Tag: fear (page 1 of 2)

No Longer Afraid—The Day My Heart Outgrew Conservative Evangelicalism

I used to be, but today is a brand new day.

I’m not afraid anymore—something  has happened deep within my being. New perspectives, revelation, and spiritual understandings have changed my mind completely. No, not in some kind of condescending way nor with a joy that excludes you. I’m just a completely different person now—my soul convictions and overall posture are nothing of the same.

I understand. Perhaps to you, it seems like I’m out of control, descending into a death-spiral plummeting into everything and anything that is backslidden and heretical. Yes, I suppose it’s true, I am out of control and it’s such a beautiful thing—breathing for the very first time. I’ve lost no love for you, mean no disrespect, nor harbor any pride in saying so—but conservative Evangelicalism, it feels like my heart has outgrown you—I can’t lie.

Where I used to curl up in the fetal position, turn off my brain, play dead, tuck in my shirt, and quickly fall in line, a seismic grace-bomb has gone off within me sending waves of courage and freedom supplied with a simple message, “have no fear.”

Call it a spiritual emancipation, a soul-revolution, or a new found courage to walk away. All I know is this—today is like no other, I’ll never be the same. Conservative Evangelical Christianity—with all due respect, I’m no longer afraid.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Speak and Live my Truth, Without Fear of Your Rejection- I must admit, intended or not, you used to have me under your thumb and controlled a good bit of my headspace. But now, Grace has taught me who I am, full of divine splendor and perfectly loved by the Father. Without blemish, stain, or unrighteousness, God is well pleased with me, as is—just me being me. For I’m an unstoppable force of God-affirmation that is immune to condemnation, coercion, and the religious spirit. There’s no proof text, admonition, or guilt trip that could ever penetrate my Jesus-plated armor of identity. In a way like never before, I’m at peace with who I am, addicted to life outside conservative Evangelical control, guilt, and religious seduction—if I’m honest, that’s how I truly feel. My heart has outgrown your rejection.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Say You’re Wrong, Without Apology or Reservation- No, I don’t have all the answers or know things completely. Yet, I do have the Light of God’s Truth within me that confirms in my Spirit what my mind can’t always explain—sometimes you’re wrong, and now, I’m no longer afraid to say it. I don’t always have a defense or explanation, but the mind of Christ within me knows when something is amiss and you’re at it again, selling me more poisonous religion—no matter your intention. The difference now is this—I’m just not going to take it. In fact, I’m going to completely spit it out—for today, I’m no longer afraid. My heart as outgrown your religious spirit.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Live in a World of Grey- For the gravity of your controlling, fear-driven, and self-righteousness creed has long been pushing to reduce my heart and believing into a black-or-white right-wing religion, where God is on your side and the enemy of all others. Yet, here’s what I’ve discovered, I don’t have to align my faith to absolutes nor lord them over another, especially when God is so much bigger and His love so much more capable. My peace and centeredness is grounded in Jesus the Author and Finisher of a world of unlimited spectrum—far beyond my best conclusions and confessions—always revealing more. I’m not afraid to graduate from cut-and-paste conservatism and embrace a God of diversity, a world of differences, and a Jesus who purposely leads me to have more questions than answers. There’s nothing to fear in welcoming uncertainties—for today I’ve been awakened, it’s the place where true faith actually lives and flourishes. My heart has outgrown your narrow mindedness.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Embrace Science, Social justice, and Human Dignity. Jesus is all and in all things, for where can we go from His Spirit? How can I be afraid to consider facts, scientific wisdom, and their faith implications? In fact, when I gaze upon the Grand Canyon with all its rivers and layers, I’m not going to tremble anymore when my soul refuses to believe in a 6,000 year old creation. I’m not going to apologize for a practical faith and an all-inclusive human-loving compassionate Jesus, whose message and example applies to every aspect of life on earth and living. I’m not going to abandon human decency, rights, and dignity to embrace a conservative brand of faith that is skilled at spiritually justifying hate, privilege, and the dehumanizing of people with whom it disagrees or deems to be sinning. No-more-can-do—today is a new day of wisdom, mercy, and compassion—at least, for me. My heart has outgrown your apathy.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Look My Privilege in the Mirror with Honesty- It’s true, and I’m no longer afraid to admit it. I’m white, male, straight, and for so long, was totally clueless. The thought of being privileged was nowhere to be found blipping on my radar screen. Until that day when, because of my changed beliefs, I became a kind of minority. Mocked, maligned, betrayed, and presumed dirty and guilty, simply because I breathed—differently than you. The bias, racism, bigotry, sexism, judgmentalism, and elitism that was long undetected within me, revealed itself—shaking me to my core and haunting my every being. Now, this one thing I know for sure, I refuse to let fear win the day and live my life unaware, unchanged, and unmoved by the presence of my inherent privilege. I’m a changed man with new conviction, committed to being a force of true equality, as was and is Jesus—I believe. My heart outgrown your elitism.

I’m No Longer Afraid To See Women as Equal in All Things- The wizard is out from behind the curtain, there’s no theological slippery slope to fear, nor hierarchy to declare—it’s all smoke and mirrors. By God’s design, women are not inferior people nor lesser in capability—and I’m no longer afraid to look you in the eye and say it. I love and respect you, I really do. But, despite all the patriarchal pressure to see differences where there are none, I’ll be standing at the top of the mountain declaring full equality in home, marriage, society, work, and church—nothing short of in everything. It’s a new day, with a new me, embracing an eternal equality for all people. My heart has outgrown your discrimination.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Break Free from the Chains of Biblical Inerrancy- I know, it’s the Holy Grail of all that you believe. For you, it’s the foundation of everything—no one dare question it. But I have, and I will—I make no apology. In fact, I’m all together convinced that the Bible is much more a collection of our words about God than His perfect inerrant words for us. No, not because I want to twist it to say what I will, but to never commit God into saying and doing what He hasn’t. For He is the Word within me that reveals and guides me above all things, especially in regards to a book commonly used to condemn, control, and judge. My heart has outgrown your Scripture idolatry.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Love People, Without Fear of Aiding and Abetting Sin- What a constant pain and stress, prequalifying people for love, fellowship, and affirmation. Determining who is in or out, right or wrong, wayward or faithful—what a mess. If there is one thing for sure that emboldens my courage, it’s knowing that Grace and unconditional Love are the only things that truly change people. I’m not afraid to trust the Spirit to do what only She can, and for me to love unconditionally without fear, restriction, or restraint—trusting God with the rest. My heart has outgrown your conditions.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Affirm the LGBTQ Community- You believe it’s all sin and demonic manifestation—I simply don’t. You line up your passages as proof—I see them altogether differently. What else can I do, but believe what I believe with honesty? As much as your stereotyping desires to include me on your list of progressive, bible-ignoring people, I’m not afraid any longer to receive the stare-down of your disapproval. I stand in proud, full affirmation of the LGBTQ community. For me, it’s not a matter of Grace or biblical leniency, but of Gospel truth. My heart has outgrown your condemnation.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Go to the Hell of Your Faith Understanding- Yes, I’ve heard it a thousand time, “You’re in danger of going to hell” if not already guaranteed a reservation. I should be trembling in fear and confessing sins every moment of every day just to make sure. God is loving, but also just—and His will is to torture you eternally if you don’t love Him back in return—in precisely all the right ways. Thankfully, with all due respect, my heart has been captured by a Love that is permanent and unmerited. I have no fear of your hell or your conclusions that I’m going there. God’s Grace is sufficient and His love endures forever—who or what shall I fear? My heart has outgrown your hell and the god you’ve fabricated to send me there.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Walk Away from You and “Church” Altogether- If a bridge can be burned, it wasn’t worth it or its destination. I’m not going to be controlled anymore by your threats of abandonment and disassociation. At times, it feels like you leave me no other choice, but to walk away from you, and even “church” altogether. The fear I once had of life without you has shrunken in comparison to the regret I would certainly harbor if I caved to the fear of living and speaking my truth. I wish we could find a middle ground of peace, but if push comes to shove, I’m no longer afraid to leave. Thank God almighty, I’m free at last. My heart has outgrown your imprisonment of mine.

I’m No Longer Afraid to Resist, with Every Fiber of My Being- No more burying my head in hopes it all goes away. No more biting my tongue just to keep the peace. No more settling in order to appease. I’ve tasted and seen the toxins of your brand of believing, and now I just can’t idly stand and watch you seduce, abuse, bully, and deceive—no matter how sweet your fragrance or intention. I’ve come to realize, it’s not all just about me. When my moment of truth is before me and injustice and evil show their face, I will resist with non-violent solidarity no matter what it takes. Yah, there’s a new courage within me. My heart has outgrown your intimidation.

I’m No Longer Afraid To Do, What You Won’t Do For Me—Accept You Nonetheless. I’m not asking you to change, nor condemning you to hell. I’m not denying you rights or demanding my way in your public circles. I’m not labeling you a sinner or an abomination, nor peppering your life with condemnation. I’m not closing the church door or restricting your capacity to serve. I’m not sending you to the curb, if it turns out, you were one of my children. I’m not signing you up and dragging you to reparative therapy. I’m not keeping you from loving who you love or policing your bedroom. I’m not using the Bible to condemn all the people who sin differently than you, or beat you into repentance. No, I’m not afraid to affirm and accept you as is—a perfectly whole, beautiful, and God-imaged person whose faith happens to be conservative Evangelicalism. None of us are better, only different—Grace has made it so.

There was a moment, a cosmic shift in my entire being, the day I awakened and realized I was altogether different. There was a clarity that had never been so clear—a new wind blowing and filling my sails. I’ve lost no love for you, mean no disrespect, nor harbor any pride in saying so—but conservative Evangelicalism, it feels like my heart has outgrown you—all because, the one thing I know for sure is this, I’m no longer afraid.

Salvation has come—I’m no longer afraid.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson—Conservative Evangelicalism Personified

Life has a way of putting things right in front of us—if we’re willing to see them.

Though much has been said in attempt to cast light on the true essence and nature of conservative Evangelicalism, perhaps nothing in all the universe speaks more clearly than when it all gets personified so poignantly in human flesh. Look no further, search no longer—Trump, LifeWay Christian Stores, and Eugene Peterson are conservative Evangelical Christianity in living color. They serve as both a window into the true desires and ethos of right-wing Christianity, and a mirror giving an honest reflection, if only its adherents should dare to look within.

Debate all you want about President Donald Trump, at the end of the day, he bares a strong resemblance not unlike that of many a conservative Evangelical pastor, leading with a male-driven patriarchal sexism and a vision of personal power, imperialism, and greed—all spiritually justified of course, and often at the expense of the “least of these.” As a former Evangelical pastor myself, I know it all too well. It begins with good intention and the best of aspirations, but quickly the tractor-beams of the Evangelical Death Star can’t be overtaken. Slowly, but surely, the erosion overcomes.

There’s no denying, much of conservative pastoral leadership has adopted some of the most cruel, immoral, anti-Jesus, and evil behaviors and attitudes on the planet. Brutally lording over people, insisting on ones own way, demanding allegiance, fear-mongering, childishness, blatant double standards, and putting character and truth aside as long as you’re willing to be a player in the Evangelical game. Keeping it all predominantly white, male, Evangelically conservative, privileged, and culturally dominant are some of its greatest unwritten leadership priorities. Inside handshakes, closed-door meetings, all conspiring on how to quickly demonize, marginalize, and even give exit to nearly any barrier or perceived enemy. Virtually nothing is off the table when it comes to defending and taking territory in the name of conservative Evangelicalism. Bullying, shaming, emotional abuse, spiritual exploitation, and political adultery—no matter how overt or subtle, is all spiritual justified by a militant, vengeful, intolerant, gun-carrying, homophobic, hell-addicted, sexist, racist, and imperialistic distortion of Jesus.

No wonder why so many couldn’t help themselves but to elect him as President, for chances are, he most closely resembles their local conservative Evangelical pastoral leadership. Nearly everything you see in our President Donald Trump is hauntingly intrinsic to much of conservative Evangelicalism—especially its leadership. Want to know what it feels like to be under the mantle of many a conservative Evangelical Church? Ask yourself this simple question, how does it feel to be under the leadership of President Donald Trump?

Feel a bit uncomfortable or believe it’s unfair for me to make this kind of comparison? May I ask you a simple question—then why did you elect him President? If he makes you embarrassed or is lessor in character, maturity, and vision in comparison to your pastor, why do you still vehemently support him? Besides, by your own faith understanding and declaration, wasn’t he sent by God—appointed by the Father, as are all leaders? Not just to merely be your pastor, but to be the President of the only nation you declare is under God—how much more important and requiring is that?

LifeWay Christian Stores is a revealing display and manifestation of the state of many a conservative Evangelical church. With it’s consumer-driven franchising of Jesus and their unique conservative brand, it centers itself around preserving its future, protecting conformity, and paying the bills—sounds a lot like “church” of most any flavor.

One is most certainly welcome to come and buy all you can, they’ll gladly take your cash—no questions asked. They might even let you sweep the floor or take out the trash—if you’ll put on one of their logo-embroidered t-shirts, of course. Yet, try to become a valued contributing part of their community, and you’ll find an endless supply of tests, hoops, and checkpoints you’ll have to pass. For, at the end of the day, Jesus is big business, and there’s a lot of right-wing conservatives to please and lost people with money to spend.

Giving Christians and the spiritually vulnerable more and more to do, consume, become, believe, fear, and achieve is an evil religious concoction not many can resist. In fact, they’ll lay down a lot of dough to keep up with the latest Christian trends and make doubly sure, they’re being faithful enough and becoming successful for Jesus. LifeWay, and many a conservative Evangelical church, have mastered both creating the addiction and seductively pimping the drug that feeds it. In fact, put a worship service in your local LifeWay Christian store, and you’ll hardly know the difference.

Yet, perhaps most telling of all, is how they shoot their wounded and send those they deem to be wayward to the curb. Just ask Jennifer Hatmaker, to be sure. For nothing resembles many a conservative Evangelical church more than big business, demanded conformity, self-preservation, consumerism, and the eating of their own.

Enter Eugene Peterson, a gentle, humble, wise, and good Christian man who has greatly contributed to the evangelical Christian community through his famed leadership, writing, and teaching. As is characteristic of most every member of your typical conservative Evangelical Church, his intentions have always been noble and His pursuit of truth and the growing of His relationship with Jesus undeniably genuine.

Yet, when recently, his spirituality grew to a place it colored outside conservative Christian lines by affirming gay marriage, he experienced the full wrath and weight of the monster that is conservative Evangelicalism. Quickly, he became the fear-driven church member that is imprisoned by the shackles of conservative ideology. Like countless others, his free-thinking theological transition of belief was met with punishment, shaming, excommunication, and threats. No matter his reasoning, biblical revelation. or honesty with it all, he was nailed to the cross and fearfully enticed to surrender and come down—or else.

In fact, LifeWay Christian Stores pledged to remove his books—go figure. Websites were swiftly created to denounce and demonize him—surprise, surprise. The biggest question many conservatives asked wasn’t, “What can we learn?,” “Is he onto something?,” or “How can we find a positive way to agree to disagree?” No, it was, “Can we still read his stuff and be seen as genuine Christians?” God help us all—that this is the kind of atrocious people we have become.

Sadly, instead of standing strong and going the full distance of resistance, Eugene Peterson, like many others, buckled under the pressure in compliance with Evangelical conformity and tradition. In fact, he threw in the towel and retracted it all—a suspiciously sudden change from his recent gay-affirming position. In the end, it seems he must have concluded, the cost is too costly to pay. In Eugene Peterson, we need not look any further, this is the hell, this is what it looks like to be a conservative Evangelical Christian and a prisoner of its machine—with seemingly no way out.

As hard as it may be to hear, it’s even harder to say.

Everything you need to know about the truth of much of conservative Evangelical leadership, church-life, and membership can be tragically found in this sad trifecta—Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

8 Things I Wish We Christians Would Admit

Nobody’s perfect, that’s for sure. We’re all on a spiritual journey in life that is both complicated and filled with ample opportunity for blunder. Yet ironically, within much of modern Christianity, faith qualities of mystery, vulnerability, humility, inability, and uncertainty are often deemed to be sure signs of weakness and nonconformity—what God has painted with beautiful shades of grey and fragility, we quickly want to thin into black and white. Unfortunately, this starch-pressed and cut-and-dry way of believing has rendered our brand of Christian faith to be one that is highly resistant and adverse to healthy criticism, introspection, change, and the embracing of fresh revelation. In the eyes of many who look upon us, ours is a Christianity fortified behind towering walls, moated with religious hoops, and purposed on allegiance, conformity, and world domineering. The presence of questions, doubts, uncertainty, individuality, and the recalibration of one’s beliefs are largely unwelcome and unwanted in many of our spiritual precincts. Some have gone so far as to even suggest that we have become deaf to the cries of Jesus upon our callous, cut-and-paste way of believing and living.

Which is why I believe, if our modern American brand of Christianity is to survive and reclaim its credibility, we must first become people of courage who are willing to be self-aware. What so many in the world discern and conclude about our American manifestation of Christianity, as unpleasant as their voices may ring, are the very truths we would do well to admit—that we might begin a process of healing and become more authentic in our faith.

I wish we would admit.

We Don’t Love Very Well- As much as we might try, with deep noble intention, in the minds and hearts of many, we aren’t succeeding. It’s as if we don’t believe in love, and fear its unconditional giving. We say we love people, yet can act so un-lovingly—just ask the broken, the minorities, the LGBTQ community, the “lost,” our enemies or our disagreers. “Hating the sin and loving the sinner” leaves nearly everyone wondering, why not just love for the sake of loving, and let God carry the rest? Our selfishness in church, family, and society has deafened people to any love our hearts might be singing. We are more interested in confronting, correcting, insisting, and even condemning, and believe those actions are somehow required in being loving. Maybe in reality, we’re just addicted to the idea of loving instead of the actual practice of it. Perhaps we should simply love people as people instead of projects—trusting God with any needed transforming. Until then, the truth is, we don’t love very well, and we would do well to admit it.

We Weaponize the Bible- For many of us, it’s become a kind of fourth Person of the Trinity—seemingly granting us a divine authority to assert and demand the practice, infallibility, and priority of our particular faith understanding and ideology. We have fashioned words about God into an idol of words from God—largely for the purpose of lording ourselves over others. The human carnage that remains from the countless rounds of Scripture fired at our enemies, disagreers, and those we deem to be sinning has become an American spiritual holocaust conveniently camouflaged in the flag of being biblically faithful to Jesus. Yet, the clear teachings of the Bible aren’t clear at all—30,000 different Christian denominations is more than ample evidence. The truth is, with every proof-texting and “this is what the Bible says” declaration, many of us show ourselves to be worshiping a false god, the Bible, and wielding it as weapon for debate, condemnation, power, and our self-serving, empire-building ambitions—we would do well to admit it.

We Don’t Fully Trust Grace- Though we may pepper it into a message, counseling session, or the back page of a monthly newsletter, the thought of giving too much Grace haunts us. For many of us, Grace is a slippery slope that can tragically lead people into a spiritual ditch of rampant disobedience. It’s the bait that gets people into the door for what we believe is the real message, “repent, or else.” To many of us, Grace is what makes it possible for us to have a fighting chance at a relationship with God and eternity spent with Him as long as it’s followed with believing and doing the right spiritual things. Yet, people are quickly learning that apart from a life rested and centered solely on Grace, everything else requires pretending and hopeless striving, as our best efforts always fall short—if we’re willing to admit it. Where the Apostle Paul insists that it’s Grace alone that leads people to a change of mind and heart, and is the sole power to teach, guide, transform and enable us into all truth and right living, we quickly dismiss trusting the purity of his revelation. Instead, we frantically fumble through the other Scriptures desperately looking for a quick fix for our flesh—which always seems to need another “to do” list. We don’t fully trust Grace, the only power of God for life, change, and transformation, which is why we as a people and nation aren’t getting any better—actually worse, if you haven’t noticed. We would do well to admit it.

We Come Across as Arrogant- We have the truth, the one and only true religion, and everyone else is desperately wrong or “lost.” Believe like us, become like us, live like us, join us, and then you’ll be a legitimate and acceptable human. These are the kinds of attitudes and subtle messages many of us exude, intended or not, with our spiritual noses pointed high in the air. Somehow we have concluded that the way of Jesus is to demand and feel entitled to have our faith-understanding dominate in our communities, schools, society, nation, and world. “Those who are first will be last, and those who are last will be first” are words of Jesus that apparently don’t even render a blip on our spiritual radar screens. No wonder why so many people largely want to spit our pretentious, self-serving way of believing out of their mouths. The admirable amounts of serving, giving, and caring we certainly do are often eclipsed by our arrogant, privileged attitudes—many of which we are blinded in seeing by our pride, and sadly unwilling to admit. We come across as arrogant, and would do well to simply admit it.

We’re Mostly Faking It- It’s the people who don’t go to church who are perhaps the most authentic in their faith. They rightly conclude, they’ll never measure up nor be able to apply the principles, disciplines, and admonitions required for faithful living in just one sermon, let alone all the new ones listed the next Sunday. With a brand of Christianity like ours that is so performance driven, many realize that all they can do is pretend, feel guilty, tired, and ashamed—and they conclude that pretending, along with all its trappings, isn’t for them. What amount of sin adds up to a lifestyle of it? What amount of do-gooding adds up to faithfulness? What amount of trusting adds up to truly believing? What amount of prayer, studying, fellowship, and adoration amounts to being a true worshipper? What amount of faithfulness adds up to being a genuine Christian? The truth is, nobody really knows for sure, the playing field is always changing. Yet, one thing so many people absolutely discern is this, to be a player on our team you must first become a pretender who’s skilled at faking it. With a faith-understanding that places its success and legitimacy largely on our abilities, behavior, and capacity to belief correctly and adequately, we will always be people who, in truth, can do nothing more but mostly fake it. We would do well to admit it.

Church is Mainly About Us- The many expensive buildings that remain empty and unused most of the week. The worship services we fight over to embody our personal preferences. The inside rules, policies, handshakes, and politics we create to keep things under the control of a few, and to manage the rest. The big visions we cast to fulfill our ministry egos. The programs we program to stay in competition with our competitors down the street. The periodic mission trips and service projects we commission in ultimate hope of bringing people to us and our religion, all serve to confess a very clear confession—church is mainly about us. As much as we might, with beautiful intention, purpose ourselves on reaching the unchurched and being culturally relevant, if it all didn’t somehow increase our memberships, stroke our egos, fuel our budgets, and seemingly justify our lavish buildings and worship services, we probably wouldn’t be doing it. Perhaps instead of trying to cleverly and creatively package “church” as being mainly about serving outside people from of a pure altruistic agenda of love, we should just openly admit what so many already know to be true—church is mainly about us.

If We Don’t Have Hell and an Enemy, Our Purpose is Lost- What if Grace, who is Jesus, is truly the only answer and loving like Jesus is our only purpose? What if a hell of eternal torment for the unbelieving is actually more of a figment of our imaginations and a product of ancient infernos, mythology, and old-time religion than it ever has been truly biblical? What if all are in Christ from the very beginning? What if the enemy isn’t “them,” but it’s really “us?” What if, because of the cross, there isn’t an enemy at all? What if all of our spiritual warfare is nothing more than shadow-boxing for Jesus? What if hell is the unrestrained presence and force of Grace upon the religious, and heaven is the unrestrained presence and force of Grace upon the humbled and broken? What if our only purpose is to simply love, and love completely and unconditionally? So much of what we envision, plan, and do as Christians would be rendered ridiculous and counter productive. Pull out the cards of hell and an ever present enemy that needs to be conquered, condemned, and converted, and all comes tumbling down. Like a needle needs a vein, we need hell and a constant enemy, even if they don’t exist. We would do well to admit it.

We’re OK With Other People Not Being OK- The collateral damage caused by significant segments of our American brand of Christianity is something many of us have surrendered ourselves into tolerating and even justifying. Numb to the plight of those who find themselves on the hurting side of our faith, our overall mission to make the world believe, behave, and become like us has become for some, a goal we must achieve no matter the cost. Comfortable with adopting a view of God that is willing and just in leaving people behind to suffer and die for some kind of greater good, makes our Christian living one that easily embraces the same sentiment towards our fellow humanity. Because we believe, in the end, that God is OK with some people not being OK, many of us share the same callous way of being a so-called Christian. As much as we claim to embody and preach compassion, our compassion has limits and expiration dates as it bows down to a brand of Christianity that is capable of eating its own and leaving others behind to suffer in our wake. We would do well to admit it.

Before there can ever be unity, peace, and wholeness among us and from us, we must first become self-aware to the point we are willing to admit what so many others already know to be true.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

The Conservative Christianity That Is Killing You

Sometimes in life, we don’t realize the things silently destroying us from within—false beliefs we have long held to be true, misplaced values we have long embraced as being invaluable. As humans, we can be so attracted to the path of least resistance that we become willing to reject the kind of positive change that would free us from our prisons. To think that we could be wrong, misled, or have wasted our lives on things found to be untrue or uncertain is a daunting proposition of regret we’d just as soon put to death, even if it means resigning ourselves to a life holding fast to the lies.

For years, as an Evangelical pastor, conservative Christianity was gutting me from the inside out, stealing the very life it promised to give. I thought I was breathing the ultimate way of living only to realize I wasn’t breathing at all. Sadly, nothing would have changed had I not been confronted by the pure Gospel of God’s Grace and awakened to the heights from which I had fallen.

In fact, if you hold to the beliefs I once did, you are determined that outside of your conservative, Evangelical way of thinking and believing, there is no other way, no other truth, and no other life. For some, even as you watch your marriage erode, your children suffer the rejection and abandonment of your condemnation, your faith-performance fall short, your hypocrisy grow, and your hate and intolerance overtake you, nothing will loosen the grip you have upon your conservative faith understanding. Even as we speak, your fingers are twitching and your mind is rushing ahead to the bullets you’ll fire in the comment section of this post. You have it all lined up and justified in your mind and heart, along with the biblical passages and interpretations to build your defense.

Yet, little do you know, the conservative Christianity that is killing you. Perhaps you would do best to ask your spouse—even better, to question your children. Ask your enemies, those you deem to be sinning, or with whom you disagree. Ask the females, the minorities, the lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, or transgender people among you, or perhaps just ask the less fortunate.

If they are honest and objective, they will tell you the dark, diabolical tale of what conservative Christianity has truly done to you.

But if not them, maybe, just maybe, your conscience has been speaking, crying out to be heard. Deep down you sense something isn’t quite adding up, there are pieces all together missing. You quickly subdue the tensions in your soul, the questions that tremble below, and cue the rationalizations. Yet, now is as good a time as any to give way to honesty and awaken to the truth that is so desperately trying to set your free—conservative Christianity is killing you.

It’s Killing Your Inner Peace and Joy– For how can you have any peace when so many things in your conservative faith-understanding are deemed to be unresolved? Your eternity, your closeness with God, your divine acceptance, your faith status—unresolved, unresolved, unresolved. One day you’re close with God, the next you aren’t. One day you’re eternally secure, the next day you’re not. One day your life enjoys the gleam of God’s favor, approval, and acceptance, the next day, it doesn’t. How can there be any peace when so much of your faith and spiritual life hinges upon you, your capacity to believe, believe correctly, and spiritually perform? Nothing is ever settled or certain even if you are convinced you’ve measured up. For it’s impossible to know for sure when your good has been good enough. Maybe there is something God sees that you’ve tragically missed.

In front of the mirror of conservative Christianity, all one can do is pretend, medicate their fears and doubts with self-righteousness, and live a life of angst with one eye open, as even our best days will always fall short of a God who suspiciously gazes upon us through the eyes of an incomplete score card.

And so I ask, with all due respect—where is the joy in pretending? Where is the peace in always having an endless, ever growing list of things one must do, become, and overcome that are in fact impossible to ever satisfy? The spiritual gymnastics required to fool yourself and others into believing you are truly happy and fulfilled are daunting in number and surely a hell-on-earth way of living.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real faith-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “peace” nor “joy,” it would be—never ending, unresolved PRESSURE.

It’s Killing Your Relationships- For how many miles of emotional and spiritual distance have you carved into your relationships with people because your conservative faith-understanding requires you to do so? You can’t just love for the sake of loving, connect for the sake of connecting, or enjoy people for the sake of enjoying people—that would be preposterous. Rather, every person you meet becomes a kind of spiritual project, a potential convert into your faith-understanding, or a shiny new visitor for your church. You measure people spiritually by what you believe is a God-given specialized capacity to have “discernment,” lest you become unclean, dirty, or condone evil. In order to gauge what kind of relational approach your conservative faith prescribes at any given moment, people and relationships have to be rigorously sifted, sized up, and labeled—lost or found, friend or foe, faithful or unfaithful, real Christian or wolf in sheep’s clothing. More so than not, unless they believe and act like you, people are largely designated as a problem to be fixed—and you, the perfect one to do the fixing. If they resist or even refuse—eventually disagreement becomes disappointment, disappointment becomes disapproval, disapproval becomes distance, distance becomes disconnection, and disconnection becomes damnation. Why? Because the one thing that’s largely missing for your conservative faith-understanding is true, unconditional Love. For love is never love if, based on what another person is or does, it can ever grow into hate, conditions, or condemnation.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how is that religious, relational radar working for you? How about with your family, work, community, or even church? How much true connection, community, and influence do you have with people who look, believe, act, and live differently than you? Jesus had so much that it got Him killed. It wasn’t a conservative faith within Him that nailed him to a tree—far from it. It was the conservative faith around Him that crucified Him and sought to put to death the love-life He came to bring.

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the true relational-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “humble,” “transformative,” nor “gracious,” it would be—pretentiously, selfishly STRESSED.

It’s Killing Your Capacity To Love- For how many conditions must you write into the fine print of the love you give? What’s it like always having to pump the brakes, filter compassion, prequalify affirmation, and love half-heartedly? The greatest fear of your conservative faith-understanding is to give too much love, Grace, and acceptance—convinced of the terrible things people would do. Yet ironically, the greatest fear of Jesus was for people to believe in a God who would restrict love and that people could ever give too much—that’s why He came. For either God’s Grace is fully sufficient, or it’s fully not. Wouldn’t you agree?

Yet, your conservative faith-understanding believes that expressing love in its highest form requires one to boldly confront sin, convinced that withholding or limiting love is at times both helpful and necessary in fostering God’s plan. In your mind, love, by itself, is much too soft, impotent, and permissive. In fact, the centrality of your conservative creed rests upon a fear of hell, the wrath of God, and His holiness in sending un-repenting sinners to an eternity of torture. In your mind, it would seem these dark potential realities justify and even demand your conditional love-giving.

However, have you ever considered that because Jesus confronted all sin, once and for all—there is, in actuality, no more confronting to do? In fact, to confront sin with a prescribed fear of any form of divine retribution is to confess the belief that Jesus didn’t confront sin, or do so sufficiently. That’s why Grace, the only power Jesus ever employed in His sin confronting and ultimate defeating, is the only power that awakens people to a change of mind and a heart of faith.

In fact, when people awaken to the scandalous, divine freedom they have in Christ to choose sin without fear of divine retribution, it is then and only then, that sin loses its power and appeal to be a good choice. Sin is disarmed of its capacity to serve as a form of punishment, guilt, and condemnation, and is instead correctly internalized as that which steals, kills, and destroys the good things in our living.

In the end, because your conservative faith-understanding refuses to surrender to Love and love alone, you can’t imagine how Love alone could possibly win over another. Rather, in your mind, they too, like you, must first become religiously imprisoned.

And so I ask, with all due respect—how does it feel to be shackled to a restricted life of giving love with conditions, believing that’s the height and sum of God’s love for you, sadly convinced that love doesn’t win?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the real love-life of conservative Christianity, it wouldn’t be “compassion,” “passion,” or “mercy,” it would be—fine print filled CONDITIONS.

It’s Killing Your Freedom- For when, by your conservative faith-understanding, the Christian life is seen as little more than a test, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to find spiritual rest? When faithfulness is seen as life of sin-management, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to truly be alive, live, breathe, and be burden free? When Church is seen as a building with a cross on top filled with a club of like-minded people, how can you ever know the freedom of what it’s like to actually be the church—anyplace, anytime, anyhow? When love is seen as requiring conditions, limits, and restrictions, how you can ever know the divine freedom of what it’s like to love unconditionally? When hell hangs over your head, wielded by a bi-polar God who draws close to you one minute but turns his back the next, how can you ever know the effortless freedom of what it’s like to love, worship, and adore Him without fear nor obligation?

And so I ask, with all due respect—why is it that the life your conservative faith-understanding wants me to believe is filled with such immeasurable freedom, feels so much more like a life of unimaginable imprisonment?

In my experience, if there is one word that could truly describe the life-trajectory of conservative Christianity it wouldn’t be “limitless” or “free,” it would be—rule-driven, fear-driven RESTRICTION.

It’s true, conservative Christianity IS killing you—taking what God intended to be a life of peace, joy, human community, unconditional love, and life-giving freedom and raping it into a death sentence of religious pressure, relational stress, conditional love, and fearful restriction.

Sounds a lot more like hell to me.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

The Real Reason I Don’t Go To Your Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For if you did…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The real reason?

You.

You don’t truly love me.

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Is Jesus Gay?

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

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

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

In this way, Jesus was surely gay.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, that’s right.

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

You.

The Self-Talk That Is Killing You

There is no drama playing out in all the world that is more significant than the one being continually staged in the auditorium of our heads. Ours is an inner life filled with an ever developing script of characters dressed with the personas we give them, the sentences we write, the blanks we fill in—friend or foe, villain or hero, threatening or benign, hope or despair, regret or satisfaction, all a constant inner conversation striving to interpret and navigate our human experiences and direct them into a positive plot that circumvents pain and resolves dissonance into harmony.

Of all the scenes that are set under spotlight, the exclusive conversations we have with ourselves form the dialogues that leverage the strongest pull on the strings of our story. Nothing directs the chapters of our lives more than our self-talk—so much that our future is rarely the sole product of what manifests on stage, but rather the narration we pen of it in our inner conversations. Within seconds of every life interaction, we translate our experiences into internal, emotional and cognitive storylines and conclusions that forever shape our steps.

Above all that unfolds in front or behind the curtains of our psyche, we are the director of the drama in our inner life, and our directing, a sure product of the perceptions we embrace of the Author. If God exists, does He write scripts of hardship, adversity, or even pain into our lives for some kind of divine purpose? Is His affections for us filled with limits, conditions, inconsistencies, or even existent at all? Are the characters that fill the world’s stage fundamentally good, bad, or something in between? Is He mad, disappointed, or undecided about me? Is God truly love, or is He some kind of bipolar mixture with moments here and there of convenient amnesia? Should I place complete hope and faith in Him, or is it best that I live with one eye open? Are the plot lines in my life, negative or positive, written directly from the pen in His hand, or is something or someone else at play? So many factors and influences take the stage—parents, upbringing, faith, circumstances, and life experiences, all auditioning to write a verse or even commandeer the entire script as the Author in our heads.

That’s the reason why, for many of us, the person we are to ourselves isn’t so much in concert with the true Author of life, but far more in step with the Accuser of it—a constant voice of condemnation interpreting all of our existence towards the verdict of personal guilt and shame. Somehow, it’s always our fault. We are wrong even when we are right. Every moment of every day, drinking in and regurgitating out volumes of evil, twisted verses to our souls—I’ll never measure up, I’m a square peg in a round world, always a step below, a length behind, a stumble too far gone. Things will never get better, this is as good as it’s going to get. God hates me, I’m an abomination—the reason this is all happening. My life is a bitch in the ditch, a mess far beyond repair. I’m a misfit, a misprint, a miscue, and fundamentally, a grandiose mistake.

The truth is, the Accuser cannot speak to you what you aren’t first willing to say to yourself. Often, the lens through which we see our lives is so skewed by inner condemnation, shame, and inadequacy that the person gazing back at us in the mirror reveals the image of one who has been repeatedly and brutally raped by our self-talk to the point that our true beauty, strength, wholeness, and divinity is nowhere to be seen—buried under the bed of our self-inflicted adultery. Tainted by a diabolical world that’s been allowed penetration onto our cerebral stage, our self-talk is killing us—and not just killing us, but unceasingly thrusting Jesus back upon the cross in full declaration and conclusion that when all is said and done, His Grace is not sufficient—at least not for us. The words we speak, the evils we echo to our soul are the nails that crucify us and Him, over and over again—our self-talk, locking the shackles that are imprisoning our every step.

The verbal selfie you take in your mind is the most influential image in your life. Like a resurrected Lazarus who was nothing more than a card-carrying member of the walking dead until his burial wraps were removed, we will never be fully alive until the death we speak to ourselves is shown for its utter uselessness and imprisonment, and thus unraveled and replaced with words of life—because we have finally become convinced by the Convincer, we are not dead, but teeming with divine Light.

For you are the loveliness of Jesus, the prize for which He became a person. You are whole, complete, forever without blemish—never discarded or labeled as damaged goods. Nothing less than pure delight and affection has come from God’s heart to yours. On the cross, Jesus did far more than ankle-yank you out of hell into heaven, He remade you, and all that is Him is all that is now you. Nothing can revoke or remove God’s perfect, unconditionally unconditional love for you. You are fully qualified for every good thing. No sin, past, present, or future shall ever define you nor cast a shadow upon your image. As far as the east is from the west, inadequacy and shame are forever removed from your path.

My child, there is nothing wrong with you, no doubts to haunt your potential nor twitches to sabotage good things. Your capacity to face life is nothing less than Jesus’ capacity to face death—resurrection and redemption are who you are. To God, you are not merely a person to love, you are the reason God is love. Above all else, you are an experience to Him, the candy in the store that fills the heavens with joy, satisfaction, and pride. The mere thought of you tickles His sides with laughter and sends Him blazing through streets of gold with a gleam in His eyes brighter than a thousand suns.

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time where the God who is perfect love does not perfectly and completely love you—all of you, everything about you. Every feeling, decision, and conclusion in your regard has already been formed and sealed in ecstatic, irrevocable and unremovable love. There is nothing you can do or become that can undo or improve upon what God has already put to rest—the internal, tormenting conversation you constantly wage with yourself wrestling with the value, worth, essence and summation of your life. There is nothing left to talk about or debate—there is nothing unsettled that hasn’t been settled. You are divine beauty, God’s best idea—no matter what others, and more importantly, no matter what you might say.

When we are the person weighted with depression—engulfed in the quicksands of discouragement. When we are the person held captive by self directed unforgiveness—hopelessly circling on sin’s merry-go-round, spinning our lives out of control. When we are the person eclipsing ourselves, standing in the way of shiny new things—striving, trying, and performing our way to somehow redeem our storyline and make a name and a significance of ourselves. Before all, and in all, we are first the person whose self-talk is diseased with words of condemnation and condition that ooze out a soul-hemorrhaging puss dripping from our mouths as we sing from the Accuser’s songbook.

Seeking to change our circumstances often proves futile, seeking to change our self-talk is the good fight of faith—the work of God that is to fully rest our souls and our self assessments on how deep, wide, scandalous, and expansive is the love of Jesus upon our every atom.

The greatest battle in your life is to be convinced of the Author’s conclusions when the Accuser blows his hallucinogenic smoke into your eyes hoping you’ll believe something less. There is nothing to work on in your life, there is only everything to believe on about your life. Jesus did not die to save you from an angry God, but to save you from believing He is. For guilt is anger turned inward, the death cocktail of the Accuser served for the consumption of your self-talk to rid you from seeing all that His hands have made—the perfection that is you.

God is good, He is love. He has nothing but grace, joy, hope, acceptance, affirmation, and freedom to speak into you.

Never let a thought be in your head of self evaluation or conclusion that is not first a thought in His, nor a conversation ensue within you that is not first wrought from the Father, Son, and the Spirit as they brag about you.

Then, the self-talk that is killing you soon becomes the Jesus-talk that frees you to fully be who you fully already are… Jesus anew.

Christian, You’re Worried About Transgender Bathrooms? Seriously?

Christian, I’m not buying it one bit—all your huffing and puffing about the morally deplorable and safety-shattering realities that would become if transgender people were allowed to use the public bathrooms of their true identity and choice.

I gotta give you props, you don’t let the paint dry in stepping up to the plate to bark out against all the wrong things—showing the true teeth of your creed. You want to convince me that there is something alarming of which to be afraid that should awaken in me dire concerns for my country, family, and children. Yet, the truth is, you’re more desperate to deflect attention from the real issues than Johnnie Cochran in a murder trial. The rest of us, Jesus lovers and alike, we’re hip to all the smoke and mirrors you position in an effort to justify your inner hate and religious arrogance against that which you don’t understand or agree. Quite frankly, you’re going to have to do a lot better than this if you want to be taken seriously. Your ignorance, pew-packaged talking points, and religious ideology of self-righteous superiority show up like skid marks on a 5-year-old’s underwear—you’ve crapped your pants, and we know it. All these religious charades you tout in hopes we will go nose-blind to your stench, would all be so laughable, if it wasn’t all so serious.

You’re a Christian parent, for crying out loud, who sexualizes your young daughters with dance and cheerleading groups pimping every hoochie-mama gyration their makeup ladened, pubescent bodies can muster in skin tight uniforms fit for a Beyonce’ video, all while forty-five year old men who live in their mom’s basements hoot and holler in the audience—and you’re worried for your kids about transgender friendly bathrooms, and you want me to be too?

You take your sons to stand in line for hours at the local GameStop, licking your chops to purchase the latest violent, salvage, blood spewing, graphic video game because “boys will by boys” as father and son imagine, enact, and fantasize violence—and you want me to be worried about transgender friendly bathrooms?

You friggin put Sundrop in your kid’s Sippy Cup. You send your children to school with a lunch bag laced with Little Debbie Snack Cakes, Cheese Puffs, a slice of baloney and a 25-grams-of-sugar loaded Juice Box.

You’re a parent whose life revolves around the activities and temper tantrums of your children as their demands drag you around like a dog on a leash—and yet you’re worried for your kids about transgender friendly bathrooms?

You teach your children to disrespect adults and throw shade at their teachers because in your mind (and now theirs) it always has to be the teacher’s fault. Whose else could it possibly be?

You think the best God-honoring activities to solicit the spiritual growth of your children are to jack them up with Bible drills and memorization contests, and outsource them to every vacation Bible school program you can map out on your GPS—and you want me to buy into your worry about transgender friendly bathrooms?

You’re a parent who spoils, over schedules, and parades their children around like a circus show because your self-worth is tied to appeasing the opinions of others, vicariously living through your children, and winning the competitive-parenting game that rules your every move and Facebook post.

At a blink of an eye, you’ll lay down wads of cash for the latest pair of Nike shoes, Vera Bradley purses, and concert tickets to Miley Cyrus, just because they ask, and you can’t stomach their displeasure.

You give little to no pause to publicly scolding your children with harsh rants of profanity. You watch porn on your computer one moment, sing songs of Jesus on your church’s projection screen the next, and then sit the family down for Sunday evening devotions like nothing ever happened.

More Republican politicians get arrested for sexual acts in public bathrooms than transgender people—and you want me to be worried about them taking a piss in a public bathroom?

The truth is, what should be frantically sending parents and kids into the streets screaming with fear isn’t transgender people showing up in a restroom. Hell no, we should be going bat crazy at the thought of the likes of your ignorance, arrogance, and hate bellying up to pee beside us or take a dump next door —hell hath no violence, harm, and fury like a conservative Christian.

If there is any social terrorism going on, monsters showing up in your local water closet, you’ll have a lot better chance at finding the culprit by looking into the mirror than under the bathroom stall.

When we finally see you as a Christian refusing to boycott things that are simply more humane than you, punch things just because they’re different, and wallow in the shelter of your religious pride and ignorance, then we may just give serious ear to the things for which you want us to be concerned and afraid.

Until then, we’ll kindly love people and treat them equally, fighting for their divine dignity, rights, and respect.

Spoiler alert, that’s what Jesus would do.

That’s what Jesus is doing.

Hate it for you.

Never Fear Again

We all have fears and situations that present us with plenty of opportunity to be afraid. Some fears are good, in a sense, at least the ones that keep us from doing stupid things. But for the most part, fears serve a destructive purpose in our life.

The real issue behind our fears is… what are we doing with them? For most of us, we are trying to use our will and might to subdue, bury, or pretend they don’t exist. From playing mental games to engaging in all kinds of spiritual gymnastics, we find ourselves facing our fears with the mindset that we need to try harder, be more courageous, preoccupy our minds, or bribe God in order to get our anxieties under control.

And then comes the issue of faith. If I just somehow believer harder, or believe more, or just have more faith, that will do the trick against fear. The fact that I have fears in the first place must be a sure sign that there are flaws in my faith.

Hogwash, throw all of that our of your mind!

It is not the strength of your faith that matters, it is the object of your faith that dissolves fear. Keep reading, this revelation is going to change your life!

The Bible sums up its teaching on dealing with fear in one short, but powerful phrase, “Perfect love casts out fear.”

Because for years we Christians have lost sight of the original Gospel of Grace and the essence of the Christian life, we have wrongly placed the emphasis of our faith on our ability to have it. In our performance-driven, Christian culture, we have automatically assumed that when Jesus said things like, “Oh ye of little faith…” that He was referring to the size of our belief or ability thereof.  If that were true, then a similar teaching about needing only a “little” faith to move mountains would be a contradiction. I suggest, in the phrase, “Oh ye of little faith…” He was addressing the size of our small perception of God’s love and Grace, not the size of our faith.

The essence of faith is not in your ability to have enough, but in God’s ability to deliver upon it. It’s the object of our faith, not the caliber of it that matters.

When God says in His Word, “Perfect loves casts out fear” He is teaching two powerful revelations.

1) If the object of our faith is anything less than the perfect love of Jesus upon our lives, we will be susceptible to fear.

2) When we place our faith in the object of God’s perfect love, fear dissolves.

The problem is not the level of your belief, it’s in what you are believing in. “Perfect love” is not referring to a level of love or faith we need to have in Him in order to combat fear, but to the quality and character of God’s love for us.

If I am putting my faith in a God who I believe loves unconditionally but with conditions, fear has room to flow freely in my life. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who is at times angry and disappointed with me because of things I am doing or not doing, fear has room to grow in my life. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who places or removes His favor upon me based on my actions, fear has opportunity to ignite in my life. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who never forgets, is keeping score, and may turn His back if I push things too far or make too many mistakes, fear has a warm place from which to grow. That is not His perfect love. If I am putting my faith in a God who mixes Law with Grace, unconditional love with conditions, acceptance with judgement, forgiveness with punishment, salvation with spiritual performance, new creation with old nature, then fear has save harbor from the power of His perfect love.

No amount of faith can suffice against fear when the object of our faith is anything less than God’s perfect love for you. There will always be room to doubt, second guess, worry, and wonder. Is God mad at me? Is He allowing this to happen in order to punish me? Have I pushed Him too far this time? Is He making me pay? Is this happening because of something in the past? Will this be the one time He turns His back or removes His favor? Can I really trust Him with everything? Does He even care?

Yet, when I believe in the true expanse, depth, volume, quality, and character of God’s love for me, there is literally no more room for fear. God loves you perfectly. Completely, thoroughly, eternally. His love never misses the mark, slips, sleeps on the job, pauses, takes a break, slows down, lightens up, messes up, gets moody or has doubts. It may feel that way at times. But our feelings (and even the facts) don’t always reflect nor lead us to the truth.

God has made a once and forever decision to love you wholly with a never-ending, uninterruptible, unstoppable, never waning love.

God perfectly loves you and is working out all things for your good. His care is microscopic of every detail in your life. There is no place nor aspect of your life, past, present or future, where God is not already present and that God does not already completely love. Now that is grace-a-licious!

The truth is God loves you and there is nothing you can do about. It’s never really been about you, it’s always been about Him, His nature, His desire, and His affection… for you.

Rest in God’s perfect love of you. Trust in His goodness, the quality of Jesus.

It’s not about how much you believe, it’s about what you believe is the measure of God loves you. How big is the love and Grace of your God? How perfectly does He love you? Who is God to you? Is He who He says He is… “God is love”

God perfectly loves you, be not afraid. Walk in confidence, peace, and assurance today.

Top 5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

Part 1 of 6

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

Mixing is for Gin not the Gospel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Gospel

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

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

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

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

This is the Gospel.

So What’s The Beef?

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

A Quick Clarification

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

5 Passages Religious “Anti-Grace” People Love

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

keep reading… Part 2

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

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