Posted: October 28th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice |
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“Restore me with the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” - Psalm 51:12 ESV
So many people have lost their passion for Jesus. They’re passionate about their church, about philanthropic opportunities, and they’re passionate about their Christian community, but they’re neglecting the object of their love. Religious activities can consume your life and still have nothing to do with Jesus or that with which He consumes Himself. Nothing we do in His name matters when we’ve lost our passion for the only thing that matters. Love, grace, mercy… It’s damaging to engage in a Jesus-branded culture when the perspective of “why” is obscure. There is such a thing as a person being more harmed than helped by much of the church environment.
There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about your church. It’s kind of like being passionate about your company or school or other informed choices you make. It’s fine. It’s just not the point.
What is “the joy of your salvation” and why would you need to be upheld with a “willing spirit”?
“I know how bad I’ve been, my sins are staring me down.” – Psalm 51:3 MSG
Don’t move so far away from that moment that you completely forget what lifted you into the purpose you’re trying to fill in. Everything is most clear when you are wrecked with thanks.
“Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.” - Psalm 51:13 ESV
Your purpose is to use your eye-witness account to show others the Jesus you met when you were at your worst. The most powerful perspective is the one where there is no question about who gets credit for what.
Don’t get so caught up in how awesome you are. Trust me, we all know how awesome you are. Don’t get so far away from “the joy of your salvation” that you start thinking the awesome is coming from you.
Like an old married couple, how about you revisit the days when everything was exciting and you fed off the tension of possibility.
“Smooth seas do not make good sailors.” This is a journey. Failures are not the end. Rise stronger and help the others. He’ll uphold you with a willing spirit.
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Posted: December 3rd, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, divisions, faith, grace, judgment, love wins, sin, spiritual abuse |
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“I’m struggling with 1 Corinthians 5. I understand that we are not to judge the world and that we are to lovingly and gently correct sinners. But what about those in the church that are living in sexual sin?”
I get asked this question often. Every time I set out to answer it, I revisit it like it’s new. I know my own bias when it comes to a person focusing on another’s sin and wanting to find a way to fix the problems they see. I know that 1 Corinthians 5 is used by people to tear others down and throw them out. I think that people need to be careful when considering using scripture to rip someone else apart and expel them. There is a huge difference between the way God handles people who need handling and the way another person handles people who need handling. People are driven by pride. God is driven by love.
What is it that is causing you to sit in your pew and consider the sins of those who are around you? Did you not get the recognition that you think you earned? What does it say about you that you are so focused on what others are doing wrong and not on what the Holy Spirit is saying to you about you? Were you hurt by disregard and are now trying to point out the faults of others who were not disregarded?
Regarding “those who are living in sexual sin”: How do you know their story? How do you know what the Holy Spirit is working on inside of them? You don’t know where people are coming from. You don’t know the journey they’re on. When you’re prompted by the Holy Spirit to speak love into someone’s life, then you would know what to say. When you’re prompted by pride to address the sin that you are certain is taking place, then you are at odds with the Holy Spirit. You are unsettled and are searching for clarity because you’re in the dark. Pride makes you fight to find footing. It makes you compare yourself with others. When they come up lacking, you want to do something about it. Misery loves company. What company are you seeking?
Take “sexual” out of it. Sin is sin. Take a step back and use the logic you’re working with while you replace their particular sin with one that is less graphic and less personally offensive. If sin is sin, then let their sin be regarded the same as any sin. The same template is used for everyone. Replace their sin with one of which you are guilty. Answer your questions as though they were being asked about your sin. The measure you use for others is the measure that will be used on you.
For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with themeasure you use it will be measured to you. -Matthew 7:2 ESV
Now try to find Jesus in your quest for answers. Let your thoughts and actions begin with Jesus and remain with Jesus. When you take your eyes off of Him and let your thoughts and behavior be instigated and justified by another’s sin, you will end up wrong. Let your actions be explained by the finished work of Jesus. If someone were to ask you why you are doing what you’re doing, let your answer be: “Because I believe in the salvation power of Jesus.” That’s what sets you apart from an unbelieving world.
God is big enough to take care of His wayward children. If you can’t see Jesus in someone, then you are blinded by your own pride and personal offense. You should wait until you can see Him in them, then you will know what to say.
In all of this, I’m not saying that they are not wrong. You just have to be aware of your own motivation and protect your heart from the pride that plagues all of us. That’s all I’m saying. Guard your heart and don’t let your critical eyes be justified by someone else’s sin. Stop thinking about their sin. It’s a death trap because the spirit thrives on life and love. You are much more beautiful when your eyes are wide with love and your heart is soft with grace than when your eyes are slits of suspicion and your heart is hard with jealousy. Grace doesn’t give people a license to sin, it keeps you in right relationship with God.
Use this scripture to guide your thought process:
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.-Philippians 4:8-9 MSG
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Posted: September 26th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, aftermath, faith, grace, healing, hope, hurting |
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Pain is inevitable. It doesn’t ask permission, doesn’t make a reservation, and doesn’t play by the rules. When you’ve messed up and hurt yourself, the pain comes without the balm of pity and without the hope of the innocent. Pain scours the burns on your back with the harshest of soaps and the stiffest brush. Pain keeps the infection away.
You know who your god is by what hurts. If your self esteem is being attacked, then your god was your good name. If your ability to be taken back by God is being attacked, then your own understanding was your god. Those who have been there know: your self esteem doesn’t come from your ability and your own understanding was wrong.
You wouldn’t hurt if He didn’t care. Why discipline a child you don’t intend to keep? He still wants you if it hurts.
It’s all closing in around you and He’s nowhere to be seen. If He were going to help you, now would be the time.
If corpses can’t be raised, then Christ wasn’t, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren’t raised, then all you’re doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. -1 Corinthians 15:16-17 MSG
You have to look at what I said: If He were going to help you, now would be the time. What I’m saying is this: Now is the time. This is what He came for.
Of all the times that you thought you had to accept God’s forgiveness, it’s the time of doubting He still offers it that you really need the sacrifice of Jesus. He came for this sin. No matter how fresh or crusty, He accounted for this one, too.
You can only move forward when you can recognize the truth. When you can recognize the truth, you will throw everything into believing it like you have nothing to lose. Because you, literally, have nothing to lose. No face to save.
He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us. -2 Corinthians 1:4-10 MSG
One of the most healing things is to be able to help someone get through what you are going through right now. Only grace will get you through this and you can only know the truth of grace if you know the Truth. The truth is shrouded by riddles until it’s not. The riddles are more literal than they sound. They’re proclamations.
Soon you will have a stow away, another with hurt you recognize, and you’ll know the Truth that will set them free.
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Posted: August 8th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, faith, grace, hope |
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I listen to podcast sermons in my headphones while I clean. It gives my mind something to do while I’m scrubbing who-knows-what off of my kitchen tile. I heard one the other day that mentioned the story of Jacob and Esau. It was a great message about ruining your ‘birthright’ by trading it for momentary pleasure. There was a fitting inclusion of when Satan tempted Jesus with bread because He was hungry.
Jesus answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone…” -Matthew 4:4
This hit home with me because I know what it’s like to trade my integrity for something that promised to make me happy. I thought that the payoff would be worth it. This is what drugs tell their addicts. While the chemical is still in your brain, it sends a message into the synapses that promises joy with just one hit. It doesn’t matter if the hit causes sickness or a bad trip. It’s a chemical message that speaks the language of peace in spite of the person’s memory that peace never comes. It’s always, “This time will be different.” That’s why the person has to get the drug out of their system to know the truth. The problem is, in order to get the chemicals out of the brain, the person has to recognize the lie and deny themselves the need no matter how bad it hurts.
Sometimes the chemicals aren’t lying. Sometimes happiness does come with the hit. Stomachs stop growling when you eat the bread. Sexual tension subsides when you give in. But, none of it lasts. You get hungry again and it makes you feel cheap for being so easily lured. The cycle never ends. That’s why “man shall not live by bread alone.”
Man needs something else.
You can trade your entire life circumstance for a new one, but it doesn’t reach the depths it promised it would reach. You can be happier, fuller, prettier, and more at peace, but if God is not in it, then you’ll still have the eternal ache for assurance that you’re not forever marked for destruction. That’s where the whole story about Jacob and Esau may come in handy.
Esau traded his birthright for a bowl of stew because he was hungry. It was worth it for a while, for someone who is shortsighted and impatient, but then he got hungry again. The preacher on the podcast pointed out that Esau needed someone to tell him what, exactly, he was trading. His legacy and the way He would forever be referred to in history was about to shift and Esau needed to hear it. “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and ….” The problem was, Esau didn’t have anyone to do that for him. The deal was sealed and there was nothing Esau could do about it.
“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”
I want to take the message a step further because stopping there only leaves people feeling desperate and hopeless. Those of us who have taken the bread need to know what to do now. You may have a sealed deal sitting in front of you and be fully aware that you ruined everything for something that dies when you die or lasts until you get hungry again. The truth about bread robs your momentary happiness and reveals just how cheap it is. That’s a good thing. You’ll not get those two so easily confused from here out.
Yeah, Esau could have used an advisor, but do you think he would have listened? I guess it doesn’t matter now. Which is my point. It wouldn’t have mattered then, either, because Esau’s story was written before he lived a moment of it.
“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you shall be divided the one shall be stronger than the other, the older shall serve the younger.” -Genesis 25:23
It’s your choice to think God just knew it, or He planned it and so it happened. It doesn’t change the story. It would change you, but not the story or my point.
Somebody needed to tell Esau that God already had a plan for his dumb choices. Esau is long gone, but I can tell you. God already has a plan for your dumb choices. It may be too late to undo what you did, but who knows what God will bring out of it. All scripture can tell us is that it will be beautiful.
I have a problem with messages that tell a person to do everything right so they can get everything on God’s toy shelf. I have a problem with them because it’s a message of “do this to get that”. Every single one of us has made a left turn when we should have turned right. We’ve clicked “send”, we’ve answered the phone, we’ve eaten the bread. We have every reason in the world to think we’ve messed up God’s plan for us, that we’re missing out, and that we are living a second best life full of regret. What about all the things we did when we didn’t know what we were missing out on? We’re talking about God here, it could have been great…. But I don’t buy that. I don’t buy that God gives us second best when He sent His best. I think His best is ours by the miracle of Jesus, not by the miracle of us doing everything right.
Here is the thing that makes the tangles unravel. This story is not about the mistakes of Esau, it’s about the purpose of God when He made a plan for Jesus. Every single thing works into the plan of salvation, all the way down to bloodline. God chose Jacob from the outset knowing Esau would be born first. You can read Romans 9 to find the blunt answer to why God does what He does in these cases.
“…when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told,“The older will serve the younger.” -Romans 9:10-12
With this in mind, it does matter what you believe. The truth is that God has a plan and you can’t mess it up. The Bible tells us that the truth sets us free, so if you’re not free, you’re believing a lie. If you’re not “more than conquerors” then you’re missing the point of the story. We’re “more than conquerors” through the gift of Jesus, not the gift of checking all the right boxes. The truth sets you free, what is false leaves you tied up in regret and hopelessness.
Every single story has one purpose and it’s to illuminate God and His plan of salvation through Jesus. It’s not about what you do: good or bad. You’ll do both of those things. It’s about coming to the realization that when you choose some temporal satisfaction in spite of the eternal trade-off, you discover that you “cannot live on bread alone.” And, because of Jesus, you get to have another go at it. Different circumstances, same drug. Only this time, you know the drug doesn’t suffice. This time, you have an edge.
If you’re facing a choice, then take this message as the advice to hold off. Your appetite will be fed with something more permanent when the testing is over. If you’re facing the empty bowl, then take this message as the advice to learn your lesson and do better next time. Traps get tighter when you think you’ve already tainted yourself beyond salvation. People keep making bad choices if they think they’ve already earned the label. If you’re already living with hopeless regrets, then what’s to stop you from clamoring for temporal happiness when eternal peace is a lost cause? That’s what I’m trying to help you avoid.
Your birthright is an inheritance from Jesus. It’s renewed every single morning. Believe that and it’s yours forever. It’s not too late for you.
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Posted: August 1st, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, aftermath, faith, grace, healing, hope, sin |
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Did you teach them well? Did the shepherd teach the sheep where to eat? Let them bring the food to you, now. You know your fruit when it can be served back to you and sustain you when you’re too weak to gather it yourself.
It’s a lie when they say that everything you have done is tainted by your sin and useless. God uses the useless. You were useless, you just didn’t know it. Now you do. Now, because of grace you’re perfect for use.
Failure is designed to destroy you. God will use it to transform you.
He says, “You shall have no other god’s before me.” And He makes sure that you won’t. It’s an act of mercy, not of judgment. He wants all of you, so He ruins everything that takes you away from Him. He scrambles what you thought you had figured out. All but grace. Until all that’s left is grace.
Rest now. Strain your ears for the still, small Voice that says, “Don’t let your faith fail.”
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