Yoga Pants: A Confession

I beg you read this, yes I am another man talking about yoga pants but please hear me out first. This is my confession as much as it is anything else.

The issue at hand: yoga pants. This has become a phrase that elicits a response one way or another in the Christian culture. It seems either you are in favor of them or you think they are the worst piece of clothing ever. These are generalizations of course but there is an element of truth to it.

I am here to try to offer a new perspective born of my failures, to share with you something God has been doing in my heart. It is to my deep shame that not long ago I told a girl, a friend of mine, that advice girls should hear was, “Yoga pants, just don’t.” I just said it. I causally threw the words out there without any thought of the impact it might have on her. I realized this wonderful woman of God happened to be wearing yoga pants. I laughed at this fact; I thought it was good that she felt uncomfortable in what she was wearing and that she felt like she had been corrected.  I have been a part of a group who publically called out and ridiculed a friend in a Jewel because of the pants she was wearing. I did not say anything to her, but I sure did not stop them from saying anything to her. I have looked at girl after girl and deemed them inappropriately dressed or dressed in an unpleasant manner to our Father. I have been a Pharisee.

I write with a breaking heart. The disservice I have done to these women, the disservice I have done to my God has left me mourning my actions. My heart was never in fostering growth in these women. I had no interest in pointing them to God. I had no God honoring quality in my heart when I passed judgment and imposed my restrictions upon these women.

My focus was on my preconceived ideas of what was right and true, what I considered to be holy and pleasing to God. My focus was on correcting the speck in her eye instead of the plank in mine. Because by God, if I could just make her cover herself in a way that I consider appropriate than I do not have to worry about my eyes ability to wander.

I have been struck to the core in the flaw of my thinking. I have heard verse after verse about modesty, honoring our temple, and not being stumbling blocks to our brothers or sister in Christ as reasons to condemn women’s clothing or appearances. This is a misuse of these verses and the intent behind them. The bible is not meant for us to use it to impose what it says on someone else. It is meant to bring about action in our lives, it is meant for us to apply and lead by doing. Next time we desire to accost a God loving and serving woman for her clothing, how about we realize the stumbling blocks we impose on her life in this situation.

You see we are told not to allow our actions to cause others who are weaker than us to stumble. That is a call to action for you, not for another. I do fully admit that there are certain things that girls wear that make my walk harder. However, to push the responsibility of lust on the girl instead of bear the burden of my actions myself is inexcusable. The message we convey than is that they should be ashamed of who they are or how they dress. In this case, we by default are making them the “weaker” group because we claim authority over their action (Not to say that they are weaker, but this is the mindset we are encouraging).

Show me one instance of Jesus motivating through shame. Show me one instance when a message of shame was given to a “lost” person or a person seeking to serve God. The times I saw Jesus most angry? The times when Pharisees, people like me, shamed a people group based on their actions. This is a call to Christians to repent and change our actions. This is an apology to any woman I have judged or shamed for how you presented your body. That is between you and God, it should not matter to me what you do for my actions are my responsibility.

To be clear I do not advocate a person’s freedom to do whatever they want simply because they are able to justify it to themselves. I advocate doing what is right and pleasing to God. However, the only way we can change our actions and find what is right and pleasing to God is the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Our focus is far too much on our actions and not on the heart behind them and the Spirit’s movement in our lives.

Yoga pants. A small issue illustrating a much larger divide in the Body of Christ. We are lacking love brothers and sisters. We should not let yoga pants distract us from the need to repair our hearts and show each other the judgment free love of Christ that is pleasing to God and transforming of our hearts. Our heart transformation leads to our actions changing, let us start building each other’s hearts to God and trust that the practical issues will work themselves out from there.

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Romans 12:1-2

Hold On and Let Go.

I graduate in 7 months. In 13 months, I start having to pay back student loans. Sometime before that time comes ideally, I would know what I am doing after college. Because right now I am not really, sure where I am going or what I am going to do. Basically I have to kinda sorta become an adult, and everyone who knows me just shuddered at that scary thought.

I am the kind of guy who needs to know what is going to happen. At least I think that I need to, God pry thinks differently. I spend a significant amount of time thinking about tomorrow or next year or twenty years from now and what I need to accomplish to get where I want to be. Worrying about the future does not always make for the lightest of burdens or great nights of sleep.

I am in a period where I think justifiably there is panic and turmoil seemingly nipping at the edges of my being. There is an overwhelming burden attempting to force itself onto my shoulders. I think at earlier times in my life this would have overwhelmed me and sent me reeling.

However, this year has been different. There has been a sense in my life that decisions are coming that need to be made, but I do not need to worry. It has been as if I keep hearing from God, “Hang on and let go.” Throughout life, I believe we get a few moments that are extremely defining moments in who we are to become.

Moses’ calling in the desert, Saul being struck blind, Adam and Eve eating the apple, Judas betraying Jesus for money, Ruth following Naomi in faith.  All of these situations, for better or worse, are huge moments that define these men and women. The catalytic moments are what they are remembered for.

Now I am not going to sit here and claim that me graduating college is one of those moments. Come May many people my age all over the country will be in my exact same situation. I have no false image that I am any more important or my story matters more. What I do believe is that when approaching a situation that could define who I am to become.

There are so many different paths I could take come graduation that logically make sense. And for all I know that is what God has in mind for me. However, I also know that our wondrous gigantic God could have something that seems completely illogical to me planned. The only way I will ever get to know which of these is truly meant to be is if I can truly hold on to God and let go of my safety net.

I feel like God is watching over me right now and telling me in a gentle whisper like Elijah heard, “Hold on and let go.” This is my challenge for the next 6 months. I hope that it is what I am challenged to do every day after that as well. Because, honestly, when I am holding on and in charge things do not go the best.

So today, I have decided to hold on to God, and let go of my expectations. I would challenge anyone reading this to take some time and seek what God’s asking you to hold on to, and what you’re being asked to let go of.

A Deceiving Pride

Recently I hung a piece of paper up in my room with a message for myself. On the left side of the paper is simply the word “be” and on the right side is a list of five words. The first word at the top of the list is humble. For me, one of my most constant struggles is my pride. Everyone who knows me is nodding their head in agreement right now. I’m incredibly prideful and stubborn and a laundry list of other things both good and bad. Luckily for me, we have a gracious God who loves us despite our flaws.

I wanted to come here and write about humility and how important it is. I can’t do that though. Don’t get me wrong, I have little hesitation in stating that humility is one of the most important things in life. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble” (James 4:6 NIV). It’s right there in the Bible and I’m not gonna argue with Scripture. What I’m saying is that I’m not qualified to talk about humility when I’m living with so much pride.

Now I think there is a trend in our culture where we deny any talent or ability that we have in order to be “humble.” This is not humility in my understanding. In my understanding, humility is the acknowledgment of your God-given gifts with the intention of bringing glory to God through being who God created you to be and doing what God has created you for. I think that everyone can understand the concept of pride being “I did this, this was all me, look at me I’m awesome and stuff.” Our culture has a great understanding of what it means to be prideful because it’s something we see all around us and is almost encouraged of us by society.

I don’t want to sit here and talk about that type of pride; we all understand it. I understand it and still struggle with it. I’m working on it but I don’t have a lot of great advice to give or anything revolutionary to share. What I do want to talk about today is the pride that I’ve noticed has been hiding much more subtly in my life in hopes that maybe it’s something you can use.

The way that pride has seeped into my life is in me saying “I’m not good enough.” I’ve always lived the lie that this is humility, that humility is me denying my worth and my value and not getting headstrong and cocky. That is what I’ve tried to achieve. Surprisingly, maybe less surprisingly for those who know me, I was wrong. That’s not humility; that is pride to the core. Twisted, manipulative, soul-crushing pride.

In denying who I am, denying my gifts and my abilities given to me by God, denying what I have been given to work with for God’s glory, I am denying the greatness of God. God has created each and every one of his people with a great deal of love and purpose. To deny that I have gifts, a purpose, or an ability to serve is something I have begun to recognize as pride in my life. I’ve struggled in my life with self-worth and often hold too tightly to the belief that I’m flawed so deeply that God could never use me.

Paul himself says, “Christ died to save sinners, of which I am the worst.” There is precedence for realizing that we are flawed and fallen creatures. However, I believe that when we realize we are fallen it should not be to tear ourselves down. It should be to realize the greatness of God in us. Instead, the struggle many people fall into is believing we are too flawed to do what God is calling us to do, and that someone else will come along to do it. Pride is denying God’s desires for us in favor of believing we know better.

God’s will for us is to know we are loved and that He wants to use us for great things. Let go of the pride that comes in that claims there is a flaw in God’s creation. Let go of the pride that says “I’m so messed up God can’t use me.” Let go of the pride that drives a wedge between you and God. Humbly seek the loving God who created you and humbly seek the path He would have for you, trusting Him to supply you with what you need when you get there. Those are my thoughts previously. Take them for what they are worth to you. But I want to end with this last statement that I know for fact to be true:  There is no lack of skill, nor anything you may have done in the past, that can prevent God from using you if you are a willing servant seeking God’s path for your life.

Restless

All throughout my life I’ve been the person who doesn’t really take crazy risks. I overthink everything and I am content to think myself into doing nothing out of fear. Oftentimes this leads to me to sit around and do very little of what I actually want to do, more content to stay in and watch a movie or read a book.  Something easy and comfortable, something that doesn’t stretch me. People who see this part of me tend to assume that I’m pretty content with life and don’t desire much change from what I’m used to.

 But the thing is, my heart and mind are in a place of turmoil longing for change and difference. I have an incredibly restless heart. At my core my entire being is shaking for a change to take place. In me, this country, this world, in what we’ve made Christianity to appear, and even in you specifically. If you’re taking the time to read this, I desperately want life change for you; not because I think there is anything wrong with you, but because I do believe that there is something better meant for you than where you are at right now.

That is why my heart is restless. I may be content to sit and watch a movie instead of going off on some adventure, but at the same time my heart longs for change, as it was formed to do by God himself. “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.” John 15:19. We don’t belong to this world; it’s not our home and we aren’t meant to accept it the way it is. Yes, we are to live in it, but we are to live in it with the intent of creating change through the life-impacting and heart-altering name of Jesus.

I fear there is a tendency to get caught up in the “That is why the world hates you” part of this verse and focus on retreating into our safe places and fearing the world. Let’s focus on the fact that if we do not belong to the world, it’s because we belong to God. Jesus was very clear that belonging to him came with a set of responsibilities that belonging to the world did not. Mainly that if we are to follow Jesus, we should actually do that. We are to live as Jesus lived. Not in a wholly literal, shun technology, talk in old English, wear robes sense, but to take the principles and practices that Jesus employed day to day and strive wholly to follow.

When I see Jesus, I see a restless man.  Not in the sense that he was anxious or unsure of what was coming or could not sleep because he was afraid. However, I believe that Jesus saw the darkness in the world; the pain, hurt, and evil that we see but flee from. Jesus was a man who was concerned with this, not content to accept that this was the way it was meant to be, because He knew the greater plan and the heart of God. I believe that Jesus’ heart was the most restless heart to spend time on this earth. His faith in God allowed him not to suffer the negatives of a restless heart that we are prone to. But his love for people and God made his heart and body restless to bring about the life change he was here to herald. 

Restlessness comes about when we do not feel at home in a setting, it comes because we want a change to make things more comfortable and homey to us. Embrace the fact that restlessness makes you want to make change. Than go and do it. Do not allow a restless heart to make you think you need a change in setting, to hide from a situation in fear, or to do nothing because the issue is too big.

 Let your restless heart spur you to step out in faith and do as we are called to. We do no service to ourselves or anyone else if we leave that job for another. If you see a wrong, strive to right it. I pray my heart is restless in this world until the day I’m done here, because as long as I’m here I have work to do. And it’s that sense of restlessness driving me to action that makes me aware of what must be done.

Create Something Beautiful

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1

The very first encounter man has with God in the word is to learn that God created the world, as such the first encounter man had with God in this world was learning that God created him. Within the Christian faith, I have yet to meet anyone that would deny that God is a Creator. One may argue about the manner in which God creates, that is not the point I am here to make, rather that they would still claim our God to be Creator God. One of our God’s definitive traits is that He is creative.

A few days ago I got done leading and speaking at the youth group I volunteer at, to be quite honest I wasn’t very pleased with how my talk had gone. I felt like I had made the points I needed to make and did a reasonable job with the lesson, but for some reason I still felt like it had not gone the way I wanted it to go. As I was driving home I was alone with my thoughts and very frustrated with feeling like I had failed to deliver a good message. I couldn’t pinpoint at the time what was making me feel this way, I hit all my points, made a few good jokes, kept the audience paying attention, and was even told by them that they liked it.

When I pulled in and put my car in park I sat there for a while just thinking about the week leading up to my speaking, it was a week filled to the brim with stress and by Thursday night it had left me pretty drained. I realized that over this week I had taken time to put together a checklist of points to make, scripture to reference, and jokes to make. But I had not taken the time to make it mine and create something I tangibly cared for and desired to see succeed. I had not put a part of my heart into this lesson as I should have.

As I sat in my car and realized the issue that had taken place it was if things started to click into place, I could feel the words straining to get out in my head and so I took up pen and paper while still sitting in my car and wrote. In about 30 minutes I had written what I guess you could consider lyrics to a song, that will never be sung because if you know me you know you don’t wanna hear me sing. Into these lyrics I wrote out, I poured all of the emotions and frustrations I had been feeling this last week, out of an earnest outpouring of my heart and openness to God’s prodding something, in my opinion, beautiful was created.

Sitting in a car writing lyrics to a song to never be sung was not the place I expected to learn a life lesson.  I was pleasantly surprised however to come to a realization and ability to understand some of who God is better. The first realization I came to is how alive and how good it feels to create something beautiful, and with it the amount of care you have for this creation. Sitting in the care I marveled at the level of care God must have for his creation, if I had this much care for some words on a piece of paper.

The second realization I was blessed with was to realize how much God means for his people to live a life of creation, as we are called to live a life like Christ and to strive to align ourselves more to God’s will we are called to create. We have the outstanding blessing of being connected to the source of all creation, and if we are willing and open to God’s urgings and guidance it is His desire that we create something beautiful. Take a chance today, slow down for a second, silence the distractions, grab your medium of choice, and take time to create something beautiful. And may you be blessed with the realization that went into God’s creation of you and the love he has for that creation.

The Blessing of Conviction

Guilt inspires great evil in us. Guilt carries with it self-depreciation, anger, helplessness, depression, and worst of all guilt condemns us. The basic lie of guilt is, you have done something wrong and because of this you are blemished and will never shine as bright as you could have.

Guilt is not a means through which the Spirit of God works. No, the Spirit works in direct opposition of that. As scripture tells us in Romans 8:1, there is no condemnation in the Lord. The Spirit tells us that though we may have made a mistake that indeed blemished us, the Love of our great Father has cleaned that blemish at the cross if we are just willing to accept it. However, his love for us is so great he does not allow it to stop there, indeed not only are we cleansed but we are given the great blessing of conviction through the Spirit.

I believe we hear the word conviction and fear it because it is a call to action to right a wrong. But how flawed a thinking this is, our loving Father does nothing that is not meant for our good. In conviction a great multitude of blessings reside. We are given the blessing of growth and change closer to the person God wants us to be through conviction pruning us of our dead and rotten branches. We are given the blessing of reconciliation of ourselves with those we have wronged, because true conviction of an open heart brings with it change.

That there is the kicker though, we must have an open heart to conviction. We must humble ourselves at the foot of the cross and push aside our pride and say honestly before The Lord, “I know my actions have caused blemishes on me and others, and though I may not know or see what these sins in my life are I’m opening my heart and asking you to sift through it and bring to light that which I try to hide. Not leaving me along to agonize or feel guilt in these sins but knowing that when they are brought to the light you are telling me that together you wish for us to destroy the hold these sins have in my life and remove the ability for them to cause future blemish in my life.”

This is an admittedly scary thought but I ask you to give it a chance, conviction brings healing and intimacy with God. Embrace it with open arms and an open heart, and enjoy the amazing trip towards healing God has planned for you.

“Let the streets resound with singing”

When my alarm went off this morning, I laid in bed not sure if I was going to get out and start my day. Those of you who know me and are reading this thinking “sounds like any other day for him” and you do have a point. But there was a deeper reason today.
By now I doubt there’s anyone that hasn’t heard about the seemingly unending list of tragedies rocking our nation. It feels like not a day has gone by in ages now when there hasn’t been some new tragedy.

Tragedy after tragedy are racing through, with little to no time to grieve or recover from the last one. Innocent life after innocent life impacted and changed forever by the choices of another, or sometimes what feels like pure random chance.
And this morning this was all just getting to be too much for me, I couldn’t bring myself to want to face this evil hurtful place again. But classes and responsibilities beckoned so I crawled out of bed and went about my day.

I can’t claim to have been in a good mood in the slightest, because on the inside I’ve been wrestling with why any of this is happening. I know God works good from all things, I know there is a plan to work from this. But, being honest, I’m not very good at looking forward like that and right now it a feels pretty useless to hope for anything good right now because all I’m seeing is the bad.

Now can y’all see the problem with this? Those are my feelings, however here is what I found in scripture today. 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

… welp that’s about 100% the opposite of how I’ve been acting. I’ve fully fallen into the trap of letting the burdens of this world get my soul down.
In chapel today we sang, “Let the streets resound with singing, songs that bring your hope, songs that bring your joy.” I don’t believe there is a better phrase for Christ followers to be focused on right now.

As I see it the streets are currently resounding with the echoes of explosion and death. This sound rings loud and powerful, but the song of Christ should ring louder even in the midst of these tragedies.

It’s my challenge and my hope for you my brothers and sisters in the faith, go out today with your hearts and souls filled with God; be a beacon of his light, do not give power to the pain of this world but show Christ as the conqueror over death and evil that He is in every step you take. Bring the only true song of joy and hope to the world in these dark times.