Now Playing Tracks

The Gospel According to a Ransomed Heart: What Lies Beneath (1 of 3): Appearances vs. Appreciation

And we’re live!

This is Part 1 of what is easily one of the largest writing projects I have yet to take on. This blog series will deal with who we are under the surface and how to, as Jacob Armen has said, “Let your soul become your art.”

"I dedicate this to friendship."


Anonymous asked:

Can you clarify this part on Henry's quote on the last conversation: "And she's not kinda' your sister but also your grandma?"


No problem!

Henry’s Family Tree Lesson Y’all.

So since Regina is Snow’s mom by marriage and Henry’s mom by adoption, that kinda’ makes Snow and Henry siblings, even though Snow’s also his grandma.

That’s not a serious point of course since they would never consider each other siblings and it doesn’t really work like that (under the circumstances anyway) but I love taking potshots at Henry’s Whomping Willow of a family tree.


A Different Perspective on the Gospel

Imagine a man whose brother has kidnapped and killed his wife on their honeymoon. He can rescue and resurrect his wife, but only if he lays his own life down at his brother’s murderous hands. And as much as he wants his brother to repent, he also knows that, by laying down his life, he not only saves his wife, but secures the means by which his brother will be judged.

Now imagine that, once his wife comes back to life, she no longer wants him. She would rather be with her kidnapper, the worst case of Stockholm Syndrome you ever came across — to the point that it wasn’t just his brother’s desire that he died, but hers as well.

Imagine his heartbreak for the wife who no longer wants him.

Imagine the heartbreak because of the brother who betrayed him by kidnapping & murdering his wife.

Imagine the fierce intention he would exhibit in pursuing them to rescue her, knowing he could bring her back and turn her heart towards him again.

Jesus is the husband.
Satan is represented by the brother.
We are the wife.

Satan is not equal with God, but he was given a place closer to Him than any other created being — and then betrayed Him, and turned us against Him as well.

We can turn back to our original Lover, but only if we allow Him into our hearts to release our focus from this world to Him.

If we choose not to, not only do we pass up the greatest source of Love in existence — one that would readily lay down His life for us — but we also secure ourselves a place with the “brother” at the coming judgment for our betrayal.

"For my people have committed two evils: (1) they have forsaken me, the Fountain of Living Waters, and (2) they have carved out cisterns; broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jeremiah 2:13)

You may not have knowingly chosen against or betrayed God, but ignorance does not not excuse your choices.

Now that you know, what will you do with that knowledge?

Ransomed Heart Newsletter, August 2014

Dear Friends,

One of my favorite chapters in Killing Lions is on Identity. Sam begins with a confession…

I chose the college I attended; I recognize that I alone reap the harvest I sowed there. And it was a mixed bag. After attending a public high school the transition into a Christian College was as much of a culture shock for me as the kids who did it the other way ‘round. It felt like being dropped into Oz.

I was busted for smoking my pipe on campus (tobacco pipe, dad – you gave it to me). I was caught several times sneaking into the end of mandatory chapel trying to turn in an attendance card after doing a loop through the crowd and leaving through a different door. I danced. I drank. If the day was especially nice I skipped class and went to the beach. You don’t need to be particularly insightful to see it coming.

I soon encountered the motivational “stick” this college favors: Shame. Academic shame was used by professors for anything less than “exemplary” performance. Spiritual shame was enforced by the Christian community with upturned noses or worse. Funny thing is, I resented them for treating me the way I taught them to see me. “Oh Sam, you are such a loveable screw up.” I was charming, so people wouldn’t stay mad or disappointed with me for long, but I knew that and I knew they thought I was as much of a joke as I felt, so I kept on behaving that way.

I began to feel hedged in by shame, disappointment, and disapproval. When enough people tell you that you are a certain way, you start believing it.

Identity is like the turning of the earth – you never really notice that it’s carrying you along, but on any given moment you are actually hurling forward at 1,040 miles an hour. This is one powerful force. We cannot live beyond the way we see ourselves. When our world hands us a script, when we find ourselves repeatedly cast into a certain role, it requires almost super-human strength to defy the gravitational pull of it. Those scripts come upon us from many circles – family, “friends,” a coach, a church, our culture. The Scots pastor John Watson said, “Be kind, for every man is fighting a hard battle.” This was yours.

When I graduated, I was lost. So I asked a couple guys to help me pray for guidance. After months of spiritual static only two possibilities were left on the table: God simply isn’t going to give me “the plan” (which is where I landed), or, God wants to speak to a different question. My friends asked God what he was trying to speak to in my life. This time he answered immediately: My identity.

“How do you see yourself Sam?” That’s easy, I thought. “I am a screw up, a black sheep, an outcast. At best I am Kerouac’s Dharma Bum – a wanderer who can’t fit into the world, looking for answers, being reckless and misunderstood with nowhere in particular to go and nothing in particular to accomplish.” Sounds emo to me now. But I had completely bought into it, was thinking about just traveling abroad for a couple years in an aimless adventuring way. Lost but looking so cool. I was living out the identity I had been handed in college.

“Okay, I see it. What now?” I asked. We prayed and asked God what he thought of me and one of my friends eyes went wide and started talking about The Horse and His Boy (by C.S. Lewis). “That was you! You are Shasta!” In that great story the protagonist is a boy named Shasta. He has run away and somewhere along his journey Shasta crosses paths with Aravis, a girl from a noble house. Shasta’s life has been ruled by shame so when Aravis continually refers to him as someone low, a commoner, an outcast, he has a hard time fighting it. But at the end of the book it is revealed that Shasta is the long lost prince of a great kingdom.

“Which one do you want to be true Sam?” my other friend asked, “Do you want to be the Dharma Bum or a king?” It was obvious that I had a decision to make: accept the new identity or stay in shame. I couldn’t, and wouldn’t, go back to feeling like that. If the lies Shasta had been living with were the same I lived with, and once broken there was a kingdom of our own to be had, the choice was simple. We prayed. I renounced shame, and the agreements I had made with “outcast and black sheep.” Choosing the new identity enabled me to begin to move strongly towards a girl named Susie and towards writing. I realized that I’d been hanging back in the old script. It was time to accept the new one.

love it! This is one of those breakthrough moments everyone needs. In the film version of The Return of the King, Aragorn is a great man but he’s been acting a bit like the lone wanderer, sort of a Dharma Bum. The turning point for him comes when Elrond brings him the sword of the king and declares, “Put aside the ranger, become who you were born to be!” The line is repeated almost verbatim in the trailer for Robin Hood (featuring Russell Crowe). He too has been living on the edges of life when he is confronted with the question, “Are you ready to be who you are?”


Hope this help you think about your own identity, friends. Are you ready to be who you are?


  • Track Name

    Extravagant Generosity

  • Album

    Beautiful Outlaw

  • Artist

    John Eldredge

I was recently in a position in which I needed a laptop. Spending time on the computer has been my long-preferred method of checking out, and I knew that I was going to need some in-between time from when I turned in my work laptop and bought a personal one (part of the need was to look for a new job).

My cousin knows the regional manager of an office supply store chain and has gotten some really good deals on laptops; he and my father both have the same one.

He had been telling me about theirs, and I wanted to get one that was very similar to that: an ultrabook with a hybrid drive (solid-state & hard disk) & a backlit keyboard (something I’ve wanted for a couple years now).

I went online to the retailer’s website to look for laptops with backlit keyboards; it’s a very tough find, believe it or not. The only computer that the online assistant came up with that met my preferred specs was $2,000 (well out of my price range).

So I was driving home one day and praying about my laptop, that I really wanted one that had a backlit keyboard.

Don’t get me wrong, because I’ve read verses like Mark 11:24 and Luke 11:11 and John 15:7 that say you can ask whatever you want and it will be given to you, but I’m also aware that not everyone gets breakthrough in this life (Hebrews 11:13,35b-39).

So you are encouraged to desire, but you don’t always get it.

And that’s when the above track popped up on my iPod, speaking of Jesus’ extravagant generosity. Needless to say, this playing pretty much in the midst of my prayer was, to me, a sign that the laptop that I would end up getting would have a backlit keyboard.

My cousin was supposed to go looking for a laptop that day with the regional manager; he said he’d give me a call if/when he saw something good enough for me (quality is important to Jesus, too, apparently, John 2:10).

He didn’t call me that day.

It wasn’t until a shift in my heart that he actually did end up calling me back. It was only after I realized that I needed a laptop, not to get online, but to write and share what God is showing me. It wasn’t until I realized that my laptop was a tool for ministry that my cousin called me back — 3 weeks later.

When he called me back his time, it was to say that the same model laptop he & my dad have was listed for a good price on Amazon.

I was away from home at the time, so I pulled up the Amazon app on my phone and searched for it. I couldn’t find it, but I found one very similar to it that was in my price range. This same laptop had everything that I wanted: ultrabook with hybrid SSD/HDD drives and a backlit keyboard.

This one also happened to have a particularly widescreen (great for a writer looking to work with 2 side-by-side documents) and specialized speakers (that I only turn up half way, they’re so loud).

I ended up getting what I wanted, in my price range (almost 40% off), and so far it’s been great.

I’m writing this blog as an agreement to myself that the first post I would make would be as a testimony that Jesus was exercising his extravagant generosity in arranging for a laptop that had not only what I was looking for, but some extras I would enjoy as well.

Add to this that he was partly a young man of our time — that is, honest by nature, demanding the truth, seeking it and believing in it, and in that belief demanding immediate participation in it with all the strength of his soul; demanding an immediate deed, with an unfailing desire to sacrifice everything for this deed, even life.

Although, unfortunately, these young men do not understand that the sacrifice of life is, perhaps, the easiest of all sacrifices in many cases, while to sacrifice, for example, five or six years of their ebulliently youthful life to hard, difficult studies, to learning, in order to increase tenfold their strength to serve the very truth and the very deed that they loved and set out to accomplish — such sacrifice is quite often almost beyond the strength of many of them.

The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Tooth Fairy

You may smile at me,
but behind those lips are teeth bared,
a wolf in sheep’s clothing
waiting to sink its canines
into my flesh.

Don’t think for one second
that your demeanor —
climate-controlled to emptiness along
with your “great morning” greetings —
disguises your forked tongue.

I see who you are beneath the surface
despite that Optimist’s Creed
and those clichéd scriptures
sitting on your office bookshelves:
you’re a ladder-climber.

Someone who will step on toes
and crush heads with (high) heels
in order to (circum)navigate past that
imaginary glass ceiling
hanging over your head.

That mirrored glass ceiling haunts you
like a wraith, revealing your true colors;
a black cloud that’s waiting to burst and
reign a torrential downpour of broken dreams
from those that you’ve shattered
along your yellow-brick’d road,

A second-rate masonry job with
chipped stones,
like teeth with cigarette stains
that “cover up” the cancer in your lungs,
betrayed by halitosis and hacking coughs,
but still eating away at the very breath of life
you could steward for the good of others
if you would but embrace the person
you claim to be.

And though it may be a thorn in my flesh
to have you dig your spurs in my flank
as you ride me into the ground
like a sadistic rodeo clown,
I will show you compassion because,
though it’s a weakness my enemies do not share…

…it’s what separates me from them
and makes me my Father’s son.

Those of us who knew him best talk about him often. I swear, the stuff he pulled…

Sometimes it makes me sad, though, Andy being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged — their feathers are just too bright.

And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty (now) that they’re gone.

I guess I just miss my friend…

~ Red, from Shawshank Redemption

I had this running through my heart this afternoon, choked me up a bit…

4/17/14 Men at the Outpost

Check it out as John Eldredge lays bare nine assumptions that Christians hold and why they are unbiblical:

  • Biblical examples of breakthrough? That was then…
  • Worship = singing.
  • Miracles mean that God is moving (in the best way).
  • Everything that happens is the will of God.
  • Prayer is primarily asking God to move.
  • This life is about securing comforts and luxuries for ourselves.
  • Maturity means we don’t really struggle anymore.
  • You can have both a good life in this world and a rich life with God.
  • Everything going smoothly means you’ve found a sweet spot with God.

Well worth the full listen, especially for the bit at the end about hatred versus love.

"But showing a sword doesn’t necessarily mean fighting: it can also suggest a joyful decisiveness."

The “soft” male was able to say, “I can feel your pain, and I consider your life as important as mine, and I will take care of you and comfort you,” but he could not say what he wanted and stick by it. Resolve of that kind was a different matter…

In The Odyssey, Hermes instructs Odysseus that, when he approaches Circe — who stands for a certain kind of matriarchal energy — he is to lift (or show) his sword. In the early sessions, it was difficult for many of the younger men to distinguish between showing the sword and hurting someone. One man [who was] a kind of incarnation of the spiritual attitudes of the sixties — a man who had actually lived in a tree for a year outside Santa Cruz — found himself unable to extend his arm when it held a sword. He had learned so well not to hurt anyone that he couldn’t lift the steel, even to catch the light of the sun on it. But showing a sword doesn’t necessarily mean fighting: it can also suggest a joyful decisiveness.

~ Iron John, by Robert Bly

On the World Vision Reaction: Some Bad News, Some Good News, and Some Ideas

And even when we disagree, there is a  growing desire to drop our weapons, stop waging war (against each other), and start washing feet.

I can’t say I agree with her on everything — though she does bring up some valid points — but that statement alone was worth the read.

"By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love, one to another." (John 13:35)

Love doesn’t mean “acceptance/tolerance of everything someone does,” but it does mean a willingness to serve others — especially our enemies

Musings From A Restless Heart: More Thoughts & Longings

An article a mom from church posted on Facebook provoked some thoughts of mine…

Disclaimer: I don’t have kids; this is mainly my perspective as an (outside) observer from within church.

1. It was never a decision point. We never entertained, discussed, or thought about not going or allowing our kids not to go (to church)…

What I hear is “church is mandatory under all conditions and in all circumstances.” What I fear is that this precludes the possibility of having quiet time (or other spiritual disciplines) in lieu of church attendance. Yes, I know that Hebrews 10:25 says to not give up meeting together, but how we do church now is not how is was done in the apostles’ time. Besides, I can hang out with other believers and still not give up meeting together. Also, it’s possible to have ministry time during church hours but outside the building…

2. Each one has their own personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus did this one. They have encountered His reality at a young age for themselves. So they go to church because they love to worship Him.

This is absolutely mandatory. If you do not have your own personal relationship with God — and also encourage your children to have one, too — then they won’t. What happens then is that church attendance (see #1) becomes an exercise in routine instead of a way to connect deeply with other believers.

3. We talk about real issues, even the tough ones. I find this young generation wants help with the tough issues that are hot buttons. So at our house ….and our church….we talk about the tough stuff. Not just the religious stuff.

I would love to see this one become true in every building that proclaims the name of Jesus. Alas, however, it shall not be so. I’ve heard pastors say from the pulpit that they have no tolerance for people who struggle, and I can imagine someone who struggles a lot saying, “Fine. You don’t tolerate my struggle, then I won’t bother you with it.” I would love for what I referred to as “postmodern Christianity" to become the norm, but until you make room for such questions, they will not surface beyond anyone’s hearts (least of all the kids’).

4. They serve with their own jobs at church. Our kids carry significant responsibilities of servant leadership from a young age. They are not just hanging around. It matters to them… and to others… when they show up.

This is not just about accomplishing things, but also about the relationships you build with people while you’re serving together.

5. It’s an adventure for our family. Passion is contagious. Doug and I find serving Jesus to be the most exciting real life drama ever imaginable!! Kids and teens love adventure. Authentic Kingdom of God participation is exciting, daring, risky, joyful, and challenging. And we love it!

This is a biggie — you have to recover the daring nature of the gospel. God will ask you to do things that seem out of the ordinary or out of your comfort zone. Part of this accomplishes his plans on the Earth, part of it accomplishes his workings in your heart. Never forget, though, that relationship with God always trumps busyness for him.

6. The Bible is a part of our daily life. We have family devotions at least four times a week. Prayer and Bible reading are daily habits for us all. So why wouldn’t we want to be with the other believers on Sunday morning?

This seems like a plug for #1, but I gotta quote Eldredge on this one.

Speaking of the idea that heaven is “the eternal church service in the sky,” John notes that the (accepted) final verse of Amazing Grace alludes to the fact that we will be singing for 10,000 years.

"Church is okay, but a weekend in Maui beats it hands down."

So does watching Braveheart, Gladiator, The Matrix, Fight Club, The Avengers, or any other movie full of adventure. Why? Because it holds more excitement than sitting and listening to someone rehash the same old thing (again).

But if you can find a way to make the Word come alive and relate the absolute truth in it to my life, show me how to apply it and how it leads me to a deeper relationship to Jesus (John 5:39, and not just SOAP — remember, relationship > busyness!), then I’m all in.

Don’t treat it like a rulebook of tips & techniques for “your best life now” because the “good life” is found in a relationship with God — and nowhere else.

7. Our church is not big into entertainment. We don’t tickle ears or entertain. We study hard, play hard, cry hard, and laugh hard. Everyone knows we live in an over-entertained culture. So we don’t even try to “compete” as entertainment.

Entertainment is one thing, but what about cutting loose and just having fun every now and then?

I know people to whom church is everything, and they come across as one-dimensional. I mean, is there anything else that you care about?!

Don’t get me wrong, because Jesus is important, but God didn’t create us to be robots. What are you passionate about? What gets you fired up?

She says she studies, plays, cries, and laughs hard.

Where’s the light-heartedness? Does everything have to be at 100% intensity, or does God want us to shoot for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd gear sometimes instead of 4th, 5th, and 6th?

8. Our relationships are strong. This one is tough but real. Because we have healthy relationships at home, no one is wanting to rebel against us by the one way they know could hurt us the worst. Forsaking God.

I feel as if #8 and #9 are connected. Open, loving relationships (#8) will breed honesty (#9) about tough questions (#3).

And this one is incredibly tough to fake (if that’s even possible). Your words will speak volumes about your actions, especially if the two don’t mesh. I’ve heard of kids struggling with something and not telling their parents for over a year.

If you preach relationships but your family doesn’t have that kind of honesty, what does that say about how you live?

9. We are honest about the dry moments. Doug and I are transparent about our spiritual ups ….and our spiritual downs. Everyone has valleys and mountains.

With either too much emphasis on breakthrough or difficulty, it can be tedious finding just the right balance for how much to focus on the subjective experiences versus the objective truths & realities that are not always so easy to perceive. But like I mentioned in comments to #3, when you have people in leadership telling laymen that there’s no tolerance for struggle — or pastors don’t admit that they have any struggles of their own — expect people to stagnate where they are and have difficulty getting up when they fall.

10. We don’t run church down with our mouths. People mess up sometimes. And sometimes people in our lives abandon us. Learning to handle the messy moments of spiritual warfare and relationship pain as a family is critical. We must help our children process the frailties of our brothers and sisters. But we best not find ourselves gossiping, complaining, backbiting or murmuring. Or why would our children want to come along??

I get to this point where “gossiping, complaining, backbiting, or murmuring” are discussed and I wonder how much of what I’ve done here falls into that category. There are lots of things I would love to see different about churches I’ve been a part of, but leaders have to be open to change (meaning they have to be willing).

This point definitely rings true in the sense of Proverbs 24:17 and Philippians 2:14-15, and in that, I agree.

But at the same time, my heart longs to express what I feel is unaccepted in certain circles, yet I wish to share my thoughts and longings with others (hence this post).

Perhaps someone will read what I have written and it will change how they see things — and if so, great.

But if not, at least I have clarified my thoughts to my diary, and I know that God hears my cries for something more…

We make Tumblr themes