Tag: faithfulness

What the Hell Does it Matter to You? Calling Out the Bluff of Anti-Gay Christians

There are obviously a lot of Christians who are anti-gay. Many of which who give little pause to speaking their opposition, being hurtful, and even abusive with their aversion.

For those of us who are not anti-gay, when we think about such people, one of the questions that paces the halls of our brains is, “What the hell does it matter to you?” Why do you care so much, what’s the big hairy deal? Seriously. Is this homosexuality thing really affecting your life? Is this reality in other people’s lives really any of your business?

I find it interesting the reasons many Christians articulate they are anti-gay. The answers are all over the map. As a gay-affirming, homosexual-loving pastor and blogger, I suspect I’ve just about heard it all.

The classic response is that homosexuality is unbiblical and deemed a sin, therefore it’s ultimately an intolerable offense to God and the scriptures. For them, the sacred tenets of Christianity and the authority of the bible are in the balance. Furthermore, if homosexuals don’t repent of their sin and turn away from their homosexuality, they’re going to hell. Others are concerned about homosexuality causing a breakdown of the traditional family structure, especially when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. Some simply see homosexuality as being abnormal and contrary to the nature as God’s design, having an imploding, negative impact on society. Many harbor fears about the influence homosexuality and homosexuals will have in leading their children astray.

Put it all together, in the minds of many a Christian, the world is going to hell in a hand basket and America is tipping the caldron of God’s wrath. The primary cause? Homosexuality.

I know, for a few anti-gay Christians, they are truly wrestling with this issue, its juxtaposition in their faith, and seeking God’s heart in the process. For that, they should be highly commended. Their struggle and genuine heart should never be belittled.

But for the rest, I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it one bit.

Is there a genuine ignorance out there among anti-gay Christians? Absolutely, but most of it is a chosen ignorance. If I had a dime for the number of Christians who comment negatively on my homosexual-themed articles but have clearly never even read them, Donald Trump would be shining my shoes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve challenged specific Christians to study-out the homosexuality issue for themselves, reading material from authors on the other side of the fence. Do they ever do it? No. Weeks later, when I follow up, “have you read any of the stuff I suggested?” Their answer… “Nope.”

If biblical faithfulness was really the issue regarding homosexuality for anti-gay Christians, we would see these same believers being be far more concerned with obvious scriptural giants like… truly loving your neighbor, feeding the poor, stewarding a dying planet, adopting orphans, to name a few. Which by the way, if only 3% of the world’s self-professed Christians adopted, there would be no more adoptable children in the world. There are far more clear, incontestable biblical references to those issues than the mere six, highly debatable passages in the Bible that are deemed by anti-gay Christians to reference homosexuality.

But they certainly don’t want to hear that. Why? Because, unlike homosexuality, none of those mandates give them a throne to sit upon or an issue to be against. With nothing to appose or a sin in another to justify their own, many anti-gay Christians would be that awkward, pimple-faced kid at the high school dance standing against the gym wall, not having a clue what to do. It’s interesting to me how the interpretive practices of contextualization and studying word origins have become so important when applying the bible to issues like divorce, gluttony, and women in ministry, but not homosexuality. How convenient. It will be a cold day in hell before we see anti-gay Christians standing outside Golden Corral after Sunday morning preaching with signs reading “God Hates Christian Gluttons”.

This whole, I am anti-gay because the Bible says so… I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it one bit.

“Oh, but we don’t want them to go to hell.” Really? You truly expect me to believe there is a genuine spiritual concern from anti-gay Christians that homosexual people are going to hell? Most of the anti-gay Christians I know don’t give much pause to that notion at all, many even being quite at peace with it. Some, even a bit tickled. Furthermore, if they really did care, would they be beating the crap out of them, labeling them, marginalizing them and making the second class citizens of their church, if citizens at all? Does that sound like the strategy that comes out of the heart of a Christian who truly cares about the eternal salvation of a group of people? I think not.

And don’t give me any of this, “homosexuals are stealing my freedoms as an American” crap. At best, this issue may or may not be challenging some of your religious freedoms, but it surely isn’t challenging your freedoms to be Jesus. Maybe it’s just me, but I have this sense that not only would Jesus bake a gay-wedding cake, He’d multiply it and give it to the couple for free. But let’s not let the ways of Jesus get in the way of our religious pouting.

I’m not buying it, I’m not buying it one bit.

“But this homosexual thing is tearing apart the family structure.” Sure, all while your Southern Baptist denomination has a higher divorce rate than Atheists and you’re on your third marriage, with one eye on the secretary. Oh, I know, your divorce was for Biblical reasons. I am sure your “ex” felt so comforted by that, and experienced so much Jesus in that sentiment. How spiritual of you. It just makes it all so nice and good, like a warm, crackling fire on a cold night.

Bullshit, I’m not buying it, I’m not buying it one bit.

“But what about our kids? They are going to take control of our kids. We’re going to lose are kids to the Death Star tractor-beam of homosexuality.” Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Nothing says you truly care about the influence in your kid’s life, like forking out the eighty dollars for their Miley Cyrus tickets, letting them watch R-rated movies and vulgar cartoons, spoiling them with blow-out Christmas’s to celebrate the Jesus who ironically was born to give His life away, teaching them they are the center of the universe as you make their every want and extracurricular activity the center of your universe, instilling in them that the Bible is best memorized, prayer is something you fight to do in school, church is a club with a cross on top, and people who don’t believe the way you do are misguided and maybe even the enemy.

I’m not buying it, I’m not buying it one bit.

The truth is, it’s really not about the Bible, it’s really not about a genuine spiritual care, it’s not about God’s design or the influence of homosexuality, it’s about… control.

Control of the content, comfort, familiarity, protection, and future of the elitist, pristine, starch-pressed, Evangelical brand of institutional Christianity and church that you grew up with and likely participate in now. Control of who gets to determine what is sin and what is not, who’s right and who’s wrong. Control of who’s in and who’s out, who’s deemed as truly spiritual and who’s deemed as truly not. Control of who is seen as a positive force for society, who has the corner market on truth, has more political influence, and who does not. Control, of the acceptance and approval of the people in your life. Control, of the self-condemnation your own sin causes by the clamping down and determining of sin in another’s life.

Control, control, control.

Isn’t that what religion has alway been about… control? Sadly, much of Christianity has become far more about religion than it is about Jesus.

I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it one bit.

Homosexuality. What the hell does is matter to you?

I’m calling out your bluff.

Say what you want, put all the lipstick you can on that pig.

It’s not a biblical care, a people care, a family care, a societal care…

It’s control.

Much More Than You Think

One of the things that breaks God’s heart the most is when we underestimate or under-prize the depth and expanse of His love.

We have portrayed God far too long as primarily a heavy-handed, temperamental judge who takes pleasure in throwing His weight around.  For many, they see God’s deepest desire for them as to spend their life constantly undressing themselves of the garments of sin as they simultaneously try to contribute more good than bad to their performance account.  They sadly see the foundational desire of Jesus upon their life as “Do more good, sin less” That’s the stride and striving of their life.

Somehow, we have called this pursuit “faithfulness.” But this term has really become a spiritual veil to an empty faith. A house of cards covering a secretly abandoned trust. The very thing we call “faith-full-ness” is the very thing that focuses our hearts and satisfactions “fully” on our performance and away from the performance of the only One who “Is good, and sins not.”  We are not trusting, we are trying.

Meanwhile, God is dancing to gather our attention away from ourselves and our striving. Like a playful, smiling father trying to capture the attention of his preoccupied children, God desires to turn our eyes away from sin and striving to His heart and His cheerful Grace-giving.

What a sobering thought, maybe we have missed it? The meaning and desire of Jesus upon our life. Maybe in all our thinking about sin and doing more good, we missed what our heart and minds were suppose to be captivated by. Has Satan distorted our sights once again with his not-so funhouse of mirrors.

God loves you much more than you think, and probably more than your ego can stand. Isn’t that our resistance? Our ego. We want to earn our part, to have merited our standing. Can’t we just have a little of the credit, or have paid a little bit of the price?  His love for me now has gotta have something to do with my living somehow.  Let me just have a piece of the performance pie, I’ll make the grade, or make up for the grade. Everything else works by a merit system, why can’t Jesus and living for Him.

God loves you much more than you think. He is not mad at you or passive-aggressively waiting to pull the carpet out from under you. He’s not like Lucy who entices you to kick the football with flirts of trustability only to wrench it out of your stride the moment you extend your faith. He loves you perfectly, completely, currently, and eternally. His love is not bound or influenced by your past, present, or future. The Grace card is not a score card, it’s a pre-paid card. You are forgiven all your sins and sinfulness, whether you asked or not. Your only escape from Grace is disbelief not disobedience.  Faith is what makes God’s Grace a transaction applied to your account. What was “paid in full” becomes “applied in full.”  In fact, when you look at the quality of Jesus, He is an overpayment for your transgression.  Faith is not asking for something to happen, faith is believing it has and will happen. While you are striving to live better, Jesus has already made you better. While you are trying to side step sin, Jesus has given you an entirely new walk. While you are trying to do good things, Jesus made you more than good, He made you righteousness.

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want your life, or for you to “give your life to Jesus.” In fact, He put your old life to death on the cross, knowing of it’s deep decay, deceit, and doom. How can you give what you don’t have? The cross was the second flood, this time of blood, drowning the old broken life of sin. You don’t have a life to give. Filthy rags, yes. Life, no. In His resurrection, He made you brand new. When you believe in Him and His work on the cross, you become reborn. What God has done becomes what is now. You are no longer you, you are “Christ in you.” You are forgiven (past, present, and future), righteous, having every spiritual blessing. You are a partaker of the divine nature. Not just a child, but a son (or daughter) of the living God.  You are an heir of the promise of God to rule and reign with Christ now and forever. You are seated with Christ at the right hand of God (from such a high view how can we have such a low sense of self and God).  You are royalty. A new creation. Without blemish. There is no condemnation over your life whatsoever. You are no longer by nature a “sinner.” You are not defined by your performance, but by your faith in Jesus’ performance. Hallelujah!

God loves you much more than you think. He doesn’t want you to live a sin-conscious life of striving, but a Grace conscious life of resting. He doesn’t want you to see yourself as a sinner in obedience training, but a saint in faith training. Right belief leads to right living. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. That’s why the job of the Holy Spirit is no longer to convict you of the sin of your disbelief in Jesus, but to convince you of your righteousness in Christ. He wants you to be free from the painful and exhausting  shackles of religion and all it precepts and prescriptions. No more going through the motions, much more living from your promotion from death to life, solely based on Jesus’ behavior, not yours. His work, not yours.  No more fake it to make it, much more believe it to live it.

God loves you much more than you think. In Him you are successful and significant apart from your achievement. He doesn’t want you living stressfully towards some future success or significance, but from the current and complete success and significance you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you trying to become something, He wants you living from the everything you already are in Him. He doesn’t want you pursuing life from a foundation of performance that can easily break down and brake away, but from a foundation of faith in Jesus who’s performance is perfect with His love, work, Grace and presence in your life never breaking down nor breaking away. Jesus doesn’t want you living with any insecurity, fear, or sense of lacking in who you are. He doesn’t want you walking into any moment or setting with even the slightest sense of insecurity, but with a complete assurance of the royalty and wholeness you already are in Him.

God loves you much more than you think.  He wants your life and living to be wrapped in peace and assurance, knowing of God’s full love and Grace for your life. If you were to do nothing more and become nothing else, He would love you just the same.  He is proud of you, as is. Your faith is what pleases Him, not your striving and do-gooding. You are blessed to be a blessing, so find what you love to do and enjoy God using it to build His Kingdom and manifest His love and Grace into the world. He will lead and prompt you each step of the way. So rest instead of rush. You don’t have to do anything, you get to do it, it’s a gift. Discover the joy that comes from manifesting the Grace of Jesus to the world in the way God designed you to do it, and enjoy it.  He loves you.

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ! –Romans 5:17

Learning to Rest

People who know me easily can describe me as a type “a”, hard working, go getter. I like to stay busy, tackle challenges, and get things done.  Recently, however, I have been learning how to rest. I have become more interested in effectiveness than mere activity in my life. In the Kingdom of God, activity does not necessarily equal accomplishment.

See, God works when we rest and rests when we work. No, we aren’t talking about laziness or irresponsibility.  In fact, when you learn to truly rest, you will see plenty of things to act on. Rather, we are talking about foundations from which we can become aligned with God’s movement. “Rest” is the foundation from which God works in and through your life.  “Work” is the foundation from which God rests from working in and through your life. In many ways, it really is that simple.

Many Christians make “faithfulness” and idol and their efforts foundational to their sense of self and significance.  They may never say it like that nor admit to this reality, but it is true. I know so, because I was one of them. As the saying goes, “It takes one to know one.” Like I once did,  they enjoy and feel a drug-like rush enter into the veins of their soul when people praise them for how hard they work and how much they seem to accomplish. Busy-ness is their bong, puffing themselves up, literally.  What they don’t realize is how much effectiveness and sustainability is leaking out of all their efforts.

It really is true, God rests when we work, and works when we rest. We find this kingdom truth in the story of Mary and Martha in the Bible.

Luke 10:38-42  As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feetlistening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

The Marthas of our Christian culture (and world at large) love to pridefully declare that without their hard work, nothing would get done. Even to the point of suggesting that people like Mary never get anything done. They wrongly interpret that Mary’s aren’t productive, go getters, who like to make things happen. We truly are living in the age of the performance-driven Christian.

At the heart, I believe this passage is about an issue of foundation, and what Jesus is teaching is for us to live from a foundation of rest.  It’s amazing how much God can do in and through us when we rest. It’s amazing how much can’t be done in and through us until we learn to rest.

In fact, the Bible says, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.”  Notice the order, it is God who firsts works (initiates, prompts) and then we act.  Not, we work and then God acts.  Rest means coming in tune with God’s working. When we work, we produce a static that blocks our spiritual senses to God’s working.  We end up doing a lot of things that don’t contribute to His purposes but ours. When we rest, we become completely in sync with God’s working in and around our lives waiting for His prompting and power to act.

For example, recently I felt God’s prompting to create an online prospectus for the Church I am starting. We will be presenting our ministry to people as a kindgom opportunity to which God may be calling them to contribute financially, and a website version of our prospectus could be a useful tool.  I began designing and working on the website paying specific attention to making sure I followed God’s promptings. In fact, any moments I felt a kind of stress and “uphill-ness” strike my spirit, I would make sure to take my hands off. I wasn’t adverse to working hard, but wanted to be aware of the difference between that and “hard work.”  When you are moving in the Spirit of God, working hard is a strong possibility, but having something become “hard work” should cause us to evaluate whether or not we are in fact, “in the Spirit of God.” This is a key awareness and distinction.

Every time I felt a sense of unrest and stress to my acting to complete the website, I stopped, trusting God to be at work.  Yet, soon after I was willing to stop, I found myself being energized to move forward. Things that would and should be difficult were free flowing and smooth. I finished it without stress nor fatigue in a short time.

What was most enlightening was when afterward I received a comment from a person who reviewed the online prospectus I created. His comment suggested that based on what was accomplished it seemed like I must have had to work extremely hard on it.  For sure, the website is thorough, involved, and created with excellence, but it was God who was at work to enable me to will and act according to His plan. There was nothing really extreme about anything that came from me towards the creation of the site.

It really is true, when we rest, God works. When we work, God rests.

Here are a few practical things that rest may mean for you…

Rest means…

1) Listening to when you become stressed.  Stress is a product of our acting where God is not working.

2) Following the promptings of the Holy Spirit. If God has not put it in you to do with a tangible power to do it, it may not be from Him.

3) Moving at the speed of God-  Yes, you can get ahead of God and behind God.  Never act where God has pulled the power plug out or put on the brakes, and never not act where God has given you the power and the “pressing” to do so.

4) Listening when things become “uphill”-  There is a key difference between working hard and hard working.  Be willing to work hard but be skeptical of hard working.

 

Looking forward to your thoughts.

 

 

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