Tag: rest

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.

The Grace-Driven Life : Overcoming a Culture of Stress

I don’t know if you have noticed, but life is filled with a lot of stress. Now more than ever. In fact, doctors report that most of the people they see have stressed related illnesses. 77% of Americans report having significant physical and psychological symptoms due to stress.

And you know what? Surprise, surprise, surveys show that the number one stressors are our jobs, money, health, and relationships. You may or may not want to add your mother-in-law to that list.

Obviously, part of the reason why we are under more stress than ever in human history is because of the pressures we experience externally. It’s harder now to make a living, raise a family, keep a job, and the list goes on and on. More people are fatigued, stressed, and discouraged in our culture than perhaps ever before.

Our American Culture of “Become Successful” 

But I believe there is a much deeper factor as to why we are so stressed out as a culture. The stress level in our lives comes from the foundation from which we are living, especially in America. For so long we have been taught that the foundation we need to have for our lives is to “be successful” “make something out of our lives” “achieve the impossible” “live the American dream” “Do more and become more than everybody else.”  It’s a foundation of doing, doing, doing. The motto for life that we have been taught to live is, “Become successful.”

So what’s the result? Our lives are filled with tons of pressure to succeed, to get ahead, to keep up with the Jones’s, to measure up to everybody else, make a name for yourself, and to meet certain bench marks for what it looks like to be “successful.” Because that’s how success is defined in our culture. Whoever is doing the most, has the most busy schedule, achieves the most, has the most stuff, and is getting ahead the most is deemed “successful.”

It’s a foundation from which we are living that says, “We gotta make something out of our lives; our identities, our value, and are worth are in the balance.”

And when things are tracking, we are seen as “successful,” life seems to be moving forward, the mortgage is getting paid, we are progressing in our careers, then we feel like life is good.  But when it’s not, when things don’t come together, when one of the 5,000 balls we are trying juggle on the road to success falls to the ground, when we miss the mark, we hit hard times, the unexpected happens, all bets are off, and our foundation begins to crumble.

It’s a performance-driven foundation of becoming successful. And our modern culture is largely based on living from this kind of foundation.

But the truth is, we are paying a very heavy price, in our health, relationships, emotional lives, and in our families.

In fact, as one writer identifies, “The average high school kid today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.” -Tullian Tchividian

I mean, have you been to the over-the-counter drugs section of Walmart lately?  Tons of drugs, most designed to help us cope with what? Stress

Folks we gotta sound the alarm, “Houston, we have a problem!”  This foundation is killing us, our relationships, our health, our children.

This “performance-driven” “success driven” “gotta make something out of my life” foundation from which we are living is tearing apart our lives. And quite frankly, it’s pure evil.

Our Christian Culture of “Become Spiritually Successful” 

And sadly, our modern, Christian culture of church has actually, truth be told, done much more to contribute to the problem than to help it.

In fact, if we are honest, we have simply presented people a spiritual form of the American dream, and presented that the foundation of the Christian life is to “whatever it takes, be all you can be, and do all you can do for Jesus.” It’s all about becoming “spiritually successful.”

We have taught that the essence the Christian life is your Christian life. it’s all about you becoming spiritually successful.  “Sure, God does His part, but you need to do your part, to your fullest potential and divine design” “So, get Jesus and get busy.” “All in, and sold out, that’s what it’s all about.” Spiritual success.

The problem is, first of all, that mindset is really all about “you and your Christian life” and making sure you are doing and becoming enough for Jesus. It becomes all about some “divine purpose” you are supposed to discover and some “divine potential” you are supposed to fulfill.

Yet, the truth is, with that focus and with that foundation, no matter how well intended; your service, prayers, worship, benevolence, care giving, and sacrifice become means to this ultimate end… and what’s the ultimate end… you and your Christian life. Spiritual success. As good and spiritual as what you are doing for Jesus might seem, at the end of the day, the bottom line isn’t about being a source of help and aid, but furthering your spiritual success, or the appearance thereof. That’s the truth folks, like or not.

And second of all, living from this foundation of “becoming spiritually successful” is super stressful, I mean, have you ever wondered, when is enough, enough? When have you prayed enough, worshiped enough, repented enough, gone to church enough, given enough?  How do you know when the “big” thing you are doing for the Lord is big enough. What if you don’t discern your true spiritual gift mix? What if you miss your potential? How do I know if I am in God’s perfect will, what if I miss it? Am I spiritually mature enough, how do I know? How do you even know when you have become a “fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ?

I mean seriously, the clock is ticking, what if I don’t get mature enough in time? What if I don’t figure out what my divine purpose is? And if somehow you don’t. Oh snap. Heaven forbid, the Kingdom of God, people’s salvation, the changing of the world for Christ are all in the balance on whether you discover and live for your divine purpose or not. But, no pressure!

Lipstick on a Spiritual Pig

So, our American culture and world at large teaches, the foundation for your life, “Make something out of your life, make a name for yourself, be all you can be, and do all can do” In short, “become successful.”

Our Christian culture teaches, the foundation for your life, “You and Jesus make something out of your life, be all you can be, and do all you can do for Jesus, In short, “become spiritually successful”

And let me tell you, we can put all the spiritual lipstick we want on the pig of our Christian culture,, but there really isn’t any foundational difference between our secular culture and our Christian culture.

It’s a performance driven foundation, and the Christian life has become a spiritual veil to the performance-driven life.

What’s the motto, “become spiritually successful.”

In fact, can I just tell you straight up, if you think that the essence of the Christian life is you and your Christian life, that’s what it as all about, becoming spiritually successful, not only are you missing true life, you are missing the Christian life.

Golf Magazine and Sunday Mornings in America

The other day, I was looking through Golf Magazine, and noticed that every issue is basically the same things… tips and tricks, do’s and don’ts to improve your game. Each issue is the same; new products, strategies, insights, plans, and programs to help you achieve the perfect game.

I started to wonder, why do people keep reading it? It’s basically the same thing every month.

And then I realized it’s because each week golfers go play and try out new tips, strategies and products on the golf course only to become frustrated because where some might work here and there, most don’t work and leave them frustrated that there game isn’t as good as they want it to be. So, they come back from playing their rounds during the week, mostly frustrated, but also holding out hope that maybe there is some new inspiration,  some new trick, new teaching approach, new strategy, new product they haven’t tried yet that will make things all come together and they will finally  have the perfect game. Besides, there is always some new product, some new strategy, some new program, and something to work on in your game. Or, maybe they just need the inspiration to try harder, or be more committed.

And then I got to thinking, Golf Magazine isn’t much different than what happens in 99% of churches across America. We come, we sing, and then we are given tips, tricks, and strategies for how to be a better Christian, with new books to read, strategies to try, equipment to purchase, new sources of inspiration, conferences to attend, programs to participate in, all to improve your performance on the spiritual golf-course of life. Because, remember the foundation, “become spiritually successful”

And people keep coming back, mostly frustrated because as they try all the things they are supposed to be doing and not doing they can’t seem to keep it all together and furthermore, it’s not really working. The secretly conclude inside, all these other Christians must have some kind of special blessing from God, because unlike them, they can’t seem to keep all the spiritual tricks, tips, strategies, and do’s and don’ts all together, not even close.

But yet, they hold out hope, come back seeking to be energized by perhaps a new method, a new plan, and new strategy, new inspiration, or a new product they haven’t tried yet so that finally, one day they will fulfill what they have been taught is essence and purpose of their life, to “become spiritually successful.”

And maybe you are reading this and you are thinking, there has got to be something better than this, Jesus has to have something better in mind. Cause all of this chasing of success in America, and then this Christian mindset of chasing spiritual success has burned you out, frustrated you, and made you wonder, there has got to be something more.

I am here to tell you there is, because Jesus never meant for you to live from a foundation of a “become successful” performance-driven life, not matter how spiritual it might seem.  That’s all man created, it’s called religion.

What Jesus created you for, the life he wants for you is a Grace-driven life. When we live our lives from a foundation of Grace, it changes everything.

Here are six foundation changes of living The Grace-Driven life…

Change your Foundation, Change your Life

o.o1 The Foundation of Your Purpose in Life is to Receive Grace- 

See, one of the things that stresses us out is the idea that we have to figure our and live some kind of  divine purpose for our lives that is largely based on our performance. How do I know if I am living it, and what if I don’t” What if I miss the mark, or screw it up?

The good news is that the foundation of your purpose in life is not your performance, it’s Grace.

The foundation of your purpose in life is to receive Grace, rest in Grace, and allow God to give it through you.

In many ways, your part in God’s purpose in your life is to realize you have no part, other than to receive and believe, and watch God work through you.

God’s purpose for your life is not about what you do, it’s about what you receive, and God wants you to see your purpose as to receive and rest in His Grace.

In fact, contrary to popular teachings in our Christian culture, the purpose of your life is not to glorify Jesus in the sense of what you do or become by discovering and living some kind of divine purpose specifically for your life. The truth is, in Christ, you already glorify Him! Not because of what you are doing or not doing, but Who lives in you and what He has done and continues to do in and through you.

If anything about your life pleases Him, it is your faith, not your faithfulness.

Relax, stop stressing. Your purpose, rather, is first to receive. To receive His Grace and to rest in it. Trust it, believe in it.

God wants you feasting on the Grace, mercy, and favor of Jesus and His loveliness. Resting in His Grace involves experiencing it, and letting it flow through you by His Grace working through your life into the lives of others.

In fact, God promises to be the one to enable you to will and act according to His desires. He is the one who declares that He will carry out the good work He desires to accomplish through you. That’s his job and responsibility, not yours.

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.-Philippians 2:13

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. -Philippians 1:6

Our part is to rest in the Grace we have received, and the Grace working through us to lead, prompt, and enable His desires to be accomplished through us.

This is an effortless, stressless process that is void of striving, pushing, or seeking to make things happen in and through our lives. In fact, the more we try to force it, author it, or render it, the less God’s Grace flows through us. When we work (strive, try, push, or force things in life) God rests, when we rest (allow His Grace to prompt, enable, and flow through us) God works. God says, “Fine, you want to control things, worry about things, force things, strive and try to make things happen, you want to live your life becoming successful, go ahead, I’ll be resting right over here while you do.” But when we rest, when we say, “God, you are in control, I trust that you are working, that you are the author and perfecter, that you will carry out the good work, that I am already complete, whole, sanctified and successful in you” God works and His power is released in and through our lives.

See, you don’t make something out of your life, Jesus has already made your life successful and whole by giving you His life.  You don’t have to make anything more of your life (because you can’t). Your job is to rest in and enjoy what God has and is making of you (because only He can). The foundation of your purpose is to receive Grace, rest in Grace, and give Grace.  

o.o2 The Foundation of Your progress in Life is to Grow in Grace

And see, this is where the Christian life can become so stressful and frustrating. Because for so long we have been taught that spiritual growth is about us, it comes through our spiritual efforts, and trying, and striving, all to become somebody in the future we aren’t now. And so what do we do? We try praying more, going to church more, do more good things and less bad things, giving more, serving more, all in effort to grow spiritually. Sure, we would say God helps us, but we have to get busy if we are going become “mature in Christ.”

The good news is this, the foundation of your progress as a Christian is in growing in Grace. It’s in you becoming more of who you already are. It’s not about becoming something you are not through spiritual improvement, it’s about becoming more of who you already are in Christ, through faith. It’s a journey of faith, believing in who you are in Christ, and letting your actions catch up to your identity.

And folks, this is a revolutionary, foundational change.

Because here again, this is an effortless, stress-less process. The harder you apply your own efforts to grow, the more you block the Spirit from growing you through His Grace. You’re turning to your own performance for your growth instead of believing in the performance of Jesus Christ.

Here is a revolutionary truth that will change your life. Get ready, here it is.  The work on your life is finished. There is nothing left to work on in your life. Stop trying to improve and work on what God has already finished.

When Jesus said on  the cross, “It is finished” He meant it. You have already been made holy, sanctified, given every spiritual blessing. You are already the righteousness of Christ, completely forgiven. It’s your faith that releases that into your actions and attitudes, not your efforts.

The Christian life isn’t about becoming something that you aren’t, it’s about your actions and attitudes catching up with your true identity. Paul in the Bible said it this way… we are to live up to what we have already attained.

We pray, we serve, we study, we worship not out of some effort to grow or to participate with God in becoming something we aren’t. We pray, study, worship, and serve, out of who we already are, complete, whole, sanctified in Christ.

Foundation of your spiritual progress in life is growing in Grace, becoming more of who you already are.

o.o3 The Foundation of Your influence in Life is to Be Grace.

We all want to change the world. We want to have influence. We all want to make a difference.

But what stresses us out and gets us in a never-ending mode of striving and trying is the foundation of our influence. Because for some many people, the foundation of our influence with people and the world becomes on how much we do and accomplish in life, that’s a super stressful thing.

Here again, when have you done enough, when have you accomplished enough? How many salvations, how many changed lives, how many good deeds, how many mission trips do you need on your spiritual belt buckle before you really qualify as a world-changer for Jesus?

We all want to change the world, be faithful, but what’s the foundation for that?

What God wants us to realize is that the foundation for having influence isn’t how much we do, but who we are in Christ. We are the change.

Grace is not a theology, doctrine, or fad. Grace is a person, Jesus. And the truth is, Jesus goes as us into the world. You are the change, you are Grace.

You know, people pray for revival, “God revive our nation, God revive our community, God revive our church.”  And then we think if we just pray longer, harder, get more passionate in worship, confess our sins, do more spiritual gymnastics, repent and all our stuff, God will bring revival. We just need to wrench it out of God’s hands through our more impassioned performance.

But the truth, you are the revival, God has already done the revival, and it’s you.

You are the revival that can influence the world. And it’s not wrapped up in what you do, it’s all on the foundation of who you are.

You are Grace in this world, because Grace is a person, Jesus. You are the big thing God has done and is doing in this world.

So just be the change, you are the change, and just by you doing life, you are going to change the world.

Grace is what changes the world, and in Christ, you are Grace.

o.o4 The Foundation of His will for Your Life is for you to Trust His Grace to Guide you.

I can’t tell you how many people, especially Christians are stressed out trying to figure out, is this God’s will for me, is this God’s perfect will for me, did I marry the right person, take the right job, buy the right car, how do I know, what if I don’t get it right, what if I make a mistake?

We make the whole foundation of God’s will for our life on not only what we are doing, but whether or not we are discerning the right things, the perfect thing, the exact thing.

And I am here today to tell you, you want to know what God’s will is?  Here it is… drum roll please. Do you what you want to do, do what you love, as long as it honors God, do it. That’s God’s will.

Trust that the Holy Spirit is going prompt you and lead you. Just let it happen, do what you want.

God is into you, He is into your life, He into what you are into.

God’s Grace wants you to enjoy your life and do what you love to do.

I mean, worse case scenario, no matter what you choose, God’s Grace is with you, He’s going to be with you, He is going to be your biggest fan, supporter and cheerleader in what you are doing. And He is going to use you, not matter what you do.

Stop stressing. Stop making this all about you.

God’s will for you is bigger than your discernment of some specific, exclusive perfect thing God may or may not desire.

In fact, it’s God’s responsibility to make His will known to you and see that it is carried out through you. That’s what Grace does.

Trust His Grace, live from that Grace to lead, prompt, and show you what to do.

Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass. 1 Thessalonians 5:24

Trust God to show it to you and even push you through it.

o.o5 The Foundation of Your contribution in Life is to give from Grace.

The Bible shows that God has Graced us with specific gifts and abilities.

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Romans 12:6a.

And we all want to contribute, to give, to experience the fulfillment of blessing others.

But so many people live their lives trying to be something that they aren’t, you know how stressful and difficult that is?

For example, God has not Graced me with the gifts to be a basketball player or a pole dancer. Ok, maybe I have a little pole dancer in me. But for sure, not basketball.  I don’t even have the desire, nor the gifts to do that. How frustrating and hard would that be for me to try to force and make that happen in my life because somewhere along the way I got this twisted idea that I need to or should do so.

God accepts you for who you are, the question is, do you accept you? Is His Grace sufficient for you. Are the things God has graced you with good enough for you?

So stop trying to be someone you are not. If God created you to be you and you aren’t willing to be you, than you are going to miss out on what God graced you with and so will many other people.    

o.o6 The Foundation of Your Posture in life is to Rest in Grace.

Relax, trust in God’s Grace.

Paul in the Bible says…   Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest. Hebrews 4:11a

If there is anything to be stressed about, it’s in making sure you stay living from a posture of rest. Why, because it’s the best way to live.

Doesn’t mean that you won’t have to work hard in your profession, have responsibilities, and have to put forth effort in your life. Rest isn’t laziness, irresponsibility, or complacency.  Yet, you don’t have to have a posture of stress, worry, performance, and striving in order to get the things in life that need to be done accomplished.

In fact, when we work, God’s rest, when we rest, God works.

God says,”If you want to be in control, force things, make things happen, chase success, and stress, I’ll be right over here resting while you do.” But when we say, “God, I trust you, you are in control, you will carry out the good work in me, you are faithful to will and act in me according to your purposes, you are the author and perfecter, I trust you to prompt me, lead me, you make all things work together for my good.” God works, His power is released into our lives and living.

In fact, notice the areas where you are the most blessed in your life, where things are flowing and clicking. Those are the areas where you rest the most and stress the least, aren’t they ? Yet, notice the areas that are strenuous, worrisome, lacking, uphill and covered with struggle. Those are the areas where you rest the least and stress the most, aren’t they?

Choose to change your foundations. You are already successful, spiritually and in every other way. You can do nothing to add or take away from your success. Jesus has qualified you for it, He has made you successful.

Now, go and enjoy your life. Live it, with Grace under your feet.

Choose the Grace driven life… where your purpose is to receive Grace, your progress is to grow in Grace, your influence is to be Grace, God’s will is to trust His Grace to guide you, your contribution is to give from Grace, and your posture in life is to rest in Grace.

Jesus came that you may have life, this is life, the Grace-driven life.

Top 5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

Part 1 of 6

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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)

Are You a 21st Century Pharisee?

I don’t suspect this post will be popular nor well received by some in the “Christian” camp, maybe even by many. But, neither were Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. Is this a kind of “Kratzer Manifesto?” Who knows, probably not. But, for sure, it is with strong conviction that I write.

I believe, from personal observation and experience, that our current Christian culture in America and abroad has been infected with epidemic proportions of the religious spirit manifested by the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. And yet, for most believers, we are so entrenched in it, we don’t even realize the religious stew in which we soak.

It was the Pharisees who leveraged Judaism into their own self-righteous system of rule keeping, regulations, self-improvement, condemnation, political structures, and inside handshakes.  In many ministry contexts today, we could simply take these same realities and put the title “church” over them and the descriptions would equally apply. Many churches of our time have knowingly or unknowingly created and given harbor to the modern day, 21st century Pharisee and then given them the title “Christian.”

In fact, let’s look at several of the defining characteristics and distinctions of a 21st Century Pharisee lest perhaps maybe you (or I) are one of them?

o.o1 Memorization verses Meditation – In our Christian culture we have determined that memorizing Bible verses is automatically a worthy and necessary pursuit in the Christian life.  There are entire children’s ministries that revolve around having young people memorizing Bible verses, complete with memorization competitions. What could be wrong with that, right? Almost everything.

Unfortunately, the benefits of memorizing Bible verses has skidded off the road into a ritualistic activity of self-righteousness that is purposed on one-uping other Christians, arming for debates, and confronting sinners or those who disagree with you. The truth is however, the Word of God memorized alone merely brings us up to the level of Satan himself, who knows the scriptures back and forth as every good Pharisee did as well. It is a disturbing trend to see people viewing scripture memorization as a spiritual work-out and assume that if you memorize some Bible verses you are growing spiritually. Surely, in many Christian precincts, we have made an idol out of Bible memorization and turned God’s Word into peacock feathers we put on display that others might admire and yield to our spirituality.  To be sure, memorization alone has never moved one single Christian forward in their walk, and in fact, has surely moved many backwards.

It is interesting that the Bible never specifically instructs us to “memorize” the Bible, but rather speaks frequently about “meditating” on God’s Word.

Memorization is something people do to pass tests and regurgitate information, “meditation” is what people do to encounter God and be transformed by His personal revelation into their lives.  Meditation is reading and learning a verse(s) repeatedly, bringing it to mind and heart over and over again, asking God to personally speak revelation into their lives. It is an encounter with God Himself for the purpose of revealing Himself into one’s life personally and uniquely. It is a matter of heart, hearing, and being encountered by the living God on a personal, transformational level.

It is no wonder that the religous spirit of the Pharisees puts such value on memorization, it’s all about passing tests and giving them.  They did this to Jesus repeatedly and are certain proof that one can memorize the scriptures and never encounter God. But, you cannot meditate on His Word without a personal encounter with Him.

The Pharisees memorized words on a page, the whole Torah in fact.  But not revelation from God. Words only take reading (or hearing), memorizing only takes remembering. Revelation takes an open heart, postured in faith and expectancy with a personal connection with God.

The purpose of God’s Word is to lead us into experiencing God’s revelation personally for our lives and living. Meditation provides for this, memorization alone does not. Modern day, 21st century Pharisees memorize, in their minds, what is written, followers of Jesus receive and remember personal revelation in their heart. Big, huge, cosmic difference!

o.o2 Discipleship verses Identity in Christ- Obviously, discipleship as “learning” is a valuable Christian experience. We all need to learn from God and others.

But what many today call “discipleship” has taken on the garments and perfumes of the religious Pharisees. We have turned “learning” and being “learners” into a gnostic-type process of ascent.  With “accountability partners” and “motivational conferences” to do better we have turned “learning” into a spiritual treadmill, striving and trying to become a better person.

In most Christian circles, “discipleship” starts from the premise that there is “someone that you are not, who you need to become.” Therefore you need to come to these classes, attend these groups, listen to these cd’s, and take on these practices and behaviors in order to “become a fully mature person in Christ.”

Yet, living from our “Identity in Christ” begins from the premise of being more fully who you already are in Christ through faith.  This is a huge distinction, and radically changes nearly every dynamic of the Christian life and how we “spur each other onto good works.” Moving from a child of God, to a son or daughter, to an heir, priest, and king in the Kingdom is not a process, it is in fact, a reality already established and accomplished by Christ for those who believe. In Christ, there is no “growing more,” there is only becoming more of who you already are through faith in Christ’s performance in your life, not yours.

Today’s “discipleship” places a certain amount (if not a large amount) of faith and reliance on one’s ability to do better as a Christian. However, living from our “Identity in Christ” seeks to increase one’s placing of faith and reliance on God’s work and will in or lives.  It is not a pursuit of becoming, it is a growing faith in who we have  already become through and in Christ.

Modern day discipleship merely ends at what Jesus has done FOR you, but living from our “Identity in Christ” continues on to what Jesus has done TO you. “Discipleship” focuses our consciousness on what we need to do better and aren’t doing right, “Identity in Christ” focuses our consciousness on the author and perfector of our faith, what He has done to make us right and how to live rightly from who we already are and have in Him.

Therefore, today’s “discipleship” stresses producing fruit, as if producing fruit is something we could actually do. Yet, living from our “identity in Christ” stresses bearing the fruit God produces.

It is now easy to understand how the discipleship mindset of the Pharisees involved levels of ascent, information to be mastered, numerous hoops to jump through, and a hierarchy of the “learned.”  Today, you can see this same mindset in churches through various forms.  To be sure, our basic concept of modern day discipleship approaches people and the Christian life as program of progression through steps, rules, formulas, and “to do” lists.  Yet Jesus said in contrast “my yoke is easy, my burden is light” in direct reference to his discipleship process, of which His performance is the process, not ours. Jesus’ work on the cross is the discpleship program and process, faith is what receives it.

If there is any process to the Christian life, it is in being more of who we already are, all through faith, not “becoming” through trying harder and doing better. Faith in Jesus’ life in you is the key, not formulas for making your life like Jesus.

o.o3 Obedience verses Faith-  On a deeper level, there is a reason why we have taken a performance-driven approach to things like discipleship.

First, it is perhaps because we don’t fully believe in and trust God’s work in us. For many, the Gospel just isn’t sufficient enough, there has to be something we must do or can do. To leave our lives and living completely in the hands of His performance and not ours is seen as a risky concept. Surely, the same Grace that saves us, can’t be the same Grace that sanctifies and secures us. Though not many would say it that way, when push comes to shove, that’s what they believe.

Second, it’s because we believe and have somewhere have been taught that the foundation of the Christian life is obedience. To be sure, we have become Christian-centered Christians. Our performance is our preoccupation. The Christian life is all about what you do and don’t do.

Third, a performance-driven approach to the Christian life appeals to our flesh and culture. We love to feel the adrenaline rush of feeling like we have accomplished something and that our lives and destiny our in our hands.

Unfortunately, these three reasons have become the faulty foundations from which we live and teach the Christian life.  In short we believe that obedience is the root and faith is the fruit of the Christian life. This is modern day Pharisee-mindset at its finest.

The truth is, the foundation of the Christian life is faith, and the fruit is obedience.

This foundation shift changes everything.

Following rules, list of “to do’s,” striving to be better, trying to do better, recommitting your life to Christ, pledges, resolutions etc. all have never truly moved people forward spiritually. They only served to create a self-serving facade of a spiritual veil to an empty life.  In truth, they are modern forms of the Law, aimed at engaging your will to change your life.

The reality is, the Law was created to show you and I our will can’t change anything, no matter how hard we try.  Yet, the Pharisees used it as a way to indoctrinate people into the self-righteous, never ending treadmill of religion. The same thing is happening today in modern Christianity, only we have given it new names like, “discipleship”, “Christianity, “spiritual growth.” Just browse the aisles of your local Christian bookstore and you will see the performance-driven mindset we have made of Christianity and the Christian life.  And the deeply, tragic reality is, we are addicted to it.

Yet, the truth is holiness isn’t a lifestyle you choose to live by, it’s an identity you to choose to receive through faith. The obedience of the New Covenant is an obedience of faith, not rule keeping. The Law only serves to actually entice us to sin more, not less. Rather, it is the Grace of God that teaches us to live rightly. Faith is the root, obedience is the fruit. A person with an obedience problem is a person who has an identity problem. They don’t know what Jesus has done TO them, and/or believe it. Disciplship isn’t about a process of becoming, it’s an awakening to who you already are in Christ, and believing it. It’s all about His performance, not ours.

o.o4 Membership verses Manifestation- Where I would agree that in church-world, uniting people around shared vision and values is highly important. Unfortunately, in most church settings the concept of “membership” has taken on a whole other life and purpose.  In fact, it hasn’t been until recent years that the concept of utilizing membership as a tool for church unity has existed.

Rather, in most churches, church membership serves several other purposes… it show who’s “in” and who’s “out,” it’s a means to get people to commit to your brand of church, it identifies people who are “trusted” to serve, it’s a status from which members declare and receive certain “rights” and “privileges,” it’s a way of tracking people and charting trends, it is a status that makes one feel they have accomplished something of value spiritually and are “covered” in that area of their life, and it’s a number used by pastors and leaders to gauge success.

In this way, “church” has become much like a club you join.  There is little difference between the basic concepts of membership at a local church than there is at a local YMCA.  The consumerism mindset of our American culture has found its way into the “church” and church membership is just one example.   Pastors use it to bolster their egos and members use it to legitimize demands, benefit from privileges, have their say, attain status, and put a notch on their spiritual belts.

Yet, it’s interesting that the concept of membership in the Bible is not specifically present, and the closest we get is with groups of Christians gathering and serving together with shared vision and values, nothing more nothing less.  Obviously, the New Testament is not meant to confine churches and limit the freedoms to what is possible, but I would suggest that what we have made church membership into is nothing less than yet another example of the modern, 21st century pharisee-mindset at work. What could be more legalistic than to make “church” into a club with a cross on top where some are “in” and some are “out” complete with inside handshakes, politics, levels of status, special privileges, and a process by which you can feel righteous in your life, all through a simple church “membership.” Jump through the hoops, and you too can have one.

At a core level, followers of Christ should not be identified by nor take their identity from any form of membership, but rather should be manifesting Christ (their true identity) and partnering together to share the Gospel and build the Kingdom.  Instead of merely attending and being a “member” of a church, we should be “being” the church to the world.  Enough with superficial, spiritual club memberships that turn the Christian life into something one attends, gets involved with, and earns their place in one or two days a week. Lets get back to the heart and be people of the “The Way” as we spend our time manifesting the Grace of Jesus to the world, individually and together. Let’s not let our preoccupation be with “what’s in it for me” but rather, “what is in me that I need to give to the world.”  The church was never meant to be a club, but a conversation of believers with the world about the Grace of God through Jesus Christ. Meeting together was never meant to transform into melding together through traditions, memberships, and institutional mindsets. The church becomes the hope of the world when we Christians see ourselves as the manger of the Gospel, not a member of a religious organization.

o.o5 Law verses Grace- Truth be told, most Christians are suspicious of Grace. They believe, if left unrestricted, it promotes sin, and hate it because they can’t use it to one-up other Christians, point out their shortcomings, and thump their Bibles. For sure, Grace disarms and frustrates the religious, but frees and fortifies the broken. Yes, many Christians do value Grace to an extent because they know you can’t sell God without at least some of it, but also like to keep a lid on it, because in their minds too much would be too much and they could lose control.

The formula they hold to is…  Grace + Law= Gospel.

That’s why they believe rules, guilt, fear, shame, to-do lists, steps, and formulas are what are needed to move the Christian train down the track. Appeal to a person’s sense of guilt and a perceived ability they can turn their lives around. Break them down and then show them how to build themselves back up, looking and acting just like “us.” This is the drum beat of the historical and modern day Pharisee.

However, what may work for a military boot camp, does not work for Jesus nor the Christian life. Punishment has never made anyone Holy.

The Gospel is Grace, or it isn’t the Gospel. God does the work, we believe, and thus receive.  The formula is… Grace + Law = Law,  Grace = Gospel

There is no mixture, and if there is, there is no Grace.  It is not, “God does His part, we do our part.”  Rather, it is, “God does His part, and our part is to realize we don’t have a part; only to believe.”  Faith is the currency of heaven, not our efforts. Favor is unmerited or it’s not favor at all.

A person who truly receives the pure Gospel of God’s Grace does not sin more than sin less, because they know who they truly are in Christ and believe it. They are not sin conscious, they are Jesus conscious. It is their identity that defines their performance, not their performance that defines their identity.

This revelation of the new covenant Gospel of God’s Grace changes everything, rules and rule keeping never changed anything. It is all Grace, or it isn’t Grace at all.

The Pharisees hated Grace, at any level. They loved to condemn, push their rules, and display power point presentations of their religious standards and traditions. And though I hate to say it, I suspect they would be very comfortable in most churches and with most Christians today where this always enough of the Law around to make sure Grace is kept contained and quantified. The modern day, 21st Century Pharisee at most thinks Grace is the appetizer, it’s the bait that leads to the catch. It’s a nice thing that leads to the real thing. It’s part of an equation, but not the solution. For them, the solution is God + you, together saving and sanctifying.

However, the Gospel is Grace alone through faith. It IS the solution, not a part of it. It’s the main meal, the only meal, not an appetizer. There is not hook, there is no catch, there is only Grace. Grace needs no side kick, lead in, bate, appetizer or trailer, it is the whole deal, the real deal, and the only deal. Its host is faith, not performance. It is attracted to our weaknesses not our strengths. Everything else is a con, scam, and substitute.  Grace is the only thing that works, changes, and transforms. Believe it to receive it.

o.o6 Consuming Crowd verse Complete Cooperatives- If one were to attend a church service in America, you would very likely experience a message that has a basic theme of “how to be a better person.” or “what you need to do more or less of in your life” and a worship experience that was bent towards appealing to a cultural desire to hear good music, be emotionally moved, and get motivated for Jesus.

Now I know I am walking on a thin line here because there is an important value in communicating the Gospel in culturally relevant ways with excellence.  I am a firm believer in utilizing modern communication methods and technology to share the Gospel.

However, in most cases, it is not the Gospel that is being sold, but rather a spiritual experience that appeals to a desire to enhance our lives through our own habits and actions with a little help from Jesus along the way.  To be sure, we have become a culture of Christian consumers looking for the best worship experiences, programs for our kids, and inspiring messages to utilize in improving our lives. Many-a-church have been happy to join the competitive race among pastors and leaders to be the latest and the greatest to serve the needs of consumer Christians. Nearly every conference on ministry you can attend centers on ministry and leadership performance in some way or another. Pastor and leaders spend big bucks looking for that latest program, principal, strategy or idea that is going to take them and their church to the “next level” of success; success being defined by numbers, baptisms, and overall growth.

We are a culture of consumer pastors leading consumer churches that breed consumer Christians. It is the American dream turned into the pastoral dream turned into the church dream turned into the Christian dream. This is nothing less than the traditional, Pharisee philosophy of ministry made modern.  Finding the best Rabbi to follow who fits your needs and desires has simply turned into finding the best church to attend, conference to experience, or program to implement. Instead of being spiritual leaders and churches that have The Name as our identity and nature, we strive and strive to make a name for ourselves and our ministries.

Yet, what would happen if Christians saw themselves not as incomplete people who constantly need to consume more of the Jesus they already completely have, but as complete people in Christ who came together to express their love to Jesus and manifest the Gospel to others? There is truly something misguided with the Christian who sees themselves as desperate for more of Jesus in their life. How can you want or need more of what you already have fully?  This desire for “more of Jesus” belittles the cross and suggests that the Gospel comes to a person in portions, as if God were withholding Himself from us. Indeed, we live under an open heaven. When Jesus said, “it is finished” He meant it, giving the everything of Himself to the nothingness of us.

The only thing that a believer needs to consume is that which strengthens their faith in Christ’s performance, not a plea to muster more energy for their performance to do more or do better.  In fact, the job of the Holy Spirit in the non believers life is to convict them of their unbelief in Jesus, but the job of the Holy Spirit in the believers life is to convince them of their righteousness in Christ.

I would venture to say, most of what Christians consume spiritually is purposed or translated into striving to behave better and do more.  This is religion and its religious cycle at it’s best, just in modern forms.

But Jesus through His Grace, breaks the cycle. He completes us completely, our performance does not. There is nothing we can consume other than Jesus and His Grace received through faith that will heal, change, or transform any and every aspect of our lives. Jesus is not in the business of making good people better, but giving dead people Life.  He is not into life enhancement, but complete life remaking, all by His work, through our faith.

o.o7 Performance verses Rest- To rest is to believe, to perform is to doubt. The moment we look to our own performance for our worth, value, and standing, we have stepped away from trusting in the performance of Jesus and His finished work on the cross. Pharisees then and now are all about performance, all in the spiritual disguise of  modern terms like “faithfulness,” “radical obedience,” “serving,” and the like.

Make no mistake, there is nothing wrong with acting in response to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and to be sure, we are not talking about working hard in life economically. Rather we are talking about our efforts to appease God, gain the gleam of His eye, legitimize our faith,  prove our worthiness, give our lives value and worth, remove guilt and shame, and make a name for ourselves. So many Christians are turning to church activity and “serving” to right the wrongs, even the score, legitimize their faith, and heal the scars of guilt in their life.  Most don’t even realize it, or would ever admit it.  Yet, unfortunately, the church, like the performance-driven systems of the Pharisees are happy to oblige.

Rest is not the absence of activity, it is a foundation of faith in Christ’s performance over, above, and despite ours. When we rest, God works. When we work, God rests.   Pharisees then and now, are repulsed by those whose lives are ruled by a foundation of rest. Rest disarms the power of fear, guilt, shame, failure, and success to define or persuade a person’s life, the very things that religious people and groups thrive on to motivate and legitimize their lives.

Performance is founded on self-righeousness. Rest is founded on righteousness in Christ.

 

The Religion of Nutrition?

Let me be clear as a glass of Veen bottled water, I am a firm believer in God’s desire for us to take care of our bodies, and eating well is a vital aspect of doing such!

There is growing evidence that many physical and emotional problems can be traced back to nutrition at some level or another. My wife and I and our 4 children have removed most process foods from our diet and are very health conscious about what we eat.  I have been known to juice two to three times a day and declare with firm conviction the benefits of doing so.  So, as you read further, you can refrain from sending me emails declaring my ignorance or resistance to nutritional health and the biblical admonitions to live a healthy lifestyle.  Furthermore, in a church/christian culture ladened with diet-caused obesity, I am very encouraged to see more Christians moving towards healthier eating lifestyles. We as Christians are so quick to point out sins like homosexuality in our culture, all while we stuff our overweight bodies after Sunday service at the church of Golden Corral. Christians who don’t eat responsibly with health in mind are moving away from the Grace of God that teaches us to live rightly, just as much as any other.

However, anything can become an idol, work, legalist standard, religion, or self-righteous ritual, including nutritional health.

The word salvation (sozo) in the New Testament actually refers to the redemption/salvation of the whole person (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). Salvation is not just about getting out of hell and into heaven, it’s about the healing of the entire person, including their bodies. God has provided the supply to our every need, through His son Jesus. Every impact of sin on our life was remedied on the cross, as Jesus bore it all on our behalf. Faith is what applies the entirety of the work of Jesus on cross into our lives and living.

Yet, until we enjoy a new heaven and new earth upon the second coming of Christ, the truth is, as organic and anti-processed as you might like to become, the Garden of Eden is not available to us.  Everything of creation on earth is still yet tainted with sin. Even the best of what creation has to offer is fallen. Are there some foods that are better than others? Absolutely! Should we be consuming those better foods rather than the junk that is popularly offered? Absolutely! But nutritional health cannot save you, increase the favor of God on your life, nor make you more of a genuine Christian than another person. Oops, I think I hear few bubbles bursting.

Creation cannot redeem us nor sanctify us, only trusting in the Creator can. In fact, there can even be more clinical connection between stress and disease than there is to nutrition and disease. I would venture to say that some people are so stressed out about their nutritional life that any benefit they might enjoy from eating well is eclipsed by it. They have turned nutrition into a religion, even to the point of posturing themselves as a more faithful breed of Christian. Look at me and what I eat, now that’s what a real-deal Christian does!

Satan is always looking for things to entice the believer to look (and to get others to look) at their own performance for their legitimacy with God and their Christian living. For some, Satan has successfully dangled “nutrition” on a string swinging back and forth in front of their eyes, putting them in a trance of legalistic, nutritional rule keeping. Think I am exaggerating? If you haven’t already, it won’t be long until you run into a Christian who has become a nutritional Nazi, not out of a healthy, humble expression of their own freedom in Christ, but with a desire to project their freedom into yours with a sure sense that if you aren’t living like them, you aren’t as good as them. There is a whole new brand of Christian emerging that will not only thumb the Bible over your head, but a grocery list as well.

Nothing in creation can be your redemption nor salvation supply, only the Creator.  We are saved by Grace, not by gluten-free. And perhaps more importantly, we are to live by Grace from Grace, with the freedom to be gluten-free or not. Our identity in Christ is to Christ, not to what we eat or don’t eat. We are not what we eat, nor how we appear, we are what we believe and receive through faith. Jesus makes us who we are, not our diets.

It is more important to believe right than to eat right. The first gives birth to the second. It is more important to rest in Jesus and trust Him to be our every supply, (spiritually, emotionally, and physically) than it is to put your trust in nutrition for your health, value, legitimacy, and identity.  Food does not save you nor sanctify you, faith in Jesus, the true Bread of Life does. What would it do to gain the world’s best nutritional offerings and forfeit your soul, rest, and trust in God’s supply for your life?  Does God work through the wisdom of nutrition and better eating to benefit, bless, and even give physical healing in our lives? You bet. The same is true with medicine. But the Christian should never work to God from the wisdom of nutrition. God uses Christ to save us and sanctify us, not His creation.

Let’s not give up on faith and chase after the allure of a religion of food. Eat well, be health minded, exercise, but trust in Jesus more. Worship Jesus, not nutrition.

The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars. These liars have lied so well and for so long that they’ve lost their capacity for truth. They will tell you not to get married. They’ll tell you not to eat this or that food—perfectly good food God created to be eaten heartily and with thanksgiving by believers who know better! Everything God created is good, and to be received with thanks. Nothing is to be sneered at and thrown out. God’s Word and our prayers make every item in creation holy.   1 Timothy 4:1-5 (The Message)

Is Your Christian Life, Evil?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh snap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consider Job in the Bible.

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

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

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

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

Oh snap.

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

It’s evil.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This, is the way of Jesus.

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

Learning to Rest

People who know me easily can describe me as a type “a”, hard working, go getter. I like to stay busy, tackle challenges, and get things done.  Recently, however, I have been learning how to rest. I have become more interested in effectiveness than mere activity in my life. In the Kingdom of God, activity does not necessarily equal accomplishment.

See, God works when we rest and rests when we work. No, we aren’t talking about laziness or irresponsibility.  In fact, when you learn to truly rest, you will see plenty of things to act on. Rather, we are talking about foundations from which we can become aligned with God’s movement. “Rest” is the foundation from which God works in and through your life.  “Work” is the foundation from which God rests from working in and through your life. In many ways, it really is that simple.

Many Christians make “faithfulness” and idol and their efforts foundational to their sense of self and significance.  They may never say it like that nor admit to this reality, but it is true. I know so, because I was one of them. As the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” Like I once did,  they enjoy and feel a drug-like rush enter into the veins of their soul when people praise them for how hard they work and how much they seem to accomplish. Busy-ness is their bong, puffing themselves up, literally.  What they don’t realize is how much effectiveness and sustainability is leaking out of all their efforts.

It really is true, God rests when we work, and works when we rest. We find this kingdom truth in the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.

Luke 10:38-42  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feetlistening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The Marthas of our Christian culture (and world at large) love to pridefully declare that without their hard work, nothing would get done. Even to the point of suggesting that people like Mary never get anything done. They wrongly interpret that Mary’s aren’t productive, go getters, who like to make things happen. We truly are living in the age of the performance-driven Christian.

At the heart, I believe this passage is about an issue of foundation, and what Jesus is teaching is for us to live from a foundation of rest.  It’s amazing how much God can do in and through us when we rest. It’s amazing how much can’t be done in and through us until we learn to rest.

In fact, the Bible says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  Notice the order, it is God who firsts works (initiates, prompts) and then we act.  Not, we work and then God acts.  Rest means coming in tune with God’s working. When we work, we produce a static that blocks our spiritual senses to God’s working.  We end up doing a lot of things that don’t contribute to His purposes but ours. When we rest, we become completely in sync with God’s working in and around our lives waiting for His prompting and power to act.

For example, recently I felt God’s prompting to create an online prospectus for the Church I am starting. We will be presenting our ministry to people as a kindgom opportunity to which God may be calling them to contribute financially, and a website version of our prospectus could be a useful tool.  I began designing and working on the website paying specific attention to making sure I followed God’s promptings. In fact, any moments I felt a kind of stress and “uphill-ness” strike my spirit, I would make sure to take my hands off. I wasn’t adverse to working hard, but wanted to be aware of the difference between that and “hard work.”  When you are moving in the Spirit of God, working hard is a strong possibility, but having something become “hard work” should cause us to evaluate whether or not we are in fact, “in the Spirit of God.” This is a key awareness and distinction.

Every time I felt a sense of unrest and stress to my acting to complete the website, I stopped, trusting God to be at work.  Yet, soon after I was willing to stop, I found myself being energized to move forward. Things that would and should be difficult were free flowing and smooth. I finished it without stress nor fatigue in a short time.

What was most enlightening was when afterward I received a comment from a person who reviewed the online prospectus I created. His comment suggested that based on what was accomplished it seemed like I must have had to work extremely hard on it.  For sure, the website is thorough, involved, and created with excellence, but it was God who was at work to enable me to will and act according to His plan. There was nothing really extreme about anything that came from me towards the creation of the site.

It really is true, when we rest, God works. When we work, God rests.

Here are a few practical things that rest may mean for you…

Rest means…

1) Listening to when you become stressed.  Stress is a product of our acting where God is not working.

2) Following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If God has not put it in you to do with a tangible power to do it, it may not be from Him.

3) Moving at the speed of God-  Yes, you can get ahead of God and behind God.  Never act where God has pulled the power plug out or put on the brakes, and never not act where God has given you the power and the “pressing” to do so.

4) Listening when things become “uphill”-  There is a key difference between working hard and hard working.  Be willing to work hard but be skeptical of hard working.

 

Looking forward to your thoughts.

 

 

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