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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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.

WHAT IS LOVE?

Apparently today is the yearly day of love, so I’m going to ask a simple question:

What is love?

Baby, don't hurt me

Night at the Roxbury, Saturday Night Live

(Get the Night at the Roxbury scene out of your head, and I’ll continue.)

This is a question I’m thinking about a lot, since properly loving people is supposed to be the goal of a Christian. Yet even though I’m called to live a life defined by love, I’m still terrible at actually doing it. Because love takes a lot of courage, and I’m a coward.

The other day I asked God to give me the courage to love, and I had no idea why. It just sort of came out of my mouth, or popped into my mind, most likely because God knows me and knows I’m terrible at loving like I’m capable of.

So for my sake, it’s a good thing our culture has redefined Love as something much easier, because it lets me off the hook.

We’ve transformed love into a feeling.

Into kissing and sex. Love in our culture has been largely redefined as sexual, and because  love isn’t something we think about as something which requires great courage, I’m allowed to be a coward while still being seen as a good person. Merriam-Webster defines this love as “a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties.” This is the love people make money off of. This is the love Nicholas Sparks has made millions of dollars on, and the love that has convinced us that flowers are romantic and began the holiday we are celebrating today. And this is also the love that has led to a 50% divorce rate, because it’s the love that we can fall out of because it’s the love based on feelings, and feelings change.

But the dictionary doesn’t stop here. Merriam and Webster continue on towards a better definition: “unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another.” As a Christian, this definition is much more accurate. It is the center of the message we find our hope in. It’s the center of our religion. Without unselfish behavior and benevolent concern for others, we’d all still be sacrificing lambs and hoping God would have mercy on us.

Without unselfish behavior, there would be no Christianity,

because unselfish is a synonym of Jesus Christ, and an antonym of  natural humanity.

And with this definition of love – Christ’s definition of love defined as unselfishness – I’m back to being a man in need of courage. I’m back to being a man who is naturally selfish yet has recognized Christ’s unselfishness, as well as His desire to make me unselfish – His desire for me to “love as He loved.” And because of Him, I am slowly improving. Or rather He is slowly improving me, because I am naturally selfish, yet God is naturally the opposite. And He has promised to make us the opposite as well.

And because I’m a coward, I’ll keep on praying for the courage to love, and keep on trusting that He’ll help me and continue showing me what love truly is – continually changing it’s definition from a feeling to a sacrifice.

What if you rethought the phrase, “we give love to get love.” What if you shortened it to only giving? Would you be as eager to love if you knew there would be no reciprocation? I hope I would, because I know He would, and I know He did.

SNAKES, CLIFFS, AND BEARS: THE UNCERTAIN TERROR OF FOLLOWING CHRIST

The fear of Christianity is a peculiar thing.

Lately I’ve been in an incredible state of recognition – recognizing the odd nature of God’s requests in my life. I’ve recognized that, quite obviously, He has continuously, without fail, called me to do the things that have always terrified me. My original goal was to tithe regularly. Now I’m asking people to support me so I can help college students realize the potential in Christ which I took so long to realize myself.

If you haven’t experienced it, asking people for financial support is a terrifying endeavor.

Yet God has changed me through the years.

The things I once feared are now the things I couldn’t imagine being torn away from. The things I once vowed never to do in my life (i.e. preach) are now the things I see in my future. The things I always wanted to do, and had planned as my stability in life (i.e. architecture) has become an afterthought, and frightening in its own right.

So maybe God will call me to do that eventually. Once it becomes a more terrifying thought.

I guess the point is, God has completely changed my motivations. Architecture, in my life, represents the path on the safe side of the river – the path towards self-glory. It represents the path towards worldly success and recognition. It represents the path I chose for myself when I was seven years old.

Yet God has brought me to the other side of the river. And it is terrifyingly wonderful.

Ministry, and serving the world for the sake of the Gospel and Christ’s love which must be felt by everyone on this rotating sphere we inhabit, is the path of complete self-denial – the path full of snakes, and 100 foot drops, limited visibility, and bears. What’s more terrifying than bears, right? Yet it is the path towards the greater reward. It is the path of unexpectedness. It is the path that keeps me wondering what will come next. It is the path with an always moving and adapting storyline. It isn’t the path of least resistance, but it is the path of most interest.

It is the path that seeks to expose my potential. And that can only be found by fighting off a bear in the fog every once in a while.

Looking back, it’s kind of funny that I just used a bear analogy. In high school, whenever me and my friends would go camping, I was known as a sort of bear whisperer. I’d make up stories of times where a bear would come up to me, and instead of attacking me, I’d just talk to it like it was a human. I’d just talk to it as if we’d been friends for years, asking him about how his family was and that sort of thing.manbear1

Of course this was just for laughs. I’ve never come across an actual bear, despite living in Wyoming, and I’ve certainly never had a friendly chat with one. Yet in my current stage of life, and the stages yet to come, I must respond to the bears along the path in the same manner as I joked in high school. I must treat them as old friends, pushing me to embrace that which terrifies me. Because if there’s one thing God has taught me other than that He is full of grace and love, it is that the sooner we embrace the terrifying task He has put before us, the sooner we will see the good that comes from it. The sooner we talk to the bear as an old friend, the sooner we won’t be able to imagine our lives without that bear.

What is the bear standing in your path that you must face? Have you embraced the fear and confronted it as an old friend? Or have you decided to avoid it and cut back across to your old path from before Christ changed your course?

If you’ve cut back across, there’s good news: His path is always just across the river. All you need is a bridge – and God has provided us with a carpenter.