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The Shack Revisited

Since the release of my article, The Shack:  A Story of Freedom or Force?, I’ve received an almost constant stream of hate mail regarding the concerns that I expressed, not about the film itself nor even the book, but rather the beliefs of the author, which he himself expressed clearly in his new theologically driven book, Lies We Believe About God.  In this Young states, among other things, “Are you suggesting that everyone is saved? That you believe in universal salvation? That is exactly what I am saying!”

My article in response to such bold and blatant theological error, which has received significant traffic and support over the past few days, was criticized as being unfair to Mr. Young, judgmental, and offering unsubstantiated accusations.  Because I am simply unable to respond to each individual diatribe that I have received over the past few days, I felt it best to assemble my response and to clarify my position, in a single follow up post – which I felt is only appropriate to call, The Shack Revisited.

To begin with, let it be known that I have never met Mr. Young, though I am certain that we have nothing short of a long-list of mutual friends and acquaintances, including pastors, journalists, filmmakers, etc.  From all of these mutual relationships combined, not once have I ever heard anything but wonderful things about Young’s disposition, character, and personal integrity.  As a fellow author and filmmaker, I also have the utmost respect for his creativity and talent, which are beyond evident in The Shack.  In fact, I have nothing against the man. I simply don’t agree with his theology, especially that which is expressed in his new book.

Contrary to this generation’s thin-skinned opinion, disagreement doesn’t equal insult.  I’m absolutely certain that Mr. Young and I agree about many things regarding the nature of God and the gospel of grace, but I would ask, “Are a few commonalities reason enough to ignore the false doctrines that he also holds, such as Inclusionism and Christian Universalism?”  The Apostle Paul didn’t think so.  He and Peter had much in common, but this didn’t stop him in Galatians 2:11 from calling Peter out for his doctrinal drift and theological error.  In doing so, I’m not questioning Mr. Young’s salvation, nor the beauty of his book, rather his love affair with progressivist theology, which is as equally harmful, if not more so, than Peter’s unwillingness to let go of his legalistic tendencies and constant people pleasing.

I’ve been amazed this past week at countless Christians who have been presented with excerpt after excerpt of Mr. Young’s own words describing his adherence to spurious doctrines such as Inclusionism, “Open Hell” (if he believes Hell exists at all), and Universalism, only to look the other way or justify his beliefs as being taken out of context.  Ironically, these same individuals, I have found, are among the first in line to call out legalistic tendencies in mainstream authors as an aspersion against the gospel itself.  Yet, when the pendulum swings the other direction, into liberalism, progressivism, and at times, antinomianism, all remain silent.  The consensus seems to be that there is no evidence for Mr. Young’s doctrinal drift and that The Shack is only a work of fiction, but this just isn’t the case.

In fact, Mr. Young’s own co-writer of the Shack, Wayne Jacobsen, said in an article he penned himself for Lifestream.org that when he first received the manuscript from Mr. Young that “universalism was a significant component in the resolution of that story.”  Mr. Jacobsen, in reference to his objection to Mr. Young’s position on Universalism, states, “Paul hoped to convince me I was wrong and sent me his paper on universalism.  We spent some time discussing it, but in the end I felt it took too much linguistic gymnastics to bend Scripture to that conclusion.”  As the article continues, Mr. Jacobsen explains that Mr. Young agreed to allow him to remove the theme of Universalism from the Shack in order to make the story more palpable to the audience that needed it the most.  Although Mr. Jacobsen was successful in removing the overarching concept of Universalism from the story-line, he says nothing of removing this line of thinking from his co-author, Mr. Young.  In fact, if anything, Jacobsen only further reinforces my concerns, that Young is not simply an Inclusionist, but a Universalist as well.

With that being said, I don’t believe the issue for the church is as much Mr. Young’s personal theology, as it is the obvious idolization of a fictional story by believers.  Hearing people speak about The Shack, one would think that Mr. Young has presented a clearer gospel than Jesus himself.  This is problematic for multiple reasons, but most importantly, it demonstrates the love lost in the heart of the church toward Christ and his word.  Like a desperate housewife bored with her first love, the church has revealed that it is on the prowl for a new gospel that is more exciting than the first.  This I intend to address further next week in a new post entitled, “Legalism or Progressivism:  Which is More Deadly to Faith?”

Until then, those who know me, should recognize that if the issues I’m describing where merely related to a movie, I would never take the time to present such a case, but in no way is this about a single author or a current film, but an evolving distrust for the church, the Bible, and ultimately for God.

“Who is wise?  He will realize these things.  Who is discerning?  He will understand them.  The ways of the Lord are right; the righteous walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.”

– Hosea 14:9

 

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Human Connection: Additional Thoughts 5

So, we know now that behavior modification doesn’t create heart change. We have to understand that when we connect to God we realize – it’s about what He has done on our behalf – not we have done.

Let me share an analogy with you. I had this kid on my shoulders in the pool and I slipped into the deep end. The kid on my shoulders had Aspergers and was having a great time. He was laughing and kicking and splashing and enjoying himself. He didn’t realize what had happened.  He didn’t know I couldn’t get air and that I was taking in water below him while he was having a good time with his legs wrapped around me.

And the more I pushed to the surface, the less capable I was of getting there with an 85 pound kid on my shoulders. So I did what was the most counter intuitive – I pulled his legs and pulled him under. Immediately he kicked off of me, realizing then what was happening and I was able to come up for air.

This is like the kingdom of God. Jesus lost his life in order to save us. We have to die to self in order for him to raise us up. And the usual method is behavior modification. But behavior modification is incapable of producing the results we want.

Another analogy involves the house my wife and I recently bought. The house has a Koi pond. The pond was really cool and came with fish and we really enjoyed it. Then? Algae.

The pond turned really green and was out of control. The water turned leprechaun green. So we went to the store and bought the proper solution to get rid of the algae. What I wanted to do was just take the skimmer and pull off the algae.

You ever do that? It’s like gardening. You pull the weeds and they come back again. That’s behavior modification. You can pull your weeds, but they’re going to come back every single time.

If I want to get rid of the algae I have to change the nature of the water – the chemical makeup. You have to create a balance on a deeper level and not just skim the surface.

Eventually we’re going to fail if we do this on our own. But if we begin to straighten our heart in order to get connected with God – something happens.

Thankfully, we’re not alone in this. It’s not up to you, by yourself, to straighten out your heart. God is in the business of giving us new hearts. That’s what new birth is. That’s what born again means. Once you put your faith in Christ, the old you dies on a spirit level and the new you comes to life in Christ.

Next week I will wrap up part 3 of this series with more truths God shares with us in his word and in our world – empowering us to live a life that is free in Christ.

 

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The Human Connection Part 2, Day 2

 When we talk about making contact, we’re talking about two things:

1. Making contact with one another.

2. Making contact with God.

A lot of the principles I’m going to share are just basic ways we can relate to each other. If you’re one of those people who over-spiritualizes everything and wants to say a study of connecting with one another is humanistic – so you’re not going to listen to this unless every point is backed by scripture and verse – I’m going to guess that people aren’t listening to you.

I believe the principles I’m going to share are backed by scripture as a whole, but as I mentioned earlier, this is a journey I am on to learn more about God and his work in us and I invite you to learn with me.

The Gospel is entrusted to us to take to this world. I believe we’ve become so out of touch or out of harmony with each other that we don’t even know when someone is ready to receive what we have to say or not. We fail to recognize when we’re running over somebody – when we’re just plowing over them emotionally with our words or if they’re ready to receive something from us. We go out there and call something persecution when we’re really just coming across as a jerk.

People use prophecy to beat others up and to manipulate. People use evangelism to condemn. And we’ve been so out of touch that we’ve lost our emotional intelligence. What that means is – can you read someone while you’re having a conversation with them and can you then steer how you relate to them to meet the needs they have at that moment?

 Paul said he became all things to all people.

 But we take this mentality that, “Well, this is how we say it at our church and if you don’t like it I’m not going to speak to you.”

What we really say is, “They just weren’t ready to receive.” When, actually – you just weren’t ready to give. 

There are a couple of choices we have. I believe we should move every obstacle possible for people to receive the kingdom of God. Yet, we make it so much more difficult than it has to be.

Let’s talk about why we connect. We connect because God is a connecting God. It goes back to the Trinity. God connects himself, intertwining himself. He’s three parts of who he is – all working in unison.

In Genesis 1 God says, “Let us make man in our image.”

Who is “us”? The Trinity.

He’s having a conversation between the three parts that are him. He created himself as one in this relationship – like a marriage union in the form of the Trinity. He’s made us in the same way – body, soul and spirit. Just like the three parts of the Trinity.

And he wants us to act as the body of Christ. We lost something in the Garden – that sixth sense, if you will. But God is a God of restoration. We threw it away again at the Tower of Babel – working together for evil. So God separated our language. I wonder if we had been working together for good, if God would have put that separation in place?

As Christians our spirits speak heavenly things that we can’t understand, but that allows us to connect with one another on a deeper level than our earthly language allows; Body, soul and spirit.

So, how do we connect with each other? If you want to learn for your marriage, your business – or any other area in your life – this is for you.

There’s nothing worse than speaking with someone who has no emotional intelligence. What your face reveals or your body language is saying. You take a step backward to get away from someone and to put distance between you and that person and they take two steps forward to get closer to you. They just don’t know how to read the signals. 

How do we break free of that? How do we make sure we are not that way? That’s one of the things we will cover in this series.

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A System of Grace

Angry mother scolding daughter clutchin teddy bear in living room

The opposite of a shame based system is one of grace. If you aren’t quite sure what this looks like, or if you’ve been living in a shame based system for any length of time, this list reveals how to build up your family while teaching them solid lessons they can implement for a lifetime.

The Top 10 Characteristics of a Grace Filled System

1. Out Loud Affirming

“Good job!”

“You are so capable!”

Recently our nieces and nephews were over and my nephew spilled apple juice – the stickiest substance if it dries on the floor. We cleaned it – or so we thought. About 3am I got up for a glass of water. Walking across that spill in my bare feet, I was quickly reminded that I needed to go over the spot again. And it was easy to think at first, “Oh man, Little Guy! You made such a mess on the floor!”

The following morning we got up with the kids and he had apple juice again and I realized I didn’t tell him what a great job he did by not spilling it this time.

We forget to say, “Such a good job!”

“I love you!”

“I’m glad God put you in my family!”

And when using out loud affirming – use names and use them often. Use your child or spouse’s name when praising them.

2. People Oriented 

Grace filled families separate people from their behaviors.

David Seaman said, “We all need an environment where our needs are met because of who we are, not because of what we do.

It’s not psycho mumbo jumbo to say to Little Johnny, “I love you, but I don’t like what you just did.”

It’s grace. It’s about communicating acceptance when behavior is lacking. And the psycho mumbo jumbo that works is God’s invention. The psycho mumbo jumbo that doesn’t work is psycho mumbo jumbo and we have to sort through the two.

Sometimes God isn’t real pleased with my behavior – even as a pastor. When God sees me He sees Jesus. I am forgiven. I am in Him. I am righteous. I am holy.

People have made grace to mean God can’t see us or our actions. But we can grieve the Holy Spirit and at the same time have perfect love and righteousness and acceptance and holiness. He sees us in Him. But sometimes he sees us and says, “No! Don’t choose that path. It leads to pain and disappointment.”

3. Out Loud Rules and Expectations.

I like rules. People don’t expect that from me. I’m a grace pastor, after all.

I travel a lot. Travel to me means anywhere but home and I get really serious about my travel rules. Now, you know you have your own set of neurotic rules. Come on! Admit it!

Recently we went to the movie theater. I was the last one inside the theater. I have this rule – always turn right when it’s an arbitrary choice. The couple we were with went into the theater before me. So, when I entered the theater and saw them I immediately let out a sigh and realized I didn’t have to react that way.

We all have these things. And when we verbalize them, what it prevents is someone going, “What is wrong with this person?”

Some people hang onto things for years that they don’t tell their spouse – that a particular thing drives them crazy. Verbalize them – not in a dictator kind of way, but talk about them. I’m not picking on the little rules. But, some people have big ones. Take those things – what are the big rules you don’t talk to anyone about? If the truth is spoken it reveals a problem and it’s addressed without attacking the person who is sharing them. Have family time and allow members to identify their preconceived rules as well as rules the family would like in place. It really will bring you closer together without creating unnecessary animosity or resentment down the road.

4. Communication is Clear and Straight.

Zachariah 8:16

These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts

“Truth is the absence of the intent to deceive.” – Jeff Vanvonderen

Sometimes what someone says is true, but the way it is said or what is omitted deceives the hearer.

5. God is the Source

God meets needs, defends, and is the one who determines our acceptance. It may be very American to think our value is determined by money or position or clothes, tools…whatever else we are using. But, our position in Christ is that our acceptance is in Him and not in what we have or how we can perform. Only God decides what is true about us.

It’s okay to be concerned about our child’s math grade. But, if they fail math they only fail math. They are not a failure. And it’s important to distinguish the difference between the two.

 6. Children Are Enjoyed.

In a grace filled home children are free to act according to their age appropriate development rather than being expected to act like adults.

7. Responsibility and Accountability Dwell in a Grace Filled Relationships

Fault and blame are used in shame filled families to punish for lack of performance. And they’re used as tools in an attempt to control others.

People are responsible for their choices and it’s okay to hold them accountable for their behavior. This may involve discipline, but this does not mean punishment. There’s a difference. It means helping the child learn from the incident, which might occur in the form of consequences received or it might happen just by talking about it together.

 8. Head Skills Are Used for Learning, Not for Defending

“Why did you do that?” usually triggers a defensive response. But, when we say, “Help me understand your thinking here.” That doesn’t invoke the need to defend. When you ask your child’s help in understanding what was going on in his head and the answer is “I dunno. I just left the milk out.” That’s okay. Since the person is already preapproved; living in a grace filled relationship – the focus is on learning and growth. And if the thinking is faulty it can be changed. The behavior will change as well and if done early, growth occurs.

If you’ve been living in a shame filled system – when you attempt to do some of these things there might still be a tendency to defend because the person doesn’t feel preapproved.

 9. Feelings Are Valid and Useful

Feelings aren’t right or wrong – they simply exist.

 Feelings act as signs that let us know that something is going on between us. There’s a big difference between “you always do this.” and “I feel like you always do this.”

Because the moment we acknowledge we feel like this – it reveals that our perspective may not be true. And it may be skewed to some extent.

I love what Jim Richards says about truth: He says when referring to past events in our lives, what is important is not what happened, but how we feel about what happened. And that’s essentially what creates the reality of our experience and what those emotions do at a heart level.

 10. It’s Okay for Outsides to Match Insides

In a grace filled family what is real is more important than how things look to others or maintaining an image. Life is viewed from a process perspective rather than an event perspective.

I rejoice in progress.

God is not through.

Behavior is changing.

Unacceptable behavior is about poor choices, not our value and worth as a person. Therefore, grace filled families don’t have to fix one another in order to fix themselves.

 

 

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The Top 10 Characteristics Found in a Shame Based System: Part 2

Yesterday I shared my take on part of a list found in Jeff Vanvonderen’s book Families Where Grace is in Place. Today I’m presenting to you 6-10 of the The Top 10 Characteristics Found in a Shame Based System.

6. Putting Kids through a Hard Time

Kids are involved in a messy and imperfect process of finding out about life, especially when it’s built on a shame based system.

I’ve counseled numerous people who, at the tender ages of 8, 9, 10, 13 years old, they essentially became the parent in their homes… Caring for younger siblings, being responsible… Mom or Dad got sick or depressed and so at that point they had to fill their parents’ shoes and be the adult in the family. In a shame based system – it doesn’t allow people to be who they are at age appropriate levels.

Another reason kids are often forced into adult roles at a young age is simply because a parent doesn’t want to tolerate a kid being a kid. So 7 year olds have to act 13 because the parent doesn’t want to be embarrassed in public. 4 year olds do what 4 year olds do; 6 year olds…2 year olds.

You cannot force maturity. You can teach. You can inspire. You can use discipline and correction in various ways. But, you cannot force somebody to have the same emotional intelligence or social etiquette you possess at your age.

A shame based system will put standards on people, even spouses, like – make me happy. But, especially when they’re imposed on children it puts pressure on them which they’re not capable of being yet. Unfortunately, that kid is going to try because kids want so badly to please their parents and they will get to the point of burn-out every single time.

7. Preoccupation with Fault or Blame

The following may sound familiar to you: 

 “Who did this?”

“Whose fault is this?”

“Which one of you did this?”

Don’t you always want to know? We’ve got to know. Since there’s always a focus on performance in a shame based family system, lack of performance must be tracked down and eradicated.

Fault and blame are the order of the day. The purpose of the question “Who is responsible?” is to find out who is to blame. That way the culprit can be shamed, humiliated and made to feel so bad he won’t do it again. It’s our modern take on the pillory – the wooden frame with holes in which the head and hands of criminals were secured and displayed publicly in medieval times.

We put them on display so everyone knows – it was this one.

Sometimes, though… 

It doesn’t matter.

Sometimes, it’s okay- regardless. 

“Who left the milk out on the counter?” Does it really matter who left the milk out on the counter? The milk is out on the counter – and you know what? You probably need some new milk – and that’s all that matters at this point. Because it’s not like it’s intentional. It’s not like your kid or spouse makes the conscious decision to leave the milk out because, “Hey…I’ll leave this milk out on the counter because it drives them crazy. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do!”

Probably not. There was probably no malice. It was probably an accident. Something that – just happened. You might need to Wikipedia how long milk can last unrefrigerated. But, in the end, regardless if it’s spoiled milk or not – shaming is not the answer.

This isn’t to say if you know who did it you can’t point out, “Hey, I saw that you left the milk out on the counter. Can you be a little more careful next time? It goes bad quickly if you don’t.”

Even at that, kids aren’t thinking deeply about it. They get the concept. They understand that when they use milk it goes back in the frig. They may remember next time, but not because they’re thinking about the science behind spoiled milk – it’s just a habit you’re helping them create. On the other hand, shaming them into making these simple changes to their routines creates contempt.

8. Strong on Head Skills 

Family members become experts at defending themselves. Blaming, rationalizing, minimizing, and denial are just one of the many ways people try to push away the shame message in vain.

And what happens, essentially is that even small conversations turn to defense mode. 

We find ways to counteract perceived charges:

“I did that for this reason.”

“I was just on my way back to put the milk away.”

We find ways to rationalize our problems or defend ourselves or just deny it altogether. And the goal is put once again on – Can I be smart enough to think through this problem in such a way that people won’t pin it on me?

9. Weak on Heart Skills

You aren’t allowed to feel is another unspoken rule governing a shame based system. It is wrong to feel something Feelings are wrong. Feelings are unnecessary. People in shame based families don’t know how to cope with their feelings. They react as opposed to respond to situations that arise. This emotionally reactive place is often hard to escape when feelings are continually suppressed in the home.

 10. Needy People

Because love and acceptance were based on behavior and never received apart from performance, shame based families are characterized by members who are empty on the inside and full looking on the outside. They want you to see them as complete and whole, but on the inside they’re far from it. And that’s what a shame based system leads to in people. 

If any of this sounds familiar or if you’re recalling times you’ve done this to others, I want you to know – it’s never to late to decide, “I don’t have to live this way.” And this way is not your performance. It’s God’s grace. So, if you feel like this is your family, I want you to know there’s an opportunity for you to turn it around into a grace based system with grace filled or graceFULL relationships. 

I’ll wrap up this series tomorrow as we investigate the flip side of this list. God’s unmerited favor in our lives and in the lives of families looks very different.

 

 

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Top 10 Characteristics Found in a Shame Based System

A couple of days ago I shared a quote from Jeff Vanvonderen, the author of Families Where Grace is in Place. Vanvonderen shares a couple of top ten lists on the subject of grace and shame. Today I am going to expand on the first half of one of those lists.

The Top 10 Characteristics Found in a Shame Based System

1. Out-loud Shaming.

What does that look like?

Something that is wrong with you.

You’re defective.

Something is wrong with your brain. 

You fill in the blank. Someone has out-loud shamed you before.

You don’t measure up.

Why can’t you be like so-and-so?

Susan’s husband doesn’t do that.

Out-loud shaming. It’s the first characteristic of a shame based system.

2. Performance Orientation.

 The focus is on performing certain good behaviors and avoiding others as a means of earning love, gaining acceptance, acquiring approval, or proving value. Failure to perform results in shame. 

3. Unspoken Rules 

Rules or standards that are seldom, if ever, spoken out loud to govern behavior in a relationship, workplace or household.

Here’s the kicker: The rules are only discovered when they’re broken.

I’m going to share an example using an incident that involved my office chair. There’s a chair in our office that’s black, faux leather – an executive chair. If you walked into the office and you lined up all of the chairs and asked yourself which chair belonged to me, the pastor, you’d naturally point to that chair every time. That’s not to say there aren’t other comfortable chairs in that office, but that particular chair looks the nicest.

 Guess what. I hate that chair. I won’t sit in it. It’s hard on my back. It’s uncomfortable to sit in for long periods of time. So, I came into the office the other day for a staff meeting and we moved the chairs around the conference table. Most of the chairs match, but there are two or three that are obviously different, including that executive chair. The day after the staff meeting I walked into my office and there was that chair – at my desk. 

I’m constantly finding it at my desk and constantly moving it out of my way to replace it with a more suitable chair. It got to the point that I seriously considered getting rid of it altogether. After the third week in a row of that chair showing up at my desk, I started to think I was being punked. Where were the hidden cameras? Finally, I joked that if I found out who was repeatedly placing that chair at my desk was fired on the spot. We all had a good laugh because nobody knew that I hated that chair. 

Nobody knew.

Nobody knew I hated that chair. It was an unspoken rule. They didn’t know the stress of moving that chair out of my office week after week. And when we have those unspoken, comical rules, we can laugh about it and that’s great. But, when we harbor unspoken rules on a deeper level they have the power to cause turmoil, stress, shame, and condemnation because you break rules you’re not aware of. 

The comic strip Calvin and Hobbs is built around a boy and his imaginary tiger. In one skit they play a game called Calvin Ball. It’s basically a game that Calvin has devised and the rules change each and every time in order for Calvin to win. You’ve probably played Monopoly with people like that. You may hear, “Well, at our house the rules for this game are…” And that’s fine and it’s fun in games.

But, when it comes to life, when it comes to value and you are – your worth as a person – it leads to shame and guilt and condemnation every time. Because no other person can get it right. And it’s not helpful to people or healthy when you implement unspoken rules in life.

4. Communicating Through Coding

Essentially, communicating through coding is talking about feelings or needs and it leaves you feeling ashamed for being so selfish. Whenever you talk about what’s going on with your life you feel like the other person is judging you – that because you have these feelings you’re selfish. Because you have that want or desire – you’re selfish.

So, we learn that we are not to share when we have a desire. What we find ourselves doing is skirting around it by hinting at it. We have another rule – that is the “You can’t talk about it rule” because you’re going to get shamed if you do. So, family members learn to talk in code or send messages to each other indirectly through other people. It goes back to junior high – sophomoric behavior and manipulation. Their cyclical ways of declining and responding to issues. And no one comes right out and says, “This is how I feel/felt.”

So, you might say, “It would be a nice day to go for a drive.” And the other person agrees. “It sure would.”

And he goes back to reading the newspaper. By the end of the day you say, “I’m so upset!” And the husband is scratching his head and wonders why you’re so upset. When you reveal the reason he asks why, if you wanted to go for a drive, you didn’t just say something?

The wife insists she did say something, but the husband is bewildered. “When?” Because no one came out and said it. Ideally it would be nice if he caught the hint, but you can’t get mad because he didn’t pick it up. However, we do it all the time. 

5. Idolatry

Family members are taught to turn to things and people other than God as a measure of their value and identity.

The measuring stick becomes how people and things look – what people think…religious behavior and acquiring possessions as opposed to who they are in Christ.

A child gets the mindset that he won’t be accepted unless his life looks like his friend Johnny’s life that his parents insist is so wonderful. As long as we make the standards of behavior and performance other people – there is no possibility of ever becoming accepted.

The first celebrity I saw address this was Tyra Banks, who filmed an entire show without make up. She was making the statement that we have set  up a standard based on her modeling shoots and magazine  covers and what people don’t grasp is that an editor spent hours airbrushing and editing the photographer’s pictures.

At the end of the day we’re not to take from that, “Well, I look as good as Tyra Banks.” What we’re to do is look in the word of God and see what He says – and it says we’re fearfully and wonderfully made.

As long as we make the standard someone else in order to be accepted, even if subtly… when we hold ourselves, our spouses or our kids against someone – it never builds healthy relationships or perceptions.  Corinthians says when we compare ourselves amongst ourselves it’s not wise.

Tomorrow I will share the rest of the list with you and hope I’ve given you something to think about. I hope as you chew on what I’ve shared so far that the Holy Spirit convicts you of – not what is wrong with you – that’s not what this is about. I hope the Holy Spirit convicts you of your righteousness; of what is right with you based on what Jesus has already accomplished in you and for you.

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Revealing Grace

I shared yesterday about God’s desire for us to lean into him and the speed of grace. On the flip side there’s law based living. The law is really quick. It’s do this or else. Law moves at the speed of light and then you burn out and have to start all over again. We could use the law very quickly and you can use it to get people to behave. Even if you’re not doing anything you actually are…it gets people to behave while someone is looking.

Take, for example, what happens when you are driving down the road with friends. A police car pulls up beside you in the next lane. You see the police officer and, even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you and your friends automatically sit a little straighter. You make sure your hands are at 10 and 2 on the steering wheel. You double-check your seatbelts. It’s because you’re afraid; afraid of the immediate consequences – so we respond instantaneously. And what that mindset does is it gets people to behave while somebody is looking. That’s all it does – it gets somebody to behave while someone is looking.

Grace isn’t interested on behavior at all. It’s a statement that can get you in a lot of trouble if you just post that randomly on your Facebook page. It’s important not to do that because it’s so much deeper than that.

Much deeper.

Grace isn’t interested in behavior – it’s interested in wholeness. Wholeness will lead you to new behavior, but not for behavior’s sake. 

Grace will lead you to wholeness because now that you’re whole – that’s how whole people live. It’s interested in getting you to Jesus. In order to sin, in order to fall short, we actually have to go against our nature if we’re in Christ. When you live in grace and the wholeness it provides, you have to resist who you are in order to sin.

It’s hard sometimes to explain the difference between someone’s mindset and someone’s nature. There are a lot of people who are in Christ who have a terrible mindset. And they live out of that mindset. They’re not living out of their nature.

I spoke with someone who had a conversation with another family member regarding an issue they were having. He said of his family member, “That’s just their nature.”

I corrected him. I said, “No. That’s not their nature. That’s their mindset.”

Their nature is Christ. The person is a believer. The person loves Jesus. God has come and made that person a new creation.

2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here!

His nature is Jesus. It’s the mindset that is the battle.

As long as you think a person’s issues are a result of his nature, it will lead you to condemn him, to point fingers at him, to judge him. It will create distance.

When we realize that a person is in Christ, and it’s their mindset and not their nature, it allows grace to come in. It allows us to admit, “Man, I have a bad mindset too some days.”  And we realize the obstacle is not the person – it’s the person’s mindset – the way the person is thinking. And we are then free to walk with them. Now we can deal with how the person is thinking.

The Bible says we no longer regard a person with a worldly point of view. It means we understand there’s something deeper going on. It allows us to look at the inside rather than the outside behavior. And we would do well to keep this in mind as we relate to our families and our relationships.

There are really only two options. There’s shame – and there’s grace. Now, you can have one area of your life – let’s say your finances – where you have a lot of condemnation, guilt and shame. But, you come to some other area in your life where you’ve experienced the grace of God and you have freedom in that.

Just because we’re struggling to find grace in a single area of our lives – it doesn’t mean we’re struggling to find grace across the board. It just means there is an area where God is still revealing grace in our hearts.

Check in tomorrow when I will share the Top 10 Characteristics Found in a Shame Based System.

 

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March 6, 2014 · 12:05 am

Week 18 Devotional: Jesus’ Sacrifice

“Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people.  He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.” (Hebrews 7:27)

Have you ever wondered if Jesus’ death really was enough to pay for the price of your behavior?  I know I have.  When I was a kid, I would take communion every week at church and each week I would ask God to forgive my sins.  I can remember one week in particular when I had used a curse word during the week.  It was the first time I had ever cussed and it just slipped right out of my mouth.  I was certain that I was going straight to hell with gasoline underwear.  This isn’t to excuse my behavior, but what I didn’t understand was that the sacrifice of Jesus wasn’t just for the sins that I had committed before I accepted Christ, but that his sacrifice was a sufficient payment for all sins for all time.  By my attitude towards the death of Christ, I was communicating that God’s sacrifice wasn’t enough; it’s the height of arrogance.  Here I was thinking that God’s payment for sin was inferior to cover my failings.  Boy was I mistaken.  Here Hebrews tells us that God actually overpaid the price of sin.  Old Covenant priests had to offer sacrifices every day, but Jesus’ sacrifice was a onetime payment for the sins of the whole world!   Your sins, past, present, and future, have been forgiven – rest in that today!

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Week 17 Devotional: Are You Found in Christ?

But do not think I will accuse you before the Father.  Your accuser is Moses on whom your hopes are set.”  (John 5:45) 

Many people see God as a judgmental finger pointing God, but this isn’t true.  In fact, God placed all judgment against sin on the person of Jesus.  Because of this, God is no longer bringing accusation against sin.  Many people site the last judgment, but the last judgment isn’t about whether or not you’re a good person (and if it is then we are ALL in trouble), but rather it is about whether or not you are found in Christ.  Jesus says in the above verse that God isn’t our accuser, but rather Moses or the old covenant Mosaic Law.  Jesus identifies here the widely held belief that many place their hope in simply “being a good person”, rather than faith in Christ.   Ill-informed people place their trust in their own ability to keep the Law of Moses, but what they don’t realize is that everyone falls short.  The scripture tells us in Romans 3:10, that “there is no one righteous, not even one.”  The good news is that Jesus set us free from the Law of Moses; as it says in Colossians 2:14, that he having “canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”  As my friend Victor King says, “Christianity doesn’t teach you to be good, but it teaches you Jesus, who made you good.”  This might seem like strange advice coming from a pastor, but stop spending so much time trying to “be a good person” and instead, spend your energy on developing a relationship with Christ, regardless of your behavior.  This is where true freedom lies.

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Week 16 Devotional: Spirit Without Limit

“For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.”  -John 3:34 

Did you know that you have the same Spirit in you that raised Jesus Christ from the dead, that empowered Paul to preach the gospel all over the known world, and that allowed the disciples to perform miraculous signs and wonders as the demonstrated message of Christ?  I hear so many pastors today talking about the Spirit of Elijah or needing a double portion of God’s Spirit.  Perhaps teaching like this has caused you to doubt your ability or power in Christ.  Maybe it has caused you to feel like a second rate Christian. The bible teaches that God gives His Spirit without limit.  This means that you right now, have an endless supply of the life and power of God on the inside of you.  There is absolutely nothing that you are lacking. Who needs a double portion of Elijah, when you have an endless portion of Jesus Christ?  Be bold in your faith and in your proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  You have what people are looking for and you are carrying around in your hands someone’s miracle.  Don’t hesitate, for God is with you!

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