Without. Being. Told.

Without. Being. Told.

As a father, nothing, and I mean nothing, is more annoying than listening to my kids fight and bicker with each other. It literally drives me insane. Anyone else feel this way?

But why? Why does this make me so crazy? As parents we often find ourselves saying and doing crazy things as a result of our kids fighting. The other day I just stood there yelling unintelligible words [I think it was the word STOP mixed with the word NOW = SOW!] as my 7 year old boys were talking down to my 2 year old daughter. The argument was essentially a battle of 7 year old logic versus 2 year old logic, which as a parent would actually be funny if it wasn’t so annoying and accompanied by the hell-raising whining noises coming from their mouths. My boys had their Pokemon cards in neat little stacks, and my two year old daughter felt the need to swat them down. Cue the hell-raising whining noises followed by yelling and pushing with a sobbing 2 year old as a cherry on top, unable to figure out why her brothers don’t like card swatting.

I got to thinking about that yesterday and came up with some ideas about why it makes me so crazy…

I believe it bugs me so much because they are my children and there is no easy way out of the situation. It requires me to get involved and problem-solve. It makes me feel like a failure as their father. I don’t want to have to get involved. I want them to just know how to get along based on the lessons I provided them in the past. After all they are my children, not my slaves – I shouldn’t need to command them around. I feel like I shouldn’t need to give them rules to live by – they should just know by now, shouldn’t they?

Maybe not. They are just kids after all. I guess that’s what parenting is all about – showing them the right way and praying that it will eventually make sense to them – that eventually by the time they leave the confines of my protection that my desires for their good – for their best lives – will finally become their desires.

“The heir is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father.” – Galatians 4:2

As parents we make the rules because without them our “heirs” will die. They just don’t get it – as my wife Susie keeps reminding me, their little minds don’t yet have the capacity to understand right and wrong – the knowledge of good and evil. They must be told. It must be demonstrated for them.

Repeatedly.

That’s why it bugs me so much. I want them to get it. Like, now.

Don’t get me wrong, my kids are growing up far too quickly before my very eyes. But sometimes I want them to learn faster. I want them to remain children but operate with my will and desires so they stop fighting with each other and start helping each other. Sometimes I wish I could just impart my will & desires – my Spirit – within them so they would “get it,” yet still remain my little children, intimate with me, under my roof, under my care – yet with my spirit of wisdom so they walk alongside me as sons instead of behind me like slaves.

“And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” For the Helper, the Holy Spirit. He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to.” – Galatians 4:7; John 14:26

I think all our fighting and bickering frustrated God too. I think it frustrated Him to the point of death. It frustrated Him for the same reason it frustrates us. After all, we are made in His likeness. Relational. Loving. Nurturing – with all the joy and frustrations that go along with it. He will never leave us or forsake us, but we sure grieve Him from time to time.

We all pay a steep price for our children – for them to “get it”. Thousands of hours requiring truckloads of patience. Buckets of blood, sweat and tears are the prerequisite for even a chance at success.
  
The joy of parenting is watching as our kids finally start to get it. It warms our heart like beaming rays of sunshine as they willingly cling to the essence – the spirit – of what we taught them.
  
Without. Being. Told.
 
I watch on as my 7 year old son encourages my two year old daughter as she colors her picture, or as my two sons give up their favorite things for the sake of the other. As they get older and older my rules and commands will begin to fall off their souls like training wheels off a bike. Not because they aren’t good rules, but because they have accepted and trusted in my wisdom which has taught them how to ride the bike.
 
That’s my child.


When they come of age they will leave my rules behind completely and be free – relying instead on the deposit of wisdom I’ve placed within them rather than the confines of my rules – rules which I hate having to enforce

God is like that too. 

Rules are not needed where His Spirit exists. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Cor. 3:17). We still may fall down from time to time, and those times may serve as reminders about why the rules once existed. But rather than try to put training wheels on a mountain bike, we must get back up and keep riding the bike in freedom, not only because our Father told us to, but because we simply like being with Him where He is – in complete freedom.

God doesn’t want slaves and servants, He wants sons and daughters. He wants to share all that He is and all that He has with those who seek His own heart – with those who take ownership and responsibility in His estate.

Without. Being. Told.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant doesn’t know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends.” – Jesus
Written by: Jeff Berger
“Goodnight You Princes of Maine, You Kings of New England”

“Goodnight You Princes of Maine, You Kings of New England”

Cider House Rules is a story of an orphanage where many complexities of morals and identity unfold.  There was a doctor that was the caretaker of these orphans who would say this special affirmation every night when the boys went to bed and they loved it.  In fact, they longed for it.

The doctor didn’t see these boys as abandoned and unkempt, unschooled misfits of whom no one wanted.  He saw inherent value that, despite their history, had treasures inside of them that made them royalty.

At this moment I am on a flight across the U.S. to visit family.  My family history has been, at many times agreeable, but definitely not without its interpersonal mishaps.  As I sit here in a cramped seat I wonder how things will be this time around.  No matter how life is going within my own home or career and the tremendous growth I perceive I have complete control over, there is something that seems final when it comes to family roles and who we are one another.

In a way, revisiting people from my past can feel as if I am stepping into an alternate universe.  I know that I am a new person and have great love for what the Kingdom is doing.  I have become to many people someone that has been a catalyst as I pursue further and further the revelation found in His word, yet I have repeatedly stepped into a role I don’t want to play.  If I have been made new, then how does that change the future of my family?  I have constructed somewhat of a historical and mental scoreboard that gets lit up when I am about to visit family.  Part of my stomach sinks when I think of the possibility of harsh treatments and pure negativity that has unfolded before me time and time again.  As I raise my family and do the “church thing”, somehow that can get compartmentalized apart from the rest of my life.

In churches around the US we may hear a familiar rhetoric that encourages us to stay away from bad influences in fear that their sin or negativity will poison our hearts and minds.  I have been personally affected by the attitudes and actions of others in a negative way, so I’m familiar with the rhetoric and sometimes substantiate it with numerous interactions somewhat expect history to repeat itself.

We all can relate to this dilemma.  We have checkered pasts and after finding this great love with Jesus, we retreat to areas of safety and self-sufficiency.   I entered into a relationship with Jesus and fell in love with Him.  Then, in order to “grow,” somewhere I had fallen out of love with Jesus and in love with righteousness.  Instead of affecting my family with the love of the Kingdom I have come to resent the fact that not all aspects have lined up with heaven.   I have wrestled with maintaining my identity as a son of the Father as I have returned to the role I have always found myself in; the position I have been placed in by my family in their own minds as to where I fit.  For whatever reason, I have claimed Matthew 13:57, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”

The reality is, you will step into the same family/social dynamics that you have always had until that universe has its axis tilted.  Because mankind is hungry to find their identity, much like those orphaned boys of Cider House Rules, we should all hunger for more of God to be put on showcase in our lives.  A trap that hell puts in front of us is this:

  1. Be offended by the world and try to use Gods word to prove to them wrong.
  2. Ignore toxic behavior that produces strife within relationships (believing that tolerance and passivity is pure righteous patience)
  3. Separate our hearts and interaction to either punish them or protect ourselves.

While we may convincingly justify any one of these actions of hearts, what is truly excellent is this:  Calling out the gold in people.  Even through rough exteriors and spotty pasts there is eternal and heavenly value that is beyond our comprehension, placed upon the despicable, the wretched, dishonest and most selfish people you will ever come across.   The very least of these have assignments from heaven that are far beyond our wildest imaginations.  The person we love the least has a rich story within them that could inspire the world, for that is what they were created for.

Will we believe that those from our past will see astonishing miracles happen in their lives and encounter the presence of the father’s joy and enjoy the astonishing and furious love He has for them?  Our new role in our families is to love our brothers and sister with a love that is sent from heaven.  It can’t be a love of merit and deserving.  It cannot be justified; it has to be ridiculous and nonsensical by all means, because it is good.

Instead of wondering how things are going to be, as to compare experiences and gauge where things stand, I am stepping off this airplane and getting into a rental car with my wife and kids.  But as the key goes into the ignition I can’t drive this car and “officially” complete our arrival until my wife and I settle this one thing between us.

We will be a source of heavenly love and contagious joy to those around us.  Everyone.  There is not a single person or event that will determine the state of our family, for we are not subject to the darkness, but the darkness is subject to the light.

As we step into today, heaven is on assignment to invade earth through your lives.  You are commissioned by Jesus with love and joy.  Holy Spirit let our hearts reflect the glory of Heaven.  Fill our hearts to have so much love that demons tremble and people feel us coming. .  Let every step we walk be the very ground of heaven and being carried with them the treasures of the throne room.  Amen.

Written by: Jordan Mudrock

Is God As Bad As He Seems In The Old Testament?

Is God As Bad As He Seems In The Old Testament?

A while back, I met a young woman through a community of believers who I’m in connection with here in Australia. We chatted for a while about all sorts of things, including who we both knew, what we did for a living and other general chit chat. At some point, our conversation naturally moved onto the subject of God – as it usually does with me. I asked her how long ago it was that she got saved. She said she met Jesus only a few months ago, and to my question about how strong her relationship with Him was, she replied that having come out of a terrible past-relationship and moving over a thousand miles away from her home town, yeah! – her relationship with Jesus was awesome. Just by looking at her, I could tell she was truly saved – her countenance proved that, with a smile that could make any human being feel amazing.

After the big reveal of her amazing shift from a life of darkness to a life of pure joy, where she’d also found many passionate Christians to do life with, I felt the need to ask her about the bible. I wanted to know if she was a brand new reader, or if she’d already been introduced to this book we Christians hold in high regard. I suppose I just wanted to know, either way, how she saw the bible now that she’d experienced the nature of God in a way that wasn’t through biblical teaching or religious argument. I wanted to know if the words on the pages leaped out with new understanding, or if she found the God of the bible was different to the God of her experience.

When I brought up the subject the bible, I asked her which book of the bible was her favorite to read. I was expecting her to say the book of John or the book of Acts, so it wasn’t surprising to me when she told me she loved reading the book of Matthew. Why? Well, because the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all about Jesus and they contain the exciting stories of His travels, the people He met, the miracles He performed, the desperate people He touched with His compassion, and of course, the moment He asked God, His Father, to forgive the people murdering Him because they didn’t know what they were doing. When she met Jesus for real, reading the gospel of Matthew revealed the man who saved her, which further validated her experience and also gave her written truth about what He did to restore her from a destroyed life.

Now that she’d me told that she was brand new to reading the bible and that she loved reading the New Testament gospels, I had to ask her about what she thought of the Old Testament. Did she find the Old Testament confusing, bloody, graphic, scary or just plain exciting with all the epic stories that have made it onto the silver screen dozens of times? Did she find the God of the Old Testament to be similar to God, revealed in the New Testament? To tell you the truth, it wasn’t surprising to find that she didn’t read the Old Testament at all, and not for a lack of trying. She told me that she had a crack at reading the prophets of old and the chronicles of the kings, but she just couldn’t fathom it. As I suspected, she didn’t like God in the Old Testament, so yeah! – she was confused. Therefore, rather than getting a bad taste for God, she played it safe and left the Old Testament to collect dust in the corner.

Is this what new Christians should have to do? Should they avoid reading the Old because God is too gruesome and judgmental, and only read the New because Jesus in His loving ways is more relevant? Not in my opinion, and I’d like to tell you why, just like I told this young lady whom I believe I met for just this reason – to give her the amazing truth about why God seems so crazy in the bible and how wonderful He is for sticking it out through over a millennia so that we could have the gift of His Son. You see, God not’s delicate about how He’s portrayed in the Old Testament, in fact, He’s happy to reveal His-story; the history of Him and His people – the Israelites – so that we can understand His Character and His faithfulness to His word.

Through the eyes of a famous Atheist, Richard Dawkins – he writes, “the God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully”. Does God appear this way because He is that way, or are we missing something? In Psalms 138:2, David the Psalmist prophesies that God has exalted His word above His name, in other words, God wants you to know that you can count on Him being true to His word despite having the name above all names. He will keep His word, even if by keeping it, His name gets dragged through the dirt. And that’s what we see in the Old Testament – His name tarnished by the recourse He had to take on an adulterous generation, simply because He remained true to a promise He made long ago to a man He called a friend.

So, I asked the young woman if I could help her understand why God appears ugly in the Old Testament – to give her a new lens to look through so she can appreciate God and the first part of the bible in a fresh light. With gladness she welcomed what I had come to learn. She was excited to be able to read the entire bible in context to a God of love – a God of faithfulness to His word and to His relationships with us. I began by telling her about a guy mentioned in Genesis named Abraham. When God met him thousands of years ago, He immediately loved this man for His faith. All God had to do was ask him to pack up shop and leave everything he knew, everyone he’d known, all his family and friends, to go to a land somewhere in the world he’d never been – and at the request of a God he never knew existed, Abraham listened and obeyed. This faith must have been super attractive to God, because before Abe knew it, God was cutting a covenant with him, and he didn’t have to do a thing to earn it – he didn’t even have to do anything to keep covenant with God, all he had to do was receive the promises God made to him like a present from Mom and Dad on Christmas. It was a gift-covenant.

One of the major keys in understanding God in the Old Testament is to understand the promises God made with Abraham. Despite Abe’s faults, which were many – I mean, he was only human like us – God promised to have his back as long as he was alive, and also as long as his family bloodline was alive. Yep, Abraham was the forefather of the entire nation of Israel. The major promise God made to Abraham was that He would bless all nations through Abraham’s seed – in other words, Abraham’s descendants would be the source of blessing to all the other nations in the world. Abraham’s descendants would later be named Israel and some seven hundred years later, they would be recognized as a nation in and of themselves.

About six hundred years after Abraham started his covenant journey with God, his family had multiplied exponentially and for many reasons that I’ll not go into here, the entire family – which by then numbered into the millions – had found themselves in slavery to Egypt. That’s right, God’s people who were still the recipients of God’s promises were in bondage to a pagan nation. Because of God’s faithfulness to His promises, He broke them out of slavery and brought them into a land of freedom. But before He would walk them into the inheritance of His covenant with Abraham, God wanted to make a new covenant with them as a nation of people – He wanted to propose to them and bring them into a marriage covenant where He would give them all direct access to His presence and make them all priests, representing the one true God and blessing all the nations of the earth.

Remember how I said that the key to understanding God in the Old Testament is to understand the covenant He made with Abraham – well, it’s at this point in Israel’s history that everything changes. You see, God wanted to make them a kingdom of priests and a holy nation who would exercise authority in the earth on behalf of God, but that generation had only know slavery – they only knew how to think as slaves, not priests. When God presented Himself to them on Mount Sinai, He didn’t descend from heaven in a rainbow, or with a soft serenade of angels singing and playing harps, instead He covered the mountain in dark clouds with thunders and lightning and loud trumpets blasting throughout the earth.

What attracted God to Abraham was his faith, to move when asked despite the abnormality of the request. This is called faith, and Israel had none when God requested them to enter into His presence. It was because of Israel’s slave mindset that they unanimously voted not to receive the gift-covenant God was proposing, instead they counter-proposed a covenant that allowed them remain in the comfortability of their slave ways and asked Him for a deal that was like what the other pagan nations of the land had between each other. If they were going into an agreement with God, they wanted to be able to control their end of the bargain – they wanted a covenant with rules to follow because they only knew how to value themselves based on how well they performed the tasks Pharaoh gave them back in Egypt. They couldn’t fathom a God who would value them based on who their father was, by simply being the children of Abraham.

So, this blog is all about coming to understand the Old Testament and learning how to view the God of love despite how He appears during the time of the Old Covenant, and it’s at this point in Israel’s history where this becomes abundantly clear. Israel rejected God’s proposal of a gift-based covenant, and asked for a rules-based covenant. God didn’t want to give them this kind of covenant, as it would require Him to punish them if they failed to uphold the rules. A rules-based covenant, like the ones the other pagan nations had with each other, had consequences included in it for behavior meriting either blessing, or cursing. In other words, in a rules-based covenant, God would have the pleasure of blessing them if they behaved well, but He would have the displeasure of having to curse them if they performed poorly. God knew they would fail constantly, and He knew ahead of time that He’d have to constantly curse them for breaking the rules.

So, why did God agree to this kind of covenant that Israel asked for? It wasn’t like He could go against His nature and force them through controlling methods to agree to a gift-based covenant. Why did God make this covenant with them that would force Him to operate in a way that would essentially drag His beautiful name through the mud of religion and atheistic contempt? Simply, because God exults His word above His name and is faithful to His covenants to the end. God’s covenant with Abraham promised that through him and his descendants, God would bless every nation of the earth. God’s intention was to bring forth His Son, Jesus, from the family line of Abraham, and through Jesus, the anointed One from above, we all would be blessed through the gospel message of union with God.

When I told the young woman about the covenant God made with Abraham, and because of His faithful nature of love and His enduring faithfulness to His word, this is why God in the Old Testament seems rough and hard-handed – it was all done in order to keep the family of Israel alive so that God could give us the greatest gift of all – Jesus. It was Jesus who saved her. It was Jesus who saved us all. He saved us from death, but He also saved us from religion. God endured being in a rules-based covenant of religion so that He could give you the life of freedom Jesus died and paid for. So the next time you read the Old Testament, and you come across passages that describe God in a way that fits the atheistic description Richard Dawkins gave, you’ll now see Him with new eyes.

Biblically, Jesus is the perfect representative of the entire family of Israel. Prophetically speaking, Jesus is Israel. When the bible prophesied that God would make a new covenant with Israel, it referred the New Covenant God the Father made with His Son when Jesus shed His blood at Calvary. This New Covenant is a better covenant than the Old. It’s better, because it has better promises – promises that were given to Abraham – promises that pertain to you and you being blessed with every spiritual blessing of freedom and life. You are the object of God’s desire, and His faithfulness to His word has proven His great love for you. May I suggest that when you start reading the Old Testament, start with the Psalms of David, and see who he saw in the midst of the Old religious Covenant – a God of love and a God of faithfulness to the end.

Written by: Drew Fraser

When Headlines Become Reality

When Headlines Become Reality

I get it. The headlines make it look like we have a dire situation in the world out there. ISIS, mass shootings, looting, rioting, bad cops, etc. And I know many Christians who point to those headlines to “prove” that the world is in decline and we are coming to the end of it, judgement is near, all that good stuff. But let’s consider a few things. Do headlines really reflect the state of the world?

I would say no, for a lot of reasons. Let’s start with bad news sells, good news doesn’t. There are crazy moves of God happening all over the world, but we don’t often hear about those things. We don’t hear about people who are just good hearted and do nice things for others. The preponderance of media attention is focused on the examples of bad, crazy people doing crazy things, sensationalist media. And many people would contend that certain media outlets are biased toward a particular point of view. I heartily agree. Media outlets have agendas. And part of their agenda is to paint their opposition in as negative a light as possible, so owning guns causes mass murders and anyone wanting to impose restrictions on gun ownership is secretly plotting to take away our liberties.

We also have to consider the immediacy of media now, that we did not have 10 years ago. As soon as something happens it is broadcast around the world and is transmitted to our phones by way of social media. So not only is the type of news that is generally sent out overwhelmingly negative, but the frequency with which we are receiving this news has increased. This negative frequency also feeds into the minds of people who may be inclined to get their piece of the news pie and act in ways to get that attention, even if it is negative. So in some respects negative news breeds negative news. But it is still headlines, not trend lines.

Also we define “getting worse” by our own personal experiences and not by world trends. We perceive that bad things are happening and we compare those things to what we remember of our youth. Young people show less respect nowadays, don’t work as hard as our generation, we never had to lock our doors, etc. We either ignore world trends or we are ignorant of them and choose to remain so. People make blanket statements like “we are obviously in the end times” and “society is getting worse.” Both statements I have heard recently, but no evidence is provided beyond pointing to headlines.

Consider the world Jesus came into – Roman oppression, widespread crucifixion, leprosy, just to name a few. Or the first few centuries of Christianity when just to bear the name Christian could have meant facing horrible torture and death. We sit in our churches Sunday after Sunday so far removed from the world the first Christians lived in. And there have been many centuries since then that fill our history books full of plagues, wars, genocide, and evil. We have no claim on being the worst generation ever. In fact, we have a lot of claim to being the best, if one takes the time to follow actual trend lines and not headlines. We have improved health, and understand medicine, illnesses, and the role germs play better than we have in previous centuries. We are humane to people and animals and fight against agencies and people who inflict harm. The ability to communicate has expanded phenomenally. Anyone can write a blog or post their thoughts and ideas out there for the world to see. And those thoughts can be transmitted around the globe instantly.

We can’t continue to hide behind headlines and just see them as a “sign of the times.” If our generation is worse than the one before us, then who do we have to blame? We play moral judge and jury, but fail to show the love of Jesus to our world. We can’t just pray for a move of God, we must be a move of God. We can’t allow headlines to become reality.

Written by: Sharon Letson

Welcome to Better Covenant Lifestyle

Welcome to Better Covenant Lifestyle

Thanks for stopping by! I’m Nate, the creator of the Better Covenant Lifestyle blog and community, and I’d like to share with you my vision behind creating it. Before I jump into that though, I thought it would help to give you a brief introduction of who I am.

About Me

After chasing the pleasures of this world throughout my teen and college years, I became a follower of Jesus in April of 2010. I left behind a life filled with depression, binge drinking, drugs, and sexual promiscuity and gained a new life in Christ. I found it difficult to explain to my friends and family what exactly happened to me and why I had decided to go after a life with God. Because of this, I decided to start a blog and write about my testimony and share what the Lord was doing in my life.

I continued blogging for about 11 months until I eventually gave it up. Now, almost six years later, I’ve decided to pick it back up. You might be asking yourself, “Why now?” Great question.

I’ve experienced a great deal of growth over the last six years, and I’d like to think I’ve matured in many areas and am much better equipped to be writing again. Even though my hunger and passion for God is still just as intense as it was when I first became a believer, many of my views have evolved. While I had a great deal of zeal in my early writings years ago, I didn’t have a whole lot of knowledge as it pertained to reading and properly interpreting the Bible, nor was I reflecting the true heart of Jesus in a lot of my interactions with others.

Power and Truth

Since becoming a believer, my passion has always been for two things: the power of God and the truth of God. Over the years, the former has led me to personally experience and witness many great signs, miracles, and manifestations of God. The latter has led me to become a diligent student of the Bible who can clearly articulate the proper context and intended meaning of the Scriptures. I’ve never wanted to be the type who was chasing signs and miracles without having any Biblical basis for anything, but I also never wanted to be the type who was so full of the knowledge of the Word, but never actually experienced or lived out the things written in it.

It was with these passions in mind that I decided to enroll in Welton Academy Supernatural Bible School in 2015. I’m about to start my second year in the school on September 27th. To say that this school and its teaching have been life-changing would be an understatement. It’s given me an entirely new paradigm for how I view God and how I read and interpret the Bible. Having gained so much new insight, wisdom, and freedom in such a short amount of time, I knew it was time to “tell the world” and begin blogging again. However, this time around, my vision is slightly different.

Enter Better Covenant Lifestyle

While I will be writing frequently on a variety of topics, you will also see a number of other Godly men and women contributing to this blog. The Lord was clear to me that rather than just writing a bunch of blog posts on my own, He wanted me to pioneer a community of believers who are passionate about living out a better covenant lifestyle. My goal is to create an online community where believers can engage in healthy dialogue on what it means to be a new and better covenant believer.

In the short-term, I’m looking forward to organizing an amazing lineup of contributors to write about topics such as:

  • How to read the Bible
  • The character of God
  • Understanding the covenants
  • The Kingdom of God
  • The supernatural
  • Identity in Christ
  • Freedom in Christ
  • Eschatology

In the long-term, I’m hoping that Better Covenant Lifestyle will have become such a strong community that we will be able to put together conferences, partner with other ministries, publish books, and more.

Stay Tuned and Stay Connected

Thanks for taking the time to stop by and if you’d like to stay connected with the community be sure to like our Facebook page, follow us on Instagram, and subscribe if you’d like to receive the latest articles via email. I encourage you to comment, like, share, and use our official hashtag #bettercovenantlifestyle.

Until next time,

Nate