the heart of it

Posted: August 24th, 2011 | Filed under: book, life | Tags: , | No Comments »

“Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.” -Jesus; Luke 12:1 ESV

The ‘leaven’ referred to here is the Old Testament way to salvation. It is corrupt doctrine. It becomes corrupt when it is mixed with the message of the Gospel in a way that perpetuates the list of rules as a requirement to receive the grace of the Gospel.

Jesus calls it ‘hypocrisy’ because it is a man-made mixture of how to live a godly life. It is a citizenship to two different kingdoms. It’s serving two different masters. It’s hypocrisy because it’s already clear that no one can follow the rules. The rules remove the heart of the purpose for them. Jesus and His grace changes the heart and the rules become peripheral.

People want to hear ways that they can make themselves more holy. They want a definitive list of things they can do so that they can say they are set apart by appearance and practice. It’s a way for them to be like God, choosing good because they know the difference.

“You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” -the serpent in Genesis 3:4 ESV

“Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.” -God in Genesis 3:22 ESV

People can launder their appearance with a list of perfectly good attributes and unarguably valid points. But, the heart is missing. They can be like God, choosing good to be more God-like, but there is no beat in their chest or life in their blood. Have you ever known someone to call him or herself a Christian and completely tear another apart or leave someone behind? They even give credit to their Christianity for their lack of compassion and empathy. Haven’t you wondered, “Have you no heart?”

It’s a mutilated Gospel for the one who thinks that denying the overwhelming urge to love a ‘sinner’ is the part of ‘self’ that must be denied. They actually believe they are honoring God by sacrificing their heart. Don’t you remember? The sacrifice has been made! You can love freely now!

“…use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.” -Galatians 5:13 MSG

“For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then?” -Galatians 5:15 MSG

The outside world, the ones to whom you have been commissioned to prove God’s love, wants no part of a religion that has no heart.

Rules, sacrifices, and rituals cannot get to the heart, not the heart of man or the heart of God.

Under this system, the gifts and sacrifices can’t really get to the heart of the matter, can’t assuage the conscience of the people, but are limited to matters of ritual and behavior. It’s essentially a temporary arrangement until a complete overhaul could be made. -Hebrews 9:9-10 MSG

The same passage in a different translation says this:

According to this arrangement, gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the conscience of the worshiper, but deal only with food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until the time of reformation. -Hebrews 9:9-10 ESV

“…until the time of reformation.” Hebrews 9:10 is the only one mention I could find of “reformation” in scripture. There is only one scripture, that I could find, that tells you what it means and the intended purpose, which is the heart, of the Law. It is here:

“And if by this discipline you are not turned to me but walk contrary to me, then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you sevenfold for your sins.” Leviticus 26:23-24 ESV (emphasis mine)

Young’s Literal Translation words my emphasized portion as “instructed by me”. If, by following the law, you are not instructed by God, then you have missed the mark. The meaning of sin is “missing the mark.” (Vines Concise Dictionary).

Jesus is the mark. The Holy Spirit instructs you, personally. Throw the laundry list out. If people want to use grace as an excuse to sin, then the Holy Spirit will twist them apart on the inside. That is what this scripture means:

“No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” -1 John 3:9 ESV

The ‘seed’ is the Holy Spirit. Making “a practice of sin” is not the same thing as “committing a sin”. Those who are Christians will sin and the Holy Spirit will crush them until they cannot continue. The will of man is crushed, to breaking, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If you see a man who has sinned and is being crushed, it is not because the Holy Spirit has left him, it will not, it is because He overwhelmingly evident in him. You don’t have to point out the obvious. The Holy Spirit is a better lover than you are, which makes Him a better corrector than you could ever be.

You will be harassed for preaching and believing in the sovereignty of God, grace, and the authority of Love. Not by the outsiders, but by the insiders.

Be cautious with those who preach a watered down Gospel. Be on the lookout for those take up issue with “too much love” or “too heavy on grace.” Ignore their tirades and consider yourselves in good company. You can see which kingdom they’re under by which flag they choose to raise.

If I were preaching that old message, no one would be offended if I mentioned the Cross now and then—it would be so watered-down it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. -Paul; Galatians 5:11 MSG


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when the monsters caught up to me

Posted: May 23rd, 2011 | Filed under: book, life | Tags: | No Comments »

I was invited to speak at a ‘Building a Community of Hope’ conference in Canada this month. Part of their mission is to identify with the need for the church to be a place for the broken to come and find the hope of Jesus. People tend to bury their past and their failures before they enter the Christian community. The ugliness of pain and failure are not a good fit among those who are perceived to have the answers to a morally fit life. Like a member of a kingdom where the king dons invisible clothes and everybody is too afraid to say they can’t see what they are told only the best members of the kingdom can see. I was one of those people until my buried damage caught up to me. This is me sharing my story:

(About a minute of footage in the beginning was lost due to technical difficulty, but the message is still there.)

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Posted: April 7th, 2011 | Filed under: book | Tags: , | 10 Comments »

When I wrote my first book, I was consumed with all the things I was learning. I went to scripture, initially, to hear the final word from the final Voice because I knew, and everyone else who knew me knew, that I was done for. I couldn’t shake whatever it was inside me that wouldn’t let me give up and I needed something to make me let go. I was not looking for something to make me okay, I was looking for the death blow of judgment.

“Tell me you don’t love me so I can be free from this pain.”

But He didn’t. Instead, He showed me something. This panoramic view that doesn’t stop when I turn right or turn left to reach its end. It has no end.
…and I’ve been writing about it ever since.

I am still completely entrenched in scripture because it’s alive to me. I can see it clearly. I write constantly. I am consumed with thinking about all these things, …the depths of Truth, …and I can’t get enough. He, like wild, silent wind, is speaking to me…showing me things…and the only way to relieve the pressure is to open myself up and pour it out.

When I wrote ‘Grace Is For Sinners’ I literally shook at the keyboard. I could not get my fingers to type fast enough. A violent picture of eternity being poured into the fragility of flesh and blood until that flesh and blood was ready to burst at the seams. What spills out is my worship. It creates the feeling that if I held it in, I would die. It’s almost too much.

Another tsunami of information and clarity is pouring into me and I am back to that place of being so consumed, I’m squirming in my skin. It’s too much for isolated blog posts. I have to write until it stops and then I’ll have to give it a name and put it in another cover-bound piece of worship.

When I tried to get my first book published, I was told that the work I had written was too big for me. I already knew that. I published it myself and, though I don’t know how, it has made it’s way across the world. It has found a home in the hands of strangers. It is fulfilling its purpose with no help from me or a money-backed entity.

I don’t know what path this next book will take. Whether it is published by me or a bigger corporation is not my concern. I have to write, regardless. It’s screaming inside me and writing alleviates the a bit of the pressure, though it doesn’t lift the burden. It’s a weird kind of painful. I don’t know if that makes any sense, but I can identify with this…

…necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” -Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:16 ESV

I will be blogging less frequently while I write this other book. If you want to keep up on little tidbits, I share them on my facebook page.

I’m answering the summons. I’m telling you this so that you know what’s going on and you can keep me in your prayers.

I’ll be out in the field gathering evidence.





but grace

Posted: February 18th, 2011 | Filed under: book, God, life | Tags: | 23 Comments »

Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. -1 Corinthians 6:9-11 ESV

Even though they are not supposed to, people have a scale for sins. Anyone can look at that list and categorize them from least to greatest. People who cheat on their spouses and people involved in homosexual relationships seem worse than people who vilify (revile, condemn) them.  The girl who got drunk would not be kicked out of her church like the boy who had sex with another boy. The materialistic (greed, idolatry) woman would not be shunned like the woman who cheated on her husband. The man who lied about (swindled) another man in order to take his possessions would not be questioned if he were convincing enough. The girl who had an abortion to hide her pregnancy gets to stay in the youth group while the other girl who kept her baby is called “a bad influence.”

“Don’t be deceived…”

They all have the same weight. Everyone is guilty. Everyone is equal.

“And such were some of you.”

You may not have done all of these things, but you are guilty of some of them.  Depending on where your journey has taken you, you may feel relief or your skin may be crawling. Is your pride welling up or do you feel hope? Do you feel cornered or do you feel free?

“There comes a point in the game of tit-for-tat where you are just comparing stench of excrement.” – Grace Is For Sinners, Chapter Four: Lamb Lost

The only way out of the ping-pong hell is to drop the paddle and run to Jesus. After the list of sins, there is a ‘but’. But grace.

Scripture is used way too often to condemn the failure. However, if you actually read it, scripture holds the key to setting the condemned free.

Forget about deciding what’s right for each other. Here’s what you need to be concerned about: that you don’t get in the way of someone else, making life more difficult than it already is. –Romans 14:13

It is easy to get caught up in your idea of what it is to be a good Christian and completely miss the opportunities to learn from someone who is not like you. What can the man, who is attracted to men, teach the one who condemn people like him? What can the greedy woman learn from the pregnant teenager? …more than you can imagine.

Communities need to rise up and create a place for the girl who had an abortion to escape the hell of guilt she is trapped in. They need to learn how to nurture the faith of the failure, not for the outcome they want, but for the sake of that person’s faith. People may never do what you want them to do. You have to find a way to go beyond the sin and focus on the message of salvation. Salvation changes the person, not the other way around. The things you would say to an unbeliever you are trying to convert are still true for the believer who messed up. Christianity is not a bait-and-switch operation.

“But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”



head to heart

Posted: January 26th, 2011 | Filed under: book, life | Tags: , | 9 Comments »

Dear Serena,

I wanted to ask you a few things. I dove into my Bible and realized that before, I only knew ABOUT Jesus, rather than KNOWING him. His grace is there, unquestionably, but I’m having a hard time getting the knowledge to my heart. Was it a process for you? And how long did it take you before you were able to shake the feelings of complete and total worthlessness? (Because that’s a struggle for me

I was like you, too, only knowing about Jesus. I wanted to devote my life to Him. I believed in Him, but I didn’t know Him. Not as my only ransom or Savior. I knew it in my mind, but not in my heart, not in my spirit. In my own mind, He gave me a fresh start and it was up to me to maintain it. When I fell, I was devastated.

I was devastated because I thought it was my responsibility to keep myself from sinning. What I didn’t understand is that we ARE supposed to try, knowing full well that our efforts will always fail us and we’ll always stumble along. We will sin, not matter how close we are to Jesus, …no matter how long we have been a Christian.

The process, for me, was fueled by the unbearable attacks from within myself and from my old Christian friends. The attacks were so final and so condemning. But I had something inside me that knew something was amiss. The problem with the condemnation was that I was still alive. If what I thought about myself and what my friends thought about me was true, then why was I still here?

I was ready to face my judgment, it was not like I was innocent, but before resigning to being kicked out of the church and facing my life without Jesus, I needed to hear it from God. I needed Him to tell me that I was finished and there was no hope for me. I felt no hope, my friends offered no hope, but God had the final say. It took me a while before I was ready to hear it from Him. My affair started in May, I asked Him to help me end my deceit in June, He brought it out in the open the next day. But I didn’t talk to Him again until August. The pain and fear were overwhelming. Dealing with the disappointment and anger of His people and dealing with my own were too much, I couldn’t bear dealing with His.

I’m an “all or nothing” kind of person. When I got tired of being in limbo, I went to God so that I could hear my fate from His mouth. If He said it, I would believe it. This was too big, too final, for me to listen to people who claim to be His mouthpiece and I no longer trusted myself.

Chapter 5 in Grace Is For Sinners, “Hell ’05,” reveals what that moment was like and what I heard from God. He told me that he was not angry, He had compassion on me, and that He would not dress me in shame. He also said that any attack that came was not from Him. That was the key that held me together when the attacks (from within and without) continued to come.

When people talk about being ‘set apart’, this is what I think of. This love that God revealed to me set me apart, protected me from being destroyed, held me together while I healed, and continues to hold me together while I go out and bear myself for the sake of others. I feel a firm grip of nothing but Love.

My feelings of worthlessness subsided by studying the scripture. I know that sounds churchy, but I mean it. In my studying, I learned that God allows circumstances to break you. It’s an act of mercy, but you can only understand that if you trust that He knows what He’s doing and He has a purpose for it. We make the mistake of seeing our failures and struggles as evidence that God is not in on the plot. This has us rejecting the very things that He is using to mold us.

God’s people are destined in Him to fulfill their purpose. We were made for a reason and He will see to it that we are equipped to fulfill that purpose. The problem is that none of us are born into perfection. Being a Christian doesn’t suddenly sanctify you. Sanctification is an ongoing process. A process that you will not see fulfilled until the end.

Like in the story of Jonah, he was called to share the truth of God’s grace to a city drowning in evil. Jonah couldn’t do it until he knew what grace was. He had to experience his own need before he could offer it to another. I was called to share the story of God’s grace, too. I had no idea what my purpose was or what grace was until my life depended on it. Because of my failure, I know what my purpose is and what God’s message through me is. I am not finished because I’m not dead. I’ll still mess up, I still have a lot of learning to do, but my perspective is completely different and it’s only because of my failure. That’s grace. That’s God turning sin on it’s head and sucking the spiritual death out of it. It’s awesome, to me, because I can’t take a bit of credit for anything that God does through me.

It was easy to “die to myself” because I hated what I did and wanted no part of that selfish existence. The process was not without pain. I mourned the loss of me. It was devastating. I liked me, but I had to let “her” go. My sin emptied me and grace replaced my sense of self.

Worthlessness is a lie. Hell is trying to isolate you so that you can be tormented easier. Call out the lie and reject it. Your failure gives Satan words to use against you, but he’s a liar. He’s a liar because Jesus took all of the accusations upon Himself and paid the penalty for them. Satan will do everything he can to get you to forget that. But, God has no recollection of your sin, so don’t live according to something that God doesn’t even consider. The Truth sets you free.

When the accusations come, know that they are against Jesus, not you. That’s why the accusations become a lie. When you are tucked away in Christ, the accusations are about Him and they hold no water. You are hidden away in Him. He took your sin (past, present, future) and nailed it all to the cross so that you could be free. It’s not a freedom so that you can live selfishly. It’s a freedom to grow and become so that you can be used to pour out His Love.