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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An Unlawful God

Christianity is not about law.

This post is going to collate a few things that have been running through my head lately which culminated a while back for me over the course of Baxter Kruger’s book Jesus and The Undoing of Adam (which is a wordy-but-wonderful short book that sums up the gospel as believed by the early church, and following through with Saints in the Arms of a Happy God by Jeff Turner (a much longer but also very good book as far as I have read).

One of Kruger’s main focuses is, of course, that Christianity is not about legality – the plan of salvation was not a court room drama. And he speaks so brazenly about the fact that today’s Christianity has got God so wrong. 

(It’s a good book, you should check it out)

And it only continued to confirm what I’ve come to believe – that Father is not really all that interested in law and retribution, that the gospel message was not about Jesus taking our punishment primarily and sin didn’t put us out of legal standing with God that we had to be atoned for before God could have an interest in us again, but that the gospel message is about a God who met us where we were, made himself vulnerable to the weight of the wrath of our sin, buried it in the grave and took his life back up to lift us up with himself to Father’s right hand.

The heart of the Father has always been relationship. The primary goal of the Father has always been to adopt us in to the relationship He shares with Jesus and Holy Spirit, through what Jesus did at the cross. It was planned from the beginning, before the beginning, before Adam was even a twinkle in Father’s eye, Father said ‘Let’s make man…and let’s invite him into our relationship.’

And then Adam fell.

Which means sin was only ever a side-note on Father’s already-eternal plan to adopt us, and Jesus’ primary goal has always been to raise us up to the Father’s side with him. That happened when he himself ascended to Father’s right hand – and he rewrote Adam’s history to bring us back from our anguished separation and into the family. There was no holy standard standing in our way, no wrath or vengeance, no anger, no; Jesus didn’t come to set our legal record straight or change Father’s attitude about us, he came (indeed, Father himself came in Jesus) to change our situation as Adam’s sons so that we could be adopted–so that our hearts would once more cry out “Abba! Daddy!” And maybe you don’t think that’s such a big deal but you’re living post-cross post-Adamic nature and Holy Spirit is poured out on all flesh which means your heart has already been turned toward Father; imagine having only total animosity in your heart and inherently believing you are an enemy of God and God is an enemy of you. It’s always been about restoring relationship by restoring the heart for Father we were created with–a heart which sees only the eternal proclamation, “It is Good!” over all creation. It is good, there is no evil but that which we created in our perceptions as soon as we ate the fruit that told us there was such a thing as ‘not good’.

And you know, I grew up with a legal-based view of God. I always had some kind of idea that when the prodigal son spent his inheritance, that was it, there was nothing else for him–I mean, how could there be, really? Legally it would’ve been a mess, everything left should have gone to the older brother. (Maybe that’s part of why he was so ticked when little brother came home – you mean now I have to share what’s left with this boy?) And who really knows, I mean it was a hypothetical story, after all. But it wasn’t really about the physical inheritance, was it. It was about the inheritance of the Father’s love for his children. It was about his deepest desire being to have his boys with him, to give them everything he had. There simply wasn’t any place for a legal reconciliation when that boy appeared on the horizon because Father’s attitude toward his son had always been for him, and for relationship, and for his son’s homecoming. And so the son was reconciled to his father; he was welcomed with open arms back into his place within Father’s household.

And I know I said that story wasn’t about salvation–the more I mull it over in my mind the more I’m convinced of that because there was no re-adoption when the son came home, he was already a son – so maybe that isn’t as good an example. But what about the lost sheep, or the lost coin? They were never about anything remotely legal; the good shepherd didn’t bring his lawyer along looking for his lamb. He didn’t bring his little boy along to kick in his anger so he wouldn’t kill that lamb with his wrath. Was there a transformation required after Adam? Absolutely. But it wasn’t about a legal dispute, or Father dishing it out on the Son. I find the idea so twisted that a just God would kill his innocent son to satisfy his anger for us. “Why would a god do that?” Young Piscing Patel asks, “Why would he send his only son to atone for the sins of the whole world?” A just God would put us all on death row and start over, but Father is not only just but he is intimately in love with us–with you–the crown jewel of his affection, and justice is wrought differently out of love.

I mean…read 1 John. It’s all about love. Love. Love… God is love and we know we are his children if we love others because there is no love outside of Father. Do you love? Then you are a child of God, it’s that simple because He did it all so that now our nature is his nature. He is over all and in all and through all. [ephesians 4] Love. That’s why the good news is so good! 

And so Jesus (and Father in him) not only laid his own life down for us, he laid it down before us and let us dish out our wrath on him. Because remember, in our minds, we were enemies. He let us dish out all the animosity and wrath sin had nurtured in us to the point of his brutal death–and in the midst of it all, he forgives us.

If you read my last article, maybe you remember that God took pity on Nineveh, 120,000 people who he said didn’t know their right hand from their left. He opted not to destroy them. Jesus, before he died said ‘Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.’ The irony of the tree of knowledge of good and evil is that it left us even more clueless. But Father forgave, the last thing we expected.

And all those people, God didn’t throw down his stone tablets on their heads in divine wrath. It is so easy to ignore what Jonah knew all along–that Father is merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, eager to turn away from even a justified wrath, abounding in love for people. In fact, I never once heard that part of the story when I was growing up. No one ever talked about the motive behind God’s unwillingness to destroy Nineveh. And so I was left with a picture of a bi-polar God, angry and vengeful one moment, loving–or perhaps more accurately, tolerating–the next with little a care to the woes of man, merely bent on insuring that evildoers repent or die. But Jonah was sent on a mission of mercy, and he knew it.

And it’s re-emerging. Knowledge–revelation–of who Father truly is, what the gospel is really about, the true values at the heart of Christianity as it was at its birth. A generation is rising up that won’t be satisfied with the inconsistencies of Christian culture both new and old versus the truth. And I can only wait in expectant imagining how this revolution will change the world.

Jesus Loves You

That’s the end.

And just the beginning.

There’s only one thing I want you to read in my blogs; Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you. You. Reading this right now. He loves you. Do you know how many people spend their lives searching desperately for a love like his? But few find it, and fewer keep it, because religion has adulterated it. Religion has put Jesus out on a street corner under the guise that if you just do good enough, perform well enough, measure up, and transform into a lifeless Bible-thumping zombie, then Jesus will accept you, never mind love you.

That’s not to say religion has any power over Jesus – he baffled the religious leaders of his own day at every encounter and the moment they thought they’d finally won was the moment his plan was put into full affect, resurrection life was given to man but even more than that the gulf separating us from Father was slammed shut, the inner veil torn top to bottom and Father grabbed on to you never to let go.

Religion doesn’t want you to know about that, or what it means for you–but I digress; this post is not about religion.

It’s about Father. Father loves you. Father loves you. Are you starting to understand? Have you ever felt loved by someone? Anyone? Can you recall, or feel right now, what love feels like? Father is love. Love’s source is Father. Father loves you and he’s never going to stop; it is a non-negotiable.

And as every aspect of the dark side of the Force emmanates from hate, so every good and perfect gift is sourced from love–His love. Did you see the sunrise this morning? His love. Have you felt a playful breeze on your face? His love. Have you known the deep intimate knowing of a best friend, or a lover? His love.

And it is immutable. He’s never going to change his mind about you, no matter what you do or how far you go or how much you may hate him, he loves you. When Jude wrote to the young church he said even Michael the archangel, disputing with the devil himself over Moses’ body, didn’t dare bring even one accusation against Satan but said, ‘The LORD rebuke you’ … could it be he didn’t dare because he knew Father loved even Lucifer yet in his irreversible state of rebellion against that very love? Father loved Lucifer, you can be certain of that.

Jesus loves you. Father loves you. For Father to stop loving you it would mean he would have to rebel against himself; God can’t do that. And so immutably [unchangeably] you have been drawn into the family of Father, Son, Spirit–Brother, Sister. Father loves you.

But of course you want to know why bad things still happen to good people. The worst thing happened to the very Son of God when he was brutally beaten, literally ripped to shreds and tacked up to slowly suffocate on a wooden cross–but actually it was the best thing that has happened in the history of the world and perhaps the eternal history of the Godhead family because it meant that you were brought home forever. 

Religion has no answer for that question. It first asks you if you have accepted Jesus into your heart as your Lord and Saviour, and then it asks if you have repented, without understanding what repentance really means. It may tell you that you just need to perform better or believe harder or devote yourself fully, because religion always leaves man’s effort at 99.9%–‘there must be something you haven’t done hard enough, well enough or often enough’–but the Gospel–the good news–declares man’s efforts are 0% or worse with no exceptions but that Jesus stepped in before the problem was even the problem and he declared to Father, ‘I have come to do your will … so that man can rest his efforts in my 100%’.

Father loves you. If bad things still happen it is because this world is a broken place and the sons of Adam have ceased to display the glory of God to nature and the earth groans exceeding to see the glory of Creator Father in his sons. But there’s one more thing to say; bad things could be the best things to happen to you because when you come to the end of yourself and you hit rock bottom that’s when you will see the full glory and strength and grace of the Rock who keeps you from drowning and lifts you up on wings like eagles–enter Jesus’ 100% when your weakness declares His strength.

And Father loves you. That is what is important because the more you experience his love for you the more you will see and interpret your life hidden within his love for you, the more you will experience this life of Father’s love and the less you will experience the life of this old body in a broken world–or the more the world will respond to the glory of the Father emanating out of you

Father loves you.

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!

Nothing Can Separate

You know that verse from Romans that goes, ‘Neither death nor life nor angels or principalities–‘ yeah you know the one:

38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

– Romans 8:38-39

Here’s the thing: I used to believe there was one thing that could separate me from the love of God – me. When asked the question, “So what can separate us from the love of God,” I answered “Me.” every time.

And I grew up believing I could absolutely do something to separate myself from the love of God. Like let’s see–the “unforgivable” sin? (And what is that, anyway?) How about free will – if I just decide that I’m going to go sit in a corner and stare at the wall of unloveliness that should do it. But I believed that I was much closer to the outside of God’s love than any of those things already because of course. I’m a dirty filthy sinner and it’s only because I went and begged and pleaded at the foot of the cross where I promised on my life I could cut the burden off my own back and change.

So how about this. Maybe you’ve also heard the verse that says He [Father] sends rain on the unjust and the just. Loving on purpose whether you like it or not.

43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h] 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren[i] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

– Matthew 5:43-48

Did you catch that? God doesn’t even hate his enemies. Perfect love. So what makes you think you can do anything to keep him from loving you? It’s harder than you think. It’s harder than I ever thought.

There really isn’t anything that can separate me from God’s love. There’s nothing you can do to stop Father from loving you. You can’t shade the world from the sun and the rain, you can’t stop flowers from growing or trees from bending in the unseen wind. You can’t stop the rocks from shouting about Father’s love for you. And you can’t change that he gave one son to death, Himself, so that his love could go the rest of the distance and create a way back home. There’s nothing you can do to lose God’s love for you.

But what about that unforgivable sin, anyways?

Right along with my belief in my ability to separate myself from the love of Father I grew up hearing about this thing called the unforgivable sin. To this day I’m not even entirely sure that term is even Biblical.

Actually, I had no idea what this unforgivable sin could possibly be. I mean, if God is so forgiving and gracious and kind and loving–if God is who He says He is–how is it possible there could even be an unforgivable sin? But it must be true because there are so many people teaching about it even if they are using words and language they themselves might not even understand.

It is true, but it’s not what you think.

28 “Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; 29 but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation” 30 because they said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

– Mark 3:28-30

You can find the same story recorded in Matthew 12 and Luke 12 – I chose Mark’s record because it includes an explanatory note; the Pharisees had said earlier that he was acting in the power of Satan–they spoke against the Holy Spirit. And by Jesus’ allusion, they weren’t forgiven it.

But why? You can probably guess. The Holy Spirit is the seal of the new covenant which means one thing: no Holy Spirit = no new covenant. Holy Spirit also produces Jesus’ life in us; no Holy Spirit = no genuine change. Speaking against the Holy Spirit means speaking against the very power that makes forgiveness possible–not to mention the myriads of other benefits included in the new covenant (righteousness and eternal life come to mind).

But I’m willing to bet it took a very difficult, conscious and intentional choice or set of choices before those religious leaders crossed the line.

So what does all this mean? It means I’m free. It means I don’t have to worry about an angry, upset Father too disgusted with me to turn his face back on me till I repent – it means I don’t have to have faith to be loved because I already am. It means no one is too far gone to be beyond hope. It means love wins.

Worship Out of Love

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Your love makes me sing

I gotta be honest, I kinda hate that song. I’m a worship leader and I hate that song. Oh, I’ll sing it because I want to start with something more upbeat, but I do it with chagrin.

But last night (now a couple weeks ago), in the middle of the beginning of worship, I had a thought. I thought, “Does Your love really make me sing? Is that what I’m doing up here?”

And that question has stayed with me and I can’t help but ask myself, am I being motivated to worship out of his love for me?

It’s a little bit like the authenticity question. Am I really real?

And looking back on the time I’ve spent leading or accompanying in worship, I’ve come a long way from that awkward kid who couldn’t flow to save your soul. I’ve had a few different experiences in a few different places. But frankly, I’m still just running a program.

And one night as I was thinking about what I was going to do for worship that week I just sat down with my guitar and played a little 40-minute medley–and Father said, ‘That’s what I want you to do – that’s how I want you to lead worship,’ and so I did, and (I thought) it went so much better than what I’d been doing, and if there were anything that flowed out of His love and holiness, that was it.

But that’s not every night. And maybe I’m just being over-critical of my private life–but I’m allowed to be introspective.

But at the end of the day it makes me realize, that’s what I want. I want my motivation, my love song, to flow out of his love song over me, and it all begins to unlock when I pay attention to what Father sings over me.

Jesus I’m tired of running the program. No love = no worship and I so do love you, but I want to be even more enraptured by you and I want it to be a visible, tangible reality for the people I lead. Sing your love over me.

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 Know You Are

It was a few weeks back now. I had just gotten off work (right now I work at a landfill picking up the litter that blows off the main dump area – yep, it’s as illustrious as it sounds).

Anyway, I hadn’t even got back out onto the highway yet when the song Revolution by Jars of Clay came on from the album The Eleventh Hour – yep, I can be a little old-school sometimes. Here’re the lyrics:

Peace takes a taxi
To the underground
I wanna love the world
But I don’t know how
Blame it on the d.j.
Playin’ all the fast songs
Ain’t spinnin’ anything
That I can sing along

[chorus]
So if you know the words
Then try to sing along
And when you get the beat
Grab a hammer, bang a gong
Cause you don’t got to fight
Or make yourself belong
To be a revolution, yeah
To be a revolution

[verse]
If you wanna learn
To play the rock guitar
Then thrown down your guns
And come be a star
You got to begin
With who you know you are
To be a revolution

[bridge]
Cause the time is right
To cross that line
To let love find a way

And it was just background music. Until I heard the line, “You got to begin / with who you know you are / to be a revolution” and it stood out so much I had to go back and hear it again so I could write it down.

See the thing is I’ve been studying in Daniel (more to come about that) and this line stood out to me there, too in Daniel 10:

In those days I Daniel was mourning three full weeks.

I ate no pleasant bread, neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth, neither did I anoint myself at all, till three whole weeks were fulfilled.

And in the four and twentieth day of the first month, as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel;

Then I lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a certain man clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with fine gold of Uphaz:

His body also was like the beryl, and his face as the appearance of lightning, and his eyes as lamps of fire, and his arms and his feet like in colour to polished brass, and the voice of his words like the voice of a multitude.

And I Daniel alone saw the vision: for the men that were with me saw not the vision; but a great quaking fell upon them, so that they fled to hide themselves.

Therefore I was left alone, and saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength.

Yet heard I the voice of his words: and when I heard the voice of his words, then was I in a deep sleep on my face, and my face toward the ground.

10 And, behold, an hand touched me, which set me upon my knees and upon the palms of my hands.  – Daniel 10:2-10

This guy shows up and starts speaking, nobody but Daniel sees him but everyone else just turn to jelly and hide, and Daniel just goes comatose on the ground faster than you can say “King of Glory.” But what really caught my attention was what this man said when he touched Daniel:

11 And he said unto me, O Daniel, a man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak unto thee, and stand upright: for unto thee am I now sent. And when he had spoken this word unto me, I stood trembling.

12 Then said he unto me, Fear not, Daniel: for from the first day that thou didst set thine heart to understand, and to chasten thyself before thy God, thy words were heard, and I am come for thy words. – Daniel 10:11-12

A man greatly beloved. I don’t know about you but if that’d been me I probably would’ve just been like, “Buck up Dan, it’s only me,” but no, he says, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved,” he doesn’t say, “Fear not,” till the next sentence.

Which leads me to a side-note. I’ve heard people often point out that “Fear not,” is a command given ‘so-many’ times in the Bible and that we shouldn’t be afraid–buck up! But this heavenly man doesn’t say “Fear not,” he says, “O Daniel, a man greatly beloved,” he starts with an identity. You have to begin with who you know you are.

Back to Jars of Clay.

Three years ago a revolution started in my life. I had a revelation of what love means, and it changed how I saw God, the Bible, and the rest of my world. I say a revolution started in my life, and from that revolution grew the desire to spread the revolution in the world and to be the revolution in the world. It was a real thing to me and it became even more real a year later when the first casualty of that revolution came (but that’s another story).

It’s fizzled a lot since – the road has been primarily a desolate place for me in the last two years. But it all began with who I learned I was – my identity in Christ – a man greatly beloved, consumed and indwelt by the King of Glory. And that’s where it has to begin, and where it has to continue, and end. And maybe the lesson for me in this is further along in Daniel:

15 And when he had spoken such words unto me, I set my face toward the ground, and I became dumb.

16 And, behold, one like the similitude of the sons of men touched my lips: then I opened my mouth, and spake, and said unto him that stood before me, O my lord, by the vision my sorrows are turned upon me, and I have retained no strength.

17 For how can the servant of this my lord talk with this my lord? for as for me, straightway there remained no strength in me, neither is there breath left in me.

18 Then there came again and touched me one like the appearance of a man, and he strengthened me,

19 And said, O man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong. And when he had spoken unto me, I was strengthened, and said, Let my lord speak; for thou hast strengthened me. – Daniel 10:15-19

Daniel just couldn’t lay there and listen to those heavenly voices under his own strength, and how was he strengthened? “Oh man greatly beloved, fear not: peace be unto thee, be strong, yea, be strong.”

Oh man (or woman) greatly beloved! There is fearlessness, peace and strength in knowing who you are and whose you are. And that’s where you begin.

I’ve got one final thought to add that came to me as I read over the lyrics:

Peace takes a taxi
To the underground
I wanna love the world
But I don’t know how
Blame it on the d.j.
Playin’ all the fast songs
Ain’t spinnin’ anything
That I can sing along

I can relate to that; my struggle has been, how do I love the world? How do I meet the world where the world is? And my common excuse especially before the revolution was, ‘Well they’re just going to have to meet me where am and ask me the right questions.’ Say it’s the DJ’s fault because he’s going a different pace. He’s going to have to slow down for me.

No. It starts with who you know you are. You learn to love the world by knowing who you are and whose you are. You learn to love the world by learning how Father loves you. And I have. And I am. Slowly. And I’m not done yet. But you have to start by starting, and when you get the beat? Make it big. Because love is all-or-nothing.

Experiencing Love

There’s a song that I just love called Your Love Is a Song by the illustrious Switchfoot and I got to realizing the other night that it’s probably my favorite song ever. Why, do you ask? You have to hear it first.

I hear you breathing in / Another day begins
The stars are falling out / My dreams are fading now, fading out

I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open
I’ve been keeping my eyes wide open

Oh Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me
Oh Your love is a melody / Underneath me / Running to me
Oh, your love is a song

The dawn is fire bright / Against the city lights
The clouds are glowing now / The moon is blacking out, is blacking out

So I’ve been keeping my mind wide open
I’ve been keeping my mind wide open, yeah

Oh Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me
Oh Your love is a melody / Underneath me / 
Running to me

Oh, your love is a song / Your love is a song
Oh, your love is a song / Your love is strong

With my eyes wide open
I’ve got my eyes wide open
I’ve been keeping my hopes unbroken, yeah

Oh Your love is a symphony / All around me / Running through me
Oh Your love is a melody / Underneath me / Running to me

Your love is a song
Yeah, yeah
Your love is my remedy
Oh your love is a song

But wait a minute, you can’t hear words.

Well actually, that’s the point. Because see, I’ve spent so much of my life basing my worth and my purpose on doing – more to the point I’ve spent most of my life trying to achieve or do God’s love when…it’s never been like that. I’m realizing more and more (and finally that veil tore right down the middle for me the other night to see) that his love is something for me to experience, be surrounded by and immersed in – something for me to feel the frequencies of rippling through me – his love is a song.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth. But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before. Yet it is also new. Jesus lived the truth of this commandment, and you also are living it. For the darkness is disappearing, and the true light is already shining.

If anyone claims, “I am living in the light,” but hates a fellow believer,[a] that person is still living in darkness. 10 Anyone who loves a fellow believer[b] is living in the light and does not cause others to stumble.11 But anyone who hates a fellow believer is still living and walking in darkness. Such a person does not know the way to go, having been blinded by the darkness. 

– 1 John 2:3-11

Yes, visible love in me is a sign to the rest of the world that Christ lives in me – but I don’t love to get Christ in me, I love because he already is. When love is no longer merely a thing I must do as a sign of my inherent goodness, I become free to experience the Father’s love like nothing before; I become free to experience the song of God’s heart for me, the symphony of his love. And maybe – just maybe – even though I don’t know all the words yet, I might just sing along, because it’s impossible not to want to join in when you hear it out loud; there is nothing else like that melody.

See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are! But the people who belong to this world don’t recognize that we are God’s children because they don’t know him.Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but he has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like him, for we will see him as he really is. And all who have this eager expectation will keep themselves pure, just as he is pure. – 1 John 3:1-3

The NIV says, See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! Oh, Your love is a song…

P.S.: If you still wanted to hear the song…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Px0EXdyPkA0

Honoring God

I was listening to Romans the other day (okay, over two weeks ago, now) and I’ve read this before but it particularly popped out at me again like I’d never heard it before:

Let not him who eats despise him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats; for God has received him. Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. -Romans 14:3-6

Paul’s talking to the Romans about people who eat meat versus people who eat only vegetables, and people who observe special holy days versus those who do not. The Mosaic law included pages and pages of rules about what could and could not be eaten, and what days should be observed (and what you could and could not do on those days, etc.) Many people (particular new gentile believers who didn’t know the Mosaic law by heart as did the Jews) were living a much more free Christianity apart from the old ritual rules which many of the Jews continued to observe. So Paul is coming at these two camps saying “Hey – we’re all doing what we do for God, and he honors all of it.”

The thing is, I’ve been in the ‘free’ camp for a while now. Namely, I don’t particularly observe Sabbath, and I eat what I eat, among many other points. But when I heard this I realized something; I’ve been looking down on people–or living down, if you will. While I’ve considered other people ‘weaker’ or ‘misguided’ or ‘deceived’, etc.., the truth is, God is much less petty. Much. The beauty of the new covenant is that it isn’t all wrapped up in what we do, or don’t do. It means that we’re free on an individual basis to decided how we will honor God. By esteeming a day, by doing Church a certain way, whatever. But what God honors God honors.

This has been stored away somewhere in the back of my mind for the last couple weeks, but I got a fresh first-hand glimpse not too long ago of someone (I won’t go in depth on this one) zealously calling out another person for something they ate. Now here’s the thing: I thought it was pretty silly. I mean, come on. But that’s exactly what Paul was talking about. If I could go back now and say something to those two people it would be this:

“Look, you only eat certain things because you believe it honors God and your body–and it does. It’s not about following rules or keeping yourself out of hell, it’s about honoring God and God is honored in so many more ways than you or I can imagine–like giving your life, not just your diet. If you want to honor God by not eating certain things, then by all means do so. But don’t look down on someone else because they choose to honor God in another way, or because your way of honoring God doesn’t mean anything to them.”

Jesus… show me how to honor you, and teach me how to honor others in whatever way they choose to honor you. I want to build bridges between your people, not burn them down. Thank-you for your new covenant that brings all of us together no matter where we come from, or what we believe.