Chris Kratzer speaking at The Grace Place, Shelby NC.
There is so much in life that can entice our mind into negative levels of thinking. In fact, we often fill in the blanks of our experiences and circumstances with the worst possible conclusions we could imagine, or at least negative ones. When we wonder about what other people are thinking, we predominantly fill in the blanks with a dark conclusion. When we envision the outcomes of challenges we face, we imagine the worst. And, when it comes to relationships, we often assume a less than positive discernment of motives or explanation for behaviors. Unfortunately, most of us tend to gravitate to the negative in our thinking.
“Paranoia, it will destroy ya!” -The Kinks
In basic terms, paranoia deals with strong fears of doom, harm, or destruction based on perceived realities, many of which are unlikely, uncontrollable, and/or completely imagined or exaggerated for one reason or another. To be honest, we all dabble in a bit of paranoia from time to time, believing that perceived or exaggerated realities (imagined or otherwise) are seeking to harm us.
Unfortunately, many people have developed a kind of God paranoia. Deep down, though we believe God love us, there is a part of Him we are not sure we can trust. Sometimes He is pursuing our good, but if we take a wrong turn, we fear He may just start pursuing our harm. Or, at least, withhold His favor, presence, and blessing. In fact, when things start going wrong or falling a part in our lives we start to wonder, “maybe God is evening the score, maybe He is punishing me?” How many times have you wondered that? Unfortunately, segments of Christianity and “Church” have not helped, but rather have pimped out a false Gospel that has brainwashed populations of Christians with a kind of “God Paranoia.”
The true Gospel, however is in fact designed to give us “Reverse God Paranoia.” Instead of fearfully believing God may, at times, be out to keep us from too much good, or even bring us punishment, we rather should believe and assume that God is always out to bless and prosper our lives. God isn’t looking for reasons to sabotage, punish, or press us down, but rather for every opportunity He can find to bless, promote, and free us. Any belief or assumption that God is punishing you is an exaggeration of an aspect of God that doesn’t even exist. God is love, that is His core essence and nature. Everything from Him comes from and is love. Does He correct? Yes. Redirect? Yes. Convict the unbeliever of their disbelief or false belief? Yes. Punish? No. Sin brings it’s own penalty, not God.
I love what Ray Edwards declares…
“I am a reverse paranoid. I believe a Force I cannot control is out to do me good.” -Ray Edwards
You have heard me say over and over again, “Right believing leads to right living” Well, let me add this, “Right believing leads to REAL living.”
The REALity is, God wakes up each day or your life with a “Ways To Bless _(your name)_” list He has been working on all night to create. He is your greatest friend, supporter, coach, provider, and encourager. When you rest in a belief of the complete goodness of God for your life, the door is opened for God to abundantly bless the socks off of you. Always assume that He is on your side, because He is, even if it doesn’t seem that way in the moment. God is always in a good mood. Whether you like it or not, He loves you and is feverishly working every angle to overflow your cup with moonshine concentration levels of His intoxicating goodness, favor, and blessing for your life. Never again perceive God to be punishing you, maliciously holding you back, or pulling out the rug.
Drink in the goodness of God and develop a healthy case of Reverse God Paranoia.
As one of my friends on facebook posted, “Where has the summer gone?” Yup, the new school year is upon us. And, if you are like me and most parents, this is a super stressful time for the whole family. Supplies to buy, schedules to arrange, clothes to try on, orientations to attend, doctors appointments to schedule, and then to top it off, there is a ton of “change” to manage. “Will I make new friends?” “Wow, I am not sure I am ready for them to be growing up, and so fast” “Mom, I need to have _________, if I don’t I will be a nerd, and I just might hate your guts forever”
You know the routine, and could surely fill in your own back-to-school experiences. To be sure, it’s not easy reality to manage, anxiety levels are high, stress is growing, and the reality of change is not an easy pill to swallow. So, how can we all manage this time of the year in ways that are sync with God?
Here are a few tips on riding the back-to-school wave with Grace.
1) Stay cool.
And by that I mean, don’t let this time of the year erode your sense of peace. In times of stress, it’s easy to get into a tailspin of short tempers, stress, and anxiety, often majoring in the minors, and minoring in the majors. Try to keep you perspective and rest in the reality that God is at work and will surely guide and provide your way through this stressful time. Your attitude towards “back-to-school” will set the temperature in your family for how everyone else handles it. If you are calm, cool, and collected, chances are that will help minimize the overall stress level for the rest of the family. Remember, you are already perfect in Christ, you don’t have to perform perfectly nor does everything have to come together perfectly. Don’t miss the forest from the trees. Enjoy this time, even the stress of it, one day, you will be wishing you could have these days back again.
2) Keep communication lines open and active.
“Back-to-school” is an important time to go above the call of duty to make sure everyone is talking, expressing, and communicating feelings and needs. Making sure to initiate conversations among family members will be critical. Repeatedly asking questions like, “So, how are you feeling about all this?” “Hey, is there anything we are forgetting?” “So, how are you handling things?” will be valuable tools before, during, and after the “back-to-school” whirlwind. So many negative situations can be prevented or diffused from becoming a problem if communication lines are open and active.
3) Speak out your faith for the new school year.
In addition to praying together, I think it’s incredibly valuable to speak out statements of faith over the “back-to-school” experience. When you and your family speak and hear declarations of faith, it releases God to work and uplifts everyone who hears them. Statements like, “I believe this new year is going to be full of blessings and wonderful surprises from God” “Lord, I thank you that you have gifted my children with great minds that will excel in learning this year.”Jesus, I thank you in advance for working all things out for our good and your glory, covering my children with your protection and purposes” will have a supernatural effect on the “back-to-school” atmosphere of your family. Asking your children, “What are you believing God for this new year in school?” is a great way to get things started.
4) Don’t get over-scheduled
There is a great temptation among American families to be over-scheduled with activities. And this is the time of the year when that destructive ball gets set into motion. Your value and worth as a parent and family is not in how many activities you are doing each week. You can have an after school event or activity scheduled for every day of the week for your children and completely miss out on the true essence and experience of family at the same time. One of the worst mistakes we can make as parents is to raise performance-driven children who base their identities on the amount and level of their extra-curricular accomplishments. Soccer, ballet, dance, football etc. are all great things for our children, as long as they are managed well. Nothing can be more important than to teach our children how to prioritize their lives, placing faith, family, play, rest, and school at the top of the list. Everyone has a plan for your children’s lives. Coaches, programs, sports, etc. are all craving the unrestrained and unrestricted time and commitment of your children. And trust me, they will take it all if you let them. The question is, “Are you going to teach your children when to say “yes” and when to say “no” to all the things soliciting their time, in ways that keep the main things in life the main thing?”
So, what would you add to this list?
For some time, I believed that my role in the Christian life was to make sure that I was somehow producing fruit in my life. For sure, when your fellow Christian fruit inspector comes along on their high horse to discern whether you are growing as a Christian, you don’t want to disappoint. Will they see joy, peace, self-control…? I better get to work and produce some fruit, or the “Faithful Christian” card kept in my wallet might get revoked.
Yet, the harder I tried to have peace, the more peace alluded me. The more I tried to create joy and love, the less joyful and loving I found myself to be. And even when I had moments that it seemed like fruit was growing on the vine, it didn’t last very long or go very far.
Why? Because I discovered a profound truth, you can’t produce fruit in your life. And, the moments when you can seem to fabricate them in your life, they come and go because you have to be the one to pull the strings. It’s not fruit you have produced, it’s a phony religious facade.
Only God can produce and sustain fruit in your life, and that, only by your faith. It’s believing that produces fruit, not work, striving, and trying. You already have all the fruits of the Spirit the moment you put your faith and trust in Jesus for salvation. Faith is what actualizes and manifests those fruits in your life.
God produces fruit, we bear fruit. We can only share fruit, we cannot create it.
And even better, God is so gracious to allow us the freedom to bear the fruit He produces in ways that we love, enjoy, and find purpose.
The harder you try to have fruit in your life, the less you will have. The more you trust that Jesus has already supplied every fruit and growth needed in your life, that He has already recreated you having every spiritual blessing, the more God’s fruits will flow through your life. Jesus is your sanctification, not your performance skills.
Faith in who you already are in Christ is what enables you to live up to who you have become. Let God produce the fruit, you live to bear them.
Rest in faith that He who began a good work in you will see it through to its fullest potential. Stop striving, start believing and resting in His performance in your life, not yours.
Fruit or facade? That depends on whose performance you are trusting, yours or His.