Tag: belief (page 1 of 2)

Maybe, Just Maybe, If You’d Stop Quoting The Bible At Me

I get it, you’re passionate about your beliefs—that’s highly admirable.

Much of what you hold to be true and the framework of your worldview are founded upon your understandings of the Scriptures.

For you, the Bible is the perfect Word of God without any mixture of error, and your interpretation of it is believed to be grounded in ultimate truth, faithful scholarship, and divine discernment. In response to a world deemed to be in serious moral and spiritual decline, you see the Bible serving as an anchor for Godliness and the transformation of our planet. In your mind and heart you genuinely conclude, if more people believed like you and subscribed to your biblical understandings, it would be an instant upgrade to their life and a sure improvement to the world at large.

Therefore, when you the quote the Scriptures, your desires are most assuredly noble and good-hearted. No one can deny your commitment, resolve, and tenacity towards your faith, the Bible, and a desire to make a difference.

Yet, perhaps what you don’t realize is how you come across in your use of the Scriptures and some of the messages you’re sending in doing so—intended or not.

When you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you care more about winning an argument than winning my heart. In fact, sometimes it seems like you’re inspired most by the prospect of somehow putting me in my place—pacing for the opportunity to engage in debate. With every verse you position to convict, condemn, and admonish, apparently you understand the Bible to be “useful in teaching and correcting” the way a tightly wound parent might deem a paddle to be useful in painfully punishing their child—any love you may intend to communicate is severely lost in translation. In fact, as much as I may desire to conclude otherwise, with every proof text and citing of Scriptural support, it feels like the Bible has become for you, less of a mirror in which to examine yourself, and more of a missile to launch at others. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d actually start believing you might truly want to know me, understand me, and even love me.

When you quote the Bible at me, it makes me wonder if you really know what you believe. I mean no disrespect, but at times, the way the Scriptures roll off your tongue so automatically and instantly, it feels a bit pre-packaged and cut and pasted—like you haven’t taken the journey of authentic believing. The memorization of verses takes only the efforts of our brain and can be a deceptive spiritual veil to an empty life. Meditation requires the soul searching of the heart and personally encountering Jesus. My sense is that people who truly know Him, genuinely wrestle with their faith, and are treading deep into the Bible, spend far less time in need of quoting it to others and using it to justify their every belief. For the mind of Christ within them has taken the lead and what they believe is far less a product of simply the Bible saying so, but much more that Jesus has said so in their Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to consider that you’re actually speaking from that which Jesus has authentically revealed to you and what He might truly desire to say.

When you quote the Bible at me, I get the sense that you believe to know all the answers. Sometimes, it’s even hard to get a word in edgewise. It feels like no matter what I say, somehow I’m always off the mark or completely wrong all together. For every thought I have, you seem to have a Bible verse cocked, loaded, and ready to counter it. All of which leaves me wondering, if you have all the answers already, why do you position yourself as desiring conversation? Perhaps, you’re hoping to change my mind, or simply enjoy hearing the sound of your own. Either way, the more you appear to have all the answers, the more I become convinced you probably don’t. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d hear the sounds of your listening and learning instead of the chalkboard screeching nails of presumptuousness.

When you quote the Bible at me, it smells of religion, not revelation. No, God never changes, but what He reveals of Himself and how He reveals Himself certainly does. Yet, with nearly every verse you quote it feels like you are desperately trying to protect and prosper the religious spirit and your long-held beliefs, instead of exuding a humility and openness to encounter fresh revelation. In fact, if I’m honest, it comes across at times as if you’re afraid of what God might reveal. It’s as if the Bible has become for you, less of a catalyst to encountering Jesus, and more of replacement for Him. All of which leaves me wondering, if God desired to grow you beyond your current Scriptural understandings and interpretations, would He even be able to do so? Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to believe you possess the capacity for divine discernment and the journey needed for wisdom.

When you quote the Bible at me, I feel like a project. At times, the way you use the Scriptures, it seems like your ultimate goal is my conversion, conformity, and compliance to your beliefs and biblical interpretations. If I have a change of mind or repent of my erring ways in response to your Scriptural interventions, a rousing moment of high-fives with your fellow Christians is surely just around the corner. You “caught’ me, “won” me, or “discipled” me into your fold, and now I’m yet another “catch” to be mounted on your spiritual mantel. I mean no disrespect in saying so, but it feels like the way you use the Bible is more like a cattle prod than a stable, and I, more of a project than a person. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more willing to open the gates and consider that you have a genuine care for me and my best interests.

When you quote the Bible at me, I wonder what you’re trying to hide. Maybe it’s just me, but I have found, those who are constantly quoting the Bible with proof texts, debates, and scriptural arguments are often the ones concealing deep levels of spiritual immaturity, doubts, duplicity, and even carnality. In fact, Satan is described as knowing the Scriptures quite well all while completely missing the heart of Jesus—obviously. The more you quote the Bible at me, the more I begin to consider, maybe this is all just a big show of biblical smoke and mirrors concealing a cowardly wizard hiding behind a leather-bound name-engraved curtain. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d feel a lot more comfortable in extending trust, respect, and credibility.

When you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you’re just another one of “them.” You know, those Pharisee types that Jesus loved, but aggressively challenged. At every turn, they were using their understanding of the Scriptures for the condemnation of others and the justifying and puffing up of themselves. In one place, Jesus spoke of spitting repugnant people like this out of His mouth, and quite honestly I don’t blame Him. Sometimes, the way you quote the Bible at me, it makes me want to vomit too—if only a simple right cheek sneak would do. For it all comes across so pretentiously, my entire being can’t help but want to expel it.

When Jesus referenced the Bible, He did so primarily to reframe it and reinterpret it through the lens of Grace, love, and Himself.

I’m no spiritual giant, but I have a hunch we would do well to follow His example.

Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I would respect you all the more, have a greater desire to give serious consideration to your claims and creeds, and be far more apt to conclude that Jesus is truly working in and through you.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Is Conservative Evangelical Christianity An Incubator For White Supremacy?

President Trump won’t exclusively condemn it, Frankly Graham won’t clearly denounce it, and many conservative Evangelicals remain all but silent and waffling with false equivalencies in its destructive wake—white supremacy.

Take a good look at the landscape of right-wing Christianity in America and tell me why we should be surprised when white supremacy is seen by some as, at least in part, a bi-product, intended or not, of significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity. The undeniable placid ambivalence, tiptoeing, and ambiguity displayed by some in response to the recent acts of domestic terrorism committed in Charlottesville give sure light to the elephant in the room—a white Jesus for white people creating white churches with white male leadership hoping to protect, preserve, and foster a white conservative Christian nation to rule the earth.

It’s high time we wake up and smell the vile stench—casting out our evil nose-blindedness. Should we be surpised when significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity are discerned as highjacking Jesus and turning Him into their personal cruise director, sipping Christian cocktails while their Evangelical Titanic plows through and pollutes from sea to shining sea spewing out sure levels of hatred, bigotry, racism, greed, and even the sounds of white supremacy?

There is much about the conservative Evangelical creed that could be understood as speaking of and fostering privilege—we are the saved, you are the lost; we are the faithful, you are the heathen; we are the blessed, you are the condemned; we are the friends of God, you are the enemy; we are the sole possessors of Biblical understanding and righteous interpretation, you are the sure heretics; we are the faith upon which this nation was founded, you are the people that need to be converted and conquered.

No, it’s not written in the church bulletin or some carefully crafted mission statement, but with white painted churches steepled with white crosses as far as the eye can see, it should be to no one’s surprise when people observe that Sunday mornings across America can be some of the most segregated hours of the week and a screaming indictment to some of the highly unfortunate fruit being grown on the vine of the gospel of significant segments of conservative Evangelical Christianity—not excluding, aspects of white supremacy.

For at some point, we have to do the difficult work of putting two eyes on what’s in front of us and connecting the dots.

No, of course, not everyone who identifies as a conservative Evangelical Christian manifests nor supports the evils of racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. There are many, if not most, standing in the gap, seeking to be a force for good. Yet sadly, but perhaps appropriately, the foundational theology, ethos, and culture of significant segments of right-wing conservative Christianity are now being questioned as a potential incubator, cesspool, and even catalyst for some of the evil tenets, actions, and aspirations found in white supremacy.

As unpopular and perhaps controversial as it is to shout from the mountain tops or assert at the Thanksgiving day table, we have a serious spiritual and moral problem in our country, and one of the cowardly wizards behind the curtain pulling its fair share of the strings is none other than significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

If you’re white, silent, and not completely enraged at the racism spewing from the privileged sewers of America, you are the problem.

If you’re a Christian and believe that your faith understanding affords you special dignity, rights, blessings, status, and the capacity to judge and Lord your creeds and values over another, you are the problem.

If you subscribe to any belief set that sees the color of your skin, the creed you confess, or the location of your birth as granting you special anointing, favor, and affirmation from God, you are the problem.

If you have taken even just one step towards concluding that God created anything less than perfect equality for all people as the predominant sign of the manifestation of His Kingdom, you are the problem.

If you dream of a world where white Christian people remain the majority, retain overall power, legislate society, and have their values, beliefs, and culture prevail in the public arena, you are the problem.

Take a good look at the landscape of right-wing Christianity in America and tell me why we should be surprised when white supremacy is seen by some as, at least in part, a bi-product, intended or not, of significant segments of right-wing conservative Evangelical Christianity.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

I’m Trying, But I Just Can’t Seem To Win With You

I just can’t win—at least it seems like, not with you.

No matter what I say or how I say it, it all falls short. Pouring out my heart, opening doors to vulnerability, I wrestle with every phrase and every word, hoping to position every thought as best I can do. I want nothing more than for you to understand and receive me as a blessing. What Grace has done in me, I can’t contain. The revelation of Jesus that has confronted my heart has left me forever changed. There are rampant religious evils I simply can’t ignore nor be silent as they have their way—destroying good people.

You’re right, I’m taking a path largely untraveled. I’m giving voice where there has been little to no voice before. I’m swimming against long-held beliefs and the tsunami of right-wing Christianity, and daring to stand up for things many have long been standing against.

No, I don’t expect it to be easy, nor do I harbor an adversity to opposing views. I’m not asking you to agree with me, nor render your stamp of approval. I entertain no delusions, for you won’t be anointing me with oil any time soon—perhaps it’s crossed your mind that a dose of lighter fluid might better suit.

I get it, I understand. These are changing times, and so much of our identities, perceptions, and beliefs are in the balance.

When I first was collided with the truth of my religious spirit and the legalistic faith that birthed it, I was shaken to the core and rebelled with every right-wing conservative Christian fiber within me. I’m not saying I’m right or have all the answers, but I am saying that my heart knows perhaps no greater frustration than when it becomes all too clear, I just can’t win with you.

Please know this, and know it for sure, it’s not for lack of trying and having a soul that desires to.

It seems that when I speak strongly with passion and angst, then somehow I’m being far too abrasive—stepping on feet with too heavy a weight. But then, when I speak softly with tenderness and grace, somehow I’m not speaking strong enough—allowing evil to see the light of day. If I try to land it down the middle, I’m a disappointment to everyone. If I paint with broad strokes, I’m not being surgical enough. If I get specific, I’m being too harsh and insensitive. If I don’t respond, but simply let you share you views, I’m being a callous hypocrite by not engaging you. If I step into the ring and go a few rounds, I’m now deemed a bully who just likes to argue my heretical, unbiblical views. If I don’t walk in perfect step on the path of your ideology and tone preferences, you’re quick to pull me over and write me a scolding ticket.

You gaslight the crap out me but then protest when I don’t rush to cozy up. You troll my life hunting for a debate, cocked with loaded questions for which you’re conveniently convinced you already hold all the answers. Yet, you get offended when I don’t get sucked in or I block you all together—labeling me a fake. You hyper-analyze my every move and step, filling in the blanks with the very worst of assumption and intentions. It’s like you’re determined to misunderstand me no matter how clear or bright shines my light—deflecting seems to be your go-to method.

Sure, I could always say, believe, and handle things better—that’s a given. But, none of that matters, for it seems no matter what, I can’t win.

So, here’s the real kicker—the revelation in it all.

For who would I have to become, what would have to believe, and what would I have to do to be accepted, affirmed, and deemed worthy of your gleam? What kind of surrender and conformity would that transformation require?

With deep love and all due respect, as much as I wish I could win with you, there’s a very real part of me that’s growing more and more thankful—that I can’t. For I have this deep sense within me, I wouldn’t like the person I would have to become for that wish to be granted—nor would Jesus. My sense is this, He created me to be a person not a puppet.

Instead, here’s my plan, a kind of manifesto. I’m going to speak my truth—I’m going to say it exactly the way I want to say it, no holds barred. No shackles, mute buttons, shrinking back, curling up in the fetal position, or editorializing my heart.

Come hell or high water, fame or loneliness, though maybe I can’t win with you—I am awakened and determined, I will win at speaking and living my truth.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

The Real Reason I Don’t Go To Your Church

No, it’s not the music style, the lighting, or the programs.

No, it’s not that I’m lazy, disinterested, or bent towards worldliness.

In fact, I care deeply about spiritual things, long for community, and have a generous heart for serving people.

With your professional branding, elaborate worship staging, cultural savviness, and groups for nearly every interest known to humanity, I can tell you are feverishly trying to crack the code and leverage me into your church gatherings. Even your ministry conferences, flowcharts, and mission statements are centered around somehow influencing me into your kingdom. Like Captain Ahab tempestuously traversing the oceans for the prized moment his harpoon punctures the elusive whale, it’s obvious you long for your efforts to be those that heroically pierce my heart with salvation, lure me into your faith community, and set me on a course to belief and act as you do, all to the praise and admiration of those that align with you spiritually. I see your noble intentions, I really do—all are efforts I truly appreciate.

Yet sadly, the real reason I don’t go to your church still eludes you—perhaps because the answer can’t be bought, programed, built, diagramed, staged, earned, envisioned, emotionalized, focus-grouped, or even prayed into existence. For all the chumming of my life with every strategy, program, and event that could possibly ever be imagined, you’re still yet drastically missing the one ingredient for which my heart and soul hungers the deepest, and could even render it captured. In fact, the one and only thing that truly matters is the very thing rarely ever heard amidst all your ministry chatter—love.

See, the real reason I don’t go to your church, subscribe to your faith understanding, or connect with your spiritual community is actually because of you—you don’t truly love me.

The one thing you so desperately want me to see and believe about your god and your faith establishment is the very thing I don’t see established in you—it’s love—and it’s oh so very clear, you don’t truly love me. With all that your faith, church, and Christian life has become to you, the one thing that hasn’t become of you is the one thing that is so glaringly missing—a simple, true, and genuine love of me.

The real reason—no matter what you might be tempted to conclude. It’s not about your god, your buildings, your beliefs, or your community. It’s actually all about you— that you don’t truly love me.

For if you did…

You wouldn’t even think of putting your rights, comforts, and privileges above mine. Rather, you’d be laying them down for me.

You wouldn’t care so much about bathrooms, wedding cakes, and movie scenes. Rather, you’d be pushing aside every obstacle and looking for every opportunity to simply serve me.

You wouldn’t shame, discard, and condemn the people I love no matter who they be. Rather, you’d love them thoroughly and completely no less, simply because you love me—you know, like Jesus.

You wouldn’t see me as a spiritual project to stuff upon your mantel for all your friends to see, but rather as a wholly divine person already redeemed, simply longing for an awakening—you know, like to the Jesus already in me.

You wouldn’t say selfish things like, “I’m praying for you” as you pretentiously look down your pointed nose and flaring nostrils and determine that if I’m not all that I should be. Rather, you’d vehemently commit your heart to truly understanding, knowing, and loving me—and that, unconditionally.

You wouldn’t want to “reach” me, “win” me, or “grow” me into becoming some robotic, spiritual zombie who believes, looks, and acts mostly like you. Rather, you’d want to love me into the God-adorned person who believes, looks, and acts exactly like the true me, living life as “I” should—in freedom, with only the Spirit guiding me, not you. For don’t you have enough navigating to do in your own life to necessitate in you the trusting of God with mine?

Your theology and Bible understanding wouldn’t be the idolatrous, unmovable, and inerrant foundation upon which you lean, pompously standing as one who holds all the “clear teachings.” Rather, your humility would give way to a love of me that would prevail above all things and become the one and only thing. It would be your vision, denominational mantra, and your ultimate dream—convinced that in all you do for me, you are in fact doing so as your highest and most important way of loving and honoring Thee—you know, Jesus.

You’d be listening, learning, and looking for any reason, excuse, or loophole to affirm me—no, not that there needs to be. That God loves, accepts, and delights in me simply because I breathe, would be more than enough—because that’s the heart of Jesus.

Your default bent, beliefs, and creed would all center on Grace, love, and human equality, not jamming down my throat something you have in your privilege that you believe I need as a remedy to what you see as my depravity. For who do you think you are, anyways? You don’t even know me.

You’d trust the goodness of God so much that potentially erring on the side of unconditionally loving me would not only be deemed as non-threatening, in your heart and mind, it would be concluded to be an impossibility. For with a God of more than enough, who could ever love too much?

Perhaps, most of all, you wouldn’t say ridiculous, stupid things like, “The reason I point out your sin is because I love you” and then expect me to actually believe it—if only I could keep the vomit from dripping out of my mouth. Rather, you’d be begging me to hear one thing, and one thing above all things, “I love you, is the reason I love you.” “Pointing out sin is the job of the Spirit, it’s not for me.” “For who I am, but one who is just like you—no better, only different.”

Yet sadly, you don’t trust Grace to guide, teach, correct, empower, and be all-sufficient, which is perhaps the sole reason why yours is a love that is so alarmingly love-deficient.

You want to change me, I just need you to love me. You want to convert me, I just need you to love me. You want to confront, castigate, correct and conform me, I just need you to love me. There is nothing in all my heart and soul that couldn’t be overcome, if you’d just truly and simply love me. But sadly, you don’t—and even more tragically, because of your faith understanding—you won’t.

Truth is, I don’t need to know anything more about your god or your faith community, because I see everything I need to see—in you, already.

With all due respect and appreciation, you can have all your services, traditions, events, conferences, retreats, revivals, groups, clubs, books, movies, schools, buildings, programs, prayers, and music, because I know true love when I see it—and tragically, I just don’t see it—in you. Don’t ever think you could possibly convince me that the god atop your steeple truly and deeply loves me, when it’s all so crystal clear, from the tippy top to the shallow depths of your own being, a love cannot be found that truly loves me.

Which is all the reason I need to know or ever show as to why I’ll never want to be a part of your church, your faith understanding, or your community.

The real reason?

You.

You don’t truly love me.

“Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”  -1 John 4:8

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.” -1 Corinthians 13

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Christian, Why Aren’t You Pounding On My Door?

It’s not an issue of debate, at least, probably not for you.

In sync with your faith understanding and interpretation of the Bible, you believe hell is absolutely real and anyone who doesn’t repent, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and make the proper life adjustments is destined to spend eternity there.

For you, hell is a God appointed, forever place of unbearable torture and suffering where the occupant’s greatest desire is to die, but they can’t—it’s hell, their due punishment for rejecting a holy and just God.

Therefore, the understood purpose of Jesus is to communicate and manifest God’s love to people while making it possible for them, through their repentance and faith, to be “saved” from the terrifying, agonizing, eternal reality God has prepared for them if they don’t love Him back in return. In your mind, perhaps God doesn’t exactly “send” people to hell nor desire their eternal demise, but they rather choose it. Either way, at the very least, God allows hell for the unbelieving, is holy in doing so, and your prescribed mission is, out of love and obedience, to do everything you can to keep people from going there.

I’m not being critical nor condemning of your faith understanding, just descriptive.

Which leaves me with a question.

If you believe hell is so real and terrible, God loves me enough to send His Son to die a gruesome death on a cross to make it possible for me to avoid it, and you are His plan to tell me all about it so that I can believe all the right things to escape it, why aren’t you pounding on my door every minute of every day to convince me of it? Even if I should turn away, brush you off, or even reject it all together, why don’t you keep relentlessly pursuing it? It’s a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, is it not?

What could possibly be more important? Certainly, not your marriage, family, career, or enjoyed way of life—that would be ridiculously selfish in contrast to the eternal suffering of even just one person, especially in the kind of hell to which you subscribe. What kind of twisted love could one possibly possess that would ever consider resting for just a moment, knowing the potential result if you do?

With millions of “lost” people, you believe, standing at the edge of forever fire only a heartbeat away from eternal torture, how is it that you can be doing, investing, spending, prioritizing, and participating in anything less than the direct pleading, door-pounding, begging, and drawing of every person possible?

And what about your behavior? I hear that your faith tradition believes that little bugger can actually become a stumbling block, even unto the saving faith of another. With all due respect, as much as you seem to be comfortable in talking about everyone else’s personal conduct, for just a moment, can we talk about yours? To think that, for example, an overweight, gluttonous pastor or smoking parishioner might be the primary reason a person concludes, “this whole Jesus thing isn’t for me,” shouldn’t that send every Christian to their local Gold’s Gym after Sunday preaching, not the typical gorging at Golden Corral commonly themed? If that doesn’t potentially shutdown a heathen’s moment of saving faith, what about your 50% divorce rate? What about the 60% of church leaders who watch porn? What about all the church gossip and political infighting? We’re talking about a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, are we not?

Which reminds me, I also recall a couple central, pivotal passages from the Bible that are highly faith defining. One dictates that in actuality, it’s “God’s kindness that leads to repentance” and the other, “the ministry of the Law is death.” So, wait a second. If a white-hot hell is so real and repentance is the sure ticket to the cool breezes of heaven, shouldn’t we be the kindest people on planet earth and exuding a ministry of Grace like the world has never seen? Shouldn’t we be revered in every corner of the planet as being the gentlest, most compassionate, radically gracious, unconditional loving, patient, selfless, generous, serving, and humble people ever known upon the earth—even to a fault?

I know this might be a tough question to answer, but in light of the seriousness of your claims about hell, why isn’t yours a clear, resounding, and flat out earth-shaking lifestyle of relentless kindness, radical Grace, and compassionate character that’s pounding at the doors of every heart and mind in every moment of every day to convince them? I hate to ask this yet again, but this is an eternal hell of unimaginable pain, suffering, and brutal torture at the hands of demons that we are talking about, is it not?

I, and many others, have been carefully listening for your answer, and perhaps we have sadly received it. For as much as this is difficult to say, the truth is, our doors have almost never felt your genuine knock, our hearts rarely ever hear the plea of your kindness, our eyes see so much hypocrisy, and our souls starve in absence of observing and feeling any genuine love, acceptance, and true Grace from you.

Rather, if I’m honest, you seem so desperate to insist that your hell is so real and that I need to take it so drastically serious. Yet, I am growing more and more convinced that, by all the things you do and don’t, you yourself don’t actually believe it, perhaps not even in Jesus either. For if you did, with all due respect, I just have to believe you’d be so much more loving, so much more kinder, so much more gracious, so much more concerned about your own walk, and so much more focused on loving, respecting, accepting, and pursuing mine—you know, like Jesus.

Instead, I see state-of-the-art church buildings, lighting systems, worship packages, budgets, and million dollar pastoral homes and salaries. I see Christian clubs with crosses on top where like-minded, like-skinned people gather like herds of cattle to daintily drivel amongst themselves and viciously judge the world. I see people who are addicted to the sound of their own spiritual voices, consumed by consuming, and content with making their spiritual satisfaction the idolatrous priority of their faith. I see people leaning on their ideologies to the detriment, harm, and abuse of others. I see people who demonstrate little-to-no restraint in highjacking Jesus for political power, personal empire building, and ministry fame. I see people who are feverishly unkind, selfish, privileged, and pretentious—totally at peace with a faith-life of spiritual navel gazing, people-judging, bible-weaponizing, and personal significance seeking. I see people who marginalize, discriminate, and torment those with whom they disagree, dislike, or conveniently deem to be sinning differently. I see people who view the world as a spiritual project—a pasture of beastly humans to ultimately rope into their brand of religious performance, rule-keeping, soul-milking, and mold-fitting. I see people who have spiritually rationalized nearly every form of evil under the sun while joyfully passing it off as biblical faithfulness. For much of modern Christianity has become so thin, white, privileged, cutting, and square, you could use it as piece of paper—best crumpled up and discarded, to be sure. “LeBron pulls up, he shoots, he scores”—all of it, into file thirteen.

If your hell is so true and your faith so loving, how in the world could you ever have time, energy, imagination, resources, or heart for becoming so much of what Jesus is clearly not?

Perhaps the real truth is, “hell” is only as important to you as far as it involves theological debates, condemning perceived sinners, drawing lines, spiritual justifying your platform, mission, and pride, and fearing people into your beliefs.

It obviously doesn’t bother you—that much. Cause you to love—that much. Inspire your kindness and graciousness—that much, nor compels your every all.

Hell—it’s all so convenient, is it not?

With all due respect, if you want me to believe your hell is so real, you are going to have to do a lot better at convincing me that you actually believe it, first.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Top 5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

Part 1 of 6

(part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)

Mixing is for Gin not the Gospel

Most Christians and Christian leaders love the concept of God’s Grace, but up to a point. As long as it’s mixed with what they would say is a “balancing” bit of Law (religious rules you obey) they are more than willing to cozy up to “Grace.” So, what has happened is that when it comes to salvation and the Christian life, “Grace” is seen as a kind of partner or side-kick within the Gospel. It’s seen as the softer aspect of God that tips our hat to His loving side. Conversely, the Law is seen as what makes sure people clean up their acts, do religious things, hunger for more “to do steps and strategies” and take sin seriously.  That’s why when you present God’s Grace in its purity (without the Law), typically, all bets are off as some Christian leaders become afraid of what they would call, “too much Grace.”

Yet, the Gospel is either all Grace or it’s all Law, there can be no mixture (balance) of a little bit of Grace and a little bit of Law. In fact, the Bible makes dramatic separations and distinctions between the two. A couple, among many examples…

Romans 6:14 …because you are not under the law, but under grace.

John 1:17  For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

Galatians 5:4  For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.

The pure Gospel of God’s Grace (a term Paul used in Acts 20:24) has always brought a stirring of criticism among the religiously spirited. I should know, I was one of them. Thankfully, God captured my heart and changed my mind about who He is, who I am, and the Gospel of His Grace.

I suspect there are many Christians who don’t even realize how much of what they have been taught and believe is contrary to the Gospel. I certainly didn’t. Like many unknowing Christians and spiritual leaders, my heart was in the right place, but my beliefs were not. As a pastor of 18 years, I did not realize (until a couple years ago) how much of my teaching, preaching and counsel actually placed people in bondage instead of the freedom I (and God) desired for them. When it came to the Gospel, I was so close, yet so far away.

So, what is the pure Gospel of Grace? In simple terms it is this…

The Gospel

We are all born sinners in a broken world. Everything about our lives has en expiration date on a pathway to death. In the Garden of Eden, our lives were forever changed as our first parents chose selfishness and distrust over faith in God.  Sin and death became realities and it’s shrapnel has penetrated everything, breaking our fellowship with God.  What God intended for our lives and living was poisoned through and through.Without an act of pure Grace, all of humanity in its sinful brokeness was destined for death, spiritually, emotionally, and physically as our best efforts could never repair our broken relationship with God and the depraved nature of our lives and living begun at the fall of Adam and Eve.

Yet, despite all of this. God is love, and God loves you perfectly, completely, and unconditionally, no matter who you are or what you have done or are doing. So much that He sent His son Jesus, fully God and fully man to die for your sins, and all of humanity. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself the brokeness of all creation, including you. In His death and resurrection, Jesus put your sins to death and gave you His life. A new covenant was put into place where Jesus’ performance on the cross becomes your righteousness, holiness, and salvation. It is no longer about performing to get to God (as it was in the Old Testament), but God’s performance on the cross to get to you. His life becomes your life. His identity becomes your identity. The redemptive work in your life was completed, completely. You became a new person in Christ, a new creation in fact. Your sins, past, present, and future were all forgiven once and for all. It is no longer your nature to sin (though we still do), your old nature was crucified with Jesus on the cross. Sin no longer defines you, Jesus defines you. You old self died, you new self was reborn. You have the mind of Christ. You are a partaker of the divine nature, lacking no spiritual blessing. You are in fact, the righteousness of Christ, with no condemnation over your life whatsoever. You are not only a son (or daughter), but a king and priest in the Kingdom of God. As He is (seated at the right hand of God) so are you in this world. God’s favor and Grace are forever over your life.

All of this, Jesus provided and accomplished on the cross on your behalf, and that of the whole world. The moment you believe in who Jesus is and what He did, you receive it all. Done deal. We are saved by Grace through faith.

Now, it is no longer you who lives, but Christ living in you, and as you. The same Grace that saved you is the same Grace that sustains and sanctifies you. The Christian life is about growing into who you already are in Christ. Your part is to realize you have no part, only to believe. That’s why this growth happens through faith, not your efforts. You cannot produce spiritual fruit in your life, only bear the fruit God produces.  It’s no about striving and trying to be a better person, it’s rather about believing you already are a better person and living from that identity. It’s not about shame, guilt, punishment and religious rule keeping as you live a life focused on sin and your obedience. That system of living was canceled on the cross, at the moment of His resurrection, a new system was ushered in by Jesus Himself. It’s a life of complete and ever present forgiveness, freedom, peace, and rest as you focus on Jesus and His mercy, favor, and performance in your life, not yours. It’s an obedience of faith, not of actions. It’s a life of living from His Grace, in His Grace, to be Grace to others.

This is the Gospel.

So What’s The Beef?

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?  Yet, what sounds like true love, freedom, and life, to the religious sounds like heresy! The Gospel can’t be that good. Give people Grace and they will just sin more. Besides, how are we going to be able to manage people? You are going too soft on sin, and what about repentance! Repentance, repentance, repentance! If we don’t give people something to work on, strive for, and do, how can we keep them coming and interested in church? God does His part, but we have to do our part, or else.

A Quick Clarification

Now, let me be clear with you. There are various variations of what people believe about the Gospel of Grace. So, if you couldn’t tell from my explanation of the Gospel written above, let me be sure you know what I am not… I am not a Calvinist nor a Universalist. I don’t believe God predestined, through what they call “irresistible Grace,” to regenerate some and not others so that some believe, but others do not, thus having some go to heaven and others to Hell. How that is considered Grace, I will never know. Yet, I am also not a Universalist who believes all are going to heaven, whether they really want to or not. I find both these systems of beliefs not congruent with how I understand the Gospel. I love my Calvinist and Universalist friends, by I respectfully don’t agree with them.

5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

That said, there are many people who are against and critical of the Gospel of God’s Grace as I (and others) understand it. They call it “hyper-grace,” cheap Grace” and a host of other names. And, they line up their Bible passages to refute it. Here are the top 5 passages (not in any particular order) they use and an explanation of how these passages in fact, do not refute the message of the Gospel of God’s Grace. One of the blessings of believing the Gospel of Grace is that it transforms the way you read the Bible. You realize that God is not in the bait and switch business of drawing you in with love only to blast you with Law. No, He is love from top to bottom and inside and out, and He perfectly loves you. When you see this you will no longer become frightened or confused when you read passages like those listed below.

keep reading… Part 2

(part 2) (part 3) (part 4) (part 5) (part 6)

Spiritual Warfare Revisited

If you think spiritual warfare is something you do against the devil, this article will hopefully change your mind. If you think that spiritual warfare is something that you do, with God’s help, against satan, I hope this article will challenge your thinking.

It is a misguided perception among Christians that the Christian life is primarily to be an avoidance of sin. We have been wrongly taught that believers have two natures, one evil, and one divine. Therefore, our job is to make sure Satan doesn’t entice the evil side more than Jesus inspires the good side.  If anything tries to cause you to stray or drag you down, you need to fight it like you would a dog biting your leg. Take out your spiritual stick and start beating away.

Much of the current teaching on spiritual warfare has created sin-conscious, satan-conscious Christians who feel their calling as a Christian is to battle the forces of evil clawing at their lives and the lives of others. Their spiritual radar screens are fine tuned to anything that looks like, talk likes, or smells like the enemy. And when they believe they see a blip on the scope, “Demon be gone as I bind you in the name of Jesus!”

Where I would certainly and passionately agree that evil is real and we face the schemes of the evil one, I would suggest satan has done well to get us fighting the wrong battles and misunderstanding our weapons.

The truth is, in Christ, the battle of sin, death, and the devil was finished on the cross. Any battle we have with Satan is an issue of our faith (0r another’s faith) in that finished work applied to their lives, not the reality of it. Spiritual battle for the Christian is done from victory, not for victory.

Paul described our fight as Christians as a “fight of faith,” not in who can shout, rebuke, bind, or pray the longest or loudest. Spiritual battle is not a battle of might, trying, or striving, but of belief. Satan’s weapons are ones of ignorance, wrong belief, false thinking and alike. Not the dramatic devices Hollywood loves to use to sell tickets.

Is the demonic a real reality in our world today, yes of course. But not for the Christian. If you feel you have to do battle with Satan in your life on any level or terms other than that of your faith (or another’s faith), than you are fighting a false battle no matter how real it is perceived.

When Paul introduced us to and described our spiritual armor (Ephesians 6), he was showing us what we already have in Christ! Not something we need to spiritual achieve or weaponize through our efforts.  Paul was trying to focus and awaken our faith, not commission us into spiritual fist fight of Bible shaking punches. All the articles of armor Paul identifies are important spiritual blessing and realities we already have in Christ. The issue of spiritual battle is not in what we need to do, but in believing what Christ has already done! It’s not about how we perform, it’s about believing Christ’s performance for and in our lives, it’s not about how we act, it’s about who we are as new creations of Christ, and believing it through thick and thin!

Biblically, “light” is often used in conjunction or reference to divine revelation, “darkness” is often used as a reference to ignorance or wrong believing. Paul’s teaching on the spiritual armor is purposed on giving us a revelation of who and what we have in Christ and the need to believe it. That is the “stand” we take. This is the “obedience of faith” Paul also spoke of in scripture.

We “put on” this armor through faith, not effort or spiritual karate tactics. It is the armor that does the fighting and has won the battle, not we ourselves. The moment light comes (revelation is believed), darkness vanishes with no effort or fanfare. Notice the Bible says, “…my people are being destroyed by a lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)  It doesn’t say by “generational curses,” “demonic visitations”, or even “sin.”

If you want to see where the real battle is, look to what Satan is leading people to “believe” about the Gospel, Jesus, themselves, and what is means to be a Christian.

For example, the Gospel of God’s Grace has been so distorted by the lures of Satan to the point God’s character and finished work on the cross has been made into a set of formulas, steps, and ways to enhance your life or standards to hold over people so you can feel better about your own sin. The Gospel has been reworked by mixing in just enough Law to appeal to the American “do it yourself” mindset. The Gospel is Grace, or it’s not the Gospel. It’s NOT “God does His part, you do yours.” The Gospel is, “your part is to realize you have no part, only to believe” God loves all people, died for all people, and wants all people saved. The same Grace that saves you  is the same Grace that sanctifies you. He is not angry, mad, moody, or bi polar. God’s kindness is what leads to repentance (change of mind) not punishment or fear. He didn’t come to make good people better, He came to give dead people life. We don’t give our life to Jesus, He gives us His life. We give Him nothing (because we can’t) He gives us everything (because He is love and loves us). That is the Gospel.

Through the craftiness of Satan, Jesus has been misrepresented and misunderstood. He has been customized to fit just about every agenda, theology, and philosophy. His teaching in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are often NOT interpreted in light of the cross, but rather as if we remain still under the Law. By some, He has been made into merely a wise teacher, moral standard, philosophy creator, or radical social justice leader.  Indeed, Satan has created a funhouse of mirrors that have distorted people’s beliefs about the truth of Jesus.

Many Christians don’t know and are not being taught who they truly are in Christ, some falsely believe they are still by nature “sinners,” are still under some level of condemnation, and are constantly being tested by God for “trueness.” Many believe that the Christian life is about their efforts, trying, rule-keeping, and striving to live better, become better, and do more. The truth is, the job of the Holy Spirit to those who don’t believe is to convict them of their unbelief, but the job of the Holy Spirit to the believer is to convince them of their righteousness, apart from their efforts!  The “labor to enter into that rest” that Paul charged us to be the foundation of the Christian life has been turned into a labor or serving, sacrificing, performing, achieving, rule-keeping, and doing. In many settings, the church has been turned into a club with a cross on top where traditions reign, political structures rule, and Christians talk amongst themselves and judge the world, instead of encouraging one another and talking with the world.   To be sure, the “Church” in many setting has been successfully sabotaged to the point it completely distorts the Gospel, manifests condemnation instead of Grace, turns good hearted believers into performance-driven Christians, and turns off and away the very people God purposed them to reach, love, and bring into the family.  The religious spirit is deeply entrenched in many a church today and has completely perverted the Gospel and the essence of the Christian life.

So, if you want a real spiritual battle, that’s where Satan is most effectively at work today, not among the sinners of the world nearly as much as among those who claim to be righteous. And for all, it all centers on the issue of right believing, not voodoo.  To be sure, Satan is not the real problem in the world that needs to be battled, it’s the epidemic he has ignited of the modern day rise of the pharisaical heart among those who claim to believe in Jesus, but live and believe by their own self-righteousness.

Not many are willing to say it, but I just did, that light might shine in the darkness.

Looking forward to your thoughts.

“The Gap” – Message

The Gap

Chris Kratzer speaking at The Grace Place, Shelby NC.

Reverse God Paranoia

There is so much in life that can entice our mind into negative levels of thinking.  In fact, we often fill in the blanks of our experiences and circumstances with the worst possible conclusions we could imagine, or at least negative ones. When we wonder about what other people are thinking, we predominantly fill in the blanks with a dark conclusion. When we envision the outcomes of challenges we face, we imagine the worst.  And, when it comes to relationships, we often assume a less than positive discernment of motives or explanation for behaviors.  Unfortunately, most of us tend to gravitate to the negative in our thinking.

Paranoia, it will destroy ya!” -The Kinks

In basic terms, paranoia deals with strong fears of doom, harm, or destruction based on perceived realities, many of which are unlikely, uncontrollable, and/or completely imagined or exaggerated for one reason or another.  To be honest, we all dabble in a bit of paranoia from time to time, believing that perceived or exaggerated realities (imagined or otherwise) are seeking to harm us.

Unfortunately, many people have developed a kind of God paranoia. Deep down, though we believe God love us, there is a part of Him we are not sure we can trust. Sometimes He is pursuing our good, but if we take a wrong turn, we fear He may just start pursuing our harm. Or, at least, withhold His favor, presence, and blessing.  In fact, when things start going wrong or falling a part in our lives we start to wonder, “maybe God is evening the score, maybe He is punishing me?”  How many times have you wondered that? Unfortunately, segments of Christianity and “Church” have not helped, but rather have pimped out a false Gospel that has brainwashed populations of Christians with a kind of “God Paranoia.”

The true Gospel, however is in fact designed to give us “Reverse God Paranoia.” Instead of fearfully believing God may, at times, be out to keep us from too much good, or even bring us punishment, we rather should believe and assume that God is always out to bless and prosper our lives. God isn’t looking for reasons to sabotage, punish, or press us down, but rather for every opportunity He can find to bless, promote, and free us. Any belief or assumption that God is punishing you is an exaggeration of an aspect of God that doesn’t even exist. God is love, that is His core essence and nature. Everything from Him comes from and is love. Does He correct? Yes. Redirect? Yes. Convict the unbeliever of their disbelief or false belief? Yes. Punish? No. Sin brings it’s own penalty, not God.

I love what Ray Edwards declares…

“I am a reverse paranoid. I believe a Force I cannot control is out to do me good.” -Ray Edwards

You have heard me say over and over again, “Right believing leads to right living” Well, let me add this, “Right believing leads to REAL living.”

The REALity is, God wakes up each day or your life with a “Ways To Bless _(your name)_” list He has been working on all night to create. He is your greatest friend, supporter, coach, provider, and encourager. When you rest in a belief of the complete goodness of God for your life, the door is opened for God to abundantly bless the socks off of you.  Always assume that He is on your side, because He is, even if it doesn’t seem that way in the moment. God is always in a good mood.  Whether you like it or not, He loves you and is feverishly working every angle to overflow your cup with moonshine concentration levels of His intoxicating goodness, favor, and blessing for your life. Never again perceive God to be punishing you, maliciously holding you back, or pulling out the rug.

Drink in the goodness of God and develop a healthy case of Reverse God Paranoia.

 

Faith in Tough Times

Life is tough, not by God’s design nor doing, but because we live in a broken world.  Yet, God’s grace, favor, power, and provisions are sufficient to enable us to overcome tough times through our faith in Him. In fact, it just takes a little faith correctly placed in the expanse of God to provide us a sense of peace and assurance that nothing can topple.

Now the question you may be asking is, “But how? My circumstances seem so huge and my faith so tiny.”

Here are some things that are working for me…

1) Trust in the power of faith. 

When we are met with the reality of tough circumstances, it’s easy for us to go into “I need to do something” mode. No doubt, there may be actions that are required of us to move forward through tough times, but always first from a foundation of faith.

Unfortunately, we don’t often respond to adversity from a foundation of faith, but from a foundation of doing. Think about all the “steps” you have been taught on what you need to “do” to get past tough times. Steps that are often directed at doing something about your circumstances.

The deepest question God has for you regarding your circumstances is, “What are you going to believe about them?”  Satan’s question for you regarding your circumstances is, “What are you going to do about them?”  Why? Because “doing” doesn’t please God and can actually block His work in your circumstances. Faith, however, pleases God and releases Him to work on your behalf in the face of your circumstances.

Have you ever noticed, the more you try to overcome your circumstances, the more you become entrenched in them. You become stressed, worried, panicked and restless. Yet, the more you believe beyond your circumstances, the more you overcome them, all while carrying a sense of peace, assurance, and calm. Faith takes you to a place of overcoming through your tough times that your doing could never take you. Our natural impulses tell us, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”  But God teaches, “when the going gets tough, the tough rest in belief.”

2) Look past what you see.

Faith means we don’t look to our circumstances (however real they are) for our sense of what our reality truly is.  In essence, we walk by faith and not by sight. It’s not about denying an existing reality, but focusing on a deeper, truer, more important heavenly reality.  The facts don’t always tell us the truth. Could the facts be that you have just been betrayed by your spouse and your marriage is in jeopardy?  Could the facts be that you have developed diabetes? Could the facts be that you are in a difficult financial situation that seems impossible to get beyond? Yes, yes, and yes. But that is not the truth about you, your present, nor your future.

For the truth, we must set our eyes on the truth of who we are, and what are heavenly reality is. In fact, the Bible says, “As He (Jesus) is, so are we in this world”  Our earthly reality is defined by our heavenly reality, not merely by what we can see.  The facts are overshadowed by the truth.  As Jesus is in heaven, we are in this world, even when everything we see says it isn’t so. This world is not your home, nor the reality of who you are.

For example…

The facts may be…  you are divorced and lonely, or in dead end job that you hate, or struggling with an addiction, or dealing with a past of failure, guilt and shame, or suffering from a health problem.

But the truth is… in Christ (as a believer),  you are perfectly loved and lovable, adored by your Heavenly father, and capable and worthy of healthy relationships. You lack no blessing in your life, with so much to give and offer to make a difference in this world. You are secure, whole, and complete in Him. In Christ, there is nothing wrong or lacking with you. You are His son (or daughter).  You are positioned at the right hand of God seated with Christ. Every addiction, temptation, and struggle is below your feet. In Christ, there is no more condemnation over your life, no punishment, guilt, or shame. You are a new creation, the old is gone, the new is in. It is no longer your nature to sin, and sin no longer defines you nor your future. Your body is completely healthy and whole, with strength and vitality.  As He is, so are you in this world!

In fact, as you place your faith in the truth about who you are in Christ and your reality in Him, it becomes a part of the facts of your life.  Through faith, addictions are overcome, relationships restored and new ones discovered, lives riddled with guilt and shame are given freedom, sickness and diseases are healed, insecurities rendered powerless, and on and on and on!  Praise Jesus!

Belief (not doing) is the currency of heaven, it’s how your reality there becomes a reality here. All your striving, doing, and performing ironically do nothing but steal, kill and destroy your peace, rest, and provisions as they take the focus off of Jesus and place it on you.

3) Focus on Jesus

Satan uses tough times to distract our eyes off Jesus, who we are in Him, and what we have in Him. Satan wants us on a roller coaster of doing, instead of a steady course of believing. When you know you are perfectly loved by Jesus and the truth of who you are and your standing with Christ, Satan is disarmed. When you are spinning your wheels trying to muscle your way through your challenges, Satan is empowered.

Satan loves to use legitimate worries to sow seeds of unrest in your life. Why? because to rest is to believe.  To rest in His grace, control, work, and purpose for your life are hallmarks of faith.

In Psalm 23, God invites us to sit at a table in the presence of our enemies. Imagine that, in the face of your toughest times, Jesus has the nerve to say, “Come, sit down.”  “What do you mean, sit down? Don’t you see what is going on? Sitting down is the last thing I need to be doing!”

What Jesus knows is that if we don’t sit down in faith at the table and focus on Jesus instead of our circumstances, we will be overcome.  His invitation is for our protection. The realty is, in tough times, there is much less to do, but everything to believe. The table Jesus sets is filled with things to believe in… His nature, His character, His Grace, His work, His power, His forgiveness.

Focus on Jesus, He is your deepest, most true reality.  No matter what the facts are in your life, that’s the Truth! As you rest in Him, He will show you what to do or not to do.

You need only, believe!

 

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