Guilt Management

guilt·y /ˈɡiltē/ adjective
culpable of or responsible for a specified wrongdoing.

I lit a canyon fire at age 8, guilty of arson. I began watching porn when I was 9 and began rounding the sexual bases shortly thereafter, guilty of lust and adultery. In my teen years I painted a life of theft, drug abuse, violence, lies, sex, rage, and self-righteousness. That’s just the tip of the guilt-berg my life has amassed.

The first time I read Matthew 5 I was crushed. Matthew was the first book of the Bible I ever read. According to the words of Jesus my heart had the seeds of murder, adultery, greed, lies, and self righteousness taking root and wreaking havoc on the foundation of my soul. I still read these chapters wondering who in the world could measure up to this lofty standard, then the verse comes, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Perfect!? How could I ever be perfect? I am guilty of so much.

I have met many Christians who read this and think, “Ok, I’ll strive for perfection.” That’s not me. I read this verse and the thought that eeks through my mind is one of expletive despair. I may be able to fool others and lie to myself to some extent, but I know the beast that dwells in the basement of my heart. He is a deceitful wretch who continually fights to make life all about me, my control, my pleasure, my power, my self sufficiency. That’s the point Jesus was trying to make! You and I are not enough on our own. You can’t do enough. You can’t be enough. You are not able to meet the standard because the standard is perfection, whelp. The sermon on the mount, Matthew 5-7, is not meant to teach you principles to better manage your anger, lust, lies, self righteousness, or other heart issues. The sermon on the mount is meant to drive you to despair that your guilt before God is so massive that you need external intervention.

Years ago I spoke with a person who thought I overemphasized God’s grace in my sermons. We spoke for over an hour about sin, the law, faith, and salvation by grace alone in faith in Jesus alone. I explained that there was nothing he could do to earn God’s love or be adopted into God’s family. The only way to be perfect to die to your sin-self in Christ so that you can live in Christ’s perfection upon death. (Rom 6:8). At the end of our conversation he said, “Grace won’t help me be a better Christian, I need more of God’s law. The Bible says I have to be perfect.”

Think about that.

It’s true. He has to be perfect. Unfortunately, he thought he could reach perfection through moral obedience. The Bible is crystal clear, you aren’t good enough. You don’t even have the capacity to be good enough on your own (Rom 3:10-11). We are all guilty, but this doesn’t stop people from trying to manage their guilt through a variety of means.

We all have a preferred guilt management system.

Some use the bell curve of human behavior to manage their sense of guilt. “Well, I’m not as bad as _______,’ or, “I’m better than ______.”

Some seek absolution from guilt in religion. “If I’m good enough, God will accept me… love me… save me…”

Others simply stuff down guilt and shame like a bubbling poison in a witch’s cauldron. I have not found any of these methods to provide lasting transformation. Only when I throw myself on the mercies of God in Jesus have I ever seen lasting change. The law is not bad, in fact, it shows us the level of good that God intended at creation. The law of God shows us how the universe was hardwired. Our sin is simply a short circuiting of God’s hardwiring. If we could perfectly obey we would not need a savior, but we can’t.

The guilt management system I chose is a relationship with Jesus. Where I continually fall upon his grace. I am guilty. He is not. He made a cosmic path where my guilt and shame can be put to death on his cross. All that is required is that I believe in the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus as the substitute payment for my waywardness.

What does this look like?

When I sin I thank God that Jesus had such a love for me that he would go to the cross where his perfection was punished for my brokenness. When I fall short as a man, husband, father, pastor, or friend, I run to the cross. Over and over again. Daily, hourly, minute by minute. I speak with my heavenly Father with constant gratitude. I trust him to lead me. I don’t just lean on him, I ask him to carry me. Like a child who has yet to walk, I grasp onto my Father’s arms and cling to him as often as I know how. This is what I have meant in the past when I said, “Read your Bible and pray.” I’ve just found that particular phrase isn’t heard the same way I feel it.

I understand this is hard for some. Jesus said, “I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, so she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” I want you to have a deeply loving relationship with God. Take every sin, every wrong, every guilt, every shame, every broken part of you and walk to the cross. Let it all die there and receive the eternal forgiveness that is the fuel for loving God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.


Theory of Enoughness

Do I have enough money?

Am I enough as a parent?

Is my job enough?

Do I have enough sex?

Are my kids enough?

Am I enough?

The more I talk with people I am convinced we are all on quests to be enough. Enoughness drives the human experience, and being enough shapes how we view our success and failure. Failure to measure up to one’s self imposed enoughness often leads to a deep sense of inadequacy, depression, hopelessness, and even suicide.

Even in religion, or perhaps particularly in religion, the plague of enoughness runs rampant. While sitting beside the dying I have heard many say, “I hope (or I think) I was good enough.”

The good news of Jesus is that we are not enough, but Jesus is enough on our behalf. When you find rest in the enoughness of Jesus the secondary issues of life become just that… secondary. These aspects of life aren’t necessarily bad, but they are not enough! Lasting significance will not be found in your financial goals, family reputation, vocational achievement, sexuality, political affiliation, or any other pursuit you believe will give you the significance and identity you crave. Within the human heart lies a desire to prove oneself through any means possible, and all of us have a tendency to make secondary pursuits our primary target for worth, security, community, significance, and enoughness.

A king in the Bible tried to find enoughness apart from God and ended up writing a book called Ecclesiastes where he elaborates the meaningless vanity of these pursuits. Sadly, it seems people are content to ignore the tide of historical lessons and pursue the experiment of enoughness apart from God.

The good news reminds us that if we have Jesus, we have enough. YOU are enough if you are in him. You will likely fall short in your area of pursuing enoughness, but you can rest well knowing that your failures are met with eternal success by faith in Jesus. When other parents belittle you, remember that in Christ you are enough. When money fails, remember that in Christ you have enough. When your promotion falls through, remember that in God’s sight you are fully enough! When your sexuality grips you, remember that the pleasure available in Christ is enough. When you doubt your worth remember that God in heaven looked at you, all of you, and said your value was enough to send his son to die on your behalf. You are enough.

Healing 10% At a Time

I got a boot for my ruptured Achilles healing process today! Part of healing is getting my foot back to a flat 90° angle over the course of 4 weeks. I’m currently angled at 130° and will adjust the boot 10° every week until I reach “normal” and can once again stand on my leg. Then the process of learning walk begins. It’s a long haul.

Healing is always a process, but physical healing is easier measure. Emotional and spiritual healing is an area I’ve been traversing vocationally for 20 years and I’ve found that many people often don’t have the patience for healing by 10° degree increments. They want a quick fix. A book. A class. A message. A counseling session. That’s not how healing from major wounds works.

Many emotional and spiritual injuries or wound often require a metaphorical surgical repair not an emotional bandaid.

A marriage that’s been flailing for years needs surgery, then recovery, then rehab.

An long standing addiction often requires surgery, then recovery, then rehab.

A betrayal by a spouse or close friend…

The death of a loved one…

Total financial ruin or vocational implosion…

The list goes on.

These types of wounds often need an intial procedure followed by incremental adjustment, then strength rebuilding to provide lasting change. There is no quick fix for the dark situations life throws your way. You might need surgery. Then 10° adjustments at a time. Then rehab to rebuild your strength.


Killing Comparison – The Key To Contentment

1984 Oldsmobile Cutlass supreme. Her name was Bessy, and she was my freedom. She sat six on her bench seats and once up to highway speeds, nothing could stop her. I wired a house speaker in the trunk to give a little more boom to her bass. She was beautiful. Then I met Jason’s T-Bird. Faster, newer, cooler. It had lowered suspension custom wheels and an actual sub in the trunk that could make the license plate frame rattle. I wanted one… or even better… I wanted something slightly better than his.

This was just an internal comparison game in high school, but I’ve found that much of life operates on the comparison culture. Who makes more money? Who has the nicer car? Who lives in the better neighborhood? Who’s the better friend? Employee? Employer? Who looks better? The list of comparisons is endless? Even in religion (or perhaps especially in religion). Who is more godly? Who knows more about the Bible? Who serves more? Who sings most passionately during worship? All of these can be wrapped up in comparison as well.

If you want to find contentment it will not be at the top of the achievement tower. There’s a reason so many of the wealthy and famous end up spinning into addiction and life implosion. They got what they thought would give them meaning, acceptance, and worth, and they discovered the truth learned by Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes; meaningless, meaningless. It’s all meaningless. So where can we find meaning that is true and lasting?

For years my life was dominated by comparison. I was constantly under pressure to be better, have better, or do better than others. What worse, was that I thought achievement by comparison would actually give me the satisfaction I craved.

Then I encountered God and experienced his radical acceptance of me that was not based on me, my performance, my achievements, or my abilities. Instead my worth and acceptance was united to Jesus, his work on the cross, his achievements, and his ability to be what I could not. Best of all, all of who he is and what he did was attributed to my life’s record by an act we call faith. It’s a free gift that sets us free.

The competition mode was over. I no longer had to prove myself against the backdrop of others because all that I needed was given to me in Jesus. I no longer had to “be the right kind of person” who would be accepted since my acceptance tank was filled to overflowing by God’s love in Jesus. I finally began to break free from a life driven by comparison to my peers, and I became free to serve, free to give, free to live with no comparison strings attached.

The more we understand the love that rests upon us in Jesus, the more we will break free from the comparison curse that slithers into our hearts.

When freed from the comparison curse we can approach each day as an opportunity to pour into others with no needs or no expectations, as a people who contribute rather than compare. We can contribute to the joy of others instead of fighting for our own temporary joys because at the right hand of God we have access to the fullest joy. We can forgive when slighted because we have been forgiven. We can love in the face of opposition because we were loved when we were loved in our opposition.

There is no longer a need to prove ourselves in comparison with others because we can now live in an operating system of God’s love. It’s a way of living where we are approved, accepted, and wrapped into God’s cosmic story. In this story we are still tasked to work, tasked to do great things, but the motivation of our lives is now rooted in how we can contribute to others instead of how we compare to others.


Final Chapters Are Different

We celebrated every milestone for the first three kids.

Yay, they’re talking.

Yay, they’re holding their bottle.

Yay, they’re crawling.

Lots of cheering. Lots of celebration.

With the fourth child, and surgically last, everything has turned to an odd sadness for my wife.

Awe, she’s talking.

Awwe, she’s holding her bottle.

Awwwe, she’s crawling(ish).

Every milestone has become a sentimental swamp of sadness, but why?

Final chapters, when well written, tend to bring a sense of finality. I often feel sad when I finish a book or complete a long running binge show. But why?

I suppose it’s the same reason death brings sadness. The loss of relationship. The sudden halt of a routine. The end of something familiar.

The end, however, makes space for new beginnings. This doesn’t mean grief is irrelevant, it is extremely relevant, but we don’t grieve as those who have hope. The new always comes with growing pains and adjustments, but it opens the door for new seasons of vitality. New opportunities for things still unexplored. New roles as life vacuums are filled.

When a chapter of your life is closing you can press on or lament days gone by. Sometimes life hits so hard it’s like a book is ending. Even then, take heart, another story is being born.


Sleeping For Jesus

Sleep is important. I love sleep. However, last night I hurt my leg in my sleep (I’m that age now). Today I read through Bible verses about sleep. I knew the verses about not being lazy or sleeping too much, but had never really pondered the positive side of sleep found in the Bible. Tonight the following verses are my prayers. #Godhelpmyleg

Proverbs 3:24

If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.

Sleep is a time to let go of fear. Fear of what has past and what is to come. It is a moment of sweetness rooted in trust for God.

Psalm 4:8

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

Many people struggle with the silence of heading to bed. It’s important to know that peace (shalom) is not simply an absence of conflict. Shalom is “completeness.” Satisfaction for all that has been, all that is, and all that is to come. Do you sleep on the foundation that “God’s got you” no matter what you’re going through? Shalom sleep is deep restful sleep.

Psalm 3:5

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.

Every morning you rise is a good morning. Currently I rise to crutches and a throbbing leg, but I rise. And with each day comes new joy. Joy that God sustained me and those I love for another day. It’s easy to miss the amazing miracle of God sustaining life when we zoom in on our problems and pain. Take a moment and look at the big picture when you rise after a shalom sleep!