Tag: Christ (page 1 of 2)

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.

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.

Is Jesus Gay?

At times, there is silence for a reason as some things are best said by being left unsaid.

That there is no mention of Jesus’ sexual orientation in scripture is perhaps reflective of a profound, cosmic reality that one’s gender nor orientation are a prerequisite for determining that which is of the Divine. To the dismay of much of western Christianity, Jesus wasn’t purposed on being imaged into a caucasian, American, heterosexual, republican, gun-owning, blue-eyed, conservative male with flowing locks of brown hair—but rather He is the surest example of what it truly looks like to simply be fully human and fully rested in the Divine.

Was or is Jesus gay in terms of sexual orientation or behavior? I don’t believe so—but it certainly doesn’t matter. For being gay is about so much more than mere sexual orientation or gender identification. It’s about being a beautifully created soul adorned with eternal extravagance imaged in the splendor of the Creator, who no less bears the arduous task of navigating their unique, human experience through the minefields of a brutally inhumane world that would quickly ransack those who break religious molds, clawing to strip them of their divine value, identity, purpose and worth. Beyond the gravity of sexuality and orientation, this is the deeper, ultimate essence of the plight intrinsic to being gay—to be fully human and fully alive while sweating beads of blood in determination to find one’s way and hold onto one’s inherent dignity and God-delighting in a spiritually nefarious, different-condemning, and different-killing world.

In this way, Jesus was surely gay.

For in the face of being ostracized and derided by His own Nazareth family of bigots determined to misunderstand Him, Jesus is the gay man and the lesbian woman who live in the constant, gruesome torment of coming out, being known, and fully living their God-designed personhood—a kind of hell on earth of daily accusation and rejection God never weaved into the tapestry of what anyone should endure.

Or crying over Jerusalem, begging for His heart to be understood and His people to receive Him, Jesus is the parent who lies awake deep into the night, tirelessly fighting in solidarity for the defense, worth, dignity and affirmation of the LGBT child God has blessed them, but the religious deem a disgrace—Jesus, not just the parent, but also too the LGBT child born innocent by the Spirit’s authoring, pursued by the cunning Herods of our world whose sure desire is to seek out and kill them.

There, praying in the garden of Gethsemane, begging for divine reprieve, Jesus is the lesbian teenager, trembling in terror as she cuts her arms and threads the noose, convinced that giving up is the only way out, and the only sure resolve to the pain that is before her.

In the outer courts, confronted by the religious through the evil venom of their creed—backed into a corner, a pointed finger pushing at His chest questioning His true identity, Jesus is the transgender person whose truth is too truthful for the world to hear nor see.

Then, from the confines of Pilate’s Praetorium where flogged beyond recognition, to a savage, religiously-conspired cross where nailed, pierced and left to die of internal suffocation, Jesus is the Orlando night club and every LGBT person ever murdered in body, mind or spirit—crucified to death by religion, ignorance, and hate, and even good people who remain silent and unengaged.

In all these ways, Jesus is surely gay—not just gay, but One of us all for whom religion has demonized, illegitimized, and crucified in hate.

For Jesus didn’t die just for humanity, He died as humanity—all of it. Transgender, black, white, gay, straight, rich, poor, conservative, progressive—the haters, the lovers, the lifted high, the beaten low, the Christians, the Muslims—every type, color, creed, and flavor.

Everywhere there is religious oppression, everywhere there is bigotry, discrimination, or injustice—where there is the branding with labels or the withholding of Grace, Jesus is there in Person and as the person being deprived of that which has been given to them freely and irrevocably from the goodness of His Name.

In this way, if you can’t handle the notion of Jesus being gay then you aren’t fully understanding the essence of Jesus being you.

To be you or to be gay is essentially one in the same—it’s what it means for all of us to simply be human, created in the likeness, image, and favor of our Maker, living in a religious world that seeks to steal, kill, and destroy all that His hands have made, with special sights on that which the religious deem inferior or against the grain.

Run your fingers through the strands of an LGBT soul, then through mine, or that of any other, and soon you will declare the only declaration that can be truthfully rendered—that none are better, only different. For the sooner we see Jesus in and as the people around us, the sooner the lenses of God’s affirming view become the windows through which we see ourselves and all humanity.

If Jesus isn’t gay then Jesus isn’t you, and if Jesus isn’t you, then the incarnation is a fake, and your resurrection a certain uncertainty.

No one chooses to be LGBT, but in Christ Jesus, God has chosen to be—not just One of them, but He even does the unthinkable and dares to be One of you.

Yes, that’s right.

Jesus is gay, Jesus is me, and Jesus is even…

You.

Is Evangelical Christianity The Antichrist?

There is great speculation in regards to the reality and essence of the antichrist. Differing descriptions are given throughout the Bible, many of which have been leveraged by Hollywood-style dramatization. Be it a real person or government— many entities or a singular manifestation, the one thing that holds all viewpoints in common is the clear presence of an anti-Christ spirit that stands against Jesus in action, word, and creed.

For many, the predominant conclusion is that the antichrist is some kind of carnal, sin-dripping, non-believing, God-hating entity from the world that desires to thwart all things Christ, especially when viewed as a singular, eschatological figure. Popular, individual candidates have been Hitler, Obama, Caesar, and Napoleon.

For those Christians who paint with a broader brush, identifying the antichrist is centered on looking for the brightest blip on the radar screen of organizations, ideologies, and cultural realities believed to be wielding the most anti-christian, sin-seductive activity in the world. Homosexuality, ISIS, and liberalism have been frequently declared as primary contenders.

Bottom line, whoever or whatever is determined to be deserving of this diabolical label, the “antichrist” serves as yet another “they” or “them” that fundamentalists can rage against and leverage with fear for the conversion of souls.

It all seems so cut and dry, does it not? Revealing the antichrist is simply a conservative Christian, finger-point away.

Not so fast.

If you asked Jesus to cast a spotlight, revealing a person or people who are best qualified for the antichrist label, He wouldn’t bull’s-eye a demonic candidate from the sinning world, not even a Herod, a Pontius Pilate, or the likes of a Roman Empire— though all certainly anti-Jesus in their own way. Rather, His eyes would gaze straight into the heart of the religious, as they have pierced many times before.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.”  –Matthew 23:15

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness.”  –Matthew 23:17-28

In the same way, I find it interesting when examining the primary biblical descriptions used by conservatives in determining the antichrist, or a spirit thereof.

“Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction”  -2 Thessalonians 2:3

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.”  1 John 4:2-3

On the surface, it would seem these two passages serve as a slam dunk for conservative Christians in the identifying of the antichrist as a worldly, liberal, pantheistic, wayward, sin-loving, Jesus-debunking, progressive-minded entity who dwells outside of their Christian fundamentalism.

However, a deeper look reveals something much different.

First, the “lawless” person described in 2 Thessalonians is widely misunderstood. It’s a reference often used by conservatives as a clear determination that the antichrist is one whose lifestyle is characterized by licentiousness and a blatant disregard for doing what is right and good in the eyes of God. Therefore, the antichrist is easily revealed by their disobedient, sinful, morally rebellious actions. Find a person or reality that is living or advocating choices of sin, and there you have it— easy peasy, lemon squeezy, you’re the next contestant on “The Antichrist is Right.”

However, “lawlessness” can’t be referring to the Law or fulfilling any kind of legalistic, moral standard or spirit thereof through personal performance, as Paul declared, we are “under Grace, not Law.” In fact, it is under this Grace that Jesus flips the tables of religious thinking and ushers in a radical new way of calibrating our life and living, turning our attention fully away from any efforts to appease God (Law) through our faithfulness, to a focus on simply loving people (a life of Grace).

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” John 13:34

The truth is, if there is any kind of “law” in our lives, under Grace, it is solely to love people— completely, thoroughly, and unconditionally. This is to be the singular, exclusive focus and foundation of any impulse or action in our Christian lives.

Being “lawless” isn’t adopting a life of moral rebellion or missing the mark of Christian obedience, but rather, becoming a loveless person. For to be lawless, is to be loveless. Period.

Second, the passage from 1 John 4 focuses on Jesus and His manifestation of God— in other words, the author is appealing for a firm understanding of who Jesus is and what He brings.

For conservatives, this passage, and others like it, are wrapped as clear admonitions that an antichrist label can be firmly affixed to anyone or anything that doesn’t properly repent of their sins, turn to Jesus as their salvation, and sandblast their lives into moral, conservative purity.

This is the very essence of the Evangelical gospel of who Jesus is and what He brings— the world is bad, people are a project, and we have exclusive revelation and rights to the solution. Believe in our Jesus, repent of our list of sins, become discipled in our “sin recovery and management” programs, agree to stand against all the things we stand against as you learn to spiritually police a wayward world, and adopt our elitist lifestyle of “hating the sin and loving the sinner” all while you sing choruses of how “on fire” and “radical” you are for Jesus— hands in the air of course.

Oh, and one more itsy bitsy, wee-little thing. If you don’t subscribe to this playlist, our same people-loving Jesus will drop-kick you into the eternal barbecue pit down under where somehow you will be separated from an omnipresent God to be tortured forever as people in heaven high-five with rousing hymns of “He is Holy and Just.” Not to mention, we will be forced to draw the only conclusion available—since you are anti-us, you are obviously anti-Christ. We love you, we really do… but.

The problem is, that’s not the Gospel. That is not who Jesus is and what He brings.

Jesus is Grace, and Grace is the Gospel. It’s all Grace.

There is only Grace. Period.

This is the divine, cosmic assertion from the megaphone of heaven that rings salvation to the broken and torment to the religious.

Through the cross, it’s all one-and-done. Salvation, for all. Wholeness, holiness, sanctification, righteousness and justification, for all. New creation life, without blemish or condemnation, for all. Grace, love, acceptance, and affirmation, for all.

None are better, only different. Grace, the great equalizer—lifting the condemned, deflating the condemners, writing us all onto the same page and into the same plot— rendering all our performance as irrelevant to the leveraging of God, and ourselves over and above another.

Salvation isn’t something you get, sanctification isn’t something you become, holiness isn’t something you achieve, it’s who you already are and what you already have, because of Jesus.  And faith— your effortless, beautiful awakening to all this, that Jesus has fully furnished and finished on humanity’s behalf.

As you believe it, you feel it, you desire it, and you live it. Grace upon Grace. Breathing for the first time.

There is nothing left to do, only everything to believe— God is love, Jesus is Grace, and His Gospel is peace.

It’s as simple and good as that.

Everything else is just a spiritual veil to an empty life— a vaping of the Law as if it’s the Gospel, inhaling death as if it’s life.

The most anti-Christ thing one can believe is that God is anything but pure love, Jesus is anything but Grace, and our lives should exhibit and manifest anything but unconditional love for all people— no “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.”

The most anti-Christ thing one can do is to look to our efforts, however spiritual they may seem, and believe any of it actually works with God or ourselves— brainwashing people into a life of spiritual striving and a subtle positioning of oneself as better than another, having the capacity and even a calling to judge, change, or condemn.

That, is to believe and do what is pure evil and anti-Christ.

For the message of Grace takes the Law and sin so seriously that it bows down its entirety to the sobering reality that no one can summon the will nor apply enough spiritual “to do’s” to master or manage it. It takes Jesus so seriously, that no bible, denomination, organization or person can perfectly reveal the Father but Him. It takes Grace so seriously, disarmed by the awareness that nothing else works to change or empower. It takes God so seriously, that love is all He is and all He brings, exclusively and completely. It takes the Christian life so seriously, that all we can, and are capable and called to do, is to simply love, as God first loved us, without condition.

It’s Jesus + nothing, or your gospel is nothing but anti-Christ ladened, bad news.

Yet sadly, as much as I love all my Christian brothers and sisters and wish my observations and experience could surmise a different conclusion, I can’t identify a more Jesus-misrepresenting and loveless manifestation on earth outside of Evangelical Christianity— whose blatant hallmarks are a law-mixed, performance-driven gospel, legalism, judgementalism, bigotry, discrimination, condemnation, and spiritual elitism— all in the name of Jesus.

Disgusting.

To be sure, for some, they are unaware of what comes in the Evangelical to-go box from which they consume. For others, they do not subscribe to all the artificial adding and fillings immersed in this brand of faith —doing their best to eat around it. In that way, the term “Evangelical” will always be imperfect in its use. For that, I apologize.

However, if your are looking for the antichrist or its spirit among us, before you go pointing fingers, perhaps a mirror would best do. Somewhere along the way, we have too open our eyes to the heights from which we have fallen.

What is and has been the primary catalyst behind the uprising of rampant prejudice in America and beyond?

What is turning more generations of people away from Christianity and the person of Jesus?

What keeps more people from loving freely without restraint, restriction, condition or apprehension?

What has caused more people in the LGBTQ community to lose hope, spiral into depression, and even hang a noose to take their own lives?

What has marginalized, minimized, and deprived more women of their equal rights, status, gifting, calling and capabilities within the faith community and all of life?

What has enticed and imprisoned more people into a life of sin and hypocrisy through the proclamation of the Law and the mixing of it into the Gospel?

What has personified God more as an angry, vengeful, schizophrenic drunk who storms out of heaven to love you one moment and hate you the next?

What has done more to turn “church” into a club of pretentious people who talk amongst themselves and judge the world?

What has inspired this great nation, from our birth all the way into our present, to justify more acts of violence, hatred, privilege, and greed?

One answer: Evangelical Christianity

Behind every legislation of discrimination, transgender suicide, homophobic rant, sin-enslaved  human, dechurched follower, and disillusioned Christian is the touch of Evangelical Christianity, in part or whole, directly or indirectly. This is the print our steps are making and the legacy we are leaving— a ministry of emotional, spiritual, and physical death pimped as the way, truth, and life.

Oh how we Christians have become experts at not only missing the point and the plot, but missing the very people and creeds contributing most to the sabotaging of all that is truly Jesus and what He brings.

Look no further, it is us, we are the “they”— the fallen from Grace.

Perhaps, of all that would seem to be so easily anti-Christ, we are the most anti-Christ of all— loveless, Graceless, and therefore, Jesus-less— addicted to our self-requiring Gospel and a love filled with conditions, the very attributes that Jesus discerned and declared as most anti-Himself.

Guns, Jesus, and Me

From time to time, I am honored with the request to write about certain subjects. This is one of those instances.

Many of my readers know I am a LGBT affirming pastor and write extensively and boldly on the issue.

Yet, I have found within myself more apprehension to communicate my thoughts on the topic of “guns” than with perhaps any other subject I have written on thus far. The emotional angst and passion of views towards this topic seems uniquely, politically charged, and at times, more toxic, polarized, and widespread than what I have witnessed among the most controversial issues of human sexuality.

Given this climate, I want to be absolutely clear from the start. I am not a progressive, conservative, or liberal in the sense of some simplistic, political label one might try to tag upon me. I am a human being trying to see God, my life, and the world through the lens of Jesus. Loved by the Father, made whole and complete in Christ. Grace upon Grace. That’s who I am.

As did Jesus, I vehemently resist becoming a political pawn used by any side for the demonizing of opposing viewpoints and the people involved. Let it be loudly heard, this writing serves no purpose, political or otherwise, in minimizing the perspectives or personhood of anyone, particularly those who would disagree with my conclusions.

Rather, I write, first and foremost as one, loving and standing with all people, all created in the image of God, seeking the way of Grace for my life. Not that I agree, support or promote every action, belief, or viewpoint of another. Hardly. But that I stand with all, mutual sojourners on this complex journey of life, deeply grateful that God stands with me, right in the midst of all my “me-ness” with pride, acceptance, and steadfast belief in me… fearfully and wonderfully made by His hands. Promising over my every moment, “never will I leave you nor forsake you.”

I will do no less for any other.

So to all my friends with guns and varying viewpoints regarding such, there is no distance, condemnation, nor disbelief in you. Not from me. We are all humans… together. Beloved by the Father of Lights, His Grace being sufficient for all of us. None are better, only different.

With that said…

In my faith, I find Jesus to be the sole window through which I see God, my life, and the world. Everything begins and ends with Jesus. He is the lens through which I must see, understand, and interpret all things.

God is love. Jesus is Grace. This is the sum of all that I believe to be true and life directing.

If I am to believe in Jesus, I must believe in Jesus… all the way.

If I am to believe in Grace, I must believe in Grace… all the way.

Either Jesus presents me with the best way to live, to understand God, and to see the world, or He does not. Either the Kingdom Jesus manifests is the best way to do life or it is not. There is no in between.

I find in Jesus, no model for violence. Not even a loop hole, nor an extenuating circumstance. That Jesus declared, “I do not come to bring peace, but a sword” is not a physical assertion condoning violence, but a spiritual articulation of the power Grace wields to renovate our lives and the world. When Jesus turns over the tables in the temple, this is not an act of violence harming humans. Not a chance. Not even close.

There is no example, blueprint, or receipt to be found that shows Jesus purchased nor promoted for us any tenet for violence in our Christ-following or Kingdom-bringing. None.

Wiggle, squirm, do “the dance” as I may. There is no other example that Jesus gives me other than the way of… non-violence.

In fact, for Jesus, the cross is the weapon of choice against all that evil can bring. Not a gun, but a cross.

There is no greater violence than Jesus experienced. Dying for humanity as humanity. In His death, the height of human violence is displayed and in Him contained. Yet in His death, the greater height of Jesus’ non-violent response is proclaimed. Knowingly, willingly, yielding His life in the midst of those would take it.

From a distance, it seems the way of violence is winning…

Jesus speaking against Peter cutting off a soldier’s ear… fail… the path to the cross continues.

Jesus, flogged to the point of unrecognizable appearance… fail… He’s losing the battle.

Jesus, hands and feet nailed to the cross. His sides pierced, suffocated by his own weight and fluid… fail… He’s dying.

Jesus proclaiming forgiveness over all humanity… fail… His breaths still stop breathing.

Jesus, do something, get down from there, defend yourself, open up a can, let ’em have it. You’re losing.

At the cross, it seems that the way of violence wins, overpowers, and claims victory.

But with further review, all the violence in the universe could not overcome the nonviolent power of Jesus Christ.

In His death and resurrection, all of life is made whole. Death is stripped of its sting. The power of sin obliterated. The way of surrender, the way of a servant, the way of Grace forever lifted. A path, a walk, a Name above all names. The banners of peace and non-violence are revealed as forever superior, rising far above all other anthems.

As a recipient of the sum of all human violence, Jesus chose the way of non-violence, the cross, destroying the power of evil within the black hole of Grace. The way of violence is exposed as the loser, swallowed up in love, and powerless to solve anything.

The final scoreboard at cross.  Violence-0  Nonviolence-1.

Grace wins. Love prevails.

In fact, one Bible writer, inspired by this revelation, declared the cross to be the power of God for salvation. ( 1 Cor. 1:18)

“Salvation” (Sozo in Greek) literally means “wholeness” with God, self, and the world. All together known as “peace.” The cross, wrapped in the Gospel, is the power of God to bring all dimensions of peace out of and into a physically, emotionally, and spiritually violent world.

Nonviolence and the Gospel are inseparable. If you remove non-violence from the cross, there is no Jesus on the cross. If you remove the cross, there is no Gospel.

To echo this example forever into our living, Jesus did not say, “take up your guns and follow me.” He said, “take up your cross…”

Sounding into the depths of the human experience, the megaphone of Jesus’ death declares, “don’t bring a gun to a cross fight.”

And here’s the kicker, every battle is a cross fight. The thief in the night, the terrorist on the streets, the gossip in the office. Cross fight, cross fight, cross fight. Grace, forgiveness, non-violence, surrender, even suffering… weapons of divine reckoning. The power of God unto peace and the destruction of all that is evil.

Perhaps, in the laying down of our guns and the choosing of a non-violent way, right in the very face of it, we discover an ultimate sacrifice of praise. To lay down all that is a weapon, to stand in defiance of violence. To boldly say, “In Jesus, is truly the way. I believe it all the way. Even to my own cross.” This is the most powerful force in the universe, disarming evil completely and rendering its systems, religions, and ideologies as powerless in the end.

Until then, the cycle continues.

For violence has never brought peace, just the illusion of it. It may subdue it for a moment, but evil always grows back. And that, increasingly.

How all of this translates into every aspect of our world and living, I am not fully sure. What this means for us as a nation, as a society, I am not fully sure. It is for freedom Christ set us free.

But the question isn’t just, “could we?” but “should we?” Even deeper than that, “Did He?” and “Would He?”

All for which I am certain, is only what this means for me.

In the laying down of my guns, and even my life, I find true life… as Jesus taught I would.

Just imagine, a world unwilling to be provoked by violence into violence.

A world, defiantly determined to never become the evil done against it.

A world, that sees in Jesus, the only way to overpower evil; in all our ways, nonviolence.

Even to the point of our own cross, boldly displaying. Shining light into the darkness.

The enemy, bowing down in awe, disarmed at the soul, confronted with the end of their influence.

All, on earth, as it is in heaven.

Grace wins.

Grace wins.

Thank God almighty.

Grace wins.

Standing With The People You Can’t Stand

The root essence of every person that was, is, or will ever be… is goodness.

In the creation poem that opens its scroll at the front of the Christian Bible, God speaks the world into being. With hands coursing His artistic beard, He pauses between breathes to evaluate His living imagery. In rhythmic cadence, with each step He declares, “it is good.”

I love that God creates creation good, not perfect. It can go here, it can go there. Loaded with life force, the cosmic tapestry awaiting humanity’s weaving. Not without the capacity for hands to sew devilish patterns out of divine art. It’s good, remember, not perfect.

The Tempter in serpent form, exploited the Garden of its goodness. Playing his sole card of condemnation, the first human ones bit the bluff. Convinced they lacked in some way, unworthy of the worthiness etched into their being. What was natural became naked, and the yarns of shame and guilt slithered their coil through the threads of inherent goodness. It is a complex weave. And we, are a complex people in the arduous journey of trying to unravel from condemnation’s relentless entanglement.

This is the story of every human being, bobbing and weaving, wrestling to come out from under condemnation believed. It is the root of all sin. The catalyst of all that is religious. The genesis of all contortions, twisted personas, and justifications. Compelling us into the dance to heal or conceal a shamed heart. All of us have a life that tells a unique, complicated story and reveals a personal shaping from our quest to be released from the lie we swallow as truth… condemnation. Adopted perspectives, twitches, scars, blind spots, aversions and conclusions along the way. However beautiful or deplorable the verses we write, the views we take, the paths we travel. From this, the many layers and branches of our complexities are sprouted. Beliefs, attitudes, actions. The whole nest.

We are, complex people.

Yet, thousands of years later, chapters into humanity’s stumble-filled stewarding of life. A biblical writer Paul to a younger man Timothy, re-articulates the Spirit. Seeing underneath humanity’s blunder of intricate cuts, knots, and lose ends fabricated to mend the wounds of a soul believed to be shamed. God still deems our essence as… good. Always has been, always will be… good. After all the religious patches and patchwork, it is still… all good.

Sin was never who we are, it’s always been the fruit of a heart believed to be forever rooted in unworthiness and its garments of guilt and shame. Condemnation’s great deception, that we are lacking life, not loaded with it. Bad seed, not good.

No matter the different complexities, for good or evil, this Serpent-shame has wrought, the root essence of every person that was, is, or will ever be… is goodness.

Until Grace.

Grace, the only cure for a condemned heart.

Grace, the true catalyst for all this is right.

Grace, the maker of our new-creation identities.

Grace, the final triumph, resurrecting us beyond goodness.

Completely whole, in-condemnable in Him. At the cross, one and done. All finished, for all. Grace upon Grace!

This is not my evaluation, it is in fact the Christ’s re-creation. It is His mark, it is His stamp, it is His declaration. No matter how reckless, evil, eschew, or vile our wrestle from condemnation’s pursuit becomes us. All is still… good. Not just good… but now whole, pure, blemish free. Fully human, fully holy.

This is our mutual humanity. No one excluded.

This is our human story. All included.

The Finisher calls out, “All is Grace, and all are whole in Me.”

Even in full awareness and rest in this Jesus-proclamation. Realizing there is no longer any hold from which to wrestle out. The Tempter still tempts, to crawl back under Law, to bite the old bluff, to weave a curtain already removed, to escape from that which one is are already free. Ancient and modern messages, all to sew condemnation’s bitter seed anew.

This, we must remember.

It’s not where our humanity meets another human that sparks fly, it’s where our complexities collide. You say “Tomato” I say “Tamato.” You road is traveling here, my road is traveling there. Your understanding says this, my understanding doesn’t say that. Your coping looks likes this, my run from coping looks like that. Behind every person’s eyes is a story, that if they told you, would break your heart. We are all just trying, our best. To come out, stay out, from under… condemnation.

We are all human, and complex in being so.

Where that complexity needs Grace who can always be for sure, all we know is Grace is sufficient for all our complexities. In the tapestry we spin, we all need Grace.

No more, “Hate the sin, love the sinner.” We love others, as them, not just towards them.

This, we must remember.

Pushing out from condemnation’s relentless entanglement. Standing watch from being dragged back into the web of lies from which Truth has set us free. This is a shared story, from which we all read and must read others.

That Jesus died for all, we must stand with all… in all our complexities.

Not that I agree with all in mind, action, or spirit. But agreeing with Jesus. His evaluation of all is sufficient for my all.

I may not be able to stand you at times, but I am going stand with you for all time, as a fellow human being, in all of our complexity, God-imaged by our Creator, and included in Jesus and His finished work. Eternally loved, valued, and embraced in Christ. Free to be, who we are… human. In all our complexity.

Cutting through, with the sword of Grace that our differences might give way to our common goodness; not just goodness, but wholeness. That my insecurities may no longer eclipse my view of your God-imaged essence. That my ignorance of your story might give way to my standing under it, and even with it.

I may not be able, at times, to stand your theology, behaviors, attitudes, decisions, even telling you so, the same. But I will stand with you, nonetheless, even if you should walk away.

That I agree with your story, is not a requirement. That you have a story, is reason enough.

This is the Jesus call, for all of us… standing with people, particular the ones, we can’t stand.

Grace wins, yet again.

Should Christians be Hungry?

We have all probably heard and even expressed the following…

“I just need to get more Jesus in my life”

“God, make me hungry for you!”

“Your problem is, you just need to get more hungry for Jesus.”

In fact, much of our modern Christian worship is guided by lyrics that assume that as Christians, we live from a foundation of lack and distance from God that needs to be supplied and remedied by our ardent desires, cries, and petitions for more of Him.

As well-intentioned as these phrases, lyrics and sentiments are, they are actually misguided and unhealthy. The truth is, Christians who feel they are “hungry for more Jesus” in their life are actually speaking from a place of misunderstanding.

Hunger for the Christian isn’t healthy. It’s not a sign of a deeping or developing faith, but rather of a misguided or decreasing trust.

Look at what Jesus said about hunger and thirst…

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.’” -John 6:35

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” -Matthew 5:6

The result of belief in Christ is not a remaining or continuing in hunger, rather it’s “never thirst,” “never hunger,” and “shall be filled.”

For the non-Christian, hunger is a blessed, good thing. It’s a sign of humbleness and desire. But for the Christian, it can be a sign of spiritual pride or a sure sign that there is a misunderstanding of who one is and what we have in Christ.

As a believer, we have “every spiritual blessing.” The fullness of Jesus lives in us. We have the mind of Christ. We are “partakers of the divine nature.” We are His righteousness. “As He is, so are we in this world.”  Is Jesus living now hungry for more of Himself? If not, than why are we? As Christians, we are “as He is in this world.”

On the cross, Jesus has not only satisfied every need in our lives, He has given to us everything needed to supply for them. We are in fact, a new creation. Jesus recreated our entire being, not with remaining areas of lack, but with everything we need to reign in life. As Jesus promised, Christians are “filled.” It is in believing what Jesus promised and delivered that we are awakened to these realities, not the idea that if we pursue God He will give us the “more” of Him that He is believed to be withholding.

So, why do some hunger or believe that hunger is a good and Godly thing? Because either they don’t realize and therefore believe that God has already supplied what they believe they need to pursue from God. Or, they are turning to their flesh (efforts, striving, and trying) to seemingly receive more of God. And no matter how spiritual their doing so may appear, they are turning to their efforts (flesh) to get from God what He has already thoroughly provided, perhaps even taking pride in their “hunger” or the sense that they are able to seemingly perform their way to God or tip the generosity of God further in their direction through their passion.

The truth is, and I don’t mean to burst any spiritual bubbles, for the believer, you can’t get any more Jesus or His presence than you already have. You can’t get any closer than He already is. You can’t be any more “blessed” “loved” or “favored”  than you already are.  No matter how “hard” you pray, how long you worship, or how desperately you cry out.

When we believe, we enjoy, walk in, and share the blessings we already have. When we turn to the flesh, we try, strive, and perform all kinds of spiritual gymnastics to ignorantly or pridefully try to get or earn from God what He has already graciously and completely supplied, not realizing nor living in what we already have. The very thing we are pursuing is the very thing we miss, because we don’t realize or are satisfied with the reality that we alreay have it.

Being hungry for God is only good for the believer as far as much as it points out areas where we are not believing or trusting that Jesus has already given us all things, and that His supply, His Grace is sufficient for us.

The cross is not just the place where Jesus did something for you in making it possible to get our of hell into heaven, but He also did something to you. He made you into a new creation that has the fullness of Jesus living in you and as you. You are the righteousness of Christ, Holy, and sanctified completely. You lack NO spiritual blessing. You are not just a child of the living God, but a king and priests.

You are not a person living in or from lack, hunger, or thirst. But a person living in and from fullness.

The Bible teaches we “grow in Grace,” not by pursuing things God has already graced us with. If the Christian life is anything, it is not a process of becoming something you a not by getting “more” of God. But a process of becoming who you already are in Him by believing the “more” you already are and have in Him.

Believe it, receive it, and live it today!

Respect Yourself

I believe it’s true that self-respect attracts the respect of others. It creates a presence that influences others and grants you an assurance and perspective of self that greatly determines our attitudes and actions for the better.

To be sure, God wants you to respect yourself. After all, He created you and died for you.

But most of us are smart enough to realize we have areas in our lives where we just don’t measure up. We have all failed and make mistakes on a constant basis. When we look in the mirror, we see gaps between who we want to be and who we actually are.

On top of that, we have been sent negative messages by people around us highlighting flaws we already have and branding us with flaws we don’t even have. So, the chances of not respecting ourselves the way God would have us to, are strong. There seems to be enough reasons why we shouldn’t.

Perhaps that’s the reason why we give safe harbor to the disrespect of others and make choices from an internal foundation of a disrespect of self. Think about it, how many times have you made choices that you knew deep down weren’t good for you, but you did it anyways? How many times has the voice in your head simply echoed the criticism from others with little to no discernment and pause?

The super good news is, God can make you disrespect-proof; from yourself and even from others.

The Bible teaches, when you put your faith in what Christ has done for you on the cross, you become a new creation. The word for “creation” in the original language of this passage actually means, “species.” In essence, you have become a completely new person.

Among so many others things, the Bible says this new person you have become is completely sanctified, holy, and righteous. In fact, it says that there is no condemnation over your life whatsoever, and every sin (past, present, and future) has all been forgiven. Your identity has become no less than Christ’s Himself. The Bible says, “As He is (in heaven seated at the right hand of God) so are we in this world.” Everything is under our feet. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing, lacking nothing of God in our lives. And let me add this little gem… it’s not even your nature any longer to sin. That old nature was put to death with Jesus, now you have a new nature. Do we still have miscues in our life? Yes, but those do not change who we are and are identity. We are now defined by Christ’s performance, not our own. This, and much more, are the kind of things God did TO you on the cross. In short, the moment you believe, He lives in you and as you in this world.

This means, in truth and reality, there is no room nor reason for any level of self-disrespect in your life. To think any less of your value, worth, and being is an offense to what Jesus did TO you on the cross in making you a new creation. You are a son (or daughter) of the King and an heir, priest, and king in the Kingdom. Yes, you, right now, through faith in Him.

Your self-respect is based on the new self you have become, a new creation, Christ living in you. It’s not based on what you do (or have done), but on what Christ has done TO you. Should we act in disrepectable ways? Of course not! That’s a no brainer. Should we complain when other people think less of us when we act stupidly? Of course not, another no brainer! But in Christ, what we do does not define who we are. In fact, the more you believe and respect who you are in Christ, the more you will act in respectable ways. Right believing leads to right living. A person with an obedience problem first has an identity problem.

So, stop disrespecting yourself! It breaks God heart and keeps you from living the life He has for you. Our actions always follow our beliefs. The less you believe in who you truly are, the less you will live the life God gave you to live. Faith is the key! Believe it, receive it, and live it.

When you become a new creation in Christ, Jesus gives you an identity you can truly respect. You don’t have to fake it, and you don’t have to take it, anymore!

Here’s some practical things respecting yourself will mean…

1-respecting yourself means silencing the voice in your head that echoes the opinions and feelings people have about you.

Being careful and discerning with what people say and feel about you before taking them to heart is a sign of healthy self-respect.

Believe you are a son (or daughter) of the living God!

2-respecting yourself means learning to love chronically hurtful people from a distance.

Setting healthy boundaries that protect what God has and continues to do in and through is a sign of healthy self-respect. Sometimes this will meaning loving certain people from a distance.

Believe you are holy, complete, and sanctified in Christ!

3-respecting yourself means never allowing the lack of character in another to become the lack of character in you.

Staying true to the greatness and goodness you are in Him is a sign of healthy self-respect.

Believe you are the righteousness of Christ, a king and priest in the Kingdom, a partaker of the divine nature!

4-respecting yourself means refusing to carry the burden of trying to keep people interested in your life.

Being secure in yourself no matter how many value, take interest, affirm, and join you in life is a sign of healthy self-respect.

Believe you are the joy for which Jesus came and endured the cross!

What would you add to this list?

What We Love About Christmas

Hate me forever, label me a heretic, or just defriend me, but I just don’t think Jesus is as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture. Behind some of the things we do that are deemed so off-message are in fact some deep, sacred longings placed in our hearts by God Himself. Seems like we are so far from what Christmas is about when in fact, we might be closer than we ever believed.

“God has set eternity in the hearts if men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Isn’t that what the lights, candles and glitzy decorations are all about? We long for a celestial, cozy, dreamy world where our senses are dazzled with snowy peace, bright purity, and the visually fantastic. Maybe we don’t flesh it out all perfectly and theologically, but deep down, we want what God has prepared for us… heaven; this world renewed and reconciled back to God. Heaven, the world of the fantastic, pure, celestial, and a dreamy eternity. We want a world where the baseline stories (many secular) of Christmas live; good wins over evil, our priorities are placed in the right order, families heal and last forever, life is everlasting, and things are restored to how they should be. That’s Rudolph, Santa, Frosty, the Grinch, Elf, and the list goes on and on. Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we first believed.

Or what about the packages, the ribbons, and the bows. Is it really all that bad? God did create us to be blessed, emotionally, physically, spiritually, and yes, materialistically. Sure, some of us rush ahead to take it for ourselves; that’s not good nor Godly. But, the sense and longing to have blessed lives where we were created to receive (from the Lord) with abundance is still under the surface, it’s their deep in our hearts. God put it there. It’s heaven isn’t it? Where everyone has what they need and are blessed by the Lord to beyond satisfaction, never hungry nor thirsty again. Our inheritance from the Lord, fully given by Him and fully received by us, with wealth beyond measure. And then, the giving. We have this deep sense that we are created to be blessed to be a blessing. We all want to give, to have something worth giving. Maybe we try to purchase this experience from malls, shopping centers, and online sprees, but we just want to love and be loved, God put that in our heart. That’s heaven isn’t? Where we love and are loved without restraint or limit. Where we have everything to receive and to give. That’s Christmas. That’s Jesus. That’s heaven.

Isn’t all of this what we love about Christmas. It’s magical like that.

We call it magical because that’s the best word we can find, it’s the closest word we can think of as we get a touch of the eternity God wrote in our hearts.

But, God knows the perfect and complete words. God calls it Jesus… Heaven… Christmas. Truth is, it’s better than magical… it’s all real, in heaven, in Him.

Maybe as far away as it might seem, we are actually closer than we believe? Maybe Jesus isn’t as mad as some people hope He is about how we celebrate Christmas in our culture.

Why You Should Reconsider Jesus

For the skeptical, spiritually tired, and turned off.  For the hurt, disillusioned, and fed up.  For those who can’t seem to embrace Jesus past their negative experiences or views of “Christians” or “church.” Perhaps, you should reconsider Jesus, and here’s  7 reasons why…

Jesus isn’t a political party-  Despite what some have done in evangelical Christian circles to make Jesus a member of their political party, Jesus doesn’t have a political affiliation. He is separate, above, and beyond politics. Yes, Christians have political views and get involved politically. No fault there. But, any moral standards derived from Jesus are just that, from Jesus. Jesus has great relevance to politics, but exist outside of politics. As political parties claim to be more “Christian” in values and standards than others, it is important to let Jesus stand by Himself, outside of any one political affiliation.  Loving and embracing Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean loving and embracing a certain political party. One does not require the other.

Jesus isn’t a club with a membership-  At times, I think we Christians, with our churches, have done more to turn people off to Jesus than perhaps anything or anyone else. Jesus created, loves, and died for His Church. Jesus is totally into Church. But, much of what some have made church into, Jesus is not into at all! We have done a great job at majoring in the minors and minoring in the majors.  We give more concern to people who have their Christmas decorations out before Thanksgiving (and what kind of decorations they are) than we do to caring for orphans, the needy, and a host of other things that really matter.

We can’t separate Jesus from Church, but we must separate Jesus from what some have made church into. In fact, I would go so far as to say, Jesus has already separated himself from more than a few churches of today, the people there just don’t realize it.

Loving and embracing Jesus doesn’t mean you have to love and embrace every church or all the things we see happening within our Christian culture.  There are many healthy churches out there that are true to the Gospel, and Jesus wants to bless us with a healthy church experience, but there is much within churches today and our Christian culture that Jesus has distanced Himself from and so should we. Loving Jesus doesn’t require loving “club-church.”

Jesus wants to be with you- Jesus loves you, unconditionally. He is not angry with you, eagerly waiting to push you under His thumb. Jesus loves you and likes you. No, not everything we do, but so much of what we are.  Jesus wants to associate Himself with you; living with, in, and as you.  This is the essence of His affection for you. Jesus is well pleased with you and believes in you. He looks well passed what we have or have not done all the way into the heart of His creative hand and imaging of our lives.  No failure, inadequacy, or rebellion is past the gaze of His gleaming eyes of Grace and hope upon your life. Loving Jesus doesn’t mean being called out and shamed to the point up repentance and becoming the kind of person who religiously judges others. It is God’s kindness and goodness that leads people to changing their mind about Him and how to live, not punishment. Jesus loves you and is proud to call you His divine creation.

Jesus loves better than they do- No one is perfect but Jesus, no one loves perfectly but Jesus. Christians aren’t perfect. What we try to portray as being loving often falls short. In fact, in some circles, Christians aren’t loving at all. We have been known to shoot our own wounded, carelessly judge the world, and turn our noses up at people who we deem to be not as spiritual and pure as we are.

Jesus’ brand of love is deeper, wider, and greater than any Christian could consistently manifest. Yes, God loves the world through people, any over and over, God uses people to express and manifest His love to the world, often doing amazing things and having a huge impact. However, we all fall short of loving like Jesus loves us and others. We fail people, Jesus’ love never fails. We fail in loving people, Jesus will never fail in loving you. Loving and embracing Jesus doesn’t mean becoming the kind of unloving person we see some Christians display, nor does it mean that when Christians fail us or the world, that Jesus has failed, lacks integrity, or trustability. Let people love and bless you, but trust Jesus more, and feed on His supply of love the most. Then you will never hunger nor thirst again! Don’t judge Jesus by His followers, but by His Grace and love upon them, it’s the same love and Grace that is upon you.

Jesus is inside out- Despite what some Christians have made of the Christian life, Jesus is most concerned about what’s on the inside, not what’s on the outside.  It’s your faith that is most important to Him, not your performance and spiritual gymnastics.  Jesus works on the inside of a person, recreating them from the mind and heart outwards. Jesus is not into behavior modification, He is into life transformation.

Loving Jesus doesn’t mean trying and striving to live up to standards and steps of religious performance and behaviors that you know you can never perfectly master all the time. It is not a life of do’s and don’ts to manage, it’s a life of faith; learning to believe and trust the right things. It’s a life of your behaviors catching up with your identity in Christ, not your identity in Christ being caught up in your behaviors.

Loving and embracing Jesus doesn’t mean getting on a treadmill of spiritual performance exercises and tests. It’s not about striving and trying to progress spiritually as you compare and contrast your life to other Christians, rather, it’s about living from God’s success in completely recreating you through His finished work on the cross, actualized in your  life the moment you believe. The Christian life is not about who you are becoming, it’s about who you have already become through His work on your behalf on the cross, received by faith alone.

Jesus is always on point- Jesus not only has truth, He is Truth. There is nothing false or faulty in Him. Debate nuances of the Bible as you will, but debating Jesus and His wisdom will leave you humbled at the very least, every time.  He is the best picture God ever took of Himself. He is God. The Messiah. The One and only who saves men from themselves.What He says works, period.  It’s always on time and on target. He is who He said He was, and what He says accomplishes what He says it will do. He is the source of all true wisdom, and His counsel in always on point. There is no One greater, nor any source of wisdom that is greater.  He is time tested, scientifically undebunkable, historically documented, and faith proven.

Loving and embracing Jesus doesn’t mean you have to leave your brain at home, nor does it mean His is finite enough for our minds and understanding to ever fully comprehend. Jesus shows us enough to enable us to have faith, and withholds enough to make sure it is by faith that we receive, know, and walk with Him. We can see and receive some of the things of God through intellect, we see and receive the everything of God only through faith. Search the world over, everything you need is already in and from Him. Believe and receive.

Jesus is better than you think- Jesus is better than life, He is life. Jesus is better than love, He is love. Jesus is better than the church down the street. He is better than the Christian in the cubicle next to you. Jesus is more forgiving, more sacrificing, more merciful, more generous, more powerful, more real, more understanding, more trustable, and more gracious than you ever imagined.  He is more capable and willing, more freeing and fulfilling. Taste and see (by faith) that the Lord is good, and your expectations will be exceeded. Hunger and thirst no more.

Reconsider. Let Him stand alone on His own nature and merits, and see how you have and never will stand alone. He is with you now.

Taste and see. Believe and receive.

 

 

 

 

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