Already Included #15: A Spiritual Evolution – Justice

Whew! I’ve been meaning to write on John MacMurray’s new book “A Spiritual Evolution” as I am reading it. However, life has been so busy that I haven’t been able to do more than read it. However, I had to take time out tonight to comment on Chapter 7. The theme of the chapter is justice. Without spoiling how John masterfully articulates the old view with the new-to-us view, I’ll share a few thoughts.

There is so much to take away from Chapter 7, however the biggest practical application for me was considering whether I truly want restoration or vengeance towards those who have harmed me? I think back and I realize more often than not I want others to hurt as badly as they’ve hurt me.

Understandable some might say. But I have dressed up my desire for them to hurt by cloaking it in the illusion of religious piety. I’ve made God out to be their punisher instead of me.

That’s helped me move on in the face of such great pain and suffering. That has helped me put one foot in front of the other. And should we tell the victim fresh out of tragedy that they should desire the offender’s restoration? I wouldn’t dare! Even God says be angry. And do not sin.

This is the messy, messy business of real life and relationship versus religion.

Maybe this is the reason the theme of forgiveness keeps coming up in my life. I’ve run the gamut from repeatedly exposing myself to people who have hurt me because I incorrectly thought God wanted me to do that. All the way through to allowing myself to be angry, then learning how to protect myself, and now this. Now this. Like a ton of bricks.

Maybe forgiveness doesn’t just mean we only choose not to punish them. Maybe forgiveness also means at some point, organically through the Love of the Trinity being poured into us and the power of Holy Spirit, eventually we can actually want the offender to be restored in the sense of regaining their health. Not in the sense of necessarily letting them back into our lives.

I hope John continues to explore this in his book. This is not a book to rush through if you can relate to John’s journey. The implications of what he is saying are many and warrant time spent in contemplation. And action.

How many relationships has this desire for vengeance impacted in my life?! Moving on requires substantial efforts in letting go of ego. But then also dealing with past hurts. These modern day frustrations do not often warrant the responses I give them. There is still that sting of being wronged years ago that is so easily hit upon as I am still waiting for my version of justice to be served all this time later. I am still waiting for the news that they feel some level of pain that makes them understand what they have done and feel sorry enough to humble themselves and make amends.

And probably the latter part of that is necessary to restore relationship. But do I actually want to see them recover from their fall and be happy and successful? How “fair” do I feel it is for me to be imprisoned by this pain for so many years and then see them successful and doing well without going through at least the same amount of pain? I do not want this on my own. And yet I do not want to face my own version of justice for my own failures. Aye, the quandary!

Thank God that He is faithful to complete the work He starts in us. Easier said on paper than put into practice. But He doesn’t leave us for one second. We are not abandoned. We are not punching bags. We are not doormats. Somehow all this works out on a supernatural level.

For now we ask Holy Spirit for comfort, direction, understanding, and strength. One step at a time. Trinity has always been and always will be for us more than we are for ourselves. And to that we can rest and say “amen”.

Already Included #12 – Value

For the first time, I get it. My value doesn’t come from anything or anyone other than whose I AM. They say the value of something is what someone is willing to pay for it. Jesus proved that God, the complete Trinity, loves us through hell and back. No reservations. No expectations. Only the constant reminders of how safe we are. Rest. As little children that know only love, protection, and being comforted.

I don’t have to do anything. In the sense of performance or what passes for success. Now I know Life. Now I enjoy what is good. Now I play and am free to relish. Free to fully love. And live out loud. Perfect love casts out fear. And the compulsion to prove myself.

I don’t have to study, but I want to. I don’t have to be in business, but I want to. I don’t have to travel, or own a home, or get a degree, or etc etc etc. But I might want to.

The grades I make don’t tell me anything about my value. The weight I carry doesn’t define my worth. The age I am or all my colors and scars. Where I live or who knows me. All that stuff is extra.

At the core, all the way to the bedrock of my soul, I am completely loved by my Creator. And so are you.

If I Die Then I Die

To start, I love living and am in no way interested in dying. Read more for the explanation of the title of this post.

Today I was reminded of the story of Esther. I was reminded that Esther started out as an orphan. Raised by someone else. Then chosen to be Queen. But in some ways probably feeling abandoned all over again. The story reminds us that Esther noted that her husband hadn’t called on her for I think over 30 days. And so she is Queen but probably still feeling like that little girl that is alone in the world. After so much excitement. Probably hope also. Maybe this is my deliverance. Maybe this is my forever story. Being chosen. Not just another season of disappointment. “God, I thought we were going a certain direction?” It must have felt like such a let down. Then fear on top of fear. Being asked to lay her life down in order to attempt to protect others. She gets to the point where she decides to act in accordance with letting all of her dreams go. She says something to the effect of, “If I die then I die.”

I think now of Abraham. Told that he and Sarah would have a child. Years and years go by. No child. Then he finally has the child and is asked to sacrifice the child. Not literally. That isn’t the point of the story. But while he was going through it, that is what he saw. Here you give me this promise God, and then I have to let it go. God prevailed in a powerful way, but the theme is similar to Esther.

I think of Moses. Same thing. Promised he would lead his people out. Then off to the desert until he was an old man. Tending sheep. No hope in sight. He gets to the point where he doesn’t even want the call anymore. In a way. He tells God to send someone else who he thinks would be more qualified.

David. Told he would be king. Then he has to deal with Saul trying to kill him over and over. Running and hiding in caves. Not living the life he probably associated with being a king.

Joseph. Given a dream. Then shipped off for years and years. Enduring so much unfair treatment.

All of them having to get to the point where they know they were given a promise, but having to accept their current circumstances as is. Having to let go and trust the timing to God. Trust the way to God.

I can relate. I don’t feel like I see the full picture yet. There are probably so many things happening right now that will only make sense later. Right now the suffering blinds me to the bigger picture. Blinds me to anything other than wanting relief. I empathize with those who sought solutions and resolutions. Who fight against the pressure.

I feel like I can continue to wear myself out. I can continue to cry and carry on. I can panic. Or I can let go and trust God. I can seek Him inside my heart.

Silence is torturous for me. I don’t want to hear all my fears. But tonight for a few minutes I ran out of things to distract me.

I tried to sit with God. I told Him I was angry at Him and disappointed. He already knew. I felt like He assured me that He wasn’t angry or disappointed with me.

I felt a brief settling. More like a child who is too exhausted to fight anymore. Not giving up the battle for control. But too tired to take up arms.

I felt again like I have so many times before, absolute assurance of being loved by God. And the kind encouragement to trust. That I am not alone, that there is more going on than meets the eye, that good things are in the future, and that this is not the end.

I rely on the testimonies of those we read about to give me any hope that these things are true.

My new motto is to lessen the self-imposed stress I put on myself. I don’t yet understand why, but a big part of that is letting go. Of the compulsion to be “great” or do “great” things. Of the pressure to be “successful” as society defines success. Of the need to do anything other than try to be the best person I can be to myself and others. Starting with mastering the basics first.

It is both sad and ok. Sad in that I have spent so many years driven by this need to perform, be perfect, and excel. The ego part of me mourns letting myself down in that respect. But on the other hand, it is also ok. Suddenly I can enjoy a day, I can genuinely enjoy a rest. I can take the time to appreciate a meal for simply being appealing and delicious. Versus analyzing the macros that will tilt the balance of my plans for world domination. I speak facetiously to the extreme to prove a point.

This letting go feels like a good thing in the long run. As completely uncomfortable as I feel even in releasing so little at a time. It feels like I am finally handing the wheel over to God and saying, “Will you drive?” Not in a legalistic sense. But rather like when you finally are getting to know someone and letting them in. My heart. Not just my mind.

I anticipate more adventures are ahead. Now that I don’t have my checkboxes to manage, I can better enjoy the ride.

Already Included #7 – The Gospel of Blindness

Last week I attended Port Orchard Church of the Nazarene in Port Orchard, Washington. There was a guest speaker named Dan Schiopu from Woodland, Oregon. As an interesting coincidence, four months ago I had listened to another talk by Dan that was recorded at the same Port Orchard church back in 2012. I didn’t put two and two together until about a week before Dan was supposed to speak this time. I loved the talk that was recorded in 2012.

The talk Dan gave last week did not disappoint either. I asked Dan if I could have his notes and share where I wanted. He gave his gracious approval and said I could edit them as I saw fit. So here we are. Most of what follows is direct quotations from his notes. Other times I might paraphrase.

I am not going to offer my own commentary because I think the words speak for themselves. However, if there are any comments, I can address them at another time. So without further ado, here is the talk Dan gave. He started with John Godfrey Saxe’s version of a poem entitled “Blind Men and the Elephant”:

It was six men of Indostan,
To learning much inclined,
Who went to see the Elephant
(Though all of them were blind),
That each by observation
Might satisfy his mind.

The First approach’d the Elephant,
And happening to fall
Against his broad and sturdy side,
At once began to bawl:
“God bless me! but the Elephant
Is very like a wall!”

The Second, feeling of the tusk,
Cried, -“Ho! what have we here
So very round and smooth and sharp?
To me ’tis mighty clear,
This wonder of an Elephant
Is very like a spear!”

The Third approach’d the animal,
And happening to take
The squirming trunk within his hands,
Thus boldly up and spake:
“I see,” -quoth he- “the Elephant
Is very like a snake!”

The Fourth reached out an eager hand,
And felt about the knee:
“What most this wondrous beast is like
Is mighty plain,” -quoth he,-
“‘Tis clear enough the Elephant
Is very like a tree!”

The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear,
Said- “E’en the blindest man
Can tell what this resembles most;
Deny the fact who can,
This marvel of an Elephant
Is very like a fan!”

The Sixth no sooner had begun
About the beast to grope,
Then, seizing on the swinging tail
That fell within his scope,
“I see,” -quoth he,- “the Elephant
Is very like a rope!”

And so these men of Indostan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right,
And all were in the wrong!

There are two streams of the gospel that are in the church today. And in a sense there always was. The first is the gospel of separation and the second is the gospel of blindness. Each of these two streams deal with different issues or address different problems.

The gospel of separation has its roots in Greek dualism. It has been greatly impacting our western worldview through the teachings of Augustin, who lived in the 4th century.

The gospel of separation starts with the premise that Man is separated from God because of sin. Sin is primarily a behavior – the bad things that we have done. The gospel of separation says that God is holy and because of man’s sin, because of Adam’s sin, there was this big gap that was formed between God and man. And because God is too holy to look at sin, God is too holy to be in the presence of sin, God is allergic to sin, then God needed to separate himself from man because of sin. And because of his holiness and justice, God is actually angry, offended, and estranged from His Creation. Therefore, we are objects of His wrath deserving of punishment and eternal damnation.

In the gospel of separation, God is our first problem. God is angry with us. God is against us. There is a big gap between man and God. Something has to happen before God can even look at you. God needs to change before we can have any kind of a close relationship.

The gospel of separation is focusing on sin, or what you have done wrong. Your sinful activities are the main issue. Jesus died for the bad things that you have done. Jesus died for your sins. Jesus died to change God. Jesus died so God can change from angry, vengeful, and ready to punish you to being kind,

gracious, and benevolent towards you. The gospel of separation is behavior-focused and the primary objective is to change God’s predisposition towards you.

There is another alternative: the gospel of blindness. Paul and John are the ones who champion this presentation of the gospel.

Light does not create things. Light reveals things. Light brings to the surface things that were hidden but that were always there. When you enter into a room that is pitch black, you have no idea what is in that room. So you could have access to amazing riches, wisdom, and resources but they are of no avail to you because you cannot see them. When you turn the light on, suddenly you could say: “Wow, who brought these things into the room? When did they get here? How did they get here?” The reality is that they were always there but because you were in darkness you did not know it. It was hidden from you. And when the light came, when the light was turned on, things did not suddenly appear into the room. But rather you were able to discover what was always there even though you did not know it. And because you did not know it, you could not access it, you could not benefit from it, and you could not enjoy it.

One of the primary things that the gospel of blindness reveals is that God has never changed. God has never changed His predisposition towards you. He was always for you. He never deserted you or separated Himself from you.

Let’s look at the two words that most Christians agree are the right response to the Gospel – even though I think we still ask the wrong question: What must we do to be saved?

I think Peter, Paul, and the other disciples gave the right answer. The two words that Jesus used in his interaction with people were repentance and belief.

Repentance simply means metanoia: change the way you think, look at things from a different perspective. Look at God, life, and yourself from a different angle. This invitation of Jesus takes us back to The Garden – where we can look to see where things went wrong. What was the command that God gave to Adam and Eve, the charge that God gave to Adam and Eve? You can eat from any tree of The Garden – life is open before you. Life is a full of possibilities. You can eat from any tree, no restrictions.

God had a big yes for Adam and Eve to experience life – and life more abundantly.

But one thing you need to be aware of: Do not eat apples. Apples are bad for you. Don’t eat from the tree of anger. Don’t eat from the tree of lust. Don’t eat from the tree of… Do not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

There are so many ways you can look at that passage of Scripture. Let me shine the light on it this way:

Guard your mind: take care of your thoughts. Be careful of what voices and thoughts you allow to roam in your mind. Because your mind and your brain are the center of your life. A healthy mind, a healthy brain can lead to life. A mind that thinks wrong will lead to death.

Neuroscience reveals that all the main aspects of your life originate in your brain. Sometimes we think that our brain controls only the intellectual aspects of our life. Like ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. But your brain is the emotional center of your life. How well you control your emotions starts in your brain – the regulating factor. Your character is shaped by your brain. Your resilience, your self-control, your capacity for compassion and empathy – all have your brain as their starting point. How you interact with the world around you, how you see the world around you – that originates in your brain. Your ability to hope, to anticipate good. Or to despair, to be anxious. These are not functions of your physical heart. They are functions of your brain. Your relationships are shaped by what is going on in your brain. You can also turn that around and say that your relationships are shaping your brain. Your brain determines how you experience life. And your life experience shapes your brain.

God says: You can eat from any tree. Life is open for you. Full of joy, adventures, exploration, discoveries, awesome relationships with one another and with the Trinity. I created you for life and life more abundantly. Your responsibility is to steward your mind. You are in charge of your thoughts. And the quality of your thoughts will impact the quality of your life.

It is an empowering statement. God says: I made you powerful. What happens between your ears determines the direction of your life.

We know the story: Adam and Eve did not heed the charge that God gave them. The results have been tragic. Humanity’s understanding has become darkened. Our whole perception of reality has been distorted. Our images of God, ourselves, and those around us have been perverted.

Isaiah 59:10 graphically describes the problem of the human race: “Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong we are like the dead”.

Jesus comes on the scene and announces: Metanoia – for the kingdom of God is at hand. Life is available for you again. You can eat from any tree. I came to lift the blinders off your mind. I came to give you a new perspective on life. I came to heal your mind. I came to heal your life by healing your brain.

One thing becomes clear when you look at the fall through this perspective: behavior was never the main issue. God’s charge was not about obedience to a command: Listen to Me or else. I am God and it is your job to obey Me. If you obey Me then things are going to go well for you. If you disobey Me then I will have to punish you. Submission, compliance, and obedience are your main responsibilities. I am God and you are man. I am the Creator and you are the creature. I know everything and you know nothing.

Is that why God made you? Let me ask an even more important question: is that how God made you? Is your main goal in life obedience, submission, and compliance? Why have a will in the first place? Why not make you with a default capacity to only say “yes”? To always comply, to always submit, and to always obey.

It is very interesting when you look at Paul’s encounter with God on the way to Damascus. Remember the story about how Paul fell from his horse and was blinded by a bright light. What was Paul’s question? Who are you, Lord? And then the second question was: what do you want me to do?

We build discipleship programs on that question. Many people have made that question the cornerstone of discipleship.

What if we look at that question from a different angle? At least we are allowed to. What if that question tells you more about how Paul saw God than how God really is? What if that question reveals Paul’s idea of a God who by definition requires submission and compliance from his creatures?

Let me shine the light on the angle a little bit more. It is interesting that in Jesus’ interaction with people, Jesus flipped the question around. So instead of people asking Jesus “what do you want me to do?” (sometimes they did), Jesus asked people: What do you want? What do you want me to do for you?

Those are very powerful questions that greatly reveal God’s heart for humanity. God is asking you: What do you want me to do for you?

In some cases, it seemed evident what the people needed. For example, the blind man needed healing. Jesus’ question to the blind man almost seemed like a redundant question. But I believe it was a very important question that reveals a lot about how God treats us. In asking the question, God does not make any assumptions. God honors you by listening to what you say. God does not say: I know what’s best for you; let me just give it to you. He doesn’t push Himself on you. In asking what you want, God is communicating to man: I value you. I respect you. I want relationship with you. And relationships require consent, mutual desire.

But on a deeper level, Jesus addresses a really important core aspect of humanity: your will, your need for autonomy, your need for freedom. God created you in His image and in His likeness. That comes with a need to have a sense of control and autonomy over your life.

Big question: What is God’s will? What is God’s will for my life? People spend hours and days and weeks and years trying to figure out God’s will for their lives. Can you imagine my son asking me every morning: “Dad, what do you want me to do today? Give me a list of things that you want me to do.” Next day: “Dad, what do you want me to do today?” While that would make for a very peaceful life around the Schiopu family, after a couple of days of indulging myself and enjoying my power over him, I would start to be very concerned about his development as a human being. I would then turn the question around and say: “What do you want?”

Relinquishing your ability to choose makes you less human. This is why we as a human race stand up against slavery and any kind of attempt of humans to control, manipulate, or take advantage of other human beings.

Jesus came to restore your humanity. God’s will for your life is for you to discover that God values your will. Part of what makes you human is your ability and the freedom to make choices. God is not interested in your compliance, but rather He is interested in your cooperation. God is not interested in your obedience, but rather He is interested in your participation.

You can command and demand obedience and submission. But you cannot demand cooperation and participation. Cooperation and participation are things that only love can produce.

Is God like a carpenter or is God like a gardener? Does God have a predetermined design for your life or and outward plan that He wants you to fit into. Words like “destiny” and “calling” are big words in Christian circles.

Or is God like a gardener who wants to water, nourish, and protect the seeds that are inside of you? His ultimate desire being that you become your authentic self.

God has no desire to control, manipulate, or coerce you into being someone else. Or into doing something for Him. God does not have a higher agenda that he wants you to accomplish while sacrificing you in the process. God’s highest agenda is you being you – to the fullest. The world is most blessed and changed when you discover what you want and are your most authentic self.

We have images of what a Christian should look like. Todd White is a good model: very evangelistic, outgoing. Reaching out, talking to people on the street. Healing the sick. Words of knowledge.

I am grateful for Todd White, but God did not create you to be Todd. God created you to be you.

We like to create models of what Christians should look like. Every denomination has their own models that depend on their value system. What if we give up trying to live up to a model? What if Jesus’ question for you is: what do you want? What makes you you? What do you desire? Why don’t you stop comparing yourself with other Christians? Why don’t you stop trying to live up to an ideal about what you think you should be and let me help you discover who you are. And part of who you are are things that you might be really good at and some things that you are not very good at.

Metanoia is God’s invitation for you to partner with Him to change, rewire, and heal your brain. It is a partnership.

Circling back around, the second word Jesus used was belief or faith. Sadly, because we looked at the Gospel as a transaction then we made faith or belief a currency of that transaction. We defined faith as:  do you believe the right things? We said the four spiritual laws are you are a sinner, you are separated from God, Jesus died to bridge the gap (He died for your sin), and if you believe the right things about God then you are in the “saved” category. If not, then you are in the “damned” category.

What if we look at the word “belief” or “faith” and replace it with the word “trust”? Trust is a relational word. In this second model, you realize that you cannot command someone to trust you – even if you are God. Trust is not something that you choose to do. Rather, trust is the result of Someone proving Himself as trustworthy. You can only fully trust someone after knowing them and realizing that they are worthy of your trust. Trust is not something that you demand. Trust is something that you earn.

John 16:8-9: When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: about sin, because people do not believe in me.

What does that mean? Is the Holy Spirit going to make them feel guilty because they don’t believe in God? How does he do that? Beat you over the head? “You don’t believe, you don’t believe.”

How is the Holy Spirit going to heal your unbelief? By revealing Himself to you!

Let’s switch the word “believe” with the word “trust”: “The Holy Spirit is going to convict the world of sin because they don’t trust Me.”

How do you make someone trust you? By proving yourself to them as trustworthy. The Holy Spirit is on a mission to gain humanity’s trust back.

What happened in The Garden? Adam and Eve were afraid of God, they no longer trusted God. Because they listened to the wrong voice and were not very good stewards of their minds. Because they believed lies about God then they no longer trusted God.

What was the purpose of the incarnation? God came in the form of a man in order to regain humanity’s trust. God came to prove to the human race: you can trust Me. I was always on your side. I have never deserted you. I was never against you. My name is Emmanuel – God with us!

Scott Schang, a dear friend, had this saying that took me awhile to understand: Jesus came to exonerate the Father.

Jesus came to show us that God is not like how we have thought.

Let me show you what God is like. What did the life of Jesus reveal?

John 3:16-21: For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world though him might be saved. He that believes on Him is not condemned; but he that believes not is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God; and this is the condemnation, that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light for fear that his actions will be exposed; but he that does the truth comes to the light to make it plain that all he has done, has been done through God.

“For every one who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light for fear that his actions will be exposed.” Is that a legitimate fear? Should we be afraid to come to the light? Why are we afraid of our deeds being exposed? What would happen next after our deeds are exposed? Can we trust “the light” with our deeds? Or do we have legitimate reasons to be afraid?

John 4 illustrates this powerful truth with the story of the Samaritan woman. You know the story about how the Samaritan woman had a discussion with Jesus while she was getting some water. Jesus uses the water analogy to pinpoint her real problem as “her heart being thirsty”. He promises to quench her thirst forever. Jesus was speaking metaphorically about the thirsting in her soul.

Then Jesus comes a little closer and says: go and call your husband. And she says: I don’t have a husband. And then Jesus says: this is true because you had five husbands and the one with whom you are with now is not your husband.

It got a little too personal. So the Samaritan woman tried to then engage in a religious discussion about worship. Jesus then makes, in my appreciation, the most powerful statement about worship: you will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. There is more going on in that discussion than we have time for right now.

Verses 28-29: The woman left her water pot, and went her way into the city and said to the men, come and see a man which told me all things that I ever did. Is this not the Christ? Then they went out of the city and came to him.

Isn’t that a little strange? This woman was known for her immoral lifestyle. She comes and tells the people from the city: “Hey, this guy told me all the bad things I ever did.” And then the response of the people is: “Wow, that’s cool! Let’s go and have all our dirty laundry exposed for everyone to know. That sounds like a good idea. This guy knows all our secret sins and wants to expose them. Let’s go and meet him. Who wouldn’t want that? Let’s run into the light.”

That completely contradicts what John 3 says. What happened to these people? What did the woman say to the people that caused them to not be afraid of the light? What did the woman experience that caused her to trust the light and encourage others to do the same? What happened? How did Jesus gain her trust?

What do people expect to get when their evil deeds are exposed? Judgments, accusation, punishment, shame, and labeling. See John 8 about the woman caught in adultery. If this is how the religious leaders of the day treated people when their evil was exposed, then probably this is how God must be like? No wonder people are afraid to come to the light.

How did Jesus gain her trust? Jesus understood her. Why did Jesus bring up her five husbands? To embarrass her? First of all, to show her: “I know you as you are and I accept you as you are.”

Religion only accepted her with fig leaves on. As long as she could hide her evil deeds then she was accepted by religion. That is why she was afraid to come to the light.

In opening the door about her past, Jesus showed her: I know you and I don’t judge you, I don’t condemn you, I don’t shame you, and I don’t turn my back on you.

Jesus opened the door to her history, to listen to her story: I want to know you and understand you. I know what happened to you when you were a little girl. I know about the toxic environment you grew up in. I know you never encountered unconditional love. I know your heart was always searching for love, but unable to find it. So, you went from relationship to relationship. I understand you. I fully accept you. I embrace you where you are, as you are – with no expectation, no obligation. I love you. I see beyond your actions, beyond your behavior. I see the pain of your heart. I see the hunger of your soul. I see the goodness that I put in there when I made you. I believe you.

So, when she went to her friends in the city, maybe she said: “This man knew everything about me and I felt no accusation from him, no condemnation from him, no judgment. I actually felt safe. I felt loved. He listened to my story and He understood, accepted and embraced me as I am. I felt valuable and important. I actually felt clean. I actually felt alive. I feel like I am not thirsty again in my soul. My soul has found what it was looking for. His light penetrated my darkness and set me free from it. Could this be the Messiah?”

This is the condemnation, the judgment that the world is under; They are afraid to come to my light, they are afraid to come to me, because They don’t trust me, they think that , if they come to my light, they will be judged, accused, condemned, rejected; So they prefer to stay in darkness; This is the condemnation that I came to lift from the people – that somehow their evil deeds are a problem for me. This is why Adam and Eve have hidden behind the trees in the garden, because they were afraid to come to me, thinking that I want to expose, accuse, condemn and judge them for what they have done wrong. I came to regain their trust, by identifying myself fully with them.

Hebrews 2:14-18. Since the children are made of flesh and blood, it’s logical that the Savior took on flesh and blood in order to rescue them by his death. By embracing death, taking it into himself, he destroyed the Devil’s hold on death and freed all who cower through life, scared to death of death. It’s obvious, of course, that he didn’t go to all this trouble for angels. It was for people like us, children of Abraham. That’s why he had to enter into every detail of human life. Then, when he came before God as high

priest to get rid of the people’s sins, he would have already experienced it all himself—all the pain, all the testing—and would be able to help where help was needed.

Hebrews 4: 14-16. Now that we know what we have—Jesus, this great High Priest with ready access to God—let’s not let it slip through our fingers. We don’t have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He’s been through weakness and testing, experienced it all—all but the sin. So let’s walk right up to him and get what he is so ready to give. Take the mercy, accept the help. For we have no superhuman High Priest to whom our weaknesses are unintelligible—he himself has shared fully in all our experience of temptation, except that he never sinned.

Brennan Manning, the author of “The Furious Longings of God”, shares how he went into a European country. In order for him to be able to minister in a certain prison, he would have to turn himself in as a prisoner. He would have to live in the prison. He chose to do that in order to minister to the criminals in the prison. Even though he was innocent, he put on prison clothes.

Why did Jesus became a man? One of the reasons is to bridge the gap of trust. He became like us, lived like us, saw and experienced life through our eyes – so he can look every human in the eye and say: I understand you and I accept you.

One of the greatest needs of the human heart is to be understood and accepted for who they are, as they are, where they are. That is what builds the bridge of trust. That is what opens the heart to the process of healing.

Metanoia will change your life. The healing of your brain, the healing of your mind, will bring personal transformation.

Trust heals our hearts and opens the door for metanoia to happen in our lives.

Triage

“I give you permission to be mad at me… I’m going to fight for your life even if it means I have to fight you to get it.”

Spoken by Iyanla Vanzant, but I hear the heart of Papa. Our Father. Maybe one of the more succinct pictures of the redeeming wrath of God personified.

And why not? Iyanla is included and participates in the conversation, in the great dance that is relationship, not religion. That we all are involved in. Even as we stumble. Even when we turn our backs and see only the hell of the darkness of our own shadow.

Christ in you, the only hope. And you in Him.

I don’t know the answer to every little question about how it all works. But I finally don’t need to. It’s the difference between reading a bunch of books about a person versus actually knowing them. Think of the person you know the most about. You might not be able to explain everything about them to someone but you know what you know and that’s enough. If someone else wants to get to know them then they will truly understand also. Beyond the cerebral.

I’m all about sharing insight. That’s why I write. I am 100% interested in knowing all the answers. But the difference now is that my security doesn’t depend anymore on knowing the right answers. My security is now in God alone. Who God is and how much God loves us. Loves me. Loves you. I need a God that big.

I think about people who vehemently disagree with me and, with a few exceptions, most of them are much better people than I am. Some of the best people I know. And I hesitate to say it, but I know eventually you get to a point where you need a God that is bigger than you. When the wind gets knocked out of you spiritually, emotionally, mentally, etc and you find yourself face down on the ground.

Not that God is punishing you. Not that He has some sick power trip where He wants to see you suffer. But if you insist, He lets you carry a big enough chunk of the whole world so that you will figure out you can’t and don’t need to.

I heard someone say the other day that faith is knowing you have nothing to offer. Not that you are nothing. Jesus didn’t die for nothing. God so LOVED you that He hung bleeding and naked on the torture device we nailed Him to just to prove that you can give Him everything you got and you still won’t exhaust His love. Your healing is His mission.

You are free to surrender. You are free to rest. You are free to fall back into arms that already hold your heart.

I am learning to give up.

Heads Up

They call it crazy until you’re “successful”. If you “make it” then they come asking you to show them how to do it. Until then, courage in this capitalist consuming society is not only extremely expensive but also very dangerous. Don’t be fooled by all the “go after your dreams” rhetoric; success is idolized and they permit process only to that point. God’s love and acceptance gives you wings but the crabs will still try to keep you in the bucket. Especially if they consider your performance a reflection of theirs. Can we give people a little more room to be human and not have everything figured out? There isn’t a manual for this kind of flight. It’s not blasphemy to try something and learn a few lessons. Trust yourself and others with God and His never-ending love.

To You

Dare I say that a theology that divides and separates is no gospel at all. If my theology doesn’t help me see all in Christ then I think it is headed in the wrong direction. Back to the spiritual stone ages.

If my theology doesn’t lead me to love people more then I don’t think it is correct. Now let me clarify that love is not the same thing as enabling or condoning all behaviors. There is no love in lies. Deeper connection is sometimes associated with increased costs required to take a stand for what is the ultimate best for all involved.

But if my theology puts us back into an us/them or in/out mentality, then I think we’re circling back around the same old worn out mountain. The same tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Same song, different verse. No real substantial difference than the rest of the religions out there.

Real life is so much more complicated. Existing on continuums. Spectrums of awareness. We need each other. The difference between asking why versus the pride of certainty. Investigating. These are real people with real lives. And Jesus loves them all. God loves them all. Holy Spirit loves and is constantly at work with and in all.

If The Good Shepherd goes to gather every last little sheep, what gives us the right to give up on someone? Giving them over to God is not giving up on them. We do what we do but their healing is not our responsibility. We participate. Salvation does not originate in us. Relief from the condemnation rained down by probably well-meaning clergy and also a multitude of common every-day religious folk.

Loving you means I can tell you no as well as telling you yes. Loving you asks, “What can I do to help?” Versus circling around the sinner with stones ready to throw. This is a heart issue. Not another behavioral checkbox. We comfort with the comfort we have been given.

Start by looking inside first. This is not about posturing. This is not about simplistic “happy thoughts”. Real relationship rises to face reality. With a heavy dose of hope. From our Creator, our Father. Whose heart is full of eternal unfailing love.

This love happens organically. This theology arrests your heart and new life flows upward to your mind. Unforced joy and peace that passes understanding lifts you up out of the performance pit and into the everlasting arms of a Father that enjoys you and doesn’t do abandonment.

Will you rest in Him?

We all want to be loved. At what point did you give up? At what point was it too much? What is the next root of deception that we can expose and remove in the pursuit of embracing the truth of your identity in Christ and the wonder of all that entails? How can I help you embrace the new life that is already yours for the taking? That will free you as no other formula ever could.

Thoughts to consider as you continue in conversation with those you encounter in this moment. Relying solely on Holy Spirit for protection and specific direction.

Selah.