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Archive for the ‘spiritual warfare’ Category

good_will.jpgJR Woodward posted a great post on the subject of brokenness and healing and it got me all stirred up…in a good way. Much of the “work” we do in Thrive groups is restorative. We’re not just filling up on truth but we’re also removing the obstacles to truth. And Good Will Hunting is for me on the best examples of this simple spiritual formation practice.

In the beginning of the movie we meet Will Hunting. He’s a math genius with a penchant for destroying himself. And his genius attracts the attention of Professor Lambeau who want to use his gift for their agenda. But as a condition of the courts, to “use” him, Lambeau must help him. And so he sends Will to all of the “best” psychiatrists around Boston, hoping that he will get “fixed”. Each of these professionals focuses on “fixing” Will, who is so brilliant that he refuses to play their game, and even makes them look foolish in the process. He calls their bluff and destroys each relationship before it gets started.

As a last resort, Professor Lambeau calls his old college roommate Sean. It’s obviously a last resort. But Sean is broken too. And during his first encounter with Will, Sean refuses to play his game, even pushing back…a lot. He’s not trying to fix him. He’s willing to love him, even in spite of all his crap and childish games.

And this is the brilliance of this movie. Love earns the right to be heard. It begins with brokenness and the willingness to walk through the chaos, not for the sake of chaos but to get through it. Over the next hour of the movie we see their interactions in relationship. Over and over again, they test each other asking, “Will you fight with me in this restoration process? Will you help me get past this brokenness?” Sean appeals to his heart, not just the mind. And it isn’t just Will that has a problem. Sean does to. And by stepping into this space of brokenness they find a willingness to help each other. Restoration is a shared endeavor. It’s not about fixing but about partnering.

It is only at the end of the movie, when Sean has earned the right to be heard through love that he can confront what is paramount to restorative, spiritual healing. Will knows all the right answers better than anyone in the room. But what he can’t see is his own dignity. And his wounds have created a deep seated lie that he is not worth it. Only in love can Sean break through his defense mechanisms to help him see the way out.

He actually shows him pictures of the wounds of his past and tells him, “It’s not your fault.” Will has arrived at that key moment where he is confronted with letting love in.

How many times have we all said, “It must have been my fault.” The wounds of the past have erased our dignity. And if we’re not worth it, why are we surprised when we destroy ourselves. Not consciously, mind you, but we do. And it is only when we allow love in that we can be restored. “Will God really, really, really love me if I tear down these walls I’ve created to protect my heart?” And, “Will you show me love so I can see the way out?”

And this to me is the key to spiritual healing. We must remove the lie before the truth can really enter. But we can only let go of the lie in the presence of love. This is the redemption process, when we trade in our lies for the truth. And we can only let go of the lie in the presence of love.

So will we be love?

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Note: This is one of the more personal entries I have ever written but something inside of me said share it.

Yesterday was a profound day for me. I faced what was one of my deepest fears and finally said, “No more.” I said goodbye to a long time friend that I had assumed protected me, when in fact had caused some of my deepest regrets in relationship. His name was Rejected. I know that I couldn’t have done so without my brothers, friends who are part of my missional discipleship group.

We were each doing work around the question of where God is calling us to trust. I was leading a good friend of mine who said it was time to let go of rejection. Something inside of me resonated with this statement but I was more focused on leading and so I let it pass me by. When everyone had engaged the work, I recognized it was time to end the night and move to blessing round. But my brothers quickly stepped in and said, “You aren’t getting out of this one.” I wasn’t purposely dodging anything but I didn’t realize that I was blind to this moment when God was speaking to my heart.

I stepped to the line, where we practice stepping into the Kingdom of God through love and trust. And instantly it hit me that it was time to let go of rejection, like my friend. The pain revolved around an incident with two friends from Junior High. This was my moment and I said goodbye. I knew that there was still work to do in this area and I committed to do it at a later time. Little did I realize that it would be the next morning.

This morning I was running and really began to dream about that day at the park in Junior High. I was playing with my “best friends” Tony and Shannon. It’s a memory that has stuck with me forever and was very easy to imagine. We were playing Frisbee together. I threw to Tony, who threw to Shannon, who threw to me and so on. And then I threw to Tony, who threw it to Shannon…who threw it to Tony…who threw it to Shannon. And Shannon turned to me and said, “We don’t want to be your friend anymore.” It was honestly one of the most devastating days in my life. The pain of that moment has stuck with me forever.

I can easily remember the faces and smells and sounds. The color green of the grass and the location where we were playing at that moment. And for the first time I began to look for the enemy there. He was not longer a part of me, having said goodbye last night, but he was still there. For the first time I felt a deep sense of freedom from him as I danced around the park. I kept grabbing the Frisbee and throwing it in the air in joy, completely free from the pain. There was no anger, no sorrow or pain. He was no longer my friend who protected me from the injustices of what they had done. In the past, with rejection as my alli, I could look at Tony and Shannon and hate them. Now the hate was gone.

And what happened next comes straight out of the movie Troy, with Brad Pitt. There’s a scene in the beginning of the movie where Achilles faces a giant in battle one on one, and in one move thrust his sword downward into his shoulder and through his body. The giant simply crumbles and dies. Well I did the same thing. I was dancing around the park throwing the Frisbee in the air, very aware of the joy that came from releasing my rejection. And then I saw him. He was a black mass standing in between me and my friends. And so I jumped up and thrust my sword into his shoulder and he dissolved into dust. Rejection was gone.

But then something really interesting happened that I have never seen before. I looked around and could see everyone in the playground had an enemy that was tormenting them. It was almost surreal. I could even see Tony’s and Shannon’s. And I can’t tell you how much sorrow I felt for them. At that moment I realized they were just as lost as I was back then.

And I began to wonder how many of my friends who had hurt me or rejected me were simply hurting from their own rejection? How many were broken and looking for love just like I was, yet constantly responding to the whispers to destroy relationship? And at that moment I realized my Father was inviting me to humanize Tony and Shannon. He was inviting me to restore their dignity and have compassion for them, to see them as my Father saw them. With rejection at my side, whispering in my ear, “You can’t let them do that to you,” it became so easy to simply hate them. But with rejection gone, I could now forgive them and have compassion for them.

And as I stood there in that park, freedom was now my friend.

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This post is part of the January Synchroblog. This month’s topic is God’s ability to use the foolish to confound the wise. You can find more at the end of the post.

When I was six I got my first trophy for playing soccer. It was the strangest feeling at the time. The shiny little trophy had this interesting effect on my soul. It felt good in a way that was validating. As I grew, I was naturally gifted in quickness and learned to gain the applause of my fellow classmates. Before school, everyone would gather up on the black top and challenge each other to see who was the fastest kid in school that day. 9 times out of 10 I won the race. The applause became like a drug, reminding me that I had done something worthwhile. I must be good right? The problem was that by lunch time, people had somehow forgotten their applause. The parade of validations had gone home, thus the need to prove myself again the next day.

And then life had a strange way of doing the same thing. Everything I participated in, school, sports, church, quickly constantly reminded me that applause came from accomplishment. If I got good grades my parents were pleased with me. If I scored goals, my friends were pleased with me. If I memorized verses and showed up on Sunday, my youth pastor was pleased with me. Even work was a matter of accomplishment. The better I did, the more applause and money I gained.

But over time the search for applause grew exhausting. The fickle crowd was never pleased enough. The bar somehow kept increasing the older I got. And to be honest it took a heavy toll on my soul. I felt like a horse with a carrot hanging in front of my face just beyond my grasp. No matter how hard I tried it could never reach it.

In college I made the bold decision to simply stop trying. I was no longer going to be good for a crowd that refused to be pleased beyond lunch. The problem was that my ego refused to participate. It needed to be validated and would stop at nothing to get its way. And then I discovered drugs, which made me a really funny guy. Bam. New applause. Come on, people. You’re not making this easy.

But along the way God kept breaking into my life, calling me to hear His voice amidst the crowd. It wasn’t loud. It wasn’t boisterous. In fact, I often had to strain to hear it. And when I listened He kept telling me that I was loved. At first I didn’t want to believe it. I kept thinking that by lunch time the voice would grow fickle and I would somehow need to perform for Him as well. But by lunch time the words hadn’t changed. In fact by dinner the voice had grown steadily louder and the longer I listened the more I heard it.

And then God invited me to let go of it all. His invitation to love invited me to actually believe that I was already loved, not from what I had done, but from who I was, His beloved child. At first it seemed quite unbelievable, even stupid. Everything, and I mean everything, had told me exactly the opposite. The world didn’t work that way, so I thought. Love, which I had always assumed was the applause, was supposed to be earned, wasn’t it?

And I remember that moment, the distinct sound of my heart saying it was time, letting go of the applause and exchanging it for my Father’s love. It seemed fresh and free, almost impossible to believe. I felt scandalous because it just couldn’t be that easy…could it. And every nerve ending and sinew in my body wanted to jump ship. I kept laughing like a three-year-old who had found a secret stash of Rocky Road ice cream, hoping no one would take it away.

But damn that ego. It kept creeping back in, constantly reminding me of the rush of the applause. The voices from the crowd were so eager and earnest to lure me back. And to be honest the first time I went back the sound of the crowd, sounded soooooooooo good, like your favorite song from high school you haven’t heard in a decade. The exquisite feeling of temporal pleasure. But a strange thing happened by lunch time. The exquisite sense of validation painfully faded away. And as it faded I could hear the faint sound of laughing, the enemy having sucked me back in.

And the temptation was to assume that I had somehow ruined grace, that I had somehow cut off the voice of my Father. In fact, this assumption led me to turn away from His voice, the prodigal child once again. And it was at this moment that my Father’s voice resounded loudly. “Nothing can change my love for you.” It was hard to hear that, to believe that. I had picked up the lie I had previously abandoned. Why would God love me? I wouldn’t.

And I realized at that moment that God is not like me. He’s God and He is love, desperately searching for His children and ready to forgive. That’s what He does. He’s also breaking into the enemy’s kingdom and offering us His grace. And He’s asking us if we want to participate.

Other Posts:

The Power of Paradox by Julie Clawson

Won’t Get Fooled Again by Alan Knox

Strength on the Margins by Igneous Quill

Foolish Heart by Erin Word

A Fool’s Choice by Cindy Harvey

Quiet Now, God’s Calling by Jenelle D’Alessandro

Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right… By Mike Bursell

Ship of Fools by David Fisher

Hut Burning For God by Fr. Gregory Hallam

God Used This Fool by Cobus van Wyngaard

Fool if you think its over by Paul Walker

Blessed are the foolish — foolish are the blessed by Steve Hayes

Fools Rush In by Sonja Andrews

What A Fool I’ve Been by Reba Baskett

What A Fool Believes by Sue

The foolishness of God and the foolishness of Christians. by Kent

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I have always found it interesting that David was the only one in the Hebrew people willing to take on Goliath. And as the story goes, he took the risk to trust God and take on his enemy. Goliath was not the first time he faced his fear, but it was one of the most important because it established him in a profound way. His victory allowed the people around him to see what was possible. In fact, when Goliath fell, the enemy ran. And that one victory became legend. We still to this day use the term David vs. Goliath when referencing an obstacle to overcome.

So my question today is, what are you afraid of? And what is keeping you from facing your fear? But more importantly what is to be gained by facing your fear. Are you the one to show those around you what your courage looks like? And will you?

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Can you feel it in the wind? It feels like we’re in this strange season where voices within the church are pulling the trump card called heresy. I guess this is to be expected with any movement. The old gives way to the new only through troubled means. But as I survey this territory, I find that it is not a road I want to traverse. Love still remains the better path.

Wikipedia has a really great dialog about heresy.

“The word “heresy” comes from the Greek αἵρεσις, hairesis (from αἱρέομαι, haireomai, “choose”), which means either a choice of beliefs or a faction of believers. It was given wide currency by Irenaeus in his tract Contra Haereses (Against Heresies) to describe and discredit his opponents in the early Christian Church. He described his own position as orthodox (from ortho- “right” + doxa “belief”) and his position eventually evolved into the position of the early Christian Church.

Used in this way, the term “heresy” has no purely objective meaning: the category exists only from the point of view of speakers within a group that has previously agreed about what counts as “orthodox”. Any nonconformist view within any field may be perceived as “heretical” by others within that field who are convinced that their view is “orthodox”; in the sciences this extension is made tongue-in-cheek.” (From Wikipedia, Etymology)

The fundamental problem with heresy is that its a judgment people make about other people’s belief, spoken, written, or whatever. And the power behind the word is the assumption that the person is in grave error, such that they may not be under grace anymore. Historically, heresy is used to imply to someone is out of grace. This is the underlying insinuation.

“Heretics usually do not define their own beliefs as heretical. Heresy is a value judgement and the expression of a view from within an established belief system. For instance, Roman Catholics held Protestantism as a heresy while some non-Catholics considered Catholicism the “Great Apostasy.”

Heresy is an extremely powerful word. Many in history have died for it. When we use it we set ourselves up as the authority. We are the ones who “know”. And to speak against the one who has called out the heresy is to question the authority, which puts that person in the spotlight they likely never desired. Who are we to question authority? We dont’ have PhDs and MDivs. Luther, although well educated took great risk in taking a stand and holding to his beliefs. Yet, those in the reformed camp sit on the edges of his coat and embrace what was once heresy.

My concern is when authority bases their understanding on right belief as the nature of our grace. Imagine the fear that causes people. This fear has historically produces so much that we are now ashamed of. Is His kingdom built on fear? Man, I’m in trouble because then I have to wonder if I’ve got everything in line. And baby, I don’t. Thankfully we have Scripture and freedom of dialog. And we do have love and grace.

I find it really interesting that someone could actually make a judgment of heresy. Especially when every those who are typically attacked (McLaren, Bell, Pagitt), do actively speak that Jesus is the Son of God.

All of this brouhaha got me asking a very serious question. Do the people who give the claim of heresy believe faith is by grace alone? I ask this because the fundamental issue at heart here is the question, “Is a heretic (defined as someone who believes something wrong about Scripture) still in grace?” I would argue yes, with one exception. The fundamental ascent of the heart, as revealed by the Holy Spirit is the question, “Who we say Jesus is.” The Apostle John even provided a very simple test. The call to guard against apostasy in Scripture was to guard against those who wanted to add something to the work of Jesus, to go back to the law and move away from grace alone. This was the fight Paul wishes to fight. Our intellectual understanding of Scripture does not establish our grace. Jesus did.

My concern is that when we make the judgment that when someone is in error they are no longer in grace, we’ve crossed back over into apostasy ourselves. We’ve practiced the one exception because we’ve added to grace. This is Galatians revisited. If grace were the sum total of our belief systems then no one would make it. Why, because we’ve stepped back into performance (the law) as the defining factor of salvation. Children would be out simply for the fact that they don’t know everything.

Performance, or the establishment of a doctrinal set of beliefs as a criteria has always been about control, which is opposite love. Control is the domain of the enemy. And to be honest, why would anyone want to become the judge? Why would we want to be the one to establish the box people have to live in. Because once we establish the box, we have now established our own ruleset. This is what I love about grace. It destroys the box.

And sometimes I get why people make the judgment. I would suggest that Mark Driscoll and Johnny Mac, and those who make these claims have good intentions. They clearly love the Gospel. But I would suggest that before we make judgments we listen to the words of Jesus not to step into that arena. When we do we are the ones fighting each other and the enemy is in the stands laughing at us. I would suggest that Jesus understood that to make ourselves the judge is to create the standard in which we are judged. JR Woodward has a post that captures this well. This was the curse of the law. If we try to fulfill it, we are then defined by it.

I love Jesus’ own words on the subject.

“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.” (John 12: 47)

Let’s hold on to love people, and discover why turning the other cheek is so much more powerful. Let’s allow the Holy Spirit to be the one to convict those who need it and in the process love our brother so that we can earn the right to be heard.

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A book review of Deadly Viper Character Assassins by Mike Foster and Jud Wilhite.

Mike and Jud have crafted a well thought out Kung Fu Survivor’s Guide to help start a much needed conversation around the enemy. They’ve put a names to a set of faces and have done so in a really creative way. But the it is important to look past the beauty of this book to the deeper insight it provides.

The first thing you’ll notice is that this is one of the best designed books you will ever read. Mike Foster and his team at Plain Joe Studios bring an exception graphic design to the book so it feels much more like a coffee table book, although it’s very small (6×6) so it doesn’t look like one. It also has the feel of a comic book which makes it really interesting as well as insightful.

Mike and Jud introduce us to the seven Deadly Viper Character Assassins. Yes, the book title comes from Kill Bill but it provides a great framework for understanding the enemy. My one wish was that they had stayed within the Asian theme more with the names. It’s a great idea. But at one point they mention Jihadists, which is a great metaphor but different theme. The assassins are:

– The Assassin of Character Creep
– The Assassin of Zi Qi Qi Ren
– The Assassin of Amped Emotions
– The Assassin of the Headless Sprinting Chicken
– The Assassin of Boom Chicka Wah Wah
– The Bling Bling Assassin
– The High and Mighty Assassin

I really like what Mike and Jud have done. They taken serious issues that we’ve all dealt with and given a name to a face. They placed them in a context of an enemy who is deadset on killing us. Nice touch, because it really is that real. These are not always easy issues to talk about but the book provides a starting point and a reason for beginning the conversation. They invite the reader into radical integrity and radical grace.

Mike and Jud keep the book at a very practical level, which makes for a very quick read (about 3 hours). They also provide great interviews with some really interesting and influential people and how they deal with the issues of character. The book has the potential to be a great conversation starter, which is what I believe they are trying to accomplish. They also provide a DVD and study guide for leading conversation in groups. You can find more info here.

And to a certain extent the beauty of the book and Mike and Jud’s tone can be very misleading. It is entirely possible to see this book as a coffee table book, fluff or common sense wisdom from two guys who have been in the trenches. But to do so would be to really miss the nuggets in the book. They provide some deep insight into how to avoid character conflict.

One important point, which I wish they would have engaged more is the necessity for community and brotherhood that they have discovered and engaged together over time. It is very clear that they have reached a place of trust with each other. This is possible for everyone but rare in most men and hard to gt to. Getting to this place is central to success against the enemy and to a certain extent, step one in fighting the enemy.

It’s a great book to begin the conversation and hopefully lead to deeper conversation over time. Much love Mike and Jud for getting the conversation started in a cool way.

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This is a really cool site. What do you look like and what do you eat for breakfast? What does it say about you?

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Mike Foster, formerly of XXXchurch.com is releasing a new book, “Deadly Viper Character Assassins“. Yes, the title comes from the movie Kill Bill. You can check out his really cool site for the book here.  Mike was gracious to let me review his book.  Look for the review here shortly.  I got it today.

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Here is an interesting conference on discipleship called Cynicism and Hope. Lets pray the hope wins out. (thanks Mark)

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