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Solitude

Just like in any meaningful relationship, sometimes we need to step away from the busy-ness and distraction to be alone with our significant other. This is no different in our relationship with God. The practices of contemplation, meditation, and silence are often practiced in solitude.

Cultivating with: Solitude

There are very few hard and fast rules with any of this. Each person is different so each relationship will look different. No two people's relationships with God and those He loves will look exactly the same. But there are a few suggestions that have worked for others. Here are some resources for the "how-to" of the practice. These, together with some of the articles and such linked below, will help to get you started:

PracticingTheWay.org: This link is to their section on solitude. You will likely need to sign up for access, and will need to start a small group of people to engage the practice with to have full access to the videos. But it is well worth it to start a group, and it is best to do a practice with others anyway. As a group you would meet once per week to have a meal together and discuss. The group lasts 4 weeks.

Books:

Sacred Pathways: by Gary Thomas. Chapter 6 "ASCETICS: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity". Keep in mind that a chapter of a book falls within the larger context of the book. So it is recommended to read the entire book. Chapters 10 and 11 may also be helpful.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and its associated Devotional. by Pete Scazzaro. Chapter 6 of the book is especially helpful: "Discover the Rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath: Stopping to Breathe the Air of Eternity". Keep in mind what is said about the context of an entire book above. The devotional will help you put into practice a daily office. This is for short times of solitude during the day, what many people think of as a "quiet time".

Contemplative Community with Carolyn Arends: (Solitude) This link is to episode 175 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. They don't really get into the community part of contemplation until about the 33-35 minute mark, but before that they take time casually discussing silence and contemplation. Carolyn points out the same thing that I noticed when Nathan was talking about prayerful silence that they practiced together for two hours at a church he worked at. He said that he was very resistant at first, however after about a year he came to love it. After a year. Silence and contemplation takes experimentation and repetition in practice. It may take time to get used to. So if you try it, don't give up right away. Pete Scazzaro does a great job of helping us to acclimate to it in his Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book when used together with its devotional.

You Are What You Contemplate / Bridgetown Daily: (Solitude) This link is to a Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio Podcast. The message is given by John Mark Comer. Solitude is often associated with silence and contemplation. Philippians 4:8-9 encourages us to contemplate the good, beautiful, and true. That was written nearly 2000 years ago. Today, scientists have learned about neural plasticity and that our brains are rewired by what we set our minds on over and over. Dwell on the good, beautiful, and true, and our minds will begin to wander there by default (for most of us). This episode gets into that a little more, and, of course, encourages us to dwell on the good.

Savoring God with Jan Johnson and Steve Fawver: (Solitude) This link is to episode 121 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster.

1) Unlike how I understand eastern meditation, Biblical meditation is not emptying your mind, but instead thinking on something.

2) Jan gives a great example of the difference between study and meditation. Study is cutting the candy bar in half and observing all that you can observe. Meditation is taking a bite and letting it settle on your tongue for a few minutes. One teaches us about, the other settles in. It is observational vs experiential. Study allows us to really get into something. Meditation allows it to get into us. While study is good, I do not know of anywhere in the Bible where it tells us to do so. Meditation, on the other hand, is repeatedly commanded in the Bible about itself. We are invited specifically to meditate on the Bible. Jan says meditation leads to obedience, study doesn't necessarily do that.

3) Steve Fawver provides a helpful tip that heading into a time of meditation is to take a moment to acknowledge the presence of God, invite the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and then to start with a short passage of scripture and listen for what stands out (if anything does, prayerfully roll the passage around in your mind slowly a few times).

An Open Empty Space: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org article by Richard Foster. He encourages simplicity. Keep the schedule clean and uncluttered, perhaps carry this simplicity into focusing on a verse or phrase instead of reading or studying through pages of the Bible. This article is from 1991, so we might add to turn off your cell phone notifications as well. Above all, maintain the space to listen for the calm, quiet voice of God.

Sabbath is a Way of Life: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Dallas Willard. Sabbath, a holy rest, need not be limited to one day per week. In this article, Dallas Willard discusses three practices that we can do any time to help us enter into the Sabbath rest: Solitude, Silence, and Fasting. These three allow us to be in the presence of God, bringing a sense of His love for us as well as peace and joy. He also reminds us that Sabbath is a gift from God to us since man is not made for the Sabbath but Sabbath is made for man.

Elijah and the Broom Bush / Silence and Solitude Episode 2: (Solitude) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast. There are a few awesome points in this podcast that I want to highlight about why we need to be practicing silence and solitude, especially in our current culture of busy-ness addiction, in addition to the fact that it aids our relationship with the Trinity.

1) We need to stop running away. We need to face our fear. When we stop, when we are quiet and still, behind all of the anxious thought monkeys about everything we should be doing to be "productive", we sense feelings rising up from some kind of abyss. They might be fear of being alone, fear that we are insignificant, doubts about whether we are truly loved, anxious secrets we hold onto out of shame or guilt or embarrassment, feeings of hopelessness and depression, or any number of similar things. We can't grow, God can't (won't?) deal with it in us if we keep running away or numbing it back into our emotional abyss. It doesn't go away, and it doesn't get better. Worse, it leaks out in other ways, many times onto other people in our lives, often the ones we love most. We need to choose to trust God as best as we know how, invite Him in to it, and then be still and silent and let it come. At the end of this episode, John Mark Comer suggests a few ideas as to how we can do this.

2) He points out that, if we are new to silence and solitude, we may wonder if there is enough "relational bandwidth" to spend time alone with God in the quietness.

3) You aren't alone in this. He opens with a famous comedian talking about his experience with this emotional fear in times of silence. He reviews the story of Elijah and how he experienced this coming off of a great victory. This is something common to man.

4) While it is true that John Mark Comer is reading into the text the tone of voice of Elijah when he was answering God's question, it is very plausible given the way the story is unfolding. If this is correct, and I think it is, let this be yet one more reminder, together with several Psalms, Jeremiah, Habakkuk, and so many other examples of people being real with God. He can take it. He wants your honesty. Speaking honestly and openly about where you really are with God is good for your relationship. While God is worthy of our respect and awe, we can lay aside being proper and maintaining a stiff upper lip with God. As Larry Crabb said, God will meet us where we are at, not where we pretend to be.

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Part 9: Life of the Beloved: (Solitude) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

It is unfortunate that I feel like I should post a disclaimer but here it is: God does not think willful sin is lovely. He also doesn't want to leave you as you are, meaning He is always working to make us ever closer into the image of His Son, which is what we long for deeply. We want to be better. Whoever told you that you are perfect just the way you are was wrong.

That is, for the most part. We've heard the saying that love is blind. It isn't necessarily blind but it does color the lens rose. There is a bit of fear built in when we think someone loves us, even loving the flaws, that someday they will wake up and really see the flaws without the rose-colored lens, or that those same flaws will cease to be lovely at some point.

But what if you were loved by Someone who sees all the flaws and imperfections perfectly, with a clear lens and in full, Someone Who doesn't change, and still loves you and thinks that those flaws are lovely? What if your insecurities and hang-ups about yourself, the things that cause you to hide, or at least cover those things about yourself, are seen and cherished. He isn't interested in letting sin, or other things that are truly a problem, go about unaddressed - He wants more for you. But He also isn't turned away by the sin and things that are truly a problem. "You are altogether lovely" He says to you, knowing that you have faults that He wants to work on with you, but nether are those faults a hindrance to His love for you.

For over a decade I had bought into the lie that God shouldn't love me, even though I know He does. "I know that God loves me, but He shouldn't. I am too flawed and I can't change it." I knew, but didn't realize, that He looks past that and sees the thing that lies deeper in me, the desire to be better and to represent Him well. He saw my desire to grow closer to Him, and to help other grow closer to Him, motivated by a shared love of His for people. He saw me putting in the effort, even though I was losing hope of changing enough, of representing Him very well. And so the insecurities became lovely, not good, not lovely in the terms that He doesn't want to help them change, but lovely in that they were building perseverance. Lovely in that when they were demolished, the intimacy with God I had wanted for so long would finally come. And the fact that the intimacy didn't come easy would cause me to cherish it all the more.

"You are altogether lovely. Please don't hide from Me."

Here is that sermon in video form on Vimeo:

Be Happy for God: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. When you think of God, do the ideas of playful, joyful, and happy come to mind? They should, because that is what He is. Take some time to really think about this after you listen to it. God is good, He appreciates and creates beauty, and He enjoys the beauty and goodness that He created. And He is especially fond of sharing it with us.

God's Joyous Being: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. At a church I went to on my early thirties, I was introduced to a practice that they had where two or three men would meet in the pastor's office during each service and pray for the service, the people of the church, the visitors, etc. I was a part of this practice and it was a good one. So when I found myself at a different church, I brought this practice with me. One day doing this alone, perhaps prompted by the Holy Spirit, as I started praying, I recognized that I just started right in on my requests. I apologized to God and asked simply, "How is Your day?" I was immediately plunged into such an overwhelming sea of immense joy I felt like I would drown in it. Right away I pleaded "Turn it off! Turn it off!" and it ceased. I remembered the passage from The Divine Conspiracy that James Bryan Smith reads in this episode and had an experience to match the words, words which years previously had taught me to think of God as a joyous being. I, like James, used to think of God as more stern and solemn, thinking it was a more respectful way to see God (He is about serious business, you know). But since I read that passage, I knew better - that experience giving me a deeper understanding of God's joyous being. If you see God as anything but joyous, I recommend that you give this episode a listen.

Empowered by God to Do What We Want: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Dallas Willard. The title of that excerpt sounds a little narcissistic, doesn't it? Using God to get what we want? But what if what we want was created by God? As we grow in our relationship with God, as we become closer friends, we find that our heart aligns with His heart. We learn that what He wants is goodness and truth and beauty, and we find ourselves wanting that, too. Have you ever considered the meaning of Psalm 37:4, "Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart." But if you are delighting in the Lord, then you will want more of Him. This verse says that God will honor that desire. So it is from these good and pure desires that God will empower what we want to do.

You Are Blessed: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode, James talks about adopting a dog. He talks about how fortunate the dog is to be adopted by his family: all of its needs are cared for, they invest into training the dog and taking care of it, there is an older dog in the household to teach this younger dog - it is a blessed dog. In many ways, our own adoption into the family of the Trinity is similar. God is the One who cares for us (Psalm 23, Matthew 6:25-34), the Holy Spirit takes up residence in us to train and transform us, there are other Christians further along in the way that teach us how to live in this family. We are indeed blessed.

Falling in Love with God: (Solitude) Sermon/message by Travor Hudson. I think the lead-up is important or the suggestions made at the end of the video will not carry the impact and memorability that it otherwise would, so do not skip to the end of the video until after you have seen the whole video at least once. Then, may I suggest, take notes on the three points he brings up and remember them. Put them into practice. "At the heart of the universe is a deep love that desired us into existence." (Paraphrased)

Overcome Approval Addiction By Living in Secret: (Solitude) Episode of the Become New podcast hosted by John Ortberg on BecomeNew.com.

Dallas Willard referred to it as reputation management. John Ortberg calls it approval addiction. In this episode John Ortberg explains what Jesus was getting at when he told others not to call attention to their good deeds. By doing so, we are looking for admiration or approval of others. So if we do good things for that reason, then we have received our reward when others praise or admire us. But there is a danger that we may need this approval and become essentially addicted to it. To avoid that, or to overcome it if we have that need for the approval of others, we should practice doing good in secret, so that no one but God knows of it.

Here is that episode on YouTube:

Facing the Fear of Solitude: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org article by Richard Foster. Would you like a few simple ideas of how to build small experiences of solitude and/or silence into your day. This article includes a few practices to experiment with, without having to carve chunks out of your day.

Look for the Glory: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode, James invites us to look around for the beauty and power of God. He speaks of the heavens (outer space as seen in the night sky or though pictures sent back from probes) as one great example. But it can be a wonderful soul training practice to train ourselves to look for the beauty and the majesty of God around us - it will remind us of His presence, power, and goodness.

Epiphanies From a Guitar Part 1: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. In this episode, he talks about one of the things he learned from being gifted a very expensive guitar. While he didn't pay for it himself, he talks about his intention to take care of it now that he has it. "Of course" he'll take care of it, he says because of its value. But then it occurred to him that he himself also holds value and therefore he should take care of himself as well. To pick up on that point, consider what God "paid" for you (the Bible tells us we are bought with a price). We have tremendous value to God and "of course" He wants to take care of us. But He respects our decisions and our boundaries.

(Unnamed Episode): (Solitude) This link is to episode 1 of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Smith is one of my favorite authors. In this episode he tells us where his often used phrase, "I am one in whom Christ dwells and delights." came from. And it is a delightful story.

Truly Believing the Twenty-Third Psalm: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org book excerpt by Dallas Willard. Is it settled reality for you, the twenty-third Psalm? It can be. Life doesn't make it easy with all of its worries and distractions, but you can live as though the Lord is your shepherd, that He cares for you and watches out for your needs as you ask for your daily bread from Him. This isn't meant to be reserved for a righteous few, but is meant as the regular experience for any Christ follower. Two key passages for understanding living in confidence in a good and trustworthy God are Psalm 23 and Matthew's account of the Lord's Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. Spend time dwelling in these two passages. Consider what they have to say. This excerpt includes practical commentary for our lives now about each verse of Psalm 23. (And the book itself is very good!)

Forgiven to be Filled: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. This is another basic point but is critical. Once forgiven, we aren't just waiting for our biological death so we can live fully into eternal life. We have the very life of Christ right now. The Holy Spirit works with us in order to form us into the kind of person that He can pour more of Himself into.

Overcoming Temptation: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. James draws an important distinction in this podcast that we should know. Temptation is not sin. Temptation turns into sin when we take ownership of it: we act on it, we fantasize about it, we dwell on the temptation, etc. James reminds us that there is always a way out of temptation and gives a practice of one way that we can overcome temptation.

Shame: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Thank God for poetry! While I am not really a fan of it myself (I prefer it in musical form or narration in film), many others have been affected by it. In fact, one woman came to faith by reading a poem written by George Herbert in which God helps a man to release the shame he feels about being in the presence of God. God wants to share a meal with him but he is too ashamed of himself to do so. But God gently invites him several times until the man eventually gets over his sense of shame and comes to the table to dine with God. It is a beautiful poem. God feels the same way about you and I. He wants us to come to the table to be with Him, He wants to be with us. Shame acts to keep us apart. God invites us to release it so we can be with Him.

Finality of the Cross: (Solitude) This link is to episode 2 of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. A fundamentally basic point is brought up in this episode, but an especially important one. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior, then God does not deal with you on the basis of your sin. You have His life, and you will not lose it. Of course, just like in any good relationship, if you do something to offend God, then you should confess it and want to do better for the sake of your relationship. But your position is secure in Christ at the moment you place your trust in Him. Smith goes on to explain why this is so important to understand.

Worry: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. "Worry! What is it good for? Absolutely nothin'!" Okay, so that song was "War", not "worry" but the same can be said. We were never meant to try to control outcomes. We act with God in life, seeking His direction and listening for when He provides it, and often He doesn't except for general wisdom, allowing us to make decisions. When He leads, we follow. When He lets the decision up to us, we trust in His presence and provision and make a decision. Either way, we release the outcome to Him. Yes, bad things happen. But they'll happen with or without our worry. And we have reason for real hope and trust - we are children of a good and beautiful and true and powerful God, and He knows what's best, and is always working for our good. There is nothing good that comes from worry. It is simply superstition.

Superstition: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. Does God punish me for my sin? Smith says no. That may be a shocking answer. But understand that sin does bring with itself a punishment  - natural consequences like friction in relationships and such. But there are other things sin does to us: interrupts our spiritual growth, reduces our ability to triumph over temptation, conviction, shame, etc.

However, be aware that there may be direct consequences to actions that God brings about - directly related to sin. For such examples we can turn to Acts 5:1-11 and the story of Ananias and Sapphira, or Acts 12:21-23 and the story of Herod. But such examples are rare exceptions, and seem to have happened as attesting miracles.

 

Another example: there may be rare exceptions that seem to deal with people groups. We see that God caused Israel to be exiled from the Promised Land due to their sin. Note also that God warned them before they entered the land, repeatedly reminded them because it was a part of their law, sent prophets over and over and over again to warn them, so they had an overwhelming number of warnings before that happened. Similarly God drove out the people that occupied the Promised Land in order to give it to Israel and that was also due to their volume of sin.

But God does not bring about unrelated misfortune for previously committed sin. The "God punishes me for my sin" narrative may have something to do with wanting a degree of control in our lives, but it isn't really a true narrative.

Act of Faith: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. The epistle of James, Dallas Willard, James Bryan Smith, and others describe faith as belief in action. If you believe something, then you act as if it is true. If we believe in the goodness, presence, and power of God, and believe that He actively cares for us, then we can act on that in confidence. We may have little faith to start, but as we interact with God over time, as we get to know Him better, our faith can grow so that we can act on that belief. The point in this episode is that we do not need to beat ourselves up if we are unhappy with where we are at living and acting in faith. This is something we can grow in.

Roots in the Future: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. God is good. He has set life in motion and has designed the end. How would a good God shape the end of the story other than good? We know Biblically that we have a future to look forward to. How does that mean we live? With an attitude of hope. Smith quotes John D. Zizioulas, who said, “Christians have their roots in the future, and their branches in the present.” We have permission to go forth in hope.

God is on Your Side: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. "God loves you. God is on your side. He's coming after you. He is relentless." These are the words that Eugene Peterson whispered over his young son every night after he went to sleep. These words are true, not just for Eugene Peterson's son, but also for you and me. James Bryan Smith fleshes out each phrase in Eugene's good and hopeful message in this episode.

Authentic Change: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. This is the core of the Christian life. The Christian life is not trying to do good. It is not trying to avoid doing bad. It is relationship with God. Through this relationship we are changed.

Masterpiece: (Solitude) Episode of the Things Above Podcast hosted by James Bryan Smith. CS Lewis, Dallas Willard and others have told us that God is a gentleman and will not overstep the boundaries that we place on Him in our lives. He can. He has come close. But He doesn't. And those times when He has come close are rare exceptions. God invites us closer to Him. With our permission, He wants to form and shape us into the kind of people that He knows will bring us the greatest joy. But that work is slow, and it requires our involvement. Many people feel like I did for a very long time - that we want to be further along in our development than we are. Some of that comes from us not allowing God into some areas of our lives, or keeping Him at a distance altogether (like when we try to clean ourselves up so we feel better about coming to Him), and some of that is God's slow but deep work in our lives. But He is a Master Craftsman. His shaping work in our lives leads to something magnificent. As I write this I have been thinking about 2 Corinthians 4:7 a lot lately. That verse talks about how we carry around a treasure in our bodies ("earthen vessels"). I think that part of this treasure is the ongoing work of the Spirit of God in forming and shaping us. People want to change. We can change by the work of God in us. As we spend time with God not only can we change, but it is almost assured that we will change. But we don't want others to see the "before" picture until the "after" picture is complete, and it often takes a long time for that picture to emerge. I think that we, myself included, cheat others of seeing the ongoing work of God in our lives. I think if others could see the masterpiece that God is shaping us into unfold as we take shape, it would provide real hope for them as well as demonstrate the power of God to change lives. As for me in my life, I am trying to hide less so that God's work may be revealed more.

Baptize My Eyes: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org article by Katelyn J Dixon. I mentioned this above on this page, but I used to pray for the church service during the church service. It was a practice that I picked up from my previous church. I thought there was a power in that, and I still do, even though I no longer engage in this practice. One day when I was alone, I don't even know what made me ask, but I started praying and paused, "God, that was rude of me. I haven't even asked You how You are today. How are You?" I can't put into words what happened next. A wave of holy joy washed over me to such a degree I felt that I couldn't take it. "Turn it off! Turn it off!" I pleaded. Dallas Willard, in his great book The Divine Conspiracy, says that God is the happiest and most joyous being in the universe. I caught an eye-dropper dose of that infinite ocean of joy and was overwhelmed. I think God wants to connect with us. I think He wants to be known, as much as we can handle. I don't remember if it was before or after that, but I also started reading the Bible differently. I approached it with, "God, how did you experience that? What were you feeling? Please convey to me whatever You want me to know." In my slow and methodical read through the Bible, the history books took on more life. In Psalms and Proverbs I fell out of that habit as those questions seemed less relevant, though I am probably wrong about that. I should start that again. Anyway, I believe that God will honor our desire to know Him as closely as we can. Don't be afraid to ask God for that.

Stopping Comparison in its Tracks with Richella Parham: (Solitude) This link is to episode 23 of the Renovare Podcast hosted by Nathan Foster. I hear this problem more from women than from men, but I think that we fall into this trap as well. We've all heard the phrase "keeping up with the Joneses" and that refers more to material possessions of our neighbors which often is a male thing (though not exclusively). I heard one woman say that she would actually take elements that she admired in other women, compile them into an ideal, and then lament how she failed to live up to this ideal. Thankfully her husband noticed this and helped her to stop it (or at least lessen it). I compare myself to others in some ways. I think we all do. Well, God doesn't. And He invites us to not do it, too. So something to consider.

 

A couple of quick thoughts:

1) You aren't really comparing yourself to another person, you are comparing yourself to the image that you see of the other person. We do not know everything about the other person we are comparing ourselves to, and others tend to let us see the shinier sides of themselves. So you are comparing what you know about yourself to the shinier side of what others let you see about themselves.

2) This is especially true if you are gathering what you know about someone else from social media. What you see there is especially curated.

3) If you are in intentional relationship with God, then He is forming you. Be patient with the progress. It might help to consider where you were as a person to where you are now and see what God has done. There are seasons, though, where we may seem to stall or even fall back some, but these may be seasons of deepening or seasons where some problematic things have to break.

4) The best place to set your focus is on God and things above, and entrust yourself to the work of the Holy Spirit in you.

Praying With Our Eyes: (Solitude) Link to Renovare.org article by Vivianne David. Okay, if you count yourself among my fellow Evangelical Protestants, are you ready for something that is likely new to you and may feel a little out of your comfort zone? Remember how I said that there are an innumerable variety of spiritual practices that can help you spend time with God? This one is called Visio Divina. I've only ever tried it a few times, and the instructions I was given were different than in this article, which goes to show that there isn't necessarily a right and wrong way. And before you say that it isn't for you, I invite you to give it a try. Part of the fun of spiritual practices is experimentation, and sometimes it takes several attempts until it becomes less awkward. Give this one a try, More than once.

An Unconventional Gratitude: (Solitude) Episode of The Next Right Thing podcast. It's hard to describe this one. It is a simple practice that you may want to try. It reminds us that we are not God, that we do not have control of all of our circumstances, but that we can invite and be thankful for things that are offered to us like compassion and hope and mystery, and that we can offer many of these same things to others.

Generational Sin / Dealing with Your Past Episode 1: (Solitude) Link to Spotify episode of the John Mark Comer Teachings podcast.

My mentor brought the truth of generational sin to me in my twenties but I didn't really get it then. Fast forward 20+ years and I am reintroduced to it through the book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality when the pastor at my church assigned it to the mentor team. But we were going quickly through the book at the pace of one chapter per week and I felt, going through that book for the first time, like I needed two or three weeks for some of the material. Some of it I had no idea what to do with. So I went through the book again, and then again.

Suffice it to say that I was skeptical about idea of generational sin, and probably in my twenties I also didn't want to go there. But as I went through the book a second and third time, it made sense to me and I did some of the work. By then my grandparents passed away, my mom had cancer, and my dad was one with whom you didn't speak about anything deeper than surface stuff and he was in the early stages of Parkinsons. So I searched the memory files and made the genogram as best as I could. And it was helpful and good. And, as John Mark Comer says, make sure that you:

1) List the good and the bad. Both are present.

2) Be honest. Intentionally leaving stuff out only hurts you. Unless you are doing this with a counselor, you do not need to share it with anyone else.

3) Seeing patterns of generational or family sin allows you to deal with it. This could be a simple prayer, it may involve spiritual warfare (see Neil Anderson's book The Bondage Breaker, or ask your pastor or leader at your church), or you may want to see a counselor. Counselors can be really great. I recommend a Christian counselor. I have one whom I see monthly. He also doubles as my spiritual director.

Anyway, generational sin is real, and if you haven't done this exercise before, it is a necessary one.

The False Self: Part 4: (Solitude) Link to Spotify episode of the Bridgetown Audio podcast.

This sermon is loaded with a lot of important truths for life, but it is also a bit thick. I tracked with it for the most part but when I wanted to point out a few things for this post, I had to listen to it multiple more times than just the first and second (almost all the posts on this website I have have heard/seen/read at least twice, save for the recommended books, movies, and tv). Here are a few things to point out (a combination of his thoughts with my own):

1) This is mainly about what he calls the "false self". What this means is any identity that we have for ourselves not given to us by God. It is almost always external. I sold cars for over twenty years but I was not a car salesperson. That was what I did, not who I am. In today's world we hear many people identifying by their sexual preference. Sexual preference is not who you are but how you are. If I were to say I am an obese man, that would be a descriptor of my body but not an identity. However, we can mistake any of these as an identity. "I am a salesperson" or "I am a fat man". For a couple of decades my self talk had a lot of "You fat ugly slob." and "You are such an idiot! How could I miss that?" and things like that. But we aren't just bad self talk. I also had floating around my head "I am a great salesperson! My clients really appreciate the care I hard work that I provide them." Guess what happened. I turned into a "workaholic" (not speaking in terms of self identity). I worked. A lot. I was good at it. I worked crazy hours to the point that my body would get sick to make me take some time off. I worked and did "Christian stuff". And that was close to all I did. Well, I also watched the Philadelphia Eagles games. None of that is who I am.

2) We largely live at the mercy of our ideas. The spiritual battle is largely waged in our minds. You can see from above how the enemy of God either planted these ideas, which I then believed, or reinforced these false ideas. Enough bad self talk leads to shame. Enough shame leads to hiding away from intimacy with God or with anyone else. Have we noticed that our society is full of lonely and isolated individuals? Surveys and doctors tell us today that loneliness is an epidemic affecting our mental, emotional, physical, and, yes, even spiritual health.

3) This is a great way to look at sin. While sin is missing the mark, as the Greek word for sin tells us in the New Testament, it is also this:

"Sin is an unwillingness to trust that what God wants for me is only my deepest happiness." - St Ignatius of Loyola

How many times have we had fear with the idea of turning over our lives to Jesus because He may call us to foreign missions or to martyrdom or some such? While that can happen, there is an equipping that God usually provides for any task He calls us to. When Peter was crucified, he said that he was not worthy to die as his Saviour died, and so he was crucified upside down. He was equipped for such a time. Jesus said that He came so that we may have life to the full. He also said that there is a cost to being His disciple. We often forget there is a cost to not being His disciple as well.

4) So who are we? The beloved of God. A child of the Most High God. Holy ones because of what God has done for us. And everything else related to our relationship with God.

5) The false self works for us. For a time. But ends in pain.

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