Is the Western Church Seeking His Kingdom Or Our Own?

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33

Today marks 27 days past the election day, officially. No this isn’t me drumming up some political post to validate my political beliefs in the name of Jesus. However, I can affirm that the election has led me to write this post. To be frank, I’ve struggled with writing this. I had various titles I was going to use and several different directions I wanted to navigate down. Every time though, the Holy Spirit lovingly corrected me to ensure that I was writing His words and not my own. To ensure that I would articulate both truth and grace, with grace leading the way always. To ensure I wasn’t casting stones and cultivating a heart of self-righteousness. To make sure I wasn’t leaving any blind spots unattended.

It’s 2020 and it’s no secret that we are in some of the most heated racial and political times. If we’ve unlearned and relearned anything, it’s that history tells us this country very much has a race issue and has so for a long time. There are blind spots systematically and ideologically against people of color we’ve left unchecked far too long. We are far more divided in our beliefs which has led extremist opinions leaving our hearts calloused towards one another.

Through the unfolding of these events, if I’ve learned anything in addition to, it’s now no secret that the American Church as a whole has a pride issue. Apparently for a long time.

I’ve watched members of the Church fall to the floor and worship their political idols. Defending a man with a shamelessly questionable character all for a singular issue as if Jesus fits into either political party. We run to the American flag faster than we run to the cross. It seems as if some know the Constitution and Bill of Rights better than they know Scripture, let alone Jesus. We idolize comfort and a false sense of freedom at the expense of the Gospel and eternity. We’ve thrown stones, ugly ones with name calling, at those who disagree with us politically. We cry persecution when some in our country, who bear the right to be free of religion, verbally oppose our faith. Have we forgotten that some of our brothers and sisters in Christ elsewhere are experiencing physical torture and death for their faith?

I’ve watched thousands of mask-less Christians gather at large outdoor worship concerts exceeding capacity limits. Apparently this global pandemic that has robbed over 200k people’s lives and cases that have overflowed hospital beds, is all just a hoax. Make no mistake, I live fearlessly in this life because I know where I’ll be when I take my final breath on earth. However, I’m a strong believer in serving my neighbor before my inconvenience.

I’ve watched members pray harder over election ballots than they have humans. I’ve seen “prophets” prophesy their thoughts and wants before God’s. As someone who believes in an invisible God and a resurrection, can anyone explain to me what exactly Paula White was doing calling for “the African angels”? It seems as if conspiracy theories have become truth over God’s word and His voice.

I’ve also seen the other side’s refusal to pray for Trump while he was in office. I too have been guilty of this. Yes, we’re called to do that and no it’s probably not popular in 2020. We’re called to lay down our opinions and thoughts for His, because at the end of the day, Trump is still an image bearer desperately in need of Jesus.

A lot of ugliness has surfaced out of the Church this season, which has posed this question to me: as a whole, has the Western Church been seeking His Kingdom or ours? I’ve really had to ponder on this question as someone who grew up in the Church. Is this just the evidence of bad religion and tradition that wore out its welcome? Are these the consequences for making deceptive comfort our idol?

John 18:36-37 “Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

If you’re at all familiar with the story of Jesus’s death, you’ll remember that Jesus was moments away from being sentenced to death after this dialogue. The irony of Pilate’s response to Jesus was that his perspective on a “king” seemed to be no different than those who were chanting for Jesus’s execution. Man’s view of a king and kingdom didn’t match God’s. Why? Because God didn’t send His son to establish an earthly kingdom but to build His.

God’s kingdom was to seek and save the lost. His plan would be accomplished through the cross, making a way for all and anyone to have full access to the Father through Jesus. He would build His kingdom through people of all colors, backgrounds, cultures, and ethnicities that would match Heaven where every tribe and tongue surround His throne. That’s why the Pharisees and religious leaders who sat high and pretty above the poor and oppressed, were confused by Jesus eating with the least of these. They sneered at Jesus befriending sinners and teaching the truth that led with grace first. Make no mistake, they knew the Torah and Old Testament Scripture well but they missed the heart of God completely. They struck out so badly that the Messiah they were awaiting was standing in their presence.

John 2: 18-20 “The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body.”

The Church was never about a building or policies, it was always about people. Our first command is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. Notice there’s zero additions to who and what we’re supposed to love. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbors as ourselves. Notice the word “unless” is no where to be found in that command.

I’m grateful to live in a country that offers me the freedom to voice my opinion, speak up and out for justice, and vote. However, America is not my home; eternity is. When I speak up for justice, and stand up for the least of these it’s because injustice has no place in eternity. When I speak against other image bearers being treated less than, it’s because they are not less than in God’s eyes. How I speak to and about people who live and think differently than me is how I’m speaking about God since He created them.

I listened to a podcast over the weekend of a sermon preached by Louie Giglio, the lead pastor for Passion City Church. He talked about how Christians ought to live with both patience and urgency during these times. The line that struck me during his message was “pack accordingly”.

So I offer this question to any fellow Christian reading this: are we fighting to unpack for the sake of comfort or are we packing accordingly for the sake of the Kingdom and what’s to come? Are we living fully for Jesus, and with intentionality to see every person in our lives in eternity? Or have we allowed pride to speak self righteousness over us pushing more image bearers away from our Creator? Are we making room at the table regardless of where they’re from, who they are, and who they voted for? Do our lives look like we’re building His kingdom or ours?

One Kingdom will stand and prosper, the other will fall as every earthly one does. Eternity isn’t singing the National Anthem, but it is singing “worthy is the lamb”. It is Jesus who meets you at the gates of Heaven, not your favorite President. You will give an account to God as to how you lived your life and built His kingdom; not who you voted for.

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What Would I Tell My Younger Self?

“If I could go back to my younger self, I’d be like, “Not everything’s permanent.” – Mila Kunis

“What’s something you wish you could tell your 16 year old self?” was a question posed on Instagram the other day. I proceeded to ponder and answered through my Instagram story for all 823 followers of mine to see. The answer was thoughtful but short of all that I really wanted to say.

Advice to younger self seems so cliché as you age; especially when you’ve hit 30, like myself. However, you begin to wonder; what would you tell your younger self?

I recently took a pause on sharing and writing for my blog to refocus on God’s purpose for me creating this site. When I saw the above question appear on my timeline that morning, I felt compelled to share wisdom. I believe it’s incredibly important these days for older generational women to speak wisdom into the younger generations. We allow so much of social media dictate our train of thoughts and decisions, especially the younger generation, instead of those who have walked the long path before.

Here’s my younger self: I grew up in a conservative evangelical family with a typical “American dream” background. Father worked hard, Mother was a stay at home superhero, and I was the oldest of three. All three of us were heavily involved in sports and other extra curricular activities. Attended church every Sunday, youth group on Fridays, both parents were Sunday School teachers, and Dad was a deacon. Yes, we were that family; driving all of our friends to youth group. All excelled in school the best we could, and attended a four year college after graduation.

Here’s the thing; I didn’t really know who I was in high school. Sure I was known as the female jock, and won “most athletic” senior year along with our high school football quarterback. However, I rode off my athleticism and piggy backed off my parents’ faith. If you’ve been reading some of my other blog posts, you’ll remember it was high school that I grew in skepticism. I never doubted God’s existence or Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross, but certainly had a lot of questions. Many in which western evangelism neglected to address or swept under the rug, or so it seemed. I ended up going to college and made a shipwreck of my faith and myself in some ways, if I’m honest.

So what would I tell my younger self? Below I’ve made a few important pointers that I’d tell young Molly. I hope this helps you- whoever reads this. I also hope this can be passed down and shared with the younger women of our generation.

1.) It’s okay not to be super feminine. Molly, I know girl; you are trying so hard to put on more makeup than you care for. You’re trying to wear clothes that you hate. Yes, dressing up for the occasions is fun but you’d rather wear your jeans, the nice top you bought from American Eagle, and either your chuck taylors or vans. By the way (side note); chuck taylors and vans are currently a trend amongst the female gender right now. I know: we’ve been trying to tell these women since middle school.

I know that society and unfortunately the church, played a huge part in dictating gender identifications and expressions. However here’s the thing; God created us each uniquely and He actually wants you to wear your jeans and chucks. How do I know this? Because 30 year old Molly still rocks that style today. Also, it’s okay that other girls take a more feminine approach to their look; God created them uniquely as well. But you eventually get the hang of the cocktail dress attire, and makeup. You realize it’s not so bad after all.

2.) Mom was right about all the boys you crushed on and chased after. You don’t marry a single one; including the ones you met in college. As you grow older and closer to Jesus, you eventually realize what it is that attracts you to a man. It’s his character, faith, perspective, and personality that you pulls you in. Notice I didn’t say anything about looks?

3.) The things of this world are not worth it. You eventually graduate high school and head off to college. As you do, you abandon the principals of your faith. You eventually find your “happiness” in partying, alcohol, marijuana, and hookups. You find your purpose and worth on the field hockey field- which ultimately lets you down. You’re not going to be the front page superstar you were in high school. You’ll struggle, and have more ups and downs than you can count. Though you’ll meet amazing friends; some whom you are still close to today. That’s probably the best part- your friends. Can I just tell you high school Molly, that the “kingdom” of the world the Enemy teased you with is not worth it? Emotional pain still exists the next day when you have a hangover waking up in someone else’s bed. Sure, you have drunken memories- many you can laugh about- but they never took away your dissatisfactions, struggles, or hurt.

Let me tell you though, this rebellion will not go to waste. You’re not a lost cause (I know high school Molly is thinking that right about now), which leads me to my next point.

3.) God is good and you eventually find out who you are. Remember all those questions you had? They eventually are answered and God reveals more of Himself to you. In fact, Jesus becomes your best friend for real this time. You unlearn everything you were taught growing up just to relearn who Jesus is at the core. You go through a deconstruction of your faith just to reconstruct your relationship with Him. You burn down everything you ever knew in the American Church only to find nothing but Jesus standing there.

You eventually find yourself, the prodigal daughter, back to God where you always belonged. You find out who you were really created to be. Passions you never thought you had, begin burning inside of you. You’re on fire for Jesus and you love the hell out of people. You speak up against injustice and for the oppressed- in the way the Holy Spirit guides you to. You eventually love the Church again but also use your voice for change and revival in areas that need it. You stop throwing stones at the Church, and you want to better it by helping build a longer table. You slowly begin to be at peace with who God created you to be; truly. You have seasons of unraveling only to find that God was stripping away things that were burdening you. You slowly become the person you were always created to be. And it never stops until you reach eternity.

4.) The unknowns and uncertainties of life aren’t so bad. Oh yes, control freak Molly- are you hyperventilating at the thought of this? You eventually surrender your future to God because you realize worrying and planning did nothing for you. It’s freeing. It’s mysterious. You’re not always good at it but God’s grace is always there to give you peace. We’ll hit this massive pandemic in the year 2020 caused by a complicated virus. You’ll be quarantined in your apartment by yourself in Austin, Texas for the most part. You’ll hate it but you’ll learn to surrender the illusion of control.

It’s a wild ride young Molly, but it’s so worth it.

Let’s Stop Cancelling And Start Correcting

“That’s not activism. That’s not bringing about change. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get very far. That’s easy to do.” – Barack Obama on “Call- Out Culture”

I hate cancel culture. There I said it. Even when I fully disagree with someone else’s point of view, I’m still not interested in cancelling that person. Why? Because maybe that isn’t where heart change is going to happen. And in case you haven’t noticed…..it’s not happening.

I’m not in the business of cancelling but I’d be happy to invest in cancelling “cancel culture”.

Before I dive into my complete dislike and distaste for this subject, I do recognize that accountability is needed in others. Especially when it comes to social justice and pushing for a systematic change that gives people of all races, gender, religions, and sexual orientations the same equity and treatment. However, I think we as a society have a very tainted and distorted view on the meaning of holding one accountable for their actions and words.

“If you lead with love, and you build a relationship and start to listen to somebody who doesn’t look like you, and vote like you, and believe like you, there will be a window of time to share some truth. And lives can be changed this way.” – Shawn Johnson (Lead Pastor of Red Rocks Church)

Cancelling and/or cutting someone short we disagree with is easy, but facilitating a relationship and allowing room for a change of heart takes work. In fact, I was part of cancel culture on my own before it was the social media trend.

If you disagreed with me anywhere from politics to sports, you lacked education in my book. But here’s the irony; I was the one who lacked education……and integrity, grace, and patience. I made no point to listen to other views and hear people’s experiences out. I was stubbornly right in my opinion and it must have been hurtful for those around me. Especially my friends of color when I would, as lovingly as I could, say “All Lives Matter” in response to “Black Lives Matter”. I let my privilege blind me from a real systematic issue that people of color experience on an every day basis. I let my privilege taint my lense of America through a form of patriotism that enabled my willful ignorance.

For the record my views have thoroughly changed since then. Black Lives Matter. We have a systematic issue in this country and are deeply embedded with racism covered up with privilege and political silver tongue language. Not everyone has been granted the same rights and equity as myself, a white person. And we have a lot of work to do to create change to a system that should truly reflect what our Constitution states.

So how did my stubborn views change you might ask? It’s simple; both Jesus and my friends chose not to cancel me. Let me just say how grateful I am for the grace of God that never runs out on us. I am also grateful for the grace of my friends of color who heard me say “All Lives Matter” and still chose to befriend me. Both Jesus and my friends created a space for hard truth and grace. When both are put together and done through a relationship, it’s transformative. It was then my eyes and heart were open to the experiences they were burdened with on a daily basis. My heart posture shifted towards God’s heart and away from Molly’s privileged point of views.

I’ve been the most vocal about social justice, inequality, and Black Lives Matter than I’ve every been during this crazy year in 2020. It started with the Amhaud Arbery video of watching an unarmed black man murdered for going on a jog. I felt a righteous rage and anger stir in my heart as well as mourning and weeping for my friends of color. I pictured Jesus flipping tables as we watched headlines talk more about George Floyd’s past than about his present….and oh his unjustly murder. I listened to black leaders in the church talk about their experiences of racism and prejudice that are never talked about in the media. I chose to educate myself with documentaries and books that would help guide me on how to be a better ally for my friends of color.

I’m not looking for praise or a congratulatory because these are elementary steps that all white people should be taking. The point of me walking you through my ideology transformation is to show you what cancel culture can’t do.

James 1:19-20 “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

Christians, are we loving or cancelling? Who and what are dictating our views and thoughts? If it’s anyone or anything other than the heart of God, we’re already off on the wrong foot. If we contribute to cancel culture, the world will never see the Kingdom and what transformative love can do.

To my friends of color; you know who are you are. Thank you for not cancelling me when you could have and should have. Instead, you allowed me to grow which created the room for a heart change that grew your army of allies.

I shutter to think of how many times Jesus could have cancelled me but didn’t. Instead, he faithfully chose to pursue me, even in my rebellion and ignorance. To this very day, he continues to lovingly correct and convict me.

I will not cancel someone I disagree with because that will never bring heart change. I will, however, both lovingly and gracefully, correct you and hold you accountable. Let both my friends’ and Jesus’s examples show you that grace and truth together do work. Let’s stop cancelling and instead, start correcting.

You Are The Best You There Is

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

I’m 30 years old and have lived in four different cities; Columbus, Orlando, NYC, and now Austin. I have traveled all over the world: Ireland, Northern France and Paris, Belgium, Amsterdam, London, Canada, and Mexico. I’ve traveled across the country and hiked in the Pacific Northwest. I’ve been to two Women’s World Cups to watch the USWNT play: 2015 in Vancouver and 2019 in France (both years they won- I’m not saying I bring good luck but is it a coincidence?…totally joking by the way). Not to mention I was able to skip work to watch their ticker-tape parade in lower Manhattan (NYC) with friends (I had the front row on the railing and could tell you every word Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe mouthed….okay not really but I was pretty close). I was able to fulfill a bucket list of mine to watch my Premier League club, Chelsea, play in London.

So enough about the incredible blessings I’ve experienced throughout my life and let me tell you about a few laundry list items I’ve been praying about….thanks to comparison.

I’m 30 years old and still single. Majority of my friends have settled down and are in serious relationships, engaged, or married. Many have purchased their first homes, and are starting to have children. At my age, wedding invitations stock pile and baby showers become your brunch dates.

While I’ll hear the praises of my single, bachelorette lifestyle, I often find myself comparing my timeline to theirs. As much as the single life has suited me well, I surely long to be married and find a partner to do life with. To travel with. To watch the USWNT win more World Cups with. To go on hiking trips together. To watch football with (American or the real football). To go on hiking trips together. To pray with and follow Jesus together.

Here’s the thing: I may not be where I want to be, but I am right where I’m suppose to be. I’m living out the very calling God has called me to.

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

You are God’s favorite you, and while the world can put timelines on “life accomplishments”, there’s no timeline on God’s plan for you. Each and every one of us was created on purpose for a specific purpose. The world’s definition of success will never align with God’s which His matters most.

Psalm 139:13 “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Every physical detail, trait, and attribute about you are not an accident. The Creator of the universe carefully and thoughtfully designed you to be the perfect you. He knew you before you were born and success to Him is living the life He set out before you. You are His favorite you, and you are the best you. The world needs you to be you because there is no one else like you.

Comparison truly is the thief of joy. It’s an old, but easy tactic the devil uses to distract us and make us feel lesser than. To shrink us down causing us to feel unworthy. Yet our Heavenly Father calls us worthy single or married, a successful career or stay at home mom (or dad), one million Instagram followers or two, living in a condo in LA or a small ranch in the Midwest.

Comparison robs us from the appreciation of the presence and the journey of where we’re at in life. We’re always going to envy someone else’s lifestyle or possessions; even after we acquire what we’ve been desiring.

Comparison blinds us from what God is doing and forming in our lives. It holds us back from living fully and freely where we’re at because we’re too busy coveting what we think will make us happy.

Comparison can make us feel small, determining our value and worth based on earthly possessions and imaginary timelines. It reminds us of our failures and weaknesses which falsely convinces us of what we aren’t worthy of. Newsflash: you are worthy and whatever negative thought that comes through your mind is not of God.

Whoever you are that needs to hear this; you are seen, you are loved, you are worthy, and you are right where you need to be. You are the best you. You have a purpose on this earth because God said so. You are His favorite you, and He his not comparing you to anyone else. You are free from timelines and expectations. You are free to live out your calling and where you’re currently at.

Childlike Freedom

“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:16-17)

(Before I begin this post about freedom, I’d like to clear the air that I’ll be writing about individual and personal freedom. I recognize that there are a lot of injustices happening around the world and in our country. Black lives matter and just because Heaven is my home does not mean I feel justified to remain complacent on policies that ultimately put those of color at a disadvantage. I’m prolife from womb to tomb.)

What does it truly mean to be free? I think as humans, we often ask ourselves that question…..especially as we grow older.

When I think of freedom, I think to my childhood summers. My grandparents use to rent a beach house for two weeks in August in Ocean City, NJ (hence the NJ native of me). My entire family would make the trip down to stay and we’d often have multiple family friends visit. I remember the days of fearlessly running towards the ocean with my brother and sister, and our friends. Playing frisbee, baseball, or another game we imagined up in the back street behind the beach house. We’d walk on the board walk in our “hip” 90s attire (if you grew up in the 90s like myself, you know kids these days are missing out on style!). Nothing in the world could convince us not to ride any of the boardwalk rides- not even death (no really; our parents often questioned our safety on them).

When I think of freedom, I think of the little girl in Sunday school freely singing the usual Sunday school songs sitting next to her friends. We weren’t good, but God was delighted. Or the little girl who played on an all boys baseball team because I thought I’d one day be the first female player on the Philadelphia Phillies. That little girl knew who she was and wasn’t afraid to be exactly who she needed to be. Without a worry in the world she embraced life on this earth for exactly what it is.

As we grow older and life throws us curveballs, we begin to lose that childlike freedom we once had. Experiences make us skeptics, and the phrase “sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me” we find out is not entirely true (name calling does hurt if we’re honest).

Today we hear phrases “be true to you” and “live your truth”, yet we find ourselves constantly searching for an identity. Searching for belonging. Clinging to whatever “makes sense” to us in the moment because that’s what our emotions and feelings tell us. I once read somewhere (for the life of me I can’t find it) “searching for yourself and an identity is just exhausting”. I resonate with that exhaustion as I had too left my childlike freedom to fit into an identity that I thought would bring me freedom.

In college, I found my identity in validation. I heavily sought approval from others, yet masked that from my friends with my so called “happiness”. My family life took a major shift and my faith was shaken almost to the point of disbelief. I had no relationship with God yet I recognized Him when it was convenient, and partied my way through the pain. I found freedom in alcohol, marijuana, and hook ups. Temporary freedom that is. I’d wake up in mine or another guy’s bed with a hangover, and the insecurities and problems still present. Needless to say I graduated with a degree and life kept moving. Also let me just note that my close friends in college were amazing human beings. They really had no idea all that I had bottled up inside of me.

Fast forward years later and I’m cruising through my dream career in sports. I went from one identity to another now finding it in my career. My success and title was my new mask, and I began to build up a lowkey big ego because of it. I’ve spent most of my career in sales and service, therefore I use to slave away at the office to ensure myself the number one spot on the sales board and a bigger commission paystub. Having a sports background with a team title as a conversation starter always gave my ego a boost. I was good at my position, or any position, and I lowkey knew it.

It wasn’t until I moved to NYC and received a job with the Brooklyn Nets in their premium department as a service rep. I was graciously offered that job from a former colleague (who then was my new Director) and now mentor in the industry, wanting to grow me in my career. I failed miserably at the position my first year with the team- at no one’s fault but my own. Talk about a humbling experience and wake up call to reality. Not only did I fail at that job, but I found myself often incredibly lonely in the city that never sleeps. I had a great roommate at the time whom I was close with both her and her boyfriend, but when they were out of town, I felt the anonymity of the city.

It was then God found His way back to my heart when all the identities I chased after had failed me. He took me on a journey of surrendering my insecurities to Him; the very attributes of myself that I hated. I went down a valley of surrendering control, which was the hardest. I operated my entire career out of control, but He only wanted to show me that He was the Good Shepherd of my life and heart.

Isaiah 64:8 “Yet you, Lord, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”

So after all this, what do I now say freedom is?

Freedom is living in the fullness of who you were created to be, and confidently knowing your identity regardless of your past, mistakes, and imperfections. It’s not drifting into culture’s standards and the broken identities that it created with chaos and confusion.

Freedom is having joy and peace amidst troubles and hardships. Living fully in the unknowns, and being content without knowing every next step. Living with a full sense of knowing that while there is life after death, you can experience life in its entirety right now without having to search for it.

In true freedom, we don’t need to search for validation from any particular group because we know that we are fully loved and accepted by the Creator of the universe. A Creator who is so much bigger than your doubts, weaknesses, questions, insecurities, imperfections- in fact He wants them. He wants you. All of you. Just as you are. We are truly free to dance in the rain because we know we are infinitely loved.

Psalm 139:14 “I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

So yes, be true to who you were created to be. You were created on purpose for a purpose, and your Heavenly Father wants you to embrace that childlike freedom. Think of your most fearless childhood memory, and that’s how God sees you.

Loving Our Neighbor

“People need to forget religion and just focus on God.”- Bobby Berk (Season 1 of Queer Eye)

Queer Eye is one of my favorite shows, and, in my biased opinion, one of the best shows. If you watch The Fab Five on Netflix, I think you’d find it hard to disagree with me on that statement. Individually, they each bring a different personality along with a career and skillset that lovingly helps transform a person’s life that is usually in need of it.

While grabbing a glass of red wine, I usually pop an episode on before I head to bed for my enjoyment to unwind from the work day. These five men never cease to make me laugh (Jonathan Van Ness in particular- a little favoritism biased on my end), and of course, make me cry by the end of the episode. The heart touching theme to each episode comes from five guys who meet a person exactly where they’re at – no matter their background (race, gender, politics, religion, and sexual orientation), and leave them in a better place using each of their crafted skills to highlight that person’s qualities.

“…..meet a person exactly where they’re at” is a line that often draws me back to what the Gospel does and what Christians are called to do for others. Throughout the series both Van Ness and Bobby Berk have recalled their religious trauma growing up, having been gay, and the hurt they’ve experienced from the church. During one episode, in a loving exchange between a Christian man and Bobby, he recalls his time growing up in church praying to and begging God that he would not be gay. Bobby’s experience with the church made it hard for him to even enter a church in another episode while making over a Christian woman. Van Ness explains in one episode that it’s not God that he feels alienated from, but the church and its politics.

The encounters with both Christians resulted in a loving experience for all five guys who, sadly and most likely, haven’t always been recipients of that same love from Christians. Bobby (the Christian man) addressed the church’s past mistreatment of the LGBTQIA+ community at the end of his episode, and reassured them how loved they were by his family. Tammye (the Christian woman) consistently reminded them how loved they were by God then proceeded to speak over them individually about their God given gifts.

I shudder to think how often the American church has been a stumbling block for people because the church chose to respond with religion instead of grace and love. I resonated with both Van Ness and Berk’s perspectives towards the church, having grown up in the environment seeing similar responses. This ultimately led me to years of rebellion against my faith and a complete deconstruction of everything that I had learned growing up. I knew Jesus loved me and “all the little children”- per our Sunday School song. I knew that he died on the cross for all to give eternal life to anyone who believed in him. However, the love story that was preached on Sundays didn’t necessarily translate into action from the church towards the LGBTQIA+ community, immigrants, people of color, etc. It seemed as if politics and religion were prioritized over the true message of the Gospel. Eventually I found myself leaving the church and wanting nothing to do with it.

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

God’s love is incomparable to human love. Unlike earthly love it’s completely unconditional- no matter what you’ve done, who you are, what you’re doing. The Creator of the Universe is madly in love with you; contrary to what religion says. Much like the Fab Five, Jesus meets us where we’re at, as we are, and loves us enough to not leave us there- only, Jesus does it better. As much as I love the Fab Five and would love nothing more than to drink wine with and let Jonathan Van Ness do my hair, no one does anything better than Jesus. His grace is sufficient enough for you to cover all of your mistakes and imperfections that you’ll ever make and have here on this temporary earth. His grace and love are both transformative, and when we encounter Jesus, we are changed forever. I’m not talking your behavior, I’m talking about your heart and perspective. Religion says clean up your behavior, but Jesus says “follow me”.

I imagine that Jesus weeps when we mistreat image bearers of God. Every one of us who professes to be a Christian, will have to give an account for how we loved our neighbors.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”- Jesus (John 13:34-35)

I’ll speak for myself here: this season, God has opened my eyes to areas where the church needs to do better. If the church cannot show true repentance for areas we’ve done wrong and love our neighbors well, how can we ever point an unbelieving world to Jesus?

I’ll be honest; this post for me was originally hard to write. In the grander picture, I do love the church which is why I am vocal about change where needed.

I’m part of a great church here in Austin, and was part of an equally great church in NYC. If it wasn’t for the body of Christ and community, my faith would probably be lost by now. I’ve only been able to endure the tough seasons and the experience of pain from loss because of both Jesus and my closest friends in the church. I was welcomed back with open arms even with all of my baggage. My friends willingly went into valleys with me to wrestle with my questions and doubts, and love me at my worst. They’ve uplifted me in dark seasons in ways that most people don’t know. The American church has done countless good things for communities and cities. Today you’ll often find more communities full of Jesus loving people who live out the Gospel and love their neighbors well.

This post isn’t meant to criticize or beat on the church because by no means are we perfect. We will let you down at some point because we are imperfect human beings at the end of the day. It’s hopefully just a loving wake up call to be better; something that’s been on my heart for a while.

To end this; I’m excited for this new generation of Believers and the future of the church. I see a generation who is actively pursuing the true heart of Jesus and bringing us back to the simple Gospel. Going beyond the walls of the institution, and extending the table to see the Kingdom of Heaven in its fullness.

“This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more.”- Rachel Held Evans

Checking My Heart

“Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them”- Jesus (Matthew 15:16-18)

“Follow your heart” is what we often hear in culture today. It’s actually what we’ve always heard- and how often do we choose that path. I think it’s just a natural state of a human being, full of emotions, to follow the very person, place, or thoughts that make our hearts flutter.

Here’s the thing: our hearts are deceitful. As hard as it is to hear that, us humans can be an emotional wreck, and if we’re honest- it’s usually because we choose to follow the emotions and feelings over truth. I lived out years of following my heart and trusting my own ways, and yet every single time I was led astray and came up with disappointment. My heart has led me into the wrong relationships, the wrong jobs, the wrong places, the wrong friendships, and honestly- it has convinced me at times to pass some of the harshest judgements on people (I mean, who do I think I am?). It has played with my emotions causing my thoughts to run wild causing me to play out scenarios in my head against people that don’t even exist. It has withheld forgiveness against people poisoning my own heart with anger and hate that ought not to exist. Does this all sound familiar to you? It should because the heart is deceitful.

Jeremiah 17:9-10 “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”

So if the heart is that deceitful, then what?

Psalm 73:26 “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”

You’ll often hear a Believer or the faith community use the term “God put on my heart…”; Jesus is the only answer to your heart. I know, I know; it sounds SO cheesy (and believe me, I cringe at old school “Christian talk”). However, I really don’t have a better or wittier line for you- it’s just that simple. “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).

Here’s the thing, God knows us better than we know ourselves- He created us and wants nothing more than a relationship with us. We live in a fallen world and we have a wild, emotional heart, and are imperfect human beings. Regardless of these flaws, God wants to protect His children from the very things that will cause us pain and hurt us. While decisions out of our hearts, without God, may seem good in the beginning- as they always do- but eventually they fail and hurt us, and we are left with consequences of our own choices. Don’t worry, I’m guilty as charged more times than not.

So we renew our minds on God’s word and we follow Jesus who gives us the desires of our hearts; the true desires. The desires that will ultimately bring us joy, freedom, peace, and the rest of the fruits of the spirit- the desires that we truly long for in which the world can’t give us. It is then we can forgive those who have offended us and who may show zero remorse, but yet it frees us from bitterness and heart poison. It is then we can begin to truly love our neighbor; those we disagree with, and who look, think, believe, and act differently than us- we serve them instead of debate them. It is then our selfless acts and good deeds are done purely for others rather than for temporary praise to receive a moment of validation that will wear off by the end of the day. By no means, do I want to say that we become perfect because Believers are surely as imperfect as anyone else and we still have our bad days and moments- more than not.

In the quote above, Jesus was speaking to the disciples regarding his conversation with the Pharisees (teachers and “experts” of the law). The Pharisees questioned and criticized Jesus and the disciples for breaking one of the religious traditions (the washing of the hands before eating). While their religious acts “looked good”, he was constantly exposing their hearts for what they truly were. He knew their hearts were deceiving- full of greed and their religiosity meant nothing to him because they constantly missed the heart of God. Jesus is after our hearts; not our behavior.

I’m Saying Yes

“What I felt like God had said to me was ‘hey just be faithful with what’s in your hand, and I’ll be faithful with what’s in your heart”
Joel Houston (Hillsong United)

It was May of 2019 I heard these exact words; words I didn’t know I needed to hear. Hillsong United’s album “People” had just launched (I highly recommend this album since it’s changed my life and has spoken to me in ways words cannot express). I was living in a small apartment in the borough of Williamsburg in Brooklyn at the time while completely frustrated with life’s circumstances. I felt plateaued in my career seeing no direction, my finances continued to be a thorn in my flesh, and many unanswered prayers loomed. I felt so distant from God as if I was in the wilderness running with no clear direction or His voice guiding me.

Knowing the mental and spiritual state I was in, my roommate at the time and amazing friend, recommended Relevant’s podcast interview with Joel Houston, a vocalist and song writer for Hillsong United. For the record, Hillsong United is one of the most recognized groups not just in Christian/worship music, but I’d argue pretty known in the secular world as well. While listening to the podcast that filled in the gap of my commute to work on the L and 4/5 trains, Joel talked about his journey as a Believer, Hillsong, and a time when he had a faith crisis. During that chat, the line that he said which struck me the most to this very day “What I felt like God had said to me was ‘hey just be faithful with what’s in your hand, and I’ll be faithful with what’s in your heart”. He was speaking about Hillsong United first forming and the dreams God had put on his heart prior to any of their success or songs that had been written which ultimately changed the trajectory of worship music. (I highly recommend you listen to the interview on Relevant’s podcast)

I often think the most important moments of our walk with Jesus and our calling, are the smaller ones. The smaller ones refine us and define us into the person God is calling us to be, and prepares us for the promise He lays on our hearts to pray about every day.

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.”- Jesus (Luke 16:10)

Often we think saying yes to our calling will look like the opening ceremonies to the Olympics with fire blazing and all neon signs reassuring that it makes sense, or Moses parting the Red Sea. How we forget that Moses didn’t see the Red Sea parted until after he said yes to God for a calling that he wasn’t qualified for on paper and didn’t make sense.

A few weeks ago, Shawn Johnson, lead pastor of Red Rocks church (the main campus of my current church), preached a fire word online in a message titled “Thank God I Said Yes”. He said “We have a choice to take a risk when it doesn’t make sense and say yes to God, and experience life to the fullest.”

I’m unsure as to what or how this blog will evolve. In fact, I don’t even know what or where it will lead me to. Here’s what I do know; that God is good-first and foremost, and I love writing. I’ll write about a variety of different topics: Jesus, sports (mostly footy), music, beer, coffee, traveling, wine, working out, and any of my thoughts that can be expressed, lovingly and graciously, through words. This blog is just me saying yes to God when it doesn’t make sense in the unknowns, and being faithful with what’s in my hand (what He’s given me) so He can be faithful with what’s in my heart.