Redefining Normal

We can’t properly understand what is abnormal until we understand what is normal, and just because something is common does not mean it is normal. Contrary to popular belief, normal isn’t what most people do.  It isn’t what is common.  Normal is the way God created things to be and thus how they function properly- not what they are given the influence of Satan and fallen man, which corrupts. Normal is the original intended purpose of a thing, or the standard by which all else is compared.  And abnormal is the degree to which we vary from that. Normal is what we should all be striving to get back to.  In short, we need to view normal the way that God views it, not the way fallen man views it.
It is common for man(kind) to be arrogant and proud. It is common for man to be rebellious and selfish. It is common for man to sin and reject God. But none of this is normal. None of this is the way it was intended to be.  None of this is the standard to which we should strive.  All of this is far from what God intended at creation or intends for us now.
I am so angry and tired of people who normalize sin, apathy, abuse, lukewarmness, worldliness, idol worship (In America that looks like the worship of sports, celebrities, money, status, etc.) and all the other things clearly laid out in scripture as not of God.  And I don’t care if the whole world decides something is “okay” just because “everyone does it” and it’s therefore “normal.”  I don’t care if every professor, government official, and psychologist in the world says something is “okay” or “normal”.  If it falls short of what God originally intended then it is NOT okay.  It is NOT normal.  It is NOT the standard.
And while we all fall short of God’s standard, that does not mean we get to lower the bar or change it to our liking.  I’m not trying to be dogmatic or lacking in grace.  I’m simply trying to express that God doesn’t change His standards just because we fail to meet them.
The bar is already set. God says “Be ye perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).  This has been and will always be the desire of God.  When we face God’s throne, we aren’t going to be judged based on the average level of sin per person.  We aren’t going to be weighed in the balance compared to our neighbor.  We’re going to be weighed on one side while Jesus – ultimate perfection – is on the other side.  We’re going to be judged and compared to perfection and held accountable for anything and everything that falls short of that.
God is going to point at Jesus and say “this was the standard set for you, this is my normal”.  And we will clearly see all the ways we fall short, except this time, we’ll have no more excuses and what government or society deemed “okay” will no longer matter.  We will be judged in comparison to Jesus’ perfect example and whether or not we lived up to that, not the hellish standards of fallen man.
Those who live in perpetual awareness of the difference between our lives and Christ’s also live in perpetual awareness of our lack – our depravity – our impossible state.  They’re the ones who continually cry out “Abba Father, forgive me a sinner unclean.”  They’re the ones who both know and desperately cling to our High Priest and perfect sacrifice, Yeshua.  Because we know that it is only by His blood and His works that we are saved from God’s judgement and wrath.  Oh, how deeply our souls know our own depravity.  How painfully aware we are of our need for Him.
It’s when we start normalizing the sin which is common to man that we stop seeing and feeling our need for Yeshua and start thinking we’re “okay” simply because we’re common.  Let us never fall into the trap of thinking that God has lowered His standard of perfection just because we decided it didn’t matter and thus began our slippery slope away from Him.
Yes, oh yes, how deeply we need to redefine normal.  How much we need to see the gulf between us and Him, so that we may know that it was never because of our works that we were saved, but only because of the perfect work and blood of Christ that we have been saved from wrath.  How unworthy we are, and how worthy He is.  Glory be to God for His love.  For He truly is the author and finisher of our faith.
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The Black Horse Dream

I had a few dreams last night, but I only remember this one.


I was sitting inside a glass house with friends.  It was dark outside.  We all knew we were in the beginnings of the times of judgement.  We knew we were in the White Horse time period, but we were still somewhat complacent.  Nothing really bad had happened yet so we had no emotional sense of urgency about anything.   Perhaps we were a little more awake than normal but we weren’t afraid.

Suddenly, there was a whirlwind of black smoke and out of the whirlwind came galloping a black horse.  In the dream I was aware of the different horses in Revelation but I was confused because I knew the red horse is after white.  The black is supposed to come after the red so I was looking to see if it was really black.  I confirmed it was definitely black (the color black does symbolize death and destruction but it was out of order).  I was confused because of the switch in colors and didn’t understand what was going on.

We were immediately overcome by the smoke and horse and we had no time to escape or hide.  Everyone was scrambling and I immediately fell to my knees praying that God would seal me and hide me from this horse judgement and protect me from it all.  I knew that God would protect me if I was sealed by Him.  I wasn’t sure why the colors were out of order, but I knew I needed to pray that I be marked and sealed for protection.

I knelt and prayed, then I woke up.

On Politics: A Winnowing

Winnow – verb (used with object)

– to free (grain) from the lighter particles of chaff, dirt, etc., especially by throwing it into the air and allowing the wind or a forced current of air to blow away impurities.


 

I’ve been asked a couple times to share my opinion on the current political happenings.  With all the hype, drama, chaos, and rhetoric going on within the political realm these days, it seems rather senseless to add yet another opinion.  Opinions are, as they say, like armpits.  (Everybody has one and most of the time they stink).  I hardly think adding yet another one to the mix will be helpful.

Oddly enough, I do feel led to write.  But not about my personal thoughts and opinions about the presidency.  My personal thoughts on that would probably only serve to inflame the intense fire of hatred, gossip, and strife that’s already tearing apart our country.  And while I do most certainly have strong opinions on the topic, I have no desire or intention for more division.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  And while the truth will always, to some extent, have a divisive effect…my ultimate desire is for unity and for peace.

So I write.  I write to express the impressions I feel upon my heart and I write to express what I feel to be a higher calling for our thoughts and feelings than the mayhem and rhetoric of hate and degradation that surrounds us.  And I’m willing to write because these ideals should always be held with more value than any passing thought or opinion of any one person.

Proverbs 25:4 says, “Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer.”

One thing that took me off guard with this election was the outpouring of venom and violence that, even still, is being poured out as a response to the results.  While at least as many people were just as sorely disappointed by the outcome of the last two elections, the vast majority accepted reality as it was and worked within it – without feeling the need to harm (verbally or physically) other people.   Peaceful protests and the civil/non-harmful expression of free speech is to be valued, yes.  But right now we’re seeing widespread violence, riots in the streets, people getting beaten up, mugged, harassed, verbally and physically assaulted.  They’re getting baited by questions that they then receive verbal or even physical beatings for…and for what reason?  Expressing their constitutional right to vote for who they believe will best lead our country?  For being honest and telling the truth?

The is shameful beyond any words I could possibly write.

While I haven’t experienced a mugging or anything that tragic, I got a good dose of the hatred the morning after the election when I came into work.  To be honest with you, I didn’t even vote in this election, nor did I speak out in support of anyone in particular.  But even so, I got name called and accused of “hating women” and “being against social reform”.  I got verbally assaulted and “put in my place” simply because I didn’t join in on the “I hate Trump” bandwagon that has somehow become the popular thing to do.  Well, sorry guys.  But I don’t hate anyone.  And I don’t succumb to violence in word or deed just because someone doesn’t agree with me..or for an even worse reason…because someone does not join in my shared sense of justifiable hate speech.

Let me re-iterate.  I DIDN’T EVEN VOTE.  And yet I got verbally assaulted because I refused to join the hate speech, which apparently incurred such a narcissistic injury that it immediately invoked narcissistic rage.

The only good that comes from a response like this, is we get the chance to see what is really on the inside of people’s hearts.  Many of the same people who were speaking of “tolerance” and “love” two days prior to the election were the same ones cursing and speaking hatred after it.  The good Americans who were disappointed by the last two elections at least proved their integrity through accepting the reality as it was – despite it not being what they wished – and simply dedicated themselves to doing what they could with what they had.  They showed good character.  But these people who are now acting out in hatred and violence – suddenly we’re seeing infantile, childish, and even violent backlash and for what…simply not getting their way?  This alone speak volumes, not to a “party” or to an “ideology” … but to the individual.

(As an aside, I know some amazingly good people who did not particularly care for the turnout of this election, and yet they have maintained perfect composure and integrity.  For you I hold the deepest respect).

Matthew 3:12 says, “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

If there is anything I can say about this election, it is that the results are separating the dross from the metal and the chaff from the wheat.  And I’m not here speaking about parties or ideologies or any political label – I am speaking here to the very hearts and characters of individual people.  Because hearts and characters are not revealed by what we say we believe (especially when we’re happy or think we’re getting our way).  In the same way that you cannot find out what’s inside a cup until you knock over the cup and spill it’s contents, our hearts and characters are revealed by what spills out when we’re pushed and knocked over.

And these election results are revealing so much about who people are and what they really believe.  Not only is it revealing the integrity and character of people, it is also revealing the individual’s level of ignorance.  Those who have been brainwashed by the media to believe things that simply aren’t true, those who’ve taken no steps to dig into facts or research to discover what is or is not true, those who have forgone their God-given ability to think for themselves and critically think…they’re revealing their sad state for the entire world to see.  And it is a sad state indeed.

While the verbal and physical violence draws out my righteous anger, the entire state of things draws out a certain grief.  A grief that our nation is being divided over nothing.  Literally, nothing.  And the very people who should be rejoicing in the results of this election, were they to have spent any time actually looking at any facts, are the ones speaking evil against it.  The level of ignorance and brainwashing grieves my heart more than you know, and it’s driving me to my knees in prayer.


Lord, I pray you speak your truth over this nation.  Dismantle the lies, deceptions, and manipulations that have so many people living in fear, anger, and darkness.  Bring your light to our country and illuminate the dark so that we may rejoice and be glad that you and you alone are King.  If we are living in fear, let us remember who is really in charge.  And let us repent of our faithlessness and self-deceptions.  Let us rejoice that you have spared us of great evils, more times than we deserve, and that this day you have rescued us from the hands of the enemy.  Lord, we do not deserve it but your love is endless.  And let us humbly and sincerely pray that you lead our new president in truth and with grace.  In your name I pray, Amen.

The Heart and The Mouth

Above all else, guard your heart.  For everything you do flows from it.  – Proverbs 4:23


Everything comes down to the position and motivation of the heart.  Everything.

Jesus taught this when he says, “…but the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean’.  For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man ‘unclean’.” (Matthew 15:18-19)

That which we speak comes from our hearts, and it is our hearts that determine how clean or unclean it is.

For example…

Say you notice something different about your friend.  Where once he/she was thoughtful and giving, now they are more reserved.  A loving heart would perceive this as concern for them and you will approach them in love and ask what is wrong.  If you love them and care for them, you will listen to the answer and provide them with emotional support and care. If you love them and care for them, you’ll make sure you understand what they are going through and why they are acting differently than normal.

But if you do not love them, you will judge them without even knowing what is really going on.  You won’t talk or even ask before casting a judgment.  If you do ask, it’s with the agenda of casting judgment.  Unloving hearts doll our judgment to friends and strangers alike without any form of understanding of what the truth may be.  Unloving hearts get upset only that they “changed” and then become sullen and self-pitying because the friend isn’t serving you as they used to.  Unloving hearts expect or demand love without ever offering it.

Unloving hearts also accuse others of being judgmental, simply because they feel convicted of being wrong.  They feel convicted, refuse to address such conviction, and so accuse others of being “judgmental” simply for speaking honestly.

But here’s the funny thing.  You can’t call someone judgmental without being yourself, judgmental.  And since hardly anyone makes that accusation with a heart of love, that also makes the accuser not only judgmental themselves, but also prideful, haughty, and hypocritical.  You accuse someone of what you believe is wrong (which may not actually be wrong, since you didn’t bother to look into the matter), and you end up incurring three more wrongs upon yourself.  Funny how that works, huh.

Is it any wonder Jesus taught us not to point out the speck in someone’s eye before removing the plank in our own?  He didn’t say “never point it out.”  He just said to check ourselves and approach all matters with a pure heart.  Because when, and only when, our hearts are right is it a beautiful thing to come to someone in love and concern about theirs.  We are called to speak the truth, in love, and to sharpen one another as iron sharpens iron.  We are even called to rebuke those who are stubborn in their sin and, if they are causing harm to others, we are to remove them from our inner circles so as to protect ourselves and those we love.

Unfortunately, most people in today’s world (just look at social media…holy cow) throw around accusations and judgements to people they don’t even know, never took the time to talk to, and have no actually love or concern for.  People get a rush of god-like delusion from casting judgements on everything and then calling it “free speech.”  People with planks so big they can’t even see straight, setting out with prideful and arrogant hearts, seeking only to expose the specks in everyone else’s eyes.

Christ calls us to be different.  May we, as followers of Christ, be ever more wise and discerning in the purification of our own hearts, and leave the hearts of others to the real Judge, who knows and sees all.

Into The Light

Life finally seems to be making more sense.  That may sound rather anti-climactic, but for me it’s incredibly refreshing.  As someone who thrives off structure and logical reasoning, the last few years have been anything but comfortable.  In fact, they’ve been almost purely maddening.  For things to finally start making sense is more of a relief  than most people realize.

While I don’t believe our God is one of chaos or confusion, I do believe he allows our lives to be confusing and chaotic.  Realities of evil, sin, and their consequences mean that life will inevitably be both confusing and chaotic… and sometimes worse.  Sometimes it becomes downright excruciating and destructive.  My life has been lived mostly in the latter and yet my deepest pains have not come from evil actions against me but rather from not being able to make sense of them.  It’s impossible to move past things you can’t even make sense of, so understanding has always been my unrelenting pursuit.

Throughout my life, I’ve learned that all manner of evil can be endured with patience if we’re able to see the end game.  If we know the purpose of a particular pain before we experience it, the pain is much easier to endure.  For example, if I have asked God for patience and all of a sudden my life becomes annoyingly complicated, I take a great deal of comfort in knowing that God is growing my character and internal strength.  I then ease into the discomfort and find myself working with God instead of resisting him, and life almost magically becomes easier.

On the other hand, there are some sufferings so tragic, so deep, and so damaging that they’re as senseless as they are painful.  And this has been my greatest struggle – enduring pain that is not only excruciating but also seemingly senseless.  What purpose is there in being repeatedly victimized in such a way that your wounds never heal but only compound into something not even recognizable?  What is the purpose in abuse by parents, friends, or people who claim to love you?  What is the purpose in being raped?  What is the purpose in being lied to and manipulated and coerced?  Those are hard questions to answer when you’re in the thick of things.  But with time and space have come perspective, and with perspective comes a great deal of peace.  It may be over 30 years coming, but important answers are finally arriving.

In the same way that we are blessed by God in order to be a blessing to others, I also believe that we are allowed to endure great trials in order to help others through the same.  God would not have allowed me to survive the assaults on my life and very soul if he didn’t want me to help others survive as well.  And I firmly believe that one day, the balances will shift in the right direction.  That survivors from all walks of life will find their voice, speak out against the abuses they have endured, and enact positive change that shines a bright light into the deep darkness of pain that has threatened to overtake so many lives.

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”  I pray that no matter what darkness you find yourself in, you’re able to gravitate towards the light.  And as you find yourself moving more and more into the light, you will become a light for others as well.

 

 

 

 

Suffering for Christ

Suffering“The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:16-17


There are two things I’ve noticed when it comes to these verses.  1) I always seem to hear the first part…the “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” part… in Christian teaching.  2)  The second part….the provision of suffering in order for any of the aforementioned statuses to be true…that part doesn’t seem to make it into the sermon.

I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t feel like an honest portrayal of Christianity for anyone inside or out of the Christian faith to proclaim that we are heirs of Christ while not mentioning the pre-requisite for that status.  It seems more admirable for American churches to focus on and teach what scripture actually says about our position in the Heavenly realm rather that what simply feels good.   I mean, come on, we’re supposed to be the image bearers of Christ and the proclaimers of His truth…not a gimmicky marketing campaign.   Contrary to how the verse is often presented, this portion of scripture in no way indicates that the provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” involves going to church, doing ministry, worship, listening to “Christian” music, dressing “modestly,” or any other rule that church people tend to focus on.  The provision for attaining the status of “children of God” and “heirs with Christ” is one thing….that we suffer with Him…end of verse.

I mean, let that sink in for a minute.  We are heirs with Christ, provided that we suffer with him.  Provided that we suffer with Him.  Provided that we suffer with Him.  And….Jesus suffered a lot.  He suffered in a lot of different ways.  He was misunderstood, despised, rejected, lied about, constantly accused of untrue things, betrayed by people who swore to follow him, left alone in his greatest moments of need, and then tortured and killed.  And Scripture tells us to be like him.  To follow in His footsteps, and to suffer with him.  And only if we suffer with Him, are we children of God as He is.

How many of us (myself included at times) in moments of not even real suffering but rather just minor inconveniences, remember that actual suffering is the pre-requisite to being an heir of Christ, and in that knowledge, thank God for it?  I’d venture to say, not many.  I know I certainly forget way too often.  But I read this scripture and get angry at the Americanized churches that conveniently forget to teach that suffering is absolutely the pre-requisite to being an heir of Christ.  That if we aren’t suffering, we aren’t doing something right.  That if we’re totally comfortable in our lives, we’re actually doing something wrong.  And if we’re seeking nothing but comfort and ease, we’re DEFINITELY seeking the wrong things.

It’s a truth that counters both culture and what is often taught from the pulpit.  It’s a mindset that is totally foreign to our current culture and society.  But it IS the truth and reality of Scripture, and I think we need to fully grasp and understand it (and other hard truths like it) before we jump on a bandwagon we don’t honestly know anything about.