Violent Silence: Jesus Would’ve Gone to The Tap

I was walking around on campus at Texas A&M today and it’s obviously no secret that the Christian bubble reigns supreme in these parts, with the t-shirts and the cafeteria cliques and the screaming preachers that post up on campus. The reality is, the Bible belt is still on nice and tight in east Texas.

As I walked around the Memorial Student Center, I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation as I walked past a group of girls in the hallway.

“I just don’t want to lose my witness by inviting them to Breakaway [an on-campus Bible study] on Tuesday and then saying, ‘Hey come to The Tap [a local bar/grill] with us on Wednesday for piano bar!'”

What have we done?

Now don’t get me wrong, I have friends on staff at Breakaway and I love much of what they do. This isn’t a post about Breakaway.

Somewhere along the line in the rise of white evangelicalism in America, we’ve forgotten that the invitation we are commanded to give lost people isn’t first an invitation to church or Bible study. If that winds up happening then fantastic! But it’s not T.A’s job to share the gospel with your lost friends. It’s not Matt Chandler’s job to invite your lost friends into the Kingdom of God. It’s not your local pastor’s job to know which parts of the gospel your friends don’t believe.

It’s your job.

And somewhere along the way the Church has greatly cheapened the buy-in of following Jesus to “Hey just invite them to church and God might save them without you having to share the gospel with them”. And trust me, I’m well aware that the Lord has saved probably tens of thousands of lost people in spite of Christians copping out of their commission. But the Lord has also probably saved thousands of people who hear a false gospel every week at Lakewood Church in Houston, so does that make it acceptable to preach the prosperity gospel? By no means!

So I write this piece to the Church, specifically the Bible-belted American Church — and let me be clear, I greatly include myself in the audience for this piece.

Why don’t we stop avoiding spending time with lost people in their spaces? Let’s not forget that Jesus was called a glutton and a drunkard by church people for a reason.

Why don’t we lay off inviting people to church before we invite them into the Kingdom? The goal of the early church wasn’t to save people to church; it was to save people to life.

Why don’t we put more focus on lost people intimately knowing the love of God instead of hiding behind superficial and hyper-comfortable non-conversations? At some point demonstrating the Gospel is not going to suffice. You’ve gotta use words, too.

Instead of having an internal “moral” crisis about whether to invite someone to Breakaway or The Tap, why don’t we skip Breakaway and go buy a drink at The Tap and sit and figure out what holes are in our friend’s gospel that we can engage and fill in?

If you’re a believer, then you’re more than equipped just as you are to share the Gospel. You don’t need to “know more” about the Bible before you do anything. You don’t need to get the “lingo” down before you do anything.

 

The Kingdom of God is advancing with or without you. So Church, let’s get back to work and see lost people become sons and daughters of the Creator of the universe. It’s gonna be worth it, I can 100% promise.

 

 

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Finally Getting Baptized

I got saved almost seven years ago, now. After getting saved, most people immediately get baptized in their local church context; however, I chose to busy myself instead of being obedient! Last week I finally decided to be bold and enter into a space that was really terrifying to me. I stood in front of 500+ people and told everyone that I had missed a step and that I’ve been putting it off because I didn’t want to admit that I hadn’t done the process perfectly.

The following is my story that I shared last week. I’m praying that it gives you hope as you read it that the Lord loves you as much as he possibly can right now without you doing anything to earn it. All of his love. Right now.


I grew up with incredible and supportive parents who love Jesus and love me. But I also grew up in the church enslaved to my own morality and performance believing that “of course God would love me. I’m a great kid and I deserve it.” You see, I was that kid at my private Baptist high school that saw myself as so far superior over all the drinkers and smokers and partiers that I would probably feel offended if one of them talked to me.

Call me a Pharisee; because at best, that’s exactly what I was.

Baptisms-43And because of this, despite growing up in the church, my salvation wouldn’t happen until I was 16 when the Lord started taking things – and people – from me. And there weren’t very many people that the Lord could’ve taken from me that would hurt. But there was one man in particular who never stopped treating me like his own son; who never wavered in his love and grace towards me. And this man was my youth small group leader.

It was on a May night in 2011 that I would sit across the street from my small group leader’s house and weep at his sudden, unexpected death in a freak motorcycle accident. It was that night of feeling some of the deepest pain and sorrow that I have ever felt in my entire life that the Lord would show me my need and call me to himself. It was on that night at 16 years old that the Lord totally shattered the idea that I could ever be good enough to earn his love. It was on that night that I would begin to realize that the love God has for me is far greater than I could ever imagine and that he had already lavished ALL of it on me in the person and work of Jesus.

 

You see, the Lord doesn’t just arbitrarily take. He took from me so that he could give me more of himself. And what the Lord took from my friends and I that night wasn’t just the friendship and discipleship of a man who deeply loved Jesus. What the Lord took from me that night through pain and suffering was the shackles of my slavery to legalism and perfection. He took those shackles off of my wrists and he replaced it with the faith to believe that Jesus’ death on the cross was ENOUGH. I no longer was a slave to proving my worth to the Lord, because Jesus took ALL of my sins and ALL of my messes and paid my debt on the cross and rose back to life three days later in complete and utter victory. And because of that victory, I’m no longer a slave to sin, but a son.

I’m an adopted son of the King of the universe.

 

And I would love to stand up here and confidently proclaim that I’ve never picked up my old self and tried to force it back on since that day.

I would love to stand up here and say that the broken shackles of perfection and self-righteousness don’t sit on my bedside table fighting for a chance to enslave me again.

I’d love to stand up here and tell you that I functionally believe that my performance has nothing to do with how the Lord feels about me.

But over the course of the past six years, I’ve mostly failed to put on my new self. To be super honest, every minute of every day is a battle to trust the Lord more than I trust my competency. I still need Jesus just like I did that night after my friend died. I still regularly forget that Jesus is ENOUGH and his performance in my place satisfied the Lord’s demand for perfection. I struggle so hard to receive grace.

There’s a song I’ve found that explains my current season almost to a “t”. It says this,

“…but the list goes on forever of all the ways I could be better, in my mind; as if I could earn God’s favor given time, or at least “congratulations”…I’ve spent my whole life searching desperately to find out that grace requires nothing of me

And that’s been really hard for me to come to terms with. This fact that I’m probably never going to figure out how to perfectly leave behind my old self and put on the new. (At least until Jesus comes back to take me hBaptisms-51ome!!) I’m probably never going to figure it out because if I were to figure it out, then I wouldn’t need Jesus anymore. I’ve spent most of my life thinking that I’m supposed to grow out of needing Jesus for everything (as if the Lord gets tired of meeting my needs and caring for me in ways that I can’t and don’t care for myself). It hasn’t been until the past couple months that I’ve begun to realize that I’m actually supposed to need Jesus for everything.

It’s just now starting to functionally click that there’s NOTHING that I can do that could separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.

 

So I stand before you today, a beaten, broken sinner trying to learn to admit to myself and my community that I constantly need Jesus. But I ALSO stand before you as a son that has been justified with the blood of Jesus and is absolutely being sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Jen Wilkin says it like this, “…we were not created to be self-sufficient. Nor were we re-created in Christ to be so. Sanctification is the process of learning increasing dependence, not autonomy.”

And today I boast in our God who is faithfully self-sufficient. And I proclaim to you my constant need for the grace and love of God. And I do this now, almost 7 years after being saved, because I need to confess to this church – my community – that I don’t have everything together. I’ve lived under the belief that I could never admit a missed step along the way. I’ve been afraid to admit to my church family that I am not perfect because I love getting credit. But I can’t live in that lie anymore. I don’t stand here today because of how good of a job I’ve done. I stand here today because of how PERFECT of a job that Jesus has done. I’m here as the older son that’s constantly having to choose the party inside over my self-righteousness and competency.

 

So here I am before you, boasting in my weakness that I chose fear over obedience for 6 years and passed up this opportunity to proclaim the gospel; because I want you to see the faithfulness of the Lord in my brokenness and depravity. While I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me 16 years to understand that I’m not God; the Lord has looked at me since before he spoke the earth into motion and has called me “son”. And just like he looked at Jesus in Mark 1 before he “did” anything in his ministry, the Father looks at me and says, “Hey. You’re my son. And I love you so much. And boy am I proud of you. Not because you earned it, but because I made you.”

The Father loves me because he loves me, and there’s absolutely nothing I could ever do to make him love me any more or any less.

An American Poem of Hope

I woke up this morning and felt like being creative. So I formulated some thoughts on today’s election and decided to put them in a poem. My hope isn’t found in who sits in the White House in January. My hope is in the King of kings that was in full control over Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Xerxes, Caesar, James, and is still in full control over world leaders today. So, my hope gets to be unwavering and I hope that your hope does too.


 

It’s not about you and it’s not about me.

It’s not about the “system” to which we cling.

It’s not about the firsts that are on the brink.

It’s not up to us anyway.

It’s not about the red, about the black, white, or blue.

It’s not about the information we’re fed on the news.

It’s not about the Millennials, Gen X, or Baby Boom.

It’s not about us and it never has been.

We’ve lived for so long thinking we call the shots;

that the elected representatives are the ultimate crux.

We think we are gods and that God should serve us

and keep us so safe and secure how we want.

This illusion of power of which we’re convinced

has never been real, we’re just wrong once again.

We’ve put all our faith in some liars and cheats

and forget that the King’s in control of all things.

The King’s still on His throne and is over all things.

 

When In Bryan (Month Two)

I can’t even believe it is already November. I feel like October would’ve been nearly non-existent had the LORD not totally began to demolish a bunch of the walls I’ve been building up in my heart and soul for the past five years. This past month has been a lot more emotionally taxing than physically taxing (as September was).

We as a church staff have started reading a book together and spending a good chunk of our staff meeting processing through it together. The book is called “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. This book has been a consistent kick in the teeth for the past few weeks. Here’s a few things the Lord has been revealing to me about myself (some of which I may write about as the month goes on, but this isn’t the time to go in to detail about all of this).

 

  • I am not good at submitting to leadership.
  • I am not even close to as humble as I thought.
  • I am afraid of being known because really anyone who has truly known me in the past has pretty much dropped me at some point (with a few exceptions).
    • This has led to me choosing to live in the dark on a lot of stuff and let me tell you, I wish everyone would live in the light. It is far healthier and far more bearable and joyful of a life. It far more closely reflects the life Jesus describes in John 10:10.
  • I have an inherent lack of trust for people within the Church.
    • I also generally have unrealistic expectations of people in the church, I think.
  • Love doesn’t hinge on clarity and clarity doesn’t bring forgiveness.
    • Love breeds forgiveness regardless of clarity.

 

And in the midst of all of this demolition of my synthetic inner walls, I’ve realized this as well: I am far less important than I thought I was, but I am far more loved and cared for than I could ever imagine.

I’ve had so many conversations in the past two weeks of repentance and forgiveness. Not because I am fully healed from things that have happened or the lies people have fed me or the abandonment that I’ve faced from people who have used me. No. Those things still hurt. But what’s different now is that I’m not pouring the salt of bitterness and resentment into those wounds while the Lord is trying to bind up my broken heart and heal my wounds. Now I get to sit and be taken care of by the Lord and by my friends and I don’t feel resentment anymore. I can sit and be bandaged and not rip the bandage off to pour in more dirt and salt. My wounds aren’t infected anymore and that is the first step of being emotionally and spiritually healthy.

Please don’t get me wrong, it has been really terrible and exhausting for the Lord to come in like a bull in a china shop and demolish all of my walls. But it has also been so good because I’ve gotten to taste, see, and feel the goodness of God the Father because while he’s come in swinging, he sits there with me while HE builds everything back up and speaks life and speaks identity over me.

“You’re my son.” He says. “Of course I’d fight off all of these lies that have surrounded you.”

October was crazy and tiring, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Childlike Faith

Children are something else.

For the past couple of months, I have been trying to figure out what it means to have a childlike faith while being fed solid spiritual food and not spiritual milk. It has been quite the adventure; I have done some ridiculous external actions to try and figure it out (drink chocolate milk while reading The Word, watching Veggietales, etc.). The last couple of weeks though, ABBA has taught me differently.

My summer job for 2013 is being a Camp Director at a day camp for kids. Needless to say, I severely underestimated how exhaustive they are. And it isn’t even that they are bad (sometimes), I can’t explain it. As I was telling this to one of my closest friends, they told me, “You are getting to experience firsthand what God goes through with us every single day.” Well, my mind was blown. I had overlooked that simple truth.

Today, there was a young boy who did the opposite of what I said no matter how many times I told him or how loud my voice was when I told him. It wasn’t until a few hours later that I realized, “Holy crap. I literally do this on a daily basis with things much more important than playing with toys that aren’t ours.” I was given a handful more of patience to tide me over for the rest of the day.

The last couple of weeks; however, there has been this young boy that has taught me what it means to be a kid. He is so sweet and he doesn’t have an angle with it. The questions he asks, as ridiculous as they seem to me, are legitimate and he really wants to know the answer to them. He needs some redirection sometimes, but I never EVER have to tell him more than twice to do anything (and most of the time he will do it without complaining or arguing). This is the kind of faith that I want. I want to be able to trust my Dad when He tells me something isn’t a good idea. More importantly, I want to be obedient without complaining or arguing.

The question shouldn’t be “are you chasing after a childlike faith,” it should be a how question.

Food for thought:
How are you chasing after childlike faith?

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