Tag Archives: Religion

Escape from the Box Life (Part 2)

Religion is one of the most dangerous boxes a follower of Christ can find themselves trapped in. Barricaded in this box, we find ourselves limited by boundaries and restrictions God did not place upon us.

Religion, when defined, is nothing more than people’s beliefs and opinions concerning the existence, nature, and worship of a deity and his divine involvement in their universe and human life. It is an institutionalized or personal system of belief, with the key word being system.

Religion is man-developed, man-centered, and based on man’s beliefs and opinions. It is filled with endless rules, regulations, customs, rituals, duties, and expectations, which are nothing more than ways to measure a person’s strength or ability to do something on their own. Humans created religion to measure their own accomplishments. At the heart of religion is man, not God.

Religion is an empty box void of God with two deadly extremes. On the left wall of the box is the mantra that you must work harder and harder to chase the vaporous belief that it will make you better and more worthy of God’s love. Sadly, this is like a dog chasing its tail because you can never do enough to be good enough. You can’t measure up especially when you never know what good enough really is.

On the left face of the box is inscribed the belief that if you do the rituals correctly and keep all the rules perfectly you somehow become better than all the rest. It is a false sense of superiority and a deceptive sense of possessing some kind of super-spirituality that separates you from the rest of the crowd and makes you elite—one of God’s special ones.

Neither is true. Both create bondage—the former imprisons the soul and the latter incarcerates the mind. Religion is a dead-end box—a prison cell that places your abilities or capabilities at the center of your worship rather than God.

Revelation is the only key that can release a person from religion’s box!

Escape from the Box Life (Part 1)

Do you ever feel like you’re trapped in an invisible box and there seems to be no way of escape? Most Christians are even though Jesus came to set humanity free from the bondage of sin, death, and the devil. Most know this in their head but have yet to experience these benefits in their heart. Most never experience the liberty to be the person God created them to be. Most never experience a genuine relationship with God. Instead, they live in what I call a box—that is they live a box life.

Technically a box is a six-sided container with a top, a bottom, and four sides. A box is a container—it contains or limits the movements of whatever is placed in it. In the physical realm boxes are all around us. We live in a box called a house, an apartment, a condo, or a manufactured home. We shop in boxes called stores. We travel in boxes called automobiles, buses, taxis, trains, boats, and airplanes. If you work inside, you work in a box. If you have a cubicle you work in a box within a box. And eventually all of us will likely be buried in a box called a coffin, which will be placed in a box called a vault, and interned in a box called a grave. Boxes are our constant companion from the cradle to the grave.

But—God never intended for his kids to live a box life. His plan did not include emotional, relational, intellectual, philosophical, and most of all—spiritual boxes. These are the invisible boxes most of us find ourselves trapped in.

This invisible box is anything that limits God in your life or limits your ability or willingness to follow God wherever he leads.  This unseen box is the border of your comfort zone. It is also the outer edge of your faith. You know where the perimeter of your box is and you will do everything in your power to stay away from its boundaries. It’s not comfortable there because it’s too close to the unknown and most people hate the unknown.

Some of you exist in teeny-tiny boxes that are so tight and cramped you can’t even breathe or relax, always fearing someone might find out who you really are, what you really believe, or how you really look on the inside. Perhaps you live in a more spacious box with a bit more room, but the truth is—a box is still a box. It provides a modicum of protection but it also limits you. It contains you. It keeps you from becoming all that God intended and it prevents you from experiencing the limitless grace and love that God has for you.

We build these boxes to protect ourselves or hide ourselves or to keep others away from our wounded hearts and broken spirits. We build them to contain our treasures, attitudes, knowledge, experiences, theologies, world views, and belief systems. At first, the box seems spacious—just what the doctor ordered. But over time, it tends to close in, restricting and even choking us. It cuts off the blood flow to our brain, and we become entrenched with attitudes and beliefs and create a world we think we will be happy in. In this make-believe world we also create a god who fits perfectly and even resembles our image and likeness. But without the inflow of blood, by that I mean the discovery of new truths, or experiences, or successes and failures, or victories and defeats, we develop varicose brains.

Over time, we become hard-headed and hard-hearted. This leads eventually to fear, or arrogance, or jealousy, or shame, or loneliness, or depression, which is death on the inside of the box. The box we’ve built to protect us soon becomes a prison cell that entraps us or a grave that entombs us. It shuts us in and God out!

God never created you to experience a box life!

The Forgiveness Factor (Part 8)

Curses tend to get worse with time. Unforgiveness smells of death, and its noxious aroma attracts dark creatures that traffic in death. Unforgiveness is an open invitation for all of hell to attend a grand party at your personal expense.

Nothing draws the devil like unforgiveness. It gives him a foothold in your life—a base of operations to work from within you. It is surrendered ground, given up when you refuse to do what God demands. He plants his flag in your soul and invites his forces to dig trenches in that conquered ground. He does not own the real estate, but he holds it due to the darkness of disobedience. In the vacuum created by your disobedience, he has slipped back across the border. He’s no longer forced to attack you from the outside. No—you’ve left your screen door wide open and invited him in. You’ve given him legal rights to be there as long as you refuse to forgive.

You may find this hard to believe. You may be thinking, “There’s no way!”  I propose you read something Jesus taught in Matthew 18:21-35 in your Bible before you proceed any farther. We will re-visit this story over the next few blogs because there is a tremendous amount of truth contained in these few verse about the blessings of forgiveness and the curse of unforgiveness. Please read it and pay close attention to what takes place in verses 34-35.

 “And his lord moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all was owed him. So shall my heavenly Father also do to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother (or sister) from your heart.”  I believe the “torturers” are demonic spirits. I also believe the sin of unforgiveness (a sin one refuses to turn from) causes God to gradually remove his hand of protection, which then allows the enemy to move in, set up shop, and bring torment. Death always resides in darkness, and unforgiveness is darkness of the worst kind. Where sin lingers—the devil lurks.

I am in no way implying what many would call “possession.” This is not possession versus oppression. The Greek text of the New Testament uses neither word. In some translations, the term “possession” was supplied in an attempt to explain what was meant. In other words it was added to clarify by the translators, not by the Holy Spirit or the men who penned the original words of Scripture. That attempt to clarify has clouded this issue and coined a whole genre of inappropriate language and bogus beliefs concerning the work of both the devil and his demons. The New Testament primarily uses two descriptions: 1) to have a demon (ekw), or 2)to be demonized (daimonizomai). The issue is not ownership or whether a believer can be possessed or not. They may be issues to you, but they are arguments developed from silence or bad theology, not from the plain truth of Scripture. Both Greek words mean “to have a demon—to be under the influence or power of a demon in certain areas.” Don’t allow movie makers, bogus theology, or blind ignorance to influence your doctrine in these areas. Just allow the plain truth of the Bible to speak.

 Now, back to the issue at hand! If you struggle with the above paragraph, I invite you to do some study on your own. Don’t naively accept what you have been taught or even what I say. The tools you need are accessible even if you don’t have a mastery of biblical Greek. Check them out and allow the words of God to speak for themselves.

If forgiveness is not granted fairly quickly, the enemy expands his territory. That wound perpetrated on you may become a stronghold in your life. Many people who have been hurt in a particular manner eventually hurt others the very same way. Hurting people hurt people! The wound inflicted on you may eventually become a generational curse. Things like sexual abuse, emotional abuse, drug abuse, unfaithfulness in marital relationships, immorality, pornography, and alcoholism are all examples of generational curses that seem to follow families. I am not implying that if you were wounded, hurt, or offended you will automatically end up doing one of the above listed things. But if you don’t deal with whatever your wound is by forgiving the offender, you may do to someone else what was done to you. The sin perpetrated on you will affect you if you don’t forgive, and if it affects you, it will affect your children in some form or fashion. That is, unless someone breaks the pattern.

Sometimes a person who has been wounded becomes a control freak. Unforgiveness is often an attempt to get control of the chaos one has encountered. It’s your choice, but attempting to exercise control over everything and everyone will never heal the hurt or make you safer. Only forgiveness can do that.

Often people who are hurt become bitter, harsh, cold, uncaring, or unfeeling. Perhaps numb is the best word to describe this condition. They often turn to drugs or alcohol to insure the numbness, or to death-defying activities and life-on-the edge adventures to feeling something—anything to remind them that they are still alive.

Physical illness can be the result of the curse of unforgiveness. Stress triggers a domino effect of disaster in our physical bodies. I have witnessed people who were experiencing all kinds of physical conditions find healing once they offered forgiveness. God reversed the work of the tormenters in their case.

There is a curse that accompanies unforgiveness. It destroys the person from the inside out. Unforgiveness is the playground of Satan. As long as unforgiveness reigns, the devil will run roughshod through every area of your life. He cannot not get your soul if you know Christ, but if you refuse to extend forgiveness—he will eventually destroy you and possibly those you truly love.

Musings from a Madman: The Reality of Relationship (Part 17)

Over the past several weeks we have explored what it means to have an intimate relationship with God. Sadly, most believers are not experiencing these things. They are convinced that salvation is enough and one day they will see Jesus in heaven. But there is a big gap between the two and that distance is called life. Convinced they have all they need, they have seized the religious bait of Satan rather than an intimate relationship with God.

Religion allows us to measure our spirituality and compare it with others around us. Relationship forces us to realize we have nothing to offer and the best we can do is simply not enough. God does not need us! Period! And yet—God wants us! He has chosen us for relationship.

Sadly, most Christians have settled for the empty expressions of religion—the do’s and the don’ts—because we are too lazy to pursue relationship. We have turned it into an empty legalistic expression will all kinds of rules, rituals, and regulations. Most have given up, living lives of silent desperation.

Jesus came to restore and model this intimacy, this relationship of the heart with the Father. He also came to demonstrate what this relationship was capable of producing. His own relationship with the Father produced the fruit of love expressed by joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Everything Jesus did or said was the fruit-filled result of his intimate, ongoing relationship with God.

Every intimate relationship produces fruit. The deeper the relationship, the more powerful the fruit will be. That fruit also produces seeds and those seeds are sown producing even more fruit. Relationship reproduces itself again and again.

As we come to the end of this series, examine your own fruit. Take a long look at what is being produced in you. Is it active? Is it alive? Is it passionate? Or is it sterile, stagnant, or lifeless? Fruit is the evidence of whether or not one has a real relationship with God. A name on a church roll, a stroll down an aisle, a prayer with a pastor, or submerged in a baptismal pool has no validity if there is no fruit. The reality of what you may have done does not prove the fruit, but the fruit is proof of the reality.  If there is no fruit, it is likely there is no connection to the root who is Jesus Christ.

Is your relationship with Jesus producing fruit? Is your faith growing—are you willing to step out and into the promises of God? Faith is never developed without trust and trust is a by-product of relationship. Are you obedient or disobedient to the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said if we love him we will do what he commands. True obedience is the result of love. If you love someone you will desire to please that person.

Relationship is a privilege every believer can access. Jesus bought and paid for it on the cross. It was purchased by the breaking of his body and the spilling of his blood. Therefore failure to experience this depth of relationship, this intimate friendship, is due to our lack of desire—we simply don’t want it.

Perhaps you’ve gorged yourself on religious garbage and you are still empty. Perhaps the time has come to feast on the delights of an intimate relationship with God. What you choose will determine whether or not you experience satisfaction or starvation.

Which will it be?

It really is your choice.

Musings from a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 5)

The missing element for most Christians in their relationship with God is desperation. Most have as much of God as they want at any given moment. The problem is not availability but desire—they don’t want any more. You can have as much of God as you want, but it depends on you—whether or not you are willing to pay the price of pursuing him. Grace is free—salvation was purchased and paid for by Christ, but relationship is hard work and it requires a great deal of desperation on our part.

Desperation is a signal that something indispensable is missing and the hunger for it cannot be quenched by anything else. Most of us are not desperate because we are still stuffing anything and everything in that God-created void only he call fill. Many have a false sense of satisfaction feeling that everything is alright, but that pseudo sense of confidence can vanish in the blink of an eye with one hiccup of a heartbeat, a single word from a spouse, or lump located in a place where lumps don’t belong. All of a sudden, what once satisfied no longer does and you become desperate.

This kind of desperation utters a hungry cry that is amazingly similar and has remained so over the centuries. The psalmist put it this way in Psalm 42:1-2: “As the deer pants (longs for) for the water brooks, so my soul pants (longs for) for God, for the living God; when shall I come and appear (see your face) before God?” St. Augustine, a fourth century church father and bishop, put it his way, “Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee.” Blaise Pascal, a seventeen century mathematician and Christian philosopher, wrote, “There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of man which cannot be filled by any created thing but only God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” These men understood that only God can satisfy that gnawing in the gut of our spirit, but far too many seek to satisfy that craving with drugs, alcohol, sex, jobs, hobbies, money, power, and a million other things that won’t fit or start to fill up the emptiness.

Are you desperate—for God? Do you have a burning desire to know him—to be with him? Is there a ravenous hunger or a voracious thirst that relentlessly drives you toward him? If not, something is terribly wrong in your relationship with God. Most Christians are not desperate. They have gorged themselves on religious fluff rather than experiencing God in a full relationship. They are stuffed, but no satisfied. Many have been taught that you “get it all” at salvation. Everything does become available once we come to Christ in faith, but not everything is automatic. Some things require that you stretch up on your tip-toes and retrieve it from the top shelf. In other word, here it is, come and get it.

Salvation is the front door of God’s house. Once you come to Christ you step through that front door and into the foyer of his grace, but God’s house is filled with countless rooms filled with unimaginable experiences and delights, just waiting to be explored. Salvation gives you access to the foyer, but relationship will take you on an unbelievable tour of the whole house. Sadly, there’s a glut of people camped out in the foyer who are convinced they have arrived and this is it—all there is. It’s not, so please keep moving!

True desperation is a state of despair that typically results in rash, extreme, or even dangerous behavior. Desperate people do desperate things. Content people twiddle their thumbs, sit on their contented little cans, and do nothing. Desperate people will go to extremes to satisfy their hunger or thirst for God (extremes are what comfortable church people call those measures that seen a little fanatical and out of the ordinary). When you’re desperate, you go looking for God under every rock and behind every bush. You pursue and track him like a bloodhound that refuses to give up the scent. Giving up is not an option if you’re really desperate.

What about you? Are you really desperate—or just bored?

Musing of a Madman: The Mystery of Relationship (Part 1)

The Mystery of Relationship

Have you ever wondered if you might be mad? You know—crazy as a loon, crackers, nut-so, touched in the head, or wacky Jack. I’m not referring to those who suffer from a mental illness, rather I’m speaking of being a person who dreams of things that seems to go against or even defy the status quo of what is commonly taught or believed. I’m speaking of hungering for something God says is possible, but most have yet to embrace or taste. When you think this way, you are often labeled a fanatic, kook, or heretic (this one usually rears its ugly head when those who disagree are unable to mount a real biblical defense and resort to demonizing the dream because it makes them very, very uncomfortable).

I don’t mind the names because I refuse to stitch their labels in my shirt. Those labels neither define who I am nor the depth of my dreams. So I refuse to fly their flag, wear their tag around my neck, or brandish their brand on my hip. There comes a place in your life when you have to push off the shore, paddle out into the deep, and pursue the things God has planted in your spirit even if it appears you might sail right off the edge of the world. That boat ride can be lonely, and usually is until the dream you are pursuing starts to making sense to other dreamers stranded on the shore, who long for more.

God is not into uniformity, even though he loves unity. We don’t all have to think, act, or dress the same to follow God. Uniformity equals boring and God is certainly not boring. He loves diversity, and I’m sure he gets a kick out of the dreamers all the others think are mad as hatters.

One of my dreams is a core value that God really desires a passionate, intimate relationship with all of us. That’s why he created people. I believe he placed us in Christ and has given us the Holy Spirit to enable each of us to experience this mind-blowing experience. There are few who would disagree with the concept, and yet most are unwilling to follow the path that will lead them that deep into the true heart of God. Its cost is far too much. Its pathway is fraught with danger and its steps too slippery. Most would say the cost outweighs the return, but those who would warn you away from this path and discourage you from this journey have never tasted the sheer satisfaction or the utter ecstasy of God’s true presence. Unwilling to pay the price, they have devised their own tales and woven their own stories about all the things God no longer does.

But…there are men and women, wandering pilgrims throughout the ages, who have chosen this passageway and been labeled eccentric, odd, fanatical, mystical, heretical, and even enemies of both church and state. Many were beaten, imprisoned, and martyred at the hands of their own religious leaders, fearful that their little earthly kingdoms might be destroyed if the heavenly kingdom of God envisioned by these dreamers ever truly manifested. Their books and writings were ridiculed, labeled as heresy, and burned because they challenged the ideas and dogma of an earlier dreamer. Their pages may have become ash and their bodies dust, but their dreams and ideas still fuel a fire that cannot be quenched. Those dreams and ideas have their genesis in God, therefore they are eternal. Chains could not restrain them. Swords, axes, stakes, and gallows failed to snuff them out. Armies cannot stop them. Death has no power over them. They belong to God—these ideas are the desires of his heart—ideas, visions, and dreams lent to the dreamer willing to embrace possibility of the impossible.

If—in the depths of your spirit you dream a similar dream or are driven by an insatiable hunger for something yet unnamed, or you just know there’s got to be more than you are currently experiencing—I invite you to walk with me along this narrow pathway for a short distance. I want to challenge you to dream the dream, jump off the ledge, let go what holds you back, grab for the gusto, spread your wings and fly, or whatever you choose to call it. There is far more than we have been led to believe or have yet to dream when it comes to the passionate heart of God.

And…it all begins with this mystery called relationship.

An Unbelieving Believer

I once thought I understood God—who he is and what he does. After several years of undergraduate and graduate level study in the theological disciplines, I thought I had God figured out. Unaware that I was constructing a box far too small to hold God (no box is big enough)—I developed my own ideas of what God could and/or would do, or not do. In other words, I made up a god in my own image and replaced the real One with a poor limited imitation.

Oh, I knew a great many facts and figures that related to God—I just didn’t know God very well. I had met him early in my life and he had forgiven me of sin and given me eternal life. But, the problem was relational—He knew me—but I only knew about him. Facts and figures, theologies that make excuses for God, and countless other pursuits that should lead us to God, but often leave us lost in the high grass—filled my life. It was by all accounts a very dry, frustrating time. I was seeking wisdom…just not searching for God.One sacred rabbit trail after another finally led me down a dead-end passage way into a crisis of faith—a God-wall erected to eliminate my ability to flee. It worked…God got my attention. I realized I was dry and dead on the inside—full of knowledge, but possessing little wisdom. I was in effect an unbelieving believer.

I knew all the arguments and could quote them from memory as to why God no longer acted in our day like he had in the distant past. They were well-thought out theologies, just honed in the fires of unbelief instead of faith. They were human attempts to explain “why,” when the “why” rested on the threshold of a faithless church rather than a faithful God.

A crisis by nature forces you to choose. The definition of idiocy is doing the same thing and expecting something new to happen. I may be a lot of things, but I choose not to be an idiot. I cried out to God. I confessed my pharisaical and religious tendency to try and explain an otherwise unexplainable God. I repented—that is, I returned to the God of my childhood—the God who had saved me with supernatural power through grace, and became like a little child again. My only request was, “God, I hunger to know you!

Today, almost fifteen years later, God has yet to disappoint me. The God of the Bible, the One who brings life out of death has not changed one iota. He is still just as powerful today, as he was in the days of Moses or Elijah. He is still doing the things today that he did in the early days of the church. His power is limitless. The difference is I have accepted the plain truth of the Scriptures—God is God and I’m not—I don’t have to know why, when, or how anyhow. Instead I choose to believe the impossible because the God I am in relationship with does not have that word in his vocabulary. With God all things are possible.

Are you an unbelieving believer? Do you have a nice, neat theological system that can explain everything about God? Do you worship a god who lives in a little box of your own construction? If so, then the god you are chasing does not exist and the sooner you recognize that, the better off you will be. Go ahead mash the gas as hard as you like, but you will crash into that God-wall at some point. Perhaps then…like me you will become a believing believer.