Stone Throwing for Sinners

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Part 3 of The Seismic Seven Series

It (trying to keep the law) grants you the power to judge others and feel superior to them. You believe you are living to a higher standard than those you judge. Enforcing rules, especially in its more subtle expressions like responsibility and expectation, is a vain attempt to create certainly out of uncertainty. And contrary to what you might think, I have a great fondness for uncertainty. Rules cannot bring freedom; they only have the power to accuse. ” – Wm. Paul Young (The Shack)

By: Jana Greene

Oy vey, this world is a mess. Right thinking has become wrong thinking, and vice versa. The climate of this country is chaos, and I could go on and on about all the ways society is courting the title of Most Sinful this side of Sodom and Gomorrah.

I could, but I won’t. Because even as the world’s brand is chaos, God is changing my brand to love. I asked him to do a work of compassion in my heart, and boy howdy is he ever.

It’s a tall order. I have my perceptions and holy prejudices in place and there are certain behaviors or lifestyles that really upset my self-righteous apple cart.

But there is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about.

As one of the speakers at last week’s conference said: “Sanctification is not a sin-management program.”

Some of my friends are having a hard time figuring this out. They think I am placating the sinful, losing my convictions. Sin is a very big deal; I get that. It’s just not the biggest deal.

We humans love to relegate the sins of ‘those people.’ We take great pride in choosing the stones to throw, as if the perfection of the stone gives us superiority. The weight of the stone in our hand feels good, doesn’t it? Go ahead and throw it, as soon as you are sin-free.

I joke that my heart breaks for the people society casts off – the heroin addicts and the drunks (having struggled with alcoholism myself)  etc. – but if you don’t use proper grammar, I just judge the crap out of you. And using improper grammar isn’t a sin at all, but for some reason it offends me. What’s up with that?

I suspect it’s because grammar comes easy to me. The predisposition NOT to sin in a particular fashion makes it easier to judge the ones to sin in just that manner.

If you do not struggle with homosexuality, heterosexuality comes easy to you – making the lifestyle of a gay person super offensive –  even though every sin is equal to every other. If you are a teetotaler, drunkenness may rate higher on the Sin Scale to you. If you don’t gamble, the pitiful sight of a man dropping token after token in a slot machine for hours on end may not illicit compassion.

There is black and white, right and wrong, by damn! Yet  none of us – lo not even ONE – is going to get it all right in this life.

So much of the Christian faith has become about pointing out the wrongdoings of others,  and driving home the message of how wrongdoing separates one from God.

“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.” – Billy Graham

Nothing can separate you from the love of God. If you are the wickedest person alive, God loves you beyond your capacity to understand.

This is a revelation to me. I didn’t like entertaining the thought because IT’S NOT FAIR. We like things to be fair, right? Our human nature says we must withhold the expression of love when someone displeases us. But God is not bound by our behavior to love us.

Here’s a newsflash: The world already knows what Christ-followers know as ‘sin.’ What they maybe don’t know is the crazy, radical love of Jesus. I don’t need to be Holy Spirit Junior, and that’s incredibly liberating.

I love the way The Mirror Bible translation delves into the subject with commentary…(Romans 7:18-25)

“The total extent and ugliness of sin that inhabits me, reduced my life to good intentions that cannot be followed through. Willpower has failed me; this is how embarrassing it is, the most diligent decision that I make to do good, disappoints; the very evil I try to avoid, is what I do.” Commentary: If mere quality decisions could rescue man, the law would have been enough. Good intentions cannot save man. The revelation of what happened to us in Christ’s death is what brings faith into motion to liberate from within. Faith is not a decision we make to give God a chance, faith is realizing our inclusion in what happened on the Cross and in the resurrection of Christ!

 “If I do the things I do not want to do, then it is clear that I am not evil, but that I host sin in my body against my will….

The situation is absolutely desperate for humankind; is there anyone who can deliver me from this death trap?

… Thank God, this is exactly what he has done through Jesus Christ our Leader; he has come to our rescue! I am finally freed from this conflict between the law of my mind and the law of sin in my body.” Commentary:  If I was left to myself, the best I could do was to try and serve the law of God with my mind, but at the same time continue to be enslaved to the law of sin in my body. Compromise could never suffice.

I can strive and strive and strive, and, like the Apostle Paul, still miss the mark. My striving to live a sinless life does not impress God into loving me harder.

Because His love is already perfect.

If Jesus took care of it to draw us near, why are we still making sin The Biggest Deal? Love people and Holy Spirit will convict them, just as he convicts us holy rollers.

There is this radical thing called Grace that I just cannot shut up about. It is unabashedly, gloriously NOT FAIR, thanks be to God.

May he bless us, every one.

The Seismic Seven Series

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By: Jana Greene

Hello, readers!

This past weekend, I was privileged to attend an event in Atlanta with a couple hundred other believers  called “The Open Table Conference.” I went into it with a pretty open mind (which really came in handy) and was not disappointed. The panel of speakers included Steve McVey, John MacMurray, C. Baxter Kruger, and – this is important – Wm. Paul Young, author of “The Shack.”

Here is the link for the event, which gives you a general idea of what the forum was all about:

The Open Table Conference 

(If you are in the Portland area, another conference is happening this summer and I HIGHLY recommend checking it out!)

Since returning yesterday, I’ve attempted to go about my faith business-as-usual. It took a long time to construct many of the religious support beams that have held up my spirit (a lifetime, really) but the radical things I learned about Christ and grace and each one of us leveled me to the ground.

Rubble is not always a bad thing. It can create the opportunity to build a stronger, safer structure. The cornerstone of Jesus is unshaken, but the walls of religiosity have crumbled like the walls of Jericho.

Now, it’s time to rebuild from the rubble. Like the walls of Jericho, walked around seven times, I have an idea for a blog series exploring seven points gleaned from the conference, at which I learned more about radical Jesus love than I had in many months prior.

The series will not be a verbatim preaching synopsis from the gentlemen presenters. No, it will be my take-aways from the event. My own perceptions and the musings Holy Spirit shared with me. I hope that you will keep an open mind and an open heart to receive this VERY Good News. If it provokes discussion, I’m down with that. The news is too good to let lay in rubble.

I’d love to give you a bullet-point outline of what will encompass the series, but you see…it hasn’t been completely revealed to me yet. I am praying Holy Spirit guide my words, and often I’m not given them on retainer ahead of time. But I’m thinking the series will touch on:

The gospel of inclusion, which leaves no one out from the love of the Father.

Seeing through a glass darkly.

Sin – How big of a deal is it?

Radical, crazy good news that flies in the face of what I’d been taught most of my life and accepted as truth.

Some of it made me cringe, some made me cry. But overwhelmingly, steeled my resolute spirit to go shout to a hurting world that they are included in God’s best and invited to partake in this crazy love.

Lord have mercy Miss Percy, as the ZZ Top song goes.

Ain’t no turning back now. I’m ruined.

Day of the Dog, Day of the Hydrant: Everyday is a Mixed Bag

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By: Jana Greene

Have you ever heard the expression: “Sometimes you are the dog and sometimes you are the fire hydrant”? Sometimes you feel as if you are in control and other times? Well, you are stuck in a bad place, feeling helpless.

Yesterday was a mixed bag for me, for instance.

BAD: Sick with sinus issues…again.

GOOD: The doctor finally gave me antibiotics –the kind that might actually work!

BAD: the cat continually tried to sit on my keyboard when I was trying to work.

GOOD: Hey, the cat was not completely ignoring me, nor plotting my imminent death!

BAD: I yelled at my kids, enthusiastically.

GOOD: I apologized to them for losing my temper and enjoyed the forgiveness hugs.

BAD: Got cut off in traffic.

GOOD: …

Actually, no good came of that particular situation.

BAD: Overdue fine of $1.60 at the library.

GOOD: Happened across Stephen Colbert’s new book while paying the fine! My seventeen-year-old daughter read some especially funny parts to me whilst I was driving home. We both laughed so hard that we cried, and that’s always good.

If attitude is really 90% of any given problem, I really need to work on my numbers. Because good and bad stuff will happen to me, and good and bad stuff will happen because of my own actions or inaction.

It helps me to remember that the same man who wrote two-thirds of the New Testament of the Bible struggled with the same issues we do today. It is never a surprise to God when we are “all over the map”.

“It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

“I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.” – Apostle Paul, Romans 7:21-25 (The Message)

My thought life is similar and my attitude? Always in flux. But I’m working on it.

BAD: I am a sinner – and like the Apostle Paul, often do, say and think what I shouldn’t.

GOOD: God is full of mercy and grace, and sees me through the filter of His Son.

Most days are a mixed bag, are they not? It is so easy to label the days of our lives as a good or bad one, depending on the good/bad experience tally of any given timeframe.  It’s nice to know that although I cannot be consistent to save my life (literally), God is the same yesterday and today – all day long.

Right in the Jugular

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By:   Jana Greene

 “God went for the jugular when He sent His own Son.  He didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant.  In His Son, Jesus, He personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all.  The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that.” – Romans 8:3-4 (The Message)

The jugular.   I’ve never heard the gospel explained like that before.  It sounds pretty graphic.  It is decidedly untidy, and really extreme.  Maybe even a little offensive.

What I know about human anatomy is very limited.  But I know that if you are ever in Africa on safari and attacked by a lioness, she will “go for your jugular”.  She is going for your lifeblood, and she means business.    It would be a direct hit.

Society tends to think of the Bible as a book of stories of ancient peoples.   But it isn’t just a bestseller.   It is an account of the disordered mess of struggling humanity being set right with a true and omnipotent Creator.  In the beginning there was God, yes.   But the end?   We know where eternity lies, but “the end” is not dusty pages of prophecy in Revelation.  The end is still being recorded in the lives we live today.   In my life, in your life.

God’s relationship with us individually was not remote and unimportant then….it is of the utmost importance now, and He means business.   To reconcile His people –full of sin and selfishness and corruption – back to him, sacrificial blood had to be spilled.  He had to have contact with this fractured human condition directly, swiftly.   I forget this sometimes, when I try to tidy up the gospel to suit me.

In “going for the jugular” of humanity, He poured Himself over bone and under skin, walked around in flesh with all of the discomfort that entails, and was brutally tortured and nailed to the cross to die.     His lifeblood was spilled while we were still sinners, the ultimate and fatal blow to death.

Webster’s Dictionary defines “jugular” simply:  “The most vital part”.  Thats where God hit sin and death.  Right in the jugular.

In Him, we are set right, once and for all.