nothing but the blood

Posted: July 8th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »

All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. - Psalm 73:13 ESV

In that moment of shame, after you have done what you knew you shouldn’t, it’s tempting to want to cleanse the soul by cleansing the moral palate. You read only Christian literature, listen only to Christian music, get more involved in Christian circles, and with Christian causes. You do this until you feel clean again, then you relax and go back to the business of being you. It’s psychologically sound that dipping into the cleansing pool of law abiding religion can make a psyche feel clean, but it’s not a relationship with Jesus.

So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” - Matthew 27:24 ESV

In a 1971 study, a couple of researchers wanted to know how people’s behavior would change if they felt guilty for some moral infraction (McMillan & Austin, 1971). They tempted half of the subjects to lie during an interview. After the interview, they asked the subjects if they could stick around and help the researchers set up for a completely unrelated test. Those who didn’t lie stuck around for a couple of minutes to lend a helping hand. Those who lied stuck around for over an hour. People who are trying to compensate for their own guilt will be more giving and helpful than those who aren’t experiencing guilt. Being helpful and giving doesn’t mean that you have a relationship with Jesus.

Back in February a study was published where a few researchers wanted to measure prosocial behavior as it relates to feelings of guilt (Xu, Begue, & Bushman, 2014). They had a group of people recall and write down a personal failure that affected a significant other. These people were divided into three groups: those who washed their hands after writing down their story, those who watched a video of someone else washing their hands, and those who watched a video of someone typing. They were, then, given a questionnaire to fill out within three weeks that would help a doctoral student achieve her PhD. Those who washed their hands sent fewer questionnaire’s back, those who watched someone else wash their hands sent an average of a few more back, and the group who watched someone type sent the most questionnaire’s back. This shows two things: physically cleaning yourself can reduce feelings of guilt and the less guilt, the less prosocial behavior you will exhibit.

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! - Psalm 51:2 ESV

We want the memory to go away. The flashbacks of strobe light snapshots cripple us with the dirt we let in. Wash me! screams the heart, the mind, and the eyes closed onslaught of our mistakes and our fault. Can any amount of prosocial behavior, moral standard achievement, or fancy soap cleansing make our deepest spiritual fissures subside and allow us sleep?

Tragic is the soul who quiets without the Blood. A wolf under the fence. Lost is the man who can perform his way into a peaceful conscience.

All we know is that we have to put as much distance between ourselves and our sin as possible. If we can fill out time with with good-guy behavior and hyper-moral activities, then maybe it will drown out the sulfuric stench within us.

… the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. - 1 John 1:7 ESV

Have you ever felt like super-morality was an attempt to compensate for something? Or wondered what they’re hiding with all of their religiosity? Do you notice the fear laden gasp when you teeter on a tightrope you didn’t even know you were on? People can and do feel like better people when they clean up, help others, and get some religion. But, it doesn’t mean they have a relationship with Jesus.

Like pickled ginger on your sushi plate, cleansing the palate isn’t a bad idea. It’s helps alleviate the dissonance. But, don’t rely on your own ability to keep yourself clean and emerge thinking that you’ve accomplished something. It doesn’t work like that. Churches are full of the helping hands of the guilt wracked. Don’t emulate what you see. Trust in the Blood and walk through the Gate.

Nothing but the blood.




McMillen D. L., Austin J. B. (1971). Effect of positive feedback on compliance following transgressionPsychon. Sci. 24, 59–61

Xu, Hl, Begue, L., & Bushman, B. J. (2014). Washing the guilt away: effects of personal versus vicarious cleansing on guilty feelings and prosocial behavior. Front Hum Neurosci. 2014; 8:97.


measured down, dismissed, and found lacking

Posted: June 30th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments »

“Am I not a God near at hand”—God’s Decree— “and not a God far off? Can anyone hide out in a corner where I can’t see him?” God’s Decree. “Am I not present everywhere, whether seen or unseen?” God’s Decree. - Jeremiah 23:23-24 MSG

Someone sized you up and found you lacking.

Your relationship with God is a two-way conversation full of grace, insight, and humor. You know His unconditional love, so you’re not afraid to let Him see you. Every turn is a lesson, a perspective, an always-changing-from-the inside-out life. He gets you.

God doesn’t make you feel like you’re not enough unless you think you’re enough. This isn’t a message for the prideful “I-Got-This” bunch. This is for the Tender Heart who wasn’t expecting to be judged. It’s not okay for someone to use their homemade spiritual measuring tape to make you feel like you’re not good enough for Him.

Someone looked you over and dismissed your value.

When you drift, He pulls. When you teeter, He steadies. He shows you how to be angry, how to love, and how to hope.

How can God-Taught have no value? Whoever looked you over must not have His eyes. God sends people to tell you that He loves you. Anything another says that makes you feel like God is not with you is not true. There is no place you can go that would be out of His presence.

Someone singled you out and measured you down.

God is sovereign. Everything is under His rule. The earth is His. The world and those who inhabit it are His (Psalm 24). He who created all things, from which all things flow, gets you (Colossians 1). He leads you. He works all things out for you (Romans 8). You don’t have to go somewhere to find Him. Look around. Worship is everywhere.

Have hope, Measured Down, Dismissed, and Found Lacking. He’s carved a place for your shape.

Is there any place I can go to avoid your Spirit? To be out of our sight? … “… He even sees me in the dark! At night I’m immersed in the light!” It’s a fact: darkness isn’t dark to you; night and day, darkness and light, they’re all the same to you. -Psalm 139-7, 11-12 MSG

worship is everywhere


from where does my help come?

Posted: June 24th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , | Comments Off

“I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” - David in Psalm 121:1-2 ESV

He lifts his cup of bitter brown that burns the sides of his mouth. That God could call that an adulterer His own makes the Gospel hard to choke down. How can stealing warrant death and sex bring a crown?

The salivating mouth of an atheist howl brings hot air to his neck. “And that feels real,”  he thinks to himself. “That feel reals to me.”

“He will not let your foot be moved: he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”David in Psalm 121:3-4 ESV

She holds her newborn in her arms and prays for his heart to beat. Pale and lifeless like a doll, but soft like he should be. That God could say that she could call if ever was a need. She needs Him now, the One Who Won’t Slumber, to raise her son from sleep.

And Spirit waits for her arms to raise before He takes him home. Between He and her, the soul hangs on so she can let him go. “And he feels real,” she cries over him. “He’s still here with me.”

“The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.”David in Psalm 121:5-6 ESV

He haunts the streets he used to drive to punish himself some more. Flashbacks of the life he had before she hit the floor. He’s been sober for eighteen months, but he swears it still seeps through his pores. He wanes between clarity’s hope and the haze of if’s before.

The arrow blinks left as he waits with his life in a mirror’s rear view. His right grip steadied by Salvations’s shadow instead of holding and hitting like before. “I won’t go back,” he resolves to himself. “I don’t know those streets anymore.”

“The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.” - David in Psalm 121:7-8 ESV

She moves through the crowd invisible to most and mostly to herself. She’s prey for the hungry because she’s so lonely. “Use Me” is the target on her chest. She closes her eyes and goes somewhere else when her song makes it’s way to her ears. She parts the curtain that makes sure she’s certain to never feel wholesome again.

The money is empty and the invites are scary and she doesn’t know what else to do. Even in filth and all of the shame, He won’t let the wolves get through. “I know You’re there,” she whispers to Him. “I think I can still feel You.”

grace is for sinners


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release your death grip

Posted: June 23rd, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , | Comments Off

“…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”- Jesus in Mark 8:35 ESV

The struggle to be counted among the blameless is energy exerted in the wrong place. It’s digging up the wrong field. It’s nursing the wrong baby. It’s mowing the wrong lawn. Hard work is commended as the farmer is admired from passers by. But they don’t know that he can’t plant in that field. The baby will take everything the wet nurse has while her own infant starves. Someone will be grateful for the manicured lawn, but the mower’s lawn is an eyesore. Each falls into bed at night exhausted and satisfied, but no effort gets them where they are trying to go.

They want to be good, but none are good. Not for a second does singing, subbing, leading, giving, abstaining, embracing, endorsing, smiling, and persevering do a thing to get them into the Kingdom of God. They’ll be popular in their church and with their churchy friends, but for what purpose?

“…what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? …what can a man give in return for his soul?”- Jesus in Mark 8:36-37 ESV

You cannot make yourself right. You cannot do one thing that would be good enough to penetrate the veil that separates you from the eternal.  You have to know that you cannot save yourself. You can’t tell yourself that you are unworthy because you would never believe it.

Don’t be afraid of your failures. They serve as undeniable evidence that you need a Savior.

“Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it.”- Jesus in Luke 17:33 ESV 

Release your death grip if you want to live.


grace is for sinners

Painting by Esao Andrews

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let’s get out of here

Posted: June 18th, 2014 | Filed under: life | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

The religious market pulses with superficial advice, plagiarized art, and hand-me-down one-liners. It’s hard to sift through the endless fluff to find evidence that God cares or that His words are more than trite phrases. It’s difficult to find evidence of His wisdom as it applies to life right this minute without finding people arguing about it. Instead of finding a living, intelligent, all-consuming Love, you’re finding robotic practice and greeting card sentiment.

You’re facing your life, fully aware of your mistakes and imperfections, wondering how far away God is. It seems like everyone else knows something you don’t. But, when you listen to them, it’s not feeding the hunger that’s tearing though you. You’re left wondering where God is. A closer look reveals people who find more meaning and purpose in what they don’t do than in any wisdom gleaned from understanding the scriptures.

It’s time to stop looking for people to be something they can never be. You won’t find your answers in others because they are not the answer. The only thing they’re supposed to be doing is pointing to Jesus. Anything else is just them trying to sound important. It’s okay to take a step back. In a lot of cases, it’s probably the best thing you can do if you want something real.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” - Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30 MSG


lets get out of here