True Faith Points Us to Love and Freedom, Not Fear

What direction is your faith taking you? As you “grow in faith” do you find yourself taking more and more stands for righteousness? Speaking your mind about what is right and what is wrong? Fighting and winning more battles against bad habits?

Or do you find yourself experiencing more freedom? Becoming less concerned about what is “right and wrong” and more concerned about people? Experiencing less fear of an unseen enemy? Feeling more love and understanding of differing view points?

As our faith deepens and expands as believers what direction will our faith in Christ take us? True faith empowers us with the freedom to do whatever the hell we want. The Apostle Paul is very clear about this in Romans 14.  

I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.”

“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.  One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.”

I’m pointing out something that I think a lot of new Christians DO NOT realize. Your faith, as it grows, will eventually lead you to a place of freedom to partake in whatever you want. It is the believer with the weak conscience and lack of faith who abstains from eating meat sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8).

We are talking about a type of Moral Relativity here. What’s good for me may not be good for you, because your faith is not as strong and tested as mine.

However, you are right to abstain for now:

“But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

Again, my point is this: True Faith will lead us toward love and freedom and away from fear. Those who choose not to partake (in whatever) are afraid that somehow by doing “this” or eating “that” they’ll lose God’s blessing.

In The Beginning

Confusion about abstaining from certain things in our lives usually come from our conversion experience. When many people come to Christ they stop certain habits like drinking, gambling, smoking, cursing, etc. Sometimes they are convicted to give up certain pursuits they feel convicted were fueled by intense selfishness. Like a friend of mine who gave up songwriting when he got saved because it was an obsession for him that damaged his relationships with others.

God will help you grow beyond those things. The last things he wants is for people to think that the act of quitting smoking and drinking is what defines their Christian Faith. The reason you felt compelled to quit is because you were using these substances as a sort of Idol or God substitute. But don’t think for a second that EVERYONE who smokes or drinks is worshiping another god. On the contrary! Many of us use alcohol as a means of celebrating the life God gave us.

It is easy to see why many well meaning Christians think of abstaining as a good thing. It seems like the “right” thing to do. “God helped me quit drinking when I got saved, now I’m going to find other things to stop doing to prove how much of a Christian I really am. I don’t want the devil to get me.”

But guess what?! The Devil did get you as soon as you began to believe that the object of the Christian Faith is to abstain from shit!

Faith, Dear Baby Christians, will lead you toward freedom and selfless love not self-inflicted bondage. Faith in Christ allows us to get over ourselves and frees us to focus our energy on others. Jesus taught us that pure religion IS clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, helping widows and orphans, NOT avoiding the needy for fear of associating with “sinners.”

What if we went out into the world armed with the knowledge that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ?

What if we believed that every good gift comes from God?

What if, like Paul, we were “convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself”?

Imagine how these truths could change the way we interact with the world and others. We are not afraid of sin rubbing off on us. We are not going to judge someone who has different convictions as we do.

So what direction is your faith taking you? I pray we all continue in our pursuit of love.

Fear has no place in love and therefore no place in Christianity.

Standard

Maintaining Personal Morality and Other Useless Distractions to the Christian Faith

Is the focus of the Christian life really supposed to be personal morality? Will God be pleased with our lives here on earth if we can just somehow manage to obey the Ten Commandments most of the time? Do we really think that Jesus died to buy us a “clean slate” and it is simply our duty to keep it clean? Is the Christian experience supposed to be all about self maintenance?

Imagine this, your favorite rich uncle buys you a brand new car. Maybe a Lincoln if your uncle happens to be Matthew McConaughey, or maybe a Buick if your uncle is Tiger Woods. You are totally blown away. You don’t deserve this. You have a hard time accepting it, but because you are so desperate for transportation you accept the gift.

Though you are grateful, you really feel like you owe your Uncle something in return. There has got to be a way to pay him back. But he’s so well off, you know it’s foolish to even ask. But you do anyway.

What he tells you next is almost completely unbelievable. He says the way you can “repay” his gift is by taking immaculate care of the car. In fact, he says he added you to his will and as long as the car remains in perfect condition, when he dies, you will receive more money than you can possibly know what to do with. You will live happily thereafter. The End.

You are, once again, floored by his generosity. You can’t believe it! “All I have to do is take care of this brand new Lincoln SUV and I’ll be set for the rest of my life!”

Cut to you in the driver’s seat of your Lincoln. You are cruising down a long stretch of two lane highway. Road as far as your eye can see. A pensive look on your face as you slowly rub your thumb and forefinger together lost in deep thought and the natural hypnotism of the road behind and ahead.

You begin thinking about the challenge and potential reward of your uncle’s charge to maintain your new car.

First thought: I shouldn’t take any chances. I should just park this car in the garage and never drive it again.

Counter thought: I don’t have a choice. I have to drive it. I can’t afford another car. Plus my uncle will notice if I’m not driving it. He may be offended and take me out of his will.

Conclusion to First Thought: I must drive the car, there’s no way around it.

Second Thought: I have no idea how long my uncle will live. He’s only about 10 years past his prime, is super healthy and maintains a low stress lifestyle.

Third Thought: If I must use the car, I’ll just be super careful and only drive it when I absolutely have too. I may have to alter my lifestyle a little bit, but it will be completely worth it because I’ll get my reward when my uncle dies.

So after the encounter with the bull in the middle of the road, you turn around and head home. You drive past a guy hitch hiking with a gas can. You feel bad for not giving him a ride, but you can’t risk him soiling the upholstery in your new car.

Fast forward 10 years:

Good news is the car is in great shape. There was that one fender bender but it wasn’t your fault and the insurance company paid to fix it.

Bad news is your life and relationships are in horrible shape. Not only do you feel completely justified not picking up dirty hitch hikers, you don’t want to risk giving your friends rides either. You say no to road trips. You say no to hanging out with friends you haven’t seen in years. You say no to picking up family members from the airport.

You even had to miss your cousin’s wedding because it interfered with the car’s maintenance schedule. You have other cousins, but there is only one Golden Calf in your life.

But worse than your adopted anti-social behavior is your lack of drive and ambition to do any thing with your life. “Why should I take risks and bust my butt when I know I’ve got my uncle’s money to look forward to?” You say no to the better job across town because it’ll just put more miles on your prized cash cow of a car.

Morality Maintenance

Am I trying to revive the Twilight Zone here, or is there a deeper meaning?

The deeper meaning is that I think I just wrote the perfect metaphor for my life. Maybe it resonates with you too.

Why are Christians more interested in maintaining their personal morality than they are in helping others?

Ken Wytsma, pastor and author of The Grand Paradox, points out that the word “righteousness” in the New Testament can just as easily be translated as “justice.”

The verse we all latch onto so strongly, “Seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” takes a different meaning if we switch “righteousness” with “justice.”

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and his justice, and all these thing will be added to you.”

All of a sudden the admonition stops being about me, me, me, and becomes about others, others, others.

All of a sudden The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” demonstrates God’s will for our lives.

Jesus’ parable of “The Good Samaritan” becomes a cautionary tale of what happens when we are too “righteous” to be of any practical use to others.

And all of a sudden we realize the emphasis Jesus placed on advocating for the poor and needy. Feeding the hungry. Caring for the sick. Taking care of the widows and orphans. Clothing the naked.

Could it be that True Christianity is really more about social justice and equality than personal morality?

If right standing was awarded us by virtue of Christ’s sacrifice, why do we insist on living in fear of losing it instead of using it as a platform to advocate for others?

When we factor Love into the equation I think we all agree we need to be the Samaritan and not the Self-Righteous egotist.

If the objective is just to keep myself “unstained by the world” I can park myself in a garage somewhere, like a celibate monk in a Tibetan monastery. But that sounds too much like burying my “talents” in the dirt. That would be playing it too safe. The Master would call me a wicked servant for living in fear and not out of love and faith.

Do you believe that Christ’s righteousness was applied to you?

Then prove it by getting over yourself and advocating for God’s Kingdom of Love, Justice, and Equality for all.

Again, could it be that True Christianity is really more about social justice and equality than personal morality?

Maybe the Christian voice in American Politics should be more about “Liberty and Justice for all” and less about Abortion and Gay bashing.

When Jesus was here doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven, what is it that he was doing?

Raising up the Poor in Spirt and bringing low the Proud.

The reason Christianity really started to spread like wild fire in the first couple centuries A.D. is because it resonated with slaves and with women. The people that governments and other religions didn’t regard as equal.

The Apostle Paul lit a fire when we penned these words: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, Slave or free, male or female. We are all one in Christ.”

Christianity at it’s foundation is about Equality. We are all equal to each other, because we are all equal with God.

The World’s System is all about raising up some at the expense of others. We are all taught our place and dare not act or speak above our station.

Again, why are Christians more interested in maintaining their personal morality than they are in helping others?

The metaphor explains it all.

Standard

American Football is like a Bad Religion

Watching Russell Wilson execute a bad play at the end of the Super Bowl, found myself kinda freak on him, “What was he thinking?!” But then I quickly realized, he’s not the one calling the shots. He was just being an obedient, subservient pawn of the true masters of the field.

I coach a soccer team for my two oldest sons. Obviously, young kids just starting out in any endeavor need a lot of coaching and instruction, but I’ve noticed during the game, when I bark orders from the sideline in the middle of play it distracts them. Ultimately they have to be making all the decisions for themselves while on the pitch. They need their eyes up constantly scanning the field looking for a teammate they can pass to.

If I am yelling orders at them at those crucial moments so that they have to look at me instead of upfield, I’ve taken their brain and focus out of “the zone.” It’s going to take them a couple seconds to process what I’m saying and refocus.

I’m doing my players a huge disservice if I train them to listen for my voice instead of listening to the instincts of their own inner voice.

Japanese scientists decided to measure the brain activity of Spanish La Liga Soccer Star, Neymar while he was playing the Beautiful Game. What they found is all kinds of fascinating. Neymar uses only 10 percent of the brain activity that other amateur players do. Brilliance at that level is not a product of conscious thought.

I also believe that these spontaneous and creative thoughts are born out of positivity, so if I’m going to yell anything from the sideline as a coach, it’s going to be praise. Praise being the fuel of creativity and confidence.

Too Much Conscious Brain Activity

American Football has so many rules even the referees can’t keep up with them. In the Super Bowl, there should have been a 15 yard penalty awarded because a player inadvertently made contact with the punter’s “plant” leg. I guess it’s different if the contact is with the kicking leg.

In the words of the immortal Charlie Brown, “Good grief.”

Rules are learned and processed by the conscious mind.

Bad Religion tells me if I memorize the “play book” and stay “spiritually fit” and do whatever the “coaches” tell me to do, and come to all the “practices” I’ll do well and be rewarded by the Owner of the team and his Head Coach.

But what’s the truth about doing well in this life and making an impact? Are the one’s who dutifully plug themselves into the system the ones who make the biggest impact? Or is it those who discover their own unique perspective can change the world?

Most of the biggest contributions to our world’s success and progress where given by those who didn’t plug themselves into a system. They had to trust their own inner voices and go against all the conventional wisdom of their time.

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t a product of public education. Neither was Thomas Edison.

Martin Luther dared to step outside the teachings of the Vatican and read the Scripture for himself.

President William McKinley is known for being a pawn of J.D. Rockafeller and J.P. Morgan.  His successor, Theodore Roosevelt, is known for breaking the mould and putting an end to harmful business practices. Challenging the biggest “System” of his day.

Jesus of Nazareth challenged the religious system. He spoke of a way to make peace with God that couldn’t be controlled by the Powerful Elite. They killed him for it.

One Play Left

Right now, in my personal life I feel like I’m the quarterback. Time is running out. My energy level is running low. I’m listening for the call from the coach, but nothing is coming through my ear piece. The play clock is running down, I’ve got to make a decision, but I don’t know how. I haven’t been trained to think and plan for myself.

I’m frozen. I’m scanning the playbook strapped to my arm, but nothing seems right. I hear the voices of my fellow teammates calling out conflicting advice. I can even detect voices from the crowd offering up play options.

“Go with your gut.” Comes a thought out of nowhere followed by a scene flashing through my mind of what could be the winning play. I get a sense of peace and a sudden surge of confidence. A smile breaks across my face.

In this moment, I’m not thinking about the rules of the game. I’m not hearing the outside voices. I’m just seeing possibility and for some unexplained reason, I believe in it. It’s like a peace has come over me that defies explanation.

“Blue 52! Blue 52!” The ball is snapped. The play is in motion. I fake a half-step left, then break right. I pump my arm faking a throw, then release.

Time is frozen. In that moment, the result doesn’t matter. The fact that I just experienced a creative flash; that my subconscious just connected to a Higher Infinite Intelligence, somehow seems to outweigh the outcome of just one throw of the ball.

I have just experienced the potential for a new guidance system for my life. Everything pales in comparison.

Captain of F. U.

I am at a huge crossroads in my personal life. There is no right or wrong for my life. There is only the pursuit of happiness.

There are no coaches or playbooks. There is only my own subjective dreams and desires and those of my wife.

I’ve wasted too much time waiting for the Coach to tell me what to do. If anything is going to happen, I’m going to have to make it happen.

But in order to make anything significant happen, I’m going to have to find a way to tap into that inner voice. I must begin to play the game, turn off my conscious brain, and trust in the Spirit I have inside me.

It is time, once and for all, to silence the outside voices and the inside fears and just be who the hell I am. I have nothing more to offer anyone than who I am right now.

Back to the Superbowl

Patriots Rookie, Malcolm Butler intercepted the last toss by Russell Wilson to effectively win the game for his team. When interviewed after the game a very emotional Butler told reporters, “I just had a vision that I would make a big play. It’s hard to explain.”

Malcolm Butler had an unexplainable flash of brilliance. If you watch the way he came in, it does almost look like he knew where the ball was going to be.

I pray that Malcolm continues to listen to his inner voice and ignores the coaches who will inevitably try to take credit for his performance.

As for me, I know my battle is to accept myself for who I am. To be my own weird self. Even if I never find my place in this world.

Some of us can discover ourselves under the tuteledge of the System, learning to “play the game.” Some of us feel compelled to silence the other voices in order to find our own.

After all, Russell, when you leave the NFL you’re not going to have an ear piece telling you what to do. You’re going to have to call your own plays and live with the consequences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Standard

What does Bill Gothard have in common with Hugh Hefner?

What does the business man shaking hands on a million dollar deal have in common with the preacher delivering the sermon of his life to a capacity crowd?

What does the Hollywood socialite posing for the paparazzi have in common with the homeschool mom sans make-up in her frumpy jumper?

What does the “chaste” and unmarried Christian leader living a humble lifestyle alone have in common with Hugh Hefner living a lavish lifestyle surrounded by beautiful women?

We are all born into an insidious and mostly undetected lie that almost single handedly drives this world. Not only does it inform the majority of our interactions, the vast majority of us, Christians or Non, are unwittingly enslaved to it’s incredible power. This force is a secret enemy of love, joy, peace and everything we would agree is good and pure.

The Lie tells us that acquiring and adding valuable things to our lives makes us more valuable than others. “Things” can be material goods and wealth, like land, money, or cars or it can be intangibles like titles, positions, fame, or power and influence.

This Worldly System of Value creates a lust for superiority over others. No two things feed this lust quite like Wealth and Religion.

This worldly value system allows us to artificially inflate or deflate the value of ourselves and others with ease based on comparison, envy, jealousy and pride. It is a system of thinking when coupled with our human insecurity can cause us to act against each other in horrific ways.

This lie is a double edged sword which, with an upswing, can inflate your ego and make you feel on the top of the world only to knock you off your high horse and send you into a tail-spin of inferiority. A man with $100 in his pocket will feel quite proud and superior as he walks through a back alley of homelessness, but send the same man to the Old Money Private Golf Club in the Hamptons and he’d feel like an impoverished chump.

The tragic thing about buying into this False and Worldly System of Value is that the only way to gauge your progress is to compare yourself to others. Those ahead of you in the game earn your respect and admiration, which can seem almost like worship at times. Those beneath you in the game earn your condescension and pity which can seem like self-worship at times.

Another tragic thing is we become foolish slaves to whoever is the measure of value. You can feel rich and superior carrying around a hand-bag that cost $2000, but since it only cost $5 to make I’d say what you really bought was a lie. Boy, that Louis Vuiton sure knows how to capitalize on False Value.

False Value. Think about the currency we slave and sweat and kill for. It’s not backed by anything of real value.

Not only is this value system alive and well in the Christian church, it is fostered and encouraged by pastors and so-called “Christian Leaders.” We’ll see later where the Apostle Paul claims all the man-made rules in the Church “are of no value…”

Let’s be real here. Having thousands of followers is just as important to Christian leaders as it is to Rock Stars and World Leaders and Media Hog Socialites. Having followers is having power. It’s this power struggle that drives religion and is responsible for an attitude of Moral Superiority which has spurred wars and killings in the name of Christ for centuries. Think “Pharisees.”

The religious among us have just traded what we perceive as the world’s system of value based on earthly possessions for another system that promises us value based on piety and morality. Are we merely trading one worldly system for another?

The evil nature of this Worldly System of Value can not be overstated. We are talking about a point of view which informs almost everything we do, every decision we make, and is the real cause of murder, genocide, hatred, rage, pride, racism, jealousy, slander and everything evil.

So, what do they have in common?

Motivated by their own human insecurities, all of the above characters are tempted to believe they are superior to others.

The preacher can feel “spiritually” superior to those in his congregation because, after all, HE was the one who devoted his life to doing “God’s work.”

The business man can feel superior because he just bought a new Mercedes-Benz with his bonus check, while his neighbor drives a 10 year old Honda.

The Hollywood starlet knows she’s superior to most other women because…..duh, who are the photographers chasing?

The homeschool mom convinces herself she’s superior to other moms because they send their kids off to public school and spend all their time getting their nails and hair done and working out at the gym, and…duh, beauty and fitness are just “worldly” vanities.

The unmarried Christian leader builds a whole system of moral superiority teaching his followers that if they live life to a higher standard than common church goers, God will bless them by helping them avoid unnecessary suffering that most stupid humans suffer. I guess it’s the same as believing we can build a tower to the heavens. But after the Bill Gothard scandal, it’s plain to see he believed himself higher than his own rules.

I imagine Hugh Hefner is probably pleased with himself building a successful business which makes the most beautiful women in the world want his approval.

(Side note: The unmarried Christian leader also surounds himself with beautiful women who want his approval. Bill Gothard and Hugh Hefner are really not as different as we are supposed to think.)

This “better than” attitude which comparison fosters is an incredibly poisonous and dangerous mentality. It is responsible for atrocities and destruction throughout history. See what happens when we, as human beings, allow ourselves through the worldly system of value to feel superior to others:

Look at the Islamic State Militants. They think their religion is better than all other religions and their proposed form of government is better, so they massacre any person or people group that gets in their way. They compare themselves, make a value judgement and kill those who don’t agree.

Look at racism. Comparing ourselves to each other by skin and culture. We are so insecure we must be convinced our skin color and our culture is the best.

Slavery, for God sakes.

Look at Hitler. Trying to create a whole nation and race of “superior” people. Anyone who won’t fit in or can’t fit in is inferior and a threat to a new approach to life.

All of the above are examples of how this wrong thinking not only divides us, but also causes us to attack each other. Maybe it’s like what happens in nuclear fission. Maybe mankind is really meant to live in harmony, but as we are split apart it causes a catastrophic chain of devastation.

Beware of those who wear their Wealth on their sleeves “to be seen by men,” but also beware of those who wear their Religion on their sleeves “to be seen by men.”

My Dad is Bigger than your Dad

Why are we so eager to inflate our own value while deflating the value of others? Why do we insist on perpetuating the old playground “pissing contests” of “my dad is bigger than your dad?”

We are all insecure.

We attempt to answer our insecurity and need for identity in different ways. Religion, money, status, and social clubs are devices we use to feel good about ourselves. The peer pressure of high school never really dies. We just choose the group we would like to fit into and act and dress and talk accordingly. We feel more secure if we are accepted by a group of people.

The Social Club of Christianity can just as easily foster this worldly system of value as any other slice of human social order. To be a member in good standing there are codes of conduct you must follow. For a lot of well meaning people, a materialistic worldview of keeping up the the Joneses is simply replaced by keeping up with the good folks at the local church. Instead of how many exotic vacations you can afford, maybe you’re more concerned with how many overseas missions trips you’ve taken.

Do you want to feel significant? Join a denomination who claims to have the secret of eternal life. Want to feel even more significant than that? Join a smaller sect of people who live in a gated compound and believe only THEY truly understand God’s secret commands and anyone who lives outside the gate is going to hell.

It makes you feel significant to think what you believe is right and what others believe is wrong. It makes you feel superior. Feeling superior feels good. Being full of pride in yourself and your special club feels good.

Not of this World

Worldly. What does that word mean to you? I grew up in church. To me it refers to people who engage in “sinful” things like sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. “Worldly” has always been a bad word to me.

If I were to ask you to decide which of the cast of characters I introduced are worldly, who would you choose? Probably the Successful Business Man, The Hollywood Socialite, and Hugh Hefner, right? If you grew up a homeschooler, like me, you’d throw the Public School Moms in there too.

(Side note: My sons currently attend public school.)

It may surprise you to know the Apostle Paul had a very different idea of worldliness, and it’s not at all what I was taught to believe it meant. For instance, if someone told me about a person who attended church, but was very “worldly,” I would have some specific assumptions about that person. I would think they probably listen to secular music, they probably watch R rated movies, they probably consume alcohol and/or tobacco. They probably also have tattoos.  They probably use swear words. Maybe in Paul’s day the guy who ate the meat sacrificed to idols would have been considered “worldly” by the pious.

So Paul, enlighten us. What is worldliness?

“Brothers and sisters, I could not address you as people who live by the Spirit but as people who are still worldly—mere infants in Christ. 2 I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. 3 You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? 4 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere human beings?” (1 Corinthians 3:1-4, emphasis mine).

So worldliness has more to do with jealousy and quarreling than enjoying a glass of wine.

Why are they jealous? The unspoken truth in most churches is that the people on the stage are more important than the people quietly serving in the back. We compare ourselves among ourselves. Plenty of fuel for jealousy. (Check out Paul’s warning in 2 Corinthians 10:12).

Why are they quarreling? They’re arguing about who is right and who is wrong. About which human being they should follow. Paul or Apollos? Who has the truth and who doesn’t. According to Paul, this is the epitome of worldliness.

It’s worldly to think that someone has it “all figured out.” “If I just do what they do, or follow their teachings I’ll be doing the right thing too.”

Comparing yourself to others is worldly. Measuring your success based on the perceived success of others is worldly.

Believing that a church leader can figure out God’s plan for your life is worldly. Setting up a new system or denomination or organization and selling it as “a better way” is worldly.

The Corinthians were trying to personify the Spirit of Truth by finding which human being God had given the greatest measure. We can’t understand how Worldly this line of thinking is until we accept that under the New Covenant, God has distributed his Spirit to each of us. We collectively are the temple of God. If you want to walk in the Spirit you are going to have to acknowledge this new spiritual reality.

If it is true that we have been given the Spirit of God collectively, choosing a leader is like trading your birthright for a bowl of stew. It’s like asking for a king in order to be “like all the other nations” while rejecting God as King. It’s like sending Moses up the Mount because we are too afraid to encounter God for ourselves. It’s like building an idol or “high place” to worship when God said, “Don’t make any graven images.”

Setting up one person in the church to be more important than others is worldly.

So according to Paul, what would be the simplest proof that the modern, mainstream Christian church is full of this Worldly System of Value? Baptist, Charismatic, Lutheran, Episcopal, Southern Baptist, Primitive Baptist, Reformed Baptist, Foursquare, Pentacostal, Assembly of God, Church of Christ, Catholic, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, Non-Denominational, etcetera, ad nauseum.

All these denominations are a product of worldly jealousy and quarreling. “We have the Spirit of Truth and you do not.”

Just Plain Worldly

We can replace the phrase “Worldly System of Value” with just the one word: Worldliness. It’s the Looking Glass we humans use that makes us feel superior or inferior to other humans based on status, perceived successes, accumulation of money or titles or degrees or time in the pulpit, or who has the most followers on twitter, or who has more number one hits on the radio. Or who waited to till their wedding day to share their first kiss.

We have an insatiably egotistical need to inflate our own value, even if it means we must deflate the value of someone else. When we look at others through the Looking Glass of Worldliness, we are automatically, subconsciously lead to decipher their value according to how well they line up with what we believe is right and wrong. Our ideas of right and wrong are just a measuring stick to judge other people.

So, Worldliness is fueled by insecurity. We all want to feel significant and secure. The easiest way to accomplish this is compare yourself to others. Put others down and you feel elevated.

Hi, My Name is Kris, I’m a Church-aholic

Dean Sherman, a popular speaker with YWAM (Youth with a Mission), put it best when he said it’s not what you have or don’t have that’s important. It’s whether or not you need to have it in order to be a “Somebody.” If you find your ego inflated by living in a big house, maybe it’s become too much part of your identity. He describes this phenomena as “The Spirit of the World;” a false system of value.

So ask yourself, is your faith and religion based on outpacing others? Do you feel good about yourself because you pray more than others? Do you read your Bible more? Do you volunteer more of your time to charity? Do you deny yourself pleasures because it makes you feel more holy? Have you made your place amongst a group of people you consider superior to others? Do you belong to a church of people who are better at all of the above than the church down the street? Do you homeschool your kids?

Do you think you’re better than your neighbor who drinks beer because you “never touch the stuff”? What about your Diet Coke habit? Is it really that different?

There was a time in my life where I would have answered “yes” to all those questions. I answered my need to be a “Somebody” with my performance as a Super-Christian. It’s surreal to look back and have to admit that all those years I thought I was being spiritual, I was actually steeped in a worldly system of valuing myself and my beliefs above others. I was extremely worldly in my thinking. I was a Pharisee.

Worldly Point of View

Paul, in 2 Corinthians 5:

16 “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view.”

What is this worldly point of view he’s referring too? Look a few verses back at 12:

“those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.”

I can say that the Successful Business Man is worldly because he has a big house and fancy cars. “He has more than he needs. So, I’m going to drive an old car and live in an old house to prove I’m more holy.” Do you see what I’ve just done? I’ve used the flip side of the same device to distinguish myself. He thinks he’s better because he has more. I think I’m better because I have less. It’s the same worldly attitude of comparison and judgement.

So who is better? The guy who has more or the guy who can live with less? Neither.

Those of us who have rejected materialism think we are free from the Spirit of the World. We are so wrong. We have found other things of value to add to our trophy room of superiority.

Perhaps the best picture of this “worldly point of view” is described in the first four verses of James Chapter 2. This is what it looks like to judge others from a worldly point of view and the example is inside the church:

“My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism. 2 For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, 3 and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” 4 have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?”

Showing favoritism and partiality to the wealthy, famous, and or successful people is evil. More than that, it demonstrates a lack of understanding of the Gospel of Grace.

Oh, and just to reiterate that last point James says (verse 9): “…if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”

Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll is the least of our worries, people. There is a whole lot more serious and repulsive kind of sinning going on in churches all over the world.

The Last is Certainly Not the Least

What does Jesus have to say about this worldly system of value?

He totally flipped it on its head.

“….whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—” (Matt. 20; 26-27).

“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

Jesus’ followers asked him, “Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” He presented a child to them and said, “unless you become like this child you will not even enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 13:2-3).

25 Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. 26 But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27 …I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22).

He told the Rich Young Ruler “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

“Ka-Boom!”

That’s the sound of Jesus blowing up the Worldly System of Value.  This is what he is setting us free from. He is vehemently opposed to it; it is the antithesis of his nature, the nature of love and generosity.

Boy, did he hate the Pharisees. They were definitely ones to “take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.” They blow their trumpets on the street corners to announce their “righteous” deeds.

In Jesus’ economy it was the one cent gift of the poor widow that was the greatest. Not the thousands given by the rich man out of his surplus.

Do you think Christ was trying to free us from sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll? If only we were more moral? Does abstaining from immoral behavior really make you holy?

Immorality is a symptom. We add sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll to our lives when we feel disconnected. The False System keeps us from connecting with each other. What keeps us from having loving relationships with each other? We’re too busy judging each other and avoiding each other.

I judge you based on what I see, then you judge me for judging you. I’m not even going to try befriending that guy, because I know he’s going to judge me.

Worldliness is the Enemy of Love.

Are you ready for the Truth to Set you Free? 

So what does it look like when people in the church are operating with this false system of value?

It looks just like it does out in the world. It is pressure to conform to a system of living. “You’re of no value to us unless you do A, B, and C, and have the biggest and best X, Y, and Z.”

It looks like putting people on a pedestal and selling them as holy because they abstain from this, that and the other thing.

It looks like the preacher who tells his congregation if they want to thrive in God’s Kingdom they have to come to church three times a week.

It looks like telling women they can only wear skirts and can’t wear make up.

It looks like telling people if they only live a moral life, and read their Bible everyday, God will magically bless them.

If you’re like me, you’ve encountered this worldly, false system of value in the Church and have been damaged by it. I’m writing this for you and me.  Just like Jesus throwing the money changers out of the Temple, I want to see this “wolf in sheeps clothing” eradicated from the Church.

I want to encourage kids like me who grew up in church and feel like they were sold a bundle of lies.

In Colossions Chapter 2…..

Let me just step back for a second. I know when scripture is presented to a lot of us Church Babies our eyes start glazing over. I stopped going to church a long time ago because I don’t need anyone else telling me what the Bible says.

I understand how you feel, but these words from Paul I’m about to quote are the equivalent of a big “Fuck You!” to all the worldly judgmental church leaders who have ever made you feel bad.

Just clear your mind and read this with your middle finger held high:

“16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. 18 Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.

Here’s the kicker…

20 Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: 21 ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’?22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.”

All these rules and social pressures we are presented with in the name of God are worldly and are of no value in the pursuit of righteousness.

Holy $h!+! Did you even realize these words were in the Bible? The same flipping Bible that has been beat over your head over and over?! Read it again, and again, until you feel the Truth of this breaking the chains of condemnation and defeat.

Do you realize Paul, in a few paragraphs, armed with the true knowledge of Christ’s mission, has just freed you from the clutches of Bill Gothard and all the other worldly Bible teachers?!

This calls for a celebration, Jesus style! Imagine in your mind right now all the judgmental bull shit you’ve suffered in the church and envision yourself, in a fit of rage, overturning all the tables and lies and condemnation and rules and shame. Scream from the top of your lungs obscenities and break something in your mind right now!!! (Hell, break a plate or something while you’re at it).

Did you catch that? Paul is calling out all those people who brag about their “spiritual” encounters and their quiet times, and hearing from God and calling them “unspiritual.” Bragging is worldly. It’s an attempt to inflate their value and make others feel lesser than.

Conclusion

So what have we learned today?

The Mainstream Christian System is fueled by evil motives. Are you surprised? The devil masquerades as an angel of light.

True freedom is freedom from this False System of Value. Maybe the hippies were on to something.

We have been completely misled about what it means to follow Christ and not be “worldly.” How can Bible Teachers read Colossians 2 and still insist on making rules for us?! It is unbelievable to me!

If you’re trying to follow Christ you need to realize he is trying to lead you past all the worldly religious and materialist bullshit and free you to live your life the way you want. He wants you to be free to be who he created you to be.

Jesus hung out with people the religious leaders called “sinners.” But he hated the pious Pharisees who made “righteousness” a public performance while hiding their evil motives. “White-washed tombs full of dead man’s bones.”

Evil looks a lot more like Bill Gothard and maybe less like Hugh Hefner.

Ask yourself one question, “Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules?” The worldly system is always trying to enslave you.

We are free. It’s up to us to stop submitting ourselves to the rules and teaching of other humans who are slaves to worldly thinking. Not to mention all the materialistic crap. Do you really think you’re not as valuable because you don’t have as much money as your neighbor? I want to stop thinking stupid thoughts like that, don’t you?

We need to be enlightened enough to stop taking “pride in what is seen rather than what is in the heart.”

Do you want to claw your way to top of the World’s pile of shit? Or would you rather just soar above it?

You have the Spirit of God. You are Holy. You transcend the World and it’s False System of Value.

I am Holy. I transcend the world and it’s False System of Value.

We are Holy. We transcend the world and it’s False System of Value.

Together we are Holy. Together we transcend the world and it’s False System of Value.

There is one simple way that we can think about each other which has already begun revolutionizing the world:

We believe that “…all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights…” That cuts right through the heart of the False System of Value. Our value comes from God.

So what do Bill Gothard and Hugh Hefner have in common? They both need to learn to take pride in the things of the heart and not in the things that can be seen.

Have you worked hard and got your picture in Bill’s newsletter? Have you worked hard and earned a centerfold in Hugh’s magazine? It means nothing. Why do you need their approval when you already have God’s?

 

Standard

Robin Williams, Depression, and my own suicidal thoughts

Robin Williams’ death has us all discussing depression and suicide. We’ve all heard that depression was likely a contributing factor to Robin Williams’ death. We’ve heard he apparently took his own life. I’m writing this because I have dealt with a lot of depression throughout my 37 years and I’m coming to realize I’ve dealt with it in the wrong way.

What we should be discussing is health and wellness.

I just finished reading Matt Walsh’s take on Robin Williams death (http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/08/12/robin-williams-didnt-die-disease-died-choice/). Let me first say, if Matt Walsh is a representative of Christ, and you call yourself a Christian, you should seriously consider a new religion. Anyone who touts truth as the highest ideal is not a follower of Christ. The best thing we can give each other is love. If we must give truth, it must be in love.

Walsh feels the need to point out that suicide is a choice and not just the byproduct of a chemical imbalance. He wants secularists and atheists to admit that depression is a spiritual problem not just a creation of our brains.

Christians pundits like Walsh want us to spiritualize everything. They despise clinical, scientific answers or research. When something bad happens, there must be someone who sinned.

My Own Experience

I have been gluten free for just over a year. It has changed my life. I joke with people that I feel “born again.”

Prior to going gluten free I was frequently losing my temper with my sons. It was getting pretty bad. I mean probably every other day I would freak out and yell at them. There have been a lot of stressful things in my life in the past 5 years, but just because I could understand the stress doesn’t mean I wanted to let myself be a yelling father.

As soon as I made the change to my diet everything changed overnight. In the past year or so I have lost my temper with my sons only a hand full of times. If you believe in miracles, this truly seems like one.

My depression really just stems from being tired all the time. I have dealt with extreme fatigue my whole life. I’d wake up in the morning and within 2 hours I’d feel like I needed to go back to bed. I’m a creative, visionary person, with no energy to follow through with my dreams. Talk about depressing!

So that’s it. After years of seeking God, reading books on Positive Thinking, treating my depression/fatigue problem as a spiritual one, one simple change to my diet transforms my life more than any sermon, or prayer, or Bible verse ever did.

In my experience, depression comes when I feel powerless to be the person I want to be and do the things I want to do. Like when I finally get a morning to myself to write songs or write a blog post, but don’t even have the energy to keep my eyes open.

Not One or The Other

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not discounting the spiritual, but I am very much counting on how the physical effects the spiritual.

My wife is studying yoga to be a certified instructor. The basic idea of yoga is taking care of the physical so we are free to focus on the spiritual. Try focusing on your work when every fiber in your body is screaming for nourishment. You’re not going rail on yourself for not being spiritual enough to overcome your physical hunger with positive thoughts are you? Just feed your body so you can get back to work. In the same way exercise is essential to being able to utilize your brain properly.  Just eat!

My wife and I used to get really irritated with each other in the mid mornings, until we began realizing that if we ate food within the first hour of our day, we didn’t seem to have anything to fight about.

What Does Over-Spiritualizing Look Like?

I was so excited when I started to understand the True Gospel of Grace. All the minor “Thou Shalt Nots” I was taught were evil like beer, tobacco, dancing, and rock ‘n roll were all of a sudden available to me! O Glory Day!

I’d smoke cigars at the end of the day. Discovered a deep love of Lager. Could hear God while listening to the Smashing Pumpkins. Boy I had a lot of cool music to catch up on!

But just because I could spiritually justify drinking beer doesn’t mean it was the right thing for me. Being gluten free means no more drinking beer (sad) but I feel so much better so I don’t really miss it (yea!) Besides I make up for it in my enthusiasm for red wine.

My take on over-spritualizing is using broad, generalized “spiritual truths” and applying them indiscriminately to everyone. Like, “Robin Williams should have had the mental and spiritual fortitude to overcome his negative thoughts.” Wasn’t there some jerk on Fox news who called him a coward?

In the Apostle Paul’s time there was an conflict about whether eating meat which has been sacrificed to idols was okay or not. His answer? Yes, and no. Sorry no one size fits all over-spritualization. If you want to eat it and it doesn’t bother your conscience, go ahead. But if you it bothers you, don’t eat it. Do whatever makes your conscience feel good.

This is my new approach to life: Do whatever makes you happy and avoid things that make you unhappy. And very importantly make sure it’s a sustainable happy. For example, I could drink a lot of beer tonight and get temporarily very happy, but I will end up extremely unhappy and feel crappy tomorrow because of the way gluten affects me.

Let’s stop comparing ourselves amongst ourselves. I could get jealous of my friends who get to drink beer, but why? I’m more happy without it. And isn’t that the point of drinking it in the first place? I’m happy for them that they can still enjoy it. Doing something that makes me happy, like singing and songwriting, might make you want to pull your hair out.

Some people are happy being missionaries in the Congo. Not me. Who’s more spiritual them or me? Neither. We both just do what makes us happy.

Overcoming Depression

This is what overcoming depression looks like: It’s me, right now, admitting that I have had suicidal thoughts in the past 6 months. Gluten free has helped me a lot, but it’s not the total answer to my happiness. Maybe years of feeling like shit and the thought patterns that go along with it have worn a groove in my brain. Maybe some happy pills might help me for awhile until I can thoroughly reboot my system. You better believe my wife is helping me experiment with other crazy diets. I will do whatever it takes to feel good!

I am dealing with anger at God. I guess I’ve had wrong expectations of him. I’m working through it. Realizing I have to take more responsibility for my life and maybe waiting for God to open doors or windows or whatever is just dumb. I’ll tell you what, I feel almost as stupid shaking my fist at the sky as I do yelling at my amazingly wonderful little dudes.

Walsh condescendingly admits he doesn’t understand suicide; can’t fathom it. Well, then keep your mouth shut,  Asshole. Stop shaming people who are human and deal with negative human stuff. You’re the reason modern Christianity is useless. You shame people like Robin Williams forcing everyone else dealing with depression into hiding. “I’m don’t want to admit I’ve had suicidal thoughts, because that means I’m not a good Christian, like Matt Walsh.” Congratulations for pushing away the people who need to be helped the most through this crisis of losing one of our nations most beloved Clowns.

Here’s some preachy Bible stuff for those of you who want a big smack in the head:

The prophet Elijah performed some crazy miracles in just a few days time, which left him physically and emotionally, completely exhausted to the point where he wanted to die. God eventually rewarded him with the incredible experience of being taken into the after-life without experiencing death.

How about this jewel from Numbers 11. It’s Moses talking to God:

11 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? 12 Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their ancestors? 13 Where can I get meat for all these people? They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ 14 I cannot carry all these people by myself; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If this is how you are going to treat me, please go ahead and kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”

Ironically, God did eventually take Moses’ life, but first he took Moses’ plea seriously and made some changes.

Conclusion

Spirituality begins with the brain which is fed by the body. Just like our stomachs digest food to nourish our bodies, our brains digest truths which nourish our spirits. Keeping body and brain healthy are the first steps to spiritual enlightenment and happiness. We can get there together, by being honest and encouraging each other.

Do you deal with depression? You’re not alone. Please email or call me if you need support. I really have a strong desire to encourage people. I want to live my happiest life and I want you to as well.

While Mr. Williams Rests in Peace, let’s help each other find Peace now; Body, Mind, and Spirit.

 

Standard

How I Saved Hundreds on Airfare

I was freaking out. Not just bummed out, but slamming my fist on the desk trying to hurt my credit card to no avail. I couldn’t believe the airline tickets I had almost booked just slipped through my fingers. My credit card not working and my old computer crashing cost me over $260 and a perfect non-stop itinerary.

I panicked and booked the next best priced tickets only to learn even they had gone up in price in that last 30 seconds. I was just stunned. I had found non-stop tickets to from Nashville to Los Angeles for $363 but ended up with $429 and some lame lay-overs. Times four that’s a huge increase.

“If you love me God, why did you let me lose these tickets!? You know money is such a huge issue right now! Where’s the love, Man?!”

Good news is my brother-in-law is getting married and we are excited to see family in L.A. this summer. Good news is we have money to make the trip thanks to the good old IRS.

I had used Yahoo Travel to book the flights. It took me about an hour to calm down. When I did, I decided to check online again and see if those cheap tickets were back. They were! Actually not the $363 tickets but $380! “Are you #$%@ing kidding me!” The calming down I had done was wearing off.

I was so pissed! I knew I just had to call Yahoo Travel and just beg someone to let me re-book my tickets. This was a matter of $200! I’m glad I did, because I learned a very valuable piece of information that ended up saving me hundreds.

Just by following the automated voice prompts I was able to learn that I had until 11pm CST the following day to cancel my reservation. I would forfeit  only the $27.96 Yahoo Travel fee!

Short of the story is, I was able to go back online and book tickets for $380. Once the new tickets were locked in place I called back and cancelled the first reservations I had booked for a savings of $196 minus the $27.96 fee. Though I am still paying $17 per ticket more than the original price I had found, I am so relieved to get some of that money back.

From now on, when I see the ticket prices dropping, I’ll just pull the trigger but keep looking for cheaper tickets for the duration of that 2 day grace period.

The silver lining here is that without this mishap, I may have never learned about the grace period with Yahoo Travel. This new little trick I have up my sleeve could potentially save me hundreds more dollars in the future. I was really my crazy frustration that caused me to pick up the phone. Usually I would have just sucked it up.

And a little confession: I mentioned that my credit card didn’t work and that was one of the reasons I lost those super cheap tickets. I of course got mad at the Universe. “How could you let this happen to me!” After calming down, I realized the reason my credit card didn’t work is because the credit limit was too small to make the purchase. Yep, it was my own dumb fault. If I’d just used my debit card in the first place….Ughh!

Please stop reading here if you really just wanted to know how to save money on Airline Tickets. If you do want to keep reading, I decided to write some thoughts about my little temper tantrum.

When I started writing this I really didn’t intend to make this some sort of spiritual life lesson, but I supposed my ranting at God needs some sort of resolution.

I have this weird short-circuit in my spiritual brain that causes me to easily feel upset and frustrated with God when things don’t go the way I feel they should. I mean, I sometimes get really upset. Like pounding my credit card upset.

I think what usually happens is I assume all circumstances are God’s will. “Oops, lost those tickets. I guess it’s God’s will. But, why would He want to tease me like that? It seems cruel.”

But as I can see from the rest of this little story, maybe God is more interested in how we respond to things that happen to us. Maybe he wants us to feel empowered to do something when circumstances are not what we want. I don’t have sit back and accept the fact that I lost hundreds of dollars booking the wrong airline tickets. I can and should do something about it.

I think this is a significant distinction. I feel like a lot of “spiritual” people would encourage us when we are upset about something to just accept it as God’s will. The result is we feel powerless and hopeless to affect our own lives. You know that feeling of getting all charged up about doing something  positive in your life only to watch circumstances like a broken down car steal your momentum.

I heard a radio preacher a few weeks back quoting the scripture about slaves submitting to their masters to encourage his listening audience that if you have a bad boss and or abusive work environment it is God’s will for you endure it. “God put you there for a reason.” I think his little analogy of slaves and masters to employer/employee is more than a little off; slaves don’t have a choice of masters, employees do.

But this is really what we hear from a lot of idiot preachers. Whatever bad experience your going through, God wants you to just endure it. It is His will for your life.

Was it God’s will for me to lose that $200? Was he trying to to punish me or something? Or maybe the whole point was the lesson I learned by taking matters into my own hands and finding a way to mitigate my loses.

My life long struggle to recover from this lie of “Over-Spiritualizing” is slow going. I know that successful people take responsibility for their lives and circumstances. Unsuccessful people, like me, are superstitious and blame circumstances and God for their failures.

Maybe this where I’m stuck. For whatever reason I think I’m supposed to just thank God for what happens to me and accept it in order to be a good Christian. I think I still have a lot of fatalism in my thinking. Is everything that happens to me really God’s will? Or is it God’s will for me to learn to affect my circumstances?

In the movie Bruce Almighty with Jim Carrey there’s a scene where God, played by Morgan Freeman, responds to Bruce as he’s begging God to change his life. God says something to the effect of,”your problem is that you keep looking up.” Stop praying and do something about it, “be the miracle.”

I’m trying so hard to reform my thinking and realize God wants me to be empowered and not give up when things go wrong. After all, success, as I’ve been told, is not magic, it is persisting until you succeed. I can’t persist if I think every time something goes wrong that God is directing me or something. I need to stop being superstitious like that.

Even though I can now intellectualize my new position, it’s crazy how I default back to my old superstition when I’m fixing my car and accidentally break something else.

If God really does have the will and the power to affect my life for good, why doesn’t he always do it? I’m starting to think it’s something akin to the old Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

For now, with this money saving airline trick I learned I’ll just say, “God, thanks for teaching me how to fish.”

 

Standard

God Wants You Ignorant of Right and Wrong

The only reason laws and rules exist is to govern the relationship of one human to another. We can do whatever we want with our lives, we just can’t do anything that infringes on the freedom of another. Jesus logically asserted that if we love our neighbor the law will be fulfilled. A loving heart essentially renders laws and rules unnecessary.

So how backward is it to use the law or right or wrong as an excuse to NOT love your neighbor?

When Christians focus on the issues and what’s right and wrong and forget the people involved there’s a problem. If we see the world as issues and politics and rules and laws and not see all the people with souls, we are missing the point of life.

Jesus is asking me to love my neighbor, but I point out that there is this thing between us which prevents me from loving him. You see, we can’t agree on pre, mid, or post tribulation rapture.

Christians, do you really think you’re doing God a favor by posting “Homosexuality is wrong!” on Facebook? I know it makes you feel like you’re taking a stand for righteousness, but you’re not.

Issues are the devils ingenious device to divide us and keep love from spreading. As I focus my attention on a political or religious ideal or issue it gains importance in my mind. As a result, people who disagree with my ideal diminish in importance. Is an ideal more important than a human soul?

It’s like a beggar asking you for change and telling her the only extra money you have you’re saving for a “hunger campaign.”

Issues are a distractor, like a straw man we construct to use as an excuse to ignore real people because  “this issue is more important than any one person.”

Life is about relationships with real people. Life is not about issues. It is not about what is right and wrong.

Let’s remember that God’s original intent for us was to remain ignorant of right and wrong. “Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” So do I really want to spend my redeemed life screaming about what’s wrong with the world?

If you love someone, right and wrong become irrelevant. Love fulfills the law.

Let’s talk about abortion. The following discussion is a demonstration of how we miss opportunities to love people by being so focused on what’s “wrong.”

I’m going out on a limb and saying most pro-choice supporters would probably agree that in the perfect world abortion wouldn’t exist. It’s scary and dangerous. But while you are screaming at them for their differing opinion, what you’re going to miss is maybe the reason they support the women’s right to choose is because they, or someone they know was raped and became pregnant and couldn’t fathom the thought of never being allowed to forget the horror.

It’s easy to take a hard-line on a subject like abortion until a real person close to you faces the dilemma. When we Christians are focused on the issue instead of the person, we miss our calling to love.

Come on you people who call yourselves Christ Followers! Abortion is a symptom! What are the real “issues” involved? Maybe she was sexually abused by her dad. She hates herself and just feels compelled to find someone who will love her. The pain isn’t as bad when she’s having sex with her boyfriend who tells her he loves her. She gets pregnant, boyfriend gets spooked. She is in no place financially or emotionally to raise a child.

So here she is walking up to the clinic. You confront her. What do you see? An evil person who doesn’t agree with you on the issues and should rot in hell? Or do you see a real person who is hurting and starving for love?

Sin is what humans do when we are not feeling loved. Do you want to continue focusing on the symptom? Or maybe we should start using the antidote Jesus gave us all those 2000 years ago: LOVE.

Do you yell at the guy on the subway for not controlling his kids? What about when you find out his wife just died that morning and he is beside himself?

Think about your own personal struggle with your pet sin. Does beating yourself for it make it better or worse? The more you focus on your weakness and your failures the more they haunt you and the harder they are to overcome. Whichever monster you focus your energy on will get bigger and bigger until it is out of control.

Christian men, when you see a beautiful woman, what do you really see? Do you see a problem to your moral purity? Do you see the devil trying to tempt you? Do you see Jezebel? Or do you see a wonderfully unique person God created?

Christian men, when you look at your wife, what do you see? Do you see a contractual living agreement? Do you see a housekeeper? Do you see a honey-do list? Or do you see a wonderfully unique person God created for you?

How we view people will necessarily inform how we interact with them. When you see the people in your life do you actually see a human being or do you just see a label or a political or social issue?

I have realized, that in my relationship to the pretty woman I call my wife, I’m actually better off thinking of her as my girlfriend. Why think about the obligation of a husband and duty and blah blah blah, when I can just look at her simply as an attractive woman and ask myself not what “should” I do to love her, but how do “I want” to love her.

My relationship with my wife is not defined by a legal contract. That’s just a stupid human institution designed to protect one partner if the other acts selfishly.

Marriage is not an issue. It is two people loving each other. Life is not a list of issues and laws and rights and wrongs. It is about loving the real people in our lives. Too often these issues we harp on are just our excuses to not engage in loving the real people in our lives.

There are people in my life I love so much. Family, or friends I will always love. Some of my friends, though raised in church with me no longer profess Christianity. This used to trouble me. Actually what troubled me was that I loved them anyway. Do you have those people in your life where it doesn’t matter what lifestyle choices they make you just know you’ll love them forever? I was conflicted about this love. Am I allowed to love this person? Won’t I be condoning their behavior? If I really love them shouldn’t I get in their faces and yell at them for their sin so as to scare them into heaven?

Then it dawned on me. Love covers a multitude of sins. Love fulfills the law. There is something higher and transcendent of religion. It is love. This is what Jesus was preaching about.

“But Kris we need to stand up and call sin, sin! We can’t let these people think it’s okay to do what they’re doing!”

Why? Because God hasn’t given them a conscience? Because you changed the rules and freewill is no longer a prerequisite to repentance? God wants genuine changed hearts, not people we shame or coerce into professing Jesus.

I’m going to say it again. Sin is what people do when they don’t feel loved. If you really care about them coming to repentance try love rather than guilt or shame.

I’m going to confess something to you. I am someone who looks out into the world and naturally sees issues and rules and laws and right and wrong. For the longest time I didn’t see people or have much compassion for them. “You’re going through a tough time? Too bad, should have followed the rules better and you could have avoided this heartache. Don’t have time for people like you.” That was seriously my attitude toward everyone, even my siblings.

I was such a natural Pharisee. It came so easy to me. I went to law school for a couple years because I was working toward a career in politics where I could straighten out the issues and establish right and wrong once and for all.

So what happened to me? Life happened. Jesus happened. I told him long ago, I want to know the truth at all costs.

Christian people, Truth transcends religion. The Truth transcends human logic and understanding. The Truth has everything to do with God’s original intention for mankind in the garden before all that law and religion crap became necessary.

God’s original intention for us was to be ignorant of right and wrong. Jesus’ clearly stated desire for us is to love the people in our lives the same way we want to be loved. Put these together and you realize you don’t need to know right and wrong to love someone. In fact, knowing right and wrong will often hinder you from loving.

Let’s allow God to worry about right and wrong and commit to loving people in real ways.

The people of the world are confused by us Jesus people. They know about Jesus telling us to love our neighbor. But all they hear from us is how they won’t be worthy of our love until they become one of us. “Don’t you want to repent of your wicked ways so that you can be a condemning, ugly bigot like me?”

“WAIT A HOT SECOND, GRAY! What about politics? Are you telling me as Christians we shouldn’t be involved in public policy? We shouldn’t participate in shaping the rule of law?”

First of all let’s admit that you don’t have to be a Christian to be interested in morality. All mankind is interested in living in a society where evil doers are punished and the liberties of good citizens are protected. Christians and secularists alike agree morality must be legislated and enforced. We all agree we must have laws against stealing and killing and raping and abuse of power.

Okay,  just imagine how our involvement in politics will change once we begin approaching it from the standpoint of love for the individual. Also keeping in mind that God didn’t originally intend for any of this religion, law, politics bullshit in the first place. The political arena truly is one of compromise and tolerance because all we can do is the best we can with the mess we’ve made.

What makes our nation a Christian one is our belief in Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech. It is a respect for individual liberty and free-will. We believe that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights. Even if you don’t believe in said Creator we still afford you this respect. Christianity is not possible without freewill. We have created an entire nation where the Christian ideal of freewill is celebrated.

They will know we are Christians because of our love and respect for the individual and the liberty God has given them to form their own political opinions. They will know we are Christians because of our attitude of tolerance toward those who don’t agree with us. They will know we are Christians by our love.

Christians, don’t you for a second think that it is God’s will for us to reestablish the Old Testament laws in Modern Day America. Don’t think that it’s our job to create the perfect theocratic government. When Jesus taught us to pray “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” I venture to say God’s will and kingdom message he was referring to have more to do with loving your neighbor than establishing right and wrong in politics.

Isn’t it interesting to you that Jesus didn’t seem at all interested in the politics of his day? The Holy Nation of Israel was occupied the Romans and Jesus barely acknowledges it. The only thing he said about it was in reference to paying taxes. “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.” He even treated Roman soldiers with the same respect he did his own people.

Why do Christians act like reversing Roe vs. Wade would solve the problems of the world? Wrongdoing and the fruits of wrongdoing will be always be with us on this earth. We’re not going to solve the sin problem by overturning a Supreme Court decision. It is love that changes hearts, not Congressional Bill 101.

I don’t like the idea of abortion at all. I also don’t like the idea of hell at all. I don’t like the idea of murder. I don’t like the idea of greed.

I think what God doesn’t like is when so-called Christians berate and alienate the very people Jesus died to save, just because their political conscience varies. So because this person agrees with abortion am I justified in dismissing them, therefore lessening their chance of encountering the Gospel Message?

If you think the God of the Bible loves rules and laws and right and wrong, you are, well….wrong. He loves people.

 

Standard

Matt Walsh’s G. I. Joe Jesus

The following is a response to a post on The Matt Walsh Blog posted yesterday titled,

Jesus didn’t care about being nice and tolerant so neither should you

http://themattwalshblog.com/2014/04/07/jesus-didnt-care-about-being-nice-or-tolerant-and-neither-should-you/

My reply:

Before you go selling your G.I. Joe Jesus, you better be clear who he was raging against and why. If you are advocating Christians to go into the world and do more gay bashing or bomb more abortion clinics, you are misdirecting Jesus’ aggression. 

Jesus was very nice to repentant sinners and very ugly to religious people who thought they had all the answers. He really hated the “I’m right and your wrong” crowd.

Matt, this article sounds like you’re advocating Christians to go into the world shouting, “We’re right and you’re wrong!” 

I am very much a believer in G.I. Joe Jesus. But his rage comes against those in the house of faith who misrepresent the Father. His table turning torrent was in the “House of God.” Peter told us judgement begins with the House of God (1 Peter 4:17).

If you want to fight, it’s going to be against your father and mother, and pastor and brother, not against people out in “the world” you don’t care about.

Our fight is to keep the Gospel Message pure. Call to account those preaching in Jesus’ name. Our message as Christians to the world is not one of condemnation. 

What should our attitude as Christ Followers be to “the World”? John 3:17: “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

You’re right that Jesus never used the word “nice” but he did use the word “love” a lot. 

Matt Walsh, save your judgement for the House of God.

Standard

Bill Gothard is a Symptom of a Bigger Problem

I have been trying to put the teachings of Bill Gothard behind me for many years now. It’s not an easy task. I came of age and was formulating the way I would approach my adult life while my brain was marinating in Bill’s man-pleasing, works-based, distorted version of living out the “Good News.”

My wife thinks I might have a version of PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) from following a works based religion for so long. Maybe it’s true. I do feel like I’m dealing with a horrible hangover that prevents me from seeing my life and responsibilities in a normal light.

I have since dived into Grace. I even got to the point where I finally accepted grace and felt like I didn’t have to question my Salvation anymore. Or maybe it wasn’t salvation I was questioning so much as just, “Is God pleased with me?” I really believed that in order for God to be truly pleased with me I had to get my life to look like Bill Gothard’s life.

I finally realized God is pleased with me because I believe in the One he sent, not because of how much I deny myself, or how much I force myself to do good, or to refrain from doing bad. I don’t have to be dependent on my own righteousness. I have also been understanding how fear has no place in my life as a believer and must be replaced with love.

But I’ve got to be honest, even with Bill Gothard out of the picture, I have still been struggling to understand how this Free Gift of Salvation is supposed to play out in my life. I mean, I know I’m not going to spend my life pleasing a blue suit clone maker hoping I have what it takes to be part of the Holy God squad believing the greatest thing I can do for God is remain spotless from sin and the world, always being freaked out that I’ll accidentally do something to give the devil a stronghold in my soul so he can take over and cause me to do all sorts of horrible things ruining my life and my “witness” for the Institute and somehow miss God’s will (whoa try to say that all in one breath). I know for sure I’m not going to do all that anymore.

But what am I going to do with my life? Don’t get me wrong, it’s been great catching up on some of the fun things I intentionally deprived myself of. You know, stuff like drinking beer and smoking tobacco and listening to rock cartridges (Basic Seminar reference), watching rated R movies. Growing a goatee. But how does God want me to live?

My wife and I stopped going to church for a long time. She needed to get away as much as I did. She grew up  immersed in a different Christian organization. I started thinking maybe my Billy G. PTSD is really a more fundamental problem with Christianity itself. My wife and I coming from two very different Christian perspectives were dealing with a lot of the same issues.

Bill Gothard is not the only thing wrong with Christianity. I just look around and I see leaders in other Christian organizations using guilt to rule over others. I see all the factions and denominations of Christianity fighting and arguing points of doctrine. I see Westboro Baptist people spewing hatred in Jesus’ name. I see Catholicism and Protestantism. I see Democrat Christians and Republican Christians both so sincere and so opposed at the same time. I ‘ve seen a missionary who devoted his life to the Gospel cursing God on his death-bed. I see well-meaning Christians who have eschewed worldly wealth only to find themselves desperate for money.

Mostly I see very few happy Christians. Is it Good News? Shouldn’t good news illicit some semblance of joy? Or maybe the Good News part gets buried under a mountain of human bull shit.

We can dismiss Bill Gothard and all the ones we would consider modern-day Pharisees, but we still have a huge problem in Christendom. It’s been there since the beginning. Read Galations and you see how quickly believers were able to miss the point and distort the Good News. Read 1 Corinthians and you see how quickly believers began dividing themselves into different factions following Paul, or Cephas, or Christ.

Christianity is a mystical faith. All attempts to capture it, pin it, classify it, and organize it fail miserably. They always have and always will.

What do I mean by Christianity is a mystical faith? Mystical means “having a spiritual meaning that is difficult to see or understand.” I would say based on the fact that 2000 years later we still don’t have a clear understanding of this faith that we can all agree on confirms its mystical qualities. It’s simply not easily understood.

Think about all the mystical stuff we read in the New Testament: How we were crucified with Christ. How we died and were buried with him. How we are now seated with God in the Heavenly places. How we are sons of God. How we no longer live in our mortal bodies, but Christ lives in us. Christ’s righteousness is attributed to us. Christ is the High Priest who made one sacrifice for all. All the many miracles. Walking on water.

But as strange as these ideas are, where most of the confusion seeps in is through a little crack I’d like to call “Now What?” We’ve got this pretty little tidy vessel of Christianity that tells me, if I only believe, God will throw away my report card and put Jesus’ report card in my file instead. Awesome! I love this idea that Jesus’ righteousness can be applied in my case on judgement day. But…and I mean a big old stinky BUT….Then inevitably someone swoops in with the old “bait and switch” sales tactic. It looks something like this:

“So Kris, this Free Gift of Salvation is really yours at no cost. But, why just squeak through the Pearly Gates by the skin of your teeth like the dude Jesus was “hangin'” with on the cross, when you can stroll through them Gates in style? Just a little effort on your part and you could even earn yourself an extra jewel or two in your heavenly crown. Why have your name merely written in the Lambs Book of Life when you could have it circled and outlined in Gold Leaf? And most importantly, why wait until heaven for your perfect sinless body, when you can beat yourself into submission right here on earth?”

“Yeah, that totally makes sense. I don’t want to just barely make a passing grade. I want to be on the honor roll! Thanks Jesus for this great certificate of Salvation you gave me. I’m gonna hang it on my wall for sure, but I’m gonna earn other awards I can hang right next to it too!”

You know what? The Apostle Paul and a lot of those guys were just as confused about the “Now What?” question, as we are today. In the book of Galations Paul rails against following the Law of Moses, specifically circumcision. But in the book of Acts we read he had Timothy circumcised because he was afraid of what the other Jews would think.

Think about most other religions and why they are so concerned with how you live your life. Because how you live your life is the whole point of their belief system. If you don’t live your life like this or like that, you will not attain the after-life rewards you want. And the religion has to demonstrate itself in practical ways so that your lifestyle can be visible to others, because the leaders of the religion must have some way of judging your performance, and you, the follower, must have some way of distinguishing yourself from unbelievers.

Christianity is different. You will attain the after-life prize you want by only believing and receiving the Free Gift. You don’t have to wait until your death bed to be assured of its certainty. So how should we live in the meantime?

Whoa, stop a second. There is the million dollar question: How Shall We Then Live?

Don’t be too quick to answer. Bill Gothard and thousands of pundits before him have attempted to answer and destroyed many lives. Don’t answer too quickly. You will be held to account if you cause any of God’s children to stumble. And be careful not to tell me I need to hang more certificates on my wall. Isn’t the one I got from Jesus enough?

This question of what we should do with our Redeemed lives is the vacuum we the people have created that gives Christian Leaders power over us. We have the question, they have the answer. We are the wandering sheep, they are the wise shepherds. The voice which gives us clarity becomes our master.

Bill Gothard’s over-reaching ministry and teachings are just symptom of a bigger problem within Christianity. It’s not enough that Bill identified 7 basic principles in the Bible. We want to know specifically how to apply these principles to our lives. We don’t want any guess work or struggling to find the truth for ourselves. We asked him to tell us exactly how our lives should look under these 7 “non-optional” principles.

And let’s be fair to Old Billy G. Does he tell us we won’t receive the Free Gift of Salvation unless we live his branded lifestyle? No. But should we still classify him as a legalist? Yes.

Believing we can please God with our own brand of righteousness isn’t just called legalism; it’s heresy. If we are still justified under the old law Jesus died in vain. Legalism, in the dirty sense we all despise, allows us to please God by just keeping a series of commands. But Bill would retort, “I’m not preaching my own righteousness. These are rules and principles which God himself outlines in the scriptures.” Yes, Bill, God gave rules and laws for the ancient Hebrews to follow, but I am not a follower of Moses, I am a believer and follower of Jesus Christ.

If you are following the law it’s because you do not believe what God said about Jesus Christ.

You must decide. Do you believe in the Law? Or do you believe in Christ? You can not have both. Maybe you believe in a new law, like the one Bill Gothard created. Same principle applies. You can’t trust in God and the system. You must choose.

The majority of us recovering legalists were never trying to earn our salvation. I think we all agree, including Gothard, that salvation is free. I think we are propelled by a more basic instinct to please our Heavenly Father, because we want to know that God is pleased with us. He is powerful so we want to make sure we’re on His good side.

So the question of “How Shall We Then Live?” can be replaced with the more basic one of “How Do I Know God is Pleased With Me?” I like the second question better because it at least brings God into the equation. Or maybe it’s more like, “How should I live so I know God is pleased with me and he’ll bless me.”

Remember my silly “bait and switch” sales scenario? My character in that play is expressing his desire to be good and please God. He’s not content with just a passing grade, he wants to be valedictorian. He’s not trying to earn salvation, but in a sense, he is attempting to prove he is worthy of it.

Have you ever been given an unexpected gift by someone close to you? Someone you see everyday? A wonderful friend, boss, and mentor of mine once gave me a car. I had so many conflicting emotions. I was, of course, so grateful. But then I kept thinking “How can I ever repay her for this?” I started feeling guilty. What can I possibly do to prove my gratitude?

I was talking to my aunt on the phone about the whole situation and the conflict I felt about how this may change my relationship with this person. I told her how this gift is making me feel guilt and shame that I could never possibly repay such kindness. My Aunt, in her wisdom, told me to just say thank you. She told me someone with such a generous heart really only wants to hear a genuine and sincere thanks. That’s all she wants.

I gave thanks and received the gift. My friend and benefactor never tried to make me feel guilty or like I owed her anything. It only made us closer friends.

What if more of us lived out of gratitude and trust in what God said, instead of out of guilt and shame trying to prove ourselves? What if more of us read and internalized Brennan Manning’s teaching instead of Bill Gothard’s?

The following is not an answer to the “Now What?” question as much as just an observation:

I am a waiter in a restaurant. Typically how my job works is I serve people by advising them what to eat and drink, ensuring they have what they require at all times and generally keep them happy during their dining experience. If they are pleased with my service they leave me a monetary reward. I am motivated to provide good service in hopes of a reward. The idea being, if I give them the best service I possibly can then I can expect a greater reward.

But what if a guest sat down at my table and handed me a generous tip before service had even begun? It sounds crazy, but I’ve experienced this before. It is surreal. You can probably imagine the motivation I felt to ensure this guest gets the very best of everything I bring. I will move mountains to make sure their experience is the absolute best I can provide, even if it affects my timing on other guest’s tables.

Having experienced this makes me smile at the way God orchestrated the Gospel Message. We have our reward before we could even start thinking how to earn it. You don’t have to earn it, because you already possess it.

How does it make you feel to think it may be just that simple? If we shovel our way past centuries of human explanation and doctrine, lies and deceit maybe we will find that the reality of the Good News will inform us how to live all on its own. Maybe all God expects is a genuine and sincere thank you. Even if you could repay him, He doesn’t want you to.

Dear God, I’d like to trade in all my principles and laws and guilt and shame for more Trust and more Gratitude. Amen.

 

 

Standard

How Bill Gothard Gave Me A Second Chance and How I Blew It

Where: The administrative office of the Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy in Fresno, California, otherwise known as Bill Gothard’s law school.

Who: Myself, the Assistant to the Dean, and Bill Gothard’s voice via speaker phone.

When: The year 1997.

What: A disciplinary hearing of sorts.

Why: It was discovered that I had, on one occasion, used an office computer to view pictures of pretty ladies without much clothing (not nude, mind you. I wasn’t that brave.)

I don’t remember his exact words over that speaker phone, but I do remember the punishment that he devised for me. I was to give up the use of my truck for one month and walk to work. The office was an easy stroll from my West Nees boulevard apartment. On my walk, I was to meditate on scripture. I think he gave me a specific passage, but I don’t remember.

Now, to be fair, he could have just fired me, but he didn’t. And the “punishment” was really more of a rehabilitation program to help me overcome my “problem.” He was trying to be helpful. Now I can speculate that he was probably very sympathetic to my sexual urges.

Looking back on it now in light of all the allegations which have been raised against Mr. Gothard leading to his resignation from his ministry, of course I’m tempted to think, “You hypocrite! I was some kid looking at bra ads, but you were doing more than just looking and seriously hurt some real women.”

Just for fun. Maybe it’s my turn to devise a punishment for him: He should have his car taken away for life. He should also have his favorite blue suit taken away. He should be required to where some old dirty sweat pants and a stained wife-beater tank top with slippers. His comb-over should be laid down on the wrong side to reveal his bald head. He should then be required to go door to door in his neighborhood and admit that he is a sexual pervert.

On second thought I don’t know if I want to see a white-washed tomb inside out.

Or he could just repent, make amends, and maybe the punishment wouldn’t be necessary. Although I’m going to defer to the victims. It might actually bring them a lot of joy to behold “Homeless Gothard” kicking cans down the street.

Oh, by the way. I got caught looking at pictures again a few months later and was terminated. Oops. “But don’t judge me! (sob) You don’t know my story!” (yet).

Spin the Bottle

At this point in my little story, I have a serious dilemma. How am I going to spin this? It seems like one of those choose you’re own adventure stories. Turn to page 666 if you think Kris should use Bill’s hypocrisy as club to beat him over the head. Or turn to page 777 if you think we should use this platform to discuss how his “New Approach to Life” Gothard created let me down, and let himself down.

Wow, after all these years to realize I was as spiritual as Bill Gothard and we even shared a similar weakness. I always wanted to be as blessed as him. I wanted to prove I had what it took to receive the same kind of special treatment from God that he did. Look at all the blessings God had given him! If I could please God has much as Billy G. did, he would bless me like that too!

At this point in my life, if there was a spiritual elite, I knew I belonged with them. I was seriously serious about doing everything right and following God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

I attended many Basic Seminars starting at age 12. I attended a special Apprenticeship Seminar in Indianapolis in 1993 at age 16 where I finally dedicated my whole life to God. I returned to Indianapolis two years later in 1995 after graduating high school (at home with ATI, of course) for the first installment of the EQUIP program. I was there for possibly the most difficult year of my life. But I did everything by the book. I was a Bill Gothard All-Star.

Immediately after Indy, I headed off to Virginia where I was an intern for Home School Legal Defense Association the last half of 1996. This was an incredible time. It was crazy going from the strict prison-like Gothard facility in Indianapolis with virtually no freedom to HSLDA where they gave four of us the keys to a new townhouse and a new car and said come to work in the morning. I was already headed toward law school before I even went to Indy.

After my internship at HSLDA, I went back to my home state of California where I applied to begin studying with Oak Brook College of Law. I was contacted by the Assistant to the Dean and asked to come work for them in the Fresno Office, a 2 1/2 hour drive from my home town. I agreed.

Don’t worry, I’m not writing this to defend myself and try to blame Bill Gothard for my failures. I’m attempting to paint a truthful picture of who I was and what my motives were then and how the system I had put my faith in let me down.

Some of you may have already decided that I must have been a “rebel” to have been fired by Bill Gothard for looking at lewd pictures of women. But I’m telling you, even at 20-years-old living on my own, I was striving to prove myself a good follower of God and of Bill.

You know what I was doing with my free time back then? I met an aspiring evangelist who was planning a tent revival in a ghetto part of Fresno. We did the revival for like 5 nights straight that was supposed to draw thousands, but it was more like a handful. I spent a lot of my time with him trying to get his ministry started.

I’m telling you, at the point of my failure and dismissal I was seriously doing everything I could to be a better Christian and prove to God I was His for the using. I was even attending a Bible study with my boss, and of course attending church regularly.

I did not listen to rock music. I did not watch T.V. or go to the movies. I’m telling you, I was playing by all the rules. I had my quiet time, I went to work, I studied my law books and went running for exercise.

Absolutely not a rebel. According to Gothard, my spiritual gifting was that of Prophet. I was a black and white truth seeking guy.

My Kryptonite

But my kryptonite was this ever-increasing, pesky little sex drive that was fully raging in my twenty-year-old body. If I could only have gotten rid of that annoying, ever distracting desire to interact with females! I remember having such a hard time focusing on my studies. Looking back, it’s comical to me now how many times I repented of the spirit of lust.

What I learned through all this is that even though I was trying so hard to be good, at my core I must be really bad and there was nothing I could do about it. If I had pleased God he would have blessed me by taking away this spirit of lust. Maybe I wasn’t even really “saved.”

What made all of this completely devastating was the young lady I was corresponding with in a courtship fashion. I had to call her dad and tell him what I had done. Well, that was over. Damn.

Immediately following my failure I hopped on a plane to Sioux City, Iowa for counseling with a Bill Gothard approved counsellor who specialized in sexual deviants. I was that serious about being good and marching onward as a Christian soldier.

I would spend the better part of the next 6 years trying to fix myself and figure out where I had gone wrong. Who was I? The one who wanted to do good? Or was I the one who would occasionally cast off restraint to scratch an itch? The Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hide dilemma.

I had told God I would remain unmarried if that was his will. I wanted to be great in God’s Kingdom like the Apostle Paul and like Bill Gothard, like John the Baptist. I admired that Mr. Gothard was unmarried, and as far as I knew, successfully controlled his sexual energy.

My damned sexual urges made me feel so ashamed. I wanted so bad to “surrender all” like Gothard had done. At this point in my life, my mind and my heart were miles apart.

Remaining unmarried gave Mr. Gothard this spiritual prestige  and almost Pope-like status. He had given up every worldly pleasure for God. Whether or not you ever consciously thought about it, we all put him on a pedestal. He was the most committed Christian you could find. Couple that with all the apparent blessings of God on his ministry, his righteousness was unparalleled.

Trying to live up to Bill Gothard’s perfect example of what a real Christian looks like broke me. I failed.

It has been so surreal reading of Bill Gothard’s actions and resignation in light of my history with him. Many of you must feel the same way. It’s just weird.

For those of us who lived his legalistic lifestyle, the fall of Bill Gothard is no less monumental than the fall of communism was in 1989. Here is a leader who promised us a utopian society if we trusted him and followed his rules. We put our faith in him and his desire to create a better kind of Christian. Now it has all come crashing down. The grand experiment has failed.

Being fair I’d like to point out again, he did give me a second chance. Maybe he was sympathetic . He did, after all, know what it was like to be a man with a sexual urge.

Back to My Story

How did I recover from my devastating public failure? I really didn’t. How did I eventually conquer my sex drive? I really didn’t.

I had to scrap Bill Gothard’s “New Approach to Life” and exchange it for a much older one. One based on the Grace Jesus provides and The Apostle Paul so eloquently defends.

In Galations, Paul recounts how he had to confront Peter for his dangerous hypocrisy. His fear of “the party of the circumcision” caused him to hide the fact he was eating with gentiles. He was preaching another gospel with his actions.

“But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

This last little phrase describes Bill Gothard’s ministry: “…how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

And what about this:  “…if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

If you’re like me you have read Galations and just shook your head in disbelief. How could so many well meaning Christians have been lead astray by Bill Gothard despite Paul’s clear warnings about putting confidence in works and in the law?!

This leads into a discussion about the True Gospel. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” But we will save that discussion for another time.

This is now how I interpret my spiritual past: Bill Gothard brought me to the Law. The Law Brought me to Christ.

I guess in an backwards way I could thank him for that too.

Dear Mr. Gothard,

I don’t really want to condemn you. I was just being silly with that punishment I devised for you. I’d actually like to extend you the grace you extended to me. Although, it sounds like the authorities might have to design a punishment for you if you’re not successful in defending yourself in court.

I’m sure there are a lot of us that would love to forgive you as Christ forgave us. There’s only one catch to receiving Grace…you have to receive it. I mean, you must first believe you need it.

Dear Mr. Gothard. You are not going to be able to “work” your way out of this one. The only way out is to lay down your blue suit at the foot of the Cross.

Standard