But... I don't FEEL free.

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The question I get from a lot of Christians when I share this testimony of what God’s done in my life, is pretty much summed up perfectly with a question I got asked this week: Well I want to be free, and according to the Bible I am free…. but I don’t feel free.

My response is very abrasive to a culture that emphasizes validating the feelings of everyone, always:

What do your feelings have to do with it?

I know that question is automatically going to be a trigger for some y’all, but please stick with me for a second. I care deeply about the pain you’re carrying. My heart now breaks more than it ever has when I look into someone’s eyes and see the weariness of one who is doing the very best they can… and it still isn’t enough. It brings tears to my eyes even as I’m typing this, because I’ve been there — I know that feeling! At the same time, it sparks some real joy in my heart because I know that it was when I reached that point of brokenness that Truth and Love changed EVERYTHING, and I get a glimpse of what God’s about to do. But in order to get there, there are some ways of thinking that need to be turned upside down or just straight-up done away with in order to hear what the Spirit has been saying all along. Which brings me back to this question:

What do your feelings have to do with it?

What is more important: the way you feel, or what God’s word says about you? “Perception is reality", and our feelings often frame our perception of life as we know it. The problem is that our feelings lie to us constantly, which keeps us in a reality that isn’t the reality Jesus died for us to live in! I want to cut straight to the secret sauce of freedom as it is the secret sauce to the Christian’s entire life: faith.

Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation. By faith, we understand that the whole universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
— Hebrews 11:1-3, NLT

So faith is believing in something we haven’t seen, or dare I say, felt at least not yet. The last time someone brought up their feelings when it comes to this freedom issue, a story from the Bible came to mind. You can read it in detail if you want — it’s found in Matthew 8 and Luke 7.

Here’s the gist — Jesus and His disciples were doing what they did in those days when a Roman Centurion either came to Jesus directly or sent “respected Jewish elders” on his behalf to beg for help. He had a servant that was deathly ill and he was hoping Jesus would heal him. So Jesus said, “Leggo!”

Now the details get a little fuzzy here — but basically the Roman Centurion stopped Jesus short of arriving at the house where the slave was on his deathbed. Here’s what he said:

Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.
— Matthew 8:8-9 NLT

Jesus was shocked. “Amazed” to be exact. He turned to those around Him and said that He had never seen faith like that in ALL OF ISRAEL. We’re talking about a Roman soldier. Not a priest who had been studying scriptures his entire life. Not a disciple who had been spending all day, every day, in the presence of the Son of God. Not a 40th generation Israelite who had thousands of stories passed down of the Goodness of the Creator God, Yahweh.

Nope, the greatest faith was found in a Roman soldier because he believed without visual proof that Jesus had authority given from His Father in Heaven to heal, even from a distance.

Then Jesus said to the Roman officer, “Go back home. Because you believed, it has happened.” And the young servant was healed that same hour.
— Matthew 8:13 NLT

So the soldier wasn’t just paying lip service to Jesus by saying all the right things in order to impress Him (like the disciples so often did). According to Matthew, he had to turn around and go back home. Before he could physically see and know that his loved servant was healed, he believed by faith what Jesus said was true. However, it wasn’t until he got home that he discovered it was the very same hour that Jesus spoke it in which his servant was completely healed.

THAT is why your feelings don’t have anything to do with your freedom. As Christians we don’t live by sight or proof, we live by faith. We don’t chase after feelings, we chase after the heart of God, no matter how it feels. Do you believe Jesus was the Son of God who died to break the power of sin once and for all, and that if you are set free by the Son you are free indeed? Then receive it, speak it, and live as though it has already happened. Turn around like the Centurion and go home in faith that what Jesus had said is done, even if your senses and feelings are screaming at you that it’s foolishness.

Because someday, with complete healing and when you feel free, you’ll be look back and see that it was the very hour you believed that you were set free.

FREEDOM

Since I’ve started living my life in agreement with who God says I am, as opposed to believing that what I’ve done or will do is what defines me, there is one word that just seems to jump out of my mouth almost daily: freedom. Being free has completely changed everything for me. The way I use this word leaves a lot up to interpretation in its ambiguity, so let me break down what freedom in Jesus means to me.

Freedom means I am free from the pressure to perform. I am free from guilt. I am free from insecurity caused by failure, comparison, or gossip. I am free from the fear of rejection, oppression, persecution, loneliness, and inadequacy. I am free from addiction to any type of sin. I am free to be the best version of me that I was created to be, uninhibited by the mistakes of my past. I am free from the expectations others may put on me to meet a certain standard. I am free to love without my selfishness getting in the way! Finally, I am free from sin and death themselves (separation from God and eternal death).

When I recently saw this scene, “sin and death” flashed through my mind as the bracelets fell off Genie’s wrists. His joy as he realizes he is truly free was so relatable that I honestly shed a couple joy-tears.

The moment I knew I was truly free was when I accepted the fact that my circumstances might not change - in fact they might get worse - and yet God’s love would sustain me. That was the moment I knew I was free. Still faced with the very real, very deserved outcome of my sins, God told me He loved me and gave me peace. It was a peace that didn’t make any sense. And I can honestly say to you that peace has never left (at least not for longer than a few hours).

I went from being slave to sin to being a slave to peace.

Living in this unshakable peace is exactly the type of freedom I know everyone is searching for, so I won’t stop telling people about it now that I’ve found it. I think it is most simply broken down in these two passages from the Bible.

Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

“But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves to anyone. What do you mean, ‘You will be set free’?”

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
— John 8:31-34 NLT

You may be reading this and thinking, Hold up… Jesus said anyone who sins is a slave to sin and the Bible says that everyone has sinned… so aren’t we all slaves to sin? Is Tyler saying he doesn’t sin? BLASPHEMY! lol but before you pick up your stones, check out what the Bible says a little bit after Jesus did this crazy thing where He defeated sin and death at the cross (light flex):

Since we have been united with him in his death, we will also be raised to life as he was. We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives.

We are no longer slaves to sin.

For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin. And since we died with Christ, we know we will also live with him. We are sure of this because Christ was raised from the dead, and he will never die again. Death no longer has any power over him. When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus.
— Romans 6:5-11 NLT

So we’re all born into sin and have committed sin. But if you believe in everything Jesus is, then you are free and “no longer a slave to sin.” So even if you “commit a sin” while living in this freedom, you are STILL free because God doesn’t count it against you anymore.

It’s in the Book y’all. Be free.

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Tyler the Son

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”
— John 3:3

I was born on March 26, 1992, I weighed a healthy 10 lbs, and I was named Tyler Michael Morrison. I was born as a son to Wayne and Michelle Morrison, 4th of 6 kids in a family that went to church every week. I was born into a situation where the existence of a loving God was never in question. I was born into a loving environment: aunts, uncles, parents, siblings, grandparents, cousins, etc. I was born a white male, with heterosexual tendencies. I was born a Seventh-day Adventist Christian. I was born with a sense of humor and a constant desire to make people happier around me. I was born a natural people person- “99% extroverted” according to Meyers-Briggs’ personality test. I was born with some natural musical and athletic abilities. I was born a completely unique individual, except for one, little, teeny-tiny detail that my birth had in common with everyone, ever:

I was born a sinner.

For I was born a sinner - yes, from the moment my mother conceived me.
— Psalms 51:5

My healthy 10 lbs were already susceptible to disease, bruises, broken bones, and deep cuts. My parents loved me and showed me God’s selfless love repeatedly throughout my life and yet I still took it for granted and always wanted more from them; more love, more attention, more gifts, more ice cream, and more back massages. Going to church as a Seventh-day Adventist simply became a way for me to feel different, and even superior at times.

But I wasn’t any different/superior because I was still born a sinner, like everyone else.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world... Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation to everyone.
— Romans 5:12,18

I knew God loved me, but I didn’t really know what that meant because the eyes I was viewing God with had a sin-reality-covered lens over them. So “God’s love” was really just the best version of my own that I projected onto Him, mostly selfless, but with a few conditions here and there that had to be met. I trampled on the privilege I was born into because it served me well, and that’s what sinners are drawn to. My sense of humor and desire to make people happy was entirely rooted in my own selfishness, because my value was entirely rooted in my ability to make people like me. No matter how many friends I’d make, I needed to make more because I was addicted to the feeling of winning a new person over (Gallup Strengths Finders would call this “WOO”; I call it my greatest sin addiction). No matter how many songs about Jesus I would sing, and no matter how humble I wanted to be about singing them, my value and pride was completely inflated with every compliment I would receive. Every sermon I’d preach, no matter how much gospel truth was in it, was choked out in my own heart because of the sinful nature that wouldn’t allow Truth and Love to grow in my life.

It sucked.

I was trying so hard to be genuine. My ultimate goal was just to be a great person! I wanted so badly to live a life worthy of the calling I felt God had put on me. Every time I’d get knocked down I would get up again, determined to be better this time. After what felt like a million times of that, I felt that this was the inevitable life of a Christian.

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.
But one disaster is enough to overthrow the wicked.
— Proverbs 24:16
The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
— Romans 7:14-15

I read these texts through my human-born sin lenses, which told me- This is your reality. Hang in there, champ. It’ll be tough journey. Some sins you just can’t shake, so just keep getting up again and going back to God. The NEXT TIME He comes, He’ll deliver me from that.

But PRAISE GOD I was wrong.

I finally came to the end of myself. Despite all my best efforts, I felt I was growing farther from God and slipping deeper and deeper into sinful patterns of behavior. As I fell and got up, fell and got up, fell and got up, fell and got up…. I started to take for granted the forgiveness that God continued to show me. My remorse decreased little by little, to the point where sometimes my guilt was almost imperceptible, and God’s love was diminished to some words on a page that I could read about.

Then for a brief moment I could clearly see.

I could clearly see that, while on the outside I looked like a great person full of love and joy, on the inside I was on a dark path that would hurt those closest to me and leave me feeling empty. I could clearly see that I was on a downward hill, picking up speed to my own destruction. I could clearly see that all of my years learning about Jesus and the Bible and doing “good works” never changed my heart one bit. I could clearly see that my sinful nature was the flippin’ worst… and it terrified me. I could clearly see that I was blind and I always had been.

And in that incredibly dark and suffocating blindness Jesus loved on me and gave me hope.

He reminded me of someone I had heard on a podcast talk about their own radical transformation. Their words were ringing in my head… “I WAS COMPLETELY FREE… FINALLY FREE.” Desperate for this freedom, I found his number and called him up.

That night, for the first time in my life, my heart received the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I can honestly say that ever since that night nearly 11 months ago, I’ve been a new person. Before that night, I was like Nicodemus in John chapter 3, not grasping what Jesus was getting at when He said that I had to be “born again”. In fact, I thought I had already done that! I would claim to be born again as a Christian, and yet I still identified with all of the things in the first paragraph of this post. But that’s not how the gospel works. You are one or the other. I’m either a sinner or I’m a Son, not both. Which side I identify with reveals what I believe about Jesus.

Did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law of Moses? Of course not! You received the Spirit because you believed what you heard about Jesus Christ.
— Galatians 3:2 (NLT)

In that moment Jesus restored my sight. I was born again.

In that moment, first-paragraph Tyler ceased to exist. In that moment, Tyler the Sinner died, and Tyler the Son came alive. In that moment the power of Holy Spirit made its home in my heart, and I’m never kicking it out. In that moment, I received and believed the power of these verses:

Have you forgotten that when we were joined with Christ Jesus in baptism, we joined him in his death? For we died and were buried with Christ by baptism. And just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glorious power of the Father, now we also may live new lives.
— Romans 6:3-4
My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
— Galatians 2:20
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
— Romans 8:1-2, 9-11

Now, Romans 7 doesn’t define my reality like it did before, because Paul was writing in Romans 7 to those who haven’t been born again. Nope, now I am defined by Romans 8 (go read Romans 6-8 straight through a few times if you want a Biblical breakdown of the experience I’m describing here). And as I lived step by step in this new Spirit-led reality of God’s love towards me, one by one the chains of sin and death fell off (and scenes like this one make me legitimately cry tears of joy as I relate to the genie in Disney’s “Aladdin”).

Now, I might have the same body, but I’m a new person.

If you haven’t spent much time with me over the past year you probably only know the old Tyler - Tyler the Sinner as I call him. Honestly, most people who have spent time with me over the last year probably don’t notice much of a difference either, which is why I haven’t been in a hurry to share this story. I don’t need to use words to convince anyone that I’m different, because I know that I am and as a result of what I know Jesus has done in my life, time will reveal the Truth of what I’m sharing with you now.

So I don’t identify with what I used to, because I am not who I used to be.

I don’t identify with what personality tests say I am. I don’t identify with what I do, what I’ve done, or what I will do. I don’t identify as an extrovert, or heterosexual, or Adventist, or musician, or athlete, or even as a broken down, tarnished and damaged sinner. Here’s why:

[Now I have] put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.
— Colossians 3:10-11

Now I identify solely with who JESUS IS, believing what He has done and what He says about me.

My parents did a good job parenting me up to this point but now my Father isn’t in Brighton, Colorado - He’s in Heaven. Personality tests told me I needed people around to have energy, but now I love my alone time because in it I hear my Father speak loudest, rejuvenating my strength. Fear is gone. Selfishness and pride are gone. Insecurities are gone. Jealousy and anxiety are gone. If Jesus says that He lives in me and we share the same Spirit, then the Fruits of that Spirit are what define me, not my past, my heritage, my sins, or my personality tests. To those who are looking at me from the outside, judging what I do or how I look, maybe this could be disputed, but I don’t care what they think. I care what God thinks, and like we learned in the story of King David, God doesn’t look at the outside - He looks at the heart. My heart used to be dirty, unable to do what is right and loving to do what was wrong, but hating the guilt that would follow. This is why I needed to be born again, so the Spirit could give me a NEW HEART. So now when God looks past the surface of what y’all see in the flesh, He sees that my heart is CLEAN because of my faith in Jesus Christ.

I am Tyler the Son, and I honestly couldn’t be happier about it.

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Old heart to new heart, sinner to son, blind but now I see. Everything I’ve written before, preached before, sung about before - was through the old lens. But this blog is going to be a landing place for how I view everything now through the new lens: myself, God, others, the world, religion, politics, relationships, the Bible, everything.