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Posts Tagged: grace

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simply-beloved asked: Unka Glen, I feel spiritual warfare, and today it broke loose. I confronted my brother on a grudge I’ve been holding because of what he did to me, and I haven’t forgiven him after all these years. We finally confronted the issue we were both avoiding. It hurts, and he believes I’m a terrible Christian who knows nothing of forgiveness. [edited for length]

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Unka Glen answered: If you hurt me, don’t pretend that you’re in a position to judge how I deal with that hurt. If you kick me in my shins, and I let out a curse word, don’t imagine for a second that you get to rebuke my cussing, because Buttercup, that ain’t how grown folks do the math. Not by a mile.

We’re assuming that he confessed his mistakes, without excuse, taking full responsibility, and asked for forgiveness. Because if he hasn’t done that, then he doesn’t have a reason to expect any forgiveness. He can’t say, “you’re a bad Christian because you refuse to forgive me for the thing I never did.” I mean, where’s the logic in that?

So, if this is a situation where he admitted everything, took full responsibility, and asked for your forgiveness, knowing he has no right to expect it from you, and assuming that this is something that you’ve let fester over time, and you haven’t forgiven him, then yes, you’re looking at a fairly unrighteous reaction on your part.

It’s understandable, but still, not the most holy option. However, those assumptions don’t hold because, apparently, he thinks you’re a terrible Christian for holding a grudge.

If you’re trying to make ME feel guilty when YOU did something wrong, then you aren’t taking responsibility, and if you’re not taking responsibility, you have no reason to expect forgiveness from anyone, Christian or otherwise.

This is blame-shifting. You abuse me, then you point to my subsequent reaction, to justify the abuse that happened in the first place.

When I lay it out like that, it seems crazy to accept something so obviously manipulative. But when we’re already using guilt as a way of managing our walk with the Lord (which is a SUPER bad idea), then we become vulnerable to anyone else who wants to come along and lay a guilt trip on us.

Having said all that, the right thing for you, is to forgive your brother. It’s time to release the pain and the heartache. You were forgiven in a way you didn’t at all deserve, and God expects you to forgive in the exact same way. Do this, and you will be more free, more happy, and more peaceful, and I want that for you.

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Fear writes its own gospel. It replaces the true gospel message, one that brings courage and passion and boldness, with a false and ugly gospel of worry, where I’m found cringing in my lack of accomplishment, and my ongoing sins. Fear opens the door to lies and makes me easy to manipulate. 

Guilt writes its own gospel. It teaches us the absurd lie that our bad behavior changes God’s mind about us. Guilt teaches us to “pay” for our own sins by beating up on ourselves, thus ignoring the need for a Savior. It teaches us that it’s not God’s love that binds our relationship together, it’s my behavior. But the true gospel teaches us: if it’s paid for, put it behind you.

Shame writes it’s own gospel. It preaches the lie that you are what you’ve done, therefore, you can’t escape your past. The one true gospel says that I am who loves me, and that God loves me in a way that is too deep and wide and tall for me to comprehend. Fear, guilt, and shame open the door to the enemy’s main lie: you are not worthy.

So let’s dismiss these shabby, disgusting, and religious-sounding fake gospels, and return to the real gospel: I am a sinner saved by grace. I didn’t earn it, I never was worthy of it, I’m saved because God is in charge, and that’s exactly how God wanted it to be. And, it turns out, I’m exactly the kind of scoundrel who will accept eternal life in paradise without deserving it in the least. 

So now my focus needs to be on my savior, not on the sins He’s already paid for. My focus needs to be on the good he is calling me to, not the sin He is calling me from.

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Anonymous asked: I’m currently leading as a cell leader, but my sexual sins still haunt me. Will this haunt me for all the days of my life? I’m going to start theology school pretty soon (part time, but still), and it breaks me, spiritually and mentally. Love your aid, and thank you for lending a listening ear when I have no one else around me. [edited for length]

Unka Glen answered: I thank you for that compliment at the end, but in truth, I think it reveals a part of the underlying problem here. If you had two or three buddies who are working on the same thing you are, with lust/sexual issues, and you could talk to them, then this whole problem would have a very different look to it. 

Many, many years ago, I had a regular penny poker night at my swingin’ bachelor pad. All of these guys were in either full-time ministry, or volunteering while training to go full-time. One night, in a tone of voice that was strained and upset, one of the guys said, “well fellas, I’ve been whacking it again.”

As silence settled over the table, another one of the guys folded his hand, took a long pull on his cold beer, and said, “shoot, if my hand was made of sandpaper, I’d be a woman by now.” We erupted in laughter. The player to his right, a prominent Presbyterian pastor today, admitted that he had left his jock itch untreated, just so he would have an excuse to be scratching around in that area.

Disgusting, yes, I shan’t deny it. 

But laughing in the face of the enemy who was laying down that temptation, instead of wallowing in guilt, turned out to be a FAR more effective solution. After the laughter died down, we started talking about what had worked for us on fighting temptation in the past, and how we could watch each other’s backs in the future. 

The peace that comes from knowing that you’re not alone, that’s beyond price. Fellowship is every bit as important as worship, and Bible study, and prayer, and all the rest. I have my inner circle, and I tell them everything. Without that fellowship, I would be backsliding in in a matter of weeks.

Will the temptation always be there? Yes. Will you get stronger and stronger until one day that temptation can be more easily swatted aside? Yes, if you keep working at it. But here’s what you’re really wondering about: will I ever reach a level where I’ll be too holy and sanctified to feel tempted? …NOPE, you won’t. 

On the contrary, the point of my poker night story is that the growth and the healing began when humility entered the picture. 

As the old saying goes, “every great revival starts with a confession.”

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Anonymous asked: I am a Christian teenager, who had a burning faith a few months ago. But now? I don’t feel it. I can now go a day without any word of God that serves as my weapon; I can now find an excuse for me not to go to church (and I don’t feel any guilt anymore). What should I do? I feel really far from God. I am praying for this, but I think my faith isn’t sufficient. Thanks, Unka.

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Unka Glen answered: I think to get a handle on this, we need to see what our emotions are doing.

In lots of churches, and ministries, and even Christian music concerts, the drama is so high, and the constant attempt to ramp up emotions is so relentless, that I end up walking away feeling exhausted.

What’s funny is I always hear the same thing in those places: “hey everybody, remember, this isn’t all about emotion!” And I sit there thinking, reeeheeely? But the truth is, they mean what they say, they don’t want it to be all about emotion, they’re just using emotion as a way to get ministry done.

The problem is, that by manipulating emotions in this way, they’re teaching you to build emotion into your walk with God. As you said in your message:

  • You don’t FEEL the BURNING faith 
  • You don’t FEEL the guilt any more
  • You FEEL far from God

Understand, your emotions are valid and important, and I’m certainly not trying to dismiss your feelings in any way, I’m just saying, that when you’re building your house on the rock, emotions are useless as building materials.

Here are a few reasons why:

Emotions cloud. When you think about emotions and your walk with God, I want you to think of a massive fog bank, clouding everything, and there’s you trying to navigate through it all. You can’t feel your way along, you have to see where you’re going.

Emotions lie. Emotions have a way of getting you totally convinced of something that is also totally not true. It’ll FEEL true, but fear and guilt and shame point you far away from God’s truth, every time.

Emotions change. Take any emotion and try having that emotion for, say, three days in a row. You can’t, because emotions keep on changing. Sadness changes into anger, anger turns into bitterness, bitterness into self-loathing, and on and on. You can’t build your walk around something that slippery and unreliable.

In the end, your goal is to build your entire walk on your relationship with God Himself. Then you can read the Bible simply because you like it. You can go to church or pray or whatever because you’re following the Godly virtue of joy, not the intoxicating emotionality of “burning” faith.

From here forward, make everything in your Christian life a “get to”, not a “have to”. You get to speak with God, you get to read His word, you get to fellowship. This will dismiss the emotions of fear, shame and guilt; and replace them with the Godly virtues of joy, love, hope, peace, and real faith.

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Anonymous asked: Dear Unka Glen, I mess up so many things, I act selfish, and sometimes hurt the ones I love, I make so many mistakes and I just keep on making them. Why would God (one who is perfect) care and have love for one as imperfect as me? Why wouldn’t he just give up?

Unka Glen answered: What if, the more you mess up, the more God wants to help? That would, after all, be in keeping with everything Jesus said about himself, for example, Jesus said that He “seeks and saves the lost” (Luke 19:10). If you’re lost, He’s seeking you, case closed.

What if God has really low standards? That doesn’t sound right, but think about it, everybody makes mistakes. God signed Himself up for dealing with a lot of screw-ups when He set out to be our Savior. Yes, Christ’s perfection is a goal, but it’s obviously one we’ll never fully reach. 

You’re thinking that God has a high standard that you’re falling short of, and maybe God would rather deal with all those “holy people” you imagine are out there. Those people at church, the ones that seem to have it all together, are just like you. Some may be a step or two ahead of you, and many more are faking it, but regardless, they’re making the same mistakes you are.

Sure, God expects that you should be serious about dealing with sin, after all, it’s hurting you, and He can’t stand to see you hurt. And yes, this involves discipline and hard work, and many setbacks. But when you teach a child to walk, you don’t quit after the first time they fall on their face and start crying, and you don’t get angry either. You wipe away the tears, and say, “okay, let’s try that again.”

What if sin itself was what God expected of you? What if that was basically your default setting? Sounds pretty raw, but it would explain a lot. Paul himself said: “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out” (Romans 7:18).

So if sin is natural, to be expected, and just about all we can manage, then it must take something SUPER-natural to overcome it. So how do we access this mighty supernatural power? Well, not by beating up on yourself Buttercup, that’s for sure!

Maybe it starts with forgiving God for having such low standards. Or, tell it like it is, for really having no standards at all. He’ll just accept any sinner who comes along and wants eternal life in Paradise as a free gift. God is letting Himself get taken advantage of, and meanwhile, He refuses to beat up on us the way we know we deserve.

Forgive Him for it. He’s drunk and overcome with love for you. He is reckless and wild with His affections, and He loves those who often turn their back on Him. Forgive Him for failing to be as strict as you’re sure He needs to be.

"Much of the New Testament was written by someone who tried to destroy the lives of all Christians everywhere. God chose that man and blasted him off his donkey with a laser beam for a reason: to make it clear that nobody could read that book and think themselves a worse sinner than the man who wrote it. Paul himself said: ‘here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst’ (1 Timothy 1:15)."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"God doesn’t do anything because He -has- to do it. He forgives you because that’s what He wants to do. He loves you and draws you near because it pleases Him to do so. Do not be fooled, God is not reluctantly merciful."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"You must remember that from the Father’s point of view, Jesus was perfectly righteous in everything He did, but from the world’s point of view, Jesus led a rebellion, designed to tear down the old ways, built on the backs of outcasts. He still leads us in a way that the world, and the religious establishment, would find rebellious. I’m proud to be an outcast member of that rebellion."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"Nothing in all the world is as desirable as God’s love, and yet it’s so rarely received. How lonely God must be, to love us as He does, only to watch us deny ourselves that love until we think we’ve earned it. God already said that every holy instruction could be summed up in this: love me back."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

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 asked: Hey Unka! I have a question: Does the Bible command us to use corporal punishment? There are verses in Proverbs that tell parents to hit their children with a rod but a friend of mine used this verse to justify beating one’s child if they don’t do things such as reading the Bible as often. But something about applying that verse in such a manner seems really off. Can you help clarify the confusion?

Unka Glen answered: Yeah… your friend is basically describing child abuse. What’s worse, is that trying to physically beat someone into Christianity is as evil as it is doomed to fail. It simply doesn’t get any more wrong than this. 

Now, perhaps this is one of those situations where certain types of people in the church adopt certain intentionally unpopular points of view, so that they can get themselves into debates, so they can get attention, because they’re lonely, and they don’t know how else to have a conversation. You know the type of person I mean.

If that’s the case, tell your friend that talking like this is a way to lose friends, and if he already has kids, it’s a good way to have someone call the cops on you. And trust me, that’s the kind of attention you don’t want.

The Bible doesn’t describe beating children for failing to do the right thing. The Bible does however talk about discipline. It talks about helping children avoid getting into bad or destructive areas of life. It’s about comparing the unpleasant discipline needed, to the much more unpleasant consequences of possibly letting this child hurt themselves and/or others.

Imagine you’re on the train tracks, and you don’t hear the train coming, I see the train, and I grab your arm really hard, and jerk you out of the way. This behavior would be totally rude and unacceptable in any other situation, but in this one instance, it’s obviously the right thing to do. Of course, if I jerked you away with more force than was needed, that would simply be cruel behavior as well.

The Bible has several verses about disciplining kids, but let’s start here. Ephesians 6:4 ”Parents, don’t exasperate your children. Instead, train them and teach them the ways of the Lord as you raise them.” Colossians 3:21 “Parents, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.” 

If you disobey these verses, it doesn’t matter what other verse you obey, ya dig? That’s how this Christianity thing works. Mmmkay?

Proverbs 13:24 says “Whoever withholds the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” The Hebrew word for rod is shebet (shay’-bet), and it basically describes a long wooden staff. It’s also a symbol of authority. 

Picture a shepherd who uses a wooden rod to keep all the sheep herded together. Now, imagine a sheep, with poor eyesight, and worse depth perception, looking at some grass at the foot of a cliff, and he’s about to step off that cliff to get him some of that grass. A good and caring shepherd might use that staff to give a firm “hey, get away from there” tap on the shoulder.

This rod is used to protect the sheep, after all, this is why the shepherd David says, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). 

Does this mean that you should hit your child with a literal wooden staff? Um, no. The real point here is that confronting kids early, setting clear boundaries, and dishing out swift and consistent discipline for negative or unsafe behavior is essential to good parenting. 

Exactly how that discipline is dealt out ought to be a matter of prayer. Beyond all that, your friend will likely find the Lord giving a little discipline of His own, if he continues twisting the Bible around as a justification for his own unhealthy inclinations.

"Love like it’s your last chance to love. Love without needing to be loved in return. Love in boldness, courage, fearlessness and joy. And when you run dry of love, know that God surrounds you with an ocean of love… all you need to do is drink it in."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

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Anonymous asked: I suck at idolatry. At the end of every day, I have this huge repenting session with Christ, about how I couldn’t keep Him first in my life, and it blows. With the job I have as a performer, I worry that I’ll start to worship myself and become selfishly ambitious, as so many others tend to do (performer or not), and ruin everything. Honestly, I’m kind of terrified to move forward with my dreams because of this struggle.

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Unka Glen answered: Let’s ask ourselves a few questions to determine the nature of this idolatry…

  1. Have you melted down all of your gold to make an image of a calf, or a Tardis, or one of those (formerly) swoopy-haired dudes in One Direction? (thank you Sidney for the clarification).
  2. Do you have anything in your home resembling a shrine?
  3. Do you define an “idol” as ANY normal thing that you have ANY reasonable desire to have? Especially after you hear a sermon on idolatry? Hmm?

Idolatry is one of those catch-all terms that people use to hit us with the guilt stick, so let’s keep it simple: when it all goes wrong, whatever you turn to, that’s your God.

Your obsessive “repentance” over perceived “wrongs” isn’t going to help you figure out how to do it right. Neither will the worry or fear you mention. Those are tools of the enemy. Tools he is already effectively using against you, to “terrify” you, as you put it, and freeze you in place.

If you want to repent of anything, repent of letting fear drive the bus. Pray for courage, ask God to swell your heart with love and passion and creativity for those He wants you to reach, and let Him make you wise about how to reach them. Move forward, and instead of worrying over what doesn’t work, use all your energy to simply correct what doesn’t work and move on.

Finally, as for “worshipping yourself” most performers I know go through such a punishingly hard time of trying to succeed, and earn a living, that by the time they get to a place to feed their egos, their egos have been beaten nearly to death. So save yourself the heartache, and ask God to do an ego-ectomy.

It’s not that wanting external approval is all that bad, it’s the things we’ll do to get it. A huge percentage of ministry professionals I work with have come to a place in their careers where they had a chance to do the right thing and put everything at risk; but instead they chose to sell out, and take the “safe” path. 

And most of them have already found out, that when you sell out to be liked, or to be well paid, or because you’re afraid, you end up in a MUCH LESS safe place. God’s provision is on the His path, not yours.

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"We know right from wrong, be we still do what’s wrong in God’s sight. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that, in the moment, we feel lost and overwhelmed. Lost people know they’re lost, and they know where they need to go, but they simply have no idea how to get there. People will settle for junk if they don’t know where the treasure is buried."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

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Anonymous asked: My boyfriend and I have done sexual things that we shouldn’t have done, but it hasn’t gone as far as sex. We sat down and decided to stop doing this stuff and are working on it. We love each other still very much. But as Christians, what would God say about our relationship as a couple? Would He want us to stay together or break up?

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Unka Glen answered: I’d say that God might want other people to take a look at your relationship and see how proud He is of two people who know when they’ve crossed a boundary, and when to shut things down, and how to re-group and let God be in control of those boundaries again.

This is about as good as it gets. 

Why would God want you to break up, now that you’re both listening to Him and letting Him be in control of your physical relationship? Lots of couples never let God have any say in their physical relationship, they just set their own super-strict boundary, shut God out of the discussion entirely, and brag to everyone about how super-holy they are.

In the end, it’s not about how much sin is going on, it’s all about how much God is in charge. 

God does want you to have some physical intimacy, and it would be wrong on so many levels, to assume that the less contact you have, the more God would be pleased. God is pleased when He is helping us fulfill our purpose in life and when He’s helping our relationships find their purpose as well.

We just have to get out of the mentality that the less I’m involved with physical pleasures, the more I’ll automatically be involved with the Lord, for example…

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Anonymous asked: Hi Unka, I’m looking for practical advice on social media management. I want to live a healthy and productive life, and there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to make 30 or more minutes in the day to spend at Jesus’ feet. I’d much rather be there than in front of a Facebook News Feed, except action says otherwise. Thanks!

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Unka Glen answered: I’m wondering, have you heard this nasty little nugget: “Are you spending more time in Facebook, than in HIS book?” This is what we call a “Jesus juke”. It’s just a sad, cheap, and not-so-clever way of trying to make people feel like crap… so they’ll read more Bible(?). 

The right response to a Jesus juke is to groan loudly, flip your hand in the air and say the sacred word used by all those who practice good spiritual discernment: “whatEVER!”

The point is, Facebook isn’t really stopping you from being in God’s word. It’s wrong to assume that because you enjoy something, God must be against it, and that it’s somehow ruining some other part of your life. 

Cutting Facebook time down doesn’t mean that God is automatically pleased, or that Bible study will magically happen, or that 30 minutes a day is the right amount time in God’s word.

So let’s go back to our first question, and let’s follow an example there. Let’s start over from scratch. Ask God how much time you might need to study the Word, how much time you might need to meditate on it, how much time you might need for playing video games, and Facebooking, and reading amazing blog posts chock-full of mind blowing wisdom from your favorite Uncle.

It’s not about doing less of the things you enjoy, it’s about spending more time on the things that will truly fulfill you.

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 asked: I am confused. I know Jesus died for our sins, because without his sacrifice we could not be saved. I also understand that God does not want us to sin. How can I manage to no longer sin? Does repentance mean never repeating that sin? Does everyone struggle with sin and repeatedly fail, as I do? Thank you for all of your help.

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Unka Glen answered: How can you manage to no longer sin? I dunno Sunshine, but if you get there, by all means, let us know how you did it, so we can all be perfect beings too. …At some point the expectations need to meet reality, right?

But if I could pull back the focus on your question, the thing I’m wondering is: why is sin the center of attention? Let’s do a thought experiment: let’s take a man who is new to the faith, but fully believes, and is fully dedicated to the Lord. 

Being new to the faith, he has lots of bad habits from his past, and his lifestyle needs some major work. So his goal is to get rid of all the sin in his life, starting with the sins that make him feel guilty the most. What would be the result of all that work?

Well, he wouldn’t be any closer to God, because he wasn’t really working on that. He wouldn’t have gained any wisdom about living the Christian life, because he was working on not living the not-Christian life. He wouldn’t have grown in his faith at all really. His focus was actually on himself the whole time.

Now take another man, who maybe reads a verse like 1 John 1:8, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us”. So He figures that finding ways of getting closer to the Lord is the most holy thing to do. 

How would the results be different? Well, the first realization would be that guilt makes us feel unworthy, which causes us to avoid God, and play a self-invented game where we try to reduce the amount of sin in our life until we feel worthy again

Realizing that this game gets him FURTHER from God, he will hopefully reject all that nasty guilt, and put the focus where Jesus said He wanted it: on love.

AND here’s the hilarious part, by focusing on the love and thankfulness, that second man will draw near to God and gain strength, and thus he will sin less, over the long run, than the first man who’s playing guilt games. And speaking of guilt, let’s look at this question…

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Anonymous asked: Hi Unka Glen! My church always uses guilt tactics and it’s gone to the point where I go home crying every week after the service because I feel as if I’m not doing enough. I can’t leave my church because I’m not old enough to, but I’m tired of feeling so scared and depressed all the time. I only talk to God out of fear and I feel like I’m not having a real relationship with him (and I don’t know how to either). 

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Unka Glen answered: If guilt drives us away, fear does all of that and more. All this negative emotional manipulation gets tiring, and eventually people wear out from feeling like crap, and then they just backslide again, and again.

It’s important to know two things here: first, I am so, so, so sorry this has happened to you, and we are with you, and praying for you right now. This is definitely something that your parents need to hear. It’s a simple equation: I want to be on good terms with God, I walk into this building, and I walk out feeling like crap, because I’m still not on good terms with God. So let’s go to a church where it’s more about HOW we move forward, as opposed to just telling us that we still aren’t moving forward.

The second thing you should know, is that this isn’t actually the Gospel. Not by a mile. And it’s important that you understand why you’re hearing what you’re hearing. Let’s do another thought experiment.

Let’s say I put you in front of a large group of people, and I tell you that these are Christians who are chronic backsliders and “carnal Christians” or whatever, and I tell you to give them a sermon on how to make permanent changes in their lifestyle before they make a real mess of things. 

Pretty overwhelming huh? Eventually it may occur to you to do the same thing that parents have done for generations. When they run out of ways of telling their kids to just go to sleep already, they say, “go to sleep or the boogeyman will get you”. It’s using fear as a manipulator, because you simply don’t know what else to say.

It should have occurred to your pastor to, ya know, read the Bible for direction, and focus on the thing Jesus says to focus on: love. But the point is this: there is no boogeyman. There is nothing to be afraid of. Our relationship with God is where all fear and shame and guilt finally, gratefully passes away. At long last, it’s just you and Him, walking and talking and figuring it all out.

Listen to the words of Jesus, but more importantly, hear the tone of his voice in this: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).

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