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The Question of God’s Goodness

The Question of God’s Goodness

You may have noticed that I don’t differentiate between God’s power and His goodness. I have a whole section on God’s goodness coming up, but, for the left-brained among us, here’s a quick paragraph.

sunset-2754909_1920Good and bad are generally relative terms. What’s good for me is good and what’s bad for me is bad. I’m not personally a big fan of any kind of moral relativism, but in this case, it’s true. If you’re all powerful then what you say is good/bad becomes the standard for anyone else who isn’t all powerful, which is everyone. If you are all-knowing then you know what is Good/Evil and can choose to abide by it or not. Therefore, if you are both you need only decide if you’re selfish or selfless. Will you act in your own self-interest or will you uphold a universal right/wrong even if it causes you harm? If you are all powerful then you can accomplish your desires despite any constraints, so why would you violate the right/wrong standard?

This dips a little bit into those unanswerable questions like, can God make a rock so big that He can’t lift it? Except, that in this case, we have an example that gives us an answer. Sin. So many people are angry at God because of the wages of sin when in fact the fall of mankind proves that God doesn’t force anyone to behave. The fact that He created humans knowing we’d fall speaks to His character also.

He’s willing to sacrifice himself, heroically, to restore things to what he intended. He doesn’t have to avoid making humans, because he has a solution. All knowing combined with all-powerful equals always accomplishing goals. Therefore, God has no motive to be anything but good because abiding by any laws doesn’t prevent him from doing or having anything. It does, however, cause him pain. He suffered to restore us because He loves us, and therefore He’s selfless. Therefore He is good.

Journey Update: 4/21/18

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Andy “Sir Bunch Adventure Writer” Journey’s Update: April 21, 2018

If you stumbled onto this page prior to my main landing page here’s a link to the full list of current journeys and more info about what a Journey is.

Brief Overview:

Well, this update is pretty much on time, I think I’ll try to update once a week on Saturdays. Two of the key concepts of the Cleric Path, which is what I call this grand experiment in how to live more abundantly, is living dynamically through Grace and Flexibility. I didn’t think I’d have to post about that quite yet, but it turns out that I can’t do this simple update without a brief explanation so follow this link to one.

God/Relationship/Family

April – Rewrite Primacy into my blog — ch4 of 10
If you’re following along, I’ve decided to revise my next book on this blog as I go. I’ll give anyone who signs up for my list during this process a free digital copy of the book when it’s done.

I’m happy with the decision. It’s not slowing me down and as I’d hoped it’s motivating me to work on it every chance I get. However, I am behind schedule. My wife’s work schedule changed for the week and I just didn’t get the time. On the bright side, I got to spend more time with my little girl.

I’m part way thru chapter 4 of 10 and I’d hoped to be finished prior to leaving for the Spring Boot Camp on the 26th of this month. So I either need to do chapters a day Mon-Wed or blow the deadline. I wonder how God’s going to handle this? Overall Score C+.

Identity/Adventure

April – BCNW Retreat — singed up and paid
I’m excited about the men’s retreat. It’s important for me to get out of town once a year and go where cell phones have no reception. I’ve been to this retreat, based on “Wild at Heart,” by John Eldrege, several times and God always does something amazing in me.

ORG (Growth & Success)/Learning

April – Read Book “The Five Choices” /Summary to Blog — tabled to May
Haven’t started. Just plane bit off more than I can chew this month. It’s a common problem for me. This is a transition month and I’m glad to get time on projects like that I want to bring to a close before the next season gets in full swing. (I know April is technically the first month of Spring/ 2nd quarter, but much like the weather, Spiritual seasons don’t follow the calendar exactly.) Overall score, Jury’s Still Out.

Health & Fitness

April – Audition Nucific Bio x4 — ordered and started
I started Bio x4 on the 14th (ordered when we got back from vacation), and I love them so far. I do notice less hunger, more energy, and good stomach health. I’ve not had enough time to surround this with other health improvements like increased fiber etc. One side note about Bio x4, it’s one of those “take 5 minutes before each meal” type of systems. Those are so difficult to work into your day and as the week progressed I’ve started missing a pill here and there.

I did increase my step goal to 7,500 & am largely successful and I drink a lot of water already and I’ve been eating at home about the same as before despite a busy week so I’m going to give this week a B+ overall.

Daily Stretching — Not started, Tabled to May

Wealth & Freelance

April – Upgrade & Revise Blog — Table upgrade to next month
I’ve been blogging almost every day, which is great! I love it. I have not managed to raise the money for some of the upgrades I’d hoped to accomplish. So I give it a solid B overall.

Final Note:

I’ll be out of town next weekend, so don’t look for an update. However, I’ll probably have a lot to update everyone on the following weekend. So, we’ll see. God Bless.

It’s harder to understand what I mean when I say journey without reading more about it in my next book, “The Primacy of God.

Grace and the Wild Goose

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The State of Grace

When I first came back to a relationship with God through Christ. I was told that mercy was NOT getting what you deserve, and grace was getting what you don’t deserve. That definition worked for me for a time.

Ultimately, two different mentors of mine pointed out that Grace can’t be undeserved favor because Jesus deserved it. Christ’s death in substitution for us means that we inherit all that was coming to him. We can boldly go before the throne. God is relentless in his pursuit of us and in us God is well pleased. It can be a hard pill to swallow

I now see Grace as a state of being, in which we are free to try things and fail at them. Since its a given that I’m falling short of God’s glory, the only thing that matters is that I’m connected to God as a source of everything good. The process of being connected both obliterates my shortfall but also provides the vehicle for improvement. (2 Cor. 3:18).

Graham Cooke points out that God doesn’t see what’s wrong with us since we are in Christ, he sees what’s missing. He’s seeing awesome journeys that we’re going to take with him.

The Wild Goose

The Celtic Christians are known to have called the Holy Spirit a wild goose. It makes a wild goose chase takes on a different meaning, eh? In fact, even though our concept of a wild goose chase has a negative connotation, I firmly believe that we’re supposed to take them. Often!

In his amazing book, “The Rainforest Strategy,” Mike Q. Pink speaks of spontaneous wealth. He means that some of the best ideas we’re going to have will come in a flash of brilliance. I’ve had dozens of transcendent thoughts that I didn’t have time to do anything with. Worry, fear or just plain being busy have stolen countless brilliance from me that might have transformed my life. (Matt. 18:2-4)

How many times have I gone to God and said, “why don’t you just give me an answer to problem X?” I truth, he probably gave me the answer a week before but I wasn’t in a place to pay attention.

That’s why I Started Blogging

The real reason for doing more with this blog is to shorten the cycle of blessing. I want to have a direct path of good things from God to others. I want to receive all the abundance God wants to give me and do something with it. In the process, I will be transformed.

What I’ve learned is that God is truly generous in his outpouring and relentless in his pursuits. If you feel like you lack the resources to do something or you desperately want a different circumstance the answer is deceptively simple.

Everything good comes from God and nothing good exists that didn’t come from God. (James 1:17)

2 Corinthians 3:18 paints a pretty good picture of life when you’ve come out from under the law. What if it’s not just the religious law that sin is death. What if it’s everything we consider to be a rational truth?

What if ‘last place’ is really ‘first place’? What if you have to give away your life to find it? What if stillness (rest) is the way to accomplish more than running faster or working harder?

What if hitting every red light is the best way to drive to work today?

What if the lawn mower broke because you don’t need to mow?

What if the best thing you did today is the genuine smile you gave your barista?

What if the person who annoys you most thinks you’re their best friend?

What if we aren’t qualified to know what we ought to be working on today? What if all the urgent things you must do today aren’t worth you’re time at all? What if the best use of your time today is a wild goose chase?

Personal Culture: The Journeys to Improved Self and Life

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Personal Culture: The Journeys to Improved Self and Life

I consider myself an adventure writer on the path of the Postmodern Cleric. I define “a cleric” as a person who pursues wisdom by adventuring with God, and sharing what he/she learns to help others. Writing is my way of sharing what I learn.

I know postmodern is a loaded term these days, but I simply mean the pursuit of effective ways of living based on wisdom.

Wisdom is simply the ability to apply knowledge effectively.

When I look around me, I see tired people running as fast as they can in the hopes of catching a break. We’re all busy. It’s not a wise way to live and I think technology has been a blessing and a curse contributing to our inability to slow down because we don’t use it well. But technology is just one aspect of our modern lifestyle. We need to take a look at what I call our personal culture and decide if the life we’re living is the best it could be.

Lifestyle design is all the rage these days but I’m advocating something a little different with personal culture. In addition to working on the areas that create dissatisfaction, we need a changed perspective about our lives. We must view our lives as an adventure with God, and the problems we face as opportunities to learn and grow.

If you feel like you’re playing whack-a-mole with life’s emergencies just to survive the good news is that there’s a way through it. One deep problem can cause a multitude of symptoms which leaves us treating an endless list of issues. The opportunity here is to dive deep on a few crucial battles and actually correct several problems with the one effort.

I call them journey’s and here’s a list of my current journeys.

Lifestyle design does make sense, we used to all have the same definition of the American dream but we’ve had a mega-shift in the last thirty years (ending the industrial revolution) and we need a new map to success. We now need a more individual/personal definition of success. Hence the question, what do you really want your lifestyle to be like?

The big difference between lifestyle design, which is what most of the ‘Gurus’ out there are touting, and personal culture through journeys is that we are taking the journey from outside in–not living our lives outside in.

Inside out life is choosing our actions based on our unique identity and living the results. Outside in life is letting our circumstances dictate our actions. Anytime we look at how our life is and how we wish it were and then make a list of actions that we think will move us toward that lifestyle we’re living from outside in. Anytime we’re living outside in we’re reactive to the tyranny of a thousand urgent things that come up. There’s no way to focus hard enough on achieving an external goal without losing focus on something else that’s equally important to you.

Most people who achieved wild success in one area of life sacrificed another area. This is the group most of the gurus below too.

  • Join us on the minimalist farm surrounded by friends, homeschooling our kids, growing healthy food (we won’t mention that we owe the IRS and can’t afford to take our kids to the doctor.)
  • Learn how I made my first million before age 30, (nevermind my 3 divorces and 6 kids I never see.)
  • Learn how my husband and I paid off all our debt including our house in ten years (it just gave me diabetes and my husband heart disease.)

There are people who seem to have it all, but they didn’t do it by picking 12 goals and pushing day and night on all of them. They did it by discovering the single, authentic thread that connects their passions–that grand adventure which produced results in multiple areas of life through effort mainly on it.

Journeys (See also)

Journey–A mini-adventure to remove a constraint to the flow of good things from God through us to our unique audience. The Key here is that you’re doing it with God.

It’s going to seem like I’m completely reversing myself with this next part, but there’s a subtle yet important distinction between lifestyle design and taking journeys.

In order to discover our authentic path we need to take some journeys to explore some of the problems we notice in our life. So we are looking at the things in your life that you’re dissatisfied with and planning your pursuit of a solution.

I realize that I’ve been shouting from the rooftop not to use your circumstances to determine your actions and that’s true for how you live your life. What I’m saying is to prayerfully consider the areas of your life that aren’t reflecting the abundance God promised you and then sitting with God to ponder what the two of you are going to do about it.

sand-3325309_1920When you take a journey it’s experiential learning. When you learned to ride a bike you learned how to avoid falling down. You also lost some of your fear of falling down. You can gain several lessons from a simple skill building exercise. So how much can you learn by having God mentor you through an effort to move cities, lose weight, change jobs, or write a book?

What’s important here isn’t whether or not you succeed at any of the goals, it’s what the journey reveals about your authentic self, how God wants to relate to you and learning to see yourself through his eyes. A single journey could take years. Expect to fail several times along the way because any journey worth taking will reveal the deep issues holding you back.

Consider this: Every smoker has been told that cigarettes harm your body. They choose to smoke despite believing that it’s not good for them. If you loved yourself perfectly would you tolerate a habit that harms you? If you quit smoking do you think it might uncover a place in you where you don’t really love yourself?

I’m not trying to pick on smokers here. We all have self-destructive habits. Mine is unhealthy eating. At this point it’s not even about being physically fit anymore, I’m just angry that there’s someplace in my soul I hold God out of because if I let him in, his love would heal it. Why can’t I receive that healing? I don’t know yet, but I’m on a journey to find out.

The disease is always not receiving God’s love and accepting who he says we are. We’ve been masking the symptoms (or living with them), our whole lives. It’s time to pressure the symptoms until our flesh cries out at the place of brokenness.

We aren’t just looking for heart wounds when we journey. It can also reveal our adventure or our battle. It can repair our understanding of relationships with other people. It can reveal our true life’s calling. All these things come when we address the issues in our lives in relationship with God, instead of trying to fix the problems ourselves.

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4 Types of Journey

Heal a Wound:

In his groundbreaking book, “Wild at Heart” John Eldredge covers this topic far better than I can hope to reproduce. This is the single toughest topic for men to take on and it requires a level of vulnerability with yourself and God that is foreign to all but the most courageous of men.

In short, the words and actions of those we look up to as we’re growing up can place a mark on how we see ourselves, other human beings and God. Unless or until this shattering is healed a man walks through life broken hearted and unable to receive the full abundance God designed for him.

Gain Understanding:

Again from the book, “Wild at Heart,” there is always a lie that accompanies a wound. We get the wrong idea about the critical things in life. The message of the wound is that you, personally are unacceptable. It may be more subtle, like “you are a mistake,” “screw-up,” “a failure,” and so on, but it all adds up to be something we hate to hear and embrace. Some men live to prove that lie is false and others surrender to it, but either way, it becomes the defining reality that you accept about yourself.

The reality is that in Christ we are acceptable. When being justified and restored to relationship with God becomes the defining thing in our lives we can accept God’s larger-than-life opinion of who we are. We can walk forward with a whole heart. Even if you accept that this is true, it can take a journey to make this truth a part of your DNA.

Battle for Freedom:  (from addiction/etc.)

When wounds aren’t healed for a long time they become encased in scar tissue. We’ll call it the flesh. We achieve a state that’s no longer bleeding but not yet repaired. We treat the pain of wounded place by not looking at it, ever, under any circumstances. The pain of the wound continues and we’ll do anything to treat the pain–short of healing the wound.

It leads to chemical addiction, eating disorders, porn addictions, rage fits, and so on. Battling something in your life that you’ve learned to live with can expose a deep wound but it also creates lasting victory. When you dry out a drunk using a process like alcoholics anonymous you get someone who’s potentially less destructive to themselves and their world but still an alcoholic. They often relapse repeatedly or exchange one addiction for another. If you journey to the source of the addiction you can have a lasting victory.

Clarify your Identity/Relationship with God:

There’s something unique about every single human being. It’s the goal of your enemy to convince you that what sets you apart is actually what makes you a freak and unable to have deep relationships with others and God. It takes vulnerability to be in a relationship and if you see your superpowers and mutations you’ll pull back from offering your uniqueness to others. You’re left feeling rejected for the very things only you can contribute to the community around you.

We must take our identity from who God says we are because we’re built in his image. That means cultivating a trust in him because he’s going to have a vision of you that’s more glorious that we’re ready to accept. It takes a journey to remove the color-distorting glasses we’ve worn our whole lives and stand unapologetically in our full magnitude.

Primacy Back Matter

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Primacy Back Matter

Where we acknowledge those who’ve helped and provide additional resources to help you put this information to good use.

Glossary of Terms & Unique Definitions

Cleric– A person who pursues wisdom by adventuring with God, and sharing what he/she learns to help others.

Cleric Path–Living life in pursuit of wisdom & abundance instead of busyness through living inside out (an open flow of good things from God that transforms us and that we then share with our audience in our unique way.)

Community–has two levels; audience and Fellowship

Our Audience–the community of people we can minister to because of our unique expression of God’s glory into the world (requires healthy boundaries).

Fellowship/Rescue–Every man has people he needs to rely on and people he needs to come through for. We’re built to live in relationship, and the two key partnerships are spouse & family, and fellowship community of other men (our band of brothers). These are covenant relationships and require a deeper level of intimacy, vulnerability, and interdependence than other relationships.

Battle–There are two levels of battle; our personal daily struggle and the larger battle of our lives.

Daily Struggle–The enemy is the prince of the air. His goal is for us to agree with his interpretation of our circumstances and be so distracted that we live from outside in (our circumstances dictating actions instead of our standing.) Every day we must deliberately elevate our standing in Christ over the demands of the world (live inside out.)

Our Battle–Each man has a battle to fight that is his uniquely. It’s set against him and his war against it sets others free. (Mine is against busyness/overwhelm/fatigue.)

Adventure–Each man has an adventure with God. It’s a desire in his heart that he takes on with God at his side. (Mine is to the Cleric Path, learning how to receive Good, grow from it, and share it with my audience.)

Journey–A mini-adventure to remove a constraint to the flow of good things from God through us to our unique audience.

4 Streams–Healing, Counseling, Spiritual Warfare, Walking with God (constraints tend to be in one or more of these areas)

4 Types of Journey–Heal a wound, Gain Understanding, Battle for Freedom (from addiction/etc.), Clarify your Identity/Relationship with God

Constraint Theory–a system of management based on fluid dynamics pioneered by Eli Goldratt in which the output of a system is limited to the smallest throughput. It has inspired me because the Cleric Path is a flow of Good things from God to others through each Christian. Therefore, if I’m not having the abundant life I want and that God wants for me, then I have constraints in me I’m unaware of.

4 Major Types of Constraints (in a human life)–a Wounded in your Heart, a Confusion (about how things work or what it is), an addiction (physical and numbing pain instead of processing it with God), OR Doubting the Heart of God for you/doubting who you are in Christ.

 

Appendix A Humility: The Secret to Accelerated Learning

Appendix B The First Battle

Appendix C The Daily Battle

Thanks to All our Editors/Contributors

I’d like to thank Greg Zschomler for the prayer/encouragement & his awesome editing skills. Without him, this book wouldn’t exist.

My beautiful wife Kristin and my daughter Olivia have lived without me on many occasions so that I had time to work on this project. Their sacrifice amazes me.

 

This page under construction.

Expected update 4/23/2018

Back to Primacy Work in Progress (WIP) Page

Primacy Chapter 10

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Christians, I think, might fall into three big categories.

  1. Cultural Christians, who were raised that way and prefer to maintain that general philosophy to seeking their own path. They don’t see religion as urgently beneficial so they don’t engage with it.
  2. Religious Christians, who engage with their faith walk as a group endeavor; they attend church and small group, etc. –maybe even read the Bible for themselves as part of a study.
  3. Non-institutional Christians who are actually pursuing a personal relationship with God; who are turned off by formal religion so they constantly searching out resources to expand their study.

If you fall into category one, I’d like to point out that “not engaging” is a fancy way of saying “running from.” What would William Wallace say? “Run, and you’ll live, fight and you may die. But one day, as you lay dying in your bed, you’d give everything for one chance, just one chance, to come back here…” Apathy is just a passive-aggressive form of cowardice, and cowards are slaves.

If you fall into category two, enjoy the resources available to you. Know that if the people your sitting next to each week aren’t annoying you, you’re probably not doing it right. Avoid the temptation to find your safety in policy manuals, the latest techniques, and official doctrines. Invite God to be bigger and more personal than He is to you right now.

If you fall into category three, you aren’t alone. I love my church family but it’s my personal relationship with God that feeds my heart. We do need to engage with others in person and through reading ancient masters-though I’ve yet to find a verse that truly says we must attend a weekly church service. Without a professional class of pastor, you’re probably desperate for resources. I wrote this book to speak to the most important thing we must grasp if we’re to be mentored directly by God.

The Most Important Thing

the-pilgrims-trail-2441192_1280One of the goals in writing this book was to take the reader on a journey through what God’s sovereignty really means. It’s not a popular topic these days and hasn’t had a close examination in the last few decades.

Simply put, God’s sovereignty means God is bigger than we can imagine.  We must allow God to be big and to be in charge in our lives.

It sounds crazy, but the God who can do anything regularly limits His interaction with you to what He knows you can handle because you’ll simply reject anything that doesn’t seem comfortable or familiar. Well, the only way to go deeper, to have true abundance in our lives, is to throw off the shackles of our own understanding and let God be God.

For Example:

Say you want to conquer anxiety. We all experience a ridiculous amount of fear based on things that may or may not happen. Like so many things in life, fear has a place. If you’re climbing a cliff and you look down, a healthy respect for what will happen if you screw up should work to keep you focused on the task at hand.

sea-2224418_1280However, most of us are actually looking into the future and imagining what could go wrong. If you were God and someone did that, wouldn’t you be a little put-off? Like the conversation between God and I in the last chapter: If I really believe that God already has a plan in my circumstances and He loves me enough to give His life for me, then why am I stressing over how things are going to work out? Because I’m uninitiated.

Initiation a process and I’m still on that path. What I mean is that I don’t really know that I have what it takes. It’s common with men. Masculinity is bestowed on young men by their fathers. Our dad was great, but he sheltered me instead of helping me learn that I am prepared for what life will throw at me. “Wild at Heart” really helped me understand what was missing and turn to God to take over fathering me.

But the Promised Land is a Whole Other Level

But if we simplify it even more, my anxiety comes from doubting that God will come through for me. The Promised Land is a place I can’t go in my own strength. Part one is the miracle of leaving slavery. God delivers us from that through Christ’s sacrifice, which restores us to a place of intimate connection with God. Now I need Him to transform me into someone able to receive what He wants to give me.

Satan will constantly remind me of times that things in my life didn’t go perfectly as examples of God letting me down. I have a three-step process to combat these lies:

  1. Realize that I’m not qualified to know what went wrong or right from God’s perspective.
  2. Short-circuit the enemy by deciding that God is sovereign in my life and allowed to treat me any way He wants. (Fear not–He is Good!)
  3. Most importantly, take those memories to God and talk through them. Often, I’ll realize I’m glad it happened the way it did–eventually.

There’s a lot of potential for condemnation in how people fight these concerns in their own power even though the above methods are true and will work. The above methods are better for those who’ve been walking with God long enough to have begun to trust him.

The Beginners Method

If you’re still young in your walk with the Lord then this is a better way to think of it:

To whatever degree you do things that harm you, that’s the degree and place where you hate yourself.

I know, I know, you were hoping for a less condemning method, but follow along for a minute. If you believe God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present, then you must accept that He sees you clearly. If you believe that God IS love, then you must accept that He loves you. So the degree to which God’s image of you and your reality differ is the degree to which you don’t like yourself. The places you don’t receive His love are the places you’re holding His love at bay–either from wounding to your heart or demonic agreements about your identity.

God values you perfectly—enough to die for you. If you saw yourself from His eyes could you smoke? Could you overeat? Could you cheat on your spouse or drink until you puke?

I know we all sin, compulsively, but the only way to heal those things is to abandon your own thinking and accept God’s viewpoint. This is the heart of everything we’ve been talking about so far. If you don’t learn to trust God, how can you possibly accept His version of you? Without bringing His love and vision into your wounds how do you heal?

 

Understanding Our Predicament

So, what if the scary situation you are in is engineered by God because He knows how He built you? He knows you’re equipped to do it and He will do it with you so you can’t fail? And even if you do fail he can redeem it retroactively.

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There’s an awesome book called The Genesis Process that goes into this concept deeply. They call it the classic double-bind:

  • Addicts keep going back to their drug of choice.
  • Before that, they’re trying to resist but too tired to do so.
  • Before that, they’re angry because nothing’s working.
  • Before that, they’re super busy trying to outrun their feelings.
  • Before that, they’re afraid of making a decision.
  • And at the start of their relapse they’re simply faced with a decision that doesn’t have a good answer.

The authors call it the RFASTER scale. You can literally track where you’re at by how you’re feeling. You can ‘jump off the scale’ in a moment if you can identify the not-winnable decision and choose either option. God will fix it no matter what you choose, but generally, the right option is the one that builds your relationship with God or another person.

Which is worse, having a tough conversation with a spouse (who might leave you), or falling off the wagon? Drink that chocolate shake, or tell your boss (who could fire you) that you screwed up?

nature-3367316_1280The outcomes of living honestly and fearlessly in the image of God are often hard to live with. But your option is to continue to stick your head in the sand, hoping your situation resolves itself.

On the bright side, the penalties of God’s restored image in you are generally in places we’ve been mishandling for years. Seriously, when you change for the better the people who hate you seldom stop, and many of your “friends” will abandon you. But living a lie is exhausting and eventually, it’ll catch up with you in other ways.

Regardless of what type of Christianity you grew up in (1, 2, or 3) or are choosing to live now, the path of the Postmodern Cleric is about an authentic relationship with God and is the only path to abundance. When we bring God’s power over our identity we can become effective. We can achieve a breakthrough in areas where we have been a slave for decades.

So there you have it!

Your Promised Land will be a place of abiding. But we exist in a paradoxical state with a Spirit made alive through Christ’s death on the Cross and a body that’s dying from the moment it’s born. Trapped between the two is the battlefield of the Soul.

Our soul is broken and will not mend completely in this lifetime, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have more abundance. It’s about existing in a state of abiding, which is a topic for the next book, but don’t be discouraged if you only enter your Promised Land and then have to leave again. God arranges moments of perfection in this world, but learning to inhabit that land is a process.

The Paradox is Hell:

  • Are we to try for more in life? Do we want to pursue our purpose? Yes!
  • Are we to accept our lot in life, physical, mental, emotional wounds, economic challenges, relationship status and glorify God even when we can’t see how it will ever get better? Yes!

In order to survive that level of paradox, we must partner with God in making it all about Him.

  • Don’t let risk or fear make your decisions for you–ask for God’s will.
  • Don’t let pain distract you–declare God’s goodness.
  • Don’t let your situation interpret how God feels about you–ask Him how he feels about you and trust in His answers.

When God puts something on your list, do it. Actively seek his guidance but if He’s silent move out in faith because you’re not able to screw up so bad He can’t fix it. Nothing in life is more important than your connection with God, which is something you can’t lose. It is something around which you can stumble and not experience simply because you’ve never been told that it’s yours for the taking.

Think about the name, “Promised Land.” You can’t earn a gift, but you can reject a gift. You can’t make your Promised Land happen because it’s a gift through Christ. BUT your dependency doesn’t diminish after you receive it. God wants to give it to you and then live in it with you.

You can’t enter your Promised Land without knowing who he designed you to be, which is my topic for next book. But first remember, the only way to know who you are authentically is to draw intimately close to the one whose image you bear. That’s the Primacy of God, the Path of the Post-modern Cleric, and the key to abundance.

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Primacy Chapter 9

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I want to get to techniques I’ve used in my life to create the habit of putting God first. But as I ponder the topic I realize, as handy as they are, life’s not about techniques. I need to cover one piece of philosophy first, to put it in context and then expand our definition a bit.

First, the philosophy bit.

Every adventure in our lives is about deepening our connection to God. In the context of adventure, hardship is simply part of the escalating dramatic action.

If you woke up in a story instead of a life, what type of story would it be? A comedy? A tragedy? A romance? It’s all of the above and your story is actually one vital chapter in the story God is telling.

I know that statement can cause a deflated feeling depending on your perspective when you read it. I’ve often been annoyed by folks insisting that I’m not the hero of my own story. I’m not really saying that. God’s a big enough superhero that he surrounds himself with heroes. But you can read all about this in the awesome book “Wild at Heart.”

My point here is that your adventures, hardships, celebrations, and sorrows have only one point, and that’s to connect you intimately with God.

In paradise, we operated in a state of innocence. Our mistakes could be viewed by God the way we view a toddler who falls while learning to walk. But mankind left the intimate walk we had with God when sin entered the Garden of Eden. Sin separated us. One day we’ll be reunited, but Christ’s heroic sacrifice created an atmosphere of GRACE.  God can from now on ignore the separation and work with us as if it never happened.

Yet, somehow, it’s surprising that a God who’s suffered a terrible separation from us would focus on reconnecting.

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Here’s a typical conversation between God and I:

Sir Bunch: “Dad, you know I just lost one of my jobs. What am I to replace it with?”
God: “Have you tried the new almond M&Ms?”
Sir Bunch: “Once, I think. I need you to focus on what I’m struggling with. I’ll need to start working soon or I can’t provide for my family.”
God: “Since you have the day off, why don’t you buy some M&Ms and go to the park?”
Sir Bunch: “God I don’t really have the day off, I’m out of work. I’m really stressing here.”
God: “Why are you stressing?”
Sir Bunch: “Because I don’t have a job!”
God: “And you want me to help because you believe I’m powerful enough to help?”
Sir Bunch: “Yes.”
God: “Do you believe that I love you enough to give my son’s life in exchange for yours?”
Sir Bunch: “Yes, of course.”
God: “Do you believe I already have a plan to help you?”
Sir Bunch: “Well, I guess I do.”
God: “Would you like to hear it?”
Sir Bunch: “Very much.”
God: “Then come eat M&M’s in the park with me today.”

And so on. God doesn’t stress over our “problems” and neither should we. The story Jesus gave us on the topic is the Prodigal Son. God is saying, “Yes you screwed up, I want you back more than I want to be angry about it.”

Expanded Definition

With that context in mind, we need to expand our definition of what it means to put Him first. We need to think of all the places in our lives that He can be elevated–and that’s in every area.

Anything that can be managed, like money, time, energy, relationships, a household, a business, and so on. We can sit down with a pen and paper and brainstorm ways to subjugate those things to God. It’s a fun exercise.

What would it look like to put God first in your money? This gets a lot of talk time in many churches because of tithing. I’m going to suggest that whether you start with money, or time, or your marriage, or whatever, something will come against that decision instantly. So pick an area that you can handle getting emotionally hammered.

money-2724245_1920Let God guide you in choosing your battles. Let God guide you in what and how to be faithful there. Maybe it’s not 10% of your money to start. Maybe it’s 5% and the challenge isn’t setting it aside, it’s finding the right place to give it. What do you do when God tells you to give 5% of your paycheck to that homeless person on the side of the road? Would that be a place you and God would need to have a discussion? Would that conversation probably bring you closer to God? That’s the whole goal of life. Nothing is more important than drawing closer to God. NOTHING!

Drawing Closer vs Experiencing God

That’s not to be confused with experiencing his presence. I’m a big fan of soaking in God’s presence, but just because you aren’t feeling God at the moment doesn’t mean He’s not there. The reality is that God is everywhere. (Bill Jastram wrote a great book on this topic.)

My point, and I’ll come back to this in Chapter 10, is that God can be trusted to mentor you. He takes responsibility for your friendship. We can trust him to look after our physical needs and also to be kind when we screw up, repeatedly. He isn’t tapping His foot waiting for you to figure it out. He’s eager for you to engage in the process of growing up with Him.

So, while this book focuses on the need to put God first, and I’ll now suggest a few ways to put that into practice, I don’t want to be condemning in any way.

That’s what I see happen over and again in my own life. I figure out a way to be holier, or God reveals an awesome truth, and I’ll circle it to the exclusion of everything else (including being responsive to God). If I operate from a place of shame or try to do it in my own strength, I burn out. I need permission to not be perfect yet in order to grow toward it. (2 Cor. 3:18)

Grace is a State we Abide in

I do this because I struggle to accept that God created Grace so that He’s free to interact with me as though I haven’t screwed up, even while I’m constantly screwing up. He doesn’t make me a better man for the purpose of making me acceptable, He does it because growth is a by-product of relationship with Him and we both want me to grow.

“Grace isn’t undeserved favor because Jesus isn’t undeserving.” Graham Cooke

Well-meaning Christians used to say things like, “you’re a terrible sinner who’ll never be free from needing God’s forgiveness. You should become better, but you’ll never become perfect.”

As true as it technically is, I prefer God’s way of stating it. I’m going to transform you from glory to glory. You’re going to go from needing grace to needing grace. Yes! But along the way, we get to journey with God. The focus is not on me improving, it’s about me being with God and doing something–together.

The Recklessness of Grace

Here’s the crazy extent to which God has taken this with me. I once complained about my progress and He said I wasn’t qualified to judge myself. Really? Yes. I’m not in a position to even know how good I’m doing.

The Bible says we don’t even know what to pray (Romans 8:26). I think this is in reference to the same issue. We often pray for release from a circumstance engineered by God to bless us. We stand in judgment of the world around us and are often hardest on those who fail right in the same place we struggle, yet God says we’re not qualified to judge.

This blew my mind (you can probably tell). I can spend a good amount of my days feeling bad about what I don’t get done. Feeling powerless. Repeating mistakes. Then God says, “if you saw you through my eyes you’d be very impressed.”

Well, there’s a couple reasons for that. Chiefly, that He sees us in Christ, so the sin is erased and what remains is immaturity.

We throw tantrums because we don’t get our way when that’d be the worst thing for us. God doesn’t get angry when we fall down because we’re just learning to walk. He doesn’t see what’s wrong, only what’s missing.

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Ways to Put God First

Now I’m going to list some ways to put God first, but please swear to me you won’t make a religion out of these. This isn’t a list to get through, it’s a list of potential ideas to inspire you to make your own list. When you make your list don’t make a religion out of that either. And don’t condemn yourself when you fail at any of this, you’re not capable of knowing what you actually accomplished or not.

Starting with Biblical ideas:

  • Old Testament law required 1/10th of your increase and 1/7th of your time.
  • Micah 6:8 suggests that you “Do justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly…”
  • Ephesians 6:10-18 recommends “putting on the whole armor of God…”
  • Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus put it as “loving God above all and your neighbor as yourself.”

Ways I’ve tried to put God 1st:

  1. There’s a First 5 movement. I haven’t taken part in a formal first 5 group challenge, but I follow the basic premise of praying the moment you wake up. I love the half-awake state of mind when you can just snuggle in and listen to God. It helps to ponder something with God right before going to sleep and pray that you’ll dream about it. (I have to say the downside was that I generally need to pee within a few minutes of waking.)
  2. Writing Morning Pages. I’ve tried a dozen times to be a journal keeper, but I never stuck with it. If you get a chance to read the book, “The Artists Way.” Julia Cameron describes free-writing three pages every morning to clear your mind and gain focus. She’s not writing a Christian targeted book and she’s ascribing magical properties to the simple process of journaling, but I’ve really enjoyed making this “decluttering process” part of my morning with God.
  3. Ponder Walking is my own invention (if you can call it that). It’s literally walking with God. Whenever I hit a roadblock of any nature I leave what I’m doing and walk around the parking lot or neighborhood and have a conversation with God. The goal is to consult God before attempting to resolve my problems.
  4. Fasting, or go on a radical diet or workout routine. I recommend the “Virgin Diet.” It eliminates everything.

Fasting? Really?

The point of fasting is to two-fold. First, by not eating put your body back in its place. Our bodies tend to be like a toddler, it wants what it wants and demands it until we give in or give it a firm, NO! By simply denying your hunger for a set amount of time you declare to your body that it’s not in charge–that the spirit is more important. That you don’t live by bread alone, but by your walk with God.

The second reason to fast is to remove distractions. You can fast from anything. TV is a good one, especially the news.

Idle chit-chat is another. You don’t have to take a vow of silence; you can simply decide to answer truthfully to any question you decide to answer. In that way, you avoid small talk and sponsor actual conversations with people. It will also annoy people but hey, you’re probably already annoying someone, it’s not the end of the world.sea-2777839_1920

I recommend fasting from gossip. God hates gossip because it means you see a problem, and instead of helping you just talk about it to someone else that isn’t going to help.

My favorite fast is not feed myself for a day. Basically, I won’t bring food with me, ask for it, or turn it down. If God wants food in my belly then He will provide it. This is a crazy good way to foster your relationship with God no matter what happens.

Another type of fast is to take on something you aren’t sure you can do. Men, in particular, will stick to things they’re good at. So do something you’d like to do at which you may very well fail. Try to write a book in a month. Try to run a marathon. Try to learn a foreign language. Get up an hour early every day and write letters to people you haven’t spoken to in a long time. Tell them God loves them or just offer encouragement.

D.A.w.G. Days (Day Alone with God)–This is a great one. Take a day and go out into the wilderness with God. Read the scriptures, journal, pray. That’s it. Here’s a link to good information on the topic from Boot Camp NW.

Well, there you have it. A short list. My list. There’s a lot more you could do if you think about it. Be sure to contact me through my website (https://sirbunch.com/) and let me know if you try these or think of a new one.

 

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