Letter Boards by LetterPoet

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I interrupt your regular blog reading for a quick infomercial about my newest project – Letter Boards by LetterPoet.

Please check us out, and read our latest blog post!

 

 

Hope

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Let me tell you a story of hope.  And a story about someone who’s lived without it.

Lately I’ve been feeling an urgency to bring Jesus’ love to the unlovable people in our world.  I’ve always had a passion for people living in the inner city, and particularly for women working in the sex trade.  I’ve been feeling challenged recently about what I’m going to do about that.  Am I going to walk out my passions?  Or let my life and my comfort overrule?  If I’m really head over heels for Jesus, why don’t I share it more often?  Why am I not walking on this earth as Jesus walked when he was here?  Fear.  Comfort.  Insecurity.  To name a few answers to that question.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.”  (James 1:27)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to walk this out in Edmonton’s inner city.  In my fear, in my wondering, in my insecurity.  But also, in Jesus.  In the confidence I have in Him.

Earlier that day our family had gone skating.  As we were piling out of the van,  my 6 year-old son piped up out of the blue and said, “HOPE.  That’s a nice word.  Hope.”  Our 8 year-old son agreed, and added that we should have named our 3 year old daughter “Hope”. We agreed it was a very nice word.  I honestly didn’t think much of it in the chaos of hockey bag and stroller and busy parking lot.

This was probably not the first time I’ve missed hope in the midst of my own agenda.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit obviously wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to miss the message this time.  He tried again.

When I arrived in Edmonton, I made a quick stop at H&M to grab a few items before heading into the downtown area.  I noticed the cashier had a 4 letter word tattooed across the fingers of her right hand.  I looked harder and saw – you guessed it – HOPE.  I told her of my kids’ conversation of just a few hours before.  She chuckled and said, “That must mean something!”  It must.

I drove downtown, and kept my eye out for whoever it was who God wanted me to minister to.  I felt a bit discouraged when I didn’t see anyone out on the streets.  After some twists and turns, I spotted a lady limping down the street.  She was really labouring just to walk, and her legs bowed out.  I parked up ahead of her a bit, then got out and went to talk to her.

I asked her if she had heard of Jesus, and wheezing and panting she said she did.  (She was not in good shape, she could hardly breathe.)  I asked if I could pray for her, that I had noticed she was having trouble walking.  I told her Jesus wanted to heal her.  She was totally open to being prayed for.  She asked if we could sit, so I helped her to a nearby curb.

I asked her name, and she told me it was Tara.  I told her mine too.  I asked if I could put my arm around her.  I believe that touch is so unifying.  It says, “I’m here with you.  I accept you.”  She agreed and leaned in.

We chatted about her legs.  She told me the pain in them were unbearable.  Then she told me she was angry at God.  I told her that was ok.   I told her He understood, and that He could handle her being mad at Him.

She paused for a few moments, and then said, “Can I tell you something?  A few days ago, I was in such bad pain I almost ended my life.  But you know?  Something stopped me.  I don’t know why, but something stopped me.”

I responded, “Or maybe someONE?”  She chuckled and agreed.

I said, “let’s pray for your legs now!”  I was excited to see what God was going to do.  I just knew He wanted her well.

I got down in front of her, and held her legs (checking with her that she was comfortable with that).  I thanked Jesus for this beautiful woman and then out of my mouth I heard the word HOPE come out – the Holy Spirit had me pray for hope in her life.  For a new season of HOPE like she hasn’t known in a long time.  What is life, what is a healthy body, even, without hope?  Now I knew why HOPE kept finding me that day.  You don’t realize how important hope is until you meet someone who doesn’t have it.

After speaking hope into her life, I rebuked the pain in her legs and commanded healing into them.  I looked up at her.  She was staring deeply into my eyes, and looked totally at peace.  She had a slight smile on her wrinkly face.  I asked her how her legs felt.  Sometimes healing doesn’t happen instantly.  I was ready for this and was intent on persevering until the pain was 100% gone.  To my surprise – and delight! – she said, “There’s no pain.  The pain has left completely.”  She smiled really big now.  “Praise Jesus,” I said!

I sat back on the curb with her.  She continued to tell me a bit about her life growing up in a foster home.  She told me how she meets some Christian girls around downtown and how our smiles look different than everyone else’s.  She said she could tell I was a Christian because of my smile.  She told me how her friend started hitting her and how her last boyfriend was the one who gave her the black eye she had.  She gave me a Kinder egg out of her bag.

I asked her what she really needed, what she really wanted, and what I could pray for her for.  She said she wanted not to smoke anymore, she wanted prayer for her family, and she wanted to have a place of her own to live, where she could watch TV by herself without roommates around all the time.  I said, “let’s pray for those things too”.  So I prayed for her again, bringing her requests before our big Daddy.  Afterwards, she smiled at me, and told me how much better she felt.  I asked if I could take a picture of her, to remember her.  She agreed, and I asked if I could take it of her hands, as I noticed how beautifully she took care of them and how she had done her nails so nicely.  We all need something to make us feel beautiful, don’t we?

We got up to go on our ways.  I asked how her legs were, wanting to make sure she went away with no pain.  She said they were great.  They had been throbbing terribly when I had walked up to her. Now they were fine.

She asked me where I came from.  I told her God had sent me to pray for her, that I had driven an hour to come find her.  I told her that God loved her so much He would do that for her.  She giggled.  She said, “you know, Sarah, I’m around this area a lot.  If you ever come back, you can find me down here.”

Oh, Tara, I’ll be coming back.

She pointed down the street and told me she was heading in that direction.  She asked for money for bus fare.  I gave her $5.  I know a lot of people would say, “She’s probably using that for drugs or alcohol”.  I say, I’m ok with that.  Why?  Because I’ve never known what it’s like to need drugs more than I need food.  I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in foster care and sell my body on the street and live in homeless shelters and be beaten by men.  If she did use my money for her next hit, I hope the Holy Spirit reminds her of God’s love while she taking that hit.  I believe we need to use wisdom and be lead by the Spirit in our giving, but I also don’t believe we are to judge.  Why would I expect an unhealthy, addicted, wounded, lost person to make a wise choice with my money?  I don’t.

She was very thankful for the money, and then gave me a big hug.  She headed down the street.  I got back in the car and drove away, past the building that was her destination:  HOPE Mission.  And then it hit me as I read those words:  God had sent ME on a Hope Mission.  A mission to bring hope to someone who had none.

My heart grieved as I realized those were the roommates she was referring to.  My heart grieved as I realized what a blessing it is to have a home, a place where I can watch TV by myself.  My heart grieved to think of her sleeping on the floor, surrounded by people on drugs, people getting sick, people acting out beyond their faculties just feet away from her, people who smelled.  My heart grieved to think of how this innocent little girl had been abandoned and so wounded, that she had ended up wandering the inner city in her middle age, instead of living in a home and enjoying grandbabies and hobbies and travelling.  My heart grieved as I recounted all of this to Kris, and asked him, “Where were all the Jesus-followers while she was growing up?”  One.  It could have taken just ONE person to have brought the hope of Jesus to this little girl before drugs and men and a life on the street became her reality.  But Jesus is all about redemption, and I believe that is still His plan for Tara.  And for all the Taras out there.

 

 

 

 

What it actually means to be pro-life

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To be pro-life means you are advocating for a life, not just a birth.

Abortion is one of those controversial topics that has a huge influence on the way people vote.  I can’t remember any election in recent years in which the “pro-life vs. pro-choice” issue wasn’t a part.  And there is certainly no shortage of passion coming from either side of the argument.

In all the articles that fill our social media newsfeeds, and all the televised debates, one question that always remains in my head is, “What happens to those babies?”

You might assume that this question is referring to all the fetuses cut out of their mothers’ wombs and disposed of.  That’s a real concern for many.  I certainly share the concern.

But you know what?  I have a larger concern for those babies who’s lives we are advocating for.  I’m asking about all the babies who live.  Where do they go?  What happens to THEM?

When a woman chooses abortion, she does not want a baby.  Simply telling her she should – or has to – remain pregnant and birth her baby solves very few problems in my mind. It’s great that she remained pregnant and gave birth.  But now we have a baby that wasn’t wanted.

A baby that wasn’t wanted, grows into a child that wasn’t wanted, and becomes an adult that isn’t wanted.

It’s all fine and good to fight for the life of a precious, innocent infant.  But when that infant grows into the behaviourally-challenged bully that targets your child in the classroom, or becomes the drunk, homeless man who stinks and begs you for change on your way to work everyday (“and why doesn’t he get a damn job like the rest of us do!”), it’s not so cute anymore.  It’s not so simple anymore.

We want babies, but we don’t want needy adults who are a drain on society.  We want babies, but we don’t want to get messy.

I’m not saying that every unwanted baby become a bully, a homeless man or a prostitute. Certainly that’s the extreme.  What I AM saying is that it is not right to advocate for lives just to the point that they make it out of the womb, and then think your job is done.  Regardless of the socio-economic status of the mother involved.  I am saying that to be pro-life means we stand for life – the mother’s, the infant’s, and whoever that infant becomes in the future.

Being against abortion means that we are going to have many babies – people – born among us who were not wanted.  Being against abortion means we will have women in our midst who need support and help.  Being against abortion means being willing to foster a child, adopt a child, or to simply step up to help a mom.  Maybe it means volunteering with the Big Brothers and Big Sisters.  Maybe it means supporting a single mom financially.  Maybe it means working with a ministry that helps street people find and secure jobs.  Maybe it means being available to babysit for the worn out mom who didn’t want another child.

One thing I know for sure, is being pro-life DOESN’T mean sporting a sign outside an abortion clinic or sharing a Facebook post to voice your opinion, without any intention to support a mother with an unwanted pregnancy or a child who WAS the unwanted pregnancy.

I know that I want to be pro-LIFE – and all that it entails – and not just pro-birth.   Lord, help me be okay to get messy.

 

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

-Sister Joan Chittister

The dishes can wait, but they don’t go away

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One of the pieces of parenting advice whose short-sighted thinking is positively correlated with its frequency of being heard is this:

“The dishes can wait; your kids are only young once.”

One part of that piece of advice is true.  And the other one… maybe partly true.  Yes, my kids are only young once.  And yes, I suppose dishes can wait.  But waiting dishes ≠ disappearing dishes.  Waiting dishes ≠ clean dishes.

No.

Waiting dishes multiply.  And smell.  And attract the kinds of critters my kids would love to keep in a jar.  In a jar?  A’ight.  On my countertops and sink?   Um no.

The same rule applies to a similar piece of advice regarding laundry.

“Leave your dirty underwear, play with your kids!” they say.

Sounds like in-the-moment-ridiculous-planning-oh-crap-I-have-no-clean-gitch-for-the-next-day kind of thinking.  How does not having clean undergarments for the next day – or clean bowls for the next morning – help my kids stay young?  How does a growing mountain of sticky peanut butter plates make more time for me to give to my kids?  How does ignoring a pile of clothes with last week’s spaghetti sauce crusted on it afford me more enjoyment and presence with my family?

It doesn’t.

It just delays the inevitable and makes me feel like I have just opened up a window of time.  It tricks me into thinking I’ve gained something I didn’t.  I certainly did not gain time.  But I suppose I did gain something: I gained more to do later.  I also might have gained ants in my house.  And I might have even gained some odours I wasn’t planning on.

Waiting dishes do not disappear or create less work for me.  Waiting actually creates more work for me, because it gives the oatmeal one more day to strengthen its resolve to never never never come off.

Sometimes leaving chores is okay.  Sometimes an adventure is calling and the benefits far outweigh the risks.  But that is not everyday, and that is certainly not a way to live all the time, at least not for me.  I’d rather a mole hill of laundry regularly, then a mountain that will drown me for an entire day.  Leaving a chore doesn’t mean it decides to stop demanding my time.  (If it did, I would certainly be game to heed this piece of advice!)

But I do kind of get it.  I think when older ladies say this, they are trying to say, “I worked and cared about housework too much while my kids were young, and now I regret it”.  The thing is, we all will do that.  I think all parents will look back and think, “I could have done more ____ and less____”.  It’s easy to look back and forget how tired you sometimes were, or how you needed a break (and staring into space while washing pots in the quiet ain’t half bad), or how much work it is to keep a home running and feed everyone.  I think lots of things about parenting are easy to say when you’re no longer in the throes of skid-marked underwear left on the bathroom floor and old cornflakes left in bowls everyday.

But the thing is, when you’re 60 and looking back on your life, you’re not remembering the laundry.  You’re not remembering the dishes.  You’re remember your sweet cherubs – who have now all grown up – as they slept in their beds, or the time you played memory and laughed all afternoon, or the time you read books and accidentally missed bedtime.  You wished you had done more of that, so the obvious solution is to skip the chores and just DO more of that.  But the reason you did the chores, is because they had to be done.  And you forget that.

I’m not advocating that our homes be pristine and we are constantly on top of things. Or that we don’t sometimes just have a “screw the laundry” attitude and go on an adventure.  But I do think we shouldn’t feel bad for having our kids wait to play a game until the laundry is in.  Or tell them that right now, our goal is to get the kitchen tidied.  Sometimes chores wait.  Sometimes kids do.  But as moms, we get to decide that, and we shouldn’t feel guilty when the pee-stained toilets win.

Like for all things in life, I believe in balance.  We can have (semi-)clean bathrooms AND kids who’s hearts are full.  We can make sure our clothes and dishes and toilets aren’t growing mushrooms or penicillin, AND make sure we spend time with our kids.  It’s not one or the other.  I want to teach my kids to have adventures and also honour responsibilities.  I want to teach them – and model – balance, character, and how to do hard things that we just don’t want to do.

And I will try not to tell them that their dishes can wait when they have kids.  I want to tell them that it’s okay to do the dishes first sometimes.  It’s okay if the kids are the ones to wait sometimes.  Heck, I’d love to be the older lady that says, “why not have your cake and eat it too?  I’ll come do your dishes, and you go do that paint class with your kids?”

So instead of those guilt-inducing memes about cherishing our kids’ childhoods (because, seriously, who isn’t trying to do that every.single.day?), how about a meme that tells us to not feel badly about washing stains out of our clothes and having clean plates to eat on and getting the sticky spots off our floor.

Because dishes CAN wait, but they don’t go away (unless the older lady who tells you that is willing to make them go away for you…!).

So moms, if you sometimes say “no” and choose dishes instead, don’t feel bad.  The dishes won’t go away, but neither will you children and your love for them.

Why Christians need to stop hating prosperity.

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“Health and wealth”.  “Prosperity gospel”.  Whatever name you call it, it usually is accompanied by a mindset that people who believe in wealth and prosperity from God are selfish, materialistic Christians who thinks God is a spiritual “Santa”, who is only loved for what He can give.  These are Christians who are wrapped up in money and riches and care about nothing else.

I recently read a really sad article that hasn’t left my mind.  In a nutshell, the author pleads with Christians to stop saying “blessed” when referring to a promotion, a nice home, or any other earthly blessing we might receive; the core of his argument is that by saying God has blessed us with those things, we are implying that the person who didn’t get a promotion or a nice house wasn’t blessed.  So we shouldn’t say that God has blessed us at all.  You know, lest someone be offended.  Which is the adult, Christian version of, “Why did he get new shoes and I didn’t?!” that I’ve heard from my elementary-aged children.

This attitude actually seems to be putting MORE emphasis on “things” and money, in my opinion.  If prosperity and wealth is wrong, then why should it offend someone if another person has it?  If it’s wrong, then Christians shouldn’t be accepting promotions, or buying houses, or getting new cars.  Right?  “Sorry, I don’t believe in prosperity.  I can’t accept that.”  If anti-prosperity Christians are right, then that should be their response, shouldn’t it?

The funny thing is, a lot of anti-prosperity Christians live pretty comfortable lives; lives that are a direct contradiction of their firm beliefs that say wealth is bad.  Or wait – maybe it’s that wealth from God is bad, but wealth in general is okay?

Back to the article, and being offended by the word “blessing”.  In my experience, the only people who get offended by another person’s blessings are those who are operating in a religious spirit, or who are more led by money than they are by the Spirit of God.  When I’ve shared how God has blessed me (and yes, even in material ways), it’s the unbelievers who are excited to hear all about it.  They don’t have a chip on their shoulder about the possibility that we have a good God who wants to lavish us with good things.  Seems a little backwards to me.

So who’s the source of the things we have, then?  If it’s not God who has blessed you with a good year in business, or a good deal at the grocery store, or with a home that your family can enjoy, then who is it?  There’s one of three options, as far as I can see it:

  1. You are responsible for the good things that have come into your life.  “I’ve worked hard for the bonus I got at work this year.”  God is not part of the equation here.
  2. The enemy has provided it for you.  (This is just silly, but I’m just going through the possibilities here.  We know the enemy is not capable of giving good things.)  God is not part of the equation here either.
  3. It’s just kismet.  Fate.  Good luck.  Again – God is not part of this equation.

Wait – so it’s not okay for me to say God blessed me with a house, but it IS okay to give myself credit for it?  It IS okay to think it just happened by coincidence?   It IS okay – and in fact, preferred (because watch out for prosperity teachings!) – to take God out of the equation when it comes to our earthly blessings?

There is something so, so wrong with this picture.  Either God is responsible for material blessings in our lives, or He isn’t.  And it saddens me that there are Christians in the camp that believes He doesn’t.  Which automatically puts them in the camp of thinking it’s either due to their own hard work (giving credit to self) or simply because of fate (giving credit to something other than God).

But what does the Bible say?  Well, the Bible says that Abraham was a very blessed man. In fact, he was extremely rich (Gen. 13).  Super rich in material things.  But it wasn’t just for him.  He was blessed, so that he could turn around and bless others (Gen. 12:2).  The Bible also talks about Job.  He was extremely rich too.  “Yes, but wasn’t all of that taken away?”  Yup, it was.  And then after the enemy messed with him, God blessed him with even more.  Even more material things.  God did that.

This reminds me of a common argument against prosperity, which is the following: “The blessings God gives us are spiritual blessings.”  Well yes, He does give us spiritual blessings.  And those are far greater than earthly ones!  In fact, it was Kenneth Copeland himself (yes, one of those “prosperity teachers”!) who said that financial blessings are actually the lowest form of the riches God has for us.  We can be rich in many ways: in our relationship with God and people, in our marriages, in our health, etc. etc.  But that doesn’t mean that financial blessing is bad, or isn’t a part of the deal.

In fact, Paul talked about telling the Gentiles about the “endless treasures available to them in Christ” (Eph. 3:8).  The Greek word for “treasures” in that passage is “ploutos”, a noun which means “an abundance of possessions and economic prosperity“.  I didn’t say it, the Bible did.

Another common thing that Christians will do in regards to material blessings is make their own judgement about what is enough or not enough.  Which means it all comes down to how you can justify the things you have.  “Well, I need this van.”  Actually no.  You don’t need a vehicle.  “I need a house to live in.”  Again, no you don’t.  You could live in a 100sq.ft. shanty.  So really, anything above being naked and having more than $5 in your hand makes you blessed.  So there – if you have a computer or mobile to read this on, you already are blessed.  Blessed beyond measure!  “Well, it’s okay to have a $200,000 home, but not a $400,000 home.”  Who are you to say that?  Either of those things are in excess when you think of the world at large.  So who’s to draw the line?  That is the issue with this type of thinking: You are making yourself the judge of what others have.  You have decided you are the plumb line for what is “necessity” (things that are okay to have) and what is not.  I know these things, because I did them.  All of them.

So here’s the thing.  Here’s the reason all of this matters:  Taking God out of the equation when it comes to my material blessings, means I am either taking the credit for it myself, or giving it to someone else.  If I think it belongs to me, I will not seek God as to what to do with it, and how He wants me to use it.  I earned it, it’s mine.  But if I see my wealth as coming from God, and ultimately still belonging to Him (I am just a steward of it), I will seek Him as to how to use it to further His kingdom.  I will ask Him what I should be doing with it, and how I can bless others with it so they can have the same good Dad I do.

And the bigger reason all of this matters, is because Christians need to be the pipeline of God’s goodness to others, not the voice that is speaking out against it.  How can we pass it on if we’re against receiving it ourselves?

It costs money to buy a car for a single mom when God tells you to.

It costs money to build an orphanage in Haiti.

It costs money to buy a new bike for the kid down the street who’s bike was stolen last week.

It costs money to put on a Christmas meal and invite homeless people.

It costs money to fly to a northern community to share the hope and love of Jesus with hurting people.

You don’t NEED money to bless people.  We should be blessing any way we can!  But as believers, I think we need to wrap our head around (and stop speaking against!) a God who wants to increase us and bless us, so that we can turn around and show Him to others in tangible ways.  So that we can be the solution to the world’s problems that we were created to be.

We have a good, good Father, and there is a hurting world out there who is waiting for the sons and daughters of God to reveal His goodness to them.  And the first step is believing in, and then receiving with gratitude, that goodness ourselves.

***

My heart in this is not to pass judgement.  If this is where you are, I get it.  I really, really do.  Part of the non-material blessings I receive daily is His abundant grace, which I also extend to you.  None of us have arrived, none of us know it all.  This is simply a challenge to look at what we believe and why we believe it, and then to look at the effects that belief has on the ministry of the church in our dark world.

 

What Do I Need to Let Go Of?

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When I struggle or I’m working through something (whether it’s a deep relational issue, cranky kids, or a pile of laundry), the first place my mind goes to is, “Okay, what do I need to do here to make this better?”

Usually the answers I come up with are along the lines of: be nicer to the kids, get that load of laundry done, try to change my thought and behaviour patterns, respond differently next time, etc. etc.

But I recently figured out that I’ve been asking the wrong question.

God spoke to me last week about this.  I was feeling overwhelmed and all over the place, and about to go over the same old mantras of figuring out what I need to do to fix it.  God gently said to me, “it’s not about doing, it’s about letting go”.

So He said that in those moments, I need to ask Him:

What do I need to let go of?

See, doing just puts more pressure on.  And typically, the only reason I am wanting and needing to do something different is because the pressure is already on.  Another thing to do really doesn’t help.

But letting go of something?  I can do that.  I need to do that.

Sometimes the thing we need to let go of is something concrete:  an added task that pushes your day over the edge, a toxic relationship, a box of junk that just clutters up your space.

And sometimes the thing we need to let go of is an expectation:  an expectation that my to-do list is empty, or that my house will stay clean, or that my kids will behave perfectly.

Doing puts pressure on.  Letting go takes it away.

Doing fills my plate.  Letting go clears it.

Doing makes me tired.  Letting go helps me to breathe again.

Doing is a burden.  Letting go lightens the load.

The great thing about this is that even when we don’t know the answer to this question, if we will quiet ourselves and listen, we have a good, good Father who will tell us.  He always knows what we have been holding on to that is not good for us.  He knows what we need.

So, what do you need to let go of today?

Trust me, you’ll feel lighter when you give it up.  🙂

 

 

 

 

Hate religion? Good. So did Jesus.

re·li·gious
rəˈlijəs/
adjective
  1. 1.
    relating to or believing in a religion.

One of my least favourite things is being called “religious”.  I know it’s done with good intentions usually, so it doesn’t make me angry, but I don’t like being associated with religion in any way.  I always reply with “I’m not religious.  Jesus hated religion.”

See, the main reason I don’t care for that title is because the definition above just doesn’t fit; I don’t believe in a religion.  I believe in a man named Jesus who died for me to have an abundant life.

Religion is man-made; Jesus was God-made.

The other, more important reason I really don’t like being labelled with this term, is because religious people were the ones who worked against Jesus.  They were the ones who were more concerned with how they looked on the outside than the true motives on the inside (Matt. 23:25-26), they were the ones who beaked from the sidelines when Jesus performed healings and deliverances (Matt. 12:9-14 is one of many instances), and they were the ones who tried to control him and make him conform to their man-made rules and traditions.  Jesus’ freedom ticked them right off, and they eventually put him on the cross for it.

Jesus and religion are not synonymous.  In fact, they are quite opposite.

A religious spirit is obsessed with appearance and rule-abiding; a Jesus spirit is concerned with the condition of the heart.

A religious spirit boasts about his maturity in Christ; a Jesus spirit quietly lives out maturity in Christ because he is always seeking more truth.  

A religious spirit takes pride in his doctrine and his knowledge of Scripture; a Jesus spirit humbly lives out the truth of what he has read.  

A religious spirit believes he knows all there is to know; a Jesus spirit is always willing to admit there is room to grow and learn.  

A religious spirit puts emphasis on doing, performing, and following rules; a Jesus spirit puts emphasis on what is already done, and is led not by rules but by the voice of the Shepherd.

A religious spirit speaks out against the works of Christ (healing, delivering, setting people free); a Jesus spirit believes God meant it when He said “these signs will follow those who believe” (Mark 16) and then walks in it.  

A religious spirit will skip around from church to church, because he is seeking power and control and church is about him; a Jesus spirit follows God’s leading about where he should be planted and then stays until God directs him differently.  

A religious spirit looks at a circumstance and then determines God’s will; a Jesus spirit looks at God’s will, and then determines what the circumstance should be.

A religious spirit is offended if he thinks you are saying he doesn’t have enough faith; a Jesus spirit will freely admit a lack of faith and take it as an opportunity to cry out, “Lord, increase our faith!” as the disciples did when Jesus rebuked them (Luke 17:5), or to declare, “I do believe!  Help me overcome my unbelief!” as the father of the sick boy did (Mark 9:24).  

A religious spirit condemns sin and makes you try harder; a Jesus spirit gives grace which empowers you to conquer sin for good.

A religious spirit repels the unbeliever; a Jesus spirit attracts him.

A religious spirit knows Scripture; a Jesus spirit believes Scripture and lives it out.

A religious spirit fears man; a Jesus spirit fears God.

A religious spirit binds people; a Jesus spirit sets people FREE!

Jesus really did not like religion.  And if he didn’t, then we shouldn’t either.

Think about it – Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, but hung out and showed grace and forgiveness to an adultress.  Jesus (and John the Baptist) called the Pharisees and Sadduccees “broods of vipers” on multiple occasions, yet he told a condemned man hanging on the cross beside him that he would join him in paradise that day.  The only group of people he consistently rebuked, and even turned his back on, were the religious. No wonder they hated him.  (Keep in mind, it was the spirit working inside of them that he rebuked, and he still loved them.  So should we.)

So if the thought of religion repels you – GOOD.  It should.  It is not a true representation of God’s heart.  He didn’t die on a cross so he could obsess over our behaviour, keep us powerless against the evil in this world, and keep us thinking we’re just lowly little sinners.  NO!  He came and made us the “righteousness of God in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:21) and “more than conquerors” (Romans 8:27).  He came so we could do what he told us to do (Mark 16) and be a solution to a sick and hurting world.

Religious Christians do not truly believe and live out the call to be imitators of God (Eph. 5:1-2) and to follow his example (1 Cor. 1:11).  If we all did, then we wouldn’t have a problem with healing.  We wouldn’t have a problem with casting out demons.  We wouldn’t have a problem walking alongside society’s “worst”.  Religion has a problem with those things, but Jesus didn’t.  Jesus DID those things, and then told us to do them too.  In fact, he not only told us to do the same works he did, but that we would do “even greater works” after he went to be with the Father (John 14:12).  (Religious spirits really hate that one!  Good thing I didn’t author that – so don’t take it up with me!)  Religion keeps us arguing over the theology of such statements, but the spirit of Jesus at work within a person has them going out and doing them.

So, you see, it’s not about being good.  It’s not about rule-following and wearing a suit to church on Sunday and not drinking alcohol; it’s about being clean on the inside.  It’s not about memorizing Scripture and spouting off theology, it’s about allowing the truth of Scripture to change you from the inside out.  It’s not about knowing who Jesus was, it’s about knowing Jesus and then continuing His work to grow His Kingdom.  To help people.  To bring light to the darkness around us.

This world is dark, friend.  It doesn’t need more religion.  It doesn’t need more Christians arguing and fighting over theology.  It needs more Jesus.  It needs believers who will believe and obey His unadulterated Word, and who will then go do the works He called us to do.

I don’t want to be religious.  I want to be like Jesus.

 

 

Boundaries

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“You can’t control behaviour,

but you can control consequences.”

This quotes comes from the authors of the awesome book “Boundaries” by John Townsend and Henry Cloud.

Boundaries are an interesting topic.  Loved by some, hated by others, boundaries are – in the very least – a good litmus test of the health of a relationship (or a person in it).  If I put up boundary A with someone I love, and they respond with malice and spite, and are offended by my boundary, I now know that there are some issues of power and control at the heart of that relationship.  If I am being loved, valued, protected, and respected in a relationship, then a boundary should be something that I am encouraged to put up.  If it’s not understood, a healthy person will ask genuine questions to gain understanding.

I read a great analogy on the “Boundaries” Facebook page a few weeks ago that has been rolling around in my head since.  It was talking about how a boundary is like a fence that we put up around our property.  What is inside that fence belongs to us, and as such, we have a say as to what happens there.  As a silly example, I’d prefer if you didn’t pee on my lawn.  You can pee on the lawn outside of my fence – I have no say as to what happens there – but if you choose to pee on the inside, I will no longer allow you inside my fence.

The interesting thing, is that a healthy person will realize that they are the one who has caused themselves to not be allowed inside the fence anymore.  An unhealthy person will blame the person who put up the boundary, and say it is their fault they are no longer allowed.  Now, if you’re not wearing a shirt, and the store requires you to wear one, is it the store’s fault you have to remain on the street?  Or is it *your* choice not to adhere to the standards set by the owners of the property that you want to enter into?  The funny things is, a simple change of behaviour would allow that person back into the property (ie: not peeing on the lawn, or putting on a shirt).

An unhealthy person will not only make you responsible for their choice to continue in the disrespect that put them outside your fence, they might even go so far as to make you feel guilty and put a lot of negative pressure on you due to the boundary you’ve set out.  A lot of people in this situation take the bait, and to avoid the discomfort that has been created, will change their boundary and allow the person to come on in and pee on their lawn again.  Never mind, you’re right.  I was the problem.  Come on in and do whatever you’d like.

Now, the other person knows they have won, and can continue in the disrespectful behaviour on your property.  They thought you were the problem all along, and now you’ve just finally seen the light.

The question is:  How many yards has this person been peeing on?  Maybe dozens.  And you may be the only person in his or her life who has put up a fence and set out a clear consequence should the standards you have for your property be breached.  So clearly, you are now the problem.  “Bob doesn’t care if I pee on his lawn!”  Well, that’s fine.  Go to Bob’s house to do that, it’s not okay here.

Now obviously, most of us don’t have people clamouring around our yards wanting to pee on our lawns.  But we all have people in our lives who expect to treat us however they’d like, and we just keep the fence open.  “Come on in and treat me like crap!”  I’ve even heard people say, “well, Jesus was walked on.  So we should be too”.  Jesus died for the sins of humanity as a fulfillment of prophesy and to save us.  It wasn’t an issue of relational disrespect.  Jesus DOES however, tell us to be holy.  And part of being holy is being loving and truthful.  Allowing continual, unrepentant disrespect to keep happening without saying anything is neither of those things.  It’s not loving to enable someone to continue hurting you – or others – without saying something.

Everyone has an example of their life of someone who comes in and pees on their lawn.  I want to encourage you to be okay to put up a fence and protect your emotional property.  It’s okay to have a say as to what happens to your heart.  “You can’t control behaviour, but you can control consequences.”  You might lose family, you might lose friends.  But you will have peace inside that fence, and people in your yard who truly love and respect you unconditionally.  You will have truth, and honesty, and love, and respect.  And that fence is always open for people who are willing to come in and be nice.

I know that I want to be the kind of person who is welcome and safe to be inside other peoples’ yards.  And I also know that I want to model to my children not only the putting up of boundaries, but also the respecting of boundaries.  And the only way to do that is to walk it out as best I can, armed with His love and grace.

Where’s the Line?

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To be honest, a lot of questions arise for me after the recent conviction of the Alberta couple who “failed to offer the necessities of life” to their son who died of meningitis.  On the one hand, I do agree that they failed their son, that they should have sought medical attention a heck of a lot sooner, and that they are definitely partly responsible for the fatal outcome they experienced.

But on the other hand, I also see them as parents who were doing what they thought and felt was right.  No parent – apart from the small group of seriously deranged, abusive parents out there – wills their child dead.  No parent intends for anything negative to happen to their child.  Especially not sickness and definitely not death.

Really, aren’t we all just doing what WE think is best, even if that is different from what someone else thinks is best?

The fact that a couple can be convicted in the death of their child makes me wonder:

  • What about the parents that slowly kill their children by consistently feeding them unhealthy, fatty, sugary, processed food?  What about the years they suffer from childhood obesity and diabetes (not to mention the shame and insecurity should they be teased or bullied in school because of it)?  Most children go on to continue the cycle as adults, and the outlook for them, according to Statistics Canada, isn’t positive when it comes to disease and life expectancy.  Didn’t they fail to offer the necessities of life (healthy nutrition)?  Why aren’t they on trial?
  • What about parents who smoke in the house and vehicle while their children are present?  The health effects of second hand smoke are terrible, and are responsible for over 1000 infant deaths annually.  Didn’t they fail to offer the necessities of life (healthy air)?  Why aren’t those parents on trial?
  • What about the parents of a child who takes his or her life by suicide?  This is obviously a very sensitive topic to touch on, but for the sake of argument, are the parents responsible at all for the factors involved in a child who is so pained they don’t want to live?  Suicide is the second leading cause of death for Canadians between the ages of 10 and 24, making it a very serious problem in our country.  Which begs the question:  Should parents be held responsible, because they failed to offer the necessities of life for their child to thrive?   Why aren’t they on trial?

A person can argue that these cases are too different from the meningitis case to even compare.  And that’s probably true.  And obviously I am just pushing the envelope to make a point and open up some dialogue, even if it sounds or appears completely insensitive.  These examples aren’t indicative of my own heart and opinions, but rather a way of asking “if this ___ is true, then what about this ___?”

This headline story makes me wonder:  Where do we draw the line after this?  Aren’t we all just doing the best we can, based on our thoughts, feelings, convictions, beliefs – even if that ended in the worst case scenario?  And what about the worst-case scenarios of infants, kids, and young adults who have died in less-obvious (and perhaps slower, more painful) ways due to the choices of their parents?

Either way, as parents, we are certainly responsible.  Either way, we will make mistakes or choose a way that someone doesn’t agree with.  Either way, the death of a child is a tragedy, and being on trial in the wake of your grief likely makes it even harder.  Either way, it’s complicated issue that will never have answers.

Those are my un-edited thoughts on the issue.  What are yours?

 

 

Healing theology: Why it ticks people off.

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I’m not sure I know a doctrine in the North American church that manages to offend and tick more people off than the doctrine of healing.  (Wait, I do know another one:  Wealth. Combine the two, and you’re in even more trouble.  But that’s a touchy subject for another day…!)

Here are the 4 top reasons I believe it is always God’s will to heal:

  1. Because it says in His Word that He came to heal us and make us whole (Psalm 103 and many others).  He came to give us an abundant life (John 10:10) and to destroy the works of the enemy (1 John 3:8).  We know from Scripture that sickness is a work of the enemy, not from God.  How do we know this?  Because only good can come from God.  He is not suffering from multiple personalities – He is either Jehovah Rapha (our healer), or He is the giver of sickness.  He can’t be both, and He only says He’s one of those things.  We know which one if we read His Word.  (Also, why would he put sickness on people, just to have Jesus come and take it away from them?  Jesus wasn’t able to work against the Father, so if sickness was the Father’s work, Jesus would have been working against Him if he healed.)
  2. Because Jesus came and healed ALL he came in contact with.   There is not one place in the New Testament where Jesus left someone unhealed and told them it was God’s will that they remain the way they were.  (The thorn in Paul’s flesh doesn’t count, because it states it was a “messenger of satan” – not sickness  – and it was eventually removed once Paul learned to lean on God’s grace and not himself.)
  3. Because the Greek word for “saved” (SOZO – my favourite topic that I will scream from the mountaintop to free people from religious bondage – and the subject of my recent tattoo!) also means “physically healed”.  In fact, there are many places in the NT where the word “sozo” was used when someone received a physical healing:  The woman with the issue of blood and the ten lepers, just to name a couple.   Healing is part of the same package that salvation is part of.
  4. Jesus told us repeatedly in the Gospels that we are to go out and heal the sick, free people of demons, and raise the dead.  Mark 16 says that healing is actually a sign that will follow those who believe.  Luke 9 says that he sent out the disciples to heal ALL diseases.  He wouldn’t tell us to do something we’re not capable of (with him).  And it wasn’t just the disciples, so don’t let yourself off the hook.  The apostles did it too.  It wasn’t just for them, any more than any of the message of the Bible was solely for those who walked with Jesus.  It was for us too.

Here are the top 4 reasons people don’t believe this is true and it downright ticks some people off:

  1. “Because Uncle John died of cancer and lots of people were praying for him.”  Praying for a sick person is actually something Jesus never did.  (I know, right?!)  And just because he wasn’t healed, why does that change what God’s will was and is?  God’s will is that NONE should perish (2 Peter 3:9), yet people still perish and fail to repent. There is a big gap between what God desires for us and what actually happens, because we have free will.
  2. Circumstance theology:  this is the fancy word for #1.  It’s when people take our earthly circumstances (ie: the healing didn’t or hasn’t happened), and then determine God’s will based on that.  Uncle John died of cancer so that must mean that it’s not always God’s will that people are healed.  A good rule of thumb that I’ve learned, is that NOT EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENS LINES UP WITH THE WILL OF GOD.  There are things that have happened in my day already today that were not the will of God.  Yet they still happened, because there are two forces that work against God’s will:  1. The enemy; and 2. My own flesh.  Now, the great news is that both of those things can be overcome.  But if you maintain your belief that whatever happens – even if you activated the church prayer chain about it – is God’s will, you will never get to the point of overcoming those things, because you are missing their involvement completely.
  3. Christians love to spiritualize suffering.  For some reason, we think we are to suffer for Jesus.  Yes, trials will come.  Yes, we are told to take part in Christ’s suffering.  But if you look at the original Greek, we are to “simpatiko” with Christ – to identify with, to have compassion, and to be of one mind with – not physically suffer.  Jesus was called to suffering so that we might be saved through him; my suffering does not accomplish that.  Yes, God will use the hard things I go through to refine me, but He doesn’t author them.  He would much rather I learn through seeking Him and heeding His Word, just like I would rather my children learn not to run in the road because I tell them, and not because they got hit by a car and got paralyzed.
  4. Because we don’t see it happening.  You should go somewhere where it is.  It’s way more exciting.  🙂  Just because we don’t see it, again, doesn’t mean it’s NOT God’s will.  It just means we’re missing something.  Remember again how Jesus said, “These miraculous signs WILL accompany those who believe (not just disciples): They will cast out demons in my name, and they will speak in new languages.  They will be able to handles snakes with safety, and if they drink anything poisonous, it won’t hurt them.  They WILL BE ABLE TO PLACE THEIR HANDS ON THE SICK, AND THEY WILL BE HEALED.”  (Mark 16: 17-18)  Jesus said that, not me!

Part of my journey with this, is that I had to get to the point where I asked myself, “Do I believe the Bible, or do I believe my experiences?”  “Do I believe what God said, or do I believe what I see or don’t see?”

Why can we have faith for salvation, but not for healing?  “Sozo” says they’re part of the same package, so why is one part easy to believe and another isn’t?  I believe part of it is because we never see “failed salvations”.  We don’t know if someone actually went to heaven or not.  But we’ve seen people sick with cancer, or lose a baby, or live with diabetes (or perhaps we ourselves have been the person).  So those experiences taint our ability to accept God’s word about healing (but not salvation), and we eventually decide healing must not always be God’s will.

Friend, God is good.  If you’re not experiencing these things in your life, it’s not because God doesn’t want them for you.  It just means you’re like everyone else and you’re on a journey of faith.  There’s no judgement, no condemnation no matter what you believe.  There is no one waiting to wave a finger at you if you don’t believe these things or even if it makes you downright ticked off.  But I encourage you – do your own study.  Dig into it.  Ask God to show you more of Him and what His desire for you is and what His character is.  I need to do this daily, as I grow and change and realize areas where I’ve missed it.  (And there’s lots!)  But regardless, His love for you is great.  And that’s a doctrine that we can all agree on.  🙂

So maybe your answer to my title question is different than mine.  Perhaps your answer to why this theology ticks people off is because you think it’s wrong, faulty theology.  You’re entitled to that opinion, and I am open to hearing where in Scripture it says that sickness and disease come from God, or that He won’t heal us.  I am always open to some good discussion!

I’ll leave this on this note:  I heard a quote once that really resonated with me, and it said something along the lines of:

The truth that has the most chains around it 

is the one that has the most ability to set you free.

So maybe – just maybe? – has the enemy put enormous amounts of chains around the doctrine of healing in our church, because it is that very truth that has the MOST ability to set people free?  Why does God being SO good anger people the way it does, instead of excite and spur them on to walk in more of His goodness?  I guess that is for each of us to ponder and decide for ourselves.

Peace and blessings.  Thanks for hearing my heart.