An Angry Man OR: Our Identity As Sons & Daughters of God


My new single, “I Am New”, was released to radio last week, and I find myself thinking about our sense of identity and it’s consequences…

Today I sat by an angry man. I was in seat 7C on a small commuter flight to Chicago, and I could feel his anger the moment he came to my row to take his place in seat 7D. Though I got up, smiled as I made room for him to take his seat, this man only glowered as he took his place and, leaving his sunglasses on, turned to the side to apparently go to sleep.hulk

No problem, I thought, all the better for me to get some work done.

He was an older man – maybe early 60’s – dressed in casual business style with black pants, nice though non-descript black shoes, and a powder blue button up shirt. He was tan and fit with well-groomed, spikey white hair. He looked like a confident and powerful man in the world of business, and yet he was wound pretty tight.

Once we were airborne, I got out my computer and went to work on some writing I needed to get done, quickly getting lost in it – so lost, in fact, that an hour later I didn’t hear the lone flight attendant of our small plane ask us to put away our electronic devices. Not only that, but I didn’t even hear the man in 7D talking to me at first, until his words reached some distant region in my brain, and, shaking off a focus induced kind of stupor, I looked at him and said, “oh… uh, I’m sorry… are you talking to me?”

The first thing I noticed was that he had finally taken his sunglasses off and that he was glaring at me with cold, blue, and watery eyes. His face was flushed, his blood was obviously up, and he was actually cursing me with a string of profanities – both adjectives and nouns.

I quickly tried to get my bearings and figure out what I had done wrong and realized that he was unhappy that I was on my computer. It was then that I discovered how close we were to landing and that I must have missed the announcement to turn off and stow all electronic devices! Had she really asked and I didn’t hear it? My first reaction was subconsciously defensive: I quickly looked around me to see if other people were still on their computers or listening to their iPods, etc.

Shoot! She must have announced it – no electronics in sight. “Oh man, I’m so sorry…” I started to say and immediately closed my laptop to stow it under my seat, though I doubt he heard me because he was clearly on a roll. He was taking my oversight personally and he intended to shame me with a verbal whipping.

Having closed my laptop and stowed it under my seat, I was surprised to find that this infuriated the man even more as he kicked the intensity of his tirade up a notch. People started looking at us – including the flight attendant – and once again I felt like I was at a loss, looking around trying to take stock of the situation, desperately wanting to figure out what I was doing wrong. I genuinely wanted to make things right.

“That (insert colorful adjective followed by colorful noun here) isn’t cool. They said to power it off! Power that (colorful… adjective maybe?) thing off! I don’t appreciate (colorful pronoun, plural) like you endangering my life.”

Oh… okay… it’s coming to me now. He’s upset that I only closed my laptop, putting it in sleep mode. Which puts me in a complicated position. What should I do? Take it out again? He must not realize how long it will take to power my computer down… We’d be on the ground by the time I did all that. Besides, I can’t really power it down, because…

“I’m sorry sir, I have information I need for my layover that I won’t be able to retrieve if I power down,” I tried to explain to him. You see, my itinerary was on a webpage that I had to leave open on my desktop. Without wi-fi at the airport, I wouldn’t have any of the info I needed for the rest of my trip. But as I tried to explain myself, it was clear that he was not interested in my story. He was angry and seemed invigorated to have found a place to spend his wrath.

Technically he was right – I guess I could have tried earlier that day to save the web page as a document so I could power down as would be requested of me, but doing all that at 5:30 that morning was low on my priority list, partly for this reason:

A couple of years ago I asked the flight attendant why we’re always asked to turn everything off at take off and landing – “does it really interfere with the cockpit instruments?” I asked, trying to reconcile the logic of their request with the fact that my iPod doesn’t have transmission capabilities.

“No, not at all. It’s more because If anything is going to go wrong on a flight, it is most likely to happen during take off or landing and it’s just a precaution we take in order to have everyone’s attention, so they aren’t tuned out with their iPods during the critical moments of our flight.”

Ah, the truth at last! God bless you, Mrs. Flight Attendant, for your truth telling! How many times had I heard the company line that my iPod might interfere with the cockpit instruments?! Oh the little lies we are told to invoke fear and force our compliance! It was obviously an illogical assertion and I was grateful for her honesty. From then on out, I have interpreted “please turn off all electronic devices” as them saying, “please give me your attention during this part of your flight, we want you to be alert and ready if anything should happen.” And ever since, I’ve been happy to give them my attention.

Now skip ahead a couple years to my current predicament. My first thought is that I’m surprised that a man of his age and education is still buying this old lie about cockpit interference. I feel my adrenaline start to rise as my fight or flight instinct is triggered and I have to decide how I should respond. Part of me feels genuine regret. Lost in my own thoughts, I simply didn’t hear the flight attendant’s direction. And in this man’s defense, I can imagine how it might have looked like I was brazenly ignoring the rules. Maybe he assumed I’m one of those people who feels entitled to do whatever they please, or that I’m a disrespectful punk who cavalierly ignores safety procedures. I genuinely wished to apologize – if he would’ve let me – for my ignorant disrespect that was offensive to him. He was right after all, I should have stowed my computer.

And technically, yes – they do ask us to power down our electronic devices. But for the reasons I mentioned above, I just hadn’t prepared for this, nor could I get it done before landing even if I had. And since I know that the real objective is our undivided attention, I knew that strict compliance to the rule, at this point, defeated the purpose of the rule.

But then another part of me was aware of the fact that this man obviously had anger issues. Is he a father I wondered? Does he shame his children like he’s shaming me? Do I fight back? I’m good with words, they are my specialty – I think I could have outgunned him… My anger was welling up in me, eager to come to my rescue. Ah… and yet I know that’s not the right thing to do. But what should I do? As I weighed what the proper Christ like response would be, I began to suspect that the inner drama within me mattered more than the outer drama, and so I turned my attention there.

Last week I was at a retreat where author John Sheasby told us of our Heavenly Father’s love for us, his children, and how so much of our heartache and trouble comes from our misunderstanding of our identity in Christ. The story of the prodigal son is the story of us all, John said. There is the son who ran away because of his self-hatred and the one who stayed because of his self-righteousness and neither of them knew their father’s heart nor their place in it.

The thoughts and insights John shared are worthy of their own post, and I hope to share his beautiful insights here soon. But suffice it to say that their effect on my heart was profound. He proposed that most if not all of us only know how to come to God as a servant, and so lurking in our minds and hearts is the servant identity – the identity of one who desperately and dutifully wants to please their Master, our value tied up in what we do rather than who we are.

Think of the scene of the prodigal son returning home. In Luke 15 it says that, “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father…”

Even in the moment of repentance this son reveals his servant mindset: he thinks of returning as a hired man! He thinks to repent for what he’s done when in fact the real sin is that he forgot who he was!And so he prepares his speech – the repentant speech of a servant – but barely gets a word out when his father runs to him and says, “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate!”

The father will not hear of the speech – it’s irrelevant because of course the boy is not a servant, he is a son. John Sheasby would propose that it was a case of mistaken identity all along and that it was the son’s perception of who he was that drove him to run away in the first place.

I’m a people pleaser, full of shame and self-loathing, with an identity firmly rooted in the servant’s mindset. If I am living victoriously over my various vices then I’m at peace, confident of God’s love for me. But if I’ve sinned in any way, then I’m plagued with shame and doubt. I feel God’s pleasure to the degree that I feel like I’ve gotten passing grades on my righteousness report card (a grade, by the way, that I give myself). And so I’m often tempted to feel like I can never do enough to please my heavenly Father, afraid that I fail him too often. Because of this, I rarely feel like I can do or be enough for others either!

You see, this is how it works for all of us: our relationship with Father God colors our every other relationship.In my case, my servant mindset sets me up to succumb to shame pretty easily.I don’t know who I am, and therefore I don’t know where I stand, and that’s why I desperately want the approval of others. And when I don’t get it, I get defensive, and defensiveness, of course, is the posture of a servant who has to constantly prove himself.

But sons and daughters don’t have to prove themselves – because there’s nothing to prove! Their identity rests in who their Father is! I’m trying to learn what this means and I find myself as defenseless as the prodigal son, my servant speech silenced as my Father embraces me.

These were my thoughts as I sat next to this angry man in seat 7D, fighting my desire to fight fire with fire and trying to restrain my usual instincts of shame and defensiveness (wanting to prove to him that it was an honest mistake, and that really, I’m a pretty great guy if he could get to know me. Please like me! Pretty please?).

And then I finally remembered who I was.

I am a son of the Most High God, an heir according to His promise. I am chosen, holy, without blemish and free from accusation. I am no longer a servant, and my Father celebrates me. He knows my name and has carved it in the palm of His hand.

I made a mistake, I did – I should have been paying more attention to the flight attendant and stowed my computer.Heck, maybe I should have even powered it down.But my Father knows my heart, he knows I never meant disrespect or harm.He knows I desire to do the right thing, even when I miss opportunities to do so.He loves me as a son and is daily setting me free from the shame and fear of a servant.

A remarkable thing happened: all of a sudden, the angry man’s words didn’t mean anything anymore – they could find no purchase in my soul. He didn’t know me like my Father does (nor did he even wish to know me, if the truth be told). Chances are he’s angry because he’s bound to a kind of servant mindset of his own – a slave to his work, his ego, his ambitions and ideals, perhaps – and he is crushed under the burden of constantly trying to be enough, to prove his worth.  No wonder he’s so angry.

I relaxed in my seat, answering his accusations with a humble “I’m sorry” repeatedly until I answered no more and stopped cowering (which seemed to make him even more angry). The adrenaline receded, the blood that had rushed to my face in embarrassed humiliation began to find its way back to my other extremities, and my heart settled. He continued to rage at me for several minutes even after we landed, but I sat untouched in my identity as a son. Not gloating, mind you. Just at rest.

In a way, I became grateful for the episode and how it so dramatically forced me to see the difference I experience between living as a servant and as a son – not just in my relationship to God, but in my every encounter. It was a swift and certain confirmation of what the Lord had ministered to my heart just that week about my sonship. This man would not accept my apology, but my Father does.

I am writing this from some thousands of feet in the air during the second leg of my flight home, and wouldn’t you know it? They’ve just announced that it’s time to turn off and stow all personal electronic devices. I think I’ll do just that.

Jason Gray is a recording artist with Centricity Records. His latest single, out now, is "When I Say Yes".


  1. Sir Jonathan Andrews

    Thank you Jason. This was what I needed to hear to start my day. I get angry pretty easy. I needed to hear this story.

  2. Missy K

    This has lodged in my heart this morning:
    “But sons and daughters don’t have to prove themselves – because there’s nothing to prove! Their identity rests in who their Father is! I’m trying to learn what this means and I find myself as defenseless as the prodigal son, my servant speech silenced as my Father embraces me.”

    Thank you. So much.

  3. Sofia

    Thanks for the reminder of what it means to be a child of God, as opposed to his servant. It’s so easy to forget the distinction between those. I needed to hear that this morning.

  4. Eric (not EP)


    Sorry you had to endure this so that we could gain knowledge and understanding from your plight on your flight but I am curious…did any of the people seated nearby come to your defense as you were in the process of leaving the plane?



  5. sevenmiles

    Thanks for sharing, Jason. I needed to read that. Oh, and the picture choice was perfect. “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”

  6. Jonathan Rogers

    Great stuff, Jason, and a great picture of what happens when the gospel moves out of the realm of the theoretical and theological and into the facts of our everyday lives.

  7. ljjasper

    Amazing story…. How were you able to even process thoughts with this dude yelling in your ear!?! Your response shows an incredible amount of strength and a security that could only come from knowing one’s place as a son of the High King. Your inner struggle makes it feel like we know you…. like some long ago friend catching us up over a meal. Thank you.

  8. Gail Hafar

    Hey Jason, thanks for posting. I relate to what you were saying about struggling against lies of shame and self-loathing… about being a people pleaser. I am always sort of stunned at how personally I take it when someone flips me off or screams at me because of something like you describe here. I get all flustered, and while I try to handle the whole thing the way Jesus would have me… after it is all said and done – and no matter how much I succeed at being a picture of Jesus to that person – I cry. And I always feel so ridiculous about that. How is it that this person that I have never met could hurt me as deeply as to make me cry? It’s like I am back in grade school again responding to an accurate public accusation of having really massive ears (they were huge).

    In any case, I am grateful for what you learned about being a SON… and how it stands in contrast to being a servant. But to be honest, I struggle with it. All over the new testament there is talk of being a servant of Christ – even at times, a slave to Him… and that in that role, there is freedom. Perhaps I am struggling with mere semantics here, but I sincerely want to just pick your brain a bit more about it because I sometimes swing the pendulum between works and rebellion and struggle to find the freedom that lies in the middle of the two – simple repentance and a right view of God (and therefore a correct understanding of ME in relation to Him).

    Sorry if I am being unclear – I’m just processing and thought maybe you would have more thoughts to add. I don’t mean to let a bunch of worms out of their can. =-)

    Thanks again, Jason.

  9. Brandi

    Good stuff. All too often the fight or flight response gets us in trouble. When we give in to those moments it is too difficult for others to see our God. This is a beautiful story. Poor guy in 7C, sounds like life is sad for him.

  10. Leigh Geramanis

    Thank you for sharing this story, Jason. I, too, am a people pleaser who is all to easily angered. I jump to conclusions about other people’s behavior and am too quick to attribute motivations to it. I needed this reminder today. Thank you for sharing!

  11. Aaron Roughton

    Great words Jason. That was an amazing response centered in a peace that was definitely not circumstantial. I obviously need to read this again, because I’m still thinking about what my elite “ministry” team, The Deacons of Pain, could do if we could just find Mr. Seat 7D.

  12. Dan Page

    What a PATHETIC attempt to justify your CRIMINAL behavior 🙂 …


    Excellent. Great story that puts the spotlight on our fallenness and God’s peaceful perspective. I love the way you write. I appreciate your willingness to expose your heart with such candor. I’m gonna pray for that guy who was in 7D.

    Blessings upon you as you press on through this month filled with all kinds of opportunities to experience and express grace.

    Planning to go M.A.D. with you!

    Much Love –


  13. jiayi

    Ooh. Something for me to think about.

    I started serving in church in a rather unique ministry, at first, making use of the chance that a friend’s joining too so it wouldn’t be as intimidating as starting out alone. It is hard socializing with the people I’m serving but sometimes God-given strength?words? seal the cracks very smoothly and warmly, so I know it’s good for me to be there and I want to be there. But that doesn’t happen all the time although fellowship is an important part of the ministry.

    Recently I started doubting my abilities, and worrying that my ‘performance’ each week depended on the attendance of these other friends – I feel more comfortable when they’re around and become more sociable. Other than this situation, I step out to pursue my own interests alone – and quite often too – so I’m not a clingy person and I don’t want others to mistake that I’m like that.

    The problem, MY abilities – no! It’s definitely His ability given to me on some very blessed occasions: placed in this foreign environment, I’m not sure that I actually can do anything.

    And I don’t need to prove to anyone that I’m rather sociable or that I’m not dependent, but to examine my heart in the matter as I willingly step out in FAITH each week. …Who knows what He’ll do!

  14. Debbie Sneddon

    Jason, you are more precious than you will ever know. Thanks for sharing and God bless you, son of the Most High God!!!

  15. Ron Block

    Jason, perfect post for what I needed to hear this morning.

    We sometimes can think we are walking in our true identity in every area when really we’re missing big parts of the picture. Our real, Christ-driven identity has to flow out from our spirit and soak into every nook and cranny of the mountains of our soul – into those damaged places where lies, half-truths, fears, and ungodly coping mechanisms hide out and live. I have had strong faith in some areas, but in others I have lacked the courage to believe.

    You made a choice, sitting in that seat. You chose your real identity; “This is who I really am,” and the reigning peace of God took care of your immediate need by popping into your mind as wisdom and understanding. If you had chosen otherwise, you would have been a temporary devil-puppet rather than a reigning overcomer, full of “my rights” and “how dare anyone treat me this way.” (Been there many times myself).

    Each of us make these choices every moment of every day.

    I have had things happen in these past three years that have continually prompted that choice. It’s really a choice between becoming bitter and cynical – acting from the heart of the Shadow – or using the outer pressure to let myself be driven deeper into Christ, into my real identity. I know as unassailable fact that if it weren’t for Christ’s overcoming power I would end up a bitter, cynical old man.

  16. LauraP

    Got defensive this morning over someone sitting in unfair judgment of a friend. Then went down the crazy path of wondering if I was included in the judgment — condemned by association. Realized I was caring WAY too much about the opinion of the guy in seat 7D. None of us is ever “good enough” to please that guy on any given day. And why do I feel I need to?

    Even if his judgment was righteous (it wasn’t) and even if I held his opinion in high regard (I don’t), why would I take on the burden of trying to prove my worth? God knows where my heart and intentions lie in this matter, and in Him I am free from accusation. That seems just too good to believe, but I am choosing to change my posture, and rest in that truth.

  17. tim knight

    Thanks for sharing Jason. I to needed to hear this story. We all have someone around us like this. I remember the Sunday night just before your flight. God spoke thru you. And for this I am gratefully. God bless

  18. Jesse D

    Thank God for those moments of clarity He gives us in His grace! It would have been incredibly easy to forget what is true and react as your nature dictated, and every day we all choose that route perhaps more often than not. But when we do have those moments when the Spirit dictates rather than our natural tendencies, we come away changed.

    May your moment of clarity help change me next time I’m faced with being judged.

  19. Bruce Harbert

    Wonderful post! Our sonship is a wonderful thing to discover (uncover). We have ALWAYS been sons…just forgot it!

    I would like to add this note of caution for all my brothers and sisters who are just beginning to come into this place of understanding in their journey. It is very easy to develop an attitude of superiority or elitism when you begin to understand this truth.

    The further you go into your true identity in Christ and your sonship you will realize that you are nothing…and can claim nothing about yourself that isn’t also true about everyone else. The guy in 7D and in fact all the others on the airplane, the airport, etc. are all sons of Our Father. They just haven’t “realized” it yet. It hasn’t become a reality in their understanding.

    All of our lives have been hid with Christ in God. And we are all discovering this son of God (Christ in us) when the time is right for His unveiling.
    May we who are being awakened to His Life not keep this life and truth to ourselves…but see it and call it forth from those in whom it is still hidden.

  20. Lori

    Thank you Jason, for the reminder that it is who GOD is, and not who I am or my shortcomings and misguided choices that leave me wishing for a “do-over” which places me in His grace.

    Coming from the perspective of one who never knew a “loving” father in my own home, often shamed; and a childhood of being treated by my father (as well as my step-father) that nothing I could do would ever be good enough ….. it takes stepping outside my past to understand that special place for me in God’s heart, just because I am a daughter. I often have to remind myself of what a healthy father/daughter relationship is supposed to be, since I never learned this is as a young woman. It is a struggle, since our experience is so much a part of us, it’s just something that has to be continually overcome, I suppose. Thanks Jason, for reminding me, once again of who I am 🙂

    Many Blessings!

    p.s. I will pray for the traveler, since it’s obvious he has so much deep hurt & pain in his heart.

  21. Tim

    I LITERALLY just read this and then opened my email to an email from a colleague telling me he had to back out of an already agreed to commitment. This commitment was a really big deal, and now we are left with very little time to reschedule! Oh boy!! The blood pressure rose just a little bit, then the anger level, and as I was ready to burst:

    “I finally remembered who I was.

    I am a son of the Most High God, an heir according to His promise. I am chosen, holy, without blemish and free from accusation. I am no longer a servant, and my Father celebrates me. He knows my name and has carved it in the palm of His hand.”

    So in the end, I am going to give it a few minutes, and come up with a proper response to his email, a response that hopefully shows who I am .

    Thanks Jason for the reminder!

  22. Peter Br

    Ah… yes. Pour it all over us. This the good news! When we realize our sonship in Christ, we finally can love mercy more than being right. Many years it’s taken for me to live in that knowledge.

    This is who we are now. Thanks be to God!

  23. Laura Droege

    I can identify with your internal struggle. All too often, who I am depends on the reactions of others around me, how they perceive me or how i perceive myself in comparison to them. So one minute I might be brilliant and the next, a world class idiot, the next minute I’m an angel then a devil and so on and on and on. It makes me insecure because I never know from one moment to the next what my identity is. So thanks for the reminder of who we really are!

  24. Julie

    um, Jason, were you reading my mind yesterday?

    This is eye-opening: “I don’t know who I am, and therefore I don’t know where I stand, and that’s why I desperately want the approval of others.” I need to think about that a bit.

    thanks for this Jason.

  25. Stacy Grubb

    This is one of those posts that will be relevant in so many areas of struggle. The want to “one up” the opponent in a battle of words has always gotten me in trouble (because I have little to no upper body strength). I was quick to retaliate against someone who was basically unarmed the other day for taking an unnecessary stab at my dad. I found myself getting irritated that he couldn’t understand my insults as though I was casting pearls to the swine. And then it occurred to me that maybe I was relishing the chance to cut him down a little too much and I instantly regretted my initial reaction that then snowballed into stupidity. In some ways I feel like a person who toggles between The Angry Man and The Servant/Son.

  26. Amber

    Thanks so much for sharing Jason! The prodigal son is one of my favorite Bible stories because there are so many lessons from so many angles. I am actually speaking tomorrow and incorporating the story into my testimony and this gave me a whole new approach!

  27. ginger

    While reading this post I kept thinking there was another Scriptural reference I was reminded of. I looked in 1 John 3 (so much about love) & in the Message version, verses 18-24 read:

    My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
    And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us.

    You see, my defensiveness comes from others’ criticism–real or perceived–and I turn it inward which keeps me from being a loving daughter of my Heavenly Father. How I want to be free to love!

    @Gail: I think the type of servant Jason is referring to here is one who has to earn his Father’s love. As sons & daughters of God, we can do nothing to earn our place in His family; Christ paid the price for us on the cross as he was the only sinless living sacrifice. We are then called to serve God & one another in love as an act of worship to Him. Hope that’s helpful.

  28. Jen

    “As I weighed what the proper Christ like response would be, I began to suspect that the inner drama within me mattered more than the outer drama…”

    I love this because it’s so ridiculously true. So often, it’s the lessons we learn about ourselves in situations like this that really matter. And so much paradox too… servants and sons, loving those that curse us (so hard!), and answering anger with humility and grace. Once again, you’ve given me lots to think about!

    Gail — I totally relate…. and driving makes it worse. If I accidentally cut someone off in traffic and get the horn or “the finger,” it takes a while to get my blood pressure back to normal. And you can’t tell them you’re sorry! There should be some kind of universal apology hand signal for us. 🙂

  29. Chris

    We are all wemmicks and it’s good on the days we don’t let the dots or stars stick to us!

    (Max Lucado Book: You are Special that I read to my kids and personally find quite compelling!)

  30. Stuart Buck

    I’ve always thought that if electronic devices really posed the slightest risk to the aircraft whatsoever, security would seize the devices and not allow them in airports in the first place, rather than depending on the honor system.

  31. Stacie

    Wonderfully written….Your writing really helps me think about my own life…I, too, am a people pleaser, but have not yet come that place you wrote about here….and for that place, I am praying. And to Bruce, reply #25…wow, what powerful words and perspective that I need to see. Thank you for posting this…even if I’m kinda late in reading it. 😉 LOVE

  32. Bruce

    Stacie #41…I’m glad you gleaned some life and truth from my post. Due to the life of Christ in us…we all have value and something to give to one another. I too have been blessed by you Stacie!

  33. Becca

    Oh my. I finally read this, Jason. What a powerful, powerful post. I need to read it about a thousand more times, and then tattoo quotes from it on my arm. Thank you for giving us a living example of a secure identity.

  34. tim stromer

    Jason-forgive me for hurting you in anyway, I never meant to, and again, the only reason I’m here is because I do Love you, but like you I feel no love from you, no offense, I just don’t, I REALLY want to but it’s not there. As The Lord has had me pray for you it’s always been really sweet…maybe that’s all I’m supposed to do, just pray. Is that what you want? Again, it seems you miss a lot of what I’m saying too, just like you feel about me, funny huh?
    Paul’s admonition that allows people to eat meat sacrificed to idols: verse 4, an idol is nothing, is Halloween nothing? For me the 31st is a day that I can rejoice and be glad in, but a celelbration that’s core is evil, nope.
    Paul then defines that there is just one God, (5&6) so all the idols are fake, bogus, they got nothing…satan is real, devils, ghosts, all that stuff is real, this isn’t the same thing. It would be more like you sacrificing to an idol, would that be OK? But if you don’t you’ll miss out on fellowship…that’s good, the fellowship, but not sacrificing to idols, i.e. halloween.
    Even if your point is right, read verse 9…ooops, if there are the weaker, DON’T DO IT…you’re not just doing it, you’re endorsing it, posting about it, and trying to justify it?
    12 But when you thus sin against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ. 13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
    Isn’t what you’re doing sin according to this scripture, even if you are right? (But following the logic I purposed, it’s not a good fit anyway!)

  35. Ron Block

    Tim: You certainly are determined to have the last word. “Agreeing to disagree” is probably not in your vocabulary. The other thread was closed, so I would advise stopping. Rather than continue to press your point, there are several posts going that will be more productive.

  36. Jason Gray


    Thanks Ron, I know you’re looking out for me ;-). And I promise to let the Halloween thread die down after this.

    But I would like to quick respond here to Tim and am grateful that you, Tim, addressed this – the portion of scripture that I was really trying to get at.

    I thought that you probably felt like me, not listened to/considered. I could sense that in how emphatic your replies were. I regret that. I imagine it’s hard for you to feel assured that I’ve considered the things you’ve said. It’s in my nature to question my motives rigorously. I have wondered if I am guilty of transgressing the scriptures you brought to our attention here and have prayerfully considered that possibility. I afflict my self with questioning my motives – I rarely close the book on these things – cultivating a suspicion of my motives as a kind of spiritual discipline.

    But even then, I will concede that it’s possible that in spite of all my prayerful examination I could be off the mark. My friends who know me well know that I tirelessly question why I believe what I believe, but if I assume you to know that about me, I can understand why you might feel not listened to.

    I have considered the scriptures and ideas you’ve mentioned, and I have landed on a different conclusion about their meaning. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree as Ron suggests.

    But in particular, I think you bring up a great point with the “weaker brother” verse, and I’ve struggled a long time to figure out what that means. I’m not sure I know yet – it’s a very ambiguous verse – but I have been challenged to abandon what I used to think it meant, which is the application I think you’re making here.

    I’ve come to see how a well-intentioned misapplication (I believe) of the idea of being careful to not make the weaker brother stumble can be a way of coddling the weaker brother/sister, a way of allowing them to continue in their immaturity or mistaken way of thinking.

    If Paul shared what I assume is your stance on this verse, he wouldn’t have brought the whole controversial idea up. Speaking and writing about eating food sacrificed to idols could be construed as something that might have caused someone to “stumble”. Does that make sense?

    For instance, it is extra-biblical to argue that alcohol consumption is bad or should be avoided by Christians. That’s just unscriptural. Of course the bible does speak clearly about drunkenness. But to preach alcohol as evil is unscriptural and causes a distortion of the gospel (I’m working on a post about how this simple mistake causes so much trouble in the church.)

    So if I talk about alcohol, in one way I could be accused of being in danger of causing a weaker brother to stumble. But on the other hand, to not talk about it is to co-operate with the willful distortion of scripture. There are some instances where I wonder if the “weaker” brother needs to stumble – in other words question their misplaced conviction – in order to arrive at a clearer understanding of the truth. By being too fearful of causing someone to stumble, I might be in danger of encouraging a willful misunderstanding of scripture.

    In some ways, Jesus could be accused of the same kind of thing, always challenging the assumptions of the devout. However he was called the stone that makes some stumble.

    It’s important to recognize that people locked in legalism A: never realize they are legalistic and B: need to be challenged on legalistic assumptions in order to move toward freedom (this is how I grow, anyway – by continually having my assumptions challenged). And nobody really likes to be challenged that way. Think of the Pharisees. I’m always asking the Lord to reveal the Pharisee in me. I’m also always asking him to reveal the licentious sinner in me as well.

    And yet, I know I could be mistaken about all of this. But as humbly as I know how, I tread carefully forward, trying to be sensitive to the “weaker” brother, but also aware of my responsibility to challenge assumptions in the hopes of discovering the hard won freedom that Jesus Christ has secured for us. Admittedly I probably get it wrong from time to time, but that’s the inherent risk of growing, and I trust the Lord to guide my steps, and “though a man stumble, he will not fall.”

    I assume you’ll disagree with where I’ve landed on this, and that’s fine – I do hope you feel like I’ve considered your concerns and I’m grateful that you addressed the scripture above. I think you uncovered the deeper question of understanding who the weaker brother is, and also wondering what it means to be careful to not cause him to stumble. Good stuff. I’m working on a post that will hopefully be up in the coming weeks – maybe we can continue the discussion there.

    But I think we’ve discussed this particular topic of Halloween nearly to death and should probably give it a rest (unless you feel like you need to have the last word.) I for one have made my case and will now let it rest.

  37. Ron Block

    Jason, I didn’t think you needed defending, but just thought, “Enough is enough.” We have in fact talked this topic to death, with little movement. But your last post was really good and worthwhile, so I should have kept my oar out of the water. It is easy to become impatient with religious thinking but it is a way of seeing that is hard to break through, having gone through the divesting of illusions in myself (and really, God does it regularly in various areas in myself).

    Tim: no offense intended, just a little weary of the reiteration of points. As my wife has said to me sometimes, “OK, I understand the point you’re making. You don’t have to repeat yourself again.”

  38. Tony Heringer

    Lest you forget Jason, Ron is the designated bouncer in this cyber-pub.

    I laugh every time I see this clip. 🙂

    Tim, my suggestion to you is when Jason comes to a town near you seek him out. The whole reason that he and I are in relationship is because we had a sharp disagreement over, of all things, Bono. Seems silly now, but at the time there was some heat, but never a lack of love from either Jason or myself. And whatever we may believe about this issue, I know that we can all agree that “love covers a multitude of sins.”

    On issues like this one there is immense danger in online communication. It doesn’t convey emotional depth very well and true feelings can be lost in something we are reading versus something we see another person sitting across from us saying. It is an area of life we must tread lightly in and always imbue with grace. That’s one of the great facets of the Rabbit Room. It has always been a safe place for folks to come and, as Andrew Peterson says “work stuff out.”

    Please seek out Mr. Gray and you will not only enjoy his work but also his winsomeness. He’s not lying about thrashing about over his convictions, I have seen that up close and personal and found it quite touching and also aggravating at the same time. God bless Mrs. Gray. 🙂

    If you seek him out, I think you will find what some of the rest of us have discovered – a charming and loving man who cares deeply about the Truth that sets men and women free. Peace be with you.


  39. Tim Stromer

    I am so sorry Jason, and Ron, I have obviously overstepped my bounds, JAson had asked me to comment, so did. Jason please forgive me, there is obviously no fruit here, and I hate that Ron is considering me religious, first time in my life, seriously! Really sad stuff. I hate it when we don’t hear the Spirit on this stuff, starting with me, I should not have ever posted on here, so sorry Jason. If you feel God telling you to do something, if you can walk in freedom, then walk there, forgive me for confusing the issue for you, I do pray one day you’d have the freedom to not struggle so much with your thinking, that’s really sad to me.
    Forgive me guys.
    In Him,

  40. Ron Block


    My comment was out of line and over the top. Let it drop.

    It would get pretty boring around here without some opposing viewpoints. A lot of light is shed by disagreement. So you are welcome to post. I just felt that the thread had reached its end, as did the moderator, and we didn’t need to say the same things over to one another.

    I know that you have a good heart and desire God’s best, both for you and for others. That is easy to see. I do feel we can be misled as to what “best” is. But however you think about these things, I encourage you to go on living your convictions to the max and continue opening yourself up to the Holy Spirit.

  41. Becca

    Bahahaha. I just watched the banjo lesson. Ron moves like Samson with the jawbone of an ass. My kids want to know if they make this in a DS game.

  42. Jason Gray


    Tim & Tony,

    The tricky thing is that when I get home I go into hiding (ducking behind lobster tanks and such :- ) My time is so rare at home that it’s easier for me to connect with people away from home than when I’m actually home.

    So don’t take it personally Tim 😉

    And I echo Ron’s sentiment – I’m grateful that you posted comments and we got to contend with each other a bit over this. This is the best way I know to get at the kinds of truth that can only be discovered when we wrestle with it – whether we wrestle with the Lord or with each other.

    Grace and peace to you.

  43. Marilyn


    I never heard of you until today but God blessed me so much through you . I was listening to the radio in the car today, but not closely, until the announcer mentioned the words “Everything sad is coming untrue”. I had just had a wonderful answer to prayer today but there are still some major concerns, so for me, those were words of encouragement straight from God. And so clever! I decided I needed to see if there are t-shirts available with those words so I “googled” them and found your website. I haven’t looked for the shirt yet because I saw the link for this article. Just exactly what God has been trying to get through to me over the past few days. Thank you for being obedient to God and for letting Him use you. Many people are being blessed by God through you.


  44. Jason Gray


    Aw thanks Marilyn! So grateful you found me here!

    two things – I do have some Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue T-shirts! I don’t have them posted on my website anymore because I’m almost all out of them. But if you email us at we can see if we might have your size and email you a picture of them so you can see if you like it.

    Second, you might be interested to know that “Everything Sad Is Coming Untrue” was inspired by a passage from “The Lord Of The Rings” books. I wrote two songs on my record about that thought. You can hear at least one of them on my facebook page at

    Grace and Peace to you!

  45. Marilyn

    Aghhh! More Like Falling In Love? That’s YOU? I knew you all along. Great song. It has been running through my mind for a week. I just didn’t make the connection!

  46. Tim Stromer

    Thanks Ron, those words just kind of sat there and really wanted to have place in my life, they wanted to dictate how I felt, and what I might say, so thanks for recognizing that. It’s interesting that you should mention about the Holy Spirit, because that’s what He started speaking to me about this morning. And accusing me of being religious was really troubling, as again this morning, as He usually does pointed, me out yet another scripture where in Luke the disciples were praising Him as He was riding on the donkey, and the Pharisee’s falsely accused them…so the last thing that I wanted to do was to stop Jason from worshiping, which The Lord reassured me I was not doing, it’s a dramatic statement, but if we like them stop each other from worshiping, that’s a horrible thing.
    The reason it grieves me the most, and where The Lord was directing me next was this matter of His Holy Spirit and faith. The religious leaders didn’t hear the Lord, they were not jews inwardly. They did not hear The Lord in their lives, except for a few, they rejected the Messiah who was right in front of them.
    One of us is missing the Lord, but it wants to turn into a attack on the flesh and blood, not against the principalities that are at work to destroy our faith.

    So how does faith come? Rom 10:17, “faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God.” that word hearing means spoken word, the Rhema, the word that God speaks to us…not just the written word, not just through oral teachers, but through the lamb Himself. If we do not hear these words, then our faith must be based on our understanding, or someone else’s.
    I remember you telling me Jason about a certain artist you toured with, and a certain song that the first time I heard it I felt the power of God all over it, but it took you weeks of playing the song for you to “like” the song. If we base our hearing on things like that, we will be led astray. If He is not able to come in and completely have all control of our life, then we will go to whatever we think is best, and we won’t be able to base it on His word, in fact, we will often times go out side of His word, or redefine His scriptures, to justify our “convictions.”
    The other thing He showed me this morning was about the shield of faith that is promised to extinguish ALL the fiery darts of the enemy (Eph 6:16) So if our faith comes from Hearing His spoken word in our lives, and we’re not hearing that, then we’re getting all kinds of fiery darts we’re not able to deal with! You, I, and Ron, along with all the other believers out here, have to be able to hear His words in our lives.
    For example, our wives. If I did not hear the Lord say to me “This is the one.” The enemy would be able to come back and say to me, she wasn’t the one. But I can say, no, the Lord gave the perfect wife for me, and she is, I have His Word on it. If we stumble around and constantly are struggling to hear His sweet words, then there’s a battle going on, a struggle for truth to set us free, but He promises, John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” If we can’t hear Him speaking in our lives, very clearly, then we will not be able to be set free, we will continue to be in bondage to our own understanding.

  47. Becca

    Tim, I’m a wife. I can’t imagine how lonely I would feel if I were married to someone whose sole impetus for faithfulness was a command he had been given two decades ago. (“Woman, I’d rather wander, but God told me to sit right here.”) I suppose a marriage could stay glued together on such terms, but how could it not have the tenor of two fighting siblings forced to kiss and make up?

    During trying seasons of marriage, I know that my husband understands the promise he made, and that God orchestrated our union. Covenant truth can play a vital role during those storms. But if my husband were constantly reverting to the law as the fuel for our daily intimacy, I think he would drain the beauty, playfulness, and joy from my feminine heart. How could I dance without his hand in the small of my back? How could I sing without a light in his eyes giving me strength? Without his delight, I would grow old and weary very quickly.

    Instead, my husband has devoted 16 years to loving and leading me with grace. Daily he moves beyond the requirements of his position to the heart of what marriage was intended to be. He discovers and rediscovers me – like light running through moving water. I believe his journey is empowered by God because the tenor and motion of his love mirrors the pursuit of my Redeemer. This love is not tame, but safe. Organic, serendipitous, and beautiful.

    This has not only resulted in keeping his pants zipped at the appropriate times, but it has also nourished trust, communion, and creativity that rules alone could never have achieved. I’ve never met anyone I admired more than him.

    I don’t think you were implying that your faithfulness to your wife was based only on rules. But I thought perhaps a woman’s perspective might add dimension to the difference between law/grace in the marital context; as I think marriage sits within the trajectory of the spirit. And as a wife, I find grace isn’t a lesser intimacy but a richer one.

    I’m not a theology scholar, so I might be wrong. I welcome the protective correction of those who have studied truth longer and deeper than I have. This is just what I see looking out the window.

  48. Ron Block

    Becca: That is exactly it.

    My wife understands at a very deep level that our marriage is based on several things – that God brought us together, that we made a commitment “till death do us part, and that Christ within us is the power to keep that commitment, even in our minds and hearts. In and of our human selves none of us can be Promise Keepers; there is only one who is good, and that Person lives inside us. My wife knows that for me to abdicate our marriage I would have to desert Jesus Christ as well. So she has a very strong sense of security, and that security in Christ carries us through disagreements.

    As we’ve gone along in 22 years of marriage we have seen the initial (and long) “in love” phase die down. Then a period of death, and then by degrees resurrection in various areas of our relationship. Marriage is a school for learning to love with real Love; it is about the choice of faith; it is about grace and the power of Christ utilized and enacted on a daily basis. It is not a tooth-gritting Law choice of “I will keep my promise. I will keep my promise.” Marriage is a way to learn to see Christ not only in ourselves, but in our spouse.

  49. Ron Block

    Becca, I think also what is clear in so many of our lives is a sense of separation. “The Lord told me to do such and such,” and so I am a self, separate from God, that has to grit my teeth, pull up my bootstraps, and do what God says. That is what I mean by Law. It is the conception of ourselves as separate from God, having to choose good and reject evil by our own human ability and reasoning. That is why we get bound up into so many weird religious chains, fence laws and such. Since we are bound by those chains, we think of that as Christianity, and so others ought to be bound with the same chains. Sometimes entire ministries are started on this basis, sometimes even espousing freedom but really another form of religious bondage.

    In reality, in our marriages, in our lives, Christ lives within us. All we have to do is open ourselves up to that, and he will change what needs changing. Anything that points us away from that relationship and to our own human steam and ability is not from God. Anything that points us to Christ, preaching his power and love to change our life, is from God. The Father glorifies the Son; the Son glorifies the Father. The human is not glorified except by relying on their Glory within.

  50. Becca

    Ron, I think there is such great wisdom in this you wrote:

    “The Lord told me to do such and such,” and so I am a self, separate from God, that has to grit my teeth, pull up my bootstraps, and do what God says. That is what I mean by Law. It is the conception of ourselves as separate from God, having to choose good and reject evil by our own human ability and reasoning.”

    Your image transports me to Eden. “Oh Eve, don’t you want to be like God? Then, DO this. This thing separate from God will make you like Him.”

    Because of a striving for god-like-ness, all was lost — or would have been, had Diety not unfurled a new dimension of grace. Of dependency.

    Your image also transports me to Babel. “Oh humanity, don’t you want to reach glory? Then strive and reach the heavens in all your strength and insight!”

    Because of our effort to dominate the vertical, the horizontal was lost. Or would have been, had Diety not unfurled a new dimension of grace. Of dependency.

    Your image then it takes me to the washings of vessels, and the eating of clean foods, and the measuring of spices. And then on to the charts I make for the fridge. To the promises I make every January. To the budgets I rework and fail. To the cream I put on my face at night to command time. To every first-born effort I make to make myself more god-like.

    “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment.” It is so subtle, isnt’ it? My repentance is not yet complete. 🙂

  51. Ron Block

    Becca, we’re not, and cannot be, aware of all the ways in which we are disbelieving God. I just had a major chunk of unbelief, rooted in childhood, come out of me to be replaced by a sense of peace and assurance. These lifetime lies infect our soul, our psuche, and we’re not even aware of them. But that is God’s grace, his sweetness. I think if we saw all that stuff at once we would not want to live.

    We are God’s instruments, his orchestra. Each instrument has to be tuned over the course of a lifetime. What if my guitar thought, every time it needed tuning, “I am such a terrible, rotten, miserable guitar! I need to try harder to be in tune! I am so worthless.” Really, it is my job to make sure it stays in tune. If it doesn’t, there is some deeper work that needs to be done – I need to take my guitar to the shop. If the guitar has an essential tone that is good, it is a great guitar.

    That’s what we have in Christ. An essential tone that is good – our union with him. Tuning us is God’s job. All we do is say “Yes, Lord” when he tweaks the tuning pegs.

    It is good to set goals in our lives; it is good to become more ordered in our doings. It’s good to be confident, strong, assured in our walk with God and our dealings with others. That is all part of the tuning process. Of course, our reliance to do such things needs to be in Christ, his power within us. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” Moving forward can only happen if we believe it is possible. If we have lies in our psyche saying, “You can’t” and we set about doing the thing, we can’t do it. It is like the believer who thinks, “I am a miserable rotten filthy sinner who can never be like Christ” and at the same time believes “I must strive to be Christ-like.” This is a quick recipe for misery.

    Sometimes we need to go to the shop for something major – these lies in our soul. Sometimes we need help when we fail again and again in a particular area, need someone with a healing or prophetic gift who has compassion and understanding to bring the power of God to bear on the situation.

  52. Becca

    Ron, I’d love to tap your brain on the last part of this, if you have time. There is a particular area in my life that needs coaching with these principles. And I thought maybe by opening up a work-in-progress to the discussion, you could show us all how the practicalities of the gospel apply.

    We completed our first adoption this summer. Knowing our new son has changed our goals in life. We would now like to exchange a nicer house for a simpler home, and then use the difference to adopt again. Also, we would like to live freer from material obligations and responsibilities, so that we can invest more easily in eternal pursuits of all types.

    The problem is, I don’t naturally have the organizational strengths necessary for many aspects of this project. Maybe I’m just lazy. But also, my creative bent makes it hard not to see possibilities for most of the “extra” items we have waiting in boxes. Also, I get distracted by new creations (relationships, discussions, paintings, writings, readings, wanderings with children) when perhaps the work of sorting should be done instead.

    I love Richard Foster’s vision for the simple life. And I believe the end goal of our family’s endeavor is good. But I’ve tried to reach this goal multiple times in the power of “self-control”, and it hasn’t taken. How is a project like this done with a healthy appropriation of the gospel? I can feel my flesh trying harder and harder. I can feel the frustration of failure. I think I’m, missing something.

    What does the gospel look like here?

  53. Ron Block


    Think of a little child as sitting on a wide plain. The way is open in any direction with no hindrances of any sort. The potential of the child for living a significant, meaningful, powerful life is limitless.

    Now an adult comes along. This adult, through how he treats the child, is giving belief messages about the child. Some of these messages can be good; “You are capable. You are beautiful. You are loved. You are accepted.” Those sorts of messages are a help; they do not block the way (although even constant encouragement can become the need to have a cheerleader).

    Some of the messages are negative. These negative beliefs in the adult are transferred to the child. For instance, a mother who does everything for her kids all the time is teaching them, “You need me. You are not capable. You cannot live life on your own.” Think of each negative belief as a spider’s web that falls in front of a child. As the child accepts this web, this boundary, it becomes solidified. As the child grows, life circumstances “prove” this solidified web, turning it to steel, permanently blocking the way.

    These webs come with the adults in our childhood. They become our beliefs about ourselves and about others. They solidify as life and other people seem to prove these false beliefs true. But really what we are doing is interpreting experience by these beliefs, not letting eternal reality determine what we believe and change our experience. The iron bars block the way of our true seeing, and so we are stuck.

    As I said before, the one who has been taught, “I am a miserable, filthy, rotten sinner, but forgiven” most likely will live that out in his life. The short circuit of wanting to do good and yet doing what he hates makes him the wretched man of Romans 7. The problem is what he is believing about himself – the same thing that Paul was expressing in Romans 7. “I am a self that has to be good and avoid evil. I try by my will and human effort to do good, but I do evil instead. I hate evil, but I keep doing it. I love good, but I can’t do it.” The key verse is where he says, “The thing in me that wants to do good, that is the real me. Therefore, when I sin, it is not this real me doing it. It is sin, which has invaded through my unbelief.”

    So – in reference to organization – it may not be simply a matter of method. There may be beliefs that are blocking you, iron bars in your psyche, put there by childhood or later experience. And all your self-effort will do is “prove” those lies to be true. “I am disorganized and possibly lazy.”

    This inner lies have to be renounced. I just went through one such renouncing with a prophetic person, in certain areas of my music. This couple led me through into greater abundance in that area by showing me unbelieving attitudes I had accepted years ago through childhood experiences. I see now how those agreements made years ago, subconsciously, have affected me musically. I’d been having problems playing and singing, I came home that night and literally played and sang better, stronger, faster. The glitches I’d been experiencing in my hands were gone. They were gone because they were spiritual and mental lies I had accepted.

    “I can’t” is the prerequisite to not being able to.

    “I can,” if it is merely mental assent, will not change the subconscious “I can’t.”

    We have to experience the full depth and consequences of the “I can’t” in order to get desperate enough to look for solutions. Otherwise we just keep banging our head on the same wall, with the same results: shame, failure, self-condemnation, which translates into more of the same.

  54. Becca

    This is fascinating, Ron. And I’m particularly wondering if there is something to this because (intellectually) I know that I tend to be a very hard worker — to the point that I don’t even sleep much sometimes, because I don’t want to stop working. Still, accusations of laziness surface when it comes to this one area. I’m going to spend some time thinking/praying through this. Thanks so much for taking the time to write out what you’re learning.

  55. Becca

    Ron, two quick questions for clarification. I’ve been thinking about this all day, and would love a little more expansion on a few ideas.

    You wrote:

    – – – – –

    “I can,” if it is merely mental assent, will not change the subconscious “I can’t.”

    We have to experience the full depth and consequences of the “I can’t” in order to get desperate enough to look for solutions. Otherwise we just keep banging our head on the same wall, with the same results: shame, failure, self-condemnation, which translates into more of the same.

    – – – – –

    The solution, I am assuming, is Christ’s redemption. So specifically, what happens as we untangle these old knots in the context of our relationship with Christ? How do these principles transcend psychology and move into active communion with our Healer? I would think we need to repent from self-empowered attempts at change? Maybe we would need to repent from trusting false projections of self enforced by time and others? Am I on the right track? Do we spend time soaking in the new identity He gives us? What else am I missing? How does this play out practically in your life?

    Also, what about legitimate strengths/weaknesses? Do you still believe that people should work primarily in the area of their giftedness? Does what you are learning challenge that? And how do you see spiritual gifts in light of this?

  56. Jessica Sands

    Jason!! This is wonderfully insightful. Thank you! It has left me some things to meditate on tonight. 🙂

  57. Ron Block

    Becca: That is all good. Understanding our psyche merely shows us the problems. Christ is the answer. How do we access the answer? By seeing the ways in which we are unbelieving. I am contending with longstanding unbelief in certain areas. That involves repentance. If there is any part of me in which I am defining my self-concept by “What others think,” rather than who God is, who Christ is in me, and what God says about me, I am living, in that area, in unbelief. I liked your phrase “false projections of self enforced by time and others…”

    Repentance, the turning from unbelief to reliance, the renouncing of our unbelief, our agreements we’ve made with Rejection, Fear, Insecurity. That’s good. That’s an emptying. But then we must fill those places with Christ and his life; that means asking him to fill the holes created by tearing out the Sin by its roots. Sometimes we need the help of competent, gifted people within the Body to help us do this in a complete and total way.

    And yes, spending time soaking in the new identity. That’s important.

    We have to fight for Canaan. The Canaanites don’t give up their land so easily.

    Areas of gifting: these will be attacked. In my own life, my areas of greatest usefulness to God are often the most attacked. And I can be diverted from my main areas of usefulness (through attack) into spending my time on lesser usefulness.

    Legitimate weaknesses will often be the future areas of greatest ministry. Weaknesses are often great strengths misused. For instance, my transparency is good if used rightly. But it can be diverted through temptation to be transparent at the wrong time and/or for the wrong reasons. My transparency is beneficial when I have gone through a struggle, embraced the cross in it, and come through the death out the other side to resurrection. Then what I say in transparency has life. But when I am on the death side, my words of transparency bring only misunderstanding and confusion to others.

  58. Becca

    Thanks, Ron. I think I almost understand this. Just one more clarification, I think…

    What’s the difference between being transparent about our weaknesses in a positive way (i.e. Pete Peterson’s RR piece for today) v. being transparent in a “death-side” way that would bring misunderstanding and confusion to others?

  59. Ron Block


    Here is how I am coming to think about transparency. If we are doing through an inner death process – besetting sins, or crushing disappointments, or deep trouble in relationships, things of that nature – it is better not to be transparent except with a very safe person. A major mistake in my life is that I’ve often been transparent at the wrong times. People who do not know us well will often look at the outer things. My transparency works well when I am out on the other side, when I have come through into a deeper awareness of my union with Christ, of my total completeness and sufficiency in him. The Crucifixion was not the point of new life for Jesus or for us; it was the place of death to all that had been previously known. What did John and Mary think when Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t be real, that we should wear a mask and a happy face in our trials. But I am coming to see that we need to be aware of what we’re doing when we open up to others in our sorrows. They are not always going to understand; they’re going to say things like “Count your blessings” and “There are people starving in China” and “It could be worse,” which merely says, “You ought not to feel this way. You’re wrong for feeling as you do.” Very few people will point us to the power of Christ and his resurrection life in us. Those are the people we need to speak out life to us, to give us hope and a sense of peace even in our struggles.

    The thing is, everyone wants to get out of suffering. So we minimize it in others; we want to give a quick fix like “Others have it worse than you,” as if that mitigates our own suffering. But suffering is a cocoon; suffering is an engine, and the Cross is the key that causes suffering to become resurrected power.

  60. Tim Stromer

    Here’s a teaching that I got sent to me today that addresses some things you’ve broghy up Jason, Idon’t know if this helps. I think we stuggle with the fact of God being a friend, maybe this might free someone up.

    Once you develop an intimate relationship with God, you will never be the same. If you have battled with insecurity and inferiority, as I have, you will develop confidence you never knew existed. You will be free from timidity, fear, low self-esteem, passivity and feelings of rejection. You will be free from all of the debilitating mindsets that are keeping you from fulfilling your God given assignment here on earth. God will become your best friend, your confidant and the one to whom you talk to about everything.

    James 4:8 tells us, “Come close to God and He will come close to you.”

    Look who makes the first move-you. God waits on you. He is the perfect gentleman. God doesn’t force Himself on anyone.

    God wants private time with you. “But when you pray, go into your prayer closet and closing the door, pray to your Father. Who is in secret; and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you in the open.” (Mathew 6:6 AMP)

    Go somewhere quiet , where no one can bother you and give our Father your full attention. You will never be the same again.

  61. Jason Gray


    Ron – I’m struggling with one of the things you’re saying here… I’m not sure if I agree entirely (though I don’t have an alternative answer to propose, and I’ve experienced what you’ve said about it to be true.)

    Actually, I don’t know if I disagree as much as I just don’t really like the reality of what you’re expressing… wishing there were an alternative.

    What I mean (and what I was trying to get at in my post prior to this about the risks of being transparent in a facebook status – is that I have a problem with people who only share about their weakness/struggles/etc. after the fact, after they’ve experienced resolution.

    Here’s why: I feel like it can potentially distort what redemption looks like. In a sense, I wonder if it makes us or at least the “answer” the star of our testimony. Whereas transparency in the midst of struggle – while awkward and unsatisfying – does give a others a chance to see redemption happening in real time.

    To wait until we’ve experienced some victory is to only let people see our success stories. That’s an oversimplification, of course, but that’s what I struggle with about all of this. However, what you’ve expressed is exactly what happens. When we share in the midst of trial, we aren’t sharing in the authority of a “victor”, and so I think people feel pressure to fill the role of authority, and therefore offer their answers and fix-it solutions. “If you don’t have an answer, I’ll gladly tell you mine…” because we hate living in tension and are desperate for the relief of an answer.

    I wish there were a way to be transparent in the midst of the struggle – even there’s something dangerous about that, and of course that is vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I wonder if there’s a way to do that in a humane and God-honoring way. I’m unsatisfied with the idea of waiting until the life-side, however, I haven’t found a viable alternative. So you may be exactly right – but I long for a different reality.

    Does that make sense (I only had a quick moment to write, so I wasn’t able to sort my thoughts like I normally would like to.)

  62. Becca

    Jason, I was thinking the same thing at first. That’s why I was asking for clarification. But Ron’s explanation that we could be damaged while being vulnerable (by insensitive, unhelpful comments) brought some clarity. The picture that came to mind was touching a butterfly while it was emerging from its chrysalis. That the wrong kind of intimacy could be harmful to development…

    But as for our vulnerability damaging others, I’m still thinking. I wonder if anyone is ever fully on the life side on the earth? And if we think we are, I wonder if there’s a danger in that too?

    I’ve seen this go both ways. People humbly sharing in the midst of rawness bringing beauty. People needily sharing in the midst of rawness bringing chaos.

    Help, Ron. 🙂

  63. Becca

    also, is it a sin to hate the RR smiley emoticon? i’m being vulnerable in haste here, but i struggle with feeling like he is vacant and truly feels nothing.

  64. Tony Heringer

    Jason…I’m with Ron. We can be genuine or authentic without being transparent. Sometimes when folks say “How are you doing?” they are really saying “Hello!” Other times, they want to really know the answer to that question. “No, how are you really?” I’d say on a Facebook status, that’s the former not the latter. When you are with a flesh and blood human being, well, it depends on how safe you feel with them and/or they with you.

    Sharing hurt is a level of intimacy that involves a great deal of trust. Otherwise, the person sharing the hurt can be hurt further by our words or lack thereof. Or they can hurt us by lashing out in their pain.

    Love never fails. I read a translation a few weeks ago that said “Love never ends”. If we are approaching those around us in love, then we’ll be doing the righteous thing if not always the right thing.

    Interesting thoughts folks. Thahnks for sharing. Goodnight. Irene.

  65. Ron Block

    Jason, let’s use a for-instance – an obvious one.

    Let’s say I’m struggling in my marriage. My spouse is doing things I don’t like. I haven’t yet taken it to the Cross, and I am still locked in a death-struggle with wrong seeing. I am not seeing God working in it all, not seeing Christ in my wife and in me working his good. OK. So I get transparent. I start venting my frustrations about my wife with, say, a co-worker.

    What will happen is that co-worker will gain a bunch of assumptions about me, and also my wife. They will see that I do not have integrity – that I have shared things which I should share only with a close friend or counselor. They will also possibly gain assumptions about my wife, that she is this way or that way, disrespectful or bossy or a neat freak or messy or fill-in-the-blank.

    Time goes by. I gain clarity. I’ve learned to see Christ in my wife, and in myself. My wife and I have come to solutions. Problem solved. Yes. But not entirely. The assumptions are still there in my co-worker’s mind. They possibly see me as without integrity, and my wife as disrespectful or bossy. I may have even forgotten the talk I had with the co-worker. But he or she may have a better memory.

    Inappropriate and extensive transparency is what I’m talking about; I’m not saying we shouldn’t be honest when someone says “How are you doing?” But the extent of the answer to the question lies in the level of trust I have in that person. I cannot bring life by my words when I am living on the death side of the Cross.

  66. Ron Block

    Here’s the thing, too, Jason: Most people we talk to when on the death side of the Cross won’t understand in the first place. Jesus was misunderstood as he carried the Cross. It’s his own fault. He brought it on himself. He claimed to be God! He deserves it. Or, in our own lives, it is often, “Your problems aren’t as bad as so-and-so.” Well, we can always find someone who has worse problems. That isn’t a solution, any more than the solution to covetousness is to look at those who don’t have as much. It’s all the comparison game. Our own problems are painful at whatever level. The rich man can feel unloved. The poor man can feel afraid of not making the rent. The rock star can struggle with an isolated loneliness in the midst of chicks, booze, and bongs. We can look at each person and say, “At least you don’t have the problems of the rich man” or “the poor man,” and that is true. But it doesn’t address the root problem: unbelief in a God who provides every last little thing we need for life and godliness in Christ.

    So – most people won’t understand anyway when we share transparently about our struggles, especially if we are successful in the world’s eyes. I’m not saying don’t share some about the struggles we’re going through. I’m just saying that going over and over the problem with people just mostly drives them nuts.

  67. Ron Block

    Becca, yes. We can be damaged in our dyings by the wrong words. The “pull yourself up by your bootstraps and get it together” kind of thing will push us toward Law and self-effort. “Other people have worse problems” just puts guilt on us for feeling the way we do. Those are all short circuits of the purpose of suffering – to drive us deeper into Christ; as we go through this death-march to a cross and execution, we can also know that resurrection is coming: POWER, and love, and life for the world. This is how we can fill up the measure of the sufferings of Christ, as Paul put it. But at some point in the death, the death sentence must be embraced as from God. “My Father’s cup, shall I not drink it?” Believe me, I am talking to myself right now.

  68. Becca

    Ron, it sounds to me like you are calling for discernment in our transparency instead of the end of it.

    My relationship with Christ was launched during the early 1990’s. At that time, vulnerability seemed to be the chief virtue of evangelical world. I was subtly and repeatedly assured by Christian leaders that if I could just pinpoint the specific rot within my heart and have the courage to expose it, healing would come.

    Writers like Yancey and Crabb called for spiritual introspection at a deep level, and masses of readers naturally wanted to discuss the balrogs they were beginning to unearth. We all realized we were messed up, and we wanted comfort and understanding.

    Seeking community, hurting people carried tender new discoveries into the light. “Community group” and “cell group” church models flourished, promising safety and growth, if we would just make the trust fall into openness. Book studies led serendipitously-matched believers to expose their deep secrets quickly.

    Trust came hard for me. I felt like I was being asked to join a group streak across the quad. This call to openness seemed a grown-up version of the trust fall at church camp. (Ten years earlier, I’d been the only person to refuse falling backwards off the bleachers into the arms of people I didn’t really know and knew I’d never see again.) I was cynical, and I felt guilty about that. Less spiritual because of it.

    All around me, I felt the 90’s evangelical dynamic meet with the talk-show openness of the secular world. People (in general) began confiding their inner selves to the masses. Privacy became a thing of the past.

    Enter the internet. Blogging. Social networking. Tweeting.

    2010. Transparency is a given now. We are thought stingy if we don’t relinquish it (or the appearance of it) freely.

    I wonder, though, if a shift has been happening the last few years again. It seems to me that transparency is beginning to mix with the rising call for faith-based social healing. (I’m intentionally trying not to use the term ‘social justice,’ because I have a theological beef with the Social gospel, etc.)

    It’s almost like the introspective, highly-psychological focus of the past few decades is turning; and transparency is now being used for a purpose beyond self. I’m cautiously excited about this, because the old way has always felt a bit rancid and forced to me. From the little stump where I stand, mission-mindedness seems to be healing transparency like inlets and outlets heal a stagnant pond. (Not that a method could bring healing, but God working through it.)

    This is a long-winded way to ask, I wonder if being purpose-oriented with our transparency is a key? Instead of just retching out frustration for the purpose of being “real,” what if we are humbly, intentionally allowing our brokenness to be a part of something more purposeful? A God-centered mission flowing toward worship and action, instead of a schema where all truth rolls back to our own comfort? What do you think?

    Argh. I’m not sure I explained this clearly. It’s hard to put words on it.

  69. Ron Block

    Becca, yes, exactly. Discernment in transparency – and purpose. That is why the time to be transparent is often post-resurrection. But even as our death sentence is being carried out we can speak out faith. “I am going through A, B, and C, and from past experience and the Word of God I know that he is bringing me to D, E, and F.” That kind of transparency, faith-filled transparency, brings faith to the listener; they are hearing us, in the midst of trouble, speak out God’s faithfulness and power and love. But there, we are embracing the Cross, not complaining about it. We speak out of that embracing, even in the midst of pain, and share the fellowship of his sufferings in the knowledge that we will also share in his resurrection – not “someday’ but here in this present situation.

  70. Becca

    (I just realized that my attempt to condense several thoughts may have left a wrong impression. I didn’t mean to make a sweeping criticism of the existence of community groups, psychological exploration, etc. ‘Apologies if my words came off like that. I was trying to dig into why and how those things were used.)

  71. Pete Peterson

    Folks, we just had another person leave a comment that not only insulted Jason personally but insulted the entire Rabbit Room community for views expressed here and in the Halloween thread. I don’t like having to moderate or delete what people have to say, but insults and comments that willfully disregard what is said in the original post in order to call another Christian’s faith into question are neither acceptable nor edifying and they have no place in this forum.

    I’m leaving the comments open in the hope that if the person in question feels the need to post again, that they will reconsider the nature of their comment and maybe even take some time to actually listen not only to Jason, but to the spirit of the entire community and conversation here.

  72. Ron Block

    A good acid test for legalistic thinking from C.S. Lewis. It works in my own life.

    How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious? I’m afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God. They theoretically admit themselves to be nothing in the presence of this phantom God, but are really all the time imagining how He approves of them and thinks them far better than ordinary people: that is, they pay a penny-worth of imaginary humility to Him and get out of it a pound’s worth of Pride towards their fellow-men. I suppose it was of those people Christ was thinking when He said that some would preach about Him and cast out devils in His name, only to be told at the end of the world that He had never known them. And any of us may at any moment be in this death-trap. Luckily, we have a test. Whenever we find that our religious life is making us feel that we are good – above all, that we are better than someone else – I think that we may be sure that we are being acted on, not by God, but by the devil. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget yourself or see yourself as a small dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.

  73. Tony Heringer


    If you are subscribed to the post, you get the comments automatically. I thought is was a little caustic too, but I’d be curious as to Jason’s response — he would have received the email and if not, I’d forward it to him.

    Thanks for stepping in. It doesn’t happen often, but I think its important given the nature of online communication. Its just too easy for things to go sideways.

    Be God’s,


  74. Tony Heringer


    Sounds like a bug in the posting proces. I definitely have a copy of it and I’d imagine anyone else receiving emails got it too. It involved a word that reminds one of a character created by A. A. Milne.

  75. Becca

    Bahaha, Tony.

    If God can’t redeem bears with very little brain, what hope do any of us have in the end?

  76. Becca

    Yes. And “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” (Proverbs 16:24)

  77. Peter Br

    I’m desperately trying to weave Elisha and baldness into this conversation but it isn’t working.

  78. Stacy Grubb

    It’s saddening that differing opinions on something like Halloween can become so divisive. Seriously, this kind of hateful disagreement gives the day even more power than it would otherwise have. If the devil can’t use it outright, he’ll creep in and use it underhandedly. I wish we could always spot his tricks for what they are.

  79. Becca

    Jason, I was going to keep this private, because I’m embarrassed about the gaps. But I finally decided you might want to read some heart fruit your labors (and Ron’s) are growing. Your grace clinic is a balm to broken places. If maybe you can overlook what the poetry is not, I hope there will be some encouragement in it after all.


    Six years down the road less traveled, my hymn unraveled,
    tumbling out of reach. A falling notebook scribbled round
    with doxologies and liturgies,
    and all I’d wrought from the best of these,
    cast like tired leaves upon the ground.

    Light sang through the timbered rooms, and sylvan domes imbued
    with broken branches, while every work my first-born arms
    concealed through labor’s forge was revealed,
    unpacked from songs and stories sealed
    inside whitewashed tombs and handmade charms.

    Pilgrimage of affectations and fabrications,
    heavy was their weight upon the earth. I knelt to stack
    all these sacred rocks, like altar blocks
    seeking patterns able to unlock
    peace, while sirens wail a goading claque.

    Their song begs another sacrifice. It will suffice,
    they promise, igniting old black flames that burn my heart.
    Mirror heat reveals I’m second Eve,
    my hand has stolen fruit, and then reached
    for goddess glory secured apart

    from mortal need. No remedy, no recipe
    will clear this damned spot of dragon skin and Pharisee.
    I confess the best I’ve ever done,
    and do, and someday will become.
    The end of me holds all poverty.

    Revelation descends like rain, deconstructing stain.
    Unwinding strain by exchange, You spin new grace and light
    through the way things work, after all work.
    The sirens wail, scream, spit, curse, and lurch,
    while I sleep, remade amid quiet.

  80. Jason Gray


    So beautiful Becca, thank you.

    And I did get the deleted post – it made me laugh! Not in a mean-spirited way, but just at how much ire my little post stirred up. But it’s all a good conversation, right? I hope… I like that it’s causing a number of people – myself included – to really engage and wrestle with the issue and how to apply God’s word. It’s been good for me too, in that it’s helped free me from the false idea that if I just try hard enough – if I choose every word so carefully – that people will understand my heart and be persuaded.

    It’s kind of a relief to be disabused of that notion.

  81. Jason Gray


    And I think Stacey has maybe made one of the most relevant comments of all (#101) – revealing the worst kind of power that Halloween can hold. Again, it affirms my conviction that Halloween holds the power that we give to it, that we concede to it.

  82. Tony Heringer

    I was suddenly reminded of that Star Trek episode where there was an energy thing aboard the ship that fed on hate. At frist I thought it was “The Trouble With Tribbles” but that’s not it. I know someone here remembers. The show ends with the crew and some Klingons laughing the energy thing away.

    That memory reminded me of this quote by Martin Luther which is at the front of The Screwtape Letters:

    “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yeild to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”

    All Saints Eve (Halloween) by its very name bears some of that scorn already. It is our job, if we are redeemed by Christ, to lovingly restore and redeem all things impacted by the fall of mankind which was ushered in by that father of lies. To not do so one day out of the year would be to cede ground that our flag is already firmly planted in. Who does that?

  83. Jason Gray


    Tony – that’s so good! Thanks for that. But now I feel bad because it took me all those words and paragraphs in my original Halloween post to say what you managed to with much, much less.

  84. Tony Heringer

    You are welcome. However, your original post was a story, your story. Thank you for sharing it no matter the fuss and bother that it evoked. Good stories often stir emotions of all kinds. That’s what draws me into this cyber pub — the great stories told and all the hub-bub surrounding them.

    ow what was that Star Trek episiode called? 🙂

  85. Stacy Grubb

    Precisely, Pete. Fear is the power source of many a sin. How many things would be benign without the reverence our fears give it?

    There are some questions with pure absolute answers. Still, there are some answers that depend on the personal relationship between God and the believer.

  86. Bruce Harbert

    @Tony…I loved everything you wrote! There is but One power in the universe…and that power is LOVE. When we believe in more than One power (Love) that is when our mind gets divided and fear enters in and we become double-minded and unstable in all our ways. We DO have the mind of Christ…and it knows nothing of any other power than Our Father.

  87. Ron Block

    Becca, beautiful bit of writing in comment 102. That’s it. In order to have power we’ve first got to know weakness. Our humanity is an engine, the Spirit is the fuel. We try to make these engines go by whipping them, but it’s really the fuel line that has to be connected.

  88. Tony Heringer


    Thanks dude. I was challenged by a message Steve Brown gave a couple of years ago at our church ( In it, he noted a concept that Francis Schaeffer said about orthodoxy. Essentially his point was that orthodoxy in truth is very important, but we should also be just as zealous to have an orthodoxy of love.

    That phrase has stuck with me and I scribe it on the front of my journals (those cheap composition notebooks) as a reminder of my mission in this area of the heart.

    “Perfect love drives out all fear.” Only Jesus can do that, so the more we lean into Him, the more we realize this type of orthodoxy.


  89. Tim Stromer

    The Lord gave me this scripture this morning…but the last time I posted something like that, it was deleted…so maybe no one will see it….maybe that’s cool!? James 1:2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,

    If this is instruction, how many of us do this? If not, and it is instruction, what are we missing by not doing it, counting it all joy?

    3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.

    Do we have patience? Do we lack it? Follow #1, count it all joy! This has to be possible, otherwise He would not tell us to do it, what kind of a Father would He be if He asked us to do something that was not possible!

    4 But let patience have its perfect work,

    Ooh, do I do that, do I even let patience work in me at all some days, so, what if I don’t, and what happens if I do:

    “that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

    Perfect and complete, lacking nothing?! Whaaa, have I ever even heard this preached from any pulpit, except for maybe some crazy charismatic church, but their does God really intend us to be perfect and holy, is that what He made us to be? And that “lacking nothing” REALLY? I can lack nothing….He says it, is His Word true, can it really be used for correction, teaching and reproof?

    5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.

    If I ask for wisdom, it will be given, and liberally…how come we seem to be able to believe this more than Him making us perfect and holy by the way?

    6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting,

    Is this a catch….so I have to believe without doubting…so if I doubt, it aint’ workin’, right?

    for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

    Don’t we feel like that sometimes? It’s a place n the sea He never intended us to be!

    7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;

    Whoa, this is definitely not preached, we won’t receive anything from the Lord if we doubt, wow, I guess He wants me to believe, if not:

    8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

    It seems I meet a ton of believers that seem really unstable, and it’s really sad, it is REALLY sad. What are we missing as believers…when we don’t believe….”Lord, let us have faith, let us believe, in Jesus Name, amen!”

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