Monday, November 12, 2007

Slow-cooking together

I try to be at least somewhat vulnerable on this blog. I mean, while not getting into the nitty gritty of my deepest and darkest fears, weaknesses, problems, etc, I've tried to be open in a way that I hope others can relate to in one way or another. I've shared about everything from my past marriage problems to my current and ongoing apprehension when it comes to talking on the phone! In sharing stuff like this, I know it's easy to give the impression that I live life in the curled up fetal position, sucking my thumb, afraid to do anything! But of course you know that's not true at all, and I know that that's not the case for anyone else who has shared their experiences here. Whenever I expose any of my weaknesses, it's always for the purpose of pointing to the overcoming God who lives in me!

I lived a good chunk of my life wearing masks and putting up walls. Essentially, being fake. But during the past 10 to 15 years I've been taking off the masks and breaking down the walls and just wanting to be real. There were times in my early Christian life in which I lied about what God was doing in my life because I wanted people to believe in the power of God! Isn't that just plain silly? I hadn't experienced some of the great and miraculous things that I'd heard some of my pentecostal friends talk about, and I thought that perhaps my faith just wasn't big enough. I didn't want others to think less of me. I wanted to impress them by making them think I had great faith! On top of that, I thought that unless I had some great and miraculous testimonies to share, I wouldn't be able to help other people believe in this great God of mine. So from time to time I would greatly exaggerate stories and even make up stories about what God had done in my life.

But over the years I've grown. I've truly seen God at work in my life, and it's generally not been in the form of great fireworks displays, at least not in a way that would make great headlines. It's been mostly slow, steady growth. Not a fast boil, but a nice slow cook. And it's not been because of my "great" faith. It's been because of my great God. Now, there have truly been occasions in which I've quickly overcome various problems and obstacles, such as the story I've shared about suddenly overcoming panic attacks. I'm glad that I can share stories like that without exaggerating. But most of my sins and weaknesses have not been overcome suddenly like that. Some of them have been overcome and put to death over the long haul, and some of them I still haven't overcome yet.

The point here, though, is not to focus on the things I need to overcome. I've found that when I gaze steadily at my weaknesses, there is no power to overcome them! But when I gaze steadily at the Person who lives inside me, the Holy Spirit, then "there is power, power, wonder working power." And again, the thing I've found out, at least in my own life, is that the wonder working power of the Holy Spirit does not generally provide for quick fixes!

Another reason for sometimes being vulnerable here is because I've come to find out that I'm not the only one dealing with various issues in life. When I keep quiet about some of these things, it's very easy for me to think I'm the only one who's ever dealt with certain things. And on the other side of the coin, it's very easy for someone else to think that they're the only one who deals with certain things. But by being open I've found that other people truly do relate, even if the specific issues aren't always exactly the same.

I hope for this to be the type of blog in which people can feel free to just "be." If you're a 'lurker' who simply reads the posts and the comments, but who doesn't participate, I hope you will be greatly encouraged by the things that are said here. And if you do participate, whether often or occasionally, I hope that you feel free to be yourself as you share what's on your heart. I know that that's the case on the blogs of the people who comment here, as well as with the other blogs and websites that I've linked to on the right.

Overall, this blog is for those who are tired of religion and legalism and who simply want to grow in their relationship with Jesus, not based upon the performance-based rules, methods, principles and laws of the church that have only served to leave people hungrier and thirstier (the opposite of what is intended), but rather based upon hunger-and-thirst-quenching intimacy with the Holy Spirit as He teaches us and assures us of the unconditional love and grace of God through the scriptures, through direct revelation to us and through each other! This blog is for those who want to "let your roots grow down into (Jesus) and draw up nourishment from him, so you will grow in faith, strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught..." (from Col. 2:7 NLT).

We're all in this together!


  1. Hello from one of the lurking readers.

    I just wanted to say thank you for your post today. I have been struggling with my own weaknesses as of late. A little too focused on what I can't do instead of what God can do in and through me.

    Overcoming fear is not one of my best traits. Life has braught me to a place of change and all I really want to do is stomp my feet and say NO! I'm happy right where I am.

    I think it is time that I dig my roots in a bit....

  2. Angela,

    Thanks for "de-lurking" and for sharing your heart. :)

    I know that one of the things that remains constant in life is... change. We should all know by now that our circumstances in life can change in an instant, but yet when our comfort level that we've created for ourselves is encroached upon, it can be hard to handle!

    But yeah, digging our roots deeper and deeper into Jesus, drawing up nourishment from Him, can have the long-term effects of making us flourish like palm trees and grow into mighty cedar trees (Psalm 92:12-14) and will enable us to be content in whatever state we are in, knowing that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:11-13).

    Praying for you.

  3. Joel--

    Thanks for this post.

    I am, at times, a mask-wearer. I can become so afraid that if people see 'the real me', they will reject me. Sadly, it's almost worse with Christians than it ever was with my friends before I was saved.

    But I am seeing that the only real antidote for mask-wearing is pure grace. When I fully understand, and fully embrace the new creation God has made me in Christ, I don't have to fear people seeing 'the real me', because the 'real me' is created "to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24)

    Pure grace removes paralyzing shame, and puts our confidence in Christ alone.

    Your blog is always an encouragement. Thanks.

    Kathy J

  4. Hi Joel,

    I found your blog and website a few weeks ago and have really been enjoying it. I love your openness and honesty because I can relate in so many ways.

    It encourages me to hear how our Father is working in your life. Like you, I've seen steady growth and changes that are real but for, the most part, no fireworks.

    I love the title of this blog, "Slow-cooking together". It really does matter that we're not on this journey alone. There are brothers and sisters that we'll meet along the way who will encourage us when we're weak.

    Thanks for being one of those brothers.


  5. Hi Joel,
    I really appreciate this post for it is honest and true about all of us, whether we like to admit it or not. I am one who has had a very difficult time being vulnerable and still do! I get caught up in the messiness of it all and begin to second guess my own motives in all of that. It is hard to know when it is safe and ok to share to glorify Him....and when things are better left unsaid. Blogs are truly a gift at times to just open up and share...but my cautious ways interfere at times there as well. How fearful we can be of others seeing unflattering things about us....I am learning to give that up...We all fall short eh? God is teaching me a lot about relational living, first and foremost with Him as my Life and then with others that are dearly loved by Him ....and that is everyone else! The mask, the cave, however we describe it...I like that you describe coming to an acceptance of a slow and steady growth process with Him. There is no need to manufacture our God-moments....they are there in everything. Sometimes it is just exiting the circus tent and seeing the surroundings in light of His Life as He reveals...yep, no perfection in this saint...only in Him....only in Him, and that allows for us to be real with each other and accept each other where we are at in our own particular journey....I think it is called Grace and it is Him.
    Always checking in on you...Thanks for all your good thoughts and sharing your experiences. We go on together in this Life all a mess in the process as Frank would say.
    In Him,

  6. Joel,
    I appreciate your honesty and sincerity. As I can remember, an year ago when I started my grace walk I used many helpful discussions from the GreaceWalk Forum and you helped me in a great way. In fact you were one of the person who was a motivation (you may not know this) for me to begin my own blog to record some of my grace walk experiences.And I can tell you it helps me a lot these days especially since I do not belong to any local group of like minded believers currently. It is these blogs and forums which is really my community. I am thankful for what your are doing. To me, this what it means by 'church'!

  7. Joel--I just found your blog, and this post really resonated with me. I recently left a pastoral position, and I think that people in "leadership" sometimes put those masks on most quickly. It's hard to be real, flawed, vulnerable when people look to you to see how a Christian should live.

    The truth is, God works most powerfully in my life in the areas where I'm flawed. That's where I recognize my need for Him the most.

    Thanks again for the great post!

  8. I just want to say "thank you" to everyone for your encouraging comments here! I want to respond to everyone personally, but I just haven't had the time today so I'll be back either tonight or tomorrow hopefully. Isn't the internet a great way for us to build each other up!?!! :)

  9. Joel,

    I appreciate your honesty and your words of encouragement. I enjoy reading all that write and have been both educated and entertained. I can appreciate the time involved and the effort required to keep the quality of your posts high. If you ever get around to writing a book put me on the list for an autographed copy.

    In Christ,

  10. Kathy J,

    Pure grace... ahhhhh. :D Not only does it save us and keep us and give us all we need for life and godliness, but indeed it frees us to simply be who we are - because it has made us what we are. "By the grace of God I am what I am." (1 Cor. 15:10). I find that most of my masks these days are also around other Christians. It's sad, but many of them seem to be the least likely people in the world to extend grace and to accept you as you are. But as you say, our confidence in Christ and not in ourselves or in others... that is where our hope always remains!


    Welcome to this blog, and thank you so much for your encouraging words! I've met a lot of wonderful people online, including through this blog, and it's great that we can all build each other up like this. Feel free to speak up any time, and I hope that you continue to be encouraged here as well.


    Hehe... In Christ Alone... "ICA." Sorry, it just popped in my head. :) Thanks for dropping a line or two. I also keep tabs on you and I'm always blessed by the things you share. I encourage others to check out your blog.

    You said so many great things here. I think it's wise to use great discernment when opening up online. As you say, sometimes being vulnerable can truly help others and glorify God, but sometimes it's wise to just remain quiet.

    "There is no need to manufacture our God-moments... they are there in everything."

    Amen to that!


    The GW Forum was a Godsend to me when I found out about it! I had been praying for fellowship with like-minded believers for a long time, and I hadn't found local fellowship, so the forum was a source of great encouragement right off the bat. Too bad it's been fairly quiet lately. Maybe we should get some conversations started!

    I think the thing that got me started on the blog thing was a question from DAVE about 1 1/2 years ago... asking if anyone had a blog. I didn't at the time, and I'm pretty sure it was his question that got me motivated to start this blog! I'm very glad you were also motivated to start blogging. I've been very blessed through the things you write and through your comments here.

    Richard J,

    I'd like to welcome you to this blog too, and thanks for your comments. I think it's so true that when all eyes are on you, it's harder to just be yourself, because of the unspoken 'expectations' that people place on you. But I love what you said about God working powerfully in those areas in which you're flawed.

    While we don't focus on our weaknesses in such a way as to say "woe is me, I'm just a poor sinner," I think that Paul's words to boast in our weaknesses means that we understand that our weakness is the very best we have to offer God, thereby letting Him show Himself to be the One who works powerfully in and through us.


    I've really enjoyed having you around and I'm very blessed by your blog and your comments here. Sometimes it does take a little bit of time to write my posts, and sometimes I wonder if they're a little too long... but the thing is I really enjoy the whole process. I've always enjoyed writing, and it's even more fun and stimulating when it's stuff I like to write about!... such as the grace of God.