One of my favorite verses in all of scripture is 2 Corinthians 5:17:
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, this person is a new creation; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (NASB)
Though I’m sure there are a few lessons that can be gleaned from the passage, one that sticks out to me the most, are those of us who wrestle with the past. Be it regret, shame, loss, and the like.
So many times, we try and correct our own wrongs only to continually carry around a sense of dead weight inside us. It robs us of joy and peace. Often it can seem as though there is no way out of the cycle.
However, Christ broke that cycle on the cross, so that you (me) are not only forgiven for the past, present and future. We become new creations in Christ, from the inside out when you place our faith in him by the power of his spirit, as such we no longer must be at war with the past and we can trust God with our futures.
Yes, we may still face consequences in life, but we can do so with the peace and courage of Christ. We no longer have to be identified by the past, but rather, now, we can be identified but what Christ has done for us and who we are in him.
Some days ago, Rev Warnock tweeted and quickly deleted the following statement:
“The meaning of Easter is more transcendent than the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” declared Warnock. “Whether you are Christian or not, through a commitment to helping others we are able to save ourselves.”
Needless to say his statement troubles and frustrates me, one because it is not a biblically accurate statement. Take for example 2 Timothy 1:9:
9 He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time,
Yes, the book of James even tells us that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26. But it is not as though he is saying that our works will save us. But that they are a response to the faith we have by Gods grace. Else where in scripture we are told that God has prepared good works for us (EPH 2:10).
Another reason this irks me , is because he is leading people astray. I have surveyed every religion the world has to offer. And nothing has brought me more peace and assurance than the grace of Jesus Christ. I did NOTHING to deserve this. Yet through Gods kindness was I brought to repentance.
You or I could never know if we have done enough good works to save ourselves, we in a sense would be slaves and would perform our supposed good works. Not because we wanted to serve others, but because we wanted to score points (enough points that is) to obtain our salvation. This is not good news at all.
My new book “A Mad Love and A Shameless Audacity ” is out today! It’s a simple message of remembering how madly God has loved us through Christ. Even if you have been a Christian your whole life, are wrestling with doubt or you discover Gods mad love for you-for the first time- this book is for you!
Life is more like a wrestling match, than a dance. We are to live not like the gladiator but like the pancrationist. For while the gladiator is killed if he drops his sword, the pancrationist is always armed with his own to hands. -Marcus Aurelius
I love this quote by Marcus Aurelious, frankly as a life long martial artist my heart truly gravitated to this quote. I’m a grappler at heart and a purple belt in Brazilian Jujitsu. Pancration was one of the world’s first and if not the oldest grappling system and predates Jesus Christ. Though I am a purple belt in BJJ, most people do not know that I am also a certified instructor under the Jeet Kune Do Grappling association, JKD was Bruce Lee’s personal philosophy (not a system) toward fighting, Bruce himself loved the grappling as well, and of the main systems in JKD grappling (among others) is catch wrestling. Which is many ways is an off shoot of Pancration. I share this because both catch and Pancration or both very brutal systems that are up close and personal- and in the clinch. They are not pretty arts. When it comes to our lives, we can have a tendency to want our lives to be pretty and comfortable. With little to no complication or adversity. Admittedly, some have much more comfortable lives than others. Which is not wrong in and of its self, but when one has too much comfort, even the tiniest bout of affliction and discomfort can send a person into an emotional frenzy. Trust me I’ve seen it in my own life! So Marcus is saying, that as humans we have to be willing to grapple in life, to be able to be stronger mentally and emotionally. Sure, one perfectly aimed attack can finish the altercation without much effort, but that isn’t life as much as we’d like it to be. The sword is not without it’s place in life, but more often than not the battle happens up close. Some swordsmen, even when they clash with their swords, they end up in a grappling match. Boxers can spend all day punching a heavy bag and looking sharp on focus mitts. But in a real boxing match guess what? They still clinch up! That means that we as humans better get used to grappling emotionally and mentally in life. Maybe even actually go and take some grappling lessons, so that you can know what the actual fight is like. Everyone has different things we are grappling against, for some it’s addiction to various things, for others it could be depression, anxiety, self- image, health issues numerous things could be added to the list. What that does then, is that it puts all on level ground, and even gives us the chance to be in the corner of others. We must come to grips with the reality that a lot of life is grappling and struggle, and that’s ok! Why? Because as humans we learn more in the fire adversity than we do elsewhere. The grappling match is the way to almost everything we want in life! You want be a better person? You have to be willing to enter the grappling match. If you want to lose weight, you still have to enter life’s grappling match. There’s no escape from it. Of course then, we can choose to hide and not enter life’s grappling arena, but by not choosing to do that you’re hurting yourself and selling yourself short daily. Never knowing your real potential as a human being. I’m not applying that you have to go through life on your own merit and strength all the time, but you do know have to know how to survive in life’s clinch. Because when it grabs on to you, it’s grip is a vice grip, and you will need to learn how to use base, connection and leverage to get out of its grip. In practice, when we learn to grapple from the clinch and we are fighting for position, it can seem like a never ending struggle, your heart beating fast and lungs burning. Yet, if you slowly learn over time, to not let your thoughts and emotions get the better of you. You have a victory that is one of the sweetest experiences in life. Will we win every grappling match in life? Not a chance, you will be tapped out and choked out more times than you can count. You might want to stay on the ground for a while, but find that deep inner strength to get back up.
I’d like to share my thoughts on 1 Corinthians 7 (The famous Marriage chapter), everyone should read the chapter in its entirety. However for the purpose of space and time, I’m going to highlight certain parts of the passage and hopefully paint a broader picture. As a teenager, a bit after becoming a Christian by the grace of God, some guys I would sit at a coffee shop slaving over this passage. Really though, it was them slaving over what the implication of chapter 7 was and me just listening. The main argument was: “Does God want me to marry or stay single?” Some of the guys even seemed to be wrestling with whether Paul was implying that we should all be single, and whether marriage was a good idea.
This is where context matters greatly, it can’t be that God or Paul think that marriage is the worst of all things, because the scripture begins and ends within the context of a marriage. The first was Adam and Eve, and the second is more a metaphor between the true children of God and Christ. In EHP Paul tells us men-husbands to love our wives as Christ loves the church. So, again, Paul cannot be speaking ill of the idea as a whole. At the core of chapter seven, I believe that Paul is truly speaking to a life devoted to a life of serving God and others. Which is probably why he says that sexual relations should be avoided, but because of immorality a man must have a wife of his own and vice versa. Not that thinks that sex is evil or anything of the sort.
Hopping down to verse eight, Paul says 8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. Paul says that it is good to stay as he is (single) why? Because he thinks marriage is wrong? No, otherwise he would be going against scripture its self. Rather (I believe) that he is in one way saying that it’s difficult, and that a person will be torn between serving God and their spouse. I like many other scholars probably think he (Paul) was married before and experienced his own hardship within a marriage, and when he first tasted the goodness and grace of God. From that that point on he was one hundred percent sold for the cause of Christ. Which is great! Furthermore, there might be lessons in this too, perhaps Paul found a peace and contentment with God and self that he could never find in a woman, no, Paul isn’t some bitter woman hater, but he found a mission and calling much bigger than anything else in his life. I also believe that he might be implying that human marriage is temporary and Christ is forever. Even though in my heart I long to be married and a father, the end for me is eternity with Christ. My future wife and I will fight, I’ll fail as a husband and father and my kids will not listen to me.
So is it still worth it? Or should I just become a monk? Yes its worth it! Become a monk? Maybe, if after a lot of prayer I realized that that’s where God had me headed. Looking back at the coffee shop scene from the beginning, people were really only making what the apostle Paul was saying more difficult than it had to be. Relationally speaking, we Christians can make the realm of relationships all the more difficult. In my junior year of college, I asked a young woman out for a simple cup of coffee, and her response was “I need to ask God about that first”. Now, there’s nothing wrong with seeking God on things in life, but at the same time, it wasn’t like I was going to ask the girl to marry me or anything, it was just a cup of coffee! Paul says in verse 8, that it is better to marry than to burn with passion. That’s one indication that you should thoughtfully and prayerfully peruse that avenue, if on the other hand you do not burn with passion. Then keeping being you, becoming more content, happier, healthier serving God and others.
Perhaps that burning passion will come later in life, none the less though, in verse seventeen Paul says: 17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. Live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them. In one sense, Paul might be making a subtle reference to the ever quoted Phil 4:13, which says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Paul wasn’t referring to be able to be Peter Pan and fly, but rather to be content and endure whatever context that he finds himself in. Secondly, Paul uses the word Assigned and my estimation this is a very big and crucial world, why? Because being the Calvinist that I am, I then believe that God has already laid everything out before us for our lives. I’m sure that some might argue with me on this point, and that’s fine. In that same vein of thought, The Lord knows whether one will stay single or Marry.
The best thing that we can do is to not only trust him, but seek him daily. It’s also a sobering reality, that even those of us who burn with passage, don’t always get the desires of our hearts granted always. This can also spill over into other areas of our lives as well. This is a profound mystery, that I will more than likely not understand this side of life. Yet, I will holdfast to the reality that God has loved us madly through his son Jesus. And that is far better and sweeter than anything in life. Simply, because you’re single, does not mean you are missing or lacking anything in life. It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. So smile, be vibrant and enjoy your life. Keep working on yourself, readying oneself for the reality of maybe one day being a husband or wife. To the married (I’m saying this as a single man, having never been married- go figure). Marriage in the Christian sense, is a sanctifying experience, you will see each- others flaws in ways you never dreamt, and you will have to forgive each other the same way that Christ has forgiven us for our sins. But it is beautiful and worth it in the end.
Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, 2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. 3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
The psalms have been an anchor for my soul in the last several months of my life. Many Christians turn to the psalms, and for good reason. Beyond the reality of beautiful poetry, one can find many emotions within each poem. Anger, sadness, rejection, loneliness, feeling forsaken, grief, despair and much more. It came to my attention, that my focus turns to the psalms around the fall season. Perhaps it’s the beauty of the season that make the words of the psalms truly capture my attention. I’d like to attempt to make a trek through the psalms, and share my reflections. I’m not going to make any promises, because I know that perfection will not be visible in this exercise.
That being said, lets start with the first three verses of Psalm 1: Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
Blessed. We are blessed if we don’t not follow the path of the wicked. Now, what does it mean to be a wicked person? In one sense, its living in direct opposition to God and the mandate the he has laid before us. Before I had a collision course with Christ, this was me. So, in no way am I implying that I’m better than anyone else, nor is that the actual intention of the scriptures. In my opinion, being wicked simply means to do things for purely selfish reasons and gain. Again, this was me before becoming a new creation, I did everything to make myself feel good and my gain. Not caring about the soul of another. The result for me was that my soul began to wither and I did not prosper, as it says in verse three. In simple terms, when a soul begins to wither, they have no color or fail to be vibrant. The same way the leaf looks stunning in the fall. The soul that withers is not living as they ought to be.
The tree planted:
That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither— whatever they do prospers.
This section of the psalm stuck to my heart in a profound this, mainly because this tree is stable. Even in the changes of seasons, it does not fret because it knows that it will be taken care of. Now, I am not saying that a tree has emotion, but more metaphorically speaking. We humans have a very hard time being stable. We easily worry and give in to worry and every other desire and emotion when life becomes difficult. Emotion is not wrong or bad, frankly emotions are a gift from God. However, when we constantly let our lives be led by them we fail to bare fruit in seasons. We don’t thrive. Rather than being dominated by emotion, we should learn to filter and delay our emotions. The opposite of that is constantly freaking out and always being in a state of panic. Is that how you truly want to live?
Furthermore , it is my belief that this part of psalm one is telling us to trust that the very God who planted us. Will not leave us to be destroyed by the various storms of life, but that he will not leave us and always-always provide for us. He feeds us, clothes us the same way he provides for the sparrows. The path of Christ is narrow, and sometimes in life our souls can wander, we get beat up spiritually, we doubt and yes sometimes we can find ourselves on the other side of the road where we are not meant to be. But, if your tree is rooted in Christ, he will never allow you go too far off the path. He’s amazing like that.
I think that if there was one thing I’d change about myself, it would be how reactive that I am to pain. What I mean is that, when something of adversity comes my first protective measure is to lash out or rather do things without thinking. Or I don’t specifically think of the consequences before doing certain things.
Over the last few months, I’ve become a fan of stoicism. Mainly in how it teaches one to sit with thoughts and emotions, noticing them and sometimes not even doing anything about them. Because well emotions, they aren’t something solid that can always be trusted in. Our emotions can often let us down and leaving us feeling and looking stupid in the end.
Detaching from emotions- or rather not giving ear to every emotion that comes to us. I don’t think that means that we allow ourselves to become emotionally constipated per-say. Some emotions are worth paying attention to, on the other hand if we allow ourselves the always open window of emotion. We then become a slave and emotion is our master.
There’s time in life where one must turn off emotion and do what needs to be done. A simple example is this, let’s say you wake up pissed off for reasons you don’t even know. Are you going to let that get in the way of your work day? Or, let’s say your boss pisses you off so much, are you then going to focus on how much you dislike them? Or are you going to focus on the task at hand?
Now, perhaps there’s issues with your boss that need to be handled, maybe even finding a new job. But what happens we you lose control, and you unload on your boss? Now you can probably kiss your job good bye.
And with them, most of us then think “why in the hell did I just do that?” Then you feel like #### after.
So, sit with your emotions, decide which emotions are worth paying attention to and what ones are worthy of dismissal. For as a person of faith, I am not ruled by any one thing but have the mind of Christ.
Growing up in my faith, it was very common to hear fellow believers, exclaim that they were a broken person, after all it makes sense, within the the framing of the Christian faith. Is the idea the sin a broken and corrupted everything within the human existence.
A pastor I once listened said that Christians are image bearers of God, and are like a mirror image of Christ. But sin has broken the mirror inside us that reflects christ. Hence why Christ had to come and die, to repair what was broken in us.
Again, it all makes sense. At least to me, and if you’re a follower of Christ. But I don’t believe that it was it was the healthiest of narratives to believe after becoming a Christian via the power of the holy spirit. I believe that most of us that have the name of Christ on our hearts, have forgotten that we have the holy spirit inside us. (1 Corinthians 12:13- Eph 1:13-14)
God put the spirit inside of us. Shouldn’t that do something to the psyche of a Christian? Absolutely!
God also gave us spiritual armor and a sword to fight back with, Ehp 6. Again, that should tell you something.
Once again, I think there is nothing good that comes from a fellow Christian that simply believes that they are weak and broken person, waiting for Christ to come and put them back together. Negative. Absolutely not! Outside of Gods grace and love, yes we are weak and broken people left to our own stubborn and tired ways.
But when the holy spirit invades your whole being, you have the mind of Christ, you have been made a new creation and have been enlisted in the army of God. Because we have the spirit, because we have been made a new creation and because we have been enlisted in the army of God.
Guess what, God calls us to go set other hostages free, he calls us to go on the attack against sin. That doesn’t seem like a broken person to me. Some many of us walk around with our heads down and shoulders slouched, thinking and believing that we may never have victory in our lives. In no way shape or form is that how the father wants us to live our lives. If anything living like that is like living out a lie from the pit of hell.
Your past has been forgiven. Any sit that you will ever commit. Past, present or future has been forgiven. That is every reason to hold your head up, to stand up straight with your shoulders back. It is every reason to achieve a sense of mastery over the self, in the grace of God.
So, my fellow believer. Stop saying your broken, rip that narrative up. Yes you may struggle and stumble at times, but that isn’t who you are. Remember what God has done for you, remember who he has made you to be. Hold your head up and stand up straight.
Not really, but I do like a part of Stoicism or rather a definition of it:
the endurance of pain or hardship without the display of feelings and without complaint.
In college, my senior year I took a crash course in philosophy, and loved every moment of it. Particularly weighing other branches of philosophy against my own Christian world view. A lot of the different philosophies and even religions, try and make sense of human existence and suffering. growing up around the Buddhist perspective. The thought of reincarnation was once cool to me, because I would never really die, I would just come back in another human life… Or something else. When I truly began to understand what reincarnation was, I understood it as endless cycle of paying past debts and sins. If you did not make amends for your past in some fashion.
I just did not like the idea of not knowing if I would have done enough to write my own wrongs in my life. Furthermore- I couldn’t wrap my head around the concept that suffering was an illusion. Or that there was really no rhyme or reason to it. It just was… What spurred me onto the Christian perspective and following Jesus, was that I could see from the beginning that the world was the way it was because of sin.
On top of that Jesus even says that life is going to be hard (my own words- John 16:33). At least, with these two ways of understanding, I could wrap my head around why the world was the way it was. Better yet, someone that not only says that right out of the gate, but transcends it and over comes it as well with his death, burial and resurrection. I accept that as truth, because God has shown me his love in the actions and character of Christ.
Moreover, I know that I am not strong enough to absolve or atone for my own sin by myself. For as long as I have been trying to live this truth out, by the grace of God. I have been learning ways to handle adversity and suffering in life, in its many forms. That not only speaks and points to the heart and character of God. But the fruit of the spirit, that enables me to stand up as a man.
I look to how Jesus conducted himself as a man, within the pages of the new testament. Christ was a man- a God-man that was in control of his emotions. Always slow to anger, and when he did show anger, it was always calculated. He had a spine to him, wasn’t afraid to stand up to the religious big shots of his day. He was okay breaking away from people, to embrace solitude and divine connection with his father.
As I recall scenes from Mel Gibsons, Passion of the Christ. I can recall Jesus being calm while the Roman guards led him away. They beat him to a bloody pulp, mocked him, reviled him. And there he stood, silent in the face of the agony that was about to be set before him. He didn’t make a sound..
(By now if you’re still reading this, you might be thinking, get to the bloody point sir!) To me, some of the characteristics of Jesus seem very stoic, and as I have stumbled upon the definition of stoicism above. I have found that it has filled me with a new level of strength and even hope. As well as a way of conducting myself as man. Life has and will bring pain and adversity. But its how we deal with it that makes it all the difference.
A lot of us freak out when things don’t go our way, or have a level of ease. We lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean and sometimes even get violent… But, in reality that is nothing good or worthy that comes from that. So instead of doing all of that negative garbage. Why not look at adversity and suffering in a new way? When frustration comes our way, when pain comes our way. How about simply acknowledging its presence,
In recent years, probably a few times a month. I am filled with the desire to go rock climbing, skydiving or hiking. The interesting fact is, I’ve never done any of those things. So its not as though I could simply pick up and do any of those. I would love to though. Up until recently, these desires seemed so odd to me. Why would I suddenly want to do something, seemingly dangerous, that I have never done before?
Two reasons: One- a sense of adventure and thrill. Two- a way of escape.
With the sense of adventure, I believe that this stems from living with cerebral palsy all of my life, being confined to the same daily context. It’s not directly a bad thing. But there is a huge part of me that wants to break free and experience new things.
And with the way of escape, another catalyst to my sense of adventure is to find peace. Peace, away from daily drama, complaining and the like. When I was praying in the early hours of the morning, God revealed to me that my longing for escape, is much deeper. In fact, my longing for escape is much deeper than this world.
CS Lewis once wrote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.
I love these words, because they perfectly explain the longing in my body, mind and soul. I want to be in the arms of Christ. Because He is my peace and the real escape that I long for. When I am finally with Him, I will be able to do all the things that randomly spring up in my heart to do.