, I recalled the incident and asked for his forgiveness. It was obvious from his response that he had forgiven me long ago, although I could tell he still remembered the sting of it. All that remained, he said, was for me to forgive myself.

Authenticity opens us all up to pain. The pain we experience when someone lashes out at us, reminding us of our biggest regrets or mistakes or when someone weaponizes our honesty against us as Michael did. The hurt we experience when someone breaks our trust. However, real, deep and lasting relationships are built on authentically sharing our lives with each other. I hope you are as encouraged and challenged as I am by this story. Michael Card ends the chapter by saying:

A true soul-friend is willing to endure the inevitable pain that is caused by being in a relationship with another human being. “We are fragile and fallen people,” Bill would say. “Often we hurt each other.”

Who are those people in your life who know you authentically and can speak the truth in love to you the way Bill did?  Who in your life needs you to be their “Bill”?

Steve Poole
Director of Youth & Young Adults

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Be Real

Be Real

One of the speakers at this year’s Global Leadership Summit started his talk by asking, “Can I just be real with you?” I’d never heard of this person before but I was immediately intrigued.

Shola Richards then explained that many of his good ideas came from his mother. She taught him, “There are two kinds of people in the world, those who you feel good about when they walk into the room; and those who you feel good about when they walk out of the room.”

Shola went on to teach, in simple terms, about civility which couldn’t be a more timely subject to explore. He challenged us to leave a legacy of civility and respect by valuing the people around us. Value the ideas, the roles, the time, the skills and the humanity of people. Be real, let others be real, and be curious.

I wanted to shout “Amen” in the middle of Shola’s lecture. We are the kind of people who are real and who respect others. Life together requires civility. There is no way to get civility without spending time together.

We will practice being real and being civil this fall with a church wide study. This is an opportunity for you to experience life together. If you are not yet part of a small group, click here.  We will feel good when you walk into the room!!

Be real,

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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French Fries, Root Beer, Monkeys, and Management

French Fries, Root Beer, Monkeys, and Management

The other day I met with another mom trying to get to know some of the families in our kids’ school. We took our kids to the trampoline park and then headed out to lunch. Four boys total ranging in age from four to eight years.

I’ll admit, I don’t really like taking my kids out in public, especially when I’m outnumbered.  It’s kind of like herding wild sheep. They do great one-on-one, or even just two, but all three at once? (What in the world will I do when the 4th arrives in December!!!) Things go a little crazy, but especially when lunch is delayed.  Everyone is crazy hungry and that napping hour is already upon us.

This mom I was with has much more experience than I do at the parenting game. Her youngest is eight and her oldest children are out of the house, married and have kids of their own. She’s a pro.

When things started to wind out of control, (picture fries being spilled and scattered, an entire root beer spilled on the floor and a monkey of a four-year-old climbing over all the seating with lots of hooting and hollering and crying in between) we were reprimanded by the management and asked to be quiet. My greatest fears of being out in public with my kids came to life.

Why my kids? Why now? Why, why, why when I was trying so hard to break out of my introvert shell and make a new and much-needed friend?

Instead of reacting, she calmly continued talking to me, seemingly oblivious to the noise and the chaos. She was unfazed by the reprimand from management. I can only wonder what was going through her head, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, she didn’t judge my parenting or lack of child-herding skills. Instead, she recalled stories of when her many kids were younger and the noise and the chaos. She was exactly the friend I needed.

As much as I felt like a screw-up of a parent that day, it meant the world to me to be so fully accepted and understood in those few moments and to find a friend not alarmed by the true mess of my life.

As we move forward in authenticity as a church, I pray that we all can find such a friend and fellow believers who accept us, understand us, and stir us in faith in those tough moments when our best selves are not on display.

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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Imposters?

Imposters?

I like to wear a mask. (Not the pandemic kind but the kind I hide behind.) I do this to protect myself. If people really knew me, I’m afraid that they will not like what they saw. I have a hunch that I am not the only one with this fear.

Donald Miller wrote about this in the book Through Painted Deserts: “Relationships aren’t the best thing, if you ask me. People can be quite untrustworthy, and the more you get to know them – by that I mean the more you let somebody know who you really are – the more it feels as though something is at stake. And that makes me nervous. It takes me a million years to get to know anybody pretty well, and even then the slightest thing will set me off. I feel it in my chest, this desire to disassociate. I don’t mean to be a jerk about it but this is how I am wired. If I coil, I’d probably have formula friends because that would be safe.”

Real, authentic community is not safe. We take risks when we disclose who we really are. We risk exposing our mess. We risk entering into another person’s mess. We risk taking off our masks. We are the kind of people who leave the safety of the cover-up. We do life together.

Romans 12:15 invites us to “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” We can only live like this if we all take our masks off and live in authentic community. Will we be real? Or live like imposters?

Authenticity Requires Grace

It seems like every day I hear more outrage. We live in a polarized world where opinions fall on opposite ends of every issue and many of us take delight in proclaiming our differences. Over time these disagreements turn to anger and outrage. How can “they” be so wrong?

Outrage creates fear and breaks down relationships. When it is not safe to say what we really think, we stop talking. Outrage kills authenticity. To know each other and be known by each other does not require agreement, but it does require safety in disagreeing. Authenticity requires grace.

James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry

Kent Landhuis
Pastor of Teaching & Leadership

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Gospel-Centered Authenticity

Gospel-Centered Authenticity

It seems that no matter how much the world celebrates authenticity, it doesn’t know how to find the real thing. Often the more authentic people appear, the less authentic they are. Think of the Instagrammer who spends forever on her “no makeup” selfie, the guy who bares his soul as a pick-up technique, or the marketer who sells shabby chic as a brand.

Likewise, modern Christianity is trying hard to purge itself of a polished veneer that has smacked of hypocrisy. There’s something good in our desire for “authenticity.” We’re tired of masks, and we want to get real. But what if “authenticity” has become just another mask—one more covering for our sins?

The felt need to not “put on a face” betrays the real issue: people don’t want authenticity, they want solidarity. They want to feel they aren’t alone in falling short, so they desire openness and vulnerability from others, but by focusing on brokenness as proof our “realness” and “authenticity,” have Christians turned “being screwed up” into a badge of honor, its own sort of works righteousness?

This mindset represents a skewed understanding of sin. It’s almost as if our sins have become a currency of solidarity – something we pat each other on the back about as fellow authentic, broken people, but sin should always be grieved rather than celebrated. We’ve become too comfortable with our sin, to the point that it’s how we identify ourselves and relate to others.

Has this type of authenticity become a higher calling than, say, holiness? Shouldn’t we find connection over Christ, rather than over our depravity? Yes, sin is part of our story as redeemed people. We shouldn’t ignore or make light of it, but we also shouldn’t wallow in it or take it lightly for the sake of earning authenticity points.

In Romans 6:1-14, Paul says the abounding grace of God is never grounds for living in and under the reign of sin. Those saved by grace through faith in Jesus experience a profound union with Him, so that His death and resurrection become our death and resurrection. Though Jesus died for our sins, we’re to die to our sins. That is, we’re to consider ourselves dead to sin, so that sin doesn’t reign over us.

The power of death and sin are broken in the death of Jesus, and we’re called to live out this reality. When we embrace our brokenness, our “old self” (Romans 6:6), allowing sin to reign over and in our lives, we distort God’s grace. Just as the end goal of Jesus’s death was His resurrection to life, so the end goal of our death to sin is a life of righteousness (Romans 6:15-18).

True authenticity comes when we love and pursue God and the truth that He reveals in His Word and collectively encourage each other, by grace, in the direction of Christ-likeness. We should move in that direction, by grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit. You may seem a broken mess, but by the grace of God, your old self is crucified with Christ. You can walk in newness of life, because God’s divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3).

When we tell the truth about our design, brokenness, redeemed status in Christ, and the end goal toward which believers are moving, we can have life-transformative, gospel-centered authenticity.

Gary Sager
Ambassador of Care

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Bad Things Stink

Bad Things Stink

Recently in the Bible Recap we read Joshua 7 and the story of Achan.  Here’s a brief synopsis to remind you about Achan:  When the Israelites conquered Jericho, Achan disobeyed God by keeping some of the gold and silver from Jericho for himself.  Achan hid what he had stolen and tried to cover up his sin.  God dealt with Achan severely because God hates dishonesty.  Even though God hates lying and stealing He will forgive you when you are seeking repentance.

As I listened to the story, I started to giggle as I recalled a story I’ve heard many times about dishonesty and hiding.  My high school English teacher, Mrs. Nett, loved to tell this story.  Now, as a parent, it makes more sense and is quite simple:  bad things stink! One day at school as a young child, Mrs. Nett had to use the restroom.  Actually, a #2 to be specific.  However, she knew the teacher would not let her go during the middle of the lesson.  A few minutes later she made herself comfortable.  Then, she carefully waddled to the Kleenex box, grabbed a couple tissues, and tiptoed back to her desk.  Using the Kleenex she wrapped herself a nice #2 present and carefully hid it inside her desk, just like Achan hid his gold and silver.  Later, the teacher walked by and asked if she needed to use the restroom.  This was followed with an honest reply “Nope!”  In the afternoon the teacher took her aside privately and asked what she was smelling.  Mrs. Nett told the teacher the truth about her #2 present.  Her stink was found, just as God perceived Achan’s sin.

As a high schooler I remember laughing uncontrollably as Mrs. Nett would tell the detail laden story.  As an adult, I’ve watched my two littles hide in the corner to make their #2 presents in their diapers.  Oh, do they smell!  As a potty-training parent, I’ve found a present in the corner of a bedroom because of an atrocious stink!  It makes me ponder:  Our sin stinks!  It will be found!  Parents, teach your children to be free from the stink of dishonesty!  Parents, remind your children that God will forgive their sin if they say sorry.

Cathy Poole
Children’s Ministry

 

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An Unexpected Renewed Friendship

An Unexpected Renewed Friendship

Of the three members of the Trinity, whom are you least familiar with? Of the three, to whom do you have the most trouble relating?

A very good friend challenged me with this question recently.  And to be honest, it was a great question and the start of a beautiful and unexpected journey to renew a friendship that I had largely ignored most of my life.

I know God the Father. I get Him.  I get what He does.  I like His sovereignty.  His gentle hand. His interactions with His people.  I picture Him with a nice fatherly face.  And because I have an awesome earthly human father, I find it super easy to relate to God the Father and talk to him.  Because I know his actions in sending Jesus to earth, I know His love for me.  He gave up His son for me.  I can understand all of that.  And so when I talk to Him, I can see Him and thank Him and dialogue with Him.

I know Jesus! I can picture Him.  When I pray, I know where He’s at and can picture Him sitting on His throne, just to the right of God the Father. He has a body.  He has brown hair.  He has scars in His hands and feet, but also a white robe.  He’s a carpenter. He’s coming back on a white horse.  His eyes are like flaming fire.   His actions on the cross showed me exactly how much He loves me. He is my brother, and also my King. And so when I talk to Him, I can see Him and love Him.

But the Holy Spirit?  This one was harder.    In my head, He was a concept or a thing, but not a HE.  He was an IT or a THE.  It’s like His name leads to strange concepts.  And where is He?  I wasn’t even sure.  I couldn’t picture Him in the throne room.  Does He even sit down? Does He have a chair with the others?  In my mind, He doesn’t have a body like Jesus and Father.   He doesn’t bare scars. He’s not a King with a robe and a horse.  So what does He look like?

So, taking my wise mentor’s advice, I sat down and started to talk to Him as a person and ask questions.  She challenged me to bring my journal along and write down what I hear.

Amazing process! The first thing I did was drop the ‘the’ from my vocabulary.  The Holy Spirit’s name is Holy Spirit.  He is a He, not a ‘the’ –a person that I can talk to directly.  He has roles – He is a counselor, a guide, a friend.  He helps us search our hearts to reveal brokenness, heartaches, sin – and then, as the best and most gentle counselor, helps us process them and break the chains of all these things.

Once I started the process, I had so many questions! What do You look like? Where do you reside? Do you have a throne chair?  How can I find You?

Together, this great friend and counselor walked me through memory after memory of events that had created little fractures in my childhood heart, offered me healing and wholeness, and showed me how to release them back to Him and walk in greater degrees of forgiveness.

He showed me where He was in the most challenging moments of my life, how His presence was there to guide and counsel me even when I was unaware of Him and did not yet know Him as friend.

And those journals I had been pouring my heart into over the last 20 years? I was writing to Him.  That time spent crying in agony, reading the Psalms out loud while lying in my bed? I was crying out to Him.  That inspiration to stop in the middle of giant snow storm and buy my wedding dress at that very moment–Him–delighting in my love for a good deal.

One of the biggest things I’ve learned in this newly renewed friendship is how to connect with Him.  He stands at the door and knocks, I merely respond, “I invite You in.”  Simple.

He does not condemn. He does not shame.  He is so gentle! And even though the pain of reliving old memories was hard, letting Him show me where He was in the process was so completely healing – my trust in Him and love for Him only increased.

In terms of being authentic with our friends, this is one where I am completely me and completely accepted and completely loved.

Leah Carolan
Director of Worship & Media

 

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