What I Am Most Thankful For

thankful4Grace (Eph 2:8-9; Tit 2:11). Love (Jer 31:3; Gal 2:20; 1 Jn 4:19). Election, i.e., being chosen (Jn 15:16) before the creation of the world (Eph 1:4), and saved and called before the beginning of time (2 Tim 1:9). If this is not predominant and preeminent in my thoughts and emotions, then everything else that I am thankful for feels far less great, or may not mean as much as it should.

My dear wife who has put up with me for 32 years and counting. The fact that she still loves me in spite of me is a daily living reminder of the gospel to me. This story of a husband who was going to divorce his wife is touching and meaningful; it expresses just how much he hurt his wife of 10 years because he now loved another woman.

My four kids are not hurt or wounded by their father for not loving their mom. This is my favorite quote of a father who loves his children: “The best way for a father to love his children is to love their mother.” Tom Cruise once gave an interview in Time magazine where he expressed the angst of his parent’s divorce, saying, “I would not wish this on anyone.” All his fame, popularity and wealth could not remove the wound of his parent’s divorce. Steven Spielberg hated his father for the longest time for divorcing his mom. But when he divorced his first wife and remarried, he reconciled with his dad.

My parents who loved me unconditionally and who have never ever wounded me in any way whatsoever. My only sibling, an older brother, who is a noble man.

My original pastor, mentor and friend Samuel Lee (and Sarah Barry) who helped me to love Jesus, Scripture, discipleship and mission for the last 22 years of his life. I am sorry if this thanksgiving is offensive to some who read UBFriends.

My joy and delight in reading and studying Scripture, commentaries, Christian books and theology. Over the past six months, I had the time of my life by reading, preparing and preaching through Revelation in 16 weekly sermons. Now I am excited as I prepare to preach through Deuteronomy next year. God wired me to be a cerebral person who virtually lives with my head in the clouds most of the time…unless I’m watching movies or sports! My cerebral disposition causes me to often be clueless about reality, much to the chagrin of my wife and others.

My local church community at West Loop UBF Church, our recently formed South Side Coalition of Hyde Park UBF, IIT UBF and West Loop,  and my Christian brothers and sisters in Podil and in Philippines UBF, whom I have had the joy and privilege of visiting them yearly over the past decade.

My life of relative comfort and wealth by virtue of being a physician. Visiting the Philippines yearly is so edifying to me to help me realize that my comfortable upper middle class life in the U.S. is above that of over 95% of people in the world.

Semi-retirement. For about a decade since I became self-employed, I have not needed to work full time to support my family. This allows me to pursue whatever I want. This is surely a grace that I pray I may never abuse by wasting my time.

As a sinner and a forgetful man, I know I have forgotten countless other graces and blessings for which I should be thankful. Do remind me of what I have missed. What are you most thankful for?


  1. Mark Mederich

    GOD:) specifically His Holy Spirit helping me work on breaking out of the effects of legalism on me & thus it’s effects on others thru me..

  2. I am most thankful that my family is no longer entangled by the ubf heritage and will never again be enslaved by shepherding ideology.

  3. Kevin Jesmer

    Dear Lord, heavenly Father, thank you for the so many reasons to give thanks to you today. There are so many reasons to be thankful and they are not just for material blessings and physical comfort and security. There is much more to be thankful for in the spiritual realm, like the forgiveness of sins, the assurance of eternal life in Christ, the truth that guides our hearts and minds each day, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the encouragement from spiritual mentors in the faith, the adventure and excitement of living a missional life, the love of God and family and the Christian family, the church, the mission Dei (a unique gift given to me and my family), the provision of God for all of our needs, the excitement of God forming new missions movements among us, the release of our hearts from the things that bind us into the freedom of Christ, the “oneness” that you bring top our marriage, the steady and faithful work that you bring about in our children and friends that we love and pray for, the deep meaning that you bring to all aspects of our live, the freedom from fear, the mighty deeds that you bring forth in our lives, showing us the beauty of teamwork that comes in The list goes on and on. We thank you Lord for all your eternal blessings. We need you Lord. We can not live without. May the whole world discover you and live in you and your wonderful love. I pray in Jesus’ holy name. Amen!

  4. Kevin Jesmer

    I would like to explore the foundations of my thanksgiving from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28. Real Christian living isn’t heavy and somber; it’s always joyful, prayerful and thankful, and so attractive to others. Look at verses 16-17, “Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
    There is great joy in Jesus when we learn to trust in Jesus and thank God even in the hard times. God’s will for us is especially to give thanks, even when these bad things are happening. When we’re about to complain, we need to decide to give thanks to God instead. We thank him, by faith, even when we suffer, because we know he loves us and is working in all things for our good. (Romans 8:28) This spirit doesn’t come from our circumstances, but from a real relationship with Jesus. There are some difficult times for us, with jobs, home devaluations, cars living on the edge, interpersonal relationships, negative emotions, etc, but I have hope in the Lord and can thank God through it all. I can give thanks to God when I started loving Jesus and people more than my mission. I can find joy as I learn to let God be God in my life and allow his will and mission unfold in the life of my family. I can be joyful when I am set free from unreal expectations linked to my own desire to build a church, for my own glory and meaning in life. I can be joyful that no matter what happens I am getting closer and closer to eternal life in the kingdom of God, and nothing can stop me from getting there now that I remain in my Lord and Savior Jesus. Yes, there are many reasons to be thankful even when bad things are happening.
    If real Christian life isn’t heavy and somber, then why was I heavy and somber for so many years?! The answer is in verse 19, “Do not quench the Spirit.” My legalism was quenching the spirit. I loved my mission and seeking meaning of life, more than I loved Jesus and people. I quenched the spirit because my greatest hope was to expand my church and to find someone who would come alongside me in my somber journey. I quenched the spirit because I was telling God what my mission was in life, and insisting on it, and not letting God lead me on the mission that he had for me. I taught about Christ and the Kingdom of God and the grace of God but I was not living the things I taught. I was in a sense but “not” in another sense. I was taking hold of some good things and refusing to take hold of many wonderful treasures that God had for my life. I did a great job quenching the spirit and a good job maintaining my somber spirit. But that is all in the past because of the grace of God. Now my heart can be filled with thanksgiving.
    I thank God that he did a great work in my heart. Look at verse 23, “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The way to be set free from the somber Christian life is to let God sanctify our hearts by his spirit. He will impart his peace through the forgiveness of sins. He will keep our hearts as a dwelling place for his love and peace. Thank you, Lord, for your sanctifying work in my heart throughout this last year. It is only by your grace that I could be released from the somber life that I had built for myself and be filled with thanksgiving.
    Our thanksgiving is not some cliché without a foundation or a source. No. It is based on the faithfulness of our God. Look at verse 24, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” Our faithful God is the one who will make us ready one day to meet Jesus again. The basis of my faith is the faithfulness of God. If it were up to me, I could not be faithful. I could not provide for the family. I could not stand as a father, husband and a misson’s co-ordinator for the North and as a Art of Marriage facilitator etc. I could not do it. My years would pass simply trying to survive. How could I ever procure the forgiveness of sins and find my way to eternal life in the kingdom of God? I could never do that. Where could I find the joy of following Jesus? Only in Christ. God is faithful. He is the Creator. He is the Resurrection and the Life. He raises the dead. He is the ruler of history and nations and he is our God. Thank you Lord. All things are possible in you. May we trust in your faithful love and power always as we journey through this world to the next.

  5. wesleyyjun

    Ben, I like what you said: “….If this is not predominant and preeminent in my thoughts and emotions, then everything else that I am thankful for feels far less great, or may not mean as much as it should.” I was thinking why among the ten who had been healed of leprosy only one came to thank Jesus. (Lk 17) I thought the one who came back had accepted Jesus as the Lord through the miraculous healing but the others had not. In the Lord his healing was a starting point of a new life–new in the sense he began to pursue what really mattered. To others their healing was just an opportunity that they could pursue more THINGS, which they could not have before because of their handicaps.

    • I’m thankful I don’t have to accept this kind of ubf bible teaching anymore. What you expressed here is exactly how this passage is taught in ubf to guilt-trip people. The narrative goes like this: The 10 lepers were cured, the 9 went off to be unthankful, materialistic, and full of worldly pursuits and only one leper was thankful. So be the one leper who was thankful and so you should always return to your shepherd who blessed you and never leave the ministry where you found God’s healing (hint, hint)….

      But why read into the Holy Scriptures teachings that are not there? Why weave guilt-trips into your bible teaching?

      Frankly we don’t know what the other 9 did exactly. Maybe they did visit the Jewish priests? We do know Jesus was near the border between Samaria and Galilee. We do know that Jesus instructed the 10 lepers to go and show themselves to the priests. We know that the 10 were healed on the way to the priests. And we know that one healed leper returned to thank Jesus, and we know that this one leper was a Samaritan. And finally we know that Jesus was not happy with the 9 and expressed blessing on the healed leper’s faith and giving glory to God. Note that Jesus did not accept the man’s repeated gratitude but his faith in God. Now stop right there. Don’t read other conjecture into the Scripture here.

      What can we conclude? Well think about it. How would Jewish priests receive a healed Samaritan who claimed Jesus (i.e a rebel fanatic who was so full of himself that he thought he was God) had healed him? If the healed Samaritan actually did go to the priests with the other 9, surely the Jews would reject him and so in this case he would naturally go back to Jesus. Or if he didn’t actually go all the way but returned to Jesus before making it to the priests, what would we conclude? In that case he probably knew the bad reception waiting for him at the synagogue/temple and so he ran back to Jesus full of gratitude because he knew Jesus would accept him, making him well. The man was now “clean” as if he had visited the Jewish priests.

      Either way the fact that he was an “outsider” or “foreigner” and Samaritan was primary in Jesus’ mind. Faith and the glory of God and healing had come to a non-Jew. So Jesus acted as priest for this Samaritan and told him his faith has both healed and saved him. Jesus pronounced the priestly blessing on this man who would have been (or perhaps was) rejected by the religious priests. Jesus pronounced this man as clean just as a priest would in Leviticus, such as in Leviticus 13:4-17.

      So if the others did not return it is likely because they would have been quarantined for seven days or more days as the Law required so they would not have been allowed to return to Jesus no matter how thankful they were! So the healed Samaritan was logically either rejected by the priests or knew his fate of being held for days and did not want to wait that long to thank Jesus. So there is clearly a spirit of the law/grace and written code/Law issue here to explore further. Whether the healed Samaritan went to the Jewish priests after Jesus’ blessing, which is possible, is irrelevant to Luke’s point.

      The point in Luke 17:11-19 is neither thankfulness nor ignoring Jesus to pursue “things”. The point is that a religious system rejected a healed Samaritan leper who praised God and Jesus became his High Priest. And now I really like this passage :)

  6. wesleyyjun

    Dear nine lepers, who were cured later,
    Did I offend you by misunderstanding what happened? I apologize if if I did. I was only saying it might be the case. If I get to see you in heaven, please tell me what really happened. Until then good bye!

    • What the 9 did is irrelevant. Offending them means nothing at this point and is actually not possible because they are dead. What Jesus did matters, and offending Jesus our High Priest, by guilt-tripping people with the bible or by insisting on Law-based morality, means everything.

  7. Here’s Mark Driscoll’s list of what he is thankful for: http://marshill.com/2013/11/28/i-m-thankful Though there has been some/much negative press on him, his thanksgiving topics are what I would share (except of course on a far far smaller scale in terms of ministry influence).

  8. Thanks Wesley, Brian for an interesting exchange on Lk 17:11-19. This is the commentary from the ESV Gospel Transformation Bible:

    Luke 17:11–19: This story emphasizes that faith in Jesus (cf. Lk 17:5–6) results in powerful change and produces a humble, worshipful response to God. This is the difference between the one leper and the other nine. They all asked for God’s mercy (Lk 17:13) but only one was shown to have true understanding faith, as shown by his casting himself with thankfulness at Jesus’ feet. So too for us. Our worshipful response—or lack thereof—reflects the depth of our understanding of God’s mercy and goodness. The first and greatest response to the gospel of grace is thankful worship. This brings the greatest glory to God and brings wholeness to us as well.

    We are also told, strikingly, that the one who returned to give thanks to Jesus was a Samaritan—a despised outsider. Here, as all through Luke, we see the upside-down reversal that the gospel brings. The kingdom of God inverts the world’s values and welcomes anyone, if they will simply repent and believe the good news, relying on Jesus alone for a new and eternal life.

  9. This commentary is from the ESV Study Bible (which does distinguish the one thankful leper from the other nine, and which also stresses the non-negotiable biblical imperative of being thankful, and thus would be a rebuke to those who are not thankful):

    Luke 17:16b – Now he was a Samaritan. The noun “he” is emphasized in the Greek; placing this statement later in the story also serves to emphasize that the only grateful leper was a Samaritan (on Samaritans, see Lk 9:52; 10:33; and notes on John 4:4; 4:9).

    Luke 17:19 The Samaritan’s faith has made him well (lit., “saved” him; cf. the same Gk. verb in Lk 7:50; 8:48; 18:42), so that the healing here was more than physical.

  10. This is all good input, Ben. Although the text here does mention the repeated gratefulness of the healed Samaritan leper, Jesus only acknowledged his faith and worship/giving glory. We know that Jesus did not accept praise from men (John 5:41) and yet the bible teaches us to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

    So my point is that to be faithful to the text, we need to point out that gratitude is good, but also be on guard against teaching a “debtors ethic” philosophy, which hinders people form seeing Jesus our High Priest and King. And we should certainly reject going further, and reject the “debtors bondage” teachings. The ubf heritage goes beyond the hindering “debtors ethic” teachings and enters the realm of spiritual abuse by teaching “debtors bondage”. To avoid such pitfalls, I contend that we should see Jesus our priest who welcomed a leper who was an “outsider to the Jewish religious system”.

    In regard to your article Ben, I don’t quite understand the dislikes. I personally clicked “like”. Even though I am not thankful for ubf as you are, I am not offended by your thankfulness, mainly because you do not demand me to be thankful for the things you are thankful for.

    But perhaps the dislikes are coming from people who sense the echoes of “debtors bondage” or “debtors ethic” in your thankfulness?

    • Brian, I was wondering about the dislikes myself and still can’t really understand what faction is choosing to dislike many things that Ben has recently said. To be honest, I feel that Ben’s most recent contributions have been less provocative, but nonetheless reflective of his independence from the general goings on in ministry.

      For UBFers maybe they disliked the last two points about comfort/wealth and semi-retirement. For exubfers maybe SL. Anyway, let people dislike. They can get a feeling of gratification from it.

      And in regard to the Luke debate – I am just thankful for the one leper who came back…

  11. Thanks, Brian, I fully agree that the debtor’s ethic is:
    1) harmful.
    2) keeps people in bondage (not to God, but to people, churches, ministry, organizations, etc).
    3) unbiblical (because the gospel gives freedom, and does not keep people in bondage, not even in bondage to being thankful!).

    That said, I’m not sure if Wesley was trying to suggest a debtor’s ethic, or that one should be a debtor to UBF (even if some others in UBF do so).

    The nine leper’s not returning to Christ is “typical” of fallen men, including myself, especially in the time of blessing, which causes me to fear God (even though I am no longer in bondage to UBF). Ingratitude and forgetting God’s grace seems to be a main theme through out Deuteronomy, which I am presently studying and preparing to preach next year.

    • Thanks Ben, surely ingratitude and forgetting God’s grace is a problem we all need to deal with. And I’m thankful for your thankfulness and your thankful exposition of Deuteronomy. I’m read some of your thoughts on Deuteronomy and your thinking is quite refreshing.

  12. Thanks, gc. The “dislikes” are helpful and telling. I’m assuming it’s primarily because of my gratitude to Samuel Lee and Sarah Barry.

    As many have previously commented, to those who dislike, it would be very helpful if they clearly articulate why they dislike it. Personally, I would love to hear why.

  13. wesleyyjun

    Ben, “our worhishipful response” is what all the miracles Jesus performed are about. There was more to the miracle of healing than all the blessings that accompanied their healing. Spiritual blessings from God you mentioned–grace, love, election make all other blessings you listed greater and more meaningful. That’s what unbelievers do not understand. All the latter that they may have cannot sustain their lives if they don’t the former.

    • Hi Wesley, why do you say Jesus’ miracles are all about our response? Aren’t the miracles all about God who Himself is love?

  14. wesleyyjun

    As for the term “debtor’s bondage,” I would tell whoever may feel any indebtedness toward me, “You owe me nothing. Our relationship has been a blessing to me.”

    • Hi Wesley, it’s not about you :) Debtor’s bondage is about binding a person’s conscience to an ideology that removes their freedom to make their own decisions. In the ubf case, debtor’s bondage is all about owing lifelong (or eternal) thankfulness to “God’s blessing and healing” while in ubf ministry. Some in ubf go even further (as you clearly do not) and enter the realm of “debtor’s destruction” where the “sheep’s” conscience is eroded away and replaced with loyalty to a personal shepherd bound with the glue of “be thankful always” teachings. These bonds are very strong because bible verses and peer pressure are used in most ubf chapters to keep sheep loyal and “faithful”.

      Thanksgiving time, at least in the usa, is another “prime time” for ubf directors to plant such false teachings that go beyond the biblical imperatives to give thanks.

      One Korean director even told everyone he was born on Thanksgiving, to further guilt-trip and bind people’s consciences both to him and to the ubf heritage. I wonder how many people know that he lied and was not born on the American Thanksgiving day, but on the Korean equivalent day of giving thanks?

      I say that during Thanksgiving time it is very relevant and helpful for ubfers to consider the dangers of “debtor’s ethic”, “debtor’s bondage” and “debtor’s destruction”.

      Or you can just dismiss me as one of those unthankful unbelievers…

  15. Regarding blessings, this I believe is the storyline of the entire Bible:

    1) God saves and redeems us by his grace alone. (No human being–not even the best of human beings–deserves to be saved by God.)

    2) One who truly realizes and remembers God’s costly redeeming grace through his Son will worship him and thank him continually.

    3) Our future live and blessing as the people of God is nonetheless contingent on our obedience to God’s word and commands. Disobedience to God and idolatry (which is closely related to unthankfulness) will bring curses and wrath, as it did to the “chosen people” of Israel.

    • Ben, if we lived before the Messiah, I would agree fully. But now that faith has come and Jesus Christ is Lord, I strongly disagree with #3.

      There are many reasons why I disagree, but the book of Galatians is a good summary:

      Galatians 3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”

      Our life and blessings no longer depend on individual observance of the Law, now that the Christ has come. In fact, now that the Law and the Prophets have been fulfilled, observing the law is actually a curse. And that is the very reason Christendom in America is falling apart.

  16. Sadly and unfortunately, sinners often play the “be thankful” card as their trump card, which invariably leads to a debtor’s ethic and guilt tripping, which are anti-gospel.

    Some UBF lovers seem to practically love UBF more than God, because they equate loving UBF with loving God. They may not (consciously) realize that loving UBF is blatant hideous idolatry, which is equivalent to worshiping the golden calf. UBF does it through instilling so-called “UBF core values.” But likely all churches do it to some degree. Some churches worship prosperity, some worship propositional truth, some worship sacrifice, mission and marriage by faith, etc.

    Where there is (church or ministry) idolatry, then “debtor’s bondage” is just another way to worship the golden calf.

  17. Hi Brian, “Galatians 3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse…” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/27/what-i-am-most-thankful-for/#comment-11624

    Yes, observing the law is a curse if you are doing so to be saved, which is only possible by grace.

    According to Calvin and Luther, Christians in the NT observe the law (imperfectly of course) not to be saved, but out of grateful joy and delight. I think it is no different from doing what the wife tells me. I don’t want to do it, but I do (sometimes!) because of love.

    • “if you are doing so to be saved”

      I find no such distinction in purpose anywhere in Scripture (correct me if I’m wrong). There is no “good obedience” vs “bad obedience” dichotomy in Scripture. And how could we possibly obey the entire law out of “grateful joy and delight”? This is circular logic that I won’t follow.

      And regarding doing what my wife says, Lord help me if I try to do what she said 20 years ago while ignoring what she tells me today :)

  18. And so I find nothing in Scripture that indicates either statement about obeying the Law. The Law should teach us more about what Jesus accomplished and who Jesus is, not teach about how to live better.

    I contend that we should neither observe the Law and the Prophets in order to be saved nor to be blessed in this life or the life to come. Attempting to observe the Law and the Prophets today is to build a debtor’s ethic that goes beyond the Holy Scriptures and circumvents the promises upon which salvation and blessed life are based.

    I contend that Jesus did not come to give us a better way to obey a higher law, but Jesus came to be our righteousness. Faith, more than gratitude, is what matters in our relationships with each other and with God.

    To learn to be content and give thanks in all circumstances has no relation to salvation nor to the quality of blessings we would receive in our life. The rain falls on both the righteous and the wicked.

    A grateful attitude would relate to our personal happiness and outlook and inner character, but would not necessarily incur more blessings from God or from other people. In fact we may be very thankful and full of gratitude in our heart and then face tragedy upon tragedy, as Job is a witness.

  19. “There is no ‘good obedience’ vs ‘bad obedience’ dichotomy in Scripture.” Brian, I agree with this, because as sinners all of our obedience is “bad obedience” because it is imperfect, incomplete, flawed, with questionable or double motivations, which clearly will all fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

    Yet the NT does call for obedience. Jesus says that our obedience comes from our love (Jn 14:15, 21, 23). Paul speaks of “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; 16:26). Rom 10:16 speaks about “obeying” the gospel (ESV, KJV). God does expect his people, both in the OT and the NT to live lives of obedience (by faith, by love, NOT by works righteousness or guilt-tripping or by the law which Paul strongly opposed in Romans and Galations). Abraham was commended because his faith was expressed by works, i.e. by his obedience (Jas 2:21-24).

    Because of the grace of God, we Christians are to obey the commands in the Bible beginning from loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mt 22:37-39; Mk 12:30-31). Yes, our obedience will be “bad obedience.” But because our hearts have been touched and transformed by the love and grace of God, we nonetheless want to obey God. Paul warns Christians in 1 Cor 10:1-13 by citing the disobedience, idolatry, and immorality of the Israelies in the OT to compel them to obedience and to take their Christian faith seriously, even if their salvation is entirely by grace. The book of Hebrews also warns Christians of “drifting” because of nominalism, formalism and disobedience.

    • “Yet the NT does call for obedience.”

      Agreed. Obedience to what and to whom? I’m not against obedience, I’m challenging the object of that obedience as well as the purpose.

      “The book of Hebrews also warns Christians of “drifting” because of nominalism, formalism and disobedience.”

      I don’t buy this. Drifting from what/whom? Would going outside the gates be a form of “drifting”? I don’t think so because Hebrews speaks of doing just that.

  20. Yes, Brian, the entire Bible addresses the people of God (OT and NT) who have been redeemed by God’s grace alone. Thus, all the laws (the Torah) are blessings of their present and future life (not for their salvation, since they have already been redeemed by grace).

    Ultimately, the blessing is God himself, and not necessarily physical or material blessings. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) all have to do with our relationship with God.

    The problem with sinners in the OT, NT (and UBF and churches at large) is that we assume/diminish grace to impose law, obedience and work righteousness. I am totally opposed to that as I am to the debtor’s ethic. But I am not opposed to obeying the Ten Commandments, which Jesus trimmed down to Two Supreme Commands (again not perfectly and not for salvation and blessing, but because of gratitude joy for what God has done for me).

  21. I believe that all of the OT and NT writings speaks of our drifting and falling away from Yahwah and from Christ. This is the sad history of humanity, including and especially myself, which causes me to cry out to God in fear and trembling. Of course, sinners can easily guilt trip you to make you think you are falling away from God when they impose some law on you.

    Perhaps, it may be helpful to get away from the UBF paradigm in order to hear the words in the Bible and allowing the Spirit (not your shepherd) to instruct you.

  22. “Perhaps, it may be helpful to get away from the UBF paradigm in order to hear the words in the Bible and allowing the Spirit (not your shepherd) to instruct you.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/27/what-i-am-most-thankful-for/#comment-11631

    Now THAT I agree with! The Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit is also telling me to stay outside the gates of Christendom right now. I don’t see that changing any time soon.

  23. “I am not opposed to obeying the Ten Commandments, which Jesus trimmed down to Two Supreme Commands (again not perfectly and not for salvation and blessing, but because of gratitude joy for what God has done for me).” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/27/what-i-am-most-thankful-for/#comment-11631

    I am however, opposed to obeying the Ten Commandments. I am not saying they are bad but that they are a failed foreshadow of the amazing work our Messiah completed through His death and resurrection. I do not believe Scripture teaches believers new ways to obey any of the commandments, but instead teaches us new ways to love with God’s law written on our hearts and acts of goodness, kindness and generosity abounding. Our time should not be wasted trying to figure out if we or others are obeying the commandments, but better spent holding onto the promises of God. Believers are no longer servants who obey God but friends who participate in His business. This is only possible when Christ lives in you. If Jesus was not alive right now and living in me, I should be counted as a heretic. If not for the Risen Jesus, what I say would be ludicrous. To say we should not strive to obey the 10 commandments is foolishness to our minds. But I know it to be true because of who is inside me.

    The only outstanding debt is love. Love is the fulfillment of the law. When Jesus comes alive in our hearts, His Spirit does amazing things to our soul, yielding love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

  24. Joe Schafer

    Hi Ben and Brian,

    Sharon and I recently read a good book about this very topic:


    Although the New Testament frequently urges us to obey Christ and his commands, the author contends that the word “obedience” doesn’t really capture what should be going on in the Christian life. He says it’s actually a surrender to God’s loving advances.

    (The word “surrender” needs a lot of qualification too.)

    The bottom line is that words like obedience carry certain connotations that might not accurately reflect what Jesus and the authors of the NT meant. We sometimes need to refine those terms in light of the gospel, rather than casting the gospel in light of those terms.

    • Joe, that book needs to go on my reading list. I am searching for connections to other people in order to understand what has happened to me the past two years. My journey continues to be amazing. Unfortunately some will dismiss me as “just reacting to ubf stuff”. That’s true to some extent, but does not explain things well enough. I’ve articulated my journey as a surrender to grace.

      This quote from the link is another way to say the same thing: “It’s about the difference between a life of obedience and one of surrender, and it is about how surrender must be a decision of the heart, not simply the will.”

  25. Thanks, Joe. I think that the words “obey” and “obedience” likely rub some/many exUBFers the wrong way, perhaps because some UBF Bible teachers teach obedience as primarily meaning that they should “obey” their Bible teachers, shepherds, chapter directors and UBF, which they regard as being equivalent to obeying God.

    For instance, I would often cite that Abraham’s servant obeyed Abraham as though he was obeying God.

    I hope to no longer ever teach obedience in such a narrow skewed and perhaps oppressive unhealthy way because it communicates obedience as something primarily done horizontally.

    I do like obedience being “a surrender to God’s loving advances.”

    In Hebrew (OT) the word for obedience is “shema,” which carry the following meanings: “hear” (785 times) (for eg. Dt 6:4), “hearken” (196 times), “obey” (81 times).

    In Greek (NT) a word for obedience is “tēreō,” which is translated “keep” in the KJV and the 2011 NIV (Jn 14:15, 21, 23) and “obey” in the 1984 NIV.

    I think that obedience is sadly often communicated as dry duty and unthinking “self-denying” responsibility (“just obey”), which surely sometimes needs to be done, such as when a Christian husband feels like committing adultery. But for the most part, I believe that the Bible conveys obedience as a joyful, loving, delightful act that is willingly and even wholeheartedly performed out of gratitude to the gospel in the NT (1 Cor 15:10), and to God’s grace of redemption in the OT (Ex 20:2-3ff; Dt 5:6-7ff).

    • “…because some UBF Bible teachers teach obedience as primarily meaning that they should “obey” their Bible teachers, shepherds, chapter directors and UBF, which they regard as being equivalent to obeying God.” – See more at: http://www.ubfriends.org/2013/11/27/what-i-am-most-thankful-for/#comment-11641

      Ben, yes this is part of the reason obedience rubs me the wrong way. I acknowledge I am (and will be) still recovering from the ungodly way obedience was taught to me.

      However, I long for a way to express the amazing transformation that is also taking place– my surrender to grace (the way to think) and love (the way to act)… and still discovering the third component, the way to feel.

      In any case, I’m looking forward to “Catching Fire” tonight. It’s date night with my lovely wife!!

  26. For what it’s worth, Dr. Benner has already been a huge help to me. His book, The Gift of Being Yourself is amazing. The book was part of the first cohort group my wife and I attended. I highly recommend Dr. Benner’s books to everyone.

  27. After all these thoughts about thankfulness, it should also be mentioned that thankfulness can also be used as an instrument to manipulate people. “Stop complaining, just be thankful.” Or “You have met God in this organization how can you not be thankful and criticize us instead?” Thankfulness is often confused with “positive thinking.” It should not cause us to live in a delusion. If you have ten minutes, please watch Smile or Die to understand what I mean with that. The “positive thinking” attitude that leads to living in a delusion with fatal consequences and hurt of people is underlying many flawed systems, not only UBF, but also systems which look so differenty as North Korea and corporate America, as Ms. Ehrenreich aptly explains.

  28. Thanks Chris, great video. “Be thankful” is biblical (except when used as a way to control other people).

    But “don’t complain” has been a blatant and shameless way to cause people to ignore reality, blindly accept the status quo (even when it is clearly declining, deteriorating and dying), and become unquestioning non-critical thinkers, which will invariably cause the demise of any organization, institution, nation and certainly church as well.