Tag Archives: Gospel Centric

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ …

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes unproductive!

Without the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ God’s law becomes behavior modification!


The lenses of life

As my wife and I lead Marriage Re-builders and as I lead some men’s ministries, I am always interested in the “lens” in which people view God, other people, and themselves. For example, do you ever see a God that will smile? Do you trust that sinful people can ever love you the way you want?  Do you see yourself as “fearfully and wonderfully made” or “less than” or “worthless”?  Another way of saying this is how fatalistically do you view God, yourself and others.  Do you see just a judgmental God ready to strike lightning when you mess up?  Do you distrust others and can never take any risks emotionally?  Do you see yourself as “less than” or “worthless”?

Many people have a fatalistic view of others and themselves.   This is often called an insecure attachment style.  Psychologists believe this secure or insecure attachment often comes from the early stages of our families of origin.  This attachment style can range from a full blown insecurity or maybe it is just a partial insecurity for specific areas of your life.   It taints how people view  themselves and others and it taints how  people see the world.  This often causes people to live their Christian lives like an Anxious Amy or a Fearful Freddy. Christians living like this have a presentation of truth and life that is less motivated by loving others and more motivated with the reduction of their own anxiety and fear!  This insecurity often causes a striving to be “perfect” in some areas of life for the affection of others as a way of reducing this fear and insecurity?

If we struggle with an incorrect lens of how we view ourself and others, no matter how much truth is poured into us we may never understand that truth because it is passing through the filter of our experiences and past.  No matter how much we see a loving God that came to sinners we still see a God that says “yeah, but .. don’t forget that other thing you did”.  You will always see strings attached to this loving God.  We might  understand Gods truth intellectually but our filters and lenses cause us  to miss the mark as it penetrates our heart!

There is also a religious dimension to the lenses of life that I have noticed over the years.  Many years ago I had a Pastor that did a study on denominational differences.  He compared the various denominations and placed them on a “calvinistic grid” where he showed where they fell on the Calvinistic/Arminian spectrum.  Then side by side he showed where our Lutheran congregation fell.  I found this very interesting.  The Lutherans tend to angle more  toward Calvinism but they also have some Arminian points and believe Gods graces is universal.  I remember my Pastor saying that both the calvinist and the arminian use “human reason” to interpret truth in different ways.  The Lutheran tradition believes some truths are paradoxical and just allow scripture to stand on their own.     Well  out of this Sunday bible study I made a decision. Since my Lutheran viewpoint tended toward Calvinism I decided to read the Arminian viewpoint as if was true and real (although I disagreed with it) before I made my final decision as to what was truth or not.  This led me to read many books and most specifically it led me to read Greg Boyd.  I found him insightful and caring and even presenting the Gospel very well.

As I read Greg Boyds books and listened to his sermons I came to understand the primary “lens” in which Greg viewed the world and scripture.  Greg’s number one lens in which he viewed the world was a lens that God was a loving God and this was the main reason he held to an Arminian view point.  Also Greg was always theologically siding against and debating calvinists because he believed they painted a picture of an unloving God that wanted to strike down sinners and predestine some to Hell.  One of Greg’s books is even titled “Repenting of Religion.”  He wrote this book because Greg believes a lot a damage done in how people view God has been done by Christians that want to discuss sin in unloving ways.  One of Greg’s friends, Rob Bell, that has preached at Greg’s Church wrote a book called “Love wins” and Greg wholeheartedly supports that book

I agree with Rob and Greg that Christians with unloving hearts are very damaging to the Christian faith.  I also agree that God is a God of love.  (John 3).    I have also been to many unsavory Calvinistic churches that want to speak of sin and seldom mention Gods love.  Many churches have grown often because condemnation draws a crowd and they misuse “truth” in ways Jesus Christ never would have.

How we use or abuse “truth” from our specific lens is very important.  Do we use truth in ways Jesus Christ never would have?  Do we view the world in black and white/all or nothing ways with our specific brand of truth (liberal or conservative).  Do we not see our own  sin as we view truth?… or do we just see the sin of others?

I adhere to a lens in how I view God and scripture that is different from both Greg Boyd and Rob Bell.  I see a Gospel that tells me:

We are more sinful and weak than we ever dared to admit and (why Jesus had to die for me)     (Part 1)…

We are more loved and accepted than we ever dared to hope (why Jesus was glad to die for me) (Part 2).

Truth can not be abused since I have more in common with other sinners than I have differences.

If the Gospel is applied correctly then truth points MORE at me and LESS at others!

Often the lens in which we view God either angles more toward part 1 or more toward part 2.  If we adhere exclusively to part 2 we might be good at reassuring each other of Gods love and how God will work things out.  However, this does not give the dynamics required for spiritual or emotional growth.  Love is unattached to truth!   If we adhere exclusively to part 1, then we discuss sin but we are not drawn to a loving God that came to us while we are still sinners. Truth is stoically detached from love!    Both of these angles by themselves leave us stuck and unchanged.

Only with  a FULL presentation of the Gospel are the dynamics in place for a change in the motivation and the desire to be a new creation in Jesus Christ.  A full presentation of the Gospel makes Jesus “electric” and changes the desires and motivations of the heart from the inside-out.

So as I leave this BLOG topic partially incomplete I leave you with more questions than answers.  What is the lens in which you view yourself and others?  Do you feel security in your relationships and yourself even though we can all sin and mess up?  Are you striving to be something so perfect for the affection of others because of this fear and insecurity?  Or do you see yourself as fearfully and wonderfully made?  Do you have a lens that only sees a loving God or do you only see a God that exposes our sin?  The lens in which you view yourself, others, and God makes a huge difference as we embrace Romans 12:1-2 as an act of worship and try to make our bodies living sacrifices holy and pleasing to God.

A Living Sacrifice

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Truth: How can we use it to grow emotionally

This is a follow up to the previous BLOG, I felt it needed its own BLOG rather than just being a comment:


So one of the things I do is I work with men that are struggling with various issues. Many of them come from very loving Christian homes and they seemingly look like the perfect home to grow up in. I would not characterize their families as completely legalistic or that their parents completely misused truth as a power play. I think I might have chosen a less grandiose word for “power play” now that I think about it if I rewrote the BLOG

But I do believe the patters of their current relationship behaviors/problems often have roots in how they did relationships in their family of origin.

Here is how I think this might work.

Billy boy goes to mom and says Mom I have a problem. This kid at school has been doing XYZ behavior and it frightens me. Mom says well Billy Boy I want you to be a man of integrity and righteousness before God that always does the right thing. –A little more talking about Billy Boys behavior and responses goes on.– Mom ends with “Now Billy Boy what would Jesus Do?” She also calls the Principal to try to fix the remainder of Billy Boys problems

So on the surface this seems like a pretty good conversation from the Mom. I think all those responses are actually pretty good… but what is missing?

Well … all the response are completely about Billy Boys behaviors. Not once did the mom go deeper and validate Billy Boys fears and thoughts about his fears. And then on top of everything else she set an expectation about Billy Boys behaviors of Billy being righteous. This expectation is confirmed and reconfirmed many times by the mother on lots of other issues. Well ….The next time Billy Boy is NOT perfectly righteous Billy Boy is likely to hide his behavior! Billy Boy might even do this for many years. This is a subtle form of how truth gets abused, It completely stays on the behavioral level of conversation and often never goes deeper. Too much talking about truth and not enough applying Truth,

The men I work with often have high spiritual IQs but they often have lower emotional IQs (as did I for many years). In recent years I have started to equate spiritual and emotional maturity. We really can not have spiritual maturity without having emotional maturity as well, IMO. When we apply truth and apply grace and mercy and actually have a conversation about our sin, thoughts, and feelings we grow spiritually and emotionally. When we keep it at the behavioral level we learn to hide our sin, thoughts, and feelings.

So new question. How can truth be used to grow our emotional maturity?

My Report Card: One of my main issues – the 90/10 rule

Recently at work, we had to do self evaluations to prepare for our performance evaluations that our manager will give. Last year, I got almost a perfect  rating. This year I wont fair as well and it was kind of a “rough year” at work with some very intense things including layoffs at work and run-ins with “type A” personalities trying to control their part of my companies universe.

I feel as if the new fiscal year is starting out much better and my new position is much more under control than it was 6 months ago. Anyhow, in the light of doing professional self-evaluations I have mentally given myself a few “personal” evaluations.  I wrote a BLOG item a year or two back that I wanted to work on.  I give myself  “B” on what I have termed  grace legalism.  I also give myself a solid “B” on other things I have been struggling with.  Read Below for a description of grace legalism:

I have a 90/10 principal that I try to keep in balance in my life. The rule stated is this: I try to see scripture 90% of the time as internal to me and 10% of it applicable to the world out there. I also like to talk to Christians that seem to have this same rule. In other words I want to internalize scripture as much as I can. My fear is if I invert 90/10 to 10/90 then I will start labelling other Christians, place myself over them, and start developing a sense of superiority …. and I have seen an extreme exaample of this in some of my closest friends causing a notable life-altering story that I will only share with my closest cell group friends. This life-altering experience is probably my main reason for having the 90/10 rule in my life to serve as a guide.

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