Tag: love (page 1 of 5)

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.

Christians, This Is Why People Think We Suck

Maybe you’re tired of hearing it, maybe you don’t care, or maybe you just don’t want to see it, but the truth is, whether we like it or not, most of the world doesn’t view Christians nor Christianity in a positive light—especially the conservative brand of our faith. For all our efforts to “win people for Christ” with even the best of intentions, at the end of the day, many see Christians as hypocritical pretentious jerks, “church” as a ridiculous waste of time, and our faith as a hopeless, ignorant, hateful, and useless relic of the past that refuses to evolve.

Sure, we could spiritualize it all away with leather-bound excuses as we declare that “in these the end of days, people will turn away.” Yet sadly, blinded to our own rebellion, it is in fact we, not them, who have increasingly rejected the true and pure Gospel—falling away from God who is Love, Jesus who is Grace, and His message that is peace. Once again, the irony is deafening as the religious who point fingers at the world in disgust and blame are the ones found to be most entrenched in its evils—lacking real compassion, humility, love, and true faith.

Believe what you want to believe, draw the lines where you want to draw, retreat to your camps, wrap yourself in the faith flag that seems to best suit your spiritual comforts—the world doesn’t care. We have largely lost our voice, surrendered much of our influence, and bear the image of spiritual buffoons in the eyes of many who look upon us. Fair or unfair, that’s the mirror of truth—whether we are willing to stand in front of it or not.

Sure, a few megachurches and contemporary ministries are increasing in numbers as sheep shift from pasture to pasture seeking out the best show. Yet still, American Christianity in all its expressions is largely dying and we, like drunks, are apparently so addicted to our religiosity that we would just as soon die with it in a pool of our own spiritual vomit than embrace the sobering cure.

But no, you won’t hear it, you won’t listen to it, you won’t take seriously the countless voices of those who’ve been left to drown in our wake. Deflecting truth, with your head buried in the echo chamber of your own understanding, has become to you a prized spiritual gift. For it is our deafness to the Christ crying out all around us that has drained the marrow out of our souls, rendered us nearly useless, and made us a sure enemy of God’s heart.

A voice cries out in the wilderness, “Christians, when will we lift our heads out of the sand and finally realize just who we have become?”

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve become nose-blind to our own stench. The pungent, nose hair singeing aroma that exudes from our pores is the very reality we refuse to admit—our spiritual attitudes stink. Maybe we don’t put it into exact words, but we say it exactly in every other way. “We have the exclusive truth, and everyone else is the exclusive problem.” “We are right, and everyone else is wrong.” “We have all the answers and a Bible that clearly tells us so, who are you to question or differ in opinion?”

“You need to come and join us—think like us, believe like us, look like us, live like us, for we have the cure to you who are the cancer.” “God is working towards our success because of our faith-living while working towards your failure because of your rebellious sinning.” “We will always be just a bit better than you until that day you become one of us—in the meanwhile, we’ll be praying for you.”

With vomit dripping off their lips as countless fight the urge to gag, the world joins together in upchucking an honest chorus of reply, “thanks, but no thanks.” “We’d rather spend an eternity with our noses shackled to the excretion holes of a thousand skunks than to spend one moment becoming anything like you.”

Reeking with religious pretentiousness, to the spiritual nostrils of good people everywhere, we have become an all new fragrance for an all new world, “Stank” by Evangelical No. 5.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve spiritualized and justified hate. Countless mindful, thinking, good people observe the behavioral liturgies of our faith and truly wonder, how can anyone encounter Jesus personally and read the love-driven talks He gave, and yet somehow translate that into a faith ladened with racism, sexism, discrimination, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism, imperialism, judgement, and condemnation? This is incomprehensible to the world, and rightly so.

If there is any hate that should be adopted by our faith it should be directed at evil, which is defined by its root word in biblical Greek as being “the pursuit of making a name for oneself.” Interestingly enough, the essence of evil in God’s mind is not sin nor disbelief, but rather using Jesus for the pursuit of power for one’s own benefit.

It is the condemnation of others in order to secure our own sense of righteousness. It is the assertion of one’s rights to the minimizing, reducing, or removal of another’s. It is the privileged gripping onto their own privilege to the detriment of true equality. It is the building of walls where God desires tables. It is the exclusion of any of the “all” that Jesus always and forever includes. It is arrogantly insisting that one is “pro-life” while being equally determined to twist the scriptures in every possible way that brings condemnation’s death to those with whom we disagree or deem to be sinning.

To the level that the world despises us and the “Christian” label we wear, it is because we have given them every good and biblical reason to do so. For we have become evil’s highest manifestation—spiritualized hate.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve reduced Love into an accessory. As much as we might claim to be a people of love, the world knows us best by the love we fear. With us, every good thing has a condition, expiration date, and imposed limits. Don’t love people too much. Don’t give people too much grace. Don’t have too much fun. Don’t enjoy life too much. Don’t be around those people, go to that movie, listen to that song, or buy a cake from that baker—danger, danger, danger. Shackled by a fear-driven faith, we’ve turned love into a defensive, fragile posture.

In fact, nothing brings us more anxiety than God’s own declaration that He is Love—without conditions, restrictions, or expiration. Everything within our religious being fights and claws at this table-turning revelation and conclusion.

Why? Because, for God to be wholly and purely Love would render so much of what we are, do, and believe as ridiculously absurd, contrived, selfish, useless, and anti Christ. The house of religious cards that has become much of our Christian faith falls tumbling to the ground the moment God is embraced as solely Love as He himself declares. The litany of additional attributes we project onto God that conveniently justify our loveless behavior, all become impotent—anger, judgement, wrath, punishment, revenge, and condemnation alike. That’s why we are so insistent on confusing Love, and making it an accessory.

The fact that people can experience God and live Him with one single Word—LOVE—sends our entire faith construct into a tailspin plummeting to earth in a ball of flaming fire.

All evil begins where Love has been made an accessory.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve turned a book into a bulldozer. The Bible is only black and white to people seeking the control of another and the spiritual justification of self. For nothing levels people we don’t like and creates mountains upon which to judge others like the perfected craft of Christians turning the Bible into a bulldozer. What God meant to be a human springboard to a life-long encounter with Jesus, Christians have turned into a people prod, hoping to corral the world into their religious misery.

The “clear teachings” of the Bible aren’t clear to anyone, and everyone knows it, except we who arrogantly claim to know it best. The heights of authority we insist on attributing to the Bible are often sadly equal to the depth of our desires to exert authority over others. “This is what the Bible says” is ultimately our clever way of declaring, “This is what we believe the Bible says, and you need to believe it too, or else.”

Yet, for all our proof-texting and bulldozing with Bibles, the world isn’t fooled, every verse loses its ability to condemn, judge, and breed self-righteousness the moment it is rightly placed under the feet of Jesus who is Grace, the only perfect Word of God.

The truth is, we don’t have to interpret the scriptures towards inerrancy, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, bigotry, a life of sin-management, God-appeasement, or a tormenting hell for people who miss the mark in loving God in return—we choose to. The flames of our hate, condemnation, and pride were in our hearts already, we just use the Bible to fuel them and give it all a spiritual glow.

People don’t dismiss the Bible because of Jesus, they dismiss the Bible because of us.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

We’ve become all talk, and our talk sucks. We sing the songs, say the prayers, attend the services, read our Bibles, make our promises, pledge our allegiance, and hope the world doesn’t look under the hood. The truth is, we’re faking-it-to-make-it along with everyone else who signs up for religion. If American Christianity was calibrated to the heart of Jesus, we wouldn’t have to do so much pretending.

We’d be singing far less songs to the Jesus on the worship screen and crying more tears with the Jesus on the streets. We’d be praying far less to God for His will, favor, and blessings, and doing much more for the hurting, marginalized, and oppressed. We’d be worshiping far less in elaborate buildings and serving more passionately without them. We’d be spending far less time idolizing the Bible and loading it for debate, and more time listening to people’s stories and seeking to truly understand them. We’d be spending far less time making promises to God we can’t keep and more time loving people in ways they would never be able to forget.

If only, we would simply take the advice of the Christ calling out from amidst the world, “stop talking, stop pretending, stop playing church, and learn to shut up and listen.”

See, people aren’t stupid, God has put His light into all humanity—they can do the spiritual math.

Love plus conditions equals no love at all. Gospel plus Law equals no gospel at all. A God who is Love but also hates, condemns, and forever imprisons is no god at all. Striving to please, appease, and satisfy an angry god is no life at all. Sin-managing, pretending, and looking the part equals no hope it all. Equality for some equals inequality for all. Inclusions for the privileged alone equals no inclusion at all. Being human without being humane is not being human nor divine at all. Hating the sin but loving the sinner equals hating it all. Thirty thousand different Christian denominations that believe entirely different things about the same Bible equals the sure and glaring reality that no Christian group or individual can accurately claim to truly know, understand, and rightly interpret it all.

As good as we are at building buildings, mission statements, ministry branding, smoke machines, video venues, robed choirs, ministry conferences, and clean carpets, the truth is, we suck at loving, we suck at being human, we suck at listening, we suck at serving, we suck at sacrificing, we suck at including, we suck at humility, we suck at unselfishness—basically all the things Jesus would have us to be and do.

The world sees it, yet we refuse. Perhaps because, to our surprise and ensuing rage, they have the Spirit and we have lost it.

Hear this and hear it clearly, God is awakening a people to His true self (who is Love) and His true Gospel (which is Grace), but sadly, most Christians and much of Christianity will have no part of it and therefore no part in it. My sense is, God is not only completely o.k. with that, He might just be behind it.

Where is the Grace in all of this?

It’s in the courage of trembling voices such as this, that speak, tell, and confront the religious hell on earth we have created and surely have become, believing there is still hope for us all—never giving up.

To those who have ears, let them hear.

Christians, this is why people think we suck.

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.

Christian, Why Aren’t You Pounding On My Door?

It’s not an issue of debate, at least, probably not for you.

In sync with your faith understanding and interpretation of the Bible, you believe hell is absolutely real and anyone who doesn’t repent, say the “sinner’s prayer,” and make the proper life adjustments is destined to spend eternity there.

For you, hell is a God appointed, forever place of unbearable torture and suffering where the occupant’s greatest desire is to die, but they can’t—it’s hell, their due punishment for rejecting a holy and just God.

Therefore, the understood purpose of Jesus is to communicate and manifest God’s love to people while making it possible for them, through their repentance and faith, to be “saved” from the terrifying, agonizing, eternal reality God has prepared for them if they don’t love Him back in return. In your mind, perhaps God doesn’t exactly “send” people to hell nor desire their eternal demise, but they rather choose it. Either way, at the very least, God allows hell for the unbelieving, is holy in doing so, and your prescribed mission is, out of love and obedience, to do everything you can to keep people from going there.

I’m not being critical nor condemning of your faith understanding, just descriptive.

Which leaves me with a question.

If you believe hell is so real and terrible, God loves me enough to send His Son to die a gruesome death on a cross to make it possible for me to avoid it, and you are His plan to tell me all about it so that I can believe all the right things to escape it, why aren’t you pounding on my door every minute of every day to convince me of it? Even if I should turn away, brush you off, or even reject it all together, why don’t you keep relentlessly pursuing it? It’s a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, is it not?

What could possibly be more important? Certainly, not your marriage, family, career, or enjoyed way of life—that would be ridiculously selfish in contrast to the eternal suffering of even just one person, especially in the kind of hell to which you subscribe. What kind of twisted love could one possibly possess that would ever consider resting for just a moment, knowing the potential result if you do?

With millions of “lost” people, you believe, standing at the edge of forever fire only a heartbeat away from eternal torture, how is it that you can be doing, investing, spending, prioritizing, and participating in anything less than the direct pleading, door-pounding, begging, and drawing of every person possible?

And what about your behavior? I hear that your faith tradition believes that little bugger can actually become a stumbling block, even unto the saving faith of another. With all due respect, as much as you seem to be comfortable in talking about everyone else’s personal conduct, for just a moment, can we talk about yours? To think that, for example, an overweight, gluttonous pastor or smoking parishioner might be the primary reason a person concludes, “this whole Jesus thing isn’t for me,” shouldn’t that send every Christian to their local Gold’s Gym after Sunday preaching, not the typical gorging at Golden Corral commonly themed? If that doesn’t potentially shutdown a heathen’s moment of saving faith, what about your 50% divorce rate? What about the 60% of church leaders who watch porn? What about all the church gossip and political infighting? We’re talking about a hell of eternal torment that you believe in, are we not?

Which reminds me, I also recall a couple central, pivotal passages from the Bible that are highly faith defining. One dictates that in actuality, it’s “God’s kindness that leads to repentance” and the other, “the ministry of the Law is death.” So, wait a second. If a white-hot hell is so real and repentance is the sure ticket to the cool breezes of heaven, shouldn’t we be the kindest people on planet earth and exuding a ministry of Grace like the world has never seen? Shouldn’t we be revered in every corner of the planet as being the gentlest, most compassionate, radically gracious, unconditional loving, patient, selfless, generous, serving, and humble people ever known upon the earth—even to a fault?

I know this might be a tough question to answer, but in light of the seriousness of your claims about hell, why isn’t yours a clear, resounding, and flat out earth-shaking lifestyle of relentless kindness, radical Grace, and compassionate character that’s pounding at the doors of every heart and mind in every moment of every day to convince them? I hate to ask this yet again, but this is an eternal hell of unimaginable pain, suffering, and brutal torture at the hands of demons that we are talking about, is it not?

I, and many others, have been carefully listening for your answer, and perhaps we have sadly received it. For as much as this is difficult to say, the truth is, our doors have almost never felt your genuine knock, our hearts rarely ever hear the plea of your kindness, our eyes see so much hypocrisy, and our souls starve in absence of observing and feeling any genuine love, acceptance, and true Grace from you.

Rather, if I’m honest, you seem so desperate to insist that your hell is so real and that I need to take it so drastically serious. Yet, I am growing more and more convinced that, by all the things you do and don’t, you yourself don’t actually believe it, perhaps not even in Jesus either. For if you did, with all due respect, I just have to believe you’d be so much more loving, so much more kinder, so much more gracious, so much more concerned about your own walk, and so much more focused on loving, respecting, accepting, and pursuing mine—you know, like Jesus.

Instead, I see state-of-the-art church buildings, lighting systems, worship packages, budgets, and million dollar pastoral homes and salaries. I see Christian clubs with crosses on top where like-minded, like-skinned people gather like herds of cattle to daintily drivel amongst themselves and viciously judge the world. I see people who are addicted to the sound of their own spiritual voices, consumed by consuming, and content with making their spiritual satisfaction the idolatrous priority of their faith. I see people leaning on their ideologies to the detriment, harm, and abuse of others. I see people who demonstrate little-to-no restraint in highjacking Jesus for political power, personal empire building, and ministry fame. I see people who are feverishly unkind, selfish, privileged, and pretentious—totally at peace with a faith-life of spiritual navel gazing, people-judging, bible-weaponizing, and personal significance seeking. I see people who marginalize, discriminate, and torment those with whom they disagree, dislike, or conveniently deem to be sinning differently. I see people who view the world as a spiritual project—a pasture of beastly humans to ultimately rope into their brand of religious performance, rule-keeping, soul-milking, and mold-fitting. I see people who have spiritually rationalized nearly every form of evil under the sun while joyfully passing it off as biblical faithfulness. For much of modern Christianity has become so thin, white, privileged, cutting, and square, you could use it as piece of paper—best crumpled up and discarded, to be sure. “LeBron pulls up, he shoots, he scores”—all of it, into file thirteen.

If your hell is so true and your faith so loving, how in the world could you ever have time, energy, imagination, resources, or heart for becoming so much of what Jesus is clearly not?

Perhaps the real truth is, “hell” is only as important to you as far as it involves theological debates, condemning perceived sinners, drawing lines, spiritual justifying your platform, mission, and pride, and fearing people into your beliefs.

It obviously doesn’t bother you—that much. Cause you to love—that much. Inspire your kindness and graciousness—that much, nor compels your every all.

Hell—it’s all so convenient, is it not?

With all due respect, if you want me to believe your hell is so real, you are going to have to do a lot better at convincing me that you actually believe it, first.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Love Cannot Be Out-Voted, Be Brave

For many of us, the 2016 presidential election has cast an ominous shadow—these are dark days for sure. It feels like we have lost nearly everything as at the mere casting of a ballot, so many of the things we value have been voted irrelevant and many of the people we deeply love, now exposed to even higher levels of the very bigotry, discrimination, abuse, and hate that already plagues their God-adorned lives. We are nervous, afraid, unsettled, uncertain, and rightly so.  Few seem to truly understand the plight of the marginalized and oppressed, and much of America has apparently decided that no matter the cost in character, lives, justice, and truth, holding onto ones privilege and power is far more important—the emergence of equality always feels like war to the privileged.

In the very same way, at the cross, Grace appears to be dying, dead, deemed irrelevant, and all hope murdered out of existence. The forces of evil that seek to steal, kill, and destroy the very values and people God loves and affirms so deeply, seem to have won the day. Jesus is dead, Grace has been out-voted, and evil has the victory—a complete cosmos-level of shock blanketing many who witnessed that day—the nails, the dripping of blood, the stopping of breath. The privileged and religiously-spirited appear to have won the battle against the heart of God, whose manifestation in Jesus brought a radical message of heaven-sanctioned Grace, life, freedom, equality, affirmation, and acceptance for all—none are better, only different.

Yet, ultimately, in due time, a Light appears revealing nothing could be further from the truth. It took some time, but as His followers listened, allowed their hearts to be still, and remembered the Jesus they had come to love and follow, a new Hope, a new perspective, and a new path revealed Itself—One greater than they had ever known before. What looked and felt like insurmountable death was resurrected into unstoppable life. For nothing can out-vote Love.

The way of Jesus, at times, feels like a losing one filled with moments of desperation and gut-wrenching unfairness. The days ahead will be important times to mourn, to be shocked, to allow ourselves to experience the full range of emotions and empathize with others that do also. It’s a time to fiercely beat the chest of God, cry out for understanding, and be completely, thoroughly, and unapologetically honest about our doubts and disbelief.

Yet, these are also days to be still, to listen, to learn, to look at ourselves in the mirror, examine our hearts, consider our ways, and remind ourselves, greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.

Love wins, love cannot be out-voted, and we the people of Jesus, lovers of Grace and truth, are a brave people—not just brave, but unstoppable.

Perhaps, a battle has been lost, maybe so. But we who are still yet determined, in the face of our enemies, in the shock of our disappointment, and in the quaking of our fears, to continue to love unconditionally, carry ourselves with true humility, cling to Hope unwaveringly, stand with the oppressed unyieldingly, and live the way of Jesus exceedingly, have already won the war.

We are never a defeated people as long as we are a people of Love unconditional.

Now is the time, like never before, to show the world in this season of darkness that we are the possessors of true Light—do what you will, take what you take, hate what you hate, abuse what you abuse, but we will never become the evil done against us!

Never.

We will never take up the sword over the plowshare, we will never rejoice at the mourning of others, even the demise of our enemies, nor we will ever be rendered silent in the defense of all that God affirms and delights.

Never, no way, ever!

We are Lovers, lovers all the way.

Surely, these are days to be sacredly sad, but these are also days to be unbridledly brave.

Brave enough to cry.

Brave enough to hurt.

Brave enough to hope.

Brave enough to live.

Brave enough to still yet love—and that, unconditionally unconditional.

It’s time to be brave, for Love cannot be out-voted.

Never, no way, ever!

 

Grace is brave, be brave.

I’m Done: Why I’m Completely Walking Away From Church, Ministry, And Most Everything “Christian”

I promise, it’s not you, it’s me.

That, I’m convinced.

I’ve tried, I really have. Twenty-two years of ministry—even more time, simply being a “Christian.”

I can’t do it, and it’s high time to call the wizard out from behind the curtain.

This whole American-Christianity thing, I’m just not good enough. I can’t pull it off.

Church, ministry, “Christian” stuff—I simply don’t have what it takes.

I mean, you Church folks are amazing, I don’t know how you do it. The way you keep your righteousness and closeness with God afloat through a vigilant life of sin-management, do-gooding, and Christian faithfulness, I can’t even begin to lift that kind of weight, let alone hold it up. For me, every time I’m admonished with things I need to do in order to be a better person or become a more “fully devoted” follower of Jesus Christ, I don’t even get close to mastering just one of them, not to mention the five others listed in the sermon notes. And before you know it, the next Sunday, we’re on to a whole new set of things I need to go after. Honestly, I just can’t keep up like you. I’m so far behind from being a “real deal Christian.” And quite frankly, I’m ashamed of my incapacity to spiritually perform at your level. I truly don’t know how you field that kind of pressure and keep good going with all the spiritual consequences ahead of you if you don’t. Your fear management skills must be impeccable.

Something is wrong with me, I’m sure. All the accountability partners, prayer warriors and small-group interventions have somehow fallen flat. Years of Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, pastors, and mentors hoping I’ll get serious enough to get my life on track. I feel like such a hypocrite and fake to just take a step towards your fellowship, as if I’m even close to making the grade or would ever be capable of drawing within your lines. It all leaves me so empty. I feel everything in my soul shutting down at just the thought.

I look around, and everyone else is so much more spiritual. All the inspirational posts they have on Facebook, all the good things they are doing for the Lord—so deep into worship and prayer with their eyes closed and hands raised, loving every minute of it with complete abandon. There’s this ardent love and commitment to Jesus that’s just dripping from everybody’s lips with such eloquent and Jesus-flavored verbiage. And here I am—riddled with serious doubts and questions, embarrassed that I’m not feeling nearly as into Jesus as apparently I should. Heck, truth be told, I’m still struggling with a good amount of the bad stuff you folks seem to be so far beyond. My beliefs change, my behaviors fall short, my passions fade—no wonder why, from time to time, I’ve gotten the disappointed looks, cold shoulders, and leadership “time outs.”  What was I thinking, I’m way out of my league. Repentance here, pointing out sin there, keeping people from an eternal torture in hell prescribed from a God who is Love—I don’t know how you stomach it all. It’s true, I really should be so much further along by now, but for some reason, all the formulas, disciplines, rituals, steps, and “soaking” in worship aren’t working for me. And trust me, I’ve tried—really, really hard.

Church, I want to fit in so badly, I want to feel like a genuine follower in American Christianity, but I just can’t. Whatever it is you have, I simply don’t have it in me.

I mean, you people in ministry—you got it going on. All of you, rockstars for sure. How you keep up in the whirlwind of competitive Christianity is beyond me. It’s everywhere—in all my searching, I’ve been hard pressed to find a layer of Christian ministry that hasn’t been turned into pretty much a kind of all-out ministry cage match. Quite frankly, I don’t know how so many of you do it—making sure your ministry is out-growing the next, your blog posts are the first written on the latest controversial subject, your platform is increasing, your branding is on point, your engaging your following, updating your Twitter account, promoting your latest “thing”—on and on and on, keeping up with ministry trends, making sure you’re “in” with all the right people, all while having the picture perfect marriage and family pimped with the latest fashions, fohawks, tattoos, and skinny jeans required in order to be relevant.  Wow, I bend a knee in your honor and awe.

And then, the criticism. All the people determined to misunderstand you—the people who treat you unfairly, kick you to the curb, and hang you out to dry. The fellow people in ministry who sabotage you, seek to undermine your influence, use you, and are always trying to “out minister” you. How you shrug it all off and plow through—my hat goes off to you.

I’m sure I just don’t have enough faith and I am way too insecure. I should be so much stronger in my identity in Christ, but a lot of times, I’m just not. Thank God there are celebrity ministers out there within every camp and kind who do, say, and write so much better than the rest of us—makes up for all my floundering for sure. You folks are heroes, how you stomach and swim in the business and enterprise that is empire Christianity is way beyond my capacity—the compromises you have to make, the duplicities you must have to embody—yours is a high wire act I’m just not good enough to swing.  As much as your table in the lunch room captures my attention, I can’t hang with you all, though my ego might keep on dreaming. I must concede, I just don’t have it in me.

I mean, “Christian” stuff—your imagination is mind-boggling. Christian yoga, Christian yoga pants, Christian basketball, Christian football, Christian dance, Christian art, Christian music, Christian movies, Christian television, Christian bathrooms, Christian food, Christian fast food, Christian books, Christian book marks, Christian clubs, Christian groups, Christian values, Christian principles, Christian nations, not to mention,  Christian ___________. Oh, and I almost forgot, Christian_____________.

I am amazed, you are the masters of drawing lines—defining who’s in and who’s out, what’s in and what’s out, what’s good for me, and what’s not.  My radar for sin and uncleanliness just isn’t that good. Thank God, you label it for me.

But even still, if I’m honest, I find myself deeply wanting to “be with” and “in with” so many of things that aren’t necessarily “Christian.”  And for that, I know I am suppose to feel, “dirty”—but, I don’t.

Surely, something is wrong with me—terribly wrong with me. I’m damaged goods, falling away, chasing wayward spirits of doctrine, or something “biblical” like that. Yet, I can’t help it. Something inside of me that I have been told for years is so weak, meek, and poor feels, yet all so strong and divine, drawing me away— far, far away.

I’m pretty sure I am going to hell, at leasts that’s what “they” say.  So, I guess that’s just how it’s going to have to be, because I simply can’t fake-it-to-make-it anymore. You folks have it, I don’t.

I know breaking up is hard to do, but I’m done. I’m walking away.

Church, ministry, so much of this “Christian” stuff.

I’m done playing the game, running the rat race, never measuring up or doing enough. I’m done competing, sacrificing my sanity, and being spiritually cross-checked every time I have an open shot on goal.

I’ve simply resigned myself to a life of trying to fully be myself—relying on Grace and loving some people along the way as best I can, believing that in so doing and in so being, Jesus is somehow pleased.

I’m a firm believer that you don’t lose friends, you lose people who you thought were friends.

And better than that—you don’t stop loving, you just learn to love more honestly.

I sense I’ll be doing the former, and I know, I’ll be doing the latter.

For honesty is the first thing that grows from a life planted in Grace.

The Letter Every Parent Should Write To Their LGBT Child

As parents, we want to parent well. We love our children deeply and want the very best for them. There are many things that shape the values and philosophy we carry into the raising of our children—spirituality, beliefs, culture, family, traditions, preferences, not to mention the often unshakeable manner in which our parents parented us. However, nothing should ultimately dictate the attitudes and actions we manifest towards our children more than unconditionally, unconditional love. No matter what parenting mantras we adopt along the way, however holy and seemingly righteous, without unconditional love taking center stage, we are powerless and bankrupt of true influence with our children.

The journey of being a parent is a daunting one where the playing field is constantly shifting beneath us, each stage along the way requiring careful adjustments. Parenting often feels like a constant tripping down the stairs where the main goal quickly becomes to simply stay on our feet and manage the fall—none of us our perfect or have the inside scoop. Yet, there is no greater opportunity to win the heart and shape the life of our children than in the giving of unconditional love when our children need it most.

When a child finally steps to the edge and invokes the God-given courage to reveal themselves as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender, there will perhaps be no greater moment and opportunity in all of our parenting to reveal to that child that ours has been a hug, all along, from birth until now, that is truly unbreakable and unstoppable—no height, nor depth, nor anything else in all of creation will separate the embrace of love, loyalty, and pride we have gripped around them. There was no fine print in our parenting that is now called into application. There were no loop holes or contingencies that warrant us a way out or a justified shrinking back. The very same joy we had when they came out of the womb is still the very same joy we have when they “come out” of the tomb of living a lie in fear of being fully known for who they truly are—lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Whether in agreement or disagreement, whether in affirmation or in confusion, we still declare in determined resolve, “this is my child with whom I am well pleased.”

This, is unconditional love when it’s needed most.

Yet sadly, while Jesus is calling our Lazarus-children to “come out” and truly be alive and fully live, unwrapping from the burial clothes of fear and condemnation that suffocate them—we can miss the moments, and even, intentionally or not, turn our children back towards the grave, wrapped once again in fear and shame. For ours is a powerful voice.

No, our children are not expecting nor desiring nor needing our perfection, but rather they long for a simple, unyielding, unbreakable, undeniable connection of loyalty and unwavering pride, sealed by an unconditional love for them that nothing can reverse or restrict. We are all born with this ancient sense deep within that this kind of love is not only possible, but ultimately the essence of God and life—and thus, the most important gift we can give, especially when everything within us or around us would tell us not to do so—when we feel those voices of our faith, culture, family, or inner convictions telling us to place conditions, to put up walls, to tighten the grip, or even condemn our very own children.

Regardless of the situation, regardless of our creed, we never make a mistake when we give unconditional love—we always make a mistake when we withhold it. Leaning on our own understandings to the reduction or removal of unconditional love always creates a detriment and depravity God never supports.

See, the truth is, we are constantly sending letters to our children, whether we intend to or not. Every day is charged with cosmic opportunity—messages of life welling up from our souls colliding and reverberating into the atmosphere of our children’s living and being. Never underestimate the power of the living letter we are forever composing to our children. The most beautiful and transformative words we can write within these verses and inject into their veins by script and action—”I love you no matter what,” “I’m forever proud of you” and “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

Nothing can change the course of things like these kinds of words spoken and displayed genuinely from a parent.

Whatever has happened, whatever path has traveled beneath your parenting feet, it’s never too late to write that letter.

It’s never too late.

Perhaps, today is the day.

For today is a new day, full of Grace, truth, and promise.

Now is an opportunity as good as any other to give echo to the Father’s heart through your voice spoken into the life of your LGBT child.

And maybe, here is the place to begin—the kind of letter you can write, the kind of letter you should write, and I pray, the kind of letter you will write.

Son / daughter,

You are beautifully and wonderfully made, as is—whether lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, it matters not. The One who holds all the stars in the sky holds you with deepest affection. You are not, nor ever will be, a problem to be solved, a question that needs an answer, nor a mistake that needs transformation—you are a finished, divine work of art. I am always proud of you and there will never be a day I don’t take great joy in calling you my child, no matter what. You are of the greatest gifts from God in my life. No, I am not a perfect parent, and yes, there have been desperately important moments I so wish I could have back that I missed showing the relentless loyalty and love I have for you. I am sorry, at times I have been flat out wrong—wrong about God, wrong about you, wrong about life, wrong about most everything. I’ve done a whole lot more talking than listening, selfishly absorbed with myself. Yet, this remains true and the deepest desire of my heart, that the same unconditional, affirming love the Father has for me, is the same love you know and experience to have from me as well, as much as I am capable of humanly doing so. For He loves you, delights in you, is proud of you, believes in you, and so do I—He will never leave you nor forsake you, and neither will I. I stand with you, by you, and for you, forever.

With deepest love,

Mom / Dad

My Dreams Are Made Of You : From Jesus To The LGBT Community

My dreams are made of you—from first light to the setting of the sun.

All that are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender—radiant shades and gleaming colors of the human tapestry—in every way, beautifully and wonderfully made. The stars, dull in comparison to your splendor.

Those special souls who bear these children, conceived by the moving of My Spirit bringing forth life—not just a life, but Light for all to see, exposing and revealing truth with every breath they breathe. Be it forever known in crystal clarity, you parent not just flesh and blood, but a cosmic awakening, pulsating from My creative majesty. Each one, a birthing from the throne so universe shaking—the mere truth of their divine being chases religious hearts out of deep seated shadows, setting free poets and prophets of true love and Grace in waves the size of eternity. Yours is an honor bestowed, a high privilege—the threads of Mary and Joseph spooled and weaved into the adornments of your calling.

All that are gay, all that are lesbian, all that are bisexual, all that are transgender, all of every shade of heaven in between—My dreams are made of you.

You are My smile that extends as far as the east is from the west. You are the joy the Father graciously sets before My chest.

You are the laughter that can’t be contained from the depths of My belly.

You are warmth of a winter’s fire, the breeze of a summer’s shower.

You are the echo of my voice through a river of mountains. You are the stream of sheer jubilation, welling up from My eternal fountain.

You are the delight that sends Me love-drunk into the streets. You are the pulse moving through My veins with every heart beat.

Forever and ever and ever I say—My dreams are made of you.

I know the hurt, the skin melting pain, the soul stripping floggings of condemnation. When I was ridiculed and rejected by My own bigoted family—there I was thinking of you. When I cried over Jerusalem, begging to be understood and simply accepted—there I was living as you. When I was in the garden, on bended knee, begging for divine reprieve, my cup flowing over with doubts and hopelessness—there I was scared just like you. When I was left to die on a religiously conspired cross, murdered in body, mind, and spirit, crucified to death by ignorance and hate, and even good people who remain silent and unengaged—there I was dying, not just for you, but on the Tree, as you.

There has never been a time you have ever been alone.

You are not the forsaken.

You are not an abomination.

You are not a sin that needs reformation.

You owe no apology, no explanation, no verse, nor spiritual transformation.

This is your time, this is your permission, this is your affirmation, this is My decision.

Be you, be fully you—for My sake, for my Name, for my Fame throughout all the universe—be you, unashamed.

Everything I am, everything I make—everything that is of mine is forever and freely yours. You are the diamonds from which dreams are made, extravagantly, specifically, and intentionally created.

Bend your ear, release your soul, I’m shouting from the heavens—from the edge of My seat, the tip top of My heart.

Listen to the cry of My trinity, Three in One wrapped in infinity.

My dreams are made of you.

My dreams are made of you.

My dreams are made of—

You.

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