Exposing Self-Righteous Religion

The Religious Spirit is an Abusive Bully?

I often pray for dreams from God. I kinda think this was one of them:

There was a man who was part of a biker gang who was standing over a woman shouting abusive words and beating her. I perceived that this woman was the “Bride of Christ”, the Church, and the abusive man represented “the religious spirit”.  I tried to enlist help to rescue her. I even went over to some pastors I knew and asked them to help me stop this abuse. They were afraid and refused! So I went up to the bully and splashed him in the face with a bucket of water.

He turned on me and started throwing rocks at me. I dodged them all but the rocks were hitting people behind me. I decided that for the sake of everyone behind me I should probably stop agitating this bully.

The message in this dream is clear to me. It is my impression that there is within the Christian church a bully demonic spirit of religion that is abusing Christ’s Bride, the church, and is allowed to do so.

Why?

What is a “spirit of religion”?

WikibullyThe spirit of religion is a demon and his minions in charge of infiltrating and perverting the church with pride and judgmental self-righteousness. With this spirit in charge, your ego is encouraged to run your spirituality. You are always “in the right” and most everyone else in the world (except those in your infinitesimally small “in” club) are deceived and worthy of your patient pity… perhaps they will come to their senses and escape the coming judgement… for not believing all the right things like you do… for not having all their theological ducks in a row as neatly as you do… for not knowing what you know as an “enlightened one”. (Ironically this is the height of Gnostisicm – something the apostles of the faith were most adamantly against.)

When Christ said that he didn’t entrust himself to man because he knew what was in man, he was speaking of our diabolical pride, our ego, that refuses to yield to God… our self-righteous religion.

In fact, the way I see it, the truth of the situation gets much much worse.

Those infected with the demonic spirit of religion the worst seem to be among the most honored teachers and “mentors” in the church which then fuels a whole culture of demonic gnostic religion. These teachers have study Bibles named after them, yet they resist the Holy Spirit (even to the point of actively campaigning against the work and move of the Holy Spirit) and throw their brothers or sisters (anyone who disagrees with them) under the bus. They will appear “right” in everything they say to those whose hearts are trained in the ways of fear. They will warn you of the great apostasy while leading the charge headlong into apostasy (which is the departure from childlike wide-eyed wonder and trust and complete all out surrender to our loving heavenly Papa).

I’m reminded of another dream I had in which people were entering a large church and demons would sweep down on these people as they entered. Yes, the devil likes to hang out at church – if he is allowed entrance. The gatherings of the body of Christ is after all the front-lines of this war we are in. The demons purpose is to keep you judgmental of others always comparing yourself against others in a how well am I doing spiritually competition (which the true faith is nothing of the sort).

Lets face it. Our “Christian” culture is infected and in a bad way.

We need to learn how to abandon the ways of self-righteous religion and nurture a heart of simple pure childlike devotion to Christ.

Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” (Luke 16:16-17 NLT)

How will you and I protect and nurture our hearts into the kind of faith that God commends? Let’s get childlike! Jesus showed us how. Jesus put aside his divinity to model for us how to be human. He is an example for us to follow and has said, everything I did you will do too and even greater things!

He modeled a completely surrendered life in complete dependance. He trusted his Father completely and only spoke what he heard his Father speak. He only did what he saw his Father do.

“I don’t speak on my own authority. The Father who sent me has commanded me what to say and how to say it.” (John 12:49 NLT)

So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. (John 5:19 NLT)

16473570_10158405896335657_935766537580937521_nI prayed today that we (Holy Spirit and I) would bind the strongman and plunder his house as I went into a nursing home today to share the Gospel. I prayed that the devil would be like, “What the hell just happened? Oh NO! There is a man of God here who knows who he is in Christ!”

I shared about how I was thinking about what a Good “Lord” Jesus is. He is completely trustworthy. He doesn’t set you up to fail but he sets you up to succeed. I then shared about how Jesus said, “many will come to me on that day saying, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we do all sorts of great things in your name?’ and he will tell them ‘depart from me I never knew you’. Jesus is after relationship, not just your service. He actually wants friends NOT slaves. Jesus is the very best friend you could hope for and he promises never to leave you or forsake you.”

I didn’t even mean to share that Scripture! It seemed pretty heavy to me. But if that was what God wanted sharing…

On the way home I believe he was dropping the idea for this blog into my mind.

The Chip on My Shoulder

I will admit it. I have it out for the demonic spirit of religion (as it has been dubbed). I had been beaten and abused and infected by that one for far too long and now I want to expose him at every turn. Most of my blog posts are meant to fight this. I see the struggle in so many of my Christian friends. I have been judged and rejected by many others. The battle is real. But Jesus has already won the victory!

Every one of us is already free and protected… did you know that the Father’s reputation is on the line regarding your protection?

“Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are.” John 17:11 NLT

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Categories: Dreams, Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | 1 Comment

Anything Jesus did, you can do better? Say What?

There’s an old song from 1946 with the line, “Anything you can do I can do better; I can do anything better than you.” Well, Jesus seems to turn that phrase around when he said:

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12 NLT)

So, I was thinking about that the other day as I woke up. (Todays thought I woke up with was, “God is a rewarder of all those who diligently seek him”) .Then I thought, “Well, I wonder if anyone else besides Jesus ever walked on water?”

jesus_walks_on_water3

A quick google search led me to a testimony from Mel Tari about some “normal” Christians who were led by the Lord to travel to another village to share the Good News. They came to a river they suspected was very deep and 300 yards across. Encouraged by the Lord they stepped into the water and this very deep river only ever came to their knees. They crossed in waters that normally would have went over their head. Listen to the story yourself and be sure to pay attention to what Mel says is the “important thing to keep in mind”! When in the village they experienced their first resurrection and the village came to trust in Jesus for salvation.

I am firm believer that anything (and more) that you read in Scripture that anyone did in the way of miracles (and yes, of course including anything Jesus did – and more) is available to the believer (that’s the key word right there) as we go out and do what Jesus would have us do. Preaching the Good News and loving others.

As Mel says the “miracle” is to facilitate getting from point A to point B to preach the Gospel. Hmmm… teleportation sure seems to fit his description. There have been a few more stories I’ve come across recently of missionaries teleporting.

Of course, as I am writing this, I feel as impotent as ever. Perhaps I’m not doing something right (chances are high in that department). I have been SO distracted by other “believers” who are constantly attacking other ministries (like the wonderful work God is doing in Bethel church in Redding CA for instance).

“But if you are always biting and devouring one another, watch out! Beware of destroying one another.” (Galatians 5:15)

I am weary of observing this behavior in other “Christians”. I’d encourage you not to put up with it and defend those who are being attacked and reviled. Well, at least that’s what I am drawn to do. In reality this means you just join the accused under the bus. This hasn’t and doesn’t help me in the least because what happens then is that I then get rejected (and I have) and my ministry is shunned. Churches may refuse to have us come and share our worship music. But I have to follow my conscience no matter the cost.

As Bill Johnson has said, “I’d rather stand with the accused than with the accuser”. And remember, the devil is called “the accuser” of the family of God. The Bible tells us that all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Sadly, this persecution will also even come from other ‘believers’.

You are known in hell for all your sins, famous for the worst of them. Yet you, the believer, are known in heaven as “the spotless Bride of Christ without fault, blemish or any such thing”. They don’t remember any of your sins once the blood of Christ has touched your life and you have repented of those sins. As the Bible says,

“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they will receive mercy.” Proverbs 28:13 NLT

I just read this from my study Bible:

Jesus offered the perfect purification offering, cleansing the heavenly sanctuary once for all time and ensuring that God can dwell in the midst of his people forever. His blood cleanses us from all sin and now all sinners are now free boldly to enter the heavenly Most Holy Place without fear of rejection. (NLT Study Bible)

So, let’s revel in that! Do you want to get to know God and make him known? I do too. Sometimes my “want to” is so weak its a “I know I should want to”. Let’s pray that God stirs up our affection for the Lord Jesus. Like the lyrics to the Jason Gray song says, It’s got to be:

“More like falling in love
Than something to believe in
More like losing my heart
Than giving my allegiance”

There is a real relationship to be had here! A “divine romance” with God! A mystical adventure of experiencing God for yourself awaits… But, I’m afraid perhaps there are some reading this that this idea doesn’t even stir your heart. Perhaps sin has so dulled your heart that you can’t recognize God’s goodness anymore. Some may even think that sin is more interesting than God?

Come, “Taste and see that the LORD is Good!”

He will never give up on you. His love never fails. He can and will rescue you. It’s not too late.

“Everyone who calls on the Name of the LORD will be saved!”

Call out to Jesus now and “boldly come before his throne of Grace and Mercy to receive help in your time of need”.

Categories: Evangelism, Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

William Paul Young, and His New Novel “Eve”

I love William Paul Young. I must say I enjoyed reading the Shack immensely and his other book Crossroads as well. I’m glad to have read his new release Eve as well. He is an insightful and poetic soul.

I just watched his story and Yes, it’s worth your time:

I have tremendous compassion and love for Paul (I think that’s what he goes by) and have watched many interviews of him. I have a “kindred spirt” feeling for him. We’ve been down a similar road. I know Jesus loves him SO much.

Regarding the Shack

He wrote the Shack as a novel for his kids… only his kids… to relate to them his personal relationship with God and how loving and gentle and powerful and wise God is. God is the one who promoted his book as if to say, look what my boy wrote! I’m SO proud of him!

Like Papa, his heart is for all the lost and missing sons and daughters of God. To leave the ninety nine and go after the one. To go to any length to bring home the prodigal and lavish them with a relationship of relentless affection.

He wrote the book in the way he did to circumnavigate the many triggers and negative responses the world has to ideas about God. I think this was the wisdom of God at work in HIS rescue operation for all his lost kids.

That is how I see it, and may God continue to use it and Paul to reach a lost world for Christ and back to the heart of our loving heavenly Papa.

Click here to read my review of Cross Roads

Excerpt:

I have to admit it. I really do like William Paul Young! Yes, I even enjoyed his book The Shack, and I enjoyed immensely his latest book Cross Roads. I thank God for Paul Young. He is a gift to the human race. Could it be that God thought so much of his son Paul and his book that he said, “I want the world to read this! I want the world to hear his heart! I am so proud of my boy! I am especially fond of him!”

Sadly, I know I will get flack for standing with my brother Paul Young. I know many of my Christian friends think he is a heretic. I think many of my Christian friends need to repent for passing judgement on a fellow brother working in such a creative way to reunite God’s lost kids to their heartsick Papa. That’s what I think.

After reading Cross Roads, I went down stairs and picked up the Bible to see if the same relational unconditional-love-filled God that William Young writes about in his books is the same God that the apostle Paul presents…

Click here to read More!

And now, to comment on his latest novel Eve:

Over the past couple of days I read William Paul Young’s book entitled Eve. What do I even say?

I know that those who are bound by a religious spirit will hate it.

I was talking with a friend today about the religious spirit. What else can we call it? Legalism? Self Righteousness? Performance mentality Christianity ‘better have all your doctrine straight and theological ducks in a row or you’re a damned and doomed outcast’ religion! You get the picture?

I told my friend that all the while I am hanging out with someone who has this demonic stronghold (this shadow sickness) I realize that there is something inside of them that hates me. It’s only a matter of time until they turn on me. Reject me. Hate me. Curse me.

I used to be bound by these demons of religion too. I grew to hate this demon. I want to wage war on this demon of religion. I want everyone to see it for what it is and hate it too! In fact I remember having a dream awhile back in which people would come to church and these religion demons would swoop down upon the people entering to poison their minds. Yes, I truly believe this happens to far too many Christians. You and I both know this is true.

(PLEASE HEAR THIS! It must be said that this doesn’t mean we hate any other infected human being. Our fight is not with flesh and blood.

“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 6:12

It is SO wrong to go around judging people as having a religious spirit as well – “judging the judgers”. This is NOT helpful to anyone, leastwise you. Instead we will choose to forgive those who are afflicted because we too are so often afflicted. The older brother sometimes lives in us too! Of course I’m referring to the prodigal son story. The older brother judged the younger and refused to celebrate his return but instead harbored his jealous grudge. He didn’t know the Father even though he remained “faithful” and didn’t “stray”. But did he know Papa’s heart? Didn’t his heart stray just as far if not farther than his clearly wayward prodigal brother?

We all struggle with self righteous judgement of others. The disease is widespread. So widespread that there is… no one(?)… who is not afflicted at one time or another. To forgive and have compassion on them is to forgive and have compassion on yourself! I was reminded recently how God treats the older brother. Papa goes out and gently and lovingly invites them to join the grace party. May we do the same!)

Young calls to our attention that this spirit of religion comes from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, instead of the tree of life.

I have been under a great deal of stress lately as I have realized that I often engage in the same nonsense. I try to war against this evil spirit of religion by using this same “knowledge of good and evil” as my foundation. Unintentionally I enflame and further entrench those who are bound to this disease. I make it all the worse by my efforts to dismantle it. Reminds me of Moses when he tried to save the Israelites by murdering an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew.

Alright Jesus, let’s do this your way. (May we all say this genuinely from our hearts) Enough of the ego. I say “Enough” to the bully of my pride. Jesus come and have your way. Forgive me LORD. Forgive me all the people I have taunted and incited to rage (even by this post).

So… will we realize our profound and arrogant error by pursuing being “right” over love and begin instead to humbly eat from the tree of life? I want to. I choose to now!

Jesus is the tree of life.

Relationship is the tree of life.

How can we do such a thing? To eat from the tree of life? Well Jesus says I can if I have a change of mind and heart (ie. “repent”) and overcome… and I’m told the secret to overcoming is simply to Trust!

The context of Christ’s words in Revelation 2 is that we re-turn to our first love! (Incidentally this is what Young’s book Eve is all about!)

His novel is the story of a fictitious symbolic woman Lilly who gets to observe and even participate in our common history, Adam and Eve, our very first parents in whom every one of us existed in the garden, in Eden, the paradise of God. Wow! What a story. You’ll have to read it for yourself.

May we each take the time to seek God and ask him to restore us to our first love. May we all re-turn our faces toward the One who has never had a shadow of turning from us.

“Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning.” – James 1:17

Categories: Encountering God, Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Remember the Height From Which You Have Fallen

I woke up with such clarity on a specific warning from Scripture that I felt the need to document this. It concerns what is talked about in Scripture as the great apostasy (or falling away, withdraw from the faith) in the end of times.

“Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the true faith; they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1 NLT

Yesterday I was sharing at a nursing home facility about the love of Jesus and was surprised by what came out of my mouth. Every time I share something I pray that the Holy Spirit would speak through me and minister life to those who hear me. This has been a default prayer for the past seven years of ministry. I depend on the Holy Spirit to enliven and bring forth the Scriptures I have immersed myself in for most my life. I let him pick the songs. He determines the flow and the theme and the message. I am his partner in building the kingdom of God, one day at a time, one concert at a time, one song and message or conversation at a time.

I say all of this to encourage you to do ministry dependent on the Holy Spirit’s leading as well. May your every conversation with people be led by the Holy Spirit. He knows exactly how to turn a phrase to grab someone’s attention and, most of all, to woo their heart.

I was blessed by what came out yesterday, and I am also deeply concerned and saddened.

Yesterday he was speaking this to my heart, you are either the persecuted or the persecutors. Which are you? There is no middle ground. You will eventually land on either side. The Nazi’s or the the Jews.

I thought this was interesting and reminded me immediately of Isaac and Ishmael. One was the son of promise, the other of the flesh. One represents true faith and the other what I will call “religion”. Of course I don’t mean true religion as defined in Scripture as ‘care for the orphan and widow and maintaining a pure heart’, but how people often derogatorily use the word these days to describe self righteous judgemental pricks.

Jesus said to his brothers, the world cannot help but accept you, you are one of its own but I testify that it’s deeds are evil therefore the world hates me. Later he said to his disciples, if the world hated and persecuted me it will hate and persecute you.

Of course who is he referring to as “the world”? Not simply those outside of religious circles (many of which heard Jesus gladly), but to the religious of his day. Did sinners have a problem with Jesus? No. They flocked to him. Porn stars, drug addicts, women who had abortions, alcoholics and porn addicts found nothing but love and acceptance and compassion from Jesus.

The Pharisees, however, hated Jesus, persecuted Jesus and eventually crucified Jesus. Jesus had said to them, “you are like whitewashed tombs. You look pretty on the outside but inside are full of dead mens bones”. He told them to their faces, “woe to you! How will you escape the fires of hell?” These are those who had their theology hammered out. They were the respected theologions of their day. The ones who were clearly “right” about everything and had the rest of the world convinced and living in fear of their disapproval. Their acceptance mattered more to the people then the acceptance of God. People would not speak up favorably for Jesus because the Pharisees agreed to put out of the synagogue anyone who did speak up on behalf of Jesus. This was a serious repercussion. The synagogue was their way of life, much like how being a Muslim is not simply just their religion but an entire way of life today.

I recently read the book of Revelation. Yeshua had some warnings to give to most of the seven churches. They each received a message of “Repent, or else” except one church. They received affirmation from the LORD:

The Message to the Church in Philadelphia

7 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.

This is the message from the one who is holy and true,
the one who has the key of David.
What he opens, no one can close;
and what he closes, no one can open:
8 “I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. 9 Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.

10 “Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12 All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.

13 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

He says to the church of the city of brotherly love, “you obeyed my word and did not deny me.”

What, exactly, is the word that they, and you and I, are to obey?

To love one another. That’s it. This is the one new command of the LORD Jesus. Love.

This is God’s great big master plan to transform the world:

“Love the one you’re with”

That’s it. Those who recieve love will then in turn love and it will spread like wildfire exponentially growing to fill the earth and change everyone’s heart. Lets try it!

THE APOSTASY

The great apostasy that is coming and, newsflash, is already here, is that people are refusing to love others. Religion has become for many, instead of caring for orphans and widows and living a pure life unspotted from the world, now a matter of having all your theological ducks in a row.

We have deceived ourselves into thinking that it is what you know, what you believe that is important, instead of how you live, and the love in your heart. The mantra I hear is ‘your doctrine must be correct or your doomed’. You know what I mean? And if you “step out of line” there are many who are chomping at the bit to report you and crucify you and cast out your name as evil. Where have I heard that before?

I have experienced this kind of persecution and I refuse to take part in it. I choose to be the persecuted rather than become a persecutor. Hey people, this is the separating of the sheep and the goats. I’m serious.

Did you catch the ferocity of Christ’s words there to the church at Philedelphia? Jesus talked about to those who belonged to “Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not”. Does this not apply in our churches today? Do you know those who say they are Christian but have no love? God will judge us for what is truly in our hearts and by our words and deeds. These will reveal where our faith is truly at and whether we follow the true Christ or another who is in Christ’s place (aka the antiChrist – literally “in place of Christ”).

Yes I am insinuating that there are those in the church, some of which are highly respected theologians and teachers, whose hearts are devoid of love who are currently following a poser christ – the antichrist. I know this because I was one of them. It was the most serious battle of my life to separate me from this false Christ because I was convinced that he was the only one there was. Fear ruled me. It took a great deal of time and pain and ultimately, love, to set me free.

Yes, we still have Pharisees in our day as well. Don’t think for a moment we don’t. They don’t seem to have an ounce of error in their doctrine but have little to no real love. They are unkind and treat others harshly. They judge, they condemn, they fear monger. They use fear and intimidation to get you to kowtow and submit to them and their authority. I would suggest to you that this is the real apostasy… the abandonment of love. We have left love and followed fear. We have joined the persecutors instead of the persecuted.

A parable (Ok, so actually this was a dream, but I was concerned about being judged for taking so many lessons from my dreams, it’s just how God speaks to me, and I’m ok with that):

I was out walking one day with my wife and we saw an ugly little lizard. My wife reacted in fear and it immediately noticeably grew which surprised us and caused us both to react with more fear. It grew some more. It seemed to feed on our fear.

It became hostile to us and a battle ensued. We enlisted the help of some friends and it fed on their fear as well. Somehow we managed to kill the dragon as it reached the size of a border Collie. We decapitated it and buried it in a large barrel of sand. It’s body at the bottom of the barrel and the head near the top and we left it.

We forgot about it for a while and enjoyed some peace.

images-1One day I remembered the dragon and for a moment the fear and panic revived in my heart. In that very moment the head of the dragon was drawn back to its body and it revived. It escaped and went on the wreak havoc and spread chaos feeding on the fear which was now rampant until grew into a great dragon.

The Air Force was called in. We were going to bomb this dragon with a serious payload – a nuclear bomb. The dragon, however, snatched the plane out of the sky and sent it hurtling into a volcano. The volcano reacting with the detonation created a super volcano explosion which destroyed the world. The end.

I would propose that fear is the opposite of love. Fear is the enemy of love. You cannot be filled with fear and love at the same time. You must choose one or the other. Which will it be?

Many of us have already gone the way of fear. Jesus will set you free if you want to be free. The thing is, we must actively choose to be free. We must pursue freedom and refuse to listen to the fear mongers.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

My one goal in life is to see others come to Jesus. I want the number to grow of those who will take part in the tree of life. The reward for overcoming and returning to Jesus, your first love and your purpose to “love the one your with” is the tree of life.

The Message to the Church in Ephesus

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. 2 I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. 3 You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

4 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. 5 Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

7 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” – Revelation 2:1-7 NIV

Categories: Apocalypse, Exposing Self-Righteous Religion, Repentance | 1 Comment

Jesus and Alcohol (My Confession)

Dreams are one of the ways God speaks to me. Sometimes I don’t listen very well and I soon forget the very important message Jesus was doing his best to convey to me.

The other night I dreamed I was with some brothers and sisters in Christ explaining how I didn’t want to be associated with alcohol or anything else short of Jesus, Redemption, and Love. One girl started to sing a song about the love of God for us. She sang it poorly but it didn’t matter. The truth of the lyrics immediately made me cry. It made me cry because I knew all the ways I resist God and shut him out and yet He still loves me deeply.

I wanted to learn that song so someone printed off just the chords without lyrics. I played it on my guitar and someone else sang an epic version of a beautiful song about the love of God for us… a song I hope to write soon.

(Note: I was informed this post comes across disjointed. That’s what happens when you start a post in July and finish it in December.)

Since my last posts on the subject (see Alcohol and Jesus) I have grown a great deal in my views of alcohols proper place in the believer’s life (if at all). As a follower of Jesus we all have a responsibility to heed the Lord’s personal direction concerning all things, including the use (or lack of use) of alcohol.

My friend Jeff asked me, “So what’s the upside to alcohol?”

My attempt to answer that:

1.) To enjoy with family when we get together?

While perfectly enjoyable and acceptable, it must be with discretion. For instance, are we setting a good example for young impressionable children in the family? Maybe we can do this by showing how to use moderately and not abuse? But often times it is best to just refrain.

2.) Perhaps there is an occasion where you are hanging with lost people or slippery Christians that having a beer might help build a bridge for sharing the Gospel? (Jesus wants to save Christians too!)

I remember hearing a pastor tell of how he was invited to his neighbor’s house for a barbecue. Someone tossed him a cold beer. He tossed it back announcing, “I don’t drink, I am a Christian.” He regrets that to this day and says, “Why didn’t I just have the beer?” So with this story in mind I firmly believed a beer or a glass of wine could build a bridge for the Gospel of God’s grace (and being led by the Spirit on all future occasions this might still be employed).

Has it ever worked for me? Maybe… but I don’t think so. What has happened on a few occasions is that either I, or the person or people I am with, have too much to drink. This leaves either of us with a sense of shame and regret (or regrettably not). Jesus was not given glory. People are not closer to Jesus thanks to alcohol.

3.) For the pure enjoyment and relaxation “a” beer or glass of wine can bring?

What’s wrong with this? Nothing really. Used in moderation alcohol is not evil. In fact, there are many health benefits to wine. Look it up. My perceptions are that in other cultures, the use of alcohol does not have the same stigma as it does in America. Take Europe for example. Wine with every meal is perfectly acceptable (Christian or not).

images-1Here in America alcohol is often seen as just a tool to get drunk. Likely, our history with the prohibition (and a puritanical Church stance) is to blame for rendering alcohol with its low reputation. It’s given the sin tax by the government as if to say, “Sure, we will allow you this evil much like we allow you to smoke and give yourself cancer or allow you to kill your baby.”

I wonder if America were mentioned in the Bible would it be on par with the Cretans reputation (“Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons”). Personally I don’t have much respect for how our American ancestors behaved when it came to alcohol or otherwise. A quote from the movie “Gangs of New York” comes to mind: “America was born in the streets”. I have heard or read stories of American history when seemingly everyone was getting drunk, and often. We lacked self-control and alcohol plagued our society for quite some time (and it still does). This is why the prohibition came about. Politicians and sensible people at the time saw the destruction alcohol was wreaking upon society and wanted it stopped.

So yes, I enjoy the fleeting happiness a favorite beer or glass of wine can bring. But I also certainly hate the shame and regret, not to mention the physical consequences, of having too much alcohol. It pains me to see what it is doing to my family, friends, and neighbors. And just as the Bible predicts, it’s difficult being a voice against its abuse when I was “for” its use. After all, I wouldn’t want anyone to feel bad or anything or jeopardize my own tolerance for it in my life. “Yea, I know we drink a lot”, someone would say to me. My response: “Well, I enjoy a glass of wine myself.” (And while it’s probably a good thing to refrain from being everyone’s conscience for them, it’s also good not to invalidate their own conscience’s convictions and conclusions.)

Can You Drink AND Love Jesus?

Some may and do come to the conclusion that just as drinking and driving don’t mix, neither does drinking and radically loving Jesus. This would be a position I would never take. Think about it. Can you honestly say to someone who has an occasional drink (like Jesus did) that they cannot radically love Jesus? No, not really.

However, for those Israelites who wished to be close to God they would take a Nazarite vow which meant that they would abstain from alcohol for a season. For a few of the most important prophets in Biblical history this was a lifelong commitment. So there is definitely a strong biblical argument for giving it up for good, especially considering the times and the need for prophets who are close to Jesus and hear from him.

This blog post isn’t about using alcohol responsibly. It’s about the times we fail to do so… and I have failed to do so. In my last post on the subject I talked about how I would never abuse alcohol again! Did you know that “never” can also mean “in two months”? Yes, I have slipped a few times. That is the strength of a persons resolve.

I recently watched a sobering movie about an alcoholic. It was amazing to see the freedom and even faith gained in the end by someone choosing honesty and facing who you are rather than continuing to lie. In Elementary, one of my favorite shows, Sherlock is a recovering addict. What baffles me is how we can even manage to “control” one area of our life, as the character in Elementary does, but then allow other areas of our life to be completely out of control. For instance Sherlock controls his substance addiction but gives himself complete license when it comes to sexual sin.

Isn’t there a higher goal beyond controlling our addictions or managing our sin? Indeed there is. Jesus holds out to us complete and absolute freedom in our relationship with him and gives us a kind of grace that is a game changer.

It’s his commitment to forgive and remain committed to love us that teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and live soberly and righteous lives.

 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,  while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11-14 NIV)

I have an unparalleled ability in recent years to immediately receive the grace and forgiveness of Jesus when I fail – which is a REALLY GOOD THING! I don’t wallow in shame or beat myself up. Honestly I didn’t expect any better from the saboteur anyway. BUT, I would never want to justify my sin! I’d rather simply part ways with it. Thankfully Jesus makes repenting and parting ways with sin rather simple. You just have to be ruthlessly honest about yourself and your sin (not always as publicly as I am).

Because I came out publicly with such a “pro” argument for its acceptable use I felt the need to address this issue again (hopefully for the last time). This is why I am publicly repenting of my abuse of alcohol and being as brutally honest as I can be… OK, that’s a lie. You will never get the full brutally honest story. Only God knows that one.

I met a woman recently who had been sober 24 years after being an alcoholic for most of her life previous. She said she has never felt accepted or loved until she found it in Jesus. She keeps trying to reach her alcoholic son and refuses to give up hope for him because Jesus never gave up on her.

I recently came back from visiting where I grew up. One of the people I used to drink with is still a raging alcoholic nearly twenty years later. Don’t we ever learn? Another has turned to alcohol to self medicate a constant physical pain and I think perhaps to also numb the emotional pain of the past. But even more than this I think it is used to numb the ache of just missing Jesus.

In a broken world such as ours with so much pain and anguish, is it any wonder people turn to alcohol (among other things)? But don’t we know to turn to Jesus? Why not?

So many people just don’t know, or don’t believe, that Jesus loves them. I don’t know about you but most of the time when I hear, “Jesus loves you”, it seems trite and silly like that old Sunday school song. It’s old hat. You know what I mean? The message so often fails to even enter our heart. We are immune and inoculated from the love of Jesus.

Why?

I think it’s because we aren’t willing to trust and be willing to give up all the carefully constructed ways we medicate our misery. Ultimately, this isn’t about drinking at all, is it? It’s about knowing and loving Jesus. Do we really know him? Have we embraced his love? Are we really his disciple? (See a previous blog about being a disciple called Dust).

In the beginning of June of this year the Lord was trying to get my attention and was calling me to be his disciple. He did this by giving me the following dream:

I saw the world for what it truly was in the spiritual dimension. It was a place of darkness and confusion and the air was filled with poison. It was as if the entire world was a house filled with carbon monoxide. People were dropping around me like flies and I was shaken by it. Someone, who I perceived was the Lord, was trying his best to rescue people. But people were hiding from him. Demons were also constantly busy hiding people from Jesus and in frustration he said to himself (the Trinity) “It seems like they are going to get away with everything.”

So how in the world did I turn a profound dream of Jesus loving rescue operation into a defense for a Christians right to drink? How slippery I am!

In fact, after I poured out all my alcohol, I was making it again within two days! Why, you may ask? Oh, I had my reasons. Among all my reasons, the biggest reason is this:

I miss Jesus. I wanted to relieve the ache of missing him. Alcohol did that for me and I wasn’t ready to give it up. Now, however, I’d rather just have Jesus, even if it means never having alcohol ever again.

I was afraid to feel the pain of Christ for others as well. I avoided this pain and so was sabotaging the advancement of the kingdom of God. Unless you and I embrace the love of Jesus and join with Jesus in his rescue operation, unless that becomes our driving ambition in our life as it is Christ’s, and yes, even embrace the pain that comes with the mission of actually caring about lost people, then we become part of the problem. We end up putting sandbags on the drowning victims instead of pulling them to safety. We end up turning away from, and skirting around, the beat up victim instead of coming to their aid (see the Good Samaritan story). We end up handing a drink to the alcoholic. We remain silent when we should speak out. We stand by and watch them suffocate. We stand by and watch people drown themselves with alcohol and give them encouragement, “It’s ok. It’s your Christian right to drink.”

I don’t want that anymore.

I don’t want any more people whom Jesus dearly loves to slip by and never fully embrace the love and grace and redemption that Jesus has for them! I don’t want Christian brothers and sisters to settle for an existence that is so far below anything you could remotely call an ‘abundant life’ that Jesus offers them. I want everyone to “be found” by Jesus and be in love with their Creator and Savior!

This isn’t really about alcohol at all. This is about Jesus finding people and saving them from whatever may be distracting and drowning them (their idols). This is about people becoming disciples of Jesus.

There are probably plenty of reasons to never drink again. My permissive attitudes might have already encouraged others to drink who shouldn’t be drinking. This is tragic and feels like I’m handing a loaded gun to someone who is suicidal.

I was reminded today from reflecting on the Psalms that God holds each one of us accountable. You and I will be held accountable and none of our excuses will be valid or amount to anything. Sooner or later our hearts WILL be exposed, our sin will come to light. I choose the sooner.

My wife was reading through the Bible and came upon this Scripture from the prophet Micah:

“Suppose a prophet full of lies would say to you,
“I’ll preach to you the joys of wine and alcohol!”
That’s just the kind of prophet you would like!” Micah 2:11 NLT

I was arrested.

“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12 NLT

Even if it is entirely ok for me to drink or even have a winemaking hobby, (which I know it is – I do still agree with everything in my first blog on this topic), God has a way of exposing our carefully constructed arguments and excuses for what they are to expose our heart and motives.

Why was an occasional drink so important to me anyway?

I felt it made me more human. I felt that it further separated me from the realm of religious prick (which I abhor) and into the realm of real and human and love. This is why I was committed to not being a teetotaler.

But… on the flip side, might I be a partaker of destroying lives and helping people to hide from Jesus and giving them a Biblical defense to do so? If that is the case, then God help me!

The thing is, God has helped me and continues to help me. He sets me free from idols… because even if I had the slightest doubt that alcohol stood between me and Jesus, then guess what… it did. Because, “whatever is not of faith is sin.”

The simple truth is this. Our conscience dictates all these gray areas of morality. This makes perfect sense when you think of this in terms of relationship. I am one side of the relationship, God is on the other. If I think something is hindering that relationship then it most certainly is because I “think” it is and that affects me. Even if to God that gray area is perfectly acceptable, I may not be mature or aware enough to know that. My faith may not connect with that.

Paul writes about this in terms of meat offered to idols. My understanding is that in Paul’s day in age you could hardly find meat in the market that hadn’t been offered to an idol because the butcher shops served the idol worship industry that was so prevalent. Many early Christians ceased eating meat altogether lest they “offend God” by unwittingly taking part of idol worship. Paul was mature and aware of the fact that an idol is nothing and nonsense so enjoy the meat, but never at the expense of another’s conscience. In that case the persons conscience always trumped the “freedom” because that person’s relationship is worth more than the freedom.

A person’s relationship with God is always worth more than any freedom.

My bottom line is this: What do we want our life to be about?

I don’t want to be known as the guy who makes and enjoys wine, but as the man who loves and is passionate about Jesus! Ultimately I want my life to be about knowing and experiencing fully and then preaching the joy of knowing Jesus.  I’d rather not be a stumbling block to anyone finding that joy!

Please pray for me.

Categories: Alcohol, Dreams, Exposing Self-Righteous Religion | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

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