Intimacy Strategies

Our thoughts, emotions and bodies can be helpers or hinderances to our walk with God. Part of Christian maturity is learning how to “train ourselves for Godliness,” how to get our biology working for us and not against us. David once said, “My heart and flesh cry out for the Living God” so it is possible to overwrite our fallen nature through conscious action. Here are some ways to do that.

If you’d like to hear my audio explanation of some of these strategies, you can find it here.

Anticipate – Participate – Savor

(To build emotional awareness and physical sensitivity)

Anticipate – Envision an intimacy “feel good” moment with as much sensory detail as possible. Rehearse it frequently.

Participate – Be present when the event comes. Don’t be distracted by past or future events. Instead, focus on experiencing everything you can.

Savor – Remember in vivid detail how things happened and what you felt. Enjoy and relive the experience. Then ask yourself what could have made it even better and use that upgraded scenario for your next Anticipation.

Recognizing, Receiving and Rejoicing in God’s Gifts

(To experience God seeing you and knowing you)
Recognize – Realizing that what just happened (or didn’t happen) is God’s gift to you. The more specific your requests, the easier they are to identify when they come along. Small things happen to be the most meaningful.

Receiving – Take a moment to actually receive the gift and say “thank you.” God sees you and the precision in which he gives you gifts will blow your mind. He is constantly giving you things, but we rarely receive them because we don’t realize they are from him or take the time to apprehend them.

Rejoicing – Similar to Savoring above. Remember the story, drill deep into it. Your Father loves you and delights in giving you unique and precious gifts.

30 Day Challenge

(Realizing how Good he really is)

For the next 30 days, don’t ask God for anything. Instead, try to discover the gifts he is already giving you. Look for them each day and record them in your journal. Each morning pray,“Father, open my eyes to the gifts you are giving to me today.” If you get to the end of the day and didn’t find anything, ask Holy Spirit to rewind the tape and help you to see what you missed.

Declaration Prayer

(Aligning your emotions with Reality through Truth)

Select some Scriptures and truths you feel you need to grow into. Formulate them into a declaration statement. Write down this declaration every morning and then speak it out loud over yourself. You believe your own voice more than any other.

This is kind of like Neo in the Matrix. Biblical Truth is the Real World, but this present darkness feels more true. Aligning ourselves with the Truth of who God is and who we are takes courage and perseverance.

Becoming Aware of Your Design

(God speaks your love language)

Each evening, take a minute to ask yourself two questions and write down the answers in your journal. The two questions are: “when did I feel most alive/vibrant/joyful?” and “when did I feel most scattered/anxious/angry?” Keeping track of your answers to those questions will help you discover how God has made you. The quirkier your answers the better, because intimacy thrives on specificity.


I just got back from spending three and a half days in the mountains of Colorado with some of my favorite people. What a trip! I’m going to share a few highlights here, mostly so that I can keep record of them, but also to whet your appetite for what’s available when God is involved.

Healing Backs

I thought I’d start out with a couple of stories of God healing.

The first story is about a man I’ll call LJ. LJ has suffered for years with intense back pain for the last 7 years. He’s had several back surgeries (3 if I remember correctly) and nothing has really helped. I don’t know exactly when his healing happened, but I do remember him saying that he was pain free for the first time in a long time after some people prayed for him. And he proved it. I really enjoyed seeing him run up and down stairs with a smile on his face. Jesus is so good.

Another story is from a friend of mine. His back was really jacked up – his hips were out of alignment, causing his left leg to be about one inch shorter than his right and this led to pinched disks and nerves, inflammation and lots of pain. After 6 hours of travel sitting in a car and plane, he got to the Ranch and we dove right in to the retreat. I got to pray for him one night while he was laying on the floor and I felt/heard his hips pop. I kept my hand on his stomach and prayed for his body to come into alignment with God’s template for it. I got a call from him this morning after he visited his chiropractor — except for a few lower lumbar adjustments his back was completely restored and his hips were level and balanced. His chiropractor said that it would have taken 4-6 weeks of treating him 3 times per week to see that kind of change, yet Jesus did it in about 30 seconds and kept it in place for an entire weekend and 6 hours of travel home. Absolutely stunning in my opinion. He’s going to send me his X-rays in a few days and I’ll post them here.

Encountering God

Another friend of mine came to the Ranch for the first time. I remember him telling me how nervous he was that nothing was going to happen, which I totally get. When you hear so many stories about people having life changing encounters with God in a particular place, it can be stressful. We can start to think things need to look a certain way and that if nothing happens, then something is wrong with us. Happily, my friend had several profound encounters with God. It was super fun to see his countenance change from head down and nervous to head up and care free. Seeing this change in my friend reminded me of God’s Goodness. He really is better than we think.

I also had a neat encounter with God this weekend. I was journaling one morning and really in need of a reminder that God saw me. I happened to be writing the word “revelation” when I got a ping from Holy Spirit. I processed what God was telling me for a little while and then carried on with my day. A few hours later, in a staff meeting, Matt handed out some gifts he had gotten for the staff. As soon as he opened his bag, I saw a small metal box with the word “revelation” printed on it. I thought, “That’s mine!” Sure enough, Matt handed me the box. I don’t even remember what he said about it because I was caught up in an intimacy moment with Papa. I was floored that he not only saw me, but that he had set me up. I was amazed that days beforehand, God had told Matt to pick up this particular item for me, knowing that I would journal about my desire for him to reveal himself to me and that this one particular word would mean so much.

Letting Go of Doubt

The last highlight I’ll share is also a personal story. I went into this retreat emotionally beat up. I had lots of questions about God’s Goodness and Power, even about his existence. I had so many questions I wanted answers to and was spiraling downwards into doubt and depression. One night at the retreat, after some really incredible moments of teaching and worship, I found my heart really heavy. I went downstairs and laid under the pool table to complain to God. Through the help of Holy Spirit and some friends, I was able to come to the realization that my doubts and questions just weren’t helpful. None of them were leading me to love Jesus more or live a life of joy — just the opposite. So I set them aside. I gave up my desire to control and understand and took up once more my trust in God’s Goodness and Kindness. It feels really good. I feel really good. Sometimes questions are good and lead us into deeper encounter with God and sometimes questions make us feel like a turd in the toilet, swirling lower and lower until we find ourselves in the sewer. Some questions just aren’t helpful. Discovering that was intensely liberating for me.

Psalm 73: The Deceitfulness of Wealth

Whenever I have a hard time praying (which is a frustratingly common occurrence) I like to pray the Psalms. My common practice is to read the Psalm out loud, think about what the writer is trying to get across, and then pray the Psalm back in my own words. My brain thinks better when I write than when I speak, so I often journal these prayers. Here is my prayer from this morning. It really benefitted me to remember these truths and I hope it blesses you too.

Psalm 73: The Deceitfulness of Wealth (Ben’s Paraphrase)

I know God is Good to those whose hearts are pure, but I’m not one of them. I know this because my heart was recently captured by the things of this world – the love of money and envy for those who had it. Can you blame me?

Look around you! God says that those who love money and those who do as they please with no regard for Him and His ways are wicked, but I don’t see it. What I see are men and women living untroubled lives of luxury and elegance. They don’t have the worries of the poor. They stand outside of God’s Law, happy and content. I smell pride on them like strong cologne and the way they treat others is full of disdainful superiority. Everything about them speaks of wealth, luxury, power. They speak condescendingly to their “lessers” and threaten those under them with financial oppression. They speak arrogantly — even blasphemously! — against God and what does he do? Nothing.

Maybe they are right — maybe there is no God to dispense Justice or care for the oppressed. Maybe this is all there is. The ones who believe this are certainly doing well.

I’m beginning to think my devotion to God has been in vain, that I’ve read His Word and followed His commands for nothing. Every day I hear how foolish it is to serve Him, how foolish I am to believe in myths. But deep down I know the Truth.

I don’t understand why the wicked prosper or why God lets them go unpunished. Those mysteries are too great for me. But what I do know is that when I quiet my heart and come into Your Presence I’m reminded of what is Really Real.

Those well dressed men and high heeled women – they are walking uphill on a sheet of ice. Any moment now they will trip and fall. Everything they have trusted in will be stripped away and they will never recover. Everyone who sets themselves against God will be swept away. They will be forgotten faster than a dream upon waking.

Lord, I’m sorry… When my heart was lost in the love of money I grew bitter against you and I called your Way foolish. Thank you for never leaving me. Thank you for holding my hand throughout my temper tantrums – you are a Good and Loving Father. Thank you, too, for steadying me with your Word and reminding me of what is True by your Spirit. This world will soon fade away and when it does, I will be taken into Glory.

God, You are my sole desire. You are my greatest reward. I know I am frequently distracted from loving You, but I always return because, deep down, I know that there is no Life apart from You. 

So let the wicked revel in their wealth and the comfort it provides. I just wish they knew how fleeting it is and how much their pride will cost them in Eternity. It is better by far to have You, the Comforter Himself, than all the riches of this world. I have set my heart to know You and love You. You carry me through my doubt, You steady my through the storms. I will proclaim Your marvelous deeds forever!

Feeding the 5,000

On Sunday I got to preach from one of my favorite passages – Luke 9:10-17, the miraculous multiplication of bread. I’m still living in that story and I wanted to share some additional thoughts with you. This will be hodgepodge collection of nuggets rather than a formal post – hopefully you can follow along. :)

Jesus doesn’t despise weakness.

  • The prelude to this story is that Jesus has spent the last several months raising up a second tier of leadership while the Twelve have been away. He has been preaching and teaching, modeling and investing. He has been the sole minister while his team is away. On top of that, just as the Apostles return, Jesus gets word that his cousin, John (the Baptizer), has just been beheaded by Herod. Jesus and John were undoubtedly close – John was the only person (other than Mary) who really knew who Jesus was. What is more, a couple chapters back, in Luke 7, Jesus basically told John that he wasn’t coming to rescue him, that John would die in prison. Tired, grieving and looking forward to reconnecting with his friends, Jesus decides to slip away for some R&R.
  • The crowd, however, gets wind of Jesus’s intentions and quite literally runs around the lake to meet him. As Jesus and his disciples get to their destination, Jesus, tired and grieving, looks over the bow of the ship and sees a huge crowd pressed up against the shore – 10,000 people with their emotional vacuums pointed straight at him.
  • How does Jesus respond? His heart doesn’t sink, he doesn’t curse them in his heart or despise their neediness. Instead, the Bible says that he looked on them with compassion, like sheep without a shepherd. It says that he graciously welcomed them, taught them and healed them.
  • I love how compassionate Jesus is. I love that he can see beneath the surface, to what is really going on. These people were desperate for hope, they were aching to hear words of Life about Our Father. Jesus didn’t hold their sin, their neediness or their selfishness against them. Instead, he gave and taught and healed. He cared for them the way he wished they would have cared for him. Absolutely beautiful.

Bread from Heaven is far superior

  • I’m fascinated that, at some point in time, this entire crowd decided that it was better and more important to listen to Jesus than to go get dinner or find a room for the night. As long as Jesus was willing to speak, they were willing to listen. How good does a sermon need to be for people to be willing to override their legitimate human needs and choose something superior? I don’t know, I lose people about 10 minutes in.
  • What Jesus had to offer brought thousands upon thousands of people into the middle of nowhere. There was no shelter, there were no provisions, yet they came out in droves. Why doesn’t the world do that anymore? We have the same message, the same mission and the same Spirit… don’t we?

The Insignificant and Unworthy were the Seed of a miracle

  • In the original texts, only the men were counted. Women and children were considered insignificant, second class, less than. Yet it was a little boy, not the Apostles, who had something to offer. The Apostles, for all their spiritual power and ministry knowhow, hadn’t thought to bring anything to eat. But a young boy (more likely his mother) had. The boy was willing to give what he had, regardless of how small it was and that is what fed the multitude.
  • No matter how unworthy you feel or how insignificant you are in the eyes of the world, you are a miracle waiting to happen. What you have to give is valuable and, in the hands of Jesus, just might change the world.
  • The disciples really biffed it in Luke’s telling of the story. We know from John’s Gospel that the boy was the one with the food, but in Luke, the Apostles try to make it seem like they were the ones who had thought to bring some extra. It is an age old human tendency – we often try to make ourselves look better by taking credit for someone else’s idea. I think our challenge as followers of Jesus is to receive from “the least of these” in a way that broadly honors their contribution.

Expectancy is Key

  • When Jesus ordered the crowd to sit in groups of fifties, there had been no miracle. There was no mountain of food, no catering table. But the crowd obeyed. Even though they didn’t see the food, they acted with expectancy on a promise. The Master had said to sit and get ready for a meal. They didn’t know where the food was coming from, but they trusted it would show up.
  • I wonder how many miracles are waiting for the People of God to act on a promise? What would it look like for us to take Jesus at his word – to actually believe him?

Hoarding would have killed the miracle

  • When Jesus took the bread and blessed it, bread didn’t fall from Heaven like manna in the wilderness. It wasn’t as though thousands of loaves suddenly appeared for the Apostles to distribute. No. Instead, Jesus ripped apart a loaf and gave a chunk to Peter and said, “Go feed that group of fifty over there.” He gave another to Andrew and James and John and all the disciples, each with the same message.
  • When Peter got to his first group, I imagine his instructions to the first guy were, “Tear off some and pass it on down the line.” I think this is HUGE!!!! If they guy had looked around and said, “This is all there is, I’m keeping it” the miracle would have died. The miracle happened because each person shared what they had. They took a chunk and then passed it on.. and kept passing when it came around again. No one hoarded it. Instead, they shared freely.
  • But what if someone had hoarded it? Not only would the miracle have ceased to progress, but they would have still been hungry. The bread multiplied in the giving, not in the eating. Assuming each group of 50 got roughly half a loaf, that would not have been enough to fill one person up. Selfishness and greed would have resulted in no miracle and an unsatisfying meal for one person.
  • Think about the spiritual implication of this. Are you regularly sharing your faith, the life of Christ within you, the Bread from Heaven that made you a new creation? If not, then I’m assuming you’re not seeing miracles on a regular basis and that you are spiritually hungry. I’m guessing that hunger looks like:
  1. you’re dissatisfied with your current church because the music sucks, the preaching is lousy or the fellowship is superficial and you think some other place will “feed you”,
  2. you feel disillusioned because it seems like the Gospel isn’t quite as good as people claim it is,
  3. you feel like God doesn’t hear your prayers,
  4. you’ve compromised yourself morally because sinning seems like more fun and God loves you anyway,
  5. reading the Bible seems dull and irrelevant to your life
  • If any of those symptoms fits you, it is likely you’re fault – not your church’s fault, not your pastor’s fault and not God’s fault. You are hoarding what you’ve been commanded to share. The Dead Sea is dead because water flows into it but can’t flow out of it; therefore, it stagnates. Clear up the blockage, start sharing, start being life-giving to those around you and you’ll be surprised how quickly things turn around. The best part about things being your fault is that you have the power to change them. :)
  • Also, at the end of the story, once everyone has eaten their fill, the disciples collect the leftovers – twelve baskets full. They ended with more than they started with. Selah.

This story is the Gospel in miniature

  • I’m fairly certain that this story is the absolute apex of the Gospel narrative. Why? Because it is told in every Gospel and within a page or two after it is told (in Luke it is immediately after), Jesus talks to his disciples about his coming sacrifice for the very first time. It is almost as those the Apostles needed the object lesson in order to understand what Jesus was really about – he is the bread from Heaven, broken for the needs of the world. Jesus may have done “cooler” things, like walking on water, but nothing demonstrated his mission better.
  • Think about it this way: a son offers up everything he has so that it can be broken to satisfy the needs of many. That sure sounds like a Gospel presentation to me.
  • Jesus was broken so that we could be put back together. The Father rejected Jesus so that he would never have to reject us. God said “No.” to Jesus’s prayer in Gethsemane so he could say “Yes!” to us at Calvary. One man, blessed and broken, is what was needed for a new creation.

I’ll end this post with some notes I didn’t get to share yesterday. These are the promises I see contained in this passage for us as individuals and as a community. I know some of them may be redundant, but I trust you’ll bear with me. Thanks for reading friends.


  • The Promise to the Giver – What you have, no matter how small it appears, is enough in the hands of God. These stories abound in the Bible. It is a recurring theme in Scripture that if you will offer what little you have in service to God it will be enough to satisfy the needs of the day. And as long as you keep doing it, God’s provision will go on indefinitely. Most of the time, however, you will never appear “full.” The widow’s jar of flour was never overflowing, but every time she reached into the jar there was always enough for one more day’s worth of bread.
  • The Promise to the Receiver – Did you notice that the crowds sat down in anticipation of a meal before Jesus had broken the bread. There was no catering table being set up, there was no physical evidence that food was coming. But the crowd had an instruction from the Master, “Sit down in groups of fifty and get ready to eat.” So they did. They may have grumbled. They may have looked around and been confused. They may have said, “Well, it sure doesn’t make sense to me, but OK.” Who knows what they were thinking at the time. And remember, this isn’t a small group of people, this would be like the city of Waverly getting together in some farmer’s field and expecting a meal. The promise to the receiver is simple – do what he says and you’ll get what he promised. We don’t have to understand. We don’t even have to agree. We just have to obey. Simple acts of obedience are profoundly freeing when we approach them with an expectant heart.
  • The Promise to the Hungry – You can’t buy enough to satisfy your hunger. No amount of food, no amount of drink, no amount of sex, no amount of entertainment, no amount of stuff, no amount of anything will ever be enough to satisfy your spiritual hunger. Nothing except Jesus. Life will always feel shallow and pointless until you submit your life to Jesus. This passage is a major turning point. Shortly after this passage appears in each of the Gospels, Jesus begins to talk to his disciples about his betrayal and crucifixion. The symbolism is clear, the bread is Jesus’s body. The bread was broken to satisfy their physical hunger, but that satisfaction was short lived. Jesus’s body was broken to satisfy the wrath of God and to open for us the way to Everlasting Life, and that is eternal. Life finds meaning and purpose in Jesus. Suffering and pain find purpose in Jesus. He is the Master at taking the broken and making it beautiful.
  • The Promise to the Broken, the Abused and the Insignificant – You are a miracle waiting to happen. It wasn’t the Apostles who were so thoughtful and wise so as to bring along some extra food. It was a child. It might have been the lunch his mother packed for him, it might have been something he thought of himself, either way, it was all he had and he gave it freely. He gave it freely even when the disciples tried to take credit for it. Without that little bit of generosity this miracle would have never happened. The promise to all of you who feel hurt, wounded, insignificant, unwanted, unloved, broken, abused or otherwise unworthy is that you have something to offer and that something is valuable. What you have to give might never become a miracle recorded in a book or blog, but it will change the world. Furthermore, God sees you. He sees you as you are and he sees you as you will one day be. If you can learn to see yourself the way God sees you, you won’t want to be anybody else. Your story isn’t over. God isn’t finished with you yet.
  • The Promise to the Community – The Gospel is for everyone. Jesus didn’t just miraculously feed himself, his disciples or a select group of followers. He saw the needs of the group. He saw that everyone needed something to eat and he commissioned his disciples to be the ones to meet those needs in a systematic and sacrificial way. Church, if we believe what the Bible says, then we have what the world needs. We have the Bread of Life, the Living Water, we have every spiritual blessing, all power and all authority. We have everything we need to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Said a little differently and specifically, we have the capacity to make Waverly an outpost of the Kingdom of God on the earth. There don’t have to be hungry people in Waverly. There don’t have to be poor people in Waverly. There don’t have to be sick people in Waverly. There certainly don’t have to be people destined for Hell in Waverly. The answers to all of those problems are locked up in the Church – in us! If that sounds extreme, hard to believe, even a little “out there” then I submit that maybe our God is a little too small and our Devil a little too big. For real guys, if what the Bible says is true, then we have the Spirit of the Living God inside of us and we are promised that every time the Kingdom of Heaven collides with the kingdom of this world our side will win. Why are we not running into everything!? The promise to our community is transformation. It is the promise that the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, within our reach, if we will only stretch out our hands and lay hold of it.

Savoring the Moment

Earlier today, I posted the following on Facebook:

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 8.50.45 PM

I wanted to give you a little more of the story.

Full Disclosure

While Dani and I were eating at Tony’s the girls running the raffle were walking around and stopped by our table. I wasn’t particularly interested in them – I was there to have an unhurried dinner with my wife, not win a t-shirt. So I took a number and they continued on.

As Dani and I were waiting for our waitress to get our change, I happened to look over and notice one of the girls walking with a limp. I opened my mouth, then closed it. My mental dialogue went something like:

“Huh, she’s walking with a limp. I wonder what happened? I wonder if I should pray for her? Does she know Jesus? Oops, she’s already walked past and I don’t really feel like tracking her down. Maybe if she comes around again…”

Dani must’ve noticed because she looked at me and said, “Why didn’t you pray for her? You’re the one who always says you want to do this stuff. Why didn’t you?” I didn’t really have any words worth saying just flimsy, flimsy excuses.

The truth is, I’ve been really shy about praying for people lately. A month or so ago I had a convicting realization that the inner voice I’d been listening to, that had been directing much of my effort as a Pastor and a Christian, wasn’t God at all. I had fallen into the lie that healing and salvation are attained through my efforts rather than God’s. It was humiliating and disheartening and I took a huge step back from prayer and evangelism and for the last couple months have felt rather aimless.

Fortunately, God’s call is irrevocable and He doesn’t change His mind. He’s been slowly moving me back to a place of trust in Him and His word. It was His idea to give us the ministry of healing, I’m just trying to be obedient. (I really suck at that most of the time.)

Also, this morning we had a great testimony from Mason (video coming soon) about stepping out in faith to pray for people and had stirred up those longings again. So, between Mason’s testimony and Dani reminding me of what is really true and important I was trapped. I had to do it. I excused myself to the bathroom to work up some courage.

When I came back, the girl was standing at my table! She had drawn my number in the raffle and wanted to get my size for the t-shirt. Holy setup Batman.

Obviously, I had to go for it. I did a short interview and found out that she had just had her third knee surgery (she was in her mid twenties) and was actually in a lot of pain. I asked her to sit, explained that I was a Pastor and that I wanted to pray for God to take away the pain in her knees. She gave me the “you’re crazy” look but let me pray for her.

After a short prayer I asked her to test it out. She felt better. Her pain had gone from a 10 to a 5. I asked her to sit again. After a second prayer she was down to a 1 and had increased her range of motion about 20 degrees. I didn’t notice any reduction in swelling, but I’ll take a 90% reduction in pain.

I asked her if she knew Jesus and she said she did, and that she and her fiancé were in-between churches. Since she lived in Waterloo I directed her to some friend’s churches and we left.

Some Take Aways

I’d like to reiterate that, on my own, I would not have prayed for this girl. I probably wouldn’t have even noticed her pain. I was too busy and then too afraid. A healing would have gone undone and my intimacy with God wouldn’t have grown simply because I was too busy. Ugh.

BUT, the healing did happen because Mason’s testimony had stirred up my heart and my wife reminded me to be the man I am called to be. Testimony and community are powerful force multipliers in the Kingdom. They call us to higher standards. They remind us that it is God who is great, not us, but that we have the privilege to serve alongside him. It is a beautiful and humbling thing to be used by God to take away someone’s pain and share with them the Good News of the Resurrected King.

That girl wasn’t healed because I am special or gifted or anointed. She was healed because Jesus is awesome. Our Resurrected King shattered the powers of sin, death and the devil on Calvary and we are messengers of that fact. We have the privilege of enforcing His Kingdom wherever we go and the kingdom of this world must give way. It is a glorious existence my friends.

Savoring the Moment

Satan can steal from us in at least three ways. He can constrict the flow of life from God to us and slow down the answers to our prayers so that we give up. He can take something we have when we give him legal access through unrepentant sin. He can also make us forget. This last seems to be his favorite tactic and the one most devastating to the Church.

The enemy causes us to forget our victories, our histories with God. He convinces us that we have to fight old battles again or that the successes of previous generations do not belong to us. He gets us busy and tired and we forget the multitudes of times God has intervened in our lives. He sucks us dry, like a bug caught in a spider’s web until we forget God’s goodness and his work in our lives.

A forgotten work of God isn’t much different than one that never happened as far as its impact on our lives. If we don’t constantly savor the presence and power of God in our lives then we become ever more paralyzed and ever more religious. What was once a vibrant interaction with God becomes a formalized ritual – an appearance of godliness devoid of life changing power.

I think that one of the best things we can do for one another is to share stories. We need to share testimonies of God’s Goodness, we need to remind one another of the words spoken over us and the call of God on our lives. We need to call out what is best in one another and remind ourselves of what is eternally true. This is what I hope our home groups can be – a launching pad for Kingdom invasion as the saints are fed, equipped, encouraged, empowered and healed.

I hope my story gives you courage to take your own step of faith. You are made to carry the Spirit of the Living God into the world around you. There are miracles waiting to happen, stories as yet untold. Some of them, maybe many of them, will happen wether you decide to participate or not, but don’t you want you?

Getting UnBusy


I hate the word ‘busy’. I hate it with growing fervor. I hate that it is the sacred, unassailable and unquestioned excuse our culture uses to avoid events and people. I hate how it is used to flatter, to express sympathy and to keep relationships on a superficial level.

I also hate how everyone is ‘so busy’ yet little of consequence ever seems to get done. What is really getting accomplished in our frenetic hustle? Have we eliminated poverty or found a cure for cancer? Or have we simply succeeded in maintaining the economic engine of our society – mindless consumption?

I hate the cultural norms that excuse employees for checking Facebook or ESPN at work and then sympathizes with their “heavy workload” that keeps them from riding bikes or playing in the dirt with their kids. I hate that over half of the meals in America are eaten in cars or in front of a TV screen.

I am on a crusade against busyness. I realize that I run the risk of offending a lot of people because I am attacking one of our most cherished idols, the one we sacrifice our lives and families to, but I believe the risk is worth it. There is a better way of living that is more satisfying, more productive and more enjoyable.


Burned out Pastors

The first year I pastored was tumultuous. I had no previous experience pastoring or leading an organization and it was everything I could do to keep from drowning. A whole lot of things went undone that first year because I didn’t yet have the capacity to manage it all.  My days were hectic and scattered. I never felt that I accomplished anything or that I was on top of my workload. In the worst moments I fantasized about quitting and sympathized with the estimated 1,700 pastors who quit the ministry every month. (By the way, that statistic isn’t true – it is urban legend. However, that first year of pastoring made it all too believable.)

On top of it all, that same year, two Pastors whom I highly respect went through terrible health issues and burn out. Each Pastor was a veteran saint who had spent decades building his congregation. Each was lauded by their respective city and denomination as a model Pastor and church, the kind wet-behind-the-ears-whipper-snappers like me were supposed to emulate. However, I had a very privileged view into the lives of these men and their congregations and I saw what pushing for growth cost them personally and professionally.

No Thank You

Because I got to see the terrible effects of burn out first hand, I had absolutely no desire to pursue the kind of ministry they had mastered during my lifetime. If building a “successful” church meant that I had to be a driven, Type A workaholic who demanded much from myself and more from others and resulted in a mental/physical/spiritual/social breakdown then I didn’t want it. I’d rather be happy and healthy instead. Thus, the name of this blog, “The Happy Pastor” was born. My intent at the beginning of this blog was to scour the internet and accumulated wisdom of the ages to see if their was a better model of pastoring. My focus has shifted since then, but that was the genesis of this site.


In one of my darkest times, when my fantasy of quitting was about to become a reality, my friend Marty made me aware of a book by Eugene Peterson called The Contemplative Pastor. I was familiar with Peterson’s name from The Message, but I hadn’t read any of his work. Based on Marty’s recommendation I picked it up.

To say The Contemplative Pastor was life changing wouldn’t be much of an overstatement. It came at a critical time in my life and career and has formed me in more ways than I know. I have yet to put it into practice in all the ways I would like, but I return to it again and again as a model for the kind of Pastor I want to be.

Peterson’s manifesto includes three adjectives he uses to describe pastoring and he develops each in turn. The three adjectives Peterson applies to Pastors are: unbusy (hence the name of this post), subversive and apocalyptic. I’ll only deal with the first here, but the others are worth exploring at another time.


There are so many good quotes it is hard to choose, but perhaps the most salient is the following:

“THE ONE piece of mail certain to go unread into my wastebasket basket is the letter addressed to the “busy pastor.”

Not that the phrase doesn’t describe me at times, but I refuse to give my attention to someone who encourages what is worst in me. I’m not arguing the accuracy of the adjective; I am, though, contesting the way it’s used to flatter and express sympathy.

“The poor man,” we say. “He’s so devoted to his flock; the work is endless, and he sacrifices himself so unstintingly” But the word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.”

Eugene H. Peterson. The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (Kindle Locations 149-154). Kindle Edition.

Peterson continues to rail against our “blasphemous anxiety to do God’s work for him,” but much of the above section can readily apply to all of us, not just pastors.


Peterson also identifies several reasons for busyness. I have drilled down a little deeper and offer you my own take on why it is so easy, even rewarding, to be busy.


American culture idolizes busyness. Busyness is a status symbol, a way of showing our importance. A full calendar tells us, and all who will take notice, that we are important, vital, highly sought after. Our understanding of economics supports this. A commodity with little supply and huge demand is far more costly than one with a large supply and little demand – therefore, limited time because of endless demands means I am valuable.

We use busyness as a badge of honor, a way of reminding ourselves that we are essential lynchpins in the mechanism of society. I’ve known people who refuse to take vacations because they are so certain they are the only ones who can do their jobs and that the company would fall apart without them. Their job security rests on them being the only one capable of doing certain things. Then they get sick and (horror of horrors!) life goes on without them.

None of us are irreplaceable. That doesn’t mean we are just widgets or cogs in the wheel a la Henry Ford. Rather, it means that the world will adapt to our absence with little to no side effects. We aren’t nearly so important as we think. I find this intensely liberating because it means emails, text messages and voicemails can wait – people really can solve their own problems.


I also find myself being busy when I can’t say no. Especially in Christian circles we confuse powerlessness with holiness. The inability to say no, the constant devaluing of our own needs for the sake of others, the lifestyle of being constantly on the go yet never getting anything done – this is not what God intended and it is not a sign of maturity.

One of the most liberating books I have read in the past year is Keep Your Love On by Danny Silk (seriously, go get it) because Silk does an outstanding job of explaining what it means to be a powerful person. It isn’t holy to live without boundaries, it isn’t healthy or God-honoring to never say ‘no’ or to give people unlimited access to your heart, home and time. This was a serious battle for me. I’m a bleeding heart and want to help, but without boundaries I will bleed out.

Jesus said to “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” I don’t know about you, but that sounds like I need to love myself before I can love my neighbor. If I don’t love myself, care for myself, value myself, nourish myself, shepherd myself, or protect myself then I am simply unable to do that for others. But the Religious Spirit in America says “No! You must give and give. To say ‘no’ to others is selfish. You are a servant, you are supposed to give, you are supposed to be last.” I don’t even try to argue with this anymore, I just douse them with holy water and say “Be gone in Jesus’ Name!” Not really, but I want to. I’ve never found myself able to convince someone to value themselves when this is their mindset. They either have to burn out and learn it the hard way or Holy Spirit has to make it real to them – I can only step aside and pray after I’ve spoken to them.


Finally, some of us are busy because we are absolutely terrified of being alone. If we ever have a moment of unoccupied time it seems like all of the monsters start crawling out of the closet and from under the bed. In a desperate attempt to keep from thinking or processing at a deeper level, we pursue busyness with a vengeance, even taking our smart phones with us to the bathroom so we can read or play a game. Boredom is the enemy we are determined to conquer.

This has always been the case for humanity. In times past it was movies, newspapers, books or work. We have always been afraid to be with ourselves and run the risk of recognizing how shallow and insignificant our lives really are. Perhaps that is why Christians have so long recommended the Disciplines of Solitude and Silence and means to spiritual growth. Confronting our demons, our insignificance and our impotence is, surprisingly, the only way to actually influence the world and accomplish anything of worth. Solitude and Silence is hard work and strong medicine, but it has helped to make sinners into saints for centuries.


Now, before I go on, I’d like to clarify one thing. I am not advocating that you quit your job, cancel all your appointments and activities and go be a monk. I’m also not saying that you can’t have fun, enroll your kids in enrichment activities or have a full schedule.

What I am saying is that busyness is a quality of the soul. Busyness is when our minds are distracted, our energy dispersed and we are unable to be present to the world around us. Busyness is when we cannot listen to another human being because our lunch hour is up or we’re preoccupied with the seven other things on our To Do List. Busyness is being self-consumed, totally cut off from communion with God and fellowship with others. What I am advocating for in my crusade against busyness is primarily a change in mindset that will overflow into a change in our schedules.


Being Present

I get having a full schedule, I have my day planned from 5am to 10pm every day of the week. But because I have a plan and have dedicated myself to the hard work of being a powerful person, I am not busy. I certainly have things to do, but I’m not busy. My schedule allows me to be fully present wherever I am and whatever I’m doing because I know everything has a time and a place. I find it difficult to describe how liberating it is to enjoy a nap guilt free because you know your work is going to get done.

Even more valuable, as I go about my day and work I find myself better able to talk with God because my mind isn’t cluttered with multitudes of projects and ideas. When I go shopping I carry a list which frees me from trying to remember things and also frees me to pay more attention to the people around me. I find myself praying more and asking God better questions. It is really quite fascinating to see how taking care of myself allows me to take better care of others.

Living on Mission

And that brings me to the main point of this post. Busyness distracts us from our proper work as citizens of God’s Kingdom. We are called to be salt, light and leaven to the world around us. We are called to give to others the unhindered flow life which flows in to us from God. We are called to make disciples of all nations, immersing them in the character and nature of God and teaching them to obey all Jesus commanded us. We can’t do that when we are busy.

Seeing people and having compassion on them requires a presence of soul that is rarely found in the world today. The ability to listen is in short supply and those able to speak words of life even more so. Getting unbusy is the first step in making ourselves available to God so that he can use us to advance his Kingdom.

Once again, I’m not saying you need to quit your job or the activities you love. Instead, I’m suggesting that if we are going to truly live into our calling to make disciples then we will need to learn how to be powerful people who take control of our schedules and who fight against the cultural norms imposed upon us. We need to reject the notion that our worth comes from our busyness and we need to learn to be alone with ourselves. In doing so, we open ourselves to the possibility of God speaking to us and moving through us.

So, by all means, take your daughter to dance class or football practice, but while you’re there, please stay off of your phone. Sit by yourself and pray or start asking God to speak to you about the other parents present. Strike up a conversation – invite them to your home group – who knows what will happen?

Missional Communities

The Goal

The goal of the Church is making disciples. Each individual congregation pursues that goal in a different way and there isn’t even much agreement on what “disciple” means. This has resulted in a scatter shot approach to “doing Church” – we’re not quite sure what we’re aiming for, but we think it is “that way, over there”, so we throw a handful of programs and projects in the general direction of our beliefs and hope something sticks. I’m not here to answer for the Church what “disciple” means. I’m hear to articulate what “disciple” means for my congregation and how we are going to go about making them.

Defining “Disciple”

For me, a “disiple” is someone who knows God like Jesus does. When we know God the way Jesus knows him, as Father, we begin to see things the way Jesus sees them and everything in our lives comes into alignment with Reality and our transformed lives are an overflow of our relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. That still feels rather nebulous, so please bear with my while I unpack it.

Let’s say I am making dinner plans with some friends and my wife isn’t present. I have a pretty good idea of how to put together an evening she would enjoy because I know her and I’ve spent a lot of time with her. I know what kind of food she likes and doesn’t like, I know what kind of activities she enjoys and what kind she will only tolerate. I know her love language and can craft an evening with friends where we can have undistracted quality time and talk about core life issues for several hours in a comfortable environment. So, even though I am making plans and Dani isn’t present physically, she is present in me and we can plan as though she was physically there to offer her opinions. It is the same way with God.

When you know God, his likes and dislikes, his taste, the activities he enjoys and the ones he doesn’t, the environments he feels comfortable in, his thoughts on the world (et cetera, et cetera) it becomes really easy to represent him to the world. Jesus is such a perfect representation of God because he knows him. When we begin to know God like Jesus does, we will begin to speak like Jesus speaks and do the things Jesus does. As we cultivate imtimate, mutually self-disclosing relationships with the Trinity, we will gain a good understanding of what they would say or do in a certain situation – then we do it. Discipleship = Intimacy + Action. We obey Jesus’s commands because we love him and trust him. That love and trust, the knowledge of his character, is what allows us to obey even when we don’t understand or initially disagree. It is in obedience to our Lord that we discover more of his wisdom, affection and desire for our wellbeing.

I could try to add a lot more to the definition above, but that simple definition sums up everything I believe a disciple should be. Knowing what God thinks and feels about things like poverty, racism, sexuality, government, business, education, the environment, abortion (and so on) gives us a clear map to follow. At least, what we believe to be a clear map.

The tension of Humility and Certainty

Knowing God begins with the Bible. Our God is a self-revealing God who desires to be known by his creation. God is so unfathomably Other that it would be impossible to understand his character, thoughts, desires and emotions on our own. Sure, we would have a general sense of his existence, but to know him as a person requires him taking the first step. He is the one that had to bridge the gap. He had to be the first to speak.

Both the Old and New Testaments document the thoughts, words and actions of Our Father. It was he who created. It was he who promised redemption after our rebellion. It was he who made covenant and brought it to fulfillment centuries later. It was he who showed us what life is like under his influence. The Bible is the recorded work of God in human history. It is God’s self-expression, how he wants to be known. We can never know God fully, but we can know him truly – that Truth is found in the Bible.

One problem with our understanding and relating to that Truth is that we are several thousand years removed from its initial revelation. We must rely on the integrity of countless human beings throughout the ages in their attempt to accurately convey the essence of these matters to us. While we primarily rely on God’s steady hand to direct the transmission of Truth and information, when we open up a Bible we are getting a product filtered through countless historians, theologians, translators and pastors. That does nothing to dimish the authority of the Bible, but it does remind us that we need to be in relationship with the Living Word as well as the written word. 

Even with God’s self-revelation in the Bible and God’s indwelling Presence through the Spirit, there is still tremendous disagreement within the Church about who God is and what he is like. It boggles my mind, really, and the zealot in me longs to charge into the fray and do battle, but Wisdom says no. Wisdom says to live transparently before my flock and to let them see the fruit of my life and beliefs as I live them out day after day, month after month and year after year. It is my hope that the abudant harvest of righteousness in my life, proven over decades, will convince them of the Truth – for it is all I can offer.

I am absolutely committed to knowing God, better and better each day if I can. That allows me to speak and act with a degree of certainty, yet I am also aware that I make mistakes. The accuracy of my beliefs can only be shown over time. Perhaps, if I am correct, the Lord will help me steward the Church in a greater way in the years to come.

The Strategy

Our goal is to make disciples – men and women who know God and are, therefore, able to share God’s heart with those around them and able to demonstrate his superiority over the world through their lives and actions. How best to do that?

If our relationship with God began because he first took the initiative to enter into our world and show interest in us, then that seems like a good place to start. God did not say, “First, show interest in me and then come to find out more about me.” But you would think he did from the way we “do church” in America. Through our structure and programming, the Church in America basically says, “If you’re interested in God, here we are. God only lives in our box and has nothing to do with the outside world. But he is pretty cool…” That worked for awhile, but I think there is a better way.

In Mark 3, we see Jesus select a group of 12 men from a larger crowd. He creates a community with them with this express purpose, “that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority over demons,” (emphasis mine). Jesus’s ministry model was to form a community for the purpose of ministry, not community itself. We see this several times in the Gospel and Acts. First, it is the core community of the Twelve. Once they are up and running, Jesus expands to a group of Seventy-Two. Then it is 120 after the Resurrection and finally 3,000 at Pentecost. Each group had the same DNA – gather, grow, go, regroup.

The disciples gathered together for friendship, encouragement and refreshment over a meal. They grew as Jesus (and later the Apostles) taught them about the Kingdom of God through Bible study, personal revelation and practical application. Then the disciples went out to do what they had just been taught. Finally, they regrouped to share stories of victory, to troubleshoot problems and to pray for increased power and effectiveness. This sequence of events created impressive momentum within the community because it caught the disciples up in a virtuous cycle of intimacy, revelation, exertion and refreshment. These meetings were filled with joy, comradery, praise, thanksgiving, revelation, power and answered prayer. It was life-giving to the disciples and the larger community and it resulted in a rapid multiplication of those willing to surrender their lives to Jesus as Lord and Savior.

The Vision

This is the kind of community I hope to create. This is the kind of community I would want to be a part of. It is also the kind of community that produces the kind of fruit I am after. I want to produce people who know and love God in an ever deepening way and that can only happen as we submit our lives and schedules to times of worship, prayer, praise, encouragement, exhortation, equipping, serving and rest personally and corporately. I’m looking for as many “on ramps” onto the highway of intimacy that I can find. I know God reveals himself to me personally, I know God reveals himself through his word, I know God reveals himself through others and I know God reveals himself in the world. Therefore, I need to intentionally look for him in those places – that is what being “on mission” is all about. Figure out what God is doing in a certain place, look for how he is revealing or wants to reveal himself, and then partner with it. That is how we extend God’s Kingdom to others.

My dream is 100% participation in Missional Community for every regular attender on Sunday morning. It would make my heart sing to see everyone getting together twice a month or more to eat, worship, talk, learn, be equipped and go out encouraged to do what God has called them to do. I’m committed to beating this drum for the next two years and then taking some time to evaluate. We’ll adjust, continue or scrap it once we get a good feel for how this works in our community. 

If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to send them my way.

As always, thanks for reading.


What I Meant to Say: Better Together

At yesterday’s service I publically processed some of my thoughts from the Global Vineyard Conference, how it impacted me personally and how I think it will impact the congregation. My reflection largely revolved around the issue of family. I wanted to reformulate those thoughts into a more coherent message for our family, thus this post. 

The Father and His Family

When Jesus came to the earth, he primarily revealed God as Father. We see the theme of “God as Father” in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it is rather minor and easily overshadowed by the others names/revelations of God. Jesus isolates and elevates this understanding of God, making it the basis of his ministry. He cemented this foundational understanding of how we are supposed to interact with God when he taught his disciples to pray, “Our Father…”

For a large number of us, the word “father” does not conjure up a joyous, virile and empowering image. Rather, it awakens in us a deep sadness, longing and even fear. Too many of us have had fathers who were absent, distant, abusive, cruel, disinterested, addicted, impotent or controling. Even those of us whose relationships with our dads are relatively healthy and intact still feel a gnawing emptiness, as though they were not all they were inteded to be. Very few are those who enter adulthood with a strong sense of what a father should be – an image to aspire to if one is male or someone to look for if female. Most of us are limping along, trying to do the best we can.

Therefore, when Jesus teaches us to relate to God primarily as a father, as THE Father, it is understandable that we have issues. It is all too easy to project onto God the faults and failings of our earthly dads and not look at it the other way – that God is the One who defines Fatherhood and that our dads were the ones who fell short. God is a Good Father, the Perfect Father – never cruel or manipulative, never controling or unjust. Because God can only give what he has, James (the half-brother of Jesus) declares that “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Heavenly Lights.” Pretty amazing really… if something isn’t good or perfect then it isn’t from God.

If God is a Father, then we (his children) are a family. John the Apostle says that “to everyone who receives Christ, he gives the right to be reborn children of God.” As Christians, we have been adopted into the family of God – God is our Father, Jesus our Elder Brother and the rest of us siblings together. 

Life Together

I am going to hazard a guess that when Jesus prayed in the Garden, “Father, I want them to be one as you and I are one (John 17:21)” he wasn’t envisioning a suburban middle class lifestyle where we all live in seperate houses and only see each other once or twice a week. Instead, I think he was describing a heart posture of longing and delight that would have a profound effect on our lifestyle. I think he was envisioning a family – a family of God where every dividing wall of gender, race and economics is torn down and we all worship before the Throne singing “Worthy is the Lamb because you were slain and with your blood you purchased for God people from every tribe and language, people and nation. You have made us a kingdom, and priests to serve our God…”

“You have made us a kingdom…” This family is also a Kingdom, a group of people who have sworn allegience to a King and who are committed to obeying him wherever they happen to currently live on the earth. This bond of obedience, of wanting to hear God and obey him, is stronger than any earthly bond (Luke 8). The Blood of the Lamb is thicker than the blood of this world and our connection to God through Jesus is more certain, more sure and more lasting than anything this world can provide. One day this world will burn away, yet the family of God, the Kingdom of God, remains.

 Life in the Kingdom is simple. We eat together around a table. We work together. We celebrate birthdays and anniversaries. We create and we party. We serve and we enjoy. We love deeply and well and we clean up our messes. Most of us do this with our biological/adoptive families, why wouldn’t we do it in Church?

For too long we have confused the American Dream of upward mobility and ever increasing possessions with the Kingdom of God. The two are not the same. I think we are due for another Reformation, another way of “doing church” that will recenter our attention on the issues of family and Father. At least, that is what I see for our congregation. Going forward, I think we will have a much more deliberate emphasis on knitting ourselves together into a family through small groups and other events. I forsee a large number of campire conversations and poutlucks in our future. 


My Spanking from Romans

By means of preface, this post is for me and for those of you who have read and agreed with my general premise in these last two posts. 

Morning Devotions

As I sat down to read this morning, I felt like I should go to Romans. At first I resisted, thinking I had spent too much time blogging and needed some better perspective. The urge persisted, so I grabbed my coffee and sat in my favorite chair.

I opened to Romans 1 and, as you might expect, felt a mixture of peace/vindication. “OK, I’m really not crazy. This really is clear.” Then I got to Romans 2:1-8, emphasis mine:

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things (the things referenced in Romans 1:18-32) is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgement on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” 

But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of his wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

That was a Holy Spirit gut punch this morning. I’d like to share with you some of my processing.

First, the words of Jesus to the men wanting to stone the adulteress woman, “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.” The only person qualified to pass judgment on sexual immorality is the one who is not sexually immoral. Now Paul just declared that sexual immorality is sin deserving of punishment, so I don’t think stating those truths and telling people what God says about something is passing judgment. “Passing judgment” is, I believe, when we take upon ourselves the duty and desire to punish people for their sin.

We are currently living in what Jesus called “the favorable year of the Lord,” the time when “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” and when Jesus says to sinners “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.”  So, as those called to carry on the message and ministry of Jesus, we are called to acknowledge that people are sinners AND declare to them the Gospel, the path to forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Whether they choose to “go and sin no more” is ultimately up to them – our job is to declare to people what God says about sin, try to help them see their need for a Savior, declare to them the Good News of Jesus and help them mature as disciples if that is the route they choose to take. We warn but we do not punish.

Jesus and Paul also acknowledged that this extended season of God’s favor would end and that there would be “the great and terrible Day of the Lord,” “the Day of vengence of our God,” “the Day when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” This Day is a short season where we see things as they truly are – sin is punished and righteousness rewarded. We aren’t there yet and when we do get there, it will be God doing the judging, not us.

Where I get to eat a large slice of humble pie is when Paul talks to the Romans about condemning sin while doing the same things they condemn. I’ve never had sex with another guy, but I have been addicted to porn. And while that addiction has largely been defeated, it still resurfaces from time to time. The point is, there is still a large portion of my heart that has yet to submit to Jesus. I am not a finished project, netiher are you, and neither are the other people in our lives. Recognizing this, and being open about my own failing, helps me to walk a little softer and speak a little gentler. 

What I don’t want is what Paul calls “a stubborn and unrepentant heart” that stores up judgment for itself. I never want to be so caught up in my own self-righteousness that I think I’m the only one who is right and everyone else is wrong. I want to be constantly realigning my heart to the Truth of God’s word. I don’t just want to read the Word, I want the Word to read me, like it did this morning.

Who is the better friend? 

As I was processing these things and debating wether or not to change or retract anything I’ve said these last few days, I felt like Holy Spirit gave me a picture/parable and it helped settle things for me.

Imagine someone comes to you holding out a pill and says “Take this, exercise your freedom, live a little – it will feel great.”

And then another person, overhearing this, turns and says to you, “You can do whatever you want, but just so you know, everything I’ve read says that, if you swallow that pill, there is at least a 50% chance it will kill you.”

I’m not perfect. I have flaws and failings that I try to be very open about. But I don’t think that disqualifies me from sharing with them what I believe to be the truth. 

Interacting with Different Worldviews

As I continue to watch and listen to people discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling, it appears that there are at least two fundamentally different worldviews at work. One group believes the LGTBQ community is a healthy expression of human sexuality and another group does not. Not surprisingly, those two different starting places lead to different conclusions. As I continue to talk with people and try to understand how they get to their own conclusions I have the feeling we are talking past one another – using the same words but in different ways. So today’s post is mostly for me. I’m trying to articulate what I hear each side saying. I want to represent each side accurately, but I know I can’t. Because I’m not in the group that believes LGBTQ expression is what God intended I cannot really portray their thoughts as accurately or with the level of passion they obviously have. So, I appeal to any readers out there who do share that opinion to correct or expand on anything I say here. 

What I think I hear you saying…

What I think I hear the LGTBQ community saying (along with those straight people who share their worldview) is that they are not broken and don’t need fixing. They believe their lifestyle/orientation/expression, willingly chosen or genetically predeterminded, is healthy, valid and viable. And, as human beings, they expect to be treated as such. As citizens of the United States they expect to receive the rights, benefits and privileges afforded by the Constitution. (I don’t disagree with these last two statements by the way.)

What I think I hear the LGBTQ Christian community saying is that Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross secured for all people the eternal love of God. I think I hear the LGBTQ Christian community defining love as complete and total acceptance – as in “God already loves me just the way I am. I don’t need to change in order to get God to love me, because God already accepts me completely.” Additionally, the LGBTQ community does not see LGBTQ reltionships as sexual immorality because these relationships are committed, consentual and long term. They understand the sexual purity laws on the Bible (especially the Old Testament) to be particular to that culture and mindset, a product of that era’s understanding of the way the world worked. And since, for instance, these same people thought the sun revolved around the earth, there is a reasonable justification for believing that the Biblical writers may have gotten this issue wrong as well. What God was really against, what sexual immorality is really about, is the abusive power dynamics between men and women propagated by a patriarchal system.

It seems to me that the LGBTQ Christian community emphasizes Jesus’s aceptance of the outsider, his desire to break down every dividing wall, his grace secured by his sacrifice and his commandments to love. As I understand it, for the LGBTQ Christian community, being a Christian is primarily about loving people. And, as stated above, that means accepting and celebrating people as they are without feeling the need to change them.

The other word I hear the LGBTQ Christian community use a lot is grace. I have not yet been able to solidify what I think they are saying when they use that word – this is where I could really use some help from those of you in this camp. When I get a better definition I will replace this paragraph with your words. 

Here is what I think you are saying: 

  • “You need to have grace for that person” sounds to me like “If you don’t agree with them, keep it to yourself because there is always the chance you could be wrong. Give them the benefit of the doubt.”
  • “God is a God of Grace” sounds to me like “God primarily cares about how I treat other people. My personal, private lifestyle is largely inconsequential long as I am pursuing justice in society and extending unconditional acceptance (love) to others.”

Again, this is how these things sound to me when I hear them, this is what I think you are saying – I can obviously be mistaken. I hope that was a fair articulation of this particular worldview.

Where I am coming from

I’m going to intentionally limit this section to my own understanding and beliefs, I’m not  going to try and speak for a group. Also, for the sake of brevity and not coming off like a total Bible thumping prick, I’m not going to include specific Bible verses in this post. If you would like to know the verses that have led me to a particular conclusion, please ask.

My understanding of the world goes something like this: I believe we live in a fallen and broken world. I believe that when Adam and Eve chose to align with the serpent and rebel against God, sin entered the human race and corrupted us, even to the level of our DNA. The world we see with our eyes is not the world God intended to make, but we were not abandoned as a hopeless cause – rather, when God saw that humanity was corrupted, that every inclination of our heart was only evil, even from birth, he chose to set in motion a plan of redemption and salvation, a plan that would recreate the human race, a plan that would bring us out of darkness and death and into eternal light and life.

In order to fully accomplish the salvation of the human race, God had to fully condemn and destroy Sin – that quality in the human heart that inclines us to actively rebel against God and pursue our own desires in direct opposition to God’s commands. In essence, Sin is the desire to rule over our own kingdom, to do what is right in our own eyes, and to not submit to God. In order to show us how far we had fallen, what life was supposed to be like and how we should navigate life in this Sin-full world, God gave the Law. The Law’s first intent was to get us to realize how far we had strayed from God’s original intentions, how far we had fallen short, and how much we were in need of a savior. The Law’s second, and more profound, purpose was to reveal to us the character of the God we serve and what life in his Kingdom is like. But the Law’s second purpose was hidden from our sight until the Savior came and opened our eyes to the Truth by accurately representing God’s character.

God had to condemn and destroy Sin or else humanity would self-destruct and life on earth would be a perpetual hell of selfishness, violence and slavery. So, while God desired to destroy Sin, he wanted to save those enslaved to it. The only way this could be accomplished was if a perfect, undefiled, Sin-less person voluntarily offered themselves as a sacrificial substitute – for only someone in complete submission to God and blameless before the Law could present themselves to God as a second Adam, a new father for the human race. Because no human being was found who could fulfill the Law’s righteous decrees, God sent Himself – Jesus, the second Person of the Trinity – to earth to become a human being. Not only did Jesus show us what God was like, he showed us what WE were supposed to be like, and when he offered himself as the Lamb of God to take away the Sin of the world, when he offered hmself as the second Adam, he bore the sins of the first Adam, and all his descendents, to the grave. In Jesus, God was able to fully condemn Sin and punish it the way it deserved. The wrath Jesus bore, the atonement he made on our behalf, allowed us to be reconciled to God – even more, it allowed us to be reborn as children of God, re-created in his image.

So when I think of love, I think of a God who suffered in our place so that he could remove our rebellious tendencies and transform us into his character and likeness. For me, love is transforrmative. We are not changed so THAT God can love us, we are changed BECAUSE he loves us. God certainly accepted us where we were on our journey, but he didn’t want us to stay there. And knowing that even after our rebirth we would still find it difficult to live the life he calls us to, God gave us the gift of grace, the Holy Spirit, the divine empowerment to do what we could not do before – to live in harmony and peace with God and one another in obedience to his commands.

I believe that LGBTQ is one way Sin manifests in a fallen creation and the manifestation only concerns me because I believe it reveals that  Sin is still present in someone’s life. 

And the truth is, Sin is still very much present in my life. I am not, in any way, trying to imply that I stand apart from or above the LGBTQ community – I stand with them as a Sinner in need of a Savior. Indeed, I am painfully aware of my own shortcomings and insufficiencies and I commiserate with Paul in Romans 7 when he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I don’t do, but I do what I hate. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.” 

For me it all comes down to heart posture. Regardless of how Sin manifests in your life, do you “agree that [God’s] law is good” and are you fighting again Sin? Are you living the tortured existance Paul describes here, wanting to do what is good and right and pleasing in God’s eyes and yet failing to do so? Does the presence of continued Sin in your life disturb you and grieve you, so much so that you would call yourself wretched as Paul does? Or, are you indifferent? Do you say that God’s law is not good and not worth following? Do you say “God loves me regardless of what I do” and in doing so dismiss the sacrifice of Jesus and how much it cost God to love you in that way?

I hate the fact that I Sin. I hate that there is this creature living inside of me that takes over and speaks words of hate and anger and does things I’m ashamed of. And I’m distressed that it seems to happen all the more as I desire to draw close to God. I know that I am loved and accepted, I know that I can come with confidence before the Throne – I also know that my sins grieve the One I love and that I am on a constant journey of refinement where everything that is not of God and not of me is slowly being stripped away. 

In closing I will reiterate that these are my beliefs and my understanding of things. I will also acknowledge that many people I love, trust and respect look at the same Bible as I do and see things completely differently. I admit that I can’t understand how they arrive at their conclusions when my own views seem so compelling and comprehensive, but I am also aware that loving relationships are built on our choice to respect and honor one another and not on our agreement on certain issues.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to hearing from you.