Tag: evil

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.

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.

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.

Why Conservative Evangelical Christianity Is The Worst Evil Ever Manifested Upon The Earth

By far, the worst form of evil ever manifested upon the earth is conservative, Evangelical Christianity—for there is nothing more diabolical and destructive than to position and assert oneself as having and presenting the exclusive cure for humanity’s deepest, darkest, and most troublesome and consequential realities while at the same time, being the very poison that like no other, perpetuates, enflames, and imprisons all humanity to the very diseases it claims to heal. Conservative, Evangelical Christianity is the cosmic lie that must be called out of the shadows of deception. It is a spiritual veil to an empty life. It is the cancer claiming to be the cure, addicting all its adherents to a hope that is no hope at all. The anti-Christ, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, the devil draped in holy garments disguised as an angel of light–these are none other then conservative, Evangelical Christianity at its core.

At the heart of all conservative, Evangelical Christianity is the sum of Satan’s biggest ploy, a mixed Gospel that is in truth, no Gospel at all—an imposturous trick of grandiose proportions that pimps a “good news” proclamation deemed to be straight from the throne of God that is in reality only partially good news, if good news at all. God loves you, BUT. He saves you, BUT. He blesses you, BUT—you must repent, make a faith choice, and love Him back in all the right ways, or else. This is the essence of a mixed Gospel, always containing some level of human performance for its existence and effectiveness in one’s life. God does His part, but you need to do yours—until then, a divine connection is hit or miss at best, and nothing of God reaches beyond this divide until you appropriately reach back.

This is bad news—terrible news. God and His dealings with all humanity are deemed as contractual and conditional at the core, requiring some level of human responsibility for their establishment, continuation, and validity. God is the necessary giver, but humanity is the necessary receiver. Jesus knocks, but we must answer. We pray, God moves. We tithe, God blesses. All is a divine equation where God makes His offers and humanity is solicited to respond accordingly in ways that complete, uphold, access, and maximize what is in reality, a conditional relationship to the Creator. Ultimately, God’s love, power, blessings, and desires are only as effectual as our human capacity to respond correctly.

This is a sure, diabolical death sentence no one can withstand disguised as our only way of emancipation and life, for who among us, with all our human limits of mind, heart, and spirit could ever truly respond adequately in one moment let alone a thousand, successfully tripping all the necessary God-switches. To believe one can even take a step toward doing so is to already be seduced by Satan’s greatest scheme—a humanly codependent Gospel, which is no Gospel at all.

In fact, it this false Gospel that erodes beautiful humans into mere spiritual junkies addicted to the sound of their own faith and faithfulness, leaving them with a shivering, psychotic, bipolar spirituality convinced that hinging upon their faith performance is both their greatest potential hope and their greatest potential demise. If I believe, do, feel, and think correctly, then all is well—Jesus is on the throne, life is good, I’m forgiven and acceptable, blessings abound, and heaven is a certainty. But, if my faith flounders, my actions wander, my feelings waver, or my thoughts collide, then all is not well—Jesus Himself is now justly unsettled towards me and in some way or another there will surely be a cost to pay in goodness, blessings, favor, and perhaps even the eternal trajectory of my life.

So, in panic and desperation, we turn to the latest “Christian” book, or empowering “Christian” conference, or candle-lit liturgy, or emotional worship chorus, or ritual, or sacrament, or spiritual formula, or good deed, or ministry accomplishment, or breakthrough-promising “to do” list, searching for a fresh syringe from which to inject a hope that is no hope at all into the restless veins of our empty, strung out soul curled in the fetal position grasping for life, hoping that today will finally be the day we “get right” and “get it right” and therefore overcome. But sadly, as Satan’s lips grin from ear to ear and his nails course through his wiry beard, that day never comes and never will.

If the good news of Jesus requires anything from us, anything at all, it is in fact the worst news of all. 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. Thus, this mixed, humanly-codependent Gospel we believe turns the key towards freedom from all that shackles us, reveals itself to be the very evil that keeps us imprisoned. Behind every person with a sin problem is first a person, not with a behavior problem, but rather with a condemnation problem in heart, believing themselves to be condemned in some way.  A person with a condemnation problem is first a person, not with an obedience or faith problem, but one who has been tragically kept from the one and only cure—pure Grace, the true Gospel. Only pure Grace heals and empowers, any other mixture of any kind only serves to entice, enflame, and imprison every negative aspect of our lives. Therefore, what is pimped as Christian living is in fact, Christian suffering—humans reduced to spiritual zombies given just enough of a Grace-mixture to sustain a pulse, but never the purity of Grace that brings true freedom, healing, and life. This is spiritual terrorism, a sure kind of hell where nothing ever truly gets better, and conservative, Evangelical Christianity its prince. The very moral decay conservative, Evangelical Christianity licks its lips at ridding from planet earth is the very moral decay it creates, perpetuates, and entices with a mixed Gospel that is impotent to solve anything and virtually omnipotent in poisoning everything.

For where you have a mixed Gospel, there you will have some level of human performance required. Where you have some level of human performance required, there you will have the sure presence of self-righteousness. Where you have the sure presence of self-righteousness, there you will have the perceived spiritual justification for the condemnation, labeling, and judgement of others. Where you have a perceived spiritual justification for the condemnation, labeling, and judgement of others, there you will find every kind of hellish manifestation on earth—racism, sexism, discrimination, hatred, violence, murder, war, homophobia, bigotry, nationalism, elitism, misogyny, legalism, hypocrisy, self-righteousness, division, condemnation, and all the like.

Just ask the forty percent of transgender people who commit suicide each year and the countless others that can’t pee in a public restroom with simple human dignity. Just ask the LGBTQ community who live every waking moment of their lives in fear, discrimination, marginalization, and condemnation sentenced to walk on this planet depressed, shamed, shunned, abused, and even murdered. Just ask the thousands of good, Jesus-loving people who have been put out from their church communities—spiritually oppressed, abused, and terrorized, many to the point of giving up on Christianity all together, if not taking their own lives first as the deep scars of religious shame seem impossible to heal. Just ask the millions of people in cities and nations across the world who have been killed, their communities obliterated, and their cultures and faiths demonized by our nation that has turned the cause of Christ into a militant empire that spiritually justifies war and violence for its existence and furthering. Just ask the 6 million people exterminated in the Holocaust, a cosmic atrocity led by a man named Adolf Hitler who claimed, “My feelings as a Christian point me to see my Lord and Savior as a fighter,” and “the true message of Christianity is only to be found in Nazism,” and “I can imagine Christ as nothing other than blond and with blue eyes…” Just ask millions of black slaves from history and millions of others within our modern black communities today who, by the color of their skin, are predisposed as being inferior, guilty, suspect, lazy, and irresponsible and thus deserving of abuse, exploitation, discrimination, and even death.  All this and tragically more, manifested at the feet and influence of primarily a conservative, Evangelical Christian mindset rooted in a false, mixed Gospel that is no Gospel at all, where many of its adherents have become experts at weaponizing the Bible, spiritually justifying hate, condemning those who think, believe, and act differently, furthering a conservative Christian empire at all costs, and outright sucking the life out of living.

When one connects the dots from source to symptoms, the evil and its roots are undeniable.

Beyond the realm of Christianity, if and where humanity is inherently hateful, carnal, and self-seeking on its own, conservative, Evangelical Christianity only serves to enflame all that is bad into the worst by giving it a spiritual justification that transforms evil into being more evil than evil itself. For Satan has found no greater incubator than conservative, Evangelical Christianity through which to cloak his most diabolical and destructive manifestation ever wielded upon the earth—the spiritual justification of evil birthed from a false, mixed Gospel that is no Gospel at all.

To be sure, this is the Antichrist agenda in full bloom. For if conservative Christianity truly believed in the pure Gospel of Grace and its complete sufficiency, then the Christian life wouldn’t be a test, but a rest—all humanity would be seen as equal, worship would be un-programmable, church would be uncontainable, condemnation would be impossible, differences would be inconsequential, people un-judgeable, skin colors and orientations un-shameable, washing the feet of all others would be fundamental, and love, particularly of one’s enemies, would be unconditionally unconditional. All would be Grace. Church, an open table. Life, a freedom to fully love others and fully be oneself.

For the truly good news of the pure Gospel of Grace through Jesus Christ is this… God is love, Jesus is Grace, and you have been made whole, complete, and irrevocably connected to the Creator—solely based on and by Him who is Love, and nothing based on you or by you who are simply the beloved. God’s greatest desire and the cause of Jesus Christ is to awaken the world to that which has already been settled—He is love, you are the beloved, period. You are blameless, pure, holy, righteous, and fully free, and quite frankly there is nothing you can do about it because Jesus did everything about it. The cross is truly, one and done.

This is life abundantly, this is God completely, this is His heart though His son, irrevocably.

That’s why one writer, seeing the drastic differences and the demonic deception and consequences of a mixed Gospel manifested among people, wrote this…

I am shocked that you are turning away so soon from God, who called you to himself through the loving grace of Christ. You are following a different way that pretends to be the Good News but is not the Good News at all. You are being fooled by those who deliberately twist the truth concerning Christ. Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you. I say again what we have said before: If anyone preaches any other Good News than the one you welcomed, let that person be cursed.” –Galatians 1:6-9

Notice, Paul clearly recognized that God does not call nor come to humanity with a message of condemnation, shame, guilt, fear, spiritual performance, conditions, “to do” steps, behavior modification, or sin management, but rather with one word, one message alone… Grace.

If it’s not all Grace, it’s not all Gospel.

If it’s not all Gospel, it’s pure evil—an evil that should be cursed, no matter how controversial or unpopular it is to do so, even unto death on a cross.

Hate me, criticize me, fart in my general direction—I will not stop sounding the alarm.

Never, no way, no how.

All is Grace.

Grace is brave, be brave.

Competitive Christian Blogging Sucks

Over the course of many years in Christian ministry, I have discovered there is a thick, competitive spirit in virtually every aspect of it. Our consumer-driven, Americanized Christian culture has been a primary fuel that has led many in ministry to utilize the cause of Christ for personal gain and ministry empire building—at times, myself included. Sadly, the fame-seeking sentiment communicated by Bob Wallace in the iconic movie White Christmas is highly relevant in describing much of the modern scene that is Christian ministry, “everyone is working an angle.”

The competitive currents circling within the oceans of Christian ministry can be so strong at times, it’s hard not to get pulled into its spin unaware. Soon, your entire sense of worth, success, and value as a person, Christian, and minister subtly becomes connected to the numbers—baptisms, budgets, book deals, attendance charts, speaking engagements and the like—been there, done that, have the t-shirt.

Less than a year ago, I began to write seriously as a blogger, focusing on communicating a voice of advocacy for those disillusioned and harmed by conservative Christianity—namely the de-churched, spiritually marginalized, religiously condemned, and LGBT communities. Somehow, in stepping back into the world of Christian ministry in a fresh way, I believed things would be different. Perhaps within these circles, the nobility, urgency, and plight of these causes would leave little to no room for the onset of a competitive spirit among those who seek to be a light in the darkness.

Yet, after I reached out to a few highly prominent, progressive bloggers for their wisdom and guidance, sadly, most of what I heard was centered around gaining followers, watching how many hits your website gets, and how to package your writing for greatest appeal while harnessing your personal branding. One of the top challenges asserted… how to transform subscribers into financial contributors. I have to admit, at first, I got a bit caught up in the allure of it all. My writing was gaining a good bit of attention and once again, the apple of “ministry success” was dangling all so deliciously in front of me.

That is, until the cold splash of water. A highly beloved, popular, Christian blogger clearly, intentionally, and knowingly criticized and sought to undermine me in front of my audience. The ego and purposefulness of their actions was so obvious that others reached out to me in shock. It was then that I realized, we’re not in Kansas anymore. The wild wild West of Christian ministry had indeed pushed up a stool within the saloon of my new blogging venture, revealing to me a clear problem that not only exists, but that I too could potentially become.

To be sure, I am certainly now fully aware of my gross naiveté, but back then, I truly never thought that within the arena of Christian blogging, especially among progressive circles, there would be personalities and ministries more territorial and exclusive than the Mafia in Vegas.

I find it interesting that in the New Testament, the word translated as “evil” has a deeper meaning. The Greek word “poneros” actually means, “full of labors.” When the Biblical writer asserts, “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God,” the evil that is being referred to points to one who is not stereotypically carnal, denying, or doubting, but rather one who is full of labors—a person who is seeking to make a name for themselves, who embodies a kind of internal striving to produce something worthy of their life, a performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for the procurement of success. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way—self-aggrandizement, self-improvement, self-actualization. Call it what we will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “ministry effectiveness,” “promotion,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “personal branding,” “marketing,” or “platform building.” When it’s done out of spirit of success-gaining, ministry empire-building, or competitiveness, it not only sucks, but God calls it “evil”—everyone and everything subtly becoming a leverage towards a personal ministry future of our envisioning and creating. It’s the difference between a dream and a scheme, and sadly, many of us in ministry are doing more scheming than dreaming. The same narcissistic erosion that has engulfed the contemporary Christian music industry I fear is beginning to sink its claws into the Christian blogging world. If only we can pump the breaks before we all are neck deep in the ditch.

As humans, it’s easy to medicate our insecurities with the pursuit of ministry “success.” In a performance-driven, church-franchising, personal ministry empire-building, consumer-addicted Christian culture, this becomes even more alluring and deceptively tempting.

I guess it’s unrealistic to think that any aspect of Christian ministry would be devoid of the exclusive “cool leaders” lunch table to which only the select are welcome and invited. Yet, that is all the more reason why voices like Michael Hardin, Brian Zahnd, Daisy Rain Martin, Susan Berland, Matthew Distefano and Robert and Susan Cottrell, to name only a few, are such a breath of fresh air, giving hope and a sure example upon which to aspire.

The day that the sun sets on competitive Christian blogging (and ministry) will be a beautiful day.

May the coming of that future begin with me, and begin with you.

What’s It Going To Take? A Pastor’s Plea To Affirm LGBT

You are a good person, perhaps a Christian. Maybe even a leader or a pastor. Your heart is to follow Jesus and to be faithful to His purposes. The important things you are accomplishing for the cause of Christ haven’t gone unnoticed. You’re living out your faith with noble intentions from the framework of your experience, understanding, and conviction.

Yet, there are issues in life that change the course of history, starting with the challenging of our own creeds and spiritual assumptions. The gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender realities being one of those, especially within Christian circles.

For some, you are familiar with terms like LGBT. Others, your awareness is more centered on homosexuality in contrast to heterosexuality. When it comes to sexual and gender manifestations, there is a large expanse. It’s complicated stuff, with lots of moving parts. All of us having a certain level of understanding, if nothing more than how charged, difficult, costly, and controversial these issues can be.

Maybe you have already drawn your conclusions, carved a line in the sand. It’s all an abomination. The clear teachings of the Bible make it perfectly clear. Any other theological landing point is a slippery slope to hell. Nothing is going to move you, sway you, or alter your view.

That was me. The pastor who could look out upon a congregation. With no restraint, no hesitation, no pumping of the breaks. Telling those gathered in my polished preacher’s voice, it’s all a sin and unless met with repentance, every last one of them are on a fast track to hell. Gladly receiving the high-fives from those who agreed.

Been there, done that, have the t-shirt. I understand exactly where you are at.

Maybe you are questioning. It’s all a bit fuzzy to you. You see both sides, swinging from one end to the other. Looking down at the fall between the two trapeze. To grasp for the other side, making the leap, the blood wells up in your head, your breath is constricted in horror. You gaze ahead to the relational dominoes that would crash to the floor if people knew just the doubts you were having, let alone the new position you might be taking. The deconstruction of your faith, the footings of your creed. If only it would all just go away. Indecision, straddling the fence. It’s all too much. So, you just keep swinging.

That was me. The pastor trying to stand for everything, and therefore standing for nothing, and with no one. Lukewarm and loving it.

Been there, done that. The middle ground is the lowest ground.

Maybe deep within, you believe in God’s affirming heart for LGBT people. You have studied it out, covered the chalkboard with new equations, new summations, new conclusions. Like Nicodemus, in the dark of night, you have come to Jesus. Learned His heart. Yet, it’s your secret stance. Only known by you, perhaps a few others. Adding up the costs, the conversations to take place, the meetings to meet with, the look in people’s eyes, the locking of their wallets, the removal of their memberships. The de-friending, the demonizing, the de-humanizing. The firing, the resigning, the transitioning. The tally on the receipt, the numbers that result… it’s too much. The cost is just too much.

That was me. The pastor, who with money he didn’t have, planted a church, starting with seven people. Nurtured it, fed it, changed its diapers. Knowing full well, just a year in, if people knew my true heart, it might die. I could lose everything. Friendships, family, systems that held me together, clients in my bi-vocational work.

But then, the awakening. Truth. Jesus. God’s heart.

Christian, do you realize the spiritual, emotional, and physical torture LGBT people experience, almost exclusively at the hands of our Christianity? Thousands of gay and lesbian people commit suicide every year. Others, walk a daily living hell of discrimination, hate, bullying, violence, abuse, marginalization, and condemnation. A staggering 41% of transgender people attempt suicide because of societal non-acceptance.

Certainly, that has to bother you, at least register a blip on your radar screen, does it not?  No, maybe it’s not happening in your leather-bound, steeple-topped world, but it’s happening in God’s world. And quite frankly, He’s pissed and so am I.

Can you even begin to imagine what’s that like? Every moment of every day, dehumanized and demonized. A breath among them is rarely taken without a whiff of pungent bigotry stinging every fiber of their being, burning clear down to their souls.

Folks, this is disgusting, outrageous, and dripping with pure evil. And who are the ones leading this frontal of death towards the LGBT community?

Christians, that’s who.

Do you realize the Bible, particularly in regards to LGBT, isn’t nearly as clear as you think it is? It’s not the slam dunk we have swallowed as truth. There is only one Word of God, Jesus. The rest our words about God requiring deep contextualization, discernment, and evaluation. Those six verses that we cling to, seemingly condemning LGBT people, are at best a house of cards. We’re slinging marshmallows, arming them are missiles.

But chances are, you won’t hear any of that. The fingers in our ears feel safer. The reality that you, and a whole spiritual system within Christianity could be completely wrong, is perhaps just too much for your pride and faith arrogance to compute. So excuse me, if while you smoke your unnatural cigarettes, sign your unnatural divorce papers, and stuff your faces with all kinds of unnatural, I get a little smirk on my face when you try to get all Bible on me, preaching to me how “unnatural” those LGBT people are.

I know. You think from where you sit, it’s your job to tell the LGBT community the error of their ways, the consequences of their choices. Eternity is in the balance. Sadly, that’s what love looks like to you. But that’s not what Jesus looked like to anybody. You are going to have to re-image Him into a vehicle of your own agenda to arrive at a spiritual license for your condemnation, judgement, self-righteousness, and hate. Sure, you can proof-text a couple passages into compliance, but you’ll never contextualize Jesus and justify that evil prowess.

Christian, do you realize, the LGBT community is not a manifestation of choice or decay, but of God’s delighted design. They didn’t sign up for this like a gym membership. There is no upgrade God is downloading, a change that God is desiring. He didn’t make a mistake. There is nothing to improve, overcome, or revamp.

These are human people. Living, heart-beating, lung-expanding, emotion-feeling people. Beautifully and wonderfully made by the artistry of the Master.

But perhaps that river of revelation hasn’t flowed to the banks of your spirituality. Why? Because you haven’t listened, you haven’t truly befriended, you haven’t humbly sat at the feet of the LGBT community, washing, serving, beholding. You haven’t looked into the eyes of their soul, stood under waterfall of their struggles, internalized their suffering. And therefore, you have missed Jesus, the Living Water, right within your midst. You have become the very people who have received Him not. Leaving your mind, your heart, your faith unchanged, hardened by your unwillingness to repent in response to the kindness, goodness, and holiness of God created in every LGBT person.

The Holy Spirit is charging into the temple of our Christianity, flipping the tables, revealing the truth that in the spiritual x-ray of all that is LGBT, we are in fact the cancer, we are the sin, we are the abomination… not them. And most tragic of all, the wages of our sin has become their death. The wages of our ignorance, the wages of our silence, the wages of our complacency. The wages of our bench sitting, comfort idolizing, spiritual pride, and cowardice… everyday, becomes their death.

Whoever you are, wherever you are at, I am not asking you to go against your conscience, but for Christ’s sake, I am asking you to open your conscience to the transformation of the Holy Spirit.

For the love of God, listen to your heart, listen to the voice of Jesus.

If God, in scripture, affirms the wild donkey that serves no redeeming purpose, the Ostrich that sucks at parenting. Just because they breathe, He pours at His full delight and pride. How much more does He affirm all of humanity, His best idea, one-of-a-kind created in His image? That’s reason enough for the God of the universe to love unconditionally, affirm unlimitedly… just because we breathe.

What’s it going to take?

How many more LGBT people have to commit suicide, begging for life to end? How many more LGBT people have to crawl through this living Hell, tasting the ever constant spit of Satan upon their face as he uses Christians to mouthpiece his declaration that God hates them. How many more LGBT people have to breathe their last, foaming from the mouth in the stranglehold of bullies and bigots? How many more parents of LGBT have to weep until their eyes bleed. Fearing for their children’s lives. Closing the drapes, curling up into the fetal position, all but giving up. How many more LGBT souls condemned, lives destroyed, families broken apart, faiths unraveled? How many more LGBT people have to die at the altar of our Christianity?

What’s it going to take?

But what about my reputation, what about my congregation, what will my family and friends say?

I say to you, who gives a shit? Don’t you get it? Lives are at stake. This is not a joke. We Christians have gotten this completely, emphatically wrong. Search you soul, deep down, you know you have tasted the poison we are pimping as fruit.

While you are dreaming of your future, keeping your ministry aspirations alive, holding on for a life of financial security, family peace, and basic hopes and comforts. There is a whole group of LGBT people dreaming they don’t wake up tomorrow, praying on their hands and knees to die. That’s their dreams.

For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. He went the distance, risked everything, did whatever it took. What was the joy? The full affirmation, the full salvation of all, you and me, just as we are, beautifully and wonderfully made. One and done on the cross. You don’t die for that which you don’t first love and affirm.

So I ask you, what is the object of your joy? Is it your wallet, your pay check, your church attendance, your friendships, family, reputation, ministry? Is that the ultimate, deepest object of your joy?

For Jesus, it was the least of these. The broken, the marginalized, the condemned, the hurting, the discarded, the bullied. Those drifting in the sea of injustice.

Isn’t that enough for you? The life, the wellbeing of a mutual, human being. Their dignity, their divinity?

What’s it going to take? Tell me. I’ll write, pay it, do it.

Your affirmation of what God already has, could be the difference-maker in a life. Hope where there was no hope. Changing everything.

Desmond Tutu said it this way…

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

James, the brother of Jesus said it this way…

“If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

Jesus said it this way…

“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

What’s it going to take?

For some, it’s already too late.

But for others, before it’s too late… I beg you, affirm what God already has.

Grace is brave, be brave.

Affirm.

Is Your Christian Life, Evil?

Most of us who are people of faith would probably never think nor consider the idea that our Christian lives could in fact become, “evil.” Most of us try to live in such a way that moves past the temptations of darkness and its work in this world.

Yet, when we look at how God defines evil, we may discover the sobering reality that the very thing we purpose to avoid is the very thing our Christian life has in fact become… evil.

The word used for “evil” in the New Testament is poneros. Every time the word “evil” appears in the New Testament, “poneros” is used. When we think of evil or people who are evil, our minds gravitate to dark visions of things that are bad or carnal. Yet, the idea that “evil” is simply an immoral, malicious, or devilish type reality is highly misleading, and quite frankly, a spiritual copout.  

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we see a reference to a person having an “evil heart…”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. -Hebrews 3:12

What does a person with an evil heart look like? What are the hallmarks of their living?

The answer could very well send you into a tailspin of shock.

The word “poneros,” actually means… full of labors.

Being “full of labors” is the idea of living to make things happen out of self-effort, a kind of internal striving to produce something good or worthy out of your life. It’s the performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for a better future or the procurement of success. It’s the busy-with-things-to-do-and-become mindset. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way. Self-promotion, self-improvement, self-actualization. “Seven steps to success,” “Become all you can be,” “Take your life to the next level.” It’s the Christian with their spiritual to-do lists of tasks, rules, and rituals used to feel like peace with God and affirmation of self is theirs for the taking. It’s the foundation of the religious spirit that is so prevalent in many a Church and Christian in our western culture today. Call it what you will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “changing the world,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “vision,” “discipleship,” “spiritual maturity,” “leadership,” or “obedience.” When it’s done out of spirit of labor, God calls it… “evil.”

Oh snap.

In the opening lines of the book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day of His creative work. Better yet, He set that day apart as being Holy. Why? Because God associates holiness with resting.

By resting, I’m not talking about doing nothing or having zero responsibilities, rather about living from an internal foundation of trust and faith that believes God’s finished work on the cross is enough for every aspect of your life. Your value, your worth, your merit, your entire essence. It’s a posture, a state of emotional and spiritual centering that relies on God’s work, favor, and provision completely above our own. It’s the realization that our part is to realize we really have no part, only to believe. His performance defines us, not ours.

Simply put, to believe is to rest. To labor… is evil.

In fact, the only labor that fits in the Christian life is to work hard at… resting…

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. –Hebrews 4:11

Sadly, we have become a people full of labors. We say we believe, yet we worry. We say we trust, yet we strive and push to move things forward in our life. Leveraging relationships here, working angles there. We talk about forgiveness and being forgiven, yet we live in fear, guilt and shame. Racing to do more good than bad and somehow right our wrongs. We speak of Grace, yet we mix it with rules, regulations, rituals, conditions, and obligations. We proclaim the work of God in the past and present, but we rely on our efforts for the future, nonetheless.

We are full of labors, not rest. Goals not gratitudes. Striving and trying, not trusting. Performing, achieving, pushing, promoting, and stressing, not believing.

Consider Job in the Bible.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” -Job 3:25-26

Fear is built out of unrest. And where there is unrest, turmoil is just around the corner. Where did this stressful existence of turmoil come from, for Job?

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. -Job 1:5

Are you kidding me? Do you see it? Job is laboring day in and day out, doing something spiritual in hopes of protecting his children from an imagined reality with God that he fears. Let’s all try to get our heads around this. It was a spiritual pursuit that began his downward spiral into a state of turmoil and further unrest. He feared for his children, but instead of believing and trusting, he decided to labor his way through it as an attempt to take control of the situation and make things right.

Oh snap.

Ironically, as Christians, it is often spiritual looking things that we are doing that bring us into a further state of unrest, stress, and ultimate disbelief. Why? Because we are not living from a foundation of faith, but of fear, selfishness, and insecurity. Our spiritual song-and-dance maybe be fooling everyone else and even ourselves, but God is not fooled.

It’s evil.

Just look around at how many over scheduled, burnt-out, stressed, worrying, performance-driven, self-righteous, self-promoting, guilt-ridden, judgmental, religiously-spirited Christians there are. And this is what we hold up as the model, the goal, the essence of our faith walk.

For Job, something so spiritual looking was actually so ladened with evil. And dare I say, this is what is happening throughout American Christianity today. Our Christian lives have become, evil.

The holiest, most spiritual thing you can ever do is to rest in faith.

Your greatest responsibility is to rest in faith, believing the work of God in and through your life has already been accomplished on the cross. You are already a success. You are already whole. You are already faithful. You are are already complete. You, were one and done on the cross.

As you believe, and only as you believe, watch it all flow from you. Like rivers, quenching a dry land.

When we we rest, and only when we rest, the true work of God gets released through us.

This, is the way of Jesus.

To believe is to rest, to labor… is evil.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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