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Posts Tagged: grace

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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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"Jesus, that great thief, stole away a perfectly good religion. He took away the rules we were following, and told us to follow Him instead. Then He pays for our sin, and removes that from the equation. He tore everything town, and now we’re back to where we started, in the Garden, just walking and talking with God."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"You are surrounded by love. God’s love is everywhere, and nothing can stop it. Yet your fears and insecurities will keep you from receiving any of it. Just like a man in a boat dying of thirst."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"Jesus said to a certain man, ‘come follow me’, but the man said, ‘first let me go tell my family.’ Another man said “first let me first make arrangements for my father’s funeral’. We think that it’s God who puts limitations and conditions on who can follow Him where He’s going. On the contrary, WE are the ones who say, ‘before I can follow you, first I have to deal with this one thing’."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

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 asked: Hi! I’m reading in John and realized I’ve never understood the idea in 12:37-40. Someone very close to me isn’t a Christian yet; it really seems they literally are not able to. Why would God harden a heart He desires? Why blind eyes from seeing Him?

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Unka Glen answered: This passage is using some very imprecise language to make a slightly different point that what you’re thinking. In it John says, “Even after Jesus had performed so many signs in their presence, they [many of the Jews] still would not believe in him.” 

So think of the human heart as being either clay or wax. When you apply heat, one gets harder, and the other melts. Some people have open minds and open hearts. They’ve felt a certain pull from the Almighty, but never knew how to respond and where to start. 

Those same people, who tend to be criminals, cheats, the sexually immoral, or just totally lost, tended to also be very grateful for the love and forgiveness of God. A message of grace only melted their hearts, and inspired them to rejoice and spread the Good News.

Other people saw the Gospel message as a complete destruction of an old way of doing things. Suddenly people with power and respect in the old religious system were going to be just another sinner who was saved by grace along with everyone else.

These people, who tend to be the devout, the religious, the scriptural experts, and those who, ya know, crave acceptance from other religious people, were unwilling to believe in Jesus no matter what miracles and signs and wonders they saw. Their hard hearts just got harder and more calloused.

John then goes on to quote Isaiah 6:10, where God says to Isaiah, “Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.”

The Lord is telling Isaiah to spread the message he’s given, and let the chips fall where they may, knowing that this message will set some free, and cause others to get even more dug in on their disbelief. 

So what does this mean for us today? Well, if your message is fully accepted by religious types and church-goers, then none of this applies to you. 

If however you’re proclaiming freedom and grace to those captive to sin, and making room at the foot of the cross for whoever the church is excluding… AND you’re upsetting the Christians in the process, then this verse is explaining that you’re right where Jesus was. 

No wonder Jesus so often said, “those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”

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