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The wrong kind of holiness

The wrong kind of holiness

A few days ago a young mother came to get some food and clothes that our church offers to people in need. She was in her mid 30s and was wearing a gay pride t-shirt. As I visited with her, she began to tell me about the difficult path her life is on at the moment.

After being injured from work and let go, she struggled to make ends meet, and her wife was diagnosed with bone cancer. They were doing all they could just to keep her alive and healthy as long as possible, but it was getting worse.

For those of us who are comfortable, it can be difficult to imagine what it would be like to struggle so hard in life.

After our visit I invited her and her wife to our church. She smiled and told me that I seemed like a nice person, but she wouldn’t feel very comfortable due to their last visit to a church that went south really quickly. She explained how the last church they had visited told her kids that unless their parents get a divorce they would all go to hell. As someone who has been damaged by the church, stories such as these just tear my heart apart.

After some more discussion, I promised her that at our church she would feel loved and supported as her wife battled cancer. Sure, we may have a different moral foundation when it comes to sexuality, but this wasn’t the time or the place to focus on that issue.

Most LGBTQ people know what Christians believe on this subject, but what they don’t know is how much God loves them. They don’t know this because all we communicate is justice and not compassion.

In the churches pursuit of holiness, we have spent a lot of time talking about what is sinful. We have worked hard to cleanse ourselves of all unrighteousness, but have we done so in the wrong way?

If your pursuit of holiness makes you look down your nose at those who are lost then you didn’t pursue holiness at all. You pursued pride.  Don’t forget that you were once like everyone else, and it was Gods grace alone that set you free.

This conversation made me think of the story of Zaccheaus.  He was hated by Jews and Romans—a social outcast of the highest degree. Jesus saw this outcast and told him, “Hurry, I must have dinner at your house.”

Instead of being disgusted by his sins, like all the other religious people, Jesus saw someone who was begging to be set free. The love of Jesus was so strong that Zaccheaus repented and was saved. Jesus showed him grace, and the Spirit did the convicting. 

This may be difficult for some of you because you have spent very little time with anyone from the LGBTQ community. You may have the urge to bring up the obvious issues as soon as possible, maybe even the first day they show up.

If you are wondering when you should show grace and when you should speak truth just ask yourselves how long would you need to know someone before they started asking personal questions about your sex life?

The relationship comes first and then the theology. We have inherited a ministry of kindness and should copy what Jesus did.

We should run to the LGBTQ community and invite them over for dinner—not because we approve of their morality but because they are people to be loved just like anyone else.

If you are truly seeking holiness then being a morality snob is not part of the formula. Lost people will always act like lost people. They have no other choice. So open the doors of your church a little wider, know people a little better, love a little more and watch what the Holy Spirit does to the spiritual vagabonds who wander in.

Kanye made me do it

Kanye made me do it

In 1979 Bob Dylan was the king of counter culture when he shocked the world by releasing an album that had songs detailing his Christian conversion. The evangelical world rejoiced at this cultural victory, though that celebration would only last until around 1982 when he returned to Judaism.

This kind of history gives some people pause in celebrating the recent public conversion of Kanye West to Christianity. We are fully aware that it’s not the beginning of the race but the end that shows if a person has truly converted.

That being said, I will gladly celebrate anyone who says they have converted to Christianity and speaks boldly about God. I’ve listened to his many interviews, and Kanye seems to be on point. He even states that he is not a theologian because he is a new convert, which is a sign of great humility. His wife, who is one of the most influential women in our culture, even posted three simple words to her Instagram account, “Jesus is King.”

In some weird way I feel embolden by the way Kanye talks so openly about Jesus. Lately, it has seemed as though the culture was winning and not the Kingdom. Pop culture and television spend a fair amount of time mocking the Christian faith. We are portrayed as dumb and naïve. The most popular shows on television have been so full of violence, nudity and language that I could not participate in the cultural conversations around these shows. It felt as though we had been pushed back into the corner and forced to wear a dunce cap.

Christians were becoming culturally irrelevant; churches all around me are shutting their doors, and it is getting harder and harder to reach people with the Gospel. I think we just needed this win. I know, theologically, we already have won. The battle is over, but the human side of me was a little discouraged. It just feels really good to hear someone who was such a cultural force say they were wrong and Jesus is king.

Kanye West has talked more about Jesus in a week than some Christians have talked about him in years. Perhaps this is the permission that some of you needed in order to be more bold about your faith. Sometimes, just being reminded of how radically you have been changed can re-light that old fire burning within you.

To see someone on primetime television talk about being saved by Jesus is a reminder that the culture will always need a king. You know His name; you know His Gospel, and if you see me standing on the street corner declaring “Jesus is King,” well, Kanye made me do it.

Bringing Love to a Knife Fight

Bringing Love to a Knife Fight

I was getting into my car, recently to go to work when the phone call came from a young man. I will call him Braden. “Pastor Chad, I am stranded at the McDonalds, and my pastor who is here with me has to leave soon,” he said.

The call came through a messenger app, which is typical. Youth that I haven’t seen in years will often find me on Facebook and make the free internet call when they are in trouble. I told him I would come to pick him up.

When I pulled up and saw him, he looked like he had been beaten up, like he had been in a bad fight. His pastor was from southeast Oklahoma. We talked briefly, exchanged cards, and he was on his way with a four-hour drive back home.

Then the story started. Braden had been at home when his mom was getting home from cancer treatment. She was delirious from her medication, and her boyfriend started beating her. Braden pleaded with him to beat up on him instead, to no avail.

Braden finally stepped in and took the abuse. He is tall but skinny, maybe 130 pounds and no match for a grown man. After beating him, his mother’s boyfriend cut him across the face and hand with a pocket knife, requiring several stitches.

Braden is a senior in high school, but he is also 18, so I was told the police declined to press charges, calling it a mutual fight between adults. His pastor took him in over the weekend and then delivered him to Oklahoma City where he has some relatives.

It took me a little time to wrap my mind around his new reality as a homeless adult and what I should do for him. Like a lot of youth we work with, he had extended family and friends who would let him couch surf in the short term, but Braden was making excellent grades and had already started the process of applying to colleges. I could see that in the next few hours he was going to make some decisions that would shape his future.

His mother allowed him to leave with his clothes, social security card and a photocopy of his birth certificate. He had no ID, no driver’s license and no money to take care of himself. His best prospect was a distant cousin in east central Oklahoma, who was willing to take him in if he stayed in school and got a job. His cousin agreed to come to pick him up after he got off work at 5 p.m., so I had the day to do what I could. My task list was long but critical. Get him an I.D., a bank account that I would fund, a working phone, enrolled in school and a safe place to stay.

He couldn’t get an I.D. card or driver’s permit because he lacked an original birth certificate. To get a birth certificate, he needed two forms of I.D., and he only had one. It is a frustrating loop that young people in poverty face when they have little parental support. You need transportation, money and lots of patience to get the government to recognize you. Most kids end up on foot, working with cash and facing many closed doors.

We figured out how to get his birth certificate ordered online, but he couldn’t open a bank account without it, so I bought him a pre-paid card at Walmart with $200 on it, and we got his phone activated.

I fed him lunch, and we headed out of town, waiting for his cousin. On the way, I called his previous high school and talked to the school counselor. I explained his situation and asked if we could come visit her. She agreed and told me what to do to get him enrolled at the school district offices as a homeless adult. Braden had been a member at a Baptist church in that area, so I called their youth pastor and explained his situation and asked to come by.

A short time later, we were at the church, and his pastors were waiting for him. They knew him well and were prepared to step in and care for this boy. As we were leaving to go enroll in school, the outreach pastor said to tell the principal that “you are one of my guys.” He also informed us that the school counselor is one of their Sunday school teachers.

We got him enrolled at the district office and went to the high school. The principle was outside when we pulled up and immediately recognized Braden. He ushered us into his office and called the counselor in.

They gathered around Braden and took great care of him. They wanted to make sure he had food, clothes and a stable place to stay. He left school on Friday in southeast Oklahoma, and he started school in this new community on Tuesday. It reminded me of the promise from Jesus that He will never leave us or forsake us.

As we left the school, his cousin was waiting outside in his car. He was a handsome bright-eyed 20-year-old who is working in the oil fields. He gave me a firm handshake and said, “I want to thank you for bringing Braden to us. My mother is closing on a new house this week, and we have an extra room picked out for Braden to stay in.”

Braden gave his heart to Christ at Mission OKC, where I serve as pastor, when he was still just a little boy. As his mother moved around the last few years, he had made a point to get plugged into a local church. As I drove away, I thought about how God saw this terrible day coming when Braden would be beaten up, separated from his mother, lose his home and would be thrust out into the world on his own for trying to protect his mother. Yet it was clear that there was a hedge of protection around him.

I was proud of my brothers and sister in Christ and proud to be a Christian as eight believers from three cities locked arms around Braden without missing a beat to save this young man from a devastating fall. He may have been hurting, but he knew that he was loved. I pray that it is a formative example to Braden that as Christians we are called to do whatever it takes to help those who are hurting and that one day he will be ready to take up his role to do the same.

Editor’s Note: If you or someone you know if facing abuse, please seek help through law enforcement and know anyone can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

I’m The Whistleblower

I’m The Whistleblower

There is a war in Congress at the moment. A war that has been going on in the background for many years has become something that is now front and center for all of us.

You can’t turn on the television, radio or even talk to coworkers without the subject of this war being brought up. The question isn’t if the war is real. The question we should ask should be, “Is it our war?”

How involved should Christians be in this? What side should we take? Do our biblical morals hold us to a certain political party or even a certain political person? Not at all. I may still be young, but I have lived long enough to meet good men and evil men with both liberal and conservative affiliations.

Whatever attack one can make on any political party, there is a good chance that the same attack could be laid on the other party in the past or in the future. That’s my attempt to say that no party can claim to be the one that fully and accurately presents the will of the living God at all times.

Since no side can fairly be called God’s side, which side do I choose? Where do I stand in this war?

This is one of the things I love about being a Christian. I don’t believe in the war. The war is fake. The war may seem real to many people, especially to those who have chosen their side, but I choose Jesus, and in doing so, I chose to have a different view on the worldly wars.

One of the many places where I find the way to view all of this is in 2 Corinthians 2:14 which reads, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.”

You only have a triumphant procession once the war is won. Paul claimed that he was not participating in the war. He was marching behind the One who won the war.

Yes, the war has already been won. For Christians, the war is not against flesh and blood, not against political parties, but against the forces of evil that try to stop the progress of Gods truth.

Presidents will comes and go, but the real King sits on His throne, and there He will reign forever.

Because I have been set free, it is my duty become a whistleblower of the Good News. It is my job to let those who are twisting in the winds of political discourse know that the war is over. God has won, and sin has been defeated. Typically a whistleblower is exposing some corruption at the highest level. I think this is a title we as Christians can claim for ourselves. We can remind the world that the only reason the government has any power is because God has allowed it for a time.

So let us make the Good News the front page news. Do not get so enraptured by world drama that we forget that the real war has been won. We can march behind our King and let the rest of the world that all other false gods have been defeated, even the god of worldly power and politics.

Get In The Game!

Get In The Game!

It’s that time of year again. You can almost smell the tailgating grills. Soon there will be a crispness in the air and we will be cheering for our favorite team. As believers in “the Way” (a first century description of the church), and followers of Christ, we are on a team as well. We are on God’s team. Unfortunately, there has been some confusion over the last 2,000 years. We are not supposed to be spectators. We are on the team!

When we accepted Christ as Lord and Savior, just like the equipment manager handing out gear, we were given Spiritual gifts. Maybe it was just one gift, but it is supposed to be put to use to honor the God Who saved us from our sins. Oh, we all love Eph. 2:8-9, which describes the salvific gift of God’s grace through faith and how it is not of ourselves or our works so we can’t even boast about it. But for some reason we hit the brakes and often turn a blind eye to verse 10—“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (NASB).

Think of it this way. If I applied to work for a company that had awesome benefits (like eternal life insurance) and got the job, and I was trained with a specific skill set the company needed, would the boss allow me to just show up, clock in and then yuk it up in the break room all day drinking coffee and eating donuts? Of course not! Then why do we think we can get away with it in the Body of Christ?

If God gave us the ability to kick 60-yard field goals (metaphorically), then why would we want to sit in the stands and watch the game? We should be on the field making the coach proud. My observation of folks in church who tend to be miserable, complain more often than not and are rarely satisfied, is they are not serving and utilizing their spiritual gift(s).

Get in the game!  God will bless you for it and you will be so happy… it was what you were made to do.

My Turtle-Mounted, Map-Deprived Prince Charming

My Turtle-Mounted, Map-Deprived Prince Charming

“Someday,” said the little girl to her aunt, “My Prince Charming is going to come bounding up on his white horse. He’s going to pick me up, and we’ll ride off together… and live happily ever after.” Gazing off into the imaginary distance of her bright, romantic future, the little girl’s eyes fell then to her aunts “ringless” left hand. “Um,” she said to her young, single aunt, “Where’s your Prince Charming?”

“Well, sweetie,” the aunt said, “My Prince Charming’s out there, but he’s mounted a turtle instead of a steed, and he’s more than likely taken a wrong turn… and he’s probably too stubborn to ask for directions.”

I heard this silly, short story a long time ago and related to the aunt on many levels. I’m still young and hopeful of marriage, but it seems that every year I get further from 18, still single, I feel less hopeful for that dream. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. There’s so much to be grateful for as a single adult—like unhindered family time, commitment to my job, freedom to minister with everything I have, fewer travel constraints and so much more.

Singleness is awesome. Except when it’s not.

Singleness, much like married life, is a balance of scales. On one end of the scale, there is the Hannah that desires more than anything to be married. She dreams of having a home and children to tend to and raise up. She knows, deep down, that she craves marriage and a family, knowing they are gifts from the Lord.

On the other end of the scale is the Hannah that desires autonomy and exploration. She can’t be bothered with anything that might nail her down. She believes God is truly all that she needs. She’s courageous and bold, fast-paced and effective.

Both sides of the scale are acceptable versions of myself when in balance with each other.

When one weighs heavier than the other, there are unhealthy obsessions or vast amounts of pride that can seep in. To keep this balance maintained, there is only one solution that has worked for me: prayer. Specifically, prayer for my future husband.

I don’t bank on the day that my tardy Prince Charming, atop his noble tortoise, will arrive, but I do look forward to it. He won’t complete me, but he will love me. Because of this, I can pray for him, whether he’s out there or not. Here are three things I pray for my wandering groom…

1. Increase in wisdom. I pray the whole of Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes over my future beloved. I ask the Father to teach him wisdom, to give him discernment, and to impart holy knowledge to him. Education and wit are attractive in a man, but wisdom is far more handsome.

2. Decrease in pride. I pray that my man is humble, not self-depreciating, but humble. I pray that the Lord would bless him and grant him eyes to see the way that his Heavenly Father sees, producing in him a humility beyond his years and a hate for sin.

3. Fall in love. I pray that my future husband’s eyes are so lovingly glued on the Lord, that it takes the Father’s hands to usher me into his gaze. I pray that he is deeply driven by and devoted to God’s Kingdom, building it and increasing it. And I pray that, when I come along, he’ll offer me his hand in joining with him in his pursuit of the Father. My prayer is that he would fall in love with God long before he ever falls in love with me.

Balance is hard, and I’m not a graceful person. I trip a lot and have stumbled more times than not.

But God is so faithful (Lam. 3:22-23). He’s more than enough to sustain me (2 Cor. 12:9). He’s gracious and kind (Joel 2:13), and He tips this single’s scales as He wills (Prov. 19:21).

If this man whom I pray for does not exist, I can pray knowing that in it all, I am drawing near to the Lord regardless of what He has planned for my marital status.

And if this turtle-mounted, map-deprived Prince Charming whom I pray for does exist, then I can pray knowing the Lord is doing a work in him that will increase the joy of our marriage and ministry.