You Don’t Need More Faith

Faith. It is a deep part of my journey that I haven’t shared much about, but that has really been just below the surface all along. You see my journey began with asking the questions, “How can love be greater than faith?” and, “How can a self-professed Bible-living religion speak more emphatically about faith than love?”

And when I took the plunge into grace there were three camps; the first of course cried hysterically from behind me that I could not possibly leave the safety of the foundations upon which I had been raised and not end up in hell. The second informed me that my grace was good and all, but the church still expects you to strive toward perfection. And the third said come as you are–as long as you utilize your faith to accomplish the perfection we expect.

I chose what was seemingly the lesser of the three evils, because the idea that we must believe to receive is a classic in the church. But my dilemma has always been this: I don’t have nearly enough faith for salvation, let alone what I want to receive beyond that. I don’t have enough faith to live right or to entrust my righteousness to; I don’t have enough faith to pray with power; I don’t have even enough faith to speak in a group of people. The Bible states that we are made righteous by faith, but my faith falls short every time.

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 KJV

I’ve read this verse before – I’ve read all of Galatians clear through many times. But the King James makes a seemingly minor difference in wording that totally changes the meaning of this verse – ‘by the faith of the Son of God’ 

Can someone say ‘Boom.

Now there is faith in Jesus and there is faith of Jesus:

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”

Romans 10:8‭-‬15 NKJV

Which is as much as to say, you can’t really make a meaningful agreement with something or someone you don’t believe–or, have faith–in.

And suddenly Jesus’ statement next to a withered fig tree about mustard-seed-sized faith begins to make sense–‘if you just have faith the size of a mustard seed you can say to that mountain, go throw yourself in the sea’. Because you’ll have to believe the truth–and if there is one thing Father will not do it is to make you believe the truth–but the only truth you need your own faith to believe….is that the rest is on His faith–He’s got this one.

Let’s go back to the context of Galatians (and as always, please – read the chapter. Read the book. Devour the context)

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.  For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.  For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.  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.  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Galatians 2:16‭-‬21 KJV

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life in my physical body. I haven’t really put it to myself that directly until now–I’d always just let there be a vagueness there and I know I’ve been pondering things that directly relate to me, me being someone in this world who lives in a physical body. But I’ve always struggled with the tension of faith, and good works, and sin, and rest… And that might be a surprise for some people because in the beginning of all this I was all about the grace and the rest and the not having to do anything anymore. But the reality has always been this tension because my heart says ‘Yes, I rest in the finished work of Jesus,’ but my mind goes, ‘But what about…’

Because I still live in a physical body and I’m learning more and more that this body is exterior to who I am but it is so flawed and I am still so in it, and what do you do when your spirit wants to live one reality but your body wants to live another? Do you just keep repenting and asking forgiveness every day for the things your body does like the church has taught for time immemorial?

And if I’m honest I can say I know I don’t have enough faith for the trouble my body gets me into in this world.

And I know Father doesn’t expect me to keep repenting–as if I had turned away in the first place. And that’s the thing about a person being made holy and righteous and perfect because that happened 2000-some-odd years ago but if we don’t see exactly what we think is good and right and perfect in a person we deem them unsaved, unrepentant, sinners destined for the wrath of God (and well-deserving of punishment)–or perhaps more often we say they are living a licentious life based on ‘greasy grace’. Yeah, it’s dawning on me now where that concept comes from.

And Church I’ve had a lot to say to you lately and I want you to know that I’m saying this as much into my own heart as to yours, but repenting and ‘having more faith‘ are not the answers to the people you are disqualifying. The solution to greasy grace is not a realization that ‘oh yeah, you actually do have to do something, and actually it’s all the same stuff as before but now Jesus’ power will help you do it,’ no Church… The solution is living dead to your body.

Because listen, go back and look at Galatians 2 again: the law doesn’t justify anybody, and sorry but a new-covenant-esque take on the law is still not going to justify. Anybody. Ten commandments? Not a chance, and that’s an easy enough pill to swallow maybe, but repentance and faith-works? No. You can’t prime the Presence-pumpBut what then justifies? Your faith in what Jesus did for you? No. Jesusfaith in what Jesus did for you.

Because the real issue here Church, is not about stopping people from living sinful, worldly, licentious lives. It isn’t about giving them the twenty steps to right living. If the only solution you can give them is that they need to work harder and have more faith–faith harder–you’ve missed the gospel. And you’ve missed the meaning of the death of Jesus, because that is the moment where humanity was spiritually circumcised, cut away from our sin-riddled bodies for the rest of eternity.

And I finally totally get this whole concept of a death being required before a covenant can come to an end; I always thought the law was supposed to die with Jesus, but it was we who died with Jesus. Now if we resurrect our old selves, Mr. Law is still alive–guess what; you’re back together under that old covenant, a slave to sin and death, rebuilding what died with Jesus on the cross. But if we are alive by the life and faith of Jesus? 

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I liveyet 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.”

…The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God…

Do you want to know, Church, why you are experiencing so little victory over sin in your members? Because you’ve been teaching them that the life they life in the flesh they live by their own faith. It is all up to them and if they aren’t experiencing victory and favor it must be because they aren’t believing hard enough, or maybe it is because they have believed in ‘greasy grace’.  I’ll tell you right now Church, you’ve hurt and confused a lot of people because their faith was not strong enough for you.

You don’t need more faith. You don’t. You don’t need more faith. But I know, religion says ‘Be careful of greasy grace, some of this has got to be on you,’ but it doesn’t because it’s already on Jesus.

A weight lifts off my shoulders when I realize that it isn’t up to me believing hard enough anymore.

The thing that flung me into all of this was this story that I’ve never had an easy time understanding. It’s the story of a demon-possessed boy who met Jesus:

And when He came to the disciples, He saw a great multitude around them, and scribes disputing with them. Immediately, when they saw Him, all the people were greatly amazed, and running to Him, greeted Him. And He asked the scribes, “What are you discussing with them?”

Then one of the crowd answered and said, “Teacher, I brought You my son, who has a mute spirit. And wherever it seizes him, it throws him down; he foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth, and becomes rigid. So I spoke to Your disciples, that they should cast it out, but they could not.”

He answered him and said, “O faithless generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I bear with you? Bring him to Me.”  Then they brought him to Him. And when he saw Him, immediately the spirit convulsed him, and he fell on the ground and wallowed, foaming at the mouth.

So He asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?”

And he said, “From childhood. And often he has thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.”

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”

When Jesus saw that the people came running together, He rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it: “Deaf and dumb spirit, I command you, come out of him and enter him no more!”  Then the  spirit cried out, convulsed him greatly, and came out of him. And he became as one dead, so that many said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.

Mark 9:14‭-‬27 NKJV

Mark is the only author who records the depth of Jesus’ discord with the father of the boy. And notice something; Jesus saw a a faithless people, but all he expected from that boy’s father was belief. But belief in what? Because Jesus didn’t even say ‘Believe that all things are possible,’ no, he said ‘Just believe. All things are possible to people who believe.’ And the father cries out ‘Lord I believe; help my unbelief.’

And I recall several occasions that I prayed and I said “God I know it’s your desire to heal so bring healing now!” And I saw broken bodies mended. But more often I think of all the times I said to myself “No… it won’t work this time, I can’t believe enough for that,”

But Jesus has faith. And he knows that his faith is enough for an entire generation–an entire human race–if they will just let His faith do the acting for just a moment. Help my unbelief in Your belief.

I hate the term ‘greasy grace’. I really do with a passion. I hate that Father’s character has had such a demeaning caricature drawn of it. And I hate the abuse that church leaders have been responsible for in disqualifying people because of so-called greasy grace or licentiousness. And I’m not saying licentiousness isn’t a thing somewhere, but when I hear ‘greasy grace’ being tossed around I see people being bombarded by insecure Christians who seem so afraid that Father’s goodness is not enough. I see leaders requiring more than a simple recognition that Jesus died on the cross and spiritually circumcised our old natures making every person perfect in the sight of God. I see churches afraid of losing their monopoly on self-faith-based goodness and the control they hold over their members by it, and I begin to understand the sort of people Jesus must have been looking toward when he declared, ‘o faithless generation…’

You don’t need more faith; Jesus has enough.

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The Christian (A)Gender

I’m about to broach a delicate subject. Gender. I don’t say homosexuality, or even LGBTQ+, because while I am going to talk about those, what I have to say is much broader than those labels.

​For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26‭-‬28 NKJV

I’ve never been overly vocal on the gender/sexuality debate, as you might have noticed if you’ve been following the blog for a while. I’ve at times been tempted to chime in, the promise of a spike in page views entering my mind (just to be honest!). I have occasionally written on the matter but I have never taken any sides and to be constructively critical it breaks my heart to see the Christian response on the sexuality issue, and that is the number one factor in my hitherto silence. Because if I’m going to say anything, I definitely do not want my heart to be misrepresented by the discompassion of religion.

It also breaks my heart to see young, open-minded open-hearted Christians embracing the world’s sexuality agenda–not because they do not think like I do but because they seem to understand so little Father’s better–that the life of Jesus runs deeper than the physical body and its nuances in this world, and that the restoration of all things means all things made new. Following Jesus does not mean the death of individuality and self-expression.

I’ve never been comfortable with the Biblical proofs (or lack thereof) against homosexuality–particularly in the new testament. I’ve heard enough proofs and counter-proofs to know that honestly, the only thing that stands up on its own two feet is that in the beginning YHWH created man male and female, and he made woman specifically for man.

But I’ve picked a side: I choose love.

I don’t mean that like you think.

Some time back I read an article and I wasn’t too sure at the time what I thought but I have to admit, the writer had a valid point. It was about Galatians 3:28 (above).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

I am amazed at how easily anyone would gloss over a third of this verse. No more Jew vs Greek? Fine. Undefining slavery? Sure. But nondescript sexuality? Perposterous.

But look at it. In Christ, you no longer have a national identity, you no longer have an identity of slave or free (which was much more relevant in Paul’s day, I might add)and according to the next statement the same is true of sexuality; there is no male–there is no female.

Think about that.

And now tell me, what bearing does that have on the sexuality issue? I can tell you right now the grey areas seem a lot less important to me because Jesus is not concerned about the gender of your body. 

I’ll say that again: Jesus is not concerned about the gender of your body. The new covenant life concerns your life in his body, not your own. There are a few other passages I’ve been studying lately that talk about dieing to your body because your physical body is not in alignment with the reality of the life of Jesus–your body is still in alignment with a marred world because that’s where it lives. 

That means it doesn’t matter if you’re a certain way from birth or because something happened in your upbringing to make you that way; it doesn’t matter–dare I say it–whether you are a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body–or a man in a man’s body or a woman in a woman’s body: it is all external to who you are in Christ, and what your body is now may not be what it is when it is remade in the renewal of all things.

And that means, your sexuality–and all forms of so-called ‘sinful tendency’, really–is as much a non-issue as injury and disease because it is not the fullness of Christ’s reality, and it may never be until the renewal of all things–but your spirit is new already, and that is why you deserve to hear the good news free of any Christian’s condemnation: you are already perfect! (Hebrews 10:14) 

And while we’re on the subject of non-issue, what about the legalization of gay marriage? But here’s the thing guys; (and it doesn’t make sense to me that Christians are getting so mad about this) governments can amend their definitions of marriage, but the government’s marriage contract and Father’s marriage covenant are two totally different things and the government has no input on the covenant Father designed. It shouldn’t surprise any Christian if the world gets…worldlier.

So to the church I say, be gracious; choose love. Because it’s true when they say love has no gender – they just don’t realize that Father is love, pure and ungendered.

And listen church, a father had two sons. He went to the first and he said “Son, I want you to work in the vineyards today,” the son said “Naw Pops,” but later he regretted saying no, and he went. And the father went to his second son and he said, “Son I want you to work in the vineyards today,” and the second son said “Yes absolutely! I’ll go right away Sir,” but he didn’t go. Sound familiar? Jesus (Matthew 21:28-32) was describing the social outcasts of his day–the tax collectors and the prostitutes–by the character of the first son because they may not have seemed the part, but they had hearts open and vulnerable to Father, and they were the ones who did what he desired.

But particular people come to mind who perhaps are rejoicing at my apparent coming around–it’s not like that. I can’t support the LGBTQ+ agenda because it’s not Father’s agenda, it’s the world’s and it is not the ‘better’ that Father has destined his children for. But what I can do is love as unconditionally as Jesus loves me, because I am in Him, and in Him gender doesn’t matter. I do not expect you to change, for me or for anyone else. What I do expect is that when you know Jesus, you will be changed, and I can promise you this; the ‘you’ deep inside you will be freed and come alive like no amount of self-expression could ever accomplish. But do not require you to change for me, and I never will.

And don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying sexuality–or even gender–doesn’t matter. Father has a white stone for you with a name written on it that only he knows and your identity and your sexuality as an integral part of your identity are secure in that stone and in the heart of Father. And the gracious heart of Father says, “It’s okay if you’re confused right now; we’ll walk this out together, and at the end I’ll restore your identity, and I’ll recreate your body in perfect alignment with who you really are, completely free from the affects of a twisted world, and I’ll place a white stone in your hand and I’ll whisper in your ear, ‘This is who you were created to be my child!’ And I will set you free to Be and to create with Me the way I always intended!”

But mostly, Church, my heart aches for you. You’ve made this into such a Big Deal. You’ve protested, you’ve boycotted, you’ve refused to make wedding cakes. You’ve overreacted. You’re painting scarlet letters over sawdust in the eyes of Father’s precious children and this must not go on. It doesn’t matter how people identify their physical gender any more than it matters whether a person is physically or mentally disabled, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t matter, because Father created their spirit, and he created it true, and he made it holy and righteous and perfect through the death of his son Jesus on the cross and you, Church, have no right to nullify the death of Jesus for such as these. ‘Properly-assumed’ gender is not a condition for grace, or salvation–or righteousness–or holiness. If you understand the gospel you know this already. What matters now, is love. Because love wins; love has won for you, and love has won for the ‘them’s, too.

Grace Changes Everything

I’ve been thinking about changing the blog name.

I’ve been thinking about this because I want to convey something I learned some time ago – that grace isn’t really what sources the Father’s heart; love is. It’s not really all about grace, but grace comes out of His love.

But the other day I was thinking about it again and I concluded this: my documented journey is about grace. Yes, it’s about Father’s love for me, but it’s about grace and the confidence that grace gives me to learn, grow and explore without perpetual fear of damnation or of getting too far into one ditch or the other; there is no ditch on the straight-and-narrow, only the loving nudge of a Shepherd’s staff.

So I won’t be shocking my small crowd of followers by changing the blog. But all this got me thinking about what this blog has been about, where it began and where it’s gone since.

I began way back in the fall of 2013 after a couple months of increased hunger; I wanted nothing but scripture – I woke up craving it. I studied covenants and found my faith in a whole new light. And then I began to write about it. At the beginning I just spewed scripture and the glory of Jesus, I couldn’t help writing back what I was learning and re-imagining. And it’s been a long journey since then and since then my direction here hasn’t been quite so clear, particularly in recent months.

In July this summer I began delving into a study I’ve been wanting to get into for some time, that being the minutes of the 1919 Adventist Bible Conference, where foundations were set for the future of the denomination after the death of Ellen White. I’ve been wanting to share about my study through that deplorably massive document but I don’t particularly feel like this blog is particularly the place for that – I’ve been tossing around the idea of starting up a separate blog for that one, but I kind of actually have to finish the document. Frankly, it’s a big endeavor that I’m only a fraction of the way into and it would absolutely be enough for a separate project entirely.

But I’ve taken a step back lately and I’ve been spending some time checking out and getting to know one or two other authors that I really just click with – you know, when you go ‘yes and amen’ at ‘Hi it’s me again’. And it reminds me about what I started looking for earlier this year: Church community–not just the cliche ‘church/christian culture’ (which is fine if that’s your thing–I guess) but real Ephesians 4 stuff, people coming together under one love, one hope, one salvation and one Lord to grow into who He made each individual to be in His Bride. I’ve met some dear friends who remind me of that vision. And that’s not only what I hope to find, but what I hope to bring out and nurture here on this blog, around my friends and family and the people I meet every day. Living Church.

So I know, 500-some odd words later this post doesn’t have much direction – I’m just kind of bouncing thoughts and ideas around my brain because I haven’t had anyone to sit down and bounce thoughts and ideas around with for a long time, so take it with a grain of salt, or sugar, or whatever your grain is!

To the Ones Who Left [Dear Church]

The other day I read an article by John Pavlovitz over at  To Save a Life. It was another one of those “Dear Church,” letters about how the church is failing everyone, posed from the perspective of someone who has left the church #itsnotmeitsyou. And I know, I’ve read article after article from both perspectives and usually they are so utterly painful – the church is confused and angry, the people are hurt and vengeful, et cetera, it all turns into a blame-game somewhere in the middle no matter how well it turned out. And I mean, before I knock it too much I’ll tell you I found John’s article a fair bit more relatable than others. But it got me thinking, so here (and I never dreamed I would be writing my own but…) is my rebuttal:

Dear Church:

You’re Not Who You Think You Are

You see, Church, you think you’re the wounded martyrs on the outside dying for the revolution, damaged by the dis-compassionate machinery of the institution, the ‘ones who left,’ but you’re wrong – divorcing Jesus isn’t as easy as walking out of a building, and marrying Him wasn’t as complicated as walking into one. You see, you don’t think you belong to the Church any more because of a disconnect with your local body (or maybe a series of local bodies). For whatever reason, you left and now it’s easier to disassociate completely from everything you left behind and get caught up in an ‘us-vs-them’ mentality–I’ve been there.

But whatever the reason you left, regardless of where you place the blame or how you choose to express the emotions we’ve all felt coming away from a broken system that was supposed to work, the truth is you are still part of the Church, and Jesus is still preparing his bride–including you and the congregation(s) you’ve left–spotless and without blemish. So the question is, Church…

Who are you going to look like?

And I’m not trying to invalidate your experience because I know it’s real but Church… hurt, angry letters flying back and forth to at one another? This ought not to be! You won’t bring about transformation that way, only rally more damaged people to your misdirected causes. I feel division and disunity when I see these back and forth articles from one to the other, some new barbed arrow of truth each time, but the revolution isn’t about being right, it’s about experiencing love, grace and compassion for one another so strongly you would be willing to give up your life for those people you left–or the people who left you (because the truth is, you can’t say Church without talking to both sides).

The truth is if you really want to leave the Church then you’re going to have to leave Jesus, because He still connects us even when we’re too disgruntled to attend each others’ “Christianity shows” people like to think of as “church service”. The truth is it isn’t ‘your’ responsibility alone, it isn’t ‘our’ responsibility alone; there’s no ‘them or us’ going on here because Christ is still alive – the Kingdom still stands – and ‘you’ are still a part of it just as much as ‘we’ are.

So Church, you’ve outlined all the problems. You’ve passed the blame further than the offering plate will ever go. But are you prepared to dig deep, to hit the trenches and stand and fight for your brothers and sisters instead of with them? Are you prepared to rise where others have fallen, to bring unity back to the Bride and see the Church like Jesus sees her? Build bridges instead of theses on why ‘church’ isn’t working anymore (or why people leaving her is excusable). Because I’ll tell you one thing: as long as it’s ‘us-vs-them’ between the members of Christ’s very body, the Church at large is missing her mission.

After I left my church I was advised to completely cut off from the people I left behind, and at the time it sounded like good advice, and in most toxic situations it would be–but we’re talking about the Church here; if you can’t handle Christians, how can you seek and save lost people?

You Give Them Something to Eat

What if we’ve been asking God for something he already asked us to do?

I’ve been pondering over this statement from Leif Hetland along with an illustration he gave from the story of Jesus feeding the 5000 (well actually, his disciples feeding the 5000).

And it’s been floating around in my mind ever since I first heard it in part of his Baptism of Love teaching series – what if we’ve been asking God to do something he already asked us to do? As Leif put it, “We call it prayer–he calls it disobedience.”

But the other day particularly I was thinking about it again, and disconnectedly at another time I was thinking about revival and all the people I’ve been around for the last ten years and so much of the focus has been on asking God for revival.

But what if that’s not right?

Now don’t send out a witch-hunt for me – I’m not saying God hasn’t answered the cry of the church for revival in the past, and throughout history–and those stories are amazing, I would so love to be a part of one of those revival stories. But what if that’s not exactly the model for the emerging revolution?

You give them something to eat … “

And I’ll be the first to say, “Well, God does it all – we can’t do it by ourselves – we can’t make revival happen … ” et cetera.

But the thing is, revival already happened; it happened when you were baptized. You are revival. Or at least, you should be if Jesus is still Lord.

And don’t peel off into the other ditch and say “Well Carson are you telling me I’m not really saved or something because I don’t have miracles popping out my ears?”

No. I’m saying the mustard seed that could change the world is in you. God already brought revival – now what are you going to do with it? You’re called into a royal priesthood – where is the kingdom and who will you mediate for? How can you let the revival in you out to the dry bones around you?

Or are you dead yourself, dried up, run down, burned out on praying for God to do the thing he already did in you? Maybe the gifts are dormant and covered in a layer of dust a mile thick, maybe you didn’t know that church was a place for everyone–not just a few Spiritual superstars–to be the moving parts of the body; you have a role.

So are we asking God to do things he’s already asked us to do? Just some things I want to think about for myself.

Unconditionally

I wrote this some time back intentionally as the fourth edition to my series of posts on Ephesians, but it stands alone now more than ever before because over the last couple of weeks I’ve been very strongly convicted. When I originally wrote this, I had no idea what I was saying, the burden that I was implying. And I knew something was missing, it didn’t feel right, so I didn’t post it then. But I’m starting to get the picture, so with present additions included, here you go:

Have you ever noticed how there’s a general tendency for men to jump onto the bandwagon of Ephesians 5 for their God-given right to respect and admiration? Even the ensuing ‘Husbands, love your wives,’ doesn’t always do much to squelch the immediate ego-inflation, if he ever gets down to that portion.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. -Ephesians 5:22-27

But here’s the thing, men. It’s better than that. The role of ‘husband’ is so much more full than a right to have your household in complete submission to you – as I’m only just beginning to learn. Let’s continue through the rest of the chapter:

28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body,[d] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[e] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. -Ephesians 5:28-33

You probably already know marriage is a picture of Jesus’ relationship to the Church – the Bible is full of imagery to this extent. But Paul bold-faces it here; the husband’s relationship to his wife should be as Christ’s to the Church–to you. That means everything we’ve talked to up to this point regarding relationship with Jesus also has a marriage counter-part.

The husband’s role is completely selfless to his wife; all she is directed to do is submit to him. But to him Paul lays the complete responsibility of selfless, life-disregarding care; he is her glory, sanctification and cleansing, and he is to love her as his own body.

But here’s the bigger picture again: the Church is Jesus’ bride. He loves and cherishes her as his own body, and literally she is his body – He and she are one flesh. And you are the Church. Grace takes on a new meaning because yes, the Church submits and respects Jesus (and rightly so) but Jesus takes the far bigger burden on himself of taking care of the Church.

I’m having a difficult time finding the right thing without sounding like I’m just parroting Paul but guys! Your experience of Jesus is meant to flow out from you onto your wives! How can you be bitter or angry with her (I’ve [past] been taking in this implication myself over the last few days) when Jesus has never been bitter or angry with you? There is no way your sacrifice for her will ever be as great as His for His Bride.

I [present] started to get a real revelation of this around a week or a week and a half ago, and it wasn’t a light thing as Father began opening my eyes and heart up to it. He began showing me moment-to-moment that the grace he shows for me I am so very incapable of extending onto my bride; he is continually patient in my anger, gracious to my shortcomings, faithful to all of my hidden, developing future potential, and he loves it. He loves it. I don’t just mean he loves me I mean he loves loving me in that totally 100% for-me way. But me for my wife? Let’s just say dating-to-present we have a shadowed history. To be completely honest for just a minute, I’ve reevaluated my marriage increasingly and particularly over the last two years, particularly in the last six months, we’ve been so close to breaking point. And God through it all just says “Come under the shadow of my wing,” but I’m just up in here saying “What about me?”

Well, what about me? It’s not about me, it’s about her. 

“But Jesus she did this and this and she has this problem and she always brings such-and-such up–“

“Son, my love for you never falters.”

“But she doesn’t deserve unfailing love, how–“

“Neither did you.”

” … But I don’t have that kind of love, Jesus … “ 

It’s not a debate anymore in my heart who’s right or wrong. The debate is, am I going to love like Jesus, or am I going to love like I think? And let me tell you I can make things pretty good if I love like I think I should, for a while, on the surface. But the reality is I just don’t represent love right because there’s still a little bit of dead man trying to take control of me and sometimes [read: most of the time] he wins.

I can’t love my wife like Jesus loves me and the rest of his bride and let that dead man live.

I said I can’t let that dead man live.

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

So Jesus, fill me with you. Cover me with your love. Don’t let anything come out of me that isn’t your love. I’m saying no to the dead man, and yes to you, the LIVING MAN. 

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.

Staying Rooted is Hard [Ephesians Part III]

(But it’s not).

Something interesting to me is that now Paul gets into the heavy stuff. He’s talked about salvation and righteousness for everyone freely through Jesus; he’s talked about how the church functions to build itself up into the Bride, and now he starts talking about living right, walking the walk. From the end of chapter 4 through a fair chunk of chapter 5 (and really, on to the end of the letter,) he’s talking about right living. Let’s pick up in chapter 5:

Walk in Love

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know,[a] that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them.

Walk in Light

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit[b] is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret.13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says:

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

Walk in Wisdom

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. -Ephesians 5:1-21

There’s three parts to this: Love, Light and Wisdom. I used to think (a long time ago) that living right was totally up to me and that I was responsible for being sinless at least post-cross, if not pre-cross as well. What I didn’t get then was that being sinless was a free gift, and just because Jesus expects us now to use the gift He gave us doesn’t mean it isn’t still a free gift.

Let me explain with each part.

Look at verses 1-7; it’s about walking in love, and I believe it comes first not only because love is most important, but because everything else flows naturally out of love, which is why it’s so important in the first place! But it comes with a stern warning; if you live in disobedience you welcome the wrath of God. Of course, by now Paul’s talking to more than day-old Christians; we all want to live and act totally in love, right? But the best news is, if you understand what Jesus did, love is a natural response.

Therefore be imitators of God as dear children. And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma. 

I don’t mean it’s a natural response like you ought to love because he did – I mean it’s a natural response like you can’t help but love like he did because you understand what his love did for you! Boom! The goodness of God does more than lead men to repentance; it leads them to act in the nature they were created in – love.

And again concerning walking in the light it’s the same story; we desire to walk in the light because Jesus’ light is burning in us. This isn’t a stern warning, it’s a somber reminder of the power living and creating right desire in us. We can live more and more purely daily by opening up new places to that light. And it isn’t a matter of inviting his light in all over again every day, but simply waking up and enjoying the Son-rise.

And finally, walk in wisdom. Be wise. How? By allowing the Holy Spirit access continually through thanksgiving, through worship.

“So,” you might ask, “What does this look like, exactly – on a day-to-day basis?”

Well, in my life it looks like remembering how far the love of Jesus went for me, reveling in that and allowing my love for other people to well out of that experience. It looks like continually going to God any time I feel that I’ve started to move toward darker corners of my mind, the continual reminder that that old man is just itching to get his hands on my will again. It means purposely praising – usually in the form of singing to him quietly throughout the day. This is all a part of what I usually refer to as staying rooted. 

So what’s the problem? Well, it’s not that easy.

Yes! I want to love; more than anything else the continual desire to love rarely goes very far from me and it always brings me back because I remember why that desire is in me. I want to live right, I want to do right, I want to walk in the light and have a perfect life and not give in to temptations and always praise Jesus and worship Elohim Jehovah and never have a sin-natured thought or motive ever again and it’s a daily battle between desires!

But the thing is, it’s natural.

And since Jesus ransomed you, it’s more natural than sin-natural; the right side is winning your heart! You have good, Godly desires because you live in him and he is steadily living more and more in you! And as soon as I let in to those desires, my whole world flips right back around because I am rooted, and Jesus is still my Savior King.

The lie I think people (and I certainly do, too) is that after salvation, living right somehow becomes our responsibility to do. But the truth is, it’s only our responsibility to keep inviting, and then the Holy Spirit brings life and power and desire and Jesus’ very nature into our core being and now you tell me how you can stop yourself from doing right when you’ve got that living inside you!

I’d like to take a moment to bring to light something that seems to be a big fear to many people opposing the grace movement; that if we allow grace in excess in the church, sin will abound. And what’s important about the order here is that all this living right stuff already has the backing of free righteousness and a Gifted Church. Power and accountability, which brings with it the opportunity for encouragement from people walking the same road we are. Because the provision is there it makes so much more sense that Paul has said all this almost in an overtone of high expectation; not because he’s afraid the Ephesians are going to start to slip in greasy grace, but because he’s just finished showing them that they have the grace, power and the new-man nature from Jesus to live like this!

I don’t know what the Gifted Church’s role looks like here, but I’ll tell you this; there shouldn’t have to be this insecurity regarding grace in the corporate church.

So yes…staying rooted is hard. But when you get salvation, and when you get where the Church can come into play… I can tell you plainly it takes such a load off my shoulders to know that I don’t have to worry so hard about trying to be right, because living right is less about trying to change what you do naturally because of what you know about Jesus, and more about letting what you know about Jesus naturally change what you do.

What Holds Us Together [I Was Wrong About Tradition – Part II]

I understand why tradition is so important.

Since I had a two-day weekend from work, my wife and I decided to spend a couple days in our home town. As it happens, the annual Advent program
took place last night, and while initially I didn’t particularly want to go, I did.

While not an M.C.’ed event, being in the Catholic church feels quite structured. Somewhere about half way through the second congregational carol I realized something so profoundly simple; tradition is so important because it brings people together. I look around and I think to myself, “Wow. These people are all celebrating the same Jesus.”

Tradition is so important because it meets people on common, neutral ground. And if you feel the joy of what the tradition means to community, when different people of all different walks come together, it is a warm and peaceful atmosphere.

There’s still room for traditions in a new and changing world, though our generation would away with past tradition and ceremony. There is still room because our families and communities will still need a place and time to come together in one place to remember we are here together, celebrating the same hopes and dreams. And they can be as simple as a family coming together on Christmas, a song sung together.

And I know there are dead traditions out there – traditions whose meanings have been so long lost that they are now only dull ceremony. And there are traditions that may have never become more than ceremony to begin with. But some are gold. Some you may not see the value of for years after they are gone. And they are the ones to remember, and most importantly, who they bring together.

Church, Unite

“If we had more young people around here we’d get smarter,”

As the technical brain behind the system, I’d been asked to take a look at my previous church’s presentations computer to work some bugs out of the interface with the projector. It was a simple enough job, but the prospect of going back even for it was…awkward. I spent most of the day thinking about times gone, mulling things over in my head I thought I’d had settled a year ago. And then the comment that really got me thinking.

“If we had more young people around here we’d get smarter,”

Oh, you have no idea.

But what really got me going was this: the same people that trust me to know what’s going on with the hundreds of micro electrical circuitry inside a computer don’t seem to trust me to know anything they wouldn’t about, say, the Bible. Or God.

And you know something? There are a lot of people that have a lot of years on me when it comes to God. But I’ll tell you. the gospel isn’t as complicated as troubleshooting a computer, never mind the dabbling in hardware and software modifications I’ve done here and there. It just isn’t. So how is it that my belief counts reliably on one thing but not another when I’ve spent equal amounts of time studying and practicing both? Do you really want to get smarter with what I have to show you?

Bear with me – this is not a rant article.

I only ask one thing. Stay open. Keep your ears open, keep your mind open, and don’t let someone’s age or experience determine the value of what they may have to teach you; God talks to babies.

When I was removing myself from my previous church I was strongly encouraged to break ties with everyone. And for the most part, I was ready to. But I don’t agree with that anymore. I was talking to Jesus a few days ago and thinking about the underlying issues that caused me to make up my mind about leaving, and he just said something to this affect: “Son, don’t concern yourself with politics,” And he reminded me that he doesn’t use perfect people because there are none. And I just felt all my thoughts finalize right there.

I don’t regret leaving; I still know it was right for me. But I would have done it differently. Because the truth is I was cutting ties when I should have been building bridges to people. It’s not about breaking ties, it never was, and that’s not even in my nature.

What I wish is that people would see the truth, and decide to change direction.

What I dream is to see the young and the old sit down together and learn from each other; the young have valuable insights into the Word of God, too. What I dream is to see the church unified, learning together, resting in the strength of Jesus.

So who wants to be with me?

From Works to Warfare

A police woman came to my door this morning.

It was around 4:15 AM. She was looking for a young woman whom, according to her friend, was attempting suicide. I confirmed the name and gave her a key to the room. Minutes later the phone rang; it was the young woman who had reported the attempt to 9-1-1 – she asked if her friend was there and what room and I explained that yes, she was here and that police had already arrived. She waited on the phone till 9-1-1 called back to let her know that the police had found her friend in the room and called for the ambulance. There was more than worry in her voice, there was fear.

I’ve been trying to put this into words all week: the “works” system is so shallow. And I’ll tell you something. “Works” just aren’t going to cut it.

I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles,

To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the prison,
Those who sit in darkness from the prison house.

                            – Isaiah 42:7

The truth is…

The Father (because let’s not forget that God was Jesus’ Daddy, first) didn’t call Jesus to a life of works–and let’s not forget that Jesus spent his first 30-some years learning the works thing. And how much do you want to bet he understood a lot better than we have how every aspect of the ceremony pointed right to him at that very point in history?

But when Jesus walked into that synagogue on the exact day that Isaiah 61 was next in line for the reading, he didn’t declare a mission of works, mundane prayers and devotion. He said,

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, 
Because the LORD has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD,

                                 – Isaiah 61:1-2a

And then he closed the book.

Preach good things to the poor, heal the broken-hearted, proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound. I don’t know about you but that doesn’t sound like “read your Bible, pray every day” to me. And don’t get me wrong, Jesus had to know his scripture! It was the written word of God that Jesus used when he was tempted by the devil, and it was fine-print details in the written word of God that he pointed the Pharisees to in order to leave them completely speechless. Jesus didn’t skip out on his Torah lessons. But when the time came, he left home. They didn’t exactly have any Gideons’ pocket edition scrolls for him back then, but Jesus didn’t need it, because what living came down to wasn’t a written understanding of his father, it was a living, breathing relationship; it was real-time and it was actual.

Preach good things to the poor. Heal the broken-hearted. Proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those bound inside.

I’m coming to the realization that everything I learned from my “Church Culture,” was nothing but selfish pursuits. First, to work my own way to God – for myself, by myself. And then, once I’ve arrived (I could have never arrived, and the only one who ever has was Jesus) to “save” others and give them their commission of works so that they can get to God, too (because I get the referral bonus for each and every one of the poor souls). I’m trying to make it obvious but think about it: religion is purely selfish.

Because the kind of compassion it would take to intervene for someone as broken as to try to take their own life–the works system didn’t teach me that… Even though the outward premises of a system of works might sound like it’s about having compassion for the broken, it’s only about mechanical compassion–doing “good things” not out of a revelation of the Father’s love but out of a sense of duty and false promises of entitlement.

We’ve got to get out of this works system, because the only thing it’s teaching us is how to be justifiably passive. Because if you can feel completely accomplished because you think you do everything right, and the only reason you have to do anything is to feel that accomplishment, then why does compassion for the broken-hearted and the captive even need to come into play? Do you see how dangerous this system of thinking is yet? The kingdom is here and it doesn’t need more workers, the kingdom needs warriors to bring back the POWs because no matter how defeated the enemy is he’ll still hold captives till someone breaks them free. Are you hearing me yet?

The church has been so shallowly involved in the gospel. The reason that resting in Jesus is so important, is because he gave us back dominion of the earth, and that’s a big job to fill, and there’s still an enemy out there. And the church has been duped into passivity through works; Church, stop trying to get to God! Stop trying to “arrive”. Jesus died so that God could get to you! 

He has arrived.

Church, the only work left for you to do, is to let your roots grow down into Jesus Christ, and let your lives be built on him; 

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. So you also are complete through your union with Christ, who is the head over every ruler and authority. 

                       – Colossians 2:6-10