Already Included #16 – Emmanuel

For God so loved rules that He needed to see blood and have someone die before He could let His creation off the hook? That’s not what is recorded. God so loved US. Not rules and laws.

Today I listened again to Dan Schiopu’s message entitled “Emmanuel, God Is With Us“. Dan has a unique gift for delivery. I recommend you listen to the entire message.

However, here are some quotes mixed with my own thoughts after listening:

Our initial error is doubting God’s uncompromising goodness. And that continues to be our struggle.

We have a perception problem. Not a legal problem.

Man changed with the fall. Not God.

“You are not valuable because of the price Jesus paid for you. Jesus paid the price for you because of your value.”

“The Bible doesn’t say that your goodness leads God to repentance.”

“Repentance is not something that you do to change God’s mind about you. It’s something that happens to you, to your mind when you discover who The Father really is.”

“You can reject your own sonship, but you cannot change it.”

The parable of the prodigal son is not about a Father waiting for a son to come home and humble himself. The parable of the prodigal son is not that we need to change our behavior. The point of the story is that God has never loved us less even when we are at our worst. The story is about changing OUR minds to see that God is always the Father that never walks away from us and never stops being our Father. Who loves us forever. A love without end. AMEN?

The gospel is not about mercy being given to undeserving sinners. The gospel is about God coming to get His kids back from being alienated from Him only in their minds.

The blood of Jesus was not shed to appease God. The blood of Jesus was shed to appease OUR conscience. Now we have no excuse. The worst has already been done to God. And we did it. Not The Father. We threw our best punch at Jesus and God didn’t stop loving us and He didn’t leave us.

So we can run to Him even at our worst. The same Jesus who ate with prostitutes and touched lepers. To prove to us that we have nothing to be afraid of.

The blood of Jesus was not shed so God can accept us. The blood of Jesus was shed so WE can accept God!!

The blood of Jesus is not the barrier that protects you from God. He is always Emmanuel.

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.

I’m Here

I was led through an exercise where I was asked to think of a place where I would like to meet Jesus. Any place. If I could decide to meet Him anywhere. Then to picture me and Jesus in that place.

What does the place look like? Smell like? Feel like? Etc?

What does Jesus look like? Is He touching me? If so, what does that touch look like? Feel like?

Does Jesus say anything to me? What does He say? And finally, what are His eyes saying?

I don’t want to share the rest of the details, but for me, Jesus said He enjoys me and it’s ok to be silent.

It’s ok to be me and not have anything to say. I can stop all my trying to force connections. With Him and others. Give space. Trust Him. Stop trying to carry the whole world on my shoulders sometimes.

Redeeming Wrath

Trying to manipulate God is religion. Or as I prefer to call it, witchcraft. It is no different than the idea of witches sitting around a boiling pot with a book of “spells”. The key is that you think there is a formula where if you do xyz then God’s switch/button is pushed to automatically do abc. And if He doesn’t do what you thought was His side of the deal, then you must have gotten the formula wrong. That is religion and witchcraft. That is not relationship. Even if your book of “spells” is the Bible. Even if your formula consists of doing things that are so-called “good” when done on their own without any agenda. This is subconscious stuff we’re talking about. As you mature, you grow away from blatant prayers like, “God, if you do abc then I’ll do xyz.” But even if you know not to explicitly say it, your heart might be at the wheel still making decisions to that effect.

Relationship is entirely different. Relationship is not about control and manipulation. Which is why it is so difficult to accept. Total respect for the other person. Total freedom. To walk away or stay. I choose to love you even at your worst. Because of who I AM. Letting the other person go completely. Yet not enabling. Not consenting, not condoning. My releasing you is not me giving you permission to treat me however you want. To do to me whatever you want. I still have the ability and responsibility to exercise my power to choose how much I expose myself to your behavior. This is relationship.

Where you are invited to participate. Where your choices and decisions matter. But not in terms of performance. Where you as an individual matter. But not in terms of conforming as if we were created with our highest good being religious robots or so-called “spiritual” yes-men. To reduce it down to that is an insult to the beauty of who we are and who God is. Not an insult in terms of an affront to ego. But insult as in a gross miscalculation, a severe understatement.

Real love does you no favors by allowing you to continue on in stinking thinking. Even when it means I get something out of the deal, out of your wrong thinking. Real love doesn’t use you like that. Real love, even though it wants you close, will endure the pain of pushing you away when it is better for your ultimate and highest health and healing. It looks like punishment, but nothing could be farther from the truth. I AM passionately furious FOR YOU. Not against you. I will not stop and settle for using you as if ego was everything or anything. You mean too much. I want more for you than you want for yourself. That is real love.

I long for your embrace. I wait day in and day out for your return on the horizon. Even a word. A glimpse of hope. I would search under every rock and behind every tree if I knew it was better for you. But you’ve chosen a different path. One you have to get to the end of on your own. Not because I want it that way. But because you insist. You don’t see yet. You don’t trust because you don’t know that you are safe and that you are loved. Dearly. Deeply.

I Wonder

One of the top responses I receive when I tell people that I believe every human will be with Jesus after this time on this earth, is that they think that means I am telling people that it doesn’t matter what a person does in their lifetime. That’s a tricky statement. I’ve learned to ask people to be more specific when they throw statements like that out at me. Otherwise my answer could have nothing to do with their real question.

But there are two different ways to answer that question. One way is to answer the question how I know they mean it: whether or not I think what happens to us after our physical bodies give out has anything to do with what I do here on earth. For me, now, I think we all existed in Jesus before He was born on earth, and I think when He died, we died. And when He rose, we rose with Him. So no, I don’t think the end result of what happens to me after my physical body gives out is dependent on me. I think it depends on Jesus. But what that looks like from now to the end result – I think I’m wise enough to probably not know how it all works out exactly.

The other way to answer their question is literally: does it matter at all what I do? I think yes, absolutely. To a point. Which is not me trying to dodge the question. I’m just speaking from experience. And experientially, I have never taken more responsibility for my decisions and choices than when I finally accepted God’s total and unconditional love for me. Notice, for me. Not necessarily all my behaviors. But when you know, you really know that you are securely loved – there is now real motivation to do better. The odds are not against you.

The flip side is that you cannot flippantly toss aside every failure as circumstances outside of your control. And yet, to a point. I’ve experienced situations where I’ve tried everything I know to try and the situation doesn’t work out. It seems like the door is shut. But for most of life, it seems like my choices matter more than ever now. When there are no rules, per se, you can’t put the blame for your screwups onto God and blame Him for the “formula” not working out.

I started thinking about this today in terms of wondering about how people debate whether there is “the one” out there for them to marry. It seems almost like a dirty trick if there is this person out there and you don’t feel like God gave you the secret decoder to figure out who they are. Nowadays I’m more apt to say it’s not God’s character to play tricks on us like that.

The more initially terrifying thought is whether there is NOT “the one”. Then that means everyone is a possibility. Then that means it’s your responsibility alone in regards to who you pick to marry. And you alone are responsible for that decision. For better or for worse. That puts the pressure solely on you if you married too quickly or ignorantly. In hindsight even.

Taking full responsibility would mostly give the deliberations about who to marry a much more serious tone. First you have to know yourself and figure out what you really value. What is really important to you. And then drop the fairy tale romantic crap. Little girls are especially indoctrinated with that fantasy crap. From Snow White to Cinderella to Beauty and the Beast. All crap. Just hang around and wait for Mr. Prince Charming to rescue you off to wedded bliss and riches. Am I jaded or is it true that isn’t likely to happen?

And yet there is an awesome connection when you meet someone with your same values. Undeniably. My point is most people jump the gun before they even get to that point. They confuse lust with like values. Or they connect in their brokenness. Which isn’t a sure sign of failure, but isn’t a great bet alone for success either. Others connect based on enjoying similar activities. But what happens when tastes change or abilities and resources change? What reason will you have to stick around then?

At some point commitment comes into play. But I’d like to believe there is still love out there that stays mostly without feeling pressured to do so. And so there comes my God. He knows who needs who. Sometimes who we need isn’t who we want right now. Or sometimes who we need right now is not someone we should marry. Maybe they were only in your life to learn something. But you incorrectly took it somewhere farther than it was supposed to go? Having the option of learning a lesson the easy way or the harder way. Scary to consider that choice may truly be up to you.

But on the flip side, I’d say more people settle for something is better than nothing right now. And probably keep repeating the cycle over and over until the repercussions finally slow them down enough to face the wreckage behind them and consider their part in it all. I’ve been there. Not raking you over the coals without including myself.

And yet I still have hope. Looking back and thinking of all the good that was still worked out of even the worst situations. Not that the good justifies the bad. But only that I think God’s grace can be found even in our worst failures.

And is it really failure if you keep putting one foot in front of the other and are a better person today than you were yesterday? I’d say no – failure is when you give in to giving up. There are times to walk away, but for me failure is defined by completely giving up hope for any good to be found in the future and giving up on God’s love for you. If you’re there right now, ask Him to help you see Him and help you see what’s good and where your hope is. He promises you will find Him if you seek Him.

I read a story today about a man and a woman who grew up in the same town in Mexico in different classes. The male was attracted to the female from afar but they never interacted because of the class separation. Then they both moved separately to New York and ended up working in the same restaurant and eventually getting married. How do you explain that? That’s too coincidental to be random.

So I wonder. With love as well as so many other things in life, what part is up to me and what part is up to God? And I find He answers my heart cries through experiences versus words and head knowledge alone. Be prepared to live it when you ask big questions like that. And hang on for the ride! Never a dull day with Jesus. I am thankful for this epic adventure of a life.

Beyond Belief

“Reason can help you better understand what you see, but it will have a hard time convincing you that you never saw it. So too, emunah endures even when reason can’t catch up… the greatest vitamin you can provide emunah is plain exercise.” – Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

“the basic, root meaning of emunah is trust and reliance, not intellectual acquiescence in the truth of certain propositions… If one disobeys a command and is therefore accused of lack of emunah, it makes much more sense to say that one is being accused of lack of trust in the commander than of quibbling over the accuracy of statements made by or about the commander… loyal behavior, not systematic theology” – Dr. Menachem Kellner

“So you’re impressed with yourselves that with your emunah you can recite the kri’at Shema, nu? O you do so well…why, even the shedim have your da’as and emunah! But they shudder!” – Yaakov 2:19 (Orthodox Jewish Bible)

“The twice daily mitzva of kri’at shema is defined as a declaration of basic tenets of belief…” – Rav Moshe Taragin

Not to be just in our mouth, but more importantly on our hearts. What is inside will come out. Not only in our speech, but also, and more telling, in our actions.

“Therefore, let us approach the Holiest Place with a sincere heart, in the full assurance that comes from trusting — with our hearts sprinkled clean from a bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us continue holding fast to the hope we acknowledge, without wavering; for the One who made the promise is trustworthy.” – Hebrews 10:22-23 (Complete Jewish Bible)

Some say flying, but right now it feels like falling. And yet…

“Why do you say, O Jacob,
And speak, O Israel:
‘My way is hidden from the Lord,
And my just claim is passed over by my God’?
Have you not known?
Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the Lord,
The Creator of the ends of the earth,
Neither faints nor is weary.
His understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
(Isaiah 40:27-31 New King James Version)

“Ani maamin! Help my lack of emunah!” No longer claiming perfect faith. Our heart cries echo his prayer.

Jesus waited until the crowd gathered. They witnessed the blessing of a man who had renounced his independence.

“Peter said to Him, ‘You shall never wash my feet!’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.’ Simon Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!'”

And yet there must be something in Jesus telling the father of the sick child that prayer (and fasting) were the keys to deliverance. Is it a greater statement about how His prayer and fasting delivered us?

“And having been made shalem, to all those with mishma’at toward Rebbe, Melech HaMoshiach, he became the source of Yeshu’at Eloheinu Olamim” (Hebrews 5:9 OJB)

“The feminine noun משמעת (mishma’at), meaning subjects, or literally group of guys who listen.” (Abarim Publications’ online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary)

“Mishma’at refers to the group of people who hearken to the king and are particularly close to him…” – Rav Amnon Bazak

My experience has been that prayer and fasting do not work like sorcery to make things happen. Rather, they realign my mind to hear and see more clearly, spiritually and otherwise.

A study in prayer is desired. But it’s too late and my heart needs time to process just the slightest taste of the glimpse of this magnificence.

“God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: ‘Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me— The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.'” – Isaiah 30:15 MSG