Red-Letter Story

In my past life, I was a Worship Pastor. A lot has changed since then, but my love for music hasn’t.

I just finished writing a song (video & lyrics below) about this journey, and I want to share it with you. I gave away all of my recording equipment when I started this journey, so please forgive its raw nature.

First, a little background…

I have had much to say on the subject of “my journey” I’ve been on for the last couple of years.

I’m convinced that the life of Jesus trumps whatever else we may concoct during our spiritual lifetimes. It’s learning that which brought me to the place I am now.

I no longer worry about the battles and struggles over “grace vs. truth,” “sin vs. mercy,” or “love vs. death.”

The “truth” is that Jesus was “Love,” “grace,” and “mercy.” Arguing over anything regarding the Bible is a waste of time, in my opinion, and I’m weary of it.

I don’t have the energy to “define sin,” or anything else along those lines.

“Quite frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

If we all die and there isn’t anything beyond this life, I’ll die happy knowing that I wasted my life loving everyone. Honestly, that’s all that matters to me anymore.

Enduring the twists and turns of this journey caused me to question everything I’ve ever learned spiritually.

I don’t regret a bit of it.

In my “Deconstructing Faith” series, I elaborate more on that. The message I’m trying to convey in all of these posts is that it’s not worth getting bent on trivial conclusions about the Bible.

I think, as Jesus followers, if we were all really honest, we’d admit that we’d follow him anywhere — even if it were counter-biblical to do so.

That’s where I’m at. I feel that much of Jesus’ life is counter-biblical, and he’s more important in the end. But I can’t pretend that this is a happy, fun, or even crowded place to be.

Living out his life is a lonely place. It’s a painful place. But it’s the right place.

For those on a similar journey, I’m still here. I’ve loved being a part of your lives and having a window to your journey. If you’d like to share your story with me, please visit my “Contact Me” page, and shoot me an email. I’d love to get to know you more!

Red-Letter Story:

On this dark and lonely highway
My mind is fixed on you
You said come and do it my way
Walk a mile in my shoes

I’ve been walking it seems like forever
And I’m not making any ground
It’s getting cold out in this November
But I refuse to turn around

There’s graffiti all around me
With words resembling you
And the art is captivating
But the story isn’t true

I feel your love now burning inside me
Should I paint it on all these walls
Do I tell your red-letter story
Or not say anything at all

What do I say to the face of my enemy
Knowing that you would love them as you love me

I feel your love now burning inside me
Should I paint it on all these walls
Do I tell your red-letter story
Or not say anything at all

With your love now burning inside me
I’m gonna paint it on all these walls
Compelled to live your red-letter story
I can’t be silent anymore

Compelled to live your red-letter story
I can’t be silent anymore

BONUS! I just remembered this song I wrote about 3 years ago. It seemed even then that there was something in me about Jesus’ name being equated to “Love.” I didn’t realize at the time how much that would mean to me. At any rate, enjoy!

Line in The Sand

I’m grieving today. To be honest, I’ve been grieving for a while, but today and yesterday are different.

Jesus followers — especially American — are divided. It’s no longer a Baptist vs. Methodist, Catholic vs. Lutheran, or Assembly of God vs. Church of God rift.

It’s now Jesus vs. America.

As Jesus followers, we don’t have the luxury of getting to choose when we’re American and when we’re followers of Jesus. There’s a reason that Christianity isn’t a political side.

Jesus isn’t a right wing or left wing American citizen. He’s not part of any political party. I’ve become more and more convinced that as his followers, neither can we be.

We are set apart — part of another kingdom. If we are to be “Christlike,” then we don’t have an option of choosing when we are so, and when we aren’t.

Either we are Jesus to the world 100% of the time, or we aren’t 100%. It can’t be both. There’s not any gray area checkbox to check saying, “I like Jesus, but I’m only going to be like him when it’s convenient,” although I often wish there was.

Jesus didn’t say that we only have to love our enemies when they’re playing nicely in our sandbox.

He said, You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard of justice and punishment: take an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say this, don’t fight against the one who is working evil against you. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, you are to turn and offer him your left cheek. If someone connives to get your shirt, give him your jacket as well. If someone forces you to walk with him for a mile, walk with him for two instead. If someone asks you for something, give it to him. If someone wants to borrow something from you, do not turn away… But I tell you this: love your enemies. Pray for those who torment you and persecute you—in so doing, you become children of your Father in heaven… It is easy to love those who love you—even a thief can love those who love him. And it is easy to greet your friends—even outsiders do that! But you are called to something higher: Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.

How is God perfect, and how can we be perfect like him? God is Love. Love is perfect. We can be made perfect by being Love to others.

Love isn’t a politician. Love isn’t an American citizen. Love is something higher. Love is perfect.

Derek Webb wrote a song called “Love Is Not Against The Law. (<– song)” His words are fitting:

Politics or love
Can make you blind or make you see
Make you a slave or make you free
But only one does it all

And it’s giving up your life
For the ones you hate the most
It’s giving them your gown
When they’ve taken your clothes

It’s learning to admit
When you’ve had a hand in setting them up
In knocking them down

Love is not against the law
Love is not against the law

Are we defending life
When we just pick and choose lives acceptable to lose
And which ones to defend

Because you cannot choose your friends
But you choose your enemies
And what if they were one
One and the same

Could you find a way
To love them both the same
To give them your name

Sure, we may be taxpaying American citizens, but Jesus drew a line in the sand 2000 years ago. Wind may have blown that line and caused it to fade, but I can assure you that it still exists.

He is either Love or he isn’t. You, likewise, are either Love or you aren’t.

American politicians are stating where they stand by choosing whether or not to acknowledge minorities (immigrants, refugees, the LGBT community, non-whites, etc.) as people. Many of them are choosing to go against Love’s way, and so many of you are cheering them on.

Friends, we’re either Jesus followers, or we aren’t.

I love you all so very much — so deeply! My heart is aching to hear your words of anger, hate, and fear! I’m broken knowing that I’m now separated from you.

I’m grieving today knowing that I’m choosing to walk away from you. I’m dropping stones and crossing to the other side like so many other Jesus followers have done.

I stand with Love. I cannot ignore the faces of the outcasts. I cannot ignore the face of Jesus. I’m saddened if you disagree.

“I tell you this: whenever you saw a brother hungry or cold, when you saw a sister weak and without friends, when you saw the least of these and ignored their suffering, so you ignored Me.” – Jesus

Inscription on the Statue of Liberty, by Emma Lazarus:

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breath free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless, tempest tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”

Equality in Leadership

This is a topic that has gone through a complete transfiguration in my mind over the last few years — a change for the better. I can’t tell you how much sexism gets under my skin now. To me, it’s worse than having shards of wood shoved under my fingernails.

Even as a young boy, I defended girls. A buddy and I saw a boy picking on a group of girls once. They were screaming at him to leave them alone. He was a known bully on the playground, so my friend and I went over there and took care of the problem by kicking his ass — that wasn’t the best choice either. I should have let the teachers know what was going on.

We were brought into the Principal’s office and asked why we beat him up. We told the principal what happened, and he thanked us and sent us on our way. The bully was spanked and sent back to class.

Most of those girls are still good friends of mine to this day.

Fast forward to the present, and I’m still the same boy, just older and equipped with a fully developed frontal lobe. Don’t get me wrong, I’d happily step in and defend a woman at any given moment, but I wouldn’t likely default to “ass-whoopin’ mode” without trying words first.

So, here I am — using my words…

I’ve always been for equality where women are concerned, save church leadership; let’s be honest, what I really mean is the Senior Pastor title.

As far back as our human history goes, women have been subservient to men. There are a million reasons why, but I’ll focus on just a few.

Women are typically smaller and physically weaker than men. In early history, this fact placed men over women as leaders for reasons of wellbeing. Men were the caretakers of women — protectors. Men were bigger, stronger, faster; able to ward off danger.

Due to modernization, that changed. The world developed and strengthened through advances in shelters and dwellings, self defense, and technology. Today, women largely have nothing to fear that would require the presence of a male for security.

Men have also ruled because of knowledge and education. Women have historically been associated with inferiority in philosophical, medical and religious traditions primarily due to the unavailability of education to them. That’s changed in recent history.

Thankfully, most of the world has discovered that women are more than capable of learning and leading.

But I’d like to focus on a point I mentioned above — religious traditions. Only in this living generation’s time period have we seen women allowed into clergy roles, generally speaking.

I’m so grateful that there are many churches getting it right on this issue. My purpose in bringing this topic up isn’t to say “there aren’t any churches getting it right.” That’s not true, and I congratulate those doing so.

I do, however, think that all churches ought to continually evaluate their employment and opportunity policies regarding women.

To say that women can volunteer only in certain places of the church, be employed in the Children’s Department, Worship Ministry, or some place other than the Senior Pastor’s position is an injustice.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely believe that men and women can work side-by-side in those areas of the church, and they should! I think this is one way that churches are getting it right!

But when it comes to women being elders, deacons, or the Senior Pastor, most churches are missing the mark.

 

History Lesson:

Paul wrote a couple of key letters that Christians often reference regarding women in church leadership. The first was the letter he wrote to the people of Corinth. The second was the first letter he wrote to Timothy.

To the Corinthians, he wrote, “Wives should be respectfully silent at the gatherings, as they are not allowed to speak; and they should yield themselves to those in authority just as it is written in the law. When they want to learn anything in particular, they should ask their husbands when they get home. It creates a shameful situation for them to speak at church.”

To Timothy, “Now, Timothy, it’s not my habit to allow women to teach in a way that wrenches authority from a man. As I said, it’s best if a woman learns quietly and orderly. This is because Adam was formed first by God, then Eve. Plus, it wasn’t Adam who was tricked; it was she—the woman was the one who was fooled and disobeyed God’s command first. Still, God, in His faithfulness, will deliver her through childbearing as long as she remains in faith and love and holiness with self-restraint.”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians in reply to a letter they’d written him. They wanted to know what to do when women interrupted their gatherings. Women hadn’t been allowed to worship inside the temple before as men had. Now they were playing catchup learning the elementary things that men had learned from childhood.

Paul’s reply was specifically to the Church at Corinth. He didn’t give this instruction to any other church he had established. In this reply, he wasn’t saying “women aren’t allowed in leadership.” Rather, he was instructing husbands to fill in the blanks with their wives at home so they were all on the same page when meeting together. In other words, teach the elementary things to your wives at home, so the rest of the time you can all be home in time to watch football.

There’s too much to cover here regarding the letter to Timothy, but I’ll send you here and here to read more.

For me, the portion written to Timothy boils down to poor interpretations and cultural perspective.

If Paul didn’t want women in leadership, he should have fully considered that before placing Junia, Euodia, Syntche and Priscilla in it.

 

Today’s culture doesn’t match the Corinthian, Ephesian, Roman, Colossian, or any other culture 2000 years ago. The likelihood of Paul writing the same instructions to us today as he wrote to those is nil.

Heck, he didn’t even give the same instructions to each of those cultures then!

I firmly believe that it’s time for women to lead!

If women can be doctors, lawyers, President, Prime Minister, CEOs, scientists, etc., it’s time they’re given the Senior Pastor role when applicable. There are so many women out there who are smarter, wiser, and better equipped to serve as the Senior Pastor of a church than many men are.

There are also women who could enhance elder boards and deacon ministries if given the opportunity to do so!

What if equality — not just gender equality — was something the Church took ownership of? What if it became a staple issue that was made a non-issue the world over?

What if equality was equated to loving others passionately, expressively, recklessly, completely, unconditionally — regardless of age, race, sexual orientation, or gender? What if we got that part of the Gospel right?

Selfless Holidays

There’s an annual battle that takes place around this time of year. One that has the appearance of good but never actually accomplishes anything. The war waged is Christians versus The World — sometimes it’s really just Christians vs. Christians.

It’s really easy to get caught up in the battle, especially on social media.

The narrative is all too familiar: “keeping Christ in Christmas.”

It sounds great, but the problem is that he never left Christmas. Christmas is the time when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus. Simple, period, end of story.

Digging a bit deeper, you’ll find other religions and nonreligious celebrating this season in their own ways, and that’s where the battlelines are blurred.

People celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanza, or perhaps those just celebrating joy, love, and peace, are often times found in the crosshairs of particular Christian groups.

These folks aren’t trying to “steal Christmas,” or even “remove Christ” from Christmas — as if that is something that could actually be achieved. They’re simply enjoying the holiday season just like the majority of Christians do — buying gifts for one another, spending time with close friends and family, and my favorite, gorging on ridiculous amounts of food!

As I’ve mentioned in my other posts, people of faith — no matter what faith they’ve chosen — are typically sold-out believers in it. Just as earnestly as Christians believe in Jesus, other religions and nonreligious have reached their own conclusions.

The last thing any of us need is to ruin this special time of year by forcing our beliefs on others. I feel we’d all be better served by focussing our energy in other ways.

According to my Googling, in the United States there are:
610,042 people homeless on any given night,
48,100,000 living in food-insecure homes,
and 400,000 children in our foster care system.

IN THE UNITED STATES (1)

There’s been a very particular chapter of Scripture on my mind in recent months. You’ve seen it in my other writings, but it applies here as well.

1 Corinthians 13:1, “What if I speak in the most elegant languages of people or in the exotic languages of the heavenly messengers, but I live without love? Well then, anything I say is like the clanging of brass or a crashing cymbal.”

The noise from crashing cymbals today is deafening!

I created the meme above when I learned of a person on Facebook “starting a movement to keep Christ in Christmas.” This person was offended that Starbucks’ new holiday cups were just plain red — void of snowflakes, reindeer, and trees. It’s precisely what I’m talking about when I referred to crashing cymbals, and it makes my skin crawl.

I never expected my meme to go viral, but it did, and I’m glad of it. Perhaps this post will go viral as well. I certainly hope so.

I propose that this holiday season we come up with some creative solutions to reduce the given statistics above.

I’ll start:

  1. Fill and give a purse or backpack with items helpful for homeless people. Here are some suggestions.
  2. Wear a coat that you can part with, and physically take it off and put it on a homeless person.
  3. Load your trunk with umbrellas to give to homeless people when you see them.
  4. Have your church “adopt” a homeless person (or homeless family), and make sure they have a roof over their heads and hot meals to eat.
  5. Much like #4, reach out to homes that you know won’t have a holiday meal, and provide them with one — or better yet, invite them to yours!
  6. Offer to buy someone’s groceries in the check-out line at your grocery store.
  7. Volunteer at a foster care group home.
  8. Become a foster care parent.
  9. Tip generously — when dining out, visiting a bar or coffee shop, getting your nails done, getting a tattoo or piercing, or getting a haircut. These folks could use all the help they can get! I know… I used to be one of them.
  10. Be Santa. Buy gifts for kids in need, and make this a holiday they won’t ever forget.

Instead of adding to the noise this season, I’m proposing we start a different movement. One that can forever change the way we view the holidays — a movement of loving our neighbors.

That’s one I can get behind, and it’s one that can go beyond the holiday season. Submit your ideas in the comment section below or on social media!

Share this post using: #SelflessHolidays, and let’s be the change we so desperately need.

YOU are not your body!

Unfortunately, links in this post will be classified as NSFW

Society has robbed you of who you are. They say you’re too fat, too skinny, too whatever…

Somehow you are your body.

Impressions of ourselves have been cheapened by the opinions of corporations marketing goods.

It’s still taboo in many cultures to be naked in public, but commonplace in so many other societies around the world. Those cultures (and some places stateside — I live in such a place now) view nonsexual nudity -without- using a sexual lens — rightly so.

The purpose of this post isn’t to debate nudity, generate “shock value,” or convince anyone that public nudity isn’t wrong, but I’ll briefly explain how my perspective has changed.

I honestly don’t take issue with public nudity; it isn’t offensive to me.

I’ve matured in my thinking and met people who’ve challenged me to think differently.

Growing up I viewed nudity with an “objectifying” eye. Seeing a naked person was a sexual thing for me. It’s why pornography found its place on my computer screen, like millions of other screens all over the world.

When a person is photographed, or painted in a sexually objectifying manner, a line is crossed; that’s pornography. That’s when a naked person has been dehumanized — many times against their own will or knowledge.

I absolutely believe that publically exposing yourself for the purpose of being seen by others in a sexual manner is wrong.

Discretion and knowing the company you’re with is a must.

A naked person in a traditional sauna, on a designated beach, in a Korean bathhouse, breastfeeding a baby, a nonsexual photograph or video, beautiful artwork, etc. shouldn’t be used for objectification or as a means to sexual fulfillment. Clothing on a person in this sense is irrelevant to the fact that they are a person; their naked body isn’t to provide you with a peep show.

— Moving On —

I’ve read a few articles of people — mostly women — who’ve had the courage to stand up for themselves — for real beauty!

This article is about 8 moms who visited a beach — going “mostly naked.” It’s a wonderful testimony of new moms rebutting the adage that “stretchmarks and muffin tops are nasty,” “big hips and thighs are unattractive,” and “only skinny is pretty.”

I love how these women not only shed their clothes in public — having found their true value and identity — but they also threw their inhibitions to the wind posing for a group picture!

Articles about someone learning to love their real self are inspiring!

These are exhilarating “I get it” moments; times when a person realizes that their body is just that, a body.

Celebrating that moment with a topless group picture on a beach tells me that something magical just happened within their minds! They’ve just learned a person is so much more than a body.

That’s incredible, they’re incredible, and I wish with everything in me that the rest of the breathing world would also “get it” by breaking the mental connection of nudity and sex.

In the appropriate moment, that connection is a wonderful thing, but in public, it’s certainly not an invitation for you to objectify anyone.

Recently I came across the fascinating story of Essena O’Neill (website). She also has a couple of Youtube videos on her website telling her story (this one is my fav).

From the age of 12, Essena idolized models. By the time she was 19, she had a full blown modelling career of her own.

She spent hours retaking hundreds of selfies for her Instagram just to “get the right one,” and “all of them were fake.”

She sucked in her tummy, wore push-up bras, and posed just the right way to get exactly what she and her sponsors wanted; a beautifully accentuated body.

She’s since deleted all of her social media pictures because “they aren’t real.” Now, in breach of contract, she’s quit modeling. Being a “real person” living a “real life in the real world” is more important to her.

From skinny models, to new moms —  poor self image is reeking havoc on people everywhere — especially on women. It’s wrong, it’s disgusting, and as a male feminist it really pisses me off!

The self-consciousness only exists because our minds have been warped to conform to society’s perception of what’s acceptable.

Why do ladies feel like they have to conform to the cookie cutter mold that society says they do?

It’s a massive grievance for companies to get rich making you feel like you don’t measure up.

Is it wrong for a mother to breastfeed her baby in public? Is it wrong for a woman to celebrate a breakthrough by realizing, as a person, she is more than a body?

ABSOLUTELY NOT!

Whether or not you celebrate by shedding your bikini (or even move from a sweatshirt to a bikini), hear my words: YOU ARE NOT YOUR BODY! 

Your job isn’t to insure that others aren’t viewing your body in an objectifying manner. That error is on them to work out!

You are a wonderfully made, exquisite soul, complete with skin.

— You are beautiful exactly the way you are! —

Don’t waste your life being concerned how others view your skin — it’s not worth your time or stress.

Your skin is a trivial part of who you are!

Love your body, love yourself, be yourself — and celebrate those who have the courage to do the same!

Below are some articles related to this subject that I wanted to share (NSFW): 
1. http://aplus.com/a/megan-jayne-bodyposipanda

2. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-21182/how-8-new-moms-learned-to-love-their-bodies-photo.html

3. http://www.letsbegamechangers.com/

4. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/video/femail/video-1092814/Photographer-captures-beauty-mothers-stunning-series.html

5. http://metro.co.uk/2015/11/02/public-health-england-encourages-mums-to-break-down-barriers-and-breastfeed-in-public-5475815/

6. http://www.buzzfeed.com/southerndisposition/25-historical-images-that-normalize-breastfeeding-jlw6#.bqzk49Aar

The Great Ruler’s Message – a short story

There once was a great ruler (The Ruler). The Ruler reigned over all the land, and there was none greater than he. He took the best of all he owned and freely gave it to his people. His love for them was steadfast – unrelenting; some say it was a reckless love.

The Great Ruler was unlike any other, in that his rule wasn’t enforced by demand. He was a quiet and gentle ruler. He desired his subjects to choose to love him as he loved them.

Most of his subjects were good and kind. Although The Ruler did not require their allegiance, they served him faithfully and feared him with a kingly reverence that was due him.

There were others, however, who did not honor The Ruler. Their hearts were selfish and filled with disdain toward others.

These unsubmissive subjects (The Unsubmissive) were thieves, murderers, and belligerent; they were judgmental, arrogant, and respecters of no one. They would take from the poor, and mercilessly kill those who didn’t conform to the “socially acceptable way.”

They were even abusive to their own wives and children. They wanted no ruler, and they sent that message to the him by allowing hate to reign supreme in their hearts.

The Ruler’s faithful subjects (The Faithful) were furious at The Unsubmissive for their thankless and treacherous ways. They fashioned their own swords and weapons of many kinds and set out to demand respect for The Great Ruler.

The Unsubmissive weren’t afraid at the revolt. It seemed the fight was a welcomed one, and it so it endured.

The Great Ruler’s love for those who dishonored him was unwavering. He sent messengers to the battlefields urging The Faithful to retreat. It was not his desire that any should perish.

Likewise, he begged those who hated him to reconsider. The Ruler knew that his request to The Unsubmissive would likely fall upon deaf ears.

He was proved right.

What greatly surprised The Ruler, however, was that The Faithful refused to lay down their swords as well.

Their allegiance was true, but their ability to listen to The Ruler’s plea was clouded by their judgments against The Unsubmissive. The Great Ruler’s heart was broken.

He didn’t know what to do.

The Great Ruler, lost in his grief, was visited by his son, a young prince (The Prince) who came to him with an idea. The Prince suggested that perhaps The Ruler’s people would respond to his love if he were to send The Prince out to model The Great Ruler’s love for them.

The Great Ruler hadn’t considered this because he desired to rule from his throne — not forcing any of his subjects to love him. The Prince knew this and he assured his father that he wouldn’t disobey his wishes.

He would live with the people, peaceably demonstrating The Ruler’s love for them, while also expressing to them how The Ruler genuinely desired to be loved in return.

Reluctantly, The Ruler allowed his Prince to go.

The Young Prince, having never been outside the palace walls, was surprised at what he found in the kingdom.

He learned that many of The Faithful had written rules and commands in the name of The Great Ruler. The Faithful knew that the heart of their Ruler was for them, so they established these laws to try to bring order to the chaos.

The Prince quickly learned that the authors and enforcers of these laws weren’t easily swayed.

They had convinced themselves, and others around them, that these rules were the way of The Great Ruler; and they were quick to judge those who wouldn’t abide by them. Many of those judged — Faithful and Unsubmissive alike — were put to death for treason against The Ruler and their laws.

To be one of the law-lovers was to be favored, elite, accepted.

The Young Prince realized that he couldn’t begin his mission by teaching these law givers. They didn’t even recognize The Prince as The Great Ruler’s son because their hearts had become more faithful to their laws than to The Great Ruler.

So The Prince set out to befriend those who everyone else despised because they were the only ones who might receive him and The Great Ruler’s message.

He entered the circle of the outcasts.

He chose fishermen and prostitutes. He chose thieves. He chose the poor and the homeless. He chose the sick and the maimed.

These subjects had nothing to offer The Prince, and he asked nothing from them. He simply desired their affection as freely he offered his own, and they gave it to him.

It wasn’t long before the outcasts began to recognize who The Young Prince was. News quickly spread that The Great Ruler’s son had come to live with his subjects.

Stories were shared throughout the kingdom — how he lived as a homeless man, how he joined their celebrations and provided wine, how he visited the sick, and dined with thieves!

From dining tables and street corners, from hillsides and mountain tops, everywhere he went The Prince told the subjects of The Great Ruler’s love.

As word spread, crowds of people were now rushing to hear his message.

His message never changed, but the subjects wanted to hear it over and over again. He gladly shared it, but occasionally changed his approach.

When they asked him who The Great Ruler was, his reply seemed foreign — they didn’t believe it could be so simple.

“My father, your Ruler, is Love,” The Prince said.

“But we’ve been told that in order to receive his love, we must follow the law!” The Prince replied, “I have come as the fulfillment of your laws. The Great Ruler requests only your love and for you to love your fellow subjects.”*

Encountering his love, many were persuaded by The Ruler’s message just as The Prince and The Great Ruler had hoped.

The authors and enforcers of the law were outraged when they heard his message. They said, “Who can make such claims? Only The Great Ruler can say these things! Are you The Great Ruler?”*

The Young Prince replied, “I and The Great Ruler are one — our love is for all mankind.”*

Sensing the hostility of those against The Great Ruler’s message, The Prince fled and hid from his persecutors.

He sent a message to The Great Ruler that said, “Father, I long for the time when these subjects can be with us and witness our rule of love, which comes from you. You have loved me from the beginning. Father, you are just; The Unsubmissive and the authors and endorsers of laws do not know you, but I do. As for the followers whom I love and have loved me, we speak of your love often; and I will continue to speak of your name (Love) — in order that your love, which you openly lavish on me, will be in them. And my love will also be in them. Together, Love will rule their hearts.”*

The Prince gathered his closest friends together for a meal.

Dining together he told them, “You and I are one. My body is yours, my blood is your blood. You are my hands and my feet. The message The Great Ruler has given me, I now give to you. Go and share it all whom you encounter. Tell them of my love for you, and your love for me. Tell them of The Great Ruler’s love for them! The desire of The Great Ruler is that none should perish. His love is above their laws; his love is greater than their disobedience. Love wins the hearts of The Unsubmissive. Go, and be unto others as I have been to the outcasts — as I have been to you.”*

That would be The Prince’s final meal with his friends.

The message of love and acceptance The Young Prince gave angered the authors and enforcers of the law. They said he was “a heretic spreading blasphemy.”

They couldn’t accept that The Great Ruler could love and accept anyone freely. Afterall, how could any ruler desire unsubmissive subjects? Surely he required everyone to follow rules and regulations in order to be loved and accepted as members into his kingdom.

One beloved follower of The Prince had his heart deeply sown in a desire for wealth. He hadn’t understood the message that The Prince had come to give him.

This beloved follower left and went to tell the enforcers of righteous living where The Prince was hiding. In exchange for his information and leading them to The Prince, he was given a great sum of money.

The beloved follower proved his misunderstanding of the message that The Great Ruler gave by betraying The Prince with a kiss.

How deeply The Young Prince was hurt by betrayal in the act of love — a kiss.

Another beloved of The Prince was outraged by this act! He picked up a sword, and attacked one of the soldiers there to take The Prince away.

The Prince immediately scolded his beloved follower saying, “Have you not heard the message of The Great Ruler? Do you not understand who I’ve called you to be? Know this: there remains only one way in which I can share The Great Ruler’s message with every subject, and it must be this way. Let them take me.”*

The Young Prince was brought before the authorities, and they inquired of him, “Are you the ruler of these subjects?”*

The Prince replied, “This is not my kingdom. If it were, my subjects would be fighting now for my freedom. I have come to demonstrate the message of truth — the message of The Great Ruler.”*

Indeed The Prince was about to show all of The Great Ruler’s subjects exactly what that message was.

He had spoken of it once with his friends saying, As my father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you subjects, because a subject does not know The Ruler’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last… This is my command: Love each other.”*

So it was that The Young Prince was sentenced to death. He would go to a sure and painful death to ensure that the message of The Great Ruler was known.

At the place of The Young Prince’s death were two other men also being put to death. Both were unsubmissive subjects of The Great Ruler.

One of them turned to The Young Prince and said, “I have disrespected The Great Ruler, and I am getting the punishment I deserve. Will Love’s kingdom remember me?” The Young Prince turned to him and replied, “You have understood The Great Ruler’s message, and you are in Love’s kingdom.”*

The Young Prince breathed his last breath shortly thereafter, yet the message he brought remains today.

The Great Ruler still has unsubmissive subjects, and there are even still some enforcers of the laws the authors penned those many years ago.

But there are new followers of The Prince who still earnestly share the message he gave.

The message from The Great Ruler and his Prince is this:

“I am the way — the path; My path is love. I am the truth; my message of truth is that I love all mankind. I am the life. No subject may approach my father, your Great Ruler, except by Love’s way; love The Great Ruler, and love your fellow man as your Ruler and I have loved you, and you will find life.”*

 

* All scriptures used were derived or paraphrased from: The Voice Bible Copyright © 2012 Thomas Nelson, Inc. The Voice™ translation © 2012 Ecclesia Bible Society All rights reserved.

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans – Part 3

Links: Part 1 and Part 2

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

Before I begin:
I’ve received lots of emails, comments, Facebook messages, etc. from both sides of these issues. The messages coming to me from complete strangers in the LGBTQ community, and stories from women who have had unwanted abortions have drowned out the noise from the negative messages I’ve received. I found myself so moved, so humbled, that I was moved to tears – asking God, “Who am I that you’ve given this mandate to write? Who am I that complete strangers are willing to share their stories with me?” – I’m honored by your encouragement, and your kindness, but even more so by your openness to share your stories with me. THANK YOU!

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans:

In Part 1 of this series, I gave my testimony in regard to the LGBTQ community. Part 2 contained my thoughts about abortions, my experience with widows, and my knowing I sweep the topic of orphans under the rug.

In this post, I’m going to give my opinions on all of them.

LGBTQ –

I stand with them, I support them, and I’ve chosen to love them. Why?

I’ve chosen this stance because I have LGBTQ friends now. Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, finding an “out-of-the-closet” person wasn’t just rare, it was almost nonexistent. That’s progressively changed as more people have found the courage to be open about who they are. The way I was taught in church, coupled with the fact I’d never known an LGBTQ person made it easy for me to condemn that lifestyle.

I’ve also matured spiritually and in understanding to the point that I’m comfortable enough to ask the hard questions. Please note that I’m not accusing anyone else of not being at my level of spiritual maturity. I’m definitely not intending to convey that at all! Rather, I’m insisting that my own level of maturity was lacking.

I simply accepted what I was taught or what I heard others say on a given subject, especially if it sounded smart. The more confidently someone gave their opinion or interpretation, the more confident I was to repeat them verbatim.

I won’t go back through my testimony and my stance with the LGBTQ community. If you haven’t yet read it, I invite you to do so here.

Based on my own personal conclusions and interpretations of the Bible and of Jesus in regard to LGBTQ people, I couldn’t justify inequality towards them any longer. I’ve since come to be friends with many in the LGBTQ community, and I’m positive that I’ve made the right decision.

The alternative, in my opinion, is a stance that looks nothing like Jesus – or very little, at best.

“Love the sinner, hate the sin” is just an excuse not to fully love and accept the person that is accused of what the accuser considers “sin.”

My conclusion on the matter is that refusing equality isn’t any different than the way black people were treated (3/5 of a person?!). It’s not any different than justifying slavery. I see it as the same type of inequality that placed women as inferior to men (that’s still happening, by the way).

Christians were on the wrong side of history in those instances. 10, 20, 30 years from now, however long it takes, I’m convinced that we’ll look back at LGBTQ rights the same way we look at those examples of inequality in history.

A differing religious perspective than my own doesn’t justify treating any human wrongly by devaluing them. Just because something has been interpreted a certain way for an extended period of time, preached incessantly, and shouted loudly doesn’t mean it’s right. I am by no means saying that “my way is right, and only my views are correct.” On the contrary, my views, conclusions, and interpretations are my own. After much consideration, I’ve simply changed my mind from the views I previously toted.

There’s a shift taking place currently, and churches all over the world are beginning to recognize the error that’s been made concerning LGBTQ people. I, for one, stand unapologetically with them – just as I stand with minorities, against slavery, and for women’s rights.

Abortions, Widows, and Orphans –

In Part 2, I shared some of my thoughts on abortion – as of the writing of this post, that was yesterday.

I’ve already received emails from women sharing their heartbreaking stories with me. These ladies haven’t been able to open up to many about some very hard choices they’ve made. I just can’t even begin to imagine…I don’t want to imagine.

I’ve expressed my position of a pro-life stance, and I stand by that. That’s as honest as I can be about it. Excluding something going terribly wrong with a pregnancy, rape, etc., I have a conviction that bars me from blatantly ending life “just because.”

I’ve explained that my definition of sin is “anything that would dehumanize a person.”

I believe that opens the umbrella wide enough to include sins of morality (murder, rape, abuse, etc.) and an individual’s personal convictions too.

It is my opinion that blatant disregard for life – born or unborn – is an act of dehumanization, and that is sin. Are there extenuating circumstances that can unexpectedly happen? Absolutely, and at that point, my opinions and convictions don’t matter. When it comes to that it’s the job of the mother, her doctor, and whomever she chooses to be involved to make a decision that I can’t fathom being faced with.

Call to action (please note the disclaimer at the beginning of each of these posts) –

I want to encourage you to think before you speak. If you get absolutely nothing from this series but that, I’ll call it a win.

You have no idea who you’re in the company of, including who your children may be (maybe you do know). Speaking hatefully, or using derogatory language is like a knife to the heart of those who may be in your presence and could be LGBTQ, or someone who’s had an abortion.

I know the language all to well because I’ve used it. “That’s gay” instead of “That’s stupid.” Saying “you’re such a fag” instead of “what a jerk.” 

Don’t do it. It’s no different than calling a black person a “nigger.” It’s shameful, it’s hurtful, it’s degrading, it’s wrong.

What if’s:
What if your kids grow up hearing you using that terminology, and they turn out to be an LGBTQ person? Are you going to be someone that they’ll trust to open up to? Do they know that you’ll love them, or are they living in fear of being kicked to the curb? Worse, are they terrified that they’ll be humiliated in front of your church by having the pastor “cast out the LGBTQ demons?” What if you are their pastor?

Gossipping about who you’ve heard may have had an abortion is just as dangerous. The person you’re speaking to may have had an abortion, and you don’t have a clue about it! In fact, what if your daughter is the person you’re sharing the gossip with, and she’s had an abortion? Do you think she’s ever going to be able to share her story with you now?

What if it’s your best friend, and they’re LGBTQ or have had an abortion? What if they’re gauging your relationship on knowing whether or not you’ll hurt them? If you make just one comment, you not only can close off that part of the person from ever being open to you, but you may just lose your best friend. In fact, I’d say you’ve just lost them. Your relationship may continue, but it won’t ever go any deeper than it already has.

Churches and Christian friends:
You’re so eager to speak out against LGBTQ as “sin.” It’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind that condemns those people of what you consider sin. It’s easy to get swept up in the truth parade and say “the truth is…” or “the Bible says…”.

Really what you’re saying is “my belief that I refuse to be teachable about is…” or “my interpretation of what the Bible says is…” — the “truth” we’re speaking of is subjective because it’s based on your personal convictions, it’s not objective truth based on moral absolutes; your interpretation of the Bible is just that – your interpretation, and it may be wrong. Mine can be wrong too, and in fact I believe the views and interpretations I had previously about LGBTQ people were wrong.

As for abortion, I’ve already said that I agree with the majority of Christians that ending life is wrong, even though it’s not as black and white as I feel we’ve made it out to be. Speaking up and bringing awareness about it is great. That’s what peaceful protests are for.

But let me ask you this: what are you doing to fix the problem otherwise?

If you’re able to persuade a woman in a healthy pregnancy to have the baby, or get a law passed making optional abortions illegal, are you just as passionate about adoption? What about foster care? As a church, are you willing to open a group home and provide those children with love and care?

If you are doing those things, I sincerely applaud you! You’re an AMAZING PERSON! Thank you! But these points I’m making aren’t for you. They’re for everyone else (including myself – I’m getting to that).

People are so quick to give the numbers of the millions of babies that have been aborted, but the silence is deafening when the number of millions of children to be adopted or fostered is mentioned.

Facebook is like an offering plate at church for everyone to place their favorite memes into concerning abortion, but adoption/fostering posts might (possibly, maybe) only get a “like.” It’s more likely that those posts are just quickly shuffled off the screen.

I can say all of these things because it’s who I’ve been.

I’ve already admitted that I don’t want to adopt – I don’t. That doesn’t mean there aren’t other opportunities in front of me to take care of widows and orphans.

Volunteering at the nursing home was a great option. Churches are usually pretty good about having a ministry that will look after widows. They’ll visit with them, make sure their house isn’t falling down around them, or give them rides to church functions. GREAT! Keep doing that! If you’ve never been involved in some type of widow(er) ministry, get involved! It’s worth doing, and if your church doesn’t have one, start one.

Fostering a child has been something Lindsey and I have talked about since we were first married. Between having kids of our own, and moving like every five seconds, it’s been something on our back burner. Recently, it’s a topic that we’ve brought back to the table, and one that we’re seriously considering.

It’s my belief that if you’re going to openly oppose abortion, you don’t have the right to sit back and do nothing about orphaned children. Get involved by becoming a mentor, help at a group home by volunteering your time, make donations to nonprofits whose sole purpose is to care for them, start your own nonprofit, have your church start a group home, consider adoption or fostering…

There are so many ways that you can be involved, but ignoring the millions of children that women have so generously born into this world isn’t an option.

I’ve said this in another post, and it’s become my anthem. So, I’ll say it until I quit breathing:
If love doesn’t win in everything, with everyone, every time, without conditions – even if it goes against your religious beliefs – then you’re doing it wrong.

Let’s get it right on these issues, friends. I haven’t been getting it right 100% of the time, but I’m certainly trying to correct my course.

1 Corinthians 13, ” What if I have the gift of prophecy, am blessed with knowledge and insight to all the mysteries, or what if my faith is strong enough to scoop a mountain from its bedrock, yet I live without love? If so, I am nothing. I could give all that I have to feed the poor, I could surrender my body to be burned as a martyr, but if I do not live in love, I gain nothing by my selfless acts.

Paul boils it all down for the believers in Corinth. Religious people often spend their time practicing rituals, projecting dogma, and going through routines that might look like Christianity on the outside but that lack the essential ingredient that brings all of it together—love! It is a loving God who birthed creation and now pursues a broken people in the most spectacular way. That same love must guide believers, so faith doesn’t appear to be meaningless noise.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love isn’t envious, doesn’t boast, brag, or strut about. There’s no arrogance in love; it’s never rude, crude, or indecent—it’s not self-absorbed. Love isn’t easily upset. Love doesn’t tally wrongs or celebrate injustice; but truth—yes, truth—is love’s delight! Love puts up with anything and everything that comes along; it trusts, hopes, and endures no matter what. Love will never become obsolete.” – The Voice

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows, and Orphans – Part 2

Part 1 of this series can be found here.

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

Abortions:

I’ll begin by saying that I’ve never been faced with the decision of my wife having of an abortion. That’s something that I’ve had to think about when pondering this series of posts. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be in the shoes of someone that is faced with that.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I can tell you that whenever the topic of abortion is brought up, I instinctively have a go-to thought process. It’s shameful and embarrassing for me to admit, but that usually consists of a slutty woman who can’t pay her bills and doesn’t want to have a kid.

How shallow is that? Why is that my go-to scenario?

I’m sure that’s how society has programmed me, or maybe it’s just that I’m really that shallow. I don’t know.

In reality, that’s only one of a million possibilities as to why someone would consider having an abortion. Perhaps that person was raped. Maybe she was told that having this baby would certainly kill her. It could be that this woman is a single and successful business woman, and the timing isn’t right.

Another confession…

I have to admit that no matter the scenario, I still thought that she should learn to either keep her legs closed or use protection.

I’m sure you can tell that this isn’t a prideful moment for me. These inner thoughts are truly humbling to admit.

How is it the woman’s fault for being raped? I mean, c’mon! Shallow.
How is it her fault if the baby were to have a serious congenital defect? Shallow.
Was she fully aware that having sex this time would cause her to conceive? Shallow.

People have sex, the sperm fertilizes the egg – TADA! She’s pregnant. It happens, and it’s not my place to judge the people involved. It’s my job to love them – unconditionally – regardless of whether or not they’ve had an abortion.

With that said, I will say that my convictions follow a pro-life stance. If a person is considering an abortion, that’s between them and whoever else they choose to be involved in making that decision. If they ask for my input, I’ll give it. That’s the only time I’ll give it. I don’t believe it’s the job of the government or anyone else to get in the way.

The reason I feel this way is because I’ve never had to make this decision. God forbid Lindsey were ever raped or her life threatened by an unborn child. I don’t know how I would react under those circumstances, and I hope I never have to find out. Therefore, I cannot judge someone else by a standard that I can’t measure for myself.

If you’re pregnant, and you’re unsure what to do, please visit with a licensed counselor and your doctor. Find a pregnancy assistance facility that can also give you information or provide you the proper counseling. Those people are hoping that you’ll come to them first.

WIDOWS AND ORPHANS:

“Abortion is murder!” just rolls off the tongue of many (not all) pro-lifers. The Bible just doesn’t really have much to say about abortion even though abortions predate biblical times (source, and here, and here, and here).

There were also widows and orphans in biblical times, and the Bible does mention them. “True religion…is taking care of widows and orphans…”

This is something else that I’ve had to consider when contemplating this series. In my past, it was easy to get swept up in the pro-life message that abortion is wrong. At the same time, caring for the children that would be otherwise orphaned is something that was swept under the rug.

Lindsey and I made it a priority to take our kids to a nursing home once a week last year. We intentionally chose to visit the older folks in the “mentally unstable” ward – folks suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, and the like. Although most of them didn’t remember us from one week to the next, we loved getting to know them. It was so funny to get to hear some of their stories.

That’s a practical and relatively painless way to care for widows.

But when it comes to orphans…

My default (again another humbling moment) is to disengage from the conversation as quickly as possible.

Years ago, Lindsey brought up her desire to adopt.

HELL NO. Just no, and no.

She was devastated by my response, and we even went to a counselor over the issue. I can’t say whether or not choosing not to adopt was the right decision for us, but I have to admit that it’s one that I don’t regret. Not even to this day. I regret how I responded, however, and I think I absolutely could have handled it more delicately. I think there are people that should adopt, and I’m in complete support of them. Each of my siblings has adopted, or are in the process of doing so.

There are people that medically haven’t been able to conceive, had miscarriages, and some that just want another baby. There are also my friends in the LGBTQ community that want kids of their own. That’s great! But to this day, I just haven’t been able to come to terms with it for myself and our family. Is it a heart issue for me? Fear? God’s plan?

Whatever the reason, it doesn’t negate the fact that I know there are other ways for me to care for orphans. But even those topics have been met with a broom head and a dustpan.

I’m going to intentionally end this post here regarding abortions, widows, and orphans. In my following post – Part 3 of this series – I will go into more detail, and into a “call to action,” so to speak, on all of these topics. I’ve put the “disclaimer” at the beginning of each of these posts not only for them individually, but also in preparation for Part 3.

THOUGHTS:

As I’ve been discovering the Jesus model to life, I’ve been challenged to my core on so many different things. Most of what I’m writing is the testimony of my personal convictions after I’ve been challenged in those areas. The purpose in my decision to go public with this testimony is multidimensional.

  1. I have been compelled to tell my story.
  2. I want those on their own journey to have someone to relate their experiences with.
  3. My hope is that those who have been affected, either negatively or positively, by others (or myself) in regard to the given topics, will know that people can change. I’m evidence of that.
  4. I yearn with the depths of my being that the perspective I provide will resonate with others who are like my former self, and inspire change. If not change, I hope it provides light to be shown on a facet that perhaps you haven’t seen before.

I pray that Love will be shown through to you in every post I write.

LGBTQ, Abortions, Widows and Orphans – Part 1

DISCLAIMER:

I know that even just one of the things listed on the title of this post is highly controversial, let alone 4! I’m still in the early stages of figuring out how to voice my thoughts as lovingly as possible, so please continue to bear with me as I get that lined out. With that said, please note that I’m not targeting anyone with this post. Any references to churches or Christians aren’t meant to group all churches or Christians together. There are so many of them getting it right on these issues; I’m simply stating where I stand on these issues. These are my thoughts and convictions. Any insulting, bashing, or dehumanizing comments will be removed.

LGBTQ:

I’ve made it pretty clear that I’m a converted ally and proponent of the LGBTQ community. I was “in the closet” on this issue for nearly two years, but I couldn’t withhold my convictions any longer. This was undoubtedly a shocking revelation to many of my friends and family. Heck, it may be a shock to some that are just now reading this about me!

I believed all of my life that anyone in the LGBTQ community were sinners and destined to spend an eternity in hell. I reluctantly watched a documentary on the subject after the persuasion to do so from Lindsey (my wife). She had watched it a few days before, and it really got her to thinking. Before watching it, she suggested we do so, and my reaction was anything but compliant.

I said, “Why in the hell would I watch something as stupid as that? Do you expect my mind to be even remotely swayed?”

Nevertheless, I relented.

The documentary titled “For The Bible Tells Me So” is available to watch on Netflix. It’s also available to watch at Youtube for $2.99.

When the documentary was over, I sat in silence staring at the screen for a solid minute. I turned to Lindsey and said, “hmm…”

The documentary was far from “stupid,” and it absolutely had my mind doing cartwheels.

Fast forward to where I am today, and I’ve read, watched, listened, and discussed with others about this topic at length! I’ve read books about it, researched the Greek and Hebrew meanings of the words used in the Bible, watched pastors deliver their sermons on the subject via Youtube, listened to lots of pastors, authors, and doctors talk about it, and I’ve had good conversations about it with others. NOTE: I’m not a person that likes to have someone “tickle my ears,” so I’ve sought out opposing arguments on the topic.

The only solid conclusion I could come up with is that there isn’t a solid conclusion to be drawn – at least biblically speaking.

You might be saying “How can you say that there’s not a solid conclusion when the Bible clearly states that ‘homosexuality is an abomination’ ? What about Sodom?” 

I can say that because I did the research. I looked at the terminology used in the respective languages in which it was written, looked at the context, looked at the time and place it was written, and I considered to whom it was written. At the end of the day, I can tell you that the muddy water is muddy. There are good arguments in both directions of what the biblical authors meant, and how the terminology could be translated.

As for Sodom…what about it? It’s not a story about homosexulality. My interpretation of the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is that the cities were destroyed by God because they refused to be anything but abusive to strangers, outcasts, the poor, the sick, and the disadvantaged.

There is that one part where dudes were crying out for Lot to release the angels to them so they could gang rape them – to which Lot’s reply was to offer his virgin daughters (a whole other conversation to be had!). Why would Lot offer his daughters to a group of homosexual men wanting to rape male angels? It doesn’t add up because it’s not a story about homosexuality. Rather, it’s a story about dehumanization.

After digging until I was satisfied, and still was left empty handed, I was left exactly how I began – staring blankly; dumbfounded.

Some may try to paint the picture of Jesus and his response to prostitutes and to the woman at the well, and compare those to how he would respond to homosexuals. That doesn’t work either. Jesus was telling them to “go and sin no more” because their actions were devaluing/objectifying of themselves (again, dehumanization).

LGBTQ people aren’t doing that. The majority of them are normal, everyday people just like you and I. They’re seeking committed, fulfilling, loving, long-term relationships. They’re not engaged in dehumanization; not even the “Ts.”

Transgender people are people. Their gender identity is irrelevant. Treating them as if they’re mentally unstable because they identify as the opposite sex than what they were born is sinful (dehumanizing) – just as it would be sinful (dehumanizing) for them not to be true to themselves by being someone they aren’t on the inside.

The argument can be made all day long that “God made LGBTQ people male and female, and for them to try to be – or be with – someone of the opposite sex is sin.” – You know, the whole “Adam and Steve” thing–but sin according to who? I’ve already pointed out that the terms used biblically can easily be argued in their interpretations, and at best it’s a longshot to try to pin it down with any certainty.

So as a Jesus follower, naturally I decided to line up how I should respond to the LGBTQ community in accordance to his example. When Jesus spent time with outcasts, did he condemn any of them to hell? What about the prostitutes? How about the tax collectors? The poor and homeless?

In every single case, the only response that Jesus gave was one of love – inclusion – acceptance – forgiveness – peace – healing – restoration. The only time he encouraged someone to change their lifestyle was when they were sinning against (dehumanizing) themselves or others, or against God (turning over tables).

As I said, I had to decide how my response to my LGBTQ friends would be – how I could best reflect Jesus.

Friends, may I encourage you to do the same?

Slandering anyone, using derogatory and hateful language, condemnation, abusive behavior, and pointing out what you think is “sin” goes 100% completely against who God is – Love. I’m deeply burdened by the way I practiced all of those things so regularly that it became a part of my daily life. I can only pray that anyone I knew when I acted in such a way will miraculously see this post and forgive me.

To my LGBTQ friends (and their families and friends):

I love you. I accept you for who you are – exactly as you are! Know that the love and complete acceptance of Jesus is yours. He would never ask you to be someone other than who God made you to be. Be true to yourself. Know that there are others like me that haven’t always looked at you as I do now, but there is hope! I’m a perfect example of that hope.

When you need someone to hear you, I’ll be here waiting. If you need someone to talk you off the ledge, call me. If you want my phone number so you can call me, it’s yours. Just ask.

You are beautifully and wonderfully made! God made you that way.

America, The Beautiful

I’ll begin by stating that I am apolitical. I certainly have my beliefs and convictions, but I don’t believe that it’s our job as Christians to “occupy our government.”

PREFACE:

I fear that we may have lost sight of our calling as Jesus followers. It’s the whole reason I started this blog to begin with. I told Lindsey (my wife) before creating this blog that I “feel compelled to write. I don’t know why, and I don’t know how big of an impact I can really make, but I have to try.” As I’ve composed these posts, the reasons become more and more clear.

The early posts were rough – for me and for you. I can assure you that my heart was/is for you, but I came across as a pretentious jerk. I still stand by the meat of those posts, and that’s why I haven’t taken them down or revised them; however, my goal now is to speak that message with a loving voice.

There will still be times I speak with righteous indignation, but it’s not because I’m right and you’re wrong. Rather, it’s because there are areas I see that we are missing the target. Of course it’s not always the collective whole, and that’s where I previously made my error. There are many Jesus followers getting it right.

I’ll do my best to point that out along the way, but I’m not going to stand by and not point out the places where we can make significant improvements. In my public apology, I made the comment, “Don’t opt for the liferaft when you can right the ship.” To that end, and to avoid jumping ship, posts like this one (and others to follow) will be written in an effort to call the Church back from the liferafts.

America, The Beautiful.

I’ll begin by stating that I am apolitical. I certainly have my beliefs and convictions, but I don’t believe that it’s our job as Christians to “occupy our government.” I’m not saying that Christians can’t be employed by the government. Certainly Christian influence should be a part of it, but so should opposing beliefs. Let me explain.

The reason the Founding Fathers established our government the way they did wasn’t for Christians to monopolize our country’s belief system. Quite frankly, it was the exact opposite of that. They knew that a government operating from a religious platform would be dangerous and capable of terrible things. They knew this better than most because they came from such a government.

When government makes decisions based on religious ideals, it ceases to work “for the people.” As much as it may pain you to hear this, President Obama was correct in his assessment of the U.S. Government when he said, “We are no longer a Christian nation – at least not only a Christian nation…” He’s absolutely right, and anyone trying to change that and monopolize our government with one set of religious beliefs or ideals would be going against everything our country was founded upon.

Just as adamantly as Christians remain true to their beliefs, others follow their religious beliefs (or lack thereof) in kind. There is no way that I can logically explain that the way I believe is right, and their way is wrong (nor would I anyway). People have tried for thousands of years, and it’s why war exists today.

War isn’t about the struggle for land, oil, or the expansion of empires – at least not entirely. Generally speaking, wars are fought because one side believes their way to God is correct, while the other side believes they’ve got it all figured out –  the disagreement can’t be settled amicably, so fighting ensues. The refusal to respect fellow human life over a belief system leads to dehumanization (sin) – to death.

The Crusades were based on this belief, as were the Roman rule, the Holocaust, the never-ending war between Israel and their enemies, and even ISIS/IS/ISIL/SIC/Da’ish. Those are just a handful of examples of a history littered with war in the name of God. Let me again point out that they all completely believe(d) that God is/was on their side. There’s no talking them out of it, just as there’s no talking you out of your personal beliefs. I don’t mean that to be taken negatively. Rather, my intention is to point out just how strongly everyone – no matter which side of the aisle they stand – believes the way they do.

I will happily argue against any Christian or other religious group wanting to “take this country (back?) for God” — jumping on liferafts. I understand that what they mean by that isn’t that they want a war; instead they want their idea of morality to reign supreme. I get it. But separation of church and state was instated for a reason.

Peaceable protests are also legal for this reason. If you don’t agree with a decision the government is making, let them know! Call your congress leaders and tell them, start a petition, hold respectful rallies, but don’t do it in the name of God. God can take care of himself. He is Love, and any display parading him otherwise only causes hurt, bullying, fights, hate, and discord. That’s a rather powerless and antagonistic representation of Love.

America simply cannot be a Christian-only nation, and I hope it never is. The day America caves on the issue of separation of church and state is the day we become exactly what we had been liberated from.

The multiculturalism – the melting pot that is America – is what makes it beautiful. It’s the very thing that the Founding Fathers thought of when they spoke of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” It’s what provides us the opportunity to disagree with one another while still allowing for a reciprocating love and respect for the life of each person or group of people to be expressed.

It’s a beautiful thing to honor and respect each person and the beliefs they’ve spent a lifetime cultivating. We all have those liberties. Let’s keep America beautiful.