Dear Church: I Left And I’m Not Going Back

I left because I started to ask, “why do we do what we do?” “What does Scripture say?” Finding the answer to those questions is what led me here.​

Christians don’t know what to do with those who leave the church.

I’ve seen a few typical responses. These are either reactions to or explanations for people leaving. These responses indicate something about the foundation and dynamics operating in the Christian Church.

These will be in no particular order.

  • Indignant. Some are incredibly angry that a person would not agree and align with their idea of the importance of church or traditional Christian ideals.

This indicates there is a foundation of control upon which Christianity is built or the conduit through which it is practiced.

  • Control. Some are frustrated that this person is no longer able to be controlled.

This points to how powerless people in religion feel and their need to cover or compensate for this powerlessness. This is evidenced in various doctrines and traditions.

  • Fear. Some are afraid that you’ll be lost or “the devil’s going to get you.”

This shows how many have been shamed and scared into life with YAH.

  • That’s none of my business. Some don’t feel they are mature enough to relate and converse with someone who may be grappling with their faith and religion. So, they avoid it altogether.

This points to the social system embedded in the Christian church and how people see their roles therein.

  • Longing. In a phrase, “I wish I could do that. I wish I was strong enough to do that.”

This points to the exhaustion of people in religion. Many are tired as they run on the hamster wheel of religion, but it keeps you codependent upon its system. So, you can’t really leave (you can, but you feel like you can’t).

  • Devalue. This is the belief that you are of no value or importance if you are not a part of this belief system anymore.

This points to the incomplete system of validation the Church has set up. People look to pastors, church community, no other Christians to validate themselves. Anyone who does not adhere to this value system immediately and innately loses their value.

Your response to this shouldn’t be to cover up or justify how you or your church normally responds. My encouragement to you if you’ve read this through, is ask. Figure out why people are leaving the Church and Christianity as a whole. Don’t make assumptions.

I left because I started to ask, “why do we do what we do?” “What does Scripture say?” Finding the answer to those questions is what led me here.

People are leaving a system they once felt so strongly about. I felt I had to defend this faith. I felt a responsibility and a weight that many feel today.

I’ve been hesitant at times to share more about my beliefs before I left because people use that to explain away why I left. They’ll say, “You just weren’t doing it right. You just weren’t serious. I’ve always been certain about _. I’ve always known that! You were just at the wrong church. Not all churches are the same.”

I’ve reached a place now where I’m okay with the conclusions people will draw. I think one of two could happen if people started being curious when people leave.

One. They will start to look at what the Church has been doing for so long and make radical changes.

Two. Others will start to leave — much like an exodus.

This is what I think some pastors or Christians are fearful of. They’re afraid to look within. They’re afraid to question and challenge. What if I find out something I don’t like? What if everything I’ve built my doctrine on falls apart? Where would I go? What would I do?

It’s okay to not have the answers to those questions. So, if you do find yourself in that place, feel free to reach out to me!

He is good.
Everything will be okay!

The Church: We Got It All Wrong

Much of the traditions a church practices are someone’s idea of what metric is appropriate to measure progression or right and wrong. People often ask, “Why is the Church so divided?” We don’t know the real metrics. We don’t know the standard.

“This will be quick,” is what I tell myself every time I begin writing a blog. I’m wrong a lot of the time. But, we’ll see.

So! I just had the most enlightening and encouraging conversation with my sister and so many things were brought out that I’m sure I’ll be meditating on for some time. I’d like to share one of them to challenge our perspective and encourage us on our journey.

The two major questions posed by my sister and I were:

  1. What is sin?
  2. What if it’s (life) not about maturity, but about humility?

Today, I’ll focus on the second one.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you’ve probably noticed a change or shift in perspective– especially in the last two years. Almost two years ago, I left the church and Christianity behind with no idea as to where I was going. What I’ve experienced in my time since leaving has been monumental and incredibly life changing.

As a Christian, unknowingly, I would create big and tiny metrics by which to measure my success or failure at living right or pleasing God. This process is something I see Christians do all the time. It is the general foundation for religion in general. Honestly, I’m still in the process of unlearning and challenging these metrics because there are moments they still have authority or influence in my life.

Much of the traditions a church practices are someone’s idea of what metric is appropriate to measure progression or right and wrong. Some churches emphasize baptism, how you dress, operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, consistency in disciplines like praying, fasting, reading the Bible, outreach, or going to church. Most, if not all, emphasize the appearance of a thing and make inferences about what that indicates about your spiritual maturity (i.e. purity culture, your excitement for the “things of God” vs. the “things of man,” your profession, etc.).

It gets even more convoluted when you observe what metrics each individual has set up. “Did I curse today?” “Ooh. I’ve been tithing regularly!” “I’ve been serving diligently at church.” “I haven’t listened to any secular music in a while!”

People often ask, “Why is the Church so divided?” The picture I’ve just painted is precisely why. We don’t know the real metrics. We don’t know the standard.

Another way to say this is: we have no root. Because we have no root, we have to make up (manufacture) fruit and a process (religion) by which to attain it. Christianity is a rootless tree. Its participants spend time validating themselves one to another with their various metrics and live with an uncertainty/anxiety about how God feels toward them. “My metric is better or more important than your metric” — hence all of the infighting.

In all my time in religion, I never found rest. There was always someone to whom I could compare myself and make myself feel more mature or someone I’d feel inferior to. This is the continuous cycle that religion aids in. It arms you with the tools to make fig leaves, to seek and reject validation, and to go against the grain.

We are uncertain of who God really is. We know the God we’ve made up for ourselves. And because we’ve made Him up (or others have done so for us), we have all of these made up ideas about what it takes to please Him.

We are afraid to find out what does please Him because we’re afraid we’re not enough. This idea of us being born sinners and being undeserving of Christ is keeping people bound to a vicious cycle that will refuse to release us. It keeps people believing, “I don’t deserve it. He’s so much greater than I am.”

Aside: It makes me wonder about the relationship between a parent and child. No parent living from light desires to always be greater than their child. They desire for their child to elevate and surpass their level. God is no different. “Greater works shall you do…”

We are afraid to face Him.

We are afraid to truly know Him and be known by Him. So, we create processes and milestones that make us feel worthy to be associated with Him. We seek maturity, spiritual mastery, knowledge, accolades and such to validate ourselves to Him.

This is where the second question comes in.

What if it’s (life) not about maturity, but about humility?

There are many quotes that seek to define humility. I’m sure there is a precise way to define the word, but I’d like to look at the picture of humility. It involves ‘light.’

“God is light and in Him is no darkness” (1 John 1:5). Scripture also refers to Jesus as light. “Therefore יהושע spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall by no means walk in darkness, but possess the light of life.” (John 8:12). The Torah is light as well. “For the command is a lamp, And the Torah a light, And reproofs of discipline a way of life” (Proverbs 6:23).

There are a few important precepts to understand about light.

Light gives life. This is to say it is the only Source/Provider.

Light challenges. This is to say, light will expose what something is or isn’t. It will call it to its highest self or truth.

Light reflects. This is to say that light provides identity.

Light is authority. This is to say that light is foundation, seed, root, and dictates the identity of someone or something. It IS the standard.

As a child of Light, we can expect: for God to be our provider, to show us who we are, to challenge and remove what isn’t Him, to be the authority by which we function in this world, and to reveal His standard. Doesn’t this kind of sound like Jesus? “I only do what I see my Father do.” Jesus was called a Son of God because he learned from (submitted to) Light. He’d gone through the necessary process/cycle by which light becomes the only standard.

We often see life as a process by which we are growing to maturity. This is true. But, maturity and humility do not cancel each other out.

Humility is a state of being in which I am submitted to light. Humility is vulnerability. It doesn’t matter if I think or others think I’ve matured if I am untrained in vulnerability. Humility is a picture of trust. If I have not trusted God to provide for me, to show me who I am, to challenge and remove what isn’t Him, to be the authority by which I function in this world, I have simply reached a level of “mastery” in the eyes of society/world.

To describe this humility: I’m not worried about tomorrow and the alleged milestone that may be waiting there for me. I’m not worried about what metric I’ve set up to feel like I’m progressing. I’m not worried about my wants and needs. I’m not worried about giants. I’m not trying to pave my own way. I am present today resting, trusting, open before Him so that He may show me Him.

My sister said this and it drove it home for me. “A child isn’t worried about being able to walk. A child isn’t worried about what they sound like. A child isn’t worried about how to eat or where their next meal will come from.” A child trusts. A child is surrendered. A child rests. A child explores. A child has no care of danger.

In the Church, they talk about having child-like faith. This is a description of it. I am vulnerable and open before my Father. I trust my Father. I see He is good. I see I am good. I am not concerned with getting to a place where I no longer need help of a particular kind. That time will come naturally. It is not my concern the appointed seasons in which I’ll develop this or that. My only responsibility is to stay connected to Him through vulnerability and trust. The connection is what signifies real maturity.

Considering these ideas, my perspective shifts when I think of popularly quoted verses. “I know the plans I have for you.” “Trust in the LORD with all your heart.” “Come boldly to the throne of grace.” “Do not worry about tomorrow.” “Does he not feed the birds?”

Every day, I’ve begun to wake up with the expectation that God will provide for me. God will show me who I am. God is the authority by which I navigate and learn. God is my Father. God knows me. God loves me. God thinks I’m worthy. God knows.

The system and surrounding systems of religion ask us to bear responsibility that isn’t ours. Again, my only responsibility is to stay connected to Him through vulnerability and trust. The steadfast connection is what determines and signifies real maturity.

Religion is Unnatural

We live in a society that values toiling. Toil is a sign that the conditions are not ideal for what is natural to be brought about. Religion is unnatural.

It was always YAH’s intention that mankind WORK — cultivate and steward. It was never His intent that mankind TOIL (go outside of Him to produce what was naturally to be ours).

Let’s observe a tree! (The tree is an example used in Scripture and Hebraic perspective to describe YAH, us, and how life works). To some extent a seed and the root system must work in order to establish what they are naturally to be and become. The roots push through the soil in order to be established. That is work. It is not toil. When they toil, it is a sign that the conditions are not ideal for what is natural to be brought about. Then the gardener must heal the unhealthy conditions and the effects thereof.

We live in a society that values toiling. Our society values going outside of YAH to get what is naturally ours. We are taught to invest resources (intellect, finances, time, energy, etc.) into the institutions and ideas that are valued by society as a whole in order to validate ourselves to society.

Daily life seems like a balancing act between toiling and working. To work is godly — as in, it is natural. (I’m not talking about a job or career). Our entire lives are work. Our lives are the acts of creating, cultivating, and stewardship. This is work.

Everything created works and must rely on something outside of itself to produce the best. This is the picture of trust. The world was created on the system of trust. Toil is not trust. Toil is a picture of the response of one who has not been experienced in trust. Trust requires me to be provided FOR. Toil requires that I provide for myself. Toil says, “I do not trust for someone else to provide this for me.”

Storytime:

I had a mishap recently in which money was withdrawn from my account without my authorization and it left me with nothing. The process of getting it back is going to take longer than when I needed it. I’m traveling tomorrow and had very little gas in my car. The struggle was real. So, I had to ask my Dad for the money to “hold me over.” As I told him what was going on, his response was, “Dang! Sounds like you’re in between a rock and a hard place!” My response was, “I am! I really am! (Laughing).” During this whole interaction, I realized that I do so much to make sure I’m not in the position to need someone else’s help financially. One could rationalize this with, “I have to make sure I don’t need anyone because I couldn’t ask anyone around me for help if I needed to. So, I gotta grind!” That sounds like it makes sense and it does — according to the system of toil! Living in the space of not needing someone else’s help produced a false confidence in me and has only assisted in isolating myself from the richness of vulnerability and trust.

The foundation of our relationship with YAH and all life is trust. Trust is natural. Independence is in direct conflict with trust.

The conditions that promote toil tell us we must sustain ourselves. It tells us we must be independent. Work gives us the opportunity to be vulnerable and value others. Work allows us to be strengthened — to live in community with others.

The Voice of Religion

The foundation of our relationship with YAH and all life is trust. Trust is natural. It is natural that YAH provides for us. Religion is unnatural.

If you’ve read any of my blogs, you’ll see me reference ‘religion.’ When I say religion, I’m not merely talking about organized religions recognized by civilization. I’m speaking to a system (that can be found at the foundation of various institutions), by which people attempt to access what YAH freely gives through their many traditions. Religion requires and justifies toil through shame and fear.

“If I were serious about God, I would be doing _____.” “If I don’t do this, God might do that.” “This is what you do when you love God.” “When you’re a leader, this is what you do.” I’ve heard these things from pulpits from the most well-meaning of people. I’ve used these thoughts to motivate me to “do the right thing.” It does not work. It only keeps you in a cycle of fear and shame. A lot of us are not interacting in relationship with YAH through true connection, but from fear.

In YAH’s system, anything I am to do, would naturally be produced in me if He’s the root, the mirror, the foundation. If I have to manufacture conditions in my relationship, something unnatural is being applied. This means, trust is not the connecting point. This means vulnerability is not the connecting point. This means I am trying to cover myself. We look at the story of Adam and Eve and don’t see the fig leaves we live with every day. We just enjoy being clothed. The worst part is religion compliments you on your fashion. Fig leaves keep out vulnerability and the fruit thereof.

Religion promotes deficiency and arms us with the tools to cover them. Here are some, to name a few: knowledge, church leadership, promotion, recognition, financial progression, pedestal living, etc. The voice says, “As long as I have _______, I’m alright!” Religion promotes a self-image of lack. Religion says, “I should be further along than this. So, here’s what I’ll do to cover where I truly am.” Toil indicates I am in lack and therefore I must strive to be complete. Work sees oneself for who I am and sees value in self and others. Religion is toil. Religion is exhausting. Religion is accusatory. Religion is weak. Religion is unnatural.

Vulnerability is the foundation for work.

Back to the Basics

Let’s glance at Scripture.

WORK

“And יהוה Elohim took the man and put him in the garden of Ěḏen to work it and to guard it.”
Berĕshith (Genesis) 2:15 TS2009

STEWARDSHIP

“And Elohim blessed them, and Elohim said to them, “Be fruitful and increase, and fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over all creeping creatures on the earth.”
Berĕshith (Genesis) 1:28 TS2009

COMMUNITY — INTERDEPENDENCE

“And יהוה Elohim said, “It is not good for the man to be alone, I am going to make a helper for him, as his counterpart.”
Berĕshith (Genesis) 2:18

VULNERABILITY

“And they heard the voice of יהוה Elohim walking about in the garden in the cool of the day, and Aḏam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of יהוה Elohim among the trees of the garden.”
Berĕshith (Genesis) 3:8 TS2009

The story of creation portrays a picture of vulnerability and trust.

I’m Tired of Religion

Religion is the manmade system to access what YAH freely gives. For humans to create an entire system for access to something, it is saying, “I don’t trust the method You (YAH) will choose to give it to me. I don’t trust that You will. I don’t believe that you value me enough to do this for me. You will only do this for me if I make you happy by doing _____.” You do not toil for love. You do not toil for holiness. Love and holiness require work (cultivating and stewarding) — not toil. Vulnerability is the foundation for work.

Think On: If you are unsure as to whether or not you’re toiling, take this opportunity to reflect on the following statements. Write down your thoughts and feelings as you read them.

Shalom.

The Torah, Sin, and Me

The Torah is the foundation for all Scripture. A lack of understanding the Torah leads to a lack of understanding Scripture.

I’ve heard a lot of talk about sin as it relates to injustice and it got me thinking. Many have come to understand the usual ‘lie, cheat, steal’ set of “sins” does not include ALL sin. Christians’ interpretation of sin is expanding. (I specify Christians because they largely subscribe to ‘a set of sins’ ideology and other cultures already have a more nuanced perspective about “sin.”)

We think sin is something you do or neglect to do. It is very black and white. With this expansion of interpretation, Christians are understanding sin to have a bit of nuance.

See, Christian theologians have greatly influenced Christianity practiced in Western culture.

Western culture is influenced by Greco-Roman culture and ideals. This is not to say that it is bad. It is to say its foundation from which all ideas come is in direct contradiction of the foundation of Scripture. The Torah is the foundation for all Scripture. A lack of understanding the Torah leads to a lack of understanding Scripture.

Many believe the Torah is “the Law.” Due to Christian doctrine that says, “the law is done away with,” many avoid this portion of Scripture and unbeknownst to them — avoid understanding.

The Torah is not the law; though there are translations of the Hebrew word that mean law. It is best understood as “instruction, way.” When the psalmist David writes and asks YHWH to instruct him (David) in His ways, THIS is what he’s referring to.

The Torah is the instruction given to all who would come into covenant with YHWH. It does not instruct us with rules and regulations to follow in a “black and white” manner. It is a picture of the way YAH would desire us to walk. It is a guide for anyone to understand how life works. The Torah is the WAY.

Being raised in Torah teaches you how to submit to a process of healing so that you may always produce at your optimum level. The Torah teaches you that the wholeness of Israel is YAH’s desire and anything that does not bring about that is a failure to walk in the way. Thankfully, YAH, the beloved Father He is, teaches us in our failure.

The Torah does not apply the usual negative connotation to the word “failure.” According to the Torah, sin is failure to walk in His ways. This isn’t as black and white as we normally perceive it. When we see YAH respond strongly by giving certain consequences like “they shall be cut off from their people,” we assume it must mean “this sin is worse than others.” According to the Torah, it is not so. Granted, the Torah does not teach that all sin is equal. It is not. There are levels to this and responses from humans to help make the failure right (that’s for another day).

The Hebrew word for “sin” is חטאה (chatah, Strong’s #2403) and literally means “miss the mark.” Sin is when we fail (miss) to walk in His ways (the mark). His ways are not rules and regulations. His ways are based on identity. His ways are based on who He is.

In my recent blog post, You Don’t Owe God Anything, I allude to this. Have you ever asked, “Why does God do things a certain way? Why does He not like this or that? Why does this matter to Him?” It all comes down to identity. It all comes down to nature. It all comes down to his function. The same is true for us.

Every instruction given in the Torah is for a purpose. Every instruction is YAH revealing to us who He is and who we are as a result. This is to say that He does not give instructions expecting or hoping for us to fail. He gives commands (instructions) that reveal who we are. His standard says, “I have made you to function this way; therefore, function this way.” One of the best examples of this is The 10 Words (what Christians call The Ten Commandments).

Everything YAH opposes in the Torah is due to it being an incomplete picture of Him and how He intends for us to live. YAH operates a particular way. He is a living being that engages with life about Him. Anything that desires to exist in fellowship with Him will be called to a particular standard of function and He has every desire to teach us how. He does not place a weight on you that requires, “First, you do this and then I’ll approve you.” Relationship with Him is process. It is a becoming. It is an undoing from one experience to the next.

This is the freedom I have found outside of religion. At the core of religion is the idea that “I must ______ to be approved or validated.” In YAH, I am truly validated. Meaning: He is my Provider. He is my Source of identity — not the “success” of my efforts to be right. He is intentional about ensuring my healing. He is intentional about ensuring my oneness. He is intentional about ensuring my wholeness.

This intentionality is a picture of Love. He does not give up. He did wait for me to choose Him. He chose me and continues to pursue relationship with me.

To see sin the way we’ve been taught endangers my ability to receive love and therefore function in an intimate relationship with Him. For, I will always see what I do or do not do as something that puts me at risk of being rejected by Him. So, I would not live from a place of vulnerability allowing Him to be light and teach me His ways. Instead, I would run, hide, and create fig leaves. Much of our ideology and practices are modern versions of fig leaves.

YAH is not interested in us pretending to have an intimate relationship with Him. I’ll say it another way. YAH is not interested in us providing for ourselves. He is not interested in us providing identity for ourselves. Without Him as light, the identity we provide for ourselves is incomplete and therefore could never be perfect (whole, complete). That’s where much “sin” comes from — a need for identity and our response to this need. Much sin is a response to lack and our best efforts to cover it.

In YAH, there is no lack. There is fulfillment. There is completeness. There is wholeness. There is healing.

Would you be made whole?

For further study on this topic:

Click on the links found in this post for further reading and study.

On Sensible Fool: Repent: More Than a Word, Religion: System Failure, Religion: A Twitter Rant

Understanding the Law: https://www.ancient-hebrew.org/studies-nt/understanding-law-in-romans-and-galatians.htm

Repent: More Than A Word

We don’t repent because we’ve failed miserably. We repent because we are destined to hit the bullseye.

REPENT.

It doesn’t mean what we think it does.

By now, many of us understand that there is quite a bit of nuance in the practices of confession, forgiveness, and repentance. They’re not the same.

Many of us have heard that the true meaning of repentance is the “turning away from.” To an extent, this is true. However, it moreso lends itself to our Western way of thinking. The Hebraic perspective offers a different angle and foundation altogether. To understand this, we have to visit the meaning of sin.

Many would define sin as any of the following:
unrighteousness
– the opposite of perfection
– doing bad stuff
– falling short

The basic definition of sin in the Hebrew is “failure.” This moreso aligns with the definition that has circulated many churches today — “missing the mark.” Picture a bullseye. Sin is to reach every point but the bullseye. (Even within the bullseye, there are places of greater accuracy).

The problem with our Western thinking is, we see everything in life very polarized — either you’re sinning or you’re not. Either you’re perfect or you’re not.” When you consider an entire target, you see there are many “gray” areas.

The Hebraic perspective offers a more nuanced perspective. There are levels — levels of accuracy, wholeness, maturity.

To “miss the mark” is to fail to be whole or complete. YAH is complete. YAH is whole. YAH is confident. YAH is sure of who He is. His power rests in His ability, nature, and inclination to be accurate.

What does this have to do with repentance? Short answer, everything. We see repentance as a means by which we stop going in the direction we were going and to start going the OPPOSITE way.

Repentance, simply, is “adjusting.” Turn away from the way you were doing, seeing, or thinking about it and re-aim. Recalibrate. We don’t repent because we’ve failed miserably. We repent because we are destined to hit the bullseye.

The importance of seeing the difference lies in the goal. It lies in understanding how YAH sees us. If I am practicing hitting my target, the goal is to hit the bullseye.

YAH has a perspective of His children that says, “You are made to hit the target. So, hit it.” That’s who you are. You are perfect; so, be perfect. I AM whole, so be whole. I am accurate; so, be accurate.

He does not see it as either you hit it or you didn’t. He’s not expecting you to not hit it. YAH doesn’t set us up for failure. YAH is not assuming you will fail. YAH is a good Father that is present in teaching us how to be exactly who He made us to be. A father can only reflect what He already is. Our Father is perfect and reflects perfection onto His children. He sees us as capable. So, when YAH prunes you, He is helping you shed what is hindering you from hitting the target.

Many teachings in Christianity teach from the standpoint (unknowingly) that you are doomed and inclined to fail. “We are all born sinners. We have a sin nature. We are inclined to sin.” (This is not biblical). It is believed that YAH commanded us things because we’d failed. This is untrue and counterintuitive.

YAH’s commands are declarations of who we are. “You will not have any other gods before me. You will not covet your neighbor’s possessions. You will not steal.”

What if you realized YAH saw you as a success rather than a failure? What if being whole wasn’t wishful thinking? What if all you needed to do was believe?

Stop striving and rest.

What We’re All Missing

A lot of the time, when we see sin, we slap a morality bandage on it to “cure” it. This won’t do. Where there is sin, there is a need for healing.

This may be the shortest blog I’ve ever written. You’re welcome.

Where there is sin, there is a need for healing. A lot of the time, when we see sin, we slap a morality bandage on it to “cure” it.

Ideologies like, “if I do enough good stuff, then I won’t feel so bad about the bad stuff I used to do,” and “I can do enough to be holy,” and “God doesn’t love me because I’ve done something bad,” or “God loves me more because I’m on track,” indicate we are addressing symptoms, but not root issues.

Sin is an illegitimate means to fulfill a legitimate need. The Most High desires to provide for every need. Love, intimacy, relationship, etc.

Sin is when we go outside of God to fulfill the needs we have. Lying, fear, doubt, worry, murder, stealing, lust etc. are all outward expressions (evidences) of an inner problem.

The Most High desires to heal us so that we see Him as our Source — so that we don’t go to what kills thinking it’ll heal. Without an intimate relationship with the Most High and others, we will not have the proper perspective. We’ll continue to believe we can fill GOD-shaped holes with temporary satisfaction; but it’ll never address the true issue.

This is why we seek and serve the Most High. So, make a decision today to pursue intimate relationship with the Most High. Be vulnerable before Him. Take everything to Him.

He won’t let you down.

Letting Go of Something Good

“Letting go” isn’t usually easy — especially for me. It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s much easier for me to let go of things I know I don’t need and don’t care about — but what about when it’s something I really care about?

This one’s for me.

“Letting go” isn’t usually easy — especially for me. It doesn’t matter what it is. I’m incredibly sentimental. My closet in my living room has been opened a total of 5 times since I’ve lived there (3 years)! I have yet to clear out its contents because I have some sort of sentimental attachment to those things (awards, memorabilia, etc.). Also, I’m pretty sure there are spiders in there and I’m not really built for that kind of battle.

It’s much easier for me to let go of things I know I don’t need and don’t care about — but what about when it’s something I really care about? What if I have to let go of something God has said is for me? What if I have to let of something that’s good for me? What if I have to let go of something I never expected to part with?

Well, that’s me right now. I won’t go into great detail; but I wanted to express some ideas that have been swarming through my mind.

  1. My trust cannot be in the good “thing’s” ability or likelihood of coming back. I must trust that if God needs me to have it, it will be God’s ability and responsibility to restore it.
  2. I have to consider that what’s good isn’t necessarily what’s best.
  3. When I give up something good, I have to realize that I’ll always win. If I give it up and cling to God, I’ve automatically won. Although, if I’m honest, I don’t always know what that looks like nor am I amped to cling to God in moments like these. Sometimes, I just want to stomp my feet, pout, and demand that God does things my way. This sort of reaction indicates a certain idolatry in my heart toward the thing(s) I let go of.
  4. Although it may be good for me, it may not be good for me right now.
  5. How secure am I in who God has said I am? Do I need this thing in order to feel secure, confident, worthy, etc? Nah.
  6. God will often draw you to Himself in moments of loss (of any proportion). This is almost always the highest purpose or result when loss occurs.
  7. There are no shortcuts for dealing with the pain. There are many seemingly worthy substitutes that make it easier to cope with the pain. They help soften the blow of the loss. However, if maturity is what you seek, you’ll know that eventually you will have to part with the temporary for the ultimate. You’ll have to embrace and face the pain head on.
  8. God is not cruel nor is He interested in making you suffer without purpose. In most cases, our suffering is not due to God bringing some judgment. It’s often due to our poor decisions, decisions of others around us, or attacks from the enemy (Satan).

While God does not cause much of our pain, He will use it for our good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

All things — suffering, work together for my good.

All things — loss, work together for my good.

All things — obscurity, work together for my good.

All things — rejection, work together for my good.

All things — (fill in the blank), work together for my good.

It is important when you are walking (sometimes crawling) through a season of loss to watch where you put your focus. Social media is a trap I’ve found myself falling into many of times.

Scrolling through highlight reels of the lives of those around me serves as a constant reminder of what I’ve lost or doubt I’ll ever have. Eyes up. Meditating on what was and being worried about what will be — eyes up. Getting stuck in grief, bitterness, self-hatred, frustration with God — eyes up.

God will always be the remedy for what we’ve lost.

He can be trusted. Let this verse permeate your heart in this time:

“The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3).

 

In the World, But Not of It: Reverence Over Relevance

I found the reason I was trying to be “relevant” was not because I wanted people to accept God, but I wanted people to accept me.

Disclaimer: This is for the Christians. It is not to be used as ammunition toward any specific Christian, church, or denomination; nor has it been written motivated by the actions of any specific person, church, or denomination.

Instead, I’m writing because of something I’ve periodically observed in myself. I believe it’s something many Christians might observe in themselves if they’d search; this desire to be relevant. This is not specific to Christians, but that’s what we’ll deal with today.

Relevance in and of itself is not evil; but the desire for it must be qualified. Why do we want to be relevant? What does relevance look like in the life of the believer? Does it mean I can’t be fun anymore? How do I serve God without being out of touch with “reality?” To whom do we want to be relevant?

These are all important questions and our answers to them reveal something about the posture of our heart toward God and the things of God. So, let’s dive in.

First, I want to deal with two different perspectives we may observe in the Church (the Body of Christ, followers of Christ) concerning relevance. People often swing to one extreme of the spectrum or the other.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “in the world, but not of it?” Yes? Well, this is an understanding of several verses in the Bible; though it is not a verse itself. Basically, it means even though we exist in this world, we are not of the same nature of the world. There is a culture and citizenship we possess that supersedes that which we experience here. We (children of God) are of a different world which is unseen. Below are some of the verses which compile this theological idea of ‘in the world, but not of it.’

John 15: 19
“If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

1 John 2:15
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”

John 16:33
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Mark 4:19
“…and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.”

The First Extreme

Some interpret these verses to mean we can’t do anything that appears even remotely secular‘– which means ‘worldly.’ For example, some believe we can’t have any sort of relationship with those who aren’t believers–not even any association. Granted, a believer must be wise and discerning when pursuing intimate relationships with unbelievers.

However, there is a difference between being separate and being separate. What? The kind of separation required of believers is one that distinguishes. It is not to isolate or quarantine our faith but to live separate to GOD. Being separate to GOD means we seek to become what GOD desires for us to become.

This was a common issue the Messiah encountered while He walked this Earth. He was constantly brought under scrutiny for spending time with sinners and the ‘unclean’ of society. This didn’t line up with the idea the religious leaders of that time had about being separated or holy.

In one account, the Messiah is eating dinner with tax collectors (oftentimes manipulative con men) and other sinners. One of the ruling religious groups in Israel at the time, the Pharisees, reasoned among themselves and concluded that He was unclean because of this.

You can find some accounts of this encounter here: Matthew 9:10-17, Mark 2:13-17, and Luke 5:27-31.

Believers, we do ourselves and the world a disservice by segregating (isolating) ourselves and the truth we know. Be careful not to build and sustain cozy environments that only welcome those who agree with you (even specifically those of the same faith as you). In response to His being questioned about His interaction with sinners, the Messiah responded, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Luke 5:31-31).”

This inclination to isolate in comfortability without challenge hardens the heart of the believer and allows religion to calcify our minds. This causes us to lose sight of the call of EVERY believer–that is reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21). We are called to reconcile people to GOD. This cannot be done if we’re walled up physically or spiritually within four walls of a quaint church that make us feel comfortable, secure, and unchallenged.

There are people who are falling away daily and many more who have not heard the truth and love expressed in the Gospel of the kingdom of GOD. If we’re honest, in our hearts, there is often fostered this culture of ‘staying’ — of finding a safe, comfortable place and resting there; comfortable in our religion. Our call was never to stay, but to ‘go.’ (Matthew 28:18-20) That doesn’t mean everyone is going to live the life of a traveling missionary or what have you. It does mean that we have to come outside of ourselves to reach the lost and those who have fallen away wherever we find ourselves.

The Second Extreme

The other extreme of the spectrum typically involves this need to prove likeness. “I’m just like you.” “We’re the same!” “I like that kind of music too.” Have you ever met a believer who is always trying to convince people to follow Christ or accept them by proving believers aren’t that different from everyone else? Better yet, have you ever been that believer? I know I have.

It didn’t happen overnight though. I’ve always been very vocal about my faith and the importance thereof. However, over the years, I saw a gradual change. I started wanting to compel people to come to Christ by convincing them that things wouldn’t change much or that I was still like the ‘Darveiye’ I was before.

This is problematic because I was compelling people based on a lie. I’m not just like you. We’re not the same. We may seem incredibly similar on the surface, but there is an inner change that differentiates us. It doesn’t mean I’m better, it means I’m renewed. It means I’m saved. It means I’m redeemed. It means my mind has been changed. It means some things will not and cannot stay the same. It means I have a new nature. I may be “in the world, but I’m not of it.”

I found the reason I was trying to be “relevant” was not because I wanted people to accept God, but I wanted people to accept me. I’d spent so much of my life being rejected and bullied for my interests, my looks, my faith that I found I started to work hard to prove I was normal. However, the reality of the life of a child of God is that you will not be accepted by the world and you are not normal. It’s not something that “gets better” or changes with time.

If there comes a point at which I am completely embraced by the world or indistinguishable from it, I’ve ceased being separated. I may find I’ve begun to seek relevance from the world compromising my reverence for God — which is the result of seeking relevance.

For you cannot completely love and embrace God and still look like, think like, and live like the world. You will hate one or love the other. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other (Matthew 6:24a).”

This dynamic isn’t often easily detected. Sometimes, we’re still doing all of the things we usually do (go to church, read the Bible, talk about God) but will find our hearts are far from God in the process. This is why checking your heart is so important. Always ask, “why am I doing what I’m doing?” “Why am I saying what I’m saying?” “Am I trying to get people to accept me or accept God?” “Am I cutting myself off from the people who need to hear about the God I know?” “Am I discerning or am I just judging people?”

We often treat this walk with Christ as a one size fits all. Granted, there are elements that are one-size-fits-all (salvation, loved by God, call to reconciliation, and many others). However, we have these misguided ideas of exactly what it should look like and get lost in trying to look like that (clothes we wear, how we talk, going to church, reading the Bible, being kind to people, etc) and forget to check if our hearts are truly one with God’s heart.

To sum all of this up, choose reverence over relevance.

Be sensible. Be fools.

Over and out.

 

An Open Letter to Myself

I’ve chosen not to go after things for fear of rejection. I have gone after things I knew I’d succeed in so not to lose or be rejected; all based on a conditioning by broken people.

What you will read below is a note I wrote in my phone to process my thoughts about my fear of rejection. It’s not going to be well organized. It’s my thoughts nonetheless.

I’m putting this up here in an effort to be vulnerable, transparent, and encourage someone who can relate. When I’m in places in which I can’t express myself, I write. I write to understand what I’m feeling and come to a place of resolution. So, here goes.

“I think I have a fear of rejection. I can trace it all the way back to when I was a child.

I remember pulling out of the student council race for president because I thought I’d lose. I don’t invite people places because of fear of rejection. I never wanted to throw parties because of fear of rejection. What if they don’t show up? They’d be rejecting me because they think I’m not worthy of showing up for.

In various seasons of my life, it’s been communicated to me that I’m not good enough to other people. That my voice doesn’t matter. That my interests were lame. That I was almost pretty, but not actually pretty. That I was almost cool, but not quite.

This is sad because I’ve let it rule my life for way too long. I’ve chosen not to go after things for fear of rejection. I have gone after things I knew I’d succeed in so not to lose or be rejected; all based on a conditioning by broken people. How are broken people going to tell me what I’m worth?  I’m worth the very GOD of heaven coming down to save me. That’s invaluable. No one can ever provide that for me.

So, I’m not broken. I’m whole in Him.
I’m not rejected. I’m accepted by Him.
I’m not unworthy. I’m worth it because of Him.
I’m not pathetic. I have purpose in Him.

God has already planned amazing things for me to do. Some will seem glorious, others not as much. But it’s what He has planned. And I’ll be glad in it. I don’t have to shrink back and pretend I’m not worthy of what is mine. Instead, I will step up and fully embrace that which God has called me to. I am more than enough.”

Here’s the thing. God loves you. Passionately. Everlastingly. Unconditionally. This matters above all else.

It doesn’t matter what people have said or done to you. You don’t have to believe them. Any thought or idea lower than God’s idea about you is a lie. God knows you the way no human will ever know you.

David, King of Israel, was a man with many issues but a heart set to please God. He understood that despite his shortcomings, his inward sin, his outward sin, rumors about him, betrayal, and his lowest points that God knew him and loved him still. David had done some terrible things in his life; things that many of would hate ourselves for. David knew that what others thought about him and what he thought about himself had to be subject to what God knew about him.

Read below what David was expressing about God’s intimate knowledge of him and you too!

 O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
2 You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
3 You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
5 You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it.

7 Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
8 If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
9 If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
12 Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You,
But the night shines as the day;
The darkness and the light are both alike to You.

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.

17 How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How great is the sum of them!
18 If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand;
When I awake, I am still with You.

Psalm 139:1-18

May you leave this believing the best about your Father and who He created you to be. Be blessed.