Why I Must Confess

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Confession is good for the soul. Some people live their lives with a hidden secret that will go to the grave with them. Not only will they live with that secret, but they will also live with shame, regret, and fear.

I love that the Roman Catholic Church has confessionals. It provides an opportunity to confess what is hidden in that darkness. This not only acts as an opportunity to confess that which is hidden, but also the day to day sins of which so many are guilty.

If you are anything like me, you walk through life without paying much attention to sins. Because we live in an age of grace, sometimes we forget to go through the discipline of asking God for forgiveness for things we have done and for things we have left undone. There is something healing in confessing. Sin begins to lose its power in our life when we give words to it.

Grace is a beautiful thing. Without it, we would all be lost. I fear, however, that even with it, we are still somewhat lost. We assume grace. We assume that God will forgive. We assume that our sin will no longer be counted against us.

There is a stark difference between having assurance and assuming. Having assurance is trust. Assuming is not giving much thought to something.

We can have assurance in God’s forgiveness and grace but we cannot assume God’s forgiveness and grace.

One of the things the Book of Common Prayer has in its service is a time of confession. This is not a time for each person to go around saying their sins of the week. It is a time of silent confession before God. Then, they end with this prayer said together:

“Most merciful God,
we confess that we have sinned against you
in thought, word, and deed,
by what we have done,
and by what we have left undone.
We have not loved you with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.
We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.
For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ,
have mercy on us and forgive us;
that we may delight in your will,
and walk in your ways,
to the glory of your Name. Amen.”

This is one of my favorite prayers to pray. I pray it often. Each time I come back to it, the words become more powerful.

Christ taught us to pray each time for God to forgive us our trespasses. Have we forgotten to keep doing that? Some of us will ask for forgiveness for what we consider to be “bigger” sins…but we don’t confess sins of omission, being greedy with our money, lying, or other things that are considered culturally normal. When we remind ourselves of daily sins, we remind ourselves how much grace we actually need. Then we become all the more grateful for the grace of God.

Knowing that God’s grace covers each and every inch of our lives can easily become an assumption.

Confession makes me all the more grateful for God’s forgiveness and grace. It reminds me just how much I need it. And it helps me not to take it for granted. It helps me not to cheapen it.

Sometimes I wish that the American Evangelical Church had a place in the service for confession. How powerful would it be for us to weekly pray a prayer of forgiveness and corporately remembering how much we need God’s grace? It’s amazing to me that so many things in culture point to people desiring confession. There are numerous websites that people can confess on. There are multiple opportunities to anonymously confess your darkest secrets. People want to speak. People want to say what is weighing them down. Shouldn’t we be providing them with that opportunity?

Confession might scare us. Confession might make us uncomfortable. Confession might frustrate us. But confession also reminds us. And we need to be reminded. Daily. Just how much we need God’s grace. We need to be reminded how much we have cheapened it. We need to be reminded how thankful we should be for it. Confession paves the way for that. It’s a discipline that we neglect…but it’s a discipline that should be a daily practice.

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The Supposed Threat of Gay Marriage…

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In the coming days, the Supreme Court will make a decision regarding same sex marriage. I have seen Facebook explode with people saying to “pray for the Supreme Court and that they would be led by God in this decision.” Although vague, I am pretty certain that “being led by God” means to them that homosexuals will not be allowed to get married.

With everything happening around us, I am always surprised that this is the thing that Christians get upset about. I have seen more outrage over the possibility that the Supreme Court ruling will be in favor of same sex marriage than I have over the blatant racist actions in South Carolina this week. Are we missing the point?

I tweeted last week that if Christians spent as much time living the Gospel that they did condemning Caitlyn Jenner, then we might be able to end hunger. I still stand by that mentality. As I look to Jesus, I never see Him spending His time protesting outside of the Supreme Court. I see Him spending His time with those who are hurt and neglected.

We abandon the Gospel for comfort.

And then we parade around with a new definition of the Gospel that is as far away from good news as possible.

I don’t want to bash Christians. I want to rally us together and ask, “is this really the point of what we should be doing?” Stopping people from getting married? We protect the false ideology of a “Christian nation” more than we do the Bride of Christ.

If your faith is built more on your definition of marriage than it is on Christ, then the end of this month might be a difficult time for you.

For those that quote Paul’s epistles, learn context. Paul was speaking to the church. Not to the government. Anytime Paul had the chance to speak to the government, he told the story of what Christ had done in his life…he didn’t use that opportunity to tell gay people that they are going to burn in hell.

It makes me nauseous that out of all the injustices happening, we decide to sign a petition to “defend marriage.” We allow divorce rates to soar, we tell women to remain in a marriage with a pedophile, we help people get married who have no business being together (but in that moment, it’s not our place — only if they have the same set of genitals is it our place) and later on get divorced, we tell women to stay with men who are physically abusive…and yet we want to sign a petition saying to gay people that they aren’t allowed to get married?

If marriage is that important to you, then defend it all the way. I better see outrage at divorce rates. I should see the same violent language used anytime a Christian marries a non-Christian that you would use toward a homosexual couple. Let me see the same “this country is turning away from God” posts used for Christians telling people to stay in abusive relationships that were used when states allowed gay marriage. If you draw that line, then stick with it.

But, if you’re like me, maybe you think it is time to change our tune. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations…not to make all nations disciples. I want to see us get back to what is important to the Gospel…and I don’t see “defending” marriage in that situation.

If we added up all the money that we used to “defend” marriage, I can only imagine all the actual good we could do with it. It’s time we truly began following Christ and hung out with the people he hung out with, ate with the people he ate with, protect the things he protected, and fought the things he fought (which, in this situation, might be the current church).

It’s time we begin to live like Christ and I don’t really see how stopping gay people from getting married fits into that equation. So let’s put down our protest signs and pick up our crosses. Let’s be known for the Church that lived out the Gospel.

Vulgar Worship

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It’s been a few years since the whole “sloppy wet kiss” debate began happening. Most churches have safely landed on the phrase “unforeseen kiss” as opposed to the original “sloppy wet kiss.” To them, “unforeseen kiss” seems less vulgar (even though by using the phrase “unforeseen kiss,” I get the image of a surprise and I don’t like surprises). Churches want to sing “How He Loves” without the image of messiness as portrayed in the original version of the song.

This piece is not meant to bring up the whole debate again. There’s no use beating a dead horse. I use it as a reference because it shows a greater truth about modern worship music in the evangelical church: we don’t like vulgar worship.

The word vulgar was originally used to describe the language of common people. Today, it is generally used to describe something lacking good taste or referring to coarse and rude language. When I use the word, I’m talking about the language of common people.

Modern worship seems plagued by “Stepford Wife” theology. We say to people that even in the darkest of moments, they should still praise God. To, basically, put on a mask and sing words to God that you don’t mean. In doing this, we have robbed songs and hearts of authenticity. In the evangelical church, songs are sung each week that deal with God’s love, Christ’s love, God’s power and strength, grace, etc. Anytime we deal with dark themes, the song will inevitably redeem that darkness. It is uncomfortable for us to sing songs that do not resolve. But the Psalms seem to paint a completely different picture. For instance:

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees. For our captors demanded a song from us. Our tormentors insisted on a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” But how can we sing the songs of the lord while in a pagan land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to play the harp. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you, if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy. lord, remember what the Edomites did on the day the armies of Babylon captured Jerusalem. “Destroy it!” they yelled. “Level it to the ground!” O Babylon, you will be destroyed. Happy is the one who pays you back for what you have done to us. Happy is the one who takes your babies and smashes them against the rocks! – Psalm 137

I love this psalm. It portrays such depth and anguish. Even when they talk about rejoicing, we shudder at the thought of babies being smashed against rocks.
Psalm 22 is another psalm that is dark and yet still manages to worship God. It aptly describes the feelings of the author:
My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief.
And then is able to worship God in those feelings:
Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. Our ancestors trusted in you, and you rescued them. They cried out to you and were saved. They trusted in you and were never disgraced.
I am not advocating that our songs become morbid and depressing. I am advocating, however, that songs begin to echo the feelings of the common people. This is one of the things that I love about the Episcopal church. It is able to capture all of these emotions in one service through liturgy. There is nothing more humbling and beautiful than to say “Lord, have mercy” over and over.
There are several Sundays I do not want to sing about God’s grace because I feel like I have abused it and have lost the privilege to sing those words.
There are several Sundays I do not want to sing about God’s strength because I do not see it in the atrocities happening around me.
There are several Sundays I do not want to sing at all. I just want to sit in silence and repeat, “Lord, have mercy.”
Evangelical services carry with them a component of happiness. We want people leaving feeling energized and ready to take on the world. But as I have been rereading the Psalms, I see something different being sung.
I understand that worship isn’t about me and that it is about God. But you cannot say that all of these forced songs of happiness are about God. They are about us feeling better. They are about us escaping troubles. They are about us trying to assimilate the people into thinking/feeling the same way about God.
If worship is truly about God, then one will understand that there are several different words that need to be said. Not just words that point to happiness and satisfaction. Words that point to discord, words that point to anger, words that point to sin, words that point to abandonment, etc. These words need to be said because they are all part of the human experience with God.
Through these vulgar words, we will discover the greatness of God.

Kim Kardashian’s Butt

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1400710375_131204463_kim-kardashian-467You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard about the story (which we consider news) of Kim Kardashian posing naked for Paper magazine. Reports say that the cover photo has been viewed over 16 million times and Christians have taken to the internet to express their concern. I’ve read a few blog posts about how upset parents are about Kardashian’s recent photo. No longer can they protect their children from the internet.

This interests me because now parents are concerned with protecting their kids from images on the internet.

Kardashian is certainly not the first celebrity to pose nude for the cover of a magazine and she will certainly not be the last. Most technological innovations have been powered by pornography or have been used for the distribution of pornographic material. What Kardashian did is nothing new. And we shouldn’t consider what she has done as innovative. Far from it. She is simply following in the footsteps of several celebrities before her.

The humorous part is still how parents are now concerned. In an age where it is estimated that about 20% of students have sent or received a sext, people are concerned about Kim Kardashian’s butt. Or in an age where hook-up apps like Tindr allow for discreet and consensual sex, people are concerned about Kim Kardashian appearing full frontal.

I have a lot of thoughts about this. Personally, I wasn’t phased by what Kardashian did. Since culture is a reflection of its people, no one should have been surprised. Writing shaming articles to her reminding her of daughter won’t create change. I would think the church would’ve learned from previous mistakes that one cannot shame someone into change. Instead of trying to launch a campaign to protest the Kardashians (or would it be Wests?), here are some things we can reflect on as we see culture continue moving in this direction:

1.) Innocence cannot be protected.

As much as it saddens me to say this, it is highly unlikely that the younger generations will grow up without being exposed to porn. We could force the government to make a ban, but that will only last for so long. Morals cannot be made laws. And I think this is a good thing. If morals become laws, then are they morals? People will not change because of force. People are only changed through the Holy Spirit.

Innocence simply cannot be protected. Look at the Garden of Eden. Instead of trying to protect innocence, try to instill a good moral compass. These are commonly mistaken as the same thing. However, as we have seen from “good Christian children” heading off to college only to behave in “hedonism” and other atrocities that make parents shudder at night, we should see that protecting innocence and instilling good morals are not the same thing. Build up morals instead of building up walls.

2.) Don’t be surprised.

It always amazes me how surprised Christians are at people. Every time I look at Christ, I never see Him surprised. How would it look if Christ responded in the same way we respond? Let’s take a look at the woman caught in adultery:

Then the people brought forth a woman caught in the act of adultery. They told Christ what she had done. “Oh my goodness!” exclaimed Christ. “How dare you do these sort of things. Did you not think about your children? Your parents? Your friends? Your relatives? Do you know the irreparable damage that you have done? You don’t even have the common decency to clothe yourself in front of me? We won’t completely stone her, but we will protest everything her family does until she stops sleeping around.”

It’s quite a dramatically different response than what we read in John. Every time someone “misbehaves” by our standards, we tend to respond in shock. Jesus was never shocked and that left a mark on people. They could be close with Him because He was never shocked. Perhaps part of the reason people are so alienated from Christians is that Christ-followers respond with the exact opposite reaction that Christ would have responded with.

3.) We are sexual.

Deb Hirsch spoke about this at a conference I was at and it all made sense. We are all sexual beings. But, like she said, sexuality is not confined to genitalia. Kardashian may have shown herself naked, but that was not the whole of her sexuality.

We have a tendency in the evangelical church to respond negatively to sex. But people will continue to express themselves sexually. As Christ-followers, we need to teach people that what we do with our genitalia is not the whole of our sexuality. Instead of saying, “STOP IT,” we need to be saying, “there is so much more than what you think.”

I think Kim Kardashian’s butt serves as a good reminder for Christians to reevaluate what we are saying about sexuality and innocence (that’s a sentence I never thought I would write). And instead of responding with our mouths wide open, we need to respond with our arms wide open.

Making the Harlot Worthy of Her Bridegroom

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This post is completely opposite of the previous post. This is what I mean when I say that sometimes I over think things.

2.) Who are we to think that we can change the Church? 

If I asked the question: “what would you change in the Church?” what would come to mind? For some, it might be the sermon…or maybe the interior…or perhaps the small group system…or maybe the worship…or the staff…or the theology behind certain doctrines…

We could come up with a list of things that we feel should be changed. But isn’t there something inherently wrong with us thinking we can change the Church? When did we become so mighty to think that we knew what needed to be done to the Church?

I don’t know about you, but I am terrified of leading within the Church. It’s not a business nor is it a political structure…it is the bride of Christ. It belongs to Him and yet He entrusted us with her care.

I always fear how I will answer for what I did to the Bride of Christ.

Sometimes in pursuit of overthrowing Pharisees, we find that we become the Pharisee.

Sometimes in pursuit of bringing in the prostitutes and thieves, we find that we no longer function as a church.

Sometimes in pursuit of becoming more “culturally relevant,” we find that we no longer use Scripture.

Sometimes in pursuit of change, we find that we no longer look like the Bride of Christ.

So I ask the question again: Who are we to think that we can change the Church? I fear that we are so quick to change that we will let any idea by that doesn’t look like a “traditional” church. Instead of becoming a “holy” people, we become a “culturally relevant” people.

If we are the future of the Church, the future is looking very bleak. We are caught up in a battle of Pharisees versus Pharisees. Each group refuses to see themselves as a Pharisee. I used to. Then I looked at myself and realized, I am no different.

We have as many idols as anyone else. Our generation seeks change and we think that we are being Christ and everyone who opposes us is a Pharisee. We don’t back down from our beliefs just like they won’t back down from their beliefs. We are no different.

So to my fellow friends in the younger generation: we can be as much of a Pharisee as anyone else. Our ideas are not revolutionary. Our ideas are not pure. Our change is not the right change.

So the first blog focused on the change that needs to occur. This blog focuses on the fact that change could be bad. I do not know how to express this clearly. We all need to put down our guns. We all need to stop thinking that we have the most innovative idea for the Church. We all need to stop thinking that we will be the greatest change in the Church (or that we know of the greatest change that needs to occur). Every time we seek change, it should be done from a humble position. For who are we to change the Bride of Christ? Remember that.

It is rumored that St. Augustine one said, “The Church is a whore but she is still my mother.” If that is the case, let’s work together to make the harlot worthy of her bridegroom.Image

The Church’s Neverland

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I recently finished reading “Peter Pan.” Go ahead and make fun of me that I read it. However, it was thoroughly entertaining and brought many insights to life.

In the book, Neverland is a magical place that exists in the minds of children. It is full of wonder, adventures, and mischief. One would think that Neverland would be perfect and since it exists in the minds of children. However, it has murder, deception, jealousy, thievery, kidnapping, and betrayal. Either children are messed up or it is further proof that pure innocence cannot exist….not yet at least.

This began a train of thought about the Church and the culture the Church has created. Anyone who has a conversation with me will undoubtedly find that I am not an advocate of Christian films, music, or fiction. The reason for it is this: the Church is trying to create Neverland. We want to create wholesome entertainment that is enjoyable for the entire family. We want to create uplifting music that raises our spirits. We want to read literature that ties together with a pretty bow. I cannot seem to understand this. Possibly because I do not have a family.

Nonetheless, the Church, for the past few decades, has been set on creating Neverland. But they do not understand that Neverland is not much better than reality. But this has only been a recent belief. At one point in time, the Church played a major role in creating beautiful culture. The music that the Church helped create is the basis for today’s music. The art the Church helped shape is the foundation for modern art. The literature the Church put out was once something worth reading. And then something changed. The Church moved away from creating culture and began creating Neverland.

We want to create something in which only we can participate (let’s be honest…how many of us would recommend “Fireproof” to a non-Christian friend?). The problem with creating Neverland, is we do not account for everything that actually happens. We are wanting to tell it from the perspective of Peter Pan (who is innocent and happy – doesn’t see anything wrong with what takes place). But to look at it from the narrator’s perspective is to see it for all it is worth. Neverland had murder, the Church has horrible acting. Neverland had deception, the Church has unoriginal music. Neverland had kidnapping, the Church has bad scripts. Neverland had jealousy, the Church has characters that are un-relatable because of how fake they appear.

I don’t mind if the Church wants to create Neverland. Just show it for what it is. It is not innocent like one might think. Show the deception, show the murder, show the jealousy, show the rage, show the brokenness. The last time I checked, the Bible is full of all of this. Only through brokenness can one see beauty. So, as a Church, let us begin to create something that will be studied in the future. Let us begin to create something that adds beauty to culture. Let us begin to be realistic about Neverland. And finally, may we stop creating a sub-culture. Seriously. Let’s stop that. Soon. I don’t know how many more horrid films I can force myself to have to smile about when someone says I should watch it.