The word “failure” is failing us.

So many times I think, and say to God, “I have failed You.”

Yet this doesn’t encapsulate the grace God gives!

HE HAS ALREADY FIXED OUR FAILURE THROUGH THE BLOOD OF HIS SON!

Yet we still constantly disobey, and sabotage our own pursuit towards God.

So what shall we say when we have these moments?

I think if we look deep enough, our sabotage is always a direct response to our pride. We either think we know better than God, think we can hide from God, or think we’re not ready for God and what He has called us to.

So we put up a road block.

So, next time you sabotage the pursuit, quit telling God you failed. That only tells Him you think you aren’t doing good enough. Instead, confess to Him that you have fled, repent for your constant attempts to run from His glory, and turn back towards Him, remembering that His glory is always chasing you.

Are you running towards it?

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I AM A TEMPLE

 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.”        

  – 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

When you read this verse, what does it make you feel?

I know when I read this verse, up until probably a few months ago or so, it always made me feel like I wasn’t doing good enough. Like I wasn’t keeping my “temple” clean enough for God. I always read it and pictured a big, marble room with huge pillars that was spotlessly clean,and thought, “that’s not how my body is! I’m filthy! I need to do better!”

And then I realized that temple in my head was empty. And I realized God’s temple is never empty.

This post is a warning. It’s a challenge for you to ask yourself what these verses that we quote so often in Christianity (and often for the wrong reasons), make you feel. Do they make you feel shame? Guilt? Do they make you feel like you need to work harder to clean out your temple for God?

Or do they make you realize that the God who has created the earth and everything in it has taken up residence with YOU. Do you read these verses in the context with which you have likely heard them? Or do you read these verses and really READ them.

“Your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit” = God lives in you. And because He’s in you, you can do everything He asks of you through Him. One of the best parts of being a Christian is living with God in control. It should be comforting to know that the Designer is the one leading and guiding His design. Life before Christ is like getting into an Abrams tank because you drove one in Call of Duty. You might have some fun, and there might be some explosions, but in the end all you’re going to do is wreck stuff. He knows you better than you do. He knows what you’re capable of, and He wants to teach you how to use every part of His design. Listen to Him and let Him teach you.

“You were bought at a price.” = You’re worth something. And in this case, something is EVERYTHING. Something is a live lived in perfection. The Designer loves His design so much that He decided He’d pay with His own blood in order to get it back for eternity. He already knows you, and He wants you to get to know Him. He doesn’t want you to say, “He bought me, I better be a good person and follow the ten commandments and do stuff for Him like go on a short-term mission trip.” He wants you to say, “THAT’S what I’m worth?!” He wants you to realize how highly He thinks of you. He wants you to realize that He paid the ultimate price for something incredibly broken, and He wants you to realize that He sees what you can look like when you’re fixed. He didn’t buy you so He could have another worker. He bought you so He could work.

“You are not your own.” The context of this verse is Paul talking about sexual immorality. I think that’s why people tend to get legalistic with this verse. But look at verse 15. Paul calls our bodies “members of Christ.” He isn’t telling us to not sin. He’s telling us to let Christ have control, because there is no sin in Christ. With Christ in control, sexual immorality, or any other sin, isn’t even a consideration. Remember, condemnation says, “You lied, you’re a liar.” Conviction says, “You’re way too awesome to be doing that.” Condemnation calls out our brokenness. Conviction reminds us of His repair.

“But whoever is united in the Lord is one with Him in spirit.”   – 1 Corinthians 6:17

TRUST BEATS TALENT (and what that means)

“… Bring down Your warriors, O Lord!”

                                                         – Joel 3:11

This passage in context can tell us a lot. It serves as a rally cry to Judah to prepare for battle, telling the people to “beat your plowshares into swords and pruning hooks into spears,” and “the weakling to declare strength” in anticipation of battle. (Joel 3:10). Yet after telling the people and nations to assemble and prepare, he finishes by turning to God and declaring to God that it is time for Him to send His warriors.

Do you do all you can and come to God prepared and at the end of your strength when you cry out for His help? Or do you sit idly by and expect God to do all of the work?

I, personally, am mostly guilty of the second.

I’m a huge phrase nerd. A huge part of my walk with God is to take a passage, or a verse, and condense it down into a phrase. This is a practice that not only helps me dwell on what I read throughout the day, but also helps me memorize scripture and find encouragement later when I’m feeling discouraged or overwhelmed.

One of my favorite phrases I’ve come up with is “Trust Beats Talent.” In the bible it’s very clear that God prefers your trust over what you feel you’re talented in (Moses, for one, is a good example of this, as is 2 Corinthians 12:9, John 14:1, and basically the backstory of every major character in the Bible). But often we find ourselves either too afraid or too lazy to realize that trusting God often looks like work, and that in order for God to work through you, you must be working. One step at a time, despite how qualified or unqualified you feel, and when you have done all you can through God’s strength and allowance, then it’s time to declare that God brings His warriors.

I guess I can now say there’s a second part to my saying.

Trust beats talent, but trust usually involves movement.

God has made us capable. He has given us His strength (Ephesians 1:19). Are you willing to use it? What is God asking you to trust Him in? And what is He telling you to do in order to put that trust into action? Remember God loves to encourage His children, and He has filled us with His spirit and strength so we can be warriors for the things He has put on our hearts to accomplish. Are we really putting our strength in Him if we’re never willing to flex our muscles?

“Sacrifice and offering You do not desire, but You have given me an open ear.”    – Psalm 40:6

THE WORSHIP FOUND IN THE PROCESS

ImageAs a worship leader, I’ve had many different internal experiences while leading worship. I’ve had nights where I feel like I failed afterwards, and nights where I’m on the verge of tears because of the love I felt in the room, pouring out to God. And I’ve reflected on all of this. I’ve reflected on what happened during the day when I have a bad worship experience, as well as a good, and I’ve recognized something that, like worship itself, is bigger than singing. I have found that whenever I’m able to lead a worship session – whether it’s with 100 people or ten people, the worship is always easier when I’ve been living truthfully that day. It’s always easier when I’m living as a human, rather than trying to live as God himself. It’s always easier when I’ve spent the day worshiping God for continually renewing me and refining me, and it’s always more difficult on days spent focused on being a ‘good Christian.’

 I think as Christians, far too often we worry so much about being seen as good people that we forget to live like actual good people, and instead end up living a life focused on ourselves, and worried about where our evil desires are going to lead us next. This is an ironic problem to have, because when we worry about looking like a ‘good Christian,’ we end up worrying about ourselves. And being a Christian is the exact opposite of that. Being a Christian is living a life where you are never focused on yourself, and always thinking about everyone else. When we have to think about being a “good Christian,” we usually end up being a bad one, because we end up living a life focused on the person Christ has transformed us from rather than the person Christ has transformed us into. We end up living a life where we’re so aware of ourselves, and how many times we’ve failed to be good, and how many temptations the devil is putting in front of us each moment, that we ignore the world around us, and the good people in it. We fail to recognize that these people around us every day are people who are equally as good as us, and equally as loved as us, and there is a God who longs to rescue them just as He rescued us. We fail to recognize that Christ lives in us and through us, and in turn we fail to take confidence in this fact. Instead, we live as if the devil has control of us, and we have to constantly look out for the next sin he’ll force us into.

Let me ask you this: Have you ever worried about sinning when you’re thinking about someone other than yourself? I’m not talking about when you’re thinking about what someone else can give you. I mean actually, truly thinking about them with God’s interests in mind. Have you ever sinned while taking a genuine interest in other people?

Have you ever sinned when you’ve thought about not sinning?

What are you doing to keep realizing you are already someone Christ has made good?

One of the best prayers we can pray is to ask God to continually refine us and match our mind with His, because as we pray this, we can take confidence that God is doing it. We can begin to live outwardly instead of live focused on the turmoil within, because we can take confidence in the fact that God has done what He has said He’s done: made us a new creation.

Pray for constant oneness with God. Pray for His mind, and as you grow more and more in Him, you may find you also grow more and more interested in others, and less worried about yourself and your next failure. And as we take the notice off of our own imperfections and brokenness, we may find ourselves more able to help people in theirs.

ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE . . .

*As a Christian, this is a topic I have largely stayed out of, and the main reason is I’m still in process of refining exactly how I feel it needs to be approached. This is simply an attempt at transparency about the questions and struggles I deal with regarding this issue. This essay is not meant to be a lecture or a manifesto, but rather an open discussion, in which I hope to learn from you – Christians and Non-Christians, gay and straight – as well helping you gain a deeper understanding of me, with the end result being respect from both sides. Keep in mind this is written from a Christian viewpoint that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

If you are looking to start a personal attack, in either direction, look elsewhere. I am required to approve all comments, and yours will be deleted.

pink-cross-response-to-marriage-equality-iconMarriage_Equality_Sign

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a Christian. That is not to say I am a better person, but simply to say I am in recognition of the worse person I am, and have been freed from being, which is not of my own accord. In my mind, a Christian at many points in life is almost synonymous with a hypocrite, because recognizing Christianity as your belief system and putting your faith in Christ is essentially saying you are incapable of living to His potential for you without His intervention, and saying that you will never be able to abide fully in Him at all times until you are in heaven, yet we are still expected to strive towards this goal of righteousness through the Holy Spirit’s leading, while helping fellow Christians do the same. (If you disagree, look at Romans 7:14-20 describing Paul’s troubles, or look at the stories of David and Solomon.) That being said, I believe I am on equal ground as anyone in the LGBT community in regards to sin, and have only been rescued from myself through my personal recognition of Christ’s sacrifice, and through the belief of God’s promise through Christ and renewing by the Holy Spirit. And because of this, I believe God knows better than I, and the bible is the inspired word of God, which means I must believe that homosexuality is a sin. I wish I didn’t have to believe this, as it would make my life much easier, but I do because being a Christian without believing all parts is not being a Christian, but rather simply being a Monotheist. Christianity, or being a Christ-Follower, is much more complex than that, as the devil himself is a monotheist and is obviously not a Christ follower.

With that being said, I am very conflicted about Christianity’s role in same-sex marriage, because although I do believe same-sex marriage is a sin, as is homosexuality as a whole, I also believe judgment is meant for within the church, and our role outside of the church is simply to love, and point others towards Christ and His radical redefining of love. And this is where I am at odds, because although I do personally believe same-sex marriage is a sin, I also believe marriage has already been tarnished by the broadening of its definition to become a union outside of the church (I am still in conflict with myself here as well, as a person who believes in romantic love and our innate desire as humans, not only Christians, to be joined together, although I have seen the sanctity of marriage crumble because of our other innate human desire – which is selfishness.) and become defined as an entity of the state.

And this is where my view becomes muddied.

Same-sex marriage is obviously not accepted within the Christian church (and because of this I can’t see reason why a gay couple would want to be married by the church), and therefore is an entirely state-ordained affair. And in fear of sounding like a bigot, I find myself in great conflict, because I do greatly wish all humans to have the same state-governed rights, yet I do not wish for same-sex marriage to become a topic which undermines the righteousness and justness of God, because as Christians we know God does not change his mind, and only humans attempting to play god can make such a change. Which, if the world was led to believe God had changed his mind on same-sex marriage, the entire credibility of the Christian church and God’s righteousness would be questioned by those without a strong understanding of our God or a strong understanding  of the human condition of sinfulness which Christianity teaches.

So the question is this: When does the battle for equal state-ordained rights meet the battle of preserving the public view of an unchanging, righteous God and the marriage He has ordained? (I say public view because God does not need us to defend the claim of His righteousness, although I believe it is an important claim to defend because of the easily persuaded nature of humanity as a whole.)

I fear this may be a never ending, chicken or egg paradigm, yet I will attempt to expand on this question. In my mind, the argument cannot be won by either side because of the state-based, rather than Christianity-based, center of the actual law regarding marriage. I understand that marriage grants the family certain rights and privileges regarding taxes, among other things, so I will focus my attention here by offering a seemingly offensive hypothetical. If marriage was a covenant offered by the state which did not offer any extra tax or other incentives, traditional or same-sex, where would same-sex marriage stand on the priorities of this nation? Also, if the term ‘marriage’ halted usage in state affairs, and all marriages were dubbed ‘civil unions’ by the government, and only ‘marriages’ within the church, treating the two as separate entities (and unfortunately adding paperwork to the process), where would we stand on this issue?

With these questions in mind, which are my attempt to basically see the views on the other side of the argument, I will address the questions I have often pondered regarding my Christian faith in this debate. I have already discussed the importance of God’s decrees due to His unchanging, just nature as understood by the church, so my questions tend to regard my own personal responsibility as a Christian in this debate.

As a Christian with an understanding of reserving judgment for those inside the church, when does same-sex marriage become my cause to fight against, and when does it fall under the Christian foundation of retaining such judgment from those who, for lack of a better term, are naïve of God’s law and His desire for us to live accordingly? I think the answer lies in one basic question, and that is this:

What does the love I strive towards – and my call to love as Christ loved (John 15:12) which is to love through sacrifice – call me to do? Does it call me to love through acceptance, or to love through the observation and identification of the behaviors God sees as sinful in others?

This has brought me to this realization: We are to love people in a way that points them away from sin, and towards Christ, because, as Christians who believe sin results in death except through Jesus Christ (Romans 6:23), if we do not love people by pointing them away from sin, we are loving them by pointing them towards death, which cannot be love, while Christ made it abundantly clear that it is our duty to show Christ to others and bring them closer to Him. So with this I am led to conclude with these questions: Will the legalization of same-sex marriage increase the sin present in humans, especially since we as Christians already view homosexuality as a sin, and homosexuality is gaining acceptance in our society daily? Or will the often-times misunderstood, sometimes hateful condemnation of same-sex marriage within the Christian community cause more people to run from Christianity than the number of people within the LGBT community who would be led to Christianity through a love-based pursuit of the LGBT community after the fact and the acknowledgement of equality regarding sin as well as redemption through Christ?

Seeking God’s wisdom, and in need of His grace,

J.