Tag: guilt (page 1 of 2)

No, Christian, I’m Not Your Spiritual Bitch

I wonder if you can truly handle what’s on my mind. You’re not going to like it, I suspect, which is probably why I never give it full flight—at least, until now. Honestly, I just can’t shackle the voice in my soul any longer. Neither can I expect you to reconsider your ways if I’m not forthright with their true effect upon my life—however brutal these words might be perceived.

You believe it’s your job to change me, to partner with God to lead me to repent of my sins, surrender my life, and follow the Jesus of your understanding. In your mind, if your divine tag team efforts with the Father don’t work, my eternal destiny could be one of hellfire and forever torment. With such a daunting possibility at the forefront of your beliefs, I appreciate your concern and respect your efforts.

Yet, underneath and far beyond that, it seems you’re pridefully convinced that it’s your special responsibility to point me to the towering endless ladder of your customized, “to do” and “not to do” steps. If my careful ascension isn’t forthcoming and certain, in your mind, I’ll never be successful at activating the neon “Genuine Christian” sign you have conveniently dangling from the top—all to my sure demise and doom. Measuring up and fitting in are of the highest importance. No area of my life seems off limits to your inspection, assessment, and admonition. In the end, it feels like I have become, for you, some kind of Chia Pet-for-Jesus, where you’re hell-bent on making it your personal project to grow me into a “fully devoted follower of Christ” that, in reality, actually looks mostly like you. Oh, the horror that will ensue if I fail to come into compliance and therefore reap the consequence of your rejection.    

Still, I’m going to assume that your intentions are met with a goodness in your heart. Yet, all the same, I’m not so ignorant to be devoid of the awareness that some of the greatest of evils have started from the good intentions of people who feel spiritually justified in their actions—especially Christians. In fact, if I’m honest, more so than not, your efforts to save and sanctify me, no matter how well intended, leave me feeling thoroughly defaced as a human being, raped of dignity, condemned unfairly, and judged highly hypocritically. How could that ever be the work of Jesus?

That’s why today is the day of my emancipation.

I mean no disrespect nor lack of love in saying so, but I’m finally breaking free from your apparent determination to convince me that my future and my worth are somehow tied to your spiritual opinion, discernment, evaluation, counsel, influence, and religion. I’m pushing past the seemingly required belief that God is specifically using you to save me from Himself and all that He will do to me if I don’t love Him back in return; of course, with compliance to all your specifics. I’m breaking the chains of, what feels like, your continually condescending glare into my soul that clearly sees me as an inferior person who needs your intervention, lest I perish and waste my life.  

Why such resistance and seeming rebellion?

Because the mind of Christ within me has overridden your mind that’s trying to conform me. With heaping helpings of Grace overflowing, He has convinced me of perhaps the most important and liberating revelation of all, “I’m not your spiritual bitch.”

I’m not a misprint in need of your correction. I’m not a floundering vessel requiring your rescue. I’m not a lost cause simply absent of your assistance. I’m not a notch on your belt to appease your quest to earn favor with your deity.

I’m not a blemish the requires your erasing. I’m not a vote deserving of your hacking. I’m not a shame that needs your permission to be unashamed. I’m not a sinner in need of your salvation. I’m not a question mark that needs your answer. I’m not a disease that needs your cure. I’m not a stronghold that requires the strength of your religious prescriptions. And most of all, I’m not an inferior human being whose hope lies within your privilege.

No, I’m a beloved child of God—not by your doing, approval, or securing, but by His.

In fact, here’s what I’ve discovered in my awakening to Love and Grace, yours is not a position from which you should have any position in my life, anyways—only Jesus.  

Besides, the God I know, who lives and dwells within me, the One with whom I have full communion unconditionally, would never use hurtful, selfish, inhumane tactics postured from religious pride in order to bring about goodness in me and from me.

So, you can stop pretending I’m your patient and yours is a medicine I need taking. You can stop putting Laws where there are none, and conditions where there never have been. You can stop pimping God as punishing, the Bible as perfect, and your interpretations as exclusively authoritative. You can stop touting your spiritual gymnastics, spiritual navel gazing, and highfalutin exegesis. God’s not impressed and I’m no longer listening.  

Why?

Because…

I’m not your spiritual bitch.

And neither is He.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

 

Check out Chris Kratzer’s new book getting rave reviews, Leatherbound Terrorism…

There is no greater evil being wielded upon the planet than Conservative Evangelicalism, and Chris Kratzer’s life and ministry journey are undeniable proof. In Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris tells of his 21 years as a conservative Evangelical pastor and the radical change of heart and mind that led him to walk away from it all. With a new sense of faith centered on Jesus and His pure Gospel of Grace, in Leatherbound Terrorism, Chris chases the evils of conservative Evangelicalism out of the shadows and gives powerful voice to the cries of the religiously oppressed. Confronting issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, religious greed, hypocrisy, nationalism, white supremacy, privilege, and the weaponizing of the Bible, Leatherbound Terrorism pulls no punches. Endorsed by best selling authors Steve McVey and Baxter Kruger, Leatherbound Terrorism will challenge you, inspire you, and most certainly cause you to rethink your faith and life.

A Letter From An Aborted Child To Their Mom

Dear Mom,

I know what you’re thinking, how can “I” possibly be speaking?

Everything has a voice.

Every cell in your body has a voice—a memory.

You think of me. Moments, thoughts, feelings, uncertainties, dreams, indecision, the unexpected—I will always be with you.

That’s a voice.

Maybe you didn’t hear me then—lots of distractions, pressures, decisions, competing voices. I understand, but perhaps you would hear me now.

A person is never the sum of a moment or period in their life—they are eternal.

A time, a stage, a segment of their life does not define them or whether they are in fact a “them.” The moment your egg and my father’s sperm united, eternity spoke its creative evaluation and decision that I am a person. Besides, there is no other outcome that orchestration signifies nor grows. Somehow, someway, God or no God, intended or not, positive or negative, the cosmos was aligned to bring me to be, a human. Not as an intention, or a future formation, even if just an egg and sperm together, I have always been a person. That whole conception thing may have been my beginning, but every person has a beginning that does not make them any less a person from the beginning. I was not a “leading to life,” but life from the beginning.

All of this is to say—mom, you have a child, it’s me.

I’m still alive. Both in you, as a memory, and in heaven as a person, for eternity.

You have a child. It’s me. I’m speaking.

Mom, please listen—please.

I want you to know, I understand. Maybe you feel deep regret, maybe it was a confusing time, maybe you didn’t care at all. I understand—life is so complicated.

Yes, I think about what could have been, as probably you do as well. It’s sad, it’s painful, it’s hard—but, I am alive.

I still have a voice.

I want to tell you that I love you. I want to tell you that our eyes will meet one day. I can’t wait to wrap my arms around you, I practice for that moment with great anticipation.

I’m not angry with you, I don’t hold anything against you. In fact, Jesus and I have talked, and we both take great delight in you. Besides, on earth, who knows the mistakes I would have surely made, too many to count—reaching out for your patience, forgiveness, and long-suffering. Mom, I have nothing but love for you.

You are not less to me, you always have been more. It’s not about what could have been—it’s about what is, what can, and will be.

Mom, you have so much still to give, to share. You are so beautiful, especially to me.

I pray, in some way, my voice can speak through your voice.

Perhaps in that way, even now, we can be mother and child, together.

A voice of healing.

A voice of hope.

A voice, leading to better understanding.

A voice of clarity within the complexity.

A voice that speaks, from what at first was thought to have no speak.

I love you mom—always have, always will.

I am so proud of you—that you are my mom, always and forever.

I hope you hear me.

Love,

Me

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Dear World, Franklin Graham Doesn’t Speak For Us, Or Jesus

I’ve had enough, and I’ve heard enough.

There is perhaps no greater evil upon all the earth than those who pillage the person and message of Jesus, and shroud their hate, arrogance, privilege, and imperialism under the guise of godliness, biblical faithfulness, purity, and the valuing of life.

Jesus understood there would be those who would exploit His truth and hustle a gospel that is in fact, no Gospel at all. In so doing, He asserted the importance of observing the fruit of a potential imposter’s beliefs in hopes of discerning and circumventing the cut of their spiritual claws.

Rev. Franklin Graham has become the mouthpiece of conservative Evangelical Christianity. With its deceptive mixed-message of “God loves you…but,” filled with traps, conditions, and controls, this increasingly aggressive movement within Christianity has had a long history of sowing seeds of poisoned fruit. Since the dawn of discrimination, conservative Evangelical Christianity has been a prominent enabler of racism. In fact, only in 1995 did its Southern Baptist denomination finally, but reluctantly, apologize to the black community for their intimate role in using the Bible to endorse racism and slavery. Conservative Evangelical Christianity is the leading incubator for the vile theology of Calvinism which portrays God as hand-picking some for heaven and joyfully discarding the rest to an eternity of tormenting hell—all founded by a man who murdered his disagreers. Christian conservatism has led the way in the discrimination of women in ministry, work, and home—even turning a blind eye to domestic and church abuse. Where once, Evangelical Christianity aggressively condemned the divorced to an eternity in hell, it cleverly came up with the word, “desertion,” to serve as a kind of biblical loophole, enabling those men left behind by the women who wised-up and “deserted’ them, to have the freedom to play another round. In fact, it was a conservative brand of Christianity that influenced Adolf Hitler towards Nazism and sat firmly in the hearts of those European settlers who raped the American Indian of their land, life, and culture for some kind of “Manifest Destiny.” Now, with a heart to spiritually and culturally exterminate those it deems to be sinning, conservative Evangelical Christianity is the dominant faith understanding behind the spread of homophobia and the false condemnation of the LGBTQ community, conveniently adding the word “homosexual” to the Bible, where it hadn’t appeared in any translation until 1945.

With the drastic uptick of good people leaving churches, thinking for themselves, questioning their indoctrination, and opening their eyes to the piles of carnage left in the wake of Christian conservatism, a perfect storm with a perfect kind of Satan has emerged. Franklin Graham has climbed up the cliffs of Evangelical Christianity’s fiery pit to lead the way in trumpeting their desperate call to war—a battle purposed on retaking that which they perceive to have lost as the world awakens to their evil.

Make no mistake, Franklin Graham and the perverted faith-understanding he represents is far from the heart of Jesus and many of us who follow Him alone. We deplore the nationalization of any faith, the discrimination of any person, the weaponizing of any Bible, and the condemnation of any soul. The disgusting Americanized version of Jesus and His Gospel that has given rise to Empire Christianity, church franchising, spiritually arrogant congregants and faith communities, and privileged, judging, and elitist followers makes us all want to vomit, right along side you. We are appalled, repulsed, and infuriated at was has become of the Jesus we adore and the Grace-centered faith that liberates us.

With all due respect to Mr. Franklin Graham, as good and spiritual as his ministry to the poor throughout the world appears and surely blesses, as much as he quotes the Bible and exclusively claims to possess and know its every truth, as much as his father was a beacon of faith, compassion, and a love for God, and as much as he postures himself as valuing life, moral wholeness, and biblical faithfulness, the screeching sound of his bigotry, pride, self-righteousness, mean-spirited condemnation, and imperialistic faith overtakes and overshadows all.

For where Jesus brings freedom, he seems determined to wrench down with control. Where Jesus brings Grace, he is quick to draw lines of condemnation. Where Jesus defines and redefines scripture, he worships it as perfect and claims to know it infallibly. Where God is pure Love, he claims He is not purely. Where Grace is declared sufficient, he says it isn’t completely. Where Jesus makes it personal and communal, he wants to make it political and national. Where Jesus makes it all completely free, he and his faith-understanding makes it all so conditionally conditional.

Everything Jesus stands for, Franklin Graham seems to stand so firmly against—a sermon on a Mount, apparently makes little-to-no difference.

For where do we see him serving the LGBTQ community? Where do we see him truly loving the enemy? Where do see him refusing to lean on his own understanding, and instead displaying a spirituality of listening? Where do we see him washing the feet of people who are transgender? Where do we see him laying down his life to escort one safely into a bathroom? Where do we see him truly loving his neighbor—Islamic, Atheist, Progressive, or even Illegal Alien? Where do we see him fighting for the rights of the marginalized, discriminated, and even those with whom he disagrees, instead of vehemently gripping onto the privilege of the privileged? Where do we see him rationalizing, excusing, and giving grace to sin on behalf of those who sin differently than he, instead of only doing so for those from whom he can gain power, influence, and the furthering of his faith ideology? Where do we see him trusting the Spirit to guide people in all truth instead of trying to control, contain, and conform them?

We don’t.

So, why should I give care and credibility to the sin he claims to see in me, everyone, and everything, when it’s clear he’s entirely oblivious to the storehouse of depravity to be seen right within his own being? Why should I line up to be assimilated into his spiritual Borg and learn the marching steps of his creed, when it’s become so blatantly clear it’s a faith understanding that doesn’t want to just normalize hate, but give it spiritual necessity? Why should I bow down to his biblical interpretations, faith perspectives, and God teachings when it all seems to desire nothing more than to control, condemn, and conform me into his image and faith collective?

Make no mistake, I refuse and resist with all my being in becoming anything like the King of disowning. My soul, worth, and value is not, nor will ever become, the imminent domain of any self-righteous, faith ideology.

The true message of Jesus is that God is proud to belong to me and every other, especially in all the places and ways that Franklin Graham and conservative Evangelical Christianity despise me and all others.

Dear world, Franklin Graham is not our leader, not our pastor, not our spokesperson, nor our example—and with all due respect, in my personal opinion, he’s nothing like Jesus.

The Message From God You’ve Never Heard

Deep within us all, God has embedded His Light, the faith of Christ within us—every human an equal recipient. We all possess the faith of Jesus, a faith that fully knows and trusts the true essence and heart of the Father. Yet, darkness always seeks a way to condemn and imprison the Light our soul has always possessed in hopes we never awaken to it. Soon, it becomes demonized, silenced, and even unrecognizable within us—many of us walking around unaware or the faith of Christ, His Light within us. Tragically, it’s all become so religiously deformed, twisted, covered over, trampled and christianized inside.

Adam and Eve embraced the Light, saw themselves as Light, and gave it all a cherished harbor within. In their faith understanding, God, themselves, and all of life was a beautiful Garden—forever whole, pure, free, and alive. The faith of Christ within them had become their faith within them—a perfect communion. Yet, in a moment of question, they bit the lie that the Light they held to be Truth was actually darkness—needing correction, deserving of condemnation, and requiring redemption from an angry God. In their minds, all the sudden God became untrustable, Love became conditional, we became condemnable, and the Garden became a hopeless game of God-fearing, God-chasing appeasement. Religion is always the result of the Light becoming something to us that God isn’t, we aren’t, and God never had in mind.

Enter Grace.

Grace is God pinging your soul in hopes of awakening you to the true Light you have always possessed and longed to believe. It’s the call of Jesus to be unwrapped from the burial clothes that bind your heart from embracing true Life. For religion rings true to the flesh, but Grace rings true to the soul. It’s the Deep calling to your depth. It’s the true faith of Christ within you crying out to become your faith within you. It’s the moment your religious, christianized understanding is overridden by your Spirit and though you can’t explain it and your mind can’t chart it, you taste the Light and your heart knows it to be True, even as it shakes you to your core. It’s breathing for the first time and realizing, all this time, you weren’t breathing at all. It’s Grace releasing, rekindling, and recalibrating the caverns of your soul to what it’s always known and your heart has longed to believe—all is Grace.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, but your soul has always believed, and your heart is desperate for you to embrace.

God is Love- Whatever sense of condemnation, shame, disappointment, or lack you have towards yourself, it does not come from God—it can’t. Run from any message that puts any conditions, any hell, or any distance between you and Him—all these our constructs of religious projection.

Grace awakens our perceptions to the true nature of God and His affection for us. The purpose of Christ is not simply that we believe in Him, but that we believe in God like Him—His faith within us becomes our faith within us. Jesus knows no other nature, aspect, or trait of God other than pure, unconditional Love. His sinless life before God is our sinless life before God—His performance in life is our performance in life. Love is all, defines all, wins all, and conquers all—especially us. Jesus has no sense of God as being nor exuding anything but unyielding Love.

To the delight of our soul, when we allow ourselves to see God the way Jesus does, we discover there is no other message from God to and for our lives other than Love—no fine print, conditional clauses, trap doors, loop-holes or dropping axes. Love unhinges the tenets of the religious and reveals the evil forces behind their call to one-eyed open living, sin-managing, God-appeasing, self-improving, people-judging, and hell-fearing. Only the graceless, self-righteous, privileged, and judgmental ever feel the force of God’s displeasure as Grace confronts their religious, doubting, selfish, love-drained souls.

God is Love from top to bottom, beginning to end—inside and out. The expanse of God who is Love is boundless, limitless, unrestricted, and unrestrained. His actions and reactions to every molecule and movement of your life is always Love.

God is pedal-to-the-metal in love with you—always has been, always will be.

To Believe Is To Rest- Despite what many may hold to be true, faith is not a decision, choice, or invitational response. Faith is a gift from God welling up from within. It’s the awakening of our heart, mind, and soul to the Jesus that has always been within us, and the God whose arms have always been around us.

To believe is to rest in Grace and the illimitable goodness of God, trusting its full sufficiency for every aspect of our lives. Pursuing God, chasing after God, hungering for more God, and begging God to come, bless, and even forgive, though all seemingly spiritual pursuits, are actually confessions that He is not already here, His grace is not sufficient, and His choosing of us is somehow inadequate. A restless, appeasing, and fearing heart before Jesus is a disbelieving heart before Jesus.

Grace postures our entire being onto a foundation of rest—convinced we can never over-portray or over-characterize the goodness, love, and graciousness of God, nor can we ever believe too much in the exclusive, unsurpassed power of Grace to guide, change, and enable us in all things.

Believing in the unfathomable Love that is God and declaring His grace-singularity of heart, mind, and will is not a sign of human weakness, faith depravity, or theological waywardness. If anything, it is our under-believing, under-ascribing, under-estimating, and under-characterizing of His Love purity that reveals the x-ray of our religiously infected souls as in our doubts and flesh addiction, we live our lives restlessly turning outside of Jesus to find peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with people.

You Are The Relationship- The modern Christian idea that God wants a “relationship” with you is highly misleading and in fact, unfounded in scripture. Interestingly enough, there is not even a single mention in all the Bible of “inviting Jesus into your heart.” Rather, the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus has been projected back into the Bible and onto the Gospel by our fleshly, religious desire to have some level of human control and credit with God, and even a spiritual notch on our belt that distinguishes us as above others.

A “relationship” requires the performance, maintenance, and continual contributing desire of both parties. Thus, a relationship can have varying levels of closeness and even become completely broken. This is not what we have with Jesus nor what He has in mind with or for us. Instead, the Gospel proclaims our communion with God, established long before our earthly arrival and even before His.

Our union with God is of the same fabric as the Trinity. It is not a relationship, it is a singular entity based not on desire, performance, or the like, but is in fact a whole union. We are not in a relationship with Christ, we are Christ–He is us, we are Him. Jesus is not a person to invite into your life or heart, He is your life and heart, irrevocably.

This is the awakening, revealed by Grace, and manifested by Jesus. There is no “relationship” with Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit to be had, for we ARE the relationship—different, but equally connected. Thus, in full union and communion. 

The Gospel doesn’t become real the moment one invites Jesus into their heart, it becomes real the moment they realize He had been there all along.

The Bible Is The Beginning Not The End- If the writers of the Bible were infallible in their understanding of God and their interpretation of His actions among them, there would be no need for the infallible One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible perfectly captured the desires of God and His every design for all of life and living, there would be no need for the Perfect One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible captured the sum, conclusion, and depth of all that is truth, there would be no need for the One who is Truth to reveal it and His Spirit to guide us in it.

There’s a big difference between adding to the Bible and adding to our understanding of it. The Bible is not a case-closed, all-conclusive blueprint of God and all that relates to Him, but rather a catalyst towards our diving into stream upon stream of never ending, progressive revelation welling up from our awakening to Jesus and His Gospel of Grace.

The people who demand the infallibility of the Bible are often the ones demanding the infallibility of their understanding of the Bible—all for the purpose of creating a spiritual, self-righteous safe haven in which to turn off their brains, and from which to control and judge others.

Notice, the corner of America where there is often the most rampant manifestations of spiritual condemnation, bigotry, and hate aren’t called the Jesus-belt, or the Love-belt, but rather—the Bible-belt.

It’s Not About Improvement- So much of what is taught about spiritual growth and the Christian life is the idea that through spiritual disciplines, effort, and behavior modification, one is to strive to become something tomorrow that they aren’t today. Go to church, pray hard, bury your head in the Bible, press into Jesus, and get “radical” for Christ, and sanctification and spiritual maturity will soon follow. Sadly, nothing ever truly gets better upon the treadmill of sin-management, self-improvement, and spiritual striving—enough is never enough. It’s all a diabolical prescription pimped as a life of fulfillment that in fact leads to a life tragically wasted.

For no matter our greatest intentions or desires, nor even in our best moments of believing or behaving, our spiritual performance always breaks down. In the end, whether with God, ourselves, or others, the good that we know we should do is not what we do, and once again, our capacity to escape ourselves is found foolishly and drastically insufficient. All that’s left in the end is a life of pretending riddled with inner shame and guilt as we gloss tons of Christian lipstick onto the pig of our self-righteousness.

Thankfully, the Christian life isn’t a test, it’s a rest. It’s not about becoming something tomorrow you aren’t today through a hopeless life of back-breaking spiritual gymnastics. Rather, it’s about becoming more of the person you already are in Christ.

Jesus came, not to merely do something for you, but to do something to you. The cross is one and done—you are a completely finished masterpiece of the Master. You are whole, holy, pure, righteous, sanctified, justified, and lack no spiritual blessing—as is. There is nothing to improve about you, only everything to believe about you. That’s why the Holy Spirit is forever pursuing your heart, not to convict you of failure, but to convince you of your righteousness—knowing that the more you believe it, the more you will live it. For the Christian life is the beautiful process of awakening to who we truly are because of Jesus, that our actions might catch up to our true, divine identities.

Christians Are Often The Ones In Most Need Of Saving- In the scriptures centered around Jesus, the people who we would expect to know Him the best, in fact, turn out to truly know Him the least–the ones expected to know Him the least, turn out to truly know Him the best.

In the same way, perhaps the “world” and the “lost” that are often seen as the unbelieving, subhuman sinners of the planet, are in actuality, not the “world” and the “lost” at all.

Rather, maybe just maybe, it’s the self-righteous, spiritually elite, legalistic, Grace-withholding, religious ones that turn out to be those that are truly “lost” and of the “world.” For there is no greater form of being “lost” than believing you are so close to God while being so far away, and there is no greater form of “worldliness” than to turn to ones spiritual performance (flesh), religious pride, and the condemnation of others for your sense of righteousness, salvation, and spiritual purpose and satisfaction.

Maybe, just maybe, the “world” and the “lost” need far less saving than Christians would ever want nor dare to believe, and “Christians” need far more saving than the “world” and the “lost” would ever dream.

Maybe just maybe, the “Church” isn’t the believing ones who are convinced their “in,” and grasp this status with pride believing it’s the just reward of their faith, behavior, and do-gooding, but rather it’s the humble ones–the meek, who conclude they’re probably “out,” but nonetheless search, believe, and find rest in Love anyways, simply because it’s the best way to live and to reflect and give Life.

Maybe, just maybe, the bride of Christ isn’t the one adorned in beauty and white, concealing a religious darkness within, but rather the ugly, dirty one, who knows nothing of make-up and a lipstick ladened grin, whose Light is on the inside, emerging from within–whether they’re aware or not matters not, it’s there, and Jesus sees Himself, and smiles, “let the wedding begin.”

You Are God’s Perfect Will- The idea that God has a perfect will for your life and you need to make your life’s ardent pursuit the finding and fulfilling of it, is all highly misleading. The Americanized version of the Christian life would have us all believe that God has some “big” thing for us to do and become that will show ourselves to be genuine and faithful in following Jesus. I say, hogwash.

You are God’s perfect will, you are the big thing God is doing in the world. You, being fully you, and doing what you love to do in ways that honor God, love people, and serve humanity is far closer to His heart.

In fact, if any of your sense of worth, significance, and righteousness in life can be reduced, compromised, or questioned by your failure, mistakes, inadequacies, shortcomings, limits, or lack of production, then I can assure you that what you have is not a sense of your true Christ-righteousness and worth, but rather a self-righteousness and worth.

If you were to do nothing more with your life and instead fail and waste it in every way, you would be loved and lovable no differently and valued and valuable no less. For God’s perfect will for your life is not a plan charted, a path traveled, a series of accomplishments completed, or destinies discerned and fulfilled. Rather, God’s perfect will is a person, and that person is you, as is. You are a complete, whole, and finished work of Jesus that is irrevocably and irreversibly beautiful, whole, and pure.

What’s God’s perfect will? You, being fully you.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, your soul knows to be True, and your heart pleads for you to embrace .

God is Love.

To believe is to rest.

You are the relationship.

The Bible is the beginning, not the end.

It’s not about improvement.

Christians are often the ones in most need of saving.

You are God’s perfect will.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  -Galatians 2:20

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Thankful For Nothing

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

I know, it feels like everything—that thing that you did…

You made a mistake, you screwed up—words you said, choices you made, plans you created. The moment got the best of you, it wasn’t supposed to happen that way—everything spiraling out of control. The crack on the ceiling became the whole house falling. It was bad—really, really bad.

So now, you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the guilt, the shame, the cost, the regret. At times, it’s all so overwhelming. What you did, it feels like—everything.

In your mind it’s haunting you, certainly this is all reason for His doubt, reason for His questioning—reason for your one-eye-open living. Will you get the ax? Will God storm out of the heavens like a drunk out of a bar—put you in your place under an angry thumb? Is this the time you pushed Him too far?

I know, it feels like everything—that thing that happened to you…

They stole your innocence, betrayed your trust—said terrible things, did terrible things. It wasn’t fair, wasn’t right—completely wrong in every way—stealing things that can’t be replaced. The hurts run deep, straight to the arteries of your soul—you’ll never be the same. Tragedy has many faces—some innocent, some not. You weren’t suppose to be alone, but now you are—the chair where they sat—now empty. No greater pain you have ever felt than being without, being alone—once loving in the physical, to now love in memory only.

So, you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the bitterness, the anger, the revenge—the hurt, the loss, the emptiness. What happened to you, it feels like—everything.

That’s why, in your mind, the questions pound you—is He real, was He asleep at the wheel? How could this ever happen under a God who’s supposed to be so loving? Beating His chest, crying every tear, feeling hung out to dry—perhaps these doubts should have been doubted long before. What you thought was a trust now seems so un-trustable.

I know, it feels like everything—what you are doing, who you are becoming, the life you are living…

The real you, the fake you, something in between—your secret thoughts, insecurities, desires, dreams. Passions in your heart—if only to love and be loved in return—declared of value, overflowing with worth. Fully accepted—never to die with your song still inside. You’ve got one life—air to breathe, breaths to take. Am I good enough? Am I like-able, love-able? Do I qualify “as is,” or something different? Status, labels, “likes” on Facebook—I don’t want to waste anytime. Fit in here, fit in there—maybe have no fit at all. Am I getting this right? Doing this well?

And so you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the insecurities, the uncertainties, the voices in your head—the naysayers, fair-weather players—the push to be seen, heard, affirmed, believed.

What you are doing, who you are becoming, the life you are living—it feels like—everything.

That’s why, in this world of everything, I am so thankful for nothing.

For nothing can subtract from God’s love for you. Nothing can change His mind, reduce His delight—kink the garden hose of His favor drenching you.

No mistake, no miscue, no atrocity—nothing of you can edit anything of Him.

All decided, once and for all—God’s perfect, unconditional, unrestricted love. Always has, always is, always will be, for there is nothing more pure and more sure than God’s heart—His love, His affections for you—nothing.

There’s nothing for Him to reexamine, to revaluate, to retract—nothing from Him withheld, reserved, restrained.

Nothing.

Nothing else is God but love—perfect, eternal, unconditional, unlimited love. All, poured out for you, for me, for everyone.

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

For nothing can improve upon the you that God has already finished—there’s nothing of blemish, nothing of sin, nothing of darkness in you within. Nothing to work on, nothing to strive for, nothing to earn—you are whole, complete, righteous, forgiven, forever pure. It’s nothing of what you do, only everything of what He did—there’s nothing left to do, only everything to believe, in Him

It’s not about what people think—not what people say. Not the height of your attitude, not the depth of your gratitude—nothing half empty, nothing half full. Nothing of your religious effort, believing, or work—nothing at all.

Nothing to fear, nothing of which to be ashamed, nothing of tarnish upon your name.

You are righteousness, when you get it all wrong—you are success, when failures go on and on—you are whole, even as it all unravels to the ground.

As He is, so are you—nothing less than the beauty of Jesus—nothing.

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

For nothing is the sum distance between you and God—He is beside you, within you, all around you, as you. Nothing closer, nothing thicker, nothing more real than the realness of His hand holding yours—you have never been alone.

He is your strength when yours is nothing—He is your guide, when your sight sees nothing. He is your hope, when hope seems like nothing.

Grace is awakening to the hug God has always had around you—a Grace that nothing can remove.

So, in a world of everything, I am so thankful for nothing.

Absolutely… nothing.

For in the nothing, I find everything for which to be thankful…

Nothing.

The Self-Talk That Is Killing You

There is no drama playing out in all the world that is more significant than the one being continually staged in the auditorium of our heads. Ours is an inner life filled with an ever developing script of characters dressed with the personas we give them, the sentences we write, the blanks we fill in—friend or foe, villain or hero, threatening or benign, hope or despair, regret or satisfaction, all a constant inner conversation striving to interpret and navigate our human experiences and direct them into a positive plot that circumvents pain and resolves dissonance into harmony.

Of all the scenes that are set under spotlight, the exclusive conversations we have with ourselves form the dialogues that leverage the strongest pull on the strings of our story. Nothing directs the chapters of our lives more than our self-talk—so much that our future is rarely the sole product of what manifests on stage, but rather the narration we pen of it in our inner conversations. Within seconds of every life interaction, we translate our experiences into internal, emotional and cognitive storylines and conclusions that forever shape our steps.

Above all that unfolds in front or behind the curtains of our psyche, we are the director of the drama in our inner life, and our directing, a sure product of the perceptions we embrace of the Author. If God exists, does He write scripts of hardship, adversity, or even pain into our lives for some kind of divine purpose? Is His affections for us filled with limits, conditions, inconsistencies, or even existent at all? Are the characters that fill the world’s stage fundamentally good, bad, or something in between? Is He mad, disappointed, or undecided about me? Is God truly love, or is He some kind of bipolar mixture with moments here and there of convenient amnesia? Should I place complete hope and faith in Him, or is it best that I live with one eye open? Are the plot lines in my life, negative or positive, written directly from the pen in His hand, or is something or someone else at play? So many factors and influences take the stage—parents, upbringing, faith, circumstances, and life experiences, all auditioning to write a verse or even commandeer the entire script as the Author in our heads.

That’s the reason why, for many of us, the person we are to ourselves isn’t so much in concert with the true Author of life, but far more in step with the Accuser of it—a constant voice of condemnation interpreting all of our existence towards the verdict of personal guilt and shame. Somehow, it’s always our fault. We are wrong even when we are right. Every moment of every day, drinking in and regurgitating out volumes of evil, twisted verses to our souls—I’ll never measure up, I’m a square peg in a round world, always a step below, a length behind, a stumble too far gone. Things will never get better, this is as good as it’s going to get. God hates me, I’m an abomination—the reason this is all happening. My life is a bitch in the ditch, a mess far beyond repair. I’m a misfit, a misprint, a miscue, and fundamentally, a grandiose mistake.

The truth is, the Accuser cannot speak to you what you aren’t first willing to say to yourself. Often, the lens through which we see our lives is so skewed by inner condemnation, shame, and inadequacy that the person gazing back at us in the mirror reveals the image of one who has been repeatedly and brutally raped by our self-talk to the point that our true beauty, strength, wholeness, and divinity is nowhere to be seen—buried under the bed of our self-inflicted adultery. Tainted by a diabolical world that’s been allowed penetration onto our cerebral stage, our self-talk is killing us—and not just killing us, but unceasingly thrusting Jesus back upon the cross in full declaration and conclusion that when all is said and done, His Grace is not sufficient—at least not for us. The words we speak, the evils we echo to our soul are the nails that crucify us and Him, over and over again—our self-talk, locking the shackles that are imprisoning our every step.

The verbal selfie you take in your mind is the most influential image in your life. Like a resurrected Lazarus who was nothing more than a card-carrying member of the walking dead until his burial wraps were removed, we will never be fully alive until the death we speak to ourselves is shown for its utter uselessness and imprisonment, and thus unraveled and replaced with words of life—because we have finally become convinced by the Convincer, we are not dead, but teeming with divine Light.

For you are the loveliness of Jesus, the prize for which He became a person. You are whole, complete, forever without blemish—never discarded or labeled as damaged goods. Nothing less than pure delight and affection has come from God’s heart to yours. On the cross, Jesus did far more than ankle-yank you out of hell into heaven, He remade you, and all that is Him is all that is now you. Nothing can revoke or remove God’s perfect, unconditionally unconditional love for you. You are fully qualified for every good thing. No sin, past, present, or future shall ever define you nor cast a shadow upon your image. As far as the east is from the west, inadequacy and shame are forever removed from your path.

My child, there is nothing wrong with you, no doubts to haunt your potential nor twitches to sabotage good things. Your capacity to face life is nothing less than Jesus’ capacity to face death—resurrection and redemption are who you are. To God, you are not merely a person to love, you are the reason God is love. Above all else, you are an experience to Him, the candy in the store that fills the heavens with joy, satisfaction, and pride. The mere thought of you tickles His sides with laughter and sends Him blazing through streets of gold with a gleam in His eyes brighter than a thousand suns.

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time where the God who is perfect love does not perfectly and completely love you—all of you, everything about you. Every feeling, decision, and conclusion in your regard has already been formed and sealed in ecstatic, irrevocable and unremovable love. There is nothing you can do or become that can undo or improve upon what God has already put to rest—the internal, tormenting conversation you constantly wage with yourself wrestling with the value, worth, essence and summation of your life. There is nothing left to talk about or debate—there is nothing unsettled that hasn’t been settled. You are divine beauty, God’s best idea—no matter what others, and more importantly, no matter what you might say.

When we are the person weighted with depression—engulfed in the quicksands of discouragement. When we are the person held captive by self directed unforgiveness—hopelessly circling on sin’s merry-go-round, spinning our lives out of control. When we are the person eclipsing ourselves, standing in the way of shiny new things—striving, trying, and performing our way to somehow redeem our storyline and make a name and a significance of ourselves. Before all, and in all, we are first the person whose self-talk is diseased with words of condemnation and condition that ooze out a soul-hemorrhaging puss dripping from our mouths as we sing from the Accuser’s songbook.

Seeking to change our circumstances often proves futile, seeking to change our self-talk is the good fight of faith—the work of God that is to fully rest our souls and our self assessments on how deep, wide, scandalous, and expansive is the love of Jesus upon our every atom.

The greatest battle in your life is to be convinced of the Author’s conclusions when the Accuser blows his hallucinogenic smoke into your eyes hoping you’ll believe something less. There is nothing to work on in your life, there is only everything to believe on about your life. Jesus did not die to save you from an angry God, but to save you from believing He is. For guilt is anger turned inward, the death cocktail of the Accuser served for the consumption of your self-talk to rid you from seeing all that His hands have made—the perfection that is you.

God is good, He is love. He has nothing but grace, joy, hope, acceptance, affirmation, and freedom to speak into you.

Never let a thought be in your head of self evaluation or conclusion that is not first a thought in His, nor a conversation ensue within you that is not first wrought from the Father, Son, and the Spirit as they brag about you.

Then, the self-talk that is killing you soon becomes the Jesus-talk that frees you to fully be who you fully already are… Jesus anew.

For Those Who Suck at Family, and The Rest who Think They Don’t

Growing up, my mom always told my sisters and I you should never say, “shut up.” Instead, the polite term is, “be quiet.” I agree, I really do, but this has gotten out of hand, and sometimes you have to say what you have to say…

So, whoever you are, “shut up” already with all this “we need to build stronger families for Jesus” garbage!

Pastor after pastor, ministry after ministry, book after book, article after article, all driving the hoop with the same game, “what you are doing in your family life isn’t good enough, so you need to do more of this and less of that.” Learn this strategy, follow these principles, take these steps. Get your spiritual pom-poms on for the family cheer and whistle your act together; pray harder, get to church, buy the devotion books, serve more, set goals, smile wider, find a mission trip.

What? You haven’t had a family mission trip together? What the hell is wrong with you people? Some kind of Jesus-family you are.

Quick, you better take that beach photo with everyone dressed in white, photoshop in a Bible verse at the bottom, post it on Facebook, and get with the program already, because “we need to build stronger families for Jesus.”

Well, if I hear one more person spew that cut-and-pasted, spiritual vomit from their pie hole, I am going to a have small farm animal. No, I really am. Perfect, candle-lit dinner tables with linen placemats where all the kids are smiling, and dad has the leather bound Bible in his hands for the evening devotion just before mom serenades in with the steaming casserole she labored at all day.

Are you kidding me? Somebody, gag me with a multi-colored pitch fork. Do it now.

People who know me, know that I am all about family, but this image and pursuit we have created of a so-called “Christian” family looks not only ridiculously cheesy, but actually is the very thing that is eroding families, ironically. And we haven’t even talked about extended family relationships… oh yah, those can be fun.

See, it all looks and sounds so spiritual. Everyone appears to be behaving, praying, getting along, serving, lifting up a whole bunch of glory to the Lord. “We’re just giving all we have to Jesus as a family.” (That last sentence reads better if you do so with a southern accent)

The truth is, nobody is pulling this off. And the sad part is, everybody knows it but the people trying. At some level, we all suck at family. And to be honest, I actually think Jesus is pretty much o.k. with it. He knows what it’s like to have a real family. A family tattooed with rough edges, blind spots and a strong dosage of drama.  One that is not all put together and edited for Christian primetime. One that hasn’t been so Christianized with a two story house, white picket fence, a dog named Spot, a bible on every coffee table, Friday night family devotions, SUV’s stickered with every “Upward” sports possibility, and all the family challenges and adversities getting wrapped up in a nice little, Evangelical-approved, faith-packaged conclusion.

We live in the age of the performance-driven, appearance-ladened Christian. And sadly, many a tribe have drunk the Koolaid. There are a whole lot of families and family members dying on the inside cause deep down they know they don’t have it, and they can’t do it… this photoshop, Pinterest-perfect, magazine-cover Christian family thing.  Nobody does, and nobody can.

That’s why it’s time to get real, for realsies.

We all suck at family.

There are moments where we love the idea of spending time with our kids much more than the actually event of doing so. Jacked up on anxiety, we sit down at the Thanksgiving dinner with cousins, uncles, sisters, and brothers, secretly desiring to sabotage the person sitting across from us, if not to completely strangle them. We don’t like them one bit, and that’s pretty much all there is to it, no matter how much we say we “pray for them.” We’re smiling on the outside, but shaking hands with jealousy on the inside. We want to look forward to tucking our kids in with a story, baking birthday cakes, and driving to after school programs, but we don’t always. In fact, sometimes we resent it and even detest it. We look at other people’s family lives and wish we had theirs. Deep down, we wonder if we will ever measure up, and dread the idea of people hearing our secret thoughts and seeing our concealed imperfections. What if they peered through the curtains into our real doubts, heard our unedited arguments, viewed the x-ray of our thoughts? Some of which, are disturbing at best and certainly disqualifying of us from the Christian family vibe we so want everybody to believe we’re sporting.

The truth is, we spend a lot of time putting lipstick on the pig of our family lives. Sadly, because our Christian culture has groomed us that way.

In fact, if we are honest, a good bit of what we do as parents and family members is all for one thing… show. To prove to God, ourselves, and others that we are faithful, worthy, and successful in our family lives. Look at me, look at us, we’re doing it, we’ve got it!

On writer in the Scriptures discovered a life-changing awareness… “the Law entices us to sin.”  The more we try to meet standards, the more we fail to meet them. It’s even evil to think we can. In our family life and relationships, trying and striving to “be better” and “do better” never works. Our performance always breaks down at some point, leaving us with only one option, pretending to be something we aren’t. And that my friends, is hell.

I’m here to tell you, pretending is the breakfast of the religious. You don’t need to stage your family song and dance. God’s Grace is sufficient. Stop pulling the strings and choosing the choices motivated to somehow create an acceptable, admirable impression in the eyes of everybody else. Who gives a rip what they think?  They aren’t you, and they aren’t in your family.

Besides, it’s not about them. It’s not even about you. The quality of you as a family member, and your family as a whole is based on nothing less than the quality of Jesus. He defines you. His success is your success, in ever area, even family.

You lack no spiritual blessing from Jesus. You are already a great parent, you are already a great child, you are already a great family member, you are already a great family, and nothing within your performance thereof can add or subtract from that.

So stop playing the game. Take down the pieces, fold up the board, and put it back in the box.

Your family job is to enjoy Jesus and awaken to the you, you already are…. complete, righteous, sanctified, forgiven, pure, Holy, and the delight of your Father… as is… a whole mother, a whole father… brother, sister, daughter, son… that’s who you are.

There is no condemnation over any aspect of your family, your role, or participation thereof. None.

No person, no family is better… only different.

So shut up with this, “we need to build stronger families for Jesus” crap. There’s nothing to build.  It’s already been built, finished on the cross. It’s you. It’s your family.

You are already strong, you are already successful, you are already complete.

So go, be free… be the family, be the family member you already are… no better, no worse than another, just different…

…without pressure, fear, guilt, or shame.

This is Grace.

This is the change that changes things.

This is family.

This, is the Jesus way.

The Pharisees (Law-figures) in Your Life

“They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:2-9 RSV)

“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.” (Matthew 23:13 RSV).

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (Matthew 23:23-24)

The Pharisee in Your Proximity, History, or Family Tree

There are likely numerous modern day Pharisees (Law-figures) in your life, right now. They could be your parent, your coworker, your boss, your spouse, your child, your friend, your pastor etc.  They have the same main goal in your life as the Pharisees of the Bible. That is, to have influence and control over you, and to gain your conformity to their expectations. The Pharisees of the Bible have several characteristics that will help you identify the modern day Pharisees in your life right now. Here are some of the characteristics of the Pharisees in your life…

1) They are the ones consumed with expectations, rules (standards), regulations, and their way of doing things, and even more so with making sure you follow them, while not always following them, themselves. They are the law/expectation enforcers of your life; that is, their laws/expectations and ways of doing things. Their love, attention, acceptance, mood, and countenance are conditioned on your meeting of their expectations.

2) They are the ones who love attention and to be the center of it (usually having one of the loudest voices), often looking for people to follow/submit to their legalistic system of being and thinking. As long as you buy into them, are like them, and act and think like them, you are in. You will see them often having a flock of people whose common attribute is their willingness or desire to conform and be accepted by them, or who are simply cut from same clothe sharing the same system of thinking and being.

3) They are gossipers about other people, particularly about negative aspects of people’s lives. They enjoy pointing out people’s faults and shortcomings with a judgmental, grace-less spirit.

4) They are the ones who are always somehow right, love to have the last word, and typically have an answer to everything; often that make you feel ignorant, inferior, or needing their acceptance.

5) They are often hard (stubborn or unaffected) people, often carrying a stern, arrogant, untouchable, or disinterested posture where it seems you are never good enough, right, or worthy or their true respect. If you appear to come into their relational system of conditions, they will give enough softness to keep you interested, but where you do not comply, they will turn up their nose.

6) They are the ones who have a way of triggering your sense of guilt, shame, and condemnation, while being the ones you somehow feel like you need to please and earn their acceptance the most.

7) They are sometimes religious, pious appearing people, who use their beliefs to control and conform people into their system of thinking and being.

Oh Crap, it’s My Mom

O.k., now take a deep breath. You are going to be alright. You have probably already identified some people who fit into a lot of these characteristics. And what is most concerning is who these people are to you.  Chances are there is a family member in there, or a coworker, or a boss, a close friend etc.

Take a moment to continue to make a mental list of who the Pharisees are in your life right now. Why? Because how you are or are not dealing with them is having a dramatic impact on your life and probably the people you love.

Jesus repeatedly warned people of handling the Pharisees in their life with great care and caution, and so should you! He understood their potential, destructive hold on and influence in people’s lives if they weren’t vigilant.

Here are some critical things you should be doing with the Pharisees in your life.

The Big 5

1) Identify them for who they are.  No, don’t label them, but certainly see their behavior and way of relating to you for what it is. Somehow, we often feel obligated to love and even defend the Pharisees in our lives to a fault. This bizarre and twisted irony often leaves us unwilling to see their behavior for what it truly is, evil and destructive.  Furthermore, if it’s YOU that’s the Pharisee. See your behavior for what it is and turn to Grace to heal and give you a new foundation for life, living, and relating to people.

2) Identify the insecurity in you that is attracted to or codependent towards the opinion or expectations of them.

We all have insecurities and areas where we don’t measure up. We all need acceptance, love, and approval. Pharisees or more than willing to present you a way to strive to earn just that and to seemingly remedy the insecurities in your life. That is, to gain THEIR approval, acceptance, and respect.

See, the hard truth is, Pharisees exploit our insecurities and thrive on getting us to need their approval, have our submission, and seek their acceptance. It’s actually their way of justifying and gaining their own acceptance and approval.

Chances are in your family, workplace, or sphere of relationships, there is a Pharisee around which a group of people (maybe even you) seem to gravitate. Why? Because they (and/or you) are trying to gain the approval of a Law figure in their life so that they can feel valuable and worthwhile. Pharisees attract insecure people not because of their Graciousness, but because they present a system of earning ones way into acceptance as the way of healing their deep seeded insecurities. This is attractive to some because it replaces the love they do not have for themselves with a system of performance that makes it seem like they can finally  become secure and whole as a person. It is indeed a kind of family of acceptance they seek with the Pharisee, though founded solely on conditions, performance, and conformity. This relational system is evil, will not heal anything in your life, and will imprison you in the cell of your own insecurities and the never ending and always failing pursuit to heal yourself through a Law figure (Pharisee) in your life.

3) Don’t become like them.  Though the way they relate to you may have bewitched and seduced you into their sphere of control or influence, their system of relating and being ultimately does not work and falls on its face. All Pharisees are hypocrites as they can never meet the expectation themselves that they have and hold over others. Furthermore, their philosophy of influence with people and solving the deep problems in people ‘s lives only serve to put a bandaid on an ever cracking and leaking damn. They imprison the people they think they are somehow freeing by shackling them to the same religious, legalistic, guilt-motivated system that has imprisoned them. Indeed, miserly loves company. Trust Grace to be your supply and your solution. Trust it to work with people in all circumstances and situation. There is never a moment where Grace is not the right answer or response. Likewise, there is never a moment where the tenants and tactics of the Pharisees ever work, bring life, or the wholeness and security you seek.

4) Extend Grace without excusing their behaviors. If anyone needs Grace, it’s Pharisees. Unfortunately and often, the more you extend it, the more they reject it. Give it anyways, even if just to frustrate them. But don’t excuse their behaviors. Rather, confront them when necessary with confidence and calmness.  If you need to keep your distance, do so. Yet, always be willing to come to the table of reconciliation. Grace can change anyone, even the most sold-out Pharisee.

5) Turn to the Grace figures in your life beginning with Grace Himself… Jesus  What you are seeking or think you are getting in the Law figure(s) (Pharisee) in your life is what you can truly only get through the Grace-figure, Jesus. In fact, He is not just a figure of Grace, He is Grace.

Allow him to be your security, your justification, your acceptance, your approval, your worth, your value, your identity. Surround yourself with Grace-figures in your life. People who love you unconditionally, promote your freedom not control, stand with you, and have your best interests at heart. People who speak well of others, who give the benefit of the doubt, who forgive easily, and who lift up who you are, not who you aren’t.

 

Top 5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

Part 1 of 6

(part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)

Mixing is for Gin not the Gospel

Most Christians and Christian leaders love the concept of God’s Grace, but up to a point. As long as it’s mixed with what they would say is a “balancing” bit of Law (religious rules you obey) they are more than willing to cozy up to “Grace.” So, what has happened is that when it comes to salvation and the Christian life, “Grace” is seen as a kind of partner or side-kick within the Gospel. It’s seen as the softer aspect of God that tips our hat to His loving side. Conversely, the Law is seen as what makes sure people clean up their acts, do religious things, hunger for more “to do steps and strategies” and take sin seriously.  That’s why when you present God’s Grace in its purity (without the Law), typically, all bets are off as some Christian leaders become afraid of what they would call, “too much Grace.”

Yet, the Gospel is either all Grace or it’s all Law, there can be no mixture (balance) of a little bit of Grace and a little bit of Law. In fact, the Bible makes dramatic separations and distinctions between the two. A couple, among many examples…

Romans 6:14 …because you are not under the law, but under grace.

John 1:17  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5:4  For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

The pure Gospel of God’s Grace (a term Paul used in Acts 20:24) has always brought a stirring of criticism among the religiously spirited. I should know, I was one of them. Thankfully, God captured my heart and changed my mind about who He is, who I am, and the Gospel of His Grace.

I suspect there are many Christians who don’t even realize how much of what they have been taught and believe is contrary to the Gospel. I certainly didn’t. Like many unknowing Christians and spiritual leaders, my heart was in the right place, but my beliefs were not. As a pastor of 18 years, I did not realize (until a couple years ago) how much of my teaching, preaching and counsel actually placed people in bondage instead of the freedom I (and God) desired for them. When it came to the Gospel, I was so close, yet so far away.

So, what is the pure Gospel of Grace? In simple terms it is this…

The Gospel

We are all born sinners in a broken world. Everything about our lives has en expiration date on a pathway to death. In the Garden of Eden, our lives were forever changed as our first parents chose selfishness and distrust over faith in God.  Sin and death became realities and it’s shrapnel has penetrated everything, breaking our fellowship with God.  What God intended for our lives and living was poisoned through and through.Without an act of pure Grace, all of humanity in its sinful brokeness was destined for death, spiritually, emotionally, and physically as our best efforts could never repair our broken relationship with God and the depraved nature of our lives and living begun at the fall of Adam and Eve.

Yet, despite all of this. God is love, and God loves you perfectly, completely, and unconditionally, no matter who you are or what you have done or are doing. So much that He sent His son Jesus, fully God and fully man to die for your sins, and all of humanity. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the brokeness of all creation, including you. In His death and resurrection, Jesus put your sins to death and gave you His life. A new covenant was put into place where Jesus’ performance on the cross becomes your righteousness, holiness, and salvation. It is no longer about performing to get to God (as it was in the Old Testament), but God’s performance on the cross to get to you. His life becomes your life. His identity becomes your identity. The redemptive work in your life was completed, completely. You became a new person in Christ, a new creation in fact. Your sins, past, present, and future were all forgiven once and for all. It is no longer your nature to sin (though we still do), your old nature was crucified with Jesus on the cross. Sin no longer defines you, Jesus defines you. You old self died, you new self was reborn. You have the mind of Christ. You are a partaker of the divine nature, lacking no spiritual blessing. You are in fact, the righteousness of Christ, with no condemnation over your life whatsoever. You are not only a son (or daughter), but a king and priest in the Kingdom of God. As He is (seated at the right hand of God) so are you in this world. God’s favor and Grace are forever over your life.

All of this, Jesus provided and accomplished on the cross on your behalf, and that of the whole world. The moment you believe in who Jesus is and what He did, you receive it all. Done deal. We are saved by Grace through faith.

Now, it is no longer you who lives, but Christ living in you, and as you. The same Grace that saved you is the same Grace that sustains and sanctifies you. The Christian life is about growing into who you already are in Christ. Your part is to realize you have no part, only to believe. That’s why this growth happens through faith, not your efforts. You cannot produce spiritual fruit in your life, only bear the fruit God produces.  It’s no about striving and trying to be a better person, it’s rather about believing you already are a better person and living from that identity. It’s not about shame, guilt, punishment and religious rule keeping as you live a life focused on sin and your obedience. That system of living was canceled on the cross, at the moment of His resurrection, a new system was ushered in by Jesus Himself. It’s a life of complete and ever present forgiveness, freedom, peace, and rest as you focus on Jesus and His mercy, favor, and performance in your life, not yours. It’s an obedience of faith, not of actions. It’s a life of living from His Grace, in His Grace, to be Grace to others.

This is the Gospel.

So What’s The Beef?

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?  Yet, what sounds like true love, freedom, and life, to the religious sounds like heresy! The Gospel can’t be that good. Give people Grace and they will just sin more. Besides, how are we going to be able to manage people? You are going too soft on sin, and what about repentance! Repentance, repentance, repentance! If we don’t give people something to work on, strive for, and do, how can we keep them coming and interested in church? God does His part, but we have to do our part, or else.

A Quick Clarification

Now, let me be clear with you. There are various variations of what people believe about the Gospel of Grace. So, if you couldn’t tell from my explanation of the Gospel written above, let me be sure you know what I am not… I am not a Calvinist nor a Universalist. I don’t believe God predestined, through what they call “irresistible Grace,” to regenerate some and not others so that some believe, but others do not, thus having some go to heaven and others to Hell. How that is considered Grace, I will never know. Yet, I am also not a Universalist who believes all are going to heaven, whether they really want to or not. I find both these systems of beliefs not congruent with how I understand the Gospel. I love my Calvinist and Universalist friends, by I respectfully don’t agree with them.

5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

That said, there are many people who are against and critical of the Gospel of God’s Grace as I (and others) understand it. They call it “hyper-grace,” cheap Grace” and a host of other names. And, they line up their Bible passages to refute it. Here are the top 5 passages (not in any particular order) they use and an explanation of how these passages in fact, do not refute the message of the Gospel of God’s Grace. One of the blessings of believing the Gospel of Grace is that it transforms the way you read the Bible. You realize that God is not in the bait and switch business of drawing you in with love only to blast you with Law. No, He is love from top to bottom and inside and out, and He perfectly loves you. When you see this you will no longer become frightened or confused when you read passages like those listed below.

keep reading… Part 2

(part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)

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?

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