FAQs

 

What determines the dates for Grit Season?

Grit Season is built around the Jewish "Feast of Shelters" and All Saints Day, which was originally "All Martyrs Day." It also includes the modern "International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church." 

Grit Season starts the day after Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), which is the climax of Mercy Season. The "Feast of Shelters" (or "Booths" or "Tabernacles," Hebrew "Sukkot") is the feast of "roughing it," living in makeshift shelters for a week to recall what life was like for the forefathers during the years in the wilderness before the conquest of the Promised Land.

 

The Feast of Shelters also marks the end of the fall harvest, which of course would not have taken place if God had not enabled Israel to survive the wilderness experience and settle down to farm in their homeland. The message of this Feast is, "God can be trusted to get us through the present difficulties and keep all his promises to us once this ordeal is over."

All Saints Day, November 1st, was originally "All Martyrs Day." At first, each martyred saint such as Stephen (Acts 7) had his/her own holiday, but that idea broke down when there were too many martyred heroes. All Martyrs Day was the day created as a celebration for "all martyrs" who did not retain their own separate days.

Why are these books chosen as the readings for Grit Season?

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These are the "Grit" books because courage and unwavering commitment are prominent themes in each one. Most of them are written to or about people going through great uncertainty, risk, or pain.

OLD TESTAMENT

Numbers. The wilderness years of Israel moving from Egypt to the Promised Land, recalled annually in the Feast of Booths

Deuteronomy. Moses' final reminders to Israel that their courage is anchored in their national covenant with God. They have no basis for courage if they break that covenant.

Psalms 73-106. These psalms are "Book 3" and "Book 4" of the traditional division. Some like Ps. 102 are highly relevant to courage, but the main reason for including these sections of Psalms here is simply to follow the book in order through the year, allocating it to balance the amount of reading for each season.

Lamentations. Jeremiah's lament of the capture of Jerusalem by Babylon and the destruction of the Temple. Jeremiah trusts God through the horror of it all. 

Ezra. Ezra leads the nation to reestablish its worship of the Real God in Jerusalem as they return from exile in Babylon.

Nehemiah. Nehemiah, in spite of great risk and opposition, gets Jerusalem's walls rebuilt, preparing for the rebirth of the nation of Israel

Esther. As the Jewish queen of Persia, Esther risks her life to reverse a genocidal anti-Jewish scheme

Daniel. Daniel and his friends stay loyal to the God of Israel even when that carries a death sentence; and God rescues them from lions and fire.

Habakkuk. The prophet who wrestles with the fairness question--evil people get away with things and good people suffer things they do not deserve

NEW TESTAMENT

Philippians. Paul's joy-packed letter from prison to the church in Philippi

1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. Paul's letters to two his under-studies, advising them on leadership in difficult situations

Hebrews. A powerful exhortation to a group of believers under great pressure because of Christ

1 & 2 Peter. Two more letters to believers going through a major time of trial

Isn't SYNCing with Christ supposed to bring me blessing? Where does pain come in?

Christ has sent us out "like sheep among wolves" (Mt. 10.16), which is not exactly a safe situation for the sheep. He has told us to take up our cross and follow him (Mt. 16.24), and only doomed people carried a cross.

Unlike false advertisers, Christ does not offer great blessings but hide the terms of the offer in the fine print until we commit. The terms are clear. He is on a mission. If we want the benefits of his mission, we become participants in his mission. If I want the health insurance provided by the U.S. Navy, I have to join the Navy. I can't compare the terms of Navy insurance with some other insurance, and I can't negotiate with the Navy for a special deal in my case.

Of course, it is very tempting to think that Jesus suffered so we don't have to, Jesus took all the pain so we get all the gain, but if we think like that, we are approaching Jesus like careless consumers who never even glanced at the price tag. The price tag of following Jesus is that we go wherever he goes, risk or no risk. 

Why doesn't everybody love us if we are good people with a good message for them? 

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It's about control. Lots of people are going to kick against any message that tells them to hand control of their life over to someone else. That's what we are saying Christ wants them to do.

When totalitarian governments want to control everything that happens in their country, they do not want any talk of any other "king" who could claim any power over or loyalty from any citizens there. Jesus is a threat. So is anyone who represents him. Follow Jesus and go to jail.

 

Families can work the same way. If a family has always worshiped a certain god or hated a certain other race or group, the family considers those things a sign of loyalty. Jesus threatens that loyalty. Follow Jesus and the family calls you a traitor.

 

Individual choices are another layer of resistance to our message. When we call people to SYNC with Christ, they realize it would mean giving up control of their lives. Jesus might threaten some habits or relationships they cannot imagine giving up. Follow Jesus and abandon the kingdom you were working so hard to build for yourself.

 

The common ideas that Jesus was a "great religious teacher" and that "his message was love" make it hard for us to realize how threatening he can be to many people and systems. When will we realize that he was more a king than a teacher and his message was more about the "kingdom" (or "liberating control") of God than it was about love? (See Scot McKnight, The King Jesus Gospel). The clearer we grasp that, the less puzzled we will be when people attack us because of our message.   

 
What does "intro" mean in the reading list?

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Preview the book you are about to read and/or find an intro to it in a Bible dictionary or on-line.

The best book intro's I have found are in The Message. Most introductions try to transport the reader back into the time of the writer and his ancient audience, but The Message intros take the opposite approach, transporting the text forward into the time of modern readers. The result is a clear crisp statement of why each book matters today, and that is a great foundation for the SYNC readings. Unfortunately the book introductions are not included in any of the on-line versions, as far as I know.

If you feel short-changed because you are not reading any actual Bible verses but only an intro, adjust the reading schedule so you read part of tomorrow's chapter today. Or, if you have missed any day's readings recently, use the "intro" day to catch up on those.

If I take risks for Christ, will I alienate some people I am trying to persuade?

Good question, but you probably will not if you take the risks graciously and if you take them when Christ tells you to, not too soon or too late.  

Having courage to take risks is obviously not an excuse for alienating people by saying too much too soon or too aggressively. Jesus sends us out as "sheep among wolves" and tells us to be "wise as snakes, harmless as doves" (Mt. 10.16).  Sheep and doves do not alienate. 

 

As for the "wisdom" of snakes, it lies in their ability to vanish. A friend who worked in Congo once told me that the cardinal rule when you see a poisonous snake is to keep your eye on it and call for help. If you go to get something to kill it or if you even take your eye off it, when you look back, it will be gone.

If I am not running into opposition, does it mean I am not a good follower of Christ? 

Possibly, but don't jump to that conclusion. 

Scripture says, "In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted . . ." 2 Tim. 3.12 (NIV). It is possible that you lack courage and you keep such a low profile as a follower of Christ that no one will ever attack you.

However, Scripture does not tell us we can measure our spiritual maturity by the amount of our persecution or that we should be worried if we are not persecuted every week. The right focus for us is Christ and our mission, not the way people react to it. Sometimes our message may have great impact, and people love us. Sometimes they may hate us. Neither outcome should distract us from Christ himself and our roles in his mission.

What is the "Day of Atonement"?

And how is it a game-changer?

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The "Day of Atonement" (in Hebrew, "Yom Kippur") is the holiest day of the year on the Jewish calendar. It is the day the nation renews its special link with God. It gives the perfect analogy to explain how Jesus’ sacrifice created a similar God-link and group identity for anybody, Jewish or not, who honors him as King. 

The Day of Atonement was the only day the Jewish High Priest went into the innermost room of the Temple to renew the sacrificial blood on the gold-plated chest that represented the presence of God. What the High Priest did annually on earth for the Jewish people, Jesus Christ did once and for all in heaven for all peoples.

 

After he died, rose to life, and ascended, he took his rightful place in heaven as King and High Priest. Then he presented his own sacrificial blood on the heavenly altar, making atonement for us all. That changes our status with God, opening the way to a God-connection we could never have created ourselves or done enough good to deserve.

 

God's standard is perfection, and we were not going to reach it. But Christ's atonement is perfection. In Christ we are connected to God. "But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ." (Eph. 2.13, NLT)

Every Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) is a perfect opportunity to remember that perfect atonement. And every day in Forgiveness Season we declare to be a "Day of Atonement," a day to remember and celebrate what Christ did once and for all.

What does ritual purification have to do with the 21st century? Aren't we past all that?

 

People are still doing things to us that are too horrible to forgive, and they are doing nothing to deserve forgiveness for them. Strange as it sounds, Christ's "ritual purification" in heaven is what gives us a constructive way to deal with horrible, 21st century wrongs and recover from the damage they did to us. 

Ritual purification sounds like primitive hocus-pocus to many in the Western world today, but in human history and for the majority of people globally even today, it was/is a very important part of life. For example, a political leader may be required to go through a purification ritual during his/her installation, a young man may be ritually purified before his initiation into adult male status, or a house may be ritually purified after someone had died in it.

These rituals are all about status relative to the society and to unseen forces or powers in the spiritual realm. They sync people with those forces, opening the way to do things that are prohibited or considered dangerous for un-purified people. Such rituals are meaningless to people who do not believe in a spiritual realm at all.

SYNC assumes the spiritual realm exists. So for us who are doing SYNC exercises, the question is not whether we need ritual purification but how we are going to get it. In other words, how can impure, imperfect people become purified enough to have a special link with a 100% pure God and live in SYNC with his plan for a world of peace?

There is a very common idea that status with God depends on our good deeds outweighing our bad deeds. If we are over 50% good, that tips the scale, and God accepts us. But God is not interested in 51% or 80% or 99% purity any more than a bride would be interested in a groom who vowed to be 99% faithful or than you would be interested in a bag of candy that was labeled, "99% free of bird droppings."

 

Since purity is a yes-no issue not a percentage, we cannot achieve adequate purity by working a little harder. Purity will be total and it will be officially conferred on us somehow. The question is how, and the answer is through the blood of Christ presented on the heavenly altar once and for all.

Believe it or not, that altar is where we find the power and motivation to forgive unforgivable things today. Christ's death was not hocus-pocus. It happened in Jerusalem on a Friday about 2000 years ago. He did not draw out his sacrificial blood for the heavenly altar by ritual cutting or ritual suicide. Humans tortured it out of him. He was cruelly executed as a danger to society.

That misguided decision to execute him--the worst decision ever made by the human race--poured out the blood that he presented as atonement on the heavenly altar. That is what purifies us. God takes the worst ever human mistake and transforms it into the best ever blessing for humanity! Does that sound like a "judgmental" God? What angry god would come up with an atonement plan like that?

If I forgive others, won't they take advantage of me?

Not if you do it right. Forgiveness is never supposed to be seen as permission for the next time.

Forgiveness does not mean the behavior is acceptable or excusable. It means the forgiver has decided not to require compensation even though the behavior was unacceptable and inexcusable. The forgiver graciously chooses to let the offender off the hook anyway.

For example, if an abusive husband beats his wife and the wife forgives him, she may still take action to prevent future abuse. Forgiveness means she will not let his abuse destroy her desire for his welfare, which means she will not hit him with a frying pan while he is asleep. Neither will she trash-talk him. Neither will she stop fixing dinner or having dinner with him, trying to make him pay for the wrong he did to her.

But she may make express her pain to him so he realizes how serious the problem is. She may avoid situations like the one where the abuse happened, and make an emergency plan if it starts to happen again. She may talk to someone privately to get help. Such efforts may get her kicked out of the house, or she may even decide she has to move out at least for a time, but none of her actions are taken as retaliation. We cannot forgive and retaliate at the same time. 

If the husband abuses her forgiveness, assuming she will never object to his behavior, he is like people who abuse Christ's forgiveness. They ask Christ to forgive them but they refuse to forgive others. They want to have their forgiveness cake and eat it too. But Christ is no idiot, and he does not stand for that sort of manipulation.

Should I try to catch up on the Bible readings if I miss some?

 

No. Too easy to get discouraged if you try that. Concentrate on SYNCing with Christ in whatever the reading is for today or this week. 

Do not aim to achieve a perfect checklist of readings. If you do, you will be too tempted to pat yourself on the back if you make it or to get discouraged and quit if you don't. Either way, the focus is on you--what you did or what you did not do.

 

Look elsewhere! Concentrate on the relationship between you and Christ. A perfect checklist does not guarantee that relationship, and a spotty checklist does not prove the relationship cannot be good and growing. 

 

Exception: If you are using the daily reading list, there are a few "review" days built in. If you did not miss too many chapters, you might use a review day for a little catch up, but don't overdo it.

Last ditch alternative for perfectionists: If missing a reading is such a big thing to you that you can't concentrate on today's reading, try this plan. Instead of using today's reading time to catch up, read today's reading today. Set another block of time, perhaps on a weekend, when you will do all your catch-up at once. Meanwhile focus all your perfectionistic energy on perfect SYNCing instead of a perfect checklist.

How does SYNCing relate to believing?

Believing can end in your head. SYNCing can't. It always turns into action because you are connecting to Christ, and he is working a plan. If you "believe" but do not do anything about it, you are not in SYNC with the plan.

For example, people may say they believe that the Holy Spirit came down on Pentecost, and they may truly believe it happened, but that does not mean they are in SYNC with it. It can be a dead or empty belief that does not influence them at all.

 

I may believe a certain girl will accept if I ask her out on a date, but my belief is dead if I do not act on it. On an opinion poll, many people will say they "believe in God," but their belief is dead. They are not in SYNC with God at all, and they have no interest in SYNCing. They move to their own rhythm.  

When we SYNC, we bring our beliefs into line with God's game-changing actions like Pentecost, and we bring our actions into line with our beliefs. We put our money where our mouth is.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

If I SYNC with Christ, do I lose my freedom and uniqueness?

No, your freedom will paradoxically increase and your uniqueness will blossom. In fact, the only way to totally find and express our uniqueness is by SYNCing.

Jesus is the most creative, liberating person who ever lived. When he adjusts our wiring, there is no way he is going to standardize it. He does not want any robots or carbon copies. What he does to us is to restore our wiring to its unique original configuration, which was the real you and the real me.

 

We were uniquely wired for a purpose, but some of our wires came loose and some got crossed. We cannot fulfill our unique destiny until the Great Electrician reconnects everything properly. SYNC is our invitation for him to do that. We trust his promise that "whoever loses his life for me will find it."  Mt. 16.25

 
Is SYNC just a form of positive thinking?

No, SYNC is connecting us to things that already happened. When a nation celebrates its independence day, that is more than positive thinking or wishful thinking. 

 

That sort of celebration anchors your identity in a particular event. You are not trying to create that event by suggesting it to yourself. You are remembering some huge event that already happened. SYNC does the same thing with several huge events like Pentecost Day when God sent the Holy Spirit down onto those who opened themselves up to Jesus.

 

Positive thinking can be strong faith in a weak bridge, which never makes the bridge stronger. It is much better to have faith, even weak faith, in a strong bridge. Events like Pentecost are our "strong bridge," and they carry us securely even if our faith in them is a little shaky.    ​​

What is Pentecost Day? And how is it a game-changer? 

Pentecost Day is the day King Jesus injected his heavenly power into his followers on earth. See the story in Acts 2.1-41

 

This meant that God's power, which had occasionally dripped on a few special prophets and leaders in the past, was now being poured out on all the followers of Jesus. It was God's sign that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, the one sent to transform the world by bringing the power of heaven into it. 

In other words, Pentecost verified Jesus' proclamation that heaven was coming to earth (Mk. 1.15), and it proved that the power flow did not end when Jesus himself returned to heaven to take the throne there. Instead of leaving his followers with teaching they were supposed to try to live up to, he showed that he was still in touch with them, still empowering them to do things that are not humanly possible.

 

On Pentecost Day the main evidence was that 120 of his followers all began praising God fluently in languages they had never learned. Since it was a festival day in Jerusalem, celebrating God giving the Law to Moses on Mt. Sinai, there were Jewish pilgrims present from all over the world. They were stunned as they recognized the languages of their many homelands being spoken by local Jews who had never been there.

 

That day those 120 followers were "signals of the Spirit's power," and that is where our prayer for Power Season comes from. "Make us a signal of the Spirit's power. Let it work. Let it work. Let it work." And when it works, it will point to Jesus and the truth of his proclamation about the world: "You will receive power after the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and on out to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1.8)

Is SYNC like "spirit possession" but in a good way?  

Yes and no. Yes, an unseen being or force is affecting you, but no, "possession" is not the right word for it. 

SYNCing with Christ through the Holy Spirit does involve a being or presence that is more than human. That being or Spirit empowers you to know and/or do things you could not do in a normal state, or as the song has it, "You raise me up to more than I can be."

However, there are several huge differences between having the Holy Spirit move into your life and being possessed by any other spiritual force. 

1. Instead of losing your identity, for example, speaking in a weird voice that is not normally yours, you actually become more fully yourself than you normally are. The Holy Spirit does not eclipse your ordinary identity like other spirits do. Though the Holy Spirit may sometimes make an individual unconscious or in a trance-like state,  that is a bit like putting a patient under anesthetic for special spiritual surgery. The Holy Spirit does most of his work while the person is awake.

2. There is no money involved. You cannot buy the Holy Spirit or any secret techniques for calling or manipulating the Holy Spirit. Such techniques are standard for calling other spirits. See Acts 8.18-24 for a story of a sorcerer who tried this familiar method. It did not end well.

3. Your link with the Holy Spirit is personal but not individualized or exclusive. Instead of raising you above other people so they come to you as their spiritual guide or power, the Holy Spirit connects you to all other followers of Christ. Instead of giving you something to brag about, the Holy Spirit empowers you for your main mission, to be supporting evidence that Jesus' proclamation was true--heaven's power is coming to earth.

4. Your link with the Holy Spirit is never about the getting enough raw spiritual power to do what you want to do. The Holy Spirit's power transforms you, and that affects what you want. Your new desire is to SYNC with the Spirit's objectives instead of trying to manipulate the Spirit to sync with yours.

 

5. You never have to worry that the Spirit you are working with may be overpowered by some other spirit. The Holy Spirit's power has no equal. Other spirits recognize him in you if you are in SYNC with Christ, and they back off. See Acts 19.13-16 for a story of why you should not try this if you are not in SYNC with Christ. 

What determines the dates for Power Season?

The three "power holidays" on the traditional calendar of Christians: 

Ascension Day -- Jesus ascends from earth to take power on the throne of heaven (his coronation after his death, resurrection, and commissioning of his followers)

Pentecost -- Jesus sends the Holy Spirit down onto his followers to empower them for their mission 

Feast of Transfiguration -- memorial of the one special incident during Jesus' time on earth when Peter, James, and John saw him "transfigured," glowing with spiritual power 

 

Ascension Day is always the Thursday that is 40 days after Easter, so it moves with Easter. (The date of Easter gets confusing because it is calculated differently by Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic and Protestant) churches.) Ascension Day usually falls in mid to late May. Pentecost is always the Sunday ten days after Ascension Day. The Feast of Transfiguration is always on August 6th.

 

Power Season is considerably longer than other seasons in the SYNC cycle. That is not meant to imply that we need power more than we need the blessings of the other seasons, though perhaps we do. But the SYNC cycle was worked out within the framework of existing Christian and Jewish celebrations, and there are few holidays to work with in June and July.  

 

SYNC is also built on the standard international calendar (Gregorian). It therefore is "out of sync" with many other calendars such as the Chinese and the Islamic ones that have a different "New Year.

What happened in the Garden of Gethsemane, and how does it change the game for us? 

 

Across a small valley from Jerusalem, the Garden of Gethsemane was an olive grove used as a favorite getaway spot by Jesus and his inner circle when they were visiting the city. On that fateful night, Jesus knew his arrest, trial, and execution were imminent. He had pushed too many of his enemies buttons when he let cheering crowds hail him as he entered Jerusalem, then cleared the rip-off moneychangers out of the Temple, then tangled the religious experts up in their own loaded questions. Tension was everywhere.

That evening in Gethsemane, Jesus faced the same issue Adam and Eve faced in the Garden of Eden--God's way or their way? Adam and Eve took things into their own hands. Jesus signed off on the Father's will. Both choices set things in motion that still affect us every day.

BTW, whether you regard Adam and Eve's choice as a myth or take it as literally as I do, it still serves as a useful contrast for the prayer of Jesus. Their choice epitomizes the human predicament, and Jesus' choice epitomizes God's solution--courageous, self-sacrificing action reverses the curse that selfish rebellion brought on. (See 1 Cor. 15.22 and 45 on Christ as the "second Adam")

When Jesus signed off, "Not my will but yours be done," (Lk. 22.42) he sealed his fate and liberated us from ours! He was not going to run from his enemies or rally people to defend him from them. He was not going to use his spiritual powers to strike down those coming to arrest him. He would accept his fate as his proper (though excruciating) role in the plan God had been unfolding for two millennia since Abraham. He would go to the cross without resistance.

Because he went to the cross, the curse that had been hanging over humanity since before Abraham was shattered. As the prophet Isaiah has predicted hundreds of years earlier, "By his wounds we are healed." (Is. 53.5) But he only got the wounds because he signed off on the Father's will. 

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