Sunday, July 23, 2017

“Lesson Learned, Freedom Found”

Because of my nature, personality, and "reputation" as an outgoing, funny, "people person", it use to be hard for me to let people go in a relationship. Haunted by insecurity, and driven by their validation and acceptance, I found myself continually trying to be what people expected me to be in order to be liked & approved. Talk about an epic identity crisis! For years, this relational mindset had detrimental and destructive effects on my journey into realizing my identity in Christ and the freedom of His Grace & Love. I continually tried to maintain and preserve relationships--even through a sort of "life support", when in fact the plug should've been pulled long before--, always posturing to control the opinions and outside perspective of me from others. Through the years I discovered that many times I did this NOT to solidify and deepen the relationships with people, but only to preserve my image in their eyes and make me out to be the "good guy", faithful friend, and long-suffering compadre'. This would create in me a sense of obligation to continue to try and maintain these relationships, including those which were draining, needy, controlling, and mostly one-sided. What I finally realized is that I could never truly love people as long as I was concerned with their perspective and opinions of me. All my relational decisions would be manipulated for the benefit of my own self preservation. Genuine love cannot grow in that kind of environment. This went on for years, until the Grace of God helped me accept and understand that some people are just not meant to walk with you for very long on your journey, and much less into your destiny with you. Many of them may only see you and relate to you in a certain way, and as you progress and develop into your identity, purpose, and the person God created you to be, they often times no longer relate to where you are and who you are becoming. When you cease to be what they need you to be in the relationship, they no longer consider you relevant. God has helped me see that "seasonal" people cannot be forced into anything more, regardless of how "letting them go" might "soil" your reputation as a "friend". You don't need to take this personally! There is an amazing freedom now, freedom to live in unforced rhythms of Grace, allowing my life to flow from my intimate connection to God through Christ! Relationships don't have to be contrived. They flow naturally from our Life in Christ! Not everyone is gonna validate you, celebrate you, walk with you, understand you, or even like you! That's fine! In Christ, we are perfectly accepted, loved, and validated, and that's what really matters! So, I've had to let some people walk right out of my life, and others, I've even been kind enough to eagerly show them the door out of my life personally. Of course, I wish them the best as they find their way in Grace, and I hold no bitterness! Your value is not decided by the opinions of others, and your significance in life isn't determined by anything other than the Love of your Creator, and His heart toward you! Accept that, rest in that, keep your eyes on Him, and open your heart to the amazing Life that Jesus came to give you! And people, well, God will lead you to them, and also lead them to you as opportunities to share His Love, His community, His Grace, His Life, and His Heart with them, some for a season, some for a day, some for a moment, and even a few for a lifetime! Let Him orchestrate your steps and your relationships! May this encourage you, who may struggle for validation, acceptance, and purpose, looking for it in the approval of other people. I pray you experience the freedom that comes through seeing your worth and value in Christ alone, and you discover that nothing can change His heart of Love for you! You are unique, perfectly loved & accepted by God in Christ! THAT'S what defines you, and makes YOU PRICELESS! Journey on!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

“The Gospel of Grace, A Segmented Perspective or A Holistic Life?”

Though the God of Grace passionately pursues us and values our heart, His grace has a way of "demoralizing" our humanity. But this is indeed a great thing. His strength is magnified in our weakness. Our human effort, hard work, and goodness resumes are worthless in the eyes of Grace. Maybe this is why so many fail to LIVE in Grace in every aspect of life. Pride causes us to preserve, protect, and manage our humanity, instead of admitting weakness, vulnerability, and depending COMPLETELY on the finished work, strength and Life of another. Holiness has 100% to do with our right standing with God because of the finished work of Jesus on the cross! It is 100% what Jesus did, and 0% what we do! His life in us produces a holiness that is reflective of Jesus. Christ did not come to make us better human beings, he came to make us new creations! Plain and simple, it is "intrinsic" in human nature to try to somehow take some credit for our goodness, holiness, and righteousness. This is nowhere more clearly seen than in modern evangelical-type religion. Holiness has everything to do with our position in Christ Jesus, and nothing to do with what we can produce through our behavior modification or will power. Repentance is not even initiated by us. The goodness of God leads us to repentance. And repentance is not simply being sorry for what we have done wrong and gotten caught up with. Repentance is a change of heart, mind, and direction. A surrendered response to the finished work of Jesus Christ. This produces holiness in our lives. We are the righteousness of God in Christ. Christ did it all! He became sin for us, and became our righteousness and holiness! I hate to break it to all of the "spirit filled" Boy Scouts, but we can't earn enough merit badges, or try to enforce enough of that same condemnation-laden, legalistic mindset on others, to earn one drop of holiness. "Be ye holy as I am Holy" is not an objective that we have to achieve through works and performance, but rather the reality of who we are in Christ!! Once in Him, we naturally produce holiness. It's through His life! An Apple tree doesn't have to try to produce apples, it produces them because that is the life that is in the tree. Our life in Him began also on a tree--the cross. Therefore, only from the life we receive from, and In, He who gave all on that tree, do we produce holiness. In Him, we live, move, and have our identity! What security! What good news! And this Gospel can make you prosperous in every facet of life. True prosperity is realized the more we live every area of our life IN CHRIST, by His Spirit. As long as we try to live this life in a double-minded manner, from our flesh, only occasionally engaging in, and seeing glimpses of His Spirit, our lives will remain unstable. The abundant life that Jesus gives is holistic. Jesus DID in fact become poor that we might become rich, He was wounded that we might be healed, and He became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God In Him. His will is for us to be "holistically" prosperous, lacking nothing, as we are being conformed to the image of our true identity, in Christ. The abundant life we have in Christ flows against the tide of conventional thinking. Grace-based living doesn't follow the principles and patterns of earthly mentality, nor is it subject to natural law-religiously speaking, or otherwise. We live the Grace life by the laws of the Kingdom of God. Make no mistake, there is a lot of earthly mentality that exists under the cover of christianity. These are certainly evident on the fringe extremes of the christian faith. On the one hand, the minimalist, activist type who tries to denounce any material possessions as “blessings”, while promoting extreme suffering as the “sign of spirituality”, and the self-indulgent, image-obsessed type who thinks materialism is the litmus test for blessing, while seasonal “suffering” is a “sign” of a lack of faith. Neither extreme seems to understand the meaning of Grace and prosperity. They simply represent and reflect polar opposite "flavors" of the same condition--legalism. Grace doesn't need balance from our varying human “perspectives”. It IS the very balance of our existence.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"How Will 'IT' Look?"

When you reach that place of “I’ve Arrived”, how will “it” look?
When you achieve the goals that your life has been consumed by, how will “it” look?
When you are finally comfortable in your own skin, and you’ve effectively dealt with your insecurities, how will “it” look?
When you’re able to confidently and somehow defiantly grin at your critics and detractors in that “how do you like me now, sucka” tone, how will “it” look? When you become the one that others turn to for guidance and coaching instead of you being the one stumbling through your existence, groping for answers & meaning, how will “it” look?
When you become “sought after” after years of “seeking after”, how will “it” look?
When you become “significant” after years of occupying an obscure space, how will “it” look?
When your decisions are no longer governed by your fears, but by the reality of LOVE HIMSELF, and the security of that LOVE, how will “it” look?
When you’re no longer in a place of “proving your worth to others” but resting secure in your infinite worth to One, how will “it” look?
In our hearts and minds we imagine what “IT” might look like to us and others when we arrive at the place that we’ve been on a seemingly insatiable quest to finally discover. The “IT” is the “finished, better, fixed” version of our self. The “IT” is what we effort arduously to create in the perception of others and even in our own distorted vision of who we think we should or want to be. The “IT” is our identity that we have mistakenly believed is defined by what we do, how we perform, or who we know. The “IT” is the lie that we buy into at an early age. The “IT” is what we’ll forever be chasing but NEVER finding within our own strength or most stringent disciplines. The “IT” that our heart is hungry to see revealed is not an “IT” at all. It is an established, tangible reality! “IT” is a “WHO”! “IT” is a Life! IT is THE Life. “IT” cannot be lived through faultless performance, or behavioral modification or manipulation. “IT” can only be realized through living another’s Life! Not through self-motivated initiative, but rather a surrendered response to a finished process! A process that was already perfected, once, by One….for you, for me! So the pressure to find and achieve the “IT” is a misguided “pipe dream”. The “IT” is not what hopefully will be, but it’s the “WHO” that is available NOW, for our past, our present, and our future! The “WHO” is fully alive, present, active, and reaching for YOU! You have nothing to prove to the “WHO”! You’re already completely accepted and APPROVED in Him! His life and love are completely yours, even at your worst! When you live the life of the ever present “WHO”, you can be at peace with where you are now on your journey in Him, and stop worrying about how you will be when you get to your later “IT”. Journey on!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

“The Disappointing Illusion of The Familiar”

Life is a grand, ongoing adventure, and an amazing journey! Knowing what I know now, would I change some things about past experiences or decisions if I could? Sure! But would I trade places with ANYONE on the planet? A resounding NO WAY! I am thankful for the process that has led me to where I am. The events, the lessons, the people, the frustrations, and the time invested has had a collective hand in bringing me to the place I am now, and to the man I have become and am becoming. I have a profound sense of thankfulness to God for His mercy, grace, and love for me. My experiences, my relationships, and choices made on my journey have not all been great and enjoyable by any stretch of the imagination; quite the contrary, some of them have been downright forgettable and regrettable. But I can't allow bitterness from the past to pollute my present, or flaw my future. The past has brought me to right now. God is faithful, and has kept me through every chapter, every disappointment, and every rejection. He has led me through every step and every season. In Christ--my true identity--I have the promise of a completed and amazing work in me. He began it, and He will make it thrive, beyond my greatest imagination and fondest hopes!
Experience is certainly a willing, though sometimes calloused teacher on this fascinating journey. I've found that settling for the familiar can be the greatest threat to fulfilling your God given purpose. The children of Israel, Lot's wife, and the rich young ruler all chose the folly of the familiar, and it derailed their destiny.
In my own life, through the leadership and grace of the Holy Spirit I've learned to recognize the familiarity of toxic people, environments, and mindsets from my past that have a way of creating identity crises. When I engage them, and allow them to participate in my life, they can cause me to forget who I am, my purpose, and where I derive my value and significance. Many of them remind me of everything I loathed about my old nature and my misplaced heart. They can have the appearance of being harmless, and they can disarm you with the feeling of the familiar. But make no mistake, they are out to manipulate your identity, sabotage your purpose, and make you a prisoner to fear—fear of man, fear of rejection, or a fear of failure. I am learning to identify where some of the pitfalls and vulnerabilities can hang out, and how insecurities I allowed to take root in the heart, as a result of some of my life experiences, can hide in subtlety, lurking behind faces and places. They will try to reemerge at every opportunity to distort God’s purpose for my life. These mindsets, systems, people, and environments wreaked havoc on my emotions, my self-confidence, and my identity. Reminders of what I hated in my own life were often awakened when I got around certain people in certain environments, and I listened to the conversations that emerged, as hearts were revealed, and motives were unearthed, reminding me of what God mercifully led me out of.
Sometimes the familiar has a way of pulling us back time and time again because it seems safe and comfortable. But giving in to it leaves you feeling unfulfilled, insufficient, misguided, and out of focus. Once God invites you to engage in His much grander purpose for your life, nothing less will ever satisfy or fulfill that deep calling and longing inside, and you will always feel incomplete as long as you attempt to entertain the familiar and settle for such a less than, shallow and superficial existence. Answering His invitation can oftentimes bring you to a place of solitude, loneliness, and silence, as you leap “blindly” into the wide-open spaces that you’ve never before experienced. The leap is completely safe though, for He is carrying you, carrying you beyond the clamor of the crowd, the praise of your peers, the noise of the naysayers, and the opinions of the oppressive. And He’s calling you to His heart, to a Grace filled existence, to an acute awareness of His presence, and to a keen sensitivity to His voice. It’s a place beyond the grip of your control or ability to manipulate the outcomes. He has freely given to you the abundant Life in Christ, filled with Kingdom opportunity, significance, and purpose.
Yes, it may be unfamiliar, but you have been prepared for this, and He has prepared it for you. You can’t give in to the illusion of “safe” that the familiar will offer. The familiar fights faith at every turn. But only faith can take you to your destiny. You’ve been created IN CHRIST before the earth was formed to live the humanly unimaginable life! As we remain willing to allow His spirit to conform us to our true identity, He will take us through the unfamiliar into the most secure, rewarding existence we could ever imagine. And that life is for now—His kingdom coming and His will being done IN EARTH as it is IN HEAVEN! The familiar experiences, people, or places can never make that kind of guarantee.

"For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[g] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[h] for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be[i] against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.[j] Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
--Romans 8:22-39 (ESV)

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Flag of the Day, Married and Gay, & Angry Zealots Have Their Say"

Considering the toxic, volatile vibe in the country that has erupted over the last few years, I thought I’d do my part to lob a “verbal” incendiary device into the fray. I can assure you, no offense is intended. Divisiveness has seemed to dramatically intensify, over the last few years in America. No doubt, this has been augmented and exploited by an overtly biased media. A racially motivated, tragic hate crime in a house of worship, an absolute “brewhaha” over flags, two separate SCOTUS rulings—one, an especially historic ruling—and an angry group of Christians that haven’t been this riled up since possibly the crusades. Now, I’m not gonna argue here, or present a case for one side or the other. That’s not the point of writing this. While I do agree that the SCOTUS woefully overstepped its bounds, and with politically biased interpretation, legislated from the bench, redefining a God-ordained institution that was NEVER established by them in the first place, and did so in arrogant defiance to the will of a majority of citizens, I’m not here to take a red versus blue, liberal versus conservative political stand here. My purpose goes much deeper to the real issue, and the root of the cultural chaos we are now witnessing. The real issue is being overlooked, and drowned out by the meaningless noise, distractions, and diversions caused by behavior that is simply a smokescreen. The true enemy of humanity is orchestrating this smokescreen skillfully and with sinister motivations, and so many are complying with his tricks, smoke and mirrors, and illusions, like mindless mice following the evil pied piper. The enemy knows how to engage emotions, and he is a master manipulator of the human mind. If he can create an “us versus them” narrative, and through diversion, divide the attentions and focus of both sides, causing them to level attacks against one another, then he can desensitize people and divert the “action” and attention away from the real disease, and the Cure for the chaos of culture.
The obsession to be “right” in opinions, perspective, and viewpoint has fueled debate, arguments, and even self-professing “God-endorsement” of our ideas and philosophy. Christians have grown quite skilled in co-opting God to endorse their belief systems, misrepresenting His Word, and using shame and condemnation as their strategy for exposing wrong in others, while highlighting “right” in themselves. I find it interesting; however, that the Christ so many of them claim to speak for and represent, didn’t “handle things” at all the way many of His “followers” do today. He didn’t come protecting His reputation; conversely, He made Himself of no reputation. He didn’t defend the position of the religious culture of the day. He came speaking truth in love, and proclaiming Life everlasting, God’s Kingdom, and His heart. I’ve heard it described this way, “He didn’t come to take sides, He came to take over.” He only did what was in agreement with the will of His Father. He came to seek and save that which was lost—proper identity and right standing with God. He was on a mission of saving, not condemning. He didn’t compromise the reality of right and wrong, nor was he "soft" on sin, but He knew that darkness becomes a non-issue once the Light is turned on. He didn’t allow Himself to become embroiled in surface, appearance focused debate, or symptomatic results of a much deeper issue. He reached for the hearts of people, and offered them Life, Grace, Freedom from sin, and Transformation in their lives and lifestyles—the things that characterized WHO HE WAS, and who we are, once we are IN HIM.
Somewhere along the timeline of Christianity, identity has been lost, or distorted at the very least. The body of Christ has become more focused on righting wrongs, exposing transgressions, and zealously standing for noble causes, than they are at simply living life from the source of their true identity, IN CHRIST, by His Spirit working in and through them. They’ve cursed the darkness, exposed sin, and made the sinner feel condemned as they are made increasingly conscious of their sin, all the while, the church seems to be failing to accurately represent and walk in His Light, turn His light on in the darkness, and focus the consciousness on the cure for sin—the finished work of the Cross of Christ. The Gospel has been misrepresented, and distorted to the point where “good news” has been replaced by noble sounding “right living” through following principled lists of do’s and don’ts, self-discipline, righteous appearances and personal performance.
One thing much of Christianity seems to have forgotten, at least in our country, is that the abundant Life that Jesus gives cannot be lived out by the “goodness” of feeble humanity. We can’t “copy” the way Jesus lived by rote from our strength, good deeds, or self discipline. It still takes the Life and the power of the One who gave that Life through Christ. He didn’t come to make us better humans, who are more skilled at following lists, performing flawless, morally astute lives before an admiring public. He came to make us new creations! Every part of us! The Gospel is the “holistic” good news! It covers every single aspect of our living.
I’m convinced that the defining negative issues of culture through the eons of time would have been non-issues had the body of Christ been more interested in sticking to THE GOSPEL, encouraging living from identity in Christ in her members, and pointing people to the Cross of Jesus, instead of vacating her leadership role in the world, retreating to divisive religious subcultures, co-opting the systems of the world, building institutions, personal kingdoms, and attempting to become “relevant” IN the culture instead of presenting the relevance of Christ TO the culture. The body somehow got sidetracked in dissention among her own tribes, and division of theology, philosophy, and doctrine. And sadly, much of the division at its core, was over semantics. What a devious and masterful divisive tactic of the enemy. The church became reactionary through the years every time an issue of culture and Godlessness manifested, instead of proclaiming Christ the answer in a proactive sense before those issues came into being. She was always one step behind the culture instead of determining the culture, by declaring and manifesting a “new” culture—the Kingdom Culture. She created an “us versus them” mentality with people in the world instead of exercising her God-give authority against the spirit of the world, while copying their systems and adopting their mindsets. She failed to see the real enemy and became victimized by the deception of symptomatic evidence—taking up “religious” causes against others, instead of being the ambassadors of Christ and taking up HIS mission and heart. The real enemy lulled the church into distractions, taking her eyes off of the real enemy and the real issues of peoples’ hearts. The church became involved politically, financially, and socially with the systems of the world, while trying (but failing) to effectively “package” those systems in a sanitized presentation. A mixture message, a mixture mindset, and an instability to consistently function in power, Grace, and authority—the very things Christ empowered her with.
It shouldn’t be a shock to the church when the world acts and lives like, well, the world! But it seems that it is, and that her primary role is to combat culture at it’s surface level. In doing so, the church has vacated a leadership role in culture, and the vacuum left there was eagerly and quickly filled by the forces of darkness. By the time the church sees the enemy manifest, she begins to lash out and react at the symptoms and the victims of the real enemy--the people. She goes after “flesh & blood”, while all the while quoting scripture--from memory instead of passionate belief, Grace, and authority. And the spirits of darkness—where the real war should be waged—laugh as the “us versus them” narrative continues to be echoed on every front in the name of defending truth and righteousness. And people are victimized, criticized, condemned, and marginalized. The church is mired in a debilitating identity crisis. She seems to be fighting FOR “righteousness”, justice, and truth, instead of fighting the real enemy FROM that position. The whole earth is groaning for the sons and daughters of the King to take their rightful position of ushering in His Kingdom and His will in earth as it is in Heaven. But the swatting at the flies continues. The distractions of the symptoms is clouding the reality of the genuine heart needs. And the church in identity crisis fades deeper and deeper into a “sanitized” and irrelevant section of culture, continuing to “take up” righteous causes, humanitarian issues, and moral justice campaigns. But they are in the defensive posture, and slowly but surely being driven into silence when it comes to the direction of the nation.
It is time for the citizens of the Kingdom to reconnect, re-engage, and declare who we are, who defines our reality, and WHOSE Life we live by in every aspect of life. We are IN CHRIST. New creations. Old things are gone. All things are new! This changes everything. In every area of our existence, we can move in abundance, authority, power, love, and grace, because our DNA, our identity is BRAND NEW. The finished work of Jesus on the cross gave us NEW IDENTITY! Our DNA flows from the blood of Jesus. As Jesus was, so are we in this world! As the body of Christ with many members, it is time for us to begin to declare, to believe, to live, and to advance His Kingdom! Christ has paid it all, finished the work, and guaranteed the outcome! Now, He invites His body to take their place, take the fight to the real enemy, which ironically has already been defeated. He has empowered us to take every territory back, and proclaim the words of the prophet Isaiah, which were later echoed and fulfilled in Christ, “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE OPPRESSED, TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."
This is our identity! The church needs to BE and walk in what we were created to be. She is not an institution, a religious idea or organization, an entrepreneurial venture, or a political force fashioned after the systems of the world. She is ALIVE, the life giving, organic, Grace-infusing, powerful body of Christ, the bride of a King! She is on a mission of reconciliation and redemption, not condemnation. She is not a cultural reaction, she was created to determine the culture for Christ, and manifest the Kingdom with no end. It’s time to reflect our King, and to represent the face and the heart of our Savior, Jesus! Abundant Life in every area of existence is ours through Christ. He is the answer for all. He is the cure for culture, and the Hope for every person. Our true identity awaits, revealed in Christ, and lived out practically and powerfully by His Spirit in us, covering us with His Love and Grace. Do you remember who you are?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

“Sin Conscious or Christ Conscious”

Social media newsfeeds have been going berserk for some time now! So many christian leaders seem to be obsessed over sin. They are "touting" terminology such as "hyper-grace", cheap grace, or "easy believism". They are vilifying (based on biased journalism or hearsay) prominent ministries that are rumored to be promoting or "going soft" on sin, and they are perpetuating an overwhelming perspective of gloom and doom pronounced over people who won't play in their sandboxes or espouse their own "personal" kingdom agendas. It's obvious by this that their focus has become something other than THE GOSPEL--the power unto salvation, and the power over sin--, and Jesus Christ and Him crucified. What they don't seem to understand, or simply won't admit, is that TRUE GRACE, and an encounter with the transformative power of Christ in us, make this "hypergrace" (technically, not even a biblical term) a non-issue. The need is that we promote and maintain a continuous focus on the finished work of Christ, and the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us!! The culture and mindset of church and religion seems to thrive on making people sin conscious, thus keeping them under some sort of legalistic control, perpetuating a "self-righteous", personal goodness performance mentality, in order to build their individual kingdoms. Religion does not work without some level of self-loathing, fear, or an angry God. If the attention and focus were on the power of genuine Grace and the reality of our identity in Christ because of His finished work at the cross, we would understand and see that the 10 commandments of the old covenant are now the 10 promises of the new covenant through the power of Grace, and our response of faith to that. Christ in us makes sin no longer an issue. His Spirit working in us and through us aligns us with our true identity in Him, instead of keeping us enslaved to and focused on the sin nature, which consequently was crucified with Christ on the Cross. Focus on the new nature, not the old. The reality is, once we are in Christ, we are new creations. The old is GONE, and all things have become new! Live life from here, and sin has no voice in the equation. The only way to live AS Christ is to live IN Christ!!! He IS our very life! "In HIM, we live, move, and have our being!" It is impossible to emulate Christ from our humanity through good works, acts of nobility, or "principle-driven" behavior modification. "In my flesh dwells NO good thing!" Galatians 2:20--"I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life 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 amazing reality is this, because of His finished work on the cross, THIS is how we can now live..."As He is, SO ARE WE IN THIS WORLD"!!!
All human efforts to earn His Grace, Love, and approval through performance, good deeds, or "righteous resumes", end up as mere legalism, works, and law based living.
Only One has ever truly pleased the Father. It was His own Son, Jesus. We spend years working and working trying to "please" God. The only way to please God is to live in the Life of the Son in whom He was "well pleased". We can only experience this IN AND THROUGH HIS LIFE, By His Spirit!

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

"Free At Last"

Slavery! The very word can make you “flinch”! We recoil at how reprehensible the concept is! We shake our heads in regret that such a travesty could happen to ANY human being, or any race or group of people! But it did! And, it still does! Most of us barely even realize the reality that WE just might still be slaves! Yes, many of us WILLINGLY, yet unknowingly participate in the bartering of our minds, our hearts, and even our souls, through selfish desires, emotionally driven choices, and thoughtless, careless uses of our words. WE ARE SLAVES! Much like the slavery during the Civil War era, sadly, our emancipation has been completely paid for, and yet we continue to walk around clueless, still living under the tyranny and oppression of an evil yet defeated slave master!
Proverbs 29:25 lets us know that we can remain ensnared, enslaved by a cruel taskmaster—“the fear of man”! The Message translation reads this way…”The fear of human opinion disables; trusting in God protects you from that.”
So many of our words are calculated, premeditated, and “staged” with the sole purpose of being viewed acceptable & validated in the eyes of people. That’s part of the human condition. It’s the part that can immobilize our growth & development into our new identity—IN CHRIST! Through HIS Life, we have been set free from the need to perform for people, ourselves, or even for God Himself! Before we had breathed even one breath, we were validated in HIS eyes! We were loved and accepted completely & perfectly, with nothing else to prove! We have been emancipated to simply respond to, and willingly accept the Life we now have through Christ! We can now live for an audience of ONE, and HE doesn’t hold us to a standard of performance! It’s like our kids performing for us, no matter how pathetic & UN-OSCAR-WORTHY the performance may be, they are OUR children, and we rave over their performance because they belong to us, and we see them through the unwavering lens of love! Imagine HIS perfected love that so far supercedes our finite ability, and transcends our failed attempts to perform flawlessly! HIS love that found us and pursued us when we were at our worst! THAT LOVE has set us free to simply live a life of “surrendered response” instead of self-initiated efforts! When the eyes of our hearts are opened to THAT love reality, we start experiencing a freedom that puts us at rest, that restores our joy for life, and that keeps us in a place of peace as we live ALREADY APPROVED, VALIDATED, AND ACCEPTED, and without the chains of human opinion and peoples’ perspective of us enslaving our lives! What an AMAZING life! His life! His gift! And it’s already been paid for, FOR US! It’s our decision to respond! To reject or to receive! To reject, keeps you on the treadmill of image, performance, and trying to be good enough. To receive, releases you into the life and benefits of being HIS child, living in HIS love, and by HIS life! HE was good enough! He finished the performance! You ARE free! FREE INDEED! Journey on! Peace!

Sunday, July 2, 2017

“A Reminder About Bitterness and Rejection”

Bitterness and unforgiveness will derail your destiny faster than anything. And yet in our humanity, we are most susceptible and vulnerable to these two things. The only way to overcome them is to live our life, not from the limitations of our humanity by the futility of self-discipline, religious principles, or will power, but from the reality of the abundant, overcoming life we have through our identity in Christ, by the power of His Spirit. Bitterness and unforgiveness often have roots in rejection. Have you been rejected? Have your gifts, your talents, your personality, your work, or your heart been ignored, overlooked or rejected by your peers, those you admired, a loved one? Jesus was despised and rejected, even by His own people, and those He came to save. He wasn't negatively affected though. Why? He was completely accepted, validated, and approved by His Father, even before His first miracle or message. At His baptism by John the Baptist, He heard, "This is my BELOVED Son, in whom I am WELL PLEASED." Those words were all that mattered. In Christ, those words are to YOU too! Don't allow any root of bitterness from rejection to grow in your heart. REST confidently in the reality of WHOSE you are, and HIS heart toward you! Rejection doesn't have to define your reality or your identity! IN CHRIST, you are accepted, beloved, validated, and treasured! THAT is my identity! THAT is who I am! Man's rejection is insignificant in light of the reality of my true identity! Good news! Bitterness toward anyone will keep you from living fully in your identity In Christ! It's the great thief of the riches we can enjoy living in Christ. Don't let it hang out in your life. In Christ, we were given authority over it. It's our choice though, to live with it, or get rid of it. Don't settle for an anemic, “Christian-lite” life. The earth is groaning, waiting for us to take our rightful place as Sons & Daughters of God. We’re not waiting on God. He’s done it all, and Jesus has sat down. It’s our choice. I’m tired of making excuses for my humanity. I’m focusing on the perfection of Christ. That is my identity! As long as we allow our old nature to be an “excuse” for not realizing the “Hope of Glory”—Christ, living through us in every aspect of life, it will be.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

"Whose Wings"

It's just a fact of our nature. We humans simply can't help it. We just love to elevate our experiences, our work ethics, our good deeds, and our accomplishments to a place of using them as standards, measures, litmus tests, or examples for people to follow in order to attain a certain level of success or goodness. That gives a delusional sense of rightness or arrival on our part, so we can justify leading others, and conforming them to our ideas and standards. We use our experience to shame others into performing up to our standard, in order to somehow be validated in their work and experience. The reality is, our so-called strengths have a way of becoming weaknesses and vulnerabilities in our own character. The purpose of anything good that might come through us, is to point back to the only true source of anything good--Father God! The strongest are those who recognize their human weakness, and are completely dependent on the strength of Him from whom we derive our true Identity, In Christ. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed, lest he fall.” The higher we rise or succeed, the more vulnerable we become. There is greater temptation to lean on our own strengths, abilities, and experience. The enemy knows this, and camps out in those subtle spaces in our lives where we think we are strong, qualified, or dependable—the places where we are more aware of what we think we CAN do, instead of humbly knowing what we CAN’T do, and that we can ONLY do from our identity in Him! We must be acutely aware of our dependence on God, and the need for intimacy with Christ—living life from Him, in Him, and through Him. It’s all Him! Human nature tends toward self-reliance and personal performance, and it resists dependence, especially when we experience a level of “human success”, validation, or even power. The higher we fly, the more needy we are, and the more crucial it is to rest under the shadow of HIS wings. THAT’S how we truly fly.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

“Love, The Reality or the Illusion”

God is Love! It is HIS nature, and it was HIS idea--His expression to humanity in and through Christ. Therefore genuine love can only be truly expressed from an intimate connection to the heart of God. Humanity's warped, self-indulgent, emotionally controlled ideas of love, acceptance, diversity, and validation have corrupted and distorted "love", and have misrepresented HIS heart of true love. The wounded hearts of people whose choices and decisions have been made as a result of being hurt, abused, or rejected do not define or change the true meaning of love, regardless of their attempts to do so. Love brings us into God's heart for us, it doesn't leave us in our erroneous ideas of what Love is, nor does it invite us into ANY false sense of self-indulgent expression which is contrary to His heart and destructive to our lives. Sadly, much of christianity has been complicit--albeit sometimes in ignorance--in distorting His heart, and His Love, and in failing to understand and live according to our identity IN CHRIST, and what that looks like in every area of a Christ follower’s life. This has led to gross mishandling and ineffective ministry relative to the issues of culture, and a failure to see revolutionary heart change through the manifestation of His Kingdom in this earth. Instead, the systems of this world have stepped into the "leadership" vacuum of culture, created by an absent or introverted "church", and culture has taken it upon itself to define right, wrong, love, hate, and the like. The body of Christ was created to define culture from the heart of God, NOT to be some "reactionary" group that is constantly on the defensive, seemingly one step behind the enemy's agenda, thus "swinging & missing" at each opportunity to positively effect the lives of hurting people through the Gospel of Jesus, and the establishment of His Kingdom in this culture.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

“You’re Doing What”

The terms "living for God", and "working for God" no longer make sense to me. I mean, He's already done all the work, right? For salvation and for living! He finished it! I now live by His life, and align with, and engage in the work that He has done. My life is a process of coming into alignment with my real identity--In Christ! He invites me into that, and I enjoy the benefits of His work! I don't impress Him by what I do, even by what I do in His name! I mean He created the universe by the word of His mouth in around 6 days!! I'm pretty sure I am not gonna impress Him! I now live by His faith, His power, and His Spirit. It's about identity & alignment! Because of the Cross, His life is now mine! I am in Him, and I am new, in every way! There's a reason we are called human "beings" and not human "doings". Out of our intimate connection to Him, and His life in us, we get to engage in His Kingdom work, and experience abundant life in every aspect of life. In Him, we live, move, and have our identity (being)! "The life I now live (in the flesh), I live by the faith of the Son of God". (Galatians 2:20) Any "good works" that may come through my involvement only come as a result of my being properly aligned in Him, by His faith, & because of His finished work! Our performance driven, works oriented nature resists surrender to His life, and therein lies the conflict of our dual nature. Walking into our Kingdom identity comes only through surrender to the reality of that identity working in & through us! It's a waste of time to try and achieve holiness through works, or standards of behavior. It's the result of position not performance--our position IN CHRIST! Because of His work on the Cross, and the shedding of His blood, holiness and righteousness become our identity!! HE is our righteousness and holiness! As long as the focus is on our attempts to be holy or righteous, we'll never experience the abundant Kingdom life that Jesus came to give. It's only IN HIM!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

“Standing Up or Standing In”

Over the past few months, I’ve been in somewhat of an “observational” mode on social media, and shockingly, I have discovered that evidently there are more experts, consultants, informational gurus, & activists than at any point in the history of mankind! I say that somewhat in jest, but my recent observations have been quite revealing. I repeatedly have to keep my head down from the shrapnel, aftershocks, & volatile verbal fallout with the plethora of social, moral, political, and religious volatility that consumes the airwaves & newsfeeds. Those type things really uncover some interesting, telling, & even unfortunate realities about how reactionary, emotionally unstable, self seeking, and easily distracted human nature can be, even those who consider themselves to be of the christian persuasion. I am learning not to air my opinions on Facebook relative to the “symptomatic”, issue-centered discussion, or join every freakin’ “support this” & “boycott that” page that various & sundry pissed off and emotionally charged people felt compelled to start! No, I instead chose to focus on the root cause of these symptoms, and tried to encourage people to get beyond their emotions, opinions, & activist mindsets for just a moment, and try to understand the reality that evil is gonna always be…..evil! Immorality and those who perpetrate evil and immoral deeds are gonna make decisions, say things, and respond in ways and words that wreak of, well, evil and immorality! Duh! Why would that surprise you? When a nation devolves into a state of moral & ethical relativism, where every line of right & wrong is blurred and distorted in order to accommodate the ever darkening human condition that craves self indulgence, and where personal responsibility is replaced with entitlement & blame, this is what you're gonna get—the american culture that we’re experiencing! The reality is that a world which insists on existing in its depravity and flaunting freedoms with no responsibility—and doing so from a defiant paradigm that sees no need for a Saviour or the abundant, redeeming Life found only in Jesus—will certainly look exactly like what we’re seeing today in popular culture, media, politics, religion, entertainment, and so on! I have made the choice to magnify THE ANSWER, and to take my “stand” from my identity, IN CHRIST! I feel quite certain that every “show” of conviction, every “boycott” or “protest”, and every “group or page” that I join on social media will do little to nothing to change the heart & mind of one person who believes differently than me. If you feel the need to be “heard”, or to have your opinions and “stands” validated, and maybe even somehow compensate for your insecurity in some area, then by all means, go for it! Good luck with that! I happen to think those who insist on engaging in that type of behavior are probably more interested in making a point rather than making a difference.
People are an incredibly interesting study…me included, I’m sure. Or maybe I’m just a flat out “weird” study! The dynamic that exists, and the passionate connection between people and their belief systems has been exponentially magnified with the advent of social media! My whole philosophy has changed over the past 1-2 years relative to the best, most productive, and enjoyable ways to use social media. To some, social media is obviously the greek term for "soapbox", & to many others, it’s simply a way to reconnect with old friends, family, and groups of peeps with similar interests. And sadly, there are some people who use social media primarily as a means of gaining validation & approval from others—oftentimes complete strangers whose only connection is that they may happen to have a few “mutual friends”. They seek this validation by continually “exercising” their freedom of speech (or freedom of typing), and their rights to “Speak up or Stand Up” for what they feel passionate about! After all, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”, right? Sure sounds noble, huh? Actually, I believe that quote is tucked away somewhere in the book of “Self-righteous logic 1:1”. They feel that speaking their minds, and sharing with the rest of us, what they may be feeling or thinking at any given moment, makes them “real”, genuine, or honest. And social media has given them instant gratification and an immediate outlet to pontificate and bloviate, sharing their every thought, emotion, or soapbox that happens to be “stoking” their “principled fires” at the time. They give little thought to the wisdom, timing, and Christ-centered “heart” that should responsibly “govern” their words & sentiments. However you try to twist or distort scripture, the fact remains, Jesus never demanded His rights, yet He never compromised truth. He always dealt with the heart—the root issue, and not the superficial symptomatic. That's where the religious heart wants to keep the game. Even though He was the embodiment of truth, He chose to refrain from defending Himself, and instead, in every instance, He reflected the heart of, and carried out the will of His Father! Even on the one occasion we’re quick to refer to & justify our “anger” or emotionally driven “righteous indignation”—driving the money changers from the temple—His actions were motivated by His Father’s heart, and not His own personal agenda. His frustration was actually directed at the abuse and distortion, by religion, of the original purpose for His body—the church. Unfortunately, that's still goin’ on today, and yet there doesn’t seem to be nearly as much of an outcry or push back from the religious crew as there is toward gay marriage, Starbucks, A&E Television, or the like. Jesus remained silent before His accusers, and chose not to engage His detractors in futile arguments which were merely “smokescreens” to camaflouge the condition of their hearts. Even though He knew He was right, He never insisted on “grandstanding” His rightness before those who stood against Him! Even at the moment of His ultimate act of surrender—His death on the cross—He wasn’t “touting” His rightness, but instead, forgiving those who had wrongly accused Him, hated Him, and stood against everything He was. He gave His life instead of protecting His own reputation! How different that picture is from so many of His modern day “followers” who feel compelled as “activists” to defend opinions, sacred views, or speak out at every opportunity against anything they deem as a threat to their ideology. Ultimately, I’m more interested in standing IN CHRIST—my identity—, and reflecting HIS life in everything I do, than “standing up” for an opinion, right, or viewpoint which may, in fact, be noble—my ideology! HIS Life is the ONLY thing that will truly bring about heart change! I think THAT takes much more “backbone” than spewing opinions and arguments simply because you have that “right”. Of course, many consider this (under the religious sounding guise) “standing up for what’s right”! What makes you “real” isn’t being willing to regurgitate everything you feel or think in any given moment. That often times makes you look like a “real” fool! Let wisdom & love—not your desire to be heard, agreed with, or validated— guide your heart, your words & your motivations to speak.
It is most obvious that there is an attack on the things that are near & dear to the heart of God, including those of us who seek after His heart, and live our lives IN HIM! It’s been that way forever! Good & Evil have never been “fishing buddies”! That really shouldn’t surprise you! It’s imperative that we understand who the real enemy is! Our battle is not with “flesh & blood”, it is a spiritual war! Boycotting & behavior modification do nothing to change the condition of the human heart! Symptomatic “management” only disguises & distorts the real needs of the heart! Humanity needs healing! It needs a Saviour! But when we insist on waging this war from a position of “flesh & blood”, we will lose every time! The enemy of our soul is an expert on human nature. He knows how to distract, to distort, and to cause us to put our “faith” in our own futile strength, personal beliefs, convictions, traditions, and performance! That's what he is doing now! He doesn’t want us fighting the war from our position of strength in Christ, and HIS Spirit living through us! From that position in our true identity, the war has already been won! We are free to live from THIS place, and watch HIS supernatural power & life be the change in the lives of the people of this culture! At what point will we stop simply standing up, piling our religious eggs in the basket of our own “belief systems”, opinions, and rightness, and start STANDING IN our identity IN CHRIST, by HIS SPIRIT, through HIS GRACE AND LOVE! These are not about us and our abilities & performance! They are about Him! He is the answer! He is the change! He is the hope for all! CHRIST IN US… At what point will those who claim to be His followers, actually start following?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

“Puzzled By Parts”

We are so prone to make much ado about the smaller parts of the big picture! It’s easy to forget that the world doesn’t revolve around our whims, agendas, or our legendary attempts to manipulate the “cosmos”. We’re simply a “small part” of a much grander, far-reaching purpose than we often times seem to be aware of. Just like it’s nearly impossible to identify or guess the “finished product” of a one thousand piece jigsaw puzzle by focusing on one small, seemingly insignificant piece of that puzzle, so is our futile effort to try and identify the “whole picture” and the significance of our existence, by looking solely at “random” circumstances, events, or seasons of time by themselves, without the context of the greater purpose in which we simply play one part!
We’re so good at taking ourselves way too seriously, and exhibiting an over-inflated ego through the choices we make, the priorities we set, and the way we view the world and people around us.
Anything of substance that we see through our lives will only come through our connection with Love Himself in relationship, allowing Him to work through us for the GREATER PURPOSE—not simply to further our “small part” of the Greater Purpose.
We make our “small part” the WHOLE puzzle, and thus put the emphasis on our success, our performance, others’ perspective, outside opinions, and validation of “our small part”. Our efforts are predominantly spent for the benefit, and the sake of our “small part”. Our motives for doing what we do usually live on the side of self promotion and preservation of our “small part”. We evaluate the world and it’s goings on through the keyhole size lens of “self”.
We constantly look for the comfortable, familiar, or convenient to express our “small part” so we can somewhat control, manipulate, and orchestrate the “success” of our “small part”. It’s a “ME-centric” culture and paradigm that is so easy to fall victim to.
Our desires are motivated by our “small part” instead of HIS Greater PURPOSE!
The betterment, advancement, and display of the skills, gifts, or talents relative to our “small part” become the center point of our existence, instead of being willing and available to exhibit our gifts, talents, and abilities in WHATEVER capacity benefits the GREATER PURPOSE—even at the “risk” of obscuring our “small part”!
The greater purpose of Love Himself should be central to who we are. Our intimacy and relationship with Love Himself can fill us to the point of overflowing to the “outside-of-us” world—where our very lives are lived, naturally, peacefully, and passionately serving the Greater Purpose! Living relaxed, unencumbered by the constant assault of selfish whims and motivations, is the picture of what I tend to believe it really means to live a “John 10:10” kind of life—an abundant life.
Our “small part” will have varying impacts on the greater purpose from time to time—sometimes seen by the masses, and sometimes seen by only 2 or 3, but when our “small part” becomes the cornerstone for our existence and the focus of all our efforts and decisions, it’s then that it becomes difficult to love, to live loved, and to allow His greater purpose to invade our lives in beautiful, unique, powerful ways. We keep Love Himself in a “box”.
When we’re controlled by a self-seeking motivation to promote and express our “small part”, then all we’ll seek is acceptance, validation, and the approval of others, and THOSE are like drugs! You never get enough of them, and will never be satisfied, thus, our obsession becomes to seek the good of our “small part” at any and all costs, instead of seeking and serving the greater purpose of the establishment of Love’s Kingdom!
Lasting and significant promotion comes from God, NOT from self. When our focus is on the greater good, our gifts and abilities have a way of finding their place of greatest impact and service, however, the motivation for using, and achieving through our gifts should find their heart in a desire to help facilitate The greater purpose of life— which is something much bigger than our “individual” cause.
That’s why our hearts and our gifts must remain intimately connected to Love Himself. His life lives through us, reaching, touching, and serving the world around us—even at times, allowing us to enjoy the “spotlight” or the accolades. Of course, if our hearts are in the right place, the “credit” or “affirmative words and actions” are reflected back to the source of “every good and perfect gift”, Love Himself.
We are called to ONE PURPOSE. Our abilities, “vocational expertise”, or talents do NOT define us. HE does! And His love-motivated, heart-reaching “definition” of us transcends how “big or small”, how hidden or seen, how grand or “obscure” our parts may be. They are ALL needed and valued to help fulfill Love’s greater purpose! For no matter how small the piece of a large puzzle may be, without that one piece, the puzzle is still incomplete!