When the past haunts you

My past has been haunting me the last few days, or rather I should say, resurfacing. My stomach has been is shambles. A fire burning up my insides if you will. I’ve done so many stupid things in the past, the natural response is to say that we’ve all done things we regret or are not proud of. Yet when my own past come to my mind again, it has a way of making me feel like the worst, disgusting sinner alive. Life could be going smoothly, and then out of the blue a memory comes popping up. Usually a condemning state follows:

“Hey, remember when you did this and this? Yeah, you’re a real piece of ####” Then those same condemning statements, have a way of sinking down into the depths of me. Regardless of how much I try and shield them from attacking me so vigorously. So how do we begin to deal with these seeming random thoughts that come are way?

Well for one: We can Acknowledge them

What I mean is this, while it may be uncomfortable to do so. Acknowledging the thoughts is actually very useful. You can simply say, “yes that happened, and I hate that it did.” Now, the trick to acknowledging it, is also making sure that you’re not let down a spiral of inner destruction where we spend hours beating ourselves up. This of course, comes from someone that also fails at that as well.

I only share that, so people can learn from that mistake as well. It can be very difficult to find the balance, in accepting and acknowledging our sins and not completely mentally flogging ourselves. But it is needed. 

Seek Forgiveness

Again this is not an easy route and often it requires a huge chunk of humility and letting go of ego and pride. The reason I say this, is because of the people in the world, who’s disposition is “I’d never seek forgiveness of anyone.” Which leads to its own consequences. Forgiveness is actually a pivotal role in healing and arriving at a place of peace. Forgiveness, may require actually approach the person you hurt, and seek their forgiveness. Now then, whether they grant you forgiveness or not, is not for you to decide. Perhaps, they will forgive in time. The fact and reality remains that you did your part. Forgiveness is not only good on a human to human level, but it is also good on a spiritual level as well. Knowing that God can not only forgive you of your sins, but in a great exchange gives you his righteousness. Thus, when the father God looks us, he does not see us in our sin.

Know Who You Really Are

You may have noticed, that I put a bit more emphasis on the forgiveness of God, rather than human forgiveness. Reason being is because another human, might not grant you forgiveness when asked for it. However, if a person comes to God with a contrite heart, and whole heartedly asks God for forgiveness, the beauty of the gospel is that God is not one to say no. What kind of God would he be, if he said no?

When you are forgiven in Christ, there is no condemnation for those who in Christ Jesus, the old has gone and new has come. Yes, there might very well be consequences as a result of our actions. That’s merely apart of living in this world. It will in fact, take some courage to face the past and make amends if possible, the difference is, is that you will not be alone in doing so. The spirit of God will be with you at all times.

Get Your Act Together
I’d like to end with this, the love and forgiveness of Christ, is not a free card to sin endlessly. No, it is a call to join the ongoing battle against the flesh and sin. It is a call to get your act together and be better than you once were. To submit the former self and way of living. It’s a chance to live for a higher calling and purpose. You don’t have to keep living as you once were, the shame of past regret does not have to define you. You can be a completely different person, with all new desires, hopes and dreams.

The Path of Destruction

Philosophically speaking, there are two ways in which we view the world or rather people that inhabit the world. The first way people believe is that we are inherently good and some of us become wayward either due to be misguided along the way or some sort of traumatic experience along the way. This particular world view is in some ways easy to live with, because it also becomes easy to dismiss the darkness caused by others is only due to deviating from a path of goodness.

This particular philosophical out look can be a real stumbling block for my mind to try and comprehend. Having once worked in a Child Advocacy center, knowing that the young children coming into the center everyday faced a real physical evil causes something to rage against the view of inherent goodness. Sure, one could submit that the abuser experienced their own pain and tragedy. Yet the very rebuttal is not enough to make up for the pain caused.

Some where along the way personal ownership of ones actions has to be set in motion. In the A.A. movement one of the most important steps is to take ownership of ones actions and try to make as much restitution for prior actions. More on this point in a bit.

The second outlook then, is the belief or understanding that we humans are not inherently good. Quite the opposite, that we are all for a lack of better words evil, with a dark dragon inside us as it were. And left to our own devices, we are bent toward a path of destruction. Admittedly, this view is much harder for people to swallow, usually people are deeply offended by this particular view at first and carry a look in their eyes as though to say:

“How dare you say I’m evil!”

Trust me, this view wasn’t something that was easily accepted for me either. The biggest problem that some people have in accepting this view, is that we humans don’t want to take on the challenging and uncomfortable task of taking a cold hard look at ourselves. Down to the core of who we are. Again, this is very uncomfortable to do, because you may discover things about yourself that you never even knew about. And then you have to work on those areas too.

This isn’t something that people want to do, but it must be done none the less. It’s how we start to combat the dark dragon inside of us all. Going back to the A.A. example, for that person to begin to make restitution for past transgression. He or she has to first see that they first have a problem. A problem that they are fundamentally powerless over, and that they need divine help from. They need Christ to come in a make them a new creation.

If Alcoholics do not take the steps needed to combat the dragon inside them, they will die in a state of destruction of the soul. Even if you do not believe in a literally hell as depicted in the Christian narrative, there still is in a sense- a hell that happens to the soul when it is swallowed by darkness.

You might submit that you don’t wrestle with addiction to substance, but if you look deeper at your self and life you lead. You certainly do wrestle and stumble in other ways. Perhaps you have made a lot of bad choices in your life and your past eats your soul alive all the time. Perhaps you’re filled with resentment and hatred for things done to you, that is something you should aggressively work on before you are on your death bed.

Whatever it may be, we all have things within the stories of our lives that we must deal with. You have to do the hard work of finding out what that is for you. Write it down, even if it’s multiple items and them aim at overcoming them to the best of your finite ability.

Christ said in Matthew 7:13: “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”

The narrow gate is not a comfortable one, it was never intended to be. Yet it does lead to the most joy and freedom. The narrow gate requires to say no to things that will do us harm, and others harm. The narrow gate calls us to make war against the sin inside us the tangles us up. Finally, the narrow gate that Christ calls us to, demands that we are too weak to bare our burdens on our own accord and yet be filled with the courage to bare our crosses until our stories are over.

Do the hard work, it’s calling at you daily, screaming at you saying : “DEAL WITH ME DAMMIT!” Deal with it while you still can.

My Thoughts on The Fallen Ravi Zacharias

If you’re a Christian, then you have probably heard about the horribly heat breaking news about the ever popular Ravi Zacharias. If you haven’t here is the skinny to read more about it:

https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/update-from-rzim-board-allegations-against-ravi-zacharias

Many Christians have posted their responses both in written and video form, a lot have already said similar things that I have wanted to write about. Which is why I haven’t written anything. This dark and twisted situation has really weighed heaven on my heart. Sin affects us all, it doesn’t matter if you are rich or poor, black or white, republican or democrat. The scriptures say that sin is crouching at our door and we must master it. People die in their sins every day, and as such some are eternally separated from God. Many have even gone as far to defend Ravi… Which I don’t think is a wise option, to defend someone on this level, is to not take the victims of his sin seriously.

Many others in the Christian circles were extremely shocked and taken back by his actions, which is understandable. I didn’t think that-that was possible. Not for Ravi, I’ve watched countless hours of his lectures and even read many books. Thinking that he was one amazing human, but at the same time, maybe that’s the problem. We Christians can sometimes forget that humans are humans first, and as such are very capable of sin and in this case great evil. Which is also why, we should never put any human on any type of pedestal regardless of what vocation they’re in. Quite simply, when we do that we will be let down and horrified time and again when we hear of the sins of others. The one that deserves to be on a pedestal is the God man himself- Jesus Christ.

            The bible is full of people that are broken and sinful people that God loved, Noah was Gods chosen agent to build the ark, and after doing so the man gets drunk. David is another classic example, he was a man who struggled deeply with his own lust, Peter.. Well he never really got it right. Did God condone this? No, by no means. God calls us to holiness every single moment of each day. God also knows that we will sin and fall short of the mark, and yet this is also why we are also told to confess our sin to one another. I think the really problem with Ravi, is that he let his own sin become so comfortable. Not baring your cross and forsaking his own sin.

It might shock you to know, that when I was in bible college porn was a thorn in my side. You know how I combated it? By getting honest and telling a friend. To be honest, lust has always been a struggle for me. However, each day that God breathes life in me I choose to fight the good fight. In my estimation, in life it doesn’t matter how many times you fall, but how many times you keep getting back up and fighting with the armor and sword that God graciously provides us.

            This is what Ravi didn’t do… The enemy had his way with the mind and soul and lust with his weapon of choice. Throughout my journey of being a Christian, I’ve never been able to wrap my head around, why some experience total victory over sin, and temptation doesn’t nip at their heels and others seem to wrestle their whole life-myself included. The main point here is this, sad endings to stories like this can happen to anyone, please do not think you are above anyone else or sins power. Sin is serious and grievous to the heart of God. And yet, the father sent his son Jesus, to take the wrath of God upon himself, so that all who place their faith in him might graciously be called children of God.   

Do not let sin and darkness reign in your mind and body, if you wrestle with sin in any capacity. Do not let it sit in the quiet, it will only fester and become darker. As the enemy desires. Find people that are trustworthy, honest and safe to talk to, start fighting daily for the very life of our souls depend on it.         

A Christian Stoic- Me?

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,

The Beauty and Invitation of Grace

Lots of people are addicted to many things, me, however. I am addicted to the grace of God. I can’t get enough of it, I need it almost every moment of every day. Grace is the one sustaining reality in my life that keeps everything else going. I talk about grace so much, because it has utterly changed my life.

Many churches have hot button topics that they love to preach about, and for me grace is that truth. I was am the prodigal sons, before I gave in to the affectionate calling of the Lord drawing my heart, I was the other younger son that was arrogant, and felt like God owed him everything (if there was a God) and now, being a redeemed Christ follower, I am the eldest son that runs away and comes back home.

Yet, the father still runs to be every single time. No, grace is not an invitation to live a careless life, grace is the gift and ability to walk closely with Christ each and everyday. And with joy. But the reality is that, we do wander off the path. Take for example, the timeless hymn “Come Thou Fount”

“Prone to wander Lord I feel it. Prone to leave the God I love”

We sing this all the time, but I don’t believe that we understand what we are singing. God is not stupid, he isn’t. He knows that you and I are gonna screw up and screw up a lot. He knows we are gonna lose our tempers, say things we don’t mean, totally blow it and act counter to how we Christians should act.

But you know what? He’s not shocked. He knows. And dare I believe that he is shaking his head at us, rather he picks us up, brushes us off and reminds us who we are in him. And sets us on the narrow road. Any anger that we may believe that God has toward us, was poured out on the cross. If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. The old has been done away with and the new has come.

The sins you cannot forget, are the sins that God has forgotten.

I believe that because God is slow to anger, his hearts cry is for people to finally notice how much they need his grace. On one hand, proud people who already think they are amazing. Have no need for the beautiful gift of grace. While on the other hand, those that know they have blown it time and time again. The grace of God is the most precious of gifts.

It’s a gift, you can do nothing to deserve it, let alone un-deserve it. But you can embrace it with all its joy and beauty.

But I’ve Sinned Too Much (Grace Part 2)

The other day I was writing in my journal, about how I simply could not understand how God could be so loving toward me. How deep and wide his grace is for me, how!? I have clearly sinned far too much in my life, I am far too prideful, stubborn and absorbed and have clearly out sinned the grace of God…

Except, I haven’t, you haven’t and we cannot exhaust his grace for us. If you are in Christ, your sin has been removed as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103). We are new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:27).

The problem becomes, when we can know this in our heads, but we fail to live as if we are out of our hearts. We know it mentally, be we live as though we are still condemned. Yet scripture tells us, that there is NO condemnation when you are in Christ (Romans 8:1-1)

There is no condemnation for us, no guilt, no shame! But I still struggle, you say, yes me too, I believe that we are struggle in our own ways. And anyone who says that they no longer struggle I believe is a liar. Furthermore, if a person is fully healed and does not struggle with his or her sin nature any longer. Then they need to speak up and share their secrets.

For the the only way I have learned to combat my former self, is to renew my mind with the truth and love that Christ offers me through his word.

You might even think that there is no way, you could have victory over the besetting sin in your life. whatever it is. And so you think, there’s no way Gods grace is big enough for your situation, but I tell you that that is a lie the enemy wants you to believe.

I believe that the grace of God is big, far and wide, that you can complete wreck your life, and God’s grace would still be more than enough to cleanse, re-create your heart and sustain you.

Consider the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43)

Not much is know about this man, he might have had an entire life of stealing, cheating and lying has way to get what he wants. And in the last moments of his life, he begs the Lord to remember him in his kingdom.

What happens inside this man? In the final moments of his life, I believe that the holy spirit softens this mans heart and opens his eyes to see the Christ that is suffering beside him and for him. And so in other words he, says, Jesus have mercy on me a sinner.

The common reply to this is:

So your saying I can screw my life up and God will forgive me?  Well, yes and no. We just saw that Christ can forgive the man on the cross, who was asking to be remembered. Yet that was only by the grace of God to begin with. And even though Gods grace can make anyone new, I do not believe that God is saying to go make a disaster of your life. In fact, I would submit that he wants us to live a better life. One in line with him.

I’m telling you that the grace of God is so good, is more amazing than anything else in the world. It can make everything new in your life, regardless of what your prior life has been. But it is always amazing because it will set you on a pathway to a new destiny.

For his grace to us is this, when you and I are in Christ, it as though we have never sinned. For the father see’s the perfect image of his son in us, therefore the father see’s us as he see’s his beloved son.

There is hope,

don’t give up the fight.

Because he hasn’t given up the fight for you!

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The Thorn In My Side (Dealing With Anger)

I’m going to come out and say it, what haunts me the most is anger. It doesn’t take long for me to lose my mind, all the discipline and self-control go out the window. I hate it about myself, it makes me feel so ungodly and not mirroring Jesus Christ.

I hate the way anger makes me feel, it makes feel all the more frustrated that I’m angry in the first place. It makes me body feel like I’m going about my day, as though I am carrying around heavy amounts of weight on my body.

I try and close my eyes and take slow, deep breathes in an attempt to calm the storm inside me. I try and remember the peace and joy that is found in Christ. I try and remember that he has authority over the storms that surround us (Mark 4:35-41).

Jesus calm the storm inside me I pray under the breath, help me to act and love like you do. Even when people and circumstances annoy me, help me to know that you are Lord over everything in my life. Anger can very much be a two-edged sword, on one hand, it can be directed to fighting back against evil, with a holy anger.

The Lord, says that he is slow to anger, and abounding in faithful love and truth (Psalm 86:15). Note the word slow, the Lords anger is controlled and builds up over time. And to be sure, yes, the Lords anger will one day be poured out. But still, his anger is calculated and controlled. He simply doesn’t fly off the handle at a moments notice.

But I think there’s something to the reality, in which the Lord says  Vengeance is mine (Romans 12:9).  Why does he command this?  Because he doesn’t want anger to be the controlling factor of our lives. Again, the Bible doesn’t say to ever not be angry. For I just showed you that even God himself is slow to anger.

Moreover, scripture be angry and do not sin (Eph 4:26) how is that even possible? Again, this is where self-control and dependency on the Holy Spirit is crucial. Holy anger is being angry for a just cause, not the ill tempered person that lashes out and brings harm to others.

It is possible to be in control of oneself, when being overcome and frustration. For example, I might be annoyed with a person or person’s in a particular situation, but that doesn’t mean that I”m going to take out my anger on everyone involved. It takes extreme amount of discipline and the willingness to apply yourself to the process.

Some might argue that,  it’s just apart of some peoples genetic make up. But I’m not even willing to let them be used as an excuse. People can change. I certainly can change. It’s a matter of A) Admitting you have a problem B) making the steps needed to change C) Seeking forgiveness from God and others and D) laying aside every excuse that you have, as to why you can’t change. And actually believe that change is possible, because it is.

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