We hear a lot these days about “fake news”, which has surfaced only in the Trump era.
I’m not a big fan of that falsely created term, but that’s not what I’m going to focus on here.
This morning, though, I was freshly struck by a healthy reminder of the power of authenticity.
Not least through the humble lady who stood up through the tears and directed the gathering I attended, out of praise and worship, on towards a transitioning time before the preacher came up speak. She spoke of how her Father God’s love had just freshly, ” touched her heart,” in recent days and vulnerably shared of being freshly impacted by focus needing to be turned to her family in this next season.
It was authentic, and gloriously so.
Later on in the service, I was hit by the hefty revelation that the simple but profound living out of who we are – more and more fully and freely as who we’re created to be – is in itself an act of warfare. Not the usual sermon on spiritual warfare. But powerful in its personal simplicity. Knowing who we are and whose we are, as children of God, unleashes fear and trembling in the enemy’s camp.
In our era of social media-stimulated envy, perfectionism, performance driven-ness (even infiltrating church – the purpose DRIVEN life being one of the most high selling books in recent times in certainly North American Christianity) is it any wonder there’s a battle over people’s identities? (N.B. let me be authentic here and add that the only thing in Church that’s meant to be ‘driven’ is the church mini-bus – but we’ll save that for another day!).
The thing that has struck me both today and on many occasions in recent years is the power of authenticity. Any time I myself have been pretty authentic and vulnerable on here, for example, in recent years, I’ve been hit by an equally pretty powerful response, both in terms of numbers of readers and solid, powerful connections with real people, sharing real responses, in real time behind the scenes in real life as a result. Sometimes gloriously. (So any gossip or negative crap I’ve also endured behind my back has also been worth it 😉 It’s been refreshing and humbling to say the least when (or if) my humble, pathetic, meagre writings have stimulated something real and authentic relationally as as result).
This morning when I listened to the ‘pastor dude’ I was in the privileged company of, I was freshly impacted by the simplicity of the power of the gospel actually, as in fact has been a bit of a theme for me this past week. The gospel really IS good news, and I’m not ashamed of it. There have been times where – I’m I’m honest- I’ve definitely questioned many things. And that’s ok too. There can be much mystery in following the God of mystery. The gospel IS still the good news, regardless of my doubts, questions, fears or tears. It’s the power of God for the salvation of all.
The good news IS for our times. It IS for my era. It IS for you if reading this either as a weary Christian, or a curious aethistic onlooker. The gospel IS the good news our generation needs and it’s not just (or really even) the religion of our father’s and forefathers’ era in Northern Ireland. The gospel IS the good news of relationship available through Jesus, but it’s also the POWER of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – for the salvation of everyone. In Northern Ireland we’ve been great at focusing on Jesus, but neglected, often, the other members of the Trinity. There is so much i could write on this statement alone, but will save that for another time. The gospel is not just about words (or even), but also acts of power – healings, miracles, and even powerful Spirit-led acts of kindness, cups of tea and practical love, which can impact and mean just as much as a seemingly spiritual prayer for healing. This is a timely reminder to myself this week, even as I type these words. The gospel is not a message just of words but of deeds. And faith without deeds is dead.
Equally though, it struck me a fresh and perhaps anew, this morning, that the stories we carry and walk in – unfolding as they are through good and bad – hold not only purpose but also divine power & hope to impact and touch other people’s lives.
This is not a new revelation but an authentically fresh one for me this week. They are to be messages of the good news in themselves. Both near and now far (with the redeemed use of technology). Our authetic selves need not be intimidated by the fakeness and shallowness all around. It’s also easy to feel that our one meagre contribution bears little to no significance. But don’t buy that lie.
This is all strangely simple, but in fact freshly profound today, sitting in a cafe writing this, from the privilege and yet inconvenience of a far away place.
Being authentic is rare but beautiful. And who are we not to be so ?
Life will try to squeeze the crap out of us, whilst careers often mould us to mask our real selves and hide often behind a persona. Even what I call ‘cultural Christianity’ can often can fuel fakeness: Our hats of leadership roles, pastoral titles or serving capacities often fuel the fakeness in life – and that’s – again – just within in the Church.
Yet ‘realness’ is so attractive, and the thing this generation craves. It’s more hungry than it knows for truth in a post-modern ruthless, truthless age. Truth is not a philosophy. It’s a person.
I’m not sure why I’m writing this today, but I’ve decided to – authentically- share these personal musings, somewhat ‘rambly’ as they may be.
Oh and the ‘pastor dude’ I was writing of earlier was a certain Christian pastor called Bill Johnson. Controversial to some, cult-hero to others. As far as i can see, he’s pretty human. But a pretty authentic, inspiring human at that. A humble, far from perfect, but excellently real human and lover, teacher & faithful follower of God, displaying the traits and acts of the authentic good news. I honour who he is and happily glean from his wisdom.
More on that, perhaps, next time.
(Taken in Lassan National Park, USA, Sept ’17).