Tag: spiritual

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.

Should Christians be Hungry?

We have all probably heard and even expressed the following…

“I just need to get more Jesus in my life”

“God, make me hungry for you!”

“Your problem is, you just need to get more hungry for Jesus.”

In fact, much of our modern Christian worship is guided by lyrics that assume that as Christians, we live from a foundation of lack and distance from God that needs to be supplied and remedied by our ardent desires, cries, and petitions for more of Him.

As well-intentioned as these phrases, lyrics and sentiments are, they are actually misguided and unhealthy. The truth is, Christians who feel they are “hungry for more Jesus” in their life are actually speaking from a place of misunderstanding.

Hunger for the Christian isn’t healthy. It’s not a sign of a deeping or developing faith, but rather of a misguided or decreasing trust.

Look at what Jesus said about hunger and thirst…

“And Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life. He who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.’” -John 6:35

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled.” -Matthew 5:6

The result of belief in Christ is not a remaining or continuing in hunger, rather it’s “never thirst,” “never hunger,” and “shall be filled.”

For the non-Christian, hunger is a blessed, good thing. It’s a sign of humbleness and desire. But for the Christian, it can be a sign of spiritual pride or a sure sign that there is a misunderstanding of who one is and what we have in Christ.

As a believer, we have “every spiritual blessing.” The fullness of Jesus lives in us. We have the mind of Christ. We are “partakers of the divine nature.” We are His righteousness. “As He is, so are we in this world.”  Is Jesus living now hungry for more of Himself? If not, than why are we? As Christians, we are “as He is in this world.”

On the cross, Jesus has not only satisfied every need in our lives, He has given to us everything needed to supply for them. We are in fact, a new creation. Jesus recreated our entire being, not with remaining areas of lack, but with everything we need to reign in life. As Jesus promised, Christians are “filled.” It is in believing what Jesus promised and delivered that we are awakened to these realities, not the idea that if we pursue God He will give us the “more” of Him that He is believed to be withholding.

So, why do some hunger or believe that hunger is a good and Godly thing? Because either they don’t realize and therefore believe that God has already supplied what they believe they need to pursue from God. Or, they are turning to their flesh (efforts, striving, and trying) to seemingly receive more of God. And no matter how spiritual their doing so may appear, they are turning to their efforts (flesh) to get from God what He has already thoroughly provided, perhaps even taking pride in their “hunger” or the sense that they are able to seemingly perform their way to God or tip the generosity of God further in their direction through their passion.

The truth is, and I don’t mean to burst any spiritual bubbles, for the believer, you can’t get any more Jesus or His presence than you already have. You can’t get any closer than He already is. You can’t be any more “blessed” “loved” or “favored”  than you already are.  No matter how “hard” you pray, how long you worship, or how desperately you cry out.

When we believe, we enjoy, walk in, and share the blessings we already have. When we turn to the flesh, we try, strive, and perform all kinds of spiritual gymnastics to ignorantly or pridefully try to get or earn from God what He has already graciously and completely supplied, not realizing nor living in what we already have. The very thing we are pursuing is the very thing we miss, because we don’t realize or are satisfied with the reality that we alreay have it.

Being hungry for God is only good for the believer as far as much as it points out areas where we are not believing or trusting that Jesus has already given us all things, and that His supply, His Grace is sufficient for us.

The cross is not just the place where Jesus did something for you in making it possible to get our of hell into heaven, but He also did something to you. He made you into a new creation that has the fullness of Jesus living in you and as you. You are the righteousness of Christ, Holy, and sanctified completely. You lack NO spiritual blessing. You are not just a child of the living God, but a king and priests.

You are not a person living in or from lack, hunger, or thirst. But a person living in and from fullness.

The Bible teaches we “grow in Grace,” not by pursuing things God has already graced us with. If the Christian life is anything, it is not a process of becoming something you a not by getting “more” of God. But a process of becoming who you already are in Him by believing the “more” you already are and have in Him.

Believe it, receive it, and live it today!

Panic

For those who deal with anxiety on a daily basis, they know how panic can control their lives.  For some, their panic is more circumstantial as it fueled by mainly contextual issues. Maybe they have a test to take, meeting to lead, speech to give, or some other event or situation that raises the level of anxiety in their life to a state of panic.  For others, their panic has a more inward origin, and at times seems to come out of nowhere.  Circumstances in their life seem to present little to no trigger at all to their panic, but instead, it wells up from within.

As one who used to be ruled by anxiety and panic attacks, I know firsthand how debilitating they can be.  Worst of all, it often feels like things will never get better. The idea of one day living a panic free life seems like a hopeless reality.

So, let me tell you, there is hope. You CAN live a panic free life. And chances are, you won’t have to bow down to medications in order to experience freedom from anxiety.

Here’s what’s worked for me…

1) Discover the Spiritual Issues Underneath

I never would have thought it, but much of my anxiety and panic issues stemmed from a faulty, broken view I had of God.

Though it never seemed like it in the moment, much of my anxiety and panic originated from spiritual issues in my life. Anxiety and panic don’t feel or seem very spiritual, but they certainly can be.  In fact, panic and anxiety is the body’s way of alerting us to the fact that something is not well within us. It could be in our thinking, in our feeling, in our biology, or some combination thereof. I would venture to say that most anxiety issues that become biologically driven first started off being spiritually and experientially driven.

The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.”  The love spoken about here is God’s love of us. This is a perfect example of how our view of God (spiritual issue) can be directly related to anxiety in our lives.

Don’t underestimate the spiritual issues underneath that are driving the levels and issues of anxiety/panic in your life.

2) See a Licensed Christian Counselor

Getting to the root of the issues that are fueling anxiety and panic in your life are very likely going to require you to get professional help.  Secular counseling can only take you as far your life experiences are concerned, it cannot heal your soul. Healing the soul is a matter of faith in Christ. To heal anxiety you must heal the soul, secular approaches cannot provide supernatural solutions.  Additionally, make sure you find a Christian counselor who practices from a foundation of Grace and is wise in the character and nature of God. The last thing you need is a religiously-spirited counselor adding a bunch of “to do’s” and “rules” to managing anxiety in your life.

Why do I say that? Because the issue of “condemnation” in people’s life is often a big culprit behind the anxiety and panic they face on a daily basis. Condemnation has to do with feeling trapped, forever guilty, ashamed, broken, flawed, and judged. Only God’s Grace can heal those deep issues, not religious rules and actions.

3) Find Issues of Condemnation

One of the issues that pulls the strings of panic and anxiety in people’s lives is “condemnation.”  Living a life free from debilitating levels of anxiety and panic means walking in assurance, peace, and rest deep within your being.  Condemnation unravels this ability.

In my own life, after I solicited professional help from a wise counselor, I learned that deep within me being I felt condemned by God, my father, and the areas of my life I labeled as not measuring up. No wonder why I lived with spiking levels of panic and anxiety from time to time.  Condemnations kills, God’s Grace and perfect love bring life.

Chances are the root behind your anxiety and panic will be an issue(s) of condemnation in your life, real or perceived.

Are there circumstances where a person needs to medically treat issues of anxiety in their life? Sure, absolutely. But ultimately, though medications may help manage symptoms, they cannot provide the cure.  Jesus can provide the cure;  Grace, love, and His favor received through believing, applied to the deep spiritual areas of condemnation and fear within.

Is Your Christian Life, Evil?

Most of us who are people of faith would probably never think nor consider the idea that our Christian lives could in fact become, “evil.” Most of us try to live in such a way that moves past the temptations of darkness and its work in this world.

Yet, when we look at how God defines evil, we may discover the sobering reality that the very thing we purpose to avoid is the very thing our Christian life has in fact become… evil.

The word used for “evil” in the New Testament is poneros. Every time the word “evil” appears in the New Testament, “poneros” is used. When we think of evil or people who are evil, our minds gravitate to dark visions of things that are bad or carnal. Yet, the idea that “evil” is simply an immoral, malicious, or devilish type reality is highly misleading, and quite frankly, a spiritual copout.  

In Paul’s letter to the Hebrews, we see a reference to a person having an “evil heart…”

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. -Hebrews 3:12

What does a person with an evil heart look like? What are the hallmarks of their living?

The answer could very well send you into a tailspin of shock.

The word “poneros,” actually means… full of labors.

Being “full of labors” is the idea of living to make things happen out of self-effort, a kind of internal striving to produce something good or worthy out of your life. It’s the performance-driven mentality that looks to one’s abilities for a better future or the procurement of success. It’s the busy-with-things-to-do-and-become mindset. It’s the heart that concludes… my identity, worth, and closeness with God are intrinsically tied to my achievement, skill, and performance. One may never say it that way, but so many of us are living that way. Self-promotion, self-improvement, self-actualization. “Seven steps to success,” “Become all you can be,” “Take your life to the next level.” It’s the Christian with their spiritual to-do lists of tasks, rules, and rituals used to feel like peace with God and affirmation of self is theirs for the taking. It’s the foundation of the religious spirit that is so prevalent in many a Church and Christian in our western culture today. Call it what you will… “best practices,” “excellence,” “changing the world,” “radical Christianity,” “faithfulness,” “vision,” “discipleship,” “spiritual maturity,” “leadership,” or “obedience.” When it’s done out of spirit of labor, God calls it… “evil.”

Oh snap.

In the opening lines of the book of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day of His creative work. Better yet, He set that day apart as being Holy. Why? Because God associates holiness with resting.

By resting, I’m not talking about doing nothing or having zero responsibilities, rather about living from an internal foundation of trust and faith that believes God’s finished work on the cross is enough for every aspect of your life. Your value, your worth, your merit, your entire essence. It’s a posture, a state of emotional and spiritual centering that relies on God’s work, favor, and provision completely above our own. It’s the realization that our part is to realize we really have no part, only to believe. His performance defines us, not ours.

Simply put, to believe is to rest. To labor… is evil.

In fact, the only labor that fits in the Christian life is to work hard at… resting…

Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief. –Hebrews 4:11

Sadly, we have become a people full of labors. We say we believe, yet we worry. We say we trust, yet we strive and push to move things forward in our life. Leveraging relationships here, working angles there. We talk about forgiveness and being forgiven, yet we live in fear, guilt and shame. Racing to do more good than bad and somehow right our wrongs. We speak of Grace, yet we mix it with rules, regulations, rituals, conditions, and obligations. We proclaim the work of God in the past and present, but we rely on our efforts for the future, nonetheless.

We are full of labors, not rest. Goals not gratitudes. Striving and trying, not trusting. Performing, achieving, pushing, promoting, and stressing, not believing.

Consider Job in the Bible.

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.  I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” -Job 3:25-26

Fear is built out of unrest. And where there is unrest, turmoil is just around the corner. Where did this stressful existence of turmoil come from, for Job?

When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom. -Job 1:5

Are you kidding me? Do you see it? Job is laboring day in and day out, doing something spiritual in hopes of protecting his children from an imagined reality with God that he fears. Let’s all try to get our heads around this. It was a spiritual pursuit that began his downward spiral into a state of turmoil and further unrest. He feared for his children, but instead of believing and trusting, he decided to labor his way through it as an attempt to take control of the situation and make things right.

Oh snap.

Ironically, as Christians, it is often spiritual looking things that we are doing that bring us into a further state of unrest, stress, and ultimate disbelief. Why? Because we are not living from a foundation of faith, but of fear, selfishness, and insecurity. Our spiritual song-and-dance maybe be fooling everyone else and even ourselves, but God is not fooled.

It’s evil.

Just look around at how many over scheduled, burnt-out, stressed, worrying, performance-driven, self-righteous, self-promoting, guilt-ridden, judgmental, religiously-spirited Christians there are. And this is what we hold up as the model, the goal, the essence of our faith walk.

For Job, something so spiritual looking was actually so ladened with evil. And dare I say, this is what is happening throughout American Christianity today. Our Christian lives have become, evil.

The holiest, most spiritual thing you can ever do is to rest in faith.

Your greatest responsibility is to rest in faith, believing the work of God in and through your life has already been accomplished on the cross. You are already a success. You are already whole. You are already faithful. You are are already complete. You, were one and done on the cross.

As you believe, and only as you believe, watch it all flow from you. Like rivers, quenching a dry land.

When we we rest, and only when we rest, the true work of God gets released through us.

This, is the way of Jesus.

To believe is to rest, to labor… is evil.

© 2017 Chris Kratzer

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