Finding My Message

Message

On Tuesday I sent my book proposal to my agent, Karen. It’s been quite the 2.5 year journey to get to this point! I think I spent more time trying to run away from writing a book than actually being obedient. Good thing Jesus is so gracious and so persistent. And now it is out of my hands and into His. It feels exciting, terrifying, kind of unreal, and unexpectedly peaceful all at the same time.

My sister and bestie (who also happens to be my editor, encourager, and confidant) asked me the other day, “Are you ready for this to potentially change your life?”

I don’t know. But I’ve been thinking about it, a lot. And the biggest question I’ve been wrestling with is, what is my message? It’s one thing to blog, but what if my book actually gets published, and what if I am given opportunities to speak to people? What do I tell them?

I’ve been thinking and praying about this a lot, and after a long, passionate talk with my husband last night, I think I know. It’s actually pretty simple and unimpressive, haha! 🙂

I think I’m supposed to share the clear, simple gospel and include the parts that often get ignored or missed.

  • God made you for a relationship with Him and He loves you more than you could ever imagine.
  • But we are enemies of God and our sin (lack of perfection) separates us from that relationship. Sin brings death.
  • God knew from the beginning that we could never work hard enough or earn our way back to Him, so He came as Jesus. Jesus lived, loved, died, and rose again taking the punishment for sin and destroying the power of it!
  • If we trust in Jesus alone, we can have forgiveness and eternal life.
  • Through Jesus, God has restored our relationship with Him! And if we trust in Jesus and His death, God gives us His own Spirit to live with and in us as a guarantee of our salvation.
  • The Holy Spirit will give us comfort, encouragement, help, wisdom, and everything we need to live like Jesus if we will let Him (believe He can).

Really, Christy?  What kind of a message is that?

I think it’s the one that’s too often missing, or covered up, or tweaked. Consider these thoughts.

Why don’t Christians focus more on the fact that Jesus came to restore our relationship with God instead of telling people that He died to save them from hell? I feel like this misses a huge part of the good news!

Once people trust Jesus as their Savior, why don’t we teach them how to know Him instead of giving them a list of things to stop/start doing? If we are pursuing a relationship with Jesus and allowing Him to work in our life, isn’t His Spirit real enough and strong enough to convict us of our sin and change us from the inside out?

Why don’t we read the Bible because it shows us who God is and what He has done (among other things), and pray because we are sharing our heart with God and enjoying a relationship with Him? How often do our “devos” happen (if they happen) because it’s “right” or because it makes us feel more godly or spiritual?

There are so many problems with Christianity these days, on both sides of the fence. But I think this basic, simple, “nothing new” message is the answer. Because it brings us back to Jesus, the reason behind our “Christianity” in the first place. It confronts us with the fact that the point is knowing God, and Jesus did everything to make that possible.

If Christians put everything else aside, and just believed in these simple truths, and then embraced the fact that we can know God and have the Holy Spirit. If they started pursuing Him, seeking Him, exploring what it means to have the very Spirit of God with us always, wouldn’t God be big enough to teach and show them the truth?

There are too many lies to try and defeat…on both sides, conservative and liberal. But if I can tell people the real, clear gospel, which is all about Jesus, and His desire to restore our relationship. If they believe and embrace this truth, won’t the Spirit of Jesus do the rest?

 

 

Living in the Real World of Gray

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I was raised in a world of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, us vs. them. Granted, my parents were more tolerant than a lot of families I knew, but the atmosphere was still there. And, it didn’t help that I naturally tend to think this way anyway.

Let me give you some examples. Oy!

Wrong and bad things (in no particular order): dating, college, women wearing pants, public school, blue jeans, bearded men, women with short hair, being friends with the opposite sex, Disney movies, any movie rated more than PG, movie theaters, white bread, pork, music with a “back-beat” aka rock and roll, CCM, country, etc, tattoos, multiple piercings, you get the point.

Good and right things (contrasted to the bad ones): courtship, women in skirts and dresses, homeschooling, khaki slacks (for males), clean shaven faces, women with long, flowing, gently curled hair, sticking with friends of your own gender, movies rated G and PG that weren’t Disney, preferably old fashioned ones, fresh made, whole wheat bread, beef and chicken, classical music or instrumental hymns, one set of small stud earrings for females only, blah, blah, blah.

Okay, that’s extreme you say. What does this have to do with me?

Here is what I have noticed. Christians, even “normal” ones are often terrible at living in the real gray world. We choose sides, and fight to the death about stupid issues that aren’t even that important in the long run. We alienate people with our feisty opinions about politics, abortion, homosexuality, the End Times, Calvinism, debt, divorce, health care, etc. Before you get all mad at me for putting some of those topics in the category of “stupid issues”, let me say that I believe in personal opinions and convictions based on Biblical truths. But, our convictions and opinions should never be stronger than our love for people and our desire to see them meet Jesus.

If we have truly met Jesus in a real and personal way, if we have experienced His amazing grace and forgiveness, if we are overwhelmed by His love for us, then there should be one and only one issue that motivates us. Sharing the real Jesus with the world!

I’m sure as you’ve read this, other “hot topics” have popped into your mind. It’s not that I don’t have opinions about things like breastfeeding, organic foods, school options, political leanings, abortion, and gay marriage. I just realize that my opinions and beliefs don’t make me more or less “godly”. I’m okay with not being “right”. I know that there is only one thing that changes my status before the God of the Universe: what I choose to believe about Jesus.

“For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him (Jesus) is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:17-18

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Too often Christians forget that God didn’t rescue us so that we would be “perfect”. He made us blameless through Jesus so that we can have a relationship with Him. Why do we get so caught up in changing peoples’ actions and beliefs to make them look “more Christian” instead of teaching them to know Jesus so that He can change them from the inside out as He sees fit. Do we doubt the power of the Holy Spirit? Do we forget that He is real? Why do we put so much value on “outward” goodness while ignoring our own inner struggles and sins? What if all Christians set aside the things that divide us and chose to help each other really get to know Jesus. What if our love for Jesus and our passion to share Him with everyone around us was stronger than our differences? What if we cared more about Jesus than about being right?

ID-100365286Truth is that while there are some “black and white” truths in the Bible and in the Christian life, there is also a lot of gray.We need to welcome the gray even if it scares us and makes us uncomfortable. Because that gray area is where freedom happens and where our relationship with Jesus grows. There is room for gray because there is room for growth and change.

What do you think? Do you agree or disagree? I’d love to hear your thoughts.:-)

What if God is more like TobyMac?

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You know that God you doubt/hate/are mad at/are scared of/etc? What if he doesn’t really exist?

Last week I was talking with an older, wiser friend, and one of the things she said stuck with me. It went something like this, “Too often we make God into our image instead of remembering that we were made in His.” I can’t stop thinking about it! I don’t expect non-Christians to have an accurate view of God, but those of us who call ourselves Christians should have it right…Right?

One Christmas, soon after I married my husband, my father-in-law was trying to figure out how to make a poster on Microsoft Publisher. I ended up helping him. We inserted an elephant and a bunch of ants from Clip-Art. Then he explained to me that God was the elephant and we were the ants getting stepped on. Ouch! But, if we are honest, I think many people share this view of God: a distant God, an uncaring God, a God who punishes us…

I used to think that God was angry a lot of the time. I used to think He liked me better when I was being “good” and following the rules. I used to think He was disappointed in me when I messed up.

My version of God was cut and dry, black and white, understandable. He fit in my box.

I also used to think that rock music was evil, and that anything with a beat was from the devil. Instrumental hymns or classical music with no drums were the only types of music that “godly” people should listen to. Yeah… Confession: Today I was totally rocking out to TobyMac’s “Feel It” in my living room. Freedom is amazing!!

Love came crashin’ in, Never gonna be the same again, Yeah, You came crashing in, You wrecked me, You wrecked me!

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Okay, here’s the deal. What if we are totally off on our view of God? What if we have made Him into our image? What if in our modern Western love of knowledge and intellectualism, we have put the Creator of the Universe into a box that we can understand. What if we think He’s like an instrumental hymn played on the piano (Nothing against hymns! This is for comparison purposes.), but He is really TobyMac? What if the god we have created for ourselves in our own image doesn’t exist? This is good news for people who were burned by Christians or the church and thought that was God!

I believe that God is bigger, and crazier, and more terrifying, and more wonderful, and stronger, and more full of love and grace and passion and emotion and depth, and more radical, and scarier, and wiser, and more incredible and mind blowing, and just MORE than we can ever imagine or comprehend. Even when we are trying to think outside the box, He is going to be MORE!

In our attempts at intellectualism, we pin God down and try to make Him human-like and something we can understand and dissect. We turn Him into big words and concepts. Or we stop trying to understand and just ignore Him, choosing to focus on what we can see and taste and touch. But God says that His foolishness is wiser than our wisdom, and His weakness is stronger than our strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25)

I don’t know about you, but I’m throwing away my calm, understandable, “instrumental” version of god, and reaching out for the radical, wild, incomprehensible, crazy “TobyMac” version that I believe exists! I want the real God to blow apart the box I have built to try and contain Him. Something deep inside of me longs for More, for Someone I was made to know. I was created in His image. You were created in His image! And guess what? He has promised over and over that if we seek for Him, we will find Him.

I’m not throwing away the Bible, because I believe that God wrote it and it’s one of the best ways to discover what He is like. But I am looking for a fresh understanding. I’m going to question and search and stop believing just because someone told me. If a thought or theology or mindset makes God seem smaller or more predictable or more containable, I’m going to doubt it. This isn’t supposed to be a religion! I’m supposed to be the daughter of the King of Kings. I wanna get to know my Dad, my Creator, my Savior, my Friend! For myself!

What about you? Is your god in a box? Do you long for more? Will you join me in looking for the real God?

A Rant About Christianity (and Jesus)

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I read a young man’s deconversion story today, and it broke me. Yup, you read that right, his deconversion, as in the story of how he decided that God wasn’t real and walked away from his beliefs. I’ve felt a lot of emotions since this morning…frustration, anger, sorrow.

Do you  want to know why he walked away and chose to stop believing? A lot of it came down to the fact that when his life fell apart, the Christians he knew had plenty of judgement and quick answers, but not a lot of love. And the people who took him in, and loved him, and cared for him, and accepted him, were agnostics.

There is so much going through my head right now…

What would Jesus have done if this young man came to him? Would He have judged him and told him that he was being punished? Would He have given him pat answers and expected him to get back up on his feet? Nope.  I’m pretty sure He would have held him and cried. And maybe Jesus would have talked about how much He hates the mess this broken world is in, and how He can’t wait to fix it. And probably Jesus wouldn’t have said much at all…He would have just been there.

Christianity is broken, peoples; the church is broken. Millennials are walking away from their beliefs every day and I honestly can’t say I blame them.

They are tired of empty tradition, and rules, and religion.

They are sick of condemnation, and judgement, and hypocrites.

So they leave.

Big, fancy church buildings with talented bands, dynamic speakers, and smoke machines can’t keep them either. Because Millennials see past all that. It looks like fake, and Millennials hate fake. They want honesty, authenticity, genuineness…

I sat at Starbucks today with my peppermint hot cocoa, trying not to cry in public, and jotted down thoughts, as fast as they came. Here are some of them…

How Did We Get Here? Maybe too many years of tradition, doing what has always been done. Maybe not enough people who actually know what the Bible says for themselves, so they are easily swayed by teachers/preachers. (That’s what happened with my family and Bill Gothard.) Maybe getting caught up in looking and being different (standards) instead of being caught up with the One who will make us different. Maybe fixating on building a large following (mega-church) instead of fixating on Jesus. I don’t know…I think there are a lot of reasons that Christianity is what it is today. But, there is hope! Because the church is made up of individual people, and if those people begin to love, get to know, and follow Jesus, the church can change! It will change because Jesus will change us!

What Do We Do Now?

  • Examine our hearts. Start with salvation…are we trusting in Jesus and His death alone to save us, or are we trusting in our works, our prayer, that moment we went forward, the time we raised our hand…where is your trust? Where is your faith? (John 3:16-18)
  • Get to know Jesus. Read the Bible for ourselves, not because it makes us more spiritual or to get more brownie points with God, but because we want to know who this God is and who we are as His children. Pray! Not a dry monologue, but a sincere conversation. It might be awkward at first, but it becomes amazing! Coming right to God, as His child, is one of our special privileges. 🙂
  • Honestly, everything else will naturally flow out of these first things. We will be loving, grace filled people because we will see God’s amazing grace and love towards us. We will have joy because we will have experienced God’s Presence. Etc.
  • Jesus will work on us and help us to let go of selfishness, sin, and addictions. Not because we have to in order to earn something from Him, but because He loves us and wants us to be free.

It’s happening. I believe it. God is changing His people and His church. More and more people are finding a real relationship with Jesus instead of a dead religion. Jefferson Bethke (I put a link to his site on his name) is a great example, with his books “Jesus>Religion” and “It’s Not What You Think”. People want what he has to say. They are hungry for more, as his large following evidences.

What Do I Want? More than anything else, I just want the real Jesus to be known! I want people to find a genuine, satisfying, incredible relationship with Him. I want people who called themselves Christians to become obsessed with Jesus in a whole new way. I want Christians to be known for their love. I want them to love sinners and skeptics and haters in a way that makes people think they are crazy. Because that’s how much Jesus loves us. I want people to find freedom, joy, and abundant life because of Jesus.

Thanks for reading my rant! I’d love to hear some of your thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Getting to KNOW Jesus (Pt 1)

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There is a huge difference between knowing about someone and actually knowing them.

Celebrities are people we know a lot about, but very few of us actually know any of them personally. Sometimes God feels like a celebrity to us. We know (or think we know) a lot about Him. We read articles, blog posts, and books about Him. We listen to sermons, podcasts, and songs about Him. We hear lots of people’s opinions of Him, both positive and negative.

But do we actually KNOW Him personally?

How do you get to really know someone like God?

I write and talk a lot about legalism and religious Christianity vs a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Often people ask me a similar question.

“That’s great and all, and I want more than just a religion, but I don’t know how to have a relationship. Can you show me how to know Jesus?”

If we were sitting together over a cup of coffee or on a bench down by the lake, this is what I would tell you:

Everything God wants to tell us about Himself is found in the Bible, His letter to us. Here are some of my favorite verses that tell us how He wants to know us.

Jeremiah 29:11-14. Verse 11 is super familiar, but I want you to look specifically at verses 12-14. Here it is: “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD…”

Then read Acts 17:26-27. This is Paul speaking to the people of Athens who were very religious, but didn’t know the true God. “And he (God) made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us.”

God promises that if we look for Him, we will find Him. He says that even if we have our eyes closed and are bumping around in the dark looking for Him, we will find Him because He is close by. God wants a relationship with us! He wants us to KNOW Him, not just facts about Him.

There is only one way to God, through His Son, Jesus Christ. I wrote a post last year about how Jesus was missing from the “Christianity” I was exposed to growing up. You can find it here. Someone Was Missing

We can’t get to God by doing good things, following all the rules, praying a prayer, raising our hands, or going forward in church. We can only get to God by trusting that Jesus’ death and resurrection paid for our sins.

John 3:16-18 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

What is the Son’s name? Jesus, which means Savior. Do you believe that Jesus is your Savior? If you do, then because of Him, you can have a relationship with God.

“Great!” you say, “But, how do I actually have a relationship?”

When you get to know someone like the God of the Universe, you have to think outside of the box. You have to be willing to let your mind get blown. You have to be okay with not understanding everything or being able to explain things. He often seems kind of crazy, and He doesn’t usually make sense. He makes you cry, a lot, even when you’re not sad, because the emotions you feel are too big for your tiny body. But He also makes you laugh. His love is ridiculous, and overwhelming, and amazing. When you meet Him, really meet Him, you will know that you are home and that this is where you belong. He is where you belong.

Next time I’ll share some ideas of how to seek God and find Him. I hope this post has made you hungry for more.

If Jesus has become real to you, I’d love to hear some of your stories!

It’s Only Brainwashing if It’s Not True

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Do you want to know what breaks my heart? People who were raised in the church or exposed to Christianity who don’t want to “brainwash” their children by teaching them about Jesus.

I’ve met, talked to, or heard from many people like this. People who have bought into the idea that Christianity is just another religion and they don’t want to dictate their children’s beliefs. Or people who were absolutely burned by Christians and are trying to spare their children the same fate. These parents have the very best intentions for their kiddos. They are trying to protect them. And as someone who was “brainwashed” to a certain extent, I appreciate their concern.

But when did Jesus become something we need to protect our children from?

How have we so completely screwed up the good news of Jesus Christ?

It’s only brainwashing if it’s not true.

But, I can’t judge, because if I hadn’t actually met Jesus, I would probably be in the same situation. The Christianity I was exposed to as a young teen/adult was completely about rules, and standards, and attempts to make God pleased with me. Many of my peers would say that they never heard about connection or relationship with God, just distance and fear. Why would anyone choose to continue believing this? If that’s what Christianity was about, I’d protect my children too!

Fortunately, I had parents who knew Jesus, who had a relationship with Him, and who were teaching me about Him. I had a mother who was praying that God would become real to me. And, God answered her prayers. Many of my peers had parents who bought into the lie of performance and fear. God was not real, or close, or loving in their family; he was demanding, and angry, and harsh. And I can’t blame them for walking away from everything to do with “Christianity”.

Jesus is so much more than just another religion. He is so much more than church on Sundays. He is more than a “get out of hell free” card. The Bible is more than a dusty, boring, old book. But, Jesus is also more than rules, and standards. The Bible is way more than a list of do’s and don’ts.

How did we, the church, miss the One we are supposed to be following? Why have we substituted Him for flat, dull religion?

God, the One who created us, stepped into our world as the Ultimate Superhero. He had powers! He upended the religious tradition of the day. He lived, fulfilling more than 300 prophecies in his 33 years. He died, making a way for us to be friends with Him again, and then He conquered death! And, He’s coming back!! This is good news! This should make us excited! We should have passion and life and joy. We should be filled with grace and love and forgiveness.

What is wrong, that people feel the need to protect their children from Christianity? Have they never met Jesus? If they meet me, someone who has the very Spirit of Jesus living inside, they should be meeting Him!

“Jesus!! Forgive us for turning You into an idea or a religion and not letting you be the very real Person You are. Become so real to every one of us…let us see You, know You, and love You. Change us! Show us the stupidity of thinking our performance can make us look any better in Your eyes…when You already see us perfect through Your blood. Let us live in the joy and freedom that is found in You. Let us represent You in truth, accurately, showing Your awesomeness to the world. Use me. Amen”