The Religion We’ve Been Lying to Ourselves About

Millenials, 

this is a call out for all those who steep themselves in religion, all things rigid, and live as if a set of laws could possibly bring validation to an individual’s life. Perhaps this is as much of a wake up call for you as it is me.

More and more I find following Jesus is less about the rules and regulations and about the absolute power of unconditional love and affection. As much as we’d like to think life is defined by right-and-wrong system, a contention could be made for a reality that is guided by a gray, push and pull tension of conflicts and wrestlings. 

Don’t we get it? Legalism exists because love doesn’t. We think these certain systems are going to achieve us certain righteousness; that our small group attendance, certain friendships, and spiritual practices will equate into spiritual authority. But that’s legalism friends; it’s the belief that explicit action will bring us to spiritual nirvana; it’s a life lived empty of the supernatural love of God.

Throw your religion away friends; throw it away. Religion leads us unto ourselves and into a life of self-reliance and false realities. But Jesus, the embodiment of relationship and everything lovely, leads us to a reality void of ourselves and full of his love and abundance.

Yet, I empathize.

I get it. I’m a pastor’s kid and I used to be steeped in religion. If I said all the right things, went to all the right stuff, and prayed enough I would somehow feel God’s love and be cherry for the rest of my life. I think this is the downfall of the Christian upbringing; we grow up with the head knowledge of following Jesus and, for many, carrying the cross of surrender and obedience never becomes a reality.

Inevitably, we are raised to believe that doing “a, b, c” will yield us “1, 2, 3”; in other words, our spiritual practices will equate into a beautiful relationship with the loving God. For some, this turns out to be a brilliant and wonderful result. For the majority, all life becomes is empty religion composed of burdensome rules and regulations.

For me, Christ found me in such a broken state produced by broken religion. I felt as if I had done all the right things, said all the right stuff, and prayed enough to be above average in spirituality. It wasn’t until Jesus’ love met me in such a unique and special way that my life changed; my boxes of religion were broken, my misconceptions of relationship were thrown out the window, and I found God to be anything, but rigid.

For those living in religion, I am saddened. Not because you are somehow tarnishing the name of God; I could not care less about that. I could not care less about the kind of reputation “you” are giving Christians; Christ is more than sufficient to take care of himself. I am saddened because living in religion is the most inconvenient and miserable place to be. I’m not just talking about the people living a double life; this is also for those of you who have not chosen to answer the call of discomfort and suffering outside of the boxes of comfort and religion that you’ve created for yourself. If it’s any consolation, I’ve lived both those kinds of lives…and it’s absolutely miserable. 

I don’t remember the last time someone called me out in this fashion and I immediately changed, but I do remember plenty of times where someone has called me out and it incurred deep and provoking to the point where it lead to personal reformation.

So maybe that’s what this is-a call out. Throw away your religion, friends.

The Kind of Faith that Brings Weeping

IMG_5100Morning Millenials,

there is something highly profound about the word faith. Every so often I’ll be hanging out with people that don’t share my religious beliefs and the word “faith” will come into conversation. Faith is usually described as this intangible, unexplainable hope in the unseen that is strong, resilient, and brilliant.

“I have faith that grandma will be healed”

“Oh, she has such faith through her situation with cancer”

Then there is the Christian vernacular that includes this word “faith”. In the Judeo-Christian vernacular, faith infers some kind of hope in God or unspeakable perseverance in Jesus’ name. It’s funny, the word is used less in the context my non-Christian friends use it and more in the fashion of a classic “buzz” word that could mean a number of things. Could it be that non-Christians somehow understand the word “faith” more than the rest of the contemporary, American church?

I was reading Matthew 9 where Jesus is confronted by a paralyzed man and his friends who desired healing for their friend. The Scripture tells us that “Jesus saw their faith [and] he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus saw their faith.

What is their faith exactly?

In my limited and arrogant millenial perspective (for I am no Bible scholar) this faith the paralyzed man’s friends had was the persevering and almost-blind belief in a carpenter claiming to be the son of God to heal their friend of paralysis. These friends were so desperate for restoration for their friend that they risked public humiliation and expended time and energy simply to get in front of a man who could or could not have been the Son of God.

These same friends approached Jesus with boldness, child-likeness, and a spirit of persevering simply so that their friend might be healed.

Friends, this is the type of faith that I want to have. I want to be filled with desperation that I might know the Son of God and do what he says. This is the kind of faith that brings tears to my eyes because, on one hand, I know that believing in a God I cannot see nor touch is a truly foolish thing. I have no other option because, in my eyes, I’ve tried other supposedly viable lifestyles that have brought me nowhere, but more pain and self-harm. I have no other option, but Jesus; he, in a sense, is my last resort. However, on the other hand, I fully believe in the lavish and beautiful promises Christ has made to me, to us, as his children, and his ability to fulfill those promises of a new Earth, full restoration, and heaven coming down to Earth.

As we press through each day, we can be reminded that we come to Christ as broken, desolate creatures dressed in rags and loin cloth. We were the dirty, lepers that had no hope in our own redemption. But Christ calls us to himself and gives us the gift of faith that we might know him and move from sinners locked in bondage to children of the living God. Thank you Lord for faith…maranatha come Lord Jesus.

Arrogance (Me), Confidence (You)

Hi millenials and, if applicable, people of God.

For the longest time I’ve made the observation of the way people carry themselves. Early on in high school it was really it easy to pick out the people who were “confident” and the people who simply “were not”.

Confidence is such a beautiful thing and, frankly, rather addicting. It mirrors the feeling of drunkenness as it makes you feel like you are on the top of the world; on a deeper level, confidence allows us to function freely and boldly because we are walking in the identity God crafts for us.

Yet, as broken beings, we seem to muck the goodness of God up in a very obvious way.

Cue in arrogance folks.

Here is the definition according to dictionary.com:

offensive display of superiority or self-importance; overbearing pride.”

Maybe a simplified definition of arrogance, courtesy of my father when calling me out in arrogance, would be even more helpful:

“Arrogance is a false confidence because it is based out of [your] insecurity and personal feelings of insufficiency.”

That’s me to a tee folks and it’s something I seek to work on every day. My arrogance is based out of an insufficiency and, often, I feel like I have to compensate for my own weakness and out of my strength, rather than allowing the blood of Jesus to fully cover my shortcomings. There’s some kind of verse that says, “when we are weak, then we are strong”, right?

I think, at the same time, this arrogance in me gets produced because I’ve tasted and seen the goodness of God manifested in the confidence I receive from the Heavenly Father’s love and affection. In a sense, arrogance is my longing for the confidence that stems from real, unconditional love, but out of an unsustainable and fleshly initiative.

Millenials,

I am so proud of you because of the way you carry yourselves. You know the Father and the Father knows you. You long to sit at his feet and listen to the wisdom that He has to share and it gets me stoked. I see you walking in a godly confidence that is rooted and established in love rather your own self means. I sense a peace that rests deep within your souls because of the great things that God has done in your life and it makes me want to know that same love in a deeper and more intimate way.

Confidence in it of itself is not impressive; some might say it simply is arrogance because it is based on a shaky foundation of insecurity and shortcoming. But a confidence that comes from knowing God and his infinite love is a quality that we get the joy of pursuing and exploring the rest of eternity. A confidence established in the Father’s love is built on a strong foundation of God’s everlasting faithfulness and diligence.

I think the practical move here is to first confront the areas where we are arrogant. What are the areas that God’s love truly needs to have access to? On a daily basis I ask God to transform my way of thinking when it comes to relationships and work.

The prayer I enjoy praying is,

“God I simply want to follow where you go, that you would lead me and that I would joyfully follow, not out of my own strength or effort, but by an overwhelming sense of your grace and power.”

Some of us don’t know we are arrogant, but chances are…we are and that’s ok. Christ comes to bring life abundantly that we might have life in all of its fullness.