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Posts Tagged: mercy

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 asked: Hi Unka, so I cussed while praying because I was angry at someone. But after that I repented, and even prayed for the same person, because God convicted me to do so. When I told my friends, they judged me because, according to them, I should approach God in reverence; not use my mouth to say bad words since the same mouth brings him praise. But I see God as my Papa, and I’m just telling him how I felt mistreated. [edited for length]

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Unka Glen answered: Your friends are making a giant, huge, hairy assumption that God is honored more by behaving reverently, than by honesty. The problem with that particular assumption is that Jesus told a parable that directly contradicts it.

The Parable of the Two Sons can be found in Matthew 21:28-32, and it tells the story of a father who tells one son to go work in his vineyard, and that son says “I will not” and has a funky and disrespectful attitude. But then, walking away, and having vented his anger, this son begins to examine his attitude, and he changes his mind, and goes to work in the vineyard.

The other son, like your friends, sits up and gives a snappy, “I will sir!” when the father asks him to go and work in the vineyard. From the way Jesus tells it, you picture this son answering even before thinking about it. Talk about obedience! But as Jesus goes on with the story, the second son didn’t go to work in the vineyard.

Jesus tells this parable to tell religiously devout people why prostitutes will enter the Kingdom ahead of them, because, while some people behave correctly, it’s often those who act wrong that have a way of actually following God. Jesus didn’t ask those religious people which son had the better attitude, Jesus didn’t ask which son had the most holy response, Jesus asked: “Which of the two sons did what his father wanted?”

You see, in your story, you did what your Father wanted, which was to change your heart and mind, and even pray for this person. Okay, so it was a little ugly getting there, just like it was for that first son, but I don’t hear Jesus saying a single word of condemnation for that son

I also think maybe there’s an implication in that parable, that by being honest and venting his real feelings, it may have helped this first son to see what was wrong within himself, and get back on the right track. 

Many cultures value politeness over honesty. And that’s cool and all, but don’t ever make the assumption that God fits neatly into your culture. It’s all fine and good if you have a boss or parent or authority figure, and you give a quick “yes boss!” to everything they say, and act busy when they’re around, and wear the right clothes, and so on. But we should NEVER treat God that way.

Honesty is a Godly virtue, one that respects the truth. By contrast, you disrespect God by going to God and pretending to feel something you don’t (especially since HE ALREADY KNOWS). You honor God by putting all this funky and sometimes ugly emotion on the table, and saying, “Father, I know I’m probably wrong somewhere in this, but I have to lay it all out in front of you, so you to show me where, and what’s really going on.”

I pray that prayer every day, and despite my often funky attitude, and my unholy-sounding conversations with God, you’ll notice that, like you, I’ve got plenty of vineyard dirt under my fingernails.

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young-hypochondriacI know we can’t expect to understand everything about the Bible and God, and that it’s best to just have faith. But over the past few days I’ve been beginning to believe that although the Bible can contain spiritual truth, it doesn’t contain all truth. I believe that because the thought of eternal damnation of people who haven’t accepted Christ clouds my view of God. 

My faith seems messy and I’m terrified that I’m getting this all wrong. I’m terrified that I’m ignorantly rejecting truth in order to help me sleep better at night - that I’m creating a faith that caters to my own needs instead of being truthful, and this makes me panicky. I know this is long, and I’m sorry, but these thoughts are like eating me alive, and I think you give great advice, so please deal with meeeee.

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Unka Glen answered: Okay, breathe, I’ve you on this. Believe it or not, this is closer to being a good thing than a bad thing. Your walk is progressing beyond a mere pretending to believe a set of doctrines, and choosing to believe nothing more than what you can live with. That’s actually a good thing, as long as God Himself is in the process.

So let’s take this step by step, shall we?

“I know we can’t expect to understand everything about the Bible and God, and that it’s best to just have faith” Actually, no. When we don’t understand things, the virtue we’re looking for is wisdom, not faith. After all, you have to know what it is you’re supposed to have faith in, and how do you know, unless you ask these kinds of questions?

“The Bible…doesn’t contain all truth” Well, of course there are many more specific truths that the Lord would like to tell you, about the world, about yourself, your calling, about His great love for you specifically, etc., than what’s written in the Bible. and again, how are you to hear those things unless you engage Him in conversation?

“The thought of eternal damnation of people who haven’t accepted Christ clouds my view of God” Nobody goes to Hell because they haven’t accepted Christ, the Bible is talking about people who knowingly reject Christ. That’s a huge difference. In fact, the Bible even talks about people who never have a chance to hear the word of God, but they follow God nonetheless, because they follow the things that God puts on their conscience, and “they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts” (Romans 2:14-15).

So obviously God isn’t sending those people to Hell.

“I’m terrified that I’m ignorantly rejecting truth in order to help me sleep better at night” Well, it is a fact that one does not arrive at the truth by staring into space and deciding what’s true. Two plus two equals four. Believe it, doubt it, it’s still four. However, in this case the truth is easy enough to sleep on: Your concern that God is a) bound by a technicality of Scripture, b) less understanding that you, and c) less compassionate than you, turns out to not be the case.

“My faith seems messy and I’m terrified that I’m getting this all wrong” What’s wrong with messy? Messy is good. Messy is REAL. And what, exactly, are you terrified of? You came to a place where you weren’t willing to believe something that turns out to not be true. That’s a good thing as far as I can tell.

In fact, if I could say one last thing about all this, it would be to take these concerns and doubts, and build them into your walk with God. To present them, one at a time, and listen for His answers. (That’s what I do). 

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 asked: Hi Unka Glen, I used to have a good walk in Christ, then I got involved in a relationship, and doing sexual immorality. I really feel dirty, then numb. I feel so far, and so unworthy of Him right now. What should I do? Right now every time I look in the mirror, I don’t see any beauty at all, but defilement. [edited for length]

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Unka Glen answered: Okay, whoa there Cupcake… defilement? Really? Sounds like someone’s heard more judgement than grace on this subject, and it’s time we sorted that out.

You say that you feel so unworthy of God, and that word “worthy” sure does mess a lot of Christians up. So let’s make this much clear: you never were worthy of God’s love, you were a sinner before you did this wrong thing, and you’ll be a sinner on your deathbed. God knew every wrong thing you would ever do, and He paid for it all, because of His great love for you, not because you were worthy.

Sex isn’t dirty, it’s beautiful, and it’s meant to be shared in the right way at the right time. You sought pleasure, and you found it. You’re not alone in that. But the deeper wisdom that guilt isn’t letting you see, is that this pleasure doesn’t quite work right, outside of a meaningful, committed, long term relationship like marriage. 

The enemy knows that smart people will eventually realize that less meaningful sex simply loses its appeal, and thus people will eventually seek something more meaningful, even if that means they have to wait until the time is right. No, sex never was the temptation, guilt was the whole point.

You don’t have a problem with sex, you have a problem with guilt. 

It’s this emotion of guilt that has you feeling dirty, feeling unworthy, and ultimately feeling “so far” from God. And here’s how the lie of guilt works: since you’re “defiled” now, and far from God, you can’t exactly go to Him and ask for peace, or joy, or forgiveness… all you can do is just have some more sex.

You wanna know why guilt is so hard to get rid of? It’s because getting rid of that guilt means getting rid of our excuse to keep doing the sin driving it.

The negativity of guilt drives a cycle that keeps you from realizing one simple truth: forgiveness, grace, love, and healing are available to you RIGHT NOW, in infinite supply. Don’t tell me how sick you are with the medicine sitting right next to you.

Sex didn’t create this mess, guilt did. Confess it all, accept forgiveness (without wasting any more time on guilt), and get busy making the changes needed to keep all this from happening again. God is never far.

Psalm 139:7-10 "How can I get away from your Spirit? Where can I go to escape from you? If I go up to the heavens, you are there. If I lie down in the deepest parts of the earth, you are also there. Suppose I were to rise with the sun in the east and then cross over to the west where it sinks into the ocean. Your hand would always be there to guide me. Your right hand would still be holding me close."

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bluelikejazzminds asked: Hate is a common theme towards young black and brown men of this nation. Justice for these young men (and women) has not been served, and if anything are glossed over by celebrity news or other stories to distract the nation. As a Christian, I want to look to the church for help, but it seems that there is silence on these types of issues. As a leader, what words would you give to the congregation; God’s people; your brothers and sisters, who were/are affected by these issues? [edited for length]

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Unka Glen answered: As you may know, I’ve been involved in ministering to ex-cons, addicts, and gangbangers for the past quarter century or so. As such, I can speak first-hand about the kind of urban environment from which news stories emerge, involving young men like Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. 

So much of what we read in the news is exaggerated and hyped-up, but in this case, these stories barely scratch the surface. A Trayvon Martin or a Mike Brown incident may capture the headlines for a few days, but speaking as someone who has looked directly at police misconduct reports kept by the police themselves, it needs to be understood that living in many inner city communities in America, is to live in a third-world military dictatorship.

What would I say to those who’ve been through this? What can you say? But perhaps, more to the heart of your question, what should we all do? And I think I can give us some concrete ideas on that.

The Bible talks about putting the ax to the root of a problem, so in this case, what’s the real root of the problem? Racism immediately comes to mind, and it’s undeniably a factor, but I think it’s a symptom of the real root problem: fear. Or, if I can be allowed to use some fancy vocabulary, I’d say root problem is people acting as fear mongers.

Fear mongering is the attempt to make people afraid, so that they’ll make a decision that works to the advantage of the one making them afraid. That sounds like this:

“Aren’t you tired of living in fear of who might mug you or rape you? Aren’t you tired of locking your doors at night, and hoping that it’s enough? Vote for me, and I’ll lock all these people up, I’ll be tough on crime, I’ll get rid of these people who don’t care about our traditional values!”

It’s a simple formula, I make you afraid by blaming everything on someone who can’t speak for themselves, and then you vote for me, and then you won’t be afraid anymore. Of course, once this scoundrel is voted in, he needs to actually create the police state he said he’d create, and what do we expect when leaders tell the police that nobody with power cares about civil liberties, we only care about meeting violence with violence?

And of course the news media has figured out that fear mongering and scary news reports will sell lots of advertisement space. Everything is a crisis. Financial crisis, crisis in the Middle East, health scare crisis. That’s how you get very detailed footage of a riot, and nothing at all about the forces that provoked the riot. 

As Christians, we’re meant to arrest the very thought of fear itself, let alone making decisions based on fear, for Heaven’s sake. We’re meant to make decisions based on love. We’re meant to fulfill the instructions of almighty God who commands us to not be afraid, and to seek justice for the poor.

And make no mistake, if white middle class churches stood with African American churches on this issue, it would go away in a heartbeat. Once someone starts losing votes for creating a mess like this, they’ll quickly campaign on smart ideas instead of fear mongering. As Proverbs 29:7 says, “a righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge”.

One or two other verses that seem to point in the same direction on this issue:

Isaiah 1:17b …plead the widow’s cause.

Romans 12:16b …associate with the lowly.

Proverbs 31:9b…defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Proverbs 22:22-23 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor…for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life.

Romans 12:13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Leviticus 19:10 And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.

Ezekiel 16:49-50 Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty, and did an abomination before me. So I removed them…

1 John 3:17-18 If anyone has material possessions, and sees a brother or sister in need, but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words, or speech, but with actions, and in truth.

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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)

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The biggest tragedy of your life is that your human mind has no way of comprehending the love God has for you. Take all of your aching desires, all your tender longings, and multiply them by a million, and you’re still not close to the love God has for you. And since we can’t comprehend God’s love, we imagine that God is in a distant place, protecting Himself from all our sinful ways.

The tragedy of thinking that God only loves as we love!

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- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"Imagine you go outside and everyone in the world is wearing a t-shirt that says, ‘Don’t get it twisted, I’m a sinner just like you’. How would that change your outlook? It’s so hard for us to look at and deal with our sin, because we feel ashamed and outcast. Don’t get it twisted, all of us have been there, we’ve all done something, and we’ve all got the t-shirt."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"God’s love is bigger than your sin. God’s mercy, His belief in you, and His patience are bigger than your sin. God knows He can crush the hold that sin has over you, and He knows that the cost of that sin has already been paid for."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"You’re trying so hard to be something for God, that you fail to see what He’s trying to be for you. He’s trying to be the love you’re searching for, the one who meets every spiritual longing, the one who accepts you and receives you. Let God be the one He’s trying to be in your life."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

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He said love is patient, then He said: I am love

He said love is not not easily angered, then He said: I am love

He said love keeps no record of wrongs, then He said: I am love

He said love always protects, then He said: I am love

He said love always overcomes, then He said: I am love

He said love never fails, then He said: I am love

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- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"We’ve been wronged just enough to be unforgiving, and we’ve done enough wrong to feel unforgiven. We’re trapped between these realities. Accepting God’s grace, His undeserved forgiveness, is the only way out."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

"Jesus said we should “change and become like little children”, but we’re always trying to come to God like a grown person, full of responsibility and purpose and knowledge. Jesus said He’d rather you depend on Him, trust Him, and love Him back. He’d be happier if you’d just be His kid."

- Unka Glen (unkaglen.tumblr.com)

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colourscolour asked: I think the greatest challenge in being a leader is being insecure in one’s position. I feel so insecure as a leader, and it is causing quite a stir in my ministry. I don’t think anyone is aware of it, but I’m constantly disgusted with my thoughts and manipulation techniques. It is really a challenge to create disciples for Christ because we are so often tempted to create fans for ourselves.

Unka Glen answered: Let me give you one word to that will turn this all around: freedom. The Bible says that “where the Spirit of The Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor. 3:17). Jesus said we are to “proclaim freedom to those in captivity” (Luke 4:18).

Paul even said “it’s for freedom that you’ve been set free.” As if we apparently wouldn’t realize that the point of being set free is to stay free, and “not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1).

If you preach freedom, you will raise up powerful disciples for Christ, fueled by love and thankfulness. And you won’t end up with shallow “fans”.

Jesus set us free from the cost of our sins. He suffered, He paid the price, and that work is complete (1 John 2:2). We accept total forgiveness, total grace, and full adoption into God’s family (John 14:2). Of course we still sin, but we’re being transformed by this intimacy with God, day by day.

And this transformation sets us free from the power of sin as well. As strong as any temptation may be, there is always something stronger at work within us, empowering us to resist. Romans 6:14 says “sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace”.

Indeed, we are free, at long last, from sin being the center of our lives, and the center of our relationship with God.

As you read all that, you’ll note that everything I’ve said is undeniably Biblical, and yet this message of freedom isn’t really central to most sermons I hear.

After all, if you give people freedom, what that might lead to? You can’t just have people being all happy and content while they still have work to do on their lifestyle! We have to preach something to keep them in line. After all, I’m using fear, shame, and guilt to keep myself in line, so these unruly people I’m leading probably need a double-dose!

But in Christ, we are set free from fear, shame, and guilt. These are the tools of the enemy that should never be in the hands of those who would minister to us.

Using fear, or shame, or guilt to manipulate does one thing even worse, it places the manipulator in that most sacred space in between the believer and their God. Manipulation is about giving people hoops to jump through before they’re allowed to feel like they’re on good terms with God. It sets the manipulator up as high priest.

And sin becomes the main focus.

In the end, it comes down to this: Jesus said that if we love Him, we will end up obeying Him, so all these commandments and teachings all boil down to love. You either believe that, and preach that, or you need to let someone else on the mic.

I know you do believe it, and that you believe in your people, so trust that the seed you plant in them will do the work, and trust that God will handle the rest. Always lead them back to the cross, and lead them to a greater thankfulness for His grace.

Those who are forgiven much, love much.