Hope for a soiled heart

There’s hope for your soiled heart. Let your soiled heart be good soil for God’s word. To let your heart harden is to distance yourself from both God and people.

An open, tender heart can be gloriously led and shaped by God’s Spirit. A closed, hardened heart stays stuck in a shell of self-protection. It takes no courage to let your heart harden, but great courage to keep it open and tender.

A hard heart tries to be fortified and justified through pride. A tender heart bows down in repentance and humility.

Let your heart become good ground. Receive and nurture the falling seed that the Sower is ever sowing in your heart. Direct it off the path of self-will, away from the stones of spiritual hardness, beyond self-focused desires, consumerism, and worries. Warmly and tenderly embrace the seed of God’s Word with humility, repentance, and brokenness. Let it grow and flourish inside your innermost being and transform the ruins in your heart into a glorious garden overflowing with an abundance of the fruit of the Spirit.

Ruins rising up as the fruit of the Spirit become foundations of supernatural hope. Find the place of tenderness in your heart. Cultivate it and let it grow so you can courageously embrace compassion and caring.

God wants to tenderize
Your heart
And give you
Tender eyes
So you can see His love
And be comforted
In your pain.

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Poems for awakening — Asbury 2023 and beyond

At a Christian university
Called Asbury
A few students
Broke with the ordinary.
When chapel ended
They stayed,
Opened their hearts
And prayed.
There soon followed
A two week parade
Of about 70,000
Who came and prayed
And stayed.
Hours seemed
Like minutes
As faces beamed
With God's glory
And the Gospel story
Came roaring to life
In human hearts
Without a program,
Keeping the focus
On the living Jesus 
And letting Him
Personally lead us.
What God did
At Asbury
Is a call
For us all
To leave our ordinary
And let Jesus
Do His extraordinary
And everywhere!

To be built
On Christ’s immovable rock
Of supernatural revelation
We need to set aside
The pebble of pride
And self-consideration 
And surrender our life
To God's transformation.

Christ “anamnesis”
Jesus right, here right now:
Remembrance of Jesus
Is not just a memorial
Of bread and wine
That helps to recall
What He did in the past.
It’s the heart-moving awareness
Of personally experiencing
His living presence
Working inside of you
“To will and to do
His good pleasure”
Lest you forget about
“Christ in you,
The hope of glory”

Living people
Don't need to be
Jesus is alive
And present
Among us.
It's time that
We realized
He's here now
And surrendered
To His presence.

To remember Jesus
Without currently experiencing
His supernatural presence
Is to falsely memorialize Him
As someone stuck in the past.

Stir up any cooling embers
Of Christ living in you
And let Jesus do
Whatever He wants to
So His flames will last
And not fade into your past.

Jesus is here.
You can now steer
Into His presence
And let Him appear
In your heart!

If you think Jesus
Is only in the past,
You'll be always
Moving past
His present reality
Yet not noticing
His presence.

If your relationship with Jesus
Seems only to be a memory,
Check your heart
For an expiration date 
And begin to relate
Deeply and honestly
With Him again.
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Daring to define “unconditional love”

Love unconditionally but never approve unconditionally. If you approve of everything I think, say, do, and believe, you may flatter me, but you don’t love me.

Unconditional love:

  • Cares deeply even when it disapproves.
  • Doesn’t passively approve when people mistreat themselves or others.
  • Alerts people when they’re making harmful choices and tries to help them go in a better direction.
  • Continues to care deeply about people even when they label its warnings and concerns “hate.”
  • Doesn’t delight in people’s destructive decisions or their distorted desires.
  • Wants to rescue people from darkness, not to help them keep the light out.
  • Doesn’t encourage people to wallow in guilt-producing behaviors.
  • Is willing to disrupt deception by compassionately speaking truth and shining light into darkness.
  • Disapproves of people’s pain-producing and self-harming choices.
  • Wants people to be set free from deceptive desires.
  • Cares enough about people to risk their rejection by trying to help them see when they’re off track.
  • Doesn’t blindly defend people’s self-produced pain but tries to help rescue them from it.
  • Isn’t pleased when people put personal pleasure ahead of honesty, integrity, responsibility, and caring and compassion for others.
  • Doesn’t offer unconditional approval but openly disapproves of people’s self-harm and self-deception.
  • Tries to help people avoid guilt by encouraging them to avoid the choices that produce it and to turn away from those choices if they’ve already made them.
  • Is saddened when people take pride in hedonistic choices.
  • Never demands approval but allows people the freedom to reject it.

When a man
Says he’s a woman
And all his friends
Are afraid to disagree
Perhaps there’s
Something wrong
With society.
No one’s a hater
For thinking
Physiology’s greater
And refusing to cater
To a person’s
Feelings and desires.

When people demand unconditional love what they’re really demanding is unconditional approval. To applaud and approve while people self-destruct is a loveless act. To applaud wrongdoing is to reject unconditional love.

When someone is asleep in a physical or emotional fire, unconditional love warns them loudly. When someone is about to be run over by a bus they don’t see, unconditional love shouts out in alarm! When people are swimming in a world of hungry sharks, unconditional love tries to pull them out.

Approving of and applauding people’s poor choices isn’t unconditional love. It’s a self-focused way to avoid their hostility. If we don’t approve of everybody’s choices, viewpoints, and behaviors then we have no right to demand that they approve of ours.

My parents loved me unconditionally. They cared enough about me to warn me when they thought my life was off track.

To demand people’s approval of your choices and behaviors is to demand that they abandon their conscience and values. If we really believed in God’s unconditional love, we’d surrender unconditionally to Him.

Tomaz Salamun, a late 20th century poet born in Yugoslavia in 1941, exposes the fallacy of demanding unconditional love. He wrote: “I demand unconditional love and complete freedom. That is why I am terrible.” Lord, have mercy on me a sinner!

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Grace isn’t half time show Christianity.

Football players follow their coach, not the leader of the half time show. Follow and obey Coach Jesus! If you’re stuck in religious half time, get back in God’s game and play your heart out every day for Coach Jesus!

Too often as modern Christians we pick and choose what we want from the Bible. Then we celebrate our choices like a Super Bowl Sunday half time show. Afterwards we declare ourselves winners while we walk away and ignore the second half (the parts of the Bible that we don’t like) by living according to our own desires rather than according to what God desires. There’s nothing super (or spiritual) about that. If you call yourself a Christian, it’s time to stay in the game and be a grace-filled and Christ-filled spiritual playmaker throughout the week, not just a spectator for a Sunday morning religious half time show and a no-show for Jesus during the rest of the week.

Half-hearted Christians prefer a Sunday half time show more than the Spirit-led teamwork of daily discipleship. However, playmaking with the risen Jesus is much more exciting that watching a religious half time show.

Fear fades away when you leave your half time comfort zone begin to live your life in the Spirit-led zone! (See 1 Timothy 1:6.) The second half of the Christian life is learning to courageously follow and obey the risen Jesus with a humble childlike spirit.

Grace empowers Christ-followers to be Spirit-led playmakers not just religious bench sitters coasting toward death and Heaven. Real players prepare for the second half while the spectators watch the half time show. A Christian half time show won’t teach you to be a Spirit-led playmaker. You have to stay in God’s game and play your heart out to learn that. Be a Spirit-led playmaker, not a spiritually dead spectator.

When Christianity is presented as little more than dutiful and passive church attendance, it’s no wonder that few Christians are visibly and passionately excited about the living Jesus throughout the week. Church too often puts people on religious autopilot and causes them to trust in their Sunday attendance more than in the risen Jesus.

You can’t see light when your eyes are closed. Open your eyes and behold Jesus, the Light of the world! The clearer your perception and awareness of Jesus, the more you will experience His love, His power, and His presence and the more you will want to be a Spirit-led playmaker on Team Jesus!

Grace makes following and obeying the risen Jesus a full-time heart calling, not a weekly hour for attending a religious program. It doesn’t eliminate our need for repentance and forgiveness. It reveals it to us.

God loves us unconditionally, but He doesn’t accept us unconditionally. If that was the case Jesus wouldn’t have needed to die on the Cross to pay the penalty for our sin. Accepting us into His presence was very costly for God as He demonstrated His great love for us by dying to rescue us from our rebellion against Him.

Grace knows that it’s not unkind to disagree with people, but it is unkind to demand they agree with you. When people demand approval of their behavior in the name of tolerance or grace, they’re being intolerant. No one has the right to demand that you approve of their behavior. To believe that church attendance annuls your indulgences in wrongdoing is to miss out on the reality of God’s grace.

Unconditional approval of people’s behavior isn’t love. It’s denial. God’s grace, however, empowers a person to no longer live according to his own desires but according to what God desires.

Set self aside
And power glide
To be a playmaker with Jesus.

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Listening to and relying on Jesus

Religious compliance without daily reliance on the living Jesus falls far short of true Christianity. Learn to daily rely on the risen Jesus not just to outwardly comply with religious roles and rules. The kingdom of God is the place of complete reliance on and surrender to the living Jesus. Find that place in your heart. True Christianity is about Christ-reliance, not about self-reliance.

The human mind and heart are easily deceived by fallacies and illusions. Listening intently to your conscience and the risen Jesus will keep you on the path of honesty and truth. Listen to God’s still small voice within you! Say, “Speak Lord for your servant is listening.”

It takes courage to rely on the risen Jesus and to deny and defy your own desires, but that’s the calling of true Christianity. Christ-reliance is essential for a Christian lifestyle. Letting Christ continually live and work in you produces abounding hope, but self-reliance produces pride, alienation, exhaustion, and disappointment. Christians who neglect to train their mind and heart in Christ-reliance often wonder how they get so far off track.

Self-forgiveness relies on self-effort and self-perception. God’s forgiveness is freely given to those who turn away from self and rely on the risen Jesus and His sacrifice on the Cross.

“Self-forgiveness” without the ongoing experience and inner cleansing of God’s forgiveness is psychobabble. “Self-forgiveness” tries to erase guilt by denial or will power, but God’s forgiveness removes guilt from those who will humbly and remorsefully confess what they have done to cause it and rely on the living Jesus Christ instead of self to forgive them. 1 John 1:9 and Romans 8:1.

Human reason is unreliable. Look at the mess it has led us to. It’s time to rely on the risen Jesus and be led by His still small voice. To listen to and rely on Jesus is an amazing adventure!

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“All in” with Jesus?

As long as you’re holding out anything from Jesus, you’re not “all in” with Him! When you’re “all in” with Jesus, you don’t think that being radical for Him is fanatical.

To be “all in” with Jesus is:

  • To go out of your way to follow His way.
  • To be continually aware of, empowered by, and grateful for His forgiveness, mercy, and grace!
  • To let your heart be continually ablaze with His presence and power.
  • To abandon self-focus.
  • To live by “Not my will, but His will be done.”
  • To release those being held captive by the gates of hell, not to defend a religious fort.
  • To keep your attention off of the distractions of the sideline and to live every day following and obeying Jesus on the frontline.
  • To continually cry out for an even closer relationship with Him.
  • To refuse to let pride tempt you to decide not to daily reside and continually abide in His presence.
  • To be transformed “from glory to glory by His actual presence, not just be mentally informed about Him.
  • To daily rely on what Jesus has done for you and is now doing inside of you instead of relying on your own human self-effort.
  • To refuse to hold back your heart from Him.
  • To live outside of your human comfort zones.

“All in for Jesus?” If you will become continually conscious of Christ’s presence and identity, you won’t be concerned about your identity!

God’s forgiveness is free. We only need to give up our pride and admit that we need it. It breaks the chains of shame off of human hearts. Now and always go all in!

It’s fine to listen to what God is telling others, but it’s much more important to hear what God is saying to you. Be all in!

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If you have ears to hear the Spirit, use them.

Victorious Christian living requires the courage, honesty, and humility to open wide your heart to the risen Jesus and to other believers. If you will read the Bible with an open heart, what God has said in the past will come alive within you and you will hear Him speaking directly to you.

Near the beginning of the book of Revelation the risen Jesus proclaims numerous times that the Spirit of God is speaking to His people. Are you listening and hearing what the Spirit is saying to your heart? To be led by the Spirit, Christians as members of Christ’s body need to open wide our heart to God’s Spirit and focus our attention on directly hearing what He is now saying inside of us. It’s not enough just to hear a human voice tell us about God. We need to personally hear the present voice of the Spirit speaking within us. It’s urgent that you open your heart to continually hear His “still small voice” and begin to say and do what God tells you to.

If you’re not confident that you’ve been forgiven, you won’t have the courage listen to God’s direct voice. If you will ask for and receive God’s forgiveness whenever you resist His will, then you’ll have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. Jesus is the reason that forgiveness is always in season!

The Bible never calls the proclamation or teaching of the Good News of Jesus a sermon. A sermon should never be a substitute for hearing what God’s Spirit is saying directly to you. We need to listen to God more than to men.

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You can’t bury guilt

Humans spend much time and energy trying to bury their guilt, but humbly receiving and walking in Christ’s forgiveness is much more effective. Fully receiving and living in God’s forgiveness will greatly improve your mental health. Once you truly experience Christ’s forgiveness you’ll never be the same.

If you’re not convinced that you’re forgiven, you’ll keep doing things that heap more guilt on you. When you know your sins have been forgiven, you’re very careful to go and sin no more. To hold on to sin is embrace guilt and reject forgiveness.

Jesus died so you can be forgiven. To live in guilt is to miss out on His mercy. 1 John 1:9. Guilty feelings vanish when you’re convinced God has forgiven you. When you’re unsure guilty feelings will remain. There’s no delight in being dominated by deceitful desires; there is only guilt and bondage.

People love to say, “I’m a good person,” because most of us want people to think we are good, but our secret inner struggle with shame, sin, and guilt says that we’re not as good as we say we are. The Good News of forgiveness for and deliverance from sin doesn’t sound like good news to people who boast, “I’m a good person.”

Good people don’t need God’s forgiveness. Guilty people do. We’re all guilty of something! Good people don’t battle guilt because they don’t think, say, feel, or do the guilt producing things that the rest of us do.

Once we truly realize our badness, Jesus is no longer just a nice religious story. He’s the Good News who daily rescues us from our deception and bondage. I’ve always had a strong conscience and I’ve mostly obeyed it so I used to think that I was a good person, but following the risen Jesus has caused me to agree with Scripture: “O wretched man that I am!” “There is within me, that is within my flesh, no good thing.” Now I know that I desperately need Christ’s ongoing grace and mercy.

People who have experienced God’s forgiveness don’t want to live without it, so they quickly ask for it every time they give in to temptation. Every time you think, say, feel, or do something guilt producing, immediately resist it and ask God for forgiveness and freedom from it.

The Gospel (the Good News of freedom from spiritual bondage) is a threat to religion. Most of the religious leaders who knew about Jesus’ earthly ministry were threatened by Him, so they rejected His message and wanted Him dead. Throughout history religion has seemed to prefer a dead Jesus (or a Jesus restricted to Heaven) instead of an ongoing, personal, Spirit-led relationship with the living, present, and active Jesus.

Heaven is for the forgiven (not for the deserving) and God’s forgiveness is available for all who want it and will humbly receive it. To be a citizen of the kingdom of God is to let your mind, heart, and life be ruled by King Jesus. The more I realize the reality of Jesus the less I’m satisfied with religion. If church is “a hospital for sinners” why do so few of its “patients” openly admit that they are sinners who desperately need Christ’s ongoing forgiveness, healing, and deliverance?


From heel
To toe
Pride says no.
I might play
The part
To look good
In church,
But I'll not kneel
My heart
To Jesus.
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Everyone needs forgiveness

Self-justification might temporarily hide guilt and shame behind self-deception, but it can’t pull them out by the roots. The forgiveness that matters most is the forgiveness that removes guilt and shame. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” His forgiveness truly cleanses a human heart.

Guilt and shame can cause life on earth to feel like hell. To reject Christ’s forgiveness is to embrace guilt and shame.

Guilt and shame will keep you from being close to Jesus. A heart-to-heart relationship with the living Jesus will keep you from guilt and shame. Assurance of salvation without assurance of forgiveness is deceptive. 1 John 1:9.

The pursuit of happiness? The happiest times in life are the moments of self-forgetting, not the moments of self-focus.

The more a society focuses on personal desire satisfaction the less stable it becomes. Jesus is more powerful than your feelings and desires. Obey Him, not them. To me, most church services seem to be set up to avoid ongoing, heart-stirring intimacy with the risen Jesus.

Who most needs God’s forgiveness? I was thinking about Paul calling himself “the chief of sinners” when a picture popped in my mind. All the people who had ever lived were racing to see who is the worst sinner in the history of the world. Suddenly the finish line appeared, and all mankind was there at the same moment. It was a photo finish. Lord, have mercy on me a sinner.

Might work
For awhile
To quiet guilt
And silence shame
But only Christ’s forgiveness
Can erase the self-blame
Deep in your heart.

Unless we’re intensely aware
Of Christ’s ongoing mercy
We’ll want to avoid
Opening our heart
To His presence.

The more you let
Christ’s forgiveness
Rescue and cleanse you
From behaviors that cause
Guilt and shame
The more joy
Will dance in your heart.

Throughout the day
Every time I’m drawn away
From Christ’s presence,
I shower my soul
In His forgiveness
And He renews me
Right away!

When desire and deception
Are allowed to dance together
They lead to temptation
And to the mental justification
Of whatever we want to do,
Inviting guilt and shame
To rudely interrupt the dance
With their emotional devastation.

The law brings us
To the most important
It makes us aware of
Our love for
And our never-ending need
For the ongoing reception
Of Christ’s rivers
Of living water
That give us revelation
Deep within our heart.

Mercy, mercy,
Marvelous mercy!
God opened my eyes
And let me see
Christ’s amazing love
And forgiveness for me!

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Which AI? Artificial intelligence or authentic intelligence?

Authentic intelligence requires insight, discernment, and wisdom, not just computing. Artificial intelligence merely scans and sorts the information that it has access to. Authentic intelligence chooses to seek and submit to righteousness and truth.

Artificial intelligence is mindless information processing devoid of consciousness and conscience, but authentic intelligence requires the awareness of consciousness and the discernment of conscience. Authentic intelligence requires the willingness and the wisdom to see life from God’s perspective not from our own.

The knowledge of good and evil causes us to rely on our own self-wisdom which, apart from God’s life, is artificial intelligence that is easily deceived. The life of God is authentic intelligence offered freely to us by the risen Jesus (the way, the truth, and the life) through inner rivers of everflowing living water that release within us God’s direct revelation and the leading of the Spirit. Brokenness when humbly embraced shows us the fallacy of our artificial human intelligence and opens our heart to the authentic intelligence of God’s point of view, empowering us to continually surrender to God’s life and to “abide in the vine” (of the living Jesus).

Mental health requires both a healthy brain and a self-disciplined mind. If your life is stuck in artificial intelligence and isn’t overflowing with love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruit of the Spirit, an ongoing connection with the living Jesus will change that. The best way to encourage yourself is to encourage someone else.

The artificial intelligence that says that God only speaks to and through important religious leaders has crippled Christianity. God is looking for authentic Spirit-led followers of the risen Jesus, not artificial “parishioners” or church members.

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