My wife and I will soon open a new chapter in our lives. As we near our middle years (according to human averages anyway) we decided to return to university to expand our education and being new careers. Many factors contributed to this decision, but one in particular led the way…the issue of intrinsic v. extrinsic living.

Several months ago I was researching a sermon and discovered a story by Heinrich Böll that helps define this concept well:

An American businessman was standing at the pier of a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellowfin tuna. The American complimented the Mexican on the quality of his fish.

“How long did it take you to catch them?” The American asked.

“Only a little while.” The Mexican replied.

“Why don’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?” The American then asked.

“I have enough to support my family’s immediate needs.” The Mexican said.

“But,” The American then asked, “What do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Mexican fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a siesta with my wife, Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos. I have a full and busy life, señor.”

The American scoffed, “I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds you could buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats, and eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats.”

“Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the consumers, eventually opening your own can factory. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City, then LA and eventually NYC where you will run your expanding enterprise.”

The Mexican fisherman asked, “But senor, how long will this all take?”

To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”

“But what then, señor?”

The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions.”

“Millions, señor? Then what?”

The American said slowly, “Then you would retire. Move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos…”

American Dreaming

Growing up in America I understand the attitude of the Harvard educated businessman. Our educational system and culture are geared toward achievement and a drive toward success in finances above everything. American culture is extrinsically driven, for the most part, and we see this in our attitudes toward one another and life. We want fast food, entertainment on demand, high paying jobs, and long vacations. Everything we do is extrinsically driven because we are taught to be motivated by money and success. We even call this insanity the “American Dream”…American Nightmare might be a better appellation.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, about 18.1% of Americans are affected by anxiety in some way. I believe this stems from our culture’s obsession with extrinsic motivators. Sports champions receive rings, trophies, cash, and fame…extrinsic. Musicians or actors are rich and popular (seemingly anyway) and we fawn over them constantly…extrinsic. Business people are given bonuses, focus on metrics and numbers, and knock people down to grow the bottom line…extrinsic.

Extrinsic motivations are not entirely bad, however. We all need a paycheck and we enjoy accolades and trophies and there is nothing wrong with people recognizing excellent work done by others. We must not throw the baby out with the bath water, but we cannot expect to live entirely driven by extrinsic motivations and find inner peace and happiness. Indeed, the very concept is antithetical because inner peace and happiness are intrinsic by definition.

Peace Within

Intrinsic motivations are driving my wife and me to make a major life and career change in our middle years. If we only cared about extrinsic motivations we would stay put and push on to larger bank accounts and the acquisition of things. We don’t care about those things anymore. Things are nice, but inner peace and joy are far greater than an expensive car or beautiful home.

Ultimately, we find our inner peace through Jesus Christ. It is through our faith that we experience what Galatians calls the “fruit of the Spirit”. This “fruit” is now the driving force in my life. My thoughts and focus are on growing the intrinsic values of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”. For what good are things if I am unable to enjoy them because my inner life is in turmoil?

My encouragement to you today is simple: find your intrinsic motivators and begin to live according to them. Before you go out and quit your job and move to Mexico, please understand that being driven by intrinsic desires does not require such radical change. Most people can experience deep and lasting changes in their daily lives simply by adjusting their focus from extrinsic motivators (all of which eventually fade) to intrinsic motivators (which are more permanent).

In Christ we can discover peace and love and joy, and that allows us to be truly free because we are no longer held captive by extrinsic motivators. Experience Jesus and experience freedom and peace. I can think of nothing greater or more pure than being driven by those intrinsic motivators that saturate our lives with hope and joy and love.


Static Cling

Facebook’s data logs will one day be a treasure trove of information for anthropologists, historians, and psychologists to sift through when learning about this era. Social media has its uses, of course, but on the whole Facebook and Twitter have become places for people to proudly display ignorance, bias, and misinformation. Parsing unending streams of information to determine fact from fiction will be the most beneficial skill for future humans.

Today’s post was prompted by an exchange of ideas on a friend’s Facebook post. One of the authors in the thread angrily told the original poster that they would not change the way they did things. The angry comment was laced with profanity and poor grammar, which is common on social media, but it is the sentiment behind the post that drives today’s thinking.

When presented with an alternative option…

To clarify, the argument between Original Poster (hereafter O.P.) and Commenting Poster (C.P.), centered around the usage of language. C.P.’s remarks on O.P.’s post contained profanity. O.P. objected to such language on their page, stating that posting on someone else’s page was akin to being a guest in their home, and asked C.P. to refrain from such language. C.P. angrily and sardonically retorted they would not change for O.P. or anyone else, continuing with the foul language of course.

Back to the discussion at hand…

When presented with an alternative option, C.P. refused to alter their behavior to accommodate O.P. because “that’s the way I am”. That’s the way I am…a phrase designed to take advantage of our culture’s penchant for self-actualization. When we are asked to alter our behavior by another person and we respond with “That’s the way I am”, we reflect the request back to the offended person.

In other words, if I behave in a way that is irritating or offensive to another person, that person asks me to adjust my behavior, and I refuse, citing the “That’s the way I am” argument, I am actually asking the first person to alter their behavior to accommodate me. Perhaps it would be apropos when someone claims the “That’s the way I am” argument to counter with your own “That’s the way I am”. Essentially it would be an adult version of the “Did not…Did too” arguments you had with your siblings as a child.


What drives the “That’s the way I am” argument? Why do people feel compelled to return to this ridiculous claim over and over again? The answer lies in fundamental assumptions and choices and how they affect us.

In the example given, C.P. uses foul language with regularity according to their comments. At some point, this person chose to incorporate “four-letter words” into their daily speech. Perhaps they struggled with advanced language or perhaps they had a parent who frequently cursed, we cannot know for certain without further investigation. Whatever the cause, they now see this aspect of their speech as indispensable. They simply do not know how to respond without using foul language because that manner of speech is now part of who they are as an individual.

When we make life choices we are confronted with obstacles. Choosing to use foul language in everyday speech, C.P. likely faced opposition in some form from society. However, the opposition was eventually overcome through continued positive reinforcement of the behavior. Whether such reinforcement came from internal justification or from outward sources (e.g., friends or family), in the end the person hardwired this behavior into their system hence the argument “That’s just the way I am”.

We cling to such static behaviors and refuse to adapt or change because we associate most of our behavior with our identity. Humans are born with two powerful desires that are diametrically opposed: the desire to be known as an individual and the desire to be part of a group. It is possible for the “That’s just the way I am” argument to morph into “That’s just the way WE are”, but the concepts behind each statement are essentially equal. Because we are driven by these desires, as we grow and develop we seek out behavior patterns and make choices to validate who we have decided to be in the universe.

Whatever decisions we make about who we are fundamentally, whether those choices be existential, practical, or spiritual, we cling to them as if our life depended on them…because in a way it does. Most individuals have not reached the point of self-examination and self-awareness to become flexible. Most people are static creatures built on choices, often made decades ago, and as such they cannot see how to change…thus the “That’s the way I am” argument arises.

God is My Rock

Psalm 18:2 says, “The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Powerful words for us to consider. 

God should be the static cling in our lives. We can connect with Him and cling to Him because He does not and cannot change. Fundamentally God is the same today as He was yesterday and He will be the same in a billion trillion years. God’s design for humanity was for us to connect to Him as individuals and then He would walk with us through our life’s journey and we could adjust our thinking and behavior to reflect His unchanging thinking and behavior.

We find ourselves on unstable ground emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually when we become self-referential. The “That’s the way I am” argument is built on self-referencing.

Think of it like this…imagine everyone’s life is a painting that we work on for decades until we cross over from this world to the next. We can paint our own image while looking into a mirror (self-referencing) or we can paint what we see outside of ourselves that God has provided. While there is the option of painting external sources other than God, all of those external sources can be traced back to a self-referencing source.

Only the God of the Bible, Yahweh, and Jesus Christ, provide a fully other source of reference for our life painting that also incorporates our personal identity into the picture. God is our rock to which we cling, but God does not ask us to abandon our created nature entirely. Instead, the amazing beauty of Christianity, is that God desires us to become what He desires us to be…and that is always a reflection of inborn desires.

To put it another way, we are each born “bent” certain ways. We may have a proclivity for the arts, sports, mathematics, or any number of things. We may be extroverted or introverted, quiet or boisterous, thinking or feeling, and on and on. Numerous personality tests detail data about the varying types of people on earth, but all people were created by God and He placed desires within us that are reflective of Him.

Part of the Christian journey is discovering which parts of ourselves are God-designed and which are not and choosing the God-designed parts to focus on. When we live life in this manner we become flexible rather than static. Learning to adapt to God and flow with His thinking will destroy the “That’s the way I am” argument permanently.

Believers in Christ should have one response, “That’s the way HE is…and that’s the way I want to be too”. When we reflect those traits and abandon those parts of us that are in opposition to God’s beautiful static nature, we begin to change and find peace and joy in our journey.

Why God?

Yesterday, as of this writing, a lone gunman fired on a church in a little town near San Antonio, Texas killing twenty-seven people. It’s the worst shooting in Texas state history. When we read about horrible, tragic events like this we inevitably come back to one question: Why, God…why? When we examine the history of our universe and read about its origins, we will find our answer.

In the beginning God created everything, including humans. He gave us planet earth as our home and began instructing us on how to properly care for it. But one day humans decided that was not good enough. We decided we wanted to be God ourselves, to be the same as Him, so we defied His one restriction. In that moment the creation broke as evil flooded into our universe.

Today we are living with the consequences of that fateful decision. We live in a broken world with broken people, and broken people often commit unspeakable acts. This is the result of sin and evil in the world, and God is not to blame. We must accept our responsibility for what happened and blame ourselves for the death and destruction we see around us every day.

However, if we left the story there it would be pitiful and tragic. But that is not the end. God did not simply leave us to our own devices, allowing us to rot away in our disobedience and evil. Instead, He began a centuries long plan and one day brought forth His son into the earth to reconnect Heaven with earth. Now that Jesus has completed His work, all of humanity has access back to the Father and we can overcome evil and sin through Christ.

I have heard people say, “Why would you take a tragedy and turn it into an evangelistic push?” My response is simple: because Jesus is the only answer for our questions.

We look at this tragic shooting and we ask, “Why, God…why?” His response every time is to show us Jesus. Because in Jesus we have freedom from tragedy. In Jesus we have a pathway out of the darkness. In Jesus we have peace even in the midst of heartbreak. And in Jesus we have a solution, an answer, to present to the atheists of the world that can finally answer their questions and bring them peace.

Why do horrible tragic things happen on earth? Because humans broke it, and because humans are broken. What is God’s role in all of this? He has provided a solution, a fix, a way back to Him through Jesus Christ.

And that’s the pattern for all of eternity. There is no other. We misstep, we mess up, we sin, and God’s overwhelming love offers a way to redemption. All we need to is accept and walk in that way. That’s the answer to the question, “Why, God, why?”, and it always will be.

Alignment with God

In the beginning God created mankind to dwell with Him on earth. We were made to live in daily relationship with God and His creation. Our free will was meant to align with God’s will so we would live in harmony with all things. This is alignment with God.

James 4:1–8 says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:

“God opposes the proud
    but shows favor to the humble.”

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.Come near to God and he will come near to you. 

Alignment with God is submission to God. Being aligned with God means we have surrendered our free will to Him so we can reflect His attributes in our daily lives. When we are in proper alignment our desires will be righteous because they will come from God, and we can ask God for fulfillment because we are properly aligned.


James says that our desires battle within us and we reach out to get what we want. When we do, we enter into conflict with others because their desires are at cross purposes with our own. Selfish striving always leads to disharmony, anger, and chaos. When our desires are directed by our relationship with the world we cannot live in peace. This is why we must align ourselves with God.

Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Our desires are not necessarily evil. In fact, many of our desires were placed within us by God because they are tied to our purpose and destiny. The key is our relationship with Jesus. If we are in alignment with Christ, in relationship with Him, we will be given the desires of our heart because our heart will be shaped like His.


James continues and tells us we do not receive what we desire because we ask with wrong, selfish motives. When we are influenced primarily by the world, when we are “friends with the world” as James says, we will be driven by selfish motives. Proud people will live in disharmony and chaos because of their proud motives. God opposes the proud.

But He gives grace to the humble. Humility is required to be in alignment with God. We must understand that humility is not thinking less of ourselves, but thinking of ourselves less as C.S. Lewis said. God lifts up the humble because they recognize their place in the universe and God’s ultimate authority. When we are properly aligned with God our motivations will be righteous because we will reflect His heart.


Submission is key, but we have responsibilities as believers. We submit to God but we must also resist the devil. We also must ask God for our desires. James says we do not have because we do not ask. It is not enough to simply accept God, we are responsible to walk in the new life we have been given.

As we come into alignment with God we will begin to change. Some changes will be more radical than others, but we will change. My former pastor was fond of saying, “Change is change until it’s change.” God will bring change to us as we align with Him, but we are responsible for carrying out that change and implementing it in our daily lives.


How do we align ourselves with God? Verse eight provides the answer, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.” Prayer, meditation, and study will bring us near to God and then God will come near to us. This process aligns us with Him and brings His thoughts into our minds and spirits so we can be like Him.

Spend time with God in prayer. Meditate on Him and His Word. Study the Bible and learn what it teaches us. Let Holy Spirit guide your life and you will come into alignment with Jesus. When you do, the desires of your heart with be His and you will discover peace and harmony.

The Consequences of Freedom

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Then He created mankind and He placed us upon this little blue ball spinning round the sun. His instructions to us were clear, “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.” It’s that word, subdue, that is key here. See, God gave mankind the earth to be our dominion. As beings made in God’s image we inherently have the desire and capacity to govern and rule, so God created a space where we would be free to do that under His auspices.

Most of us know the end result of that story. Our forebears were not content with God’s interference with their freedom and defied the one prohibition He gave. Breaking God’s law had devastating consequences as God closed off His earthly dwelling place, Eden, and left mankind out in the untamed wilderness to make our own way.

Our relationship with God was not broken, but it was strained. If you continue to read in Genesis we do not see that God has abandoned mankind, but rather that He continues to speak to us even though we have displaced Him with false gods and our own hubris. In order to fully reflect God’s image we had to be allowed full freedom of will and expression. Indeed, this is the only way for us to truly love as well, but let us save that for another post.

As “imagers” of God, a term I borrowed from Dr. Michael Heiser, our innate desire is to be like God because we inherently are like Him. However, we were designed to be fully free under the covering rule of God. Therein lies the rub. Just as Lucifer and other divine beings grasped at the throne of God in order to permanently usurp His throne, we have done the same thing and continue to do so even to this day.

Jesus, our perfect example of how to live as an imager of God on earth, shows us how to live in perfect freedom. Paul speaks to this in Ephesians 2:6 when he says that Jesus, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped.” Jesus, the one human being who could have upset the balance of the universe, did not seek to displace Yahweh, Father God from His throne, opting instead for a position of submission to His will and purposes and thereby uncovering His own destiny.

We cannot fulfill our purpose and destiny in life apart from submission to the Father and His Son. This is our great struggle. We desire total freedom but inherently realize that we cannot govern the cosmos for this is what total freedom would entail. As much as we would like to think we can subdue the universe, it is simply too much for our limited capabilities. We have been given an entire planet, teeming with amazing life, surely that is enough.

However, we are free to be free. God has put in place a cosmic moral code that exists independently and to which all beings are subject. God has put in place restrictions and limitations inherent to our nature. God has drawn boundary lines which we cannot cross. But within our purview, the earth, we have complete freedom. With great power comes great responsibility and this unthinkable freedom has consequences.

Consequence #1: Disorder

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God the first consequence was disorder. Following their sin we find them hiding from God in Eden. Until this moment the primordial couple existed within the divine order, protected by God’s sovereignty. Now that they sought to rule themselves and asserted their freedom beyond its limits, they were thrown into chaos and disorder.

God found them in hiding, having already realized the gravity of their choice. Since that day we have sought to restore the divine order through myriad governments and systems. In many ways the history of humanity is the story of our attempt to return to Eden. We know we need some kind of order that still allows freedom, but it has eluded us for centuries. The American form of government is, perhaps, the closest we have come to restoring a semblance of the original order of things, but we still find disorder within the American landscape.

Until Christ returns and establishes the Kingdom of God upon earth once again, we will continue to labor under systems of disorder.

Consequence #2: Death

In Romans 5:12 we see death make its entry on the earthly stage, “Just as sin entered the world through one man [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Exercising our full freedom of choice brought death into our existence. Prior to this time we had access to the Tree of Life in Eden which brought life from God. Now that we disobeyed God and sought to establish our race as preeminent on earth, our access to God’s provision was cut off.

Freedom allows us to do as we please, but there are always consequences to our actions. No consequence is more devastating that death because death is irrevocable. Or so we thought. Jesus came to earth as a forerunner of the coming Kingdom, and one of His primary tasks was the defeat of death. His actions here on earth, culminating with His resurrection, destroyed the power of death over our world and began a process of renewal that will end with His return and a complete remaking of our planet.

We still live with the effects of original sin because we still see death, sickness, disaster, disease, and so on upon the earth. Our freedom must be exercised within its proper limits to avoid the consequences of death today. There are even examples of death being overcome in the physical body through Christ’s resurrection power. But our responsibility as free will beings is to submit ourselves to Jesus so He may draw our proper boundary lines and we will be free within His will.

Consequence #3: Displacement

Freedom’s consequences can be terrible, but none has more dire results than the displacement of God. When we make choices contrary to God’s established moral code or His will, we are effectively displacing God and claiming His throne for ourselves. For the moment we have the capacity to do this because we are still living in the “in-between”, that period in history where Jesus has destroyed our spiritual barriers to completion but our physical barriers persist.

The Old Testament is a story of God’s unwavering love and commitment for His chosen people, Israel, in spite of Israel’s continued disloyalty to Yahweh. The New Testament is the story of God revealing Himself in human form through His Son Jesus Christ and restoring Edenic rule to earth through the individual. One day Christ will rule in the flesh and we will all be submitted to Him as His imagers on earth. Until that day we have the power to rule within our assigned sphere through Holy Spirit’s influence and guidance as revealed in the Word of God.

But when we make choices contrary to Yahweh’s established purposes and laws we are choosing to displace God as ruler and place ourselves on His throne. We must learn to understand and be content with our proper place in the universe, because our place is one of power and authority and peace and joy and love in Christ. It is a beautiful place where we can find completeness and fulfillment of being.

Final Thoughts

We have the power of free will on this earth because God established earth as our primary place of rulership and our domain. God did this so we could accurately reflect His image. God rules and governs and therefore we were meant to rule and govern. However, our freedom has consequences when misapplied as we have seen. Our role as Christians is to demonstrate a proper relationship to God so that others may see the beauty of that relationship and seek Him in their own lives.

Therefore, let us be imagers of God in all we do. Let us exercise our total freedom by choosing to live under the rule of Holy Spirit under the headship of Jesus and grace of the Father as revealed through His Word. Only then can we experience full freedom with no consequences because we will live as we were designed, in relationship with God.