What is biblical meditation?

“Through meditation we can let the words of Jesus descend from our minds into our hearts and create there a dwelling place for the Spirit. Whatever we do and wherever we go, let us stay close to the words of Jesus. They are words of eternal life.” — Henri J. M. Nouwen

Meditation is used to describe a variety of exercises, behaviors and activities for the person seeking to grow their spiritual or inner life. We hear the extremes when meditation is being described, which go from thinking about nothing and clearing your mind to filling your mind with spiritual words and the writings and quotes from the Bible and other books considered sacred for us. One could say that it is a combination of clearing our minds of the clutter of the mundane messages regarding cleaning products and automobiles so that we can focus on the truths from God that apply to all of life. As Henri Nouwen describes in the quote above, “through meditation we can let the words of Jesus descend from our minds into our hearts.” That is the goal of our times of daily reflection with the scriptures in this book.

It is as if we want to allow God’s words to go from the reading to the transformation of our thinking and acting. For truths to affect our wills, we have to contemplate meaning, truthfulness, applicability and outcomes. We may ask ourselves questions that address all of these topics. Questions like, what does this mean? What happens if I do this? What will be the results if I act on this principle?

Jesus spent time daily in prayer to His Father. Jesus often said that He was only doing what the Father had told Him to do. It was as if Jesus checked in constantly to see how His activities were matching up with what the Father and Spirit wanted Him to teach and do. Observing this daily habit of Jesus, led Nouwen to say that solitude — being alone with God — was the furnace for change. We connect to God through the Bible. We hear His words as we read and think about all that He has done for us as we meditate on His words. All of this leads us to change how we think and act. Otherwise, we have no truth coming into our lives. Jesus needed a daily time alone with the Father. Are we any different? Are we just as needy?

God gives us instruction as far back as Genesis concerning the need to meditate, but the book of Joshua is perhaps the most specific and simple concerning the absolute necessity of meditation.

“This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Joshua 1:8 ESV)

If this were the only thing that God ever said about meditating on Scripture, it would be enough. It is quite clear that if we want to experience success in life — according to God’s economy — then we need to meditate on the laws of God. That was Jesus’s pattern and it was the Lord’s clear instruction for Joshua. Of course, the Psalms of David are full of promises regarding meditation. In fact, when David thinks about preparations for war, he chooses meditating on God’s truth instead of developing battle strategies. He says, “Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your statutes.” (Psalm 119:23 ESV)

Let us join together, then, daily to listen to God’s wondrous works and allow them to change our minds and hearts as we ponder, answer questions and think about how to go forward in love!

— From my forthcoming book, “Heart Journey: Going Forward in Love” due to be published in December, 2017.

Repentance in a Culture of Analysis & Why We Struggle to Reunite with God

Fast Repentance: Peyton Manning, Taylor Swift & Jesus: Repentance in a Culture of Analysis and Why We Struggle to Reunite with God by Jimmy Locklear
Fast Repentance: Peyton Manning, Taylor Swift & Jesus: Repentance in a Culture of Analysis and Why We Struggle to Reunite with God
by Jimmy Locklear
Link: http://a.co/fGZ9HLd

One of my goals for the new year was to learn to publish on the Kindle Direct Publishing platform. After publishing a small book on the prayers of Jesus from the gospels, my son Jameson suggested that I publish a book a month. After thinking about it, I decided I loved the idea. I’m not the best at publishing a regular blog, but many of the topics I’ve written about in the past are themes that I’ve continued to research and think about and live by as time passes. So, I decided to re-visit some of those and see if there wasn’t more that I could share from my readings and experiences. The Fast Repentance essay I wrote in July of 2015 was one that received a great deal of positive feedback regarding looking at Jesus instead of dwelling on our sin and shortcomings. It has a catchy title, too!

So, I’ve added a handful of additional essays and pulled them together for my February publication. You can preview the book here: 

Hope it is a help and encouragement to you.

Simple, Direct and From the Heart

Simple, Direct & From the Heart: The Prayers of Jesus: A Seven-Day Journey by Jimmy Locklear
Simple, Direct & From the Heart: The Prayers of Jesus: A Seven-Day Journey
by Jimmy Locklear
Link: http://a.co/amhK59t

For over two years, I’ve used the prayers of Jesus from the gospels to guide and enliven my relationship with God. I spent a lot of time looking at Jesus’s teaching and relating to folks four years ago while writing Heart Journey. I was consistently struck by the simplicity of his conversations with his Father. Later while working on prayer and fasting guide for my church I began to collect my reflections on the places in Scripture where we are told or shown that Jesus was praying. In some cases, we read what he said and in others we only know the place or time of day or circumstances of his prayers. I was so heartened by his example for us. And he was so emphatic about keeping our prayers simple and speaking directly from our hearts realizing that our Heavenly Father already knows our needs. 

So, twice my church’s prayer team had provided these prayers of Jesus for use by our community. I decided to change the format a bit and include seven of Jesus’s prayers in a small booklet as a way to help us increase our commitment to spending time alone with God. I had been wanting to publish a book on the Amazon Kindle Platform and this manuscript gave me that opportunity. It has been a very positive experience and a way to help a wider circle of people in their spiritual journey. There are a few more prayers that could make up a sequel booklet, and I’m also working on a booklet on repentance, too. The most popular blog post, by far, that I posted over the past two years has been on repentance and our response to grace after we sin. 

Because you have been an encourager to me, I wanted you to know about this latest little project. Here’s the link where you can find Simple, Direct & From the Heart: The Prayers of Jesus. It is only available as an ebook currently, but I’m considering having print on-demand available in the future.

I’ll leave you with the invitation given to us by our 14th Century sister Julian of Norwich who wrote: Our good Lord revealed that it is greatly pleasing to him that a simple soul should come naked, openly and familiarly. For this is the loving yearning of the soul through the touch of the Holy Spirit. 

In a day when we want to belong and to feel safe, may we accept the calling of Jesus. 

“We want information, God wants a conversation.” – Samuel Williamson

51nbnmeipgl-_sx322_bo1204203200_Over the years, I’ve read many books on prayer and meditation. I’ve been very selective in my choices of books to actually spend time with and apply to my relationship with God and my devotional life. There are only a few books on the topic of prayer and talking with God that I would recommend to anybody. And most of the books with which I’ve resonated were written by monks, priests and ancient contemplatives. So, for me to actually review and recommend a book by a contemporary layperson is a rarity!

Recently, I was asked to review a new book by Samuel C. Williamson (Hearing God in Conversation: How to Recognize His Voice Everywhere from Kregel Publications, 2016, Grand Rapids, MI) on listening to God and seeing our prayers as a dialogue instead of a monologue. I was skeptical because I don’t know Mr. Williamson and for the reasons I mentioned above, but the book was endorsed by Eugene Peterson someone for whom I have great respect. I decided to take a closer look and what I found was just the kind of book I would write on the subject of developing a deeper relationship with God and learning to listen to God’s voice every day.

Williamson’s book is anecdotal, but it comes from a man whose faith is based on a Biblical and theologically orthodox foundation. So, his experiences are filtered through the doctrines of the historical Christian faith. Therefore, I can heartily recommend the chapters of this book to anyone who wants to grow closer to their Creator and Lord. In fact, chapters 4, 5 and 6 are particularly of value to new or young Christians who want to understand the place of Scripture in their daily lives and how they might structure a devotional life.

But this is not a book about form and structure, but about learning that we are free to follow Jesus to where he wants to take us and that we can be free in what we ask him as we would our closest of friends. Williamson writes, “We are involved in a divine dialogue.” The authenticity of the author’s desire to share his experience of the relational nature of God’s personality and character rang true, as did his desire to help others open their hearts to the divine conversation. The book is very appealing at this level.

Williamson also speaks clearly regarding our motives and how misguided our desire for guidance can be. “If we want to hear God in the storm, let’s first learn to hear his voice in the calm,” he writes. And, again, in chapter 1, he peals back our self-centeredness, “We want information; God wants a conversation.”

I found the writer’s questions regarding our presuppositions to be extremely helpful in plowing the ground of our own hearts concerning prayer. “What if God wants to converse with us more than he wants to direct us?” Williamson asks us.

Does that kind of question scare you? Or does that question point out how valuable you are to God? In my own experience, it was several years ago when I came to God with open and empty hands that I found his presence most welcoming and comforting. Williamson offers us help, “It’s not that God doesn’t want to answer our questions. He does. But our obsession with them deafens us to his message. The restrictive nature of our questions limits our ability to recognize God’s voice;” he writes.

As you can see, there is a lot to recommend about this book. In closing my review I want to mention a couple of other things that I really appreciated in reading it and a suggestion that I would make if you choose to read it. I loved that many of Williamson’s illustrations and stories were from his business, family and church experiences. He didn’t compartmentalize his experience of God to one area of his life. Secondly, he offers a broad range of resources and other voices to reinforce and support his convictions and suggestions. And, finally, my suggestion is that you don’t have to read the whole book before you start implementing some of the truths taught here. In fact, I’d suggest that you put the book down from time to time (or close your Kindle if you read like I do) and put into practice something that has struck you as helpful or interesting. —- Jimmy Locklear

________________________________________________________________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the author and/or publisher through the Speakeasy blogging book review network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR,Part 255.

 

 

What do we learn when we suffer?

One of the most common questions that people of faith ask when they are going through illness, suffering or a hard time is: What is God trying to teach me?

We know that Jesus learned or experienced obedience through suffering. The writer of the letter to the scattered Hebrew people of faith told us that during the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions, as a good pastor would, with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save him from death and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son that he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Ref. Hebrews 5)

Obedience has a cost. Yet, the price we pay can have an even greater result. Henri Nouwen wrote that the pain and struggle that Jesus became part of and experienced himself, especially on the cross, made him listen more perfectly to the Father’s voice. Before coming to earth, we might say that Jesus knew obedience in a theoretical sense, but while here he experienced the concreteness of obedience.

There is a type of identification with suffering that makes us more humble. If we continue in health and material wealth, our ears become dull to the Spirit’s calling us to serve and follow the voice of God. Our faith is not tested and we don’t allow the Spirit’s work to break through our daily routine. Instead, we see ourselves as sufficient. We don’t listen for help and, more tragically, we don’t ask for help. In my times of suffering and pain, I came to understand that there were two steps to restoration and wholeness. I had to admit my weakness and ask for help. Using those two steps were how I learned obedience and continue to learn obedience. Pain forces me to submission and submission leads to freedom and wholeness, at least to a spiritual wholeness or what we read in Hebrews as perfection. Submission and obedience restore me to that proper relationship to God as a child to parent or creature to creator. Yes, good health and riches make my obedience harder to learn. Even for some of us, it might be impossible to learn.

Maturity comes when we grow in obedience and humility to a place where join the missionary Paul in being content in whatever circumstances we are in. Riches and poverty become equals in the heart of a mature follower of Jesus.

So, I welcome all experiences of good or ill because I know that in both I have the opportunity to grow in obedience and to prove my obedience.

“That’s just my cross to bear,” she said sadly.

Do you have to carry a cross, if you’re not following Jesus? And what is my cross anyway?

“That’s just my cross to bear,” said the suffering traveler. You’ve probably heard this from a variety of people in difficult situations. You may have been told that some challenge or illness or poverty is “just your cross to bear.” What is this metaphorical cross? And why does everyone have one? It seems to be central in the teaching of Jesus, as he called it a prerequisite for being his disciple, but what exactly is it?

Whether you are reading the biographical accounts of Jesus written by Matthew, Mark or Luke, eventually you will come across this direct demand from the Nazarene Jesus. It goes something like this, Jesus told his disciples, “if anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” In the Matthew 16 account, Jesus goes on to talk about the trade off of gaining the world while losing your soul and what is a soul really worth. So, we are left with the question of losing the world, but gaining our souls. That seems a fair prospect, but Jesus goes on to sweeten the pot by saying that he and his angels will come in the glory of the Father and “repay each person according to what he has done.” This is remarkable in its specificity – each person – as well as in the offer, which appears to be very generous.

Recently, I wrote this in my journal:

I am going through a sobering time of seeing, again, how slim our resources are and how anxious and fearful I can become. I remember that in 2007 our situation seemed even worse. Certainly, I felt more helpless and hopeless then. I can see now that health and financial challenges are my cross to bear.

As I wrote this, the Spirit nudged me with the questions of how do you know what your cross is and what was Jesus talking about when he called you to take up your cross? I took a step back and began to reflect more deeply.

Jesus was teaching his followers a very important principle related to both the deep religion of following him and a lesson in balance between the spiritual and material world. He did this often in responding to temptations of things like food versus spiritual food. “Man does not live by bread alone,” Jesus said. Of course, this is a bit confusing and disturbing because we do need food to live and, yet, Jesus tells us that that is not enough. This is where a sense of humility and naivetè comes into the picture. Jesus asks us to step out of the norm and accepted and apply his spiritual instruction to our physical and material lives.

Shortly after this teaching, Jesus broke through the physical with the spiritual reality of his identity as the Bright and Morning Star as he was transfigured and “his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.” This experience illustrated that the line between the physical and spiritual is a narrow space.

Let’s go back to Jesus’ description of what it takes to be his disciple. In Matthew 16:24ff, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

What is your cross? What was Jesus’ cross? What do we know for sure? Jesus’ cross was, in fact, a real wooden cross that he carried to the Hill of Death. He later hung on that cross and uttered that his mission and calling was finished. So, for Jesus, his cross, both actual and metaphorical, represented his mission, calling, purpose and vocation. It was the reason he came to earth. It is the single greatest symbol of redemption and hope that we have in the world. And it is a symbol of pain, suffering and execution.

For Jesus, perhaps, it was both a burden and a passion. Maybe it was more a passion than a burden, then more a burden than a passion. He was the only one who could carry his cross and I suspect that you are the only one who can carry your cross. And while it does require self-denial and work, there is a joy and sense of calling present that we have been missing – that I have been missing.

Jesus talks about “losing your life for Him.” The primary way I’ve seen that applied is through our giving up our ambitions and goals and taking on his ambitions and goals: the cross. We have to ask Jesus and our community of faith to help us understand what that means. As Jesus pointed out earlier, our reward is specific and our cross is specific. Only I can carry my cross. I have a part to play that is mine and mine alone. This is what Jesus knows is best for his mission and the best for us. We have limited our interpretation or application of this calling by focusing on an aspect of suffering or difficulty when, I believe the Spirit wanted me to see, Jesus was talking about something larger and all encompassing.

Jesus’ deepest calling was to creation, restoration and glory. And doing those with the Father and the Holy Spirit. While on earth, he paid particular attention to following the words he heard from his father. In the same way, we are to pay particular attention to the words of Jesus. We are called to follow Jesus. And we are called to carry a cross that might include sacrifice and difficulty, but also purpose and fulfillment. But you don’t have to carry a cross if you don’t want to follow Jesus.

Postscript

And what about my cross? I’ve learned that it is much more than my health struggles and my financial scarcities. It is my desire for you to know the depth and breadth of God’s love for you and the nearness of God to you. It is my passion to write and my passion to see families in love with each other. It is my submission and willingness to be naïve when it comes to following the teachings of Jesus. It’s all my stuff, too. It’s me.

The Intensity of Love

In April, I shared about the Intentionality of Love and today I’ve been reflecting on the Intensity of Love. This sprung from some reflections on Jesus’ reply about what is most important. What is the “One Thing” to use the vernacular of Curly in the movie “City Slickers.”

The Intensity of Love

“… as yourself.”

One of the more challenging and perhaps misunderstood, but often quoted sayings of Jesus was the reminder that we love God, love our neighbors and love ourselves. (Matthew 22:37-39) The common interpretations are around the sequence, which purports to be the key to a humble life, if not a loving one. The common application goes something like this: If we put God first, others second and ourselves last, then we will be a loving person. Lately, my interpretation or application is more about intensity and purpose than sequence.

If we love God will all of heart, soul and mind (or our will, worship, emotion and intellect), then we develop the capacity of understanding that God loves us so much that he is accomplishing his will by loving us and he can, in turn, use us to accomplish his will. That is, that we can love our neighbors and realize our place in God’s heart.

St. Bernard of Clairvaux describes as the highest degree of love the love of our selves for God’s sake.

When we get to the point that we realize, accept and rest in the knowledge that God is accomplishing his own vision and purpose by loving us, it seems impossible to not experience a heightened degree of love for ourselves. Of course, our own patterns of selfishness and self-indulgence can keep us from living the love that we desire to express, but our intense love for God and his purposes empowers us to love our families, co-workers, and neighbors. Transformation takes place as we focus on loving and pleasing God. By listening to God we are drawn to his heart, which is a heart overflowing with love for all of his children. Do you see how that overflowing could even flood our hearts, souls and minds to the point that we love all of his children, too?

When Jesus said that the second commandment was like the first, it was not so much a simile as it was a literal connection. It’s not that the two are about love, but that they are both about God’s heart. They are like each other in intensity and connection to God’s purpose.

Put simply, start with focusing on God’s love for you. Put on the love as an oxygen mask and be engulfed in the overflowing rush of God’s purpose that you are inextricably a part of. Receive God’s love and let it flow through your heart to Him, your neighbor and yourself.

Much ado about Presence! How to be fully present to those you love

One of the most common desires that a growing number of Christians express when talking about family and close relationships is to be “fully present.” We have learned of this interpersonal dynamic through the speaking and writing of spiritual and faith leaders, especially those who combine a bit of psychology with their spirituality and theology. Nationally and internationally, we have heard of this disposition from people like David Benner, Henri Nouwen, John Eldredge, Richard Rohr, Jean Vanier and Thomas Merton. And regionally we have heard presence advocated by folks like Larry Bolden, Basil Pennington and others.

Like many ideals presented to us, we begin to aspire to and share these concepts with others and express them in our conversations. Unfortunately, for many of us, the actual meaning and practice of something like being fully present can become foggy. What exactly am I trying to become? What does this look like? We need a refresher course or cheat sheet for how we want to change and become more attentive in our relationships. So, let us begin!

First, I have to say that this will be a simplification of the process that leads to our ability to be fully present or to have presence. The church reformer John Calvin wrote in The Institutes of the Christian Religion: “There is no deep knowing of God without a deep knowing of self and no deep knowing of self without a deep knowing of God.” And even earlier, St. Augustine prayed, “Grant, Lord, that I may know myself that I may know thee.” So, we are on a journey in knowing God and knowing ourselves and as we continue on that journey and are diligent in our attempts at being present, we will experience greater freedom in fully being ourselves and fully being open to others. This openness is one of the fundamentals of presence.

Benner wrote, “Presence is a gift, but it is also a practice;” in his book Soulful Spirituality (p. 154). This leads us to ask God for the motivation and understanding to grow in our presence. While, at the same time, consciously putting ourselves into situations where we can develop an inner stillness. We need a stillness of our souls or our hearts in order to be present. God has planted the seeds of stillness in our hearts by giving us grace, forgiveness, the promise of his presence from now to eternity and we have seen the demonstration of his love through the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus. How shall we cultivate those seeds?

IMG_0541Times of stillness and quiet are foundational for being able to be fully present. “One of the reasons most of us are limited in our ability to be present to others and ourselves is that we possess so little inner stillness. We are too full to be truly still – full of distractions, preoccupations, plans, worries, regrets, things that need to be rehearsed, and things that need to be reviewed.” (Benner, p. 146) I have found this to be true in my life, too. In fact, almost nothing has served to transform me more than times in stillness with the Holy Spirit. Nouwen called solitude the furnace of transformation. As we come to God with open and empty hands, we are signifying our dependence and desire to remove distractions. I believe this was the practice of Jesus during his years on earth and that he calls us to the same. In Luke 10 we read the story of Jesus visiting again with his good friends and calling Martha to presence, which was the one thing that she was lacking:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (NIV)

Have you ever felt like Martha? There is so much to be done and we feel like we have to do it! Yet, Jesus calls us to just one thing: to be present with him.

So, the first suggestion on cultivating the seeds of presence is to give yourself 20 minutes of stillness a day. I have a place in my home where I can sit down and become still and alone. Initially, a few years ago, this was the place where I would sit and cry and say to God that I didn’t know what was going to happen. I told the Lord that I felt like everything was falling a part and I didn’t know what to do. So, your stillness may start in chaos, but don’t give up. As thoughts come into your mind, respond by giving them to God. You may want to say, “Lord, this is yours. Father, take this away. Jesus, I release this to you.” And this may take some time. Eventually, you may develop a shorthand word as you feel God’s presence and you just say Jesus or Spirit.

We live in a time when multitasking has become the norm. The term first appeared in an IBM document in 1965. It was originally the function of a computer, but more recently has become the expectation for humans. We may talk on the phone while typing an email or drive an automobile while listening to the radio. We become so accustomed to doing more than one thing at a time that our brains accept it as normal. To be fully present with someone, we have to unlearn multitasking. With this in mind, the second suggestion for cultivating seeds of presence is to practice doing just one thing at a time. Try doing this a little each day. One of my biggest challenges is reading while eating or watching TV while eating. Yesterday, I tried eating and just savoring the food. The food tasted better. In his teaching on being fully present, Larry Bolden of Wellspring Group talks about the value of “savoring the moment.” In order to get to that place, we have to take in the whole experience. We have to focus on the words a person is saying or taste the flavor of each fruit or vegetable or spice to savor them. Decide that you are going to get less done instead of more tomorrow and mono-task! You may need to put fewer things on your “To Do List” or put only one thing on your list.

Especially, if we are sitting down to talk with someone, it is important to make sure that we can hear just his/her voice. In time, you may be able to do that in a noisy area, but you may need a quieter place. Consider your surroundings and how the outer noise may affect your inner stillness is the third suggestion. And don’t be timid to ask someone to repeat what they said if your own thoughts got in the way of your hearing them. You know how some folks seem to bring peace with them when they enter a room or approach to greet you? That is what you are aiming to develop. We all can feel that and being conscious of your surroundings can foster a more peaceful and personal presence.

An overarching motivation for our desire to be fully present is that it is a sign of respect and humility. We know that if we are fully present we will have more to give to the people around us. So, our inner and outer posture needs to mimic our respect for the other person who was created in the image of God. We want to respect the sacredness of the encounter. We will turn toward the person and look at them.

Perhaps another tool that we can use in cultivating presence is to imagine that we are sitting across the table from Jesus. How would we respond in that moment? We would want to receive all of the wisdom, knowledge, love and guidance that we could from Jesus. We wouldn’t want to miss a single syllable or gesture in his words and movements. We would want to have the laser focus of all of our senses on Jesus. If we believe in the reality of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in believers and that we are members of the Body of the Messiah, then we are in fact encountering Jesus when we sit across the table from one of God’s children.

Begin the journey of being fully present to those you love. We need all of you.

Your presence is a gift only you can give.

 

Fast Repentance: Taylor Swift, Peyton Manning and Jesus

For some time now, I’ve been wondering why believers and accepters of the free grace provided by Jesus the Messiah spend so much time worrying about their sin and feeling like they don’t deserve to be children of God. Instead, they try to be gods of justice over their own lives and come up with lots of reasons why they shouldn’t be forgiven and why God’s offer of love and forgiveness couldn’t be true.

I remember watching my late Grandfather say to the evangelist at the small, country church where his family worshipped, “I’ve done too many bad things for God to love me. Sorry, I can’t come forward.” Of course, to me, Pa was every bit as good as anyone in that church, but something was holding him back. I believe now that it was the voice of evil trying to rob him of God’s true forgiveness paid for by the death of Jesus on his behalf. And the fear he had of giving up control of his life to someone other than his own ego. Eventually, my Pa overcame that fear and received God’s grace and forgiveness. But many believers continue on in “unbelief” after their conversion.

“Your sins are forgiven, go and….” These were some of the most common words that Jesus spoke during his ministry on earth and I believe that still holds true today. That’s why I believe in Fast Repentance. We are sinning, broken creatures and the Trinity knew that pattern when the plan was devised for us to grow and become more whole over the course of our lives.

Many times we cower in the corner afraid that God is going to see us do something wrong and be completely shocked and amazed. Really? Jesus was and is still in the Forgive and Go business. Esteemed Christian psychologists Walter and Ingrid Trobisch said that we spend so much time thinking about our sin that it becomes inevitable that we are going to commit the same sins again. Our brains work like that. “It is like driving at night. When you look straight into headlights of the oncoming car for fear of crashing into it, it is very likely that you may do just that;” they wrote.1

Famously, Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the village well to go and tell folks what had happened. It is in the going that we find healing. It is in the telling others about Jesus knowing everything and yet loving and forgiving us that builds our hearts back to wholeness. Again, the Trobischs wrote, “The more you get away from your own self, the more you think about others and occupy yourself with other interests, the less you will turn around yourself, and the temptation will be reduced.”2

Slow repentance becomes a form of self-indulgence and control that keeps us from surrendering our hearts and desires to God. So many of our addictions are based upon an illusion of control. “Our addictions are not to alcohol, drugs or pornography but to control,” writes David G. Benner in his book Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human.3 We try to control our domains and our lives instead of surrendering our brokenness and “un-wholeness” to God. Our sin becomes a security blanket covering our weakness and we hold onto it rather than giving up control of our lives to our Creator.

What should fast repentance look like? Actually, like the quarterback who forgets his bad throw on the previous play to focus on the next play in order to succeed for the team. Jacksonville Jaguars v Denver BroncosPeyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks in the history of American football, often talks about forgetting what happened in the past play or sequence of plays, or even the previous game, and moving on to the next play or the next game. “You have to shake it off and move forward,” he said.

And the lyrics to the top popular song by Taylor Swift gives us encouragement to “Shake it Off”. Some might ask if I’m being trite in my treatment of this topic by using a song to describe fast repentance. I would remind you that we are talking about disobedience to the Creator. It’s sin. There is nothing sacred or holy about our sin. And the point is to not dwell on our sin, but to say, “I’m sorry, dear Lord.” And ttaylor-swift-shake-it-off-video-2-2014-billboard-650o move on to helping someone else or taking the focus off of me and putting it onto God and others. The song says, “I shake it off!” I am not bound by sin. I’m free.

 

In John 8:1-11 we read,

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Wait a second, Jesus. This woman was caught in adultery. She’s going to need to be on probation for a few months, so that we can see if she is really sorry about what she has done. Don’t you know anything about church discipline? is what most any church leader would say in contemporary times.

How long did it take before the followers of The Way began to add to the message of Jesus? Those First Century Christians had seen Jesus interact with folks. They had heard him say, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” The echo of those words must’ve resonated for some time. The Apostle Paul talked about forgetting the past and leaving what was behind. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote repeatedly about the need for humility, submission and surrender, and the illusion of position and prestige.

It is clear that Jesus was not bound by a “one size fits all” philosophy when it comes to healing or growth. With some individuals, healing was instant. With others, Jesus would send them with specific instructions to put mud on their eyes or to wash themselves in the river. He even said that healing was synonymous with saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” So, it is possible that you would not find fast repentance to be God’s way for you. My goal is to observe the ways of Jesus ahead of following the patterns of others. As Paul reminds us, “It was for freedom that Jesus set us free. So, don’t let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1.

Shake it off and go. 

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1, 2      Walter & Ingrid Trobisch. My Beautiful Feeling: Correspondence with Ilona. Downers Grove, IL, USA: InterVarsity Press; 1976: 119 pages.

3          David G. Benner, PhD. Soulful Spirituality: Becoming Fully Alive and Deeply Human. Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Brazos Press; 2011: 191 pages.

Sin’s Lingering Effect

 

There is an unsettledness that comes after we sin. If our hearts are most at home or we are most human when we are seeking God and responding to God’s calling, then it would follow that when we turn our back on Him we would feel uncomfortable and disjointed.

Once we have encountered and connected to God via the Gospel and the sealing by the Holy Spirit, we begin a journey of becoming whole, complete and at peace. Life begins to make sense in a way that it never had previously. So, when we wander and look for life in the created world rather than from the Source and Creator, our new roots are disturbed and we are shaken. Is my world going to crumble? We may ask ourselves why we are not feeling secure. We consider if we should return to the patterns of survival we had chosen in the past. Evil and our old patterns of survival and shame would call to us to avoid contact and conversation with Perfection – the One we had betrayed.

Yet, the Holy Spirit reminds us that chaos will ensue if we wander. Our restored home is with the Creator and Savior and we are an unmoored boat without a slip without God.

Photo by P. Vankevich.
Photo by P. Vankevich.

And the Spirit also calls to us saying that forgiveness is our “re-birth right” given to us through the crucifixion of Jesus. Repentance can be fast if we are willing to open our hearts to God and confess our weakness. We live in a fast-paced society and if we are un-hinged, we lose connection with our purpose and focus. The lack of focus and direction gives rise to a treacherous momentum toward confusion and hopelessness. So, restoring our relationship and re-focusing our hearts is critical to our survival.

I refer you to my post on Fast Repentance (coming soon) for help in restoring your relationship with Jesus.