Tag: chris kratzer (page 1 of 16)

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.

Dear World, Franklin Graham Doesn’t Speak For Us, Or Jesus

I’ve had enough, and I’ve heard enough.

There is perhaps no greater evil upon all the earth than those who pillage the person and message of Jesus, and shroud their hate, arrogance, privilege, and imperialism under the guise of godliness, biblical faithfulness, purity, and the valuing of life.

Jesus understood there would be those who would exploit His truth and hustle a gospel that is in fact, no Gospel at all. In so doing, He asserted the importance of observing the fruit of a potential imposter’s beliefs in hopes of discerning and circumventing the cut of their spiritual claws.

Rev. Franklin Graham has become the mouthpiece of conservative Evangelical Christianity. With its deceptive mixed-message of “God loves you…but,” filled with traps, conditions, and controls, this increasingly aggressive movement within Christianity has had a long history of sowing seeds of poisoned fruit. Since the dawn of discrimination, conservative Evangelical Christianity has been a prominent enabler of racism. In fact, only in 1995 did its Southern Baptist denomination finally, but reluctantly, apologize to the black community for their intimate role in using the Bible to endorse racism and slavery. Conservative Evangelical Christianity is the leading incubator for the vile theology of Calvinism which portrays God as hand-picking some for heaven and joyfully discarding the rest to an eternity of tormenting hell—all founded by a man who murdered his disagreers. Christian conservatism has led the way in the discrimination of women in ministry, work, and home—even turning a blind eye to domestic and church abuse. Where once, Evangelical Christianity aggressively condemned the divorced to an eternity in hell, it cleverly came up with the word, “desertion,” to serve as a kind of biblical loophole, enabling those men left behind by the women who wised-up and “deserted’ them, to have the freedom to play another round. In fact, it was a conservative brand of Christianity that influenced Adolf Hitler towards Nazism and sat firmly in the hearts of those European settlers who raped the American Indian of their land, life, and culture for some kind of “Manifest Destiny.” Now, with a heart to spiritually and culturally exterminate those it deems to be sinning, conservative Evangelical Christianity is the dominant faith understanding behind the spread of homophobia and the false condemnation of the LGBTQ community, conveniently adding the word “homosexual” to the Bible, where it hadn’t appeared in any translation until 1945.

With the drastic uptick of good people leaving churches, thinking for themselves, questioning their indoctrination, and opening their eyes to the piles of carnage left in the wake of Christian conservatism, a perfect storm with a perfect kind of Satan has emerged. Franklin Graham has climbed up the cliffs of Evangelical Christianity’s fiery pit to lead the way in trumpeting their desperate call to war—a battle purposed on retaking that which they perceive to have lost as the world awakens to their evil.

Make no mistake, Franklin Graham and the perverted faith-understanding he represents is far from the heart of Jesus and many of us who follow Him alone. We deplore the nationalization of any faith, the discrimination of any person, the weaponizing of any Bible, and the condemnation of any soul. The disgusting Americanized version of Jesus and His Gospel that has given rise to Empire Christianity, church franchising, spiritually arrogant congregants and faith communities, and privileged, judging, and elitist followers makes us all want to vomit, right along side you. We are appalled, repulsed, and infuriated at was has become of the Jesus we adore and the Grace-centered faith that liberates us.

With all due respect to Mr. Franklin Graham, as good and spiritual as his ministry to the poor throughout the world appears and surely blesses, as much as he quotes the Bible and exclusively claims to possess and know its every truth, as much as his father was a beacon of faith, compassion, and a love for God, and as much as he postures himself as valuing life, moral wholeness, and biblical faithfulness, the screeching sound of his bigotry, pride, self-righteousness, mean-spirited condemnation, and imperialistic faith overtakes and overshadows all.

For where Jesus brings freedom, he seems determined to wrench down with control. Where Jesus brings Grace, he is quick to draw lines of condemnation. Where Jesus defines and redefines scripture, he worships it as perfect and claims to know it infallibly. Where God is pure Love, he claims He is not purely. Where Grace is declared sufficient, he says it isn’t completely. Where Jesus makes it personal and communal, he wants to make it political and national. Where Jesus makes it all completely free, he and his faith-understanding makes it all so conditionally conditional.

Everything Jesus stands for, Franklin Graham seems to stand so firmly against—a sermon on a Mount, apparently makes little-to-no difference.

For where do we see him serving the LGBTQ community? Where do we see him truly loving the enemy? Where do see him refusing to lean on his own understanding, and instead displaying a spirituality of listening? Where do we see him washing the feet of people who are transgender? Where do we see him laying down his life to escort one safely into a bathroom? Where do we see him truly loving his neighbor—Islamic, Atheist, Progressive, or even Illegal Alien? Where do we see him fighting for the rights of the marginalized, discriminated, and even those with whom he disagrees, instead of vehemently gripping onto the privilege of the privileged? Where do we see him rationalizing, excusing, and giving grace to sin on behalf of those who sin differently than he, instead of only doing so for those from whom he can gain power, influence, and the furthering of his faith ideology? Where do we see him trusting the Spirit to guide people in all truth instead of trying to control, contain, and conform them?

We don’t.

So, why should I give care and credibility to the sin he claims to see in me, everyone, and everything, when it’s clear he’s entirely oblivious to the storehouse of depravity to be seen right within his own being? Why should I line up to be assimilated into his spiritual Borg and learn the marching steps of his creed, when it’s become so blatantly clear it’s a faith understanding that doesn’t want to just normalize hate, but give it spiritual necessity? Why should I bow down to his biblical interpretations, faith perspectives, and God teachings when it all seems to desire nothing more than to control, condemn, and conform me into his image and faith collective?

Make no mistake, I refuse and resist with all my being in becoming anything like the King of disowning. My soul, worth, and value is not, nor will ever become, the imminent domain of any self-righteous, faith ideology.

The true message of Jesus is that God is proud to belong to me and every other, especially in all the places and ways that Franklin Graham and conservative Evangelical Christianity despise me and all others.

Dear world, Franklin Graham is not our leader, not our pastor, not our spokesperson, nor our example—and with all due respect, in my personal opinion, he’s nothing like Jesus.

Why Trump’s Speech To Congress Should Scare The Crap Out Of You

On Tuesday evening, President Trump gave his first solo speech to Congress. To be sure, speeches are important as are congressional gatherings.

However, what is drastically more important and far more telling than speeches and tender political moments is our response to them—many conservatives, orgasmically licking their chops of jubilation upon Trump’s teleprompted performance. “Now that’s my president!” “It’s Trump 2.0,” “This is the best speech ever given before Congress.”

I was not only unimpressed, but mortified—fearing we have all slipped even deeper into the diabolic “art of the deal.”

For it should be a sad and horrifying day when, in our country, we elect a person as president only to jump for joy when weeks later, based on a speech, he is determined to finally and all the sudden be presidential. Seriously? Are we hearing ourselves? Shouldn’t that have happened a really long time ago? Besides, are speeches now the litmus test to what makes one presidential? I thought “grabbing pussy” was the new norm.

As much as I am trying to look on the bright side, where am I to go from this freakish circus show? I’m trying to give it time, I really am, but if I look towards his actions, the clown appears. If I look towards what he says, the clown appears. Somebody, wake us all up to this nightmare we’re being sold as the American dream—before it’s too late.

It feels like as a nation, we have tragically become the abused, enabling, and codependent spouse who repeatedly falls for flowery speeches, rhetoric, appearances, and empty promises that things “will be great” and the abuser has changed their ways. Have we sunk so low that we actually become delighted and relieved when a person of authority and leadership actually gives signs of having basic levels of decency? That’s not presidential, that’s just coming up to the level of being remotely human.

We have spent far too long blindly giving credence and weight to seductive voices with pricey lifestyles, fame, allure, and wallets. Our narcissism as a nation has postured us for exploitation, especially from among the religiously conservative. Like an alcoholic who knows they have a problem but can’t help themselves away from the Scotch, many have become addicted to whatever new cocktail serves their ideological and personal agendas. What used to be a Statue of Liberty standing as a promise and hope for the “least of these” has become a self-centered, political stripper pole of rationalization, purposed on serving the power of the privileged—scheming to seduce us all into seeing the substandard, abusive, and evil as being standard, healthy, and of God. If only we could see ourselves and the people we have become. 

No, I’m not trying to take anything away from the speech writers or the important moments of Tuesday evening. However, you know you are in bed with the devil when you are so desperate for moments that you can latch onto that serve to convince yourself that you aren’t.

That my friend, is a sure sign of a delusion that should haunt everyone of us.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

The Message From God You’ve Never Heard

Deep within us all, God has embedded His Light, the faith of Christ within us—every human an equal recipient. We all possess the faith of Jesus, a faith that fully knows and trusts the true essence and heart of the Father. Yet, darkness always seeks a way to condemn and imprison the Light our soul has always possessed in hopes we never awaken to it. Soon, it becomes demonized, silenced, and even unrecognizable within us—many of us walking around unaware or the faith of Christ, His Light within us. Tragically, it’s all become so religiously deformed, twisted, covered over, trampled and christianized inside.

Adam and Eve embraced the Light, saw themselves as Light, and gave it all a cherished harbor within. In their faith understanding, God, themselves, and all of life was a beautiful Garden—forever whole, pure, free, and alive. The faith of Christ within them had become their faith within them—a perfect communion. Yet, in a moment of question, they bit the lie that the Light they held to be Truth was actually darkness—needing correction, deserving of condemnation, and requiring redemption from an angry God. In their minds, all the sudden God became untrustable, Love became conditional, we became condemnable, and the Garden became a hopeless game of God-fearing, God-chasing appeasement. Religion is always the result of the Light becoming something to us that God isn’t, we aren’t, and God never had in mind.

Enter Grace.

Grace is God pinging your soul in hopes of awakening you to the true Light you have always possessed and longed to believe. It’s the call of Jesus to be unwrapped from the burial clothes that bind your heart from embracing true Life. For religion rings true to the flesh, but Grace rings true to the soul. It’s the Deep calling to your depth. It’s the true faith of Christ within you crying out to become your faith within you. It’s the moment your religious, christianized understanding is overridden by your Spirit and though you can’t explain it and your mind can’t chart it, you taste the Light and your heart knows it to be True, even as it shakes you to your core. It’s breathing for the first time and realizing, all this time, you weren’t breathing at all. It’s Grace releasing, rekindling, and recalibrating the caverns of your soul to what it’s always known and your heart has longed to believe—all is Grace.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, but your soul has always believed, and your heart is desperate for you to embrace.

God is Love- Whatever sense of condemnation, shame, disappointment, or lack you have towards yourself, it does not come from God—it can’t. Run from any message that puts any conditions, any hell, or any distance between you and Him—all these our constructs of religious projection.

Grace awakens our perceptions to the true nature of God and His affection for us. The purpose of Christ is not simply that we believe in Him, but that we believe in God like Him—His faith within us becomes our faith within us. Jesus knows no other nature, aspect, or trait of God other than pure, unconditional Love. His sinless life before God is our sinless life before God—His performance in life is our performance in life. Love is all, defines all, wins all, and conquers all—especially us. Jesus has no sense of God as being nor exuding anything but unyielding Love.

To the delight of our soul, when we allow ourselves to see God the way Jesus does, we discover there is no other message from God to and for our lives other than Love—no fine print, conditional clauses, trap doors, loop-holes or dropping axes. Love unhinges the tenets of the religious and reveals the evil forces behind their call to one-eyed open living, sin-managing, God-appeasing, self-improving, people-judging, and hell-fearing. Only the graceless, self-righteous, privileged, and judgmental ever feel the force of God’s displeasure as Grace confronts their religious, doubting, selfish, love-drained souls.

God is Love from top to bottom, beginning to end—inside and out. The expanse of God who is Love is boundless, limitless, unrestricted, and unrestrained. His actions and reactions to every molecule and movement of your life is always Love.

God is pedal-to-the-metal in love with you—always has been, always will be.

To Believe Is To Rest- Despite what many may hold to be true, faith is not a decision, choice, or invitational response. Faith is a gift from God welling up from within. It’s the awakening of our heart, mind, and soul to the Jesus that has always been within us, and the God whose arms have always been around us.

To believe is to rest in Grace and the illimitable goodness of God, trusting its full sufficiency for every aspect of our lives. Pursuing God, chasing after God, hungering for more God, and begging God to come, bless, and even forgive, though all seemingly spiritual pursuits, are actually confessions that He is not already here, His grace is not sufficient, and His choosing of us is somehow inadequate. A restless, appeasing, and fearing heart before Jesus is a disbelieving heart before Jesus.

Grace postures our entire being onto a foundation of rest—convinced we can never over-portray or over-characterize the goodness, love, and graciousness of God, nor can we ever believe too much in the exclusive, unsurpassed power of Grace to guide, change, and enable us in all things.

Believing in the unfathomable Love that is God and declaring His grace-singularity of heart, mind, and will is not a sign of human weakness, faith depravity, or theological waywardness. If anything, it is our under-believing, under-ascribing, under-estimating, and under-characterizing of His Love purity that reveals the x-ray of our religiously infected souls as in our doubts and flesh addiction, we live our lives restlessly turning outside of Jesus to find peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with people.

You Are The Relationship- The modern Christian idea that God wants a “relationship” with you is highly misleading and in fact, unfounded in scripture. Interestingly enough, there is not even a single mention in all the Bible of “inviting Jesus into your heart.” Rather, the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus has been projected back into the Bible and onto the Gospel by our fleshly, religious desire to have some level of human control and credit with God, and even a spiritual notch on our belt that distinguishes us as above others.

A “relationship” requires the performance, maintenance, and continual contributing desire of both parties. Thus, a relationship can have varying levels of closeness and even become completely broken. This is not what we have with Jesus nor what He has in mind with or for us. Instead, the Gospel proclaims our communion with God, established long before our earthly arrival and even before His.

Our union with God is of the same fabric as the Trinity. It is not a relationship, it is a singular entity based not on desire, performance, or the like, but is in fact a whole union. We are not in a relationship with Christ, we are Christ–He is us, we are Him. Jesus is not a person to invite into your life or heart, He is your life and heart, irrevocably.

This is the awakening, revealed by Grace, and manifested by Jesus. There is no “relationship” with Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit to be had, for we ARE the relationship—different, but equally connected. Thus, in full union and communion. 

The Gospel doesn’t become real the moment one invites Jesus into their heart, it becomes real the moment they realize He had been there all along.

The Bible Is The Beginning Not The End- If the writers of the Bible were infallible in their understanding of God and their interpretation of His actions among them, there would be no need for the infallible One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible perfectly captured the desires of God and His every design for all of life and living, there would be no need for the Perfect One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible captured the sum, conclusion, and depth of all that is truth, there would be no need for the One who is Truth to reveal it and His Spirit to guide us in it.

There’s a big difference between adding to the Bible and adding to our understanding of it. The Bible is not a case-closed, all-conclusive blueprint of God and all that relates to Him, but rather a catalyst towards our diving into stream upon stream of never ending, progressive revelation welling up from our awakening to Jesus and His Gospel of Grace.

The people who demand the infallibility of the Bible are often the ones demanding the infallibility of their understanding of the Bible—all for the purpose of creating a spiritual, self-righteous safe haven in which to turn off their brains, and from which to control and judge others.

Notice, the corner of America where there is often the most rampant manifestations of spiritual condemnation, bigotry, and hate aren’t called the Jesus-belt, or the Love-belt, but rather—the Bible-belt.

It’s Not About Improvement- So much of what is taught about spiritual growth and the Christian life is the idea that through spiritual disciplines, effort, and behavior modification, one is to strive to become something tomorrow that they aren’t today. Go to church, pray hard, bury your head in the Bible, press into Jesus, and get “radical” for Christ, and sanctification and spiritual maturity will soon follow. Sadly, nothing ever truly gets better upon the treadmill of sin-management, self-improvement, and spiritual striving—enough is never enough. It’s all a diabolical prescription pimped as a life of fulfillment that in fact leads to a life tragically wasted.

For no matter our greatest intentions or desires, nor even in our best moments of believing or behaving, our spiritual performance always breaks down. In the end, whether with God, ourselves, or others, the good that we know we should do is not what we do, and once again, our capacity to escape ourselves is found foolishly and drastically insufficient. All that’s left in the end is a life of pretending riddled with inner shame and guilt as we gloss tons of Christian lipstick onto the pig of our self-righteousness.

Thankfully, the Christian life isn’t a test, it’s a rest. It’s not about becoming something tomorrow you aren’t today through a hopeless life of back-breaking spiritual gymnastics. Rather, it’s about becoming more of the person you already are in Christ.

Jesus came, not to merely do something for you, but to do something to you. The cross is one and done—you are a completely finished masterpiece of the Master. You are whole, holy, pure, righteous, sanctified, justified, and lack no spiritual blessing—as is. There is nothing to improve about you, only everything to believe about you. That’s why the Holy Spirit is forever pursuing your heart, not to convict you of failure, but to convince you of your righteousness—knowing that the more you believe it, the more you will live it. For the Christian life is the beautiful process of awakening to who we truly are because of Jesus, that our actions might catch up to our true, divine identities.

Christians Are Often The Ones In Most Need Of Saving- In the scriptures centered around Jesus, the people who we would expect to know Him the best, in fact, turn out to truly know Him the least–the ones expected to know Him the least, turn out to truly know Him the best.

In the same way, perhaps the “world” and the “lost” that are often seen as the unbelieving, subhuman sinners of the planet, are in actuality, not the “world” and the “lost” at all.

Rather, maybe just maybe, it’s the self-righteous, spiritually elite, legalistic, Grace-withholding, religious ones that turn out to be those that are truly “lost” and of the “world.” For there is no greater form of being “lost” than believing you are so close to God while being so far away, and there is no greater form of “worldliness” than to turn to ones spiritual performance (flesh), religious pride, and the condemnation of others for your sense of righteousness, salvation, and spiritual purpose and satisfaction.

Maybe, just maybe, the “world” and the “lost” need far less saving than Christians would ever want nor dare to believe, and “Christians” need far more saving than the “world” and the “lost” would ever dream.

Maybe just maybe, the “Church” isn’t the believing ones who are convinced their “in,” and grasp this status with pride believing it’s the just reward of their faith, behavior, and do-gooding, but rather it’s the humble ones–the meek, who conclude they’re probably “out,” but nonetheless search, believe, and find rest in Love anyways, simply because it’s the best way to live and to reflect and give Life.

Maybe, just maybe, the bride of Christ isn’t the one adorned in beauty and white, concealing a religious darkness within, but rather the ugly, dirty one, who knows nothing of make-up and a lipstick ladened grin, whose Light is on the inside, emerging from within–whether they’re aware or not matters not, it’s there, and Jesus sees Himself, and smiles, “let the wedding begin.”

You Are God’s Perfect Will- The idea that God has a perfect will for your life and you need to make your life’s ardent pursuit the finding and fulfilling of it, is all highly misleading. The Americanized version of the Christian life would have us all believe that God has some “big” thing for us to do and become that will show ourselves to be genuine and faithful in following Jesus. I say, hogwash.

You are God’s perfect will, you are the big thing God is doing in the world. You, being fully you, and doing what you love to do in ways that honor God, love people, and serve humanity is far closer to His heart.

In fact, if any of your sense of worth, significance, and righteousness in life can be reduced, compromised, or questioned by your failure, mistakes, inadequacies, shortcomings, limits, or lack of production, then I can assure you that what you have is not a sense of your true Christ-righteousness and worth, but rather a self-righteousness and worth.

If you were to do nothing more with your life and instead fail and waste it in every way, you would be loved and lovable no differently and valued and valuable no less. For God’s perfect will for your life is not a plan charted, a path traveled, a series of accomplishments completed, or destinies discerned and fulfilled. Rather, God’s perfect will is a person, and that person is you, as is. You are a complete, whole, and finished work of Jesus that is irrevocably and irreversibly beautiful, whole, and pure.

What’s God’s perfect will? You, being fully you.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, your soul knows to be True, and your heart pleads for you to embrace .

God is Love.

To believe is to rest.

You are the relationship.

The Bible is the beginning, not the end.

It’s not about improvement.

Christians are often the ones in most need of saving.

You are God’s perfect will.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  -Galatians 2:20

Grace is brave. Be brave.

I’m White, Christian, Heterosexual, Privileged and Ashamed

There are moments in life where a truth can be so impacting it changes you forever—unhinging, transforming, and recalibrating nearly everything you once understood and believed.

I used to be a conservative, Evangelical, homophobic, sexist, racist, judgmental and spiritually arrogant pastor and person. In nearly every way, I was much the opposite of all that I am, hope to be, and stand for today. No, I didn’t have a child that came out as being gay or some moral failure or personal crisis that shook my foundations. The reversal of my heart and mind, and the dethroning of my bigotry, hate, privilege, and conservatism came solely from being confronted by the true nature of God, the pure message of Jesus, and the revelation of His heart and mind towards all humanity.

To think that I saw color where there is none to see—a choice in sexual orientation where there is no choice to be. To think that gender ever mattered in calling, gifting, or creed—seeing women as some lessor form of a human being. To think that I condemned in the name of Jesus where there was no Jesus condemning—ignorant of my white privilege that blinded my perspective and deafened me to the real voices crying around me. To think that I loved with restrictions, restraint, and conditions—believed I had exclusive possession of all that is Truth to the exclusion of any other perspective or position. To think that I embraced a life and faith lacking in true compassion—leaving God-imaged people marginalized, discriminated, abused, alone, and undefended. To think that I lived and proclaimed it all as faith, faithfulness, and the way, Truth, and life—I am ashamed. Not just ashamed—disgusted.

Look around.

Look at what many of us white, Christian, heterosexual, and privileged people have largely become—not all of us, but many—not always intentionally, but in sure reality. The Jesus-grieving sins of racism, sexism, discrimination, legalism, elitism, and condemnation are increasingly normalized, and even spiritualized as faithfulness. We have elected a childish, pussy-grabbing, womanizing, immoral, misogynistic, and xenophobic president—touting him as a kind of God-appointed savior of our country. Where our nationalistic, social, and political pursuits clearly conflict with the ways of Jesus, not to mention basic human ethics and morality, we conveniently turn a blind eye, and all of a sudden the “clear teachings of the Bible” aren’t so clear anymore and the compartmentalization of our faith becomes a worthy and important practice—smoke and mirrors were never so smokey and distracting. Still to this day, we harbor racism, act on it, and even spiritual justify it, not to mention sexism—all while ironically declaring ourselves to be the well from which genuine spiritual maturity flows. We can’t even stop the religious machine we have created long enough to seek true understanding in what it’s really like to not be white-skinned, heterosexual, Christian, privileged, or male—if only we knew how to listen as well as we know how to lean on and worship our own understandings. When a transgender person commits suicide at the hands of Christian condemnation, it’s like we don’t even pump the breaks or give a thought to reevaluating our faith understanding or position—arrogantly convinced we hold all the keys. Everyone else is always wrong and we are always right. Everyone else’s sin is destined for hell and ours is magically forgiven—thank God we believed the right things, said the right prayers, and made the right changes. Aren’t we all just so special.

While perhaps you are feeling oh-so special, I am feeling oh-so ashamed.

In fact, if this is what it means to be white, I don’t want to be “white” anymore.

If this is what it means to be Christian, I don’t want to be seen as “Christian” anymore.

If this is what it means to be heterosexual, privileged, or even American—you can have it all.

For Jesus flips the tables yet again, revealing that we, in our undeniable worship of being white, heterosexual, Christian, American, and privileged are actuality the ones who have become the deplorable abomination. The finger pointers and speck removers are once again revealed to be the log possessors whose preoccupation with changing the world for Christ has left us tragically unaware of our own Christ-less soul.

Against this I must stand, turning shame for all that I had believed wrongly about God, Jesus, and people into an unstoppable solidarity with all that God has created good, beautiful, whole, and affirmed.

This is my resistance, this is my manifesto.

In the footsteps of Jesus, I’m a human that affirms all humans.

I’m a white man who sees as equal every shade of color and gender.

I’m a heterosexual that affirms every other kind of “sexual” rooted in honesty, love, and committed relationship.

I gladly surrender my privilege and tear off the “Christian” name tag.

I will no longer join hands nor heart with a faith understanding that fights against so much of what Jesus embraces.

I refuse to love, accept, and affirm any less than God who is pure Love, affirms, accepts, and loves me.

For I am no better than any other—only different.

This is true of all people.

Grace and Truth has made it so.

All are loved, equally and beautifully made—each a masterpiece, eternally valued and secured.

I will be forever brave on behalf of the “least of these,” proudly counting myself as equal among them, and manifest the delight of Jesus who is eternally proud to live, serve, sacrifice, and call them friend—as am I.

Ashamed, I am no less. Brave, I am, all the more.

Grace is brave.  Be Brave.

5 Things The Church Must Become Before It’s Too Late

As a pastor, I believe in church and love her deeply, especially when the centerpiece of all she is and does is the Gospel of God’s pure Grace and the all-inclusiveness of Jesus and His unconditionally unconditional love. Yet sadly, these values are increasingly far from what is being manifested in most segments of American Christianity. Instead, as difficult it is to say, church has largely become a self-righteous, spiritually arrogant, sin-focused, Bible-weaponizing, and people-condemning kind of monster that has lost much of her credibility among thinking, human-loving people. In fact, the emotional, spiritual, and even physical carnage created by significant segments of American, conservative church-world ironically makes it perhaps the most prominent, antichrist force on the planet today.

Don’t believe me? To those willing to hear, countless are the gut-wrenching stories of people who have experienced great suffering, tragedy, abuse, and condemnation exclusively at the hands of Christianity and its church. The hand-washing claim that “no church is perfect” doesn’t even come close to fitting nor justifying the spiritually militant, aggressive, and narcissistic tribe we have become, nor gains any appeasement among those whom we have broken. The truth is, if we don’t make significant steps towards returning to the heart of God who is Love and His Gospel of peace, we will further become the very evil we claim to be against, and surrender our voice and influence in furthering all that is good and of God for generations to come.

Yet, amidst these daunting realities there is still great hope that we might awaken to the heights from which we have fallen and chart a new path. With that desire for renewal, here are five things I suggest every church must become before it’s too late.

We Must Become Grace Driven– Despite what is believed and taught within most segments of the church, there is no other Gospel nor message from God for humanity other than Grace—period. Grace boldly and accurately declares that all are in Christ, deeply and unconditionally loved and affirmed by the Father. Every person is a finished work of the cross—holy, justified, sanctified, righteous, and whole apart from and despite their performance in life. Faith is not a decision, heart invitation, or commitment to good behavior. Instead, to truly “believe” is to simply rest in the goodness and Grace of God through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, contrary to what is widely understood, the Christian life is not to be one of sin-management, “to do” steps, rule-keeping, or spiritual striving, but rather the journey of completely awakening to the incredible and unfathomable goodness of God and the wholly complete person one is already and will always be in Christ. In short, it’s our actions catching up with our true identities.

In fact, in a very real sense, under Grace, there is nothing “to do,” self-improve, or become, but everything to believe—and as one increasingly believes in the purity and goodness of who they truly are in Him, they will live it increasingly in and through their actions, and that—effortlessly. For there is no power in all the universe other than Grace that changes people and influences them towards living the ways of Jesus—hallelujah!

In fact, it is the Law in command or spirit, in whole or in any mixture, that actually entices and imprisons people to sin and embody all that is bad. Its diabolical rule-keeping mantra focuses our attention on sin, entices our religious pride to believe we can master it, and places trust in ourselves and our capacity to spiritually out perform it. This is a futile pursuit destined for failure, straight out of the hands and heart of the devil. For where you have any call or sense of need to please and appease God to gain, keep, or grow ones relationship with Jesus, there you will find every form of self-righteousness, judgmentalism, spiritual pride, hypocrisy, sin-stronghold, religious spirit, and evil.

That’s why the sure and true reason why America is in such moral decline and countless people are walking away from “church” (and rightly so) is actually because of  us and our love affair with a mixed-messaged gospel of Law and Grace—a message that, in truth, is the rampant cancer, not the cure. For any other message than the pure and thoroughly sufficient Grace of God in Christ Jesus is a sure death sentence of humanity to a hellish life of self-righteous imprisonment.

We must become Grace-driven—countless lives are in the balance.

We Must Become Unified By Diversity- For far too long, the church has based its sense of unity upon that which people must agree. Denominations and individual churches align their membership qualifications to certain sets of beliefs and behaviors people are required to adopt for inclusion. In the process, the concept of “making disciples” has been reduced to a church’s pursuit of assimilating people into thinking, looking, and behaving just like them. People become projects of conformity, diverging beliefs become threatening and inferior, and churches become clubs of like-minded people huddled around their “this is what the Bible says” ideologies.

Tragically, this has morphed many a church into a spiritual black hole where doubts are quickly buried, free thinking is demonized, spiritual growth is restricted, people have to pretend they truly agree, and churches live in denial of the real disunity that exists under the surface conformity of their congregants.

In increasing measure, people are justifiably turning away from spiritual communities where one is either deemed to be “in” or “out.” They are resisting the applications of labels upon themselves and hunger for the God-given freedom and liberty that comes in being personally guided in all truth by the ever revealing Spirit—not a cut and pasted creed nor a patriarchy of so-called biblical leadership. Good people are opening their eyes to the selfish agenda of churches that see people as prospective notches on their belt with the goal of assimilating them into their spiritual Borg that they might increase in their capacity to spread their pre-packaged religious ideologies among the masses of people they deem to be “lost.”

Churches must become more like tables where every person and every belief-set has a seat in the discussion, where doubts, differences, and disbelief are valued, and where unity is based upon a church’s willingness to embrace disagreement and harbor diversity much more so than what is necessary to be agreed upon. Spiritual growth must be allowed to truly flourish through the considering and potential adopting of views, perspectives, and beliefs that are even contrary to what is widely held.

Churches must become belief fluid, where a confidence in the person of Jesus and His Truth ringing true in the hearts of all humanity creates the secure foundation from which all beliefs can be considered, explored, and find community instead of exclusion—all without fear.

Then, and only then, can true unity flourish, true spiritual growth emerge, and true freedom in Christ be realized—all centered on God who is Love and Jesus who is Grace.

We Must Become Fierce Defenders of the Oppressed and Condemned- People are not projects, attendance charts, giving units, baptismal stats, or even our conversion mission—though nearly everything about our attitudes and behaviors as the church would indicate so. Rather, our highest mandate from God is to stand with, defend, empower, and become a voice for the oppressed, especially those religiously condemned and marginalized—all of us on equal footing. It’s not enough to merely extend our sympathies, minister to a need here and there, or put people and issues on a prayer list. Solidarity in thought, word, attitude, and deed with the marginalized and condemned is the way of Jesus and our Christian calling in every arena of life—even political.

Grace is not weakness nor passivity in the presence of evil. It’s not turning a blind eye nor restraining ones voice as an effort to take some kind of highfalutin, spiritual highroad concealing what is ultimately a self-serving “grace” copout. Rather, Grace is brave and confronting in the face of religious and cultural oppression, injustice, condemnation, and discrimination.

Those who would portray God as less than all-loving, His message as bringing any measure of condemnation, and His ways as embodying any level of religiosity, self-righteousness, or conditionality will always meet the fierce correction of Jesus. Those who would shrink back from the unrestrained defense, solidarity with, and mutual humanity of the “least of these” will always be met with the buzzsaw of Jesus’ pure oneness with those who are cast aside or cast out.

The nonviolent way of Jesus is not passive, impotent, nor powerless, but rather the sure model that makes our solidarity, defense, empowering, and voice with and for the oppressed and condemned our greatest responsibility, honor, and calling. For there is no greater litmus test of a church’s alignment with the heart of Jesus than how it stands with, defends, empowers, equally includes, and gives voice to the “least of these.” Until that day comes, growing numbers of people will rightly discern the fallacy and religious scam that sadly has become much of American church.

We Must Become Equality Minded– Grace is the great equalizer—none are better only different. This is the message of the Gospel that infuriates and frustrates the self-righteous, white, male-driven, patriarchal churches of America. There should be no sense of privilege of any form in any church, only people—all equally loved, valued, affirmed, and imaged by the Creator.

The sexist churches of America continue to grieve the heart and message of Jesus and send countless women (and men) searching elsewhere for safe contexts where true God-given equality is embraced, and the utilization of the equal calling and gifts bestowed by God upon all genders is empowered.

It is spiritually criminal that the church, who should be leading the way at embodying the culture of heaven upon earth, is in actuality largely standing against it—women are not seen as equally gifted and called, skin colors matter, economic status is evaluated, sexual orientation is discriminated, and sin is rationalized in favor of the privileged.

This is deplorable, evil, and antithetical to Kingdom of God.

The church will never truly manifest nor follow the ways, message, and heart of Jesus until our every step leaves a sure and undeniable footprint of true equality for all.

We Must Become A Contribution Centered Community- One need look no further than the me-centered worship services and programs that dominate much of American church for evidence that we have become selfish, consumer-centered Christians and churches. In fact, most of modern church planting is strategized around starting a state-of-the-art worship service with hopes that a church will somehow grow out of it. The thrust of most churches new or old is to attract people to “visit us, join us, and serve among us” with emphasis on the “us.” With facilities, budgets, programming, and marketing endeavors taking center stage, competitive-minded ministry thrives and the incubator for pastoral celebrity and church franchising becomes full born.

Sadly, when it’s all said and done, as much as we spiritualize our endeavors, much of church has become largely about “us”— our spiritual growth, our style preferences, our convenience, our inspiration, our agendas, our power, our importance, our rights, and the preservation and furthering of our privilege.

In times past, many have been mesmerized and seduced by the contemporary lipsticks we have used on the pig of our self-centeredness—but not any more. Growing numbers of good people are seeing through the clever lighting and carefully positioned fog. Either they have lost at playing the church game, or witnessed the pain and brutal carnage of someone else having done so. Regardless, people not only want to be a part of something bigger than themselves, they want to be a part of something that is clearly and concretely not about themselves or an agenda other than pure Love.

The truth is, much of the church in America is losing influence and credibility, and rightly so. The awakening of Grace and its full application in the life of the church is among us, challenging and haunting the religious as it spawns.

Before it’s too late, may we become Grace-driven, equality-minded, contribution-centered communities that are unified by diversity as we fiercely defend the oppressed and condemned among us as Jesus modeled and purposed for us all along.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

To Those Christians Who Still Support Trump, Help Me Understand

The election is over, thankfully.

You voted for Donald Trump to be named president of the United States, he won.

As much as I personally disliked this result, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, so I waited. Maybe there was something I was completely missing. Perhaps, Donald Trump was in reality an entirely different person than his campaign persona. Maybe, what you believed, many of us simply could not see, and Donald Trump is truly a God-send for our country, but needed to carry himself in certain controversial ways to get elected. Therefore, overtime, Donald Trump would shed his campaign skin and the real man, anointed by God, would emerge and all would clearly see it.

Yet, here we are, the election is over, we’re well into his presidency, and Donald Trump is absolutely no different—no more presidential, no less arrogant, no less divisive. I could list much more—nothing of him has changed, if anything, it has become worse.

So when I see your continued Christian support, I’m trying to understand, but finding it very difficult.

From what I know of your brand of Christianity, following Jesus and His example is primary. You are well versed at calling attention to perceived sin, you hold your understanding of moral purity as the highest standard from which to discern the favor and presence of God in ones life, and you have no lack of courage in condemning an American culture you deem to be filled with every form of lust, evil, and offense to God. Within your own churches and ministries, those who desire leadership are highly screened and continually discerned for alignment with the commands of God and a lifestyle faithful to Scripture. And above all, you believe our nation to be uniquely blessed by a God who has no hesitation in withdrawing Himself from anything or anyone who doesn’t honor His will, character, and ways. Is that not true?

And yet you still passionately support Donald Trump—not just the office of president, but the person soon to be occupying it.

Help me understand.

Did it all just magically go away? Where’s your sensitivity to sin and lack of Godly character, now? Where is your condemnation of moral impurity, now? Where is your concern for the removal of God’s favor upon our nation in the face of continued carnal leadership, now?

Help me understand.

Many of you have children—what will your response to them be one day when your son or daughter asks of you, “Dad, did you really vote for and continue to support a man who publicly made fun of special needs children, bragged about grabbing women by the “pussy,” spoke of them as being a “piece of ass,” and continually used his platform to childishly bully people with whom he disagrees?” For your sake, I hope that moment of curiosity doesn’t arise during family devotion time, that would be awkward. You cringe at the thought of allowing your children to attend an r-rated movie, accidentally listening to a vulgar song, or playing an immoral video game at a friend’s house, but apparently have little-to-no hesitation in supporting an x-rated president.

Help me understand.

How do you even begin to justify that, especially within your faith that confesses to be so centered on Jesus?

Donald Trump couldn’t even pass the basic screening to volunteer in your church’s children’s ministry, but he still receives your full Christian support as the president of the United States? He couldn’t qualify for the simple role of Elder in your church for lack of character and self-control alone, and yet you continue to display t-shirts, hats, and signs bowing to his name as the leader of your “one nation under God?” I would suspect that many parents, if they were honest, wouldn’t even feel good about him coaching the local girls “Upward” Basketball team, or even the boys, and yet he still receives your allegiance and is the object of your national hope?

Help me understand.

I would be hard pressed to find a pastor in your faith tradition who wouldn’t normally see Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” as the height of His declaration as to what following Him should look like—the fruits of a genuine person of faith and the desires of God upon the earth for all people and nations.

Here are the opening verses…

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

It doesn’t get any clearer—this is the Jesus you profess to worship, this is the essence of the Kingdom you pray will come, this is the vision of God for all people and all things under heaven and earth.

So, help me understand, where does Donald Trump even begin to match any of this in character, vision, attitude, or example?

Where do we see Donald Trump being truly humble, and genuinely empathizing with and honoring those who aren’t privileged? Where do we see Donald Trump mourning for the oppressed, abused, marginalized, outcast, and religiously condemned within our culture? Where do we see Donald Trump displaying and valuing meekness over imperialism, greed, and power? Where do we see Donald Trump thirsting for self-controlled, Christ-righteous leadership beginning with his own? Where do we see  Donald Trump being merciful with those whom he disagrees, has taken offense, or perceives as an enemy—or ever worse, an immigrant or Islam believer? Where do we see Donald Trump striving for purity of heart over insecurity and impulsiveness? Where do we see Donald Trump using his Twitter feed, let alone his presidency for the goal of Jesus-exampled, sword-less peacemaking?

Instead—homophobic, narcissistic, racist, sexist, xenophobic, greedy, vulgar, arrogant, bullying, and childish seem to be more in line with his be-attitudes.

Please help me understand.

For how can you, as a Christian, continue to unequivocally support a man, no less the president elect of the United States, who represents so much of what Jesus, the Christ, opposes?

To be sure, no one is perfect. Donald Trump is my president by nature of my proud citizenship and civic respect, and will receive my prayers, love, and best wishes, but he reflects very little of the Jesus of my faith understanding and what I believe are His desires for our nation and world.

Which leaves me with a good bit of wondering and questioning—how is it, that Donald Trump could possible reflect yours?

To those Christians who still support Donald Trump, help me understand.

Maybe This Is The Real Reason You Believe Being Gay Is A Sin

So, you believe homosexuality is a sin.

I get it—it’s where you are at and what you uphold to be true.

Maybe for you, you’re not exactly sure why you subscribe to that position, other than the countless times you have been told, “That’s what the Bible says.” You want to be loving, accepting, and viewed as a compassionate follower of Jesus, but numerous admonitions from fellow Christians declaring that “loving people doesn’t give license to their sin” seem to give you no other alternative posture than one of judgement and distance. Sure, you’re familiar with a few of the verses typically used to condemn homosexuality and those of the LGBTQ community—since childhood, your mind and heart has been seated around the traditional male/female relationships of Scripture as being the only God-approved model for marriage, gender, and sexuality, but that’s about as far as your thinking has taken you. Deep down, it’s a complicated issue, and quite honestly, you’re not always sure what you believe. Even though you know some LGBTQ people and perhaps might even call them friends, moments of belief-questioning or consideration of LGBTQ-affirming views are quickly summoned to a much more comfortable, default position in your faith, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” For you, you’re hoping it’s as simple and settled as that, and if it’s not, it’s just going to have to be.

On the other side of the coin, maybe for you, it’s all so perfectly, crystal clear. There’s nothing to reconsider, nothing to learn or unlearn. It’s a slam dunk, a biblical no-brainer. Not only have you sat under the popular chorus, “This is what the Bible says,” you proudly and boldly sing it from the mountain tops. You believe to know every verse relevant to the issues, even citing original Greek and Hebrew words and context. In your mind, heart, and faith, all things LGBTQ are a deplorable, disgusting affront to God and an offensive abomination before the Lord. Maybe you have never held the sign (or maybe you have), but “God hates fags” largely fits hand-in-glove with the bottom line of your faith understanding. Sure, if they repent, change their ways, and adopt your faith views, there’s hope. However, until that day comes, “ground and pound” is your perceived divine mandate to wrestle the LGBTQ demons out of our culture and country. No matter the consequences or costs wrought by your anti-LGBTQ angst and rage, you are “right” and everyone else will always be “wrong”—even to the exclusion, excommunication, and potential suicide of your own LGBTQ child, sister, brother, parent, congregant, or friend. In your mind, any other way of seeing things is to author confusion where God created infallible clarity—and you, the God appointed vessel of His authority and truth. If a transgender person were to commit suicide and your secret (or not so secret) conclusions to this tragic event were displayed on your church’s worship screen, it might read something like, “They had it coming to them, for the consequences of sin is death.”

Well, no matter where you are on the spectrum of believing homosexuality is a sin, I have an honest question.

Are these really the true reasons you believe being gay is a sin? These are the case “evidences” you really want us to attribute to your actions and beliefs?  “The Bible says so…” “God hates fags…” “Rethinking my views or considering new information is unnecessary…” “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” These are the foundational, core kind of sentiments that make up the sum, depth, and rationale of your thoughts, words, deeds, and creeds regarding one of the most important issues of our time affecting countless God-imaged souls?

With all due love and respect as I truly want to understand and believe the best, if I’m honest, the ruby-slippered Dorothy in me is having a hard time swallowing that pill. In fact, pull back the curtain of your confessions and I wonder if there’s perhaps a deeper Wizard behind the smoke and mirrors of your anti-LGBTQ declarations—and it’s not God, the Bible, or spiritual laziness—in fact, I think it just might be… you.

Maybe, just maybe, the real reason you believe being gay is a sin, is because—you want to. When it’s all said and done, it’s not anybody else’s voice or choice—it’s yours.

In a Christian church-world where there are over 30,000 different denominations who read the very same Bible you do, and come to thousands of different belief-conclusions on major theological issues. In a Christian church-world where elective misunderstanding and ignorance are seen as legitimate positions instead of serious problems. In a Christian church-world where there are countless, growing numbers of biblical scholars with the same love for Jesus, submissive heart for Scripture, and tenacity for Truth as you, who see the Bible as affirming LGBTQ people, not condemning them. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. It’s not the Bible saying so, it’s you saying so. In fact, if one can be faithful to the sacred Scriptures and yet come to an LGBTQ-affirming view (which you can) instead of condemning, demonizing, and abusing a whole God-adorned population of humans, why wouldn’t you? Maybe, just maybe, the real reason is because—you don’t want to.

In a Christian church-world where many apparently have little-to-no true fear of having a sin lifestyle of blatant, chosen gluttony and greed that potentially even compromises their eternity. In a Christian church-world where virtually none of its participants would ever dare construct nor hold up the sign, “God hates fatsos.” In a Christian church-world that largely has little-to-no restraint in looking the other way regarding its own sins and strongholds. In a Christian church-world where nearly 50 percent of its married adherents end up divorced, and even the “unbiblical” ones are given a free pass. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin, isn’t for fear of condoning it or leading one into hell, but simply because—you want to.

In a Christian church-world that is known for justifying and feeling oh-so-good and righteous about itself through the condemning and demonizing of people they conveniently deem to be sinning differently than they. In a Christian church-world that largely needs a sin-battle to fight in order to justify its purpose, worth, validity, energy, and existence. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. The self-righteous perch from which doing so seems to afford you exclusive divine favor, license for anger, and spiritual justification for hate is just too convenient to step down from. Watching porn on Sunday afternoons never seemed so benign as after a rousing, gay-condemning sermon from Romans 1 and 2. It’s a drug only Grace can disarm, but you refuse the “reparative” cure. Why? Because—you want to.

In a Christian church-world where community is often centered around the conformity of beliefs and behaviors. In a Christian church-world where in many of its expressions you are either “in” or “out.” In a Christian church-world where to believe differently is often met with a kiss of death—discipline, rejection, marginalization, termination, or just a good-ole’-fashion greeting line of cold shoulders and religious spankings. Maybe, just maybe, the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin is because—you want to. The fear of being convinced of LGBTQ-affirming views is just too strong, and the perceived ramifications, just too costly. When the rubber meets the road and you hear the Jesus-call to put the suffering of others above your own—you simply don’t want to.

See, at the end of the day, when Toto draws the curtain open, the scheme that was concealed becomes the truth that is revealed—people don’t choose to be LGBTQ, but they sure do choose to believe whether it’s a sin or not.

In fact, I find it interesting how many Christians proudly proclaim to be pro-life and wear it as a badge of faith-honor, all while at the same time they are certainly pro-choice about the Bible—determined to protect their freedom to use every interpretive knife they can contrive to abort countless people into hell, murder their souls with condemnation, and yank them out of the womb of God’s Grace and affirmation, slicing and dicing them with sin-labels and discrimination—all while singing songs to Jesus with a self-righteous, anti-gay smirk on their face.

When all the smoke clears, perhaps the real puppeteer behind your anti-gay beliefs finally emerges—it’s you. You don’t “have” to believe being LGBTQ is a sin—you want to. When all is said and done, the pain of affirmation has been determined to be greater than the pain of discrimination. The call to take up our cross and follow Jesus, perhaps is a cost, you have concluded is too costly to endure. The ego-humbling, faith-reconstructing, soul-examining, human-loving, life-transforming, and courage-requiring invitation of Jesus to put down the nets of religion for the sake of “the least of these” is finally met with what is perhaps the real sum and truth behind your response—”I don’t want to.”

Maybe, just maybe, this is the real reason why you believe being gay is a sin—it’s not God, not the Bible, not spiritual laziness, nor moral purity or responsibility.

But rather, all because—you want to.

How Conservative Evangelical Christianity Wasted My Life

Nobody plans for this moment to come—sitting on our bed upstairs, I called Amy into the room. Up to that point in time, everything I had touched in ministry over the past twelve years had essentially fallen apart, my ability as a husband and father to provide for our family was painfully lacking, and unexpected, critical health issues overwhelmed me with incapacitating, daily battles of insecurity, anxiety, and hopelessness. I was a complete mess—everything seemed to be crashing to the ground as I stood in those moments looking over the edge of my life. It was all so real, so terribly real.

Making her way up the stairs, she entered the doorway. “Amy, I need to talk to you. I want you to find a new husband and father for Harrison and Cailyn. I’m such a failure and your lives would be better without me—you deserve so much more.” Seeing a seriousness in my eyes like never before, with sheer terror in her face, Amy ran out of the room sobbing in tears. I had experienced periods of depression before, but these moments were of an entirely different realm of darkness. I was truly ready for it all to be over—desperately looking for the closest exit sign.

As a young boy, I nearly died of asthma two times, spending much of my elementary days in the hospital. No sooner did that fog begin to lift then the sexual abuse from a family member began. They say sixty percent of people enter the pastoral ministry to “save” one of their family members—if that’s true, it was my father. The very man who saved my life on one of those asthmatic occasions was ironically the same man who sowed deep seeds of condemnation, guilt, insecurity, and inadequacy into my heart. During one semester in middle school, I received a “C” on my report card. My father always said, “C’s just mean you’re average, and we Kratzers aren’t average.” I knew he was upset as he reacted in disgust. Seeing his harsh disappointment, I told my mother, “Dad doesn’t love me.” Insisting that he did, she coaxed me into the living room where my father sat rocking in a chair. She said to him, “Honey, Chris doesn’t think you love him, tell him that you do.” His response, “With grades like that, he’s no son of mine.”

Sadly, behind everyone’s eyes is a story that, if they told you, would break your heart. With a belly full of emotional baggage and gaping, puss-ladened wounds of shame, I entered into pastoral ministry. I wasn’t a conservative Evangelical at the start, but it didn’t take long for the tenets of conservative Christianity to be pimped my direction. Within a few puffs and injections of its seductive self-righteous creed, it became an instant drug of choice to numb the pains of inadequacy long been building in the caverns of my being. Never did there appear to be a better way to appease a conditional-loving father and heal the sins and shame of my youth than to embark on a spiritual climb designed to satisfy the ultimate conditional-loving Father—the god of conservative Evangelicalism who promised to rid me of my demons if I pressed in hard enough and learned to traverse the tightrope of faith. Salvation had finally come in an Evangelical deity offering me a spiritual track upon which I could race to right my wrongs, give value to my condemned life, and render myself lovable at the finish line. Just color within the lines, give the proper responses, think and believe the right things, fight the good fight of faith, and I too could become “successful” for Jesus. Perhaps then, both my father on earth and the Father above could finally love me—perhaps even then, I could finally love me. The ultimate trifecta of acceptance and approval was just an Evangelical “to do” list away, all leading to a position seated high above the world upon which to feel good about myself through the looking down upon others. It was all so righteous and perfect—so it seemed.

With a snappy new Jesus-step in my shoes, I eagerly surveyed the landscape of conservative Evangelical Christianity and its heroes. They all had obvious common denominators—big churches, big book deals, big speaking schedules, big conferences, big baptismal numbers, big budgets, big leadership philosophies, big vision, and even wives with big hair. Every sermon was finely crafted with spiritual formulas, principles, and steps that lead to the big life. Every service was meticulously programmed for ultimate appeal and emotion. The Bible was cut and dry, people were either in or out, sin was clear and easily defined, the truth was black or white, and either you had a place at the cool pastors lunch table or you didn’t. People on the outside were seen as a project to assimilate into the inside, and then to “grow” towards ultimately partnering in the pastor’s grandiose vision to “make fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ” AKA “my big ass ministry ego trip.” It was all so spiritual, and spiritually justified—”purpose driven” to the nines.

I swallowed it, all of it, hook, line, and sinker—my flesh never felt more alive. Job one, clean up my act. Job two, use a bit of smoke and mirrors while carefully pretending all the “to do steps” were working in order to keep people from seeing I couldn’t master job one. Job three, turn off my brain and heart as I learned to believe, say, and do all the right “Evangelical” things even if deep down they made little-to-no-sense, contradicted themselves, or left good people cold, hurting, and condemned. Job four, attain ministry “success” and fame at all costs, using people as a means to what is really a selfish end disguised as a noble mission. Job five, spiritualize it all so that people don’t see the hypocritical phony who’s faking-it to make-it and signing them up to do the same, wrapping it all up in shiny Jesus paper and calling it “faithfulness.” Job six, whatever it takes, convince yourself this is the way, truth, and life even when deep down inside, something is screaming that it’s not—quickly silencing and demonizing every voice that contradicts you. Job seven, if all else fails, program more worship fog, get a tattoo, and start sporting some Buckle brand skinny jeans—the rest will take care of itself.

I tried, I really did. I never worked so hard in all my life—just ask Amy, just ask the kids. I started waking up at 4 a.m. every Sunday morning to memorize my sermons, line for line, word for word—all for the maximum adoration of the congregation and the hopes of validating my life by becoming a superstar preacher. I began writing devotionals hoping they would get published. I read every ministry leadership book money could buy. I attended the best conferences, taking copious notes from which to implement the latest church fads guaranteed to grow your congregation and grant you the ministry of your dreams. I made myself available at any moment of any day for pastoral counseling or care. I studied the scriptures, applied ever prayer formula I could find to maximize my capacity to leverage God for His blessings and favor. We didn’t tithe just 10%, but 20%, often becoming the top givers in the churches we served whether we could afford to or not. I solicited accountability partners to speak truth into my life as a sure fire way to keep me on the straight and narrow. I distanced myself from all the right people and settings, just like I was prescribed. On Sundays, I was the first one at the church, and the last one to leave. Those rare moments when I wasn’t engaged in some kind of formal ministry, you can be sure I was thinking about it. We started churches on a wing and a prayer, barely having enough income to survive. We walked through devastating church splits, worship wars, members threatening my life, and countless conflicts whose marks will surely never go away. Years and years spent in a so-called, “Christian life” trying to convince God, the people around me, and myself that I am valuable, lovable, acceptable, significant—worthy of God, His favor, His blessings, and His heaven.

Don’t be fooled, insisting that “denial” is just a river in Egypt. Whether you’re in ministry or not, this is what you do—this is the hell you live and give, in some shape or form, when your faith concludes, “God loves you… BUT.” There can be no more hiding of the Wizard behind the curtain, this is the performance-driven, endless, restless, futile plight of your soul when the anchor of your faith clings to the diabolical slogan of conservative Evangelical Christianity, “God does His part, but you have to do yours… OR ELSE.” Find me a person who subscribes to conservative Evangelicalism and there you will have found a tragically deceived soul who is sleep-walking this same kind of daily, self-righteous, pretending, performance-driven hell while actually believing it’s heaven.

Look no further than my life for your proof, for there in that upstairs bedroom it all came tumbling down—none of the steps, formulas, principles, “to do lists,” worship choruses, bible studies, sin-management strategies, conferences, recommitments, fasting, prayer sessions, or spiritual disciplines ever worked, and all my pretending wasn’t camouflaging it anymore. The lipstick on the pig was wearing off—conservative Evangelical Christianity had done far more than merely waste my life, it had stolen every remnant of it I ever possessed and left me impotent to face its darkest moments.

All that time, years and years, I was suffocating when I thought I was breathing Life—thinking I was so close to Jesus, yet being so far away from His heart.

All that time, I thought I was helping people when in fact I was imprisoning them—declaring a mixed Evangelical gospel of conditional love that is in fact no Gospel at all. All, while sentencing countless God-adorned people to a fear-driven, empty life of sin-management, God-appeasement, and people-judging.

All that time, I thought I was being a faithful servant when in reality I had become a monster—a sexist, racist, homophobic, bigoted, ignorant, selfish, judgmental, legalistic, hypocritical, two-headed, and heart-divided monster. Without a flinch or a blink of an eye, I could heartlessly condemn people to a Dante-inspired hell of Evangelical imagination and poison their hungry, hurting hearts with guilt, shame, fear, and condemnation all while deceiving them to believe its source was no less than the throne of God.

All that time, I thought I was equipping people when in fact I was using them. Call it “vision,” “ministry dreams,” “reaching the world for Christ,” or whatever label helps you sleep at night—but the truth is, so much of modern Christianity has simply become the franchising of ministry egos.

All that time, I thought the Bible was a kind of convenient, inerrant weapon best used against the self-declared enemies of Jesus and for the defense of a truth that only conservative Evangelicalism possessed, when in fact, it’s actually a perfectly human set of writings best used to inspire all people to progressively encounter Him who is Love and defend His graciousness.

All that time, I thought I knew love and how to give it, when in truth, I knew nothing of it—receiving it, living it, sharing it. I thought loving people required doing so with careful restraint for fear you might extend too much grace and affirmation, or worst of all, catch their disease. Constantly pumping the breaks with people by restricting my love and qualifying His was indeed an unpleasant endeavor that never felt settled in my spirit. Yet, for so long I believed that was the full extent for which God loved me—all at a safe distance, riddled with fine print.

All that time, I thought I was being the picture perfect father and husband, but in reality, I was so consumed by a spiritual quest in which enough was never enough, that though I may have been there physically for my family, in so many other ways, I wasn’t there at all.

So much time wasted, relationships scorched, walls erected, people written off, unnecessary family tension and division created, opportunities missed, life that could have been enjoyed, unconditional love that could have been given, freedom that could have been embraced, lives that could have been set free by Grace, and all I had to show for it in that upstairs bedroom was the painful faith conclusion that I would never measure up, I was a failure, Jesus surely hated me, everything that mattered was slipping through my fingers, and the god of Evangelicalism was probably not only o.k. with it, but holy and just in allowing it, and perhaps even authoring it.

Hearing Amy downstairs crying in desperation pleading with me to change my mind, I fell to the ground on my knees—or perhaps, I was pushed.

In that moment, to which I still can’t put words, Grace awakened in me. As I closed my eyes sobbing on the floor, the real Jesus wrapped His arms around everything about me and refused to let go with divine relentless—a picture in my mind and an embrace of my entirety I’ll never forget.

You can be sure, the real God is nothing like conservative Evangelical Christianity—I know this to be True, He showed me.

Today, years later, I’m alive and truly living for the first time in my life and the future is bright with real hope and real joy. God is Love, Jesus is Grace, we are all the Beloved, and I am free to be fully me—free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, I am free at last.

So, I say to you who drink from the devil’s cauldron of conservative Evangelical Christianity—run, run as far and as fast as you can, don’t let it mix you into its brew. It’s a religious concoction of death—pure unbridled death.

It wasted much of my life, don’t let it waste anymore of yours.

Thankful For Nothing

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

I know, it feels like everything—that thing that you did.

You made a mistake, you screwed up—words you said, choices you made, plans you created. The moment got the best of you, it wasn’t supposed to happen that way—everything spiraling out of control. The crack on the ceiling became the whole house falling. It was bad—really, really bad.

So now, you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the guilt, the shame, the cost, the regret. At times, it’s all so overwhelming. What you did, it feels like—everything.

In your mind it’s haunting you, certainly this is all reason for His doubt, reason for His questioning—reason for your one-eye-open living. Will you get the ax? Will God storm out of the heavens like a drunk out of bar—put you in your place under an angry thumb? Is this the time you pushed Him too far?

I know, it feels like everything—that thing that happened to you.

They stole your innocence, betrayed your trust—said terrible things, did terrible things. It wasn’t fair, wasn’t right—completely wrong in every way—stealing things that can’t be replaced. The hurts run deep, straight to the arteries of your soul—you’ll never be the same. Tragedy has many faces—some innocent, some not. You weren’t suppose to be alone, but now you are—the chair where they sat—now empty. No greater pain you have ever felt than being without, being alone—once loving in the physical, to now love in memory only.

So, you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the bitterness, the anger, the revenge—the hurt, the loss, the emptiness. What happened to you, it feels like—everything.

That’s why, in your mind, the questions pound you—is He real, was He asleep at the wheel? How could this ever happen under a God who’s supposed to be so loving? Beating His chest, crying every tear, feeling hung out to dry—perhaps these doubts should have been doubted long before. What you thought was a trust now seems so un-trustable.

I know, it feels like everything—what you are doing, who you are becoming, the life you are living.

The real you, the fake you, something in between—your secret thoughts, insecurities, desires, dreams. Passions in your heart—if only to love and be loved in return—declared of value, overflowing with worth. Fully accepted—never to die with your song still inside. You’ve got one life—air to breathe, breaths to take. Am I good enough? Am I like-able, love-able? Do I qualify “as is,” or something different? Status, labels, “likes” on Facebook—I don’t want to waste anytime. Fit in here, fit in there—maybe have no fit at all. Am I getting this right? Doing this well?

And so you run, but you can’t run fast enough—the medication, can’t medicate deep enough. Your success, can’t be successful enough. What you want to let go, won’t seem to let go—the insecurities, the uncertainties, the voices in your head—the naysayers, fair-weather players—the push to be seen, heard, affirmed, believed.

What you are doing, who you are becoming, the life you are living—it feels like—everything.

That’s why, in this world of everything, I am so thankful for nothing.

For nothing can subtract from God’s love for you. Nothing can change His mind, reduce His delight—kink the garden hose of His favor drenching you.

No mistake, no miscue, no atrocity—nothing of you can edit anything of Him.

All decided, once and for all—God’s perfect, unconditional, unrestricted love. Always has, always is, always will be, for there is nothing more pure, more sure than God’s heart—His love, His affections for you—nothing.

There’s nothing for Him to reexamine, to revaluate, to retract—nothing from Him withheld, reserved, restrained.

Nothing.

Nothing else is God but love—perfect, eternal, unconditional, unlimited love. All, poured out for you, for me, for everyone.

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

For nothing can improve upon the you that God has already finished—there’s nothing of blemish, nothing of sin, nothing of darkness in you within. Nothing to work on, nothing to strive for, nothing to earn—you are whole, complete, righteous, forgiven, forever pure. It’s nothing of what you do, only everything of what He did—there’s nothing left to do, only everything to believe, in Him

It’s not about what people think—not what people say. Not the height of your attitude, not the depth of your gratitude—nothing half empty, nothing half full. Nothing of your religious effort, believing, or work—nothing at all.

Nothing to fear, nothing of which to be ashamed, nothing of tarnish upon your name.

You are righteousness, when you get it all wrong—you are success, when failures go on and on—you are whole, even as it all unravels to the ground.

As He is, so are you—nothing less than the beauty of Jesus—nothing.

In a world of everything, I am thankful for nothing.

For nothing is the sum distance between you and God—He is beside you, within you, all around you, as you. Nothing closer, nothing thicker, nothing more real than the realness of His hand holding yours—you have never been alone.

He is your strength when yours is nothing—He is your guide, when your sight sees nothing. He is your hope, when hope seems like nothing.

Grace is awakening to the hug God has always had around you—a Grace that nothing can remove.

So, in a world of everything, I am so thankful for nothing.

Absolutely… nothing.

For in the nothing, I find everything for which to be thankful…

Nothing.

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