Meet John Crowder

Back around 2006 – 2010 I was super caught up in the “Prophetic Movement.” I had experienced God’s supernatural power in dramatic ways as a child, and this new movement was exporting tons of teaching on how to continue to explore the ways God speaks and touches people today. It was really exciting to me.

The problem was, I still didn’t know the Gospel that well. And most of the leaders of the Prophetic Movement had a very limited concept of what the Gospel actually was.

Thankfully, I discovered a YouTube preacher named John Crowder. He was popular in the Prophetic Movement for a short time, until he really started to expound on the root of all prophetic experiences — the Gospel of Grace. Crowder began to preach exclusively on the goodness of God as it was revealed at the Finished Work of the Cross. This was uncomfortable for those who liked him just for the Holy Spirit manifestations that he had been walking in.

By some miracle I continued to listen to Crowder even when it constantly challenged me. Over time he became one of the most influential thought leaders in my life.

I would like to introduce you to John Crowder as well. If you’re up for it, check out the following videos from his YouTube Channel. The first is an introduction, and the three following that are classics of his that I have watched over and over.

If you like them, subscribe to his channel and continue to let your brain-washing deepen. You will not regret going through the detox this Good News brings!

The Next Reformation

There are so many voices right now vying for the future of the Church. I feel like everyone with any kind of big-picture vision for Christianity is picking up on the fact that we are on the cusp of a major reformation, akin to the one that took place 500 years ago in Luther’s day. There are a whole host of ideas about what exactly this reformation will look like, all competing to be the dominant re-definition of our Faith.

As I see it, much of this competition for our future is the because the Lord Himself is working aggressively to move us into a new place. While in Cairo, Egypt in September of 1982, Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.” God has it on His own agenda to bring massive transformation (in a very short amount of time) to His Church and the way she proclaims His Gospel.

Mike Bickle heard the audible voice of the Lord tell him, “I will change the understanding and expression of Christianity in one generation.”

There may be many reformation movements burgeoning in the earth today, but the one that the Lord Himself is initiating has yet to come into full manifestation. Every element of the current reformation movements that is in line with God’s agenda will contribute to this new Reformation. Much of what we are now calling reformation though will eventually prove to be counterfeit and lose its fanfare.

As a student of theology, I am of course very opinionated myself about where we are headed. The following are three traits that I see as defining this reformed, budding version of True Christianity:

A New Identity: The last great Reformation corrected the idea that we can be justified by our works, rather than by the grace of God alone. However, Protestants continued to teach the false notion that believers carry a sinful nature which has to be suppressed or killed off progressively as one goes through a life-long process of sanctification.

In this new reformation, we will see that Christ has not only justified us in God’s sight, but He has sanctified us too. Hebrews 10:10 says, “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Verse 14 goes on to say that “by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.”

This is not to say that we do everything right as Christians. Not is it to say we have no room for growth and maturity. It is to say though that our identity is not defined by what we do wrong. Our identity is defined purely by what God says about us, and that will never change.

As this new Reformation grows, Christians will come into greater agreement that we are presently “dead to sin and alive to God” (Romans 6:11). We will take more literally the fact that we are beloved children of God carrying His pure, divine nature (John 10:34). We are righteous and clean at the core of our being, and not merely in a legal sense.

As we are healed of our damaged self-image in light of these truths, we will also begin to see the radiance of God’s image hidden in all of humanity. The result will be an unprecedented new passion for evangelism and humanitarian work to redeem and protect that Imago Dei wherever it is found.

Experiential Revelation: The Protestant Reformation further brought to our attention the centrality of Holy Scripture in our worship. We came to recognize that the Bible carries a weight of authority that is unequaled by other sources when it comes to defining our theology and providing guidance to our lives.

The next reformation will stand on this foundation, but move us forward to recognize that we all have been brought into relationship with the Divine Word of God who is still speaking today. We will continue to weigh our ideas in light of the written Scripture, but we will also widely recognize our utter dependency on personal communication with Christ via His indwelling Spirit.

Charismatic experiences will no longer seem rare or optional for us. The whole Body of Christ will be operating in a dynamic, intimate relationship with the Presence of God. This will move prophetic worship, prayer and contemplative practices to the forefront of our corporate worship gatherings. Rich Bible teaching will continue (and continue to grow richer), but preeminence will be given to the hosting the manifest glory of God. “Bibliodolatry” will not keep us from mystical revelation any longer.

We will realize that the “priesthood of all believers” extends beyond us all having access to the Bible (which was a huge step forward in our progress in the past). We will all know our direct access to Jesus — who is Himself our living definition of perfect theology.

A “Gospel of the Kingdom” Mentality: Somehow the last Reformation left us in a place where believers were awaiting to experience God’s Kingdom when they died and went to Heaven. Very little of God’s will was ever expected to be actualized here on earth.

This new reformation will emphasize that Christ is already, presently the Risen King of Kings – and the scope of His Kingdom is unending. Truly “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).

This is Good News, because it means God is already changing the way everything works in society. As N. T. Wright has brought to light in his newest book, the day Jesus died is “the day the revolution began.” The evil systems of this world have ever been coming undone in the wake of Christ’s Finished Work, and His victory over darkness will only continue to be enforced.

Believers will continually recognize and preach this reality more, and in the process repent of wanting to escape the world to experience Heaven’s bliss. We will instead make a better use of the time we have until Christ’s Second Coming, discovering endless creative outlets to reveal and release Heaven’s blessing. Together we will work to nurture abundant life and justice anywhere it seems to be presently lacking. No longer will our spirituality appear to be ethereal or impractical. Our message will carry weight and impact now wherever the Love of God is preached.

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Repost: Free Verse Poetry

The following is one of my favorite poems that I’ve written. It was previously posted on an older blog of mine.

“Listen to Me”

You have so much worth and value
Can you fathom how much you mean to me?
I look into the windows of your eyes
And inside is an endless realm of beauty
Just waiting to be explored
I tell you this over and over
Still resistance is all I receive

Now your face is downcast
Your countenance – guarded, hurting
You’re trying so hard to prop up those walls
To ward off anything that could end your poverty
Presenting an air of cool confidence
You claim you’re working through your issues
But your hours are spent wallowing in pity
Rationalizing despair and hiding from all who care for you

Please, join me
Help me in fighting for yourself
Welcome the hand of grace
Let it into the deeper place

I long to search out the gold within your heart
To help you uncover all that’s buried inside
Just stop holding onto the ghosts that haunt you
Let truth be the guide of your life

I will not stop
I will not give up
If I have anything to say about it
You will find hope
You will find love
Because you belong with me

Open up, I plead
Give me ear
Let winter come to an end
The Kingdom is coming near
It’s at hand
Just reach out
And I’ll take the lead

Trust me
And believe
I’m right here
And I’ll never leave
No, you are loved
And you always will be

Will you just listen to me?

Grace, Guilt and America’s Sins

A few months ago I was having a conversation with someone about the depths of America’s guilt in mistreating marginalized people groups. We discussed this country’s abuse of Natives, African slaves, Japanese people kept in internment camps, etc. I was the one pointing out that our nation has a lot of embarrassing parts of its history. As the discussion went on, this individual responded by saying, “I thought you were all about grace though? Why are you talking so much about our guilt?”

I realized that this is a sincere question. How can someone who constantly feasts on the message of grace also get so serious in talking about our failures and weaknesses?

If we see the doctrine of grace clearly, I believe it will actually only encourage us to take responsibility for how our actions are affecting others around us (personally or as a society). Let me explain.

I understand the Gospel of Grace to be the solution to the problem of shame. Shame says we are defined by our failures. Grace says we have an identity in Christ that transcends our performance altogether.

Shame says we are defined by our failures. Grace says we have an identity in Christ that transcends our performance altogether.

Grace also nullifies the fear of punishment. As a redeemed child of God I get the dignity and blessings that Jesus earned for me, rather than what I have earned through my own lifestyle choices.

Further, my very real sins have all been cleared. In a sense it is as if they never occurred. The Lord declares, “I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

All of this tells me that I don’t have to live in a fear of negative karma coming to haunt me all my life. I join with the writer of Psalm 5 in saying, 

But let all who take refuge in You rejoice;
    let them ever sing for joy,
and spread Your protection over them,
    that those who love Your name may exult in You.
For You bless the righteous, O Lord;
    You cover him with favor as with a shield.

As grateful as I am for grace, I also believe in acknowledging guilt. I still recognize that I have messed up – and at times continue to do so. Sometimes I may even screw up in massive ways! Having a confidence in God’s continual covering of grace actually enables me to see my fault without feeling condemned about it. 

If you know that your actions do not define you or your future, it’s much easier to swallow the fact that your actions are not always good. Or maybe even that they are sometimes terrible ones. Your conscience can grow more sensitive to correction, precisely because you are no longer afraid of being a failure anymore. You’re not trying to hide from admitting your own potential for error. You know that Christ is your only righteousness anyway.

All that said, a sincere trust in God’s grace will sometimes call us to take inventory of our actions and to rise to a higher standard in how we treat one another. We can’t always ignore the repercussions our choices have had on our neighbors and justify that attitude in the name of not wanting to be “sin-conscious.” Grace moves us to be conscious of others… even if it is uncomfortable or painful to realize just how unkind we have been toward them beforehand.

We cannot undo our failures. To try that would be self-righteous of us. But as believers we can admit our responsibility in creating very real problems in this world, and — by the grace of God — we can work together to create a better future.

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Speaking Up in A Polarized World

As Christians, how do we both fulfill our role to be peacemakers and to boldly speak the Truth in the face of resistance?

In today’s society, people are so polarized between strikingly different perspectives on what is right and what is wrong. During the election season last year I had friends on both the Left and the Right talking as if the other sides’ candidate might be the anti-Christ and might want to put masses of people in concentration camps. Both sides really believed this was a threat. It can be VERY intimidating in this type of context to try to share your perspective with someone who is passionately devoted to a viewpoint opposing your own.

How does one implement the biblical notion of “speaking the truth in love” in such a culture this divided by hostility?

The following are a few resources I have found to provide helpful counsel for approaching the landmine of political/social/theological conversations in this day and age. I would encourage anyone who is seeking to mature in the ability to handle these tense situations in a Christ-like manner to explore the following list of materials.

Note: You will notice that some of these resources deal directly with Trump’s election or other hot-button issues. I do not always agree with all of the stances held by people in these various forms of media. I DO value and learn from their approach to walking in civility, however. I would highly recommend all believers learn from the posture they take.


The Resources:

How to Have Better Political Conversations by Robb Willer

8 Tips for Talking to Your Family About Trump by Christina Cleveland

Pluralism Doesn’t Mean Relativism by John Inazu

10 Reasons to Be Humble Toward Opponents by Andrew Davis

How to Avoid Being An Ass While Telling the Truth by Mike McHargue

The Thing in the Air | Part 1 – Our Body by Rob Bell

Four Tips to Disagree Well by Jacob T. Murphy

The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus of Nazareth

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A Broken Cycle

Religious people often live in this cycle of sinning, feeling distant from God, getting depressed, trying to repent, feeling better about themselves…

and then sinning again.

It’s the most unfortunate thing. I believe it is what makes so many people give up on their faith or find spirituality unappealing in the first place. And the whole cycle is totally unnecessary.

True Christianity wasn’t supposed to be centered on our relationship with sin. It was always about Jesus, the Person of the Godhead who proved the Lord is loyal to us. He’s not intimidated by our sin.

Jesus exposed the fallacy of the idea that our sin separates us from God when Christ — who is fully God — came and lived with sinners. Then He died on the Cross, not just “for” our sins, but according to 2 Corinthians 5:21 He actually “became” sin itself.

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)

God-in-the-flesh became sin, and He didn’t stop having a divine identity because of it. Further, the Father did not separate His Presence from the Son here because of the sin He was carrying to the Cross. Rather, the Trinity stayed fully intact. Second Corinthians 5:19 tells us, “in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” God was “in Christ,” even when the perfect Son assumed our sinful identity. The Lord was not letting sin(s) stop Him from being radical, loyal, Love — even in that most shameful of moments.

God never withdraws.

This ruins the idea that we need to somehow do anything ourselves to get back on God’s good side when we fail. God is always on our side, even when we are not on His. We don’t have to climb back into His manifest Presence somehow. The Manifest God already came down and got into our presence.

The Manifest God already came down and got into OUR presence.

When I sin these days, I am careful with how I go about the “repentance” process. I might say some kind of heartfelt apology, but not because I worship the kind of Father who withholds forgiveness until I admit my failure. He teaches me to love more unconditionally than that, as a reflection of how He has loved me (Colossians 3:13, Ephesians 4:23). Besides, I know that our relationship is not based upon me getting it right in the first place.

When I repent, I express to God that I care about His feelings, and I move straight to discussing with Him how I might find ways to change the thought-patterns that led to the bad decision I made in the first place. I don’t question whether or not God is still with me and for me, in any sense, for any amount of time.

Don’t let yourself come under any kind of shame in the name of practicing “humility” and “repentance.” It will only slow you down in really growing and maturing. Plus, it can keep you from fully enjoying the grace God gave so freely to us already — grace that we are qualified to likewise share with others freely.

In other words, guard yourself from trying to get back into union with God. Jesus already did that for you. Any efforts on our part to repeat that Finished Work will only lead to an endless cycle of regret.

For your own good — don’t waste your time on that.

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Opportunities for Humility

One of the most defining characteristics of a Christ-like person is humility.

Jesus is the one who taught us that it is the “meek” who will “inherit the earth.” He modeled this by laying down His life for His friends. Friends He could have just won over with charm, charisma and divine power if he would have just asserted himself more agressively and practiced a little self-promotion. Instead, he chose an alternative wisdom and confidently did NOT defend, protect, or glorify Himself. He did not let some self-ambitious “ego” control Him.

I think God is constantly offering us opportunities to make the same type of humbling decisions. It is these kind of decisions that ultimately shape us into His image — into our full potential as Christlike leaders. All day, every day, these kinds of choices are presented to us…

Will we “save face” and over-explain ourselves when someone at work notices we goofed up on something we were working on?

Will we avoid working out because it feels disappointing not being as fit as the others around us at the gym?

Will we skip church on days we feel depressed, because we don’t want people to see us when we aren’t our best?

Will we refuse to share our art, our talents, our voices, or our thoughts with the rest of the world until our work feels PERFECTLY edited and never in need of revision?

Will we avoid starting a conversation with someone we have serious disagreements with, because there is a chance it will get awkward?

I feel like we are constantly faced with the dilemma of either making ourselves uncomfortable or preserving some shallow sense of dignity in order to “play it cool.”

If we can’t win these small battles, how can we ever be trusted to really do something courageous? Something that impacts history?

If we believe we are God’s children, fully backed by His validation, we have plenty of instances available where we can actually practice walking that out. Let’s not run from them.

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Guest Writer: “Holy Saturday”

In the Church, we spend a lot of time on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Resurrection Sunday. And with good cause. It’s critical to remember to serve with love even those who will betray and deny us. It’s even more crucial to see the myth of redemptive violence canceled by the Cross. And who doesn’t love the joy of an empty tomb? A Man risen?

But today is Holy Saturday. And today is actually the kind of day that most of us live in all the time.

Holy Saturday is about waiting in the silence of the Divine. It’s about having seen the worst that the world has to offer — pain, greed, violence, death — and not yet being able to see the glory of the restoration of all things. Holy Saturday is about having to get up — on Shabbat (a day of rest) — and from that rest, get on with your day, get on with your worship, dive back into the Word and the promises of God… and WAIT.

God knows I hate waiting.

There are a lot of theological ideas about why it was three days in the tomb, in death. But what if God was simply mirroring the reality that we all face? That when we crucify something, when we sacrifice in order to achieve a better goal, it almost never comes right away. There is always the tension of now and not yet. There is always a waiting.

So on Holy Saturday — my Sabbath, a day of rest — I am trying to pour myself back into the Living Word. I am trying to remember that healing takes time. Tikkun Olam isn’t overnight. Building anything worth having requires waiting.

Bless you in whatever you are waiting for… a job, a husband, a child, a home, a community, health.

And bless you on this Holy Saturday.

— Katie Hunt Sturm

The Best of Both Worlds

Within some Christian circles there is often talk about sacrificing the “good” in order to have the “best.” Some would say we give up “legitimate, natural pleasures” in order to enjoy deeper, spiritual joys. 

I wonder if we can actually have both.

What if it’s not God’s will for us to downplay the significance of good, permissible ways to have fun in order to focus more explicitly on honored, spiritual experiences? And what if He actually wants to blur the lines between what is a “natural” pleasure and what is a “spiritual” pleasure?

There are so many types of pleasure we are blessed with in life. There is certain euphoria we get only in corporate worship settings, and a certain peace that tends to be found more in solitude. There is an adrenaline rush we get while playing sports, and a release of endorphins when we work out. There a taste we get from delicious food, and a joy we get when our friends tells us jokes that make us laugh from the belly. There’s an appreciation for beauty that can fill our souls when we are scrolling through Instagram, and a satisfaction that comes from a good day’s hard work. And there always so many rewards that come from relational investments — when we are overcome with gratitude for the friendships that we are developing.

There are countless ways to experience heavenly bliss. Some of these might be easier to categorize as “spiritual” opportunities, while others are easy to view as “unnecessary.” But what if life is meant to be interlaced with both, continually? What if we aren’t meant to devalue or rate such experiences, but to savor them all? Maybe they are all a part of God’s benevolent plans for our lives.

I understand that there are times for prioritizing the kind of activities we will give our time to, and that sometimes we have to say “no” to good options in order to say “yes” to things the Lord has invited us to focus on. That said, we need to be careful not to create too much of a dichotomy between the material, temporal realm and the spiritual, eternal one. God is highly invested in both realms, and the two are highly intertwined with one another. I believe our lives are more fully lived when we are growing to explore and delight in the whole of the opportunities provided for us to experience joy in its manifold forms.

If we neglect any means through which God is working to lift our spirits in the name of “holiness,” we just might be getting stuck in an unnecessary rut. The Lord is highly creative, and He can make our hearts rejoice in so many ways…

That is, if we are willing to receive and celebrate all He is offering.

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Where Are You Headed?

My name is Destin Michael, which means “destined to be like the Lord.” It’s not hard to guess that the concept of “destiny” has played a huge role in my thought life since I was a young kid.

I often think about where I am headed in life and how I am going to get there. I want to grow in the direction God would have for me — to know and enjoy Him more, and to fulfill His purposes.

In the process of reflecting on this, I have grabbed a hold of a few ideas others have shared over the last several years. I believe each of these proverbial statements can add guidance to the formation of our destinies.

Consider these ideas and how they might help you reflect on where you are headed:

  1. You are going in the direction you are pointed.

What do we put most of our focus and attention on in life? How do we spend most of our time? What practices and routines do we each follow on a daily and weekly basis? All of this can be highly predictive of where our lives will be in five years, or even further ahead.

Put some consideration into the choices you are making in this season. Our divinely-inspired dreams will not just come to pass on their own if we are always casual with the lifestyle we are engaging in currently.

2. You are who you hang out with.

People rub off on each other. It’s just the way life works. We tend to talk like those we spend the most time with, assume the same mentalities that they have, and learn to like a lot of what they like. If we want a good picture of where we are headed, we can look at the people we are closest to.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you, who challenge you out of your comfort zones, who encourage you and believe in you. And choose friends who are givers that are dedicated to contributing to your wellbeing. A community of healthy, mature, non-toxic peers is essential to our growth as people.

Whatever type of leader or individual we want to become will be determined largely by the character type of the those we are inviting into our inner circle today.

3. You will live in the fruit of this moment.

It’s easy to dream about the big picture of where we want to go in life. Often that dream feels intimidating to try to reach for. Really all destinies are fulfilled though as the result of the continual investment we make in a brighter future, starting right now.

Don’t just think about the kind of steps you want to take in the right direction through major lifestyle changes. Think about how you can make the most of your time and fully embrace the opportunities given to you over the next few hours. Set your intentions in the best direction you know how, and find simple ways to realign your trajectory in the space of time immediately before you.

If we think like this continually, in due time — we will see a harvest from these very moments.

4. You are already a success.

Our culture often encourages us to “make something of ourselves,” as if we can become a better, higher quality person based upon the accomplishments we achieve in life. I don’t like this perspective.

Human potential is best manifested in those who really learn to just be themselves, rather than striving to “make something” of themselves.

We are all created with the image of God within us. That is, with the desire to serve others, to impact society for the greater good, to create and to influence. These things will come from us naturally as we progressively learn to accept and express our God-given identities.

We are not reaching to become something great. We are already incredibly great in our Father’s eyes, and it is the validation He gives us that motivates us to practice walking in greatness through our life’s work. We need to be constantly reminded that we are already a success just because He says we are lovable… long before any external successes we accomplish in days to come.

5. Invest in the Eternal Kingdom.

Our dreams and passions are shallow if we are limited in seeking to serve our own interests. A truly significant dream is one that includes others, even future generations.

Every life has a ripple effect on the lives of those it touches. Let’s be conscientious about what kind of things we are setting in motion in the lives of those around us. We are contributing to the progress of humanity, joining in with Christ’s ageless movement to bring redemption wherever it is lacking.

Each one of us is leaving some kind of legacy. Our aim is to have it be one that fully maximized in helping bringing about God’s long-term agenda for total, widespread restoration. We don’t want to waste our short lives on what only we can experience for ourselves before we die.

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