Why New Year Is in the Dead of Winter

It’s fascinating to me that our New Year here in the West occurs in the dead of Winter. I know other cultures’ New Year occurs at different times of the year, and that’s great. I’m sure God is speaking to all cultures with the timing of their New Year celebration, but I’m only qualified to write about my own culture. What is God saying to us in the West?

Wouldn’t it make more sense for the New Year to be at the start of Spring, when everything’s budding and coming back to life? Maybe in some cultures it is; what an awesome time that must be. But God worked through our history to make our New Year when all the leaves are off the trees and everything’s dead. Why do you suppose that is?

I’ve heard a pastor say that leaves don’t actually change color in Fall. They reveal the true color they actually are when not getting overridden by all that green chlorophyll. The point he was making is, in the Autumn of your life, your true colors will show.

What are your hidden colors? Do they reflect the grace and healing of God’s empowerment in your life, or do they still reflect your wounding?

There’s nothing wrong, by the way, with being in a place of wounding. Acknowledging where you’re at is the first step to get healing. Run to God in those times, not away from him. The problem comes when we run away from God and to our chlorophyll of choice to hide our wounded colors, in our own strength.

What is your chlorophyll of choice? Control? Addiction? Entitlement? Performance? (Personally, I’m really good at performance, more about that later.)

Have you ever wondered why we don’t go straight from Fall to Spring? After all, why can’t the new leaves just push out the old? Why do we have to go through a cold, bare-root season first? Why do we have to get stripped down to nothing? Maybe there’s something necessary going on inside the trunk of the tree that’s getting ready for Spring. Maybe Spring couldn’t come without this time of preparation.

What happens when circumstances and struggles reveal our wounding and our chlorophyll of choice stops working? What happens when all the leaves are off the trees of our lives? Maybe when we’re stripped down to the bare trunk, maybe that’s when we hear God best. Maybe because then we have to and we don’t have any other choice. Maybe out of his great love and mercy for us, he’s stripped away everything that distracted us from his voice.

I think God considers that place the beginning. That’s where his New Year starts. Because when all the outside is stripped away, there’s nothing left but to work on the heart. And that’s what he’s always wanted, to heal our wounding and give us a new heart.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

I’m up for that. My hidden colors were worthlessness and rejection. The lie I believed was, “I am unlovable.” My chlorophyll of choice was being nice, being a servant to all. Dying to myself, literally, to a fault. My bitter root expectation was, “You’re going to reject me. So I’m not going to give you a reason. I’m going to be as lovable as possible, so that when (not if) you reject me, it’s on you.” We call this performance orientation, and I got really good at it, unfortunately.

God had to take me through a bare-root, cold Winter season. He had to strip away all the false leaves and false colors I used to protect my heart, in order to take that structure of lies and inner vows and bitter root expectations down.

Ironically, it’s when I started coming out of those lies that all disaster broke loose. My family fell apart and disintegrated. It hurt. But it was a season. It was only a season (a long season, several years), and I’m coming through it now. Sometimes the enemy’s greatest deception is to trick us into believing the painful season we’re in is forever, which brings desperation and despair. It’s not forever. It’s only a season. Trusting God brings hope through the pain.

He’s still working on me, but I’ve come a long way. He’s brought me into a fresh, bright Spring the last few years. He’s restored relationships I thought would never be restored, while others I still wait for. And he’s using his chlorophyll to work his colors into me.

How about you? What season are you in, here at the turn of the New Year? Tell us in the comments. If you’re in a cold, Winter, bare-root season, we’d love to pray with you. If you’ve come through such a season, please share your story; it will encourage others. And please share on social media if you think this post would bless others.

You Are Not What You Do

For so many of us our identity is in what we do or what we’ve done. Especially men – what’s the first question we ask each other when we meet another man? “What do you do?” There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s safe small talk. But that’s not who we are.

God loves us based on our position not our accomplishments – our position as His son or daughter. Nothing we ever accomplish (good or bad) can ever change that. Nothing we do can make Him love us more or less than He does in this moment. In every moment. He’s that consistent.

We all say we believe that, but many of us secretly don’t. I say “secretly” because often it’s secret even from ourselves. We can test ourselves to see if we inwardly believe we are what we do, though. When we get mad at someone for disagreeing with us, when we take someone’s disagreement with what we said or did as a personal affront, it’s often because we believe that we are what we do. “If you attack what I do or say, you’re attacking me!” Do you see it?

You are special to God because you are you. You are valuable because you bear the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-27) whether you realize it or not. The trick is to understand who you really are, the unique person He made you to be.

Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” So before you were even born, before you had done anything good or bad, you were God’s wonderful work. And nothing we do can ever undo His work.

So let’s stop trying to be what we do. Let’s discover and walk in who we really are. Ask Him to take you on a journey of discovery.

Have you started this journey? What are you discovering? Do you identify with this? Tell us your story in the comments. What do you think?

God Teaches Life Like A Physics Class

Being a math guy, I was rather upset about this. Most subjects are similar to mathematics. The teacher gives a lecture, and then you go practice what you were just taught in the homework. Safe. Predictable. Totally not how God works. God teaches life like a physics class.

In physics, you go into the lab first, blow something up, and then get the lecture explaining why it blew up. The lecture is very similar to the mathematics lecture (although in unrecognizably different notation). But because you’ve had the experience, the lecture makes a lot more sense and you learn the material at a deeper level.

I wish God would prep me each day for what I’m going to face that day. Give me the lecture. Then, when the thing happens, I’ll handle the situation right. The problem with that, from God’s point of view, is I could handle it without him. And out of his great love for us, he just won’t have that. He wants to do it with us.

So every day life is a lab. Something unexpected happens, things don’t work out. We don’t “get it right.” We mess up. Then he gives us the instruction. And we have to walk through it with him to keep from totally burning down the lab. He teaches us as we go along because he wants to live it with us as we go along.

So what happens? I “get it right” a lot less than if God would just do it my way. And I care about “getting it right.” He is me healing me from Performance Orientation, the (often unconscious) belief that we have to earn love by performing. This is epidemic in the church today. We struggle and strive to earn by hard work what we already have by inheritance.

But fortunately for me, God is less concerned about my “getting it right” than I am. He’s more about the process, less about the goal. Being God, he can snap his fingers and accomplish the goal anytime he wants. But he knows we need the process.

This isn’t very efficient. But God’s not into efficiency. Being an engineer, that first time I heard that, I was convinced it was heresy! I am all about efficiency. But it’s true – God’s not. God’s about the process. He doesn’t care if it takes longer to get us where he wants us; he’s got all the time in the world.

Now if not “getting it right” means falling into sin, God cares a lot more about it. And he has given us a textbook that, if we read and follow it, will spare us a lot of smoke alarms going off in the lab. But if we’re determined not to, God will let us blow up the lab, and then come back and show us why that was a really bad idea.

However, a lot of “getting it right” isn’t outright rebellious sin. Making a mistake is not sin. Here’s a free hint: If you’re afraid of making a mistake, or get angry when others do, you have Performance Orientation. God wants to heal you. God would much rather have us try, fail, and learn, than never try. See the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30.

Does this resonate? Please share it on social media (click the buttons below). And tell us your story in the comments, or shoot us an email. What “failed labs” in your life has God used most powerfully? Your story is very encouraging to others. Tell it here.

Performance Orientation

I’ve lived my whole life, since I was a young boy, to hear Jesus say, on that Day, “Well done good and faithful servant.” (See Matthew 25:21 & 23.) Those six blessed words.

Recently, while I was reflecting on how much I want to hear him say that, I heard the Lord tell me, in the loving way he always does, “Dave, you’re not going to hear me say that on that Day.”

Shocked. I was totally shocked in my spirit. I’ve been longing for that my whole life. Dumbfounded, I could only ask, “Why not, Lord?”

His answer caught me off guard. “I’ve been saying it to you for over 50 years and you haven’t heard it. What makes you think you’ll hear me when I say it then?”

Wow. He continued. “Dave, I want you to hear me say it now. So that’s finally settled in your heart. I don’t want longing to hear that to be the focus of your life. I want loving me and living the life I have for you to be the focus of your life.”

God is so good; he doesn’t leave us where we are; he’s always drawing us closer to himself.

I have a Performance Orientation that God wants to heal. I’m repenting of it. It’s sin. Performance Orientation is a belief (often held unconsciously) that we have to earn love, to earn the right to be loved. The implicit lie is that we’re not worth loving unless we earn it by doing something.

I honestly think the majority of us in the church have Performance Orientation to some degree. God wants to heal it. We can’t earn his love. Performance Orientation leaves us in the impossible situation of trying to earn by hard work what we already have by inheritance.

Performance Orientation is becoming the good __________ at the expense of ourselves, our true self. What fills in the blank for you? Christian? Leader? Wife? Husband? Student? Good person?

Fear is the fuel for Performance Orientation. “I won’t have enough if I don’t perform.”

On the other hand, the chief enemy of Performance Orientation is Intimacy (= Into Me See). We fear intimacy because we’re afraid if someone’s close they’ll see it’s all a sham. They’ll see who we really are.

My heart is stuck trying to be loved. God wants me to have that settled, so he and I can move on, and do what hearts that are loved do. Soar! Do the impossible without paralyzing fear. I can’t take the risks of living fearlessly while I’m still afraid of not being loved. I can’t both live a life of faith and of fear of not being loved. Neither can you.

He’s calling me to live a life of faith. How about you? Do you struggle with this? Or have you already been set free from it? Either way, tell us in the comments. And please share on Facebook or your favorite social media channel (use the buttons below) if you think this would help someone else.