Month: December 2013

Stupid Stuff We Believe

Sometimes it isn’t until we hear ourselves say it, or read it on a page that we realize just how stupid some of the things we believe truly are. These are the kind of things we hate to admit, and would probably never say out loud, but we really do believe them in our hearts.

Take a look at the list below at some of the stupid stuff we secrety believe. We would never tell anyone to believe these things, yet we do so everyday.

1- If 10 people compliment you about something, you should really listen more to the 1 person who criticizes you about it.

2- When you don’t always please the people around you, you are not as good of a person as you should be.

3- You need to have it all figured out before you start anything new in your life.

4- God loves you, but sometimes He is disappointed with you, shaking His head with frustration.

5- Someday you will be happy, once things come together or you find the right person.

6- You need your children to like you in order to feel good as a parent.

7- You need to punish yourself or alteast keep yourself from being too happy because of the mistakes you have made in your life.

8- You can change them

9- The more people value you, love you, and think well of you, the more valuable, loveable, and likeable you really are.

10- Jesus mainly wants you to be really upset about your sin, get your butt to church, clean up your act, and do more good than bad.

Which of these do you believe deep down?
What would you add to this list?

The Wrong Beliefs Behind 5 Popular Sins

Behind every sin you struggle with is a wrong belief about God and/or yourself. Believing rightly is the key to living rightly.

That’s why the New Testament (Covenant) calls for an obedience of “faith” in contrast to the obedience of “actions” required in the Old Testament (Covenant). Our actions always follow our beliefs.

FInd me a person who struggles with a particular sin and you will have found a person whose belief about God and/or themselves is distorted or false in some way. The way to combat sin is in our beliefs, not our actions. We are indeed renewed in our minds before ever being renewed in our behaviors. Trying to “do better” never works, only “believing better” holds the key to victory.

Here our 5 popular sins and some of the “wrong beliefs” behind them…

1- Sexual Sin-

Obviously there are a lot of sexual sins, but there are reoccurring wrong beliefs behind many of them.

A) Deep down I know this is not right or is bad for me, but this is what I deserve B) The best thing I have to offer is sexual C) God can’t heal my hurt and emptiness, but this can D) My value is in what I offer sexually E) This will bring intimacy and wholeness into my life F) I am the broken and discardable person my mother, father, and/or abuser portrayed I am.

2- Lying

Lying can come in various forms from exaggeration to withholding the truth. Here are some reoccurring wrong beliefs behind it all.

A) God isn’t on my side or quick enough, so this is the best way to move things forward and get ahead. B) The truth about me or my actions isn’t good enough, for God and/or for others for me to be loveable and valuable. C) The truth will make things too complicated and difficult (even for God to handle), and may ruin everything D) I need people to like me and things to be peaceful in order to feel good about myself E) no one will get hurt.

3- Gossip

Gossip always serves a selfish purpose for those who are speaking it (and hearing it). Here are some wrong believes behind people’s attraction to gossip.

A) I am not completely valuable and secure in Christ, so I need to bring others down to make me better, even if it’s just in my own eyes and/or the eyes of others B) What I know or have to say about others that is negative is one of the best things I have to offer in a relationship or conversation C) This will even the score D) this is an appropriate way to get things done. E) it’s fun, no one will get hurt.

4- Idolatry

A) God is not as real, powerful, tangible and effective, but this is B) I need this person, activity, or thing for my value, fulfillment, or meaning in life. C) This is better than God or anything He could give me D) By the time God gives it, it will be too late.

5- Gluttony

A) This can heal the hurts God can’t B) This will keep me safe from intimacy with people who can hurt me C) Deep down I know this behavior is bad for me, but this is the punishment I deserve D) This will make life happier and worthwhile.

Did you notice a common thread among all of these? Insecurity and a doubt in God’s goodness and favor upon our lives.

This list is why the Grace of God is so important, it teaches us to live rightly because it shows us who we truly are and what we truly have in Him. Without His abundance of Grace we will never know who we are and what we have in Him, and thus, never overcome the sin in our lives. Grace is what gives us something to truly believe about God and ourselves, bringing life and freedom from the lame lures of sin.

Obviously, some of these “wrong beliefs” are believed on a deep, even subconscious level, but they are still pulling the strings of our actions and attitudes. Get to the root of your wrong beliefs and you can change the surface life of your actions and attitudes!

What would you add or delete from this list and/or post?

What to Do After You Sin

You have probably been taught that after you sin, there are certain rigorous steps and emotional postures you need to assume to make things right with God. Deep groans of profuse crying, long quivering statements of confession, and some kind of twisted punishment of one’s self are sure to be a good religious start, provided Jesus hasn’t already back-slapped you into hell.

As much as we love to try to work our way to God, we also love to try to work our way back to God once we have sinned. It makes us feel like we have some control (and credit) in the process.

Yet, no matter what you have been taught, the Gospel teaches us differently. First, you cannot work your way to God, and then once in Christ, there is in fact no need to work your way back to Him, if that were possible anyways.

For the non-believer, the prescription of what to do after you sin is simple… agree with God you sinned, believe in the forgiveness God has given you in Christ on the cross, receive it through faith, and stop sinning as you live from your “new creation” identity. (2 Cor. 5:17)

For the believer, however, things have been made a bit more complicated and confusing. So, to clear things up and get back to the Gospel, here’s what to do (and not to do) once you have sinned.

Once you have sinned…

1) Agree with God you have sinned.

2) Believe in the forgiveness that God has already applied to your sins… past, present, and future. No need to ask for what God has already given. He is not interested in your confession of sin (other than agreeing with Him that you sinned) but your confidence in His finished work on the cross applied fully to your life the moment you believed. (btw, 1 John 1:9 is written to non-believers, not believers.)

3) Trust that your identity, righteousness, and standing with God are still fully intact. Sin has not distanced you from God. The Christ that lives in you has not left the building or even walked to the front door. He has not given up on you, nor reduced His love or presence.

4) Believe on Jesus that He will enable you to overcome this area of sin in your life as you see that you are by nature no longer a “sinner.” Don’t get on a treadmill of trying and striving to “do better.” You cannot produce spiritual fruit in your life, only God can, and that only by faith, not your effort. Believe in who you are in Christ, lacking no spiritual blessing, and live from that belief. Right believing leads to right living, not rule keeping. The more you try to stop sinning, the more you will. The more you believe and trust in Jesus through His Grace to will and act according to His pleasure in your life, the less you will sin. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. Behind every area of sin in your life is a wrong belief about God and/or yourself. So, when you sin, don’t ask, “what am I doing wrong?” and then strive to change your behavior. Rather ask, “what am I believing wrong?” and ask God to help you change your beliefs and increase your faith.

5) If your sin effects people, promptly ask them for forgiveness and do your best to clean things up and make things right. With people, confession and clean up are very important and often necessary.

6) Vehemently resist feeling condemned and applying false guilt and shame onto your life. Don’t live your life carrying an emotional burden Jesus already canceled. Forgive yourself from the forgiveness Jesus has already applied to your life, past, present, and future. To walk in guilt and shame is to deny the power of the cross and Jesus’ work in your life.

7) Focus on Jesus and His mercy, not your sin. Don’t be sin conscious, be Jesus conscious. Don’t give Satan the attention, give Jesus the glory. Thank Jesus and live from His mercy and favor, focused on His amazing grace.

8- Don’t start a spiritual battle with Satan that doesn’t exist. Rather, hold onto your identity, righteousness, and holiness in Christ. Religously praying “harder”, giving, serving, sacrificing, and going to church “more” will not bring you back into good standing nor keep you protected from the evil one. Resting in Him as you place your trust in His work and Grace is your spiritual armor.

9) Move on, focusing on Christ and your identity in Him. Have the mind of Christ who remembers your sin no more. The more you bring your sins with you into the future in your mind, the better chance you will repeat them in the future in your actions. It is for freedom Christ set you free.

What We Love About Christmas

Hate me forever, label me a heretic, or just defriend me, but I just don’t think Jesus is as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture. Behind some of the things we do that are deemed so off-message are in fact some deep, sacred longings placed in our hearts by God Himself. Seems like we are so far from what Christmas is about when in fact, we might be closer than we ever believed.

“God has set eternity in the hearts if men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Isn’t that what the lights, candles and glitzy decorations are all about? We long for a celestial, cozy, dreamy world where our senses are dazzled with snowy peace, bright purity, and the visually fantastic. Maybe we don’t flesh it out all perfectly and theologically, but deep down, we want what God has prepared for us… heaven; this world renewed and reconciled back to God. Heaven, the world of the fantastic, pure, celestial, and a dreamy eternity. We want a world where the baseline stories (many secular) of Christmas live; good wins over evil, our priorities are placed in the right order, families heal and last forever, life is everlasting, and things are restored to how they should be. That’s Rudolph, Santa, Frosty, the Grinch, Elf, and the list goes on and on. Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we first believed.

Or what about the packages, the ribbons, and the bows. Is it really all that bad? God did create us to be blessed, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and yes, materialistically. Sure, some of us rush ahead to take it for ourselves; that’s not good nor Godly. But, the sense and longing to have blessed lives where we were created to receive (from the Lord) with abundance is still under the surface, it’s their deep in our hearts. God put it there. It’s heaven isn’t it? Where everyone has what they need and are blessed by the Lord to beyond satisfaction, never hungry nor thirsty again. Our inheritance from the Lord, fully given by Him and fully received by us, with wealth beyond measure. And then, the giving. We have this deep sense that we are created to be blessed to be a blessing. We all want to give, to have something worth giving. Maybe we try to purchase this experience from malls, shopping centers, and online sprees, but we just want to love and be loved, God put that in our heart. That’s heaven isn’t? Where we love and are loved without restraint or limit. Where we have everything to receive and to give. That’s Christmas. That’s Jesus. That’s heaven.

Isn’t all of this what we love about Christmas. It’s magical like that.

We call it magical because that’s the best word we can find, it’s the closest word we can think of as we get a touch of the eternity God wrote in our hearts.

But, God knows the perfect and complete words. God calls it Jesus… Heaven… Christmas. Truth is, it’s better than magical… it’s all real, in heaven, in Him.

Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we believe? Maybe Jesus isn’t as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture.

Stuff Jesus Never Said

To many believers and non believers, Jesus is a powerful person. His words have often been quoted and interpreted by people of varying views. But as with any person, sometimes Jesus has words and assertions put into his mouth that He never said, or even suggested.  And truth be told, the largest culprit in all of this is often we Christians. Yet, no matter where you are in the conversation about Jesus, sometimes we come to Him with our own perspectives and hope we can find a way to make His words sing our song.

So, here is some stuff you may have heard said or suggested, that Jesus never said or suggested at all…

1) “I am a card carrying, camouflage wearing, conservative republican.”  

No, Jesus stands above and outside of any one political group. Though His message is very relevant to politics and all of life, He himself exists and stands by Himself, outside of any one political affiliation. And, take it from His brothers, Jesus isn’t a fan of being used for political gain or being pimped out as a political figure. (John 7:1-14)

2) “Danger Will Robinson, gay people are especially disgusting”

Though some in our culture do and would say Jesus does, the truth is Jesus never said nor suggested that homosexuality is any more dirty or disgusting than other sins. Where some churches and Christians take a hands-off, arms length approach to this issue and the people involved, Jesus is found drawing close to the people who the religious would just as soon condemn, discard or disregard.  Debate as you will the issue of homosexuality and sin. No matter your conclusion, Jesus never shows by example nor words any kind of assertion that homosexuality is a special class of sin, and homosexuals a special class of sinner.  If homosexuality is a sin in serious need of confronting, so is the flan-fed, fat back… Jack.

3) “The bigger and slicker the church and its pastor, the better”

Indeed, today we live in the age of the celebrity pastor and the franchise church. Some are healthy, some are not. We have been led to believe that when it comes to church and ministry, bigger and slicker is automatically better. In fact,  it would take some digging through the tons of mailings sent to churches every day to find me a ministry conference for pastors that doesn’t have church growth and pastor performance as top topics of emphasis. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about ministry effectiveness in reaching people far from God etc. etc. God’s church should be a growing movement where creative and freedom flourishes. But, bigger and slicker does not automatically equate to better. A church and a pastor can have a lot of sharp, impressive looking activity and avatars going on without accomplishing near their redemptive potential. The way we do ministry these days as Christian leaders, you would have thought that Jesus actually said, “Brand it, buff it, build it, box it, as big as your ego can bake it.”  Indeed, we have replaced “shepherd” with “franchise owner,” and “church” with spiritual “consumer club.”

4) “You should make sure people notice how devoted and super-duper in love with Me you are”  

I know what you are thinking, but what about when Jesus says things like, “Let your light shine…?” Jesus’ words about “letting your light shine” are not a reference to your love for Jesus, but the new person you are in Christ. In fact, Jesus says ” you are” the light of the world. It’s about Christ shining as you and in you, not you shining how much you love Jesus.

Take it from Peter, boasting of your love for Jesus places the emphasis and burden on you and your performance, and in the end, shows you up as the denying hypocrite. However, boasting of Jesus’ love of you, like John, puts the emphasis and burden on Jesus, and leaves you reclined with Him at the table, resting in His Grace. Boasting of your performance and passion for Him leads to denying His, boasting of His performance and passion for you, leads to receiving and resting with Him and in Him.

5) “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music”

The way some churches feel about modern instruments and styles of music, you would have thought Jesus would have said just that, “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music.” Holy sacred cows batman. The truth is, Jesus never said nor suggested anything close to that, and there is no such thing as a Christian “style” of music. What makes music “Christian” or “sacred” is the words, not the style. A style that is worshipful to some may not be worshipful to others, but it does not make it any less worshipful to God. Furthermore, the same traditional hymns and instruments deemed to be exclusively sacred by some  today, were in fact, highly controversial, contemporary, and even deemed “satanic” as little as 50-100 years ago.

6) “Your Bible is actually best used as a taser”

The way some Christians uses their Bibles, you would have thought Jesus had said, “Memorize it, mark it, and make it sting”

Jesus in fact said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:38). Jesus said this as a message to make sure we never place the Bible and our use of it over Him and understand the purpose of the Bible is to lead us and people to an encounter and experience Jesus and the life He brings, not to tase them with it! Religious people use the Word of God to condemn, corner, control, and complicate. Jesus wants us to use the Bible to give His life, healing, Truth, freedom and Grace. The goal is not memorization and highlighting, but receiving, experiencing, and giving His life.

7) “Drinking beer will just make you burn brighter in Hell”  

The very one who turned water into wine, and drank with sinners said that?  Nope.

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Matthew 11:18.

Yes, drinking can be dangerous. Getting drunk is an obvious no brainer.  And, in some instances and contexts, it can work against our ministry to people.

Yet, condemning those who drink responsibly as hell-bound sinners and second class Christians (and leaders) is both unfair and misguided. Furthermore, I would say in some contexts this attitude has done more to damage potential ministry to people than the puritanistic, religious approach to alcohol Jesus (and I) referenced above.

8) “The fast track to spiritual maturity is reading books by popular pastors”

We pastors and teachers are used by God in powerful ways to help people understand and experience God and His life. You would do well to learn from people who are wise in the ways of God.

Yet, what pastors teach and preach are often revelations from God they have experienced from their own study of the Word or other pastors/teachers who have studied the Word. Either way, somewhere along the way, someone has done the chewing on the Word so that there is something to teach/feed you.

As a Christian culture we have become fast-food spiritual consumers. There is a lot processed food out there. Book after book, conference after conference. Processed from some pastor or teacher who did the chewing, into your mouth.

This is perhaps a good start for the new believer or even a nice appetizer for the experienced Christian.

Everyone of my children started with processed, pureed foods that required little to no chewing.  Later however, they started to chew it for themselves; having to process it, taste it, chew it, and digest it for themselves, over and over.  To eat processed, pureed food now as emerging adults would leave them hungry, malnourished, and lacking the joy of real food.

This is what the Bible calls meditation. Meditating on the Word of God.  Tasting, chewing, processing it for yourself. A direct revelation from God to you, for you, through you.  Nothing wrong with listening and learning from pastors/teachers like me, but it never should take the place nor become more of your spiritual diet than you personally tasting, chewing, and processing the Word of God for yourself. What makes for a nice appetizer, won’t make for a good meal.

Stop relying on popular pastors for your spiritual diet and making them your main meal. You won’t grow through reading their books until you have made reading God’s book for yourself your primary way of encountering Jesus and His wisdom and revelation for your life.

Reading books by popular pastors isn’t a fast track to spiritual maturity. Besides, some (if not many) of them just present the Christian life (and the Gospel) as a bunch of new things you need to be doing more or better. To be sure, we live in the age of the performance-driven Christian, and there are tons of books to get you feeding on a diet of steps, strategies, and “to do” lists that will ultimately still leave you hungry.

Spiritual hunger for the Christian is a sign of immaturity, not maturity. Jesus actually said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

No, the fast track to spiritual maturity is to realize in Christ, as a new creation, you have already been made fully mature!  Now, believe it and go live what Jesus has already made you.

Spiritual maturity isn’t a process of performance-progress, but a process of believing more in who Jesus already made you into through His performance, not yours. It’s not about becoming a son (or daughter), it’s about living out your sonship that God has already given you and made you to become.

True Friendships

Relationships are the marrow of life, and friendships being a very important aspect.

Seems to me though, maybe we throw the term “friendship” around a bit too freely. Just about anything qualifies for the term, “friendship” these days.  The person who knows a person who knows a person that you know… boom, that’s a friend.  The person on Facebook who you can’t even remember how you were “friended” in the first place… there you have it, another friend. The term “friend” could mean just about anything today and describe a wide variety of levels of intimacy between people. Nothing necessarily good or bad about that, just our cultural reality.  We all want to be “friend” heavy.

Yet, though we may know a lot of people, call a lot of people friends, and love to increase our “follower” and “friend” totals on our social networks, I would venture to say we are a culture lacking in “true friendships.”

The truth is, especially in our culture today, that over a life time you may have only 1-5 true friendships. And after reading further, you may realize you only have one or two, if that. The irony is deep as like never before we have so many ways to connect with people, but yet we lack true friendships in our life.

This is not anything necessarily new I guess, Jesus (while on earth) only really had three (Peter, James, and John).  Yet, I would say we are less prepared as a culture to develop and maintain true friendships, not because of a lack of ways to connect, but rather because of a kind of aversion or maybe even inability to connect at the level of true friendships.

What are the hallmarks of a “true friendship?”  Here are 5 ways to know if you have one…

1) You don’t have to inspire nor solicit them to be interested or engaged in your life-  If you have to be the primary one to keep a true friendship going, you don’t have one. In a true friendship, you don’t have to work to keep them interested and interacting with you. They have their own energy to be consistently interested and involved in your life. It’s never a one way street. You don’t have to drag them along into having a genuine care, concern, and consistent investment in your life. It’s not a “we only talk when I am the one to call” deal. Both of you are holding up the relationship, not just one of you. If you feel a consistent imbalance in the shared energy towards the friendship, you don’t have a true friendship.

2) They are with YOU- If a person is merely “with” something about you, you don’t have a true friendship.

The foundation of a true friendship is to be “with” that person, for life. Most people with whom we are friends, though they may be “with” something about us (our vision, cause, opportunity, shared interest, work, children, neighbors, project, etc.) that is shared in common, they are not “with” us.  Given the removal or diminishing of what they are “with” about us (vision, cause, job, opportunity, or benefit we bring, etc.) they would likely not be truly be “with” us.

In a true friendship, there is a deep loyalty to be with YOU above all else. By your side (where possible), on your side, with you. This is true whether you are right, wrong, up, down, or somewhere in between. Whether circumstances, settings, locations, etc. remain the same or change.  It is an unconditional devotion to be with YOU.  All relationships have ups and down and times where things are going well and when they are perhaps not, but a true friendship always lands “with you.” Any moments of tension are few, and that, quickly remedied. Oh, and by the way, you can be by somebody’s side and on somebody’s side without agreeing with them. This is a special dynamic, nuance, and skill of true friendship.

3) They have your best interest at heart- Because they are “with you” they want what is best for you. They rejoice when you rejoice, and mourn when you mourn, not the opposite.  They want to see God’s work in you come to completion to the point they highly invest themselves into you that you might be blessed. Theirs is an investment of themselves into yourself. And if ever push comes to shove or a crossroads is met, they put your best interests even above their own. They have your back, your best interests, and will protect what God is doing in and through you at all costs. They are givers in the relationship, above and beyond being a taker. This is a cornerstone of true friendships.

4) They speak the truth in love- These are not people who are playing you, saying what you want to hear, or flattering you because of what you bring to their table or can give them down the road. These are people who speak truth into your life. When they do, they wrap it in love.  You can trust that what they are saying, however hard to hear, is coming from a pure place and a pure agenda. They show up for the relationship with openness and honesty, always chasing any darkness in the relationship out of the shadows and into the light.  They are willing to confront you when you are wrong, and willing to confess to you when they are. They don’t let things fester or go underground, bur rather value having a clear and clean atmosphere in the relationship. They don’t just tolerate you, they love you.

5) They believe in you- They are your greatest fans and encouragers. They assume the best, not the worst. And when you fail, their hope remains. They do not give up on you.  No, they may not believe in everything you do or don’t do, but they still believe in you. There is a loyalty to you that is unbreakable. They want to lift you up, not bring you down, cheer you forward, not gloat when you fall backwards. They believe in you. They see God’s divine hand upon your life and the Master at work.  They see you as God sees you, like only a true friend can and would. They love you, like you, and believe in you. They bring out the best in you, and call you away from the worst. They aren’t perfect, the relationship isn’t perfect, but they are a true friend.

That being said, a couple questions…

Who are you true friends?

To whom are you a true friend?

Reclaiming Prayer

Over time, if you put something in the hands of Christians, chances are we will make it more complicated than it needs to be, and turn it into a means to puff up our spiritual pride.

Such is often the case with prayer. What God intended to be a simple dynamic of our relationship to Him, we have often made into a complicated, formulated, legalistic religious ritual.

Prayer is simply talking and listening to God.  Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s not how you pray, as if God were into verbosity, postures, formality, formulas, or eloquence as a condition or key for prayer.

It’s not where you pray, is if God was a location snob, territorial, or contextually limited.

It’s not how long you pray, as if God were holding a stop watch, doing a word count, or was impressed by stamina, waiting for that “o.k, that’s enough” moment to respond. The false notion that “the more you pray, the more God responds” places the power of prayer on you and not God.

It’s not how hard you pray, as if you have to bend God’s ear, wrench His blessings, or prove you’re seriousness in order for Him to reply or to increase His willingness to reply favorably.

It’s not how loud you pray, as if God is hard of hearing.

It’s not  how good you are as a person, as if anyone’s righteousness before God comes from their own performance.

God already knows what you need long before you ask, He knows the desires of your heart, long before you express them.

So, why pray?

It’s simple, because God enjoys hearing from you, and you could benefit from hear from Him. Prayer alone is not what moves the heart and hands of God, faith is. Prayer coupled with faith is truly powerful, it releases God to work on your behalf. Faith is the key.

Stop trying to impress God (or others) with prayer. Stop using prayer as a way to appease some imagined condition you have imposed on God’s willingness to bless and move in your life. Your prayers do not make God any more or less willing to bless, prosper, and move on your behalf.  Stop using prayer as a spiritual thing-to-do to fulfill some kind of Christian duty, show you are serious about Jesus, gain the gleam of God’s eye, or stay in good standing with Him. Stop asking God to do what He has already done, and begging Him to do what He is already willing to do. All of that takes the power out of prayer and turns it into an empty religious act.

Rather, make you prayers full of thanksgiving, words (declarations) of faith, and honest requests. Then, listen.

Keep it simple, personal, and genuine.

It’s the heart and faith behind your prayers that matter, not your words, volume, length, posture, location, intensity, or depth.

 

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