Waiting for the Feeling to Return

I haven’t written in way too long. I have had this poem brewing for a while. I thought today would be the perfect day to share since it’s snowing here, and I know no one has anything to do. Here it is. I call it, “Waiting for the Feeling to Return.” Enjoy!

there comes a time in every man’s life when he must decide

when he must choose his way out of choosing neither side

when he must climb down off of his white picket fence

and earnestly claw his way out of the apathetic rut that he has slowly swiveled his heels into

there will come a day when he must realize

that grace and obligation have everything to do with one another

instead of praying for the orphan and the widow, he’s been preying on them

and while he’s been trying to fit the ocean in a cup

his brother’s heart has been overflowing with the Father’s love

his heart is feeble and his mind is week

never knowing the nearness of the grace that he seeks

he has run away

and into an embrace known only to this world

his feet have been set to walking

and his heart to wandering

he drips with sweat he was never meant to bear

and carries chains he was never meant to wear

he spends restless nights awake and alone

praying to the god that never listens

he’s been screaming

he’s been shouting

he’s been crying out

he’s been searching

he’s been seeking

he’s been dying now

longing for a touch

hoping for a kiss

he says, “I prayed my life would never be like this”

and he waits

he waits

sometimes we wait too long

So that’s that. Hope you all enjoyed this. I loved writing it. I hope it touched you like it touched me.

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Unclean Hearts: What Can Wash Away Our Sins?

If you have grown up in church, you were probably absolutely bombarded with the message that Jesus washes away sins. We’ve all heard the lyrics, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That’s all good considering that’s the gospel. However, there has been something that I have realized recently that has changed my perspective completely.

What is it that has made us dirty? Any good church-going Sunday school kid would say “sin.” This is where the problem comes in. We cannot believe that what we do is what makes us unclean. Before you start screaming heresy, please continue reading.

It is not our actions that have separated us from Jesus. It is our sinful nature. We are inherently sinful. You may be thinking that there isn’t much a difference between those two things. Everyone sins, so it works the same to say that the sins we commit separate us from Jesus, right? So wrong.

The problem with this thinking is that it leads to shame rather than freedom. If we believe that what we do is what dirties us, then every time we sin, we are going to feel like we have dirtied our holiness. We were never holy. We were born into sin. We were born dirty. We were born unclean and unworthy. Even if we never sinned in our lives, we are still not holy.

I have found that every time I sin, usually the “bigger” ones, I feel like I have somehow spotted my perfection. I feel like I’ve messed up some sort of “I didn’t sin for this long” streak. This is a huge issue because instead of focusing on Jesus in sin, it makes us run from God. When we think that we have somehow failed God by sinning, then we fear God in an unhealthy manner. We run away in shame.

We have to understand these things:

1. God knows that we are going to sin. We aren’t failing him by sinning. He already knows we are going to, and his grace is bigger than any sin.

2. We are not perfect. When we mess up, we don’t suddenly make ourselves unclean. Yes, we should repent and feel conviction, but we must understand that we were never holy to begin with.

3. Although we are striving for perfection and holiness, we aren’t there yet. We are going to sin. We are going to lie to ourselves. We are going to justify the things we do. Sin isn’t always going to be subconscious. We are sinful in our hearts. We are going to blatantly and consciously sin at times. God still forgives that.

The most important thing to realize is that the condition of our hearts is what has separated us from God, not our moral imperfection. Our moral imperfection is what shows us that our hearts are inherently sinful. We are unclean in the very fibers of our being, completely separate from our actions. Our actions and failure to adhere to the moral commands of God are simply to show us that we are not holy and that we need Jesus. That is the purpose of the law: to show us our need for Jesus. It is not to try to live perfectly in order to not spot these perfectly white robes that we seem to think we wear. That leads to legalism, not to Jesus.

Following God should lead to guilt that pushes us to repentance, not to shame that leads us to run from God. We must realize that God’s grace is bigger that ALL of our sin. Our sin does not continue to separate us from God. Once we are made new in him, we can never lose that. God sees us through the lens of his perfect grace. We are to strive to be holy, but at the same time we must realize that we are not there yet, nor have we ever been. We are not in the process of trying to stay holy. We are in the process of trying to become holy.

Intuition: Mortal Commodity

Intuition is a gift. However, as with everything God has given us, there is a way to use it incorrectly. Chances are, we will figure out how to abuse any gift of God; that is simply our sinful and rebellious nature. So how do we discern proper use and misuse of this gift?

God has really been putting this on my heart for a while. It has simply taking me this long to really sit down and listen. Let me start with scripture. Proverbs 14:12 says, “There is a way that seems right to man, but its end is the way to death.” Powerful stuff.

God has blessed us with intuition, but he has also given us discernment. We just need the wisdom to know when our thoughts are lined up with God’s thoughts. I believe this is the heart behind Solomon’s request for wisdom. God offers him anything in the world, and he asks for the most important thing: wisdom.

Let’s get back to that proverb. The heart behind this verse says that what we think is right is the way to death. I’m going to say something that will really hit hard if you let it. I know this thought destroys every ounce of pride that I hold. What you think and what you feel are not absolute truth.

Ouch, right? This is killing me just to even right this. Just because you think it’s right, or it makes you feel good, or you don’t feel guilty about it, or you don’t think it’s that bad, doesn’t make it right. You are not your own moral scale. You can’t make up your own truth. Truth must be absolute for it to even fulfill its own definition.

Let me share another quote with you that has been tearing me up inside since I first heard it. Blaise Pascal said, “All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end. The cause of some going to war, and of others avoiding it, is the same desire in both, attended with different views. The will never takes the least step but to this object. This is the motive of every action of every man, even of those who hang themselves.” Just let that soak in.

Everything we do is hedonistic. Everything is for our own pleasure. We even turn seeking God into something to simply make us happy. When it stops making us happy, we stop seeking. When we run out of things to make us happy, we turn back to God. You want to know what Jesus meant when he said to deny yourself? He meant that you’re going to have to put your happiness aside to follow him. He meant that you’re not always going to be happy. You can’t always be seeking happiness. You can’t be seeking things that just make you feel good or things that you think are right, apart from what the author of truth has said in scripture. This is man’s mindset. This is small thinking. This thought taken to the extreme is what leads people to kill, steal, hate, do drugs, have sex, and even kill themselves. He never promised us happiness; he promised us an abundant life.

God wants abundance for us. Fulfillment is found in truth. Truth is found is scripture. Scripture is from God. We must read God’s word, seek God’s truth, ask for God’s wisdom, and follow his will. This means that we can’t just get drunk or have premarital sex or harbor anger just because we want to. When you chose to follow Jesus, or if you do choose that, you chose to deny yourself. We signed up for this. You want fulfillment? You’re only going to find it in one place. I can assure you.

We do not get to be whatever we want and just attach God’s name to make sure we win a basketball game or our sick grandfather doesn’t die. We cannot change God’s character by attaching new truth to his name. We are to change by attaching God’s truth to our lives.

What are you doing with your life? I ask because that’s the question God keeps pushing on me. What are you doing? I know that I hate when God’s name is grouped with things that are not Godly. I’m sure God hates that infinitely more. To end on point, our intuition was given to us to find God, not to make a god out of ourselves. Use it correctly or it will become a mortal commodity. It will lead to death.

Ex Gratia ; Sola Gratia

So I made one of those permanent decisions recently. I got tattoos. Finally! But I thought since I got them in Latin, and Latin is all mysterious and what not, I should probably explain a little. So here’s that.

As you can see, my left foot has the words Ex Gratia tattooed on it. Ex Gratia is latin for “from grace.” This sounds pretty Christiany, huh? Well, hold your horses. This is actually a legal term. It refers to a legal act in which on party does something for another simply in favor or in kindness. There is nothing the receiving end can do about it. It just is. Now we apply this to Jesus for my case. Jesus did this for us. Sometimes I just need to be reminded of the simplicity of the gospel. Jesus took my sin. Not just emotionally or figuratively, but literally and legally. I am no longer indebted to it. To me, this phrase Ex Gratia is like Jesus saying, “It is finished.”

What I also love about this is that the meaning becomes deeper each day. It also serves to remind me that grace comes first. Just like the legal aspect of anything always has to come first. You walk into a bank and what’s the first thing they have you do? Fill out paperwork. You go to school, what do they  make you do? Paperwork. Just like legality comes first, Jesus grace comes first. I don’t need to sin just to receive grace. I have received grace first, so therefore I flee from sin.

On my right foot I have something similar (but completely different) tattooed. It reads Sola Gratia. This phrase is one of the five solae propounded during the Protestant Reformation. This phrase means by grace alone.” This is also something I need to be reminded of daily. I have struggled tremendously in the past with both extremes of legalism. I have thought that doing everything right will save you, and I have thought that nothing that I do matters because I have grace. Both of these are lies, and hopefully that is evident when they are written out. However, I have also struggled with this middle ground issue. I hope someone can relate to this. I struggle with believing God is a god of karma. Now, don’t worry, I am not going all new-agey on you. Although I will realize in my head that there is nothing in my power that I can do or accomplish or say that will save me or save anyone else, I often struggle with thinking that accomplishing more things will make God happier with me. Therefore, I think God should bless me. It is a simple, small lie with catastrophic and far-reaching implications. This tattoo reminds me that I cannot put God in my debt. God will never owe me anything because everything is already his by grace alone.

Together, these tattoos remind me that I belong to God. I am marked forever, and not just on my body. This is something that Satan uses against me, so I’m going to literally wear my struggle. Battle with me. Image

A Place Only You Can Go

So one of my favorite songs of all time (which is saying quite a bit) is Needtobreathe’s song A Place Only You Can Go. I love this song for many reasons, but the most moving and most truthful lyric I have ever heard is in this song. It says, “Grace she comes with a heavy load / Memories they can’t be erased / Like a pill that’s swallowed that makes me well / But leaves an awful taste.”

This one particular line often flutters around in my head. My conscience uses this lyric on me constantly. It reminds me of Romans 6, which is such a difficult yet profound chapter of scripture.

For those of you who are not familiar with this chapter, the beginning goes a little something like this, “What should we say then? Should we continue to sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it” (Romans 6:1-2)?

Those two verses kill me sometimes. The most common lie the devil likes to tell me is this: “It’s okay. Just see what this is like. You can have grace later.” Romans 6 absolutely destroys this lie. So many times in my life, I have done things while thinking “I can always be forgiven later.” This is a terrible aspect of the human condition, but it is remarkably real in my life especially.

Going back to that Needotbreathe lyric. “Grace she comes with a heavy load / Memories they can’t be erased / Like a pill that’s swallowed that makes me well / But leaves an awful taste.” Grace cures, but memories don’t just die. Yes, I 100% believe that I have been forgiven for everything I have done, am doing, and will do. However, just because I have been forgiven of those things doesn’t mean I don’t still think about them. Even once the guilt and shame have been overcome through Jesus’ grace and forgiveness, there are still the memories of the things that I have done. I am not the same person because of things I have said, my mistakes, and choices I have made.

Sin isn’t an idle thing. Sin isn’t just something that you do that you need forgiveness for. Sin eats you alive, even after the actions have ceased. Sin destroys you. Sin changes you. Sin makes you see people differently. Sin makes you see God differently. The deeper you get into sin, the more grace you may receive, but the more difficult it is know what is true and what isn’t. Sin is darkness. Lies are darkness. One cannot focus on truth while living in sin. We say we have died to sin. Although, people still makes mistakes, and though we are all still growing and learning, sin is not something to be teased. Don’t play around with it. Sin is death. God meant that when he said it.

God is not trying to limit your life or keep you from doing things. God doesn’t want you to be hurt by your sin. God doesn’t want to see his children die from the inside out. God doesn’t want to see darkness take over you. God wants your life to be abundant. John 10:10 says, “The thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” God’s rules are not legalistic. God’s rules are to make your life more abundant.

I know from personal experience that this is true. I have lived many years in darkness. I have returned to that same darkness many times, and each and every time it becomes more difficult to escape. Grace becomes harder and harder to swallow the more we live in sin. I am not saying that not sinning will make you happy all the time. I am saying that life will be much more fulfilling without sin and without the memories of sin.

God’s grace is beautiful. Just be careful not to sin with the thought that grace will follow. If you’re thinking about grace before the sin, you know better. Mistakes happen. Just don’t abuse God’s grace. It will only leave you empty and hurting.