Rejecting and Reinterpreting

“Oh be careful little eyes what you see… be careful little ears what you hear… be careful little hands what you do… be careful little feet where you go… be careful little mouth what you say… there’s a Father up above and He’s looking down in love… so be careful little eyes what you see…” 

Anyone know that song? It’s Sunday school 101, my boys used to love driving and listening to it. They would cover their eyes and ears and mouth as they sang it and yell “be CARE-ful eyes! be CARE-ful ears!”  Oh my stars how I wish we could still practice that little exercise. The song randomly popped into my head this past week and I was humming it for a good few minutes before I stopped to wonder why I was singing a kid song from years ago. I had been reading some quotes on Instagram from Rachel Held Evans new book and they had me all knotted up. The world we live in today allows for such easy sharing and spreading of ideas. This isn’t a book I would ever buy, but thanks to the glory of the internet and enthusiastic book reviewers, little pieces of it found their way to me. I don’t mind when this happens, I think we need to at least examine ideas we disagree with and know why we believe the things we do. I’ve been focused lately on the unchanging Word of God, the unchanging character of God and what that means to us living in a world that is rapidly changing. Anywho… here’s kind of the crux of her new book:

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“Spiritual maturation”… sounds excellent. “Wholeness” also sounds downright lovely. How do we become mature and whole? Her answer is apparently by downright rejecting or reinterpreting certain Biblical stories that no longer suit our cultural sensitivities. Her writings have a distaste and disdain for God’s word and character that make me question why one would even continue to give this Jesus the time of day. I’m all for critical thinking and asking the hard questions, but reinterpreting the Bible to fit your tastes is backwards. Her insistence that God’s word didn’t quite turn out the way it was meant to is blasphemous. I don’t mean to sound like an old curmudgeon, but the beauty of the Bible is that it is pure and true for all mankind, no strings attached. The obsession with divisions and differences has changed all that:

“By that I mean we’re all actually interpreting the Bible in a context. We’re all bringing our backgrounds, our gender, our socioeconomic status or race. We bring all of that to the Bible, so we’re limited in how much we can really learn from it because of that, unless we deliberately and willingly and joyfully hear what other people have to say. Somebody coming from a minority community is going to read the Bible differently than I am. 

So. Many. Buzzwords. It’s a given that we all come from different backgrounds and experiences. However, it is not correct to assume that because of those differences we all are limited in what we can “learn” from God’s word. The Bible continually reminds us that we must receive before we learn. We receive Christ as a gift. We receive wisdom and truth through the Word and through the Holy Spirit. These are not intellectual pursuits, but spiritual ones. Learning is fantastic but not until you have first received. The same surrender that is required of a servant is also required of a king. You see, her way of studying God’s Word is doomed from the start. It may be interesting to turn stories on their head and reinterpret them, but this is powerless Christianity. In trying so hard to make the Bible relevant, she’s completely neutered it. If that’s what you’re going for, by all means enjoy the study. I am of the opinion that “the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12.

I picture it as a river in which God is upstream from all of us. His love and truth flow downward to us all. There is no discrimination or altering of any of it. We all get washed with the same truth. It may be cold, but it’s pure. That truth is our starting point. Doing it backwards leads to confusion and obsession over the wrong things. Trying to get pure water from our little downstream inlets just doesn’t work.

This stuff is a hit with those who want to be told it’s ok to be blasé about God’s Word. It’s a fun study, but an utterly feelings-based and humanistic one. It’s the kind of thing I feel like my college-self would have been drawn to. It’s artistic and witty with a touch of intellectualism. Before we fully experience the sufficiency of God’s Word and the joy that comes from it, we are eager to find something new and exciting, but it’s akin to getting blood from a turnip. No amount of human creativity can compare to the power that lies in His word. The idea that we can just enjoy all these poems and letters and stories for the distant writings they are is very scholarly, but they put Jesus on the same level as any other historical figure.

The truth of the Word convicts us of our sin and asks us to sacrifice. It frees us from habitual questioning and doubting and guides us into a place of joy and trust. We don’t check our brain at the door or stop asking questions, we simply start from a place of holiness instead of offense at the scriptures. Books like this are rebellion in its purest and sneakiest form. We aren’t called to sit in judgment of the Bible and decide for ourselves. Sliding down the path of least resistance, consuming whatever is tossed out to us is not a path to victory. Little by little, the repetition of the narrative chisels away at our foundations making us shaky and unsure. Park yourself in God’s Word. All of it. Most of these arguments can be refuted with a basic understanding of scripture. God is not a genocidal maniac and Jesus isn’t a mild-mannered pushover who wants us to be nice.

God’s stories are not harmful nor are they as complicated as they are made out to be. We don’t need to do a large-scale sociological study on them simply because they are offensive to our current ideals.

Our experiences are valid, but we are not to be defined by our sin, no matter how much attention it may get us. Start with God. Begin with Him, and let everything else fall into its proper place. True maturity and wholeness come not by picking apart God’s attributes, but by surrendering our offenses and hurts to the One who came and died for us. Freedom is found by narrowing in more and more on Jesus and His Word, so that we become an arrow pointing straight to Him.

-Leading seekers to an abiding relationship with Jesus? Yes.

-Pointing people back to themselves and wallowing in victimhood? Pass.

-Putting out a slick message that embraces rebellion and waters down the necessity of a Savior? Nope.

-Speaking honestly and sincerely about hurts while trusting God’s Word holds the balm we need to be healed? Absolutely, all day long.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

God is upstream to us. That’s our starting point. Don’t let human interpretations muddy your waters and get in the way of your most sacred relationship.

Be careful little eyes what you see.

Joy Is Our Default Setting

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We behaved with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God. 2 Corinthians 1:12

November days can be dreary. The world seems like a foggy and grey place as well. The past few days we find ourselves in a familiar cycle of shock, sadness and general confusion. We dig deep to understand the complexities of the human heart, usually ending up where we started, in our corner with the particular brand of beliefs or anxieties we started with. We start down rabbit holes that don’t have an end, find ourselves in labyrinths that just keep twisting, and notice our questions just lead to more unanswered questions.

We demand to know why evil is allowed to run amok, we fly around trying to figure out how to make it stop… we go through the same motions over and over again. With each awful, heart-shredding event, we bow our heads and repeat the anxious prayers of our hearts with the hope that they will somehow stick.

But this sin. This crazy, from the pit of hell, not real life sin… it has us pinned down. It can be bold and brazen. We see it on the evening news and we die a little inside at the reality of it all. It can also creep up silently and set up shop in our minds and hearts as we navigate a world gone off the rails. We hear people say things like “where is your God now and if He’s so good why does He allow such evil?” After the Texas church slaughter a fancy pants politician quipped “We have priests and rabbis to offer thoughts and prayers” hoping to push us away from such silliness and towards a law that would have prevented this mess. Wrong. I want to write four paragraphs about that quote alone, but just… no.

Those who have never experienced love have a hard time loving. Someone who doesn’t know the truth of prayer mocks it recklessly. Making fun of what you don’t know is weak. So we divide up into our two teams and reload. This is not sustainable behavior.

I don’t have any fancy answers and quite frankly, I’m tired of hearing the cacophony of talking heads on both sides. Sin gripping the heart of man was, is, and always will be the problem. If we know the story of Jesus at all, we know that the law was powerless to make men live right, but what the law couldn’t do, God did do through His Son (Romans 8:3). Change the heart and you change the whole man. Love doesn’t delight in evil but rejoices in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:16). Therefore, we have got to be in the business of being love and speaking the truth friends. Back to the Bible. Back to doing what Jesus instructed when He said “Go and make disciples.” We’ve got to get out of our comfort zones for this. It might get awkward. It might save a life.

So again, I go back to Paul’s reminder: “We behaved with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God.”

Behave and act with simplicity and sincerity. Not sticking our heads in the sand, but not running around like a chicken with it’s head lopped off either. The wisdom of the world is not real wisdom, it is anti-Jesus, anti-love and soul-sucking selfishness. We act by the grace of God. We live by the simple and sincere truths in His word. That’s how we find pops of color in a grey world. That’s how we find joy in tragedy. We aren’t immune to the consequences of sin, but we aren’t ruled by sin either. Joy that runs deep is our default setting dear friends – if you’ve lost it, return to Him in simplicity and sincerity and find it again.

Is Holiness A Turn-Off?

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“As we study the holiness of God, we shall see in increasing clearness  how, like fire, it repels and attracts, how it combines into one His infinite distance and His infinite nearness. But the distance will be that which comes out first and most strongly. The sense of sin, of unfitness for God’s presence, is the groundwork of true knowledge or worship of Him as the Holy One.” Andrew Murray

Remember the story in Exodus 3 where God tells Moses to take off his shoes because where he is standing is holy ground? Moses hides his face in absolute fear, understandably so. We are well aware of our distance, of our unfitness. We feel it through our sin, our selfishness that we can’t always overcome, our flesh when it demands it’s way. It isn’t necessarily a bad place to be, but it does push us into making a decision: does it repel us from God further into our own darkness and hardness or does it bring us low and nearer to Him? God sees Moses’ pain and dilemma and shows him there’s a way out.  The man cries out “I’M NOT” (eloquent, ready, etc.) and God replies  “I AM” (all those things and more).

We are not, but He is.

We are not holy or worthy, but He is. He tells us “Be holy because I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). The Old Testament makes us acutely aware of this distance, our unfitness to draw near, and the New Testament provides our promised savior who came and bridged that gap. If What is in Him, it now also in us. The holiness of God in the ‘old’ leads straight into the love of God in the ‘new’ – but it’s not a one way street. That love should point us right back around to desiring holiness.

We hear about the need these days to just love more. Yes and amen. Our greatest commandment is still to love God and love people. What does that look like? Love doesn’t just pop up as some separate entity or feeling because we want it to, not real love anyway. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We all have the capacity for it, but it’s through Jesus that we are able to actually walk it out.

Be holy because I am holy. Love because I first loved you.

As we draw near the fire, we become holy and we receive the ability to love. Holiness gets a bad rap though sometimes – it means judgment gets reconciled with all that love. We need holiness. Not to go alongside our love, but to give birth to it in a sense, because without it, it’s just fleeting human emotion. Sin has hooked us and the world has guilted us into thinking convictions equal unholy and cruel judgment.  The “no hate”/”all you need is love” campaigns mean nothing without the backing of a Holy God behind them. If those things worked, we’d be living in a pretty wonderful world and we’d have no need for a Savior at all. Jesus came not to improve us, but to give us new life. His holiness gets grafted right into our very being. If we find ourselves empowered by the idea of love that starts and ends with our own awesome abilities, we are missing love the way God intended it to be, the emptiness of it all will eventually come to the surface.

Love flows out of holiness. It’s the source from which all else is made possible. It’s not some extra attribute we strive for like kindness or charity, holiness is the pure character of God where mercy and judgment join together. Sin has so desensitized us that we no longer recognize holiness or even seek it. Love is the idol of the day, it sits separate out on it’s own little island and gets trotted out by Christians and non-believers alike as a kind of argument-ending silencer – who can argue with love? It sounds good. Only a jerk wouldn’t want people to love more. It just doesn’t thrive without holiness as its foundation. When coupled with Christ, that love is tangible and unstoppable. When it is born of our own desires, it’s fragile and fleeting.

As believers, it’s vital we value and receive God’s holiness in our lives. It’s not something we strive after like some pie in the sky behavior chart where God gives us a gold star for good deeds – it happens when we let ourselves be drawn to the holy fire, not repelled by it. We must crave all of Him, the merciful and the holy because that’s who He is.

It repels or it attracts. It hardens or it melts. Don’t ever underestimate the need we all have for repentance and drawing near, even if it is uncomfortable at first. We don’t escape any hardship by pulling away from the heat, but like Moses we come to find out that He does actually hear us and see us:

“I have surely seen the oppression of My people who are in Egypt, and have heart their cry because of their taskmasters, for I know their sorrows… I will certainly be with you.”(Exodus 3:7-8)

Is love the way to holiness? Is holiness the way to love? Is it like the chicken and the egg? Here’s what I know: They don’t exist in a vacuum. God is all-loving AND He’s all-holiness… a contradiction that fits perfectly together when we stop focusing on just one.

Hashtag Campaign Or A Sound Mind?

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I noticed on ‘the Twitter’ today that “world mental health day” is trending. For those less inclined to serious topics, it’s also “national handbag day”, so take your pick. A day for literally everything, because someone started a hashtag. It’s fascinating. I’m all for a mental health day though, the world feels positively apocalyptic lately. The keyboard life-coaches are out in force, giving us tips on loving ourselves, giving ourselves a break, and doing more yoga. (I’m not kidding, I just read a tweet that said veganism and yoga are the way to perfect mental health.) I think bacon is, but whatever. Hashtag #BreakfastMeats…

I’d like to offer up the non-fancy, not-new (but AMAZINGLY EFFECTIVE) idea that all the self-help on the planet and awareness campaigns aren’t going to help chase the demons we all deal with away. Quickie solutions sound good, but why oh why do we need other messed up humans to tell us how to not be messed up?

I’m not making light of needing help. Who doesn’t? We struggle more than ever with fear, anxiety, depression and everything in between. I’m saying, if there ever was a lasting answer, it’s found in God’s word to us, not in some guru’s latest bestseller.

Here’s why: God created us to live with sanity and sound minds. 2 Timothy 1:7 is one of my favorite verses in the whole Bible, it says “God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I struggle with fear. Fear of letting my kids out the door some mornings. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the known. But that fear isn’t from God, its the enemy whispering into my ear to disable me. The world feeds on fear, even if they don’t realize it. Twenty-four hour news cycles, disgusting tv dramas that elevate death and gore to an art form, commercials telling us we’d better get these  pills because new this disease is gonna get us. On and on.

We long for a sound mind but we don’t spend any time at all pursuing one. And we wonder why we are riddled with such manic instability in our culture. Our kids are pressured to compare themselves to everyone else, to be perfect at all times and always win the trophy. Middle schoolers are racked with issues I never even knew about at their age. They are living their lives based on what feels right or doesn’t feel right, and have become lost to the idea that a sound mind settled on Jesus is the rest they long for.

There’s a popular little idea going around that assures us we aren’t really the problem, the messy world we live in is the problem. I see the meme all over and it drives me nuts, takes away my sound mind, you might say. People, sometimes we actually are the problem, as hard as it is to admit that. Our selfishness, our refusal to obey and do our own thing, it gets us into trouble. Jesus takes care of all of that if we let Him. It takes humility, not pride in our abilities. He alone is our mental health solution. He promises us a sound mind, He took the place of all our shame and guilt and made us FREE to move forward in perfect peace.

Please don’t fall for the trendy sayings and feel-good band-aids for such deep issues of the heart. Don’t fall for the lie that you can replace the emptiness with material things or status updates or someone else’s idea of truth. The fact that we are “shocked” when humans we’ve put on a pedestal fail and act as humans baffles me. Friends, we are all human and not one of us has an upper hand when it comes to issues of the heart, unless we’ve handed our lives over to Jesus.

We have a duty to run after holiness, to pursue Jesus the way He pursues us. When our focus is abiding in Him, our mind is set in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3). He keeps us steady, sane, sober and healthy. No shortcuts, no cute hashtags, no useless symbolic awareness campaigns… the living word and Jesus Himself. Anchored and at rest in a world that is tossed to and fro.

A Tribute To My Messed Up Hero

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This week marks the 20th anniversary of the passing of one of my personal ‘giants’ of the faith and great influences, Christian music artist Rich Mullins, who died in a car accident on his way to a benefit concert. If you don’t know who he was, give his music, lyrics and writing a try, I promise you’ll be challenged. I say “challenged” here instead of the usual “you’ll be blessed” for a reason: this guy was different, downright weird at times. His work and life were indeed a blessing to many, but in a way you just don’t see much of anymore.

Raised in a semi-Quaker family in Indiana, Rich attended Bible college and began working in church choirs as a piano player. Seeing the effect music had on teens, he chose to pursue it full-time as a career. His huge break came when Amy Grant recorded his song “Sing Your Praise To The Lord” which, if you ever went to church youth group in the 80’s, you know by heart. By the late 80’s he found himself moving to a Navajo reservation to teach music to kids. When asked if he went there to convert them to Christianity, he said “No. I think I just got tired of a white, evangelical, middle class perspective on God, and I thought I would have more luck finding Christ among the Pagan Navajos. I’m teaching music.” 

I had the chance to see him play at a little Presbyterian church in my city when I was in sixth grade. He arrived barefoot and unkept. He looked homeless, and he often was indeed, living out of a car. He set up only a keyboard on a stand, sang a handful of songs, and I was undone. His lyrics were complicated, they were  deep, some weird, and the songs were like nothing we had ever heard in our Presbyterian hymnbooks. I bought his cassette for five bucks (that’s how we ancients got the lyrics to songs in those days) and memorized everything. I began journaling all the stirred-up feelings those songs invoked in me. The Christian bookstore at the mall started really marketing his “Awesome God” album. I remember it well because I had the t-shirt, poster AND the keychain attached to my DENIM Bible cover (very important in the early 90’s). Nowhere did you every hear or even see Rich Mullins’ name on any of it.

Other artists came and went, but Rich Mullins’ work was the soundtrack to my coming of age all the way up though college. When I went to live in France for a summer, I had recorded his song “Step By Step” off the radio and had it on my Walkman. I literally wore the thing out listening to it every night before bed. I vividly remember crying every time I listened to it, I was homesick for Colorado and God was showing me I was really homesick for bigger things.

What hits me hard this twenty years on is just how much I miss examples of artists like him. The guy had problems, like everyone, and he never tried to sugar coat them with deflection or false feel-good substitutes for Jesus. He questioned and he cried out. He yelled at people. He struggled. There was something in him, however, that never stopped pushing into Jesus, and the more he did that, the smaller he became in his own eyes. God was God and he was man. He had a compassion for the poor and suffering that transcended church walls and a passion for the truth of God’s word that wouldn’t allow him to wander off into his own interpretation of it. What a combination.

It’s that mix of compassion for people and passion for truth that I miss. A lot of our examples today (the loudest ones anyway) are out to promote a mix of Jesus and themselves. They aren’t pointing to Jesus as much as they’re pointing to their version of Him, which is always a weird mix of do-it-yourself, live your own truth humanism. I can’t help but wonder what he would be like in 2017. In a day when we are all huddled in our theological corners, I’d like to think he’d be the guy standing with Jesus AND the hurting. In truth AND love. He said our lives as believers should make nonbelievers question their disbelief and make them thirsty for the truth.

You know how drinking soda makes you more thirsty? That’s how I see a big chunk of American Christianity now, a giant fast-food buffet that’s making everyone more sick and more thirsty, because we’re being pointed to the wrong things.  Platforms over people. A domesticated Jesus. People working backwards from their arguments to the Bible instead of beginning with God. And for what? The masses aren’t being driven to Jesus, they’re being directed to selfish idol worship.  The day you are focused more on a personality than on Jesus is the day you need to reconsider who you are following.

I feel blessed that I had an influence that set the bar high. Rich was no saint, and it’s for that reason I’m forever grateful for his faithfulness and his voice. He was never concerned with relevance, but with reverence. He accepted the mystery of it all, the beauty of not having everything figured out, and quite frankly, he just didn’t care what people thought. Imagine a collection of Jesus-loving truth tellers like that today. I know they exist, and I’m grateful. I just wish the other voices weren’t as loud. His work and writing brings me back to the feet of Jesus and there are few these days who do that. His words make me long to get deep into God’s word. He was not ashamed, and it reminds me to we must not be either. It’s amazing how things have changed in just 20 years. My ‘Awesome God’ t-shirt wouldn’t be as cool in the hallways, it would probably be protested. Rich’s laissez-faire attitude towards marketing and selling music would put him solidly at the bottom of the influencers list. The world says we are narrow. I say we need to get even more narrow. Keep zoning in our sights onto Jesus until the rest is a blur. Jesus + a bunch of other stuff = nothing. He helped teach me that. He showed me we are our most genuine when we are most surrendered. Maybe you have someone whose work has influenced you in this way? I hope we all do. Someone who points you to Jesus is someone worth keeping around.

“The hardest part of being a Christian is surrendering and that is where the real struggle happens. Once we have overcome our own desire to be elevated, our own desire to be recognized, our own desire to be independent and all those things that we value very much because we are Americans and we are part of this American culture. Once we have overcome that struggle then God can use us as a part of His body to accomplish what the body of Christ was left here to accomplish. 

If my life is motivated by my ambition to leave a legacy, what I’ll probably leave as a legacy is ambition. But if my life is motivated by the power of the Spirit in me, if I live with the awareness of the indwelling Christ, if I allow His presence to guide my actions, to guide my motives, those sort of things. That’s the only time I think we really leave a great legacy.” Richard Wayne Mullins

 

 

When Labels and Safe Places Fail

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Photo courtesy CBS news Denver

I wasn’t planning to go there, but I’m here already so I thought I’d offer up some hopefully encouraging and Biblical thoughts for what feels like a world turned upside-down. I mean it when I say what I desire to bring to the table is some clarity in the confusion, some sanity in the madness and some truth in the midst of deceit. I can say that with an honest heart because the words and wisdom aren’t mine, they come from a wiser place than my own head, they come from God and His Word, which is all but abandoned of late. Let’s not abandon ship quite yet.

Do you ever walk away from checking current events and feel like a blinking deer caught in headlights? That was me last night for a lot of reasons. The local news ran a story in honor of Pride weekend about businesses all over the country designating themselves as “Safe Spaces” by placing big rainbow badge stickers in their windows. The idea that “it’s meant to help LGBTQ+ people feel safe year round with decals or signs that designate businesses as safe spots.”  The backstory here being a response to the Orlando nightclub shooting in which the gay community was targeted.

The second article I came across was a listing of the various terms used by the gay community to define their specific ‘identity’. It warned me though, to “be aware that many have been used derogatorily by straight, white, cisgender (defined below!) people”. I guess thats me. I read it through. All the way through. I was informed (or warned) at the end that each of these terms means something different to each person, so learn them but “be careful not to put the burden of your education on other people”. I’m not trying to be snarky, but the message I took from this was one of vast confusion. Understand how the labels are different, but also understand they mean something different to everyone, but also don’t show how privileged you are by misusing said labels. This is a lose-lose situation. I’d never be able to use them correctly much less in a derogatory way.

Before we go totally off the rails thinking I’m on some anti-gay political rant during pride weekend, I assure you I’m not. I’m using two examples that I saw back to back that struck me for various reasons and made my heart, as a Christian (cisgender?!) woman sad. So yes, I speak from a Christian worldview because it’s the only one I believe in.

I speak to fellow Christians who are on their religious high horses to climb down off the merry-go-round of prideful arrogance and come down to eye-level for a minute with the rest of us. The world doesn’t need a religious version of itself, heels dug in so deep and fingers in ears screaming for everyone to hop on board with your cause.

I plead with my fellow Jesus-lovers who are off in some corner someplace sitting silent allowing this culture to pull you along like a puppy on a leash whichever way it pleases while you allow yourselves to be defined and directed by anything but Jesus to snap out of it and armor-up, not in hateful rants, but in truth and love.

Back to the articles. The fascination with the idea of having a ‘safe space’ has run amok, as has the idea that everyone must approve of our ever-changing obsession with labels. Agree with them and understand them or else. Do I believe people are targeted in hate crimes? Yes. Do I think it’s disgusting? Of course. I too would love to walk around the city feeling “safe YEAR ROUND!” but I can’t help but cringe when I read this. A huge reality check is needed here: this isn’t a gay/straight/Christian/non-Christian issue as it’s made out to be. The outrage is hollow and misplaced. This is a sin issue, period. And it never gets addressed. Ever. Instead of looking at the root of that nightclub attack, they are making stickers and writing articles to me about checking my privilege before I dare speak. What caused that attack? A radical, hate-filled individual with evil and sin in his heart. There is no safe space from that, folks no matter how hard we try and designate one. In it’s most raw form, sin tells us we are the center of the universe and to do it our way, to hell with the consequences. Ask Adam and Eve. The world is never going to be a safe space. You can narrow it down to a gay vs. straight issue if you want, but it’s not about that at all. Christians (actual Christians) don’t have it out for gay people. We don’t have it out for anyone actually. We have it out for SIN.

We are called to be sober in a world drunk on selfishness. Called to be vigilant in a culture that has been lulled to sleep by the distractions of social media, youtube and weekend little league. We aren’t the safe space, but we are charged with showing people the ultimate safe space in Jesus. For the unbeliever, the necessity to create a sense of security has lead to this. Instead of seeking out Jesus, we seek to define ourselves (ad nauseum) by something else. For the gay community, it’s with no less than 73 gender identifiers. But before we get too high up on our pedestals, how many do we create? At work? In our social circles? Our suburban bubbles? We label ourselves with what we want people to see: (the Bible study lady! the perfectly crafty mom! the lady who has time to work out! the doting dad!) and we don’t hesitate to label others as we see fit (the gossip! the hot mess! the shallow one! the judgy know it all!) . Just off the top of my head of course… did some of those hit a little too close? Same.

The whole point here: we’re looking all over for an outside solution to an inside problem. Until we address the heart of the issue, the selfish sin that controls us, we are spinning our wheels, putting useless stickers in windows to make ourselves feel like we’re doing something. Labeling ourselves with complicated definitions because we are so desperate to be seen. The safe spaces are going blow over with the slightest wind. The labels are going to shift. So while the world screams “do whatever you want, whenever you want and however you want” the Christian pauses for a moment to understand that’s not freedom. Real freedom is embracing who we are made to be by our Creator and frolicking around in that safest of spaces, His will for our lives. Yes, I said frolicking… because when you know who you are and can rest in it, it’s a frolicking good time. We don’t define it, or let others define us, what a mess we get into when we live out of the desperate need for approval from others. No thanks. Identity from Jesus. Marching orders from Jesus, not culture, not even friends or family.

To those who feel like the blinking deer in headlights, let me say this: fear not. Jesus actually said that, not me. He says it a lot to us. Fear not the frowns and disapproval of the masses. Fear not the upside-down world. Our safe space is impenetrable. Love people enough to speak truth to them. The second we care more about being relevant to culture than reverencing Jesus, we are done for. Pay attention to the loud voices who care more about gaining and keeping followers than they do about sharing the true heart of God, the ones who have decided we need to apologize for Jesus and modify His words in light of some new developments. You all know of whom and what I speak. It’s rampant.

Dear Christians, I genuinely believe we can breathe life into a dead world. Not by using our sharp wits or showing off our perfect little lives, but by suiting up and stepping on the field armed with compassion and truth. That’s it. Be real, and let God do what He does.

We can create false safe spaces and slap labels on ourselves all day long hoping to be liked or validated, and it’s never going to bring us the fulfillment we need. The “loud ones” as I call them are getting louder. I can’t out-dazzle a pride parade, I won’t ever be able to change a complicit media outlet, and I won’t ever have the platform of the current Christian “it-girl”… and that’s a good thing. My safe space is Jesus and no other, my label is simply who He calls me to be. Maybe there’s a remnant of believers out there content with being just that.

Chasing Self Isn’t Brave

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The following Facebook post by writer Lore Wilbert is bold and strong and necessary, like a much needed shot of espresso on a dreary morning. She speaks with grace and conviction. Dear believers, something precious is getting lost in the shuffle of our ridiculous obsession with popular opinion.  We are called to first and foremost to holiness. Does anyone remember that word? God is called “HOLY HOLY HOLY” two times in the scriptures and that’s a big deal. The heavenly hosts repeat it three times. This isn’t a quality that exists in a vacuum, out in space somewhere. It comes to us through God Himself, as we are conformed to His image. There are some very loud voices speaking the name of Jesus and preaching a one-sided gospel. It’s a self-serving gospel devoid of a cross, absent of repentance and absent the chance for true freedom. Jesus does not cheer us on to chase our sin, no matter how “brave” or “authentic” we think we may be. We don’t get to choose our own truths, and I for one, am grateful for that. “You must be holy because I am holy”, Jesus said (1Peter 1:16). When something is made holy, Biblically speaking, it is set aside, consecrated and made pure. It’s not a joyless pursuit, but it does require sacrifice, and death to self. People who ebb and flow with the cultural tides are not brave, they are taking the easy way out.

“If people start talking about “my truth” and “your truth,” look them right in the eyes and love them best by speaking the truth. There’s an awful lot in the world that’s not certain, but there’s an awful lot more that is. So rocky as life may seem, seek & find truth. If Jesus is your Savior/Lord, then the biggest truth is His way is the way to life. All of His ways. Not just ones that fit your narrative.

Listen to me, sisters: I’m not going to try to be subversive or coy about this: right now there are women whose blogs you read and books you love to quote who divorced their husbands for a myriad of reasons and are marrying other women. They’re captivating you with their stories, they’re drawing you into their narratives, they’re snaring you with their joy. Listen to me: it’s a trap. It’s a trap they don’t even know they’re setting and they don’t even know they’ve walked into.
I try not to be too noisy about things like this online, but my heart is breaking in a thousand pieces over the past few weeks as I see the fruit of their pulpits eek its way into my sisters lives.
The way of Jesus is narrow—and full of joy. The word of God is hard—and obedience always is. The help of the Holy Spirit is near—because you will need his comfort.
If you’re confused about any of this, the theology, the choices, the decisions made by these women who might have said and taught some things that have *really helped you* in some ways, or even what I’m saying here, here’s what I think you should do: go to your pastor or an elder, or a woman you know who really loves and cleaves to the word of God with her whole life, and lay all this before them, and ask them their thoughts. I’m not your pastor or teacher. But neither should these popular bloggers and teachers be. God, in His goodness, designed the local church to be able to more effectively shepherd you than any blogger, book-writer, podcaster, or conference teacher can or *should.*
Again, though, flee from anyone who starts talking about their truth or yours. Jesus said in this world we will have trouble, and saying there’s only one truth is exactly why. ” Lore Wilbert

Go forward in love, always. Also go with wisdom and discernment, popular does not always mean correct and the joyful way is narrow. The Church doesn’t need any more self-help gospel, we just need people who cleave to the Word and who are willing to practice what they proclaim.