With Jesus there is no unless

Today I wanted to talk to you about a topic that God has been working on with me lately. That topic is the word “unless.”

This year has been a big year of growth for me. I’ve had a lot of processing to do, and a lot of it has been regarding issues/experiences that have been very close to my heart. There have been people this year that I’ve had to fight to forgive, situations where I’ve felt angry (both at others and myself), and worse, times when I’ve felt (wrongly) justified in that anger. I’ve had to do a lot of digging to figure out the whys behind a lot of those feelings and experiences, some of it unpleasant, some painful, all of it revealing and leading to more goodness, forgiveness, and grace.

Thankfully God has been gracious throughout all of this (as always), both in helping me to forgive and in forgiving me.

Which brings me to my main point, the lesson I’ve been learning: that with Jesus, there is no unless, which is both a great and terrible thing.

For example, the Bible doesn’t say, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life unless they struggle with addiction, lied last Tuesday, or don’t wish their mother a happy birthday.”

There is no sin that can keep you away from God if you’re willing to repent and ask forgiveness (and by the way, no, I don’t think not wishing someone happy birthday is a sin).

But by the same token, the Bible also doesn’t say, “Love your neighbor as yourself unless they made you angry on Facebook, come from a different ethnic background or class, or aren’t making the decisions that you think they should were you in their shoes.”

Jesus is very clear on these. Forgive your enemies, love your neighbor, care for the orphan and widow. There are no stipulations on these, no caveats that make you or me special when we try to plead our case.

And I’m not saying that you can’t or won’t struggle to do it. Lord knows this last year has been a case study in the same for me.

However, having seen the immense damage that comes in through these justifications, both in my relationships with others, my relationship with God, and my relationship with myself, I will say that fighting to follow his commands, putting aside my own opinions on who deserves what and when, is worth the fight. God’s discipline is a mercy, and the longer we fight it, the harder things will be, the blinder we will become to the wickedness in our hearts.

More often than not, the very thing that can stir me up to a rage in others is the very thing I do in return. For example, settings conditions on love, shutting out others, being judgmental or passive-aggressive. And even when I don’t see myself doing the same things (or at least haven’t figured it out yet), these situations still reveal other things in me of equal evil. Resentment, condemnation, wishing for others to fail. All of these are deep, hurtful problems I’ve found and the damage they cause can be and has been catastrophic.

And yet, God doesn’t say unless. He stays, He loves, He convicts, and He coaches, His kindness leading me to repentance.

God has forgiven me of more than I could ever imagine. He sees the true condition of my heart, sees the mirrored problems I don’t, sees the wounds I dig in myself and others. His forgiveness is a scandal.

And if He can do that for me, for someone who does the same things I loathe in others, how could I not do the same? How could my response, my worship, be anything less than to extend that same forgiveness to others, to love, to care?

God calls us to love, to do these things for everyone, no matter the circumstances, no matter the condition.

This Christmas season, the time for celebration, family, and friends, it’s time we stop adding “unless.”

So, have you ever struggled with this? When have you made excuses and what was the result? Do you have strategies that help keep you on track to avoid problems like these? Do you agree? Let me know in the comments below and if you’d like more content from me, feel free to subscribe and follow at any of the links in the sidebar.

Recommendation roundup, audiophiles and artistry

Hey guys,

It’s that time of year again. Not a specific time I’ve set up beforehand (like I probably should) but, as the title suggests, that time of year where I’ve been finding tons of cool new stuff to share with all of you!

So without further ado and in no particular order, let’s go!

Chet Baker

I first heard about Chet Baker probably five years or more ago when I was trying to get into jazz. It’s a tricky genre because it can veer from amazing to obnoxious on a dime for me, and in the slew of recommendations, I think poor Chet got lost in the shuffle. In trying to get back into jazz (again), I decided to look him up again, and man, am I glad I did.

The perfect mesh of boyish optimism, charm, and melancholy for me, I find him intensely romantic (in the same way I find bachelor detectives and cozy sweaters and fall romantic, not in the usual sense). Extra bonus, look at the album cover for this delightfully passive-aggressive love song. Magical.

“Hey girl, wanna come hang out with my dope sweater in my crazy chair? My trumpet can come too.” Love it.

Edict Zero – FIS

My favorite recommendation for this round, Edict Zero – FIS is a sci-fi audio drama, and it is AMAZING. For one thing, the production quality is off the charts. Secondly, the writing itself is incredible. The world is rich and complicated with details paced at just the right speed, the characters are charming, deep and diverse, and the exposition (one of the easiest downfalls for audio dramas) is handled beautifully.

The story follows a team of five federal agents as they seek to unravel the mystery behind an explosion at a nightclub on New Year’s Eve, 2415. According to their site: “The story is cyberpunk, being a mix of science fiction, law enforcement procedural, crime, suspense/mystery, and dark fantasy. Listeners have made comparisons to Bladerunner, The X Files, Fringe, Lexx, The Prisoner, Twin Peaks, Millenium, The Matrix, Tron, and a diversity of shows.”

Naturally, it’s the kind of thing I would adore, and I do.

As they’ll warn you at the start, there are some violence/language issues to be aware of if that’s a trigger for you, but if you really want to sink your teeth into something meaty, smart, and beautifully crafted, I can’t recommend this enough (oh that the production schedule was more reliable/that they had a larger backlog for me to devour).

Extra bonus: Special Agent Nick Garrett, who is rapidly becoming one of my all-time favorite characters across well, any form of media.

You can find them on iTunes or here: https://edictzero.wordpress.com/

We are So Bad at Adventuring

In discovering my new love for audio dramas, I also managed to stumble across this quirky one following the adventures of Thornwick and Bob, a would-be wizard and a spearman determined to find their way to The Road in order to reach the Big Battle (at least in season 1).

A bit of a guilty pleasure given how deplorable the main characters can be, if it weren’t so witty I probably wouldn’t have listened as far as I have, but it is a fun one to work to. The second season has been a little shaky so far in some of the back and forth development of the characters and it does fall into the exposition through straight up explaining things trap (a fact of which they’re aware and make fun of at least), but it’s still a fun show. You can find more about it at http://www.terribleadventurers.com/.

Audio drama runner-ups

Because I usually binge find things that I enjoy, I’ve also scrounged up the following audio drama podcasts.

It’s About Time is a podcast about Charlie and Steve, two normal guys who get hired at a time travel agency, hijinks sure to ensue. It’s light, charming and clever, and the theme song (a longer version available on the first episode) is so catchy and fun, it cheers me up whenever I hear it.

Deadly Manners, a Clue-style podcast about a dinner party gone horribly wrong features some big name talent such as Lavar Burton and Kristen Bell and has production quality to match. Though it hasn’t gotten very far yet, what it does have so far is great, Olivia and the Fortune Teller being my favorite.

The Once and Future Nerd is a podcast about three average high schoolers who get magically transported to your classic high fantasy world. I haven’t listened to more than a couple episodes, but have liked what I’ve heard thus far. There is a fair amount of bad language in it, so if that’s not your jam, I would skip this one (it’s the main reason I haven’t listened to more myself), but the narrator has a Monty-Pythonesque wit that I really enjoy.

We’re Alive is a zombie apocalypse survival podcast with great production quality and a thus far enjoyable story. I’m not crazy for zombie stories most of the time (surprise!), which has probably kept me from listening to more, but what I have heard has been of really high quality with distinct characters and some nice tension. They also handle exposition well and have a backlog that will be sure to keep me satiated for quite some time.

The Girl from the Other Side

This one is a manga series by Nagabe (art credit for below as well). A dark fairy tale along the lines of Over the Garden Wall, the story follows a little girl abandoned in the woods and her “cursed” Teacher. The girl, Shiva, is the epitome of innocence, and the tenderness of Teacher could melt a robot’s heart. First suggested to me on Amazon, I was delighted to find that three of the books were available so far, of which I have read two. Though some of the imagery is probably a little creepy, the story and heart of the series is so sweet I couldn’t help but fall in love with it. The art style is unique and beautifully inked (though I will admit sometimes it’s a little hard to distinguish because of how much black is used with Teacher and the other cursed beings that crop up). If you like that mix of eerie and sweet, you’ll love this.


Girl from the Other Side
He loves her so much. Entirely precious.

Anyway, that’s probably enough for recommendations for now. I’m sure if I find more I’ll let you know.

What about you? Anything you’re dying to tell the world about lately? It doesn’t have to be podcasts or books. Let me know in the comments below!