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?

ON DECISION MAKING.

The older I get, and the better I start to know God, the more I believe He doesn’t really care about a lot of things.

Before you call me a heretic, calm down. I’m not saying God doesn’t care. I’m saying we care too much about the inconsequential. We find ourselves worrying about decisions throughout every step of life, praying, and hoping, that at no point we step off track of the decisions God wants us to make, believing He only has one direction for us to go at every opportunity we come across to decide.

We do this all in good ambition, but our good ambition, in reality, does nothing except shrink the greatness of our God.

At 26 years old, I’m old enough to know that I’m not brilliant. I know I have much more to learn about myself, God, and the world. I know many of the things I believe right now will probably change by the time I’m 30, and I know there are still a lot of things I want to do in this life. Many of these things, I’ll find success in, and in just as many, I’ll fail. Yet as it has been throughout my life, I believe each decision I’ve made in my life up to this point – each success and failure alike – has led me to where I am today, and I believe God has used each decision to bring me to the perfect place of capability for Him.

But I also know I could’ve made different decisions. I know I could’ve worked harder at certain things. I know I could’ve been a better person. I could’ve ended up in a different town, with a different career, and spent a much longer time running from the grace God offers than I did. I know I could’ve kept living my life in fear of what I could achieve, and in comfort of not achieving my true desires. And I know, no matter what other path I may have chosen, I would still be in the midst of God’s use.

Yet I didn’t always feel this way. I used to worry about every decision I made, hoping it was the one God wanted me to make, worried that if I made one wrong decision, I’d end up in a place I couldn’t be used. Worried that with one decision, my relationship with Christ might be destroyed, and I’d be left scrounging for whatever insignificant task He had left to trust me with; worried there was never more than one door open at a time, and I had to make sure I chose the right one or face a life of mediocrity and meaninglessness. I was a kid, praying the prayer of worry, asking God to tell me His purpose for my life, and believing that purpose was extremely specific.

Now I realize this prayer, while full of good intentions and a great attitude, is completely short changing not only our own potential, but God’s potential as well.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying quit praying for God’s purpose to be done in your life. I’m just saying God’s purpose isn’t based around which college or major you choose. I’m just saying God is much more flexible than you might think, so when you pray about a decision, don’t expect him to close every door but one.  Don’t expect Him to make decisions for you. Instead, be ready to make decisions with the confidence that as long as you are pursuing Him, He can use any decision you do make.  Our God is creative enough to do many things in our lives with many different decisions we might make, and through His creativity, I believe He lets much of our life happen in process. He lets many of our decisions happen based on whether or not we want to make them. I honestly don’t think He’s sitting up in heaven, looking down on our lives as if it’s a reality TV show, saying to himself, “No! Not that college! He was supposed to go to a Christian college and major in youth ministry! The rest of his life is ruined!”

Yet this is exactly how we pray. Sounds completely ridiculous, but it’s exactly how I went through that part of my life, and it’s exactly how people around me are going through theirs. We’re so intent on living our lives as if it’s a sitcom – as if every moment has already been written, and every applause has already been suggested to the audience around us, when life is more like improv comedy. There’s no practice. It’s unwritten. We’re simply given a topic, we decide how we want to approach it, and the rest is free form. One line won’t end the show, it will just define the approach taken in response. I think it’s time for us to take comfort in the fact that the response just happens to be coming from the One who created us, and time for us to trust the fact that He will deliver the best response possible.

Maybe I just happen to see God as unendingly creative and imaginative. Maybe I’m just not a big fan of pre-destination thinking because it seems to me like it limits God’s inordinate amount of creativity exhibited in our lives moment by moment to a map, written before our existence. I can see God drawing up a map for our lives, but I see him taking His time. I see him drawing it up one step at a time, knowing He can use each step – whether Godly or sinful – in giving us a story to bring Him ultimate glory and us ultimate joy. You might say I just don’t completely understand pre-destination, and you’d be right, but I honestly don’t believe it’s that important of an issue, because I know I could’ve made thousands of different decisions in my life, and God would still have me in His hand, leading me towards a life bringing Him glory.

There’s a story in the bible of a man who was eaten by a whale. You’ve probably heard of it. The man’s name is Jonah, and God told him to go to a city full of the most sinful people of the age (which would probably be the most sinful people of our age as well), but Jonah didn’t go because He was afraid of that city and it’s people. So instead, he, completely literally, ran the other direction. He got on a boat sailing into the sea, away from the inland “city of sin.” But God’s will was done. He sent a storm, the crew on the boat kicked him off and threw him into the sea, the storm died down, Jonah was eaten by a whale and taken closer to Ninevah, and eventually he went, told them God was going to destroy them if they didn’t repent and turn towards Him, and they all repented, while Jonah pouted outside the city walls because he wanted God to destroy them.

I know you’re probably reading this, thinking, “doesn’t this story mean we have to make the right decision immediately or we’ll get eaten by a whale?” No. It doesn’t. It means we should consult God in our decision making, and sometimes He’ll give us clear direction. When that happens, trust Him and go. But when it doesn’t, trust Him and go just the same, with the confidence that any door left open is a door leading towards His purpose for you.

Here is The Simple Guide to Christian decision making:

Pray, Read, Ask, Trust, and Go.

Pray about your decision, and lean on the bible to give you guidance. Ask Him (and wise people around you) which decision to make, trust God’s creativity, power, and in some cases redemption in that decision, and step forward.

The biggest step in making a decision in life is to quit making it the only one.

Jerimiah 1:5

-a pitiful masterpiece

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.

I’m not sure we’ve realized . . .

Simply love.

This is the Gospel defined.

The older I get – the more interaction I have with God – the more I recognize the faults of humanity-defined Christianity, and the more I am taught Christianity is a simple definition. The more I recognize the attempts the church makes to earn it because of the denial to just simply receive. We even do it with good intentions, saying things like, “faith is shown by deeds,” yet changing the definition of Paul’s words to mean “If you don’t do good deeds, you must not have faith.” We believe in God’s grace, we sing about it in songs, and we even thank God for it when we do something stupid. But our minds are programmed differently.

Time for a reprogramming.

It’s not in our nature to just simply accept. We’re not taught to be given something without giving something in return. Human relationships are often defined by give and take. We’re given to, we give back. We feel loved, we show love. Christianity isn’t like this – at least not consciously.

Christ asks for nothing in return. Nothing we can possibly do can be done to earn what He did. And He knows that. He knows that the more we try to do good deeds, the more we look at ourselves and rate ourselves based on those good deeds. He knows the more we try to not to bad deeds, the more we think about bad deeds, and the more likely we are to do them.

The truth is, there is no checklist in gaining acceptance or overcoming temptation. Because checklists say the wrong thing at the top: “Here’s how you do it.” Nothing in Christianity can be accomplished with the right motives if we write out a list of how “you” can do it. Because the word “you” is not the word “him.”

This is where love comes in.

The more focused on God I become in life, the less I consciously try to have an impact for Him, and the more impact I have, because the more I fall in love with Him. Look at all the greatest evangelists you know. How many of them have testimonies full of failure sin and destruction, only to reach a point where they realize God forgives? I find myself jealous of “born again” Christians sometimes, because they’ve been through the worst of the worst, and fall deeply in love with God when they truly realize that He forgives and the past has been erased by His blood. They never have a moment where they can take Christ’s actions for granted. They never have a moment where they’re doing it for approval.

They never have a moment where they worry about being a “good Christian,” because they realize there’s no such thing. There’s only a good God. And there’s only one response to His goodness – unbridled, passionate love. They’ve recognized that they’re story has a joyful ending, and they don’t understand how they can’t share that ending with people whose story might be in conflict.

If you’ve experienced the source of Joy, why haven’t you told anyone yet?

I’m not sure many Christians have truly experienced The Source. I’m not sure many Christians have moved past the stage of “good Christianity” in order to recognize the good God behind the to do lists. I’m not sure many Christians have changed the heading on their checklists from “how you can do it” to “because He did it.” I’m not sure many Christians are doing it because they love Him, and want to get to know the One they love. I’m not sure many Christians have realized the dysfunction found in a relationship centered around giving to the Lover rather than loving the Giver.

When our purpose is to love the Giver, it makes it a lot easier to truly love everyone He gives to. Because along with giving life, He also gives His heart in exchange for ours – and His heart is one of love. And when He overtakes our old hearts with His, we become givers as well.

All because He gave, and we simply accepted.