“It’s Not About Changing God’s Mind”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

You may like to read posts and articles where the author says, “Here is some new knowledge for you. This is the way things are.” This is not going to be one of those. It is just going to be mostly some “What if” statements as my way of thinking through some things. (You may have already figured these things out. I’m still working on them.)
What if we don’t look at the Cross of Christ as a “keeping law and order” kind of legal transaction?

I ask this because I’m thinking that whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “You have made God hate you, and God is going to make you pay for what you’ve done. Too bad you’re not like other children that God loves. You just wait.”

What if we stop thinking like this? “When you sin, God gets angry, the gun of execution is loaded and cocked. Somebody has got to die. It’s either going to be Jesus or you.”

I ask this because I’m thinking whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “It’s a good thing that God had Jesus killed so that He can change His mind about you. It was either going to be Jesus or you.”

What if we start thinking like this? “God the Father never stopped loving humanity. Nor did He need to separate from, turn His back on, and kill God the Son to start loving humanity again.”

What if we stopped thinking of baptism as “an initiation ritual” and started living it out as “a spiritual reality”?

That truly seems to have been Paul’s perspective.

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20 (NASB)

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4 (NASB)

What if in God the Father’s eyes, He saw Jesus and you and me altogether on the Cross? What if in God the Father’s eyes, He saw Jesus and you and me altogether leaving the tomb? How do we live that out right here and now?

What if the good we now do is because we really have a new life in Christ rather than a guilty obligation? (It’s an obligation we feel because Jesus “took the bullets with our names on them”?)

What if after we say “Somebody has got to die,” we don’t say “It’s either going to be Jesus OR us”? What if instead we say “It’s ALREADY BEEN Jesus AND us”? How do we live that out right here and now?

“It’s Not About Prosperity Of Things”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Why do I think “Seed Faith”and “The Prosperity Gospel” fail to represent the Gospel that Jesus preached? I think this partly because there are impoverished children in the world who have nothing, absolutely nothing to give to God or anyone else. No food. Not even a rag to cover their nakedness.

I believe that the Gospel that Jesus preached must be the same for anyone anywhere.

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting and impoverished child, “Once you know Jesus, give to Him and He will give back to you ten times as much, a hundred times as much, even a thousand times as much!”

There are children in the world who do have something, but the culture or society in which they live is not set up for material gain. They are only exchanging one scrap of spoiled food for another, one rag for another.

Whatever the Gospel is…it can’t tell an impoverished child, “Get prosperity! Give to God and He will give even more back to you! As soon as you get anything valuable put it in God’s bank and collect your reward!”

Eventually the impoverished child may begin to doubt that they know Jesus because they have nothing to give Him and no way of getting anything back in return.

Yet God can give each of us anywhere in the world, impoverished or not, seeds of kindness and goodness and peace that we can plant in the lives of other people and reap a harvest of those same things for ourselves.

Therein is found prosperity of heart.

“It’s Not About Giving Up Teddy Bears”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Not everyone has a carefree childhood. Some people have a harsh and brutal childhood. Inside every hurting adult is almost always a hurting child.

This is why I think that in order for the Gospel of Jesus to have something to say to that hurting adult, it must first have something to say to that hurting child hidden deep inside.

Addictions are things we hold on to in order to not feel the hurt so intensely.

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child (or addicted adult), “Get over it. Everybody has hurts. It doesn’t matter that it’s the only thing that has ever helped ease your pain. You can’t call yourself a Christian until you give that up. You can’t inherit the Kingdom of God until you stop it.”

A hurting child can’t see beyond what they know will help the hurt, even if only a little. They may be offered the most wonderful things possible that would ease and heal that hurt, a whole pile of gifts under the Christmas tree even, but they will not give up their ragged and tear-stained teddy bear because that is what eases the hurt. It’s what they know. It’s what they trust.

The hurting child grows up to be a hurting adult, and the teddy bear gets replaced by alcohol or drugs or tobacco or sex or gambling or food (too much, too little) or rage…and on and on…

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “Give that up! Jesus has so much more for you once you give that up! You have to give that up first!”

Eventually the hurt child may begin to think that God only cares about what other people see, and not about the hurt that is getting buried and hidden even deeper inside.

Jesus knows about healing us and about replacing the things that we hold on to that ease the pain. It takes trust, and trust takes relationship and time. Sadly, sometimes time runs out, but never the love and grace of Jesus.

“It’s Not About Because God Sort Of Has To”

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The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting and lonely child, “God might, just might, love you because He sort of has to, but you don’t deserve to be loved or to have any friends.”

But God doesn’t “sort of have to” do anything. He is God after all, but there’s more to it than that. Whatever He does it’s because of who He is, He just can’t do anything differently, even if He tried. There is no “sort of” to His love.

I’m not sure if we can totally understand this kind of love, a love that has no other option but to love with unlimited expanding intensity. Words explain in part, but it must be experienced for a fuller understanding.

Hurting children ask some tough questions about God as Heavenly Father. Hurting grown ups do too. Often these questions can come from a comparison that is made to an earthly father.

But earthly fathers can do things differently. They do have choices. They can choose to NOT “sort of have to love” AT ALL.

They can make you feel like you need to earn their love. They can refuse to have any time for you to do things with you like what a friend would do. They can even make you wish that you had never been born.

Whatever The Gospel is…it must not be based on something God feels obligated to do or about something that you must make God want to do. It must be about adding more onto something that you already always had.

“It’s Not About Conforming”

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The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the gospel is, it must have a message to both worlds.

The New Testament tells us that Jesus went about “preaching the gospel” and telling people to “believe the gospel.”

But what was that message? And what does it have to say to hurting children?

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting and bullied child, “It’s your own fault. You brought this on yourself. Stop being so different. You have to fit in before we can accept you and we aren’t going to stop knocking you down until you change to be like us! Even then maybe not!”

Please don’t misunderstand, there must be a “conforming” aspect to the Gospel, but it is not a requirement to be accepted, nor is it something that we are able to do for ourselves.

And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NRSV)

Any transformation we need will come from the Lord, the Spirit, but first we must see the glory of Jesus.

We cannot see Him when we are focused on messages such as “You must be like us before we welcome you, and even then maybe not because we remember who you really are.” (This is tue both for those sending this type of message and for those protecting themselves from this type of message.)

Whatever The Gospel is…it must be welcoming enough for a bullied child to feel loved just as they are without pressure to conform and change in order to be accepted, or eventually that bullied child may begin to see God as the biggest bully ever.

If you might consider yourself a “Church Outsider,” please know that there are churches that don’t have a list of all the things that you must and must not be, must and must not do. There are churches which will meet you exactly where you are and even offer to walk with you wherever Jesus leads.