Conviction vs. Condemnation

The voices are distinguishable if you ask this question: “Which of these voices is offering me hope?”

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img_0633When the voices in your head tell you that you can never change, that you will always be “this way”, and that it is not worth trying to change, you are under the influence of condemnation. Condemnation offers no hope, only escapes. But the escapes it offers you you will need to seek rehab to later get free from, because the escapes are not actually a free pass from your pain or trouble, but rather an open prison door inviting you in, until the door slams shut. If you are an addict, you are likely talked to often by the voice of condemnation.

Condemnation reviews your history. All of your mistakes and shortcomings are paraded before you. Every negative word spoken against you or by you becomes the narrative that will now loop in your head like a seige. And if your history isn’t enough, condemnation will drum up your family history. “Remember Uncle Ralph was an addict and mentally unstable. Your dad was a workaholic and your sister ran away at 13 years old….” Condemnation spins its web of futility until you feel that you are destined to be trapped in a mind and body that wars against you and you will never break free.

What then is conviction like?

Conviction is the voice of the Holy Spirit that shines a light on the wrong that we are stumbling in. His voice sounds like hope. It sees us in our trouble and points us to the remedy. “Forgive that person. Turn off that website. Walk away from that argument. Call someone to pray for you. Follow through on your promises. I will help you.”

The voice of conviction never points out a wrong without offering a hope that things can change. It says, “Yes, I see you are drinking again trying to drown your pain, but I have a better solution for you and it includes me walking with you through your pain to the other side. I can redeem all of your lost years and your broken promises. I can give you a new heart, and work all things together for good.”

Conviction does not bring up past wrongs, especially if you have already been forgiven of those. God says He throws our sins into the “Sea of Forgetfulness” when we ask Him for forgiveness. The record is blotted out, and He does not see them anymore. So He will not bring them up. Nor does He use your family tree as a weapon against your hope and future, but, instead, strengthens you to become a new branch that bears fruit, that puts down new roots, and has the potential to create brand new orchards that grow strong and fruitful.

The voices are distinguishable if you ask this question: “Which of these voices is offering me hope?”

 

It’s Not Your Cancer

2013-09-04 20.40.27

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2015/11/05/man-killed-by-his-tapeworm-cancer/75207608/

It was a startling article that appeared in many newspapers, and online websites this past week about a man who passed away from cancer, but his death was unique in the fact that the cancerous tumors in his body, when biopsied, did not contain his DNA, but instead bore the DNA of a tapeworm that had taken up residency in his body. The foreign, uninvited parasite that made its home in the physical frame of the man was harboring a disease of its own, that transferred to the man and caused cancerous cells to become multiplied and attached inside of him.

This case raises many questions, and will likely launch many scientific studies, theories, hypothesis, and investigations. Pork may drop from people’s menus for awhile, and parasite cleanses will likely begin to sell like hotcakes. Many fears will lead to many drastic decisions–some beneficial, some not. And it got me thinking….

I live in a small town. Many people have lived in this town generationally. Great-grandparents are here, and so are some of their great-grandchildren. Living in small communities around the same groups of people fosters some wonderful community, but it also does another thing. It gives an ample “host body” for certain parasites. Let me explain.

It was something I first heard about in my first year of Bible School, and it was spoken about as a warning: “Don’t pick up another person’s offense.” Here is the scenario: Someone we are close to has been offended or hurt by someone else in our circle of community, and they are walking wounded. Our desire to assuage the pain of our friend/relative causes us to empathize with the person, and begin to feel what they feel. As time passes on, if our friend/relative has not reconciled the issue or pain with the offending person, they likely begin to let a seed of bitterness begin to grow in their heart. The wound begins to multiply, to grow, and even to continue bleeding even more toxic than its original state. Again we are faced with the decision to internalize their pain, and pick up their offense as our own. We begin our own personal crusade on our friend’s behalf, and we begin to despise the person/persons who hurt them. We join in the conversations that tear them apart. We begin to find ourselves finding as many opportunities as possible to paint that person in the worst light possible so as to discourage others from putting any faith into the offender, and we feel so noble in our cause. We are defending our friend after all.

What we don’t see is the parasite taking up residence in our hearts. The poisons of bitterness and jadedness that were present in our friend have now taken up residence in our hearts and minds and now we suffer from the same disease.

I don’t know how many times I have seen this and experienced it over my short lifetime. Not just offenses, but I’ve seen people take up another’s doubts, and live them as if they belong to themselves. There are entire families who won’t speak to other families because of something they “heard”, or something they refused to resolve. People who will never darken the door of a church because of what happened to their mom as a child who attended church and had her feeling hurt by someone irresponsible or careless. People all around us are on the verge of dying from someone else’s disease.

Here is what happens to you when you pick up another’s offense: You begin to carry the parasite. Even the person who was initially offended has the opportunity to forgive and be set free from the parasite of bitterness, and sometimes they choose that right choice (I pray they do). But you, you can keep carrying on with a chip on your shoulder that you put there for the rest of your life if you choose not to deal with it. You deliberately swallowed the tape worm, and now you are being poisoned slowly.

Stop.

Consider for a moment how many offenses you are hanging on to. How many are directly related to you, and how many are the misplaced empathies of another? What about your doubts? How may of those that you carry are actually yours? How many things do you believe without ever investigating their validity? How many cancers are you dying from?

The Bible tells us that the only parasite cleanse for our spirits is forgiveness. We have to let the prisoner go free. We have to release the wound to God and ask Him to heal us and to do the right thing by the offender. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” is part of the prayer Jesus himself taught us in Matthew 6:12.

How are offenses washed away? Through the Blood of Jesus.

Because of the death of Jesus, as the penalty and payment for our many offenses against God and one another, we have access to a powerful, transcendent reality of a heart made clean and renewed by asking God to forgive us, and trusting in Jesus to wipe our sins away “as far as the east is from the west.” (Psalm 103:12)

There are many things worth dying for. Someone else’s cancer is not.

40 Downloads of my brain

On the eve of my 40th Birthday…mist and water

In no particular order, here are 40 thoughts that have sparked within me and inspired a teaching, a song, or a blog.

  1.  Prayer is only as powerful as the god it is directed to.
  2.  No one is allowed the privilege of disbelief only. You must have a counter-belief in its place.
  3.  The most beneficial pain you can add to your life is the pain of conviction and the pain of growth.
  4. Knowing who the author of a piece of art is determines its value, and reconnects the art with its source. Have you considered your Designer?
  5. Jesus didn’t say, “Neither do I condemn you. Return to what you were doing.” With compassion He said: “Go and sin no more.”
  6. Freedom in Christ is victory over sin, not victory over your conscience. Keep your conscience.
  7. Love and grace are held within the disciplines of faithfulness and endurance. Jesus discipled because He Himself was disciplined.
  8. You can love others deeply, serve honestly, and give without regrets while still holding to your convictions and your character. Jesus did.
  9. He didn’t die to give us a 2000 year old story. He died to bring us back to life.
  10. God’s wisdom for me will always have my neighbor in mind.
  11. Grief is the process of letting go while reaching for something steadfast. Even if you free-fall, God is certain and His grasp is constant.
  12. We grieve the loss of life because life is sacred. We mourn the loss of innocence because there is such a thing.
  13. Sometimes mornings are like the pull-start of a lawnmower.
  14. Let your art be the free-est expression of a soul securely anchored.
  15. A healthy fear of loftiness will keep you off of pedestals.
  16. Condemnation will always say you are hopeless. Conviction will always say the supply of your help and hope are limitless.
  17. When beauty connects to the soul it is never lost.
  18. Be someone’s umbrella today, and paint for them a brighter sky.
  19. If you have lost your sense of awe, you have quite likely closed your eyes.
  20. Unforgiveness is a debt. If your debtor cannot repay the invoice you carry, the enemy will try to persuade you to pay it off yourself in pleasures “you deserve”.
  21. What God asks us to do, instead, is turn the bill over to Him and allow Him to meet our needs.
  22. If you won’t do it, you won’t become it.
  23. Everyone needs a Joshua and Caleb in their life, otherwise you will spend your years looking at giants, and living small.
  24. Sometimes the weight you are carrying is not about you, but about those coming after you. You carry the hope and the struggle, so that they will enjoy the Promised Land
  25. Sometimes miracles are found in the forward steps. So pray, and walk.
  26. Don’t give up ground or drop your authority where God has given you responsibility. Instead, fully vest yourself into that arena, and in time, pass it on as a rich inheritance.
  27. Faith is the place holder for what you cannot presently see, but are certain will buoy you up.
  28. And if ministry was all about the Sunday morning experience, the New Testament would have been a short collection of essays.
  29. If you have a long range goal or extensive assignment, partner with optimists. You will only survive a short walk with a pessimist.
  30. I can spend my life chasing fire, or live my life as an altar where it burns.
  31. I’ll never see it multiply if I never let Jesus take it, break it, and bless it.
  32. The desire I have for all of my kids to be together with me can only be a reflection of God’s desire for us, His children, to be with Him.
  33. They say I don’t need a god to smile. Considering the neurology, pathology, and physiology of just facial nerves, I conclude that I do.
  34. There is a lot to be said for silence.
  35. If you can’t be the tidal wave, be the ground swell.
  36. Find your voice and use it both for the glory of God, and to speak up for those that cannot speak.
  37. Grace gives us a fresh page to write our lives on.
  38. History records who you are, not who you want to be.
  39. Life does not wait for your perfect plan, your pay raise, your successful diet, your New Year’s Resolution, or your cure.  Life ticks away as moments…little gifts wrapped in a million packages.
  40. Nothing is lost in God’s hands, and nothing is wasted in His plans.