Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Cut – But Not Clean Cut

Recently I was on a job painting the exterior of a house, when a neighbor lady came over and began to converse with the home owner regarding my work.  Apparently this lady wanted an estimate for some work on her home, but had yet to find the right contractor.  Upon inquiring of the home owner as to my work ethic, and viewing my actual work, this lady requested that I stop by and give her an estimate.  And then she said something I thought was kind of funny.  She said, “I haven’t found a clean cut painter yet.  You look pretty clean cut.  And your work looks good, so I’d like an estimate.”

It made me chuckle inside.  If she could have seen me just a few months prior, or even a few years ago, she may have thought differently.  Hair past my shoulders and a goatee 8 inches long probably wouldn’t have passed the “clean cut” test.  It still makes me smile as I write, but it’s a bitter-sweet smile.

Something very strange and even tragic happens when we judge people by their outward appearances.  We build a wall that prevents a divine interaction.  We prejudice ourselves against people without even knowing the full extent of the value they could add to our lives and vice versa.

Sometimes it has to do with skin color.  Other times it has to do with body size and shape (BMI).  Even worse amongst God’s people we judge others by how they do their worship experience.  Regardless of what type of prejudice we possess, it’s not good.

Now I’m glad that lady wanted me to give her an estimate, but I am not glad she wanted it because she deemed me to be “clean cut”.  The reason being: I was just as good a painter and carpenter when my hair was long or my goatee hung to the middle of my chest.

Can you understand how pre-judging someone by how they look could prevent you from gaining a benefit or a blessing, by inadvertently shutting them out?  Not only is there potential for hurting or offending the other person (the one being judged), but you the one doing the judging run the greater risk of not gaining from what they have to offer you in this life.

Pause for a moment and think of all the blessings and benefits you and I may have lost out on, by judging someone based on their appearance alone.  Biblically speaking, the consequences of judging by appearance alone can be of catastrophic loss – to all parties involved.

So remember, the next time you look at someone and think they are “clean cut” and that it must mean they are a good person, stop yourself.  Because there have been times in my life when I was Cut – But Not Clean Cut.  And there are people who are clean cut, who have yet to be cut.

If and when life has cut us deeply, and we let God do a healing work in our hearts and lives, we will come to the realization that outward appearances are of little value to God.  He looks at the heart of a person.

Having our hearts and lives cut to the quick, should cause us to cry out to God who alone can render those wounds healed.  And that my friend is far more important than being clean cut on the outside.

As for me, I’d rather be Cut – But Not Clean Cut, for therein lies the power of my God’s love.  He looks inside, when no one else will.  He looks inside where the cuts really occur.  He looks at the parts that matter.  And those parts have little to do with trimmed sideburns and a fresh appearance.

Cut – But Not Clean Cut.  I’m glad God sees me for me.  Let’s try to do the same for others.

Friday, March 27, 2015

For the Love of Writing

Ever wonder why we do what we do?  I know I have.

What makes one person to be an accountant, or another an auto mechanic, or another person becomes a music teacher, or even another to become an undertaker?  To each one a special niche in life is given, found, or even carved out of the unknown.  We do what we do.  Don’t we?

As for writing, there are many reasons we do what we do as writers.  For me I know it’s often cathartic.  It’s a Platform as Michael Hyatt says.  Or maybe it’s a combination of both – catharsis and platform all rolled into one.

Recently it came to mind that I’ve written for three reasons.  Maybe a few more, but if I’m honest as a writer, these are three reasons I have to hold up as cause and motivation for doing what I love to do.

Firstly, I write because of Passion.  Passion for writing, passion for God, passion for the human drama, passion for justice, passion for humor, passion for relationships, passion for creativity in verse and thought.  But nonetheless Passion and I believe that is good – as cause and motivation.

When you look up the definition of Passion there’s quite a list of understandings that drive the meaning of the word and it’s use.  I guess each of us has to choose which particular definition we will use as we decide why we do what we do.  But regardless of which specific definition we choose, Passion is a MUST for life, relationships and especially for writing.

Secondly, I’ve written because of Pain.  And likely I’ll do it again.  But I’ve heard it said of great and influential writers, and even of inventors and entrepreneurs, that pain and conflict often drive these people to express and discover things that benefit more than just themselves.

Study a good Storyline.  Somewhere in the elements of the story there is conflict, pain, crisis, goals and things to overcome.  And as the characters of the story rise to overcome, they are driven by the ouches of life, and ultimately they find the joy and refreshment of victory over some rugged and low spots life has brought them.

I believe Pain is at the core of God’s love for us.  A Pain that came from our decision to be away from Him doing our own thing, so He did something to overcome that pain; He offered His own pain for our gain.

Pain makes us think about things differently.  Pain causes us to have a passion to escape and abate the vicious ouches life tends to puts on us.  Pain is the analog of pleasure.  And without both we have no esoteric point of reference to understand life and a relationship with God and others.

So Pain can be a great motivator in the life of a writer.

But thirdly, I’ve written because of Poison.  Poisons that came from the lies I’ve believe to be true about myself, God and others.  Poison is the lies that have been plied against my soul and the Truth of God.  And the problem with poison as a motive for writing is it always does just that – it poisons someone.  Oh I may think I’m just being honest, but in reality I’m drinking in and sharing a deadly gall.  And all in the name of being pithy, eloquent and even brutally honest; and isn’t honesty the best policy?

I wanted to point out the gravity of writing with a poison pen.  And I wanted to confess my use of such poison in my writing over the years.

Passion, Pain and Poison tend to find their way into all of our writing from time to time.  The real challenge for me is to avoid the use of poison as a vindictive and vengeful forum of expression.  

Please forgive me if my pen has ever shot poison in your direction.  It was really meant for me.  I just never had the courage to give it over to God.  I never really trusted that He kept all the books, or that He could be trusted to make all things right.

So I’ve asked God to forgive me.  And He has.  And now I ask you to forgive me.  Poison must never be my cause and motive for writing – ever again.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


I know very little about disarming anything.  I’ve never disarmed a bomb.  I’ve never disarmed an armed assailant.  I may have disarmed a few self-righteous church people, but likely for my own self-righteous reasons.  And sadly enough, disarming much in this life seems quite foreign to me.

As a little kid I loved to watch television shows where the good guy would knock the gun out of the bad guys hand and totally disarm and subdue his would-be aggressor.  Then I would spend hours in my back yard or basement subduing and disarming imaginary bad guys.  Kicking and swinging at nothing but what I saw in my imagination.  I know it sounds silly, but it made me feel tough in a child-like way.

About two thousand years ago, a very important “disarming” occurred, and for that I am deeply and eternally grateful.  Paul the Apostle writes in Colossians 2 verse 15, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.”

This is a description of a very important and powerful event that we may be prone to forget.  Prone to forget because, we still live with the vestiges of judgment and condemnation that often echo in our minds from past efforts at self-righteousness, not to mention from the mouths of Well-intentioned Dragons.  You know the kind of people I’m talking about.

They are the ones who by their own insecurities and bondages ply a pseudo-biblical-works dogma to the unsuspecting and often innocent “little ones” among us.  And if we stiffen or seem to chafe under their idea of righteousness we are considered rebellious, disharmonious or even back-slidden.

But may I respectfully challenge that kind of dogma.  For what Christ did on the cross, gives me the power and liberty to stand victorious over my old sin nature – it is gone.  He disarmed all the powers and authorities that held any claim over my past sins and failures.  And even more He disarmed the power of the lies that would hold sway over my present and my future.

So with gratitude and humility I embrace the canceled debts and charges against me.  Because of His suffering, His death on the cross, and His triumphal resurrection from the grave I will never be governed by a sin-based, lie-based, works doctrine or dogma ever again.

Debt-free people are the freest indeed.  They are also a threat to those in bondage to a debtors-ethic.  For though I owe Christ my all and everything, and I willingly give it, I can never nor should I ever attempt or consider “repayment” as part of my relationship with Him.  For that would then rearm our enemy and resume the cycle of self-righteous works and thereby put to shame the cross of Christ our only hope.

Once and forever Christ disarmed the enemies of our souls and led them as public spectacle down the permanent road of freedom and life.  So may we never concede to their influence again, nor rearm them with a lack of assurance and faith in Him alone.

Remember, they are Disarmed – forever.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Sanctification Happens

For years I lived and believed that the process of sanctification was mostly about the cessation of wrong doing on my part.  And that may be partially true.  But over the course of time I've come to understand that my sanctification has little to do with my will power to cease wrong behavior, and everything to do with me living in God’s truth.

For if and when I use my will to curtail wrong behavior, I am not being sanctified, I’m only seeking to justify myself before God – and most often before man.  And likely I’ll repeat the offense over and over, each time trying harder and harder to break the cycle.  Can anyone say hamster wheel?

If indeed personal sanctification were all about will power and self-discipline to cease wrong behavior, why did Jesus need to be sanctified?  “For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.” (John 17:19)

May I propose this thought?  Albeit I will participate in the process of sanctification, it is not about the cessation of wrong doing, given over to right doing, that sanctifies me, but it is first and foremost about submitting to the truth of God.

Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

If I am willing to submit myself to all of God’s truth, via His Word and His Spirit, I can rest in knowledge that the power of His truth will change me from the inside out.  And that has nothing to do with my outward displays of right or wrong behavior, but everything to do with an ongoing and ever increasing relationship with a Living Savior.

Sanctification happens from the inside out, and never the other way around (Daniel 11:35).

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Risk of Release

I believe I've been taught that I am saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone, not by works lest the wealthy and able alone could boast of their great exploits.  Thank God for that fact – I think.

But when it’s all shaken down and I begin to peel back the layers of my personal theology and my church experiences, the reality of Ephesians 2:8-9 is somewhat clouded.

I was 23 years old before I learned and even began to understand that verse.  I was a young adult Christian man, full of pride, anger, lust, fear and vengeance.  I had become a product of a works culture where I was rarely if ever a straight A Christian; let alone a straight A student.

All of which ultimately gave a graceless power to those in authority over me; power to manipulate and control me and my behavior.  Because God forbid a church full of free people actually led by the Spirit and the Word; versus being led by traditions and autocratic leaders.  That wouldn't look good.  It might look like the religious leaders weren't doing their job correctly.  That is, if the church folks were not piously different from the rest of the world – at least on the outside.

Rules, regulations, principles extrapolated from Jewish law and holiness traditions left over from the post-Civil war era taught me I was nothing more than a “sinner” in the hands of an angry God.  And rarely if ever a saint called out of darkness by the voice of grace.

Fast forward to the present and what the Lord is continuing to do in my life and my heart.

I have carried the traditions of men and religion that had little to no basis on New Testament (new covenant) teachings.  But they were definitely what we've always done, so we must continue to do them or else there would be hell to pay.

While driving home today, I was discussing with my dear and wise wife, all of the thoughtful responses to my Facebook question regarding tithing as a New Testament mandate or not, and I came to a marked conclusion.  Although in word we teach we are no longer under the law – we practice something altogether different.

Nowhere in the New Testament is tithing mentioned as a mandate or protocol for salvation or even blessing.  Giving and generosity are encouraged, but why is it that Paul the Apostle never cited Malachi chapter 3 when he often cited other Old Testament references?

Could it be like many other things we've carried over from the Old Testament, that biblical knowledge in the wrong hands can become a devilish lever to alter the behavior of fearful and ignorant constituents?

There are many principles and even precepts that are carried over from the Old Testament that are good and beneficial – but as I recall the only Law’s that Jesus commanded us to obey were to love God with our entire lives and to love others as if they were ourselves.  Now granted there are a lot of things that we can do that are stupid and could ultimately end in loss or total destruction of self or others, but isn't the Holy Spirit powerful enough to reveal those foolish behaviors?

Could it be possible that The Risk of Release is too scary for us to teach and preach?  Could it be that The Risk of Release to live our lives by grace through faith would tend to decentralizes power and control over church folks?

There are plenty of clear cut mandates in scripture that we must follow.  Forgive if we are to be forgiven.  Do not lie or steal.  Do not lust and thereby become an adulterer.  Just read the Sermon on the Mount to see the Lord’s keen delineation of the Law.

But I do believe there is a mandate to “tithe” in the New Testament, but it is couched in the language of generosity and cheerful giving.  I believe it is hidden in the law of sowing and reaping.  In other words, people who desire to truly obey the Lord in all matters will most often surpass any percentages, and find power and joy in the law of reciprocity.  As a matter of fact I believe that law can be seized and used by even the unredeemed; because it’s a law that transcends the saint or the sinner.

So what’s my point?  Can we stop using words and references that don’t fit into God’s current plan?

Living by grace will always create The Risk of Release.  I desire to live by grace, and to teach others the same.  And that will mean a great risk to me, because I will NOT be able to control others.  I must leave that up to God.  Oh I must disseminate the truth of God to the best of my ability as led by the Spirit, but never to be overshadowed by the traditions of men and religion.

I’m not a rebel in my heart.  But I will NOT be a slave again to man-made religion.  I WILL be a slave and bond-servant to the Christ who rescued me and saved me that I might live in truth and freedom.  There alone will any of us ever truly find the blessings and favor of the God who deeply and eternally loves us.  Trying to love and obey Him out of compulsion is not true love.  As a matter of fact it might just be a grotesque example of some religious Stockholm syndrome.

I believe in The Risk of Release.  Eventually we all have to grow up – right?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Cluttered Closet

Recently I noticed something about my inner world.

It seems that most of us have enough storage and closet space, at least until we get more stuff.  Then we pack the shed, we pack the other side of our two-car garage, or we pack that spare closet where everything seems to disappear like a black hole.  It seems to be a common condition, the conspicuous consumers that we are.  We tend to amass more and more stuff.  Until one day we are forced by age, failing health, or divine sanity, to simply downsize and purge all the unnecessary stuff we've accumulated over time.

In like manner, early on in my walk of faith, my prayer closet was relatively free of clutter and comfortable – almost spacious.  It was a place where I could have some room and get alone with God.  It was small but accommodating in a Holy kind of way.  It was a place where I would regularly go to escape the clutter of my day to day life and routine.  It was indeed a place to breathe and be in communion with my Lord and my Maker.

But something happened along way.  As time and life began to accumulate around my ankles like a rising tide, I began to take more stuff into my prayer closet.  I began to split my communion time with complaining time.  Then I added all my burdens and fears.  Then I brought in my baggage from the past and the baggage of others.  Somehow thinking God was supposed to carry all my burdens and cares and likewise give me a light yoke and an easy load.  Right?

I mean, He did promise that kind of benevolent relief from the cares of this world.  So eventually my prayer closet – like most of the closets in my house, became full of junk.  Stuff accumulated over the years that I off-loaded to God.  All that stuff that seemed impossible to carry on my own, and rightly so.  The Lord indeed wants me to cast my cares upon Him.

But something was drastically wrong.  I used the place that was meant to be an intimate spot of communion, love and refreshing, as a dumping ground for all the things I couldn't handle on my own.  How could that be so wrong?

I’ll tell you.  God want’s all my burdens and cares.  He wants me to boldly come before His throne of grace to find mercy and help in time of need.  But above and before all of those provisions – He wants me.  He wants my love and my time.  And He wants to reciprocate.

My prayer closet was NEVER supposed to be a dumping ground, yet that’s what it became.  It became a cluttered closet too full of my junk and the junk of others.  Too cluttered and full for me to find room for rest and comfort with my Lord and my Maker.

So I've decided to clean out my prayer closet.  I’m going to collect all that junk and take it to the altar of God’s immeasurable grace.  Oh there is a place for my junk and all that stuff, but that place is NOT my prayer closet – my secret place with God.

For only by purging and maintaining a Spartan prayer closet will I gain the wisdom and power needed to haul all the other junk to it's proper altar and place of petition.

Dear Lord please forgive me for having A Cluttered Closet.  Forgive me for a cluttered prayer closet that was no longer a place of rest and restoration, but a place that had become a distraction from the one who I need most – You.

A Cluttered Closet, do you have one?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Comfort of Discomfort

One of the most profound stories in the gospels is the account of where John the Baptist (BTW not really a Baptist but don’t tell them) was confronted with his disciples going over to follow Jesus.  He understood something that I am still growing to fully understand.  God’s increase is predicated upon my decrease: The Comfort of Discomfort.

It doesn't make much sense that we could gain any comfort from being discomforted, but that tends to be what the Kingdom and our relationship with God is all about.  And no I’m not suggesting that I must somehow pay penance so as to be blessed or so God can be exalted.  That is not the case, but I am suggesting that God will not share His glory with anyone or anything.  So as a result, in my soul I hear the Spirit of God reminding me that my true comfort will be found as I am discomforted; only and all for His sake and not my own.

I admit that it seems very counterproductive and counter intuitive to place discomfort before comfort, but as we observe life we find this principle in place, and rarely if ever do we argue with its premise.  A good example is health and fitness: no pain no gain?

But why is it that I struggle with this principle when it comes to my soul life?  Is it that my soul is so enamored with self-seeking comfort and satisfaction that I fail to understand the “no pain no gain” principle?  Likely it is.

My hope is that a day will come when I finally and fully understand with great peace and contentment the power and freedom found in this principle set forth by Christ’s own life – The Comfort of Discomfort.  As Jesus moved closer and closer to His primary purpose for coming to this earth, He gained great joy and comfort as He ran headlong into His very own discomfort - death.  For the joy set before Him He endured the cross that He might declare it is finished and find the true comfort of the Father.

The Comfort of Discomfort – an elusive doctrine indeed, but an essential one nonetheless if I am to ever live in the fullness of His perfect and comforting will.