Take chances. Abandon all the rules. Ditch the recipe. Color outside the lines.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Remembering the Rebel

Playing the Rebel
 As many of you know, my best friend and I have stated this massive project of making a documentary about Christianity called “Color Outside the Lines.”  The basic goal is discovering why people in our world today no longer want anything to do with church but have no problem with the person of Jesus Christ.  Today we conducted a social experiment where we went to a small Independent Baptist Church out in the middle of nowhere playing characters that one wouldn’t normally see in church.  She played an unwed pregnant teen and I was the insubordinate rebel without a cause.  The rebel role wasn’t a difficult one for me to play because not too long ago the person that walked into that church today was exactly who I was.  Angry at the world, my icy stares and baggy clothes tried desperately to hide the pain underneath as I held my breath that no one could see the weakness of my tattered heart.  Many times I found myself wandering into college Bible studies, youth led church services, or weekly chapels reeking of cigar smoke and puffy eyes from consecutive nights without sleep.  I hid my pain with snide comments and cynical humor trying my best to convince everyone around me that I really didn’t care what they had to say.  I walked into that church today pretending to be something I am glad I have escaped from.  My therapist in college used to say that the hardest part of moving forward is facing your past.  I understand more today than I ever had what she meant by that.  Today I faced a part of my past that I hadn’t really dealt with yet.  It is easy for me to look back on the depth of my brokenness and see how the religious truly scarred my heart; the hard part about today is that I had to look back and see that my rebellion was just as wrong as their rejection.   I have said many times, my response to pain is my fault not those who caused the hurting.  My choices to drink, smoke, fight, argue, hate, and respond with insolence are my own and not the responsibility of those that they are in response to.  I am thankful that grace came in and saved me not only from my oppressors but also from myself.  Today was big for me.  I proved to myself that I’m not that person anymore, hiding behind rebellion and cheering for anarchy, but that there is truly joy inside my heart that frees me from having to be hard to keep from getting hurt.  I shed another layer of skin today as I become the new me made by grace and loved by God.  I boast in God’s great love for me because I truly have never felt more free.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Playing Super Heroes

Growing up my little brother and I were very close and despite a five year age difference we always found something to imagine, pretend, and play together.  The most common thing we did together was play “super heroes” which I later discovered says a lot about our personalities.  We both have passionate hearts for the underdogs, unwanted, and weak spirited.  The difference between Chance and I is how that passion in our hearts pours out.  When we were little, my super hero was Super Tommy.  He was tough, strong willed, bent the rules, and, of course, had no weaknesses.  Chance’s super hero was Super Rascal.  He was soft hearted, brave, had integrity, and had one weakness that only the people closest to him knew about.  Super Tommy always scoffed at Super Rascal claiming that his tender heart made him weaker, but in the end Super Rascal some how ended up saving Super Tommy from some kind of trouble that his hot temper had gotten him in.  As we grew up we stopped playing super heroes and we became our super heroes.  I became tough, strong willed, hot headed, and strived for imperviousness.  Chance became soft hearted, brave, full of integrity, and honest about his weaknesses with the people closest to him.  I often saw his tenderness as weakness, but many times he has saved me from the trouble that my hot temper has gotten me in.  We both want to protect the weak and punish the oppressors, but where I come in with aggression he comes in with love.  As I am progressing on this journey of grace I find myself getting very angry with the anti-gracers.  I am disgusted by their words, turned off by their actions, and infuriated with their teachings.  In these moments my super hero complex kicks in and I rush in to save the day… not to comfort the hurting but to punish the hurters.  Chance comes in behind me taking care of the broken people that I have passed over in my rush to execute justice.  I don’t see Super Rascal as weak any more.  If we become so focused on punishing the oppressors that we forsake the oppressed then we miss the whole point of who Jesus was.  It’s interesting to me that Jesus rarely answered questions presented to him about the law with actual answers but rather responded with more questions (which I find quite annoying at times!)  There is one instance though where he answers with a pretty straightforward answer.  A man asks him what is the greatest of the Commandments and Jesus replies, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”  What was most important to Jesus?  Proving he was right and the religious leaders were wrong?  Bring those people to justice?  Fighting the continuous battle of law?  Love.  Just love.  I understand why now more than ever.  If you have love then all that other stuff falls into place.  That’s why it is so important because if you don’t have love you can’t have all that other stuff.  You can’t do anything right, be enough, pray enough, read your bible enough, witness enough, tithe enough, or be “Christian” enough.  If you have all those things but don’t have love then what are they worth?  I continually have to refocus my mind to love the hurting instead of punish the hurters.  See, because grace is for the robber and the robbed; the murderer and murdered; the raped and the rapist; the persecuted and the persecutor; the judged and the judgers; the proud and the humble; Hitler and those he killed; grace… is even for those who try to suppress it.  That’s the beauty of grace… it makes life not fair. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Faith of Demons

Recently I have begun a new journey of understanding grace and what it looks like as I walk through my life.  As I make my way through this journey I find that my mindset has changed.  I grew up in a Christian home and went to a very strict church and attended a Christian school.  

All these things caused the bible and even Christianity to become very academic to me.  When I say that I mean that my Bible became more of a text book to me than a guide to life, so to speak; I reduced God to simply another subject in my assignment folder.  

I am very analytical by nature and I tend to reduce things to a “there’s a problem, here’s the solution” kind of situation.  So… putting God in the academic box worked for me.  I got really into apologetics (defending your faith).  It pretty much was all about how to win any argument that you may ever encounter from any Non-Christian of any type.  

I went to apologetics camps, read books, and even wrote articles about it.  I had pretty much all the head knowledge possible when it came to defending your faith.  It really helped me at first because I was the kid that always questioned everything and pushed the lines and challenged the norm.  So learning apologetics caused me to test everything I believed and find it to be true.  

There was a problem though… It was all just head knowledge.  I knew every rational argument to prove Christianity, I knew every bible verse reference to back up my beliefs, I even knew all the biblical history behind every story, but… It didn’t change my life.  All that knowledge didn’t keep me from becoming an alcoholic or getting in street fights or hanging with the wrong people.  

It didn’t heal the deep scars on my heart from having my trust betrayed.  It didn’t drive the bitterness inside me away or comfort my loneliness.  All that knowledge didn’t help me at all.  See, here’s the thing about grace that’s so amazing; it changes your heart.  

In James it says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder. 

I believed in God, that he was real, that his son died to save me, and I feared him.  I feared punishment, feared judgment, and feared disappointing him. Then grace came along and it saved me from the fear.  Now I know, not only all the facts about God, but also the crazy, amazing, life ruining, breath taking relationship with God.  

Many churches promote the faith of demons.  Pastors preach it, Christians live it, and Satan enjoys it.  Come on guys! There’s more than that! There is freedom on the other side of fear!  We are called against the flow to be at peace with God in the midst of our perceived failures.  Join me, forsake your faith of demons and find freedom in a faith of grace. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Than Mercy

      I have started a new project with one of my best friends that has forced me to do a lot of research on churches in our community. We both have grown up in church, in Christian school, around church people, and as ministers’ kids.  We have experienced, and have seen others experiencing, a growing epidemic throughout the church today… the perpetuation of duty over desire.  It is a growing message in the church that after receiving Jesus as your Savior there is a list of “Christian duties” that come next.  These include but are not limited to:  baptism, communion, joining a church, giving tithe, quiet times, evangelism, prayer, going to church twice a week, learning to defend your faith, knowing how to win people over to the church, and my personal favorite being a good example to everyone else (which I think is just the nice way of saying “pretending to look good all the time”).  It amuses me that the church has become so focused on doing and teaching all these things when Jesus never seemed to worry so much about those things.  Every time you see Jesus talking about those things in scripture it was usually in response the religious leaders of the day who were trying to test him.  Jesus didn’t go around preaching, “Ok people, if you want to be a part of my kingdom this is the list of things you have to start doing to work your way there.”  No… Jesus sounded more like, “If you want to be my people learn strength under control and humility, oh and go help the hurting like the orphans and widows.”  Jesus is all about love and grace not duty and law.  Grace, that’s a really misused and misunderstood word in the church today.  I think church people get grace and mercy mixed up.  You hear even the most duty driven churches spouting off the word grace and even using it to name their churches.  They usually use it in the context of “Well, it’s by the grace of God that we’re alive right now because he has power over our lives” or “It’s by the grace of God we are saved through faith in His Son Jesus, Christ.”  When they say that what they mean is mercy, not grace.  See, mercy is not getting what we deserve.  It’s God’s mercy that keeps us all from burning in hell like we should.  It’s his mercy that keeps us from dropping dead like most of us should with the unhealthy lives we live.  Grace is something different entirely.  God… he’s always been one to go all out.  As ridiculously amazing as his mercy is, he couldn’t just stop there.  No, he went one step further and gave us his grace.  Grace, the getting what we don’t deserve, is what makes being a Christ follower all the more worth it!  Grace is the pouring out of all God’s love and favor onto us, in its fullness, at all times.  Do you know what that means?!  That means we are free the fail and still, in the midst of our failure, the outpouring of God’s love and favor doesn’t stop.  That means he is fully pleased with us at ALL times!  Did you hear that?!  ALL!  That to me is what makes me want to chase after God, it makes me want to live right, do right, think right, and lead others to Christ.  I’m proud to introduce people to such an amazing God that gives hope, not rules.  Oh, and by the way, you out there that choose to live by duty, content with limiting God to mercy and refusing his grace, you better make sure you live perfect lives because if you choose to live by works that’s what he will judge you by.