Who was the Real Deborah?

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I struggle with the idea that we small, “wise” humans can decide which parts of the Bible are no longer true. But I have discovered something that irks me even more. “Truths” that get added to the Bible at some point and then keep getting taught for generations even when they aren’t actually there.

I recently read the story of Deborah the prophetess and judge in Judges 4. Initially thinking I knew the story, I quickly became puzzled. Some of it was missing!

While raised in ultra-conservative patriarchy I’d been taught that Deborah was wrong to be a woman in leadership. She was only leading because there were no men available, and that her leadership was actually a curse. I thought that Barak was supposed to be the judge, but because he was too wimpy, Deborah took over. None of that was in the passage.

I did a search to see where else Deborah is mentioned in Scripture. It’s only Judges 4-5.

Not only is Deborah not condemned for being a judge, she is called a prophetess. Last I checked there were only two kinds of prophets in Scripture – false prophets and true ones. She is obviously not a false prophet, so that must make her a true one. Becoming a prophet is not something you get to choose. God picks you, gifts you, and fills you with His words. Things were starting to feel sketchy to me.

I looked further into her interactions with Barak. He was the military leader not Deborah. She called him and gave him a word from the LORD. He was nervous and asked her to come with him to battle. Deborah agreed to come, but it never mentions that she fought. She didn’t take over. Deborah lived as the strong woman God created her to be and inspired greatness in those around her.

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The truth about Deborah filled me with delight! I finished my coffee and chalked the whole thing up to one more crazy lie I’d been taught back in the day. But then something else happened.

My husband and I had a date night, and over our craft beer and fried pickles I asked him what he thought about Deborah the judge. You need to understand that my husband is my total opposite. He wasn’t raised in church and didn’t start a relationship with Jesus until he was sixteen. After graduating from public high school, he spent four years at two different Bible schools. They were conservative in theology, but incredibly tame compared to what I experienced in my legalistic Christian cult.

Do you know what my husband told me? That Deborah was only the judge because there were no available men to lead. What? In shock, I explained what I’d found that morning and we ended up having a friendly debate (that was finally solved on Google).

We found ultra-conservative blogs denouncing Deborah. But we also discovered many other articles, such as this excellent one from Bible.org “Deborah: The Woman God Uses” that celebrated the things God did through her. It didn’t take much convincing.

Horrified, my husband exclaimed, “Gothard’s ideas are everywhere!” As much as I’d love to blame him, I know my old cult leader (Bill Gothard) isn’t the mastermind behind every oppressively conservative view of life. But if not, then what?

I’ll be honest, this discovery about the real Deborah has rocked my husband and I. It makes us upset and skeptical. Why are so many things taught in conservative, evangelical Christianity that aren’t actually from Scripture? How do we know what to believe? And where are these lies coming from? No wonder people get disgusted and just chuck the whole thing out the window!

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I’m not willing to leave the cores of Christianity. But I want my beliefs to be based on Scripture, and I want to stick with the real Jesus. I really believe that Evangelical Christianity needs an overhaul. We need passionate, discerning, truth-loving people to look into tradition and opinion and figure out which beliefs are solid and which need to get trashed. The lies about Deborah need to go in the garbage.

Deborah was a wonderful, gifted, wise, discerning woman who heard from God. She wasn’t a curse, and she didn’t lead just because some man failed. Deborah used her skills and abilities to guide people into the truth. God designed her on purpose, gifted her for “such a time as this,” and never, NOT ONCE, condemned her for being female.

As a strong, passionate woman who has spent most of my life trying to push down and contain my personality and abilities, this gives me immense joy. 🙂

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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P.S. I was in the middle of writing this blog post when I came across the post Beth Moore wrote yesterday: A Letter to My Brothers. Wow! Take the time to read it. It’s powerful and confirming. I feel the Spirit moving!

 

 

 

 

I Don’t Want to be an Evangelical Anymore

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Fair warning: I am passionate but trying to be loving at the same time.

We’ve screwed it up, you guys. Big time.

I read an article a few days ago with a quote by Michael Steele (former chair of the Republican National Committee). Mr. Steele was angry with Evangelical leaders who were once again defending President Trump. What he said has haunted me ever since.

“I have a very simple admonition at this point. Just shut the hell up and don’t ever preach to me about anything ever again. I don’t want to hear it.”

His statement made me catch my breath. I was not offended. In fact, I absolutely get where he’s coming from. The man has a point!

I don’t think I want to be an Evangelical anymore. And I’m not the only one. I found this post back in December and immediately resonated with it.

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If you read my blog, you will know that I am not a progressive liberal. I lean conservative. I take a literal stand on Biblical interpretation. But I am passionate about truth, and Evangelical Christianity needs a healthy dose of truth right now.

We are not being persecuted for our faith. We are being called out for being two-faced jerks. We are being nailed for being hypocrites. We are being condemned for living a lie. They are right, and we are wrong.

Evangelicals have been very good at calling out “sins” such as homosexuality and abortion. But at the same time quick to excuse or cover up things like abuse and sexual assault that happen right in our own churches and ministries. We call it “protecting the name of Christ.” The world looks on and calls it what it is: hypocrisy.

We claim to follow a God of love, and yet we refuse to welcome strangers and those in need. We call it “protecting our own interests.” The world calls us fakes.

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We are afraid of people who are different from us. So we isolate ourselves and condemn them. The world recognizes our fear as hatred. It might not actually be hatred, but it’s definitely not love.

I’m not going all “social justice warrior” on you. People can be passionate about social justice and have never met Jesus. But if we have truly encountered Christ, we absolutely will love people.

“By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:35.

Jesus never asked us to impose our moralistic views on our culture. We were not mandated by God to create a Christian nation. Are you kidding me? That’s a bunch of crap! Do you know what the Greco-Roman culture was like during the 1st Century? Do you know what kind of darkness those early Christians experienced? But they weren’t working on government reform…they were too busy shining like stars (Philippians 2:14-15).

We are missing the entire point, people. And until we figure it out, maybe we need to “shut the hell up.”

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It’s not just a surface problem. It’s not just about issues like gay marriage, abortion, or immigration. Our problem is deep. We need heart transplants.

We need to be broken, recognize our own sin, and repent on a heart level.

Somehow many Evangelicals have become obsessed with outward behaviors…Christian codes of conduct. Black and white. Good and bad. I think we all know deep down that we are screwed up and that terrifies us. For some reason we think we have to be perfect, but also know we aren’t. So we become really good at justifying, and defending, and excusing our own behaviors, all while pointing fingers at others to get the attention off of ourselves.

That’s all a lie.

Do you know what Evangelical Christianity needs? It needs the gospel. Ironic isn’t it?

There is a very real God who passionately loves us. We are magnificent creations, made in His image, and made to know Him. But, we chose to do things our own way. The world and the people in it are now broken by sin. We are a mess. But God…loves us. Jesus came as one of us, lived, died, and rose again. His death provides forgiveness and a way back into a relationship with God. Jesus gives His Holy Spirit to everyone who believes in Him. His Spirit is at work in our hearts, pointing out things that need to change and empowering us to live like Jesus.

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This is the core of Christianity. It’s simple information, but do we believe it? If we truly believe the good news of Jesus Christ, it will transform our lives.

  • When I accept the fact that I am a messed up, but very loved sinner, I stop pretending I’m perfect.
  • When I let go of my own efforts and accept the grace of God, I am able to extend that grace to others.
  • When I recognize just how much I have been forgiven, I can forgive others as well.
  • When I see the amazing love of God for me, I will in turn love people.

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I personally have had a very interesting last eighteen months. There was a lot of brokenness and pain. It made me reevaluate my Christianity. It softened me. It made me willing to listen to other people who were also broken, even people I disagreed with.

I’ve rethought and reevaluated my stance on a lot of things both religious and political. Some of the results have surprised me. It was the hardest and best thing that’s ever happened to me. 

I’m not saying we need to become progressive liberals or that we need to change our core beliefs and theology (although some of that might change)…but we do need to evaluate our beliefs and take stock of our attitudes. We need to lose the arrogance and fear. We need to learn to listen. We need to be willing to be wrong. We need to see all people as precious images of God. We need to value hearts over actions. We need to truly believe the gospel we proclaim.

And maybe once that happens, we can start talking again.

 

 

 

 

 

The Subtle Side of #metoo

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I was a sexually naive, college age, camp counselor. He was a 50-something volunteer. I didn’t know enough to be uncomfortable. He flattered me, told me how pretty I was, how amazing, how gifted, etc. Then the long, tight, full frontal hugs started. A hello hug, a good-bye hug, etc. Maybe he just liked me? One day he pulled me in close for a spontaneous dance.

And that’s as far as it went. Was it actually sexual harassment? I didn’t know enough then to complain…

It went on for a few summers.

Then I got married. As a now-sexually-aware woman, I looked back on those interactions and cringed. They disgusted me. I talked to my husband who had been at camp with me back when we were single. He acknowledged that at the time it made him uncomfortable. I talked to one of the full-time camp staff.  He also admitted that it seemed weird to him.

The question is, why didn’t these men step in? Why didn’t they say something to me? To the volunteer?

Our paths crossed again a few years ago. My “admirer” tried to start up the frontal hugs. He always wanted to touch me and put his arm around my shoulders. It was all supposed to be friendly and fatherly.

This time I stopped it.

I looked him in the eyes and told him that he made me uncomfortable. I told him that I didn’t want him to touch me any more. He blustered and made excuses, but I stood my ground. It was awkward, but it was worth it!

***

For every horrific story of abuse and harassment that has come out because of the #metoo campaign, hundreds of these subtle, uncomfortable stories simmer beneath the surface. It’s not just in the secular world. Horrific stories and subtle stories abound within the Christian community: within churches, and camps, and organizations. It’s not okay! 

  • It’s not okay that Christians keep young people so sexually naive that they don’t know when something crosses the line. Because I’m not the only one.
  • It’s not okay that Christians sweep things under the rug to “protect the name of God” or to “keep unity” or to “prevent the world from mocking us” or whatever other dumb excuse they conjure up. Stop hiding and deal with it!
  • It’s not okay that Christians choose to blame women for men’s actions.
  • It’s not okay that Christian men don’t stand up for women being harassed and/or assaulted.
  • It’s not okay that Christian women are terrified to tell the truth because of the shame and blame they know will come if they are honest.

The Christian community should be a place of safety. A place where women are valued, heard, and protected. We are equally made in God’s image. Sin is sin. Light is supposed to expose darkness. There shouldn’t be any excuses just because you are a man.

That’s not how Jesus acted. He valued women. He protected and supported them.

So, what do we do?

  • Stop making excuses.
  • Call sin what it is, SIN.
  • Stop sweeping things under the rug.
  • Blame the perpetrator and not the victims.
  • Teach people to stand up for themselves.
  • Stop avoiding hard topics.
  • Start acting like Jesus.

I know that me sharing this story is just scraping the very tip of the iceberg. Many of you have similar stories and worse stories. I am sorry! It’s not okay! You are loved, valued, and forgiven. It’s not your fault. Feel free to contact me if you want!

 

 

Shhh! Don’t Talk About the Can’t Talk Rule.

As I continue my way through “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse” I am recognizing more and more that the extreme circumstances I faced as a teen and young adult are just a tiny piece of a larger problem. It is making me rethink the focus of my blog and the book I want to write. It’s easy to get tunnel vision looking at your own experiences. It’s easy to judge people who grew up like I did and left Christianity. But I’m realizing they have very valid reasons…

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them” (Ephesians 5:11 ESV).

There is a lie spread throughout Christianity and it really bothers me. I’ve experienced it firsthand both in my Christian cult days and in “normal” settings since then, seen it expressed on social media, and read it in articles.

This lie allows people in Christian leadership to cover up serious problems. It allows abusive situations to continue, and it keeps hurts and issues buried.

Let’s talk about the “Can’t Talk Rule.”

Although, it can be stated (or left unstated) in a variety of ways, the core lie goes something like this: We must ignore, hide, or cover up sin (including unethical behavior and abuse) for the sake of Christ, to protect God’s name, for the sake of unity, or something similar…

Please hear me. I am not advocating gossip. But there are times when the truth needs to be told. Talking about a problem does not make you the problem. It is not okay for Christians to use fear, intimidation, or twisted biblical ideas to shut people up!

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Consider this:

If God really believes in sweeping people’s sin issues under the rug to protect His name, wouldn’t He have left certain stories out of the Bible…David & Bathsheba…Samson & Delilah?

If God really feels that it is vitally important to hide issues for the sake of Christ, why did He publicly kill Ananias and Saphhira?

The “Can’t Talk Rule” is a lie. The only people who benefit from it are the perpetrators.

Yes, we should be careful who we tell and why we tell it. Yes, we need to avoid gossip. But without accountability, Christian authorities have unlimited freedom. This is dangerous. Even as Christians, we are still broken sinners who are capable of incredible evil when left to ourselves.

 “Leaders are more accountable because of their position of authority – not less accountable. Why? Because if you are a leader people are following you, behaving the way you do” The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, pg. 69.

Sadly, there are a lot of wrong things that secretly happen within Christian churches and ministries. And because of the Can’t Talk Rule, people who talk are considered the problem instead of addressing the real issues.

Countless, precious individuals, made in God’s image, are being injured by Christians and are walking away from the church deeply wounded.

If that’s you, I’m SO sorry! Please know that the Can’t Talk Rule is not Biblical. It’s not from God. That’s not how He feels. People can misuse Bible verses and twist them to make you think this is truth, but God is never on the side of the abuser. Never!

Fellow Jesus followers, we have GOT to stand up for the victims of abuse, including spiritual abuse.

  • We cannot continue to turn a blind eye, or allow things to be swept under the rug.
  • We cannot blame victims.
  • We must humbly recognize our own lack of perfection and desperate need of grace.
  • We need to be aware of how Christianese terms and ideas may reinjure these precious, hurting people.
  • We need to evaluate our own beliefs against the Word of God. Just because we were taught something in church doesn’t make it truth. Ouch.
  • We must be like Jesus…full of love, grace, and acceptance.

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How has the Can’t Talk Rule affected you? Have you felt the pressure to stay quiet? Have you become the problem because you talked? I really think that much of the hurt behind this rules comes from a misunderstanding of grace. But we will talk about that next time. 🙂

 

Just a note: The words libel and slander can be used as threats, but you should know that in the United States legal system, things are only considered libel or slander if they CAN’T be proven true!

There’s Rebellion in My Heart…

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I’m pretty good at being a rebel.

Not the kind where you rebel against anything and everything for no reason. The kind where you think something is stupid and refuse to do it. This is where I get tripped up with the whole writing/speaking thing every time. Every. Time.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started the journey of writing a book. I didn’t know what the industry was like.

  • That it is often more about who you are than the message you are trying to share…
  • That if you don’t have a “platform,” i.e. a large following, you don’t stand a chance at getting published…
  • That there is a constant pressure to be awesome, and perfect, and “Instagram worthy”…
  • That you are supposed to “build your brand”…
  • That there are a million other women also trying to be noticed and gain a following (who easily turn from sisters-in-Christ to competitors)…

It’s so ridiculous.

I don’t want to spend all my time trying to find followers who will like me. I don’t want to schedule Facebook or Twitter posts to get attention. I don’t want to fake awesome or try to be perfect. I don’t want a “brand”.

I just want to be normal-ish, maybe slightly weird, broken, and real. I want to talk about Jesus, ask hard questions, and get people to think. I want to take lama selfies, play with my kids, and drink coffee with my friends.

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I was trying to take an selfie with this lama, but she moved in for a kiss!

I don’t care if I never get noticed or ever write a book. I want to do this like Jesus.

Jesus would have been an agent’s worst nightmare.

Every time He gathered a following, Jesus said something crazy that made them all leave. He wasn’t into fame and didn’t use Instagram. In fact, we don’t even know what He looked like. Jesus never wrote a book, let alone a blog post. He didn’t hang out with popular people, but instead spent His life serving the poor and needy. He didn’t care about His reputation, just His Father’s will.

And He changed the world.

I might not change the world, but I would like to point it to Jesus. 

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I found an old article from Christianity Today talking about women in ministry, specifically women in blogging/writing/speaking ministry. Along with the article, there was a link to an old Twitter conversation. Apparently I’m not the only rebel out there.

If I have seemed quieter or continue to be quiet, just know that I am trying to figure all of this out. How to follow Jesus, and speak the truth He’s put on my heart, and be a rebel at the same time. 😉

 

A Plane Ride, Politics, and Pharisees

 

Full Disclosure: This is a rant which may mention politics. But it’s more than politics.

I spent the entire flight home talking with a beautiful woman named Patricia. She was sweet, kind, passionate, friendly, and liberal. Listening to Patricia, I was reminded again where Christians and the Conservative Right went wrong.

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Patricia loves people, but she doesn’t sense that love from conservatives. She was raised in a church but struggles to link Jesus with the people and politics that claim His name. I feel her pain.

Too often, Christian and political conservatives have one thing in common. Obsessed with morals and outward actions, they forget about people.

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Since when did “proper behavior” become more valuable than human beings? Or why are people only valuable when they look and act like “us?” Maybe this isn’t the way we feel, but too often this is the way conservative Christians come across.

Who gave Christians the job of being the “moral enforcers?” I thought our job was to preach the good news of Jesus to the world. Our relationship with Jesus should affect every area of our lives including our politics. But our primary job is not to “save our culture through moralism!”

I didn’t tell Patricia where I stood politically because I was hoping to talk to her about Jesus.

Isn’t that sad?

It’s gotten to the point where people hear “conservative” and immediately think about obnoxious, hate filled, “morality police” who wear the name Christian. Seriously guys, we can do better.

Do you know who the “enforcers of morals” were in Jesus’ time? The Pharisees. Do we really want to imitate them? In their obsession with outward behavior, they sort of missed God…and He was right in front them.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have morals. Or that it’s bad to believe in right and wrong. Jesus had morals. Jesus was clear about right and wrong. But Jesus also loved people, passionately. If you were to simply observe Jesus as He “ate and drank with sinners,” it might even look like He approved of them. There was no condemnation. Truth, yes. Guilt and pointing fingers, not so much.

Morals by themselves are empty. There are plenty of “good,” lost people out there. Cleaning someone up on the outside, making them follow your rules and standards, this does nothing to change the heart.

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Back to the Pharisees again…Jesus called them “whitewashed tombs”…they looked clean on the outside but inside were full of rotting corpses. Do we really want to emulate the Pharisees? I sure don’t! I want to be a Jesus follower.

The answer is not to become more liberal or progressive. The answer is Jesus. If we really get to know Him and see His heart, He will change us. Whatever our political beliefs, we will love with more passion and truth…truly caring about the people we meet and not just their outward actions.

Hate Cannot Drive Out Hate

I’m so tired. So tired of the anger, stress, arguing, protesting, fighting, etc. I’m tired of seeing it every time I open up Facebook, or other social media, or watch the news. It’s exhausting.

I’m not saying that anyone’s beliefs are invalid. You have a right to your beliefs, but the action, reaction, and then over reaction is getting old…really old.

Can I just be real for a minute? Just because someone doesn’t agree with you doesn’t mean they hate you! It doesn’t give you the right to say horrible things about them. This goes for both sides!

As someone who was brainwashed, I feel like I can say some things about brainwashing. People, anytime you think that your opinion is the ONLY ONE and everyone else is the enemy and must be destroyed, you have been brainwashed! You are being used by someone and their agenda. Again, I’m talking to both sides here.

We are all human and thus have the potential to be wrong. A little humility can do wonders. The best stretching and growth comes from having respectful, intelligent, honest, genteel conversations with people who have different perspectives than we do. We can all learn something from each other if we are willing to listen.

So, please stop encouraging the madness and please do your part to spread love and peace.

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I don’t care if you are devastated by current events or excited by them. If you call yourself a follower of Jesus, then listen for a minute. Our country, our world, needs us right now. They need hope. They need Jesus! As Martin Luther King Jr. so beautifully said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” If we have trusted in Jesus as our Savior, then we have the greatest Light and the greatest source of Love living inside of us. Now is not the time for anger and verbal battles. Now is the time to share the amazing message of the gospel!

Do your best to avoid getting into arguments on social media or in the comment section of news articles. Think before you post anything reactionary. Ask God to give you wisdom and to help watch your tongue (fingers).

Instead, share the beautiful truth that our Creator loved us so much that He did whatever it took to bring us back into a relationship with Him. God sent His Son, Jesus, to die a brutal death on the cross for our sins and then to be resurrected, conquering the power of death forever. We have the opportunity to KNOW God. This is good news! The best news. 🙂

If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or even panicked, remember that God has not left His throne. It takes more than a president to throw Him off His game. Where is your trust? This world is not our forever home; it’s just a temporary, broken tent. It’s never going to be perfect until Jesus is reigning as King.

I’m going to finish with some of my favorite verses from Habakkuk.

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He make me tread on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:17-19

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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.

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