Progressives, Jen Hatmaker, and Grace & Truth

The Christian internet has once again exploded. On Tuesday, in an interview with religionnews.com, popular Christian author, speaker, and HGTV star, Jen Hatmaker, voiced her belief that gay marriage can be “holy”. Kaboom!

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On blogs, Facebook threads, and articles across the internet, progressive Christians are celebrating Jen while fundamental Christians are destroying her.  Both camps are also viciously tearing into each other. Sometimes I hate social media and the internet. I hate what it does to us and what it allows us to do to others.

I totally get why “progressive” Christians react against people they see as “fundy and stuck in the past”. I am right there with them, frustrated with tradition and religion and rules. But just because some people who believe the Bible literally are ignorant, stubborn, and judgmental, it doesn’t mean that we can pick and choose which parts of the Bible we like and which parts we throw away. That’s also an ignorant way of dealing with things…as though we, limited creations, are somehow capable of deciding which parts of the All-powerful God’s Word are true and which are worthy of the trash can.

Both parties are guilty of sweeping black and white assumptions and judgement.

Just because I believe that homosexuality is a sin (as is gossip, lying, pride, lust, etc.) and I’m not a supporter of gay marriage, does not mean that I am not a supporter of people who are gay. I love them because, just like me, they were created in the image of God and Jesus died for them and wants them to have a relationship with Him.

Guess what? I have can opinions and beliefs but keep them to myself while loving the people around me. I do not have to vocally attack homosexuality, but neither do I have to support it to be a loving, Jesus-like Christian.

If only Christians were as passionate about their love for and relationship with Jesus as we are about stupid issues…

I chose to stand on a literal belief that the Bible is the infallible Word of God. But that does not mean that I am obsessed with morals and getting people to do “the right thing”. It means that I am obsessed with the amazing, mind-blowing God who created us for one purpose – to know Him.

Yup, I’m crazy enough to believe that Genesis is the literal history of a huge, amazing, loving God who personally created the first people, joined them together as a married couple, made a beautiful garden for them to enjoy, and walked in that garden with them. Before they chose to disobey, God KNEW His children in a personal, real, intimate way. I think that has always been His goal.

I believe that the rest of the Bible, when you read it in context, shows the story of God pursuing the people He created, culminating in the death of Jesus, the God-man, for the sins of the world. Jesus’ death changed everything. The veil in the temple was torn, and humanity once again had access to their Creator. Knowing God through Jesus transforms us. He changes us. It’s not about people trying to earn something from God, behaving so that we can get His blessing or favor. It’s about Jesus doing everything for us, so that we can enter His Presence, delight in a real relationship with Him, and allow Him to make us into the person He created us to be. When we actually experience Jesus, we will be changed. As Jesus makes us like Himself, our behavior will change. This is good news! Why aren’t we yelling about this?

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We have no business condemning or judging other people. But neither can we rewrite God’s Word. There must be a balance of Grace and Truth. Jesus beautifully illustrates this perfect balance. I love this story from John 8.

The prideful, religious guys catch a woman “getting it on” with a man she isn’t married to. They drag her out of the house and down to Jesus where they want Him to stone her for her sin. Jesus puts the religious guys in their place by telling them to go ahead and stone her if they are sinless themselves. They all begin to leave. Finally it’s just Jesus and the woman sitting in the dirt. He doesn’t judge her or condemn her. And being God, the only perfect one, it would absolutely be okay if He did. But He doesn’t. Jesus affirms her, tells her he doesn’t condemn her, shows her radical grace, and then speaks truth “go and leave your life of sin”.

Friends, fellow believers in Jesus, and seekers of Him, we lose our power when we stop being like Jesus. We must have grace and truth. We do not condemn, we do not reject. We love like a tidal wave, overwhelming, all-consuming Jesus’ love. But we also speak truth. We do not shy away from uncomfortable truth, despite what our culture thinks or if it is politically correct. Our God is indescribably bigger than us and we don’t have to understand Him to believe Him. We must live like Jesus in this broken world, shinning like stars, pointing others to the incredible possibility of an actual relationship with the God of the Universe.

It Doesn’t Matter Who Wins the Election

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People are so worked up and stressed out about this presidential election that the American Psychological Association has identified a new disorder. They are calling it Election Stress Disorder. If you think I’m joking, check out this article.

I’ve tried really hard to stay out of the chaos. I’ve almost completely resisted being political on social media, and I’ve unfollowed some of my more political friends. (Sorry, guys!) But as the election looms in just three weeks, and we will be forced to choose someone to be president, I’d like to remind all of you that it doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t matter who wins the election. Seriously, in the grand scheme of things, God’s scheme, it doesn’t matter.

Stick with me for a few minutes.

  • In the history of our world there have been many nations and civilizations with bad leaders. There is nothing new under the sun. It is not the end of the world. We will survive.
  • The United States is not a “special” nation appointed by God for anything. We are just one of many nations in the world. Contrary to what some Christians claim, the United States was never even a “Christian” nation, whatever that means. The US was begun by theists who respected God and the Bible, but were not necessarily living in active relationships with Jesus. Certain types of Christians (Cough, like the cult I grew up in.) have perpetuated myths about our founding fathers. If we never were a Christian nation, we cannot stop being a Christian nation. Not to mention I’m not even sure if it’s healthy to be a “Christian” nation. Let’s save that for when Jesus rules the world.
  • Also, while we are talking about Christian myths, the US and Israel are not synonymous. We cannot take promises God made to Israel and claim them for the US. We are not God’s holy people. (Another thing I grew up believing.)
  • There is nothing in the Bible that says God gave Christians the job of “morality police”. We are not supposed to be running around forcing our morals on other people through the government or otherwise. We cannot expect a culture that has rejected God and the Bible to follow Christian morals. It is okay if the culture is a wreck. It was a wreck in the 1st century and the new believers stood out like lights in the darkness. Not because they were running around, freaking out, yelling about morals, but because they knew Someone who made them different, and they were full of love, peace, joy, etc.
  • If our culture continues to be a wreck, it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually easier to share the message of Jesus with someone who is broken and has never heard of it before than it is to share it with a “moral” person who thinks they are good enough or are already familiar with Christianity. My brother-in-law and his wife spent the summer in England last year sharing the gospel with college students at a university. They couldn’t get over how interested these young atheists and agnostics were to hear what they believed as Christians. So, bring on the darkness! Let’s be lights!
  • Jesus is coming back, you guys! This world is not our home!! So we live here for a few years and maybe our comfort level isn’t as high as we’d like. Oh well. We get to be with Jesus for eternity! And, we have the privilege of sharing His amazing message with others while we are on earth. It’s okay.
  • While we are talking about losing our comfort, let me give you a hint…we are ridiculously comfortable as American Christians. We are so comfortable that we have a hard time having a genuine relationship with Jesus because we are distracted and satisfied without Him. When have I grown the most spiritually? When I was going through trials, or when I was doing “without” such as living at camp or on a mission trip in Haiti. We could all do with a little less comfort. It won’t kill us. (And if it does, who cares? We get to be with Jesus!)

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We absolutely should vote and be a part of this process. But in the end, if our choice doesn’t win, it doesn’t really matter. Jesus is still Jesus. The gospel is still the good news. And God is still in control!

We still have a purpose: to enjoy the relationship with God that Jesus provided through His death. We still have a mission: to share the good news of Jesus with the world. We still have a future hope: eternity with our Creator in the most amazing place we can never imagine.

But We Need Jesus (A Book Update)

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I’m sitting here at my favorite hipster coffee shop, feeling the vibe…feeling creative and artsy, and hoping to be inspired. I’m praying that I can explain what I’m thinking in a way that will make sense. 🙂

Friends, there are so many confused and broken people in this world! And we who call ourselves Christians have the answer for them…we have the good news about Jesus…the best news, the most amazing news! BUT…

It has to be more than just information.

Because logically, it doesn’t totally make sense. Intellectually, it’s kind of offensive. Culturally, it’s becoming irrelevant.

Words can’t convince people. Arguments can’t convince people.

But a life changed, overwhelming love and grace, total faith in something we cannot explain…things like that, proof of the Spirit of Jesus living inside of us…these are the things that make people wonder and think, even if they still question and doubt.

I’ve had three conversations in the past few weeks that are sticking with me in ways I didn’t expect.

  1. I was thanked for being kind by a person who has recently had Christians say terrible things to them because of something they are dealing with.
  2. I shared the good news of Jesus with a teen and listened as they prayed, trusting Jesus as their Savior, witnessed tears and smiles as they became a new creation.
  3. I listened, asked questions, and then shared my beliefs about Jesus with someone who believes in God but finds the Bible difficult to take literally.

These are my favorite conversations, my favorite types of experiences. They make me crave more. It’s amazing!

Confession time: I have been allowing doubts and fears to stop me from following God. I have allowed people’s opinions of me and my abilities to stop me from obeying Jesus. Ever since the agent I was working with turned me down, I haven’t even looked at my book proposal. It’s been three months. I let people shape my identity instead of Jesus.

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But these conversations the past few weeks…they are reminding me that I have a story to share. I have a passion and a message. His name is Jesus.

I don’t need to be perfect to share this message of love and hope, I just need to be willing. I will never have it all together, but that’s okay! I’m not supposed to…after all the message isn’t about me, it’s about my Savior who does the forgiving and saving, and shows the grace and love. I need Him just as much as anyone else!!

My heart for the lost world is for them to meet Jesus.

My heart for Christians is for them to actually meet Jesus and be able to share Him with the world.

I want you to so believe and experience Jesus that He completely changes your life. I want you to understand your salvation so well that it is effortless for you to share it with others. I want you to be at a place where you could sit in front of an entire coffee shop of people and talk about Jesus in such a real and compelling way that they would listen even if they didn’t believe…

Christian brothers and sisters, I want you to believe the truth about who you are in Christ with your heart, not just your mind. I want it to be life and not just knowledge. Not rules, not standards, not religion, but LIFE. Because we need the real Jesus. And this world needs the real Jesus. We are dying without Him.

And so, I am going to pursue this whole book thing again…until God clearly closes the door or until He flings it open. Please pray for me! Especially that I will believe the truth about myself. who I am in Christ, and not allow my identity to be shaped by people and their opinions of me.

 

Clickbait, Disagreement, and Choosing What is Right

 

This week I got into an online discussion over on Jefferson Bethke’s (author of Jesus>Religion and It’s Not What You Think) Facebook page. He posted an article called “9 Sins the Church Is Surprisingly OK With as Long as You Love Jesus” and asked what we thought.

I thought it was a stupid clickbait title with a clickbait image. (Definition of clickbait – content on the internet of a sensational or provocative nature, whose main purpose is to attract attention and draw visitors to a particular website.) But I perused the article anyway. I didn’t get further than their supposed nine sins: fear, apathy, gluttony, worry, flattery, comfort, consumerism, patriotism, and lying, before I started feeling frustrated. Sure, some of those things can be considered “sins” and all of them can be bad for you, but really? Guilt and shame anyone?

I posted a comment expressing my feelings. Jefferson Bethke agreed! (I was a little excited about that.) Surprisingly, that comment quickly became the most popular, but then the disagreement started.

I was told that “you are deceived when you don’t know the scriptures.” and “You need to know Jesus, the Character of God, and your views will change. Otherwise you will suckle milk and look like you do for a very very very long time.” Nice. Thanks. Did you read my comment?

The personal disagreement didn’t bother me. I like a good, healthy discussion. But what did bother me was all the other comments on the post. People struggling with anxiety disorders feeling judged and condemned. “Christians” saying pretty mean things to each other… Lots of comments that didn’t sound like Jesus coming from people who claim His name.

As I sat and processed, I was reminded of a blog post I wrote a year ago. So here it is, with some tweeks because I can’t help myself.

Why do we choose to do right…to stop sinning?

Is it because we are afraid of making God angry or disappointed? Are we trying to keep God happy? Is it so that we will look good to other people? Are we trying to maintain a “good testimony” so that people will think we are “godly”?

Or maybe we don’t worry about it, because you know, grace! Doesn’t that mean we can do whatever we want and still be forgiven?

I find there are often two camps within Christianity: the rule-followers and the no-rulers. The rule-followers call the no-rulers “worldly” and “licentious” (which is a big word that just means they don’t follow the rules). The no-rulers call the rule-followers “close minded” and “legalistic”. Yada yada. You get the point.

I’m pretty sure that they are both wrong.

Paul says in Galatians 5:1, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free; stand firm in it. And do not let yourself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Jesus wants us to be free. He died to set us free. Free from rules, and free from sin.

We shouldn’t be living under a yoke of slavery to rules trying to make God happy with us and avoid His judgment. He already put His wrath and the judgment for sin on His Son, Jesus Christ. Once we trust that Jesus took the punishment for our sin, we have access to a relationship with a God who loves us unconditionally!

But neither do we have to live under a yoke of slavery to sin. We don’t have to be controlled by our habits and addictions any longer. When Jesus died, He set us free from the punishment of sin, but also from the power of sin. He has given us His Holy Spirit to live inside of us and empower us to follow Him.

Why do I chose to do what is right? Mostly because I love Jesus and also because I don’t like the consequences that come when I choose sin and live for myself.

This article and the online debate that it generated once again reminded me that rules and standards cannot overcome our sin nature. Only Jesus can set us free, only by the power of His death and resurrection.

If your version of Christianity is about anything or anyone other than Jesus, then it’s wrong.

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If you think you are making God happy with your rule following, you aren’t. If you care more about yourself and your good/fun life than you care about Jesus and developing a relationship with Him, then you are missing the point.

When our “Christianity” stops being about Jesus, His amazing grace, and our ability to know God through Jesus, it ceases to be true Christianity.

I’m finishing with a beautiful prayer from the apostle Paul. This is why we chose to do the right thing…not because someone showed us a list of 9 sins to avoid, but because of JESUS!

” I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:14-19

An Identity Crisis Pt.2 (What Does God Think of Me?)

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What does God think about us? Does He like us better when we behave? Is He disappointed when we screw up? I think the real answer might surprise you.

Contrary to how we may have been raised, or to what we may have been taught in church, God’s love for us is not conditional. It is definitely NOT based on how we perform.

God’s love is passionate and ridiculous, intense and crazy! And it’s ALL about Him!

Do you believe that God loves you because of who you are? And I’m not talking about the good parts. God loves you because of who you are including your messes… What do you think about that?

God knows that we have no goodness on our own. He sees the absolute depths of our sin. And right there is where He loves us with such an intense, passionate, gut-level love that our hearts cannot even handle a portion of it.

I know this because God tells us about His love all through the Bible, but I KNOW it because I’ve tasted it. If you struggle to believe in God’s love for you, ask Him to fill you with His love for someone else. I’ll bet He picks someone you would never image and that won’t make any sense. (Warning: you will probably turn into a blubbering mess unable to handle God’s passion without tears.)

 

He was a wreck. Didn’t even make it through the first day of camp without getting sent home. Into every possible negative thing you can imagine, attitude and mouth the size of Mt. Everest, just trouble. TROUBLE. But we’ve been friends for the past two years, so he liked to hang around my health office and sit on my golf cart. I didn’t mind, but I told him that if we were hanging out then we were talking about Jesus.

We had a lot of interesting conversations in those few hours…chatting about God’s love and what God really wants from him, talking about what Jesus did for him, reminding him that the Holy Spirit was there to give him power beyond imagination. He was sitting on my golf cart when the director came to send him home. They drove off to the office and as I watched them leave, my heart was suddenly filled with  love beyond comprehension. I quickly escaped to a quiet hill where the tears started.

“He’s so beautiful, Jesus! Such a beautiful mess…” I just sat and let myself feel and cry. Then Jesus reminded me again, like He has many times before…

“That’s how I feel about you! I love you SO MUCH!!”

I soaked in Jesus’ crazy, unreasonable, insane, too-big-to-handle love, smiling, laughing, and crying until my eyes were red and puffy and my nose was a runny mess.

 

Does God feel emotion? You’d better believe it! Remember, we were made in HIS image.

Do you believe that God loves you this much? Or do you feel like He just puts up with you or loves you because He has to? He doesn’t put up with you. He doesn’t think you are a failure. You are a prized treasure, adored with a love you cannot fathom…not because of your “goodness” but because of His.

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

 

I don’t know about you, but that kind of love changes me. It brings me peace and confidence. It makes me love Jesus back. Suddenly I am willing to let go of control. I find myself wanting to follow Him and be like Him.

I think that is the point.

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