Fearful People are Easier to Control

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I’ve been pretty quiet for the last few weeks as I watched the COVID-19 pandemic grow. I didn’t want to jump in with just another pat Christianese answer about having faith and not giving into fear. But as the public hysteria grows, I’m done being quiet because there are some things that need said.

Yesterday I was working at Meijer as a Shipt shopper. Shipting has been my job for the past three years. If you aren’t familiar with Shipt, I’m basically a personal shopper. I use an app to accept orders which I then shop and deliver. Over and over again every hour while my kids are in school. Sorry to disillusion you if you thought I had a glamorous life that included spending my days at chic coffee shops typing out beautiful words. Nope, I’m just a professional grocery shopper.

Because I spent the day at Meijer I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the madness that is the toilet paper apocalypse. Three times over the course of the day, trucks arrived with more toilet paper. Every time before the employees could even get it to the shelf, people descended, grabbed, pushed, and shoved multiple packages into their carts. As customers left with carts full of toilet paper the shelves were once again bare.

The ridiculous thing is that there isn’t really a shortage of toilet paper. We are creating the shortage by overbuying. As the shelves deplete, more people feel panic and begin acting out in fear. Thus the toilet paper apocalypse continues.

Fear makes us do crazy things.

I know this because I spent a decade in a cultic sub-group of Christianity heavily influenced by fear. In fact, if you look into any cult you will find fear based teachings. Why? Because fearful people are easier to control. 

Our state has decided to close schools for the next three weeks in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19. Trust me, that decision did not help the panicked hysteria. People have swarmed the local grocery stores and stripped the shelves bare. Parking lots are full, every checkout is open, and the lines are long. Why?

It’s not like those stores won’t be open tomorrow and the next day and the next. It’s not like more semi-trucks won’t be showing up to deliver food. But the news of empty shelves causes even more people to panic and try to buy whatever they can. It’s a vicious cycle. Fear makes us act irrationally. 

But I get it. Looking into my fridge this morning, I noticed that I only had half a gallon of milk. I wondered if there was any milk left in the store. Irrational or not, I felt the urge to run out and buy some just in case. I wouldn’t really be out of milk until Sunday at the earliest, but still.

Although I tried to talk myself out of it, eventually I couldn’t help it. Ridiculous or not, I went to a smaller grocery store (that still had food) and got some milk, bread, and a bag of apples. Trust me, I understand the feelings of fear and sense of panic.

But here’s the thing, the lines in the grocery stores, the shortage on toilet paper, and the empty canned good shelves have nothing to do with the actual virus. They are cause by anxiety, fear, and worst case scenarios in peoples’ minds. Personally I’m more concerned about the effects of the public mass hysteria than I am about COVID-19.

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I was picking up my room this morning when I looked out the window and saw a sunbeam glinting on these grassy plumes in my flowerbed. It was a beautiful March morning, especially for Michigan. The sun was still shining, the birds were still singing, and the grass was still waving gently in the breeze. Life was happening around me despite viruses, or hysteria, or a lack of toilet paper. God had not lost control and life was moving on.

We aren’t used to hard things in this culture. But we fear them. And that fear makes us do crazy things.

I want to close with some reminders.

COVID-19 is basically a viral pneumonia. The media likes to call it “the deadly coronavirus” but that just means it’s killed people. So have a lot of other things. Adding the adjective deadly makes it seem scarier. Remember, people who are terrified are easier to control. I find it interesting that in the entire world no child under the age of 10 has died from COVID-19. People who are most at risk are the elderly and those with preexisting health concerns. Most of the population is at a low risk for infection and an even lower risk of serious illness. Most of us do not need to be afraid. 

Should we be educated, aware, and prepared? Yes. Should we follow guidelines from the CDC and our local government agencies? Yes. But should we do irrational things and fall into the public hysteria that is the toilet paper apocalypse? No, please no.

Instead, enjoy some extra time at home. Do your spring cleaning. Make cookies. Read a book. Play a game with your family. Experience the simple things that we don’t usually have time for in our hectic lives. Breathe. Rest. It is going to be okay.

God has not lost control and life will go on.

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Healing from Spiritual Abuse

Healing from Spiritual Abuse

The last few episodes of my podcast have been dealing with spiritual abuse and false teachers. It’s not the most traditional Christmas topic I know. However, if you cut through the decorations, manger scenes, and fuzzy feelings, I think this is exactly what Christmas is about.

Knowing our broken human tendency towards religion, power, and control, the Almighty God became a human being. He came in humility and gentleness, without demanding anything from us or exerting any power or control over us. Jesus lived among humankind for three decades, as the exact image of God, showing us the heart of the Father before making the ultimate sacrifice. Rather than demanding religious behaviors from us, God appeased Himself.

And that is the real point of Christmas. 🙂

Brokenness is all around us, even within communities of Christians. I know that many of you have experienced church hurt or spiritual abuse within your church setting. Or maybe the abuse came from Christians who weren’t a part of your church. Maybe it was an organization, or Bible study, or youth group. Whatever the situation, you came away broken, wounded, and confused.

Now what? How do we heal from this kind of pain? Will things ever be normal again?

This post and the podcast that accompanies it (dropping at 5pm tonight) won’t have all the answers. There is no quick fix. Honestly, you won’t ever go back to the person you used to be. There will always be residual junk to deal with: scars and triggers that are now a part of you.

I recently came across this nine minute video from Lina AbuJamra who worked at Harvest Church in Chicago and experienced immense brokenness while there. I’ve never heard anyone express my feelings so perfectly. She nails it.

We know what it is to be broken. Let’s keep talking about healing.

The goal of healing isn’t to bring you back to where you used to be. It’s to make you healthy. And you may discover someday, as I have, that you are healthier because of the wounding. Despite the pain that I’ve gone through, honestly because of it, I am softer. I care more about people’s hearts and less about their outward behavior. I am much quicker to give grace because I have a better understanding of how much grace God has given me.

Am I fixed? No (laughs). There is still a wound. There are still things that trigger me. I am still skeptical about church leadership and people in power. But I am healing.

And I want to share some things that have helped me heal with you.

Things to know:

  • Give yourself time. People take a varying amount of time to heal from spiritual abuse depending on who they are and how they process etc. Don’t rush it. Don’t feel guilty because you are still sad and angry. You have been hurt and it’s okay to not be okay right now.
  • Feel ALL the feelings. So often in Christianese Land only positive feelings are acceptable. That’s a lie. Don’t minimize what happened or the negative feelings you feel.
  • Avoid spiritual bypassing. I didn’t know this was a thing until recently, but it’s so good. Spiritual bypassing is when we use spirituality to avoid dealing what’s actually going on in our hearts. We can pray about something or think I just need to forgive. We can quote verses or use Christianese phrases, but we are really just trying to ignore heart issues. Deal with your heart issues!
  • Give yourself grace. Grace may be a foreign term to you depending on the type of spiritual abuse you’ve been through. Shame and guilt are not from God. Relax, let down your guard, and allow yourself to lament. Grace is a beautiful thing.

Things to do:

  • Find a good therapist. Not all therapists are created equal, so look for someone who comes with excellent recommendations. Validation is a huge part of recovery. Having someone else tell you that you aren’t crazy, and the stuff you’ve experienced is wrong, and that you’ve been hurt goes a LONG way in healing.
  • Find safe people and if possible a safe community. I know that not all churches are safe. But finding a Christian community of people who understood, gave grace, and allowed me to be broken, also allowed me to heal.
  • Get a new Bible translation. This one was huge for me! I could hardly read my old Bible because people from my cultic organization were talking in my head. Getting a different translation opened the Bible up to me again. I was able to read it for myself and seeing the context around misused passages allowed me to find truth for myself. On a similar note, learn about good hermeneutics. Discovering that there was a proper way to read the Bible based on understanding principles of literature was incredibly liberating.
  • Don’t pressure yourself to perform spiritually. If you need a break from reading the Bible or formal praying or whatever other spiritual behavior you were burned by, that’s okay.
  • Start a lie journal. As you recognize lies that you were taught or that you just believe about yourself or God or spirituality, write them down. Leave a line for the truth when you discover that as well. This allows you to remember the lies and choose to believe truth even when you don’t feel it.
  • Read about Jesus. For some reason false teachers seem to fixate most on the God in the Old Testament. I think He is easier to twist than Jesus is. So I would encourage you, when you are ready, to being reading the gospels. Jesus shows us who God is, and if our view of god doesn’t match up with Jesus then that god in our head probably isn’t real.

I don’t have all the answers, just my own story. And for better or worse, spiritual abuse is a part of that story. I’ve come to grips with the fact that the things I’ve experienced will affect me for the rest of my life. But even as they’ve broken me, God has used that brokenness to draw me closer to His heart.

Although there was a time when I would have thought I was crazy, I can honestly say now that I am better for having been broken.

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Books that may (or may not) be helpful:

  • Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero
  • Spiritual Sobriety by Elizabeth Esther
  • The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen

Looking for the Real God Podcast Links:

Finding a New Name for My Christianity

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About eighteen months ago I wrote a passionate blog post called I Don’t Want to be an Evangelical Anymore. My post was inspired by a quote I came across from Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican National Committee. Angry with Evangelical leaders who were once again defending President Trump, Mr. Steele said,

“I have a very simple admonition at this point. Just shut the hell up and don’t ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don’t want to hear it.”

Yikes! As I processed this quote, I came to an important conclusion. I don’t think I want to call myself an Evangelical anymore. It didn’t take long to discover that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. Greg Stier, the founder of Dare2Share Ministries posted this quote on his Facebook account.

“What could be a new word for “Evangelical” that still means theologically orthodox and actively evangelistic but doesn’t come with the political and cultural baggage? #justwondering”

I couldn’t agree more. In my blog post I expressed my intense frustration and posed a few suggestions for change, but I didn’t really have any ideas for a new name or identity.

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Since writing that blog, I’ve continued to struggle with the baggage, both religious and political, that is associated with the word evangelical.  I’ve longed for a title that would describe my classical theology without causing people to automatically make assumptions about who I am as a person.

During some recent research for my new podcast coming out in late summer, I discovered even more people who felt similar to me, and they had a name for their set of beliefs. Guys, I now have a new phrase to describe myself and I love it. I actually used this phrase in a conversation with an unbeliever the other day as we talked about religion, and science, and God. And it felt fantastic! There wasn’t the push-back or shut-down that I have experienced before when I shared my faith. I was able to define myself and what I believe in a way that my new friend was interested in, in a way that encouraged them to ask more questions.

Are you going crazy with curiosity yet? Okay, I’ll tell you.

I am a Historical Christian.

What does that mean? It’s really pretty simple. I hold tightly to the core creeds of Christianity that have been passed down for the last two thousand years. My more peripheral opinions or preferences stay in the periphery. Let me share an example:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

*that is, the true Christian church of all times and all places

This is the well-known Apostles Creed. Although most likely the apostles themselves didn’t write it, it is a brief overview of their most important teachings and can be traced back to the forth century.

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Creeds are something that many evangelicals have lost sight of over the years. However, they have been important to the historic church since the first century. Biblical scholars believe that the earliest creed is actually quoted by the apostle Paul in First Corinthians chapter fifteen. The way it is recorded suggests a quotation rather than an original thought. Here are verses three through seven.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”

Historical Christianity, also known as Orthodox or Traditional Christianity, has been a beautiful discovery for me. It has put words to the thoughts and feelings of my heart while at the same time giving me a community and a sense of belonging.

For a while now I have felt a little lost. I saw through a lot of the religious facades in many evangelical settings, but I couldn’t give up my orthodox beliefs. I didn’t belong in the Progressive Christian circles, but neither did I belong in more Conservative Evangelical ones. I was just floating around in the middle somewhere. I know that many of you have felt that way too. Well guess what? We are not alone, and we have a home.

As Historical Christians we can fully embrace Biblical authority, a crazy big and powerful God who created the world, the literal Fall of humanity into sin, and the Savior, Jesus, who came as a person both to show us God and restore our relationship with Him. At the same time, those Christian beliefs tell people nothing about our political leanings. They give no insight into our stance on issues of social justice. And that is so refreshing! 

Too often Christianity has been divisive rather than unifying. We focus on the differences in our peripheral beliefs rather than the common core beliefs that unite us.

I love that I have Historical Christian brothers and sister who cross denominational lines. Not just within other evangelical denominations, but within the mainstream denominations such as Anglican, Lutheran, and Episcopalian. I’m excited about my family in Christ who has different worship preferences or traditions. I look forward to learning from them. We can be different and still believe in the same beautiful core truths of Christianity. There is a unity that is powerful. It provides connection back through history as well as with the world wide church today. 🙂

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I’m really curious about your thoughts! Please feel free to share. I’ve gotten a lot of my information from Alisa Childers, both on her website and podcast. If you want more, I’d encourage you to check her out.

One final thought: The interesting thing about Historical Christianity is that while it unites me with my family in Christ across denominational lines, it also stands firmly against the Progressive Christian ideas that are creeping into the church as a whole. But that’s an entirely different topic that I will tackle next time!

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The Christianese Religion and the Real Jesus

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I’m working on getting back to regular blogging on this site. Lately I’ve been doing more “mini-blogs” over on my writer Facebook page. I’d love it have you join me there as well. I typically post some simple thoughts about once a day. This blog post is an expansion of one of those mini posts.

The scariest thing about the Christianese Religion is that you don’t even notice you are following it until it stops working for you. The formulas, phrases, and culture seem good and real while you are in the bubble. The things you do and believe appear to be genuine. You are part of a community that is like-minded.

What do I mean by the Christianese Religion? In his book Recapturing the Wonder: Transcendent Faith in a Disenchanted World, Mike Cosper says this, “Religion is the business of appeasing gods.” For the past year, I have not been able to get that sentence out of my mind. It finally connected the dots between the ten years I spent in a cultic sub-culture of Christianity and the disillusionment people experience within “normal” church.

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When we are religious (which we naturally are), we are focused on behaviors. We are trying to do things in order to please God. But often the god in our head is more of a concept that a Being. We make him in our own image and shove him into a box. And in our obsession with performing correctly we completely miss the Real Jesus.

Christianese works great until it doesn’t. If that has happened to you, then you know. Maybe you got on the wrong side of the spiritual authority or you asked the wrong questions and felt the sharp sting of rejection. Maybe life fell apart and suddenly you realized that the pat answers no longer satisfied the deep brokenness of your heart. Empty religion may appear to work for a while, but it will always leave you searching for more. Because your soul wants Jesus.

There was a reason Jesus spent all of His time with the social outcasts and religious rejects. They knew they needed Him. They were broken and ready to hear His words of life.

The Pharisees had their religious system down and they missed God walking in front of them. I’m afraid the same thing is happening in churches all across the country. We are substituting religious experiences for the Real Jesus. But well-meaning people don’t even notice…because right now the system and the culture are working for them.

Maybe brokenness and disillusionment is actually a blessing because it opens our eyes to the emptiness of religion. Maybe not fitting in or feeling rejected is actually a good thing because it causes us to seek for more. I pray that our seeking bring us to the feet of the Real Jesus!!

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(This story is paraphrased from John chapter eight.)

She stood there silently, her head bowed in shame. They wanted to stone her. And according to the law, those religious leaders had every right. She’d been caught in the very act of adultery. But they were using her as a test, and now they waited to see what the young rabbi would say.

He didn’t say anything, just knelt down next to her, and began to write with his finger in the dirt. She saw his hand out of the corner of her eye, felt his presence next to her. He ignored the clamoring crowd and was silent as he drew. Finally, he stood. “Any of you who are without sin can be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again, he knelt next to her and quietly wrote in the dirt with his finger. That was it. There was an awkward silence.

After a moment, she noticed that the crowd seemed smaller. Peering through her hair, she realized that the religious men were slowly leaving. Eventually, it was just her and Jesus alone on that dusty patch of earth. He looked at her. She lifted her head. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” His voice was kind. She looked around; they were all gone.

“No one, sir.”

“I don’t condemn you either.” He smiled. “Go, and from now on sin no more.”

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The God We Long For…and the Real Jesus

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A couple of days ago I threw a few scattered thoughts out on Facebook.

“What if God cares more about your heart than your outward actions?

What if He wants to heal your deepest wounds and messes more than He wants your behaviors to change?

What if He wants you to understand yourself…your deep needs and longings and the things that trigger you?

What if He cares about ALL of you, the visible and invisible parts?

What if, instead of expecting you to get your act cleaned up, Jesus wants to sit with you in your mess? Sift through it? Sort it out?

What if He is totally okay with that? What if that brings Him joy?

Would that give you HOPE?

It makes my heart sing!!!

Those words resonated with you. I love when the Holy Spirit is doing the same thing at the same time in more than one of us. 🙂

This is the kind of God our souls long for…and the kind that we are afraid doesn’t exist.

But. He. Does.

There are a lot of Jesus impostors out there, even among Christianity, even in the church. This shouldn’t surprise us. Think about it, the most religious people in Jesus’ day completely missed God walking in the flesh right in front of them. Not only did they miss Him, they hated Him, and eventually had Him killed. Ironic. Religion killed God.

But that death set us free from Religion’s power, and the Real God won!

I’d like to re-introduce you to a man named Zacchaeus.

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His profession was traitorous. His character sketchy. He definitely wasn’t a model Jewish citizen. Instead, Zacchaeus had become wealthy by working as a tax collector for the Romans and cheating his fellow Jews out of their money. His behaviors definitely didn’t line up with the Law.

Then one day Jesus was passing through the area and Zacchaeus was curious.

“…he was seeking to see who Jesus was…” Luke 19:3.

There is so much that we could unpack from these words, but the most important thing is that Zacchaeus was seeking… I love that! Fellow seekers, this gives us HOPE. 🙂

Unfortunately Zacchaeus had a height problem. Unable to even catch a glimpse of Jesus, he climbed a tree. Perched at the edge of the road, isolated from the crowd, Zacchaeus was ready for Jesus to pass by.

Jesus was also seeking. He was seeking for a messed up, too short, social traitor and religious outcast. Jesus deliberately stopped by the tree, looked up at Zacchaeus, (smiled I’m sure) and said:

“Zacchaeus, hurry up and come down, for I must stay at your house today” Luke 19:5.

What?? The crowd’s grumbling reaction tells you how crazy this was! Jesus just boldly announced that He is going to intentionally hang out with an obvious sinner.

Jesus doesn’t give Zacchaeus a list of rules to follow. He doesn’t condemn him, or reject him, or tell him to clean up his act. Jesus seeks, notices, affirms, accepts, loves, and demonstrates His desire to build a relationship with Zacchaeus. And something interesting happens.

Face to face with the real God, Zacchaeus falls apart. 

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount” Luke 19:8.

Jesus is delighted! Not because of the changed behaviors, not because of the list of right things Zacchaeus is going to do, but because salvation has been accomplished. Zacchaeus’ heart has been won.

“Today salvation has come to this house…For the Son of Man came to seek and save the lost” Luke 19:10.

The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost. That is amazing news!!

Because that’s me! I’m lost. I need seeking and saving. That’s you too. We are desperately lost, desperately broken, but it’s okay because we are also desperately loved. We are insanely and scandalously adored! Jesus came specifically to seek and save us. He wants all of us, every bit of our broken pieces. He wants to forgive our sin and gently put us back together.

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Coming face to face with the real Jesus will change us. But contrary to Religion’s beliefs, change isn’t the goal. The goal is knowing Jesus. Experiencing Him, believing Him, and allowing Him to make us into the very best version of ourselves.

Religion, even Christian religion, is always about behavior, always about control. And religion never gets God right…because it doesn’t understand who He really is.

The real Jesus doesn’t control. He doesn’t motivate us with guilt and shame. He draws us with loving-kindness. He patiently woos us. He seeks and saves the lost. 🙂

 

Doesn’t that make your heart fill with hope? Explode with love? Jesus is amazing, and mind blowing, and crazy, and I don’t even know what to say! But I’m gonna let Him love me. Will you?

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The Elusive Knowledge of Good and Evil

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“You won’t really die,” the serpent hissed. “God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God. You will know about good and evil.”

What the serpent said made sense…maybe Eve was just confused. Maybe she had misunderstood God’s original instructions. The fruit was lovely to look at, and it would make them more like God. Why would God keep this knowledge from them? Surely, eating the fruit was the right thing to do…

The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil offered an elusive promise.

Forgetting she was already made in God’s image, and thinking she was becoming more like God, Eve listened to the serpent’s words. Deceived, Eve believed she was making the good choice. Ironically, choosing to disobey God and eat from the tree immediately perverted the knowledge Adam and Eve gained.

As humans, we now have the capacity to know good and evil, but can we really differentiate between the two? I’m honestly not sure we can.

Think about these examples.

Growing up in an ultra-conservative version of Christianity, many normal behaviors were considered evil. Listening to rock music, dating, going to college, women wearing pants, men growing beards, being friends with the opposite gender, women working outside the home… All of these things were bad, not to mention going to movie theaters, drinking alcohol, getting tattoos, multiple piercings, etc. It was a long list.

If you don’t come from a conservative background, this list of “evil things” seems ridiculous. But, look at extreme versions of any religion and you will find the same scenario. In a frenzied desire for holiness, normal, good things become evil.

The opposite is also true. People call plenty of hurtful, damaging, truly evil things good. I don’t need to make a list of the behaviors and attitudes we see in our world, because just reading that sentence brought them to your mind…

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We know that there is such a thing as good and evil, but our ability to distinguish the two has been perverted.

It gets worse.

In our brokenness, we not only want to classify behaviors as good and evil, we also want to classify people. This is where we really screw things up!

Differences can be scary and uncomfortable. We don’t like that feeling. If you are different than me (in your beliefs, your actions, your looks, etc) you must be wrong…you must be bad. It is true that sin has broken people and some of them are unfortunately controlled by evil. But, different isn’t the same as evil. Different isn’t wrong; it’s just different. And that’s okay!

Then there’s motives.

Motives can make good behavior evil. Prayer, Bible reading, church attendance, Scripture memorization, giving, serving…all of these things are good, right? Not when they are done to gain something, or to prove something, or to pridefully show off spirituality. When our motives are evil, then our good actions are no longer good.

But, people can also do bad actions with good motives. If the bad things they do are motivated by a desire for justice, or because of intense hurt, are they really bad? Does it make them bad people?

Are you confused yet?

This is kind of a depressing blog post, Christy. The world, and the people in it, are really messed up!

They are. It is. It’s a mess. A dark, confusing, depressing mess. But into that darkness came a Light.

“The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:9-11.

Jesus lived as the only perfect person to walk our little planet. He defied human laws, norms, and expectations. He loved people no one else would look at. Everything he did was right and good, even though sometimes it looked wrong. He was God in a human body, but the religious leaders said he was possessed by the devil. They missed the Messiah because he didn’t fit their ideas of good and evil.

These religious leaders murdered an innocent man, convincing the Roman’s to crucify him even though they couldn’t find fault. And yet, that horrific act of evil was the best thing that ever happened. Because, as Jesus drew his last breath, as his blood dripped down, He provided forgiveness for the world. He became our Savior.

It’s broken, you guys. We are broken. The sooner we realize that, the better off we are. We desperately need Jesus. He is the only hope. The good news is, we can have Him! He offers Himself as a free gift for the taking. 🙂

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:11.

It gets better!

Jesus didn’t leave us alone. The Holy Spirit, Jesus’ very Presence, comes to dwell within everyone who believes! Not only does the Spirit convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgement (John 16:8), He also gives us the power to live (Romans 8:10).

But, how should we live? How do we know what is right and wrong? Does it really matter? When asked about the greatest commandment in the law, ultimate list of right and wrong, what did Jesus say?

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” Matthew 22:36-40.

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“For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” Romans 8:2.

Since we are terrible at truly discerning good from evil, and our fixation on correct behaviors only brings death, maybe we should focus instead on love. How can I love God with everything I am? And, how can I truly love my neighbor? If we are genuinely seeking to love God and others by the power of the Holy Spirit, I don’t think we can go wrong. 🙂

How do you think focusing on love instead of behavior would change you?

 

 

 

Rediscovering Jesus – Rediscovering the Bible (Part 3)

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I was five years out of my cult, graduated from secular college, and married to my completely opposite husband, before I started to understand how the Bible was put together. We were at a tiny Bible school in the state of Wyoming and my husband was taking a class on Biblical interpretation. One day as we talked about class, a light bulb turned on and I was filled with questions:

  • The books of the Bible are different genres with different purposes?
  • They were written to unique people?
  • The prophetic books are mostly meant for the nation of Israel and I can’t just apply them to whatever I want?
  • Verses have specific interpretations and they can’t mean totally different things to different people?
  • Understanding the culture back then is important?

The Bible had always seemed so mystical and mysterious, but it began to feel more concrete and understandable. It was amazing!

A few years later, our church small group went through Max Lucado’s “The Story.”  We took a chronological journey through the Bible in 30 weeks. I know it sounds long, but it was SO good! For the first time, I saw the Bible for what it actually is…the story of God and the people He created.

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We slowly worked our way through the Old Testament with history and prophecies all intertwined according to when they were written.

Do you know what I saw? I saw Jesus. There were hints of the coming Savior from the very beginning.

By the time we got to the New Testament, I was full of eager anticipation. And then, there He was…coming so unexpectedly, so humbly. Showing us the heart of the Father. It was incredibly beautiful and moving. I LOVED seeing the big picture of God’s plan for the world.

Unfortunately, this big picture is what we are most often missing! You don’t know how many Christians I run into who tell me that they really don’t know anything about the Bible.

If I’m honest, I don’t know what is more concerning…

  • Christians who don’t know anything about the Bible,
  • Christians who believe crazy things about the Bible, or
  • Christians who are so burned by what people told them the Bible says, that they can’t even pick it up anymore.

People, this is a problem! The truth about who God is, who we are, and what Jesus has done is found in the Bible. But too many of us don’t know how to read it, use it, or what to believe about it.

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Can I just set some things straight…some of the lies Christians often believe?

There is no “one inspired version” of the Bible. There are some beautiful translations and some wonderful paraphrases. Which one you choose to read should depend on where you are spiritually, how intellectual you want to be, and honestly, which you prefer. God is big enough to speak through any of them!

When you read the Bible in a modern translation, it is not hard to understand. It was written by everyday people for regular people. The more you read the Bible, the more familiar you will become with certain concepts or ideas. Also, the Bible is actually really good at interpreting itself if you keep going and don’t give up. Some passages may be more challenging than others, but we modern people have this amazing resource called The Internet. There are some wonderful sites such as blueletterbible.org that provide free Bible study resources.

The Bible is not supposed to be a magic 8 ball that gives us specific answers to specific problems. Sometimes God will speak to you through a verse or chapter and it will be amazing! But, we cannot open it at random and point to the page and expect that to be “God’s voice.” The Bible has many purposes, but being our personal Ouija board is not one of them.

We can’t cut up the Bible and take out parts we don’t like or don’t agree with. But that also doesn’t mean that we accept someone else’s opinion about those parts. We need to do a little personal digging…look into context, original audience and author intent. Remember, logic and intellect aren’t always the winners when it comes to God. And, just because our secular culture believes something doesn’t always make it right.

However, we don’t need to obnoxiously smack people with our Biblical beliefs either. Believe it or not, you can believe the whole Bible and still love people. 😉

Look for the final part of this series tomorrow.

 

The Jesus Drive Through (Blogging at PastorsWives.com)

I’m so excited to be a regular contributor at pastorswives.com! This is my first article.

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Can I be honest? Sometimes I treat Jesus like a fast-food breakfast from McDonalds. I rush to the Jesus Drive Through and frantically shout my order.

“Hi! I need some peace, joy, and wisdom to go please.”

Then I dash away, not even noticing Jesus in my rearview mirror. If I looked back, I’d have seen Him wearing an apron and holding a spatula. I might have caught the puzzled look on His face as He mouthed the words.

“But, I made you breakfast.”

Seriously, what would you rather eat? A greasy Egg McMuffin? Or a light and crispy Belgian waffle with fresh fruit and real whipped cream? Would you shove that soggy sandwich down your throat while dodging traffic and making phone calls? Or would you rather linger over your waffle on a shady porch with a fresh cup of coffee and a special friend?

Continue reading at pastorswives.com

Making it to Round #2 of American Idol…Sort of. (A Book Update)

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On May 20th, I flew down to Asheville, NC by myself. Then I spent five days by myself at The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference (or BRMCWC for short). As a stay-at-home wife and mother-of-two, alone time is pretty scarce. Just being me for five days would have been amazing, but I also made it to The Second Round of American Idol. Sort of…

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That’s the best way to explain what happened. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I’ve been talking about writing a book…for some time…okay, maybe three or four years. It’s been a learning and growing process.

Anyway…

Last year I attended a different writers conference, called Speak Up!, here in Michigan. My dreams at Speak Up totally bombed. But because of them, I was able to take a completed book proposal, one sheets, and business cards to North Carolina…completely prepared, with little effort, for what God had planned. Funny how God works sometimes, isn’t it?

It was obvious that God planned this trip. Without me even searching for it, the BRMCWC fell into my lap (along with every penny of the $1150 I needed to pay for the conference, food and lodging, airfare, and even my baggage fees)!

The conference was incredible, even though it rained almost the entire time. I met some wonderful, precious, amazing people who love Jesus and encouraged me! My sister-in-law and I got to spend quality time together and deepen our friendship (which can be hard to do when you live 900 miles apart). I was challenged and stretched by talented authors and others in the writing industry. They gave me concrete steps to take and specific areas to work on.

AND… Three agents expressed interest and took my book proposal. Two publishing companies also requested that I send it to them. What? Woohoo!! (Unlike previous years, I actually sent it in.)

So…now I get to wait and see what happens. Nothing is certain; this is not a guarantee that my book will get published. But it sure is a step in the right direction! Very similar to making it to round #2 of American Idol. I didn’t get cut, but that doesn’t mean I’ll win.

Please continue to pray for me…

  • That I will obediently follow the path that God has so clearly set before me. I feel like I’ve spent the majority of the last 3-4 years fighting God’s leading, resisting, and making excuses. I long to cast off fear of failure and rejection and just run freely after my Savior.
  • That I will listen to the Voice of Truth and refuse to believe the lies of our enemy.
  • That I will boldly pursue the open doors in front of me…such as writing for online group blogs and magazines.

Thanks, friends! ❤

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Coffee and processing at Clouds, the amazing coffee shop at Ridgecrest Conference Center!

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I snuck out between storms to catch these beautiful rain drops and flowers.

When God Opens a Door (A Book Update)

“I’ve been brainwashed. The unexpected thought poked at my mind. We were a sleepy bunch of teen girls, dragged from our beds after midnight to be lectured by an adult chaperone. Clumped together on a couple of ratty old couches, we yawed and tried to listen. I was all too aware that my alarm was going off in less than six hours. Prayer meeting started at 6:30 am and if you cared at all about giving off a spiritual vibe, you would be there. Which meant getting up even earlier to shower, and blow dry and curl your hair, because for some reason curly hair was also a sign of spirituality.”

This is the opening paragraph of the introduction to my book, An Impostor Jesus that I am writing. That I am writing… It’s strange to say that. It’s been such a process!

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Even though humanly, logically, if you know me personally, the timing doesn’t make any sense right now…

God is flinging open the door!

  • God provided $1,100 for me to attend the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina in a couple of weeks!! Seriously! I’m still in shock.
  • This is a pretty intense conference: five days, tons of writers, agents, editors, etc. I know it’s the next step but I’m a bit terrified.
  • Not only did God provide money, I also get to go with my sweet sister-in-law! In fact, she is the one who suggested it and sent me her extra copy of The Christian Writers Market Guide 2017. Which is where I found the name Steve Laube…
  • Steve Laube is a highly recognized agent in the industry (he represented Jennie Allen), he is the author of The Christian Writers Market Guide, and he will be attending the BRMCWC. After reading his agency description in the Market Guide, I’m going to do my best to connect with him. Because you know, why not? Go big! I might be insane…
  • Mr. Laube wants three chapters in a book proposal, which meant that I had to write another chapter before the conference…which just happened to be the hardest chapter of the whole book…
  • But, it’s done! Chapter 2 is done. (Intro + 1+2 = 3, for those of you wondering at my math skills) All I can say is that it was God because even though I had scads of papers covered with scribbles, thoughts, and organization clouds, none of it made any sense. Until, it did. I seriously got the whole chapter written in three coffee shop sittings!
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Writing and latte art…does it get any better?

God’s timing is so crazy.

This last almost-year has been so hard…incredibly difficult…and yet…

  • God has used it to break and humble me. I can see this reflected in my writing, and it’s a great place to be when you are trying to tell people about the real Jesus.
  • I have more passion than ever for the call and purpose that God has put on my life.
  • I’ve spent so much time resisting the idea of writing a book, but now I am embracing it. God has made it SO CLEAR that this is what He is calling me to do. I’ll be honest, it terrifies me, but as a good friend said recently, “God’s not asking you to gather 50,000 Facebook followers, or be a famous public speaker, He’s just asking you to write this book. So, write the book!”
  • Words, and thoughts, and ideas are pouring out of my mind lately. I feel like I actually know where this is going, and I can see it happening. It’s really exciting! I know that it’s Jesus!

Want to know what you can do?

  1. Pray for me! I need so much prayer!!! Pray for the upcoming conference, for the contacts that I will make, for safety traveling, and that God will clearly show me the next step…
  2. Follow my blog. I know it sounds silly and I don’t usually talk about it, but publishing companies look at this sort of thing. They want to know how big of a “platform” you have. There is a place on the side bar where you can sign up with your email address. This will send you an email every time I write a new post, and it will make it seem like my blog is more popular. 😉
  3. Like my Facebook page. You can find a link in my sidebar. Again, another platform thing…but numbers are important to publishers.
  4. Share my blog or Facebook page on social media. Numbers again, but also getting the word out. 🙂 Thanks, friends!

I’ll close with the last paragraph of the introduction to An Impostor Jesus…it’s the absolute cry of my heart both for my book and my blog.

“Think of me as the Samaritan woman at the well, in John chapter four. I met this amazing, radical, mind-blowing man named Jesus. He changed my life, and I want you to meet Him too. It is my prayer that as you read this book and hear a few bizarre stories, you will consider the lies you might be believing, and question your view of God and Christianity. By the end, I pray you will be able to say with the people of Samaria, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:42”