Posted: January 29th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, freedom, think |
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From the time of my youth, my life has been lived among my own people in Jerusalem. Practically every Jew in town who watched me grow up—and if they were willing to stick their necks out they’d tell you in person—knows that I lived as a strict Pharisee, the most demanding branch of our religion. -Paul in Acts 26:4-5 MSG
I think that those who have the hardest time trying to understand grace are those who have grown up going to church. Second to that are those who were discipled by these people. There is a reason for the ‘de-churching’ movement that has been rolling around for the last several years. People are figuring out that they, in all of their religiosity, are missing something. Well, they are missing something. Some of these people need to be deprogrammed and rebuilt.
It’s hard to know when you’re off track when you spend all of your time surrounded by like-minded people. There is no real challenge or eye-opening experiences. If you are challenged, it’s to be more of the same. To be the best at being the best. One of the most effective means to remove the scales from someone’s eyes is to let them fall flat on their face in spite of their death grip on their own holiness, but that’s a product of the mystery of God’s sovereignty. In all of that effort to be the holiest, they’re completely losing touch with a world they’ve been called to season. They alienate people with their lack of compassion and depth. They’ve lost their salt.
I’ve often thought that going to church does more damage to the free Spirit than not going at all. It’s hard to find a church that is full of people whose spirit is busting from their flesh. It’s much easier to find a church so full of bodies that they have to expand their walls. It’s hard to balance the politics of a functioning business against the diversity of a growing spiritual community. We can see evidence of that without even trying.
I’ve been approached by Christians who claim that the Spirit is breaking the mold and calling people to live outside the walls. I tend to resist the message of people who make sweeping claims about the movement of the Spirit. My view is that time will tell the whole story.
I’ve also heard people complain about churches they deem “seeker friendly”. They say that they aren’t being fed and they’re looking for something that is a little harder on them. They need a list of criteria. They need to feel condemned so that they can adjust until they feel holy.
My experience with churches deemed “seeker” is that they don’t wander too far from the basics. Those who are bored with the basics need to realize that they are bored with the simplicity of the Gospel. They’re bored with Jesus. We’re supposed to take the basics and let the Spirit cultivate those seeds into a wild frenzy of personal discovery. You can’t let other people do your thinking for you. You aren’t going to get life from rules. You’re going to get life from belief.
Use your own brain to engage the Spirit in a dance of critical thinking. Use inductive and deductive reasoning, then do your scriptural research to find the answers.
I’m sending you off to open the eyes of the outsiders so they can see the difference between dark and light, and choose light, see the difference between Satan and God, and choose God. I’m sending you off to present my offer of sins forgiven, and a place in the family, inviting them into the company of those who begin real living by believing in me. -Jesus in Paul’s Damascus road experience in Acts 26:17-18 MSG
How can anyone open the eyes of another when they’re in their own religious bubble of trying to be the best at being the best? Any self-help theory of personal discipline can offer the same standard without any input from the Gospel. Until you understand that the Gospel turns the demands of religion on its head and makes any attempt at holiness useless, you’ll never get in on the real mystery of the gift of Jesus.
Using deductive reasoning, you can look at the results of your own life and begin the journey of tracing it to the cause. In spite of doing everything right, people still feel dead inside. They’d never admit it to their peers, but they know that their hearts don’t burn inside them like the scriptures say it should. They’re missing the revelation that ignites the fire. They bypass Jesus because they think they should be further than that. Like a girl who cuts herself to feel real, they tighten their chains of religiosity until it hurts.
They think that the simplicity of Jesus is for baby believers. You can’t bypass Jesus to find a life on fire because Jesus is the fire. You are not meant to go beyond Him. You’re meant to be engulfed by Him.
“We have met countless “Bible-believing Christians” who would say, “Yeah, Jesus is Lord and Savior. I got that T-shirt a long time ago. But we must now mature, go deeper, and go on to other things.”
Go deeper? And what “other things”? Other things beyond Christ?
…The person who believes that a Christian or a church can graduate beyond Christ has never fully seen Jesus…” -Leonard Sweet & Frank Viola in ‘Jesus Manifesto’
Using inductive reasoning, you can look at the Gospel and explore the implications until you die. Take the facts that scripture clearly spells out and stop trying to make it harder. The offer is “sins forgiven”, “a place in the family”, and “real life” through belief. The moment you try to graduate to something harder is the moment you walk away from the Flame that burns with life in the heart.
There are no stipulations on “sins forgiven”. Sin is sin and they are all accounted for in the offer. Of course people know better. That’s why it’s sin. There is no stipulation on “a place in the family”. That decision was made long before you were born. There is nothing so terrible that you can do that would nullify the gift. Believing that makes something shift inside of you. It changes the core of who you are. That’s why there is a stipulation on the offer of “real life”. That stipulation is belief. Your core becomes Jesus and nothing else.
Those who don’t believe continue to strive for something they will never achieve. Defeat is at the end of that treacherous climb.
There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). There is no defeat because Jesus conquered every weapon of destruction (John 16:33, Isaiah 54:17). He told you that He accomplished what He came to do and when you believe that, you can’t walk away from it (John 19:30, John 6:37). You can’t move beyond it. The only thing left for you to do is to spread the word (Matthew 28:19, Acts 26:18).
photo credit: www.pedestrianpeople.com
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Posted: January 7th, 2013 |
Filed under: life | Tags: aftermath, freedom, grace, healing, hope |
46 Comments »
“I would be curious to hear more of the journey that you went through in your second marriage. Were family members cold and indifferent? Living in the same town, did the process of seeing “old” friends ever become easier? I appreciate your willingness to be so exposed about your life. -Sandy”
There is a lot I could say about my journey in my second marriage, so I’ll just stick to what you asked. If you have more questions, I have more answers.
Family members have not been cold or indifferent at all. They were sad for me and everyone else involved. They watched me as I broke apart. They read the letters I received from people. They tried to reach me, to comfort me, but I was so lost inside myself that I couldn’t be reached for a long time.
Living in the same town is a bit different for me, too. I hadn’t lived here for almost a decade when I had my affair. I moved back here during the aftermath because my family lives here. I either don’t see people anymore, or I don’t recognize them when I do. I’ve been gone too long.
The problem is, they recognize me. They used to be very aggressive. I’ve been “shoulder bumped” by complete strangers. People used to gawk and whisper. People I did recognize used to pretend I wasn’t there. Not in an subtle way. They were haughty.
It barely touched me though. I was so much more broken than they knew. They were kicking a dead body.
There was a woman who didn’t want my daughters going to the same school as her children, so she found a way to have my children sent to another school. Meanwhile, people were writing me to tell me that they are praying that children won’t be affected by my life. They weren’t talking about the sin, they were talking about me. My daughters were allowed to come back six weeks later because I could prove that they were wrong.
People used to call the owner of the business I worked for and told them that they were boycotting her because I worked there. Luckily, the owner thought they were crazy and took the risk.
The people closer to my sin could not, and cannot, stomach me. They’ve managed to avoid me for most of the seven and a half years. They make a quick exit on the occasional bump in. I recently watched a man sneak out of a coffee shop when he thought I wasn’t looking.
It’s been seven and a half years and I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that there may never be reconciliation. I realize it’s taken a long time, but that just how it played out.
I remember, several years ago, I told God that I wanted to move away from here. His response was to reveal to me that I have to heal where I was broken, otherwise I would always be broken there. It’s the same reason you don’t cast the right arm to heal the broken left.
I’m well trained in this fight. My bones have healed tougher.
I have learned that I can’t define what my own healing looks like. A death grip on your own version of anything keeps you from moving forward.
I’ve learned that I am set free and there are no more steps to be taken. There are no boxes to be checked. There is no trial that I’ll lose. There never was.
Believing that is where the healing is.
I can pass through this town unbroken now. I didn’t have to wait for their permission. While I can walk freely, they have to sneak around and avoid certain places I frequent. Interesting.
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Posted: November 8th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, freedom, grace, hope |
1 Comment »
Here’s what will happen. While you’re out among the nations where God has dispersed you and the blessings and curses come in just the way I have set them before you, and you and your children take them seriously and come back to God, your God, and obey him with your whole heart and soul according to everything that I command you today, God, your God, will restore everything you lost; he’ll have compassion on you; he’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back to the land your ancestors once possessed. It will be yours again. He will give you a good life and make you more numerous than your ancestors. -Deuteronomy 30:1-5 MSG (emphasis mine)
It’s not hard for the one who has fallen to want to obey God. All of the desire to listen to herself is gone. It’s harder for the one who has fallen to believe she can be restored. She’s broken to pieces. Scattered, lost, and tossed. She’s bestrewn.
I can’t say it better than scripture. I can’t make it more clear. When you’ve gone so far away that you think you can’t come home – when you are a puzzle in a tornado, “He’ll come back and pick up the pieces from all the places where you were scattered. No matter how far away you end up, God, your God, will get you out of there and bring you back.”
He’s still your God. He hasn’t lost you. He knows where all of your pieces are. He’s gathering them and cradling them until you are whole.
You will have a good life.
God, your God, will cut away the thick calluses on your heart and your children’s hearts, freeing you to love God, your God, with your whole heart and soul and live, really live. -Deuteronomy 30:6-7 MSG (emphasis mine)
The one who has fallen can see where she went wrong. She can see why it happened. What once was shrouded by pride is becoming uncovered. The calluses of pride are cut away. You’re more free now that you’ve ever been. When you can see God in the dark, you realize that you’ve never been able to see Him before. The darkness is confusion, the clarity is light. You don’t know what clarity is until it comes. You’re so used to squinting and worrying that you forgot it’s not normal.
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. -Jesus in Matthew 11:28-29 MSG
When Bestrewn becomes Restored is when she realizes the sovereignty of God. This is something that no one can do for you. You’ve been blind to it before, we all have, but when you start to see it, you find that everything screams it. “Jesus.”
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Posted: October 10th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: faith, freedom, hope, hurting |
3 Comments »
She finds solace for the pain of betrayal by saying she deserves it. She was the betrayer in her past and has been trying to pay retribution since. Either by being the best she can be or by taking the abuse, she’s been waiting for that magic moment when the scales tip in her favor and her payments are over.
She’s watching her life fall apart and the way she gets through it is by telling herself that this will be it. She’ll be free from her sins now. She says all the right things, nothing but words that sound like hope and smiles that she wants to look like peace.
When bad things happen to you, it’s not payback for your sins. You don’t get to claim someone else’s bad choices as retribution for yours. Bad things happen because bad things happen. Your pain doesn’t set the world right and it doesn’t balance out the pain you caused. Only grace can give you a new start, not your ability to take the pain. You have a right to grace because Jesus says you do, not because you earned it.
When you deny yourself the right to hurt, you’re losing a part of yourself. Maybe you had it coming, but only in a world governed by tit-for-tat. What you have done in the past can’t be undone. Trying to put a cap on the pain is only chaining it to your ankles like a weight when you’re drowning in the sea.
It’s not weakness to cry. It’s not weakness to ask for help.
Don’t prolong the effects of the past by denying the power it has to bring you to your knees. You can’t do this by yourself and nobody expects you to. You’re a human being and we’re made to need a Savior. We need Someone to come in and take over. It’s okay to break and I know Someone who can rebuild you stronger and better.
I’m not afraid when you walk at my side.
Your trusty shepherd’s crook makes me feel secure.
…You revive my drooping head; my cup brims with blessing.
Your beauty and love chase after me every day of my life.
I’m back home in the house of God for the rest of my life.-Psalm 23:4-6 MSG
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Posted: June 8th, 2012 |
Filed under: life | Tags: advice, aftermath, bitterness, faith, forgive, freedom, grace, healing, hope, love wins, sin |
13 Comments »
A few years ago, I had an affair that ended my marriage. All of my Christian friends will have nothing to do with me and I can’t get them to even talk to me.
What are we supposed to do in that situation? I know that God has forgiven me and changed me through this, but they don’t see it and they keep denying His power in my life. It crushes me. I know I was wrong, but they are, too. …
It’s hard to understand when people refuse to see the grace in your life the way you feel it. Sometimes it’s a battle to believe it for yourself. The bullets are still flying at you after the cease fire was called. It’s even worse when people you looked up to, who should know better, deny everything they preach with the way they treat you.
Times like this reveal a person’s true character. Sometimes it’s hard to watch it go down.
The trap to avoid is the urge to withhold grace from those who withhold grace from you. Grace doesn’t wait for the person to fix themselves. It doesn’t choose between bad and really bad. You should be an expert in that.
Don’t do anything you’ll have to apologize for later.
Nobody can take away what God has given you. It’s time to let God take care of your validation. He has His own timing for everything.
If you focus on the pain they’re causing you and are continually feeling like you’re being mistreated, then you will not get past focusing on yourself. It breeds bitterness.
This isn’t a battle between people, don’t let yourself sink to that level. You’re in a spiritual battle of faith. The battle is against resentment, self-pity, and entitlement. The battle is to believe Jesus when everyone else denies Him.
Every time someone attacks you, hell is trying to get you to doubt the power of the sacrifice of Jesus. That’s what is really going on. They taste the bile on their tongues and they think that’s the way your name tastes. They don’t know that the bile comes from inside them. As long as they don’t say your name, they don’t taste the bile. If they don’t taste the bile, then they never have to face their own disease of unbelief.
God is bringing them through their own journey, and this situation may be a big part of that. Be merciful because you know what mercy is. Be graceful because you know what grace is. Allow them the room to make mistakes and learn from them, just like you have.
Nobody who keeps a ledger of sins committed against them has a clue who God is.
You may never get your friends back. It’s a fact of life. I know it hurts and it may take a long time to accept, but just because you accept it doesn’t mean it will be set it in stone. I just frees you to be positive and productive while everything finds a place to land. Maybe they’ll come around, maybe you’ll be a little old lady when you get the call. But, maybe that will never happen on this side of life’s curtain. You have to let yourself heal without them. Let the scars seal in the good memories and don’t let the bad one’s infect it.
Remember, affairs are not just a religious horror, it is a horrible thing for anybody in any walk. It’s never okay. You have no idea what you’re mistakes have caused others to face in their own lives. Women whose husbands have strayed, but they’re working it out: you represent pain to them. To them, it feels like you undermine their fight for healing. Everyone is different and their takeaway value from your experience is going to reflect what is going on inside of them. Let it play out, it’s going to anyway. God knows what’s going on and He always gets His way. Relax in that. Find the freedom in the release.
You’re going to be okay. If He says you’re free, you’re free.
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