The River Flows Through Me

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 “Who am I, really?”

“Do I have the courage to find out who I am?”

“If I’m able to discover my true self, will I be able to accept it?”

“How is my belief about who I am affecting my life, especially my relationships?”

Pastor Dave Johnson

These were penetrating questions, challenges really that Dave Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Minnesota, put forth in a series of messages given during the annual Oak Hills Church Men’s Retreat.  During the small group sessions after each of his messages you could tell that his words were striking a cord in the men as they chewed on the question, “who am I, and do I really want to find out?”

Pastor Johnson painted a picture of our lives as a river that flows through us, cutting a groove through our inner core. The longer we ignore who we have become, the judgments we hold about ourselves, the deeper the groove and the more dysfunctional we become.  It’s not until we jump in and “disturb” the “river,” changing its’ course and filling in the groove with positive self images and blessings that we can truly turn our lives around. He taught us that words matter and we need to be blessed by men in our lives if we have any chance of finding and integrating our true self.  He also taught us that it was necessary for us to have intention, relations and the supernatural in order to radically alter our beliefs about ourselves.

  • Intention, the awareness that something must change.
  • Relations, the necessity of engaging with others to achieve transformation.
  • Supernatural, surrendering to the spirit of God.

The teaching was clear, now how do I get there?  How does transformation take place?

This concept of jumping in and disturbing the river seems to be one approach, a radical one at that.  It dramatically illustrates what’s necessary for a man to change his life, he needs to dive in and radically divert the raging waters of his false self.  It takes extreme action by the man if he has any chance to uncover the negative beliefs about himself and to reframe those beliefs!  It’s this action, this disturbing, that is at the core of what’s necessary for men to transform their lives.  In order for a man, or anyone really, to unmask their true identity, to expose and embrace the gift of who they are, as God created them, they need to experience the transformative power of an intentional circle of support that is dedicated to integrity, authenticity and supernatural intervention.

These circles of support need to focus on intention, relations and the power of the supernatural in conjunction with what I call the trinity of transformation – Awareness, trust and action!

  • Awareness:  We need to open our minds to the possibility that we need to closely examine who we are, how our actions affect others and how we are perceived by those around us.  Once we open our minds and begin the study of who we are there comes a time when we must accept that understanding and take ownership of our lives.
  • Trust:  Once I become aware of the challenge do I trust anyone enough to share the journey with?  Am I willing to let another person know my inner-most secrets?  If I share what’s going on will I only be hurt more?  Trust is the life blood of transformation.
  • Action:  This is where intention, relations and the supernatural come together to wash the jagged “stone” of who you are down the river , through the ragging waters until we are smoothed and polished into the “rock” God always intended us to be.

We are blessed at Oak Hills with two exceptional teachers in Kent and Mike and they have been and continue to provide insight and direction on Kingdom living.  Many of you are participating in small groups studying the Word of God and how it relates to your life. The Men’s retreat is another example of how the Church creates opportunities for us to grow and transform.  We can read books, attend lectures and workshops, in fact there is no limit to the opportunities we have to address what works and what doesn’t in our lives.  Yet, how many times after a Sunday service, a group meeting or a retreat do you recognize the importance of the message but have no idea how to actually integrate the value into your life?

It would take a book to fully explain a process for personal transformation so let me share a brief overview of what has worked for me in my journey down that inner ragging river.

Step One: Intention:  Make the decision to intentionally dive in and “disturb” the river within so that you can discover and own who you truly are.  This may mean you need to create a new group or alter the current group structure and process to focus on transformation.

Step Two:  Relations:  Bring together people who share your desire for transformation and who are committed to taking action to fully live in the Kingdom of God.  For men it is a great paradox that they need to have other men to help them take responsibility for their own lives.  This is counter-cultural and may pose a significant obstacle.

Step Three: Supernatural:  Here is where our faith, our knowledge and our words matter most.  You’ve created an intentional circle with people who share your vision and commitment, it’s time to wade into the “river” and explore the gouges in our souls, the recesses of our heart, and you begin by asking these questions:

 “What’s not working in my life?”

“What do I get out of acting as I do?”

“Where did I learn this?”

“ What is my ‘negative’ behavior hiding?”

“Who am I, really?”

“What needs to change?”

Notice that I didn’t ask “why.”  It is vital to understand that navigating this “river” is more like rewriting a play as opposed to solving a puzzle.  I’m not trying to “fix” myself or anyone else, I’m trying to discover who I really am, deep within the protective armor that I’ve built up over my life to protect myself from the pain of the world. I’m empathizing with the person and helping that person navigate the swift currents of their emotions ever deeper into the depths of who they truly are so that they can gain clarity about the power that God has placed at their core.

 I once was full of self, and proud

Just like a Pharisee,

Until one day, quite by surprise,

I caught a glimpse of me.


As the members of the group begin to answer these questions and as they discover how their actions actually affect the other people in their lives they will be encouraged to change the behavior, to become authentic. With awareness and practice they can rescript how they react in difficult situations, how they can make a positive impact on the world.  The group can help each other accomplish this by following-up with each other during the group to explore how the “new” behavior worked or didn’t work and how they feel about that.

As I stated earlier a book would need to be written to fully define how to create intentional circles of spiritual transformation and what I’ve provided here is at best an outline, a general direction to follow.  The key lies with the awareness that change is necessary, trusting that God will guide you and the courage to take action!  I pray that this will empower you to follow the ragging river to the headwaters of the person that God always intended you to be!

 James 4: 7-10

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.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Colossians 3:1-4

Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.


About rightthoughts
Husband/ Father/ Grandfather/ Architect

2 Responses to The River Flows Through Me

  1. Jim L says:

    Well thought out, Bob. I like your recap of some of the words spoken at the retreat. If we have a desire to discover our False Self and our True Self, it sounds like a good start would be to dive in with INTENSION. Start studying ourselves. Openly and honestly evaluating our thoughts, feelings and actions. Then taking ownership and starting a plan of action to change that is designed after much thought, prayer and discussion with those who we respect.

    RELATIONSHIP. Go through the process with a trusted friend. Probably makes sense to saddle up with someone who has a desire to go down that road themselves. Otherwise, it seems that many friends, if we could see their true heart, would really not be that engaged or interested.

    SPIRITUAL. Keep God in the process. He created us and will lead us back to the True Self that HE created in us. Listen and pray to Him for answers and direction.

    Hope all is well!

    Jim L.

  2. Thaddeus J. Chwierut says:

    I like your post, and you certainly got more from the teaching than I did. It is not that I disagreed, or didn’t hear similar things. I think the core of what was taught, could have been summarized in 5-10 minutes of sharing, as you did here.

    Dave has always spoken very highly of you.

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