Tag: Jesus Christ

Learning To Love ISIS, Starting With The ISIS In You

Everything is spiritual.

We can mud-sling political views around. Debate historical data. All, painting each other into corners. We may feel a release, but there won’t be a resolution.

ISIS is a spiritual manifestation and a human problem.

On the surface, it reveals itself as terrorism, murder, hatred, war, and violence. Terrible realities, worthy of our anger and conversation. Yet underneath, there is a cancer much deeper, a catalyst much darker. Until this is healed, there will be no healing. It is beyond the reach of missiles, religion, sanctions, politics, rhetoric, ideologies, and war. All, perpetuating the cycle.

Everything is spiritual. Requiring spiritual evaluation and application. This is why we must talk about the root of all that is terror… condemnation.

It’s a simple story.

In the creation poem that opens its scroll at the front of the Christian Bible, God speaks the world into being. With hands coursing His artistic beard, He pauses between breathes to evaluate His living imagery. In rhythmic cadence, with each step He declares, “it is good.”

Soon after, the Tempter in serpent form, exploited the Garden of its goodness, playing his sole card of condemnation, the only one in hand. The first human ones bit the bluff, that God is holding out because of something they can’t handle. Convinced they lacked in some way, unworthy of the worthiness etched into their being. What was natural became naked, and the yarns of shame and guilt slithered their coil through the threads of inherent goodness. It is a complex weave. And we, are a complex people in the arduous journey of trying to unravel from condemnation’s relentless entanglement.

This is the story of every human being, bobbing and weaving, wrestling to come out from under condemnation believed. The genesis of all contortions, twisted personas, and justifications. It is the root of all sin. The birth of all religion. Compelling us into the dance to heal or conceal a shamed heart. All of us have a life that tells a unique, complicated story and reveals a personal shaping from our quest to be released from the lie we swallow as truth… condemnation.

This is the essence of all religion. The soul trying to heal its concluded unworthiness through efforts of appeasement and pleasing… people, self, Gods, standards, expectations. A never ending list.

Religion, it is a contrived system, all to place the conquering of condemnation in human hands and within human reach. It has names like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but it’s reach is far greater, and origin far more universal. For it is first a human system, and then a human system falsely projected onto God. Starting from humans, and within all of humanity. Religion is not of God, it’s of us.

Living up to the Jones’ next door, or living up to a Diety in heaven, it is all equally religion. Striving to feel good about you, people feel good about you, a Being above to feel good about you. It’s all religion.

People pleasing, God pleasing. Earning self approval, God approval. Call it what you may, a path, a pursuit, a faith. Jesus calls it religion. Evil, from its beginning, especially in what it becomes at its fruition.

For the ultimate manifestation of condemnation is religion. The ultimate expression of religion is… violence.

Just ask Cain and Abel.

A mere stones throw from the Garden, the first act of terrorism. From condemnation’s stem, the religious barbs grow. Cain and Abel believe they must please God, offerings of show. Covering over guilt, justifying their concluded lack. Cain and Abel enter the sanctuary to perform their religious act.

Cain’s perception? God sees his offering as inferior compared to that of Abel. It’s lacking, unworthy. He is therefore, lacking and unworthy. Internalized condemnationSentenced to disapproval, the cell is too much. If only to break free. To even the score. To bring one down, to lift one’s self up.

Murder, terrorism, its origins the same. Cain bites the bluff and kills out of shame. All in attempt to clean, clear, lift, and better his name. To win at playing this religious game.

Be it Christianity, Islam, or ISIS, there is no difference. The root of terrorism is condemnation fully grown into religion.

Violence is born out of people who see the lowering, hurting, or death of another as a path to the validation or justification of self. It is born out of those seeking to perpetuate or defend the religious system they use to justify away concluded condemnation. For the death of their religion is the death of their self-justification, the self-healing of self, their very salvation.

All the way to believing they are better, instead of only different.

Crusades, planes, bombs. Christian or Islam, makes no difference. All is religion.

Isn’t that what most of Christianity has become, just another religion?

Isn’t that who we are as people, mostly religious in prescription?

Living to overcome condemnation through our performance, be it spiritual or secular, it makes no difference. Causing us to believe we are better than another, where in truth, we are only different.

All is spiritual, and most all, have simply become religious.

In doing so, terrorism is already here.

For we are a terrorist nation, because we are a religious nation. Our violence just looks different.

Infidels declared. Homosexuals, transgenders, all condemned. Those on the left, those on the right. Immigrants, refugees, or somewhere in between. Pro-life, pro-choice. Those who have, those who have not. All sighted as targets, candidates for open season. None, it seems are exempt from hate. We are a hating, violent country, because of our religions.

Where we are a religious person we are a terrorist person, our violence and evil nonetheless violent and evil.

Bringing people low to lift ourselves up, terrorizing with the planes of our disapproval. Crashing people to pieces to fabricate an affirmation of self and shame’s removal. Pushing people behind simply to get ahead. Pimping dreams that are merely schemes. Condemning, judging, isolating, labeling, all to win in this religious game. Ultimately, to believe we are better, instead of merely one in the same.

Missiles of marginalization, bombs of bigotry. Shrapnel-laced blog posts, and weaponized rants of ideology. Whether it’s a pen or a pipe-bomb, legislations, labels, or land-mines, they are nonetheless, mere extensions of a heart poisoned by religion. Purposed primarily on justifying ourselves, our faith system, or our position.

Even that we are better, instead of merely different.

Murdering people, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. All is terrorism, nonetheless.

Just ask Jesus.

For Jesus, to hate in heart is to murder in action. At the core, either choice changes not our position. To pray “thy Kingdom come,” to give Jesus your adoration. This diagnosis must become our admission. We all need Grace, and all equally. Non are better, only different.

There is ISIS in us all, because there is the religious in us all.

This is the true battle within and without. Where external or inner condemnation attempts to engage our performance, spiritual or otherwise, to cover over or rise above areas where one feels lack. Be it appeasing a God, living up to religious standards, using success to medicate inner insecurities, bringing another down to lift one’s self up, ISIS is within us all. To choose religion over Grace.

Grace is God’s best idea to show the heart that believes it’s condemned, that there is no condemnation to believe. Grace is based on the eternal truth, that through Jesus none are condemned, none are lacking, all our whole, righteous, complete, and without blemish, all because of Jesus’ performance, our only hope.

Religion is based on the lie from Satan, that all are condemned, lacking, incomplete, poisoned, and their only hope ultimately rests in some level of their performance to appease an angry, conditional-loving God who requires something of their actions to trigger His.

Where we choose religion over Grace, ISIS is not just them over there, it’s you and me, right here.

Until the world awakens to Grace and dies to religion, there will always be an ISIS within and without.

Until you can see the ISIS in the mirror, you will not see yourself in ISIS. We are all human, none are better, only different. This is the scandal and humbling of Grace.

Terrorism is a complex issue that needs many levels of response.

But until we believe within Grace lies the way, we really don’t believe Grace all the way, and we will forever miss its capacity to heal the true root of all that is terrorism, and rid our planet of its power.

Until ISIS is you, you will not believe you need the same enormity of Grace necessary to be given, for ISIS to be no more.

You can’t give what you don’t have, and you don’t have what you don’t believe you need.

Religion, retaliation, revenge, only serve to arm and rearm.

Only Grace, disarms.

Our only chance to find true healing, of the ISIS within and the ISIS without.

Reclaiming Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, why pray?

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

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

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

Keep it simple, personal, and genuine.

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

 

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!

Taking the Bite out of Betrayal

Betrayal bites. Of all the plots Satan can work into a relationship, betrayal is the worst. At the heart of betrayal is broken trust. Whether it be in the form of an affair, lies, gossip, backstabbing, or walking away from a relationship, betrayal in essence involves the breaking of trust.  You trusted the person to be, do, or carry out something and they did not. Most of the time, betrayal has a deliberate essence to it. Sometimes it is even premeditated.

Unfortunately, trust is not as highly valued as it should be. People make all kinds of promises that they can’t or refuse to keep. They do what they want to do, when they want to do it, and how they want to do it with very little if any concern for its relational effect. Then, they expect this flippant attitude and behavior to be rewarded with trust.  We are truly a disposable, consumer minded society that has placed a high value on convenience to the point where even relationships, commitment, and trust are scene as expendable. Like a membership at a YMCA, we seem to value relationships as far as they serve our needs and a better opportunity doesn’t present itself. Once a relationship stops serving our needs, all bets are off. Not a pleasant reality, but sadly a true one.

Yet, trust takes much time and relational travel to establish, but people expect it to happen over night. Trust should be treasured and built patiently over time.  It’s not instant, nor is it disposable.  Furthermore, it is the product of a relationship going through ups and down together and passing the tests of trust.

With a growing disregard for authority, friendships, integrity, and trust, betrayal has become common place and basically expected. What God hates, Satan has made predictable… betrayal.

So, what is a person to do with this issue of betrayal? Unfortunately it can’t be completely prevented, but here is some wisdom that can guide you in taking the bite out of betrayal.

o.o1 Acknowledge the Hurt – Trying to play the tough guy (or girl) through betrayal is not healthy. Betrayal is gut-wrenching. Make sure you don’t try to bury the anger you have.  Take time to express your hurt to God and perhaps a close friend with whom you can trust. The more you stow it, the more is festers and grows.

o.o2 Retrace the Steps – Typically, betrayal doesn’t happen overnight. Furthermore, what may feel like betrayal could have a very legitimate explanation. To be sure, it will be difficult at best to put together the puzzle of events that led to the betrayal, but doing your best to understand what led to it will help you process it and move forward with appropriate emotions and actions.

o.o3 Learn to Exit Well – Betrayal sometimes occurs when people don’t know how to leave or deal with a situation or relationship. Instead of handling it with clear, direct communication, they hide in the shadows only to make their choices known through others or with no explanation at all. In some circumstances, people will find excuses to exit stage left and use blame to legitimize the guilt they feel in leaving your side. In other circumstances, they will make decisions that force your hand in confronting them and setting boundaries so that they don’t have to take responsibility for the decline or dissolving of the relationship. In essence, they make you say “no” so they don’t have to. This is of course very hurtful, but also serves as a good lesson on how not to do the same to another.

I imagine that Judas discovered early on that there became a point where he no longer supported the cause and/or claims of Christ. But rather then handle that with direct and clear communication, he betrayed Jesus. Add into the mix some greed, bitterness, and temptation and you can begin to retrace the steps of Judas’ exit stage left from the side of Jesus.

o.o4 Reenter with Caution – Betrayal doesn’t always mean the end.  For example, I have seen many couples overcome the worst of affairs and rebuild their marriage stronger than ever.  However, anytime there has been a betrayal, giving back trust and moving towards reconciliation should be done with care and caution. Forgiveness only takes one person, trust and restoration always takes two. Developing discernment and having a healthy relational radar system can go a long way at preventing betrayal.

o.o5 Let God get Justice- When we are betrayed it’s easy to desire revenge. Even when we are at no fault and justified in our anger, revenge is not a good thing.  When it comes to betrayal, trying to even the score will always end up in losing the game.  Does this mean you should not confront the person or seek measures of appropriate discipline or boundaries? No. But it does mean that any actions taken should not be authored from a spirit of revenge.  Aside from any appropriate confrontation or discipline, let God take care of the issues of justice and revenge. He can handle it, we can’t.

0.o6 Don’t Give Up on Trust- There are a lot of good, trustable people out there with whom you can have a betrayal free relationship. Take time to develop trust. Trust can’t be rushed. People who won’t take the time and do the work to build trust probably won’t value it nor protect it once you give it.  There is a difference between being careful and being distrusting. Be careful, but don’t assume that people aren’t trustable.

© 2019 Chris Kratzer

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