Taking the Bible For What It Is, As It Is

My Theological Evolution

My theology has shifted in different directions several times over the years. When I was a teenager and stopped believing in the pretribulational rapture, it was because I was convinced by scripture that my previous perspective was not what the apostles actually taught. In my early adulthood, when I dramatically changed my theology of identity and sanctification, it was because I became convinced that my own Protestant tradition was articulating those doctrines in a way the Bible itself does not. When I went through deconstruction in my late twenties, I re-examined the notions I had about fundamental doctrines like original sin, atonement theory, Hell, and even the nature of scriptural authority itself — precisely because I was trying to more seriously wrestle with the Bible and be honest about the conclusions its authors intended to lead me towards.

Throughout this whole, ongoing process, I feel like I have grown more confident not only that my theology is more properly grounded in truth than it used to be, but that it has become something filled with beauty. It has become more Jesus-centered. It has become something I actually want to share with people — and not just because I’ve been told it’s my moral responsibility to do so.

In my 30’s, I started more deeply rethinking my theology as it relates to my own sexuality. I committed to follow the same pattern that I’ve always followed. I looked at the scriptural texts. I learned everything I could about how they were translated and what they communicate when pieced together. I did my best to acknowledge where the authors confirmed or challenged the perspective I already held, asking the Holy Spirit to help me discern the Lord’s will through it all. Continue reading Taking the Bible For What It Is, As It Is

Your Will Be Done

Nothing is more reassuring than knowing you are in God’s will, where you’re assigned, led by His input, in His timing.

Knowing with clarity that you’ve heard from Him and gained His approval in your decisions gives such confidence. It’s incomparably better than trying to force your own poorly informed dreams and plans for your life to work.

To join Christ in saying to the Father, “Not my will be done, but Yours” — is such a source of joy and security. It is the only way to guard our hearts from regret.

Real Love

Sometimes I don’t feel like I can sing loud enough, raise my hands high enough, or get low enough on the floor to sufficiently express my love for Jesus. I want to give Him everything… My reputation. My obedience in the secret place. My diligence in daily walking out His plan for my life. Any sacrifice I can make that will feel like the semblance of a worthwhile offering in return for the impact of His unfathomable kindness towards me…

Even with that being true, and feeling it to the core of my being at times, I am continuously reminded of how empty it would all be if that’s how I measured my sense of spiritual well-being or godliness.

I keep being brought back to the simplicity of 1 John 4:10,

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son…”

I am the object of Love. The recipient. 

He is Lover, I am Beloved. 

My passion and devotion wane, but His fountain never runs dry.

My response to Jesus’ gift of Himself is infinitely inferior to the revealed Love-of-God-in-Christ. It pales in comparison. 

Above all else, I just want to be marked by a growing confidence in this scandalous Love — ever enamored more deeply still in the face of it.

Thinking Aloud Here….

It seems to me that part of the Church has a good grasp on how the Gospel so wonderfully relieves us from the pressure to measure up when we face our ongoing weaknesses and failures, and part of the Church has a good grasp on how radically empowering and transformative the Gospel is. But the two camps seem to only emphasize one of those messages, often downplaying the other side.

One side says we have been declared righteous and made “legally” justified before God — able to draw near to Him to experience compassion no matter how continuously rough and messy our lives are.

The other says we are dead to sin and free from its slavery by virtue of our co-crucifixion with Christ — now needing to learn who we are and discover how to walk in the victory that His finished work provides.

My vision is to disciple people who are firmly and continuously grounded in both realities. I want to see believers reveling in the wonder of God’s mercy towards them everyday — unashamed of their finiteness, woundedness, and capacity to “miss the mark”…. but not ultimately defining their own essential nature (or their expectations for the future) by anything other than who they already are in Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Quick story about a different “Ian”…

Earlier this year, a few months after I lost a ministry job, I went to spend some time at Teleo Coffee in Kirkwood, Missouri one morning. I was working on my laptop, setting up my new freelance business. Meanwhile, I kept noticing this good looking dude sitting near me with long hair and a “Jesus loves you” shirt on. After sitting there for some time, he got up and approached my table.

With a grin on his face he asked, “Hey, I couldn’t help but notice the Greek tattoo on your arm man. What does it mean?” I told him the word means “loved unconditionally,” and explained a little bit of the spiritual backstory as to why I got the tattoo in the first place. “I thought I got the impression you might be a believer,” he said enthusiastically, and we started to chat a bit about our personal histories with the Lord.

I told him we should get coffee sometime and connect more. He gave me his name (Ian) and phone number, but told me he was leaving town and wouldn’t be back in the area for a good while. Nevertheless, he texted me later that day to ask me if there was anything he could be praying about for me. I responded that the main thing weighing on my mind was my financial situation, because I was late on making a payment that I owed. He asked me how much the total was. 

A few days later Ian messaged me to tell me he just got a paycheck… and then proceeded to send me a big chunk of money via Venmo to cover my bill!

I was so moved that a stranger felt led to spontaneously invest in me like that. I texted him and told him he was too gracious, and he replied, “God is too gracious! In fact, that’s literally what my name means.”

It felt like a wink from Heaven.

That’s just one of countless stories I could tell of how people have been the hands and feet of Jesus to me in this chapter of my life — encouraging, supporting and blessing me in surprising ways. In other words, intentionally modeling Christ’s loyal love in an embodied manner, as the Church that He intended for us to be to one another.

We don’t always get it right in how we treat each other… But then again, a lot of times we actually do. Either way, God knows how to step in, show up, and continue in every season to be exceedingly gracious.

Do you have even the slightest clue how much your very existence overjoys God’s heart?

God does not “tolerate” you. Nor does He just “accept” you. No, God absolutely cherishes you and celebrates every fiber of your being. He is mad about you, and wants you for exactly who you are (not “despite” who you are). 

Sometimes I hear believers say things like, “God will take you how you are, but He won’t leave you how you are. Can I get an ‘amen?’” Generally speaking, that kind of messaging really doesn’t sit well with me. It is true that God won’t leave us wallowing in dysfunction and oppression. His love is radically transformational, to be sure. Nevertheless, when He comes alongside us to lift us up, build us up, and empower us to live a more flourishing life — He’s calling the gold out in us the whole time.

We don’t necessarily have to view God as trying to “change” or “fix” anyone. He molds and shapes our futures with us without treating us like we’re mere projects to be improved upon. He crafted us in His beautiful image, and whether we see it in ourselves or not, that is the image within that Christ has successfully redeemed (see Ephesians 4:24).

God also sees our failures and our mess, for certain. Yet He is well able to differentiate who we are from all of that garbage. He will help you learn, grow and course-correct where needed, without ever treating you like there is something intrinsically wrong with you. You are not your own worst thoughts or behaviors, your untamed egotism, or your own self-righteousness (Romans 6:11). Further, your growth (or lack of growth) is not indicative of how utterly treasured and esteemed you already are in all of your uniqueness — to your very core. (Psalm 147:11, Psalm 149:4, Isaiah 62:3-5, Zeph. 3:17, Psalm 139:13-14)

There is no hoop you have to jump through for the Lord to like you, and no authentic part of who He made you to be that you can’t bring to His table of fellowship. As for any guilt, shame, or bondage that interfered with you knowing Him and His favor… He has already addressed and overcome it through His own self-sacrifice on the Cross, once and for all time (Hebrews 10:10).

You are simply and thoroughly desirable to Jesus. Even now He says to you, “You have absolutely captivated my heart, with merely one glance” (Song of Solomon 4:9). Continue reading Do you have even the slightest clue how much your very existence overjoys God’s heart?

Experiential Faith

It saddens my heart when I talk to believers who have been worshiping and serving Christ for years, and yet they still testify to having little or no personal experience with the manifest Presence of God in their lives. Some folks seem to have gotten the message that this is simply what it means to walk in “faith” — to believe and obey despite the lack of evidence for what they believe in. They trust a God they’ve heard of on this side of eternity, hoping that they will finally actually get introduced to Him in the life to come.

This line of thought might be based upon a partial truth, but I don’t believe it is the full truth by any means. The reality is, when Jesus took on human flesh and came to Earth, the Lord was not dipping in and out of our world. God wasn’t merely paying us all a quick visit. Christ’s coming was meant to display to us the very nature and eternal character of our Father. Jesus was demonstrating to us who God is in His very essence — an incredibly incarnational, relational Being who does not leave us like a human father might leave his children (John 14:18).

We need to know that we do not serve an abstract deity who stands at a distance while asking us to merely relate with Him via the words on a page in an instructional book. Other monotheistic religions may sometimes teach that sort of thing, but the God Jesus portrays to us is characteristically interactive, affectionate, and embodied. He pursues us in His love, seeking to know and be known. Personally known. Intimately known. He takes the lead and initiates real closeness with us. That didn’t stop happening when Jesus ascended to His Throne.

Life can be so profoundly harsh and unfair to us sometimes, but as Christians we do not have to brave it alone. We have a friend who stands closer than any other brother (Proverbs 18:24), and He is not a mere concept, theory or principle for us to put our hope in. He’s actually near to the broken hearted (Psalm 34:18). He’s attuned to our needs and invested in our lives — stirred by zeal and compassion (Isaiah 26:11, Matthew 9:36). He works to catch our attention with signs, to soothe our anxieties with His gentle voice, and to touch us with the consolation that only His contact with our hearts can bring.

One of God’s names in the Old Testament was “Yahwey Shammah” — “God who is present.” In the New Testament, Jesus is called “Emmanuel” — “God with us.” This is simply who He is. It is how He functions. Jesus is the type of Person who (sometimes disruptively) grabs our attention, makes Himself known, and sweeps people off their feet with the wild, expressive, wonder-working ways He loves them. And the Bible says He is the same “yesterday, today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). In fact, because of His Spirit poured out, we have it BETTER than when He physically walked the Earth among His first disciples (John 16:7).

Don’t underestimate how experiential your relationship with God can be. It doesn’t have to be dramatically spectacular 24/7, but it also doesn’t have to lack in real tangibility, in warmth, or in dynamism.

God is available. He is here. He is not withdrawn or apathetic. He offers us “daily bread” — fresh revelation and encounter — every day. I’m not telling you exactly what it has to look or feel like for you personally… But let your senses be awakened to His movement all around and within you. Don’t settle for anything less.

Behold the Seedling

When you compare a seedling to a full grown tree, the two may appear to be quite different. One may have a grand trunk, roots that spread wide beneath the earth, massive branches that provide great shade, and countless leaves or even fruit to offer. The seedling, however, might be weak, bare, flimsy, unimpressive and easy to be trampled down. Yet the seedling is by no means any less a “real” tree than the bigger one. They carry the same complete genetic coding.

We are like that seedling. We need constant nurturing, maturing and ongoing growth… The truest thing about us, however, is not in what we are still seemingly lacking. It is that we are in union with the Holy One. He has already set us apart as His own and repetitively called us righteous “saints” all throughout the New Testament (62 times, in fact).

This is the core of who we are, the very essence we’ve been given… And nothing was required for us to produce it ourselves!

Your True Name is Stardust

Once I had a dream where I heard a voice tell me my true name was not actually Destin, but rather “Stardust.” I woke up and intuitively sensed I was being reminded that I am yes, mere dust — but also something more heavenly.

Since then, I have actually come across several different spiritual teachers who use the metaphor of “stardust” to describe our true identity. We were formed from the materials of our planet, but according to science our planet is made of the stars. We are but ashes which shall return to ashes (Ecclesiastes 3:20), and yet we are “born from above” (John 3:3). We are “vessels of clay” (2nd Corinthians 4:7) and also “partakers of the divine nature” (2nd Peter 1:4). Sons of man and sons of man’s Maker. Mortals carrying eternity in our hearts… Flesh animated with Spirit.

We are earthly, but with a bit of a celestial quality.

In Christ, this is true of all of us. We must learn to embrace our messy humanity along with our God-given glory. Our frail frames are awe-inspiring temples of the Divine. We have greatness inside of us, even while continuing to be real, normal, everyday people with the most basic limitations and needs. These two realities are not in conflict. Jesus embodied them both in harmony. By His grace, so can we.

Don’t shy away from your unavoidable averageness.
And don’t forget you are a wonder to behold.

Perspectives to Consider

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For those of us who seek to honor the authority of Scripture in our decision-making processes, we know we shouldn’t be sloppy in how we interpret its words. I’d say that is especially true when it comes to issues that drastically affect peoples’ wellbeing and the trajectory of their whole lives.

With that conviction held tightly, I’ve been studying how to best interpret Scripture’s guidance on LGBTQ issues for several years. I continually find that there is more to learn about all of this than I previously realized. My older theology was often massively simplistic and shallow, and sometimes poorly reasoned. Nevertheless, it was all I was exposed to for a very long time in the circles I swim in.

Because my studies had only gone to a certain extent, I simply didn’t know what I didn’t know. The supposedly “plain reading” of the text could only get me so far. To my own detriment and to the detriment of those I sought to influence, I was responsible for my own lack of interest in actually taking a deeper look at what the Good Book really says and means.

In the past couple weeks I decided to revisit this subject once again and go another layer deeper in my own research. So I read these two books, both about how to discern what approaches Scripture actually calls us to take on navigating LGBTQ controversies. Continue reading Perspectives to Consider