Tag: religious (page 1 of 2)

Dear World, Franklin Graham Doesn’t Speak For Us, Or Jesus

I’ve had enough, and I’ve heard enough.

There is perhaps no greater evil upon all the earth than those who pillage the person and message of Jesus, and shroud their hate, arrogance, privilege, and imperialism under the guise of godliness, biblical faithfulness, purity, and the valuing of life.

Jesus understood there would be those who would exploit His truth and hustle a gospel that is in fact, no Gospel at all. In so doing, He asserted the importance of observing the fruit of a potential imposter’s beliefs in hopes of discerning and circumventing the cut of their spiritual claws.

Rev. Franklin Graham has become the mouthpiece of conservative Evangelical Christianity. With its deceptive mixed-message of “God loves you…but,” filled with traps, conditions, and controls, this increasingly aggressive movement within Christianity has had a long history of sowing seeds of poisoned fruit. Since the dawn of discrimination, conservative Evangelical Christianity has been a prominent enabler of racism. In fact, only in 1995 did its Southern Baptist denomination finally, but reluctantly, apologize to the black community for their intimate role in using the Bible to endorse racism and slavery. Conservative Evangelical Christianity is the leading incubator for the vile theology of Calvinism which portrays God as hand-picking some for heaven and joyfully discarding the rest to an eternity of tormenting hell—all founded by a man who murdered his disagreers. Christian conservatism has led the way in the discrimination of women in ministry, work, and home—even turning a blind eye to domestic and church abuse. Where once, Evangelical Christianity aggressively condemned the divorced to an eternity in hell, it cleverly came up with the word, “desertion,” to serve as a kind of biblical loophole, enabling those men left behind by the women who wised-up and “deserted’ them, to have the freedom to play another round. In fact, it was a conservative brand of Christianity that influenced Adolf Hitler towards Nazism and sat firmly in the hearts of those European settlers who raped the American Indian of their land, life, and culture for some kind of “Manifest Destiny.” Now, with a heart to spiritually and culturally exterminate those it deems to be sinning, conservative Evangelical Christianity is the dominant faith understanding behind the spread of homophobia and the false condemnation of the LGBTQ community, conveniently adding the word “homosexual” to the Bible, where it hadn’t appeared in any translation until 1945.

With the drastic uptick of good people leaving churches, thinking for themselves, questioning their indoctrination, and opening their eyes to the piles of carnage left in the wake of Christian conservatism, a perfect storm with a perfect kind of Satan has emerged. Franklin Graham has climbed up the cliffs of Evangelical Christianity’s fiery pit to lead the way in trumpeting their desperate call to war—a battle purposed on retaking that which they perceive to have lost as the world awakens to their evil.

Make no mistake, Franklin Graham and the perverted faith-understanding he represents is far from the heart of Jesus and many of us who follow Him alone. We deplore the nationalization of any faith, the discrimination of any person, the weaponizing of any Bible, and the condemnation of any soul. The disgusting Americanized version of Jesus and His Gospel that has given rise to Empire Christianity, church franchising, spiritually arrogant congregants and faith communities, and privileged, judging, and elitist followers makes us all want to vomit, right along side you. We are appalled, repulsed, and infuriated at was has become of the Jesus we adore and the Grace-centered faith that liberates us.

With all due respect to Mr. Franklin Graham, as good and spiritual as his ministry to the poor throughout the world appears and surely blesses, as much as he quotes the Bible and exclusively claims to possess and know its every truth, as much as his father was a beacon of faith, compassion, and a love for God, and as much as he postures himself as valuing life, moral wholeness, and biblical faithfulness, the screeching sound of his bigotry, pride, self-righteousness, mean-spirited condemnation, and imperialistic faith overtakes and overshadows all.

For where Jesus brings freedom, he seems determined to wrench down with control. Where Jesus brings Grace, he is quick to draw lines of condemnation. Where Jesus defines and redefines scripture, he worships it as perfect and claims to know it infallibly. Where God is pure Love, he claims He is not purely. Where Grace is declared sufficient, he says it isn’t completely. Where Jesus makes it personal and communal, he wants to make it political and national. Where Jesus makes it all completely free, he and his faith-understanding makes it all so conditionally conditional.

Everything Jesus stands for, Franklin Graham seems to stand so firmly against—a sermon on a Mount, apparently makes little-to-no difference.

For where do we see him serving the LGBTQ community? Where do we see him truly loving the enemy? Where do see him refusing to lean on his own understanding, and instead displaying a spirituality of listening? Where do we see him washing the feet of people who are transgender? Where do we see him laying down his life to escort one safely into a bathroom? Where do we see him truly loving his neighbor—Islamic, Atheist, Progressive, or even Illegal Alien? Where do we see him fighting for the rights of the marginalized, discriminated, and even those with whom he disagrees, instead of vehemently gripping onto the privilege of the privileged? Where do we see him rationalizing, excusing, and giving grace to sin on behalf of those who sin differently than he, instead of only doing so for those from whom he can gain power, influence, and the furthering of his faith ideology? Where do we see him trusting the Spirit to guide people in all truth instead of trying to control, contain, and conform them?

We don’t.

So, why should I give care and credibility to the sin he claims to see in me, everyone, and everything, when it’s clear he’s entirely oblivious to the storehouse of depravity to be seen right within his own being? Why should I line up to be assimilated into his spiritual Borg and learn the marching steps of his creed, when it’s become so blatantly clear it’s a faith understanding that doesn’t want to just normalize hate, but give it spiritual necessity? Why should I bow down to his biblical interpretations, faith perspectives, and God teachings when it all seems to desire nothing more than to control, condemn, and conform me into his image and faith collective?

Make no mistake, I refuse and resist with all my being in becoming anything like the King of disowning. My soul, worth, and value is not, nor will ever become, the imminent domain of any self-righteous, faith ideology.

The true message of Jesus is that God is proud to belong to me and every other, especially in all the places and ways that Franklin Graham and conservative Evangelical Christianity despise me and all others.

Dear world, Franklin Graham is not our leader, not our pastor, not our spokesperson, nor our example—and with all due respect, in my personal opinion, he’s nothing like Jesus.

Why Trump’s Speech To Congress Should Scare The Crap Out Of You

On Tuesday evening, President Trump gave his first solo speech to Congress. To be sure, speeches are important as are congressional gatherings.

However, what is drastically more important and far more telling than speeches and tender political moments is our response to them—many conservatives, orgasmically licking their chops of jubilation upon Trump’s teleprompted performance. “Now that’s my president!” “It’s Trump 2.0,” “This is the best speech ever given before Congress.”

I was not only unimpressed, but mortified—fearing we have all slipped even deeper into the diabolic “art of the deal.”

For it should be a sad and horrifying day when, in our country, we elect a person as president only to jump for joy when weeks later, based on a speech, he is determined to finally and all the sudden be presidential. Seriously? Are we hearing ourselves? Shouldn’t that have happened a really long time ago? Besides, are speeches now the litmus test to what makes one presidential? I thought “grabbing pussy” was the new norm.

As much as I am trying to look on the bright side, where am I to go from this freakish circus show? I’m trying to give it time, I really am, but if I look towards his actions, the clown appears. If I look towards what he says, the clown appears. Somebody, wake us all up to this nightmare we’re being sold as the American dream—before it’s too late.

It feels like as a nation, we have tragically become the abused, enabling, and codependent spouse who repeatedly falls for flowery speeches, rhetoric, appearances, and empty promises that things “will be great” and the abuser has changed their ways. Have we sunk so low that we actually become delighted and relieved when a person of authority and leadership actually gives signs of having basic levels of decency? That’s not presidential, that’s just coming up to the level of being remotely human.

We have spent far too long blindly giving credence and weight to seductive voices with pricey lifestyles, fame, allure, and wallets. Our narcissism as a nation has postured us for exploitation, especially from among the religiously conservative. Like an alcoholic who knows they have a problem but can’t help themselves away from the Scotch, many have become addicted to whatever new cocktail serves their ideological and personal agendas. What used to be a Statue of Liberty standing as a promise and hope for the “least of these” has become a self-centered, political stripper pole of rationalization, purposed on serving the power of the privileged—scheming to seduce us all into seeing the substandard, abusive, and evil as being standard, healthy, and of God. If only we could see ourselves and the people we have become. 

No, I’m not trying to take anything away from the speech writers or the important moments of Tuesday evening. However, you know you are in bed with the devil when you are so desperate for moments that you can latch onto that serve to convince yourself that you aren’t.

That my friend, is a sure sign of a delusion that should haunt everyone of us.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

The Message From God You’ve Never Heard

Deep within us all, God has embedded His Light, the faith of Christ within us—every human an equal recipient. We all possess the faith of Jesus, a faith that fully knows and trusts the true essence and heart of the Father. Yet, darkness always seeks a way to condemn and imprison the Light our soul has always possessed in hopes we never awaken to it. Soon, it becomes demonized, silenced, and even unrecognizable within us—many of us walking around unaware or the faith of Christ, His Light within us. Tragically, it’s all become so religiously deformed, twisted, covered over, trampled and christianized inside.

Adam and Eve embraced the Light, saw themselves as Light, and gave it all a cherished harbor within. In their faith understanding, God, themselves, and all of life was a beautiful Garden—forever whole, pure, free, and alive. The faith of Christ within them had become their faith within them—a perfect communion. Yet, in a moment of question, they bit the lie that the Light they held to be Truth was actually darkness—needing correction, deserving of condemnation, and requiring redemption from an angry God. In their minds, all the sudden God became untrustable, Love became conditional, we became condemnable, and the Garden became a hopeless game of God-fearing, God-chasing appeasement. Religion is always the result of the Light becoming something to us that God isn’t, we aren’t, and God never had in mind.

Enter Grace.

Grace is God pinging your soul in hopes of awakening you to the true Light you have always possessed and longed to believe. It’s the call of Jesus to be unwrapped from the burial clothes that bind your heart from embracing true Life. For religion rings true to the flesh, but Grace rings true to the soul. It’s the Deep calling to your depth. It’s the true faith of Christ within you crying out to become your faith within you. It’s the moment your religious, christianized understanding is overridden by your Spirit and though you can’t explain it and your mind can’t chart it, you taste the Light and your heart knows it to be True, even as it shakes you to your core. It’s breathing for the first time and realizing, all this time, you weren’t breathing at all. It’s Grace releasing, rekindling, and recalibrating the caverns of your soul to what it’s always known and your heart has longed to believe—all is Grace.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, but your soul has always believed, and your heart is desperate for you to embrace.

God is Love- Whatever sense of condemnation, shame, disappointment, or lack you have towards yourself, it does not come from God—it can’t. Run from any message that puts any conditions, any hell, or any distance between you and Him—all these our constructs of religious projection.

Grace awakens our perceptions to the true nature of God and His affection for us. The purpose of Christ is not simply that we believe in Him, but that we believe in God like Him—His faith within us becomes our faith within us. Jesus knows no other nature, aspect, or trait of God other than pure, unconditional Love. His sinless life before God is our sinless life before God—His performance in life is our performance in life. Love is all, defines all, wins all, and conquers all—especially us. Jesus has no sense of God as being nor exuding anything but unyielding Love.

To the delight of our soul, when we allow ourselves to see God the way Jesus does, we discover there is no other message from God to and for our lives other than Love—no fine print, conditional clauses, trap doors, loop-holes or dropping axes. Love unhinges the tenets of the religious and reveals the evil forces behind their call to one-eyed open living, sin-managing, God-appeasing, self-improving, people-judging, and hell-fearing. Only the graceless, self-righteous, privileged, and judgmental ever feel the force of God’s displeasure as Grace confronts their religious, doubting, selfish, love-drained souls.

God is Love from top to bottom, beginning to end—inside and out. The expanse of God who is Love is boundless, limitless, unrestricted, and unrestrained. His actions and reactions to every molecule and movement of your life is always Love.

God is pedal-to-the-metal in love with you—always has been, always will be.

To Believe Is To Rest- Despite what many may hold to be true, faith is not a decision, choice, or invitational response. Faith is a gift from God welling up from within. It’s the awakening of our heart, mind, and soul to the Jesus that has always been within us, and the God whose arms have always been around us.

To believe is to rest in Grace and the illimitable goodness of God, trusting its full sufficiency for every aspect of our lives. Pursuing God, chasing after God, hungering for more God, and begging God to come, bless, and even forgive, though all seemingly spiritual pursuits, are actually confessions that He is not already here, His grace is not sufficient, and His choosing of us is somehow inadequate. A restless, appeasing, and fearing heart before Jesus is a disbelieving heart before Jesus.

Grace postures our entire being onto a foundation of rest—convinced we can never over-portray or over-characterize the goodness, love, and graciousness of God, nor can we ever believe too much in the exclusive, unsurpassed power of Grace to guide, change, and enable us in all things.

Believing in the unfathomable Love that is God and declaring His grace-singularity of heart, mind, and will is not a sign of human weakness, faith depravity, or theological waywardness. If anything, it is our under-believing, under-ascribing, under-estimating, and under-characterizing of His Love purity that reveals the x-ray of our religiously infected souls as in our doubts and flesh addiction, we live our lives restlessly turning outside of Jesus to find peace with God, peace with ourselves, and peace with people.

You Are The Relationship- The modern Christian idea that God wants a “relationship” with you is highly misleading and in fact, unfounded in scripture. Interestingly enough, there is not even a single mention in all the Bible of “inviting Jesus into your heart.” Rather, the concept of a personal relationship with Jesus has been projected back into the Bible and onto the Gospel by our fleshly, religious desire to have some level of human control and credit with God, and even a spiritual notch on our belt that distinguishes us as above others.

A “relationship” requires the performance, maintenance, and continual contributing desire of both parties. Thus, a relationship can have varying levels of closeness and even become completely broken. This is not what we have with Jesus nor what He has in mind with or for us. Instead, the Gospel proclaims our communion with God, established long before our earthly arrival and even before His.

Our union with God is of the same fabric as the Trinity. It is not a relationship, it is a singular entity based not on desire, performance, or the like, but is in fact a whole union. We are not in a relationship with Christ, we are Christ–He is us, we are Him. Jesus is not a person to invite into your life or heart, He is your life and heart, irrevocably.

This is the awakening, revealed by Grace, and manifested by Jesus. There is no “relationship” with Jesus, God, or the Holy Spirit to be had, for we ARE the relationship—different, but equally connected. Thus, in full union and communion. 

The Gospel doesn’t become real the moment one invites Jesus into their heart, it becomes real the moment they realize He had been there all along.

The Bible Is The Beginning Not The End- If the writers of the Bible were infallible in their understanding of God and their interpretation of His actions among them, there would be no need for the infallible One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible perfectly captured the desires of God and His every design for all of life and living, there would be no need for the Perfect One, Jesus Christ.

If the writers of the Bible captured the sum, conclusion, and depth of all that is truth, there would be no need for the One who is Truth to reveal it and His Spirit to guide us in it.

There’s a big difference between adding to the Bible and adding to our understanding of it. The Bible is not a case-closed, all-conclusive blueprint of God and all that relates to Him, but rather a catalyst towards our diving into stream upon stream of never ending, progressive revelation welling up from our awakening to Jesus and His Gospel of Grace.

The people who demand the infallibility of the Bible are often the ones demanding the infallibility of their understanding of the Bible—all for the purpose of creating a spiritual, self-righteous safe haven in which to turn off their brains, and from which to control and judge others.

Notice, the corner of America where there is often the most rampant manifestations of spiritual condemnation, bigotry, and hate aren’t called the Jesus-belt, or the Love-belt, but rather—the Bible-belt.

It’s Not About Improvement- So much of what is taught about spiritual growth and the Christian life is the idea that through spiritual disciplines, effort, and behavior modification, one is to strive to become something tomorrow that they aren’t today. Go to church, pray hard, bury your head in the Bible, press into Jesus, and get “radical” for Christ, and sanctification and spiritual maturity will soon follow. Sadly, nothing ever truly gets better upon the treadmill of sin-management, self-improvement, and spiritual striving—enough is never enough. It’s all a diabolical prescription pimped as a life of fulfillment that in fact leads to a life tragically wasted.

For no matter our greatest intentions or desires, nor even in our best moments of believing or behaving, our spiritual performance always breaks down. In the end, whether with God, ourselves, or others, the good that we know we should do is not what we do, and once again, our capacity to escape ourselves is found foolishly and drastically insufficient. All that’s left in the end is a life of pretending riddled with inner shame and guilt as we gloss tons of Christian lipstick onto the pig of our self-righteousness.

Thankfully, the Christian life isn’t a test, it’s a rest. It’s not about becoming something tomorrow you aren’t today through a hopeless life of back-breaking spiritual gymnastics. Rather, it’s about becoming more of the person you already are in Christ.

Jesus came, not to merely do something for you, but to do something to you. The cross is one and done—you are a completely finished masterpiece of the Master. You are whole, holy, pure, righteous, sanctified, justified, and lack no spiritual blessing—as is. There is nothing to improve about you, only everything to believe about you. That’s why the Holy Spirit is forever pursuing your heart, not to convict you of failure, but to convince you of your righteousness—knowing that the more you believe it, the more you will live it. For the Christian life is the beautiful process of awakening to who we truly are because of Jesus, that our actions might catch up to our true, divine identities.

Christians Are Often The Ones In Most Need Of Saving- In the scriptures centered around Jesus, the people who we would expect to know Him the best, in fact, turn out to truly know Him the least–the ones expected to know Him the least, turn out to truly know Him the best.

In the same way, perhaps the “world” and the “lost” that are often seen as the unbelieving, subhuman sinners of the planet, are in actuality, not the “world” and the “lost” at all.

Rather, maybe just maybe, it’s the self-righteous, spiritually elite, legalistic, Grace-withholding, religious ones that turn out to be those that are truly “lost” and of the “world.” For there is no greater form of being “lost” than believing you are so close to God while being so far away, and there is no greater form of “worldliness” than to turn to ones spiritual performance (flesh), religious pride, and the condemnation of others for your sense of righteousness, salvation, and spiritual purpose and satisfaction.

Maybe, just maybe, the “world” and the “lost” need far less saving than Christians would ever want nor dare to believe, and “Christians” need far more saving than the “world” and the “lost” would ever dream.

Maybe just maybe, the “Church” isn’t the believing ones who are convinced their “in,” and grasp this status with pride believing it’s the just reward of their faith, behavior, and do-gooding, but rather it’s the humble ones–the meek, who conclude they’re probably “out,” but nonetheless search, believe, and find rest in Love anyways, simply because it’s the best way to live and to reflect and give Life.

Maybe, just maybe, the bride of Christ isn’t the one adorned in beauty and white, concealing a religious darkness within, but rather the ugly, dirty one, who knows nothing of make-up and a lipstick ladened grin, whose Light is on the inside, emerging from within–whether they’re aware or not matters not, it’s there, and Jesus sees Himself, and smiles, “let the wedding begin.”

You Are God’s Perfect Will- The idea that God has a perfect will for your life and you need to make your life’s ardent pursuit the finding and fulfilling of it, is all highly misleading. The Americanized version of the Christian life would have us all believe that God has some “big” thing for us to do and become that will show ourselves to be genuine and faithful in following Jesus. I say, hogwash.

You are God’s perfect will, you are the big thing God is doing in the world. You, being fully you, and doing what you love to do in ways that honor God, love people, and serve humanity is far closer to His heart.

In fact, if any of your sense of worth, significance, and righteousness in life can be reduced, compromised, or questioned by your failure, mistakes, inadequacies, shortcomings, limits, or lack of production, then I can assure you that what you have is not a sense of your true Christ-righteousness and worth, but rather a self-righteousness and worth.

If you were to do nothing more with your life and instead fail and waste it in every way, you would be loved and lovable no differently and valued and valuable no less. For God’s perfect will for your life is not a plan charted, a path traveled, a series of accomplishments completed, or destinies discerned and fulfilled. Rather, God’s perfect will is a person, and that person is you, as is. You are a complete, whole, and finished work of Jesus that is irrevocably and irreversibly beautiful, whole, and pure.

What’s God’s perfect will? You, being fully you.

This is the message from God you’ve never heard, your soul knows to be True, and your heart pleads for you to embrace .

God is Love.

To believe is to rest.

You are the relationship.

The Bible is the beginning, not the end.

It’s not about improvement.

Christians are often the ones in most need of saving.

You are God’s perfect will.

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”  -Galatians 2:20

Grace is brave. Be brave.

I’m White, Christian, Heterosexual, Privileged and Ashamed

There are moments in life where a truth can be so impacting it changes you forever—unhinging, transforming, and recalibrating nearly everything you once understood and believed.

I used to be a conservative, Evangelical, homophobic, sexist, racist, judgmental and spiritually arrogant pastor and person. In nearly every way, I was much the opposite of all that I am, hope to be, and stand for today. No, I didn’t have a child that came out as being gay or some moral failure or personal crisis that shook my foundations. The reversal of my heart and mind, and the dethroning of my bigotry, hate, privilege, and conservatism came solely from being confronted by the true nature of God, the pure message of Jesus, and the revelation of His heart and mind towards all humanity.

To think that I saw color where there is none to see—a choice in sexual orientation where there is no choice to be. To think that gender ever mattered in calling, gifting, or creed—seeing women as some lessor form of a human being. To think that I condemned in the name of Jesus where there was no Jesus condemning—ignorant of my white privilege that blinded my perspective and deafened me to the real voices crying around me. To think that I loved with restrictions, restraint, and conditions—believed I had exclusive possession of all that is Truth to the exclusion of any other perspective or position. To think that I embraced a life and faith lacking in true compassion—leaving God-imaged people marginalized, discriminated, abused, alone, and undefended. To think that I lived and proclaimed it all as faith, faithfulness, and the way, Truth, and life—I am ashamed. Not just ashamed—disgusted.

Look around.

Look at what many of us white, Christian, heterosexual, and privileged people have largely become—not all of us, but many—not always intentionally, but in sure reality. The Jesus-grieving sins of racism, sexism, discrimination, legalism, elitism, and condemnation are increasingly normalized, and even spiritualized as faithfulness. We have elected a childish, pussy-grabbing, womanizing, immoral, misogynistic, and xenophobic president—touting him as a kind of God-appointed savior of our country. Where our nationalistic, social, and political pursuits clearly conflict with the ways of Jesus, not to mention basic human ethics and morality, we conveniently turn a blind eye, and all of a sudden the “clear teachings of the Bible” aren’t so clear anymore and the compartmentalization of our faith becomes a worthy and important practice—smoke and mirrors were never so smokey and distracting. Still to this day, we harbor racism, act on it, and even spiritual justify it, not to mention sexism—all while ironically declaring ourselves to be the well from which genuine spiritual maturity flows. We can’t even stop the religious machine we have created long enough to seek true understanding in what it’s really like to not be white-skinned, heterosexual, Christian, privileged, or male—if only we knew how to listen as well as we know how to lean on and worship our own understandings. When a transgender person commits suicide at the hands of Christian condemnation, it’s like we don’t even pump the breaks or give a thought to reevaluating our faith understanding or position—arrogantly convinced we hold all the keys. Everyone else is always wrong and we are always right. Everyone else’s sin is destined for hell and ours is magically forgiven—thank God we believed the right things, said the right prayers, and made the right changes. Aren’t we all just so special.

While perhaps you are feeling oh-so special, I am feeling oh-so ashamed.

In fact, if this is what it means to be white, I don’t want to be “white” anymore.

If this is what it means to be Christian, I don’t want to be seen as “Christian” anymore.

If this is what it means to be heterosexual, privileged, or even American—you can have it all.

For Jesus flips the tables yet again, revealing that we, in our undeniable worship of being white, heterosexual, Christian, American, and privileged are actuality the ones who have become the deplorable abomination. The finger pointers and speck removers are once again revealed to be the log possessors whose preoccupation with changing the world for Christ has left us tragically unaware of our own Christ-less soul.

Against this I must stand, turning shame for all that I had believed wrongly about God, Jesus, and people into an unstoppable solidarity with all that God has created good, beautiful, whole, and affirmed.

This is my resistance, this is my manifesto.

In the footsteps of Jesus, I’m a human that affirms all humans.

I’m a white man who sees as equal every shade of color and gender.

I’m a heterosexual that affirms every other kind of “sexual” rooted in honesty, love, and committed relationship.

I gladly surrender my privilege and tear off the “Christian” name tag.

I will no longer join hands nor heart with a faith understanding that fights against so much of what Jesus embraces.

I refuse to love, accept, and affirm any less than God who is pure Love, affirms, accepts, and loves me.

For I am no better than any other—only different.

This is true of all people.

Grace and Truth has made it so.

All are loved, equally and beautifully made—each a masterpiece, eternally valued and secured.

I will be forever brave on behalf of the “least of these,” proudly counting myself as equal among them, and manifest the delight of Jesus who is eternally proud to live, serve, sacrifice, and call them friend—as am I.

Ashamed, I am no less. Brave, I am, all the more.

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.

Learning To Love ISIS, Starting With The ISIS In You

Everything is spiritual.

We can mud-sling political views around. Debate historical data. All, painting each other into corners. We may feel a release, but there won’t be a resolution.

ISIS is a spiritual manifestation and a human problem.

On the surface, it reveals itself as terrorism, murder, hatred, war, and violence. Terrible realities, worthy of our anger and conversation. Yet underneath, there is a cancer much deeper, a catalyst much darker. Until this is healed, there will be no healing. It is beyond the reach of missiles, religion, sanctions, politics, rhetoric, ideologies, and war. All, perpetuating the cycle.

Everything is spiritual. Requiring spiritual evaluation and application. This is why we must talk about the root of all that is terror… condemnation.

It’s a simple story.

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

Soon after, the Tempter in serpent form, exploited the Garden of its goodness, playing his sole card of condemnation, the only one in hand. The first human ones bit the bluff, that God is holding out because of something they can’t handle. Convinced they lacked in some way, unworthy of the worthiness etched into their being. What was natural became naked, and the yarns of shame and guilt slithered their coil through the threads of inherent goodness. It is a complex weave. And we, are a complex people in the arduous journey of trying to unravel from condemnation’s relentless entanglement.

This is the story of every human being, bobbing and weaving, wrestling to come out from under condemnation believed. The genesis of all contortions, twisted personas, and justifications. It is the root of all sin. The birth of all religion. Compelling us into the dance to heal or conceal a shamed heart. All of us have a life that tells a unique, complicated story and reveals a personal shaping from our quest to be released from the lie we swallow as truth… condemnation.

This is the essence of all religion. The soul trying to heal its concluded unworthiness through efforts of appeasement and pleasing… people, self, Gods, standards, expectations. A never ending list.

Religion, it is a contrived system, all to place the conquering of condemnation in human hands and within human reach. It has names like Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity, but it’s reach is far greater, and origin far more universal. For it is first a human system, and then a human system falsely projected onto God. Starting from humans, and within all of humanity. Religion is not of God, it’s of us.

Living up to the Jones’ next door, or living up to a Diety in heaven, it is all equally religion. Striving to feel good about you, people feel good about you, a Being above to feel good about you. It’s all religion.

People pleasing, God pleasing. Earning self approval, God approval. Call it what you may, a path, a pursuit, a faith. Jesus calls it religion. Evil, from its beginning, especially in what it becomes at its fruition.

For the ultimate manifestation of condemnation is religion. The ultimate expression of religion is… violence.

Just ask Cain and Abel.

A mere stones throw from the Garden, the first act of terrorism. From condemnation’s stem, the religious barbs grow. Cain and Abel believe they must please God, offerings of show. Covering over guilt, justifying their concluded lack. Cain and Abel enter the sanctuary to perform their religious act.

Cain’s perception? God sees his offering as inferior compared to that of Abel. It’s lacking, unworthy. He is therefore, lacking and unworthy. Internalized condemnationSentenced to disapproval, the cell is too much. If only to break free. To even the score. To bring one down, to lift one’s self up.

Murder, terrorism, its origins the same. Cain bites the bluff and kills out of shame. All in attempt to clean, clear, lift, and better his name. To win at playing this religious game.

Be it Christianity, Islam, or ISIS, there is no difference. The root of terrorism is condemnation fully grown into religion.

Violence is born out of people who see the lowering, hurting, or death of another as a path to the validation or justification of self. It is born out of those seeking to perpetuate or defend the religious system they use to justify away concluded condemnation. For the death of their religion is the death of their self-justification, the self-healing of self, their very salvation.

All the way to believing they are better, instead of only different.

Crusades, planes, bombs. Christian or Islam, makes no difference. All is religion.

Isn’t that what most of Christianity has become, just another religion?

Isn’t that who we are as people, mostly religious in prescription?

Living to overcome condemnation through our performance, be it spiritual or secular, it makes no difference. Causing us to believe we are better than another, where in truth, we are only different.

All is spiritual, and most all, have simply become religious.

In doing so, terrorism is already here.

For we are a terrorist nation, because we are a religious nation. Our violence just looks different.

Infidels declared. Homosexuals, transgenders, all condemned. Those on the left, those on the right. Immigrants, refugees, or somewhere in between. Pro-life, pro-choice. Those who have, those who have not. All sighted as targets, candidates for open season. None, it seems are exempt from hate. We are a hating, violent country, because of our religions.

Where we are a religious person we are a terrorist person, our violence and evil nonetheless violent and evil.

Bringing people low to lift ourselves up, terrorizing with the planes of our disapproval. Crashing people to pieces to fabricate an affirmation of self and shame’s removal. Pushing people behind simply to get ahead. Pimping dreams that are merely schemes. Condemning, judging, isolating, labeling, all to win in this religious game. Ultimately, to believe we are better, instead of merely one in the same.

Missiles of marginalization, bombs of bigotry. Shrapnel-laced blog posts, and weaponized rants of ideology. Whether it’s a pen or a pipe-bomb, legislations, labels, or land-mines, they are nonetheless, mere extensions of a heart poisoned by religion. Purposed primarily on justifying ourselves, our faith system, or our position.

Even that we are better, instead of merely different.

Murdering people, emotionally, spiritually, and physically. All is terrorism, nonetheless.

Just ask Jesus.

For Jesus, to hate in heart is to murder in action. At the core, either choice changes not our position. To pray “thy Kingdom come,” to give Jesus your adoration. This diagnosis must become our admission. We all need Grace, and all equally. Non are better, only different.

There is ISIS in us all, because there is the religious in us all.

This is the true battle within and without. Where external or inner condemnation attempts to engage our performance, spiritual or otherwise, to cover over or rise above areas where one feels lack. Be it appeasing a God, living up to religious standards, using success to medicate inner insecurities, bringing another down to lift one’s self up, ISIS is within us all. To choose religion over Grace.

Grace is God’s best idea to show the heart that believes it’s condemned, that there is no condemnation to believe. Grace is based on the eternal truth, that through Jesus none are condemned, none are lacking, all our whole, righteous, complete, and without blemish, all because of Jesus’ performance, our only hope.

Religion is based on the lie from Satan, that all are condemned, lacking, incomplete, poisoned, and their only hope ultimately rests in some level of their performance to appease an angry, conditional-loving God who requires something of their actions to trigger His.

Where we choose religion over Grace, ISIS is not just them over there, it’s you and me, right here.

Until the world awakens to Grace and dies to religion, there will always be an ISIS within and without.

Until you can see the ISIS in the mirror, you will not see yourself in ISIS. We are all human, none are better, only different. This is the scandal and humbling of Grace.

Terrorism is a complex issue that needs many levels of response.

But until we believe within Grace lies the way, we really don’t believe Grace all the way, and we will forever miss its capacity to heal the true root of all that is terrorism, and rid our planet of its power.

Until ISIS is you, you will not believe you need the same enormity of Grace necessary to be given, for ISIS to be no more.

You can’t give what you don’t have, and you don’t have what you don’t believe you need.

Religion, retaliation, revenge, only serve to arm and rearm.

Only Grace, disarms.

Our only chance to find true healing, of the ISIS within and the ISIS without.

Parenting from Grace- A true Story

The Gospel of God’s Grace is practical to all of life. Its impact changes everything, placing a new foundation under our feet from which to live.

God teaches in His word that we are renewed in our minds.  The Gospel changes our thinking and believing, and therefore our actions.

Yet, where the practical nature of the Gospel may seem easy to render into certain aspects of our lives, “parenting” seems to be an area where we wonder how to apply the Gospel of God’s Grace.  How do we handle issues in our children’s lives like sin, discipline, correction, consequences etc.  Can we trust Grace to truly work when for so long we have trusted so many other parenting approaches?

Before we get into these parenting issues through a true life story of parenting from Grace, it’s valuable to make sure we set forth some foundational things about the Gospel of Grace that will apply to our parenting.

1- Grace is not a license to sin.  Properly used, Grace will not teach nor encourage our children to misbehave, rebel, or choose to sin.

2- Grace does not necessarily remove consequences.  Not all consequences are punishment.  Furthermore, “reaping and sowing” is a principal that has application within the life we live under Grace and the New Covenant.

With that in mind…

A True Story

Our son Harrison is 14 years old and truly an awesome you man who loves Jesus and values so many good things in life. He is wise, caring, fun loving, mature, and passionate.  Not to mention, extremely smart and a beast on the soccer field. He is my pride ad joy, and we have been joined at the heart since birth.

As with any child, despite how awesome they are, each has their own quirks and areas of challenge.

For Harrison, his greatest parenting challenge has been to learn to communicate his feelings of disagreement, frustration, or anger without down spiraling into a huge temper tantrum, argument, or meltdown.  Over the years, this has been a repeated theme that at times can get very dramatic, to say the least.

I must admit, as a father, I have not always done a good job at setting the right example as my own temper gets caught in the mix as my frustration level over flows in a boil during these episodes.

Yet, since Harrison was much younger, we have struggled to find a way to turn this behavior around and set a new course.  Unfortunately, with little, lasting success. I don’t blame Harrison so much for his struggle through this issue, but much more myself for a lack of knowledge of the Gospel of God’s Grace and trusting it enough to apply it in my parenting.

However, I am so glad to be able to share with you that now there is much good news as things have taken a one-eighty turn around with Harrison and this temper kind of issue.

So, what has changed? What has made the difference?

Let me explain.

Up until recently, our main parenting strategy with Harrison and his temper issue has been one of rule-keeping, fear, and punishment as we address the behavior in our attempt to correct the behavior.  Each time, there would be a temporary compliance from Harrison, only to result in a reoccurring of the same behavior later.  After a period of negotiation and trying to defuse this situations, even the more harsh punishments that registered as being a very unwelcomed consequence to Harrison did little to curb the behavior in the long-run.  From taking away privileges to adding on huge inconveniences and stresses, nothing worked to result in true lasting change. In fact, not long ago, I established a written covenant of behavior expectations along with agreed-upon consequences should the covenant be violated. There were even agreed-upon expectations that applied to both Harrison and Amy and I as parents.  We all signed it and felt good about it. Yet again, it did not work for very long.

I think for most parents, to some degree or another, the main strategy of behavior modification in our children is ultimately through rules, fear, and punishment, all under the umbrella and foundation of love and loving discipline.  Like you, our heart is to teach our children right from wrong and to instill in them the values and character that will serve to bless and prosper their lives. To be sure, that seems like the standard mode of operation that Christian parents should be doing.

Yet, the way God parents us through the Gospel of Grace has some real wisdom for how best to parent our children. We live under a new covenant of Grace and so should our parenting.

This was the revelation that set my strategy with Harrison in a totally different direction. If God trusts Grace to work in parenting me, I should be able to trust Grace to work in the parenting of my son.

First, I realized if I parented Harrison (particularly his behavior problem) from a spirit of the Law, I should not be surprised when his disobedience increased instead of decreased.  This is the dramatic limit of the Law we find in scripture. It does a great job of pointing out what we can’t do, where the more we try, the more we are actually enticed to break it and fall short. It does nothing to making our behaviors truly better, but actually does everything to make them worse. God used the Law to introduce the power  and need of Grace. The old covenant based on man’s performance and rule-keeping that never worked,  led to a new covenant based on the performance of Jesus to destroy sin and death that worked perfectly.  The Law shows us we need Grace. Grace shows us the Law doesn’t work. God never intended nor designed the Law to be the solution, but rather Grace.

Second, I realized that all my emphasis on rule-keeping, fear, and punishment, though well-intentioned from a heart of love, was actually doing more to imprison Harrison to his rebellion instead of freeing him. In fact, the covenant we established with Harrison (mentioned earlier) was in fact a covenant of the Law, not Grace. No wonder why he couldn’t follow it, nor would it work to change behavior.

Third, I realized that I needed to trust Grace to change disobedience and to be the guiding influence to steer our children away from sin towards living rightly. Contrary to much of what we are taught about how to live the Christian life and help others to do the same, people governed by Grace are the most free and faithful of all. They sin less, not more.

Fourth, I realized I needed to speak from Grace to Harrison’s new-creation identity, not his rebellious behaviors. An obedience problem is always first and identity problem. Harrison needed to know who he is so he could see how his behaviors were foreign to himself, and not a reflection of his true nature and identity.

If all Harrison believed about himself is that he was a temperamental teenager unable to control his emotions and always prone to losing control as evidenced by his failures to live up to the rules, then  guess what Harrison would continue to do? Yup, keep misbehaving over and over, and over again.

So, here’s what I did.

After another long, meltdown episode of shouting, after I threatened to end his soccer season, I stopped myself, stepped up to the cliff side of Grace and took a step of faith. I went to the refrigerator door upon which our covenant of behavior was placed, took it down and in front of Harrison, I ripped it up. I told him that I would not remove him from the soccer team, I believed in who He was in Christ, gave him the details of how he has everything already within him to handle these situations much better, and that I trusted that from then on, he would carry himself differently when moments of potential temper flares presented themself. “You realize Harrison, all of these battles we have from time to time are not who you are, and that loss of temper and control of your emotions is completely foreign to the young man you are, newly created by Christ?” “You are not a young man of dishonor and disrespect for your parents”  “I love you and believe in you, and know that you will be able to navigate these moments better in the future.” “No son, there is no punishment tonight.” I hugged him and walked away.

He was speechless, and then proceeded to his room.  After several minutes, I walked up to check on him. He seemed very sad.

“You did hear what I said, right? You have your soccer season back.”

“Dad, that’s not what I want anymore, our relationship is more important. I was wrong, and have been disrespecting and dishonoring you and mom.” “You are right, that’s not who I am, I see it, and I believe it.”

“Well Harrison, lets close this chapter, I know things will never be like they have been again. You know who you are, and what you have in Him.”

As I walked back downstairs, Amy asked (not being around for the whole covenant-ripping and talk thing with Harrison), “What happened?” “What did you do about all this?”

I replied, “It’s God’s kindness that leads to repentance.”

Grace can, where everything else can’t.

Since then, we have had not one single episode. Even, when there was every opportunity to do so.

The Big Take Aways

So what are the potential take aways for you as a parent to apply to your parenting?

1- I spoke to his identity first, not his behavior. Grace teaches us who we truly are because of what Jesus has done to us. As we believe in our righteousness in Christ (and a whole lot more), we will live it. Right believing leads to right living. Behind everything we do wrong is a wrong belief about ourselves and/or God. The same is true with our children.

2- I influenced heart-change through kindness, not harshness and punishment. Punishment never made anyone Holy, nor will it do so for your children. Jesus took our children’s punishment for sin and brokeness. Consequences are not always punishment. When our daughter Cailyn has to spend her time cleaning her room when she left it a mess instead of getting to go outside or play on the ipad, that’s not punishment, it’s consequences. If I yell and scream at her, telling her what a slob she is and take away her dinner from her too, that’s condemnation, shame, and punishment. I can correct my child with our condemning them, and give meaningful, firm consequences without punishing them. Punishment yields temporary obedience out of fear. Consequences yield obedience out of learning that irresponsible and bad actions have consequences that remove pleasure and self-inflict pain.

3- I trusted Grace to manage his behavior, not rule-keeping and fear. The Bible teaches that it is the Grace of God that teaches us to live rightly. If God trusts that to work with me and manage my life, I trust it to work for my children. I know that a spirit of rule-keeping and fear doesn’t work in my life, people’s lives, and my children. However, Grace does. It is the only thing that has changed me and my behaviors, it governs me into freedom and faithfulness where everything else just led me deeper into the prison of my own flesh.

4- I communicated confidence in who he is in Christ to help him have confidence, not condemnation. If Harrison bases his identity and sense of self from his performance as a person, he will be all over the map internally and therefore, externally. Condemnation is the root of so many bad things coming out of people’s lives and living.  Show our children who they are in Christ, and they will be able to determine the foreign nature of sin to their lives on their own without us having to ride them with shouting, fear, and punishment hanging over their heads.

5- There are still consequences given in our parenting, but they are from a foundation of Grace, not Law. They are based on teaching the reality of reaping and sowing in life, not punishment, condemnation, guilt, shame, and fear.

Can’t wait to hear your thoughts…

Stuff Jesus Never Said

To many believers and non believers, Jesus is a powerful person. His words have often been quoted and interpreted by people of varying views. But as with any person, sometimes Jesus has words and assertions put into his mouth that He never said, or even suggested.  And truth be told, the largest culprit in all of this is often we Christians. Yet, no matter where you are in the conversation about Jesus, sometimes we come to Him with our own perspectives and hope we can find a way to make His words sing our song.

So, here is some stuff you may have heard said or suggested, that Jesus never said or suggested at all…

1) “I am a card carrying, camouflage wearing, conservative republican.”  

No, Jesus stands above and outside of any one political group. Though His message is very relevant to politics and all of life, He himself exists and stands by Himself, outside of any one political affiliation. And, take it from His brothers, Jesus isn’t a fan of being used for political gain or being pimped out as a political figure. (John 7:1-14)

2) “Danger Will Robinson, gay people are especially disgusting”

Though some in our culture do and would say Jesus does, the truth is Jesus never said nor suggested that homosexuality is any more dirty or disgusting than other sins. Where some churches and Christians take a hands-off, arms length approach to this issue and the people involved, Jesus is found drawing close to the people who the religious would just as soon condemn, discard or disregard.  Debate as you will the issue of homosexuality and sin. No matter your conclusion, Jesus never shows by example nor words any kind of assertion that homosexuality is a special class of sin, and homosexuals a special class of sinner.  If homosexuality is a sin in serious need of confronting, so is the flan-fed, fat back… Jack.

3) “The bigger and slicker the church and its pastor, the better”

Indeed, today we live in the age of the celebrity pastor and the franchise church. Some are healthy, some are not. We have been led to believe that when it comes to church and ministry, bigger and slicker is automatically better. In fact,  it would take some digging through the tons of mailings sent to churches every day to find me a ministry conference for pastors that doesn’t have church growth and pastor performance as top topics of emphasis. Don’t get me wrong, I am all about ministry effectiveness in reaching people far from God etc. etc. God’s church should be a growing movement where creative and freedom flourishes. But, bigger and slicker does not automatically equate to better. A church and a pastor can have a lot of sharp, impressive looking activity and avatars going on without accomplishing near their redemptive potential. The way we do ministry these days as Christian leaders, you would have thought that Jesus actually said, “Brand it, buff it, build it, box it, as big as your ego can bake it.”  Indeed, we have replaced “shepherd” with “franchise owner,” and “church” with spiritual “consumer club.”

4) “You should make sure people notice how devoted and super-duper in love with Me you are”  

I know what you are thinking, but what about when Jesus says things like, “Let your light shine…?” Jesus’ words about “letting your light shine” are not a reference to your love for Jesus, but the new person you are in Christ. In fact, Jesus says ” you are” the light of the world. It’s about Christ shining as you and in you, not you shining how much you love Jesus.

Take it from Peter, boasting of your love for Jesus places the emphasis and burden on you and your performance, and in the end, shows you up as the denying hypocrite. However, boasting of Jesus’ love of you, like John, puts the emphasis and burden on Jesus, and leaves you reclined with Him at the table, resting in His Grace. Boasting of your performance and passion for Him leads to denying His, boasting of His performance and passion for you, leads to receiving and resting with Him and in Him.

5) “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music”

The way some churches feel about modern instruments and styles of music, you would have thought Jesus would have said just that, “I prefer hymns, choirs, and organ music.” Holy sacred cows batman. The truth is, Jesus never said nor suggested anything close to that, and there is no such thing as a Christian “style” of music. What makes music “Christian” or “sacred” is the words, not the style. A style that is worshipful to some may not be worshipful to others, but it does not make it any less worshipful to God. Furthermore, the same traditional hymns and instruments deemed to be exclusively sacred by some  today, were in fact, highly controversial, contemporary, and even deemed “satanic” as little as 50-100 years ago.

6) “Your Bible is actually best used as a taser”

The way some Christians uses their Bibles, you would have thought Jesus had said, “Memorize it, mark it, and make it sting”

Jesus in fact said, “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:38). Jesus said this as a message to make sure we never place the Bible and our use of it over Him and understand the purpose of the Bible is to lead us and people to an encounter and experience Jesus and the life He brings, not to tase them with it! Religious people use the Word of God to condemn, corner, control, and complicate. Jesus wants us to use the Bible to give His life, healing, Truth, freedom and Grace. The goal is not memorization and highlighting, but receiving, experiencing, and giving His life.

7) “Drinking beer will just make you burn brighter in Hell”  

The very one who turned water into wine, and drank with sinners said that?  Nope.

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Matthew 11:18.

Yes, drinking can be dangerous. Getting drunk is an obvious no brainer.  And, in some instances and contexts, it can work against our ministry to people.

Yet, condemning those who drink responsibly as hell-bound sinners and second class Christians (and leaders) is both unfair and misguided. Furthermore, I would say in some contexts this attitude has done more to damage potential ministry to people than the puritanistic, religious approach to alcohol Jesus (and I) referenced above.

8) “The fast track to spiritual maturity is reading books by popular pastors”

We pastors and teachers are used by God in powerful ways to help people understand and experience God and His life. You would do well to learn from people who are wise in the ways of God.

Yet, what pastors teach and preach are often revelations from God they have experienced from their own study of the Word or other pastors/teachers who have studied the Word. Either way, somewhere along the way, someone has done the chewing on the Word so that there is something to teach/feed you.

As a Christian culture we have become fast-food spiritual consumers. There is a lot processed food out there. Book after book, conference after conference. Processed from some pastor or teacher who did the chewing, into your mouth.

This is perhaps a good start for the new believer or even a nice appetizer for the experienced Christian.

Everyone of my children started with processed, pureed foods that required little to no chewing.  Later however, they started to chew it for themselves; having to process it, taste it, chew it, and digest it for themselves, over and over.  To eat processed, pureed food now as emerging adults would leave them hungry, malnourished, and lacking the joy of real food.

This is what the Bible calls meditation. Meditating on the Word of God.  Tasting, chewing, processing it for yourself. A direct revelation from God to you, for you, through you.  Nothing wrong with listening and learning from pastors/teachers like me, but it never should take the place nor become more of your spiritual diet than you personally tasting, chewing, and processing the Word of God for yourself. What makes for a nice appetizer, won’t make for a good meal.

Stop relying on popular pastors for your spiritual diet and making them your main meal. You won’t grow through reading their books until you have made reading God’s book for yourself your primary way of encountering Jesus and His wisdom and revelation for your life.

Reading books by popular pastors isn’t a fast track to spiritual maturity. Besides, some (if not many) of them just present the Christian life (and the Gospel) as a bunch of new things you need to be doing more or better. To be sure, we live in the age of the performance-driven Christian, and there are tons of books to get you feeding on a diet of steps, strategies, and “to do” lists that will ultimately still leave you hungry.

Spiritual hunger for the Christian is a sign of immaturity, not maturity. Jesus actually said, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

No, the fast track to spiritual maturity is to realize in Christ, as a new creation, you have already been made fully mature!  Now, believe it and go live what Jesus has already made you.

Spiritual maturity isn’t a process of performance-progress, but a process of believing more in who Jesus already made you into through His performance, not yours. It’s not about becoming a son (or daughter), it’s about living out your sonship that God has already given you and made you to become.

Reclaiming Prayer

Over time, if you put something in the hands of Christians, chances are we will make it more complicated than it needs to be, and turn it into a means to puff up our spiritual pride.

Such is often the case with prayer. What God intended to be a simple dynamic of our relationship to Him, we have often made into a complicated, formulated, legalistic religious ritual.

Prayer is simply talking and listening to God.  Nothing more, nothing less.

It’s not how you pray, as if God were into verbosity, postures, formality, formulas, or eloquence as a condition or key for prayer.

It’s not where you pray, is if God was a location snob, territorial, or contextually limited.

It’s not how long you pray, as if God were holding a stop watch, doing a word count, or was impressed by stamina, waiting for that “o.k, that’s enough” moment to respond. The false notion that “the more you pray, the more God responds” places the power of prayer on you and not God.

It’s not how hard you pray, as if you have to bend God’s ear, wrench His blessings, or prove you’re seriousness in order for Him to reply or to increase His willingness to reply favorably.

It’s not how loud you pray, as if God is hard of hearing.

It’s not  how good you are as a person, as if anyone’s righteousness before God comes from their own performance.

God already knows what you need long before you ask, He knows the desires of your heart, long before you express them.

So, why pray?

It’s simple, because God enjoys hearing from you, and you could benefit from hear from Him. Prayer alone is not what moves the heart and hands of God, faith is. Prayer coupled with faith is truly powerful, it releases God to work on your behalf. Faith is the key.

Stop trying to impress God (or others) with prayer. Stop using prayer as a way to appease some imagined condition you have imposed on God’s willingness to bless and move in your life. Your prayers do not make God any more or less willing to bless, prosper, and move on your behalf.  Stop using prayer as a spiritual thing-to-do to fulfill some kind of Christian duty, show you are serious about Jesus, gain the gleam of God’s eye, or stay in good standing with Him. Stop asking God to do what He has already done, and begging Him to do what He is already willing to do. All of that takes the power out of prayer and turns it into an empty religious act.

Rather, make you prayers full of thanksgiving, words (declarations) of faith, and honest requests. Then, listen.

Keep it simple, personal, and genuine.

It’s the heart and faith behind your prayers that matter, not your words, volume, length, posture, location, intensity, or depth.

 

Are you a Christian Pervert?

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.  -Galatians 1: 6-9

Grace is not a message, it’s not a theology, it’s not an idea, nor fad, it’s the Gospel.  If you don’t subscribe to the pure, complete, and full Grace of God in Jesus Christ, you don’t subscribe to the Gospel. There is not another Gospel, there is only One.  There is not one Gospel that saves you, and then another one that sustains and sanctifies you. There is not another Gospel where “God does His part but you must do your part.”

There is only one Gospel, “God does everything, because you can’t, you only need believe.” It’s all Grace, or it’s not the Gospel. When Jesus declared “it is finished,” there was no mixture. He didn’t say, “It is finished… but.”  At the cross of Jesus, life under the Law (religious rules you have to perform to please and access God) ended once and for all, life under Grace (Jesus’ performance on the cross which when believed, makes us new, right, pleasing, and seated with Christ at the right hand of God a part from our performance) began. The Gospel is not a little bit of Grace and a little bit of Law mixed together. It’s a all Grace or it’s not the Gospel.

We are no longer to live an “obedience of trying and striving” to follow the rules, but rather we are to live an “obedience of faith,” clinging on to the loveliness of Jesus and His performance, not our own. For the Gospel of Jesus Christ is all about Jesus, not about us. The Law presupposed there is something you can do, the Gospel presupposes there is nothing you can do, but Someone you can believe who did it all, and does it all on your behalf!

There is no Gospel that brings you to Jesus from His Grace only to summon you into a life of striving to please God and merit His favor once you have become saved.  There is no Gospel that makes you (as a believer) into a twisted, two natured person; one part evil, and one part divine who never knows who he or she really is from one day to the next, nor has the assurance of their true identity in Christ, and is simply left to fight an inner battle Jesus already won.  There is no Gospel that sets you on a course of sin-consciousness where you must repeatedly ask God to forgive you even though He has already done so. There is no Gospel that burdens you with performance-driven talks and steps for you to achieve to increase your reputation with God and His desire to bless your life, only to leave you secretly feeling like a hypocrite because you know you can never do everything all the time to be seen as a true, genuine faithful follower of Jesus. There is no Gospel that is soft on sin when Jesus gave all of Himself to defeat it. There is no Gospel that is hard on sinners when Jesus gave all of Himself for them.  There is no Gospel that makes the Church into a legalist club for Christians with a cross on top filled with self-righteous believers who take inner pleasure on raising the sins of others as being more serious than their own. There is no Gospel that treats the Church, it’s purpose, and leadership as a man-centered, performance-dependent venture, or a chasing of the ego’s pursuit to take some part of the credit and glory for the building of the Kindgom. There is no Gospel that sets the believer onto a discipleship series of steps, rituals, and religious activities that appease God, turn His frown upside down, and give you smiley faces on God’s divine chalkboard.  There is no Gospel like any of this.

It’s all Jesus, all Him, all Grace, all His performance, all His work, all His faithfulness, all His mercy, favor, and blessing, received through faith alone, or it’s not the Gospel.  If it’s any other version, it’s a perversion.

In the Bible passage above, Paul identifies the true perverts of the world. Not sex offenders, not homosexuals, not child porn viewers, as evil and terrible as they are. No, rather, he speaks of Christians who turn away from or turn the Gospel of God’s Grace in Jesus Christ into another Gospel that is, in fact, not a Gospel.  At this point, you should either say, “Amen!” or “Ouch!”

The only documented places in scripture where Jesus gets mad or the Spirit is grieved is when Grace is not extended. Not rules, condemnation, religious activities, performance steps, or obedience speeches.  Paul echoes God’s heart and view on the matter as he declares that those who turn the Gospel of Grace into any other version should be “accursed.”

Right believing leads to right living. You can’t live the Gospel day to day into you believe it all the way.  An obedience problem is at heart an identity problem. You will never know who you truly are until you believe in the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. Faith is what pleases God, not your performance. Faith is what makes His performance become your performance.  Faith is the root, obedience is the fruit. We walk by faith, not by sight, or might.

Are you a Christian pervert? Repent (change your mind) and believe in the Gospel.

 

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