Tag: truth (page 1 of 2)

I’m Trying, But I Just Can’t Seem To Win With You

I just can’t win—at least it seems like, not with you.

No matter what I say or how I say it, it all falls short. Pouring out my heart, opening doors to vulnerability, I wrestle with every phrase and every word, hoping to position every thought as best I can do. I want nothing more than for you to understand and receive me as a blessing. What Grace has done in me, I can’t contain. The revelation of Jesus that has confronted my heart has left me forever changed. There are rampant religious evils I simply can’t ignore nor be silent as they have their way—destroying good people.

You’re right, I’m taking a path largely untraveled. I’m giving voice where there has been little to no voice before. I’m swimming against long-held beliefs and the tsunami of right-wing Christianity, and daring to stand up for things many have long been standing against.

No, I don’t expect it to be easy, nor do I harbor an adversity to opposing views. I’m not asking you to agree with me, nor render your stamp of approval. I entertain no delusions, for you won’t be anointing me with oil any time soon—perhaps it’s crossed your mind that a dose of lighter fluid might better suit.

I get it, I understand. These are changing times, and so much of our identities, perceptions, and beliefs are in the balance.

When I first was collided with the truth of my religious spirit and the legalistic faith that birthed it, I was shaken to the core and rebelled with every right-wing conservative Christian fiber within me. I’m not saying I’m right or have all the answers, but I am saying that my heart knows perhaps no greater frustration than when it becomes all too clear, I just can’t win with you.

Please know this, and know it for sure, it’s not for lack of trying and having a soul that desires to.

It seems that when I speak strongly with passion and angst, then somehow I’m being far too abrasive—stepping on feet with too heavy a weight. But then, when I speak softly with tenderness and grace, somehow I’m not speaking strong enough—allowing evil to see the light of day. If I try to land it down the middle, I’m a disappointment to everyone. If I paint with broad strokes, I’m not being surgical enough. If I get specific, I’m being too harsh and insensitive. If I don’t respond, but simply let you share you views, I’m being a callous hypocrite by not engaging you. If I step into the ring and go a few rounds, I’m now deemed a bully who just likes to argue my heretical, unbiblical views. If I don’t walk in perfect step on the path of your ideology and tone preferences, you’re quick to pull me over and write me a scolding ticket.

You gaslight the crap out me but then protest when I don’t rush to cozy up. You troll my life hunting for a debate, cocked with loaded questions for which you’re conveniently convinced you already hold all the answers. Yet, you get offended when I don’t get sucked in or I block you all together—labeling me a fake. You hyper-analyze my every move and step, filling in the blanks with the very worst of assumption and intentions. It’s like you’re determined to misunderstand me no matter how clear or bright shines my light—deflecting seems to be your go-to method.

Sure, I could always say, believe, and handle things better—that’s a given. But, none of that matters, for it seems no matter what, I can’t win.

So, here’s the real kicker—the revelation in it all.

For who would I have to become, what would have to believe, and what would I have to do to be accepted, affirmed, and deemed worthy of your gleam? What kind of surrender and conformity would that transformation require?

With deep love and all due respect, as much as I wish I could win with you, there’s a very real part of me that’s growing more and more thankful—that I can’t. For I have this deep sense within me, I wouldn’t like the person I would have to become for that wish to be granted—nor would Jesus. My sense is this, He created me to be a person not a puppet.

Instead, here’s my plan, a kind of manifesto. I’m going to speak my truth—I’m going to say it exactly the way I want to say it, no holds barred. No shackles, mute buttons, shrinking back, curling up in the fetal position, or editorializing my heart.

Come hell or high water, fame or loneliness, though maybe I can’t win with you—I am awakened and determined, I will win at speaking and living my truth.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

Life After Conservative Evangelical Christianity—Hope For Those Who Hurt

Many are those who have been hurt and harmed by conservative Evangelical Christianity. A walk through the haunted woods of right-wing religious America can be a painful, faith-stripping, and life-sucking experience. For some, it’s an alarming set of events that must transpire before their eyes are opened to the religious deceptions and evils they have endured, adopted, or perhaps have even empowered. Many within and outside of conservative Evangelical Christianity can attest to the victim or victimizer they have become as a result of the faith and practices of much of religious right-wing America.

For those who have been deceived into befriending or becoming the religious evils of conservative Evangelical Christianity—there is hope. For those whose lives have been devastated, their faith disillusioned, and their dignities raped at the hands of these same religious evils—there is hope.

Raise your head, open your heart, awaken your soul—there is sure and certain hope.

There is Grace Instead of Conditions- There is a Gospel that is devoid of fiery judgement, religious condemnation, guilt-trips, “to-do” lists, and people shaming. There is a Gospel where everyone is deemed equal, affirmed, included, and eternally loved and valued. There is a Gospel absent of an angry, vengeful God who requires the murder of His Son and the proper religious responses of His creation in order to forgive and save humanity. There is a Gospel where God loves unconditionally because that’s who He is and can do no other. There is a Gospel that stands against all violence, abuse, and idolatry, and yet, in all these things, is no less biblical. This Gospel is not a fad, a new theology, or some wayward heresy–it’s a person, and that person is Jesus who is pure Grace.

There is Jesus Outside of Church- There is a Jesus who is everywhere and in all things. He is not exclusive to any one location, nation, group, orientation, gender, skin color, tradition, ideology, political party, or even faith system—He is all and in all, nowhere can He be found missing. He is not in public schools only if the people within them are praying or the Bible is being read. He can’t be summoned, controlled, or enticed into favoritism. As much as one may encounter Him in Church, they can encounter Him anywhere and in all things—if they have ears to hear, eyes to see, and a heart that is willing. Jesus isn’t just in Church or into Church people, nor a building, or a service—He’s in everyone, everywhere, and everything. He’s into all humanity.

There is Community Beyond a Congregation- Where church congregations are largely organized around agreed beliefs, values, preferences, and purpose, true community is found deeper where all beliefs are honored, love is most highly valued, and purpose is centered on mutual respect, compassion, and human service—diversity is prized, not feared. People love, not out of religious obedience or faith obligation, but because it is who they are and the full essence and nature of the God they worship. No greater form of community is found than at the Jesus-table that extends far beyond the confines of many a congregation into the realm where people simply intersect with people—anytime, anywhere, and anyplace. The planet becomes our sanctuary, loving people becomes our worship service, and all humanity our congregation—no one is excluded, no walls needed.

There is Love without Restriction or Restraint- No more sizing people up or pre-qualifying expressions of Grace. No more wondering and fearing that you could love too much—if that ever could be a thing. No more conditions, fine-print, or exemptions. No more relational distancing out of religious obligations. No more “hate the sin, love the sinner” in order to desensitize your soul and justify condemnation and hate. No more saying “no” when everything in your spirit is saying “yes.” No more separating “truth” and “love” because your heart has been awakened to the revelation “the Truth is Love and Love is the Truth”—one in the same of the blessed Trinity. No more holding back, shrinking back, or turning back—only giving back as God has first given love to you—without restriction or restraint.

There is Freedom above Conformity- There is a spiritual growth that knows no limits and has no bounds. The goal is not conformity to a set of beliefs and convictions, but effortlessly becoming all that you already are by the Grace of Jesus. It’s founded on a trust and declaration that God is bigger than our best thoughts, ideas, conclusions, behaviors, and confessions. His desire is not that we land in a place of determined theological correctness, but that we open our sails to the Spirit to take us wherever Grace might lead us. That we listen to His voice speaking with fresh revelation fills His heart with delight far more than to see our heads buried in pages and verses. You are a free-living, free-thinking, free-aspiring creation and God loves to see you embracing freedom fully.

There is Safety and Strength In Divine Affirmation- You have no one to fear nor owe anyone an explanation. God perfectly loves you and embraces you completely. He affirms you no less than His gaze into a mirror—you are the image of the Divine Creator. Your value and worth have been predetermined. His love, approval, and acceptance or irrevocable and unchanging. That He created you is more than enough to hug you with an embrace that is eternally unbreakable. No ones opinion, voice, declaration, proof-text, or sermon should even begin to matter compared to the ultimate statement of God on your behalf, “it is finished.” God’s love for you—done deal. God’s delight in you—done deal. God’s affirmation of you—done deal. God’s salvation for you—done deal. As is, whoever you are. All is Grace, one and done—you are an unstoppable force of the Father. You are the revival God is bringing to the earth.

There is Forgiveness For The Enemy- To take the highroad and live to love again is not only the cry of your soul but the empowerment you become—free from all that is religious. Never becoming the evil done against you while standing firm to your truth is the beautiful balance centered upon your heart. No longer can one drag you into meaninglessness nor bring out in you a person foreign to grace and graciousness. Even the worst of that done against you is gleaned of its lessons but neutered of its power to possess. Confronted by and collided with a forgiveness that is unlimited compels you to free yourself from the shackles of unforgiveness, that you might never become your own worst enemy. What the evils of religion have stolen from you will become your mandate to no longer give them headspace nor power through being imprisoned to their hate. You refuse to hold onto bitterness, the desire for revenge, or the expectation of change. Those who forgive freely are those who are truly free and show themselves to be fully rescued out of the shadows of conservative Evangelical Christianity.

There is Purpose in the Pain- Standing, resisting, crying out in fierce solidarity. Giving voice to the voiceless, listening where no ears have been willing. Defending and proclaiming the sacred value of all the discarded. Living with a bravery of epic proportions that only a heart captured by Grace could compel. Shouting for equality where there is none. Ranting for justice where there is none. Chasing evils out of their shadows where they have long resided unchallenged. These are the places where one finds the deepest purpose in life—to be fully yourself and fight on behalf of those who know not that joy. Taking the pain of your oppression and the story of your plight that it might empower another to overcome and discover true life.

Don’t give up.

Don’t give in.

There is always hope.

There is always righteous resistance.

There is always the awakening to a new day and a new way.

Grace is brave. Be brave.

The Letter Every Parent Should Write To Their LGBT Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s never too late.

Perhaps, today is the day.

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

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

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

Son / daughter,

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

With deepest love,

Mom / Dad

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)

If You Were Truly Conservative, You Wouldn’t Be Anti-Gay

You’ve stared down the aisle of homosexuality, perhaps taken a few steps of examination. It didn’t take long for the reality to overwhelm. The issues are complicated with lots of moving parts. From terms like LGBTQ to issues of biology, from political creeds to long held theology. You’re trying, you really are.

With an inner heartbeat pulsing toward love, if only to be free, yet chained to prescribed understandings of an ancient text, lines drawn by the God of your faith upbringing. At best, you’re now straddling a fence. Who’s right, who’s wrong? Bending and twisting, juxtaposing Grace and truth— two chopsticks in hand, insisting that one must be the fork and the other the spoon. Perhaps, the tension is too much, you’ve insisted on landing—the road most traveled, the familiar path. Determined, that as far as God is loving, He is also condemning of all things LGBTQ. One big mess of sin, a grotesque abomination, some foreign reality to God’s rendering that requires transformation. Not just a fork, not just spoon, but a knife, declaring gay doom.

Where you are is where you are, not going to debate that.

But on top of it all, the icing on the cake, you’ve boxed up all your concrete conclusions, wrapped them in black and white paper, and packaged it all as being “conservative.” The genetic codes of your believism, your safe and sure home base. Declaring the inside scoop to a sacred text, years of ecclesial tradition. Self-proclaimed protectors of Christian values, the clear and plain teachings, not to mention… God-inspiration. This is America, the Jesus-sanctioned nation. “Oh-o-say can you see…”

Keep on singing, why stop there. Not just defining what’s in some “conservative” box, claiming it as your own. But labeling all those outside it, throwing shade from your man-made throne.

The hymns of your condemnation. You’ve made it all so loud and clear. To you, I’m a slippery slope pastor. The rest of us, lost and wayward Christians. Heretical to the nines. We’re all just one of them, those liberals, bending to the sway of culture, watering down, sponging in a bath of perversion. Gently tickling, feathering the ears of all that would listen. To make it feel so good, to feel so easy. Living in the grey, postmodern relativism, all with the agenda, to do Satan’s bidding. Looking down your nose, patting me on the back, hoping one day I’ll graduate from this gay-affirmation. Sometimes with words, other times with silence, you say I’ve sold out a sovereign God, joined a long list of false prophets, blinded by culture’s coercion. I’m just another one of those misguided progressives, who simply can’t handle truth.

Well I don’t know who you think you are, but in my humble opinion, you’re way off base. Quite frankly, not even on the planet. You have no idea, not a clue, the journey I have taken, and that of many others.

So, I sure hope you have your adult diapers on, because here comes the truth. My gay-affirmation didn’t come from smoking some kind of progressive liberality, it actually came from the incense of my deep seeded conservatism.

I love Jesus, the Bible, and truth just as much as any other. It’s out of an ardent, soul stirring quest to get this right, that I have come to this LBGTQ-affirming conclusion.

I’m determined, to conserve the singular essence of God who is love, nothing more, nothing less. While you take your liberalities, dancing far outside the box, making Him into a schizophrenic, condemning monster of multiple personalties. I’m holding fast, staying close and true to His clear delight and hand in all creation. While you take your liberalities, twisting, bending, fabricating God into a human-hating, sin-focused old man, sitting at the edge of heaven’s seat, licking his chops for the moment to show the unrepentant the back of His eternal hand.

I’m determined, to conserve the seriousness of the Bible, its sacredness and divinity. While you take your liberalities, raping it, reducing it into a text that should be understood, in all things, only literally. As if God gave you the Bible as a whore of words with which you can simply have your way. Making it all seem so black and white, so you can control, manipulate, label and sway. Adding words, translations, and meanings, stripping them from their context. Treating the Bible like a three-ring circus, parts that seem to light your enemies on fire, gaining the height of your attention, even the rise of your entertainment.

I refuse to play these religious games, to have my faith spoon fed, joining in lines of religious herds, feeding from the trough of self-righteousness.

I’m determined, to conserve the person of Jesus, the only Word of God, who for the joy set before Him, the entirety of humanity, endured it all. His Gospel of Grace, His message of peace. The goodness, value, acceptance and pleasure He takes in all that He has created. The very One who declared our leather-bound Bibles aren’t our salvation, often reinterpreting long held beliefs, always to the displeasure of the religious.

I’m not going to stand aside while you play eternity games with people’s lives. While you hijack the Gospel with your no-gospel Gospel, and pimp it as life. Making “church” into a club of like-minded people whose greatest spiritual gift is to talk amongst themselves and judge the world. Turning Christianity into a moral play, and you, the holders of the script. Scaling the heights of true liberality, truth twisting, backsliding, all while you’re pointing fingers. Puffed up with arrogance, you call it “conservative,” lifting yourselves as the keepers of all that is God’s intention and will.

Well, I’m not buying it, and countless others are beginning to see behind the curtain. You aren’t a conservative Christian, you are a convenient Christian. Anything to keep power, privilege, and authority— the trinity of your ambition.

Creationism, racism, nationalism, fundamentalism. Homophobia, xenophobia, misogyny, all bare the stench of your true liberality, moving so far away from the heart of God, Jesus, and the faith diary of His people. It’s all so convenient.

You are about as truly conservative as crayons taste like their colors. Spiritual shape-shifters, blending into, and making fit, anything that furthers your agenda— the one thing your brand of “conservatism” is good at accomplishing, the conserving of your own religious, self-righteous bigotry. A condemnation in your heart, seated deeper than any scripture.

For if you were truly conservative, you wouldn’t be anti-gay.

You’d stay so close to His nature, His heart, the person of His son Jesus. The thought of moving even just one step from His expanse, the incomprehensible essence of His ways. Seeing His image, his hand in all creation. The science, the biology, the complexity of it all. It would all be enough to give you pause. To stand in one place, on one thing alone… love.

From there, you could not be budged, you could not be moved.

Convinced that God is in all, and that God is good.

He is greater, His love higher, and his affirmation, universe reaching.

Everything His hands have made.

For if you were truly conservative, you wouldn’t be anti-gay.

You’d be like Jesus, and Jesus alone.

Believing in love… all the way.

What the Hell Does it Matter to You? Calling Out the Bluff of Anti-Gay Christians

There are obviously a lot of Christians who are anti-gay. Many of which who give little pause to speaking their opposition, being hurtful, and even abusive with their aversion.

For those of us who are not anti-gay, when we think about such people, one of the questions that paces the halls of our brains is, “What the hell does it matter to you?” Why do you care so much, what’s the big hairy deal? Seriously. Is this homosexuality thing really affecting your life? Is this reality in other people’s lives really any of your business?

I find it interesting the reasons many Christians articulate they are anti-gay. The answers are all over the map. As a gay-affirming, homosexual-loving pastor and blogger, I suspect I’ve just about heard it all.

The classic response is that homosexuality is unbiblical and deemed a sin, therefore it’s ultimately an intolerable offense to God and the scriptures. For them, the sacred tenets of Christianity and the authority of the bible are in the balance. Furthermore, if homosexuals don’t repent of their sin and turn away from their homosexuality, they’re going to hell. Others are concerned about homosexuality causing a breakdown of the traditional family structure, especially when it comes to the issue of gay marriage. Some simply see homosexuality as being abnormal and contrary to the nature as God’s design, having an imploding, negative impact on society. Many harbor fears about the influence homosexuality and homosexuals will have in leading their children astray.

Put it all together, in the minds of many a Christian, the world is going to hell in a hand basket and America is tipping the caldron of God’s wrath. The primary cause? Homosexuality.

I know, for a few anti-gay Christians, they are truly wrestling with this issue, its juxtaposition in their faith, and seeking God’s heart in the process. For that, they should be highly commended. Their struggle and genuine heart should never be belittled.

But for the rest, I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it one bit.

Is there a genuine ignorance out there among anti-gay Christians? Absolutely, but most of it is a chosen ignorance. If I had a dime for the number of Christians who comment negatively on my homosexual-themed articles but have clearly never even read them, Donald Trump would be shining my shoes. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve challenged specific Christians to study-out the homosexuality issue for themselves, reading material from authors on the other side of the fence. Do they ever do it? No. Weeks later, when I follow up, “have you read any of the stuff I suggested?” Their answer… “Nope.”

If biblical faithfulness was really the issue regarding homosexuality for anti-gay Christians, we would see these same believers being be far more concerned with obvious scriptural giants like… truly loving your neighbor, feeding the poor, stewarding a dying planet, adopting orphans, to name a few. Which by the way, if only 3% of the world’s self-professed Christians adopted, there would be no more adoptable children in the world. There are far more clear, incontestable biblical references to those issues than the mere six, highly debatable passages in the Bible that are deemed by anti-gay Christians to reference homosexuality.

But they certainly don’t want to hear that. Why? Because, unlike homosexuality, none of those mandates give them a throne to sit upon or an issue to be against. With nothing to appose or a sin in another to justify their own, many anti-gay Christians would be that awkward, pimple-faced kid at the high school dance standing against the gym wall, not having a clue what to do. It’s interesting to me how the interpretive practices of contextualization and studying word origins have become so important when applying the bible to issues like divorce, gluttony, and women in ministry, but not homosexuality. How convenient. It will be a cold day in hell before we see anti-gay Christians standing outside Golden Corral after Sunday morning preaching with signs reading “God Hates Christian Gluttons”.

This whole, I am anti-gay because the Bible says so… I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it one bit.

“Oh, but we don’t want them to go to hell.” Really? You truly expect me to believe there is a genuine spiritual concern from anti-gay Christians that homosexual people are going to hell? Most of the anti-gay Christians I know don’t give much pause to that notion at all, many even being quite at peace with it. Some, even a bit tickled. Furthermore, if they really did care, would they be beating the crap out of them, labeling them, marginalizing them and making the second class citizens of their church, if citizens at all? Does that sound like the strategy that comes out of the heart of a Christian who truly cares about the eternal salvation of a group of people? I think not.

And don’t give me any of this, “homosexuals are stealing my freedoms as an American” crap. At best, this issue may or may not be challenging some of your religious freedoms, but it surely isn’t challenging your freedoms to be Jesus. Maybe it’s just me, but I have this sense that not only would Jesus bake a gay-wedding cake, He’d multiply it and give it to the couple for free. But let’s not let the ways of Jesus get in the way of our religious pouting.

I’m not buying it, I’m not buying it one bit.

“But this homosexual thing is tearing apart the family structure.” Sure, all while your Southern Baptist denomination has a higher divorce rate than Atheists and you’re on your third marriage, with one eye on the secretary. Oh, I know, your divorce was for Biblical reasons. I am sure your “ex” felt so comforted by that, and experienced so much Jesus in that sentiment. How spiritual of you. It just makes it all so nice and good, like a warm, crackling fire on a cold night.

Bullshit, I’m not buying it, I’m not buying it one bit.

“But what about our kids? They are going to take control of our kids. We’re going to lose are kids to the Death Star tractor-beam of homosexuality.” Lions and tigers and bears, oh my. Nothing says you truly care about the influence in your kid’s life, like forking out the eighty dollars for their Miley Cyrus tickets, letting them watch R-rated movies and vulgar cartoons, spoiling them with blow-out Christmas’s to celebrate the Jesus who ironically was born to give His life away, teaching them they are the center of the universe as you make their every want and extracurricular activity the center of your universe, instilling in them that the Bible is best memorized, prayer is something you fight to do in school, church is a club with a cross on top, and people who don’t believe the way you do are misguided and maybe even the enemy.

I’m not buying it, I’m not buying it one bit.

The truth is, it’s really not about the Bible, it’s really not about a genuine spiritual care, it’s not about God’s design or the influence of homosexuality, it’s about… control.

Control of the content, comfort, familiarity, protection, and future of the elitist, pristine, starch-pressed, Evangelical brand of institutional Christianity and church that you grew up with and likely participate in now. Control of who gets to determine what is sin and what is not, who’s right and who’s wrong. Control of who’s in and who’s out, who’s deemed as truly spiritual and who’s deemed as truly not. Control of who is seen as a positive force for society, who has the corner market on truth, has more political influence, and who does not. Control, of the acceptance and approval of the people in your life. Control, of the self-condemnation your own sin causes by the clamping down and determining of sin in another’s life.

Control, control, control.

Isn’t that what religion has alway been about… control? Sadly, much of Christianity has become far more about religion than it is about Jesus.

I’m not buying it. I’m not buying it one bit.

Homosexuality. What the hell does is matter to you?

I’m calling out your bluff.

Say what you want, put all the lipstick you can on that pig.

It’s not a biblical care, a people care, a family care, a societal care…

It’s control.

If You Didn’t Before, You Do Now : A Pastor’s Love Letter To The LGBT Community

I’m not sure how this all started. All I know is, it has.

You are of the LGBT community, I am not, but I might as well be. You have a LGBT child, I do not, but who knows what could be.

A pastor who was once lost in anti-LGBT’s ignorance and delusion, now a pastor whose fight is to bring Light to the confusion.

Your story is my story, and my story, your story. Not exactly, but yet exactly—a glue that cannot be unglued from what God has knit together. You in my heart, and my heart with you—together.

Not out of some benevolence, as if you were some come kind of mission, but out of pissed-off objection to truths that have seen their evil omission. This is a violent world, and you, a prime recipient. Blind spots here, ignorance there—religion, both the product and the primary cause. You are a beautiful creation of the Creator and the victim of a darkness that only Truth can give pause.

A terrible, disgusting injustice has been done, you have been lied to flat out, and lies about you. Poisons of the Poisoner, hate from the Hater, deceptions of the Deceiver—proof texts, and cons from the removal of context, all from the Accuser. The waterfall of evil’s river, holding you under with shame, it’s time for the captive to be set free, to awaken to your true Name.

“Beloved”

There is nothing to be changed, not a problem to be solved, nor a choice to regret—no shame from which to hide, or a mistake for which to apologize. Nothing to cure, run from, remove, discipline, or overcome. You are not a blemish solved by Grace or some sympathetic exception, but a divine creation, no less than all the others, you are God’s intention.

Tolerance is reserved for things that annoy us, acceptance reserved for that which we deem abnormal. Run from it, all of it, a spiritual veil to an empty offering. Beauty and blessing are things to be desired—you deserve to be desired and I, desire you.

From the affection of the Father, the pride of His gleam, His favor poured over—I desire you.

I want to curse dark skies with you, wrestle out depression’s claws with you. I want to battle haunts in your head, stomach rejections’s vomit with you. I want to stand in “straight” lines, dine at homophobic tables with you. I want to walk on broken family glass with you, pull back the knife in your hands with you.

I want to catch fading breaths with you, beat ignorance’s chest with you. I want to dance in parades with you, laugh to the point of peeing with you. I want to rejoice at the dawn of a new day and celebrate the God-affirmation of being lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or gay.

If you didn’t have before, you do now—a warrior defending your side, a wing under which you can reside, a protector proclaiming your innocence, an ear that hears with no pretense, a mutual tear crying, a mutual heart sighing.

You have never been alone. You are not alone. Not ever before, not now.

Let’s take this hill together, run the race together—until strength we have no more. Let’s raises our glasses, stand up to the masses, “greater is He that is in us, more are they in heaven that are with us.”

Never giving up, never giving in—we will not stop, we will not retreat, we will not be silent

No chance, no way, not ever.

This is our day.

This is our time.

This is our life.

This is our truth!

If you didn’t have a pastor, you do now—never received a love letter from a pastor? You have now.

It’s about damn time.

You deserve to be desired, and I… desire you.

“Hi, I’m Jesus”

Hi, I’m Jesus.

I love you.

Sure, people say a lot about me. They believe different things.

I have been by your side… all the time, all along. I was there before, during, and after.

Everything.

I created. Yes, you.

No, things aren’t perfect. My love for you is.

I am God, with God. Always on your side, from His side.

What does it take?  I gave it.

Completely.

Nothing left to do, everything left to believe.

Some get on their knees, I hung from my hands.

For you.

Don’t sign up… please don’t. Believe in.

Realer than real isn’t surreal. It’s Truth.

Me. Into you.

New life.

I’m hugging you right now. Feel it?

Holding you.

I could do this forever.

Please?

 

-Chris Kratzer

The Gap

We all want things to be better in our lives, no one says, “Wow, I wish things could be worse.”  We all want to be healthier, more fulfilled, happier, more successful, more loved, more loving, and experience increasing significance. We want to look in the mirror and be completely satisfied with who we are as a person on how our life is being lived. Nothing wrong with that, for sure.

Yet, if you are like most people, there are areas where you are dissatisfied. The person you want to be isn’t who you are. The way you act, live, and interact with others leaves you painfully aware of the gap between what you hoped for and what reality is.  Everyone senses these gaps on a daily (even moment to moment) basis, though they may not be able to put their finger on what they are feeling. Like the gap between the teeth of that cute girl you fell in love with in 1st grade, there are gaps in our lives between what we expect out of ourselves and what we end up being and doing.

Underneath the gap that we see between who we are and who we want to be, is a deeper gap. It’s the gap between God and ourselves.  We sense we were created by God, to live eternally, with God, forever.  That’s why seek God, that’s why we desire to overcome death, that’s why we imagine paradise-like existences.  It’s the stuff of poets, philosophers, and alike.  All sensing the gap, trying to bridge it, and imagining what life is like without it.

At every level, spiritual, emotional, and physical, there are gaps.  The question isn’t, “are their gaps in my life?” the question is, “what are you doing with them?”

To the the question, “what are you doing with them?” most people respond with one of four answers… religion, church, self-help, or life-enhancement.  The problem with each one of these is, they don’t work.  “Religion” just makes you more aware of the gap as you can’t seem to bridge it no matter what spiritual gymnastics you do, “church” futilely focuses on keeping you from acting on the gap with a bunch of rules to follow that you end up breaking, “self-help”  tries to convince you that the solution to the gap is within you when it’s not, and “life-enhancement” simply tries to put lipstick on the gap, hoping you won’t notice it anymore. That pretty much sums it up, doesn’t it.

Admittedly, I have first hand experience with all four attempts to overcome the gaps in my life. In college, I dabbled in “religion” in the form of new-age trends. I have read all kinds of “self-help” books and psychological theories and applied their principals. I have even tried “life-enhancement” through pursuing success and behavior modification tactics available in both religion, church, and self-help arenas. And to be sure, as a pastor of 17 years, I have tried “church” as a way to fix the gap through focusing on overcoming it by following Christian “rules.” So, I can tell you through first hand experience, none if works. None of them made me a better person, neither in my being nor in my doing. No gaps were closed nor diminished. In fact, a lot of it made me frustrated, disillusioned, and exhausted.

There are a lot of genuine people (maybe even you) who are simply looking for solutions who feel the same way… frustrated, failing, and fatigued.  Yet, we wonder what to do. If we can’t find a real-deal-solution through going to church, applying some self-help technique, pursuing life-enhancement, or signing up for some kind of religion, what are we to do?  Especially since many Christians churches are actually contributing to the problem because they aren’t presenting the true Gospel. I must admit, at times, the way I have presented Jesus and His Gospel has contributed to the problem. As a pastor, I was like many Christian churches when it comes to the Gospel, so close yet so far away.

So here’s what has finally and truly changed my life and satisfied my soul. Here is what I want to tell you, and the message God has em-blazed upon my heart and as is using Amy and I to build a church around…

God loves you, as is-  He is not waiting for you to clean up, shut up, or grow up. He loves you with an everlasting love. God’s love of you is perfect. In fact, God is love. He can do nothing but love you. And you simply being created by God is reason enough for Him to make you the object of His love. It has nothing to do with what you have or have not done or will do.

In a real sense, it would be illegal for God not to love you, He would be a house divided against Himself because He is love. Don’t worry about coming to Him, you can’t. That’s why, through Jesus, He comes personally to you. Throw out the image you have of God who is simply waiting for that moment of failure in your life to push you under His thumb and make you pay. His deepest desire is to love you, give His life to you, and be with you forever. He believes your best days are ahead, and that nothing in your past needs to keep you from having His future.  God is on your side, always has been, always will be.

God loves you, it’s that pure and simple.

Because God loves you so much…

Jesus came to give you a completely new identity-  

This is critical to understand because your identity is the combination of who you are and who you believe yourself to be. It’s about 1) who you actually are, and then 2) your perspective of you are. Both are critical.

That’s why giving you a new identity involves first making you into a completely new person with a new nature, new standing, new future, and a new purpose, through your faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Jesus gives new life by first giving us a new identity. There isn’t much of a new life without  a new identity. Becoming a new person doesn’t do much if you don’t know you are a new person. To give us a new identity, He must make us into a completely new person, through and through.

Without becoming a new person, we are as good as dead. As is, everything about is has an expiration date… our hopes, dreams, love, abilities, and admirable qualities. Everything. As good as we seem to be, because of sin, we are as dead as can be.  Look around, everybody dies. And the truth of the matter as, we can never measure up spiritually, emotionally, and physically as we are. We don’t just live in a broken world tainted with sin, we are a broken world, tainted with sin. Everyone, everywhere, everything.

The good news is, Jesus offers us a completely new identity by killing our old self, and giving us a completely new self. This is the essence of what Jesus accomplishes for us on the cross. He didn’t come to enhance our life, He came to crucify it and then resurrect it. It’s not about renovating your life, it’s about resurrecting it by killing it (spiritually) and then rebirthing it (spiritually). If your old self doesn’t die, your new self can’t live. We don’t give our life to Jesus (as well meaning as that sounds), Jesus gives His life to us. Our former life is of no good to Jesus, we have nothing to give Him. Additionally, our life is no good without Jesus, through His lavish Grace, He has everything to give us.  And by “everything,” I mean everything. Only His Grace can bridge our gaps!

That’s the heart of the pure Grace and Gospel of Jesus Christ. We give Him nothing (cause we can’t), He gives us everything (cause only He can). This exchange happens through one action, our “faith.”

The new identity and life God offers you through Jesus (received though faith) makes you into a completely new person with a new way of seeing yourself. Did you take that in? A completely new person! Your sins past, present, and future are forever forgiven. You become the righteousness of Christ, having no longer any form of condemnation from God in your life whatsoever. Don’t read that too quickly, let it penetrate your heart… “no condemnation”. You are completely made whole, lacking nothing. Every gap is filled. You are free from guilt and shame, and are given the mind of Christ. You are no longer under the law (rules), but under Grace. You don’t have to perform to get to God or even keep Him close. You don’t have to be a better person, you get to be a better person. Your performance no longer shapes your identity, your identity shapes your performance. God’s Spirit lives in you, not to convict you, but primarily to convince you of your righteousness in Christ, the very thing Satan wants you to discount!  Though you will still sin (because of our flesh), it is no longer your nature to sin (or worry, fear, doubt etc.). Sin no longer defines who you are, Jesus does; His life, living in and through you. You are perfectly loved by God and completely pleasing to Him. It is no longer you who lives, but Christ who lives in you. You lack nothing, you have all the fruits of the Spirit in seed form, and the Holy Spirit will help you to will and act according to God’s pleasure in your life. It’s all Jesus, not you! If it were you, it wouldn’t work.

Jesus doesn’t just want to give you a new life, He wants you to believe you have it! He wants it to become your identity. 

See, if you don’t believe it, you first won’t receive it. And if you receive it, but don’t continue to or truly believe it, you won’t be blessed by it. Faith is the currency of the Kingdom of God. It’s how what God has becomes what you have. That’s why so many people aren’t Christians, and why so many Christians are living defeated, discouraged, divided, and desperate lives. They don’t prevail, they fail. As 2 Peter 1:9 says, “For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins”  Right belief leads to right living. If you miss the Grace of God and who you have become in Christ, you will miss the blessings of it. That’s why the complete Gospel of God’s grace is so critical! You will never know your true identity until you see it and believe it’s true about you!

That’s why…

As you believe it, you will live it.  The goal of the Christian life isn’t your obedience, it’s faith in Jesus’ provision. Sadly, for many Christians obedience is the root, and faith is the fruit. Yet, the opposite it true. Faith is the root, obedience is the fruit.  A new identity equals a new way of living, not the other way around. The more you believe in who you are by the Grace of God in Christ, the more you will live it.

Satan always tempts us to do the wrong things by first tempting us to believe the wrongs thing about who we are and what we have (or can have) in Christ.  Notice that with Jesus, immediately after His baptism, Satan first tempted Jesus to doubt His identity as the “beloved son of God with who God was well pleased” which God had just declared over Him mere hours before Satan tempted Him to turn the stones to bread. In fact, Satan strategically and conveniently removed any mention that Jesus is beloved by God and well pleasing to the Father. Instead, he simply asks, “If you are the son of God…turn these stones…” in a futile attempt to get Jesus to believe the wrong things about who He is and what He has in the Father so that He would do the wrong things.

Satan is still vigorously trying to do the same with us, subtly trying to remove from our sense of identity that true believers are sons of God, beloved by God, and completely pleasing to Him. If we believe the wrong things about our identity, we will do the wrong things in life. An obedience problem is always first an identity problem. A gap problem is always a Grace problem.

Let me remind you again, for a true believer in Jesus, there is no condemnation over their life, none. You have become, through Jesus’ shed blood, the righteousness of Christ, and that is not merely a positional reality, but a complete reality. You are without blemish, all your sins (past, present, and future) have been put away (killed) through the cross, they are no more in the eyes of God. You have been made a new creation, the old is completely gone. You don’t have two natures, you have one. The old Adam is gone. (ref. Romans 6:6, Galatians 2:20) Christ lives in you, you have His mind. It is no longer your nature to sin, fear, worry, be depressed etc. It is no longer our nature to sin (though we do), and when we sin, it no longer defines us or separates us. You don’t live from you, trying to be a better person bridging the gaps, that will never work!  You live from Jesus, through faith in His work in you, and become a better a person. In Christ, you aren’t just a better you, you are a completely new you. 100% Jesus, 100% you. You lack nothing, absolutely nothing. I think you need to hear that again, “you lack nothing!”

This is the right belief of your identity, it’s all focused on Jesus and His Grace, not on your performance. Which, ironically enables you to perform with increasing faithfulness. As I stated earlier, right identity leads to right living. People who believe in the true Gospel of the Grace of God through Jesus don’t sin more, they sin much less. The gaps in their life don’t expand, they close. Their freedom becomes a catalyst for faithfulness because their heart overflows with thanksgiving for what Jesus has done as they walk in a completely new sense of self and life without guilt, shame, and sense of condemnation. It truly is amazing Grace.

“For if by the transgression of the one [Adam], death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” Romans 5:17

An abundance of Grace is what leads to prevailing (living much better) in life, not an abundance of guilt, shame, and rules. Believe in the abundant Grace of God for your life and see the results! Watch the gaps close. Remind yourself every moment, “I am already forgiven, I am the righteousness of Christ, there is no condemnation, it is no longer my nature to sin, I am better than that, I lack nothing, greater is He that is in me than is in the World, I am fully pleasing to the Father, I am perfectly and completely loved, I am a son of God (Galatians 3:26)” and see how your life and living improve.

God gave me a great analogy that I hope will bless you… Trying to live like Christ and bridge the gaps in our life  from our own efforts is like trying to sing like Celine Dion. You can hear her voice in your head, but you never can match it with your own. But if Celion Dion could somehow live in you, you could sing just like her as you allow her voice to become your voice. Her identity becomes your identity. In the same way, Jesus lives (or can live) in you (through faith), and when we live from Jesus in us and the identity we have because of Him, we will more and more act just like Him.

Living a gap-closing life is about our actions catching up with our true identity, not our identity being caught up in our actions. You cannot become a better person until you become a new person and believe it. Only Jesus can make you new. If you are in Christ through faith, you are a completely new person. You are a much better person, and when you believe that, you will act more and more like the person you are in Christ… much better!

In Christ, you have no gaps, now believe it, receive it, and live it! The more you have faith in the Grace of God, the more God’s blessing flow to you.  When you rest in God’s Grace, He goes to work on your behalf. When you go to work on your behalf, God’s grace rests. Happiness, success, joy, peace, loving and being loved, health, and even wealth are stored in God’s grace, not your own your efforts.

Believe it, receive it, live it!

Is it Gossip or Not?

A gossip is a person who creates the smoke in which other people assume there’s fire.  -Anonymous

In the Book of Proverbs it reads… “Words have the power of life and death”   -Proverbs 18:21

For many of us, we underestimate this truth, we underestimate the power of words, and when it comes to our own words we underestimate the damage we can cause in people’s lives simply by the things we say. Often times, we miss realizing how something so effortless and easy as words could be so powerful, but it’s true, words have the power of life and death.

Think about the power of words. When God created the whole word, the Bible tells us that God actually spoke it into being, “…and God said, let there be light” With all creation, the moment God spoke it, it happened.

We underestimate the power of our words. So what happens?  At times we are careless with them, even reckless. We spend our words often as if they don’t count and don’t really matter.  However, Jesus taught the opposite.

Jesus spoke of the importance if words, as a matter of fact, they are so important that…

Matthew 12:36-37 says…
But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.”

Guys like king David in the Bible learned the power of words…

Post a guard at my mouth, God, set a watch at the door of my lips.” – Psalm 141:3, MSG

David realized these things called words are super powerful, and he’d better be careful. Words are powerful in ways that we could never imagine…

In fact…

o.o1 Words show exactly what’s in the heart.

Luke 6:45  The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

You know there are really only two things we need to observe in a person’s life to get a good sense of the condition of their heart, one is there checkbook, (Jesus said where you treasure is, there will be your heart also) the other is the words they say, how they talk, what they say, and what they talk about. Words reveal the secret condition of the heart, people who trash talk, people who say mean things, people who gossip, people who use profanity first have a problem in their heart.

You can’t separate what people say and the condition of their heart, words mirror the heart. That’s how it works.

I remember the first church I pastored, there was this guy who looked all spiritual, everybody had the impression that he was some really great, faithful christian. He carried a bible around at all times, he has to be a super Christian right?  Well, one day he was helping to put some siding on one our buildings and he hit his thumb with the hammer. Out of his mouth came about every cuss word you could think of. Everybody was in shock.  What was deep within his heart was revealed in his words.

Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.

If you go to church, think about church life. If you work, think about your office life. When you see people getting around their agendas and talking it up, people murmuring about what they don’t like going on and what they are going to do about, and people having little secret conversations about this person or that person, you know, there’s a pretty good chance, some sin is going on as some not good things from the heart are coming out in words.

In college, I use to curse like a sailor, but when God changed my heart, my words changed almost overnight.  Why?  Because words reveal the heart, you can’t get around it, it’s like the guy at the church who hit his thumb, eventually you are found out, your words give you away. As Jesus taught, how we talk, what we say when we talk, the kind of words we choose, and how we use words in life say more about the condition of our heart than perhaps anything else.

o.o2 Words powerfully influence our future

James 3:3-6  When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

Here, James is teaching us that how we speak, what we say to our self, and the words we put out actually steer our lives, like a rudder steers a boat.

Jesus taught His disciples about the power of words one day while walking along the road when he cursed a fig tree. When they went back that same way the next morning, the tree had withered from the roots.

And then he told them, Mark 11:22-24 22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

See, there is a very real and biblical sense that your future is tied into how you speak to yourself and to others. Imagine if we were to start speaking towards the kind of future we want to have. The Bible says we reap what we sow.  So, we can’t expect to be speaking words of death to ourselves and to others and then it result in a future full of life.  If all you are speaking is death into your marriage, or your children, or your church, or your work, or your health, or your self-worth, you can’t expect it to translate into a future full of life.

So, instead of letting the confessions of your heart and the words you speak be tainted with death, defeat, and doubt, they need to be anointed with the oil of faith, trust, hopefulness, and love. Words can have a powerful determination of your future. How do you expect your marriage to turn around when all you say to yourself and maybe even to your spouse is, “this is never going to get any better, I just don’t see this thing ever working out?” How do you expect your self-esteem and confidence to get any better when all you say to yourself and even to other people is “I’m too fat”  or  “I am not as good as they are” or  “I have made too many mistakes?”

We need to be speaking the Word of God and speaking from the Word of God into our life. Change your self talk, change the way you talk to others, and you can change your future and maybe theirs too.

o.o3 Words can make or break other people

When it comes to the words we speak, not only is our future at stake, but other people’s futures are at stake.

Proverbs 12:18 Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

What’s this saying? Our words are on of the most powerful weapons we  have for good or for bad, and the choice is ours.

If you are the kind of person that isn’t careful with your words, do you realize what your gossip and trash talking is doing? Do you have any sense of what your mean, hurtful words are causing?  There is almost nothing more powerful to hurt people, to hurt an organization, and to get in the way of God than gossip, trash talking, and talking negatively about people or things going on.

You say, “Well, how do I know if I am gossiping, or trash talking, how do I know if it is gossip or not?

Here is a way that has been helpful for me… T.H.I.N.K about what you are saying before you say it. If you answer “no” to any of the following, there is a pretty good chance that what you are about to say is gossip.

T-   Is it True?  Do you know for sure that what you are about to say is a fact?  Did you learn it first hand, and therefore it’s not just your own opinion or somebody else’s?  Have you spoken with that person directly and confirmed your assumptions? If not, you may need to just zip it.

H-  Is it Helpful? Is your talking about whatever it is going to help or hurt, make more problems or less problems, create conflict or solve it, or help the situation or make it worse?  Is what you are going to say speaking more about your agenda or God’s? Is it something that God wants you to say, or something you alone want to say?  If what you want to say isn’t going to help God, that person, or the situation, if it isn’t going to partner with the Holy Spirit, you may need to just zip it.

I-   Is it Inspiring?  Does it put that person in the best light and give the benefit of the doubt? Does it believe in the best, does it hope for the best? Does it promote wholesome talk or pollute it? Does it cause others to believe in the best, or does it cause others to conclude the worst.  If it assumes the worst, you may just need to zip it.

N-   Is it Necessary?  Does what you want to say really need to be said? Is it really anybody’s else’s business? Is it necessary for you to talk about?.  Should you be talking about it with other people when you haven’t even gone face to face with that person? If it isn’t completely necessary, you may just need to zip it.

K-   Is it Kind? Does it build, does it speak the truth in love? Are your words the same kind of words Jesus would say about that person?  Are your words motivated out of real love and wanting to see the best happen in that person’s life or the situation at hand?  If not, you may need to zip it.

Sure, there are moments when tough things absolutely need to be said, emotions need to be vented, and difficult situations dealt with. Jesus himself had some very tough conversations and some verbally poignant things to say to and about people. Some, that could even be considered hurtful and mean-spirited. At times, there is nothing politically correct, watered down, nor polished about Jesus and His use of words.  Yet, the over all principal remains…

Ephesians 4:29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.



It really is true, words have great power.

Just ask the parents of Megan Mier, a 13 year old who was bullied on myspace with words. Message after message was sent to her by one particular boy, messages like, “The world would be a better place without you.”  The words got so bad and destructive that in her room one afternoon, she hung herself with tears in her eyes.

We can use words to harm people or to heal people. Never underestimate the power of words. The choice is ours. Jesus used words to do the miraculous, and He commands us to do the same.

“I can live two months on a good compliment.” –Mark Twain

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