Pondering today on guilt and the cross. Guilt – a feeling that you have done something wrong or bad or let someone down, or the state of having broken a law.
I was one of those kids that wanted to please. If a teacher got on to me in school, I would cry. I wanted to preform well and I wanted to be accepted. Guilt and shame were my constant companions, little voices constantly whispering in my ear that I was not good enough.
These pesky little voices have been around from the beginning. They whispered in Adam and Eve’s ears, “Hide from God, you are naked and you should be ashamed”. They whispered in the Children of Israel’s ears, “You better sacrifice so you can be accepted by God”. They whispered in the Pharisee’s ears, “Kill this Jesus, his teachings will make you powerless over the people.”
Because of those lying little voices, I gladly, desperately and eagerly accepted the idea that Jesus died on the cross for my “sins”, my ” missing the mark”, my ” mess ups”. I wanted Him to take my guilt and shame away. BUT…I then felt even more guilty. I had put an innocent man to death to make me feel better. I must work hard and devote my life to paying him back for this “gift”. Talk about a religious guilt trip that lasted 40+ years!
Today, I don’t hear those destructive little voices anymore. Oh, every now and then I see them yelling from a distance to try and get my attention, but their efforts fail. I don’t see the cross, or the death of Jesus, or guilt like I used to. I don’t believe the story I used to believe.
The story that says…God created humans. Humans disobeyed God. Humans should be ashamed. God punished humans. God must separate Himself from shameful Humans. God sent humans to hell. God needed a sacrifice to overlook humans’ filthy humanness. God needed to kill Himself to save humans from a place He created. Humans are indebted to God. God saves some humans. God sends others to hell. The end.
As I read the story now, I see things I never saw before. I notice details, words, actions that I glossed over to make the story fit my church’s teachings. And now, every time I read it, I see even more. I see a love story!
Here is the story I read now.
God created humans in His image. God loved humans and said His creation was VERY GOOD. God enjoyed human’s company. Human’s made a mistake. God went looking for humans and covered humans’ shame. God protected humans from themselves. Humans felt separated from God because of their guilt. God accepted humans’ pointless sacrifices so humans could feel better. God was continually trying to teach humans that they were wrong about Him and they were wrong about themselves. God sent Jesus to set the record straight. God still loves and has always loved humans! God never needed sacrifices to love humans. God IS love. Humans needed sacrifices to feel worthy of God’s love. God sacrificed Himself to show human’s the depth of His love. Humans are free from the voices of guilt and shame. Humans realize that they have never been nor will ever be separated from God. Humans love God. Humans love all humans.
Guilt and the Cross look very different to me now and for that, I am so thankful. I look different to me now. You look different to me now. Love looks different to me now.
Happy Sunday my friends! Oh, and I almost forgot the end of the story…
“And they all lived happily ever after!”
Pondering today on being naked.
I have the joy of watching my granddaughter when her mom and dad work. One of our favorite things to do is take off her clothes and just bask in the beauty of all those chubby baby rolls. When we take off her clothes, she just grins from ear to ear and gets so happy. Even in infancy, we long to be free! We instinctively know that we are not meant to be weighed down or hindered. Anna Kate has no shame, no insecurities, no expectations to live up to… no mindsets that make her feel unworthy. No wonder Jesus told us to come to Him as a little child!
There is so much focus in the religious world on “sin” but I’m not sure why “sin” is so important to us. The Hebrew word for “sin”, chait, simply means to “miss”, to not hit the target in the intended spot, to make a mistake. Who hasn’t done that, right?! Sin is not a list of rights and wrongs that lead to hell. I know many of us have been taught that but it is NOT what the scriptures say.
Ok, ok…back to being naked! So, in the garden, after Adam and Eve ate from the “Tree of the KNOWLEDGE of good and evil”, they tried to hide from God. Why did they hide??? Because they were naked. But they had always been naked and it had never bothered them before. Why now? All they had ever known was “good” and now their knowledge had changed. Their mindset had made the devastating shift from from ACCEPTED to ASHAMED. God told them not to eat from that tree because He loved them, not because He wanted to weigh them down with rules. He wanted their minds protected from the shame, guilt and condemnation that comes with trying to always hit the target in the right spot. He wanted them to enjoy the abundant life of being naked and unashamed, of being free and unhindered.
Many (and I was one of them) believe, that what happened in the garden, unleashed the wrath of an angry God on humanity. A wrath so strong that He would need to kill his own son for it to be satisfied. That somehow, a violent murder of His own son, was the only way He could be appeased. I used much more flowery, religious words to say it, but eventually the sugar coating wore off and the harshness of my beliefs left me with a sour taste in my mouth.
Now, I see things differently. I now look at all scripture through the eyes of love, not wrath. I see now that God never cared if they were naked. He never covered them in shame. He never condemned them but protected and loved them. In Genesis 3:11, God says to a hidden and ashamed Adam, “WHO told you that you were naked?” Do you see that? The accusation didn’t come from God! It came from Adam! And so the fall from ACCEPTED to ASHAMED began for all humanity. The knowledge of good and evil had infected our minds and forever changed the way we see ourselves and others. We became judges. And when you see yourself as a piece of crap, you behave like a piece of crap. But you are NOT a piece of CRAP!
God has been on a mission since that day in the garden! A mission to restore your mind! A mission of turning you back from ASHAMED to ACCEPTED! A mission of LOVE not wrath! A mission of RESTORATION not condemnation! A mission of SAVING not destroying! He sent Jesus to insure that mission succeeds! Jesus is the exact representation of the Father and ACCEPTANCE, LOVE, RESTORATION AND SALVATION was His message! Jesus came to tell us that our misses (sin) don’t disqualify us, condemn us or define us!
God didn’t murder His son, we did. When God laid down His life, He crucified ASHAMED so we can know we are UNCONDITIONALLY ACCEPTED.
My friends, if you feel guilt, condemnation, pressure to measure up…just look at Jesus. See the unconditional love and acceptance in God’s gentle eyes! It will forever change your MIND back to where it was meant to be.
Happy Sunday Beloved! May you embrace your nakedness!
Pondering today on “seeing for the first time”.
Have you ever seen a “Where’s Waldo?” book, stared at a 3D image until your eyes adjusted, or sat down with one of the old school “Highlights” magazines and looked for hidden pictures? It’s fun to search for something until you find it or look at something until you see it.
One of my most favorite parts of this journey with God has been to awake to new truths (new to me), to discover beautiful treasures and to see things I never saw before!
I look back at my 50 years of life and I’m amazed. Amazed at how I’ve grown and how much I have yet to grow, amazed at what I used to believe was true and what I have found to be true, amazed at how the things I’ve looked at for so long are now being seen for the first time.
I don’t want to get into specific things because we could be here for days and it would probably lead to disagreements in ” views”. Instead, I’m pondering my overall experience.
I used to believe that when it comes to my journey with God, that I was on a journey upward, on a trajectory from earth to heaven, an endeavor to close the gap between my humanity and God. I was ever striving to get closer to God, to be more Christ-like, to shed my rotten,stinkin, humanness and be more “godly”. In truth, I really looked like a hamster on a wheel, running in circles but never arriving anywhere. I was always working on me, trying to become someone else, hoping I would be good enough. It was exhausting and hopeless.
But…just like with the Waldo books, the 3D images and the hidden pictures, it may take time…but eventually things become clear. You “see things for the first time”, things that were right there in front of your eyes but you overlook, you were focused on the wrong things, or you had looked at it the same way for so long that you weren’t actually seeing it anymore.
I began to see something about my journey that was brand new to me! I started to see God in everything and everyone. I began to see that God was WITH ME! God was IN ME! There was no gap between us! I didn’t need to get “closer” to God because we were one! I didn’t need to become less human because human was what God created me to be! I had been taught to “see” things that weren’t there. I had been taught to “see” things through a particular filter. I had been taught to “see” myself and my creator in ways that separated us instead of connecting us. No wonder I was spinning in circles and felt hopeless. I was seeing through other people’s eyes and not seeing the truth right in front of me.
The truth that I am loved, I am accepted, I am the recipient of a free gift and I don’t have to earn it. I am not becoming something…I am seeing who I have always been…seeing it for the first time.
When I look in the mirror now, I see the same reflection I’ve always seen but now I see her like I’ve never seen her before! I don’t see a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend who has fallen short. I see a human who is created in the image and likeness of a perfect creator. I see love and grace woven into every fiber of my being…long before I could have ever earned it. And I see you the very same way….PERFECTLY created!
Happy Sunday my friends and may you LOVE WELL…especially yourself.
Pondering today on perspective.
I went to see the movie “The Shack” last week. I had read the book twice several years ago and was moved in a powerful way. While I personally LOVED the movie and walked away from the book and the movie with such an overwhelming understanding of the pure love of God BUT…my social media has blown up with “Shack Haters” and “Shack Lovers” and all the opinions of both. This got me thinking, how in the world can people see the same movie in such completely different ways?!
And so I’m pondering on “perspective”. Perspective has a Latin root meaning “look through” or “perceive,” and all the meanings of perspective have something to do with looking.
Growing up in the Baptist denomination shaped my perspective of the scriptures and therefore the way I “perceived” or “looked” at God. As I journeyed from Baptist to Nondenominational to Charismatic Pentecostal to Mega church to church without walls…my perspective changed. I saw things at each stage of the journey that I couldn’t or wouldn’t see before.
And so it goes with “The Shack”. I will confess that the Wendy of 15 years ago would have probably been a “Shack Hater”. I was very protective of my religious theology and I was very passionate in my belief that I had all the right “biblical” answers. My “perspective” was very narrow and I refused to use my peripheral vision to see ideas outside of my version of truth.
But IF you are willing to go on the journey, IF you are willing to look at the bigger picture, IF you are willing to explore and ponder…your “perspective” will change in glorious ways! While it may be a little scary or unnerving, I know, it is so worth the risk!
I believe your opinion of “The Shack” is all about “perspective”.
Do you view scriptures through the lens of “heaven and hell”, “saved and unsaved”, “chosen and not chosen”, “right and wrong”, “insiders and outsiders”, “original sin doctrine”, “law”, “sin consciousness”, “the devil made me do it”, “fire is destructive”, “god was angry but Jesus put him in a better mood”???
Do you view scriptures through the lens of “unconditional love”, “pure grace”, “created in God’s image and likeness”, “EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue confess”, “full redemption”, “your true identity is IN Christ”, “saved is being made whole”, “fire is purifying”, “God is good”, “Jesus is the exact representation of the Father”???
Your “perspective” will determine how you see “The Shack”, the scriptures, your fellow man, and God. So the challenge for ALL of us is this…are you seeing the bigger picture? Are you looking at all the glorious miracles on every side of you? Are you brave enough to look at life, God, written words, movies, songs, people, and ideas with an open mind? Are you longing for a new “perspective”? Are you ready to see your creator as bigger, better and even more loving than you ever thought possible? I hope so! 🤔😎
Happy Sunday my friends!
Pondering today on purity.
I would bet that for most of you that read the word “purity”, you immediately thought of a purity from some kind of sin or unclean living. I guess that immediate assumption is at the heart of my pondering.
I would venture to say that most people know nothing of PURE GRACE and sadly, this is more true of the Christian community than others. Now before you get offended, let me finish my thoughts. Remember, I am speaking mostly of myself.
First, let’s define GRACE so we all have a starting point. GRACE is defined as “the FREELY GIVEN, UNMERITED favor and love of God”.
Let’s take a visual journey. Picture a tall glass of PURE clean water. I mean it has been purified from every contaminate, chemical and trace of dirt. Now, drop just one piece of dirt into it. It immediately becomes impure, cloudy, and a completely different material that is of lesser quality and value.
So it goes with PURE GRACE. Grace is freely given and unmerited. It is free of all requirements, rules and stipulations. Now, add just one condition to it. It immediately becomes impure, contaminated and a completely different idea that is of lesser quality and value.
When Jesus entered into our physical realm as a human, He came as PURE GRACE but the people did not understand Him. They, especially the religious leaders, were always trying to get Him to focus on sin or unclean living, on rules, on “rights” and “wrongs”. They were so accustomed to lists of “do’s” and “dont’s”, obsessed with keeping the law, and measuring the worth of a person by their performance. This idea or concept of FREELY GIVEN, not earned, unconditional acceptance and love was so foreign to them. It threatened the power and status of the religious leaders. If you removed their moral and spiritual superiority over their subjects, what would they have left to define their worth? What would be their purpose? What would set them apart from the masses?And so PURE GRACE became contaminated one little drop of “ifs” at a time. Yes, God loves you “if”….
So the choice for you and for me today is …are we going to choose PURE GRACE for ALL people, in ALL conditions, at ALL times? Or, are we going to settle for something of lesser quality and value that is no longer even grace at all?
Let’s unmask the “ifs” for the lies that they are.
Let’s remove the “conditions” from unconditional love.
Let’s filter out all rules and performance from acceptance.
Let’s drink in the PURE GRACE, the PURE LOVE, the PURE ACCEPTANCE that Jesus poured out and then let’s shower the world with it!
Let’s never add an “if”, a theology, a requirement on something that was FREELY GIVEN!
Let’s shout PURE GRACE from the mountaintops so that the world will know the love God has for them.
Let’s love well my friends.
“For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
Pondering today on love ❤️.
I know of a man who had a near death experience (pronounced dead) about 50 years ago. His account of what happened to him is …well, seriously thought provoking. As he came face to face with the Lord, he was asked one question. “Did you learn to love ❤️? This man was an evangelist and a preacher yet he was asked “Did you learn to love ❤️?”
Have YOU learned to love ❤️? Now, I know you love your spouse, your kids, your family and friends…that’s easy. (Matt 5:46) I spent most of my spiritual journey…”loveless”. Oh, I served God, taught Bible Studies, only listened to Christian music, only watched “Godly” shows, etc. I appeared to be a follower of Christ, a Christian but the truth is, I was more like the Pharisees who loved religion rather than people. I loved my people but was extremely judgmental of those who were not like me. I had a spiritual maturity (arrogance) that was admired in my circles but was far from what Jesus displayed. I was more concerned with “teaching” you the right way to believe than I was with hearing your heart. Thank God for grace and for His gentle patience.
I wanted to “love others as I loved myself”.
I wanted to feel that of “faith, hope and love…that the greatest of these is love”.
I wanted “love” to pour out of me, to define me, to genuinely be what I felt…but it wasn’t. The reality was that “condemnation” poured out of me, “being right” defined me, and superior was what I genuinely felt.
Today…I love ❤️. I’m not perfect but my heart is soft, my compassion and kindness are genuine and judgement has almost completely disappeared from my thoughts. What did “I” do to get this way? Nothing. It was ALL Him. He knew the desire of my heart was to be like Him and He did not give up on me. He exposed (and still is) religious lies I had bought in to and He called forth the “real” me that was created in His image.
It is a journey my friends. A journey of erasing everything the world has painted all over you and finally seeing the real you as you were created. It’s not a journey of “becoming” but a journey of “returning” to what has always been true. A journey that we are ALL on, so be patient with yourself and others.
So what about the man who died? He came back to his body, lived a long life defined by love ❤️, and died on Valentine’s Day 2014.
Happy Valentines Day my friends! And may we all live a life like Jesus…a life defined by LOVE ❤️❤️❤️!
Pondering today on Victory! Ok, yes, this pondering may have been inspired by my Atlanta Falcons and their inevitable Victory tonight in the Super Bowl! But, my pondering is about Jesus and His victory over sin and death!
If you have been reading these Ponderings for a while, you know that I grew up Baptist, then Pentecostal, then non-denominational mega church. At each stage of my journey, I proclaimed Jesus to be “Victorious” but the reality of my theology was that He was partially victorious but partially a “loser”. I know that sounds a little harsh but when you cut through all the flowery words, glorious anthems and emotional worship….I was left with questions?
God, if you are so great, why will ALL People not know it?
God, if you are perfect love, why will ALL people not feel it?
God, if you conquered death, why will ALL people not live?
God, if you are light, why do you not remove ALL darkness?
God, if you are the victorious King of Kings, how do you not win ALL battles?
For 45 of my 50 years on this journey so far…I believed a theology that praised a “win some/ lose some” God. The truth is, most western Christians believe this. Now, I know for some of you that are so entrenched in your theology (I was one of the most entrenched 🙋🏼), scriptures are popping into your head to support your theology. For goodness sake, I was in a “scripture memory” class! Here’s the thing, we ADD a lot of things to scripture that aren’t there. I’ll just give a couple of examples that the Holy Spirit enlightened for me. The word “saved”….doesn’t mean saved from hell”. The word “perish”…doesn’t mean “eternal torment”. The word “fire”…is a purifying word, not a destructive word. We could go on and on for centuries debating theology, (oh wait, we have) but at the end of the day, it comes down to this …DO YOU BELIVE GOD IS VICTORIOUS? DO YOU BELIEVE GOD IS A LOSER? DO YOU BELIEVE HE IS A LITTLE OF BOTH?
Interesting questions right? Are you brave enough to set your theology aside and really ponder them?
I am not here to tell you how or what to believe. We have enough people in the world trying to do that! I’m here to share my journey and to challenge you to ask the hard questions…you won’t be disappointed in the answers! The more you peel away the layers of man’s teachings and get through the thin, crumbly layers of religion to the heart of God…the more in awe you will be!
I believe God is ALL LOVING!
I believe God is ALL POWERFUL!
I believe God always WINS!
I believe that LOVE NEVER FAILS!
I believe that we don’t see the whole story when we look through mere earthly eyes.
I believe that EVERY knee will bow and EVERY tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God, our Father.
I believe every human spirit will one day look into the eyes of pure love and ALL the hurt, stinkin thinkin, indoctrination, anger, abuse, woundedness, cultural teachings, torment and hate will be burned up until only the pure creation remains. A pure creation captivated and in love with its perfect creator! I believe in VICTORY! Jesus never “converted” anyone, He loved them and called them friends.
Now In the words of our Atlanta Falcons…”In brotherhood we trust, in brotherhood we fight, in brotherhood we RISE!
Jesus said, “I came to seek and save the lost” (that’s ALL of us). Luke 19:10.
Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw ALL men to myself”. John 12:31-32.
Jesus said “I did not come to judge the world but to SAVE it!”
“The Shepherd goes in search of the one lost sheep and does not return UNTIL he finds it and puts it on his shoulders and takes it home.” Luke 15:1-2