Tag Archives: Enjoying God

Calling From God that Goes Beyond the Natural Life


Couter Cultural Christianity“11 But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. 12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it: 14 And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, 16 To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: 17 Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.” (Galatians 2:11:17).

The Call of God and the Authenticity of the Gospel

Politics, nepotism, and social pressure from cultural religious networks of people are nothing new to the religious world. In fact, the context of this scripture suggest that these forces were at work placing pressure upon the early servant of the faith and many times severely hindered the work they were trying to accomplish. Look at the words of Paul as he spoke of his past life and the way he was entrenched in a religious system of belonging, controls, and social pressure creating conformity to the ideas of men, which equaled religious humanism in the 1st century. Unfortunately, those immersed in these cultural representations could not see the problems associated with these socio-cultural entrenchments because of  their ingroup affiliation that validated their life and existence. Thinking upon this morning, I am reminded of how much that churches have become social units,that are heavily influenced by traditions of the world and have moved away from a clear sense of calling from God, and have become social units that propagate cultural Christianity that is indigenous to a culture and not subjected to the scripture or submissive to God.

The Counter cultural Message

The apostle Paul presents a counter cultural message that asserts that its source is God alone. Therefore, the call of God is not a call to serve Him through contact with God and that contact with the nature of God will develop my understanding of the call and the direction it will take. Further, contact with God will assist me in gaining an understanding of what the call of God means for my life and how the call is to be measured out into definable actions. The call of God is an expression of His nature; the service, which results in my life, is best suited to me and is an expression of my nature that God has created in me and works through me. A deviation that occurred from the natural life was stated by the apostle Paul that was initiated by God—“When it pleased God . . . to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him [the message purely and solemnly expressing Him alone] among the Gentiles”

The Call and the Developing Understanding

Two challenges speak very loudly as I read Paul’s statement about the way he received and understood the message. The word revelation is overused, misused, and misunderstood by many Christians to mean some private mystical and private word from God that others have not heard. That was the heretical teaching of 1st century Gnostics, the experience of paranoid schizophrenics, as well as, other cults and mental disorders. Therefore, this application leaves a a unreliable etiology to reliably understand what revelation points toward. It is abundantly clear that the Bible is the only revelation of God that we will ever need and is the full disclosure of the supreme revelation, Jesus Christ. When Paul says that he received his message by revelation, it was not until his eyes were opened by Jesus and he could see past the temple, the Torah, the Targums, the Mishnah, and the Rabbinical writings that were a part of his enculturation. Then, as he met Jesus, his eyes were opened past His acculturation. God took the things that he had been taught in the Old Testament writings and revealed Jesus that he had not seen before because he was blinded by everything that he was absorbed in within his culture believing he was doing right and everything within him that attributed meaning, as he understood it from a human cultural perspective. Then Jesus cleared it up for him in a process of three years. As I read this, I am really aware that the word of God is of no private interpretation and God has a process of revealing His message, but it comes when we become aware of Him and separate ourselves to let His word speak to us that we might understand the revelation of God. A firm conclusion reveals that Jesus is the revelation that made the message clear as Paul’s previous knowledge was clarified by an encounter with Christ, God’s supreme revelation

Separation to Service

Service does not result from belonging to a ingroup, it results from belonging to Jesus and being devoted to Him alone. The message determines the mission and service is the overflow, which pours from a life filled with love and devotion for the Savior who calls us to a radical mission. Service is my gift of obedience in the relationship and reflections my identification with the nature of God that has been revealed to me. Service becomes a natural part of my life when I have separated myself from cultural Christianity to radical Christianity that elevates the Gospel to its proper place of priority in our life and the church. Service occurs when God breaks my will and brings me into the proper relationship with Him in order that I can understand His call, and then serve Him from a pure motivation of absolute love. Service to God is the deliberate love-gift of a nature that has heard the call of God. Service is an expression of my nature, and God’s call is an expression of His nature that invites me to participate in His work. Therefore, when I accept His nature and hear His call with an understanding ear, it is at that moment that the words that God has spoken in His word are revealed clearly.

Your words oh Lord separate me from the normal way of the world to the higher ways of God that result in sacrificial service that does not come from men or through men, but are a result of an encounter with the nature of God on the road of life. Lord, Your Word comes so quietly and so pervasively to convict my heart —Lord protect me, insulate me, and isolate me from the trappings of cultural Christianity and religious conformity that has a death grip on the church. Break the bonds in Jesus name through the power of the gospel.

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Expectation Hope and Boldness in the Gospel


Gospel-CenteredLife“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (Philippians 1:20).

Today I have the earnest reminder about how hard it is for me to stay on task when my life is encompassed with immeasurable odds that drain my emotional and cognitive resources below a breaking point. It is hard to be at my best and make good decisions about eternal matters when I feel the pressure of the vice tightening every day. A normal reaction is a reaction that usually is not the best response; therefore, my earnest hope and expectation is that is the things that we must go through in life that in all that I do that I will bring glory to God.

Keeping Expectations High

Paul’s aspiration was, “my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed” I am reminded today about how I will feel very much ashamed if I do not yield to Jesus the areas of my life that He requires me to yield to Him. It is as if Paul were saying, “My solitary purpose in life is to be fully committed give the very best for His glory.” Keeping expectations high and arriving at that level of resolute commitment is a matter of exercising the will, not of reasoning my way through a set of facts. Therefore, keeping expectations high requires an absolute and complete surrender of the will to the purpose of Christ. Staying on target means that today that I have to take myself out of the center of the equation and put Christ and His purpose at the center of every decision that I make.

Thinking about my needs and myself too much feeds the fleshly need to I have to be satisfied and happy at every moment and distracts my thoughts away from the primary goal of placing my thoughts, expectation, and hope on Christ in every decision. The danger within self-absorbed distraction is that I can pretend to care for others and neglect my care for Christ by ignoring the central purpose of Christ in the gospel. Keeping expectations high means that the message and purpose of the gospel must be at the center of everything that I do today. The purpose of Christ is to win the lost and disciple the believer for His glory alone.

Keeping expectations high means that grace cannot be selective; it must be available to all and must not simply result in compassion, but a challenge to life change. As I ponder God’s call seriously and what it will cost others —and if I do not obey the call of Jesus, I will lower the expectations of the gospel for myself and the people’s lives that I touch; then, we will not know what obedience to the gospel means.

Keeping expectations, high means that I must shut out every other thought and keep myself before God in the gospel of Christ alone. Therefore, I am determined to be absolutely and entirely for Him and Him alone.

An Unquenchable Thirst for His Holiness

Paul says, “Whether it means life or death —it makes no difference!” Paul states that he was determined that no obstacle would deter him from doing exactly what God wanted him to complete.

However, something that I gleaned from this passage reveals that before I choose to be obedient to the gospel and follow God’s will, a crisis must develop in my life. This happens when I tend to be unresponsive to God’s gentler attempts to gain my attention. He brings me to the place where He asks me to surrender to a radical faith in Jesus Christ that put’s the Gospel first above all else and then I begin to debate with Him. So, God, providentially produces a crisis that puts me in a place where I must decide for or against a life centered in the gospel of Christ.

That moment becomes a greatest crossroads in life and if you have found yourself at a crisis of faith and belief, surrender your will to Jesus absolutely and irrevocably that Christ might be glorified.
Father, in the scope of your sovereign power and with the touch of your grace, breathe Your precious Holy Spirit upon every person who reads these words today.—how I long to be face to face with You today. Forgive my inability to pay attention when I should, awaken me oh Lord to what is possible through the power of the gospel of Christ.

The Driving force of the Christian Life: The Gospel of Christ


The GospelHave you left everything behind for the Gospel?

“One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me” (Mark 10:21).

One of the particular attributes of a gospel-centered Christian is that they give of themselves sacrificially to others and find purpose in surrender by taking up our cross—mission in life by following Jesus.

This scripture is a reply to the statement of Peter by saying that the purpose surrender is “for My sake and the gospel’s” (10:29).

In contrast, surrender was not for the purpose of what the disciples themselves wanted from following Jesus. There is a sound warning to be cautious about surrender motivated by personal gain or prestige. Some people believe sincerely “I’m going to give myself to God because I want to be delivered from sin because I want to be made holy” to draw attention to themselves. The power of the gospel delivers us from sin and makes us holy because we are right with God.

The result of being right with God is a gospel-centered life, but surrender resulting from prideful thinking is certainly not the true nature of Christianity. Our motive for surrender should not be for recognition or personal gain. Unfortunately, people are self-centered that they only go to God only for something that benefits them and not for God Himself. It is like saying, “I want to be the center piece of you grace and power to demonstrate how I am so Christian above others.

I want to enhance myself, my position, and my purpose, However, I do want You to clean me and fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I want to be on display in Your showcase so I can say, ‘This is what God has done for me.’” Gaining heaven and being delivered from sin and being made useful to God are things that should never even be a consideration in real surrender. Genuine total surrender is a personal preference for Jesus Christ Alone.

Where does the gospel of Jesus Christ figure in when we have a concern about our earthly relationships? Many of us will abandon Him and offer an excuse—“Yes, Lord, I heard you call me, but my family needs me, and I have my own interests. I just can’t go any further” (see Luke 9:57–62). Then ” Jesus says, “you ‘cannot be My disciple’” (see Luke 14:26–33).

Indeed real surrender to the gospel will move us far beyond natural surrender to Christ. If we abdicate our human desires, God will surrender Himself to embrace our lives with His Grace. Be cautious of easy believism and stopping anywhere short of total surrender to the gospel of God. Unfortunately, many Christians only a conceptual knowledge of what surrender to the Gospel Means and have never personally experienced transformation through the gospel that brings total surrender.

O Lord, cause my intellect to glow with Your Holy Spirit’s teaching

What God Wants More Than Anything Else


Woman at WellIf somebody asked you to describe the Christian life in a few words, what would you say? If somebody asked you, “What does God want from us more than anything else?” What would you say? If you said moral devotion, if you said ethical behavior, if you said religious ritual you’d be wrong. The essence of the Christian life describes a relationship characterized by love and affection expressed in a covenant relationship of eternal commitment

The Bible says indicates that, as God’s people we are the object of God’s unfailing love. God made you to love you. He made you to be an object of His love. He wants to have a relationship with you. That means that you are created for having a relationship and, as a result, the most important thing you can know in life is that God loves you. Moreover, the most important thing that you can do in life is to love Him back.

Jesus said it like this in Matthew 22 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

Nothing is more important. If you do this, you will fulfill your primary purpose in life. If you learn to love God and you let God love you, your life has fulfilled its meaning, its purpose. If you miss this part of your life, your life is a failure. Because you have missed the very reason that God created you and put you on earth – to love and be loved.

There is a concept in the Bible that describes expressing love to God —“worship”. We think of worship as a ritual or routine or something you do in a church. No. Worship simply means expressing love to God. Any time you are expressing love to God, you are worshiping whether you are by yourself, in a small group, in a large crowd or wherever. When you express love to God in any way, you are worshiping.

You may have noticed that sometimes, for some people it is hard to say, “I love you.” Sometimes we feel it; we just do not know how to get it out, how to say it. Therefore, we do not know how to express our love to our children, to our wives/husbands, to our friends and neighbors, the people we work with or even to God. It is somewhat difficult. Why does that happen? Why is it sometimes hard to say, “I love you”?

Life Experience: You may have been raised in a very non-expressive home where there was love or maybe there was not and you just did not talk about it that much. You did not frequently say, “I love you.”

Maybe you were taught to stuff your emotions, push them down, and hide your feelings. Maybe you have been hurt in the past and you say, “I don’t want to get hurt again so I’m not going to tell anybody I love them.” Alternatively, maybe you are resentful of hurts in your past so you say, “I don’t want to love God. There are things in my life I don’t like.” However, maybe you just do not know how to express your love to God.

Storms: Choices, Consequences, and Contentment


Connecting Choices to Outcome

Do the choices that are made every day have anything to do with how things work out in life?  A few years back while living in another state, I decided to take a walk around the a walk around the neighborhood after a tornado; then later, taking a drive through the city, what I saw from the storm reminded me that consequences always follow every event of life.  I am mindful about the way people, so often, take for granted  peace, happiness, and good times in life and how many times that we forget that everything in life has consequences –good or bad.  Obviously,  some consequences are not because of the choices that we make in life, they are the result of nature, other people’s actions, or something that we do not understand about the seasons of life.  The fact remains that there are consequences for everything that happens in life.

Outcome and Escapist Thinking

A problem with problems is that we do not like the outcome because the consequences make life difficult to experience.  One of the most common responses to negative experiences  is to try  escaping consequences, deny the impact of our behavior and choices on others, and escape the reality of what those choices bring to life experience.  I am reminded from working in the prison system  that quite often we have inmates come to the chapel and  make a choice to become a Christian and to begin to pursue a spiritual life.  Instead of entering into a process of discipline and developing a responsible faith and transformation,  a common response after becoming a believer is for inmates to begin  seeking prayer and guidance about how to appeal their sentence to get out of prison.  A problem with this thinking is because they do not like the results of their choices, present circumstances, and the absence of a gratifying life.  Instead of accepting circumstances of being in prison as a result of bad choices, anti-social behavior, and hurt and pain for others; they believe that a spiritual relationship entitles them to an immediate change of circumstances.  What is not clearly understood is that having a relationship with God does not mean that circumstances will be removed for a lifetime of choices that are made. When people go to prison it is because they are convicted of a crime –a consequence of a bad choice.  Something that stands out here is that many times there is a mystical, magical thinking about what forgiveness brings in a person’s life that needs to be demythologized.  Forgiveness does not mean that we are not responsible for what has happened and it does not mean that consequences will disappear because we have found faith through God.

Memories and Traumatic Experience

In cognitive psychology theory, the importance of memory is correlated to the way experiences are organized and stored in the information management system within the brain.  The impact of experience upon memories and schemas are  realized through understanding memory encoding, which is the way traumatic or painful experience codes a memory and actually change the construction of brain tissueEpisodic memories are the most powerful memories that people have and are connected to responses given through the lived-experience of life.  When painful events, invalidation, hurt, or trauma occurs beliefs, relationships, and memories are forever changed –life changing consequences attached to actions that classify memories with specific triggers.  However, it is not that simple when choices that are very painful are attached to the way the brain organizes information, memories, and painful emotions.  For some people, people they just want to say, I am sorry and hope that it will be forgotten because they wish for immediate release and change the painful circumstances choices have created.  However, it is not that simple when there is deeply ingrained hurt and trauma.  When choices are made, words are said, and actions are taken; we may not realize that when one word, one act occurs, it can be life changing. Indeed, how another person experiences our choices are related to how they experience and processes our chosen behavior.

Choices, Prayer, and Outcome

Memories embedded in the psyche, are connected to an internal perception process,  schema that is a part of the biological and physical makeup of the brain.  It is not just a emotional response; it is how an individuals brain and mind organize events, which and regulates how we think, feel and triggers how we behave when episodic memories are activated. Indeed, choices have consequences upon how life will be experienced, encoded, and remembered.   Unfortunately, outcome is not given enough consideration when people decide on a course of action or use irresponsible words, actions, and behaviors.

What needs to be emphasized  and understood is that when there is a painful experience, painful invalidating words, and abusive behavior that destroys trust and boundaries that the consequences of what has happened cannot simply be wished away, prayed away, or ignored.  The important and neglected truth is that  there are some things that are a part of life –like problems, storms, aging, death, and seasons of life that are very difficult to face.  What needs to be  understood is that we must learn to live with consequences and realize that some things will never change and do not go away no matter how spiritual one becomes.  Our prayers might be better focused upon asking for Grace that provides sufficient strength to live within the circumstances in the place our choices have taken us  to live.

Contentment through Spiritual Growth

The apostle Paul said,  ” I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content” (Philippians 4:11).   This is not an attitude of hopelessness and/or  surrender to circumstances, but an affirmation of faith that states that whatever circumstances that are faced, contentment can be found in a Savior who is sufficient in the whatever circumstances life may bring.  The fact is that anyone can trust God when everything is always going right.  The question is can you trust God in your circumstances to be sufficient –to provide efficient grace to live through the storms of life?

Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Responsibility


forgiveness and ReconciliationWhat should you do when personal relationships are fractured by someone’s  behavior who repeatedly  violates your trust and causes deep regret? A person who you have given your heart and confidence to in a meaningful relationship who has now violated that confidence.

Once you begin to pay attention to one of those situations, you begin to understand the way people who you care about who do you wrong, violate your personal boundaries, and have patterns of behavior that consume your life resources emotionally, physically, and financially.

To ask, what should be done next is a reasonable response from the injured party.  The answers are not always easy to resolve everyone equally depending on their circumstances, but something must be done.  Some people just opt to run away putting as much physical or emotional distance between them and the offender as possible to avoid the consequences.  However sane that may seem at the moment, running away is not always a reasonable response when we have been hurt by others and trust has been compromised.

Quite often the best response is to try to manage relationships instead of running away.  However, when efforts are made to manage others behavior, those efforts to help others can be a slippery slope that can backfire if you do not think through the way you feel and how you will manage you own actions.  One thing to realize is that every time there is a hurt or violation, there are two people involved.  It is like the old saying, “it takes two to Tango”.

Obviously, the act of assessing blame and trying to get others to take responsibility for seemingly unjust or unethical behavior  can turn on the accuser because of the distorted emotions, perception, and self-interest other people may have about events.  In fact, most people always will judge their own actions in the best light. So, for most people, it is easier to blame others or make actions appear to be about someone else instead of accepting responsibility for personal actions or participation in a conflict situation that has produced hurtful actions, negative feelings, and a fractured outcome.

Looking at forgiveness from a purely religious or theological perspective sometimes leaves people with distorted ideas about responsibility for actions. When behavior occurs that violate another person’s rights or actions that defrauds another person willfully of benefit.

Many people think that if you are a Christian and you are wronged that you are obligated to get “holy amnesia”  instantly.  Then, if you are really a spiritual saint that you will act as if nothing ever happened.  Unfortunately, when some people look at the idea of forgiveness through a theological construction, often the emphasis is placed upon unconditional forgiveness without balancing actions with personal accountability for actions that wrong others.

In fact, unconditional forgiveness, ideally, removes responsibility for actions, absolves guilt, removes consequences, and automatically restores relationships. Unfortunately, in the real world of human experience that is seldom the reality in experience.  Something important to think about is that within the the subject of forgiveness an important issue to consider is that human beings are cognitive and emotional beings.  They are humans that are subject to human limitations and they are not impeccable altruistic beings as God.

Sadly, many people who have been deeply hurt by others are further damaged by guilt and manipulation of religious idealists who do not comprehend that there is more to forgiveness than holy amnesia.  In view of humanity,  when it comes to forgiveness many people falsely impose the content f redemption and forgiveness provided through Christ God upon human relationships as if it is normal or expected for people to behave just as God has while living with the limitations of a finite human being.

Unfortunately, for many people feeling the hurt and pain of broken relationships the pain doesn’t get any relief when religious notions are used to guilt and bruise the offended further. Think about this: from a Christian perspective, if the central emphasis of forgiveness is placed upon benefit for the sinner, relief for the offender, instead of responsibility for the effects of behavior that have damaged parties in a relationship, then who pays for the offense in the relationship?

The answer is clear –a  distorted understanding about forgiveness and responsibility re-victimizes the offended by placing the Lion’s share of consequences upon the person wronged. Obviously, forgiveness is distorted when cause and effect are not kept in balance.  There is no doubt that there can be little growth in relationships that is possible without a healthy process that addresses the consequences for the act of offense.

If a simplistic view of forgiveness is used,  there is a need for immediate relief from any sense of guilt from actions.  This view requires vindication, i.e., relief from emotional, social, and, personal responsibility for wrongdoing immediately.  In a theological understanding of God’s provision of redemption, penalty is  removed and sinners escape eternal separation from God, as well as, the benefit of relationship in the present because Jesus bore the sin and consequences.  However, the theological definition is not a very practical way to apply to how forgiveness occurs between people who are the product of a fallen nature and experience systemic relational problems.

Obviously, iIndividuals with a human limitations often lack a God-like ability to negotiate healthy balance between forgiveness and responsibility.  Therefore, when many people think of forgiveness they are equating it with to the doctrine of absolution from Roman Catholic Theology, where the priest mystically removed the penalty for wrong acts. As a result, movement away from a simplistic view of forgiveness by people who live by shoulds and should nots will be enhanced when they realize that forgiveness is both an act of the will and a process toward reconciliation that is not just a  instant “holy amnesia”.

One way to think about this subject is that there remains a fundamental difference between forgiveness and removal of cumulative consequences. In view of that, it is true that Jesus died on the Cross-as a substitution for the sins of those who place faith in Him.  However, does that mean that all of the consequence for every sin and sins are removed at the Cross in every area of life?  Some people believe the answer is yes, but the answer is an emphatic no.

To illustrate this point, the thief on the cross still died for his crimes, while at the same time he was forgiven of his sins. Indeed, there is a principle that needs to be understood about consequences in the human life that remain, even when there is full forgiveness.  Something to consider is that many people see forgiveness as a relief from responsibility for irresponsible behavior. Obviously, escapist thinking under girds many beliefs people have about forgiveness from bad behavior.

One place this is evident is in the majority of prayers prayed by people that focus upon God relieving or delivering them from consequences in life instead of focusing upon personal change in the person.  It seems rational to believe that the focus should be upon God providing ability to bear up under consequences while remaining faithful through circumstances.  Somehow people have come to believe that when they are forgiven of wrongdoing they will no longer have to live under the conditions that bring consequences from choices made or to face responsibility for consequences.

Unfortunately, the fact remains that unethical and unjust behavior influence levels of trust, communication, and relationship dynamics that, in turn, affect everything in life.

There is no doubt that common sense tells us that when something horrendous occurs to a person emotionally, psychologically, or personally devastates life, it will not be relieved with a simple “I’m sorry”. In fact, something is seriously out of balance with thinking about forgiveness that equates words of contrition or acting like something did not happen with relief from consequences and responsibility. Obviously, it is like believing the words, “I am sorry” will remap the cells of brain, change thought patterns, modify behaviors in way that minimizes, erases responsibility and eradicates consequences.

Consider the error of this point of view that is so prevalent among  the religious through an attitude that places greater emphasis upon acceptance of wrongdoers than it does upon the spiritual, social, and eternal consequences of evil acts.  Obviously, all actions have consequences and no matter how much individuals may want to ignore them, pretend they don’t exist, or mystically wish them away, there is always an ongoing impact on life. Consequently, what can be learned from church history is the point of view that minimizes responsibility from wrongdoing is nothing new, it is called, Antinomianism.

This perspective presented a problem recorded in the book of Roman where Paul asked a question directed at responsibility for actions, “What shall we say then, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound”.  Consequently, rational people know that when there are evil acts, there is not a freedom from responsibility, but a challenge to accept responsibility mandating a change in behavior in a responsible manner.

Apparently, some people in that time believed that the more they sinned, the more grace was magnified as a principle of forgiveness and acceptance —more grace is evident and available.  Unfortunately, this is how many people view responsibility for their wrongdoing: the more they are forgiven, the less sensitivity that is felt about the grave nature of injustice to others.  For example, among incarcerated inmates this is particularly evident in the way felons passionately rationalize crimes against others when they find Jesus. The point that is relative is that there is a felt need for relief through redemption and absolution from penalty in forgiveness.

However,  something that is characteristic among anti-social types is a visible absence of remorse, acts of willing restitution, or change of attitude about crimes committed against victims.  Those who are most passionate about forgiveness and who advocate acceptance, restoration, and vindication are those who have the greatest guilt and sin and want relief from consequences.

What needs to be understood is that Jesus died on the Cross for Sin to give a remedy for sins.  Sin is a legal term expressed in John 3:17 as condemned and in Romans 8:1, as condemnation, which has reference to  eternal punishment and separation from God as a legal consequence of sin.  The forgiveness that Jesus offers in His work on the Cross is declared to provide a way to experience a changed life that is a process in contrast to an escape from the consequences of sinful actions.  In the theological concept, forgiveness is about changing behavior and redeeming the consequences through building a life of trust and faith through fidelity. On the other hand, naive acceptance without accountability reinforces the potential for evil to continue thrive and prosper.

One of the problems with beliefs about forgiveness is that it is philosophically bound to utilitarian reasoning about forgiveness grounded  in hedonism. Hedonism is the the pleasure principle, which advocates that the greatest good outcome in life is achieved on the least path of resistance resulting in relief or pleasure.  In other words, the way that brings the greatest pleasure in life is the easiest way. Utilitarian’s advocate the principle of greatest good and is the best outcome for everyone concerned.

However, the question remains unanswered about how is the greatest good or best is determined?  Usually the good is in human terms arrives socially, from group input, or from sociocultural norms and mores’, not from a universal or rational truth.  Unfortunately, Utilitarian forgiveness is not very effective at helping people change behaviors or protecting people from harm, and restoring trust.

In this case, forgiveness magnifies the principle of toleration and means that there is no universal understanding of consequences or for morally wrong behaviors.  Therefore, illegal activities and damaging behaviors deconstructs  normal boundaries for behavioral expectations and normal expectations about responsibility.

Therefore, the impact upon the human experience is that when people become so desensitized to consequences of evil that the effect is no longer felt, the result manifests an inadequate view of forgiveness and responsibility.  Therefore, when people hold a fundamental belief that there is forgiveness for sin and with no consequences, spiritual change or personal growth does not occur in relation to forgiveness.  The opposite occurs: behavior adapts to wrongdoing creating no accountability and the system dynamic turns the abnormal into the normal.  Consequently, forgiveness should demonstrate change in the forgiven not reinforce a potential to act in evil ways without accountability. Consequently, forgiveness should mean that, offenders are changing how they feel and how they believe, so life can move forward in a healthy productive way.

A cultural challenge to forgiveness in the 21st century is within the proliferation of Utilitarian thought.  At its core there is never really any possibility of right or wrong so there can be no offense.  Obviously, this belief is connected to a relativistic view of culture that removes all moral implications of sin or wrongdoing and removes absolutes.  As a result, a conclusion might be made that since nothing is really ever wrong, forgiveness is just a psychological transaction where feelings are purged creating emotional catharsis and acceptance.  However novel that may seem to modern people, this thinking does little for the person who has been violated and who has memories encoded with trauma after an experience creating Post-Traumatic Stress.

Forgiveness is an internal process that sets the forgiving person free from bitterness and internalizing of pain in self-destructive ways. However, contrary to popular thought, forgiveness does not mean the offender is free from the consequences of their actions.  When the news reported that Usama bin Laden was killed, there was a sober reminder that evil actions have consequences that will stalk a person and exact a penalty sooner or later through consequence in life and after death.  Obviously, we live in a time when universal truth has been rejected and been replaced with a view that makes all actions relative to the person. Consequently, the reality of 21st century sophistry is no moral right and wrong, but only what is relative to a person or a group.

Another way to consider responsibility for actions is presented in Psalm 37 that says, ”Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.  For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb”.  Indeed, the certainty of the future is that  every person will fall into the hands of a just God, who has reminded us that there are consequence for evil acts and violence.  With that in mind, the message that resounds for victims is that the pain felt through unjust acts in this life is only a token of the eternal reward for injustice from evil acts in this life.  Something to think about is that God will have the last word on every act and consequence of evil behavior.

Finding Grace In A World Demanding Performance


Take time to look at people in terms of their humanity and not their failures.Forclosure House - The Day After (28)

A truth that might be understood about how we look at others is that when we see others at the point of their need and have compassion: giving grace, reflects our own sense of need, realizing that we also need grace at times in our lives.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit” that was targeting an attitude that would characterize those who understand their culpability, have sense of their humanity, and potential for failure which results in humility about who they are.  It is a truth that it is very hard to extend grace to others when you have no understanding how much a human that you are or how failure may have characterized our existence.  How we look at others says something about the impact of humility upon our character. People are human and fail at times in life and if the only people who we are willing to give grace to are people who look like us and fit into the cookie cutter that we have made of our view or brand of church-ology, we will never be of any help to anyone except a select few and we may miss a rare opportunity to be incarnational in how we respond to people.  Jesus looked upon the multitude as sheep without a shepherd.  Most people need a shepherd that can see them as they are and realize that there is a felt need that needs intervention that expresses grace.

Use what you have to be a blessing to someone else who may need a hand up.

One of the most profound things that you can do for someone is not to give an expensive, costly gift that is beyond your ability, it is the act of showing that you care enough about someone else to give what you have, what you can, and what helps the person. If you have ever been desperate with nowhere to turn, no one to call, stranded with no where that you feel that you can turn to get help, and God places an angel (messenger) in your path who does not know you, but chooses to help you because they have been in that exact spot before, then you may understand a hand up.  The unfortunate thing is that many Christians are so self-absorbed and detached from others–that all that they can see is their own need.  What people need to know more than they need your money, food, or time is to know that you see them as a person and that you have a genuine concern that will do more than talk about being missional.  To give people a hand up means feet on the ground—using what you are and what you have to offer to show what people need the most, loving concern that shows.

Finding grace in the holidays will come when grace has found us and we come to realize that people all around us every day need a touch on their lives that communicates that I accept you like you are and I am willing to give of myself, giving grace that connects with the felt need of another person .  Everyone needs to experience salvation, redemption, sanctification, and empowerment from God to live an effective life.  The best expression of love that is demonstrated gives with no expectation of receiving anything for the giving. Giving love with no strings or conditions is a choice made reflecting the Grace that God gives in loving us. Loving without expectations the act of Grace reflecting a character that seeks the best for the one being loved freeing the person to give love freely. (John 3:16)