The Performance Trap

When God considers you, does He deceive Himself in some way or does He know who you truly are?

If He knows who we truly are, then why do we preface His understanding of us with phrases such as “in God’s eyes we are righteous” or “forgiven” or “loved” or “pleasing” and so on? Are we trying to say that God is not living in reality? That He is somehow involved in self-deception? Is he just some old grandparent type who wants to overlook the faults of His grandchildren? Either He really knows who you are or He doesn’t. Playing with words this way keeps us from experiencing the reality of who we are. It also dishonors who God is. 

The second question is, If you think of yourself differently than God thinks of you, who is mistaken, you or God? How often do we allow our minds to overrule what God says is true? Keep in mind, you were made by and for God. He has placed within you needs that only He can meet. If we try to have these needs met by another person or persons, we will end up frustrated, angry, and unfulfilled.  (The Search for Significance, McGee)

During our Tuesday night Qexchange meetings, we’ve been reading and discussing the book, The Search for Significance by Robert S. McGee. In the book, McGee covers four deceptions that we often believe about ourselves when looking in the mirror.

McGee lists the first false deception we believe about ourselves as the performance trap.

The Performance Trap: I must meet certain standards to feel good about myself.

Ah yes, I think many of us know this one well. Being married to a soccer coach who believes in and incorporates a “no guilt, no shame, no blame” curriculum on the field, his coaching philosophy is actually a life philosophy. When I’m stuck in the performance trap, afraid to move because I might mess up, he sets me straight. Who cares if you mess up? What’s the worst that can happen?

There are so many consequences that come along with the performance trap: the fear of failure, perfectionism, anxiety, manipulation of others to achieve success, withdrawal from healthy risks…. the list goes on.

Messing up actually creates immense character, you know. Mistakes make a man! (If that’s not a “real” saying, it should be.) Andrew encourages his soccer players to get out of their comfort zones on the field. They are pushed to try new things, regardless of success or failure. When a mistake occurs, he yells out to them mid-game, “Next thing! Next thing! make it a positive and productive thing!”

God’s answer to the performance trap is justification.  He has given us a secure self-worth totally apart from our ability to perform. We have been justified and placed in right standing before God through Christ’s death on the cross, which paid for our sins. 

See, Christ became like us so we can become like Him.  He took on our sins so we can take on his righteousness.

McGee writes, “I once heard a radio preacher berate his congregation for their hidden sins. He exclaimed, ‘Don’t you know that someday you’re going to die and God is going to flash all your sins upon a giant screen in heaven for all the world to see?’ How tragically this minister misunderstood God’s gracious gift of justification!”

Justification carries no guilt with it and has no memory of past transgressions. 

Success or failure is not the basis of your self-worth! Our worth has been given to us by God and cannot be taken away by mistakes or the disapproval of others. 

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Seeing the Forest Through the Trees

Since taking a break over the holidays, Qexchange gathered tonight to begin discussing our new book, The Search for Significance. The house was packed (not everyone in attendance goes to Quest, by the way) and we jumped right into the topic.

Chapters 1-3 introduce the premise of the book, which is that we often base our self-worth on the opinions and accomplishments of others. I’ll be the first to say that I am currently on the road to rebuilding respect for myself after not finishing college. I’m finding, slowly but surely, that I can still become someone without that degree!  In fact, you know what? I already am someone without that college degree.  A college degree wouldn’t make me important. In and of itself, it wouldn’t make me respectable, intelligent, fulfilled or happy. All of those characteristics I strive for (and believe most of us strive for) are already right here waiting for me.  I already have importance, respect, intelligence, fulfillment and happiness, I just have to accept them.

The great thing is that God’s acceptance of us works the same way.  You see, we already have God’s acceptance whether we believe it or not. He’s already given it to us. We don’t have to do any certain thing, say any certain prayer, or believe any certain stuff. God loves us already. He loves us just as we are (yes, warts and all), but loves us too much to leave us just as we are. When we let go of our comparisons and fears, we can embrace who God created us as and blossom into who He calls us to be. We can find freedom in His grace.

When I allow myself to let go of the past and believe that God created me for a purpose, to believe that I’m already living my purpose, I’ll be free to bask in the glory of life.

And the same goes for you.

What are the two great commandments in the Bible?  Come on, you know them, say it with me:  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and love your neighbor as yourself.”

We have so much trouble loving others because we can’t love ourselves!

Think about that. Allow yourself to be loved by yourself. See how much love you can then pour out for others.

We’ll do it together.

Don’t Miss Out!

I should apologize for the absence of blog posts for the last few weeks. I’ve been busy planning Quest’s 2012 and it’s certainly going to be an exciting year!

A newsletter will come out next week detailing the upcoming events, but I want you to have a heads up as soon as possible on a few things. Here’s some of the cool stuff in store:

Jan 24: Qexchange at 7pm  NEW BOOK!  We will be reading The Search for Significance. All are welcome, you do not need to attend Quest. This is held at the Clifton home, please email micah at quest2819 dot org for location information.

Jan 29: Prayer Breakfast at 8am at Quest. Join us for a short prayer session and breakfast before church on Sundays. This is held every Sunday, with breakfast being served every other Sunday. The 29th is a breakfast day, so don’t miss it!

Feb 5: First Sunday Potluck at noon at Quest. Bring a side dish and get to know each other better!

Feb 5: Super Bowl Party at 5pm at the Hartzheim home. Click here for more info

Feb 10: Youth Pizza and Planning Event  Are you a teen or do you enjoy hanging out with the awesome teens at Quest? Please come to our planning party as we find out what this great group of young people are interested in and are seeking from Quest.  Click here for more info!

Feb 17: Winter Jam Tour Spectacular Don’t miss this awesome concert at the Sprint Center!  We’ll carpool down there, tickets are only $10 at the door. Click here for more info.

Feb 24: Coupon Party at Quest at 6:30pm  Bring your coupons from the Sunday paper (start saving now!!) to this clipping party. We’ll match them to store ads and buy groceries for families in need.

Mar 24: Volunteer at Hillcrest Transitional Housing Thrift Store 10am-1pm   Join us as we help set up shop for Hillcrest Thrift Store’s grand opening! This is a great organization that helps get underprivileged and/or homeless people back on the path to success. More info here.

That should keep us all busy for a while!! If you have any questions about any of the events, please comment here or email micah at quest2819 dot org.  It’s not too late to get involved with anything you see listed above.

As always, prayer requests can be submitted here and will go straight to Pastor Corey.

The Bible Gets You Going, Right?

Do you remember the first time you read a book that you couldn’t put down?

I’ve read a lot of books in my day, but I can vividly recall the first book I couldn’t put down. This page-turner was Sophie’s Heart by Lori Wick. The jist of the story is that the beautiful and unsuspecting Sophie, new to America from Czechoslovakia, found herself unhappily keeping house for the gorgeous Alec and his family. Yes, I was all of 12 years old, reading a Christian romance novel. (Insert snorts of amusement here.)

So, there’s me, a bit farsighted in my early days, hanging on every word of this romance novel with my bifocals on. (Go ahead, let your snorts turn into all out roars of laughter.)

Regardless of this absurd situation, I couldn’t put the book down. I felt myself completely involved in the story, wanting to linger on every word, yet speed reading through the details to find out what happened next.

Have you read a book like that? Have you read a book that changed you, altered the way you think or feel about some particular issue or even about life in general?

Books, really good books, are powerful.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin, for example, with its vivid depiction of the cruelty of slavery, changed the way Americans thought about African Americans and slavery. Really good books leave a mark upon their readers, changing them forever.

My guess is that the Bible has not been one of these books for you.  I know, the Bible is supposed to be the book and it has been incredibly popular for centuries, but if you’re being honest, is it the page-turner for you that Sophie’s Heart was for me?

So many people have set out on the grand adventure of reading the Bible start to finish, only to give up somewhere around… oh… Deuteronomy?  (I wouldn’t have personal experience with that or anything.)

We know the Bible is an amazing book and it may even change our lives if we read it, but we just can’t get wrapped up in the pages. It just doesn’t do it for us.

Do you know what I mean?

That’s where Quest’s current Sunday series comes perfectly in to play.  See, our topic from now until November 20, entitled “Making Sense of Scripture”, is going to show us how and why the Bible is an amazing book, difficult and complicated, but still amazing. There’s a reason people have been reading and rereading it for thousands of years and we’re gonna figure it out.

We are focusing on the book Making Sense of Scripture by David J Lose. His hope is that by studying his book, we will gain the confidence to explore the actual content and claims of the Bible in our own ways.

Bring your questions, ask them anytime here on the blog or on our facebook page, and follow along to engage the major questions about the Bible that people of good conscience and abundant curiosity often ask.

Before we get started with topics over the next several weeks, take a moment to think about where you are with the Bible at this very moment, as Lose urges us to do in his introduction to the book. What are your feelings toward the Bible?  Is it sacred or secular, inspired or interesting? Does it reveal God’s will for you and the world, offer a record of ancient history, or offer timeless wisdom and inspiration? Has your experience of reading the Bible been positive or negative, illuminating or confusing?

Feel free to share your feelings in the comments!

Bigger Than Me…

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Hey there!

You may remember me, Micah, as the blog writer for 30 Deeds in 30 Days back in October. What an experience!! If you missed out on that phenomenon, read through a few previous posts to catch up on the amazing things that happened that month.

If you, like me, feel this blog has been rather lonely since the 30 Deeds event, I’ve got good news! I was recently hired as the Director of Outreach and Communications for Quest and will be updating this blog regularly. To get off on the right foot, I want to explain the background surrounding why I’m in this position.

(Get ready, because you’re about to read some COOL handiwork à la God!)

The scene is set. It’s early 2011 and my family has attended Quest for about a year. Slowly but surely, however, I begin noticing I’m not fulfilled. I’m not alive for Christ.

We stop attending Quest and begin searching for a church that will provide instant satisfaction. My view of my relationship with Jesus is very self-centered. I want to have my own personal relationship with Christ without worrying about anyone else. I am looking for a church that will suddenly fulfill me. I am walking into church on Sundays expecting to hear something that will instantly connect me to God and inspire me to hand Him the reigns. I’m taking the approach to my faith that today’s society takes with nearly every aspect of life: give me the drive-thru version, folks, I need it all now!

Spring of 2011 has me bummed. The oasis in the desert just isn’t appearing! No Sunday sermon is hitting me like a ton of bricks. No pastor is magically smacking any sense into my head. I’m not finding a church that has me excitedly rising at 5am to spend time with my Bible.

Fast forward to June 2011. Still on our search for the perfect church, we aren’t yet back to attending Quest on Sundays, but we stay in contact with our friends there. We start hosting a weekly Quest Bible study at our house and here’s where God starts moving in a way I finally get.

Through the weekly study, I have an epiphany.

Guess what? Faith isn’t about ME! It isn’t even just about God and me!

Faith is about God, me and others.

If I want to feel fulfilled, I need to bring God to those around me. If I want to be close to Jesus, I need to be His face to the world.

Instead of personally growing close to Jesus for the end result of Heaven when I die, I can aid others in growing close to Him for the result of Heaven now!  Right here on Earth! Why wait?!

Are you following me?

Faith is a call to action.

What better way to be close to God than to be His very own hands and feet to the world? What better way to experience happiness, fulfillment, growth and purpose than to create Heaven on Earth. Today.

This, friends, is what Quest is all about. What matters is that Jesus died for everyone so He could be life for everyone. The rest is details.

I’ll say it again, He died for everyone and the rest. is. details.

Jesus was sent to reconcile a lost world to God, and He calls us to do the same. God loves all people and we know what a difference Jesus can make in lives. For this reason, we seek to reach out to those around us and share the unconditional love of Jesus Christ.

Quest’s purpose is to do the work of Jesus, creating Heaven on Earth so that every person we meet may grow closer to the God so very much in love with all of us.

What a challenge. What inspiration. What fulfillment.

After realizing that faith is about bringing Jesus to others, I wake up with nothing but Quest on my mind. I send a vague email to a friend and she casually mentions that the church is looking for an outreach minister.

“Outreach minister?” I think aloud, “I don’t even know what that is. WHY do I feel like I’m supposed to have the job?!”

Next thing I know, I’m interviewing and accepting the role as Director of Outreach and Communications. Talk about hitting me like a ton of bricks, smacking sense into my head, and waking me up excitedly at 5am!

I’m answering a call. I’m working to create Heaven on Earth. I’m a part of Quest and we just so happen to be on a quest. Our purpose is to be God’s hands working to fulfill God’s mission. We are the face of Jesus in our community and we will meet you wherever you are on life’s journey.

If you listen to the song that’s playing now (Sanctus Real’s “Whatever You’re Doing”), there’s a line that perfectly sums up what’s going on :

Whatever you’re doing inside of me

It feels like chaos, but I believe

You’re up to something bigger than me-

Larger than life. Something Heavenly.