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Lifeway Christian Stores carrying So-Called Christian: Healing Spiritual Wounds Left by the Church This is an amazing blessing since we did not even market the book to them. It was presented in the proverbial 'stack of books' that many distributors place in front of book buyers hoping that one or two of them will be chosen. We are thrilled and honored that ours was selected! Praise to God!

To obtain your copy of "So-Called" Christian: Healing Spiritual Wounds Left by the Church CLICK HERE.

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Wednesday
Mar192014

My Story: The Disconnected Man, Fighting for Intimacy in an Isolated World.

We all have our own reality. But what happens when one day you wake up and everything you thought about your reality doesn’t exist?

(Please forgive the length of time between my posts. I'm diving into some material now that may be the hardest I've ever attempted and It will take some time to develop. I may also insert some non-related posts between the ones under this subject.)  

In my last post I wrote, ‘This is where my subtitle comes in, ‘How to be a Hero when conflicts come.’ We can be heroes in conflict. I’ve noticed that one of the most consistent qualities of heroes, both real and fictitious, is that they must inevitably struggle against their own desires and do what is best for those that need them. Let that sink in, they do have to struggle, often violently against themselves and the desire to preserve their own comfort. That’s part of what draws us to like them – they struggle – like us!’ I wrote that knowing that I should share my struggles. Not so you’ll think I’m a hero but as an illustration of how God can overcome our weaknesses and use us to resolve conflicts and restore relationships.   

 In the next few posts I will be sharing a lot about my personal journey. I am not prone to this sort of self-revelation but I believe the lessons I’ve learned will be helpful to others. Others I trust have also encouraged me to open this window in order to let some fresh air into some needy souls.  My hope is that my experience will serve as a tool to help men and women (especially men) to recognize some critical truths about connection and intimacy in relationships.

 That sounds a bit dry. Let me try again. I want everyone who reads about my experience to feel the biting pain of disconnection. I want people, especially those like me, to hurt deeply if disconnection or a lack of intimate relationships describes them. More personally if it applies: I want to be a scalpel or a hammer – whatever it takes to get your attention. I want to pry into your heart and rip out whatever lies between you and closeness with others. I want you to see yourself in me if necessary but most of all I just want you to see yourself. Then I want to offer the hope of heaven itself that you can be brought to a place of true, fulfilling, and joyful intimacy with God and others.

 Why? Because if you are a disconnected, hard to get close to, non-intimate person then you are walking in disobedience to nearly every command of Christ. To shorten the thought: Disconnectedness is Disobedience. And as a result, you are missing out on the most important elements of a truly joyful life! I beg you to listen; I speak from experience and a new realization of why the Bible spends so much time addressing our relationships. Relationships are the gateway to salvation and sanctification – neither happens if we are not in intimate relationships with Christ and His Church.

 

If you are a disconnected, hard to get close to, non-intimate person then you are walking in disobedience to nearly every command of Christ.

 

I’ve spent most of my life disconnected. Disconnected from close relationships with family, friends, peers, co-workers, and even my own emotions. What I didn’t know until recently was that intimacy was an enemy to me. Whenever I got close to it I felt (unconsciously) like it would hurt me so I avoided it. I steered around it, built walls of reasoned intelligence to block it, and shielded my heart from the pain of it.  In times when it caught me unaware I would completely fall apart in sobbing, heaving, unexplainable breakdowns (or worse, I would successfully stuff it under a weird emotional barricade that was set up somewhere deep in my soul). I was embarrassed by these times of uncontrollable emotion so I kept anything that would trigger them at arms length. Romantic movies, tender words, transparent self-expression, memories or lack of them, illness and death of people close to me, and more were all specters of emotional connection that I couldn’t handle.

 These years spent as the “artful dodger” of intimacy left me a broken, unconnected man who was destined for a crisis. Mind you, I didn’t look like a broken man to most. I was very successful at many things. I was intelligent, capable, and hard working, even admired for my gifts and how I used them. I probably looked ‘normal’ to most folks that knew me. I had myself and many others (but not everyone – a note for later) fooled. In reality I was a functioning, gifted, productive, and yet emotionally and relationally numb person.

 In these posts I hope to explore how I became that numb person. I’m not seeking any sort of catharsis with this exploration or any kind of regression psychotherapy that uncovers my Freudian defense mechanisms. I simply want to reveal some factors that I think cause us (Christian and non-Christian) to erect walls that keep intimacy out.

 I then want to explore what it’s like to be that person in everyday life. I want to offer a window into a wooden heart.  I want you to feel the numbness with me. I think this will help you understand why you or your loved one acts the way he or she does. I think it will bring some much-needed insight for those struggling with relationships at any level. For those who don’t struggle like this I hope that it will help you find mercy for those who do. For those who do struggle like this I hope that it will help you face your fears. I hope it will awaken you to your desperate disposition and the true danger that surrounds and saturates you.

 Finally, I want to explore the path to intimacy. I want to climb the walls we build to shield us from emotional touch. In fact, I’d like to eventually knock them down. I want to show you what a crisis looks like for someone who is barely capable of connecting with himself, let alone others. Then we can trace the steps out of crisis and into connection. Again, I’m not looking for a cleansing of my psyche here nor am I seeking sympathy.  My God has met me here and held me fast. He has been merciful, loving, and kind enough to first empty me and then fill me back up. I only want to help you understand that you (if you are like me) or those you love (if you know someone like me) can conquer and connect. There is a road to intimacy.

 This road is long and fraught with peril especially for those who are “intimacy challenged” and those who hope for an intimate relationship with them. It’s a road I’m on. I can’t tell you how far down it I’ve travelled. I’ve only recently navigated the ‘on ramp’ so to speak. I have discovered some great sights on the road so far and I’ve tasted a bit of the local fare available while travelling but my ultimate destination is still lost to the horizon. I can take you as far as I’ve gone though. I think you will find it helpful. I hope to be a trustworthy guide and I know the place we are going is worth it.  Will you come along?

Thursday
Dec122013

7 Pre-Conflict Self Examination Questions we really don’t want to ask or ‘How to be a Hero when conflicts come.’ 

Been on an airplane lately? Are you the guy I sit next to that’s on the edge of his seat in rapt attention while the flight attendants rehearse the pre-flight instructions? If you are that guy, then you know what they say about the oxygen mask; if not, you may be the guy who I’ll have to help when the cabin pressure starts dropping. For those who have never been on an airplane the instructions are universal for anyone travelling with children or others who need assistance. If cabin pressure drops PUT YOUR MASK ON FIRST before helping the other person! (I owe this illustration to my lovely wife)

At first glance the instruction seems a little unkind, even selfish. The logic behind it is flawless though – we can’t help anyone else if we are helpless. Putting the oxygen mask on first is essential to being useful to those who may be experiencing a challenge to do the same. Our health is critical for theirs. This illustration is perfect for our conflict preparation questions. If we are not healthy and secure we will probably not be helping anyone else with his or her health. We are probably going to make things worse if we enter into conflict as an unhealthy, unprepared participant.

In our last post we identified the real problem with many conflicts – It’s us. Our blindness to our own faults is often the heart of the problem. We may see the oxygen mask but think we can handle the pressure drop without it. I said in the last post that we needed to ‘recognize and remove the log or beam that is obliterating our vision.’ Further, I indicated that recognizing our own issues is probably the single most difficult part of conflict. I’ve found the best way to do this is to pay attention to the pre-flight instructions. In our case, what the Bible says about conflict.

I’m fairly certain that if you ask a flight attendant the kind of passenger they appreciate most they would probably say ‘the attentive, courteous one.’ I think the passenger who looks around and thinks through all the scenarios and prepares himself or herself mentally to respond is the person I want to sit next to. I admit, I’m not always that guy but after writing this I think I will endeavor to be that guy next time I fly.  I do want to be that guy when it comes to handling conflict the way God wishes. I want to be prepared!

How do I know if I’m prepared? I, or we, test our knowledge by asking questions.  Some of these questions have to do with our own safety, some about helping others, but all are asked in order to prepare for survival. The same preparation is helpful if we want to survive the conflicts that come up between brothers.

This is where my subtitle comes in, ‘How to be a Hero when conflicts come.’ We can be heroes in conflict. I’ve noticed that one of the most consistent qualities of heroes, both real and fictitious, is that they must inevitably struggle against their own desires and do what is best for those that need them. Let that sink in, they do have to struggle, often violently against themselves and the desire to preserve their own comfort. That’s part of what draws us to like them – they struggle – like us!  The seven questions put this quality to the test. They ask us to be a hero, to put our own desires aside, and to do what is best for the others in order to resolve the conflict. Heroes are heroes because they win this battle over themselves. They put their own desires aside for the good of others. Let these questions test your hero aptitude.

Questions are meant to uncover strengths and weaknesses. We want to use our strengths and shore up our weaknesses to insure success. If we will graciously use our strengths under the control of the Spirit, and if we will ruthlessly uncover our own weaknesses (sinfulness) and deal with them; we will be better prepared when conflict comes. We might even be heroic!  So let’s ask ourselves the 7 questions. For effect, let’s ask them in two different ways. These are meant to reveal our weakness so we can prepare to know the Lord’s strength. 

 

  1. Do I tend to readily notice the faults or mistakes of others?
  2. Do I tend to correct the faults I notice?
  3. Do I tend to take a firm stand for the truth?
  4. Do I tend to believe I see the truth clearly in most situations?
  5. Do I tend to make quick assessments of people’s motives?
  6. Do I tend to tell people how I assess their motives?
  7. Do I tend to instruct people what is right and wrong?

 

There are most likely a hundred other questions that will grow from these. Feel free to ask yourself those the Holy Spirit brings to mind. These questions are the ones I believe will reveal the source of many conflicts – PRIDE! Many of us read these questions, answer yes to many of them, and see ourselves in a pretty good light. Our thoughts may sound like this, ‘I am pretty good at noticing mistakes. I am good at constructive criticism. I know the truth and am not afraid to speak it. People are usually an open book to me.’ While these can be incredibly strong gifts when gently used by a person filled with Christ’s love – they can be tremendously damaging to others when exercised by our flesh.

If you didn’t notice, the phrasing of the questions above turns our thoughts to the other party. We may think of situations where we have come to a judgment about a situation or person. Let’s rephrase them and see what then comes to mind.  Even better, ask other people to assess you in light of these questions. Make sure you ask people who are willing to tell you the truth – we all have our “yes men”.

 

  1. Am I a judgmental person?
  2. Am I a negative, critical person?
  3. Am I close-minded to other’s view of the truth?
  4. Am I overconfident (or arrogant) in my knowledge of the truth?
  5. Am I prone to jump to conclusions?
  6. Am I proud of my ability to “shoot straight” with people?
  7. Am I perceived as arrogant or “lecturing”?

 

Asked this way, these questions probe our own weakness and expose our tendencies toward pride. They reveal the things the hero needs to conquer within himself before he can conquer the outside conflict. By the way, lest we think this is merely an exercise in exposing our weakness, remember that heroes are strong precisely because they conquer themselves. They probe themselves with hard questions, uncover their inner weakness, and then apply their formidable will to conquer them. Once their inner man is under control they tackle the external battle. With that in mind let’s meditate a bit more on the questions.

Question 1: I think there is more than one way to be judgmental. We can be judgmental and come across as superior. We can be judgmental and come across as the victim. There are probably endless nuances between these two extremes but make no mistake – a victim mentality can be manipulated to make us feel superior. Making someone else the victim by being critical can also make us feel superior. Both are at heart self-protectionist pride. They are un-heroic. If you answered the question in the positive as it was originally phrased – beware – you may tend to be a Sawdust Tyrant. You tend to focus on specks in the eyes of others while missing the Sequoia planted firmly in yours. (I speak from experience)

So be honest – if you answered, “Yes” to question one then you may need to repent of a judgmental spirit and learn to look through loving eyes.

Question 2: Be brutal on yourself here and ask, “When it comes to people and situations involving people, is my first thought typically negative?” If you answer yes your mind may immediately start justifying why. Stop right there. Does that negative thought or assessment usually take into account all the details of the person, his life, his situation, his baggage, his understanding, the Lord’s understanding, and other’s involvement? Can we work at quelling our initial assessment by waiting to consider all the extenuating circumstances? Can we replace the mental correcting of other’s faults with a benefit-of-the-doubt patience toward them?

Question 3: Have you ever changed your opinion? Ever changed a major theological view on an important topic? Have you ever had an incorrect first impression of someone only to have it change later? If so, how did these changes come about? What am I getting at? Is it possible that the truth you have come to is subject to change? I’m not talking about essential Christian doctrine here. I’m talking about the things that are most likely to cause the conflicts we are preparing for – peripheral issues that are subject to differing views or personality types that grate against us.

We may be convinced of a truth that another is yet to be faced with. He may have been faced with it and arrived at a different view. What we have to prepare for is this – are we going to reject the PERSON for his views or are we going to accept the PERSON in spite of his views? Is truth more important to us than people? If we are close-minded to the opinions of others we are begging for conflict. On the contrary, if we can heartily debate views without offense or feeling personal injury then we stand a very good chance of maintaining healthy, loving relationships.

Notice that I have not suggested that we abandon the truth we know. Hold to the truth you know while considering another point of view. Walk away in love even when the other person holds belligerently to his view – he might be proved right some day.

Question 4: What makes you so sure you are right? Test everything before you flame out on a half-baked idea. It is the height of embarrassment (to yourself and your Lord) to stubbornly hold to an idea that requires altering when in full light. Remember how tight the Pharisees believed their arguments were just to have Jesus blow gaping holes in them at every turn. Their understanding, in fact, the entire underpinning of their interpretations was flawed and Jesus truly embarrassed them with the compassionate truth!

Question 5: Have you ever heard anyone say, ‘I’m a prophet, I can’t help but use my gift’ after they have said the most tactless, rude, and cutting thing to you (Especially when they have jumped to the wrong conclusions about you or the circumstances they reference)? Have you ever said anything like that? I beg you, don’t use your spiritual gift as an excuse to beat someone up.

Let’s assume you do have an uncanny knack of discerning the details that lie under the surface of any issue or situation. What’s the harm in waiting before wading in? What if, rather than make a statement about what you’ve discerned, you rather ask a question to draw out the truth from the other party? Maybe they don’t see what you see. Maybe a little patience and probing will help them without you ever having to make a proclamation. This approach is worth practicing in advance. (Feel free to ask if you need some examples of how this approach looks)

Question 6: There are times when “shooting straight” is an amazing blessing and times when it is a complete disaster. Can you tell the difference? Those who are proud of the ability to shoot straight may struggle to discern between a good shot and a bad one. What am I saying here? I’m saying that some of us are so proud of our razor sharp wit or our ability to clearly and quickly see solutions that we brazenly run over folks that are trying desperately to catch up. They aren’t challenging us or dismissing our solutions – they simply haven’t got there yet. We may be making enemies of folks that, given the time, would have been our greatest supporters. Our language is to be gracious and seasoned with salt – which means it should be palatable to those who are not accustomed to the taste of how we communicate.

Question 7: Don’t ask yourself this one. Ask your children. Ask your husband or wife. Ask your best friends and their friends. In fact, if you suspect you may fit the description under any of these questions – ask those who spend the most time with you and assure them you will not react to their answers (and then make sure you don’t!). Listen to their answers and the WAY they answer. Were they timid or halting? Did they tell you what you wanted to hear or did they reveal some things you didn’t want to know about yourself?

If we are serious about maintaining love and unity with our brothers and sisters we have to examine ourselves in this way. Are we drawing folks to us and to our Lord or are we driving them away? Are we being heroic or self-serving? I admit that it’s hard to get all the way through a post like this without some strong reactions. But I encourage you, be a Hero! Ask the hard questions. Do the hard things. Sacrifice. Then give God praise that He has empowered you to overrule your un-heroic self for the good of others.   

 

Next Post, My Story.

Wednesday
Nov132013

The Path to Reconciliation: The Tyranny of Sawdust

If I were to ask you to tell me the first step to reconciliation, what would you answer? Think carefully – if you were right now estranged from a formerly close friend, family member, or Christian brother due to some conflict what would you do first? Take a minute to write down your answer before reading on.

As is the case with many issues the Bible addresses, the first step to reconciliation is often the last thing we think of or want to do. It may be obvious to those who are looking on from the outside. It might be so simple that a child can see it.  Problem is, when we are in the midst of the conflict we often miss the source of the pain. The real source often lives in our blind spot. We usually have very keen vision for everything and every player on the conflict horizon. We can see every move, every expression, and every offense in that field of vision. But there is often an insidious outlier that lurks in the shadows of our vision.

Jesus shined the light on this lurking menace in our conflicts in Matthew 7. He was speaking to people like you and me at the time, a crowd gathered to hear the most unusual man they had ever encountered. In the midst of His sermon, after encouraging them to leave off anxiety because the Father knows what they need, He turns to interpersonal relating. Perhaps more accurately, He instructs us on how to view our brother’s faults in light of our own.

“1 Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck in your brothers’ eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, Let me take the speck out of your eye, and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brothers’ eye.”  

A note of caution: This may be one of the most misused passages in Scripture. How many times have we been told not to judge or that judging is evil based on this passage? The Bible also instructs us to “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24) in cases where discretion and justice are called for. Making judgments righteously is necessary. What would be the purpose of law, courts, judges, and jails if men were not called upon to make right judgments about the (unlawful) behaviors of other men?

So this passage is not instructing us to make no judgments. I added and bracketed the word unlawful because we are called to judge when men sin against other men and against God. But I don’t think sin is what Jesus is referring to here. I think He is referring to perceived faults, personal offenses, or perhaps the overall merciless attitude we often display toward others. He is referring to how we view others in light of ourselves.

He used a simple, common analogy from His day and ours. When wood is cut it chips, splinters, and creates dust. In a world without safety glasses these motes or specks of wood often landed in the eyes of those involved in the work. It’s a speck, a tiny particle of sawdust swimming in the tears of someone else’s eye. It will probably get washed out naturally if simply left alone.

We often don’t have patience for that. We want that speck out now! So we let the person know about his speck. He says, “Oh it’s ok, I can’t even feel it.” It’s not an issue for him. But we persist, “If you don’t get that out it may hurt your eye.” We reason with him, attempt to persuade, and finally perhaps lose our temper with him because we can’t take our focus off that speck. It still doesn’t bother him, it’s not a problem for him – it has though become a problem for us! We are now offended that he isn’t paying attention to our irritation. He’s not heeding our warning. It’s now personal because he is ignoring us! We become a tyrant about his speck – it’s the tyranny of sawdust.

An item of personal preference, a tiny flaw or incongruity, a mannerism or way of thinking in another has now become our consuming focus. It angers us. It sits just under the surface of our existence in that person’s presence. If we just keep harping on it maybe they will see it.

Meanwhile, nearly everyone looking at us is aghast. They are alarmed at the urgency of our situation! “Can’t he see it or feel it?” they say in horrified astonishment. The “it” they are referring to is of course the timber that has impaled our vision. There we are, riveted on the other man’s speck, when a topmast has been blown into our self-vision by the gales of pride. What a hideous sight! They gaze on us thinking, “Look at him, a perfectly stupid man, blind to his plight, banging around the corridors of life with his prideful protrusion shattering this and breaking that as he stumbles through.” What a pity.

That grotesque sight leads us back to our original question, “What is the first step to reconciliation?” Is the answer more obvious now? How close did you come with your first answer? The plain answer is, the first step to reconciliation is to recognize and remove the log or beam that is obliterating our own vision. We can’t see or rightly help anyone with a speck when we are such an atrocity.

Isn’t that such a simple, sensible solution? Can’t you see a well meaning but condescending older lady patting you on the head right now? “Listen sonny, if you’ll just recognize that you have faults and deal with them then everything will be grand,” she smiles. Poppycock! That’s just the problem – OUR VISION IS DARKENED, WE DON’T USUALLY SEE OUR MONSTROUS MALADY! We are so laser focused on the people “causing” our problems that we can’t see what’s in the mirror. The question is then, “How do we turn our vision back on ourselves?”

Let’s be blunt – when conflict comes we are intent upon defeating the enemy. We may see the speck as the enemy, we may see circumstances as the enemy, we may see ignorance as the enemy, or, God forbid, we may see the other person as the enemy. Since our vision is impaired we may be mistaken about the nature of the enemy. In the example Jesus gave it is safe to say that we are our own enemy. Our blindness to our own weakness is actually causing the conflict.

So how does a blind man see? How do we ensure that we have clear vision when we think we see a speck in a brother’s eye? I think the answer lies in preparation. The apostles remind us often to examine ourselves. We can prepare for conflict by turning the focus on ourselves. Be careful though, transparency before the Lord is not easy. We are prone to excuse ourselves. We are experts at self-absolution. We can deflect and pardon indictments far too easily. We need impartial, Spirit-led scrutiny. That’s why I’ve developed 7 “Pre-Conflict” Self Examination Questions. Questions designed to dig under the surface of our defenses and expose the raw nerves only God can touch.

Once we habitually place ourselves under the Spirit’s microscope, we will begin to develop a semblance of the Lord’s keen eye for other’s challenges. We might then find graceful and gentle ways to help them. On the contrary; If we are not in the habit of self-examination we are not qualified to examine another.

 In the next post we will pose the questions that will prepare us for the next interpersonal “tyranny of sawdust” conflict that arises.  It’s the pre-battle planning we can put in place, practice, and have at hand when issues arise.  

 

Next post – the 7 Pre-Conflict Questions we should all be asking.

After that…My Story.

Sunday
May262013

Freedom’s just another word…

 

I had the opportunity recently to indulge one of my passions, driving a clear mountain road through pristine pines and glistening snow capped peaks in a spunky little turbo-charged hatchback. There’s something about the mix of modern technology and the majesty of creation that electrifies me. But that’s all an aside. My attention was drawn away from the outside surroundings to the interior dialogue flowing from my CD player (yeah, I still have CD’s). I was listening to a fascinating interview with a contemporary Christian author.

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” the interviewer quoted from the 60’s Janis Joplin tune. WOW, did that strike me. My first response – am I free? Do I have something to lose?

It might help to give the context. The interview revolved around the theme of transparency in our Christian walk. They were wrestling with the question, “What’s it like to have no secrets, nothing to hide, nothing to protect?” My thoughts went deeper – am I hiding anything, keeping secrets, protecting a favorite indulgence? I turned this over in my heart several times asking the Lord to bring any darkness into the light. Thankfully, I couldn’t discern anything I was consciously trying to hide from God or anyone else.

That hasn’t always been true though. I have bitter memories of lurking in the shadows with hidden demons. I, like the author being interviewed, know the guilt, shame, fear, despair, thrill, arrogance, and bi-polarity of that existence. Like the author, I’ve had my demons exposed, one by one in excruciating detail at the worst possible moments with the maximum of embarrassment…and grace.  Having the bright light of justice and grace uncover my personal failures was painful, not just to me but all those near me. I thought I was navigating life pretty well until God broke in to display my hypocrisies and my bondage. That was prison – what about freedom?

“Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” rings true to me. I had a lot to lose when in bondage - I’m free now. All my demons are out in the light. They don’t like that. Like water on the Wicked Witch, keeping them in the light shrivels them. So let’s talk about freedom.

Freedom means you’ve already lost everything – your reputation, your position, your family, your spouse, your income, your doctrine, your standards, your pride, your secrets, your indulgences, everything. You are free from calling or claiming anything as yours – it’s all subsumed in Christ. Everything not Christ-like is in the light to be shriveled. If I own nothing, I don’t have to protect anything. I don’t have to hide anything. If we haven’t lost everything we have something that can bind us.

Freedom is elusive. All those things we don’t want to lose keep shouting at us to stay in the dark alleys where our badness can’t be exposed. Our fears of what naked honesty would cost keep us cowering in the gloom. Our Christian community might cast us out. Our spouse might call it quits. Kids might be irretrievable. Job could be lost. Ministry shattered. People devastated. The shame and grief may be overwhelming. All these things are possible. We live in a cursed world. But, what if?

Ask yourself: What if I were to be transparent about my demons AND be accepted by my Christian community? What if I could confess to my wife and be forgiven (even if it means losing her trust and having to rebuild it over time)? What if God would save my children in spite of me? What if I lost my job but gained a crystal clear conscience? What if my church is devastated WITH ME and agrees to walk WITH ME to healing and recovery? What if I lose my reputation and position and GAIN Christ? What if God is still on the Throne of Heaven and knows the brilliance of what I could be if I would only come out of the darkness? What if He would bear His mighty arm, reach down into my pit, and yank me out with only the tatters of my destroyed life to cling to? Could He really make my life worth living if I respond?

That’s for you to discover. The Church is full of people like us. Lurkers in the shadows, players at religion, knowing truth without a clue how to live it, wanting a safe place to fall apart, fearing the consequences of a see-through existence. Tragic thing is that you are probably surrounded by fellow believers that share your reality but are equally fearful of honesty. Sad – but don’t let it stop you.

Take everything you’ve got and lose it. Endure the pain. Freedom is on the other side.

Here’s to all the losers! We count everything dung in order to gain Christ!

Tuesday
May212013

Jesus Hates Your Doctrine. 

(Title and emphasis borrowed from my good friend Matt Jacobsen)

“Loving the truth” is often the thin veil that shadows the grey countenance of a Pharisee. Jesus hates that. He hates the dreary parsing of tiny details that substitute for a vibrant, loving relationship with Him and His children. Your doctrine is not important in comparison to love. Review our Lord’s attitude toward the religious glitterati of His day – He leaves no room for “truth”-obscured agape. Who cares if you are right if you do not love?

Being “right” in your doctrine is often the hammer that rings the bell of rivalry. Being “right, free from error, doctrinally pure, etc, ad infinitum” drives the wedge of “me vs. you” into relationships. It assumes levels, factions, classes, and sub-classes of Christians. It subjugates all else to your understanding of God’s mind. Your doctrine is not that important! Your doctrine does not sit as potentate of all that should be. How many Christians are at this moment faced off in bitter rivalry – in direct opposition to the Lord’s command? (Ephesians 4:3)

Test yourself. If you are offended by the two paragraphs above you just might be the subject of them. You may be thinking that I (the author) am one of those “love at all costs” liberals (notice how defaulting to labels brings an familiar clarity to your mind?) that wouldn’t know truth if it hit him in the face. Quite the contrary – I’ve slaved in the mines of loveless truth and found them intellectually, arrogantly, stimulating. I loved the truth. I loved my doctrine. I had very little real love.

If you do find yourself offended by the first two paragraphs you may be completely blind to the whole point here. The point is that Jesus hates your doctrine. What are you going to do about that? Will you hold onto your doctrine as a replacement and rationalization for your lack of love? Will you continue to separate from Christian brothers who don’t hold your view but have done nothing to offend their Lord or you? Will your doctrine remain the monarch on the stone throne of your heart? 

Notice very carefully that my point has been that Jesus hates your doctrine. He doesn’t hate His own. He doesn’t hate doctrine. Where His doctrine is concerned, He is delighted. One thing about Jesus’ doctrine is that it is always lived out. It is never an intellectual, prideful pursuit. It is always a pulsing, overflowing, fully transparent conduit for Love.

We can’t love what is “right” and not rightly love. Truth is walked out. It is vulnerably displayed in completely broken people. Truth is lived more than it is spoken. Arguments, debate, reasoned proofs, and the like are at best imperfect attempts to explain a perfect life of Love – the perfect life of Jesus. When truth leaves us broken and pleading for some resolution to our miserable condition we have gotten close to the heart of it. When truth leaves us abased and hopeless at the foot of the cross, groveling for an ounce of grace, we are very near the center. Absent this, we are probably back to paragraphs one and two. 

I’m resolved to pursue the truth lived out. Ready to remove the veil and join me?