Tag: forgiveness (Page 2 of 2)

Ten Lies Church Taught Me

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” Galatians 1:6-9

I love the church, and believe it is God’s manger for the Gospel of Jesus Christ to reach a broken world. Though not perfect, the Christian church is in many aspects truly beautiful.  Countless lives have been changed, transformed, and blessed by the Christian church.

Yet, the chances are strong that the modern Christian church of the last 50 years while having blessed you has also perhaps misled you. Did it intentionally lie and deceive you? Doubtful.  But, with good-hearted intentions, the church of today has often misunderstood the Gospel and given many a distorted view of the Christian life.  At least, that is my humble view.  The distinctions may be subtle, but their impact is profound on every person, including you.

As you read below, perhaps you will identify areas where you have been misled, or perhaps some of these will offend your beliefs.

In any case, I suspect these will give all of us much to consider…

1) God is angry with you.

For many of us, we have been given the impression that God may love us, but up to a point. There are limits to His love. With a wrong move His love can be diminished or withheld. He could become disappointed with you and turn His face as He keeps a close watch and record of your every move. We sing about God’s love, but secretly wonder if and when His anger will manifest. At some level or another, many people believe God is angry with them.

The truth is God loves you perfectly, completely, and unconditionally. It is not based on you or your performance, but on His nature, will, and affection for you. The simple fact that He created you, is reason enough for Him to shine His eternal love on you without restraint or reserve. God does not “kinda” love you, He completely loves you.

God is not angry with you, at all. Furthermore, the Christian life is not about communicating an angry God to people. It is not about gathering together around what we are against in the world and thumping people over the head with our religiosity.

People who feel condemned, condemn others. People who believe in an angry God, fearfully live their lives focused on what is wrong and what they are against in themselves, others, and the world.

2) Repentance means to change your ways.

Many have taught that to receive the forgiveness and favor of God, you need to stop doing bad and start doing good. They suggest that if you don’t “repent” (clean up your act) God won’t save you or give you His presence, blessing, or favor in your life.

The truth is the word “repentance” in the Bible (gk. metanoia) actually means “to change your mind.”

It has everything to do with your beliefs and nothing to do with your actions.

We receive the Gospel through faith (a changed mind) about Jesus and His love, not our performance. This is also true about our closeness with God as Christians. It is not our performance that releases God presence, favor, and blessings for our lives, but rather our faith. We are renewed in our minds, not through our behaviors.

3) You need to give your life to Jesus 

You have likely heard a call to people to “give their life to Jesus” as a means of receiving salvation, or rededication. Of course, this sounds good and is well intentioned. Yet, the truth is, before faith in Christ we don’t have a life to give Him. And after faith in Christ, the life we live is Christ living in, as, and through us.

We don’t give our live to Jesus, Jesus gives us His life. This is a huge distinction. It is not Jesus and me, it is Jesus as me.

Before faith in Christ, we are as good as dead. After faith in Christ, we are as good as Him.

We give nothing, Jesus gives us everything. Grace is attracted to our weaknesses, not our strengths.

4) The more you attend church, raise your hands in worship, memorize the Bible, pray long and hard, and serve, the more spiritual you are.

There is no mistaking the fact that we live in the age of the performance-driven Christian. We have equated actions, efforts, and accomplishments with spiritual maturity. To be sure, obedience and faithfulness are important, but they are not necessarily indicators of spiritual maturity. Furthermore, we have labeled certain behaviors as primary indicators of spiritual maturity over others. Church attendance, passionate expressions of worship and devotion, bible quoting, underlining and studies, praying, and serving in church have been highlighted as defining bench marks.

The truth is, what is seen on the outside is not always congruent to what is going on in the inside. Spiritual maturity is more about what you belief first, then how you act. And more importantly, from what foundation you act.

For many, the foundation behind their church attendance, serving, prayer, devotion, study, etc. is from a lack of spiritual maturity, not the presence of it. Out of a lack of faith and trust in the Gospel and the goodness of God, they are striving, trying, earning and performing their way into God’s favor, blessing, and forgiveness. They are trying to convince themselves of what they are not really convinced, that they can truly trust in Jesus’s performance above and beyond their own. What passes as spiritual maturity is often a result of the development of the religious spirit.

The truth is, spiritual maturity is first right believing, then right living. It’s first about the true Gospel of Grace believed, and then the Gospel of Grace lived. And here’s the kicker, you can’t have the second without the first, as much as many Christians strive and try. Spiritual maturity is a rest, not a test. It’s about trust, not trying and striving.

God is not impressed with our raised hands, attendance records, prayer sessions, studies, expressions of devotion, and feats of Christian service that come from any other foundation than resting, trusting, and believing in the Gospel of God’s grace, where God works through you and as you as you believe, trust, and rest in Him.

Peter boasted of His love for Jesus and ended up denying Him three times. Not good. John boasted of Jesus’ love for Him and ended up reclining with Him at the table. Now, which one was more spiritually mature? The one who boasted of His love for Jesus, or the one who rested and trusted Jesus’ love for him?

Spiritual maturity happens when His performance means much more to you (and Him) than your own.

5) God does His part, but you need to do your part.

The Gospel is this… God does His part, and your part is to realize you have no part, only to believe. Yet, what is often taught is… God does His part, but you need to do yours, whether it’s about your salvation or your sanctification. You just gotta love God more!

The truth is, you have no part other than to believe.

Not only can you not produce your salvation, you cannot produce spiritual fruit, you can only bear the fruit God produces in you. And that, only by faith.

Faith is what releases God to work in and through you, not effort. When we rest, God works. When we work, God rests. God does not need you, He wants you. He does not need your service to bless Him, He enables it to bless you and others. God is the author and perfector of your faith, not a partner.  As He is, so are we in this world. We co-labor with Christ as Christ in this world. It is not a condition for relationship, it is a manifestation of what He has done TO you and FOR you. What we owe Him, Christ paid.

We serve not from lack or debt, but from Grace and righteousness.

6) A believer is a sinner saved by Grace.

You have probably heard a Christian say to a non-believer, “the only difference between me and you is, I’m forgiven.” Though this is well intentioned I’m sure, it is completely false.  A believer is not merely a sinner saved by Grace.

The truth is, on the cross, Jesus didn’t just do something FOR you, He did something TO you that becomes actualized the moment you believe. A believer is no longer by nature a sinner. This is not the essence nor reality of their identity.

In the NT scriptures, Paul went through great lengths to convince and declare to us as Christians, through faith in the work of Jesus on the cross, our old sinful nature has been crucified, put to death once and for all. Now, we are the righteousness of Christ, partakers of the divine nature, no longer condemned, receiving every spiritual blessing not just as children of God, but sons, daughters, priests, and kings.

Believers are not sinners saved by Grace, but saints sustained by Grace.

If you believe by nature you are still a sinner, what will you do? Sin. If you believe by nature, you are the righteousness of Christ, what will you do? Live rightly.

Right believing leads to right living.

7) Obedience is the essence of the Christian life

It is true that in the Old Testament, under the Mosaic Law, obedience was the essence of a Godly life and the key to a relationship and fellowship with God. The performance of people is the essence of relationship with God under the Old Covenant.

But when Jesus said it was “finished” as He died on the cross and was resurrected, the Old Covenant was destroyed and the New Covenant of God’s Grace was established. We are no longer under the Law, but under Grace. If you don’t rightly divide the Word of God between these covenants, you miss God’s heart and the reality of Him and His presence here and now.

The obedience of performance that was once the essence of a relationship with God under the Law, was fulfilled and therefore rendered null and void through Jesus’ performance on the cross. There is no longer an obedience of performance, but only an obedience of faith. Jesus’ performance accomplished it all because ours could never measure up.

Obedience under the New Covenant has nothing to with our performance, but everything to do with our faith. This is the “obedience of faith” Paul spoke of in NT scripture.

Right believing leads to right living. Right thinking leads to right acting. Not the other way around.

The truth is, the essence of the Christian life is faith, not obedience. Believe rightly, and the rest will take care of itself.

Every sin in your life comes from wrong belief. Deal with the belief and the behavior will take care of itself.

Before the cross, God allowed us to attempt to perform our way to redemption and relationship with God to ultimately show that we can’t. At the cross, God gave His son to perform for our redemption and secure our relationship with God because only He can. Now, God calls us to faith in Him not performance from us, because the performance is finished, and only faith receives it and releases it in your life. There is no more performance, only God working through you as you believe and rest in Him.

8) Grace causes people to sin more

You hardly hear much of Grace in church today. If you do, it is often with a mixture of the Law (religious rules and conditions) mixed in. That’s why you hear spoken or unspoken messages like, “God loves you, but here’s what you need to do” or “God loves you, but here are some steps you need to take”

Why? Because like the Pharisees, we have become frightened, intimidated, and convicted by Grace. We fear if we teach, counsel, and preach the pure Grace of God through Christ as taught in scripture, people will spiral out of control and take a nose dive into an unrestrained life of sin.

The truth is the Bible teaches, it’s actually the Law (religious rules and conditions) that entices people to sin, not Grace. In fact, it specifically teaches that Grace is what teaches us to live rightly. It is God’s kindness that leads to repentance.

No one was ever made Holy through punishment. Yet, that is what we are often taught about God, sin, and Grace.

People who truly get a hold of Grace and the Grace message of the Gospel don’t sin more, they sin less. In fact, I would venture to go so far as to say that the modern church with its mixture of Law and Gospel has likely enticed and imprisoned more believers to a sinful life filled with shame and guilt than perhaps the world could ever do. Grace is the cure to sinfulness, not religious fear, intimidation, guilt, and shame.

A sin problem is an identity problem, only Grace through Jesus Christ shows us who we really are in Christ and heals our identities.

9) You need to ask God to forgive you.

Many people live their lives preoccupied with their sins. They are primarily sin conscious instead of being Jesus conscious.

No one should be surprised by that, that’s how church has taught them to be. They believe that they need to be on watch for sin in their life so as to make sure they confess it so God can forgive it.  The one sin they miss confessing, could be the very one that messes up everything between them and God. Or, it could be the one straw that broke the back of God’s patience.

The truth is, God has already forgiven every sin in your life, past, present, and future. Without you even asking. When Jesus said it was finished, he meant it. God’s Grace is sufficient for you. Forgiveness is something God already accomplished on your behalf as He who knew no sin, became sin, that we might become the righteousness of Christ. Faith is what receives forgiveness, not confession.

Stop asking God to do something He already has accomplished. Rather, trust in His work on the cross and focus on Him, not your sin. As you do, the enticement of sin will depart, and your sense of identity in Christ will flourish and release you.

10) The job of the Holy Spirit is to convict you.

We have been taught in church to primarily see the Holy Spirit as a kind of policeman in your life. He’s there to make sure you stay on the straight and narrow, giving you a prod of conviction when you aren’t.  Yes, we have been taught the Holy Spirit will comfort you in times of trouble, but also give you a good jab in the ribs when you cause trouble. Just hope that you don’t need His comfort when you are causing trouble, you may just get a hit instead of a hug.

To be sure, the job of the Holy Spirit in the non-believer’s life is to convict them of their unbelief in Jesus, but that is not the job of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. His role as “convictor” doesn’t carry over into the Christian’s life. To do so would merely be to convict Himself, as Paul in the NT said “it is not I who lives, but Christ who lives in me.”

Rather, the job of the Holy Spirit in the believers life is not to condemn, convict or any of the alike, but rather to convince them of their righteousness in Christ.

The deepest issue in the Christian’s life is not if they are convicted of any sin in their life, but if they are convinced of their righteousness in Christ. A Christian convinced of their righteousness in Christ is a Christian who is an overcomer of sin in their life. Right believing leads to right living.

What would you add or subtract from this list?

Reverse God Paranoia

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.

 

5 Essentials to Healthy Relationships

Relationships can be complicated, and figuring out how to have healthy ones can be a difficult puzzle to put together.  Obviously there are tons of books written on relationships, but here are 5 essential principals to having healthy, fulfilling relationships.

Become Complete in Christ– Here’s a game changing truth… no one can complete you other than Christ.  The moment we look to relationships to complete us is the moment we are placing an expectation on another that they were not created to nor do they have the capacity to fulfill. Danger Will Robinson, DANGER! Unfortunately, we often approach and carry ourselves in relationships expecting other people to convince us of what we cannot convince ourselves… that we are valuable, important, and worthwhile.  In short, we look to them to complete us and validate our worth.

By being complete in Christ, we are not talking about being perfect, but being assured and convinced of your true identity in Christ. This is a healing to your soul that no other person can accomplish for you. Only God can make you into a new person, and faith is what enables you to believe it. No person can replace nor substitute for the voice from God that must be received by faith that declares who you truly are in Him. Without this identity in Christ and believing it to be true, you will likely turn to human relationships to prop you up and convince you of what you are not convinced. You will operate out of insecurity, uncertainty, and selfishness.

No one can make you happy, complete you, or heal you. They can only share in a happiness you already have, compliment your strengths and weaknesses, and grow with you (not for you or because of you).  Two incomplete people do not make for a complete relationship.

Find your Worth and Value in Jesus

In marriage, a man and woman become one flesh. They are joined at the deepest point of their identities, their souls. Yet their worth and value are not conditioned on the other person. They are two, separately complete persons joined into a complete relationship.

Often times we look to other people to show us how we should feel about ourselves. If they love us, we love us. If they are happy with us, we are happy with us. This is why some people have a hard time being without certain kinds of relationships. They need someone to love them so they can love themselves; to feel good about them, so they can feel good about themselves.  Furthermore, they will do all kinds of unhealthy things in order to get or keep that person in their lives and happy with them. Indeed they have connected the tubes of their identity to the supply of another person. This, as you might guess, is a recipe for relational unhealth.

Relationships work when we are giving to give, not to ultimately receive. We are blessed by what others give us, but when we turn to people for our worth and value, we are trying to satisfy deep needs with things only God can satisfy.

Jesus is more than happy to show you your tremendous and eternal value and worth. He loves you like no other in a way that no other can. Look to Him as your supply, not others, then you will be capable of true love and loving relationships.

Communicate with Openness and Honesty

Nothing sabotages healthy relationships like a lack of openness and honesty. You can’t expect from another what you aren’t willing to express to another.

As a pastor of 18 years, I have counseled hundreds of people in various kinds of relationships. Hands down, when a marriage or friendship is in trouble, 95% of the time in can be traced back to a time when one or both of the persons in the relationship were not being completely open and honest. Things that needed to be said, weren’t said. Boundaries that needed to be asserted, were not asserted. Expectations and disappointments that needed to be communicated, were not communicated. Instead, things were watered down, swept under the carpet, and shoved into the shadows with the false hope… it’s no big deal, things will get better in time, it’s not worth a confrontation, time will heal things.

What’s the result? Bitterness and resentment enter in. Wedges and distance begins to develop. Passive aggressiveness and revenge are given a cause.  And ultimately, the relationship erodes.

Trust God’s Timing

Relationships can’t be rushed. If all you want are disposable, hot and cold, shallow relationships, than by all means, rush ahead. Microwave the heck out of that relationship.  But the truth is, the things that build a healthy relationship can’t be rushed.

I am amazed how the same people who can’t seem to keep their pants on and wait, are the same people who cry foul when the relationship plummets to the ground.  If you are going to build your relationship out of a house of cards, don’t be surprised when even the slightest wind sends it falling to the ground.

Relax. Rest in Jesus. Trust God’s timing, don’t rush to find friendships and relationships just because you look around and compare your life to other people. God knows what’s best for you and when it’s best for you. Stop trying to get people into your life and to be interested in your life.

Remember this, when it comes to relationships, if you rush ahead and try to take it for yourself, don’t be surprised when it slips through your finger. But if you wait and let God give it to you, you can have it forever.

Own Your Blindspots

When it comes to relationships, we are all damaged goods in the sense that we have all been hurt in relationships. It’s hard not to let those memories influence our attitudes and actions within relationships.

The worst thing you can do is try to hide and deny your blindspots. This will surely lead to unhealthy relational behaviors and patterns.

Blindspots are simply areas where we don’t see things clearly or even at all because of past experiences. For example, maybe you have a hard time trusting because you were betrayed, or maybe you feel overly insecure because of some physical abuse that happened in your past.  These kind of spots within your history become blind to us when we aren’t willing to be honest with ourselves about their existence and/or impact on our lives. If you have healed from these experiences, praise God. As a part of your story, you are going to want to be aware of how God has and is using that experience in your life.

We all have areas where you need to grow, don’t live in denial. God’s grace is sufficient for you.  He is not attracted to your strengths, but to your weaknesses. Where you are weak, God is strong. Believe in His favor over you! Trust Him with the dark places of your life, allow Him and trust Him to heal and grow you. Let Him take the wheel of your healing and wholeness. Don’t try to become better, let Him make you brand new!  God wants you to rest in His Grace, and receive His favor. It’s not about your performance, its about His performance on the cross for your behalf!

Being aware of these blindspot areas is critical to partnering with God to having these areas becoming a blessing in your relationships and not a curse. Allow God to love, heal, and forgive you.  Out of that love, grace, and favor, you can truly give to another!

Is Your Christian Life, Evil?

Most of us who are people of faith would probably never think nor consider the idea that our Christian lives could in fact become, “evil.” Most of us try to live in such a way that moves past the temptations of darkness and its work in this world.

Yet, when we look at how God defines evil, we may discover the sobering reality that the very thing we purpose to avoid is the very thing our Christian life has in fact become… evil.

The word used for “evil” in the New Testament is poneros. Every time the word “evil” appears in the New Testament, “poneros” is used. When we think of evil or people who are evil, our minds gravitate to dark visions of things that are bad or carnal. Yet, the idea that “evil” is simply an immoral, malicious, or devilish type reality is highly misleading, and quite frankly, a spiritual copout.  

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we see a reference to a person having an “evil heart…”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. -Hebrews 3:12

What does a person with an evil heart look like? What are the hallmarks of their living?

The answer could very well send you into a tailspin of shock.

The word “poneros,” actually means… full of labors.

Being “full of labors” is the idea of living to make things happen out of self-effort, a kind of internal striving to produce something good or worthy out of your life. It’s the performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for a better future or the procurement of success. It’s the busy-with-things-to-do-and-become mindset. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way. Self-promotion, self-improvement, self-actualization. “Seven steps to success,” “Become all you can be,” “Take your life to the next level.” It’s the Christian with their spiritual to-do lists of tasks, rules, and rituals used to feel like peace with God and affirmation of self is theirs for the taking. It’s the foundation of the religious spirit that is so prevalent in many a Church and Christian in our western culture today. Call it what you will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “changing the world,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “vision,” “discipleship,” “spiritual maturity,” “leadership,” or “obedience.” When it’s done out of spirit of labor, God calls it… “evil.”

Oh snap.

In the opening lines of the book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day of His creative work. Better yet, He set that day apart as being Holy. Why? Because God associates holiness with resting.

By resting, I’m not talking about doing nothing or having zero responsibilities, rather about living from an internal foundation of trust and faith that believes God’s finished work on the cross is enough for every aspect of your life. Your value, your worth, your merit, your entire essence. It’s a posture, a state of emotional and spiritual centering that relies on God’s work, favor, and provision completely above our own. It’s the realization that our part is to realize we really have no part, only to believe. His performance defines us, not ours.

Simply put, to believe is to rest. To labor… is evil.

In fact, the only labor that fits in the Christian life is to work hard at… resting…

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. –Hebrews 4:11

Sadly, we have become a people full of labors. We say we believe, yet we worry. We say we trust, yet we strive and push to move things forward in our life. Leveraging relationships here, working angles there. We talk about forgiveness and being forgiven, yet we live in fear, guilt and shame. Racing to do more good than bad and somehow right our wrongs. We speak of Grace, yet we mix it with rules, regulations, rituals, conditions, and obligations. We proclaim the work of God in the past and present, but we rely on our efforts for the future, nonetheless.

We are full of labors, not rest. Goals not gratitudes. Striving and trying, not trusting. Performing, achieving, pushing, promoting, and stressing, not believing.

Consider Job in the Bible.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” -Job 3:25-26

Fear is built out of unrest. And where there is unrest, turmoil is just around the corner. Where did this stressful existence of turmoil come from, for Job?

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. -Job 1:5

Are you kidding me? Do you see it? Job is laboring day in and day out, doing something spiritual in hopes of protecting his children from an imagined reality with God that he fears. Let’s all try to get our heads around this. It was a spiritual pursuit that began his downward spiral into a state of turmoil and further unrest. He feared for his children, but instead of believing and trusting, he decided to labor his way through it as an attempt to take control of the situation and make things right.

Oh snap.

Ironically, as Christians, it is often spiritual looking things that we are doing that bring us into a further state of unrest, stress, and ultimate disbelief. Why? Because we are not living from a foundation of faith, but of fear, selfishness, and insecurity. Our spiritual song-and-dance maybe be fooling everyone else and even ourselves, but God is not fooled.

It’s evil.

Just look around at how many over scheduled, burnt-out, stressed, worrying, performance-driven, self-righteous, self-promoting, guilt-ridden, judgmental, religiously-spirited Christians there are. And this is what we hold up as the model, the goal, the essence of our faith walk.

For Job, something so spiritual looking was actually so ladened with evil. And dare I say, this is what is happening throughout American Christianity today. Our Christian lives have become, evil.

The holiest, most spiritual thing you can ever do is to rest in faith.

Your greatest responsibility is to rest in faith, believing the work of God in and through your life has already been accomplished on the cross. You are already a success. You are already whole. You are already faithful. You are are already complete. You, were one and done on the cross.

As you believe, and only as you believe, watch it all flow from you. Like rivers, quenching a dry land.

When we we rest, and only when we rest, the true work of God gets released through us.

This, is the way of Jesus.

To believe is to rest, to labor… is evil.

When You are Burned

I recently heard a conversation where a person was speaking about their fear in trusting a new friendship because of having been burned in a past friendship.  This is a conversation that most of us can certainly understand and may have even had ourselves.

People have burned us, and we have likely burned some people ourselves, at the least, without knowing or intending to do so.

So, what do you do when you get burned? Everyone get’s burned, but not everyone handles it well.

Here are some tips…

1) Focus on Managing Yourself and Who You Become

When people burn us our emotions are injected with adrenaline and we usually have an impulse to react in some fashion or another. The greatest temptation that comes from being burned is to loose your sense of identity as a complete, whole, loved, and valuable person. Being burned has a way of surfacing our insecurities and fears hoping that we will conclude, “Something is wrong or lacking with me.” That’s why the most important thing when you are burned isn’t in what you do, it’s in managing who you are and who you become.  It is out of your sense of self that every other emotion and action flows.

The most important thing when in the midst of a relational conflict is in how you manage yourself… emotions, identity, and actions. Who we are in the face of being burned will determine who you become and maybe even what becomes of the situation.  Spend less time thinking about how to react, what to say, and what to do next, and much more time on centering yourself on your faith in who you are in Christ, your righteousness, wholeness, and position in Him.  If you will focus on your faith in who you are in Christ, your emotions and actions will take care of themselves.

Like the burning bush in the story of Moses, in Christ, we can become people who, though burned by others and circumstances, we are not consumed by others or circumstances.  Managing who you are in the midst of being burned will ensure that no person or thing can steal your joy, peace, identity, and integrity. No person or thing is worth that.

Learn what you need to learn about mistakes that you may or may not have made, but don’t base your identity on them or your worthiness of having peace and joy in your life.

2) Move On, not Backward

When people burn us, the situation will likely need to be addressed in some fashion or another.  Keeping your peace, joy, identity, and integrity will ensure you handle things well. Yet, at some point, there will be a time to move forward.  Bitterness, anger, jealousy, frustration, and alike will need to reach their expiration date.

When people burn us, the second temptation (loosing you sense of self being the first) is to lose your willingness to trust in people and/or a better future. Forgiveness does not mean restoration, so automatically re-trusting the person or circumstance that burned you is not something God is pushing you to do. In fact, that could be a significant move backwards, not forwards. Yet, creating huge barriers around your heart and life that no person or circumstance can penetrate is not moving forward either.

Perhaps what is needed to avoid being burned again is to move slower, listen more to your discernment, set better boundaries, or not let your insecurities get the best of you and cause you to rush into things too soon.  Perhaps you would benefit from some Christian counseling to help you navigate things better in the future and identify current blindspots and patterns.  Not learning from whatever happened would be a huge step backwards. Yet, not having hope in the future and a desire to position yourself to trust and believe again is not moving forward either.

Don’t let people or circumstances steal your desire to love and live.  God has promises over your life that you need to live out. Be who you are and live the life you are meant to live. Never let being burned by others consume your passion and potential. Shake off your shoes, learn, and move forward.

God isn’t going to use the people who burned you in the past to water your future. If they aren’t with you, then certainly don’t try to drag them along and keep them in your life. Emotionally release them from your being and move forward.

3) Find Relational Rest 

Faith is the foundation of relationships. And by faith, I mean your faith in Christ and His work in your life. Believing in who you are in Christ is the key to relational rest.  When you have relational rest, you aren’t running around trying to attract people and opportunities into your life.  Rather, you are trusting God and resting assured that the people and opportunities that need to be in your life, God will bring into your life. You don’t need a person or opportunity to prop you up or complete you, you are already complete and standing tall in who you are in Christ.  You see yourself as one who reigns in life, not one who requires relationships to feed and sustain them.

Relational rest allows you to be who you are in Christ without fear.  Insecurities are pushed aside and Christ-security is moved center stage.  You can truly love without losing yourself and sucking the life out of others. Love becomes much more about giving to another and much less about getting something for you. When people or circumstances burn you, God’s grace for your life, His identity in you, and the promises He has over your life quickly dampen the hurt, frustration, bitterness, and injury. Indeed, you can truly rest in your relationships knowing who you are, who God is, and His promise over your life are firmly and eternally established.  You may get a bit stirred, but you are never shaken.

The more you place your faith in who you are in Christ, His Grace, and promise over your life, people and opportunity will come running to you.  You attract in others and in life what you believe about yourself.  People will be attracted to the Christ in you when you believe in the Christ in you. They will come looking for grace, when you believe in His Grace.  Believe in the best of Christ in you to attract the best of others to you.

It’s hard to rest when you have been sunburned, it’s harder to relationally rest when you have been people burned. Turn to Christ, and who you are in Him and you will find rest. Trust me, it works. Better yet, trust Him and His work in you!

Excuse Me, I Tooted

We adopted our daughter Madelyn from China 7 months ago. She is four years old.  Among other things, we are teaching her how to be polite, saying things like, “thank you,” “please,” and “you’re welcome.”  Like all human beings, Madelyn “toots.”  It’s a gaseous expression that crosses all international lines. No, China toots (we humorously call “Choots”) don’t smell any better or worse than American ones. When she toots, we have taught her to simply say, “excuse me.”

What has been interesting is to notice that Madelyn thinks she needs to say “excuse me” for all her toots, even the ones that make no sound nor give a smell. So, every so often, at random, we will hear Madelyn say “excuse me” for no apparent reason.  Though we are helping her to better know the ins and outs of when to say “excuse me,” she is so genuine and desires to be faithful to the point that she won’t even let a silent, non-odorous toot go by without the response, “excuse me.”  No one would know that anything ever happened except for the moment she says, “excuse me.”

In 1 John 1:9, we read “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

For most people, they interpret this passage to be directed towards believers.  Therefore, they believe a Christian needs to still confess their sins so that they can be restored to a state and position of righteousness with God.  In their mind, if you don’t confess, you could be in a mess.

Yet, I don’t believe this passage is directed towards believers, but rather to the Gnostic unbelievers the entire book addresses. On the cross, all our sins past, present, and future are put to death, and the moment you receive what Jesus did on the cross for your behalf, that forgiveness and righteousness become yours, always. Asking God to forgive you (as a Christian) is like asking Him to do something He has already done. For the Christian, God desires our belief and trust in His work on the cross for our lives, not on our ability to beg Him to forgive us every time we hiccup. Forgiveness has already taken place, it becomes applied to our lives the moment we believe. You don’t ask for what you believe you already have.  God wants our trust, not our confession tablets.

Does our continued sin grieve the Holy Spirit? Yes. Remove our righteousness, add unforgiven sin to our record, or distance us from God? No. There is a big difference between agreeing with God that we have sinned and confessing it. In fact, the job of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life isn’t to convict us of our sin, but rather to convince us of our righteousness in Christ.

But if you do believe 1 John 1:9 is for believers, then believe it all the way!  Like Madelyn’s understanding of saying “excuse me” every time she toots, every time you make a mistake, have an impure thought, or feel anything bad towards another, you had better be confessing it.  When you are in the mall and you lust at an attractive person, better get confessing. When you are driving and someone cuts you off, better get confessing. When you have a feeling of hatred towards a person, better get confessing. When you are coveting another person’s stuff, better get confessing. When you are playing a sport and you want revenge, better get confessing. When you wish something negative towards your boss, better get confessing. Every secret thought, word, or deed.

If you think about it, there won’t be many moments you have with nothing to confess.  But, if you are going to believe and teach 1 John 1:9 is for the Christian, you need to believe it all the way. Don’t lack authenticity, don’t fall short of integrity, make sure you are doing exactly what it says, because if you don’t, according to your own belief, righteousness will always allude you. And you never know, that one sin you forgot or forget to confess might be the one of which God says at your interview for heaven, “Excuse me, you missed one… hate it for ya”

The Gap

We all want things to be better in our lives, no one says, “Wow, I wish things could be worse.”  We all want to be healthier, more fulfilled, happier, more successful, more loved, more loving, and experience increasing significance. We want to look in the mirror and be completely satisfied with who we are as a person on how our life is being lived. Nothing wrong with that, for sure.

Yet, if you are like most people, there are areas where you are dissatisfied. The person you want to be isn’t who you are. The way you act, live, and interact with others leaves you painfully aware of the gap between what you hoped for and what reality is.  Everyone senses these gaps on a daily (even moment to moment) basis, though they may not be able to put their finger on what they are feeling. Like the gap between the teeth of that cute girl you fell in love with in 1st grade, there are gaps in our lives between what we expect out of ourselves and what we end up being and doing.

Underneath the gap that we see between who we are and who we want to be, is a deeper gap. It’s the gap between God and ourselves.  We sense we were created by God, to live eternally, with God, forever.  That’s why seek God, that’s why we desire to overcome death, that’s why we imagine paradise-like existences.  It’s the stuff of poets, philosophers, and alike.  All sensing the gap, trying to bridge it, and imagining what life is like without it.

At every level, spiritual, emotional, and physical, there are gaps.  The question isn’t, “are their gaps in my life?” the question is, “what are you doing with them?”

To the the question, “what are you doing with them?” most people respond with one of four answers… religion, church, self-help, or life-enhancement.  The problem with each one of these is, they don’t work.  “Religion” just makes you more aware of the gap as you can’t seem to bridge it no matter what spiritual gymnastics you do, “church” futilely focuses on keeping you from acting on the gap with a bunch of rules to follow that you end up breaking, “self-help”  tries to convince you that the solution to the gap is within you when it’s not, and “life-enhancement” simply tries to put lipstick on the gap, hoping you won’t notice it anymore. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it.

Admittedly, I have first hand experience with all four attempts to overcome the gaps in my life. In college, I dabbled in “religion” in the form of new-age trends. I have read all kinds of “self-help” books and psychological theories and applied their principals. I have even tried “life-enhancement” through pursuing success and behavior modification tactics available in both religion, church, and self-help arenas. And to be sure, as a pastor of 17 years, I have tried “church” as a way to fix the gap through focusing on overcoming it by following Christian “rules.” So, I can tell you through first hand experience, none if works. None of them made me a better person, neither in my being nor in my doing. No gaps were closed nor diminished. In fact, a lot of it made me frustrated, disillusioned, and exhausted.

There are a lot of genuine people (maybe even you) who are simply looking for solutions who feel the same way… frustrated, failing, and fatigued.  Yet, we wonder what to do. If we can’t find a real-deal-solution through going to church, applying some self-help technique, pursuing life-enhancement, or signing up for some kind of religion, what are we to do?  Especially since many Christians churches are actually contributing to the problem because they aren’t presenting the true Gospel. I must admit, at times, the way I have presented Jesus and His Gospel has contributed to the problem. As a pastor, I was like many Christian churches when it comes to the Gospel, so close yet so far away.

So here’s what has finally and truly changed my life and satisfied my soul. Here is what I want to tell you, and the message God has em-blazed upon my heart and as is using Amy and I to build a church around…

God loves you, as is-  He is not waiting for you to clean up, shut up, or grow up. He loves you with an everlasting love. God’s love of you is perfect. In fact, God is love. He can do nothing but love you. And you simply being created by God is reason enough for Him to make you the object of His love. It has nothing to do with what you have or have not done or will do.

In a real sense, it would be illegal for God not to love you, He would be a house divided against Himself because He is love. Don’t worry about coming to Him, you can’t. That’s why, through Jesus, He comes personally to you. Throw out the image you have of God who is simply waiting for that moment of failure in your life to push you under His thumb and make you pay. His deepest desire is to love you, give His life to you, and be with you forever. He believes your best days are ahead, and that nothing in your past needs to keep you from having His future.  God is on your side, always has been, always will be.

God loves you, it’s that pure and simple.

Because God loves you so much…

Jesus came to give you a completely new identity-  

This is critical to understand because your identity is the combination of who you are and who you believe yourself to be. It’s about 1) who you actually are, and then 2) your perspective of you are. Both are critical.

That’s why giving you a new identity involves first making you into a completely new person with a new nature, new standing, new future, and a new purpose, through your faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Jesus gives new life by first giving us a new identity. There isn’t much of a new life without  a new identity. Becoming a new person doesn’t do much if you don’t know you are a new person. To give us a new identity, He must make us into a completely new person, through and through.

Without becoming a new person, we are as good as dead. As is, everything about is has an expiration date… our hopes, dreams, love, abilities, and admirable qualities. Everything. As good as we seem to be, because of sin, we are as dead as can be.  Look around, everybody dies. And the truth of the matter as, we can never measure up spiritually, emotionally, and physically as we are. We don’t just live in a broken world tainted with sin, we are a broken world, tainted with sin. Everyone, everywhere, everything.

The good news is, Jesus offers us a completely new identity by killing our old self, and giving us a completely new self. This is the essence of what Jesus accomplishes for us on the cross. He didn’t come to enhance our life, He came to crucify it and then resurrect it. It’s not about renovating your life, it’s about resurrecting it by killing it (spiritually) and then rebirthing it (spiritually). If your old self doesn’t die, your new self can’t live. We don’t give our life to Jesus (as well meaning as that sounds), Jesus gives His life to us. Our former life is of no good to Jesus, we have nothing to give Him. Additionally, our life is no good without Jesus, through His lavish Grace, He has everything to give us.  And by “everything,” I mean everything. Only His Grace can bridge our gaps!

That’s the heart of the pure Grace and Gospel of Jesus Christ. We give Him nothing (cause we can’t), He gives us everything (cause only He can). This exchange happens through one action, our “faith.”

The new identity and life God offers you through Jesus (received though faith) makes you into a completely new person with a new way of seeing yourself. Did you take that in? A completely new person! Your sins past, present, and future are forever forgiven. You become the righteousness of Christ, having no longer any form of condemnation from God in your life whatsoever. Don’t read that too quickly, let it penetrate your heart… “no condemnation”. You are completely made whole, lacking nothing. Every gap is filled. You are free from guilt and shame, and are given the mind of Christ. You are no longer under the law (rules), but under Grace. You don’t have to perform to get to God or even keep Him close. You don’t have to be a better person, you get to be a better person. Your performance no longer shapes your identity, your identity shapes your performance. God’s Spirit lives in you, not to convict you, but primarily to convince you of your righteousness in Christ, the very thing Satan wants you to discount!  Though you will still sin (because of our flesh), it is no longer your nature to sin (or worry, fear, doubt etc.). Sin no longer defines who you are, Jesus does; His life, living in and through you. You are perfectly loved by God and completely pleasing to Him. It is no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you. You lack nothing, you have all the fruits of the Spirit in seed form, and the Holy Spirit will help you to will and act according to God’s pleasure in your life. It’s all Jesus, not you! If it were you, it wouldn’t work.

Jesus doesn’t just want to give you a new life, He wants you to believe you have it! He wants it to become your identity. 

See, if you don’t believe it, you first won’t receive it. And if you receive it, but don’t continue to or truly believe it, you won’t be blessed by it. Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God. It’s how what God has becomes what you have. That’s why so many people aren’t Christians, and why so many Christians are living defeated, discouraged, divided, and desperate lives. They don’t prevail, they fail. As 2 Peter 1:9 says, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins”  Right belief leads to right living. If you miss the Grace of God and who you have become in Christ, you will miss the blessings of it. That’s why the complete Gospel of God’s grace is so critical! You will never know your true identity until you see it and believe it’s true about you!

That’s why…

As you believe it, you will live it.  The goal of the Christian life isn’t your obedience, it’s faith in Jesus’ provision. Sadly, for many Christians obedience is the root, and faith is the fruit. Yet, the opposite it true. Faith is the root, obedience is the fruit.  A new identity equals a new way of living, not the other way around. The more you believe in who you are by the Grace of God in Christ, the more you will live it.

Satan always tempts us to do the wrong things by first tempting us to believe the wrongs thing about who we are and what we have (or can have) in Christ.  Notice that with Jesus, immediately after His baptism, Satan first tempted Jesus to doubt His identity as the “beloved son of God with who God was well pleased” which God had just declared over Him mere hours before Satan tempted Him to turn the stones to bread. In fact, Satan strategically and conveniently removed any mention that Jesus is beloved by God and well pleasing to the Father. Instead, he simply asks, “If you are the son of God…turn these stones…” in a futile attempt to get Jesus to believe the wrong things about who He is and what He has in the Father so that He would do the wrong things.

Satan is still vigorously trying to do the same with us, subtly trying to remove from our sense of identity that true believers are sons of God, beloved by God, and completely pleasing to Him. If we believe the wrong things about our identity, we will do the wrong things in life. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. A gap problem is always a Grace problem.

Let me remind you again, for a true believer in Jesus, there is no condemnation over their life, none. You have become, through Jesus’ shed blood, the righteousness of Christ, and that is not merely a positional reality, but a complete reality. You are without blemish, all your sins (past, present, and future) have been put away (killed) through the cross, they are no more in the eyes of God. You have been made a new creation, the old is completely gone. You don’t have two natures, you have one. The old Adam is gone. (ref. Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20) Christ lives in you, you have His mind. It is no longer your nature to sin, fear, worry, be depressed etc. It is no longer our nature to sin (though we do), and when we sin, it no longer defines us or separates us. You don’t live from you, trying to be a better person bridging the gaps, that will never work!  You live from Jesus, through faith in His work in you, and become a better a person. In Christ, you aren’t just a better you, you are a completely new you. 100% Jesus, 100% you. You lack nothing, absolutely nothing. I think you need to hear that again, “you lack nothing!”

This is the right belief of your identity, it’s all focused on Jesus and His Grace, not on your performance. Which, ironically enables you to perform with increasing faithfulness. As I stated earlier, right identity leads to right living. People who believe in the true Gospel of the Grace of God through Jesus don’t sin more, they sin much less. The gaps in their life don’t expand, they close. Their freedom becomes a catalyst for faithfulness because their heart overflows with thanksgiving for what Jesus has done as they walk in a completely new sense of self and life without guilt, shame, and sense of condemnation. It truly is amazing Grace.

“For if by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” Romans 5:17

An abundance of Grace is what leads to prevailing (living much better) in life, not an abundance of guilt, shame, and rules. Believe in the abundant Grace of God for your life and see the results! Watch the gaps close. Remind yourself every moment, “I am already forgiven, I am the righteousness of Christ, there is no condemnation, it is no longer my nature to sin, I am better than that, I lack nothing, greater is He that is in me than is in the World, I am fully pleasing to the Father, I am perfectly and completely loved, I am a son of God (Galatians 3:26)” and see how your life and living improve.

God gave me a great analogy that I hope will bless you… Trying to live like Christ and bridge the gaps in our life  from our own efforts is like trying to sing like Celine Dion. You can hear her voice in your head, but you never can match it with your own. But if Celion Dion could somehow live in you, you could sing just like her as you allow her voice to become your voice. Her identity becomes your identity. In the same way, Jesus lives (or can live) in you (through faith), and when we live from Jesus in us and the identity we have because of Him, we will more and more act just like Him.

Living a gap-closing life is about our actions catching up with our true identity, not our identity being caught up in our actions. You cannot become a better person until you become a new person and believe it. Only Jesus can make you new. If you are in Christ through faith, you are a completely new person. You are a much better person, and when you believe that, you will act more and more like the person you are in Christ… much better!

In Christ, you have no gaps, now believe it, receive it, and live it! The more you have faith in the Grace of God, the more God’s blessing flow to you.  When you rest in God’s Grace, He goes to work on your behalf. When you go to work on your behalf, God’s grace rests. Happiness, success, joy, peace, loving and being loved, health, and even wealth are stored in God’s grace, not your own your efforts.

Believe it, receive it, live it!

Cleaning out the Relationship Closet

Are you a Relationship Hoarder or a careless Relationship Disposer?

So, have you heard of hoarding? It’s a term used to refer to people who have a hard time letting go of stuff while collecting more and more things or specific items. Instead of purposefully keeping some things and removing others, they keep everything. There are a variety of possible reasons including… they are afraid to be without it, they have a compulsive streak, or they have attached their identity or some emotionally pleasure to the possession of it. For whatever reason, they have serious difficulty discarding things that are actually working against the health and wholeness of their life. Some of the things they have are of great value, but they wouldn’t be able to distinguish it because of their obsession with everything else.

On the other side of the coin, there are those who soon after they acquire something, they are quick to despose of it and reengage on their quest to get something else. To them everything, even things of significant worth, are disposable. Once they have a new toy (so to speak) they quickly get bored with it and search for another.  Traveling from store to store, hobby to hobby, venture to venture, they pursue the next purchase fix while never prizing, maximizing, and nurturing what they already have.

Interestingly enough, we can have the same kind of extremes when it comes to our relationships.

For some, we hoard our relationships as we hold onto ones that work against the wholeness God desires to bring into our lives. We are actually afraid to be without some relationships in our lives either because of insecurity, we have a perfectionist streak in us (that concludes everyone should like us), or we have tied our identities to a certain person(s) or relationship(s), probably out of codependency and therefore depend on them for our sense of self to unhealthy levels. For whatever reason, relationships that we should have discarded or redefined long ago we keep as is.

For others of us, our relationships have become carelessly disposable. When the person no longer serves our purposes, meets our needs, or benefits us in some way, we are quick to move onto the next. Perhaps it’s out selfishness, inconvenience, or a fear of intimacy, but for whatever reason, true closeness with people eludes us and we never truly know what it is to love and be loved. Why? Because we move from one to the next, never nurturing and investing in the relationships we already have or the people who already desire to know us.  Relationships that we should have kept, drawn closer to, invested in, nurtured, and hung around for we prematurely distance ourselves from or totally throw away.

God wants us to have healthy relationships, we were created for such. From time to time, this means cleaning out the relationship closet. Cleaning out the relationship closet is much like our clothes closet. Though we don’t purchase or possess people like we would a pair of jeans, relationships are among the many things that God wants us to steward well, especially since our relationships have a certain amount of effect on our own wellbeing.  Not having room for healthy relationships or having too many unhealthy relationships isn’t God honoring, nor is disposing and distancing ourselves from relationships that God desire us to nurture and value.

With all of that in mind, there are likely several kinds of relationships in our Relationship Closet…

What’s in your Relationship Closet?

1) Nostalgia Suit – These relationships are mainly defined by what they meant to us in the past. At one time, these relationships fit perfectly in our life. They fit with time, place, and person we were. They gave us great memories and had a special impact on our lives. However, as time progressed, these relationships either grew distant or completely detached. Frequently the separation or distance that ensues isn’t clouded with negativity, but rather benign circumstances.  The power of these relationships can extend well beyond what they meant to us in the past.  Our affectionate memories and the positive impact of these relationships can be significant. When we think of these people, we often smile inwardly.

2) The Fashion Statement – These relationships are mainly defined by how they make us look or feel about ourselves. These are the people at the cool lunch table that we want to know for that sake of our egos and self-esteem.  Often times, we want these people in our lives because they seem to make us feel more important just by knowing them. When you hear people “dropping names” these relationships are probably “Fashion Statements” more than anything else.

3) Special Occasion Dress- These relationships are mainly defined by the purpose or role these persons serve in your life. Like a bridesmaid dress that is typically worn at most one or two times, these relationships are often short term. They may be a reoccurring relationship as there may be periodic times where interaction is needed, once again, to fulfill a special role or purpose.

4) The Adjustable Pants- These relationships are mainly defined by their ability to fit as you change as a person. These are the people who are “with you” no matter where or even who you become. They are typically long term relationships that ebb and flow over the years, developing overtime into deep levels of intimacy.  Relationships like this grow with us and find a way to fit well in every season of our life. These relationships last and compliment what God is doing in our lives

5) The Gifted Tie- These relationships are mainly defined by the guilt we feel for not desiring to be around, with, or in connection with them.  Perhaps they did something for you and now you feel obligated to give your attention or friendship.  In fact, they may be playing upon your guilt and not a healthy person to be around. Or, perhaps you are in a new season of your life and the relationship now feels awkward and superficial. Regardless, the conflicting emotions inside of you towards this relationship tend to weigh heavy with a sense of guilt that you aren’t as emotionally connected as you feel you should be.

6) The Uncomfortable Shoe- These relationships are defined by the uncomfortableness or pain they cause you. Deep down we don’t want these relationships, but we either conclude that this person is the best we are going to get, or we feel somehow obligated to grin and bare the relationship. Sometimes, we will have done everything we can to get the relationship repaired or make adjustments that relieve the stress, but to little or no success. Whether these persons are family members, coworkers, or friends, these relationships cause us chronic uncomfortableness or pain.

7) The Favorite Sweater- These relationships are defined by the comfort, security, and warmth they bring into our lives. Similar to the Adjustable Pants, these relationships are often long term and serve to give us a special kind of security, encouragement, and comfort that other relationships cannot.

8)  The Shrunken Jeans-  These relationships are mainly defined by the reality that they don’t fit anymore. There are potentially two primary reasons why 1) You shrunk the relationship  2) You grew out of the relationship.  Sometimes relationships don’t fit because we screw them up and injure the person and/or the relationship. We may try to force the relationship to fit into our lives by seeking to repair the damage, but in some instances it works, and in others it doesn’t. Other times, we grow out of the relationship and thus it not longer fits the things God is doing in our lives. We may try to bring the person along or fit back in with the crowd we once were in, but often neither result in much success.

9) The Suspenders- These relationships are mainly defined by the support they give us. Sometimes, these are mostly one-sided relationships as we turn to them for support, but the mutual need and care is not reciprocated by them.  Other times, there is a mutual need that is met within the relationship. Either way, the relationship is defined by the specific support the relationship brings.

10) The Wrinkled Shirt- These relationships are mainly defined by the high amount of maintenance they take. With some people you are always having to iron out some issue, either within the relationship or in their lives. Above and beyond the normal flaws and ups and downs of people and relationships, these relationships are filled with drama and often suck the life out of you. Every time you connect with these relationships, you realize there is a lot of ironing to do to make the relationship work. In fact, often times, if you take the drama, negativity, and conflict out of the relationship, there is actually no relationship left.

11) The Catalogue Display- These relationships are mainly defined by our desire to have them. These are the people we want in our relationship closet, but for whatever reason, they aren’t there and likely will never be. These are the people who you are trying to get into your life but aren’t able to without paying a cost. Sometimes that cost is begging them, appeasing them, flattering them, or always being the one to take the initiative.

No Hoarding, No Careless Disposing! Some thoughts about cleaning out the Relationship Closet…

Note: In my personal opinion, based on God’s Word, I do not believe marriage is a relationship that should be categorized as being in your Relationship Closet. Though it often needs cleaning, I do not believe it is a relationship that should be seen as one that should be “cleaned out” of your relationships closet. God allows for divorce under certain defined circumstances, but does not condone it nor require it. Therefore, do not misunderstand the content of this post as applying to marriage.

o.o1 – Be decisive and direct about the Uncomfortable Shoe – The good news about the Uncomfortable Shoe type of relationship is that sometimes things can be softened over and smoothed out. These are relationships that though they make us uncomfortable or even painful, instead of prematurely throwing them out, they may be repairable with some work. I am reminded of the passage in the Bible, “As far as depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” With uncomfortable relationships, we need to be willing to do our best at fixing them. Don’t just wait around hoping things will get better on their own, take initiative to remedy the relationship.

However, as the above passage in the Bible suggests, we can’t always fix relationships. If you have made every effort to revitalize or reconcile the relationship, but with no little or no success, it may just be time to redefine the relationship as you set healthy boundaries.  This can be difficult to do, but it’s critical. We can’t change people, but we can change how we relate to people.

o.o2 – Have realistic expectations about the Nostalgia Suit- It’s easy to want certain relationships and certain aspects of our relationships to last forever. It’s also natural to desire to reconnect with an old friend hoping that things will go back to or feel the ways things did in the past. There are some relationships in our past that can carry on forever, and some that we can reconnect with that pick up like time never passed. However, placing a high expectation that this will be the case is probably not going to serve you or the relationship very well. Let the Nostalgia Suit type of relationship be enjoyed for what it is, and if a new or continued relationship can be developed from it, great. Certainly don’t just discard it.  But don’t place a lot of pressure on the relationship to fit and feel like it used to.

o.o3 – Avoid over thinking the Gifted Tie – Letting the emotions of guilt rule our relationships is not going to result in good things. For sure, we are to be compassionate and caring to people as we give unconditional love. However, you can give unconditional love without granting unlimited access to your life, time, attention, and energy. Guilt does not produce love. When we extend ourselves to people out of guilt, we are not loving them, but in fact are selfishly trying to remove the pain of guilt from our lives so we feel better about ourselves. Genuine compassion leads to love, but guilt does not. If after honest evaluation, you find yourself giving your time and attention to a person out of guilt, ask God to help you deal with the source of your guilt while helping you know what to say “yes” and “no” to in the relationship.  In some instances, this will mean learning to love that person from a distance, other times it will mean admitting you aren’t the best person to care for them. Other times it may mean completely redefining the relationship or even removing yourself from it. Regardless, don’t over think the Gifted Tie type of relationship and become consumed by it, that is often what guilt seeks to do… control you.

o.o4 – Don’t spend your life on a Fashion Statement – Though it may seem otherwise, people can’t make you any more important and or valuable than what you already are.  For some of us, we subscribe our value to the kinds of people we have in our lives. Believe it or not, the cool-kids lunch table you wanted to sit at in middle school carries on into adulthood. There are cool coworker tables, cool parents tables, cool professionals tables, and on and on.  Yes, the Bible counsels us that the people we draw close to us can be defining in our lives. We need to be selective about the people we bring to the closest levels of our relationships. However, that is more of an issue of integrity and wholeness, not popularity, fame, or standing. Spending our lives trying to attach ourselves to the fame, success, and popularity of other people is a waste of time. Putting on someone else’s clothes often doesn’t look good at all. Furthermore, trying to be someone we aren’t isn’t a very attractive look either.  God’s counsel is to be the first you, not a copy of someone else. Make the most of who you are and the platform God has given you. Be a fashion setter, not fashion seeker.

o.o5 – Force fitting the Shrunken Jeans never works – Not every relationships fits us. The very same person who makes for a great acquaintance, may not make a very healthy close friend. Furthermore, the very person who made for a great friend in one season of your life, may not make for a very good friend during another season of your life.  God is in the business of life change. Sometimes, as God changes us, our relationships need to to change too.  With some relationships, as God grows us, the relationship grows too. This is an ideal situation that should be cherished. With other relationships, as God grows us, the relationship tries to reel us back into who we were before and what we did, keeping us from moving forward.  In some relationships, the glue of the relationship is the not so good behavior or activity you did with them.  Once you grow out of that behavior, the relationship is threatened.  This is where, at times, we need to clean out the relationships closet and throw those old pair of jeans away, they just don’t fit and will keep us from moving forward with God.

Other times, we are the ones who shrink the relationship. We screw up and damage things. When this occurs, we need to fes up, repent, and ask for forgiveness with a commitment to rebuild the person’s trust over time. If this is granted, you should be thankful. If it is not granted, trying to force your way back into the relationship will not likely work well. In fact, it may end up hurting you and the situation more.  If the person is willing to stretch out with forgiveness and reconciliation, then one day the relationship may just fit again, even better and stronger than before. But if they aren’t, force fitting yourself into the relationship is a hopeless pursuit, and it may be time to simply move on.

o.o6 – Never take for granted your Favorite Sweater- It’s amazing how often we work on relationships that aren’t working and forget to work on relationships that are working. To keep that Favorite Sweater being your Favorite Sweater, it’s going to take some effort and work. The problem we can have with the Favorite Sweater is we leave it in the closet and forget about taking care of it while we busily try to develop and maintain some of the other types of relationships. Then, when we go to put on that Favorite Sweater, it is stretched out, dusty, or even a bit moldy. In short, the relationship isn’t as warm and fuzzy because we have not taken care of it as much as we should. The reason why that person(s) is your Favorite Sweater is because of the comfort, warmth, and encouragement the relationship brings to both of you. But without care, we can’t expect that to always be the case.

o.o7 – Choose to limit your emotional energy on Wrinkled Shirts- There really is no such thing as a wrinkle free shirt. Every relationship takes time, energy, and effort. However, some relationships are defined by having to maintain them through a lot of drama and issues. These are the exhausting relationships. With every turn, there seems to be some crisis, conflict, or wrinkle that needs to ironed out.  The truth is, the Wrinkled Shirt type of relationships often have deeper issues going on than we could every possibly remedy.  Though these persons cry out for attention and display issues that need dire fixing, the reality is, you or I aren’t likely going to be able to fix them. Sometimes, the best thing to do is refer them to the cleaners (so to speak), that is, professionals who are trained to deal with their level of issues and problems. Trying to play the neighborhood psychiatrist may in fact do more harm than good. As Christians, we have Jesus who is the solution to all the problems of the world, but how that solution gets integrated into a person’s life often has a lot more to with the person themselves aided by the help of a professional Christian counselor. There is a lot we can do as Christians to bring healing to wrinkled lives and relationships, but there is also a lot we can’t. Having the wisdom to distinguish the difference is key.

o.o8 – Avoid chasing after Catalogue displays-   At times, I have found value  in the statement, “If people can walk away, let them walk away.” This phrase refers to those relationships where we try to keep people in our lives that really make little to no effort to be in our lives. Sometimes, they flat out turn the corner and walk away. Like a catalogue, we can picture them in our Relationship Closet, but the reality is, they aren’t there and paying the cost to get them there isn’t going to be worth it in the end. If you have to beg, appease, plead, flatter, or otherwise try to convince people to be or stay in your life, they probably aren’t worthy being in your Relationship Closet to begin with. When relationships sour, we need to be willing to admit mistakes, repent, and go through the process of reconciliation, but forever begging and pleading, appeasing and convincing those who clearly aren’t interested in being a part of your life is not what God does with us, nor intends for us. If they can walk away, let them walk away. God’s future for you isn’t tied to their presence in your life.

Closing Thoughts

God gives us the beautiful gift of relationships. As we steward our Relationship Closet, on one side of the coin we will likely find relationships in our closet that with a bit of nurturing and care can be transformed instead of discarded. Yet at the same time, we will likely find relationships that truly no longer fit, for whatever reason can’t be patched, or clearly work against what God is doing, and should be redefined or even completely removed.

Recovering From A Disappointing Dad

As a father, I know over the course of my parenting I will have many areas where I don’t measure up and will have times where I disappoint my children and God who entrusts them to me.  No father is perfect, and being a faithful father is tougher now than perhaps ever before.  Every dad, to at least some degree is a “disappointing dad.” Only our heavenly Father is perfect and leaves nothing lacking.

Yet, there are those fathers whose disappointment factor rises to a level of leaving severe scars and deep unmet needs in their children’s lives.  They are the abusing, absent, or abdicating dad.  Some fathers abuse their children, emotionally and physically. Other fathers are absent from their children’s lives as they bury themselves in work, hobbies, distractions, or keep an emotional distance from their child’s life, sometimes to the point of abandoning their children all together. Other fathers abdicate their role to the mom, coaches, schools, churches, and culture as a whole as they refuse to lead, set the example, take responsibilities, and become an active, beneficial part of their child’s life. This is what I am referring to when I speak of “Disappointing Dads.” Fathers are to be the lead example setters, coaches, spiritual directors, protectors, correctors, monitors, providers, and time involved persons in their child’s life.

The role of father in our culture needs to be reclaimed and restored in our culture. Our society has portrayed fatherhood as one big joke, and fathers like Bart Simpson and Ozzy Osbourne are leading the way. Unfortunately, many men have gladly kicked backed in their recliners and adopted the mindset they see on television.

Sadly, just ask any school teacher, the carnage from “Disappointing Dads” is everywhere. Kids, mothers, families and society as a whole are paying the price big time. Furthermore, though this reality is probably worse now than ever before, there are previous generations now in their adult years who are trying to recover from “Disappointing Dads.” In fact, gen-“x”ers (now in their late 30’s to late 40’s) were the first to be named “Latch Key Kids” as their pre-boomer parents were off chasing the American Dream and living their own post-version of the 60’s.  The fathering trends haven’t gotten any better since then, but only worse.  I suspect the counseling, psychiatric side of the economy will be doing well for many years to come as these generations age.

Obviously, when it comes to recovering from a “Disappointing Dad” finding a good, Christian counselor is likely going to be a must. There are so many layers and connections that only a trained counselor can help you integrate into your life and faith in a way that is going to bless you and glorify God.  Yet, here are few steps you can take that will surely help you recover.

0.01  Grieve the Loss

Life is full of loss and pain. The hurts these cause in our life become most harmful when we don’t properly grieve.  So much of the dysfunction in our life is a result of a loss that has not been grieved completely.  Grief is God’s way of healing us from pain and loss in our lives.  Grieving is not an easy process, but it is a necessary process for finding healing and purpose within our pain and loss.

“Disappointing Dads” leave our lives with loss and pain. This pain and loss often centers around areas where they fell short as fathers and/or took something from us. That is why there is disappointment. God knows we can’t go back and remove the pain or undo the loss. This is where God’s gift of grief comes in. Grief enables us, through the power of Jesus, to integrate the pain and losses of life into our present and future in ways that ultimately bless us and glorify God.

The basic stages of grief are as follows… 1) Shock 2) Painful Feelings 3) Acceptance 4) Meaning 5) Empowerment

This process requires us to go through all 5 steps in order. And even though we may get through all five steps, it doesn’t mean we  still won’t have moments where we revisit one of the other steps. However, as you go through these steps, God is able to transform you and your circumstances to the place where you discover the tremendous purpose in pain and a ministry from within your misery.

I strongly encourage you to listen to the message series, “Rise Above: Defying the Gravity of Adversity” located on this website. This message series will guide you step by step through discovering the purpose within your pain and how to get to a place in your life where you actually have overcome the pain and loss you have experienced.

God fully understands and cares about your experience with a “Disappointing Dad” and desires to come along side of you as your Heavenly Father and heal those wounds. Walking with Him through the steps of grief will be a significant part of your healing and transformation.

o.o2  Renew and Release

One of the most powerful verses in the Bible that applies to an issues like this is…  Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. 

There are two critical ideas presented in this passage. 1) When we hope or long for something to come into our lives that for whatever reason is very likely not going to occur, it creates pain and suffering. 2) When our God given hopes and longings are fulfilled, it brings growth and life to our being.

One of the most destructive things “Disappointing Dads” leave in our lives are unfulfilled hopes and longings.  God created us needing and deserving of fathers that meet critical needs in our lives. Furthermore, God designed our fathers to shape and mold our futures in ways that honor and foster God’s plan for your life. Unfortunately, when those needs, longings, and positive influences that only fathers can give do not occur, it leaves our lives filled with longings and hopes that are unfulfilled. In a very real sense, your “Disappointing Dad” owes you big time.  Maybe they owe you your innocence back, the childhood you deserve, the attention you should have been given, the father you should have had, etc.  Unfortunately, with many “Disappointing Dads” they either can’t repay what is owed you, or they refuse to do so. Either way, you have a “hope that is deferred” or said another way “a debt that isn’t being paid”  What happens? We live our lives hoping that somehow or someway these needs will be met by the person that should have met them in the first place, our father.  We look for the apology that is likely never to come, the change of heart or behavior that is likely never to change, and the list can go on and on. What’s the result? Our hearts grow sick with bitterness, disappointment, anger, frustration, guilt, and alike. We want to love our father and for our fathers to love us the way it was supposed to be, but that reality very likely just isn’t going to ever happen. That reality makes us sick in more ways than one.

So, what are we do to? Be heart sick the rest of our lives holding onto the past and feeling emotionally incomplete and cheated, many of us having the scars to show for it?  No.

God came up with the most brilliant solution to the pain and loss people create in our lives, especially “Disappointing Dads.” The solution is… forgiveness. Now before you wig out and click off this post thinking there is no way you are going to forgive the dad that screwed up your life, please hear me out.

Forgiveness does NOT mean that what your dad did or didn’t do is somehow now “o.k.” Forgiveness does NOT mean that the relationship is automatically reconciled or restored. Forgiveness does NOT mean you have to remove healthy boundaries and feel good about being around that person, what happened in the past, and what the relationship is like now.

Rather, forgiveness means you are canceling the debt. You are emotionally releasing your father of the debt they owe you that they cannot or will not repay.  Through forgiveness you are fulfilling the longing and hope you have for the father and childhood you did not receive by canceling the debt. In so doing, you are moving from bondage to the past into life for the present and future. You or no longing looking to your father to be or become someone to you that they cannot or refuse to be or become. The hole that your father left in your life is now able to be filled by the presence and provisions of God. Unforgiveness keeps this from happening and prolongs the pain and suffering that was caused years ago. Forgiveness stops the negative pattern, and our emotional enslavement  to it.

Forgiveness is very likely going to be the only thing that satisfies the longing and hopes left in our lives from the blood sucking of “Disappointing Dads”  Forgiveness removes the leach of their behaviors from continuing to suck the life out of us long after our childhoods are over.

Forgiveness is not easy and takes the power of God working in our lives, but it is perhaps the most critical step in recovering from “Disappointing Dads”

I strongly suggest reading my post “What’s Up With Forgiveness” for more details on what forgiveness is and isn’t and how to apply it to your life.

0.03  Take up Your Cross

I believe the purpose of your life can be found very close to the pain in your life. Taking up your cross, at least in part, means being willing to use your experiences of pain for the glory of God. Additionally, it carries with it the reality that we will all have crosses to bear as we do our best to live our lives and make the most of them for God’s purposes.

Recovering from a “Disappointing Dad” is a life long  journey.  Sometimes, you will make great strides forward and other times you will have to “fight the good fight of faith” as you battle to create a better future.  God knows you and your needs better than anyone. Jesus’ invitation to “take up you cross and follow me” is a sure indicator that 1) Jesus wants you, baggage and all 2) Following Jesus is the best way to live (though it may not be the easiest)  3) The best chance and only chance you have to take your disappointments and turn them into destiny is by placing them at the feet of Jesus.

You won’t ever be able to truly leave the pain and loss all behind while on this side of heaven, but you can take it up and follow Jesus. As you do, your pain and loss will be transformed into peace and gain. It really is true. That’s the miracle of following the Master!


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