Tag: spiritual (page 1 of 2)

Maybe, Just Maybe, If You’d Stop Quoting The Bible At Me

I get it, you’re passionate about your beliefs—that’s highly admirable.

Much of what you hold to be true and the framework of your worldview are founded upon your understandings of the Scriptures.

For you, the Bible is the perfect Word of God without any mixture of error, and your interpretation of it is believed to be grounded in ultimate truth, faithful scholarship, and divine discernment. In response to a world deemed to be in serious moral and spiritual decline, you see the Bible serving as an anchor for Godliness and the transformation of our planet. In your mind and heart you genuinely conclude, if more people believed like you and subscribed to your biblical understandings, it would be an instant upgrade to their life and a sure improvement to the world at large.

Therefore, when you the quote the Scriptures, your desires are most assuredly noble and good-hearted. No one can deny your commitment, resolve, and tenacity towards your faith, the Bible, and a desire to make a difference.

Yet, perhaps what you don’t realize is how you come across in your use of the Scriptures and some of the messages you’re sending in doing so—intended or not.

When you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you care more about winning an argument than winning my heart. In fact, sometimes it seems like you’re inspired most by the prospect of somehow putting me in my place—pacing for the opportunity to engage in debate. With every verse you position to convict, condemn, and admonish, apparently you understand the Bible to be “useful in teaching and correcting” the way a tightly wound parent might deem a paddle to be useful in painfully punishing their child—any love you may intend to communicate is severely lost in translation. In fact, as much as I may desire to conclude otherwise, with every proof text and citing of Scriptural support, it feels like the Bible has become for you, less of a mirror in which to examine yourself, and more of a missile to launch at others. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d actually start believing you might truly want to know me, understand me, and even love me.

When you quote the Bible at me, it makes me wonder if you really know what you believe. I mean no disrespect, but at times, the way the Scriptures roll off your tongue so automatically and instantly, it feels a bit pre-packaged and cut and pasted—like you haven’t taken the journey of authentic believing. The memorization of verses takes only the efforts of our brain and can be a deceptive spiritual veil to an empty life. Meditation requires the soul searching of the heart and personally encountering Jesus. My sense is that people who truly know Him, genuinely wrestle with their faith, and are treading deep into the Bible, spend far less time in need of quoting it to others and using it to justify their every belief. For the mind of Christ within them has taken the lead and what they believe is far less a product of simply the Bible saying so, but much more that Jesus has said so in their Spirit. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to consider that you’re actually speaking from that which Jesus has authentically revealed to you and what He might truly desire to say.

When you quote the Bible at me, I get the sense that you believe to know all the answers. Sometimes, it’s even hard to get a word in edgewise. It feels like no matter what I say, somehow I’m always off the mark or completely wrong all together. For every thought I have, you seem to have a Bible verse cocked, loaded, and ready to counter it. All of which leaves me wondering, if you have all the answers already, why do you position yourself as desiring conversation? Perhaps, you’re hoping to change my mind, or simply enjoy hearing the sound of your own. Either way, the more you appear to have all the answers, the more I become convinced you probably don’t. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d hear the sounds of your listening and learning instead of the chalkboard screeching nails of presumptuousness.

When you quote the Bible at me, it smells of religion, not revelation. No, God never changes, but what He reveals of Himself and how He reveals Himself certainly does. Yet, with nearly every verse you quote it feels like you are desperately trying to protect and prosper the religious spirit and your long-held beliefs, instead of exuding a humility and openness to encounter fresh revelation. In fact, if I’m honest, it comes across at times as if you’re afraid of what God might reveal. It’s as if the Bible has become for you, less of a catalyst to encountering Jesus, and more of replacement for Him. All of which leaves me wondering, if God desired to grow you beyond your current Scriptural understandings and interpretations, would He even be able to do so? Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more inclined to believe you possess the capacity for divine discernment and the journey needed for wisdom.

When you quote the Bible at me, I feel like a project. At times, the way you use the Scriptures, it seems like your ultimate goal is my conversion, conformity, and compliance to your beliefs and biblical interpretations. If I have a change of mind or repent of my erring ways in response to your Scriptural interventions, a rousing moment of high-fives with your fellow Christians is surely just around the corner. You “caught’ me, “won” me, or “discipled” me into your fold, and now I’m yet another “catch” to be mounted on your spiritual mantel. I mean no disrespect in saying so, but it feels like the way you use the Bible is more like a cattle prod than a stable, and I, more of a project than a person. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d be far more willing to open the gates and consider that you have a genuine care for me and my best interests.

When you quote the Bible at me, I wonder what you’re trying to hide. Maybe it’s just me, but I have found, those who are constantly quoting the Bible with proof texts, debates, and scriptural arguments are often the ones concealing deep levels of spiritual immaturity, doubts, duplicity, and even carnality. In fact, Satan is described as knowing the Scriptures quite well all while completely missing the heart of Jesus—obviously. The more you quote the Bible at me, the more I begin to consider, maybe this is all just a big show of biblical smoke and mirrors concealing a cowardly wizard hiding behind a leather-bound name-engraved curtain. Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I’d feel a lot more comfortable in extending trust, respect, and credibility.

When you quote the Bible at me, it feels like you’re just another one of “them.” You know, those Pharisee types that Jesus loved, but aggressively challenged. At every turn, they were using their understanding of the Scriptures for the condemnation of others and the justifying and puffing up of themselves. In one place, Jesus spoke of spitting repugnant people like this out of His mouth, and quite honestly I don’t blame Him. Sometimes, the way you quote the Bible at me, it makes me want to vomit too—if only a simple right cheek sneak would do. For it all comes across so pretentiously, my entire being can’t help but want to expel it.

When Jesus referenced the Bible, He did so primarily to reframe it and reinterpret it through the lens of Grace, love, and Himself.

I’m no spiritual giant, but I have a hunch we would do well to follow His example.

Maybe, just maybe, if you’d stop quoting the Bible at me, I would respect you all the more, have a greater desire to give serious consideration to your claims and creeds, and be far more apt to conclude that Jesus is truly working in and through you.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

A Pastor’s Desperate Plea To Justin Bieber

Justin, I don’t know you and you don’t know me.

We have never met, and I certainly claim no rights to bend your ear nor even expect you to read or consider these words.

Our worlds are completely different, yet we do share one very important thing—exposure to modern Evangelical Christianity.

For me, I became a conservative Evangelical pastor early in my career, leading contemporary churches for nearly 20 years. I certainly don’t believe to know your spiritual journey or dare to define it, but from what I have seen and read, it seems you are headed towards a similar path. I admire your love for Jesus and your willingness to go the distance with your faith. Your courage, transformation, and authenticity are clearly apparent.

Yet Justin, I also know all too well the seductive evils of much of modern Evangelical Christianity—often cleverly concealed. I wasted so much of my life and ministry being duped and deceived chasing after the Evangelical dream, and now I pray this nightmare doesn’t become your story too.

At first, it feels like life, only to suffocate you later. No matter how well branded, produced, savvy, and culturally relevant it all seems up front, the basic tenets of much of Evangelical Christianity are shrouded in deceptive darkness. Underneath all the spiritual lipstick, God is diabolically portrayed as loving humanity while at the same time holding them over eternally consequential conditions—love Him back in return in all the prescribed ways or else suffer forever in a torturous hell. Jesus is personified as the Son who dies at the hands of a wrathful Father who requires His death in order to have the power to forgive. The Bible is reduced to a weapon used to condemn, label, burden, and lift one’s self over others. People are labeled as inherently depraved and evil sinners in need of fixing. The world is seen as “lost” and in need of saving through Evangelical ideology. The Christian life is presented as a never ending list of “to do’s” and sin management. And, the overall mission is to ultimately lead people to believe, think, and act like you—assimilated into the Evangelical Borg of conformity. Look behind the curtain, turn down the volume of all the smoke and mirrors—there’s a cowardice self-serving faith pulling the strings. Discrimination, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, nationalism, self-righteousness, and elitism are all lurking in the wings—no matter how modernly packaged.

Justin, I promise you, though you may not see it now, so much of what modern Evangelicalism has done with Christianity has left it looking and acting almost nothing like Jesus. For God is pure Love—not fine-printed conditions, Jesus is Grace—not condemnation nor punishment. The Gospel is peace—not fear pimped as faith, people are good—not intrinsically evil. The Bible is a catalyst—not a tool for judgement, and Jesus didn’t die at the hands of an angry vengeful God, but rather to keep us from a life of believing He is—angry and vengeful.

When it is was recently reported that perhaps you are now seeking to start a church, my heart gasped in fear that was a sure sign you had been tractor-beamed by the Death Star that is conservative Evangelical Christianity. With genuine concern, I wondered if the performance-driven, consumeristic, church-franchising, and personal empire-building allures and priorities of much of modern Evangelical Christianity had cast their spell upon you.

Justin, I beg of you, what the world needs now is not another church or celebrity Evangelical Christian. No, what the world needs now are authentic Jesus loving people rested in Grace who see the planet as their sanctuary and loving people unconditionally as their worship service—period, full stop. You being you, just as you are, is more than enough—as is, wherever that is. Whatever guilt, regret, or shame perhaps there once was in your heart, the pursuit of becoming something “big” for Jesus will only leave you with emptiness and disillusionment—I promise. In truth, much of Evangelical Christianity is so desperate, selfish, and insecure, many can’t help themselves at the thought of an icon such as you joining their team and buying into their flailing ideology.

Yet, truth be told, I see so much more Jesus in you peeing in a mop bucket yelling profanities at Bill Clinton than I could ever see in you becoming another mega-church pastor or famous Evangelical Christian. For Jesus is found so much more in the people, circumstances, and events the religious least expect or approve. Please know this, and know it for sure, God has been working in and through you all along, and now you’re simply awakening to it.

I beg you Justin, don’t let them steal, kill, and destroy what Jesus has always been doing in and through you by thinking it now needs the labels and looks of “Christian,” “church,” and “ministry.” Don’t sell your soul, abandon your authenticity, or surrender yourself to the blood-sucking monster that is much of Evangelical Christianity. You are the revival God is bringing to the world—not because of your gifts, celebrity, or new found faith in Jesus. Rather, simply because you are you—whole, holy, and God-imaged as is.

Justin, at the end of the day, for what it’s worth my sense is this, “My Jesus don’t like much of modern Evangelical Christianity, and He likes everyone.”

Take a deep breath, stay on course, don’t shed your skin or walk your soul to the plank overlooking Evangelical waters—you’re already the person and living the life God has for you. For it’s never been about your performance, it’s always been about His.

Thanks for listening.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Let’s All Just Start, By Trying To Be Christians Who Give A F**k

You’re right.

I did it—I dropped the “f-bomb.”

I could have easily chosen a different word.

Maybe “flip,” or “damn,” or “crap” of “rats” or even “shit.”

But I didn’t. Why?

Because, none of those forced me out onto the ledge of your potential rejection, shaming, and condemnation in quite the same way.

Perhaps like never before, in consideration of all the factors, I have dripped the sweat, counted the cost, and looked square into the face of your disapproval, knowing for sure the cataclysmic series of dominoes that could fall in response to this one article. In fact, in some ways, I could be, I surely am—risking it all. One word, one simple word, could set into motion a tsunami of distancing, disassociation, and abandonment from which there could be little to no recovery or return.

It’s all so sad, isn’t it? No, flat out disturbing. Not only how quick we are to summon people onto the plank of our disapproval, but how little pressure it takes for us to buckle under another’s.

Above all else, it seems we Christians have become cowardly wimpy people who care most about ourselves, vigilantly shielding our lives from what we fear the most—rejection, the true kryptonite of our faith living. We’re so married to perceptions, our platforms, reputations, and the god of approval. When it’s time to take a stand, travel uncharted waters, speak fiery light to the darkness, and defend the oppressed—when it’s all said and done, we’re most concerned about perceptions and their personally felt consequence.

Instead of counting the enormous cost of being silent, complacent, disengaged, blindly compliant, and politically correct, we’re addicted to the personal ramifications of truly giving a damn no matter what. So many of us simply refuse to be bothered outside the comfort of our pristine black-and-white pre-packaged starch-pressed Americanized Christian lives. When push comes to shove and we are cornered into our moment of truth—our followings, relationships, ministries, popularity, image, comforts, acceptance, and approval reveal themselves to be the true gods we worship. As Jesus leads us onto the path of becoming the Good Samaritans of our day, thwarting the countless religious crucifixions of the God-imaged, and facing the evil religious systems of much of modern Christianity—our withheld actions, tempered empathy, and shrinking back speak to the true confession of our heart. “Sorry Jesus, when it’s all said and done and it matters most, I just don’t give a f**k. My life, my stability, and all that I have and built, is just too important to risk. I won’t say what truly needs to be said, I won’t do what truly needs to be done, and I won’t pay the price of what it would most certainly cost. Oh yes, I love you Jesus and all people—but I’m sorry, not that much.”

And so I ask, with all due respect. If you’re uncomfortable with the title of this article, just wait until you’re confronted with these questions.

Whose life, besides yours, will finally become important enough to be worthy of your unrestricted risk?

At what point will spiritual integrity and human dignity become important enough for you to truly consider, perhaps your anti-gay interpretation of the Bible is misguided at best?

How many lives and minorities must be destroyed before you give aggressive consideration to the presence of racism and privilege in your own life and worldview?

How many parents of LGBTQI children must lay sleepless at night, feeling alone, frantically afraid, and viciously condemned before you have the courage to chart a new path of compassion, solidarity, and understanding towards this entire community?

How many sisters, brothers, children and family members alike must you shame, condemn, or reject all together before the carnage of so many destroyed people and relationships compels you to have the courage to fully examine the evils of embracing such a legalistic, graceless, bigoted, and twisted brand of faith, and do the hard work of thinking for yourself and questioning long-held beliefs?

How many times must we Christians be on the wrong side of history, before we muster the bravery to pump the breaks, jump ship, and disarm the right-wing conservative Evangelical machine whose worship of the Bible and their interpretations of it have been the catalyst to some of the most diabolical evil atrocities and injustices ever manifested on the planet—all in the name of Jesus?

How much regret are you willing to risk and careless damage to the lives of good people around you, simply because you refuse to listen and give genuine consideration to opposing views in light of fresh revelation?

How many mass shootings, suicides, murders, wars, holocausts, and people imprisoned by depression, shame, and religious condemnation must ensue before the non-violent, all-inclusive, sacrificial, serving, welcoming, affirming, forgiving, equalizing, non-discriminating, unconditional-loving, pure Grace message and Gospel of Jesus will be given top priority by you—met with your willingness to move His Beattitudes from being a faith accessory or flat out inconvenience to becoming your main way of living, no matter the cost?

Perhaps you’re offended that my heart is no longer afraid of your religious glare of disapproval or the ramifications that might come my way—as your voice of displeasure, disassociation, and pity no longer haunt me. Or, perhaps you’re most uncomfortable and even resentful of the freedom within me to live at peace without your affirmation, and instead can confidently speak my truth without reservation.

For Grace has given me, perhaps, the greatest gift of all—the power, joy, and honor of being a Christian who is compelled to give a f**k, when to do so stands as my moment of truth and another’s hope, healing, and salvation. My heart has been captured and my soul is convinced, nothing is more important than standing for truth, defending the religiously oppressed, proclaiming the God is who is Love, and manifesting His Gospel of unconditional love, acceptance, and affirmation for all—no matter the cost.

Go ahead. Pull your support, remove this post, de-friend me, or curse me all together—but here’s the stone cold truth I hope you’ll consider.

The world will keep on ignoring your message, the poor will keep starving, and black lives will continue to not truly matter. Transgender people will still keep committing suicide and the LGBTQ community will continue to be mocked, marginalized, and condemned in every arena. The religious evils rampant in much of right-wing conservative Christianity will still keep flourishing, minorities will still be discriminated, and racism will still divide us. Millennials will continue to exit the building, atheism will be ever increasing, human rights will keep on being denied, and women will still be seen as second class humans, Christians, employees, and citizens. All, until we start becoming Christians who not just give a tear, a thought, a sympathy, a glance, a nod, or a condolence, but actually love Jesus and love people enough to give a f**k, no matter the cost.

While you’re building your multi-site church campus, planting the next “Elevation,” or becoming the next famous Christian writer, preacher, or blogger. While you’re getting voted into elected office, preserving and protecting your income and way of living, counting your followers on Facebook, keeping your relationships peaceful, and enjoying your privilege—a whole world of people are asking, why should I believe in your God, worship His name, and sign up for your way of believing and living, when at the end of the day, no matter what person, truth, tragedy, injustice, or evil is before you, you simply don’t and won’t give a f**k?

Until we love Jesus who is Grace and people unconditionally to the point of truly risking it all, the one thing the world knows for sure—we Christians don’t know the true nature of God, the value of people, and what it means to love. In fact, all we probably have is just another worthless, impotent, and destructive religion and its spirit working within us.

Every time we buckle, every time we choose comfort over resistance, every time we opt to place our interests over truth and justice, the world screams out a resounding sigh, “we were right, it’s all a fraud, nothing ever changes.”

So with all due politeness and respect, please save your “you’ve gone too far with this one” and “my how you’ve lost your way” comments for someone else. For I fear, that’s the very kind of religious pretentious attitudes too many of we Christians have selfishly adopted that are enabling catastrophic problems and postponing and preventing countless much needed solutions.

Perhaps you would have said it differently, or chose a phrase devoid of profanity, but don’t miss the pure metaphor behind it all as to what it must look like specifically for you to love enough to stomach the risk and go the distance to be a true force of Grace and the God who is Love in the lives of the oppressed, religiously abused, and discarded.

Now, like never before, we must set into motion and call up from within our souls the courage to rethink, reexamine, and reconsider everything we think we know that years of unchallenged faith tradition, believing, and doing have lured us into—a spiritual complacency that has us nursing at the breast of evil while being convinced we sit at the table of Jesus.

Until our theology is Love and our countenance is sheer bravery no matter the cost, we will forever be leaning on our own understanding and enabling evil to live and flourish to the detriment, dehumanizing, and destruction of God-adorned people.

Grace is brave, Be brave.

Give a f**k.

Trump, LifeWay, and Eugene Peterson—Conservative Evangelicalism Personified

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Dear Conservative Christian, What Am I Supposed To Believe?

I’m trying to understand, I really am.

I hear what you’re saying—the deep confessions of your conservative brand of faith. You’re passionate, determined, and believe strongly in your way. I respect the veracity of your convictions—that, we have in common. Yet, if I’m honest, more so than not, I’m left scratching my head in utter confusion. I listen to your speaking and then take notice of your doing—finding it very hard to pull together much consistency between the two. I want to believe in the best, applaud your efforts, and grant you a fair shake, but the discrepancies I just can’t seem to ignore.

You say that conservative churches are warm and welcoming—I guess I’m wondering, to who? If I color outside conservative lines or commit a moral miscue, I’m quickly distanced, given the cold shoulder, or even sent to the curb. If I believe differently or entertain some serious doubts, I’m rushed to a Jesus-101 class or a small group for the spiritually lost and confused. You may allow a member of the LGBTQ community to sit in your velvet padded pews—certainly, your hands are open to receive their Sunday offering. Yet, all bets are off when it comes to teaching Sunday school or having equal footing in your community. Thousands of people from every walk of life have real stories of fierce condemnation, marginalization, and demonization at the hands of your organized conservatism. Yet, you gregariously claim a genuine desire for everyone to come and attend your church. I’m trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but what am I suppose to believe? Putting two eyes on what’s in front of me—you’re telling me this is warm and welcoming?

You say you’re all about Jesus—I guess I’m wondering, which one? The Jesus who won’t accept anything less than multi-million dollar state-of-the-art buildings, slick branding, and the worshipping of His Glory with perfectly timed smoke machines, stage-lighting, and Anthropologie-fashioned leaders sporting tattoos and skinny jeans? Or is it the Jesus whose greatest delight is in seeing the franchising of His church and the endless consumerism of His Name? Maybe it’s the Jesus who pours out special anointing and favor upon celebrity pastors and applauds their book deals, conferences, private jets, and their ego-driven personal empire building? Or maybe you mean the Jesus who clearly states, “Above all else, carpet colors, stained glass windows, keeping current members happy, and holding strong to traditions is ultimately what really matters most.” I’m trying to see things through your eyes and makes sense of your perspective, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means to be all about Jesus?

You say the “least of these” matter—I guess I’m wondering, to what extent? I’ve been to plenty of your conferences, especially the ones bent on church growth and financial campaign success. The mantra I keep hearing repeated is deeply unsettling—giving to the poor and serving the community bottom lines on being good for the offering. The “least of these” are en vogue and good for big budgets, people get emotional and open their wallets. Taking every opportunity to show carefully crafted videos of all your do-gooding and generosity makes it look so spiritual and less self-serving—oh the privileges of being so privileged. Of course, people don’t contribute directly to the specific need. Rather, it all goes into the master budget fueling the master ego of the charismatic visionary master pastor. When ministry to the broken and outcast doesn’t empower the conservative Evangelical church machine, all of a sudden, taking care of the “least of these” isn’t quite so appealing. Just ask the Transgender community or your messiah Donald Trump—banishing whole groups of God-imaged people to undergo “reparative therapy” and cutting millions from receiving healthcare for the sake of the wealth of the wealthy. I know it may sound cynical and even a bit crass, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means and looks like when the “least of these” truly matter?

You say that you care about me as a God-created person—I guess I’m wondering, for what purpose? From the moment we meet, it feels like you’re overall intention is to change me into a person who increasingly looks less like me, and a lot more like you. While the Spirit is compelling me to cast off fear and enjoy the freedom to be fully myself, you’re whispering in my ear that being me isn’t good nor pleasing, and freedom is something to actually fear. Not long after I’ve visited your church a few times, I’m being pulled in every direction. From serving in the nursery to attending some class to become a member—ultimately, so I can learn where I should best plug into ministry. Nearly everything you say and do rapidly convinces me—to you, I’m mostly just a fresh piece of meat, not a person. I’m a cog in your ministry puzzle to set quickly into place, painting a picture of world domination with a mission to “make disciples of all people into people just like us.” I’m trying to see the silver lining in it all, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what it means to care about me as a person, a God-adored human being?

You say that you hold the keys to the best way of living—I guess I’m wondering, why does it seem so lifeless and unloving? For all your spiritual gymnastics, fanfare, and adoration, I can’t help but wonder what’s your motivation? It’s like you’re on an endless pursuit to convince God, yourself, and everybody else that you’re really a real-deal Christian. Every moment is deemed a test of your faithfulness—will your performance live up to God’s expectations? It seems like yours is a rigorous life of constant pre-qualifying—afraid to love too much, enjoy too much, and have too much fun—the terrible things that might become. Sin is always on your radar screen as you size-up other people—nearly everything and everyone is branded an enemy. It’s like a disorder of some kind where depravity becomes the lens through which you see everything. The spiritual treadmill upon which you live, always trying to measure up, leaves you exhausted and forced to put on a Jesus-face while deep down inside, the best you can do is fake it. The spiritual growth you say you inspire, feels more like a conspiracy of doctrinal conformity—if not, flat out brainwashing. I’m not trying to be cruel or critical, it’s just an observation I can’t un-see. I truly wish your way of living was an upgrade of the finest, but it feels quite like it would surely be the opposite. I know your heart is good and your intentions are even better, but what am I supposed to believe? Is this truly the best of the best way to live?

You say that the Bible is the ultimate rule and guide for your faith—I guess I’m wondering, why such idolatry, what’s really at stake? I’ve been around the block enough to know, Jesus is the Word, not a set of words and pages in even the most sacred of books. Which leaves me wondering, what’s the big deal? Why is your interpretation the only one that’s real—often pimped as the way, the truth, and the life. Isn’t that supposed be a designation exclusive to Jesus? More so than not, you fire off Scripture like it’s a weapon and your chief desire is mass destruction—always trying to prove a point. It feels like you use the Bible as a crutch out of a lack of personal connection and revelation from Jesus. I appreciate and respect your level of loyalty, but wonder if placing it in a book and your interpretations is what was intended by the Spirit. I haven’t seen one good thing, only evil religion, coming from the building of your faith upon the shifting sands of a book rather than the Person. “What are you afraid of?” is my ultimate question—loss of control, power, and coercion potential? I’m trying to put myself in your shoes and assume the best of your intentions, but what am I supposed to believe? Is this what the Bible is really all about?

You say that your Gospel reflects the true heart of Jesus and God’s plan for humanity—I guess I’m wondering, then why is it so brutal and your faith so blatantly insecure? To think that your conservative brand of believing is so weak that you have to politicize it, nationalize it, demand it, and sleep with the enemy in order to preserve it. To think that you would abandon all moral conviction and spiritual integrity, and vote Donald Trump to be our president—all for conservative Evangelical power and glory for sure. To think that you would resort to insisting on your own way in nearly every public arena. It all makes one truly consider that not only have you lost your bearings, but your faith understanding is cruel, selfish, and entirely bogus. What you declare as the Gospel for all nations seems like in reality, a spiritual veil to a hatred, arrogance, and people-damnation addiction deep within the religious soul. Why else would you insist on a hell for people who believe differently than you? Why else would you declare to be pro-life—until, of course, it applies to the lives that aren’t in step with your ideology, pursuits, and religious thrills? Why else would you have a clear and present history of being on the wrong side of nearly every important issue? I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe you hold the heart of Jesus in all that you are and do, but what am I supposed to believe? This is what you call the Gospel, the ultimate good news?

Why not just be honest?

We can handle it, we really can—in fact, we’ve been handling it for years. You might even get some respect, as twisted as that sounds. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern how you truly feel and the content of your aspirations. Just come clean with it—be real.

It’s o.k., we have a pretty good idea what you truly believe and think anyways—for actions always speak louder than words.

We may be welcome, but we aren’t wanted.

It’s not really all about Jesus, it’s really all about you.

We, the “least of these,” matter only as much as you can benefit.

To you, we’re a project, not a person.

Despite how it appears, you’re basically faking it.

Without the Bible and the lording of your interpretation, it would be hard to justify your hate and protect your privilege.

Your gospel leads to a life of spiritual imprisonment—for misery always loves a good bit of company.

No, not every conservative church or person is manifesting these messages, but there are large numbers of people who’ve been tractor-beamed into the Death Star of conservative Evangelicalism. Seduced by the dark side, they have bitten the lie. Many conservative churches and Christians can’t help but spread the same infection, luring people into an evil Empire—despite their best intentions.

I know you disagree, I’m actually glad you do. Now, prove that I’m wrong through a conservative Evangelical revolution of changed behavior and tradition.

Until then.

Dear conservative Christian, what am I supposed to believe?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.  Matthew 7:15-20 (The Message)

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Hell-Believing, Wrath-Preaching, Fire-Breathing Christian—What If You’re Wrong?

Chances are, it’s a belief you’ve grown up with all your life—God loves humanity so much that He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross in order to save us from His eternal punishment of sinners who don’t love Him back in return through believing in His Son and repenting of their sins. As the story goes, through His crucifixion, Jesus took upon Himself the punishment from God that we deserve for sin. God required the death of Jesus in order to forgive sin, and personal faith and repentance are how we benefit from that event. Otherwise, the work of Jesus isn’t applied to our account and we are doomed to spend eternity in a place of unimaginable suffering where our greatest wish is to die, but by God’s design we are prevented from doing so—it’s hell, and it’s forever.

For those who might find this storyline of human redemption difficult to stomach with its dark portrayals of God, the Gospel, and Jesus. For those who wonder how God could claim to be so loving and yet act so sinister in not only imagining this kind of hell, but creating it and making the brutal murder of Jesus the only way out of it. For those who dare to look ahead towards the psychotic duplicity of what it might feel like enjoying eternity in the bliss of heaven while your loved ones scorch in unbearable suffering. For those this whole damnation-thing strikes their conscience as being a bit unsettling, unnerving, and confusing—we’ve been taught a simple fix. Hell is a necessary and natural manifestation of God’s divine holiness and justice. In heaven, we will encounter these attributes so completely and fully that any doubts we might have about God or people suffering eternally will somehow no longer haunt us, but rather rest peacefully and easily upon our souls. So much, that in the presence of God who allows for, created, and sustains hell, we will be forever desiring to sing His praises as millions of others suffer unimaginably.

In short, the brutal, violent death of Jesus and a hell of eternal pain and suffering have been handed down to us unquestionably as the ultimate reflection of God’s character and His best ideas for how to extend and make real His deep abiding love for humanity.

Maybe for you, these popular teachings regarding God’s narrative of salvation are a comfortable fit and central to your faith understanding. In your mind, if people go to hell, it’s their fault, not God’s. God can do whatever He wants, and if Hell is the setup, so be it. Besides, the Scriptures are clear, people have been warned—believe or burn, that’s the Gospel. If one rejects Jesus and refuses to heed His commands, they’ll get their just reward—an eternity of torture. God is holy, just, and sovereign no matter how vicious and brutal things play out—for His ways are not our ways, who are we to cross-examine the Divine? Therefore, you proudly and boldly declare the reality of a flaming eternity and the glory of God in sending (or allowing) people there who reject Jesus or live disobediently—thanking God, it’s not you, of course.

Or perhaps for you, as much as you dislike thinking about hell and are even inwardly perplexed by its reality in contrast to a loving God, your understanding of the biblical witness and teachings of Jesus seem to leave you no other choice but to conclude that hell is real and real people will be spending eternity in some kind of suffering existence that affords no hope and no way out. It’s not how you would draw it up, and the whole idea is secretly unsettling to you. When it comes to God’s wrath, burning in flames, and the brutal crucifixion of His own Son, you’d just as soon focus on something else and hope it all comes out in the wash. You have your doubts, a lot of questions, and significant uneasiness with it all, but that’s about as far as you’ve taken it.

Wherever you are on the spectrum, chances are, without a hell for unbelieving sinners, the foundations of your faith understanding make little sense and largely comes crashing to the ground. In your mind, if there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for Jesus. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose for believing. If there’s no hell, there’s no purpose in being a Christian. If there’s no hell, what’s the motivation? If there’s no hell, what’s our message? If there’s no hell, what’s the Gospel? If there’s no hell, what happens to all the effort I’ve put into my righteousness?

So, as difficult, foundation-shaking, and faith-unraveling as this question could potentially be, I’m still going to ask it—what if you’re wrong?

What if hell is nothing like you think?

What if hell (if a place at all) is actually just as Jesus alluded, a literal place (Gehenna) located in Jerusalem associated with the valley of Hinnom that was used as the city dump where a fire was constantly kept to burn up and consume all of the city’s unwanted junk? In fact, the word Gehenna occurs 12 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament, each time being mistranslated to mean “hell” in several versions of the Bible, even though Jesus used it as a clear reference to a city dump.

What if it’s an embarrassingly huge stretch of theological abuse to determine in one moment that the admonition by Jesus to, “pluck your eye out” is certainly not to be taken literally, but yet in the next moment, His literal use of “Gehenna” in the same sentence should somehow be unequivocally understood to refer figuratively to a real place in the bottom of the earth where people are tortured by the wrath of God in eternal flames? Really?

What if the other three biblical words traditionally interpreted as referring to a “hell of fire and eternal torment” actually are grossly mistranslated and don’t actually mean “hell” at all? In fact, Sheol occurs 65 times in the Hebrew Manuscripts of the Old Testament, and it simply means “the grave” (the place of the dead) or “the pit.” Hades occurs 11 times in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament and it is the direct equivalent of the Hebrew word Sheol. Thus, it also simply means “the grave “or “the pit.” Tartarus occurs only once in the Greek Manuscripts of the New Testament in this verse: “For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell (tartarus) and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment.” Notice that God casts the angels (not humanity) who sinned down to tartarus and chained them in darkness, to be reserved for judgement.

What if the single word “hell” we use today and associate as “hell” (a place of fiery, eternal torture) is actually not found in the Bible—nowhere, and in no manuscripts? It’s true.

What if, in fact, much of modern Christianity’s convenient love affair with a hell of flames, wrath, and demons comes much more from the influence of Dante’s “Inferno” than ever could be derived from the true words of Jesus?

What if hell is actually a reality experienced in the presence of God, not apart from Him like commonly taught? In fact, two writers in Scripture describe this very notion: “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb,”  and “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.” 

What if hell is not the result of God doing something contrary to His nature (love), but rather doing more of it? In fact, the Greek word for “wrath” in the New Testament is the word “orge.” Unfortunately, the way this word has been translated has been shaped greatly by our pre-existing concepts of God as being angry, temperamental, and hell-bent on punishing. The word “orge” actually means “any intense emotion.” It’s from where we get words like “orgy” and “orgasm.” At its core, “wrath” has to do with a very strong passion—not even associated to anger. In fact, the root of “orge” actually means “to reach out in a straining fashion for something that you long to possess.” 

What if the wrath of God is not Him pouring out anger, vengeance, or retaliation, but rather His furious love—grasping, reaching, shaking to possess every person that they might experience His Grace?

What if hell is the experience of religious-hearted people who despise the pure Grace of God and His unconditional love and inclusion of all people into Himself and the Kingdom? In the eternal presence of the white-hot love of God forever flowing out as a river from His throne (Daniel 7:10), their souls are scorched with frustration, rage, and torment as their self-righteousness, conditional love, and religious arrogance, bigotry, and intolerance are exposed—stripped, and rendered powerless and evil. All of it deemed as filthy rags fit for the lake of God’s all consuming fire—the blistering flames of Grace. The presence of all people of every color, gender, orientation, stronghold, sin, and creed sends them into legalistic episodes of uncontainable protest and rage—how can this be, how is this fair, how dare the cross include all of these? Resigned to spend an eternity in the presence of pure Grace, the only way it becomes heaven for them is to do what many will refuse—to repent of their demonizing of God, their worship of the Scriptures, and their own legalistic understandings of it all to the exclusion of truly knowing Jesus and His heart. For the same Grace and love that will be experienced as heaven by many, will be a sure torturous hell for some. Jesus forever flips over the tables yet again, and those whom religion joyously sends to the curb are given a prized seat of bliss, and those whom religion gives elite privilege are found to be pouting and wallowing forever in religious disgust.

What if Jesus didn’t die to save us from white-bearded, angry, and vengeful God, but to save us from a fear-driven faithless life of believing He is?

What if Jesus didn’t die at the hands of a God who required His blood-soaked death in order to forgive, but rather at the claws of the religious and their diabolical systems of evil whose chief desire is to murder pure Grace and all its self-righteous destroying, all-including implications?

What if, in the hands of a world dripping with oppression, Jesus, through the cross, chose the way of nonviolence, sacrifice, service, forgiveness, inclusion, and unconditional love to model and manifest the Kingdom that was already eternally established by His Grace?

What if Jesus didn’t die to forgive us, but to manifest to the world that God already had, long ago outside of time in the realm of eternity?

What if God isn’t schizophrenic after all—harboring unconditional love for humanity one moment and eternal hate the next?

What if the truth is, you can’t reject Grace—you can’t stop its presence, pursuit, favor, or blessings over your life or that of any other, you can only love it or resist it? Loving, believing, trusting Grace fills your life with heavenly rest. Not loving, believing, and trusting Grace fills your life with a hell of frustration, self-righteousness, bitterness, religiosity, judgementalism and angst—as long as you desire, even for eternity.

What if God isn’t an insecure, limited, and codependent parent, whose capacity to save, love, and forgive are restricted to and governed by the obedience (or disobedience) of His children—thus, making them the Lords of the future, not Him?

What if God never changes—He is love through and through, forever and always, no matter what or who?

What if the presence of alternative biblically-faithful interpretations regarding ones understanding of hell and God’s connection to it back you into an interpretive corner, so much that if you believe in an eternal hell of torment and torture for the unbelieving and a God who would author it, you are doing so solely by your own choice?

For the results are in—history paints the picture. We Christians have been drastically wrong before—wrong about racism, wrong about equality, wrong about violence and war, the list keeps on growing.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong, yet again?

If I’m wrong, then God will most certainly go ahead, around, and over me in a divine full-court-press to scare the hell out of the people I’m misleading—literally. For there’s nothing about me or my message that the Holy Spirit is powerless or unwilling to usurp. Any wayward guidance on my part can easily be reversed by the omnipotent leading of the Father. I would boldly stand before the Throne having exaggerated the goodness, love, and Grace of God—if ever that could be a thing.

But, if you’re wrong, you have participated in nothing less than the evil demonization of God and the sheer blaspheming of His Spirit. You’ve allowed your spiritual laziness, vulnerability to religious brainwashing, and twisted comfort with the notion of people going to a torturous hell and a God who would create it, to win over your heart, mind, thinking, attitudes and actions. You have leaned on your own understanding of the Scriptures to the spiritual abuse of others—imprisoning them into a life of fear as they are raped of their capacity to know the joy, freedom, and peace that comes from awakening to God who is love, Jesus who is Grace, and the Gospel that is truly good news for all.

Hell-believing, wrath-preaching, fire-breathing Christian—what if you’re wrong?

Paradise is the love of God, wherein is the enjoyment of all blessedness… I also maintain that those who are punished in Gehenna are scourged by the scourge of love. For what is so bitter and vehement as the punishment of love?  -St. Isaac the Syrian

“The flames of heaven will be hotter for some than the flames of hell could ever be”  -Dallas Willard

Grace is the celebration of life, relentlessly hounding all the non-celebrants in the world.”  -Robert Capon

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.

5 Solutions To The Racial And Spiritual Divide In America

There is a racial and spiritual divide in America. The cracks on the ceiling are giving way, some wondering if the whole house is about to fall—violence in thought, word, and deed gushing through every tube that connects us. The assumptions and predeterminations from which we view one another and render our conclusions have perhaps never been more jaded. Much of American Christianity has become weaponized, marching as to war—the political climate and social ills, mere surface products of our deeper spiritual fall from Grace. America is racially and spiritually divided and poised for certain eruption, not primarily from what is happening in the halls of our capitals, but first and foremost, because of who we have become sitting in the pews of our churches. With blood in the streets, discrimination around ever turn, cries going unheard, and condemnation gutting us from within, enough is enough, a new people we must become if America is to be racially and spiritually divided no more.

We Must Become People of Grace-

Grace is the ultimate equalizer that declares the intrinsic, sacred order within all humanity—none are better, only different.

We are all human, created in divine imagery, having strengths and weaknesses. Yet, by God’s Grace, our weaknesses nor our strengths define us. Rather, our irrevocable and irremovable God-established worth forever qualifies all humanity for every right, blessing, and fair treatment. Under Grace, we travel this planet, all spinning on equal footing and value. As we pursue different paths and apply different choices, we are no less worthy nor more entitled to the fundamental qualities of life that God, by His Grace, has woven into His plan for every being—freedom, hope, life, love, eternity, and the fruition of their God-given capacity to be the person He created them in identity.

As we see people as equally reflecting our Creator’s image an possessing His value and worth, we live not to judge, conquer, lord over, nor undermine, but to see the quality and potential of our lives forever connected to that of all those around us. When we are people of Grace, we live not to point out imperfections nor be divided by inherent differences, but to sing in concert with the Creator’s plan that all might know and enjoy their divine beauty and the rest to one’s soul and living that Grace provides.

Under Grace, the nightmare of the American dream is revealed and the birth of a Kingdom hope takes flight, where people are fully free to be fully loved and to fully love in return—a hope where personal performance, success, and accomplishment do not create division nor distinction that measures, but rather reflects the artistry of our Maker who shares the benefits of His excellence and stature for the purpose of lifting everyone upon Him and blessing them with everything needed to enjoy and reflect Him. We must become a human-honoring, non-judging, equality-loving people.

We Must Become People of Unconditional Love-

The essence and entirety of God is unconditional love and His deepest desire is for us to embrace that love and manifest it to others. Love is love is love—it has no color, gender, orientation, status, limits, conditions, restrictions, or exclusiveness.

No matter our faith understanding or expression, until our theology is love, we will always be leaning on our own religious ideologies to the detriment, division and depravity of others and our nation. If love is not the ideal, the real, and the priority above all others, then all our creeds, policies, governing, and individual and corporate endeavors are rendered as gonging, clanging cymbals out of beat and out of touch.

Where temptation and even fair reason emerge for revenge, retaliation, subversion, isolation, or discrimination, love must be the alarm and the trumpet that calls us back to what is eternally true and relevant—only love wins, everything is a bandaid upon a cancer.

The ethos of our country as a nation and our faith gatherings as spiritual formations needs to centered far less on the creation of like-minded camps and exclusive denominations, and much more on the becoming of tables for transformative conversations. And where there are disagreements, love must be lifted as the common denominator and disposition that calibrates our hearts and attitudes towards mutual affirmation, even in the presence of honest disagreement. For the new unity of the future that will truly bring us together, spiritually or otherwise, will not be based upon what we can agree, but rather on the strong foundation of our willingness to have disagreements while doing life and freedom together in mutual respect and honor.

We Must Become People of Servanthood-

Grace doesn’t build walls, it builds mirrors that we might first see ourselves in the light of our shared humanity, spirituality, and equality with all others. Then, and only then, are we fully capable of truly seeing our neighbor in all their truth and assuming the right posture of heart to love, influence, and guide one another as mutual learners along this path of life, faith, and togetherness.

In this way, we become servants of one another, establishing the currency of our interactions to be measured by that which bestows the highest levels of honor to another, simply because they breathe.

Servanthood sees sin less as something to stand against, and more as an opportunity for love to find its highest fruition as it stands in solidarity with the redemptive value inherent in all creation, no matter the perceived sin or dissonance. For sin, differences, and creedal conflicts are not near the issue for God as they are for religion—making them a condition and stumbling block for servanthood where God makes them the object of it.

We are to serve one another in spite of all things and because of all things, giving love center stage to do its work and win in the lives of ourselves and others. God is surely big enough for everyone’s truth to be important, respected, valued, and served. We must become a humble, serving people who are convinced that he or she that loves the deepest and with the least restriction is he or she that wins, to the gleam of God above.

We Must Become People of Shared Human Dignity-

Evil must be seen not as an inherent human condition, but rather in those actions that would withhold Grace, reduce the dignity, and undermine the sacred, equal value, goodness, and worth of all people.

When this becomes the tuning fork from which we align our perceptions, spiritualities, and attitudes—bigotry, racism, discrimination, condemnation and hate for any person for any reason will be aggressively called out, chased out of the shadows, and suffocated of the air it needs to breath. The “least of these” will be defined as those whose seat at the “importance” table has been conditioned, minimized, or removed. Thus, our hearts will be forever bent in sorrow towards anyone in lack, seeing their equal treatment and future as being forever weaved into ours.

Where those privileged today often see equality as anything that still keeps them privileged, equality in the future must look like that which manifests the reality that God created us all privileged, qualified for every good thing—and therefore, how dare we get in the way of that which the Divine has decreed or be silent when it’s missing. For silence and apathy are the incubators from which all evil is given permission to grow.

We must become a outspoken people who see evil as a dehumanizing reality and we as the ardent defenders, advocates, and caretakers of the least of these, shielding those who bare its brunt and force, and rescuing those who wilt in the soils of its poisoning.

We Must Become People of Nonviolence-

Where there is violence the real battle as already been lost.

Spiritual, physical, and emotional harm is always a surface acumen that rarely ever solves the core. For punishment never made anyone holy, nor healed the hurt fueling the hurter.

People are not the problem, our unwillingness to thoroughly listen to each other’s story and submit ourselves to their implications is much more the culprit. A changed mind about an enemy begins with a heard story. Sadly, we have become more addicted to being ignorant and isolated from people’s true pains, experiences, and histories, then in the discovering of where the seeds of condemnation were first planted that have blossomed into the aggressions, scars, twitches, and brokenness that are manifested.

Violence is often a compensation for the unwillingness to listen and be changed in mind and heart by the human histories and experiences of another. Listening begets understanding, understanding begets learning, learning begets compassion, compassion begets healing, and healing begets peace.

There will be no peace until there is passionate, humble listening. For in the end, we are altogether no different— in, under, and with the One who made us—equal by the Equalizer—Grace.

This is who we must become—gracious, unconditional-loving, all-people-serving, human-dignity-defending, nonviolent-listening people.

May it be so, beginning with me, beginning with you.

Why Modern Christianity Makes People Vomit

It’s not a new revelation that modern Christianity is on the decline, especially the American brand. There are growing numbers of good, thinking people who are vomiting out the spiritual elitism, arrogance, and religiosity that oozes out of the pores of countless Christians and their church culture. Yet sadly, as many that yell “fire” in hopes to solicit a cure, most Christians simply resolve to bury their heads in the sand and cling to their black and white, cut and paste spiritualities. Like Linus with his blanket, nose-blind to their own reality, many Christians refuse to let go of the very things that make them stink—sending many, kneeling to the porcelain altar, vomiting it all out.

There are real reasons for all the upchucking— many that are hard to hear, but nonetheless, true. I don’t pretend to believe any of this will make much of a difference, only that someone should have the guts to unveil the true reasons for all the spewing.

We Know You are Faking It-  When the Christian life is centered on one’s spiritual performance, the best anyone can do is pretend— we know you’re pretending.

What you are proclaiming as the cure is really the poison. Your focus on sin, sin-management, and personal, spiritual improvement only imprisons people to the futility of their efforts to get better—leaving them addicted to the lie that if they would just try harder, pray longer, or do more spiritual things, one day they’ll arrive. We see you drink in the motivational messages, the calls to “get radical” for Jesus. We hear the fear tactics and religious prescriptions, the weight you place on guilt and shame. We see the wads of cash you lay down for the latest “to do” books on Christian living and the conferences that peddle them. It’s all about you and your quest to become somebody for Jesus.

Yet, we aren’t fooled, for all the WWJD stickers lining your bumper, we see that nobody is living it like you pretend to be. We are wide awake to the spiritual game of competitive Christianity you are playing.

The truth is, your faith is undoable, leaving people with the only thing left to choose— look the part, go through the motions, and hope nobody sees behind the veil to the ghost town of your spiritual life. There should be no surprise to see countless people simply opting out, realizing it’s more genuine to stay home than it is to be a part.

Grace is the only power that changes anything. Grace proclaims it’s not your performance that defines you, it’s Christ’s. Grace awakens us to the reality that we are already whole, complete, sanctified, justified, pure, holy, righteous, and saved—with no reason for any sense of guilt, shame, fear, or condemnation dwelling in our lives. The very things your modern Christianity are trying to work into our souls are the very things Jesus erased. The Gospel of Jesus is all Grace, or it’s not all Gospel. Grace levels the playing field—none are better, only different.

Yet sadly, Grace isn’t sufficient for you. You’d rather play a losing game and gather others around the misery of your hopeless spiritual plight, while believing its salvation—addicted to the Law you are pimping as Gospel. All, while the spiritual and moral decline of those under your legalistic chemtrails increases all the more as they breathe in your toxin—sending the masses vomiting to the hills.

You Say Stupid Stuff You Think Is Spiritual-  The talking points you’ve cocked and loaded for any given moment, the spiritual cue cards ready for the perfect “Christian” response, the cheesy Facebook memes with outdated fonts and clip art, all leave people inwardly concluding, “Gag me with a multi-colored pitchfork.”

We can tell, though perhaps your intentions are good, you don’t have much of a grasp on the script you are repeating, and for some, there’s a sure void of genuine heart behind what rolls off the tongue. Things like, “I’ll be praying for you,” “God will never give you more than you can handle,” “You just need to press into God more,” “Hate the sin and love the sinner” all render people flat and spiritually comatose.

Chances are, it really wasn’t about actually praying, and even if you do pray, does that mean God will now magically release a blessing on one’s behalf that He was withholding in wait for your petition? Who’s in control of God anyways? You? God? I have a hard time believing a pithy little statement asserting what “God gives you to handle” is going to resonate with a dying cancer patient and their desperate family. Does God really “give” that stuff out anyways, and out of the goodness of His little heart, stops just a wee-bit short of “too much?” Besides, how exactly does one “press into God” more? Is there a special valve you push, some hip-posture you take? What does that even mean?

How about just genuinely caring about people beyond a prepackaged response, getting involved in their lives, walking with them a mile or two, and leave the Christian talking points on the pew.

You Suck At Being Human-  It’s pretty obvious, at least the impression you create— you care more about rule-keeping, creed-following, and church-life than you do about real people, especially those who are offensive to you.

Surely to your surprise, when onlookers observe your Christian life they conclude that becoming more like you is a downgrade, not an upgrade. For to walk upon your path and adopt your values is to become more judgmental, arrogant, phony, exhausted, and legalistic —loving less, enjoying less, and being free… less.

It’s all a drag, a constant spiritual skate on thin ice— parsing every word and action. You boast of a freedom that looks more like prison. You can’t love simply for the sake of loving, there always has to be a catch— some kind of condition, restriction, or spiritual agenda. It’s all so complicated and involved. Line after line of fine print— swimming in a sea of forever pretentiousness.

Why can’t you just be human?

Like Jesus.

Your Worship Is Empty-  For all the subwoofers, intelligent lighting, video packages, church-franchising, and skinny jeans, as much as you may have a heart to “reach” people, you come off like a microwaved hamburger; done on the outside, still frozen in the middle.

Sure, people come, and it all may be musically, visually, and architecturally impressive, but a show never changed anyone; at least, not in the right ways. Where are the choruses, “My life sucks right now, and so does God?” I know, that would be too raw and real to where many are truly at I guess— doesn’t fit a starch-ironed, pleated theology, or look good on LED-shaded projection screens. Since when is a healthy faith journey simply a matter of inspiration, cutting and pasting bullet-points, and conjuring up the determination to give another college-try at becoming a better, “sold-out-for-Jesus” person the upcoming week.

By the way, how’s that going for you— all the “becoming a better person for Jesus” stuff? Well, I can tell you— the world sees, that behind all the religious theatre, it’s not. Nobody is getting fooled, but you.

Why? Because light shows, movies, television specials, clever spiritual acronyms, inspiration, and self-determination never changed anyone. Only Grace can, and does.

Shows are easy— loving people, giving Grace, being real… much more messy—all that money can’t buy.

The world is insulted that you approach them like a commercial audience to be inspired into a sale.  People are too smart for that, and quite frankly, too valuable and filled with divine dignity to be belittled by your spiritual snake oil.

We see the show, but not near the genuine, humble love for people. That’s why we vomit it out. Away from us you evil doers, you worship God with your lips, but your heart is far, far from Him.

You Think You Have It-  So drunk on the sound of your own voice, as if God allotted you exclusive awareness to all things Bible and its proper interpretation, you cling onto your truth as if the Deity has trademarked your understanding.  No room for questioning, no room for thinking, no room for living to the beat of an alternative drum—if only to assimilate us all into the collective of your spiritual Borg.

You are always right; a true, genuine follower of Christ—everyone else, some shade of rebellion and unfaithfulness—desperately in need of your discipleship. We, the wayward, dwelling somewhere in the darkness cast by the throne upon which you sit— as you spray on your favorite morning perfume, “Arrogance” by Chanel Evangelical, we can’t help but be confronted by the stench that falls. What you smell as flowers, we smell as feces.

It’s all so convenient, so intoxicating— that you have “it,” and everyone else, by your declaration, does not.  Oh, how our gag reflexes can’t help but spit out that attitude, and all that comes with it.

You See People As A Project- We are the potential notch on your “conversions” belt. Like Chia Pets, ordered for a rainy afternoon, you pour yourself into our lives for one underlying purpose— to see, if upon us, your ideology will grow.

Everything you do, even the love you express, has an agenda in the shadows—not that we become fellow “learners” with you, but rather, that you are the “learned,” and we are to learn to be as learned as you. Your’s is not an introduction to Jesus, but an induction into religion.

We sense the fingers crossed behind your back, hoping that by your efforts and clever ministry strategies we might start saying the right things, doing the right things, believing the right things, all because you befriended us in fulfillment of your pre-packaged, purpose-driven mission statement.

It’s what you think you are supposed to do, but ironically, what we see Jesus never do—treat people like a project.

You Read Into A Book And Turn Off Your Brain-  The Bible is everything to you— and by “everything,” I mean everything.

It’s your salvation, justification, license for condemnation. It’s your indoctrination, discrimination— not the just the Bible, but your literal, black and white, leather-bound approach. Like a deer caught in the high-beams, you’re entranced by its religious capacity to condemn and self-justify— blocking your ability to see its Light and rendering you as an obstacle to God’s intention.

Whatever lines you auto-tune to echo what you want them to say— those becomes undebatable to you— more definitive and directional than Jesus Himself. To you, the Word hasn’t become flesh, He has become fine-printed in the nuances of your interpretation.

Forget all the science the screams for an old earth. Forget the eyes that clearly see evolution within Genesis creation. Forget the brain in which a God who is Love can’t compute a God of eternal, tormenting hell. Forget the grey, the mystery, the journey, the humanity within every word and page.  Forget those, who lives were immersed with Jesus, yet completely missed His essence because they had their heads buried in the words.

You personify the Bible as God’s plan to turn off a thinking brain and a beating heart— best used to win arguments, justify hate, and draw lines in the sand as to who is in and who is out, right and wrong, and good or evil.

What God created to be a launch pad to a Jesus encounter, you have reduced to a roadmap from Jesus, declaring of which, you hold the navigation key.

All your Bible-thumping, memorization, proof-texting, and debating squeezes the abdominals to a full-on upchucking.

You Unify Around What You Are Against-  The motto of the sum of your Christian philosophy, “Don’t drink, don’t chew, and don’t go with girls that do.” Don’t do this, don’t do that, we are against this, and we are against that.

Nothing enflames the passion of your cause more than to discover a new enemy. If you can’t find a real one, you simply string one together—homosexuality, liberality, wars against Christianity, prayer in schools, transgender equality—always some ax to grind. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails than to be absent of sin-targets for which to take your self-righteous aim— those who sin differently than you, your favorite sitting duck.

It’s all so obvious as you live out your religiosity, love is an accessory, and apparently so is giving a damn. Satisfied with taking shelter behind the walls of your spiritual pride, you refuse to reexamine, to fully consider, “maybe we’re wrong.” Besides, there’s way to much too sin to point out to ever begin to look at your own.

Communing around the sacraments of your hate, you hijack Jesus, and make him the hood ornament of your world bulldozer— known best by all the things you are against, not the common sense, Jesus-things you should be for… unconditional love, grace, humility, selflessness, serving, sacrifice… and on, and on, and on.

All, while more and more good, thinking, love-believing, grace-intoxicated, Jesus adoring people, vomit it all out of their mouths— and rightly so.

Get in line behind Jesus, all ye fellow heathens, He is joining us—leading the way of gag…

“I know you inside and out, and find little to my liking… you make me want to vomit.” -Jesus    (Revelations 3:16  MSG)

Why We Should All Be Thanking Mark Driscoll

The story of Mark Driscoll is like an onion, with every layer that unfolds the eyes can’t help but burn to tears —sadness, frustration, astonishment, disgust, empathy, a full range of emotions. What he has done, said, and represented at times is nothing less than chilling. Sexism, misogyny, blatant bully-leadership, abuse of ministry funds, bigotry, not to mention the Evangelical family secret… hyper-Calvinism. One time, describing America as a “pussified nation” dominated by feminists and “chickified dudes.” One face-palm after another.

As you’ve probably read, Mark took a very short time away from ministry after a scandalous exit and ultimate resignation from Mars Hill Church. Many of his supporters and ministry partners, running full throttle for the exit signs. During that season, in the minds of most, his choices and actions didn’t demonstrate a genuine process of humbling and change. At best, it’s a mixed review. Now, months later, he’s back at it, starting a new church.

Where some might want me to attack Mark and kick him to the curb, I can’t. Furthermore, it’s not my place. Despite the darkness of his deeds, the destruction wrought from his ego, He’s a fellow human being. We all make mistakes and lose our way. The Grace that is sufficient for me, I am sure is more than sufficient for him. If Mark should be sentenced to a spiritual life of stacking pins in a bowling alley, then so should I, and so should you. Grace is the great equalizer, putting us all on the same playing field and on the same team. We all need Grace, equally. None are better, only different.

But that didn’t stop Jesus from staring down evil, addressing it as so. The truth is, we have a problem. A huge zit on the face of our modern church-world. On the surface, it looks like “pastoral celebrity”—not just pastors, but anyone building a personal kingdom. Bloggers, leaders, speakers, artists, authors, all candidates for being seduced into this horror show. What are pedaled as visionary dreams and difference-makers, are schemes and attention-takers, all achieving one radar averting goal…the validation-creating, insecurity-healing, and significance-gaining of the individual leading the show. It all looks so spiritual, but really so selfish, when one sees what’s below.

To be sure, there are many within our Christian community who receive the label of “celebrity.” And though not perfect, they are wearing it well. Their extensive reach, success, and large followings weren’t sought out, don’t rule their hearts, and they aren’t exploiting their platform, rather humbly using it for good. What is a very difficult walk, they are walking very well.

Sadly, in the sea of spiritual celebrity, this is not the norm.

Yet, the numerous Mark Driscolls of our Christianity aren’t the real problem, it’s our Christian culture that seeds and enables their existence. The illness we have become, is what gives birth to the reality of their formation. The x-ray is on the light board, we are the disease, and they, a mere symptom, a surface manifestation. Spiritually engineered from the incubator of our Christian culture.

In fact, the truth is, we should all be thanking Mark Driscoll. His story is the alarm that should be grabbing us by the ears, the stoplight that should be slamming our breaks. The fever, the itchy red rash that calls us to the doctor, realizing there is a much deeper problem at stake. And maybe, just maybe, before it’s too late, we’d embrace a cure before our cancer overtakes.

Problem is, we are so far gone. Color blind for sure. What is fire-engine red, begging us to halt, we see as grass-growing green, signaling God’s favor to press through. Intoxicated by the sound of our own Christianity.

As hard as it is to hear, the diagnosis is clear. We are the “something” going on behind the person these people become. Get out your pen and paper, we owe not our condemnation, but our apology for the creation of each and every one.

For we are the Christians who see Church as primarily where Jesus exists and works. It’s all about church. Church, church, and more church. Not just church, but gatherings, groups, conferences, concerts, followings of people. The larger the crowd, the more legitimate the ministry, the greater blessings of the Savior.

For us, the goal and sum of the Christian life is church, cross-topped corrals of church-people pursuing churchy things, as different as some may seem. Organize it, maintain it, whatever it takes to keep it going. And if church isn’t for you, something is wrong with you. Damaged goods, subtly not one of us. You’re not a true leader until you are a church leader. The big dance, where big leaders go.

We are the Christians, who equate spiritual maturity, skill, and evidence of God’s favor with followers, buildings, baptisms, books, speaking schedules, blog “hits,”and “likes” on Facebook. God must be doing something great, a special work is surely at play. Look at all the subscribers, the listeners, group members, all the people, it can’t possibly be a charade. Look at those buildings, so modern and easy, as far as the eye can see. Look at how busy, how in demand. Wow, how anointed they must be. 10k followers on Twitter, the number they follow, only 10, surely that’s the mark of Christ within. Superstars of Jesus, rockstar prophets for our day. Dare I say, if Hitler lived among us, he’d have the very same. Tons of followers, “hits”, and “likes” on Facebook. Branded to the nines, slick social media presence, lots of lipstick to hide behind.

Territory, market, fan-base, all must be preserved. The celebrity lunch table, exclusive to the cool dudes. Whatever it takes to get to the next level, step on you if they must. Platform creation, platform preservation, platform elevation, at all costs. We are truly in the age of franchised ministry, and we the spiritual consumers who drive it, and make it breathe.

We are the Christians who believe the goal of the Christian life is to be successful for Jesus through personal performance that creates appeal. Be all you can be, Jesus and me. Do more, become more, live the Christian dream. Prosperity, happiness, pleated and ironed, the spiritual Hollywood scene. We, the narcissists on our personal quest for Jesus to show us how to perform at our personal best. Enough is never enough. Give me more to do, a way to overcome, something to convince me that I am worthy to be loved. Tell me it’s reachable, something Jesus and I can achieve. Inspire me with the Kool-aid, I’ll drink anything for a remedy. Keep me thirsty, keep me hungry, I’m addicted to the hope, that within me and Jesus, our efforts combined, I can become whole.

We are the Christians who believe it’s best to get your spiritual growth spoon-fed through like-minded, public figures you can adore. Just give me something I can worship, fabricated into an idol of my own ideals. I know about Jesus, but furnish me something real, something for the in between. We all need a savior when the Savior is not enough. Identity, worth, and significance are best measured by spiritual accomplishment. So surely, my side-kick savior has the goods that I need, simply look at all that they have achieved. Besides, leadership is best validated by the creation of a personal brand that gains and keeps spiritual consumers. When I see this, it’s gotta be the trough for which God wants me to eat. Surely, He doesn’t want me thinking on my own.

No wonder there are so many Mark Driscolls, this is who we have become. Church-addicted, consumer-minded, performance-driven, platform-worshipping, appearance-seduced, franchise-focused, me-serving, success-intoxicated, personal kingdom-building Christians who drop their jaws in surprise and disgust when all that we are gets super-sized and personified by some among us, for all to see in public light.

Yet Jesus chose purpose over celebrity, message over crowds, the cross over appeal, commissioning over franchising, serving over being served, Grace over performance, and sacrifice over personal gain.

There will always be Mark Driscolls among us, until Jesus becomes our game.

We should all be thanking Mark Driscoll for showing us that for which we should be ashamed.

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